Turns out a bit more mileage does actually make one faster!

I still remember the four mile run in the park back in Grad School City with MountainMan during which he told me he thought I’d eventually be able to recover from my persistent foot injury and work my way back up to 35 mile weeks. At the time this seemed nearly impossible, but his confident talk gave me hope.

Now, over the last couple weeks, I’m averaging 45 miles per week, 10 miles beyond that 35-miles-per-week dream.

I’m absolutely thrilled…and have purposely inserted a lower mileage week into my training in order to avoid riding this fun higher-mileage wave right into a brutal injury-or-sickness crash. As seen in my lovely training plot below that slope is getting a teensy bit frightening :-O Time for some short recovery days to reward myself and protect my legs.

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2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 weekly mileage. Those 3 2017 months make quite the ski-jump slope ;-P March is a little artificially inflated due to a long run and a long workout in the 10-day span.

However, even during this chill, restrained week I am enjoying the benefit of having several consistent weeks of higher mileage training in my legs. About 4 weeks ago I did a workout of 2 x 2 miles at tempo pace with 2 minutes recovery in between. I managed the sets at 7:16 pace average, with a rough , slower second repeat and a very upset stomach after (lunch enchiladas on workout day = poor decision).

This week I did the same workout, but with an added third 2-mile repeat. I lucked out with a breezy but sunny free afternoon post dentist appointment, and headed over to the ~1200m bike path loop around the local pond/park. I went out hitting 7:09’s and spent the 2nd mile thinking ‘This feels lovely, but oh man I may have just made the rest of this workout exceedingly painful…’. The second set was (unintentionally) even quicker, at just under 14 minutes for the repeat. I tried to relax at the end, and went into my two minute recovery thinking the last set was either going to be amazing or a total mess.

The last repeat was definitely tough with 4 fast miles already in my legs, but I held it together and gritted my way to a final repeat average 7:03! That put me at an average of 7:05 for two miles further than four weeks ago, a pretty big jump and a huge mental-toughness and physical fitness confidence boost for the BolderBoulder 10k coming up at the end of May.

I jogged slowly home and spent the evening just about talking MM’s ear about off with post-workout energy. Luckily he’s a patient listener and is still run-nerdy enough to get excited about my random speedy workout 🙂

I looked back at last Fall and realized this workout was better than all but one of my pre-13.1 workouts. The biggest difference seems to just be base mileage since I haven’t done *that* many workouts since coming back from my break. Last year I had a few low-40’s weeks, but was still regularly in the mid-high 20’s for weekly mileage. With consistent training for a year and a quarter I finally have the mileage in my legs to allow me to do a six-mile workout, and 8-10 mile workout days (warmup, workout, and cool down total). The difference is amazing – I still struggle through the end of long workouts and long runs, but I don’t end every run feeling a little ragged, and I can pile on longer workouts without spending every ounce of energy that I have. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t actually notice a difference with the bump up in mileage but it looks like increased training is treating me kindly and my legs, lungs, and heart are all absorbing the increase and rewarding me with improved performance!

Hurrah for exercise physiology theory working in real life and the practice of slowly wearing down my running shoe soles paying off in fun, fast workouts 😀

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Race report and training thoughts

I finally ran a race in my Oiselle Volee team singlet! So *official*. It turned out to be a bit of a disappointing race for my first race really representing the team, but it was a gorgeous course and a big group of running club people turned out so I had both my more virtual/long-distance team to represent and my local social running club to cheer on.

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The race takes place annually and runs around the upper ski resort starting at 10,000 feet and topping out around 11,000 feet altitude. I had run the 5k version last year so knew what to expect as far as the lung-squeezing lack of oxygen and tough uphill start.

In spite of knowing what was coming I wasn’t feeling very nervous pre-race, which is usually not a great sign for me. If I’m not nervous for a race I sometimes have trouble getting into race mode once the gun goes off. I also felt a little off due to taking a few days off the week leading up due to a weird gluteus medius cramp that had pulled my hip out of whack temporarily. Literal pain in the butt…

When the start went off I felt ok but didn’t have much pop. I tried to stay steady and calm in the first mile as we climbed gradually up the dirt road. I passed one woman (BlueShirt) at the 1-mile mark and then climbed onto single track of the second mile. In the second mile I caught another woman (WhiteShirt) who was having a bit of trouble on the more technical trail and waved me and a couple men to pass as she recovered her footing and composure from a near fall. I figured she’d gone out too fast and didn’t really expect to see her for a while. I was now in third and started to think that with a bunch of fast women out of town for Pikes Peak maybe I could *finally* podium one of these races!

Going into the third mile I ran in front of a guy from my local running club, cruising through some nice gradual single track and frosted grass on the shaded backside of the mountain. Going into mile four we hit some tough climbs and technical downhills and he switched me spots and then started to pull away. I knew I probably needed to stay with him if I wanted to keep the women behind me at bay but I found my legs growing heavy and actually had to power hike a few of the climbs as we kept winding through the fourth mile. I didn’t want to have to undergo the pain of a competitive finish, but just couldn’t find the leg power to keep rolling on the uphills.

The downhill going into mile five seemed like a relief at first, and I pushed myself to really turn over on the smooth single track. However, I could tell I was still losing ground and I started to wonder where the runners behind me were. I started seeing WhiteShirt and BlueShirt going into a series of switchbacks at mile 6 and felt a little panic in my stomach. “Shit!” was all I could think – they were coming up strong and I had nothing in me to hold them off. I focused on holding my pace and prayed that I would be at the finish line before they caught me.

However, mile 6 threw in a nasty surprise – a gnarly series of switchbacks, dips, and rocky trail sections on a newly cut route. I heard Blue and White working together to catch me, and couldn’t pick up my pace without flying off the trail. WhiteShirt suddenly appeared right behind me and flew by with a shout of “on your left!!!” I watched her go with a bit of despair but kept telling myself that I could get back up there…

BlueShirt was gaining fast in the last 400m and we were both flying around the switchbacks as fast as we could. BlueShirt slipped by me with maybe 100m to go and in spite of desperately trying to stick to her butt around the last switchback and the final 50m sprint on the dirt road to finish she beat me by 5 seconds.

I cross the line feeling deflated. I had pushed it throughout the race but had never crossed the line into real pain and was now left wondering if I could have held onto third if I’d put myself through more pain in the middle miles and built up a bigger gap to the Shirt gals. I also felt disappointment with myself at failing to practice the fast downhills like I knew I needed to after the very first race. The fear of injury has held me back, as has a general dislike of fast downhill running – I don’t enjoy working on the things I’m not good at, even when the logical way to improve is to address my weaknesses.

This trail season has shown me where a lot of my weaknesses lay. I generally fall back after a strong first half (endurance), I suffer on some of the longer/steeper climbs (leg strength), and I keep getting my ass kicked on technical downhills (agility). At least I know what I need to work on!

On a more positive note, after analyzing my results from this race and past races I realized that I’ve always stayed within 10-12% of the leader’s total time behind the lead woman and actually managed the exact same pace for this race as the first race, which had the same average grade (157 feet/mile). If I consider that this race was 3000 feet higher in elevation that gives me a pace conversion of an extra 25 seconds faster per mile, which would make this recent race a decent improvement over the first race in the series. With that knowledge about the approximate pace conversion and my consistent distance behind the super-fit lead women who’s been winning every race at least I know I’m not regressing, and am probably actually improving in spite of consistently losing spots over the last mile and ending up placing a bit behind where I want to be.

Here’s to working up the courage to work on my weaknesses for these last few trail races and going into next summer’s trail race series!

#headupwingsout

XTERRA Beaver Creek 10(ish…)k trail run race report

The Strava split summary actually sums up last weekend’s XTERRA trail race pretty well:

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I spent the day before cheering on a coworker who also happens to be a *awesome* triathlete (she placed top 5 in the pro division! Wootwoot!) and generally getting really nervous and pumped up as I watched the triathletes race the same course I’d be running the next day.

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Goooooo imaging research team! (Also, this is literally the flattest 100m of the course)

The next day I woke up nervous but excited, knowing I had a tough course ahead of me. I slapped on a Oiselle temporary tattoo since I was still waiting on my singlet (dang post-office forwarding lost it somehow), my favorite DIY singlet and short-shorts, and took off up the ski hill to warm up. The trail run portion of the event included 3 races: 20k, 10k, and 5k so I got to watch the 20kers take off about 10 minutes before my start time. They took off to a canon shot – talk about an adrenaline rush!

I arrived at the start line much more amped up than I’ve been for any of my previous summer races, perhaps due to the little added pressure of having a teammate of sorts (my coworker) at the race cheering for me, and hoping to live up to the trend that she started with her awesome race the day before. We didn’t get a canon, instead starting to a horn, but I still shot off the line like I was starting a track race, quickly ending up in 2nd behind the lead man.

Luckily I managed to calm down and drifted back a few spots, trying to hold a pace that wouldn’t put me deeply in debt when I hit the first big climb. I expected another woman to come up behind me during the whole first mile but instead held my spot as the first woman going into the 2nd mile and the first climb. Based on advice from some fellow trail runners and the triathletes from the day before I tried alternating power walking on the steep curves and running the straights of the winding switchback section. The grade jumps sharply at each turn, and walking at least felt more efficient. It also kept my breathing under control and kept the screaming in my legs to a dull roar, even as I stayed on the tail of the man in front of me. I found out after that I’d PR’d on the section by 5 seconds, so maybe there was something to the run-walk strategy!

After the first climb we had about a mile of steep but runnable downhill down a dirt road and onto some mellow single track. I was still in first and hadn’t seen any women close behind…was I actually going to hold onto this?!? I headed into the second climb feeling confident and strong from the long downhill recovery.

The second climb was ROUGH. The shock of switching from effortless downhill speed to the grinding exhaustion of more uphill running shook me mentally, making me wonder if I’d gone out way too aggressively. I started to fear that I’d falter so hard that I’d lose my lead and end up wimping myself out of a top 3 finish. I walked on a few sections much milder than the earlier switchbacks, but just couldn’t get any spring back in my step.

The happy surprise of an aid station and the resulting gift of cold, glorious water brought me out of my little pit of grumpiness and I managed to get back in sight of the guy in front of me on the final small climb. Unfortunately, right as I was starting to feel good again I realized my calf was sending regular twinges up my leg. I prayed it wouldn’t cramp and kept my eyes scanning for the calf-saving downhill that I knew was coming up soon.

Thankfully, my calf held off and I was able to enjoy the gorgeous wildflower views as I flew down the winding single track down off the mountain and towards the downhill dirt-road finish.

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I happily ran through the finish, grateful that I had somehow managed to stay in first (!) and that my calf had managed to hold together over the last mile. I hadn’t had the best race mentally, but had paced well in the first half and had then pushed through the miserable section well enough to hold my position, and had even been able to regain enough zip to actually enjoy the last section. The course was a blast apart from the tough second climb, and the opportunity to spend an entire weekend cheering and racing with a  friend was absolutely amazing.

Once I caught my breath my friend and I headed to the foam roller tent for a thorough, painful roll, grabbed some food, and then went on a 6 mile hike…because what better post-race cool down than a fun hike and a natural ice bath??

Hurrah for race weekends with friends and gorgeous, tough trail courses!

 

Summer Solstice 10k Race Report

Last Saturday’s race was preceded by the usual day-before struggle-fest of a run and some unusually discouraging pre-race thoughts:

Upon waking up: “Ugh I really am not feeling this getting up early thing…”

While eating breakfast: “I can’t decide if I feel hungry or nauseated”

On arriving at the course: “Gahhhh it’s hot already! Should I run in a sports bra?”

On the warm up: “Well this was a horrible idea…this is going to SUCK”

With that mindset, I’m almost surprised I didn’t just walk back to my car for a nap, skipping the race entirely.

 

Luckily, I spent a few minutes surrounded by the excited crowd energy before the start, taking in the gorgeous views of the mountains and getting distracted from the persistent negativity in my head.

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How can I stay negative while surrounded by this amazing start/finish-line scene?

The starter counted us down and my trusty runner brain went straight into race-mode and the distracting negativity faded away. The course started out downhill (woohoo!) before turning into gradual uphill around the half-mile mark. From there a steep climb took us up to the 2-mile mark.

At the first steep dirt-road downhill right before 2 miles I was hanging on as the 4th woman with 3rd place 10 seconds ahead (thanks helpful spectator who yelled that information!) Due to the heat I stopped and drank a full cup at the aid station, but could still see 3rd place (the tutu gal from the Memorial Day 5-miler) up ahead when I threw down my cup and took off from the dirt road onto the single track.

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A running photo in which I don’t look half-melted! Whaaaaat?!?

Unfortunately, my legs were pretty much dead from the first climb on – I *really* need to stop doing sweltering 6-mile runs the day before these races…and maybe do some squats! However, my breathing felt good and I managed to stay in sight of my friendly rival until we hit the switch-back downhill with a couple miles to go.

At this point in the race I had started to fade pretty badly in the heat, and my heavy quads were struggling to hold any kind of decent pace on the switchbacks. A gal who I knew from skiing (and who I knew was a beast of a Nordic skier) was coming up on my tail and I fought to hold her off until a stomach cramp ended that campaign and she flew by. She kindly offered some words of encouragement and I managed to relax from the cramp and ease back towards her on the smoother downhill of the dirt road and bike path coming into the last half mile. Alas, I didn’t manage to get back up next to her before the finish and ended up in 5th, but first for my age group once again.

Mentally and physically the race was MUCH better than the Boneyard race (only partially due to the slightly shorter distance…) and I’m pretty pleased with my result and ability to hang so close to two extremely tough runners/athletes. I’ve started adding in some more trail work and hill work (owwww….) and am hoping that I can race myself into good enough shape to just maybe sneak onto that overall podium later in the season.

Overall, it was a great reminder that those scary, negative pre-race thoughts don’t necessarily portend a scary, negative race. Staying calm, working through a regular pre-race routine, and drawing positive vibes from the pre-race scene can help clear the way for the necessary race focus and prevent the almost inevitable negative thoughts from sabotaging a perfect opportunity to get in a challenging, fun effort out on the race course.

Highest mileage running week since February!!!

Last week I ran a feeble total of 8 miles due to what felt like the beginnings of a plantar fasciitis flare up and maybe a *touch* of injury paranoia. I’m just so sick of getting injured so I’m trying to stick to the mindset that it’s better to overreact and get ahead of any aches.

I took 3 days completely off running and then did an easy test run on Sunday. Everything felt fine so I was able to do the group run I’d planned on Monday (free club tech t-shirts! Free beer! Runner talk! Oh yeaaaaa). 

  
That felt fine so I just kept running and somehow ended up running every day this week. I alternated long and short days, but never felt any pain, or enough fatigue to feel like I needed an off day. I plan to take one after tomorrow’s group run, but making it over a week without HAVING to take a day off felt amazing!

I finished this week up with a 10 kilometer run through a snowy, windy morning.  

After adding up the miles, I realized that, at 26 miles, this has been my highest mileage week/first week over 20 miles since the last week in February, and my 10k long run was my longest run since the first week of 2015!   

 Time sure flies when you’re injured 😛 

Whirlwind!

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to sit down, process my thoughts, and write! Fortunately, this crazy whirlwind of activity has been due to happy occurrences rather than unwanted stress. Since I’ve last posted I’ve:

1) Run 50 miles with 4,500 feet total elevation gain and accompanying gorgeous views up and down the canyons.

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*Sidenote: It finally feels like Fall here! Brrrr…but as long as I can still wear shorts I’m totally down with the cooler weather 🙂

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**And I am still doing morning runs as often as possible. I *love* it 😛IMG_0262

2) I completed 3!!! more thesis chapters (note that these were *almost* done, but if feels AMAZING to have them officially moved to the “FinalDraft” folder),

3) received two internship offers and accepted one of them (squee, so excited to start on Monday!),

and

4) ran a 10k within 3 minutes of my PR and met some awesome runners along the way. Finished 2nd overall/1st female with these runnerly gentlemen:

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Oof! I’m simultaneously exhausted and thrilled just thinking about everything 🙂 Hope everyone’s weeks have been equally packed with awesome events!

race report: 10k with my mountain man

Today I ran (and won!) my first road race since the mono and toe-troubles – it was a small fun-run held near my husband’s hometown.  The race is held in conjunction with a (delicious!) picnic brunch and small-town parade and is a really low-key affair.  We drove drown with my mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and brother-in-law’s girlfriend, all of whom were doing the 5k.  The relaxed fun-run attitude prevented the usual pre-race jitters from showing up, and it was actually a pretty cool event – they offered three different distances (1.5 mile, 5k, and 10k) so the field included excited little kids, fairly competitive local high school XC runners, a bunch of fitness-minded middle-aged folks, and one grizzled old man that had done the race 25 times!  The race ran along a large lake on a pavement trail reminiscent of the tree-lined, but dreadfully bland greenbelt where every single one of my college tempo runs was held.  Fortunately it lacked the every 10th-of-a-mile markers (somehow these make those last 2 painful miles feel so much longer…)

The timer started us with a mild-mannered ready-set-go and my husband (MountainMan) and I found ourselves out at the front pretty quickly.  We had fun cheering on some of the little kids that were doing the 1.5 mile, and then kept going as they hit the first turn around at ¾ miles.  Husband was gabbing with a guy he’d run against in high school and I felt good enough to chat with them.  At about 1 mile I noticed that the lady behind me (a sports-bra clad lady from Bermuda with really impressive abs who I’d overheard say that she was doing the 10k) was pushing to pass us, so I put in a little surge and pulled Husband and his friend along with me.  Husband’s friend didn’t like the change in pace and seemed plenty happy to turn around without us at the 5k turn around.

Right before the 5k turn around, MountainMan and I were joined by a another 10k runner, who turned out to be a Carroll-college mid-distance runner who was home over the summer.  We all ran together until the halfway point, where I started getting tired and had to fall back from the guys slightly.  As we turned around I saw that Bermuda lady was only about 200m back, and got a bit worried.  The whole way back was a nerve-wracking battle to keep pushing and hopefully avoid letting her near enough that I’d have to try and kick in the last mile!

I managed to avoid letting the guys out of my sight.  The Carroll College runner took off at about 1.5 to go, and my husband started turning around every quarter mile or so and looking over his shoulder at me.  I thought maybe he was thinking of falling back and running with me, and was a little confused when he stayed up ahead.  I tried to focus on catching him, but had trouble keeping my focus forward rather than on the sports-bra-clad rival that I knew was somewhere behind me.  I looked back a couple times (I know, I should know better!) but couldn’t see her.

I finally made it through the very, very long last 800m and was extremely relieved to cross the finish as 3rd overall and the first woman!  It turns out that the lady from Bermuda was a whole 3 minutes behind me – I’m glad I thought she was closer though, since I’m sure I wouldn’t have run as fast if I knew I didn’t need to 😉  MountainMan cracked me up when he told me that he wasn’t looking back to see if I was close enough to run with, he was looking back to make sure he had enough distance on me to keep me from catching him with a kick at the finish!  He really is more out of shape than even I thought ha ha.  Poor guy – he’s just started getting back into running and has only been getting in about 2-4 miles a few times a week.  Coming out of retirement is rough 😉

I won a fun little trophy and was able to hold just under 7 minute pace for the whole thing, which is decent considering my current fitness level.  My brother-in-law’s girlfriend got 2nd in the 5k and my mother-in-law ran a strong time and had fun doing her first race since getting over a painful leg injury (fell off a horse).  My brother-in-law had to stop and walk because he used all his air to chat…we gave him just a tiny bit of a hard time 😉

Had fun (and remembered how tough that 2nd half is mentally!), won some hardware, and got to eat delicious eggs, ham, and biscuits with gravy afterwards with MountainMan’s awesome family – what more could I ask for?Image