Race Recap: Utah Valley half marathon

Half marathon number 3 is in the books! And I’m pretty sure it was my strongest one yet.

But first,  hats off to J who got a 18 min PR and qualified for Boston in his third marathon finishing sub 3.05. I hung around after I finished the half and waited anxiously as the clock hit 3 hours. At 3.03 I saw him hitting the finishing strait and started shouting like a crazy person (all of which went totally unnoticed by him). All that training finally paid off! I was so happy for him. And so proud!

Our day began a little after 2 AM. I think I got about 5ish hours of sleep but actually woke up feeling pretty rested. I ate a piece of toast smothered in Trader Joe’s cookie butter and we hit the road around 3 AM to head to Provo. We first dropped off John in downtown Provo so he could catch the bus to the start of the marathon. I parked in a nearby shopping mall and caught the bus up to the half marathon start.

I got there at 4.30 AM. It was dark, but not too cold. Now just had to kill 1.5 hours before the race start. They had plenty of portapotties, fire pits and even had some music playing. The sun started to crest the mountains and it was almost time to go.

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The first 8 miles of the race run down Provo canyon. This is pretty scenic and you even pass a pretty waterfall at about mile 4. But the one half of the four lane road remains open and cars are speeding (pretty loudly) up and down the canyon for the whole race. This might not bother some people but it kinda took away from the beauty of the canyon. Last year, I ran Ogden half marathon which is a simile race – downhill through a scenic canyon. But for Ogden, the entire road was closed and it was a million times more serene and enjoyable to run.

I managed to keep a reasonable first mile pace but I have to say that the first four miles seemed to go so SLOWLY. I was a little worried that I would just have a terrible race. This further hit home when I say the hill at miles 2-3. They advertise this race as a fast downhill run. Well, it’s true that it is net downhill but I still recorded 447 ft of elevation gain through the race. Including this LONG uphill mile. (Note: Ogden is completely hill-free).

After mile 8 it was completely downhill or flat. This was good for my legs but seeing the finish line from 2 miles out is a little soul-crushing for me. Why is it not getting any closer? Ughh!

One major bad point for me was the ‘closed-ness’ of the course. The main advantage of a race is that you don’t have to check for cars or stop at traffic lights. You just need to concentrate on running. At two separate sections, there were cars trying to cross the race course but no police officer to control traffic. I was a little concerned that they would try to squeeze in. This happened to J towards the end of the race – and he actually had to stop cos some dumbass in a car couldn’t wait 10 seconds to cross the road!

Another downer was the lack of crowd support. This was to be expected in the canyon. But even once we hit the residential are there was almost nobody around. In fact the only crowds were near the finish – and this was a pretty small group. Come on Provo – support your runners!

On Thursday I posted about my race goals. So, how did I do?

Negative splits: Nailed it! First half – 51 mins Second half – 49.35 mins. In fact, my last mile was the fastest of the race!

Have fun: The race was just OK (see reasons above) but it went pretty smoothly. I don’t think I would run it again.

Remember the marathon: Plenty of stretching as a warm-up and a cool-down. I even managed a 1.95 mile cool down run as I waited for J to finish. At the finish line they has a massage tent – and both J and I had a free 15 minute leg massage. It was the first time I’ve ever done this at a race but it felt awesome! In general, I felt so much better after this race compared to my half last month. Way less sore and I could even manage stairs for the rest of the weekend. My knee felt a little stiff for a couple of miles during the run but by Sunday I was feeling good – just a little quad and calf pain.

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View at the end of my cool down mile.

Back to marathon training on Tuesday!

Time: I wasn’t sure how I would fare in this race. I didn’t really go all out but I still managed a 1.40.35, 124th overall, 43rd female and 10th in my age group. After you leave the finish area, you can get a receipt of your time printed right then and there. Pretty cool!

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I ended up being a little under 2 minutes over my half PR and a lot faster than I had been anticipating, but the course was designed for faster times.

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The finish!

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Extra Creamies! Do they have these at every race? They are so good!

The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing, eating and drinking beer!

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Race preview: Utah Valley Half Marathon

This Saturday I’ll be running my third half marathon. It’s the least prepared I’ve felt for any of my races. I thought I could build on my base from the Salt Lake City half back in April and cruise to a new PR.

Ha! My body had other ideas. How about foot tendonitis? I think I need to start a running injury card – sciatica, bursitis, tendonitis – you gotta collect them all! For once, I did the sensible thing – listened to my body and took a full two weeks away from running, including five (!) whole days of complete rest.

And it totally worked. Tendonitis is gone. I do have a tight left Achilles and random right new pain but nothing that will prevent me from running. And the next physio appointment is booked. Overall, I’m feeling a lot more optimistic than I could have hoped for a few weeks ago. I have managed two 10+ mile runs and a couple of 9ish miles too. And even a 5 mile tempo run on Saturday.

I also somehow complete an 11 miler on the elliptical. I think there should be some kind of award for that.

This is also week two of my marathon training program and that is my main focus right now. So I haven’t really tapered this week – same mileage but all at a comfortable pace.

Tuesday: 3.3 miles at 9 min/mile pace

Wednesday:5.2 miles at 9.08 min/mile pace

Thursday Trail Run: 4.1 miles at 10 min/mile pace (only 435 ft elevation gain this time)

Friday is a rest day. I’m taking a half day and traveling down to Provo to pick up my bib (and eat fish tacos). J is running the full and hoping for a speedy time. Then it’s pasta for dinner and an early night. We will have to leave our house at 3 AM. Not fun but we need to catch buses to travel to the start line. This is the price you pay for a downhill race through a canyon. And totally normal if you come to run a race out in Utah. Saturday afternoon will be nap time.

As a bonus temperatures are dropping 20 degrees by Saturday so the temperature at the start is likely to be around 40F. Brr! – for standing around waiting for the race to start but pretty darn perfect for running.

I think I mentioned previously that this race was my original goal half marathon race for the year. I really wanted to break 1.40 this year. Luckily, Salt Lake City went better than expected and this monkey is off my back. So, how to approach this race? A PR is not going to happen, but I still want to get the most of a prepaid and fully supported long run down a scenic canyon.

1. Negative splits

I actually managed to run a negative split for my first half marathon (my first mile was 8.30 min). And I finished the race feeling pretty good. Salt Lake – not so much. The last two miles were pretty hellish. So be conservative for the first half and finish strong is my number one goal.

2. Have fun

This is a net downhill race in a scenic canyon. I want to take it in. I recently got s SPIbelt and am planning on bringing my phone. Not going to guarantee I’ll take a whole bunch of photos (my competitive nature will kick in at some point) but I want to run with a smile on my face.

3. Remember marathon training

This is my long run for the week. And I would like to be able to walk up and downstairs on Sunday. Start slow and run by feel. And be ready to get back to marathon training by Tuesday.

4. Time?

I still have a time goal. Anything sub 1.50 would be nice and the closer to 1.45 the better,

5. Biggest goal

Watch J finish his third marathon and get him back home in one piece. Once I finish my race I will magically transform into uber supportive girlfriend and get him back to the house in one piece.

We have been spending this week carb-loading. (And no snail sightings).

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Salmon fishcakes with kale salad and pickled radishes. I am not a huge fan of kale (I know – bad healthy lifestyle blogger) but this salad was legit.

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Another recipe from the same website. And I’m pretty sure this is vegan too – if you’re into that. I used komatsuna that we got in our CSA. It tastes like spinach and kale made babies. Not my favorite (a little bitter) but super healthy.

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Finally, I made arugula-basil pesto. This one has a chilli flakes to give it a little heat. We had it with gnocchi, asparagus and a gigantic garlic ciabatta. Glycogen levels are maxed out right now.

 

Race recap – Salt Lake City Half Marathon

It finally happened. The race that I’ve been training for – and blogging about for the last 12 weeks. Packet pickup was on Friday at the Energy Solutions Arena where the Utah Jazz play. Quick and easy. With lots of free yoghurt (?).

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I had set my alarm for 5 AM so that I could eat some toast and drink some Nuun before the race. My body clock decided 4.30 AM was a better time – so after failing to catch the last few precious zzzzzz’s I got up and decided to hang out until we needed to leave.

The race started about a 10 minute drive from our house so we hit the road at 6.15 AM and were able to make it to the starting area with half an hour to spare. J did a warm-up on the track while I waited in the lines for the portapotty. My stomach was surprisingly calm – usually I get major race day nerves. I met J briefly to wish each other good luck before I dropped my bag at gear check and started to move forward to the 8.00 min/mile marker in the starting corral.

The race bibs included a free ride to the start on Salt Lake’s tram system. It looked like one of the trams was a little late and the race was delayed a couple of minutes as we watched people get off the train and sprint down to the starting area.

And then we were off! Or tried to be. The guy right in front of me couldn’t get his Garmin to work so decided the best thing to do was to stop at the timing mats as 4000 runners needed to cross………….not a smart idea. The race started with a short and narrow decline before we headed up and into the Federal Heights neighborhood.

At the start line I had placed myself between the 1.40 and 1.45 pacers. Training had gone pretty well and I was hoping to break my PR of 1.42.01. My reach goal was to try and break 1.40. At the start line I decided to go for it – go big or go home right? This would mean an average pace of 7.38 min/mile. Gulp.

I watched the 1.40 pacer in front of me for the first 2 miles. The first mile flew by and it took me until the end of the second to get into a comfortable rhythm. I remember looking at the 1.40 pacer and wondering if I could catch him and stay with him for the rest of the race.

I took my chance at mile 3. This was the start of a three mile stretch of fast, downhill miles. I passed the pacer and never saw him again – averaging about 7 min/mile for this section. I had banked on gaining time in this section as the second half of the race looked to be slower and a bit more challenging.

Elevation

After this downhill portion we came to the first significant climb – not very steep but LONG. Just shy of 1.5 miles straight ahead. This was one of the more mentally challenging portions of the race. You could see where the uphill ended but it felt as if you weren’t moving forward at all. A little demoralizing but the top of this hill marked the halfway point (47.41 mins).

The race had spread out by this point and I wasn’t really running with a group. This is also a race with a small number of spectators – I mean the ones that were out were awesome – but not enough to carry you home.

I did have a secret weapon – not my salted caramel Gu which I had at about mile 7 – but a group of friends and neighbors who I knew would be out at the 8.5 mile mark. It really gave me a boost knowing that they would be there. And seeing them and hearing them shouting my name was so great. Now I just had four miles to go. That shouldn’t seem that far?

By now I had a slight sideache and my legs seemed to be running without any input from the rest of my body. I decided to break the rest of the race into 1 miles segments – anyone can run a mile, can’t they? At mile 10 we split off from the full marathoners – and I was so happy that I didn’t have to run 26.2. At this stage I felt that I was running so slowly – but looking at my watch I was surprised to see that I was maintaining my pace.

The hardest mile for me was mile for me. I wanted to be done. I thought about stopping to walk for a bit. It was my second slowest mile (7.44 min). I needed to have a good talk with myself in order to stay on target for a sub 1.40. I remembered a blog post I read recently from hungryrunnergirl about her mantra “I can do hard things”. So this is what I said to myself during this mile. It reminded me of the end of my tempo runs when I wanted to give up. And I think it was a mental block –  I mean I was pushing myself hard but my body could do it. I just needed my brain to agree.

Seeing the mile 12 sign was a total relief. One more mile. I could do that. I only needed to run for 8 more minutes max. So I dug in. Turning the corner I could see the finish line – but OMG it was still half a mile away. Ugh. Not a fun finish but I made it. And just under 1.39 – 1.38.57 official time and overall pace of 7.33 min/mile. Goal complete. 3 mins off my PR on a harder course. But I gave it my all.

As soon as I stopped I could feel how tight my quads were. And have been ever since. Stairs have not been my friend yesterday or today. But everything else seems OK. And I am desperate to run again…………..

133rd overall/2929

26th female/1781

8th in my age group

Splits:

1 – 7.29

2 – 7.37

3  – 6.56 Start of fast downhill

4   – 7.02

5   – 6.57

6   – 7.44 Long uphill section

7   – 7.17

8   – 7.45 More uphill

9   – 7.33

10 – 7.38

11 – 7.17 Surprise, you can still maintain this pace

12 – 7.44 Worst mile

13 – 7.26 Almost done

.1   – 2.34

April mileage: 73.5 miles/118.3 KM

ATWRBR mileage: 195.4 miles/314.5 KM

Day 80 – What I learned Wednesday

First of all I’d like to thank everyone who commented on my post yesterday. I felt a little emotional all day and it was so nice to read your messages. I’m so glad to be part of such a great running/blogging community.

Today was the last workout of my half marathon training. 1 mile warm-up at about 7.55 min/mile pace. Then 12 minutes at 5K pace. Followed by a slow run home watching a pink sunrise. Perfect. Even better was hitting a new milestone. As part of my 2014 goals I wanted to run a sub-7 min mile. I managed this during my 10 K in March but this was on a pretty speedy downhill section. I hadn’t managed to do it during any of my tempo runs. Until today. Mile 2 was 6.58 min/mile! So happy! And a perfect confidence boost before the race. Overall 3.89 miles at average 7.48 min/mile pace.

I have a slow 2 miler tomorrow and then that’s it. Rest day with some foam rolling and icing of my right knee. I also got the race director’s email yesterday and my bib number. This is really happening! So what have I learned over the course of the last three months………..

1. If you run more you need to eat more.

I dropped about 4 lbs in the first 4 weeks. I upped my mileage without changing my diet and was finding things a little tough. So I started to be more careful with my diet – adding more fruit, vegetables, nuts and avocado. Since then my weight has stabilized even though my miles have increased every week.

2. I need to fuel if I’m running more than 8 miles.

In my last half marathon I didn’t have any gels during training or the race and I’m pretty sure that was a mistake. On one of my first long runs I had a weird light-headed feeling that shook me up a bit and I decided to try to be more diligent about fueling before and during my long runs. This meant getting up even earlier to eat before running and taking a gel with me. And it totally worked. I felt like I was getting a second wind and started to finish my long runs feeling strong.

3. I don’t need to run all my runs hard.

If you look back at my training runs you’ll see that my paces vary a lot. From 7.40 min/mile (race pace run) to 9.30 min/mile (recovery run). Last time I tried to go as fast as possible for every run – there wasn’t any real variation in my times. No wonder my long runs felt like hell. This time I wanted to train smarter. I run two easy runs a week. One long run. One slow recovery run. And one workout where I really push myself – hills, or fast tempos. We’ll find out if this strategy works on Saturday!

4. Strengthening your legs/hips/glutes will help you run better.

Although this training cycle has gone pretty well it has been plagued by a chronic hip/knee injury. Seeing a PT has definitely helped. I personally feel that a regular doctor will help to solve your symptoms but a PT will work to make you injury-proof (wouldn’t that be an awesome super power). She gave me exercises to help strengthen my glutes/hips and had the unenviable task to trying to correct my running form. And while my knee isn’t fully back to normal it doesn’t really bother me when running and I’m hoping in a couple of weeks it won’t be an issue.

5. I love running!

I’ve managed to rack up 57 runs in the last 11.5 weeks. And while some have been tough I have enjoyed 99% of my time running. No burnout. No thinking of not going out on my scheduled run. I guess running and I are still in the honeymoon stage!

6. Trail running is the best!

My two absolute favorite runs have been on trails. A 9-miler during our weekend in Moab and a 4 mile afterwork run on the hills in Salt Lake. Getting away from traffic (especially crappy drivers who have never seen a pedestrian before) and being surrounded by nature is the best medicine.

7. I need protection from myself.

This is the first year I got proper running gloves and I loved them. Not only did they keep my hands nice and warm but they stopped me from hurting myself during the 3 (!) times (and only one was weather-related) I fell on early morning runs.

April mileage: 58.1 miles/93.5 KM

ATWRBR mileage: 180 miles/289.7 KM

Day 73 – The times they are a changin’

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This is me setting off for my last early morning hill session for my half marathon training session. Notice anything different? Still got my hi-vis vest on but no gloves, no ear warmers, no jacket but yes I am wearing SHORTS! It was about 50F this morning. I’m not sure I even want to type this but I’m pretty sure that winter is gone and SPRING is here. I don’t know about where all you guys live but over here in SLC the cherry blossoms are out (and so pretty) along with the daffodils and tulips. Warm and sunny most days and I’m even thinking of dusting off our grill after its winter hibernation.

I think this change in weather has lightened my mood. I did my hill repeats – 6 x 100ish ft up and down for a total of 4.8 miles and 670 ft elevation gain (and loss). It felt good, like seriously good. I looked back through my Garmin data and saw that I did this exact run about 3 weeks ago. During that time I’ve managed to drop 20s per mile off my average pace (9.17 min/mile to 8.54 min/mile)! What a confidence boost! (Random Bob Dylan song in my head earlier today)

So what’s been happening? Well the last couple of weeks have been among my highest mileage ever. Plus I’ve also been doing the exercises recommended by my PT. These are largely targeted at glute strengthening – lateral leg raises and leg circles and clamshells every night. My legs look leaner and so does my butt (according to J). Who would’ve guessed that running more and working your legs improves your running? Well probably Captain Obvious!

I’m also starting to get obsessed with salads for lunch. Usually baby spinach, half an avocado diced, some feta, cherry tomatoes, whatever salad dressing is in the fridge and protein. Today it’s eggs but sometimes pulled chicken. In my world spring has most definitely sprung!

April mileage: 34.05 miles/54.8 KM

ATWRBR mileage: 155.95 miles/251 KM

Day 64 – Adios March!

This week is my peak mileage week in my half marathon training plan (FYI – I’m following a modified version of his Intermediate plan) and started with a 5.15 mile run this morning at 8.30 min/mile pace. It felt pretty comfortable and I even got to switch off my head lamp with a mile to go. And I managed to avoid falling on my face so already I’m off to a better start this week!

March has been a pretty interesting month for me. I had my highest ever monthly mileage (only the second time I’ve ever gotten over 100 miles in a month). At the start of the month I realized that my goal for the ATWRBR2014 was a little ambitious – I blame my inability to convert from miles to km – but somehow I am on target(!). I’ve completed my longest runs since my last half marathon training cycle almost a year ago.

One of my goals for the year is to log 1000 miles and I am also on target for that. Plus I managed to complete one of my other running goals for the year – to run a sub-7 minute mile (on the very downhill portion of a 10K race). Which also brings me to my first race of the year which went amazingly well. New PR!

Amazing because I have been nursing a hip-knee combo injury for all month. And this has been the source of highs and lows over the last 31 days. Highs – running my 10K pain-free, getting the OK to resume tempo runs, feeling so much stronger from doing my PT exercises. Lows – having hip pain return on my first double digit run, not being able to shake off knee pain, realizing just how much weaker my right leg truly is :(. But overall the positives have won out – and I’m hopeful that I can shake this injury off soon(ish – maybe?).

Which brings us to April. Half marathon month! I ran the majority of the course and feel good about the race. It’ll be my hometown race and I’ll be running right by my house (mile 8 in case I want to give up/poop/refuel/whatever). A PR might happen but my real goal for April is to come out of it healthy and able to run pain free. That would be pretty nice.

March mileage: 116.6 miles/187.6 KM

Day 3 – A visit to the physical therapist

Today started with a 8.00 AM visit to the physical therapist. Luckily I got a next day appointment with someone who specializes in running and is in charge of the running (I guess you could say she runs (!)) clinic at our local orthopedic center.

I had sciatica and hip bursitis in my left hip (AKA stupid left hip SLH) and have been feeling a slight pain in SLH as I’ve been increasing my mileage. I really wanted to get to the bottom of what was going on biomechanically and fix it once and for all. Well it turns out my bottom is exactly whats at the bottom of all my injuries – specifically my gluteus medius.

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So she pinpointed my pain to this area and then watched me running on the treadmill. I was filmed from every angle and the treadmill measured my force of impact, cadence and a whole bunch of other things. For a scientist like me, it was nice to see bar charts of everything.

I knew already that my running form isn’t perfect – but watching a 360 view of you running really shows up all your faults. There were some plus points.

Positives:

Strong core

Good cadence

Negatives:

Tight hips

Overstriding

Knees collapsing together

Weak glutes

Left hip collapsing

Arms out too wide

Taking everything together she came up with a plan.

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I really like the cartoon drawing!

The good news is that I don’t have to stop running. I just need to think about where my legs are going when I run. And hopefully I should be pain free in a couple of months. I think I’ll celebrate with a couple of easy miles. Although, it’s surprising how much more of an effort running becomes when you have to think about what you’re doing. But I’m hopeful that this will solve my major issues and help me train for all my races this year.

In other news the course for my April half was finally released. It’s a little different from previous years – with a couple of hilly sections. The mile 8 marker is right by my house so I can always reevaluate then. Joke – I’m going to finish. Probably. I don’t think it’ll be a PR run. Not when combined with injury rehab.

But I’m feeling pretty positive. I know what the problem is now and how to fix it – and that’s more than I can say for the last 3 or 4 months. Things are looking up!