Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Race Report and Nerd Alert: Valley of Gold Half Marathon

I went into this race with the goal of crossing the finish line in 1:39:59. :) It was a big goal for me, but after hearing from my coach that it was indeed a realistic one, I decided to go for it. Sometimes I think all it takes is for someone to plant the seed. Or maybe you need to plant the seed? Wait. Did I plant it or did my coach? 


If  you *believe* that you can do it and the training is there to back it up, go for it. 

Plus, my coach threw down the gauntlet with his half marathon splits from his race the previous week. I do love me a good challenge. Not gonna lie. 

So let's start with the day prior...

We had dinner the night before the race at around 5:30 pm. 

MISTAKE #1-I gorged myself. I couldn't help it. Brio was sooooo good. I figured that we were eating early and it would digest, so I didn't cut myself off when I should have. More bread and butter? Don't mind if I do. 

The alarm went off at 4:50 am race morning. I woke up and immediately started eating my pre-race meal and hydrating according to the plan that Jackie and I had discussed.

I had a cinnamon raisin bagel, a banana, 8 oz. of sports drink mixed with PreRace (which now comes in pill form in addition to GACKY powder form) and another 6-8 oz. of water. The goal was to have this ingested 2 hours prior to the race. I finished all of it around 5:30 am. The race was to start at 7:00 am. I was about 30 minutes behind.

MISTAKE #2-I should have gotten up slightly earlier and had food/sports drink/water consumed by 5:00 am. 

MISTAKE #3-We left a shade too late + the drive took longer than expected + everyone was looking for parking at the same time.  Ooops. We parked the car 15 minutes before the race started, I jumped out and grabbed another 6 oz of sports drunk, chugged it, and then we jogged to the porta potties. 

Good news. I didn't have to sit around in the herd waiting for the gun to go off whilst I played head games with myself.

Bad news. I got into the porta potty line 9 minutes before the race started. Crap!

Yes. I really was praying for the poky pee-ers/poopers in front of me to hurry up. In and out, people! It's not that hard!

I ended up peeing during the first 1/3rd of the National Anthem. I'm not proud of that and felt really guilty, but it is what it is. I hurried up and got out of there as quickly as I could so I could be respectful. I'm sorry, America! 

Afterwards, I had to work my way through the crowd. Too late. The gun went off right as I lined up with the 2:30 pacing group. That's as far as I could squeeze through before I ran out of time.

As I crossed the starting line, I remembered my strategy. As I am not one to do a ton of mental math during my races (I'm an English major.), I decided on a basic strategy to get me where I needed to be:

Run as close to a 7:40 pace as I can until I get to Mile 10.  From then on, gun it and run a 5K. 

Would I have it in me? We'll see... 

Mile 1: 7:44-Lots of weaving in and out going on, but I was able to get past the herd somewhat. 

Mile 2: 7:57-Thinking to myself, "This hill sucks. My legs feel HEAVY already. Boo."   

**Ok, I'll interrupt here with the nutrition/hydration plan since we are at the first aid station (Mile 2).**

Aid stations in this race were at: 2.0, 3.8, 4.8, 6.6, 8.4, 10.4 and 11.9.

Based on this set-up, Jackie and I decided that I should aim to take 3-1/2 ounces of sports drink at each aid station. She's big on calculating your "sweat rate" so that you know how many oz. to take at each aid station. Since I haven't done this yet and I told her that I was not a heavy sweater, she decided that 3-1/2 ounces would suffice. Because it was going to be a warm day, and I am a "salty" sweater, she recommended all sports drink *except* for the 
Mile 8.4 aid station where I'd be taking my PowerBar gel with water. My ultimate goal for this race, nutritionwise, was to consume about 45-60 grams of carbs in the form of sports drink/gel per hour of running. The gel, combined with the 3-1/2 oz. of sports drink (water with the gel) at each aid station, should provide me with the proper amount of carbs and hydration to keep me going.

Side note: It's actually ok to race 2-3% dehydrated and may even be a little adventageous. What I wanted to avoid was being overhydrated and having to stop to pee. That's what happened in my last marathon. 

Do I seem like a total nerd with this or what? I know, I know. But seriously, hydration/fueling stresses me out. I just want to make sure that I am doing what I need to do to: a) not bonk and b) not end up wasting time on the toilet

Continuing on...

At Mile 2 I took my first 3-1/2 oz. of sports drink. How do I know it was 3-1/2 oz? Well, apparently a mouthful is approximately 1 oz. Did you know that? So three big gulps and one little one seemed about right to me. For this race, I actually decided to walk through the aid stations. I venture to say that most of the time during races, I spill most of the cup on me while I continue trying to run. Today, I decided to walk so that I could get most of it down the hatch. I was really happy that I did, as it started to get very warm the second half of the race. My sweat rate was picking up!

For Miles 3 and 4, which were flat/downhillish, I knew that I needed to make up for the not 7:40 paces of Miles 1 and 2.

Mile 3-7:31
Mile 4-7:36

At this point, I felt something at the back door. It was the "kids" hassling me to be dropped off at the pool. Know what I'm sayin'? It wasn't a full on emergency situation, but it was starting to be a nuisance. 

I took another 3-1/2 oz. at the Mile 4.8 aid station and then ducked into the porta potty. I regretted my ENORMOUS 5 pound dinner and not eating breakfast a little sooner (hence Mistakes #1 and #2)

Mile 5-8:25 (Ouch)

Miles 6, 7, 8 were nice and flat, so I tried to play catch up for my lost time without blowing myself up, of course.

Mile 6-7:25
Trying to be slick here and steal Brightroom's picture of me without paying for it. If I make it bigger, however, it's even blurrier. 
Any tips on how to "borrow" pictures for your blog?

Mile 6.6 was the turnaround point. I looked at my Garmin and it was about 50:30ish if I remember correctly. I thought to myself, "Yikes. I need to tighten it up the second half." I would describe my effort thus far as being "comfortably hard," and I knew that soon it would be time to ratchet up my effort to "uncomfortably hard." 

Mile 7-7:21 
Mile 8-7:25

I was SO ready for my PowerBar gel at Mile 8.4. This was the first time I'd used a PowerBar gel in a race. Normally, I'm a GU gal. I remember in Carlsbad, however, being overwhelmed with the thick consistency by the end of the race. It was extremely difficult for me to suck it down around Mile 23. I thought for this race, I'd try a PowerBar gel since it's a lot runnier and would likely go down easier. Additionally, PowerBar gels have more sodium (200 mg) than GU gels (50 mg). This could be more beneficial to me as Jackie pointed out (electrolyte loss from my salty sweat).

I feel the need to say PowerBar gel just one more time, so there it is.

Mile 9 is where I hit my slump. The gel hadn't kicked in yet. It was getting hot, and  naturally now is the time to go up the hill that I was gliding down during miles 3-4 (out and back course). I had to start the "mental stuff" at this point. 

"You can do anything for 4 miles. That's it. About 30 more minutes, and you're done. You can do anything for 30 minutes. Don't slow down."

I started thinking of all the hill training I've been doing this cycle. 

It was working!

The hill was exhausting, but I continued to surge past people.

If you were thinking about leaving out hill training for your cycles, DON'T. That shit works! We don't have an abundance of hills here in Yuma, but the ones we do have, I work like CRAZY on my Thursday runs. 

Mile 9-7:41
Mile 10-7:34

Did I make my move after mile 10 and shift into 5k mode? NO. I wasn't ready yet. I continued a slight climb up the seemingly neverending hill and decided that when I got to the apex, I'd pull out all the stops and finally pass this chick that had been killing me the entire race. She had been a few yards ahead of me the whole time, and I could never seem to catch her. But the dress, and the fanny pack, and the fact that she was 62 years old (I looked up her results afterwards... she finished only 6 seconds behind me!)... 

I'm sorry. I just couldn't let that happen. Call me a big, fat, elitist, unbloggerly snob if you will, but I couldn't.

Mile 11-7:35
Another teeny picture just to break the dialogue up. And because I like my crazy ponytail and the cacti in the background. Cool.

And now I present to you, HOT MESS MODE.

With 2.1 miles to go, I knew I had to gun it. I had no idea exactly how fast I had to run those last couple of miles, but I didn't want to leave anything out on the course. If I didn't break 1:40, I had to die trying!

I picked up the pace, blew past grandma, started shotgunning my iPod for the perfect song (they were all getting on my nerves), started hurting, tried to control my breathing, tried to relax, found myself having "mantra ADD" as I looked for the right phrase ("faster, stronger, keep going, almost there, catch this next chick, get her, don't stop, make it hurt, hurry up"). Hilarious. I think I wanted out of my own mind at this point. The music and the mantras and the PAIN. I felt sort of insane. But a fairly controlled insanity, if you will.

Mile 12-7:10

Total boost at Mile 12 as I passed another woman and saw the name "Bridget" on her race number, which was attached to her fuel belt and spun around so it was placed on her backside. I started grinning from ear to ear!!! Bridget is also the name of one of my tremendously talented and speedy running buddies. We ran our first marathon together and in a couple of weeks, she's going to kill it at Boston! I felt like *my* Bridget was there with me during that last painful mile, which I ran at a suicidal pace (for me... at the end of a half marathon).

I turned the corner and bolted down the LONG straightaway. Oh, that is after I tried to take a wrong turn, of course. I'm telling you... I was losing it. 

Mile 13-6:47 

Last .07-5:59 (near death)

Finish: 1:38:41 (1:38:38 and 13.07 by my Garmin)

Really happy. Other than the pit stop, it could not have gone any better.

And my coach is so cute. He didn't stop for any aid or a toilet during his race the week prior, so he considers it a tie when you factor in my stops. I love it!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Best Weekend Ever!

Seriously, it doesn't get much better.

Friday morning, my friend Kim and I headed out of Yuma for a much needed girls' weekend. We stopped to shop in Phoenix en route to Tucson.

And shop I did. *Cha Ching* I am surprised that my credit card didn't melt. (And also that my husband didn't change the locks and banish me from the family.)

We arrived in Tucson Friday evening to this:

JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort. Gorgeous. Go big or go back to Yuma, kwim?

Saturday = more shopping

I need to mention that we have NO mall here in Yuma. It's bare bones. We have the basics + a Dillards,  which typically caters to the Snowbird population and their fashion sense.

Pretty sure you can purchase this at our Dillards.

Sunday morning... this happened:

Arizona Distance Classic: Half Marathon, Quarter Marathon (huh?), and 5K

And this was the result:

 Awkward water bottle pose, but awesome finish.
1:38:41... 3rd in AG, 13th woman 

I DID IT!!!!

On the drive home, KY ended up beating Baylor, so now it's:

This KY girl can't wait for the FINAL FOUR game between her beloved Wildcats and the Cardinals. This rivalry is HUGE! GO CATS!!!!

Full race report to follow. So much to talk about... Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's gettin' *Hoity Toity* up in here!

So on Friday I have a 1-hour phone consult with a registered dietician who also happens to be an elite marathoner.

You may be thinking, "Oh cool!" or possibly, "Um, why?" Or maybe both.

I have a coach, and now I'm working with a dietician. You'd think I was training for the Olympics or something. What next? A personal masseuse who comes to my house weekly? (Wouldn't that be sweet?)

Racing has become a serious thing for me. For starters, let's take a look at where I live:

Paradise. Not.

My closest race options are in San Diego and Phoenix, both approximately three hours away. Sure we have a handful of city races in Yuma, but they are L-A-M-E. (No offense, Parks and Recreation, but they are!) There's not a whole lot that lies between these two cities other than mountains and/or desert. That means that racing involves not only an entry fee, but gas, lodging and food expenses. And the element of time to make it a weekend event. With that being said, it's really only logistically possible for me to do 4, maybe 5 races a year given my husband's schedule (both for work and any races he'd like to do) and my oldest son's swim meet schedule.  

For 2012, I am thinking that I can swing possibly 3 marathons and 2 half marathons. That's it.

I want the next 4 out of (possibly) 5 races to be really *quality* efforts, so I've decided to enlist the help of the pros. I decided during my last marathon training cycle that I would seek help in the eating department during my next training cycle. With almost 8 weeks until Pasadena, it's time for Nutrition Success!

I can't remember exactly how I stumbled across Jackie's blog, but she is amazing. Over the past several months, I have really enjoyed reading her take on nutrition, hydration, and pre-, during, and post-refueling efforts. She even did the coolest race report on exactly how she fueled and hydrated during the 2012 Olympic Trials.  

This is the kind of stuff I'm hungry for lately. Pun intended. It's time for me to really buckle down and concentrate on how I'm fueling myself for my race training. I have a decent diet, but I'm certain that there's tons of room for improvement. I'm excited to see what she has to say about it all, especially for fueling during races. I have to be honest, that element of training/racing is possibly what stresses me out the most. I want my body to run smoothly and efficiently, so I need the perfect fuel for it. It's not always easy to know "how" to fuel though.

I'll let you know how goes! Look for some exciting and informative posts from me next week.

Monday, March 19, 2012

6 Days Until I Strike Gold!

This Sunday is the Valley of Gold Half Marathon in Tucson. It will be the first half that I've run in 18 months. Both of my half marathons in 2010 yielded a 1:48. I'm SO ready to blow that out of the water. 

A couple of weeks ago, I emailed my coach and asked him if he thought that I could break 1:40. He responded that with the right temperature and course, YES. 

Eeeeeek! This is daunting for me. My fastest half was the very first one that I ran when I was 20 years old (1996). I ran a 1:42:06 and felt like DEATH the last 5 miles of it (My college boyfriend ran those last 5 with me and basically drug me across the finish line.).

Ok, so it's supposed to be 85 degrees according to the extended foreceast. Hmmmm. The race starts at 7 am, however, so I'll be finished before 9 am. How hot can it really be by then?

Here's the course elevation profile: 

Looks like two boobies ok to me! 2 mild ascents... I can do that. I have been hill training like a mother (every Thursday) this marathon cycle.

Also, the gauntlet has been thrown down. My 74 year-old "injured" (I think these are air quotes...) coach e-mailed me this gem yesterday,

"Your goal for next Sunday is now 1:37:20, my time for Ft DeSoto 1/2 Marathon this morning. Whacked out tired now though and Achilles throbbing at level 9.1. Sympathy note would be appreciated. splits; 8:09,7:37,28,33,29,26,25,33,24,21,06,05,6:55,1:43." 

The guy is a machine. A really fast and funny machine to boot. The speed of his last 3 miles make me want to vomit in my mouth a little though when I think about trying to match it. Also the fact that he ran this way injured??? Amazing and inspiring. I want to be the female equivalent of him when I grow up. 

It'll be an adventure, but hey. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Quit being a Pansy!

I have a phenomenal running friend/college classmate (2:39 marathoner) who posted an interesting article on Facebook the other day.

I encourage you to take a look at it. It may change the way you think about your recovery.

In particular, I found the following quotes interesting:

"We’ve become addicted to enhanced recovery, obsessed with erasing as quickly as possible the pain, fatigue, and inflammation that come from a hard workout. But some top scientists and coaches have adopted a new line of thinking: stress is a good thing, because it forces the body to adapt, repair itself, and come back stronger. "


"The roots of the approach go back to 2006, when researchers at Chukyo University in Japan published a small study in which volunteers who took ice baths after training made smaller strength gains than a control group. “It got everyone thinking that maybe too much tubbing can actually inhibit recovery,” says Trent Stellingwerff, a physiologist at the Canadian Sport Centre Pacific in Victoria, British Columbia. And if that was true, what other postworkout remedies might be doing more harm than good?" 

(You'll have to read the article to find out! Dum dum dum!!!!!)

NICE!!! I've been feeling a tad guilty about not ice bathing like I *should* (or so I thought) after all of my long runs. Maybe I don't need to! I have also *not* been foam rolling, getting tons of massages and stretching. Still feeling great! 

So maybe just maybe, when it comes to recovery techniques....

What about you? Are you a recovery freak or a recovery minimalist?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lying and Whole New Levels of CRAZY

Back for my semi-monthly blog post. I notice that I lost a follower,  which takes me down to a whopping 38 peeps. Why do I even bother with the blog? Not that I need a GINORMOUS fan base, but at what point is it like talking to yourself?


Let's start with the *LYING* portion of this entry.

Being a parent is HARD.

In one breath, you feed your kid(s) constant rhetoric like, "You can do anything you want!" and "You just have to work hard!" and "Dream big!" and "You just need to believe in yourself!"

In the next breath, you're looking at your 4'5", 62 pound 8-year old and trying to figure out a way to not crap on his dreams. The reality is, however, he doesn't have a chance in hell at winning any events in the state meet. He's up against kids who are 2 years older, bigger, faster, stronger and more experienced.

Case in point... Evan is in Lane 1 (closest to the edge-black trunks with butt sticking up out of the water). He did great during his first 25 in the 50 fly, but he runs out of steam at the end. He just doesn't have it quite yet. He needs more size, strength and stamina.

The picture-the one I didn't get-told it all when he got out of the water and discovered he didn't make it to finals.


So what do you do as a parent? You spout more rhetoric. "You did your best." "You looked great out there." "You have a new PR!" (he did but he didn't care). "I'm so proud of how you swam, Evan."

I think all that they hear is yada, yada, yada, yada. Just like the rest of us adults! Especially us runners when things just don't go the way that we want... (Technically it should be "We runners," as per proper grammar; however, it doesn't sound right because I'm writing in a conversational tone, so I'm sticking with "us." Yes, I am a complete grammar tool/dork.)

What did help tremendously was retail therapy in the nearby swim tent shop thingie after Evan's tears dried. You better believe that he turned that frown upside down when dad went and bought him some new flips flops and a swim backpack that he had been coveting. Hahahaha! What can you do? I'm sure popular parenting books or manuals would poo-poo the retail therapy, but we still had 4 more events and an entire weekend to go! We needed him to keep his head in the game. It cheered him up, and that made everyone feel good. Win/win in my parenting manual!!

After the retail therapy, I checked my Facebook on my iPhone and noticed that Road Runner Sports posted something really applicable to our situation...

I tapped Evan on the shoulder (he was watching another event) and quick showed him. He gave me a half smile, and then he turned around to finish watching the event. We don't know what's going on in their little brains, so we have to keep driving home little points here and there when we can. Maybe some of it sinks in... Who knows? Like I said before, parenting is HARD.

Fast forwarding to the end of this story because let's face it... no one cares about your kid like you do, and I know you guys don't want to hear every stinking detail of the weekend.

It was 6 hours of total driving, 90,000 Hilton points, loads of little brother tantrums and boredom 

...except for the 10 minutes they spent doing this with another bored younger swim brother.

for a grand total of about 5 minutes and 15 seconds of swimming. 

That being said, it was totally worth it, and we hope to be back next year. Evan has a great shot of finals in the 50 breast and 100 breast next year. Those were his top events. He finished 19/43 in 50 br and 22/? (can't remember) in 100 breast. 

Now onto the CRAZY part of this entry.

I had 18 miles to do on Sunday. Ugh. I spent all day Saturday dreading it and trying to figure out the logistics of when/where. I ended up finding a route on MapMyRun that would have me do a big loop around our hotel as simply thinking about doing it on the hotel treadmill made me dry heave. 

I set my alarm for 4:30 am and planned on heading out the door at 5 am. That would enable me to get back just in time to head off for Evan's 8 am warm-up (sans shower for me... something has to give, right?)

As fate or technological malfunction would have it, my iPhone alarm randomly observed daylight savings time. For those of you who don't know, Arizona doesn't do DST. 

I roll out of bed Sunday morning, get dressed in the dark, have a snack and hear my husband say, "Are you leaving now?" Um yeah, it's not *that* early. It's 5 am.

Except it wasn't. It was 3:55 am. 

WTH, you stupid, piece of crap iPhone?!?!?!

You know what though? It worked out perfectly. I ended up having a really good long run, and I got back in time to shower and grab a quick bite on the way out of the hotel. The streets of Chandler (unlike Yuma) are well-lit, so I could see great. The route passed by plenty of Circle Ks (aka-pit stops) and it ended up being a nearly perfect 18-mile circle (rectangle?) with some minor adjustments on my part. I ended up running it at an 8:39P with the last mile at 7:30. Really trying to up the intensity of this cycle's long run without injuring myself. So far, so good.

I will try and get on here a couple more times before my FINAL class starts up in a couple of weeks. Though I may not be posting much, I do read blogs and have been trying to comment on those that I follow. If I have skipped you lately, I'm sorry!!!!