Categories
Racing

SLCTC Winter Series 10k

Goal number one, show up on time. After missing last week’s race, I had a nightmare during the week that I missed the Chicago Marathon. Haha! But now that that’s out of the way on my list of race day fails, I was ready for some performance redemption. My 5k race for this series was a mess, as are most of my 5ks, but doubling the distance helps with my nerves. Even if I go too fast or too slow for one mile, I still feel like I have time to fix it.

After my warm up, I felt pretty good. My legs felt rested, fueled, and not too loose. I saw a few new faces that weren’t at the 5k, but the favorite to win wasn’t there. The only competitor I knew was the runner who bested me at the 5k and bumped me to 3rd. I knew her fitness level, but I was banking on her underestimating mine, based on the 5k. She knew I almost always go out too fast on these shorter races, while she’s good at staying steady and passing me a few miles in. But I wasn’t nervous. Again, I wanted my PR more than the podium.

I lined up a row behind her at the starting line and planned to stay close behind. The horn sounded and I relaxed into a pace that felt sustainable. I decided I was going to ignore my split times buzzing on my watch and go by effort. A few minutes in, I was worried my competition was going too slow for my goal time, so I ended up passing her and took the lead early. I didn’t want to, but I felt confident I could keep grinding. I tucked myself into a pack of guys and kept up the pace.

At the turn around point, the pack had disbanded and I was left with just one guy helping me pull. I was also able to see that my competition was only four or five seconds behind me. I tried my best to stay steady, but while my legs felt good, my lungs were holding me back. I heard her breathing behind me and at mile 4 she caught up and passed me. I didn’t know if I could keep up with two whole miles to go. In my head I started accepting defeat. I didn’t feel like I had much left, but I kept her within ten to fifteen feet. At the mile 5 marker I saw her starting to slow and I attacked instinctively even though I didn’t think I could keep it up. I pushed past her in hopes she wouldn’t call my bluff. She fell behind a little bit and I became hopeful, but with half a mile to go I heard her breathing behind me. Was I going to let her catch me? I had started to get side stitches. Who wanted it more? I started to doubt myself and thought that maybe she wanted it more. But I couldn’t bring myself to not give everything. Home stretch, passing the 6 mile marker I surged and she responded. But I was already in front calling the shots so I had the advantage. The finish line was right there, just one more push. I hit the tape winning by a mere two seconds. I stopped my watch and stumbled to the ground. I was so tired and I just needed to sit. I dry heaved and then my competitor helped me up. I got an instant headache that lasted just a few minutes until I cooled down and got my recovery drink.

Close races are my favorite. I’ve both won and lost by less in the past. If she wasn’t there to push me, I probably wouldn’t have gotten my PR. I was happy with my mostly even splits, my first mile still being my fastest, but much closer than usual (6:00, 6:06, 6:09, 6:09, 6:09, 6:10, and 1:10 for the last .2). I’m also pretty happy that my legs felt good and that my lungs got the better workout. Now, for just the track club series, the overall winner will be between myself and her. Runners get points for placing at each race – 1 for 1st, 2 for 2nd, 3 for 3rd, etc. The runner with the fewest points after the three races wins and right now we are tied 4 – 4. Since the other contender didn’t show up for the 10k, she’s out. Regardless of who shows up for the 15k, there will be a race within the race between just us two.

Final Stats

Time – 37:52

15th of 350 overall

1st 181 female

Categories
Racing

SLCTC Winter Series 5k

First race of the season for me, first race in the series, first race in the USATF circuit…lots of firsts and I was anxious to get back at it. I had been back to training for a month and it had been going really well. So well that I had set high expectations for myself. It had been a year and a half since my last 5k PR (18:25) and I felt I could make a pretty big jump.

My “A” goal was 17:05, “B” goal was anything with 17 in front of it, and “C” was just a new PR. Because this was part of the USATF circuit, I knew the competition could be pretty tough but you never know who will show up and who won’t. Or at least I don’t – they pretty much know I’m going to be there because I advertise it. Haha! But I decided that the time goals were more important to me than the leaderboard. I would race whoever I could, but if I came in 5th or 6th and still got my time, I’d be okay with it.

The day before the race I got a massage, which is pretty typical for me, but it was with a therapist I hadn’t had for sports massage before. My legs felt really good after, but I had one nagging concern I couldn’t get out of my head. She did some assisted static stretching on my hamstrings and even though it felt good, I knew that kind of stretching before a race could reduce power output (depending on who you ask). There wasn’t much I could do about it at that point though, so I just had to wait and see come race time. At least it would be another opportunity to feel the science.

After arriving I got super nervous, way more than I should have been. It wasn’t really about the race against fellow competitors, but the race against myself. And for a 5k or 10k, if you screw up one mile, you don’t have time to recover. My legs felt good, but my hamstrings felt too limber.

We lined up at the starting line and I only saw two runners that I knew were fast enough to beat me. One of them I already knew was way faster than me and would probably easily take the win. The other had beat me at all three races last year to take the series, but based on more current race results I knew we were about the same fitness level.

Now counting on making top 3, I took off at the start taking the lead. The fastest female would overtake me before the halfway point, but she fell back a bit to, I assume, just see what kind of pace she needed to win. After the first mile she sailed past me. I didn’t look at my watch to see what my first split was, but I didn’t feel good. Like I had feared, I felt like I had to power in my hamstrings. My gut just didn’t feel good either. Not from food, but from a nervous, uneasiness. I wasn’t controlled and relaxed (this is why I think it’s important for me to race all these races). I knew I slowed, but I tried to stay steady the rest of the way. By the the turnaround point, I slid into 3rd. I tried to keep her close, but I started to feel worse. I gave up on trying to be close enough to put up a fight at the end. My splits were 5:43, 5:59, 6:03, and 37 seconds for the last .12. I PR-ed by 3 seconds.

I was bummed, but I reminded myself that my last 18:25 5k was on a crazy good how-did-I-even-pull-that-off kind of day. And this recent 18:22 was on a bad day. Most of the time, that’s how I shake off a bad race, or a rough training run. I think about where I was and how far I’ve come. I remember how excited I was when I broke 20 minutes for the first time. It doesn’t make the bad performance “okay,” but it makes me be grateful that I’ve progressed enough that I get to be bummed about this time that I would have killed for in the past.

Final Stats

Time – 18:22

22nd Overall of 381

3rd Female of 200

1st in Age Group of 12

Categories
Not So Random Writings

Unleash the Beast

Your focus is the moving target ahead. All you see is the gap between, all you hear is the sound of your breath entering and exiting your chest, and all you feel is hunger – the hunt is the only thing on your mind.

Racing is a part of running that I really enjoy, which is funny because I used to think paying to run was idiotic. I had zero drive to compare myself against someone else doing the same thing. One could probably dig deep psychologically to find out why, but after spending a few years in the local racing circuit, I think I know.

Especially for women, being competitive is looked down upon. Admitting you want to beat someone else seems to send you flying into a whirlwind of labels that say you’re a poor sport, mean-spirited, and a witch with a capital B. This underlying ideology has swung us so far in the opposite direction that I feel like racing has almost become a taboo. It’s thrown into the realm of tearing down and discouraging others. Real women don’t race against each other.

Yes we do! I’m calling you out, and I’m unashamedly saying that I love to compete and race against other women. I get that women stereo-typically compare themselves to other women and make a list in their head of why they themselves are better for whatever reason. We’re terrible people. But we don’t have to stay terrible. We can control what we do and say and forget about silly comparisons.

In the women’s running community, it has become pretty noticeable to me that there’s a weird vibe among competitors. Those that wish to actually race, try to hide behind a “girl-power-for-all-women” front, and some feel they have no right to say they want to race because they’re no where near the top finishing times.

Racing is a sport. That’s the whole point. When everybody wins, the sport dies. It doesn’t have to be left up to the elites and the big races. Getting 12th over 13th is meant to be fought over. Respect the sport, give it all you got, and run to “win.” You can race for age groups at any level and you can simply choose to race that person who is just 10 yards ahead of you. You paid for shameless racing in your entry fee, to be chip timed against everyone else.

Plenty of people enter races for the effort alone, without a time or placing goal. Maybe they just want to run with friends, or maybe they only want to “compete” against themselves and their past time. I’m not saying any of that is wrong or dumb. If that’s what you want, then that’s great. But it’s also okay to want more than that. It’s okay to want to compete against each other.

There are some guidelines that I try to stick by when I race, that I feel keeps my mind in perspective.

  1. Don’t be so serious pre-race. It’s okay to smile, or even start up a conversation.
  2. When the gun goes off, flip the switch – you’re out for blood.
  3. During a race, when you come upon an opponent, DON’T say anything. This is kind of a big one when it comes to respecting the race. Of course you shouldn’t say anything negative, but saying something positive sounds like you don’t really view them as a real “threat” and are mocking their efforts. For example, I was once in a race where I was in 2nd at the halfway point and 3rd came up on me. As she was passing, she looked back and said “Nice job hun” and sailed on by. While she did eventually leave me in the dust after we leap-frogged, I felt it was rude to make a comment like that, especially when you’re in the top three spots. BUT there are a few exceptions to this rule, one of them is if you’re on a team and you’re encouraging a teammate. The other is when it’s clear that a race between the two of you definitely isn’t happening that day (i.e. they’re way ahead on an out-an-back, you’re racing different distances, etc.).
  4. If you are challenging an opponent near the finish and you win, it is YOUR responsibility to initiate a handshake and encouraging words. After all, they are the reason why you pushed yourself so hard. If they don’t respond well, leave it at that and keep peace.
  5. When you lose (because you can’t always win), lose graciously. Congratulate them on their victory.

Racing is my kind of fun. I love the adrenaline rush, the mind games, and that extra kick you find in yourself when you thought you had nothing left. I know I’m not alone. But you do have to know how to flip the switch. When the race is over, it’s over.

Categories
Equipping

Cheeky

“Does she know her butt is hanging out?” I thought to myself as I began the first mile of my first race. The girl in front of me was wearing spandex shorts that didn’t quite cover her cheeks when she began running. I didn’t grow up in any part of the running world so I wore a racing outfit similar to what I trained in, except I made sure the tank top and shorts matched. I didn’t really care what that girl or anyone else was wearing (or not wearing) but it did strike me as a bit strange. There were several people that didn’t mind the “bun bounce.”

For the next 25 miles my mind moved on to other things that day, but marathon after marathon I started experimenting with different kinds of bottoms and tops. Eventually I left the shirt at home (or in the starting corral). The shirt was only convenient for pinning on a bib, but as long as your number shows and you don’t bend the timing tag I learned you could get away with just wearing the average sports bra. Even at 50 degrees I realized it was much more comfortable without and I was only cold for the first few minutes. Shirts also get heavy when you dump water on them, or sweat so much.

Back to the bottoms, I decided to try those tight “booty” shorts after all. I was racing much more often with shorter races and I wanted to find out if they were that much better. I liked not having a swish or getting chafed by lining. It also made me feel faster and smoother on the course. Now I understood. But I couldn’t find the right size to keep them from riding up past my belly button. It gave me a double wedgie (front and back). It seemed like my waist was one size smaller than my butt and legs. I thought about the racing briefs, but I figured they were only for elites and that I wasn’t fast enough to pull them off. It sounds silly, I know, but a lot of people think that way. Maybe it was also the fact that you couldn’t really find them anywhere to purchase.

Then I found a brand online that offered the racing briefs or “runderwear” and bought a pair. I decided for my next marathon I would try them out. I went for a training run with them under a pair of unlined baggy shorts and they seemed to end up with the same coverage as the booty shorts that always rode up anyway, so I was ready to try racing in them.

Within the first few miles I thought to myself, “Oh sweet lordy, THIS is why people wear these and don’t care about their cheeks.” Because my thighs were completely free of fabric I could get the correct size for my waist. They didn’t ride up. They were the most comfortable bottoms I’d ever raced in – there was no going back.

Except for shorter, smaller races, I generally stick to the running briefs. I try to gauge how other runners and spectators might feel if it’s a super tiny race. I know my race outfit doesn’t cover much more than a typical swim suit. But at the same time, if it’s socially acceptable to wear at the beach why can’t it be socially acceptable to wear at a race?! It’s certainly not about trying to be sexy – I have accumulated many unflattering race photos. Besides, no matter what you’re wearing, running is not a sexy sport.

The point is that you should wear what’s most comfortable (and legal…I’d race naked if I could) to YOU. Choose your comfort level and go for it, whether that’s pants or briefs. And if you are/were like me who sees us ladies with our cheeks out and wonders if we realize it….

Categories
Racing

Goodyear Half Marathon 2018

Three miles – two easy, last one at goal race pace. I had an “A” and a “B” time goal, but I purposely didn’t look at my watch during this shakeout run. I was supposed to go by feel and effort alone. When I finished, I looked at my splits and saw that my third mile was my “A” pace on the dot.

This being the second race of the series, I was hopeful to get a grip on my current rank. The previous 8k went poorly and my placing put me pretty low in the standings at 19th. The longer the race the better I place, so I was hopeful about redeeming myself.

The humidity was a big issue for me at the 8k, and it didn’t look like it’d be much better for the half. I thought I would be able to handle it better since my pace wouldn’t be as fast. However, race morning came and it was 92% – even worse. The temperature was cooler than the 8k, but I was used to training in 95-100 degree heat so I wasn’t even a little concerned about temps. But I wasn’t going to let that make me nervous – it wastes too much energy.

Arriving at the start, I eyed the competition and realized one of them was doing the 10k option and a few others weren’t there. My chances were looking pretty good. I relaxed and settled into the starting corral. My mother was a little ways back, ready to nail down a sub 2-hour race.

The gun fired and the 10k racers shot forward. I stayed calm and told myself to hold back the first few miles. After a few minutes, from what I could tell I was third. First female was the one who won the 8k, second female I could tell I’d be able to pick off soon. I kept them both in my sights, but at the same time was focusing on pacing myself. The humidity was a problem for my breathing, but I needed to suck it up (haha, get it?) and grind out my best effort.

Just before the fourth mile, I passed the girl in second. I made sure we weren’t running together for any measurable amount of time. I felt strong and comfortable enough to push forward without her. By mile 6, the lead had gapped herself by quite a bit and I lost sight of her. We still had half the race, so I tried to keep my pace steady and see if I could go hunting in the last few miles.

For most of the race I was alone, with one guy staying 50 yards ahead of me. It’s definitely harder to push yourself when no one is around, but I still felt like my effort was solid.  Mile 10 was my fastest split, but first place was way, way out of sight and I was struggling. My legs felt good, but my lungs were so tired, and were starting to get sore. With two miles left, I started getting side stitches. I was far from even my “B” goal pace, but I knew I locked in second place. For the last half mile, with plenty of kick still in my legs, I picked up the pace and finished strong.

I wasn’t thrilled about my time, but was happy with my effort. I felt that I truly ran the best I could that day. After a hard race though, I like to feel my legs taxed and sore to know that I really gave it everything. But even the day after, I didn’t have any soreness. It’s frustrating, but the weather is just one of the uncontrollables of racing.

My mom ran her personal best and hit her goal time in 1:59:25! I was so happy for her.

The course was accurately measured with a fair amount of inclines (note scale). There weren’t any crazy hills. There were many more spectators than you would normally find on a course, but this was Akron. We love our runners! The event as a whole was well organized and everything was on time. Immediately finishing the race I was handed a lanyard that said “2nd female, be at stage by 8:50 a.m.” The awards were supposed to be at 9 a.m. and they were. I can’t tell you how important that is for a race review. I’ve been to many races that take HOURS to do the awards ceremony. They had ice cream, burgers, and beer for all the finishers. Of course I didn’t have any, but I liked that it was offered!

Now I’m getting really excited to race the blue line at the end of September, the last race of the series, home of my very first race, the First Energy Akron Marathon. I’ve moved up to 3rd in the series, but I’m going to have to pull a hail mary to come out on top.

Final Stats

Time: 1:25:28

11th out of 737 overall

2nd of 362 females

2nd in age group

 

Categories
Not So Random Writings

Cycle of Lies

I came across this book while browsing through an online bookstore. I never really followed the story of Lance Armstrong as it all was happening, so it piqued my interest. But like a juicy, scandalous novel, I couldn’t put it down…

This book has nothing to do with running, right?….RIGHT?!?! I had no idea how involved the sport of cycling as a whole was in substance abuse. Reading this book really opened my eyes to professional sports and drug use – especially endurance sports. How many professionals dope or use some other form of illegal performance enhancements? Lance and his team had such a smooth system, how do we really know the current drug testing really works. What about political gains? We may be better at testing these days, but we also have to assume drug users are also getting better at hiding the truth.

The author, Juliet Macur, did a wonderful job telling the story from an objective standpoint with a variety of sources. Honestly, after reading the entire story, I feel bad for Lance. He had a rough start at life, and didn’t have the best of influencers. He had a disrespectful attitude toward other people even before he really started competing. But none of that mattered after we figured out that he was good, fast, strong – the best in the U.S. He was a poor sport, but that didn’t discourage his fans or sponsors.

Lance wanted to win because he loved fame and he loved money. We wanted him to win because he was American, then we wanted him to keep winning because he overcame cancer. We wanted a representative. But in order to compete and win at a world class level it was obvious he had to use drugs. I’m not saying he was forced to pull the trigger, but did we load the gun? Did we give him too much glory he couldn’t let go of? We put him on a pedestal that made it impossible to be honest and come out unscathed. He was not alone in all this, and yet we let the sport use him as a scapegoat – probably because we felt fooled, angry, and hurt that he lied to us so much and he wasn’t a very nice person. But that doesn’t mean everyone else, his teammates and sponsors (especially you know who), should have gotten off so easily.

What Lance did was wrong, and I would never condone illegal substance use, but I think it is worth noting that we are all fallible. Lance claimed if anyone else was in his situation, they would have cheated, too. I don’t think that’s true, but it’s a fair statement. We can’t really know what we would do when faced with that kind of pressure and temptation. But a big part of Lance’s downfall was his lack of hope. He felt it was hopeless to try to train and compete clean. Though I am more wary now of how clean professional runners really are, I have hope that illegal drug use is fading. Maybe I’m a fool for thinking so. But if I get to a place where I have to choose between winning and racing clean, I pray I choose the latter.

My husband once asked me if, “If you could take a pill (legal) that would guarantee you’d win the Olympics, but die at the age of 60, would you take it?” “Of course not,” I immediately answered. “That’s like…that’s like taking away my cake!” My years of training, sweating, struggling, growing, failing, and learning are my “cake” (chocolate). Racing is my buttercream frosting. Winning, and running fast…that’s just my rainbow candy sprinkles. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE rainbow candy sprinkles, but they don’t taste so great by themselves. I think what I hate most about substance abuse is that it steals away the hard work, dedication, and natural talent that athletes have, and you end up competing against lab science and wealth.

I didn’t mean for this blurb to be discouraging. I apologize if it came across that way. It’s healthy to question, but dangerous to doubt. There will always be cheaters in the world, but they don’t have to outnumber those that play fair. On a side note, the book really is interesting – a good read for a plane travel or a taper period. I’m sure you can find it on Amazon, but I got mine from bookoutlet.com for pretty cheap. Anyway, moral of the story, don’t let cheating and/or cheaters bring you down. Running fast doesn’t have to mean running dirty.

Categories
Racing

Akron 8k and Provo 10k

Akron is where I’m from, so I was especially excited to be able to go “home” for this 2018 series (scored). The 8k was the first of three, followed by a half marathon in August and a full marathon in September.

Having six weeks off from racing, I was able to get some solid training in for this race and felt really prepared. Being an odd distance, I’d only ever raced it once before and it was on a tough cross-country course, so I figured a PR was “in the bag.” But really, I wanted to place well for the series scoring and match my pace from my fastest 5k – 5:55 per mile.

The weather was pretty terrible. An alert was sent out a few days earlier from the race director with an extreme heat advisory. Salt Lake had been pretty hot, even hotter than the weather in Akron and I had been training in the heat so I wasn’t worried, but the humidity would be another matter. I knew the competition would be tough, cranking out much faster times than I was currently ready for, but I planned on at least making her nervous and then nabbing second. Still, you never know who else is going to show up…

Legs felt great, shakeout run the day before felt good, I was confident in a new nutritional strategy I was testing out, and I was ready to feel the burn! I hung out with my dad (who was running the mile as his first race ever) before heading over to the starting area fueled and hydrated.

Eyeing the competition, I kept the nerves down and excitement up. We moved to the top of the starting line and were off. Immediately, I realized it was much harder to breathe than it should have been. I wasn’t starting off too fast, my legs felt like they could keep that pace, but I just couldn’t get any air in my lungs. After about 3/4 of a mile I slid into 5th female and kept my cool, thinking I had 4 miles to catch up to the pack of four leading ladies. However, after mile 2 I felt myself starting to slow dramatically. My legs still felt amazing, I couldn’t turn over fast enough to feel any sort of burn, it was just the air. The heat itself didn’t even bother me. I found myself alone, a few guys coming and going, but no female competitors around. The lead pack was now strung out as I got to see on an out and back, the one favored to win now in second. I pushed with what I could, but again I didn’t feel like I was running hard. It was frustrating. I stayed in 5th and finished well over my goal time, but at least shaved over a minute off my last 8k. After crossing the finish line I swear my legs screamed “Again, again!” My lungs though, were actually sore.

Going from 11% humidity to 85% made much more of a difference than I thought it would. You never really know and understand until you experience it (key in all of my training and racing). I love to travel and race, and weather/environment changes are just part of the game and out of your control. Looking over the top four females’ statistics, they faded in pace at the same rate I did. Take the humidity away, and I’m pretty sure I could have put up a good fight. The heat was a disadvantage for them, because it wasn’t normal, local weather. But I was fine with the heat and I had the elevation drop advantage (4200 ft. to 900 ft.).  I also feel confident that my goal time of 29:24 was legitimate – my legs were there. I didn’t run the tangents that well, and I ended up being a tenth over. My average heart rate was 126 and cadence 180. Those numbers should and would have been higher if I could breathe.

My nutrition was a “new” theory I was testing and I think it worked out well, but I’m waiting to check on a few more things before I delve into that bucket.

Final Stats

Time – 31:37

15th of 1781 overall

5th of 1023 females

3rd of 114 in age group


Four days later, I woke up in considerably drier air and got myself out the door for a forty-five minute drive to the start line. I didn’t feel amazing when I woke up, but I figured I’d get it worked out come the 7 a.m. gun time. I got a little turned around trying to park and had to run a mile and a half to the start line – that was my warm up. I felt as ready as I could be and knew that the competition would be tough. I recognized a few, but this race had prize money so that always brings in some others. I purposely did NOT use the nutritional theory from the 8k to continue to gather data.

I tried to stay relaxed, but my shoulders remained tense. I felt like I settled into a reasonable burn within the first few minutes to be able to endure for 6 miles, but it wasn’t good that I felt it so early. The course was relatively flat with a few inclines, but nothing major. The leading ladies began to pull further away as I tried to keep a steady effort. Just before the halfway point, we ran into the 5k walkers (they started at a different place). There were 2,400 of them, and it seemed like we had to weave through every last one. We got a half a mile break from an out and back, but then rejoined them, having to weave around for half the race in total. I was less than thrilled about that, knowing that it definitely slowed my time, possibly robbing me of a PR, but everyone had to do it.

Finishing the race with a headache and feeling sluggish, I headed back to the car thinking things through. From start to finish, I wouldn’t have raced any differently. I didn’t feel properly fueled, which is helpful for me to note. Next week I have a 5k that I will try what I did for the 8k and compare. And THEN maybe I’ll be able tell you more. Besides fueling, it felt like an off day for me. I may have been a little dehydrated, too.

At the end of the day, the results don’t lie. The effort was hard, and that’s what I needed. My time was slow, but part of why I race so often is that I like to test things out. That means having a lot of “less than ideal” racing outcomes.

Final Stats

Time – 38:40

39th of 741 overall

8th of 346 female

1st of 50 in age group

 

Categories
Not So Random Writings

The Dirty Downhill

After spending a few years in the racing side of running, I have seen an influx in downhill road racing among my peers, mainly in the distance field of marathons and half marathons. There are a lot of different opinions floating around out there on them, ranging from “it’s cheating” to “it’s harder to run downhill.”

Let me start off by acknowledging that running downhill, uphill, or on flat ground all produce a different level of workload to your muscle groups. They all use quads, hamstrings, and glutes (there’s more, but for simplicity…) However, the ratio between which muscle groups actually depends on what your form looks like. I think this might be why some people believe it’s harder to run downhill.

Gravity is a powerful force. All of the downhill races that I have seen advertised market that they have a FAST course with a high percentage of Boston qualifying times. Though you might feel more pain or be more sore the next day from a downhill course, you do have a pretty big force pushing you forward. It’s irrefutable. Statistically, downhill races get you a faster time than flat or uphill courses. This is where you have to be real with yourself. Is your PR on a downhill course? Uphill races, few as they are, statistically give you a slower time. Do you not give yourself a little break if you don’t hit your goal time? This is why we have come up with labeling courses as “easy,” “hard,” or “fair.”

I want to be clear. Racing a marathon or half marathon is never easy, and I understand why labeling a course with your PR time on it as such is offensive – you trained hard, you raced hard. If you’ve raced downhill, I’m not trying to take anything away from you. If your main running goal is to get a specific time, and you don’t care what kind of course it’s on, go for it, get it, and don’t let anyone take that pride away. But unfortunately, what I see quite often happening, are runners that get huge PRs on these downhill courses and then don’t understand why they didn’t improve their time on their next race, which wasn’t a downhill course. If you really want to gauge time progress in a way that is fair to yourself, then you’d have to run the same course year after year.

Sometimes time goals aren’t the end game. Maybe you want to win. Maybe the timing and location is convenient. Most of the downhill courses I’ve seen around also advertise a scenic route. Perhaps you’re looking for a nice long run through nature, or you’re building a vacation around the race. There are so many reasons to choose a downhill course, a lot having nothing to do with the benefit of elevation loss.

There are many ways to gain time advantages in a race. Drafting, staying in a pack, choosing a race with a later start time (or earlier if you prefer), weather advantages, etc. I’ve done two Abbott Marathon Majors so far and I PR-ed at both of them. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s easier to run in a pack. (Side note: This is why I don’t think Boston should have given any prize money to the non-elites who had faster chip times. Bite me.) If you wanted to, you could analyze, argue, and asterisk PRs in a long list of ways.

There’s a reason why both men’s and women’s marathon world records (and several other records) were run in London. Some courses are harder than others, but they are all hard. If you are training for an Olympic Trial qualifying time, then be aware that the course has to be USATF-certified, USATF-sanctioned, and more relevantly, cannot have an elevation loss of more than 3.25 meters per kilometer, which is a little more than 450 feet. The world record cannot be broken on a net downhill course. These rules have to mean something, right?

I encourage you to be aware of all the possibilities downhill courses could bring. Be fair to yourself, and remember that not all courses are equal. Don’t let other people’s standards for themselves rob you of your pride in your own accomplishments, AND vice versa. Be kind to others, and know that their goals are probably different than yours.

 

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Breaking the 3-Hour Barrier My Story

Breaking the 3-Hour Barrier, Part 8

Part eight! I have to laugh to keep from crying. I’ve said I’ve been trying to hit this time goal for over two years now. While my first two attempts may have been slightly unrealistic, I still stand firm on believing that 3-5 were achievable. Six, I was just happy to run injury-free and seven I felt like everything went well, I just didn’t have the fitness back. But if there’s one thing I know how to do, and do it well, it’s how to hop on the gain train. I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I’m pretty good at recovery. At the Salt Lake City Marathon, I pushed hard and knew that Ogden could give me a pretty big PR if I played my cards right.

There were four weeks in-between, so I kept up my speed work and tempos and just did one long run in the middle. My foot/achilles gave me a nag, but I worked it out and felt really good heading into this race. The course looked smooth, fast, and beautiful. The weather was looking like it would stay clear, but not get crazy hot. I slept hard throughout the week and felt well-rested. There was just one thing I was worried about.

It was about that time for me to start my cycle and I’ve always had issues, but to keep it short, 75% of the time I have a 4-6 hour episode where I’m in intense pain, I can’t even sit in an upright position let alone carry out the day’s tasks, I get lightheaded/dizzy, my face turns gray, I start shaking, and then eventually the pain goes away and the rest of the cycle is fine. However, after all that takes place I’m exhausted and not good for much until the next day.

Unfortunately, the afternoon before the race I found out timing wasn’t on my side for this one. I went to sleep that night for two hours and then awoke with the pain and was up most of the night. Around 3 a.m. it subsided in enough time for me to doze off for 45 minutes and dream that I missed the buses. I woke up and realized that it was just a dream, but I didn’t have time to fall back asleep.

The lack of sleep alone, I wasn’t worried about because one usually doesn’t sleep well the night before a race. It’s the week(s) before that you really should care about. But I did feel that deep exhaustion that I always get after one of those episodes. I stumbled around the hotel room trying to get ready and psyche myself up. I managed to still be hopeful and excited by the time the buses arrived at the starting area – I didn’t feel like there was any other option, but to hope that I could borrow the energy. I found the other track club members that were racing and waited around for an hour and a half.

6:50 rolled around and we all headed to the start line. I made my way to the front because I was vying for another podium finish which meant gun time mattered. I looked around at the competition and picked a few I wanted to beat. Okay, well obviously I wanted to beat them all, but sometimes at the beginning of a race I pick one or two for extra fun and added motivation.

The clock started and a string of guys tore off. In the first mile, I was in second, but wasn’t concerned about the place. I was tired, not sleepy tired, but really really tired. I stayed steady for three miles, and caught up to the first female. “No!” I thought to myself, “I can’t race right now, I can’t spend the energy, and I can’t handle the lead so early.” I tried to relax and keep my own pace. Finally, she overcame me a few miles later and pushed the pace by herself as I gratefully watched her fade in front of me. Focusing on my own effort, I tried to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the mountains, rivers, and canyons. My legs felt great, despite how the rest of me felt. I managed to hold goal pace through mile 7. By the time I made it through the halfway point, I was still in second, but I had no energy. My shoulders felt heavy and I was struggling with thoughts of stopping.

Pressing on through 16, I told myself just three more miles until you get to the hard stuff, and then you’ll grit it out. My legs were still holding up great, and soon mile 20 came. I was surprisingly still in second, and I began thinking that maybe I could hold onto it after all. But tired…so tired. At mile 23 the course turned onto a bike path and some rolling hills. Third female came up behind me and I surged without really thinking about it. I pulled her along for maybe 30 seconds, but she passed me and I couldn’t hold on.

Just a few miles left, and my pace slowed even more, to an 8-minute mile. All of my time goals were gone, but at least I was in third and I was almost done. The finish line was in sight. The crowd was cheering and as I entered the final stretch, I thought I felt a competitor behind me. I turned to look at the crowd to try and read their faces, and looked at my shadow to see if there was one behind, but I didn’t see anyone. I ignored the feeling. The finish was just ten yards away. Then suddenly, when I couldn’t have been farther than three yards from the line, 4th female came up beside me. Instantly I surged, angry that I had let that happen. We crossed the finish line and I hit the pavement. I thought I beat her, I felt I beat her, but I couldn’t know for sure. I also couldn’t breathe. Or move.

That whole race was a mind vs. body battle. In the end, my mind won – I didn’t quit. But when it was over, there was nothing left to peel me off the road.

After laying down in the medic tent for just a few minutes, my heart rate was 58 and body temperature 93, confirming my exhaustion. My heart rate should not be that low that soon after a race, and the lower body temperature is a way to conserve energy. Those things aren’t really a concern from the medic side, but for my own personal performance log I found it helpful. Once I convinced them I was fine, one of them helped me walk to the results tent (because priorities) but they hadn’t come through yet, so she walked me all the way to my hotel lobby. We were both surprised at how good my legs felt. I finished my recovery drink and rushed to check out of the hotel so they wouldn’t charge me extra for a late checkout and headed back down to the finish festival to find my friends and wait around for results.

Chip time, I knew she beat me by a few seconds. But for the podium, gun time is all that matters, and when the results came through I had won by one second. I found it ironic because just the day before I had answered some questions for a feature in the track club newsletter about my most memorable races. I said one of them was the 2017 La Jolla Half Marathon because I missed 2nd place by 33-hundredths of a second, and I learned that every second counts. I guess I needed a reminder of what that felt like.

The next day, I was able to walk down the stairs normally at work, and was only a little sore in my calves and feet. It was clear my legs didn’t get the workout they had expected. The last time my legs felt this good after a marathon was last June, when I raced hyponatremic. Even though I didn’t come close to my original time goal, I’m happy I didn’t quit, still made the podium, and got some mental strength gains from this race.

Final Stats

Time – 3:06:26

35th of 1167 overall

3rd of 541 female

1st of 50 in age group

 

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Breaking the 3-Hour Barrier My Story

Breaking the 3-Hour Barrier, Part 7

Is it wrong to be disappointed with your performance, most of the time? Everyone tells you not to be too hard on yourself, and appreciate the little “wins” along the way. I get that being dissatisfied most of the time makes it hard for one to continue on in whatever it is they’re doing, but what if it doesn’t? What if being “unhappy” with your results doesn’t make you want to quit?

Racing morning was perfect. I felt excited and confident, the weather was cool and forecasted to stay there, my foot hadn’t been giving me any issues, and my nutrition and hydration felt good. All systems pointed to a great race. I had tape over my watch again to make sure I was going by effort and not freaking out over my splits. I found one of my fellow track club members and we chatted until it was time to get in our corrals.

Historically, this is a slower race, so I knew I was a contender for the podium, but that means that there is at least one other runner there thinking the exact same thing. I made my way to the front, eyeing the competition, but tried to relax and focus on what I really wanted – my goal time.

The course was hard with hills, even though it was technically a net downhill. I was told it was really the only fair course around (the other local marathon courses are going down mountains). The biggest downhill was at the beginning and I just let my legs go with the flow. Trying to “pace” yourself on a downhill can waste energy. For the first 9 miles I thought I was in 4th, but I guess I was in 3rd. I was trying not to care, but I can’t completely erase the racing mentality from my mind. But I slipped into 4th and was able to let the new 3rd female go. I watched her fade in the distance and remained calm.

Just after the halfway point, all within a minute, I got passed by another female and then watched who must have been 2nd drop out. With no one else around, I was a lonely 4th for the next seven, long miles. The sun was warm, but not hot. My legs felt trashed with still six miles to go and I knew my goal time was gone. I began having a sharp pain in my right adductor attachments. I realized it was probably from my foot injury that felt fine, but was still weaker than the right so my body had to compensate. I started to worry that it was going to get bad, but then at mile 21 the course turned and there she was. 3rd female, still several hundred yards out, but I saw her. Instantly the pain started to dissipate. I wasn’t going to get a sub 3-hour marathon, but I could still try to make the podium.

Over the next two miles, I slowly closed the gap. I didn’t want to rush it because I was really starting to struggle, and didn’t want to leap frog through to the finish. A short distance after the 23-mile marker, I overcame her and another guy and just tried to push my pace so I was never running with them. I had 2 1/2 more miles and all I had to do was just keep the pace. It didn’t have to be pretty. It didn’t have to be fast. I pressed on until I finally saw the finish line. I couldn’t hear anyone behind me, but I mustered up all the energy I had left to just get there already.

Third place female, my first marathon podium. It was my second fastest marathon. My splits were all over the place, but my heart rate was steady – I was pretty satisfied with that. I also raced well, and didn’t blow up trying to keep up with other competitors. However, my legs were not strong enough to break three hours, and I am disappointed in that. I would rather have come in 20th place and beat my time goal. I’m also sad that my next marathon is a downhill course next month. I’ve said before that I didn’t want my first sub 3 to be on a downhill course. I really thought this race was going to be it. But in Ogden I will race again, and I will do my best to smash it with a time to justify the course – break ‘n’ build.

Of my fifteen marathons, I’ve had three that I would call successes. That means 85% of the time, I’m disappointed. I’m not a glutton for punishment (well, maybe) but I am pretty okay with working really hard for months, putting a lot of time and effort into training, getting excited to perform and attain a desired goal, and then having it all slip through my fingers in just a few hours. I know what I want, and it’s very focused and specific. When your target is that small, you have to give yourself plenty of chances to miss.

Final Stats

Time – 3:08:19

24th of 699 overall

3rd of 297 female

1st of 59 age group

 

 

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Carlsbad 5000 All Day 20k 2018

By far the most fun I’ve ever had at a race, the challenge was four, individual 5ks on the same course. It sounds kinda lame, but the idea behind it for me was to test pacing and see how quickly I could recover.

The course is relatively flat, but does have a few inclines. It loops you around like a lasso and takes you out along the coast, but for a 5k effort scenery isn’t something I pay much attention to. Those who sign up for just one 5k (the majority) are separated into four categories (the four races): Masters Men, Masters Women, Mixed Gender Age 30-39, and Mixed Gender Age 29 & Under.

The race schedule gave me a 35 minute break in between race 1 and 2, a 45 minute break between 2 and 3, and a 2 HOUR break between 3 and 4. I made a nutrition plan based on those recovery times. My goal was to keep a steady effort for each one, with an overall time of 1:20:00. My age group race was the last one of the day so I knew a PR wasn’t likely, but I didn’t know what that 2 hour gap would do to me, so I wasn’t going to completely give up on it yet.

The first race went rather smoothly, in 18:53. I felt I could have went harder, but I didn’t want to crash and burn. The second race 19:05, and the third, 19:11. I was really happy with how close my times were and with how I felt. It wasn’t too hard to stay loose in-between and my stomach stayed happy with the nutrition plan. But now I had a 2 hour break…

The break stiffened me up and I really felt the fatigue. I realized even though this race was my age group race, I wasn’t going to be able to make it fast. However, I was having too much fun to get disappointed by that and I had a pretty good buffer to still make my time goal. The final race began and my first mile was fine (6:01), but the 2nd and 3rd I just couldn’t hack it. I finished in 19:20.

What made this race so much fun were the people – you got to hang out between the races and enjoy the company of other like-minded crazies. And even though not many of my old track club running buddies did the 20k option, a lot of them were there for their age group and it was great seeing them, too. Typically, races aren’t “hang outs” but this one was. It is not a race to go for a personal best, unless you really want to crash and burn, but it is a really good interval session, especially for marathon training. I was really happy with my results and my pacing, beat my time goal and held cadence over 180 for all four races. I may even use this idea in training again someday.

Final Stats

Time: 1:16:29

Overall: 5th of 259

Female: 2nd of 137

Age Division: 1st of 15

 

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San Diego Hot Chocolate 15k 2018

Shorter stride, faster cadence. That’s what I was telling myself as I was struggling to grasp a rhythmic movement. The leading ladies were spread out relatively far apart by mile 2 and I was having a hard time keeping any them in sight. Breathing heavily, from the ups and downs that were already run in the course, I tried to relax into the long climb ahead. This race was again going to be about effort, but I didn’t want to fall away from fourth female.

The San Diego edition of this race starts downtown on a hill, then takes you through a winding course among some neighborhoods and parks full of elevation change, and then throws you back downtown, where for the last .3 miles you finally get to remember what it feels like to run level. 

Yeah, it’s a really fun course. But taking it back to mile 2, I could hear the 5th female coming up beside me. I immediately recognized her from a half marathon last April when I chased her down to try to take second place, but hesitated for too long and she beat me by 33 hundredths of a second. I couldn’t let her overtake me, but we weren’t very far into the race and I didn’t want to pull away and waste energy that I knew I needed later. She stayed with me for another mile and then let me lead by mile 4.

But she was right behind me, and coming from behind in a race gives you the advantage at the end (if you’re willing). Mentally, I was exhausted from racing. I didn’t want to do it. I was tired for several reasons, but as much as I love racing, it’s HARD and all I wanted to do was sleep.

What I wanted and what I didn’t want weren’t lining up, so I had to choose. I didn’t want to give up and just run the rest of the way. However, I knew that if she remained close enough behind me, she could attack and I didn’t feel like I had it in me to counter that move. My best option was to slowly pull away and try to create a gap big enough that would discourage her from making a move at the finish.

It was working, but we were about to go on a nice size downhill and then immediately up up UP. This was my third year doing the course so I knew what was about to happen. She caught up to me at the bottom of the downhill and then I dropped her hard on the uphill. My legs recovered, and I continued to increase the gap with just two miles left. I felt like I had her, but I really needed to push the downhill finish. I threw myself down the 9th mile in 6:02 and demanded more from my lungs for the last .3 for a strong finish.

Forty-five seconds ahead – it was enough.

I had hoped for a sub 60-minute and a podium finish. I didn’t get either, but I got more experience racing and a really good workout. Right now, those latter things are  much more important. Since moving to Utah and recovering from injury, I haven’t been able to find a good training groove. It will come, but I need a little more time. My lungs continue to be what’s lagging behind. For the most part, my legs felt great with all of the ups and downs on the course. My cadence was better this race at 182 steps per minute. I got to see more running friends and walked away with a bowl of chocolate. What do I have to complain about?

Final Stats

Time – 1:00:54

Overall – 15th of 3665

Female – 4th of 2588

Age group – 2nd of 320

 

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San Diego Half Marathon 2018

The San Diego Half Marathon brings out lots of competition and presents a fun event. It’s a relatively flat course for 8 miles and then a HUGE hill followed by a downhill fast finish. Not only was I excited to come back for my third whack at it, I also knew a lot of my old track club teammates would be there. Plus, I was hopeful in trying to snag a little PR since I had been able to run more regularly (though I’m still not on a good cycle yet).

Sleeping the night before in the hotel was a real challenge due to outside noise, but really the night before isn’t the issue – it’s the week or two before that you need to focus on getting good sleep. I didn’t have a problem getting out the door though when it was time to go, and pre-race “festivities” went fairly well. Nerves weren’t a thing, it was just excitement to race and race hard. My time goal was 1:21:56. I truly felt that if everything went perfect I had that in me.

Everything did not go perfectly. Starting off, my breathing felt way more labored than it should, and trying to keep up with the 1:25 pacer was a struggle. I don’t know why, but my lungs were so tired. My legs, however, felt pretty good. My watched buzzed at every mile, but I chose to ignore it and weigh how I was feeling against how many miles I had left. By mile 5, my time goal was well out of stride and I was struggling, but I was still within 10 yards of the 1:25 pace group. There was a girl that kept leap frogging with me and I decided I was going to beat her. She was hanging with the pace group, but huffing and puffing too. At mile 7, I watched them fade away in front of me as I realized my right toenail was going to disappear as well (hashtag, it’s the little things). EVERY. TIME. I forget to cut my toenails. That girl was able to hang on better than I was until…

The timing mat at 8.2 had me chipped at a 6:22 pace, just before the hill started. Of course, it slows you down, but I definitely underestimated it. It brought me to my slowest split of 7:37. It also brought me closer to that girl that had now fallen off the pace group. After cresting the hill, I slowly starting closing the gap between her and I. Another runner (male) came up alongside me and recognized me from Instagram. With a few encouraging words, he gave me a boost to chase her down. I caught up to her just before the decline and passed her, but realized that when the course flattened out just before the finish, she would probably catch back up to me. She did. We were both spent. But it wasn’t about fitness, strength, or speed anymore – it was about mind games. I knew my best shot at beating her was to attack right then. We had two-tenths of a mile left, but I darted away in a burst of speed, slowing down just a few seconds later, but banking on momentum carrying me through the finish ahead of her. It worked. I finished five seconds ahead.

I raced hard, and I am happy with that. My last two miles were back down to 6:21 and 6:23. I know I got good physical benefits from the day. I’m disappointed that my time was so much slower than my goal, but disappointing races are starting to get less and less disappointing. It’s not what I wanted, but it was a good effort. I can be patient for the work to pay off. There will be more opportunities to to prove myself. For now, I’m happy to keep racing and gaining.

Final Stats

Time – 1:27:04

66th 5816 overall

12th of 3155 female

3rd of 494 in age group

 

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SLCTC Winter Series 15k

Whew! Racing in this series made me feel like those times when I took exams in college without studying. But it was fun, it’s done, and I’m ready to take it to the next level.

The predicted weather for this race was a snowstorm, but I was pretty happy that it did not snow and remained sunny without wind. Still, 25 degrees! The race didn’t start until 10 AM, which was nice for sleeping in, and from the previous races in the series I knew I didn’t have to worry about parking.

The most physically prepared for of the three, I had a time goal of under sixty minutes. I also felt like I could give the other competition a race, but I wanted to start out going by feel and not mind my watch. The 15k is a funny distance. So as planned I started out relaxed, noticing two other contenders in the leading pack (one of whom already bested me at the previous 5k and 10k). The first female led the way about ten yards ahead for the first mile, but I could tell by her form that she would fade. The other female and I caught up to her. I tried to stay right with the woman who had beat me before, but I wasn’t able to hang on yet. I let her go, thinking I could maybe catch up later. The woman who started out too fast and I leap frogged each other until the halfway turnaround point, and then I left her behind. I steadied my pace, and settled into second.

I hadn’t looked at my watch until mile 7, when I began to see the first woman slowing down, though she was still pretty far ahead. I had more doubt than hope in me that I’d be able to catch her. At mile 8 I closed the gap a little more, but I still didn’t feel like I could go for it. In hindsight, I wish I would have at least made it a little closer. She finished twenty-five seconds ahead.

All in all, it was a good run. I didn’t hit my time goal of sub sixty, but I still nabbed my first personal best of the year. I’m hoping it won’t last long, because I have another sub 60 15k attempt in a few weeks.

Final Stats

Time: 1:00:15

Overall: 22nd of 386

Female: 2nd of 195

Age group: 1st of 19

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SLCTC Winter Series 10k 2018

It hadn’t even been a week yet since my marathon scramble, and I found myself expecting to still have some sort of speed in me. There wasn’t any. One mile at goal pace, and the rest was all “downhill” from there. I continued to push into labored breathing to at least use the race as a training run. I am not naturally fast, so speed is the first thing to go when I’m unable to train for an extended period of time. It’s similar to someone trying to lose weight – the area you want most to disappear is the last to go and the first to come back. Well for me, fast legs are last to come and first to leave.

The second race of three in the series, I knew what to expect from the course and the competition. The weather was colder than it had been, so I ended up racing in an extra layer I had intended to shed beforehand. I should have stuck to the “less is best” rule because after starting I got too warm. After that first mile, I settled into third and tried my best to hang on to that. A fellow (male) runner pulled me through halfway and then I pulled him through the last few miles and we finished together.

Despite the fact that I couldn’t perform, I’m happy that my foot is still fine and by the end of the week I’ll be back to my regular training schedule. There will be plenty more races this spring/summer/fall that I’ll be able to challenge last year’s personal bests when I’m ready. Onward.

Final Stats

Time – 39:43

29th of 438 overall

3rd of 217 female

1st of 19 in age group