Ogden marathon recap

Timing is a funny thing. Just this morning I got a notification from facebook reminding me that exactly two years ago I ran my first half marathon. In Ogden. In pouring rain.

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Two years later I was back for the full distance. In Ogden. In pouring rain. Maybe I’m just cursed to never run this race in dry conditions?

My husband and I drove up to Ogden on Friday afternoon to pick up our packets (you can only do this on Friday from 10 am to 8 pm). Pick-up was a breeze and we were in and out in about 10 minutes. The expo was on the smaller side and had the usual vendors. Plus an outdoor inflatable slide for the kids outside in the parking lot. Luckily, we have some friends who live about 15 mins away from the race start/finish and we were able to cook some pasta, hang out and get some extra sleep before we had to leave the next morning.

Lots of races in Utah have early starts. We were up at 3.45 am and out of the house by 4.20 am. Buses left from downtown Ogden between 4.30 am and 5.00 am and if you missed those then there was no other way to get to the starting line. We found parking pretty easily – the race booklet has parking lots clearly labelled – and walked a couple of minutes to the school buses. The street was packed with people – a little of 2000 full marathoners and even more (3500) people doing the half. We soon got on our bus and headed up the canyon to the start. At this point I ate a Nature Valley granola bar and then tried to get a little sleep on the 40 minute ride. I never really eat a ton before my long runs or races so this was enough for me. I had four Gus with me for the actual race that I planned to take every 5.5 miles.

At this point the weather seemed pretty ok. A little chilly (I think it was around 40F) but no rain. We had an hour and a half to kill (the price you have to pay to get those downhill canyon miles) so we hung out in as many layers as possible sitting on the silver foil blankets that we got after Twin Cities. The porta-potty situation was ok. I spent about 10 minutes in line just before the race started. At 7 am we had to put all those lovely warm layers in our gear bags and then head to the road for the start (the holding area was literally a field and gravel lot on a farm). My husband and I parted ways at this point (he was hoping to run 3.20ish) and I placed myself in front of the four hour pacer. And before we knew it we were off and running towards some dark and ominous looking clouds.

The first eight miles were all slightly downhill, running along rural roads – past fields, farmhouses and not many spectators. I tried to run an easy pace – my feeling is that in those first few miles you should feel as if you could run that pace forever – and not get distracted by all of the people passing me by. I needed to run my own race. The temperature felt OK – I was wearing a long-sleeved top and some gloves and I think that was the perfect combination for me. Other people – I think panicked by the weather forecast – ran the whole thing wearing plastic ponchos. A little after mile 2 the rain started – light at first but then progressively it got heavier until I was soaked through. But I had over 20 miles to go so I just forgot about the rain and just focused on math. Yes – math. Personally, thinking “I have 20+ miles to go” freaks me out so I like to break the race up into sections -> 4 x 6.55 miles sounds so much more manageable. At mile 8 you are almost one third of the way through – and that is basically half way!

Mile 1: 8.55

Mile 2: 8.53

Mile 3: 8.34

Mile 4: 8.28

Mile 5: 8.41

Mile 6: 8.39

Mile 7: 8.45

Mile 8: 8.44

Everything was ticking along nicely. I was feeling pretty good – the only slight concern was my calf (the one that I strained way back in Jan/Feb) was a little tight but it behaved itself until the end of the race. The next section and some rollers and wound its way around Pineview reservoir. The views on the course were pretty spectacular – rolling green hills, mountains and low clouds giving it a magical and decidedly un-Utah feel.

Mile 9: 8.47

Mile 10: 8.46

Mile 11: 9.04

Mile 12: 8.50

Mile 13: 8.51

I passed the half way point (and the start of the half marathon – that race starts at 6.45 am so you never really run into those runners) in 1.55.30. There were a whole bunch of people there and I knew what was in store from my previous race two years ago. First up a 120 ft hill which wasn’t a big deal at the start of a half but was a bit more work in the middle of a full marathon. I decided I wasn’t going to walk but shuffle my way up because after that it was pretty much all downhill to the finish.

Mile 14: 8.42

Mile 15: 9.04 (hill mile)

Mile 16: 8.42

Mile 17: 8.58

Mile 18: 8.26 (230 ft drop in this mile)

Mile 19: 8.46

Mile 20: 8.41

Mile 21: 8.40

Mile 22: 8.28

Mile 23: 8.41

Running these downhill miles (and this is the section were most of the drop in elevation occurs) was pretty nice at this stage of the race. I didn’t start feeling really tired until mile 22 so it was nice to have gravity helping me to the bottom of the canyon. This was also one of the first races where I didn’t carry my own water and it was awesome. There were drinks stops every 2 miles (with powerade and water) and the volunteers were great at getting those out to the runners. I did have one guy come to a complete stop right in front of me to get a drink and I almost ran in to him – please move a little to the side. My gus were in my flipbelt but they had two separate stations for handing out Clif shots.

The final sections was along the Ogden River parkway. It was a little rolly but mostly downhill although it did get a little crowded. I remember when I ran the half that I felt like everyone was passing me at this point and that is pretty demoralizing. This time although I felt pretty tired I was catching people ahead of me and playing my number game. Only 2.6 miles to go – that means I’ve run 90% of the distance. I can run 2 miles.

The last mile got us onto the city streets before we turned and saw the finish line – from about 0.75 miles away which feels like forever in a marathon. I just dug deep and had my eye on the prize. The only downer was someone decided they would run to the finish with their kid – unfortunately the boy was paying attention and almost ran in front of me. I think at this stage of the race there only thing I could have done was to run right through him. I get that it’s an important day and you want to share it with your child but please be a little considerate of your other runners.

Mile 24: 9.08

Mile 25: 8.59

Mile 26: 9.02

Final time: 3.51.13 (second half in 1.55.43).

I was pretty happy with my time. I had hoped for 8.50-9.00 minute miles and I ended up at a pace of exactly 8.50 min/mile. The last 3 or so miles were pretty hard which is probably due to the lack of volume in my training but considering the lead up to this race I couldn’t have hoped for it to go any better. Now I just have to wait for my quads and calves to stop aching.

My friend captured my very wet finish.

My friend captured my very wet finish.

 

RunSLC 15K Recap

Another weekend another race……

2015 has been race-packed so far – three down and it’s only April (not counting the one that I had to sit out back in February) – way more than I’d normally consider this early in the racing season. Saturday was the final race of the RUNSLC series. This year is the inaugural event and designed to get you half marathon ready (the SLC half is on April 18th) by building up to 5, 10 and 15K. I didn’t run the 5K on doctor’s orders but decided to volunteer instead and still managed to come away with some swag. The 10K was my first race post mid-injury, and was my first taste of a return to fitness. Since then I’ve run a 10.5 mile long run, the Canyonlands half marathon and a 15 miler last weekend. Plus, my calf was feeling a million times better. So, in this race I was planning to avoid the sufferfest of the previous two.

Packet pickup was Friday at the running store (which is also where the races start and finish). It was quick and easy.  The only bad thing was the chance of getting sidetracked by all the essential things that I absolutely need to buy in the store. New shoes! New clothes! Yes please! Luckily, I managed to survive with my credit cards intact.

So following on from my “Tell me it’s OK for me to run a marathon in 6 weeks time” post last week I decided I would do a Salt. In my case run to the start, do the race, and then run home. The race was scheduled to start at 8 AM, so I set my alarm for 6.40 AM, got dressed – including my new vest which I wore for the first time and loved – and had some water. I left the house at 7.10 AM and headed for a nice and easy 3 mile run to the start line. I forced myself to go as slow as I could but surprised myself by averaging a 9.13 min/mile pace. I arrived 20 minutes early so had time to eat my Gu (chocolate outrage, do some stretching and soak up some pre-race excitement.

More purple. I loved this vest. But handed it in at bag check so I wouldn't have to race in it.

More purple. I loved this vest. But handed it in at bag check so I wouldn’t have to race in it.

Beautiful morning.

Beautiful morning.

Start/finish line.

Start/finish line.

I checked my gloves (which I regretted for the first two miles), North Face running jacket (right decision) and vest at the bag check – which is great option to have at such a small race. The courses for all of these races follows the same basic route – running along a quiet residential street to one of our local parks and then some loops or out and backs to add up to the distance. Not the most scenic route but flat and encompassing some of the actual route of the salt lake half marathon. I decided to go out comfortably and try to remember that I would have to run home afterwards so finish with something left in the tank.

Pre-race pap shot. Taken from RUNSLC facebook page.

Pre-race pap shot. Taken from RUNSLC facebook page.

Can you spot me? Taken from the RUNSLC facebook page.

Can you spot me? Taken from the RUNSLC facebook page.

One thing that I have been working on for the last year or so is getting better at pacing myself. I usually run by feel and only really look at my Garmin at the end of a mile to see what that equates to in minutes. My last two road races (my full in October and my last half in May) were both pretty evenly paced with negative splits. Trail races are still a sh*t show. My first mile ticked over at exactly eight minutes. I think that after all of the long runs I did as part of marathon training that I’m finally getting a better idea of how I should be feeling during the first mile of a race.

The race actually felt pretty comfortable for the whole way around – which was both a huge surprise and confidence boost. I was running side by side with an older lady who kept me on my toes for most of the race. We never actually spoke (hello weird social anxiety) but I felt that we had an unspoken acknowledgement that we were pushing each other to the finish. My splits were pretty even (8.00/8.09/8.08/8.02/7.54/7.52/7.55/8.15/7.59) and I finished in 1.13.20 (average 8.00 min/mile) which would be a new 15K PR if the race measured 15K. According to my Garmin it was only 9.15 miles which was a bit of a bummer, but I couldn’t be too mad given how well the race had gone for me.

As soon as I finished I was given another mug – yay something else to carry on my run home – and took some water and a donut hole for refueling. I stretched a little before going for a cool-down jog to bring that distance up to 10.00. They posted the results pretty speedily and amazingly I managed to come 9th woman overall and 3rd in my age group! So, I decided to stick around for the awards.

Cha- ching!

Cha- ching

Posing with the 30-34 ladies. Even my running jacket is purple!

Posing with the 30-34 ladies. Even my running jacket is purple!

Then it was time to head home. And I’m not going to lie – getting started again was pretty hard. My body was a little tired – although my calf was quiet for the entire race – just a tight hip flexor that I’m keeping a close eye on. Three miles in the sunshine carrying my bag-o-tricks with a little hill right at the end. My mind was ready to be done but I made it to an even 16.0 miles for the day – those last three at 9.23 min/mile pace and with the entire distance at 8.44 min/mile. A good start to the weekend. And a good way to prepare for non-stop Easter eating and drinking!

I also carried this home in my bag as my post race treat.

I also carried this home in my bag as my post race treat.

How is your running going? Anyone race this weekend?

Race recap: Canyonlands Half Marathon

Yes you read that right – a half marathon. And I know it sounds crazy – considering my limited running over, well, pretty much the whole of 2015. So let’s rewind and figure out why I thought that this was a good idea.

I was given the all-clear to run back on February 18th so I started a run-walk program – doing 30 minute workouts and gradually building up the percentage of running vs walking. I did manage a long “run” of 5.15 miles, followed by 7.5 miles the next weekend. Then my first race of the year – the RUN SLC 10K. This was actually the first non-stop run since my injury setback. The next week was a little rough – my calf was a little stiff but after an extra rest day I was feeling pretty well recovered – and still taking regular walk breaks to keep things nice and easy.

I think that I mentioned previously that the Canyonlands half marathon had a five mile option that I could switch to at packet pick-up. And originally that was the plan. Because that would be the smart thing to do. But I reasoned that if I could survive a longish run the weekend before the race then I would stick with the half marathon distance. And I survived 10.5 miles of mostly running. Still with breaks. It was tough. But I made it and felt pretty good, and more importantly I recovered from it pretty quickly. As the week progressed I was becoming more and more settled on doing the half marathon. I know a lot of you are thinking “This girl is crazy!”, and I admit I would never advise anyone else to do this. And if it turns around and bites me in the ass in the next couple of months feel free to call me out on it.

So in summary my half marathon training plan went like this:

1. Pull calf muscle in January. Repeat a week later.

2. Take 4 weeks off from running.

3. Run-walk 3 times a week for 5 weeks.

4. No speedwork, tempo runs and limited long runs.

5. Volia! Half marathon ready……….

I headed down to Moab on Friday afternoon to pick up my bib and check into our condo. Moab is crazy busy on this weekend so I would definitely recommend making a reservation or renting a place with a kitchen. Pick-up was really easy – a cute t-shirt (although the sizing ran on the large side) and a reusable shopping tote that doubled as your drop bag. I feasted on pasta and beer (carb loading like a champ) and headed for an early-ish bedtime.

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The race started on Saturday at 10 AM but being Utah you had to catch a bus to the start line between 7.30-8.15 AM and hang around trying not to freeze to death. Actually, it wasn’t that cold but we were in the shade for the whole two hours. They had coffee, hot chocolate, gatorade and water, plus plenty of porta-potties. At 9.40 we had to walk to the actual race start (about 0.4 miles further up the road) and drop our bags.

I wore my arm warmers for the first time – along with a tank and shorts. I was seriously cold at the start but once we got moving I warmed up quickly and running in the sun was pretty warm. Here’s some of the footage from the race organizers showing the start. Let me say that this is a really scenic race. You basically run along the Colorado river in a beautiful red rock canyon. Any time I was starting to feel bad I would remind myself to look UP and take in the scenery and enjoy just being outside and running in such a picturesque place. The other advantage of running in a canyon is that a lot of it was run in the shade which helped keep me cool as the temperature increased.

There were plenty of water stops – every 2 miles – and a Clif shot zone halfway through. The course was pretty rolling (about 375 ft elevation gain over the course and about 450 ft drop) with one short, steep hill at mile 9.5. At mile 10.5 you left the canyon and started heading towards the town. This meant running on the shoulder of a pretty busy road which was not fun but you quickly turned into some more residential areas that were closed to traffic. The race finished at the town park where you picked up your medal, race goodies and complimentary beers. The weather was perfect for post-race beer drinking – sunny and in the 70s. And also perfect for getting my first sun burn of the year. Boo! You’d think I’d know better having the whitest skin possible.

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As for the race. Well, it went about as well as I could have hoped for considering my lack of training. I thought I could run around 1.50 so I wanted to start out around 8.20 and see how it went. I knew the last couple of miles would be tough but I gave myself permission to walk if I needed to. So here’s the mile-by-mile:

Mile 1: 8.21  Feeling pretty good.

Mile 2: 8.14

Mile 3: 8.16

Mile 4: 8.18

Mile 5: 8.11

Mile 6: 8.15

Mile 7: 8.23

The first half felt pretty comfortable. I was feeling a little hot and a little hungry (which was a pretty worrying sign so early on). During the next mile I stopped to walk and take my Gu.

Mile 8: 8.39

Mile 9: 8.21

Mile 10: 8.26

Mile 11: 8.28

Things started feeling pretty hard around this point. I was now doing all of my mental tricks to convince myself to keep going but it felt hard. Bonus: we were now completely out of the shade and running alongside some semis in single file. At this point I had to stop to walk. This is the first time I’ve ever had to do this during a half marathon but it was the right choice. Then I got myself going again and convinced my legs they could keep moving until the end.

Mile 12: 9.11

Mile 13: 8.39

Final time: 1.51.21 with an average pace of 8.30 min/mile. I managed to finish in the top 20% overall and really couldn’t have asked for better considering the circumstances. My calf was feeling fine until the last 4 miles or so, and never really got painful enough to change my gait. It felt tight afterwards and I managed to ice it at the finish area. The next day it was a little sore and hello quads! how you doing? But, if I’m being really honest it’s probably the least bad (sorry English language) I’ve felt after any of my half marathons. And I know – that doesn’t make any sense at all!

Recap: Run SLC 10K

Way back in January ie. BCS (Before Calf Strain), I signed up for a race series (5, 10 and 15K) organized by a local running story. My physiotherapist had ordered full rest so I was unable to run the 5K (I volunteered instead). But I was hoping I’d be recovered enough to try to run in the other two races of the series.

So let’s rewind to my past weeks running. I had been incorporating some run-walks over the last 3 weeks and been progressively shortening the running portion. Last Sunday I did my longest run of the year -> 7.5 miles with 5 min walking warm-up and cool-down and a little over an hour of run:walk (3 min:3 min). It went pretty well. No major pain. But it made me realize how much endurance I’ve lost over the last couple of months. During marathon training, I was able to knock out these runs pretty easily before breakfast. Now, not so much. But I did it. And was a little sore the next day. But apparently that is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern right now (doctor’s advice).

I then had two more runs during the week. I like to call them progressive runs ->basically increasing the run portion over 5 intervals (Tues: 3:3, 3.5:2.5, 4:2, 4.5:1.5, 5:1 and Thurs: 4:2, 4.5:1.5, 5:1, 5.5:.5, 6:0). By the end of the week I was able to run 6 minutes straight. So I was totally prepared for a 10K on Saturday, right???

Honestly, I went back and forth a lot about whether I should run this race at all, and how I should approach it if I did. The last thing I wanted was to set back my recovery by re-injuring myself for some random race. I didn’t make up my mind until Friday where I convinced myself that I should take it as an opportunity to push myself a little and see where my fitness and calf health are at. My aim was to finish healthy, run comfortably and ease back if I was feeling anything. It might not have been the smartest decision I’ve ever made but it was the right one for me.

So I picked up my packet on Friday night. At this race you get a mug instead of a shirt which I think is pretty cool.

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Race time was 8.00 AM and the starting line was only a 10 minute drive from my house, so I was able to sleep in until 6.30 AM, get ready (in my souvenir shirt from Twin Cities) and eat a small Lara bar (I’m pretty sure I got it as a free sample from some expo).

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I also ran my first race in my new Saucony ISO Triumphs. They are pretty bright!

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Parking was pretty easy -> plenty of spaces in a nearby residential area. The race starts and finishes at the running store.

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This is pretty cool because you can hang out in the wonderfully warm store right up until race time, and check out all the shoes and apparel you want but cannot afford.

The weather was sunny but still in the mid 30s at start time. My feet were a little cold for the first mile or so, but by the end I was feeling pretty warm (I wore my Nike running tights along with my Twin Cities long sleeve shirt).

We started right on time. It’s a pretty small race (about 300 people) and everyone had great racing etiquette by lining themselves up by race pace (no walkers at the front!), and is advertised as a flat course. I think my Garmin registered just a 60 ft gain in elevation over the whole race which for SLC is pretty amazing. It’s hard to avoid the hills around here. The course was an out and back to a park (where I do used to do my mile repeats). We did 1.5 laps of the park (it’s about 1.5 mile around) and then headed back. One interesting thing was that we had to cross the rail lines for a UTA Streetcar. On the return leg, I saw the lights go red and the streetcar pass by just in time for me to cross without having to stop.

Post-race there was water, Nuun, coffee, bagels, granola bars and some cuties. No donut holes this time! But one big plus was the free massages that were available. I’ve gotten these after my last half and full marathons and think they are amazing at getting the healing process started so I treated myself this time too. At 9.30 AM we had the awards mixed in with raffle prizes. Some lucky highschooler walked away with a $125 gift card.

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As for my race…..I wasn’t totally confident that my calf would last the full 6.2 miles. And I wasn’t sure if I would need any walk breaks. I decided to go out at a comfortable-ish pace and take a walk break if I needed to. The first 3 miles ticked by pretty nicely – and with amazingly even splits. Bonus: no sign of calf pain. Added bonus: I was racing (well kind of) and actually passing people. I guess I’d forgotten how much I enjoy that aspect of running. Added added bonus: I was running sub-8 min miles.

Mile 1: 7.51

Mile 2: 7.48

Mile 3: 7.48

Things started getting a little harder at mile 4. Probably because of my total lack of training for basically all of January and most of February. I mostly tried to talk myself into keeping going. Things slowed down a little but I was still feeling pretty good. In fact, I experienced my first calf twinge coming up to the mile 6 marker. I was actually pretty surprised that it held out for that long.

Mile 4: 7.59

Mile 5: 8.00

Mile 6: 8.03

Final time: 49.15 (7.56 min/mile pace)

I finished 16th woman overall and placed 4th in my age group. Not bad for a post-injury run with almost no training.

IMG_1250This race was a huge confidence boost. I felt pretty good except for those last 0.2 miles. And although my endurance is not where it used to be, I’m still pretty happy with my cardio -> even pacing, sub-8 minute average, and knowing that I had more in the tank if I had to push for it. All in all, a pretty good race.

I spent the rest of Saturday on a runner’s high. Rolled out my calves a couple of times and did my PT exercises. I felt a little calf tightness but of the knotty muscle variety and not the torn muscle kind. Now back to my run-walks and some easy-paced runs.

 

Good karma

Being injured sucks. And it’s easy to wallow in self-pity and turn into a total Grumpy McGrumperson. My approach is to throw a little pity party, feel sad and frustrated – and then move on. Focus on what I can do – crosstraining – and what I need to do – lots of hip stretching – to stay healthy and sane. I also wanted to keep myself in the loop and experience a new part of the running community. So I volunteered.

I had my first race of the year scheduled for Saturday (and my first ever road 5K), but my physiotherapist suggested that I needed to take 2 weeks off running (and when she talks I listen) so I knew I wouldn’t be able to run. I decided I still wanted to be part of the event and emailed about volunteering. It turns out that race directors LOVE volunteers and I got an immediate reply and was told to report to the race at 7 AM on Saturday morning. I still picked up my race packet on Friday (if I am going to pay $25 for a mug you bet I’m going to go and pick that sucker up). I had registered for the entire 3 race series and also qualified for a $25 gift certificate for the running store that was hosting the races. How awesome is that?

Race day was beautiful -> 58F at 6.30 AM (this is not normal for February in Utah!) but just a little windy. I arrived and collected my volunteer shirt – it’s totally cool and is a Brooks tech shirt pretty similar to the one I picked up at Twin Cities last year. Plus volunteers also get a $10 gift certificate. Swag!

Volunteering sure pays off!

Volunteering sure pays off!

My job was to look after the post-race food and drinks. They had gotten a ton of free donut holes and hot chocolate from Dunkin donuts, plus some Nature Valley bars, oranges and a ton of bagels. We watched the runners head off and kept ourselves warm and away from the wind while they headed out for their 3.1 miles. The first man came in just a little under 18 mins and then we waited for the rest of the 200 or so other runners to cross the line. I’ve only race one 5K before and it was awful -> going out too fast and holding on (I think that’s how most people do it too?). And looking at the faces of the people as they finished – I was pretty glad that I didn’t have to run that morning. 5Ks are hard! We were all done by 9.40 AM and I headed to the gym for my own workout – 1 hour of strength and core work and then 1 hour on the bike (low resistance, high reps). Watching people give their all is definitely a great motivator to go and bring it at the gym! Although my glutes had a hissy fit and punished my with DOMS the next day.

I also managed to limit myself to one donut hole – mainly because I don’t really like donuts. I know this is a little controversial but I’m totally “meh” about them. Maybe I just haven’t met the right one yet?

You might notice my latest pair of shoes in my collage. I just started wearing my latest pair of Brooks PureCadence and wanted to get another pair (I like to have two pairs in rotation). I hit up the running store and got my gait analyzed. I am a neutral runner and asked to try on everything in the store. Well, I narrowed it down neutral shoes that work for someone with narrow feet (this can actually be a problem – especially if you need to buy ski boots!). I think I tried on at least 10 pairs ranging from 4-12 mm drops and minimal to maximal cushioning. Personally, I like to get a yearly check on my gait and see what’s new. I really liked the newest PureFlows but I felt that they were a little too similar to the PureCadence. Then it was between the Adidas Boost, Mizuno Wave Rider and Saucony Triumph ISO. After running on their treadmill I settled on the Sauconys – only a 8 mm drop (most traditional running shoes are 10-12 mm and my Brooks are 4 mm) but with lots of cushioning (but still felt surprisingly light). I’m thinking of using them as my long run shoe. Obviously, with my current calf strain they are sitting by my front door ready for their first trip outside. So look for a review sometime in March? April? May?

As for the calf strain…….It was still a little sore through Saturday morning. And to be honest I’m not sure if this was residual pain from the dry needling *SHUDDER* or my actual injury. Standing around by the donuts on Saturday morning seemed to aggravate it but it was fine after my gym session in the afternoon. Sunday I had my recovery swim followed by some soaking in the hot tub and was feeling good. I can still feel a tightness in my calf but it’s not painful. Plus, I’ve been attacking the huge knot in my calf with my torture stick. Ah the joys of being a runner!

So about those 2014 goals………

Does anyone else feel that blogging is amazingly cathartic? Or has magic powers? In my last post I was talking about my intermittent foot pains, and wondering whether they were real or all in my head. Well, guess what? Those aches disappeared as soon as I hit publish. It’s a Christmas miracle!

And what great timing! Today I cranked up those Christmas tunes and planned out my Christmas Day grocery list. The countdown is on.

Another, less fun countdown is the closure of my pool and gym. Yes, they are both moving to an awesome, brand-spanking new facility even closer to my work, but the gym is out of use til Jan 12th and the pool is closed for 10 days starting this weekend. Not so awesome timing – especially with the amount of food and beverages  that I plan to consume in the next week. Oh well.

Mon: 1750 yd swim

Tues: 5.1 mile trail run (so awesome – raced the sunset!)

Wed: 2000 yd swim

Thurs: 4.7 mile run

This time of year is also a great time to look back at 2014 and see how those pesky goals worked out. So here’s a reminder of the running-related goals that I set myself way back in January. So, how did I do?

1. Stay injury free

This was probably my most ambitious goal for the year. The last third of 2013 was pretty much derailed by injury including a month or two with exactly zero miles. I also had some consecutive injuries from a case of the TMTSs (too much too soon). Looking back, I probably should have reworded this to something like “Minimize risk of serious injury”. Basically, I had hip pain in February that disappeared pretty quickly, but which morphed into knee pain that needed trips to the physiotherapist until August. That sounds like a total fail, right? Well, I don’t think so. Because, during this time I managed to set a half marathon PR (see below) and was able to ramp up my base mileage. At the same time the PT identified my muscle imbalances (basically my whole right leg) and improved my form. I had a brief rest in May with mild foot pain which was cured a 2 week break from running.

But most importantly I completed my 18 week marathon training program (+ the marathon itself) injury-free (I think I skipped 1 run because I was feeling a little sore). The injury that I’m currently recovering from resulted from a case of the NRAMs (not resting after a marathon). I learned the hard way that I need to take two weeks completely off from running after a marathon. Valuable lesson. I did manage to get through the whole year without a zero mileage month (November was the low at 28 miles).

Personally, I think that I learned a lot about listening to my body, being proactive about injury and understanding the importance of rest. And the by-product of all those PT exercises – my legs have never felt stronger.

2. Set a new half marathon PR

This is a definite win. I shaved 3.04 minutes off my PR at the Salt Lake City half marathon. This was a tough race for me (went out too fast and held on for the last couple of miles). I also feel that there are easier courses and would love to get lower into the 1.30s next year.

3. Complete my first full marathon

Yes! I really enjoyed the whole marathon experience. The weeks of training. Those new-to-me distances every week. There were a couple of awful runs and plenty of times I wondered if I was capable of finishing 26.2 miles but it all come together in October with a dream marathon debut at Twin Cities.

4. Run in the Hood to Coast Relay

I can’t believe I never wrote a post about this. But it was amazing! I guess I can do a 6 month look back. 24 hours – minimal sleep (I slept on a tarp for 2 hours in random place Oregon) – 40 min wait for my teammate at 2 AM in the freezing fog – and bringing the team home on the beach. Unforgettable.

5. Run 1000 miles for the year

My yearly mileage ticked over 1000 at some point during the Twin Cities marathon which I think was extra fitting. This seemed like a huge goal at the start of the year – and is more than I’ve ever run in a year by a lot. I’m hoping to tick across 11oo miles for the year. I’ll get back to you in two weeks.

6. Run a sub-7.00 min mile

This was the first goal that I crossed off my list for 2014. I somehow (and totally unexpectedly) managed a 6.36 during my first 10K race of the year! I very rarely see a 6.xx on my Garmin. I think I could count on both hands how many times it’s happened this year. Weirdly, it showed up twice during this race, and then a couple of times during some short tempo runs in marathon training. I’m hoping to become better acquainted with this number in 2015!

How was 2014 for you?

 

Twin Cities Marathon Recap

Take two: My browser just crashed before I could save my 1000-word recap.

Wow! What an experience! My first ever marathon on a beautiful course with the most amazing crowd support. And a race that went as perfectly as I could have hoped.

Marathon resultsMy main goal going into this race was not to hit the wall and have a miserable time. The plan was to go out slowly and keep even splits and maybe speed up in the second half. I did have a time goal – which is not recommended for newbies like me. But it was a very loose goal and I wasn’t going to beat myself up if I was falling behind. I wanted to feel comfortable for the first 18 miles and the goal was to run by feel. I did pick up a 3.45 pace band at the expo but only started to look at it at the halfway point where I was 2 minutes behind target pace but was pretty sure I would finish sub 4 hours. I actually only hit the goal mile splits at mile 26! I wanted to enjoy the race but also to get the most out of my 18 weeks training and get a race time that I could be proud of. For my first full distance I decided to be conservative and it definitely paid off (hello – almost 3 minute negative split!).

Now to the race details. Race day started at 5.30 AM with a breakfast of toast and a little bit of water (I ate half a granola bar at 7 AM). I was feeling surprisingly relaxed – maybe because I hadn’t put too much pressure on myself and I would have J running the entire course with me. We left at 6.15 AM and parked in downtown Minneapolis about two blocks from the race start.

The weather was a little cooler than I had expected –  38 F at the start with a high of about 50 F for the day. The morning was pretty sunny and I wore shorts with a long sleeve shirt plus some running gloves that I kept on for the whole race. My fingers and toes were a little numb for the first couple of miles but after that I felt fine. We dropped our sweat bags at 7.45 AM and headed to our corral. We placed ourselves between the 3.35 and 3.45 pacers and waited for the start. We crossed the line at 8.02 AM and headed towards downtown.

I had expected to feel pretty emotional at the end of the race, but it was actually at the start where I got a lump in my throat. Being surrounded by 8000 runners and ready to see where my 18 weeks of training would get me – I was already on a high.

The first couple of miles were through downtown Minneapolis and some of the nearby suburbs. We went out slower than goal pace and were just trying to take it all in. There were a couple of smallish hills and plenty of spectators lining the route. I felt sluggish for these first couple of miles and was a little worried that I was going to have a bad day. Then I remembered that it usually takes me 3-4 miles to warm up on my long runs and I just tried to relax and talked to J about all of the cool things that we were seeing on the route.

Mile 1: 8.48

Mile 2: 8.54

Mile 3: 8.29

After mile 3 we headed towards the parkway that runs around some of the lakes.

Twin Cities courseThey don’t call this the most scenic urban marathon for nothing. Most of the race had views of the lakes and the parks that surround them. There were also beautiful houses (we made a game of finding our dream house as we ran) and people out biking and running on the trails. It was so scenic – although these roads are normally for one way traffic and at some points turned a little narrow which made it a little difficult to pass people.

And the crowds! Holy crap! They were amazing. There were people out in their front yards blasting music, holding up some pretty funny signs, offering plenty of free high fives, fruit, popcorn, beer. We ran under a balloon arch, by drum bands, brass bands, a guy playing bagpipes, a guy playing a piano. Everything you could imagine. It was immensely humbling that people would give up their Sunday morning to watch people run 26.2 miles. It felt like we were running through a whole bunch of block parties. Being my first marathon, I have nothing to compare it to but it’s hard to imagine better spectators.

I’ve read a couple of race reports that say the first half of the marathon always goes by really fast, and as hard as it sounds it’s definitely true. The first half was pretty flat and maybe a little downhill. I was feeling good – just a little tight in my hip flexors – but overall very comfortable.

Mile 4: 8.36

Mile 5: 8.36

Mile 6: 8.39

Mile 7: 8.43

Mile 8: 8.31

Mile 9: 8.37

Mile 10: 8.23

Mile 11: 8.22

Mile 12: 8.25

Mile 13: 8.28

We went through 13.1 miles in 1.53.46. I knew that we would be crossing the bridge into St Paul at mile 19 so we kept a steady pace and tried to take everything in.

Mile 14: 8.36

Mile 15: 8.26

Mile 16: 8.28

Mile 17: 8.33

Mile 18: 8.28

Mile 19: 8.28

Mile 18 was the first place that I started to feel tired. On my long runs I had started to tired as early as mile 14 so I felt confident that we were going at a pace that we could keep until the finish line.

If you look at the elevation profile for this race, there is a monster hill from mile 20-23. I made a deal with myself that I would push through this hill and then hold on for the last three miles (which are downhill). Luckily for me, all of my hilly training runs around Salt Lake paid off, and to me this section was largely a non-event hill wise. Sure there was one short, steep section but overall it was fine. If you did any hill training you would be totally fine for this section.

Mile 20: 8.20

Mile 21: 8.13

Mile 22: 8.32

Mile 23: 8.30

Mile 24 is where things stared getting tough. My legs were tired. I knew that if I dug deep I could keep my pace for two more miles. And that’s the game I played with myself – you can run two miles, 1.5 miles, one more mile. Just before mile 26 we turned a corner and suddenly saw the Capitol building and the finish line. I looked at my watch and saw that I had two minutes to finish under 3.45 – so I went for it.

Mile 24: 8.20

Mile 25: 8.26

Mile 26: 8.18

Second half in 1.50.51 and a finish time of 3.44.37 (average pace 8.35 min/mile).

I think what helped during those last few miles was a familiarity with being uncomfortable. I had done long runs on tired legs, tempo runs where I had to really push to finish, trail races where I had to run up and then up so more. My training really got my used to reading my body and knowing the difference between real pain and when I was tired but could still keep going.

Once we were done I ate everything in sight – chocolate milk, fruit cup, chicken and veggie broth, chips, and clif bars. We then picked up our sweats and tried to stay warm (they give you a foil blanket when you get your medal). I also got a massage (would recommend) before picking up a finishers shirt and heading to the beer garden for a celebratory can of Summit beer.

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My calves and quads were not happy and are still sore today but I can live with some muscle pain after such a great race. I couldn’t have asked for a better debut. I surprised myself by actually ENJOYING it way more than I thought was possible. I’ve even signed up for my next full in May 2015. This may be the start of a major marathon addiction!