Final race of the season – RSNA conference fun-run

It’s been a long, fruitful season since my first race back in March of this year, and I was excited to have the opportunity to do my final race of the season in Chicago (at sea level!!!) and with my awesome runner/tri-athlete coworker during our big conference week.

We both spent the few days before traveling, attending talks, and prepping for our own presentations (a podium for her and poster for me), which meant any pre-race prep and pre-race nerves were on the back burner. We did get in a lovely shakeout run along lake Michigan, and headed to bed early the night before so that the 6:30 a.m. start (oooof!) wouldn’t feel quite as rough.

Race morning dawned dark and unseasonably warm (45 degrees!), which meant shorts and long sleeves – definitely not the outfit I had envisioned when I packed my tights, wool socks, mittens, hat, and micro-spikes into my suitcase a few days prior. I brought my racing flats along for an extra little race boost and carried them on our 2-mile warmup run to the park where the race start was located.

My coworker and I got to the park and checked our extra gear, did a few drills and strides together, and then lined up at the start. We eyed a few other competitors (“Let’s beat those guys from Philips!”) and chatted happily with one of the women who’d run the race a few times before. It was a low-key start, with a steady friendly chatter beforehand and then a simple “Ready, set, go!”from the starter. I had to squeeze by a couple guys but then took off at what seemed like a reasonable sea-level pace with the windy-city wind blowing briskly at my back. A small lead pack led the way and we were soon moving briskly down the sidewalk along the lake shore.

I made it through the wind-aided first mile in a surprising 6:08 or so (eek!), but felt fine apart from the shock of seeing the surprisingly fast time on the 1-mile clock. Even with my brisk pace another woman passed me like I was standing still right before the mile mark, and another gal did the same right before the turnaround at 1.5 miles. I just kept spinning my legs and hoping I could hold my pace and fend off any more women coming up behind me. The turnaround meant a a direct flip onto the opposite side of the bike path and into the wind, and my pace slowed considerably to about 6:35 average in the final 1.5 miles with the added resistance. I was relatively alone, and couldn’t hear the runners behind me due to the wind whistling in my ears. All I could do was to keep pushing and hope for the best.

I finally caught a few guys with about a quarter mile to go and kicked with the pack as we spotted the 200m-to-go marker. I could see the finish clock from about 50m out and accelerated into the finish in the hopes of getting under 19:40. I crossed the line to find out I’d gotten third (woohoo!!!), well behind the 1st and 2nd place women who’d both run well under 19 minutes(!)

My coworker came in shortly afterwards at just over 20 minutes and we tiredly recounted our race experiences and gathered some food for the run back. Our cool down wound along the lake shore as the sun rose, making for quite the end to our early morning. We spent the rest of the day conferencing, happy to have gotten in a good 7 miles before spending the day in dress clothes and researcher-mode.

To be honest, it was a bit of a weird final race – I wasn’t all that nervous before hand and the results were fairly meaningless (although my 3rd place did get me a spot in the conference newsletter!). My coworker and I both ran well, but had other, more significant things to focus on that day. However, in spite of the low-key atmosphere I was really pleased with the race – I got to both enjoy my pre-race time without the usual anxiety and also managed to run a really solid race that confirmed the times I’ve been looking at with the altitude conversion from my high-altitude race times. It was definitely satisfying to see that I really did have a sub-20 (and a well-under-20!) in me, and that I was able to perform under the slightly weird conditions of such an early race.

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This is probably the only way I’ll ever do anything impressive enough to get into the conference bulletin ;P

Now it’s on to a little running break, and then a hopefully strong winter of steady, base-building running, strength work, skiing, snowshoeing, and other fun snow-land activities 🙂

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We’re number 2! We’re number 2!

I finally got in a XC race with enough teammates to score! The race was a club/community race a couple hours away and one of my Oiselle Volee teammates had done the tough work of recruiting and organizing a scoring team (4 person team in this case).

I drove down the morning of (over slightly icy roads and through glorious views of snow-capped peaks) and met my 3 teammates as we gathered before the race. It was still chilly but sunny and clear – perfect racing weather! We enjoyed the rare opportunity to warm up as a team, did some panicked pre-race peeing in the bushes (yay for only 1 working park-bathroom toilet and a huge herd of runners :-[), and then lined up in a small grass field for the start. There were about 100 runners in the race and we were several spots deep on the small starting line, shadows blending together in the bright early morning sunlight. We stood and said the pledge of allegiance (which was especially meaningful/nerve-inducing in light of the upcoming election) and then took our ‘ready’ stance to wait for the starting whistle.

“Pweeeeeeet!” The whistle blew and we were off, streaming around the starter and race director who hugged the single telephone pole amid the jostling crowd of runners. I got out well and found myself being swept along the first few turns, legs feeling like they were spinning out of control. At only 400m in we hit the infamous creek crossing, which was less of a creek and more of a deep, rocky ditch that caught several runners unaware. Fortunately my teammates who’d done the course previously had warned me about the tripping hazard and I scampered through without getting tripped up. I then almost ran straight into the back of an older man who’d sprinted the start but was now easing up a bit on the rolling hills. I slipped past him and continued weaving my way along with the rushing stream of fellow runners.

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Looking way more in control than I felt 😛

The first mile was windy, narrow, and rocky, and although my lungs and muscles felt fine I felt like I was running just barely in control, and was a little worried about tripping due to only being able to see the backs of the runners ahead of me and a foot or two of the ground in front of my feet. Thankfully the path widened at the mile mark and I was able to get a bit more room and focus on a group of 3 women ahead of me. We turned onto a small loop for mile 2 that wove through a boardwalk and a long stretch of brush-edged dirt single track. I was holding steady behind the women in front of me coming out of that loop and back onto the wide section, but then got passed by another woman who was moving strongly towards the group. I borrowed some of her momentum to work my way up towards the group going into the single track but didn’t know if I’d actually be able to catch them. We entered the third mile and also started lapping runners who were on their first little boardwalk/singletrack loop.

I tried to gasp a ‘good job’ to each runner I passed as I chased down the pack of women in front of me. I suddenly realized that if I had the air to say ‘good job’ I could probably be pushing harder, and used a little lull in pace as an opportunity to throw in a surge past the entire group of women and towards the two lead women who were starting to pull away in front. The effectiveness of my little burst kind of surprised me – I dropped the group without any resistance and found myself gaining slightly on the woman in front of me.

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Surging past the pack, wheeee!

We came out of the little loop and into the final half mile and I tried to lengthen my stride to see if I could chase her down. As we wound into the final 200m I couldn’t quite close on her, but pushed a final kick as a runner came up behind me, breathing loudly. “Ahhhh don’t let that be that pack of women!” I thought as I sprinted into the finish.

As I bent over feeling a bit barfy I was pleased to see it’d actually been a couple guys that made my finish panicky, and that they’d pushed me to a 20:05 5k! Soooo close to that sub-20 goal! I was even more pleased to get to cheer in my teammates who were sprinting in just a few seconds behind me!

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Goooo Oiselllllllle!!!

There’s just something awesome about finishing a race, hands on knees, and getting to stumble your way to the side of the finishing chute to holler for your teammates! With the first 3 of us in with only a few runners between us and all finishing in the top 15 women we knew we must have scored pretty well out of the the women’s teams. We shuffled back along the finish to cheer in our final teammate and then jogged a stiff-legged cool down before enjoying the post-race spread of yogurt, crackers, and beer.

We ended up placing 2nd for the women’s teams (thus the title of this post) and basked in the post-race pain/glow for a bit with our shiny 2nd-place ribbons before all running off to kids/family/spouses and other weekend activities. With the low-key but competitive atmosphere, my almost sub-20 time, and the joy of racing with a strong team this was definitely one of the highlights of my racing season.

Hurrah for club cross-country and the awesomeness of racing with an amazing group of women!

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Enjoying the 5k pain cave 😛  #headsupwingsout

The Other Half, Moab

Race photos are finally up, my legs are mostly not sore anymore, and the blisters on my pinkie toes have receded to mild bruising – time for a race report!

I was pretty excited going into this half marathon since I had 8 weeks of solid 30+ mile weeks in my legs and several 12+ mile long runs, plus some strong half-marathon focused workouts. My long tempo (7 miles at marathon pace + 10 seconds) had gone well and predicted that I could probably handle low 7:20’s pace, which would put me well under my goal of 1:40.

Unfortunately, I was also *extremely* nervous about the potentially hot weather and longer race than I’d run since over two years ago. I completed my final ½-focused workout and felt ok but not great, and then spent the next couple days nursing a strange little Achilles twinge that popped up seemingly out of the blue after a hilly easy run. After a couple days off my last couple shakeout runs went by without any pain, and I went into race morning no longer thinking about the prospect of crippling injury.

I met up with Fish in Moab the day before the race and we camped out that night, tossing and turning with pre-race nerves.

I was having a *great* time dealing with some cramps and spent my pre-race prep swallowing ibuprofen in the hopes that it would keep the discomfort from impacting my race. On race morning I took a couple final doses as we drove down the winding dirt road back into town at 6am to meet the race shuttles. Fish and I ate some pre-made bagels and yogurts as well boarded the shuttle, and then spent 40 minutes shivering with nerves and cold as the bus wound through the dark canyon along the race route to the start.

We disembarked, spent about half an hour milling about the porte-potty lines, and then reluctantly took our warm gear to the gear-drop van. We spent the last 15 minutes before the race doing a ~1 mile jog to get the feeling back in our limbs (it was in the low 40’s) and then bouncing up and down to stay warm in the starting corral. As the starter made the pre-race announcements we hugged and went our separate ways to our respective pace groups to line up. The local Moab drumming group led us on a slow march to the starting line and then rode their truck off down the course that we would soon be covering much more slowly on foot.

The start was uneventful – a simple ‘1-minute to go’ announcement, a quiet wait, and then the gun. I took off in a small herd and tried to relax, letting the sprinters and speedsters fly ahead. My watch told me I was just a bit under pace so I settled in and let the slight downhill carry me along. At the 1 mile I passed a few people who’d started out too fast but otherwise mostly held even with all but the lead group who were already pulling way. The next few miles followed the same trend, with steady mid-7-teens showing on my watch and the quiet patter of feet providing the only distraction from the long road ahead.

At mile 4 I started to get passed and got a bit concerned. However, my watch still showed relatively even splits and I felt like I was pushing just as much as I could without going too far so I let the passers ease ahead and worked to just stay relaxed and keep an eye on the people who seemed to be holding my same pace. I had a nice chat with one younger guy who thanked me for acting as a good pacer as he pulled slightly ahead, and spent some time admiring another gal’s unique attire and earrings as she ran just ahead of me. I still felt good enough to chat briefly  with my fellow racers and examine my surroundings, and was able to get enough water at the aid stations to avoid feeling thirsty in the still-chilly air. I felt a small Achilles twinge but had no lingering pain so was only mildly worried.

As we passed the 6-mile aid station I told myself that the race was ‘half over plus a bonus mile’ and focused on keeping my pace up while not thinking too much about the remaining miles or my Achilles, which had developed an annoying habit of twinging once or twice a mile whenever I hit a slight downhill or stepped too hard. The cycle of one mile without an aid station and one with every two miles was breaking the race up nicely, and the volunteers were enthusiastic and well organized, making the water stops smooth and upbeat. Mile 7 was our last flat mile and I just focused on relaxing and gradually working towards the small forms of the racers ahead. I worried a bit that the climbs would aggravate my Achilles issue, but figured I wouldn’t know till I took my first few uphill steps.

We finally hit the climbs, and the first big climb actually turned out to provide a nice boost as I passed several racers who I’d only expected to see the backs of for the rest of the race. My calf/Achilles actually felt better on the climbs than the slight downhills so I figured it couldn’t be too much of a serious problem. The climb to mile 8 cover 170 feet and gave me my slowest split (8:01) but the experience of passing people on the climb counteracted my concerns about the slower pace. The next mile was downhill, and then to ten miles was rolling climbs and drops. The downhills had luckily stopped aggravating my Achilles (thanks endorphins!) but were now making my feet suffer. Every downhill made my feet slide forward in my shoes, grinding my soles against the footbed and scraping my toes against the front of my shoes. I’d never had this problem in training, but had also never done quite such a long hilly run on the asphalt.

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I can’t decide if this is a smile or a grimace :-[]

Hitting eight miles had put me at the ⅔ mark and the prospect of only having 3 miles left when I hit the ten-mile marker put a little pep back in my legs, which were starting to suffer from the climbs. I had passed a few more men on the uphills with my short, quick stride and was now surrounded by a small group of older men, with the nearest woman about 30 seconds ahead. As we crested the final hills at 11.5 miles the drummers were there again, and the beat of the drums simultaneously gave me the shivers (thanks late-race, overly-emotional running brain…) and gave me a beat to run to up the final incline. From there it was all downhill or flat. I threw a last cup of water over my head at the 12-mile aid station in the hopes that the cold water would shock me into some sort of final push.

The men around me began to pick up the pace in the last half mile, but the final stretch turned out to be frustratingly long, with several twists and turns before the hidden finish. I prayed there wasn’t another runner gaining on me as I failed to hold off the group of men who I’d caught on the last hill. I was suffering and didn’t have any extra energy left to pick up the pace and fight off any kickers. We dropped down to 6:40 pace and it was all I could do to keep the group in sight as I flailed and gasped my way around the multiple blind turns.

Mercifully, I *finally* turned the final curve and only had 100m to go, and no one came up on me in that last straight. I got close enough to read the finishing clock and gave a low energy “whoop!” in my mind when I saw a ‘1:3_’ in front of the final digit rather than a 1:4-something. I heard someone yell out “seventh woman!” as I came through and managed a smile for that and the wonderful volunteers who were handing out medals and directing the runners towards the water.

I stumbled about for a bit and then grabbed some food and rushed back to cheer in Fish, who finished right on the dot of her ambitious ‘A’ goal with a perfect 10-minute-pace average (off of mainly hiking/backpacking training!). We spent the rest of the after-race celebration limping on sore feet and enjoying the bountiful feast of ice cream, chocolate milk, watermelon, and, a rare thing on a Utah Sunday, beer! I got a very unexpected age-group win and we both enjoyed some fun chats with fellow runners before heading back to the shuttles and some more substantial lunch food.

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Boom! We did it 😀

Looking back at my past races this spring/summer I realized that I ran this 13.1 mile race at the same pace that I held for my 5-mile race back in May! Going from a 37 minute all-out 5-miler to a 1:36:40 half marathon makes all those arduous workouts, tedious recovery runs, and tough long runs feel much more effective and much more worthwhile. This is also my first actual PR since my toe injury almost 5 years ago, so I’m both extremely pleased with the race and excited to see what I can do next season.

Hurrah for awesome racing buddies, only mildly unhappy Achilles tendons, challenging (but fun) courses, and the blessing of being able to train and then actually apply the resulting fitness in a good race!

Half marathon next weekend!!!

As I mentioned in a previous post I’m signed up for a half marathon in Moab this year and am hoping to set a new half PR of something-under-1:40. Well, I’ve reached the point where race day is now only 8 days away (ahhhhh!!!!) and I figured I’d talk a bit about my training, and then we’ll see in a week how effective it actually has been!

I realized about 6 weeks out that I should probably do some race-specific training rather than sticking to 5k training till the day-of and then going out like a wild woman for 3 miles before collapsing. Even if the fitness is there, some actual race-pace training is always a good idea! I searched around online for intermediate 13.1 training plans (i.e., wanting to race/hit a goal time in addition to finishing) and decided on this plan from Kara Goucher that was posted on the Oiselle site. I wouldn’t always trust an Olympian to write a good ‘normal person’ training plan, but this one appeared to  do a great job of balancing tough-but-doable workouts with a reasonable amount of mileage. The plan starts off with the expectation of some base having been put into place, with a fartlek workout in week 1, and then moves to ½ marathon pace work at week 5.

Since I only had 5 weeks before my race I hopped into the plan at week 6, figuring my trail season and cross-country work would serve as a fine substitute for the initial 5 weeks of workouts. Luckily I was correct and the transition to half marathon workouts went pretty smoothly. Honestly, I might recommend a little bit of speedier work leading into the ½ marathon workouts since the switch to a more relaxed pace balances the intimidation that comes with the introduction of the longer, more tedious workouts.

I steadily worked my way through each of the written workouts, plus weekend cross-country races on weeks 7 and 8. I’m trying to keep up some 5k speed so the races served as good short-but-hard efforts that balanced well with the more tempo-type half marathon workouts. With the lower mileage plan (peaking at 33-50 miles depending on which level one picks – I picked the lower mileage plan) 2 hard efforts didn’t wear me down too much. I just completed the final big workout with a 7-mile tempo run – my longest since college!!! – and am excited to test out my fitness next weekend.

The one other thing that I did to deviate from the written plan was to add a few miles onto the written long runs. The 10-week plan’s long runs start at 5 miles and peak at 11 miles. Since I was already doing 10 mile long runs when I would have started the 10 weeks I was able to gradually add miles without overdoing it and included four runs of 12-14 miles over the last few weeks. I’m dropping down to 8 miles this week, as suggested by the plan, and with a few longer runs in my legs and a nice taper I’m confident that I can make it the full 13.1 miles at the very least.

The last factor going into this race is hydration and fueling. I’ve been taking a gel for practice on some of my long runs since I won a full box of them at one of the trail races and my tongue and stomach handle them fine. I just did a race-pace fueling and drinking test during this week’s 7 mile tempo and everything went smoothly other than one inhaled mouthful of water. I’m thinking gels at 4 and 8 miles should be adequate since they’re 32g of carbs and those markers should give me about 30g per 30 minutes as recommended. I’ll bring one extra in case I start dreaming of bagels at mile 10 but don’t think I’ll need it. My main worry is water – I don’t often get a chance to practice drinking out of cups and am worried that a choking sip every 2 miles at the water stations won’t be enough to keep me hydrated. It’s also nice to be able to sip the water over a longer period rather than gulping it, and cups don’t seem conducive to carrying  water along for sipping over a half-mile or so.

I carried a half-full soft flask bottle from my Salomon pack during the tempo this week and it worked great…but only holds 250 mL when half filled for comfortable carrying at race pace. Based on the fact that I drained the half-bottle during the tempo plus warmup/cooldown 250 mL seems like only enough for about 9 miles of comfortable sipping. I’m also a little concerned that my arm might get tired and then I’ll be annoyed to be lugging the dang thing. I’m planning to run with it again on my 8-miler today so that should give me more info. Maybe I’ll carry the bottle and then switch to cup sipping at the miles 8-10 water stations if needed?

 

Any good tips from the long-haul runners out there re: carrying bottles and/or drinking out of cups? Will I actually need that much water or is the constant mild dehydration induced by living at altitude making me paranoid?

Success – I embraced the nature over 5 kilometers of steep hills, shin-deep grass, and the occasional ice patch

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Saturday’s race morning started after a fitful night of being woken multiple times by a restless dog and a husband who was really excited about a bear on the patio at 2am. Knowing my alarm was going off at 4:20am, I was much less thrilled about the disruptive middle of the night visitor. Luckily no one was eaten and I managed a few solid hours of sleep before my alarm pulled my out of bed and into the dark morning.

I dressed, grabbed my gear, and drove the two hours to the course, wishing I had thought to make some coffee for the drive.Happily, the sun began to rise over the peaks just as I arrived, pulling me out of my drowsy state and into race prep mode. I registered and quickly started my warm up jog to wake my legs and get the chill out of my hands and feet. I spotted one other gal doing drills in an ankle-length down coat and runner’s cap and figured she might be my main competition in what was looking to be a rather sparse field.

The small group of us – mainly blue-lipped men in skimpy shorts and tank tops and more comfortable-looking women in tights, long sleeves, and gloves – gathered at the start for some pre-race instructions, an ‘on your mark’, and a very exciting send-off signaled by surprisingly-loud mini canon fire!

I took off conservatively, well aware of the steady hill that would take us from about the first quarter mile up to the 1 mile mark. A group of the tank-top men and I slogged up the double-track, gradually spreading out as the hill took its toll.

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The start, and the hill in the background.

The second mile started with a snow-covered switchback onto the only flat bit apart from the start, and then swiftly dove downhill on some frozen dirt single track that wound through gray and yellow aspens. This spat us out into some of the most challenging terrain of the course – deep, uneven grass.

I had somehow ended up in first but kept seeing the gal from the warmup whenever we went around a switchback. Now I was fighting the cold, fatigue from the long first mile climb, and the uneven, momentum-sapping grass to stay ahead of her. I tried to follow the men’s lead on the challenging terrain, sticking to the shortest grass and prancing around the many bumps, holes, and rocks. I rolled my ankle once but fortunately felt it spring right back with just a tiny twinge.

The course brought us tantalizingly close to the finish with about 800m to go, and then sent us around on one more final bit of single track, another section of knobby overgrown field, and then down a steep mowed-grass hill into the finishing flat. I was finally able to stride out and felt the effort, but was determined to stay ahead of the runner behind me who’s footsteps were growing alarmingly close. I pumped my arms through the finish and turned to see a guy finishing close behind and then the gal I’d been racing against.

We all spent a few moments congratulating each other and commiserating over the gnarly course, and then stampeded the concessions stand to get our well-earned muffins and free coffee. I settled on a sun-warmed boulder to sip my coffee and congratulated myself on keeping the ‘curse you mother nature!’ thoughts to a minimum during the race.

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COOOFFFFFEEEEEEE. With melted/dissolved whipped cream 😀

After the (glorious) caffeine kicked in I cooled down while cheering on the middle-school racers and then met up to cheer with a Volee teammate who was coaching a local high school team over the same brutal course. There’s nothing quite like spending the morning after a hard effort sprinting around a cross-country course in the Autumn sunshine cheering for a bunch of speedy young upstarts!

 

Here’s a question for you all! Favorite beverage post-race: hot (or iced!) coffee, cold beer, fizzy sports-drink? Or something more unique?

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A glorious day for racing and cheering

Cross-country: Sometimes it rocks, sometimes giant grass loops of doom chew you up and spit you out

I ran another cross country 6k against collegiate and club athletes this Saturday out in Denver. The course was described as flat and grassy and I was really looking forward to pushing myself to a fast time against the strong field of women. I drove the few hours to the course on Saturday morning, arrived with plenty of time to warm up and take in the big HS/college meet atmosphere, and then shuffled around on the starting line with the other non-collegiate athletes looking for a non-occupied starting box. We endured one non-firing starting pistol issue and then were off!

My thoughts during the race didn’t exactly live up to my pre-race excitement…

During the crowded first mile as we all fought for space on the narrow, chalk-outlined course my thoughts ranged from the semi-positive (“Well at least I’m *near* being on the course here…and have managed to avoid getting shoved into a tree so far!”) to the frustrated (“Holy frack, what is it with these girls cutting in front of me and then slowing down?!?”). I was having some trouble finding a clear path at this point and probably wasted some energy weaving and putting in little burst to get clear. The grass proved to be a more challenging surface to run on than I’d anticipated – it was rough and uneven and kept pushing my legs around, throwing me off balance. Running over a series of awkward bumps that causes your hips to ache and thighs to continually bounce off one another isn’t exactly the best way to feel strong and graceful…

At the 2 mile mark I got clear of the crowd and my thoughts briefly turned more positive. I could see one of the women I’ve run against and placed near about 50m ahead of me so knew I wasn’t doing too terribly and had someone to focus on reeling in. Alas, shortly thereafter a side-stitch slowed me down for a bit. I recovered and picked it back up, picking off a few women, but then got hit with another bout of rough breathing. As we neared the third mile the heat (70, but blazingly sunny) started to wear on me and the good feeling patches started to be outnumbered by the rough-feeling ones. The giant grass loops seemed tedious and unending, lulling me into an inward focus that emphasized the discomfort rather than the clusters of women that I should have been focused on chasing down.

At 3 miles I tried really hard to convince my brain that 1200m wasn’t *that* far but was apparently not very persuasive, as I couldn’t find the gear or motivation to pick the pace up enough to pass the few women that were theoretically close enough to catch. The last 400m consisted of a long straight parallel to the finish straight, a hairpin turn, and then another 200m into the distant finish. I was relieved to have the entire long, agonizing 200m to myself, glad to at least avoid the shame of lacking the will power to fight another runner’s kick in the last stretch. I wobbled through the finish and my jagged breathing tried to turn into little, pitiful cries as I hunched over, hands to my knees. Thankfully some saintly volunteer handed me a lovely paper cup of chilly water and dumping this over my head brought me back to some semblance of a functional human being.

I spent a few minutes chatting with some other women about the race (we almost universally disliked the wonky grass and long-ass finish) and then did the usual cool down thing, with many more breaks than usual. At least my legs were dead in addition to my mental focus! Upon getting home I saw that I had run a bit slower than my 6k a few weeks prior, though on a tougher course. When I looked at times for women that had been at both meets the average change was actually right around 0 seconds, so I was in good company with my small increase in time.

I am still a bit disappointed by my lack of competition-brain during the race, but am glad I travelled to the meet. Even if it didn’t turn out quite as I wanted it was a grueling workout for my lungs and legs, a good experience navigating a crowded course, and a great excuse to run around in my almost-underwear with a bunch of other strangely running-obsessed women.

#headupwingsout

Running goals for before the snow falls (and maybe a little after…)

Fall has arrived and the hills are currently shimmering with golden leaves. Although the scenery is glorious to run through or glad past on my drive to and from work, I know that it signals that only a couple few weeks of warm weather remain. With the arrival of October the leaves will brown and fall, and the currently glowing aspen groves and grass-covered hills will fade to gray, and then rapidly turn white with snow*.

Since the good running weather and Fall racing season are winding down I wanted to take stock of where I am and what my remaining goals are for the season.

So far, Fall is starting off well. I just hit another strong week and had the endurance to enjoy my longest run since November 2014 (14 miles, woohoo!). I’ve enjoyed a wonderful summer of racing and have gone from a fitness level where my legs could barely hold 7:mid pace for 5k to being able to hold 6:mid for the same distance. I have had a few setbacks, but have been healthy enough to enjoy many workouts, races, and exploratory runs over the local trails.

Moving forward, I have two main goals:

  1. Break 20 minutes in the 5k. I haven’t done this since Fall 2014 and would LOVE to break that barrier again. However, if I have strong races in my last few XC 5k/6k’s and don’t hit this mark (or the equivalent for 6k) I won’t be devastated. Cross-country is a whole different beast than track or road 5ks since terrain can make times for the same effort hugely variable.
  2. Break my half-marathon PR! My current best of 1:41:49 was set with stronger training, but on trails with some massive hills and plenty of mud. I’m planning to race in Moab at the end of October with a friend and am hoping that the drop in elevation and the mild road course will allow me to push under 1:40. I’ve added a few half marathon workouts to my training plan (from the Kara Goucher plan here) and have hit a few long runs of 12-14 miles to hopefully get some endurance and appropriate pacing into my legs for the attempt. We’ll see what happens – either way it’s a great excuse to spend some time enjoying the red rocks and warmer weather of Moab and to get a chance to visit and run with a good friend.

Ok, now that I have some goals I just need the snow to hold off a few weeks longer so I can keep racing and training! Everyone please hold off on your snow dances until November 😉 Please share your fun/exciting Fall goals in the comments, I would love to see how everyone else is handling the last bit of Fall training/racing before the arrival of winter…

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*This may sound like an exaggerated timeline, but it legitimately snowed yesterday here. I live in the land of winter 😐