Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Shamrock Marathon 2013

I am usually much more on top of these race reports! Now that I have a backlog of two races, I need to get my butt in gear. After a few months of mediocre training (self-imposed), marathon weekend was suddenly here. Although the race wasn't until Sunday morning I decided to drive down Friday night. I wanted to hit the expo for a while, have some quality time by myself, and use Saturday to just chill with my feet up. The trip down took a little longer than expected, so I felt pretty rushed at the expo. On the upside, R had driven up from NC to race the marathon as well and we got some quality time together. We took a few laps around the expo, picking up some fun goodies, and then decided that we were in need of dinner. Cold beer and tacos at a hole in the wall 5 minutes from the expo center were the perfect end to my first day in VA Beach.

After sleeping in a bit at the hotel, I headed back to the expo for another trip through, more just to kill time and wait for my sister and brother-in-law to arrive. I spent money on a few things that I definitely didn't need but I was having a good time just being away from all the stress at home. Not ready to go back to the hotel, R and I went out to lunch and then grabbed some crucial pre-race fuel.
My family ran into a fair amount of traffic on the way to VA Beach and I was ready to put my feet up for the rest of the day, so R and I parted ways and I headed back to my hotel. Spent a few hours just relaxing, watching movies and messing around on the computer. Once my family arrived and got settled in to their hotel, I headed over for dinner. Between a grumpy baby and tired travelers, we decided to order food from the hotel restaurant and chill in their room. Food was okay, nothing special, but sufficient for what we needed.  Before long it was time for me to call it a night and head back to the hotel. I had a cold beer and more water, then climbed into bed. I slept better than I expected and was able to get out the door and on the hotel shuttle without incident.

Unfortunately, the shuttle got me to the start time really early, so I walked to my sister's hotel and napped on one of the beds while my brother-in-law got ready to go. Before long, it was time. As soon as we walked outside, it became apparent that the weather was not what we had been planning for.  The temperature was low, which isn't a big deal, but the wind was just brutal. I had a feeling that my throw-away jacket was not going anymore. My sister said her goodbyes and headed back to the hotel to get the baby back in the warmth. A and I huddled together with a few other runners against a building and then begrudgingly headed to our corral.
BRRRR. The race began with little fanfare and we were off. A and I separated fairly quickly, we had different race plans to execute. The first few miles passed pretty quickly and I didn't experience any of the usual issues that tend to creep up on my runs. There was not a lot of crowd support to be had, but I'd spent the majority of my long runs totally alone, so I was prepared. The course was flat, another reason why I signed up in the first place. The temperature didn't change but the wind backed off a bit around mile 8 or so, and I was tempted to lose the jacket. I opted to keep it on a little longer and it was a good thing I did. Once it was time to run back over the bridge on onto the main street again, the wind was in full force. The course diverted onto the boardwalk for a while but if anything that just made the wind worse. I couldn't look up from the ground, my hat was threatening to blow away, and I could only see the next step in front of me.

This was such a different experience from MCM. The crowds, the course, the weather, everything. I felt like I had to dig deeper and fight harder. It was much more of a mental challenge than a physical one. I think my favorite part of the race was somewhere around mile 18. At this point the course was really quiet. There were a fair number of runners but we were strong out along the road. I was starting to feel a little lonely, and suddenly these road signs started to appear. Every few feet, for I don't know how long, these signs with riddles and jokes were planted on the side of the road. They were all St. Patricks Day/Irish-themed and so bad. I started to looking forward to each one, laughing to myself and pushing through. It took my mind off the race for a while and that was greatly appreciated.

Rumor had it that once we got through this particular stretch of course, running on Fort Story and through to the Lighthouse, that the wind would finally work in our favor. Being the sucker that I am, I believed. The rest of the course is a straight shot down Atlantic Avenue until you're shuttled on to the boardwalk once more for the final .2 miles. I was so tired, and experiencing a good amount of general pain and discomfort, so I wasn't sure I had anything left. I definitely didn't have a great kick in the end, but I finished strong and was immediately relieved. My sister was waiting for me, with my nephew, and it was great to see them. I staggered, best as I could, down a few stairs onto the beach and into the warmth of the post-race tent.

Beer in hand, I met up with my brother-in-law and we exchanged quick race recaps. This was his first marathon and he really killed it. After the beer and some hot soup I was ready to retreat to the hotel. We limped (SWAGGER) back across the beach and into the hotel. So glad that they were staying pretty much at the finish line. One long hot shower later, I started to feel human again. My feet didn't fare quite so well. I'd been getting blisters throughout training and I thought I'd done a good job of bandaging the trouble spots before the race. Unfortunately, my feet blistered anyways, in all the bare space around the bandages. I was so annoyed. I had intentionally packed a pair of really comfortable flip flops in my race bag, so I was able to slip them on and get some relief. Little did I know I'd be spending the next week in them, as I couldn't wear normal shoes without pain. C'est la vie.

I think I was already looking ahead to the next race before I'd even ran this one. The training hadn't gone as planned and I'd had to adjust my expectations accordingly. There would be no PR and I was eventually ok with that. I came to VA Beach with a specific race plan and I executed it perfectly. At the end of the day, that is definitely a win. Now I need to buckle down hard, because the 50k is coming fast and I want to nail it. Stay with me, I've got another race report coming.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Where did you go?

Time flies when you are overscheduled. I have taken on so much in the last month or so and it will continue to be a crazy ride until the end of the summer. Mixing in marathon training with two jobs, an internship, and a part time graduate course load has been an enormous challenge, one that I am not quite meeting. Shamrock is 4 weeks out now and I run twice a week. This, needless to say, is not ideal. I might make it to the finish line, but it will certainly be at a price. I get to the track on Wednesday nights for a workout and then I hit my long runs on Saturday mornings. At the very least, I need one more run thrown in there just to be logging time on my feet. My body gets a rude shock every Saturday morning when I suddenly ask it go go from sloth mode into "let's run 18 today" mode.

As mentioned in my last post, I had/have a couple races coming up before Shamrock. The Reston 10 miler is still looming but I did finish the Run Your Heart Out 5k on February 10th. I had run 18 the day before so I was well aware that I wouldn't be in any condition to "race" this. It was more about getting a few more miles in and having some fun. The course is a convoluted out and back on a paved trail, small rolling hills for most of the time and quite narrow. Passing was no small feat. I started towards the back of the pack because I knew what my pace would be and didn't want the demoralizing experience of been blown by had I started in my "racing" spot. It wasn't any less crowded back there but I was able to settle in and get progressively faster with each mile and pass a good chunk of people. I was moderately pleased with my time, it was faster then the New Years Day 5k but not as fast as some of last year's efforts. For having run long the previous morning, I'll take it. The best part of the race wasn't even the running, it was the race pictures that I saw afterward.I had a clear shot at the camera as I came up the final *evil* hill so I gave my best rockstar smile and hoped I didn't look like a serial killer. I think I did ok. Of course, the photo uploader isn't working so you'll have to click HERE instead. Sorry.

I didn't run again until Wednesday's soggy track workout. The weather could not decide whether it wanted to rain or show, so it did both. I was supposed to do 3 2000m repeats with 3 minutes recovery in between but that was not going to happen. When I packed my bag that morning I just threw in the closest running clothes I could find and failed to check the weather. That meant that I was grossly underdressed. After the second 2000 I was soaked, freezing, and spent. The end. I went home and took the hottest shower I could stand instead. After that workout, life intervened once again and I worked two 13 hr days on Thursday and Friday, so no more runs until this past Saturday when 12 was on the schedule. When it came time to get up on Saturday morning, I just couldn't do it. I'd stayed up too late on Friday night having an emotionally exhausting conversation with a friend and it was just easier to bag it and sleep a few more hours instead.

I had to work so I was up at a reasonable hour but I should have run. I had the option of joining some co-workers on Sunday morning at the store to act as a pacer for a local tri group's run and decided that might be a good way to make up the miles and get paid to do it. Again, I should have checked the weather. It was in the 20s with ridiculous wind gusts that burned your face and took your breath away. The 9 mile route I planned on suddenly seemed sadistic. Nothing on my body would warm up, rather the muscles in my legs got tighter and tighter as the run went on. I made it to Rosslyn, turned around, and headed up Custis back to the store. There was no ideal way to get back there without a significant hill or two, so Custis seemed as good as any. I finished up with 6.3 miles and I'll just have to live with it. It certainly wasn't the mileage I needed to get but that is my fault. Hopefully I won't pay for this coming weekend when it is time to knock out 22. I think this week's track workout involves something wicked, such as 3200s. I'll be there and I'll do it, but that doesn't mean I have to like it, right?

In order to end on a high note and let you know a little something about my life beyond running, I have awesome news to share. I became an Aunt last week! His name is Ryan Andrew and he is the most perfect baby ever. I only got to spend about 36 hours with him and my sister but it was so worth it. I can't wait until Shamrock weekend because that is when I'll get to see him again. I'd love to share a photo with you but the damn uploader just won't cooperate. Trust me, he's adorable. Whenever I get stressed out about how crazy things are right now, I think of him and it calms me down; reminds me of what is really important. I'm sure pictures will find their way onto here, so keep an eye out for some baby cuteness.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

9 weeks and counting!

Another blank span where running should have occurred. Oops. Life is a funny thing. After the New Years double, I hit the track workout on Wednesday, took off Thursday, and ran to work Friday. In hindsight that last run was a mistake. I'd spent the entire week in the Pure Cadence and my body is only used to doing one race in them at a time. At 4mm it is a departure from the other 12mm offset shoes that my body is used to. I paid quite the price on Friday and Saturday. The run to work on Friday dragged on as I quickly became overcome with calf pain. I knew it was the shoes but there was nothing I could do so I ran/walked the rest of the way to the store. Come Saturday morning I eased out of bed, hoping for relief. I felt mildly sore as I headed out but it wasn't until the long run group took off that I realized it was a no-go. 12 miles was the goal, 4 miles was the end result. Valuable lesson learned but another long run in the toilet.

Due to factors somewhat beyond my control (funerals suck) I ran a grand total of three miles last week. *high fives all around* One run to work. That's it. And the 14 miles that was supposed to happen that Saturday? Yeah...no. I bumped it to Monday morning and was going to have pleasant company but the weather and E's nagging ankle killed that one. Tuesday? Nada. Today? 7. No, really. Despite the rain, E and her friend J and I met at E's house and hit the streets. E graciously kept the pace slow and steady which allowed me to hang on for the entire run. It wasn't pretty, but it was done. I'd like to run to work at least once this week but logistics for that are not working out. C'est la vie. I just might have to put on my big girl panties and run before work instead.

However, in the midst of all the hoopla I had a nice surprise. My friend and Ragnar captain, C, and I have been meaning to get together for some time now. His lovely fiance needed new running shoes from the store and C said he had something for me. I hadn't the slightest idea what that could be but I quickly found out on Sunday afternoon. BOOM.

Yeah, that just happened. As a team we knew we had performed really well but I didn't expect any official acknowledgment from Ragnar. In case you can't read the print, it says that my team (heretofore including me) is officially badass. We took second place in the submasters division and for that effort received the lovely certificate and a special commemorative relay baton. Pretty neat, right? I was content with the bitchin' medal, but this is good too. Rumors of a 2013 team abound and once I know something, so will you.

Shamrock is a mere 9 weeks way and I am too embarrassed to tell you what my longest run has been. I am really feeling the pressure and it is all self-imposed. Despite training with a group I have just not pulled my own weight and that will become very evident on race day. No PR for this chicky. It sucks but it is my fault and I have 9 weeks to suck it up and come up with a plan B for race day. In the short term that plan involves attempting the 16-18 mile long run scheduled for Saturday morning. There are no foreseeable obstacles to physically getting to the run, just the usual surprise of not knowing what the run will be like until it actually starts. I plan on finding that precious balance between stupid and stubborn in terms of getting every mile done.

I've added a few more races to the 2013 docket, each either a tune-up for a bigger race or a quick recovery run. Up first is Run Your Heart Out 5k in Reston on February 10th. I don't know what my long run mileage will be the day before, but if my legs will permit it I plan to use this as a tempo run. The next race is the Reston 10 Miler on March 3rd. I should be in taper-town by then and hope to run the race as such. Once those two guys are under my belt, I tackle Shamrock. And before the bib comes off, training for the 50k begins. Right now the only race I'm considering between Shamrock in March and the 50k in June is part of the Backyard Burn series. May 5 in Fairfax Station, 5 miles on Fountainhead. My 50k training plan has me doing 26 miles the day before and calls for an hour long medium effort run on what happens to be race day. I think 5 miles on a trail fits the bill.

As you can see, I don't plan on loading up on races for the sake of racing. Each one I've picked out is serving a purpose for a larger goal. As long as I can keep my ego in check and run according to plan, I'll be golden. I don't have anything in April yet (probably going to pass on the Cherry Blossom bib exchange) and am open to suggestion. No, I don't want to race the GW Parkway, I've heard too many reports that have ended with the word "injured." The store has plenty up their sleeve (and I can race for free), but they are mostly 5ks and I'm not sure how that will fit in with the 50k timeline.

At any rate, that is the latest and greatest from me. Non-running life is a swirling top but I've found that is the way I like it. I start what I hope is a killer internship next week, so wish me luck! And yes, I'll be holding down two jobs and two grad classes at the same time while I pretend to train for this marathon. I know, I know. My mom already pointed out that I might be taking too much on. Moms are like that. But you don't know until you try, right? Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sending off 2012, Welcoming 2013

Overall, the plan to run back to back races was a success!  It didn't hurt that the weather was extremely cooperative. The Fairfax Four Miler was first up, at 6 pm on the 31st. I've run this race twice before and been very pleased with my times. I knew it was going to be different, however, because I am undertrained. I also needed to save something for tomorrow morning. Not that I'm good at that. I love racing and I've never been able to take it easy on race day. My ego just doesn't like it. That being said, you can probably guess what happened.

D and I raced. We agreed on a mile split before we started but once we settled in on the course, we were nearly two minutes ahead of that time. Oops. I've gone out too fast before and paid for it, but this time I tried to hang on. D lets me set the pace and so far I haven't run him into the ground. Mile two was faster than the first, the third was slower, and then the fourth was light speed. It didn't hurt that the remaining 800 meters or so was downhill....

The time definitely didn't seem to reflect the amount of effort expended but we were both happy. I like this race and I plan on doing it again next year. My hip held up pretty well during the race but I was experiencing some pain for hours afterwards. It definitely made me concerned for the 5k to come. We stopped for dinner on the way home, showered, and hit the sack. Neither of us are big on the "holiday" so it was nice to just crash and prepare for the following morning.

Next up, the Reston New Years Day 5k. At the outset, I was tempted to bail. I wasn't tired but my hip was hurting pretty badly. It hurts worse to walk than run, so I was hoping that once we got started that it would be ok. And I reminded myself that it was just a 5k, we did our racing last night, and this was supposed to be fun. We ran into a few friends at the start line and they were planning to run for fun too.  Once the race started, there was no going back.

At no point did I settle into a comfortable pace, although this time we stuck to the goal we'd set for the morning. I couldn't have gone faster if I wanted to. My hip did loosen up as expected but my legs were just TIRED. Two races in less than 24 hours is definitely a challenge. I look back to the double I did earlier this year and I am amazed that I pulled it off. I was leaps and bounds ahead of where I am now, so there really is no point in comparing.

We finished and I flashed a big smile for the race photographer at the end. One bagel and a bottle of water later, it was time to go home. Goal achieved. My hip feels really good today and I haven't the slightest idea why. I'm not going to question it, though. We spent the rest of yesterday being lazy bums and today has been no different. I have a track workout tonight at 6:30, so I'm giving these legs as much rest as I can before then.

I didn't meet all the goals I'd set for myself in 2012. I need to learn to expect the unexpected and that was one of the lessons I learned the hard way. I did have some amazing experiences throughout the year and I do not want to take away from them in any way. Ragnar Relay might be at the top of that list. I have a few races scheduled for 2013 but I think I'm going to be a little more cautious and a bit more open to surprise this year. Between the Shamrock Marathon in March and the Endurance Challenge 50k in June, the spring is spoken for.

I can enjoy a nice recovery during the sweltering summer when I'd normally be  training for the fall. And come fall? Who knows. There are so many things I want to try for the first time and so many races I want to face again with a vengeance. 2013 has started on the right foot and I will continue to build on that. I've recruited some new supporters that are going to help me iron out issues off the road that impact my performance on the road. It is all a little scary but exciting.

School starts up again in just about two weeks and I'm actually looking forward to it. My internship is also about to begin and I can't begin to express my excitement about that. Between school, interning, working, and running I will once again be carrying a heavy load. But I'm confident in my ability to handle it all, if not with grace then with a little style. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are ready to take on the new year, come what may!