Friday, December 12, 2008

Putting The Marathon to Bed

I thought I'd be ready to give the marathon a rest once I set a new PR. The plan was to do that in 2008 and then move to Ultra-marathon distances for 2009. Getting the PR at CIM was step one. Now on to the Ultras.

I was thinking that I'd start with Hagg lake 50k in February, but I promised Mac the next time I got a chance to go to Vegas for free (ie. on the company tab), we'd go. Wouldn't you know it - it came up the same weekend? So I am still searching for races, mostly local, for next year. I'd like to do a 50 mile trail race (Pacific Crest 50 mile??) before the year is out.

Just one little snag. After the 3:10:36, I am not quite ready to give up on the marathon. Now I have my sights set on being a sub-3:10 marathoner, a runner who could say my best is three-OH-something or other, with a big emphasis on the 'OH.' So I am not putting the marathon to bed for good, maybe just for a little nap.

CIM 2009??

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sore, Sore, Sore

In the last couple of days since CIM, I am realizing that running one's fastest cames with a price. Specifically, I am more sore than I have ever been after a race. Yes, the marathon always leaves me feeling stiff and not so fond of our two story house with stairs, but this time my legs were inflexible boards after the race. I have been walking like a stiff-legged robot for the past two days. And our stairs aren't just a mere nuisance; they are an obstacle to be avoided whenever possible.

Part of me frets about this hurt. If I am this sore, then maybe I am not in as good shape as I thought? Or maybe my training plan wasn't good enough to get my legs used to running that fast. But part of me is optomistic about the pain: If I could do a 3:10 with sub-optimal training, then what could I do if optimally prepared?? And if I did push myself that hard at CIM, doesn't that speak well of my mental toughness?

I was training with most of my tempo runs around 7:30 pace. I think I was doing these much too easy and should have been aiming for closer to 7:00 pace to get my legs used to that kind of cadence. Also, I did a number of 16-18 milers since the Portland Marathon, but I haven't done a training 20+ miler since early August when I was getting ready for the Mackenzie River 50k. That seems a bit of a training flaw as well. Things to correct for next time I guess.

Besides the stiffness, it looks as if my sacrifices will include my right big toe nail as well. I have lost lesser toenails many times before, but never my big toe nail. It is still in place, but I am sure it is a goner! My newest pair of shoes is a half size bigger, so hopefully this big toenail loss is a one time deal! I am just lucky sandal season is a long way off here in Oregon!

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Monkey Off My Back

It was nearly a decade ago that I ran my first marathon (Washington's Birthday Marathon, Feb 1999), during my 4th year of medical school. I like to tell people that I was woefully under-trained for that race and too naive to even know it. I ran a couple of ten milers as my long runs and thought I was ready since I knew one way or another, I could make it to the finish. My time of 3:13:53 has haunted me as my marathon PR for the last ten years, despite several attempts when I had followed more traditional training plans.

This year when I got back into running, I knew that I be doing a marathon before the year was out. By April I had already signed up for the October Portland Marathon and in May, I did the Capitol City Marathon (Olympia, WA) for "training." Leading up to Portland, I was doing more mileage than I have done since college and I was certain I'd be setting a new PR at that race. But I was stupid, I didn't stick to my plan, and it cost me. I missed by three and a half minutes.

I wasn't planning to do anymore big races this year, but I couldn't let the marathon go. I just kept thinking I should have been faster in Portland. A few weeks later, I signed up for The California International Marathon. I needed one more shot.

Last Sunday, though, I wasn't feeling so good. I spent much of the night hugging the toilet and woke up Monday feeling like my stomach had been turned inside out. I was weak the rest of the week, didn't feel like eating much, and couldn't even manage easy taper workouts a couple of the days. It didn't instill a lot of confidence for a record breaking performance!

Thursday before the race, my mom called. It's 34 degrees and totally fogged in. It is supposed to be like that all weekend. "I hope you like running in cold." Saturday, when my mom picked me up at the airport, it was just as she said: wet fog and dreadful cold. Sunday morning was more of the same, but somehow, I just wasn't that cold. I had my long sleeve shirt, hat and gloves off by mile three and just ran in shorts and a T-shirt.

I ran steady the whole way, had nearly dead even halves, and managed not to lose it too badly in the end even though my thigh were burning. It's funny because my strategy for running my fastest marathon had three key points, all of which were geared at running SLOWER! The plan was 1) start slow to not be over-exerted by the end of the race. 2)Don't push the uphills. The hills are pretty small so I figured I wouldn't lose much time slowing down a bit on them. 3)Don't get carried away on the downhills - stay in control.

My first two miles were 8:05 and 7:46, so I'd say I did a great job on #1! And during the little rollers in the first milers, I just stayed relaxed. Not too fast up, not too fast down. I came through the half in 1:35:26. By mile 18 I was almost up to the 3:10 pace group and for a minute, I had thoughts of going sub 3:10, but I never did actually catch them and I didn't want to ruin anything by trying. Still, I ran the last half in 1:35:10, with a new PR of 3:10:36 - nearly three and a half minutes better than my old time!

Afterward, I was so excited. All day I kept thinking,"I qualified for Boston on the men's standard!" I wanted to walk up to strangers and tell them what I had done, or maybe get my time tattooed on my body, but I refrained from such foolishness. So instead, I went with something much more socially acceptable: I proudly posted my time on Facebook!

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Big Milestone

I logged 60 miles this week, which I know in the world of ultra running is nothing, but for me it is an all time high. My legs felt a bit achy and inflamed toward the end of the week, but I never really had to slow down. And I don't feel overly tired from the week's effort.

The breakdown:
Sat: 18.5 miles on the Minto "trails" (2:28)
Sun: off
Mon: 6.5 miles w/ 4 miles tempo (7:24 pace)
Tues: 14 miles - the "crack house loop" (so named for a rural home in need of a "few" repairs, along with the beater truck on cinder blocks! other than that it is a very scenic run).
Wed: 9 miles w/ 8 x 4 minutes at 7:10
Thurs: off (I meant to run but I had to work early so couldn't do the AM routine, and then we had dinner with friends after work, which left me too stuffed and tired to run!)
Fri: 12.25 miles (it wasn't supposed to be quite that long, but I wanted to hit the big 6-0!)

The mileage was doable, but it did take a lot of time. I just don't have the schedule to be one of those super high-mileage people so I doubt if I'll ever get much beyond 60 mpw, but I am ok with that. After CIM, I plan to get on a more "ultra" type schedule with one really long run instead of a bunch of medium distance stuff. And at some point I am going to have to find some real trails to run on. But overall I feel like I have somewhat of a plan for going into next year and I am pretty happy with my progress considering I struggled to complete a 10K last January!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Running Problem

I couldn't resist - I signed up for the California International Marathon. I don't really expect drastically different results, but I just couldn't seem to let the idea go. With my parents living just outside of Sacramento, it makes for a pretty cheap running road trip (free food and lodging!). Plus, it gives my parents their first real opportunity to see me run since cross country nationals my junior year of college (15 years ago - egads!). So how did my mom respond to the good news: "I probably won't go. It seems like a pretty boring thing to watch."

At least I'll have the camaraderie of the other 6,000 runners who understand the marathon insanity. Also, I think I will be starting off my 2009 adventure in ultra-running with the Hagg Lake 50k. Hopefully, that'll keep me motivated to do some long runs in the rainy Pacific NW winter weather.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Portland Marathon

It seems like I have been so eager to write up other recent race reports, but I don't feel like I have a lot to say on this one. Maybe it's because I am more excited about trail running these days or maybe it's because the race was just kind of ho hum in terms of my expectations.

Anyway, it was a typical story: out too fast, fizzle in the end. I thought I would run the first part with my friend Stephanie and I learned a good lesson: just because you train with someone, doesn't mean you can race with them! Stephanie has beaten me not only in every race but also in every single interval or speed workout we've ever run together. So even when she said she was "going to take it easy" for the marathon, I should have known better. (she finished 16th!)

There were some up shots to the race: Overall my time wasn't that bad (3:17:22). It was my third fastest marathon, good enough for 38th woman (better than 99% of the other 4000+ women in the race!). And the race gave me new confidence - the confidence that I am back to where I used to be and that I can (and will!) break my 1999 marathon PR someday. It also helped me decide where to focus next year - next year is going to be the year of the Ultramarathon for me. I really think that appeals to me more than the marathon right now. I really hope to get some more experience in longer distance races next year.

Part of me wants to take one more stab at the marathon this year at CIM, but I think the more reasonable part of me will prevail and I'll sit this one out. I'm not ruling it out for next year, though. ;)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Crazy Calculations

My friend Debbie introduced m to race predictor calculators last week. The concept is simple: you enter a recent race time and it will predict your race time for some other distance. And so I have been going crazy trying to see where my marathon time should be, a salient issue since I am running Portland marathon this weekend.

I have been using every possible combination - mile times, 3K, 5K, 10K - on every calculator I cn find online. No matter how I try - it always comes up the same: I am not where I want to be. I know these are just estimators an not a destiny written in stone (indeed I have about ten minute window for my predicted times), but nonetheless, it is NOT the confidence builder I need after a crummy month of training. Here's to hoping that I am the exception to these "rules!"

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Long Recovery

The 50K went so well, I thought recovery would be easy. I took four days off, but by Wednesday I was itching to run. So I decided to join my usual Wednesday night group - probably not the best move since this is a speedworkout, but I figured I could just lolligag at the back of the pack with an easy pace. Well, I was at the back of the pack, but I didn't feel like I was lolligaging! I felt I was working super hard just to get to the finish! The workout was 4 hill loop repeats (0.8 miles) up Soapbox Hill in Bush Park. But on my third one my time was really slipping (5:54!) and I felt as if my legs were going to just melt into the ground. I worried that they wouldn't even hold me up anymore, let alone get me up the hill one last time. So instead I bagged it and even skipped the cool down, just walking back to my car.

That kind of got me in a mental funk for the rest of the week. I felt weak and lame and I couldn't seem to get a good plan together for what I needed to do. Lucky for me, Greg Crowther is a college classmate of mine, and was able to give me a bit of advice. I think once I could focus on a new plan and accept that I needed more time to rest, things started to come back together and I got over my funk.

I took another 4 days off without running, then did a couple of easy runs. This Wednesday when the group did hill loop repeats (five this week), I could tell I still wasn't at my best, but I was doing okay hanging in the middle of the pack. My last one was 5:10 - a big difference from the week before. I told you my legs weren't working right that day! I ran with the girls Thursday morning (easy 9.25 miles) and Saturday I did 13 with the boys (7:43 pace).

With the Portland Marathon in two weeks, September isn't going to have much hard core training. Hopefully, I'll still be able to have a good race in Portland.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cracking the 50K

In April, I signed up for the McKenzie River Trail Race 50k. I had only started running again in January, so I had no idea if I'd be ready, but registration only lasts one day, so I had to act fast. But as race day got closer and closer I started getting really anxious. The funny thing was, despite my anxiety, I still had this "It can't really be that hard" kind of mentality. The winning women's time for most years is around 8:30 pace - as a road runner an 8:30 pace sounds like a casual jog! Still I wasn't expecting to win, so I figured I would be going even slower. Hmmm, was I missing something? Still 31 miles is a long way, long enough to get me scared, so I had this mental see-saw going on leading up to the race.

Friday I got up really early and went hot air ballooning - not your typical pre-race activity! Afterward there was a great brunch spread. I've been worried about fueling issues so I pigged out - two heaping plates and dessert. The rest of the day I had a bowl of noodles, PB&J and a small pizza. And to make sure I was well hydrated I drank a gallon of Gatorade and a half gallon of water! The whole fam made the trip out to McKenzie Bridge that afternoon. Fortunately, Megan was calling for the bathroom before I was! We went to race check in and ate dinner at seemingly the only restaurant in town and ran into several other runners doing the same. I went to bed early but was up four different times - a combination of nerves and bladder rebellion, I think. Liam woke up at 4:15am, but promptly fell back asleep in our bed after draping himself entirely across me. I was up for good just before 6 am.

Everyone made the trip to the starting line that morning where it was COLD - 46 degrees. I debated about clothing and changed my shirt twice, but finally headed to the start with short sleeves and chattering teeth.

The Race:
The race has only about of a third of a mile on the road before hitting the trail, so there wasn't a lot of time for everyone to get sorted out. I was right behind two girls for the first mile, but when another girl went to pass, I went with her. I fell in behind her and learned it was Linda Samet, a very accomplished ultra-runner. She knows a heck of a lot more about running than I do, so I stuck with her. Plus she was great company - really chatting it up. I definitely vote her "Miss Congeniality" for this one! I tried to strike up conversations with a few others later on, but I just got a couple of lines at most from everyone else. The pace felt very easy, but she stressed pacing and I couldn't agree more. I was pretty worried about falling apart after mile 20 since that had happened to me in my last long training run before the race, so I was definitely trying to save myself for the end. At one point a train of 10 or so runners went by, but I didn't pay attention. I didn't even look how many women were ahead of me at the turn around - so out of character! - but there seemed to be several.

We hit the first Aid Station (5.7 miles) in 57 minutes - a huge wake-up call to me in terms of the pace of these things. 10 minute miles was a bit of a reality check. I had no intentions of being out there longer than 5 hours and 10 minute pace wouldn't cut it! Plus the first leg is the only uphill part of the course, the rest has a net downhill - time to pick it up! I took off on my own and got into a good rhythm. I was really going on the downhills. I didn't think I was any kind of Kamikaze, but I was passing a lot of people who seemed to have a much more cautious approach to running the downhills. Leg 1: 5.7 miles, 57:00 (10 min/mile)

All of the sudden there were a bunch of people lining the hill, cheering. AS#2 was back at the start and I was expecting to run through the parking lot to hit it, but I fly around a bend in the trail going downhill, and I realize that these people ARE the aid station after I have already passed the guy with the pitcher of Gatorade. I had no idea how fast I was going at the time, so I wasn't really expecting the AS for a few more minutes! My pace had definitely improved: 5.5 miles (11.2 total)- 46:00 (8:22 pace), 1:43 total time.Rather than turn around, I kept on trucking.

A few minutes later, I realized my folly and was cursing myself. My fuel plan was to eat every half hour and stay well hydrated, but I was just about to eat my last GU (the only food I had) and my water bottle was only about a third full. I mulling on my stupidity when I spied a gift from the trail fairies: a completely unharmed GU was just lying in my path. I made a mid-run swoop to scoop that puppy up, after all, this is about survival! A bit later I came up on a woman who was doing a slower pace than me and I fell in behind her, thinking I should slow down a bit. All of the rest of the early starters practically jumped of the trail to let the regulars pass, and since she didn't budge, I figured she must be part of the fast pack. Her pace felt slow, but it didn't surprise me given that I had been running fairly fast. I followed for 7 or 8 minutes and was thinking I should pass, but my bladder was uncomfortably full and I figured it'd be stupid to pass just to have her pass right back when I was squatting in the bushes. But peeing on the run is new to me and I had to get a game plan together, which took more time. There were trees everywhere; this would have been a no-brainer if I were a guy, but the low brush and flat terrain wasn't much cover for a girl. After 6 or 7 more minutes, I finally saw a downed tree and headed off the trail. One guy came by and I realized the tree was good cover from people coming toward me, but if anyone bothered to look back I would be in plain site. I'm not that modest, but I wasn't planning to put on any shows, either, so when I saw another guy coming, I finished up and figured I'd try to get back on the trail ahead of him. I made a mad dash across the brush and was about to step on to the trail when I caught a toe on a downed branch and face-planted spectacularly in front of him. I got up fast, but he passed anyway. I ran with him and we quickly caught up to the same girl. He got around easily but I was trapped behind. I'll try to give her the benefit of the doubt since she had her headphones cranked, but she didn't budge, blocking the center of the trail. It took me a couple more minutes before I finally got around, even though I even yelled at one point. The minutes behind this girl were a mistake - I was feeling good and didn't need to be going this slow, so she definitely cost me some time.

I wasn't out of trouble once I passed her either. My legs still felt great, but my eyes felt bulge-y and my vision was kind of fuzzy at the periphery and I wasn't focusing too well. I was pretty sure I was low on sodium, so I opened up my new-found GU, which was the only thing I had on me at that point, as even my water bottle was empty. I took a few sucks, and then missed a step in the lava rock, and took my second digger in about 20 minutes! This time my right knee banged down on the rock, but I didn't seemed to be injured. I got up, but still had a fuzzy head. I tried to finish the GU, but I got a mouthful of dirt and pine needles instead - apparently it got a little dirty in my tussle with the ground! I got to AS3 just under 20 minutes later, and promptly got my water bottle filled. And I did an ultra thing I thought I would never do - and here it was only my first one: I grabbed a boiled potato from the table, to eat no less!! I know this is common practice in endurance sports, but I don't even really liked boiled potatoes in normal circumstances. And cold ones in a bowl that have been fingered by a bunch of sweaty runners before me - Yuck! It sounded wholly unappealing and I wasn't ever planning to join in, but I knew I needed sodium. So I grabbed the Morton's container and just pour a mound of the stuff onto the potato and dug in. It was like taking bite out of a salt lick, but I knew I needed it so I grabbed the container, poured more salt on and grabbed a few animal cookies for good measure before heading out.

I stuffed the rest of the potato in my mouth and washed it down as much as I could in the next few minutes. I passed a guy pretty soon after (the first guy by when I peed), I caught the other one a short bit later. His pace wasn't too different than mine so I did stay behind him for a while. When another runner came up behind us, I passed the first guy right along with him. The salt and water seemed to be helping and I soon passed this guy, too. Even though my vision and mentation seemed to be coming back, this is actually the leg I remember the least. I caught up to another guy and was behind him, when I start to see a couple people standing on the trail cheering. Can't fool me twice - I knew the aid station must be near. Oh yeah, and a guy up the trail had said "you've got one minute to the Aid Station!" Ha! Mac brought the kids out to cheer, too which was a nice surprise, too!

I didn't want any fuzzy vision repeats, so I get to the station and start yelling "SALT? Do you have salt?" while they are filling my water bottles. A guy at the aid station pulls a baggie a capsules from his vest and asks me, "Did you want a salt tab?" It is down my throat practically before I answer yes! I am just about to leave when I see Linda chugging up the hill to the Aid Station, a little to close for comfort, so I leave the guy I came in with behind me, thinking I've got to get moving.

Leg 5 is just a short little 3.3 mile section - gorgeous trail that I did in good time. I was pumped at how good I felt and was running strong. I passed a couple of guys, but mostly I was by myself. In fact sometimes, I was surprised how few people I saw.

I got to the last aid station at 3:50 - averaging just over 9 minute pace (~9:10). I didn't drink that much in that leg, so still had over half a bottle of fluid. I grabbed a motley food assortment (4 Pringles, 5 candy corn, and 2 gummy bears) but didn't pause to get the bottle filled. The finish was six miles away and I was on a mission! I thought I could do 9 minute miles for a calculated 4:44 finish, but I put 4:46 in my mind in terms of having a count down, just to be safe.

I was going at a good clip and now I was starting to catch more people. There was no tucking in behind anyone this time; I passed with purpose! I ended up passing nine guys on this section! My stomach didn't feel great but it wasn't slowing me down. With the exception of missing an Aid Station, I thought I was doing a good job of eating and figured I should stick to the plan, even though my stomach was a little heavy. So at 4:20 I tried to eat my last GU and instantly felt nauseous. I don't have problems eating when I run, but the last two GU's were caffeinated (the only option when I restocked at AS4) and I don't really have any experience taking in caffeine while running. And I do know that I tend to be pretty caffeine sensitive, so maybe that had something to do with it. Also, I am a big fan of GU, but their 'Esspresso Love' flavor (which I was trying to stomach at that point) is DISGUSTING! I couldn't even palate a small bite of it the next day.

Anyway, my stomach feels like a rock and I start to think it might actually be good to throw up. I get to the side of the trail and lean over, but only a big burp comes out. I start feeling better right away, plus I am thinking,"If it didn't come up then, it's never coming up," which was a mental relief. So I start booking again - I am only 22 minutes away from the 4:46 time - my legs feel remarkably strong and I know I can keep this up for that long. Soon there is a surprise water table. I don't stop, but the lady yells, "Only two miles!" which wasn't good because I thought I was closer than that (several runner's commented that she was off on her distance when they got to the finish, but I didn't know that at the time). Though my legs felt stronger than I would have expected, I was still tired and glad there was a lot of downhill.

Right at 4:40 there is a teenage boy sitting at the base of a hill and I ask,"How much farther?" I figured I had somewhere between 4 and 6 minutes left and I was really hoping he'd say less than a half a mile rather than more. Instead he said, " just up this hill." I didn't like his answer - it seemed evasive and unhelpful. Why couldn't he just tell me the distance?!? But ten seconds later the trail turned and I was staring at the finish line just 20 yards ahead!! I tried to sprint (ha,ha) and crossed the line in 4:40:38, running 8:22 pace for the last six miles - my fastest miles of the day!

I guess Mac wasn't expecting my speedy finish, either. He said he had been there only about one minute before I came in. He couldn't have been far off because next woman up was only two minutes ahead and Mac said he wasn't there to see her finish.

Though I know I had it in me mentally and physically to do that extra half mile I expected, once I stopped, I realized I was spent. Mac kindly brought icy Powerade, but after five liters of sports drink that morning, I was done with it for a while. I kept saying I need to sit down, but then I'd get up and hobble to the refreshment table, first for water, then soda, then cookies for the kids. I was covered in sweat, dirt, Gatorade, GU, and even a trail of dry blood all down my shin from the fall. We left pretty soon after.

I took an ice bath and a shower and Liam took a nap. We got to the lunch 5 minutes before the awards. The posted results made me happy: 5th girl, but 4th place was over-40. Since top 3 overall aren't eligible to "double-dip" and get age group prizes, things worked out perfectly for me to take home the 39 and under prize - a beautiful handmade cutting board! The winner was only 8 minutes ahead - with better pacing, that seems pretty doable. A good goal for next year, I guess!

Today I am stiff and hate my stairs. Besides my quads, I am the most sore in muscles that don't seem like typical running muscles: my back, shoulders, tricepts, even my intercostals (rib muscles) if I take a deep breath, but nothing beyond the I-just-ran-31-miles kind of soreness anywhere, with the exception of my right knee. Seems I banged and bruised it pretty good and it is very painful to kneel, which I usually do quite a bit with the kids. I suspect it won't last much longer than the rest of the aches and pains.

<- my knees - they don't look too bad!
The rest of my day Saturday ->

I thought the whole thing was great. I can't wait to find another 50K!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bush Park Cross Country Series

The Bush Park Cross Country series happens every Thursday night in August in none other than Salem's Bush Park. I made it to three of the four and fared pretty well.

Week 1: The rest of the fam was up in Portland for the night so I was on my own for this one. I ran the 5k, felt pretty good and even passed Salem's most well known female runner on the last hill - who cares if she is pushing 50! - for a fourth place finish. My friend Stephanie ended up winning the race, but since the overall winner wasn't eligible for age group awards, I took took home the blue ribbon for my category.

Week 2: This time the whole family came out for the fun and it was a SCORCHER, topping out at 97 degrees. I was first to go, running the 3K this time. Before the race, I pointed out a lanky blond in a blue sports bra to my husband. "That's someone I run with. She's a lot faster than me."

"She's hotter than you, too!" Thanks a lot, hun! My first mile split was two seconds slower than my first mile of the 5k the week before. I blame it on the heat! As predicted, Hot Girl beat me to the line, but fortunately she is still in her 20's. I came in second female, first in my age group.

Then it was Megan's turn. She was SO excited to run leading up to the race, but when the race started she wasn't so sure she was having so much fun. She complained of being tired, but I coaxed her to the finish. She got a green finisher's ribbon given to everyone in the six and under segment for her almost last finish. She liked my blue one better and wanted to trade.

Then Mac did the 5k, only his second race ever. He didn't get any ribbons, but with a strong sprint finish he bested all his friends for back-of-the-pack bragging rights!

Week 3: We were at Diamond Lake for the Week.

Week 4 - trophy night!: The Smiths were back in action! This time Mac did the early race. He was pleased that the 3k was much easier than the 5k. It helped that it was 20 degrees cooler, too!

Megan wasn't so sure about her race, in fact she said she didn't want to do it right as the gun went off. I thought I could muster up some enthusiasm, but she broke down about 50 yards into the race and started crying. At age three and a half, we weren't going to push it. So instead we joked that Megan got her first DNF. I think if she had had a friend there she would have been OK. Maybe she'll be ready next year.

And then it was 5k time. The college kids were out in droves, including a huge group from the University of Portland. I have been feeling a bit lead-legged this week so I wasn't sure how it'd go. I passed one coed with about a mile to go, but another passed me on the last hill. Uggg, I hate that and don't usually let it happen! Despite feeling stiff, my time (20:30) was only two seconds off my week 1 time. Hot Girl won again and three college girls were also ahead of me. Lucky me, those youngsters weren't in my age group - so I got the gold medal!

Three races, three age group wins. I better enjoy it now - Hot Girl turns 30 next year!

Peaks and Valleys

This is a guest post I wrote for my hubby's blog Get Fit Slowly today:

Today after work I went for a run. To save time I left straight from work rather than driving someplace else to run. I decided to head along Pringle Creek to Willamette University and then run through the campus one time before the students returned to campus. Too late, the students were already back. I stuck to the plan because I haven’t explored the campus much even though it is right next to work. I followed the creek into the heart of campus, where it is artfully incorporated into the landscape. I tried to continue along the river but hit a dead end. Here, I made an about face and ran back the other way. I doubt even the new freshmen made that mistake. As I ran I passed two lion statues guarding the entrance to the theater, the SAE house, and then came across the Martha Springer Botanical Garden.

Continuing, I ran across the artificial turf of the fields, where guys were practicing soccer and then across the pedestrian bridge over busy 12th street. On the other side of the bridge was a building with fairly modern architecture, with the Japanese flag flying out front. “What the heck is this?,” I wondered, just as the sign came into view: Japan International University of America. I had no idea there was such a place, let alone in downtown Salem. The path continued on past the Willamette Bearcat softball field and then it ended abruptly in the parking lot. I wouldn’t have minded continuing my run on the street, but the gates were shut and I wasn’t in a fence jumping mood. So , it was another U-turn, back across the bridge and past the tennis courts.

A side walk garden contained very overcrowded and puny irises, which made me think of JD’s wife Kris, who is especially diligent about dividing her irises, and just like that, I was back to my starting point. A 17 minute tour of Willamette University.

To lengthen the run I continued on the Pringle Creek path in the opposite direction, off to High street, passing what I consider to be the most impressive and splendid house in Salem. The local running group often avoids high street because of the hill, but I think the old houses make it worth the effort. I finished with a loop on the bark path around Bush park including a little path by the stream – a bit of urban trail.

It would have been a very pleasant run indeed, except for one thing: I felt like crap! My legs were like lead and my breathing seemed more labored than usual, particularly given my slow pace for the day. Just a week ago I was elated by my fitness, telling Mac how great I felt, but today I didn’t feel fit at all. I didn’t feel all that great on Monday either. I just haven’t seemed to have it together this week.

I am reminded that Fitness is a series of peaks and valleys. You can try to be on your “A-game” all the time, but some days you just don’t have it. Even elite athletes have their ups and downs. People strive for peak performances, but this may lead to a down slide which defines the peak. The valleys aren’t exciting like the peaks, but they are part of the journey. We can only strive to make the next peak a little higher and work to keep the current valley from being as low as the last.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Starting Line

I have been blogging for almost four years now, but up until recently all my posts have been about the kids or our daily life. In January when I started running again, I wanted to write about it, but not everybody who wanted to read about my kids wanted to read about my running. Even my own mother thought there was too much about running on my personal blog!

This blog will be for my running and fitness thoughts and race reports (and maybe a cute kid picture every now and then for good measure!). I back posted all of my previous running entries from my other site to make this one complete.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Old-Time Running

A week ago, I decided I was finally ready to do a weekend run with the Willamette Valley Road Runners. I have been wanting to run with this group until I felt like I was 'ready,' which by my standards means I was fairly confident that I could hang with just about anybody on a long run. I showed up Saturday Morning and only five guys were there. They said summer vacations, the Olympic trials and a couple of local races were taking a toll on their turn-out for the day. As we chatted, I was sure they were thinking,"Can this girl really hang with us?'

Hang I did. In fact only one guy and I were left by the time we completed our 14.5 miles. I guess I passed muster, because this guy told me I should come workout with them on Wednesdays. After Wednesday's workout, people were all clamoring on about a 10K in Stayton on the fourth of July and since when does does this race junkie miss an opportunity like that?

So rather than sleep in on my day off, it was off to the races. My friend Debbie came along, too, as did her husband who was running his first ever race!

After milling around a bit and giving Debbie's husband lots of race day advice, we lined up at the start for the OLD TIME 4th of July 10k run. At the starting line I bumped into Joe, a guy I had run intervals with on the track at Relay for Life. The running community seemed so small world right then, which got me excited because I was becoming part of that small world! Joe wanted to know my pace. Around 7 minute miles I told him. "Oh, I do 7:15's, maybe even 7:30's is more like it." he told me, which I later learned was overly modest. But at that point I thought we wouldn't be running together, so we wished each other well as we get ready to start.

They got an authentic old-timer to give us a mini pep talk and do the timing. And then the gun was up: click - the gun didn't go off. A second try and still just a tiny click. And then a frantic click, click, click as the starter desperately tried to get the gun to sound. Finally, the old guy decided he was just going to yell,"Go!" which he did and we all started running. Three seconds after we started running, there was a loud BANG! The gun was working again.

I wasn't wearing a watch for this one. I'd like to tell you it was because I was being very casual about this race, but really it totally slipped my mind when trying to get ready and keep Liam entertained at the same time. Fortunately, a guy at the mile mark was reading splits: 6:52 - Not too far off 7 minute pace.

Right after mile two, I heard shuffling footsteps behind me and then a few seconds later, I hear,"I'm here!" and there was Joe. Joe started coaching me immediately. "This course is harder than you would think. Just relax up this hill and let's not let that couple up ahead get away from us." Despite "relaxing" we actually caught that couple as we crested the hill and went on to the three mile mark - 21:08. We made the turn around and then had the downhill. I cheered for Debbie and her husband when I passed them on their way up and then just cruised down the hill to the four mile point, 27:35. "Whoa, we picked it up." I said to Joe. I was a little surprised because I didn't think the hill was that steep and I also was a little anxious because even 7 minute pace was kind of pushing it for me. Joe was nonchalant. "Yeah, we did, but we'll just go easy on this flat because we have one more good bump coming up. After that, It is all flat or a little downhill to the finish."

The flat didn't seem that easy to me, and the uphill wasn't so fun but I stayed with Joe and our pretty good pace. With about a half mile to go, I either slowed a bit or Joe picked it up, but either way, I couldn't keep up. I finished in 43:03, with Joe just ahead of me. This was about the only time I regretted not having a watch, as I know I could have taken 4 seconds off with the right incentive (like going under 43 minutes!). But even still, it was a minute and a half faster than two weeks ago. And the age group ribbons were actually ribbons this time, not just ribbon shaped paper!

I finished 4th female, not second (4/31; 24/87 OA) - something new and different for me. The place was worse than usual, but who cares? I am just psyched by the 6:53 pace for the 6.25 mile course. I had thought I was stretching it a bit when I told Joe 7 minute pace - I am glad to see I could back up my words. Joe was obviously downplaying his fitness level at the start of the race - to my advantage; I don't know if I would have run as fast without him.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Different Race, Same Place

In college the 10K was my race - it was the longest distance offered. The highlight of my track career was probably a fifth place finish at the NCAA Division I New England Regional Meet (I went to a Div. 3 school). I still drink coffee in the mug I won. My best college time was still about 50 seconds too slow to qualify for Nationals.

Since graduating, I have tended to favor races longer than the 10K. Somewhere in my mind I have just decided I am too slow for that distance and so I don't usually do it. But this week my good friend and colleague, Debbie, came in on Monday and asked if I wanted to do the Willamette Valley Road Runners Club Summer Solstice 10K with her Friday night. She did have one reservation:"Wait, you aren't in my age group are you?" Debbie's got a competitive nature, too! After she was assured that I was not in her age group, she again encouraged me to run with her. The race was in Minto-Brown Park, which is probably the best running opportunity in Salem and I was anxious to learn more about the trails there. And the price was right: $8 ($10 day of race), which included an ice cream sundae at the finish. Plus, I figured a 10K would count as a good tempo run.

To solidify my intentions to use this race as a workout I still did my usual "ass-kick Wednesday" workout: up at 4:30 (AM!) for a set of mile repeats and some heavy lifting! Not to mention, I like to have an excuse to fall back on if the race doesn't go well!

I met Debbie at the race and we milled around a bit before the air-horn signaled the start of the race. We took off and I could immediately make out three girls ahead of me. I know, I know, this was just a workout, but it never hurts to check out the competition, right?

The race started down the bike path before turning on to a bark chip (and not barf chip!) path. I passed one girl on a small uphill before mile one. My 6:44 split was faster than I wanted - I guess I am still having problems with going out too fast. I slowed it down, because I knew I couldn't keep that pace, especially because I could feel a bit tiredness in my legs, surely left over from Wednesday (or at least that's my excuse!).

ribbon.jpgThe next girl up slowed a bit too and I fell in behind her. At the two mile mark, I pulled past her, too. I could see the last girl up ahead, but I never seemed to get any closer, even though I did a pretty good job of keeping a consistent pace after mile one (7:11, 7:14, 7:14, 7:12, 7:18). At mile four, I could hear somebody behind me and I was sure one of the girls had made a comeback, but it turned out to be a guy with long basketball-types shorts, riding way too low on his hips, particularly for a runner! He passed me but I managed to get him back with about a mile to go, probably because I got sick of looking at the four inches of gray underwear sticking out above his shorts! I didn't catch the girl ahead of me and so took my usual second place (44:41) (11th overall). She got a nice medal for the win and I had to just settle for an age group award : a first place laminated paper ribbon! (sorry first LOSER!) My friend Debbie also took home the blue ribbon in her age category.

OK, sure, I'd like to be writing about how I won the race and got all the applause when they announced the winner, but it was still a good race for me and I had a great time. Minto-Brown proved to have a lot more trails than I was giving it credit for. After the first mile, I think I did a great job at running a constant pace, especially since the variation corresponds very nicely with the little hills on the course (mostly it was flat). And my time was nearly 11 minutes faster than the I did this year five months ago- just goes to show the power of training! And who wouldn't be proud to hang a paper ribbon on the wall?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Friday night after dinner, Mac's Mom decided to make a Cold Stone run for the family. Mac went along to help lug all seven orders. When they got back, Mac gave me a piece of news with my HUGE ice cream shake: The Mount Wilson Trail Race was tomorrow.

"No, it's not!" I argued back. I knew this race took place on Memorial Day weekend. We were now two weeks past that in June.

"Yeah, it is. They are having the pre-race dinner tonight." Mac answered back. I tried to explain to him about the calendar and Memorial Day not being in June, but he cut me off. "They had to postpone the race because the trail washed out after the fires." I didn't fully believe him until I checked the web, but it was true. Didn't matter though, because the race was already full. But I decided I'd go down to the start anyway; it seemed there would be at least a few cancellations with he date change. Of course, that didn't stop me from consuming all nine-million milk fat calories in my shake - call it carbo loading, hahaha!

Turns out I was right about the cancellations; the race director let me in a half hour before the race started. And so, less than a week later, I was back running on the Mt. Wilson trail. The race is 4.3 miles up to Orchard Camp with a 2100 ft elevation gain and then right back down again. And let me tell you, the trail doesn't get any easier just because you are racing! I am sure I walked about half of the way up - maybe more, but I was in good company! The downhill isn't much easier, because I had to pass nearly two-hundred runners behind me that were still on their way up and manage to not fall off the 2-3 ft wide trail while doing it!

I finished 8th woman (of 72), 42nd overall (of 230), pushing it in to break 90 minutes (1:29:38). That breaks down to 10:26 pace, which before now would have sounded incredibly slow to me. But I respect the power of the hills a lot better now! Plus, I can always blame Cold Stone! I am not sure if I didn't push myself enough or if my legs had finally gotten use to the hill pounding, but I wasn't really sore at all the next day, which was good since we were crammed on plane, flying back to Oregon!

I ran at the gym today and was nearly sick just looking at the treadmill. Looks like I am going to be making some field trips to Silver Falls this summer, which is about the only trails within an hour of here. :(

Monday, June 9, 2008

Today's Weather: Sunny and Gray

This past week we took a business trip to California. We visited the in-laws while we were there, and oh, yeah we left the kids with them for three days to go to Santa Barbara for a GI pathology conference (and lots of good, quality sleep). It was the first time we both spent the night away from both our kids. Don't worry, Mac and I handled it just fine!

When we stepped off the plane, we were struck by the grayness of California: roads and buildings everywhere you look, and a smoggy gray sky. Even the plants are a drought resistant gray-green: eucalyptus and laurel and buckwheat and live oaks. What little color there is seems to be washed out in the overly bright sun. Heck, even the former governor was Grey (haha!).

The one redemption in Southern California, to me, is the mountains. Yes, the beaches get all the talk, but they are overbuilt and overpopulated and really no more beautiful than the beaches anywhere else (I would say less so even). But California is mountainous in a way entirely different from Oregon.

Only recently have people thought to build in the mountains, with their houses balanced precariously on metal stilts. And so much of the mountain land remained unspoiled and much of it even got preserved. Despite the beauty and low population density around Salem there are essentially no true local trails, no where where you could be lost in the wilderness for a ten mile stretch. As I am currently craving some trail to run on, the proximity of all the California mountain trails seemed glorious.

Sunday, I thought about nearby places to run: Chantry flats, Bailey canyon, the JPL trails - all just a short drive from Mac's parents house. But instead Mac's family informed me I could reach a trail just a couple of miles away and so I set off from his house, without needing to drive at all. I ran to the top of his street and then made a jog onto Mountain Trail Road - it certainly sounded promising. Mac's mom told me there was a park at the top of the road with access to the trails, but when I got there, the whole place was torn up and surrounded in chain link fence, with no trail access to be found (I later learned they were redoing the reservoir), but a few steps farther on I saw a tiny little street: Mount Wilson Trail Road and a couple hundred yards later I was on the Mount Wilson Trail.

I don't know why I was so surprised to find this here; we hiked this trail quite a bit when I was growing up, precisely because it was so close, but still we had always driven to the trail head and so I never realized it was just over two miles from Mac's house (plus it was more like five miles from my childhood home). Starting the trail was so familiar even though I hadn't been there in a decade or so. In high school my best friend Anne and I pooped out at First Water, shocked that we had only gone a mile and a half. Mac and I backpacked up to the top and spent the night. I don't think many people have done this as the 14.2 mile round trip is doable in a day and for those who really want to camp at the top, you can drive up the backside, so no need to haul all your gear up the steep and dusty trail. My mom, Sister, Mac and I all hiked up to orchard camp one time to have lunch. And sometime in the 90's I actually ran the Mt. Wilson Trail Race on Memorial Day weekend.

No sooner had I stepped on to the trail, then I spotted a deer. I can't recall ever seeing a deer in Southern California.

The Mt. Wilson trail isn't exactly a kind a gentle trail; it doesn't ease you in with a nice slow warm-up. No -from the get go, it is UP UP UP! It is amazing how fast that uphill will knock you out - after five minutes I was ready for my first walking break! More uphill and more walking breaks (aka power hiking!). At the next big bend I could hear the water down below and I tried to recall if there was a downhill section to get to First Water, but a quick glance at the trail assured me there would be no rest for the weary, for going up the mountain was a series of five switch backs. Then more up, and finally, a tiny little down to First Water, but not enough to rest before it was UP, UP, UP again. At this point I was past all the fire zone so there were actually plants around, and after First Water there are quite a bit of trees and shade. It is actually a very pleasant stretch of trail, if you aren't trying to run up it!

I was surprised how many people were on the trail in these early hours, I easily saw at least 30 people on the trail and most of them were on their way down -all before 9 am. A not so fit looking jogger and his dogs, a group of power walking women, a couple out for a stroll, a trio of middle-aged Asian ladies, two very serious looking women trail runners followed closely by a not as serious looking trail runner, a family with two pre-teen kids, a couple more Asian groups, a man flying down the hill, two back-packers (I guess other people do back pack the Mt. W trail!). Right as I was starting to think about turning around a solo woman runner passed me coming down.

I wanted to make it to Orchard Camp, but I knew I couldn't do it and get back in under two hours, so at 1:16, I finally turned around. As I made the turn, a little part of me was thinking, "that last runner is only five minutes ahead." (ok, a big part of me).

Off down the trail, passing several more groups on their way up...The downhill is funny, because your breathing is no longer labored, but then the muscles in your legs quiver and let you know that this is still quite taxing. At every bend I looked ahead for my lead rabbit but I never saw her. When I reached the five minute rest point from the way up, I had all but given up, but then as I looked across the last C-bend of the trail I saw her at the other side. I made a mad dash down the hill, past the deer site, and onto the road. I hit made it to the stop sign just as she was crossing the street to her car. I didn't actually pass her (she got in and zoomed off), but I was happy nonetheless. I plodded the rest of the road's back to the Smiths and got to their door in 2:06 for the 11 or so miles. (How sad was I that my new Garmin with GPS was sitting in a Salem post-office just waiting for me!).

Monday I paid for my downhill pursuit. Man were my quads sore! but it gave me something to do when I got bored during the lectures - I sat there and flexed and poked them all day long to feel the pain!

Mac and I spent Sunday night to Wednesday afternoon alone in Santa Barbara. We dined on great food (on the company tab!), visited with Mac's high school best friend (and best man) and his wife, and strolled by the sea. And I didn't run a step! Wednesday afternoon, Mac took the train back to Pasadena to relieve his Mom of childcare duties. that afternoon, I went for another hilly run up to the Mission, through mission park, along the ridge and back down again (1:16). This time I wasn't quite as sore the next day.

Friday morning, I packed it up and headed back to Motherhood once again, joining Mac and the kiddos to spend the rest of the weekend at his parents.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Perennial First Loser

As kids we all have been dreams: to play in the NBA, be a ballerina, or maybe an astronaut. But as we get older, our lot in life becomes clear, and you realizes that you have to adjust your dreams: You probably won't be pitching in the major leagues if you are riding the pine in high school; The NBA is a pipe dream if your height tops out at 5'6"; you won't be dancing Swan Lake if you can't even touch your toes; and when you fail calculus you can pretty much kiss your astronaut career goodbye. Fortunately, most people are able to make the necessary adjustments to still be successful adults: you weren't an athlete but you are great at art; or your athleticism led you to be a firefighter instead of an all-star quarter back; and maybe you aren't going to be the prima ballerina, but you are flexible enough to be a great mom. I am lucky I had my brains to fall back on, because when it comes to running, it seems my lot in life is to be the first loser.

In another one of my now too common "What the hell? How will I know if I can do it unless I try?" moments, I decided to enter today's Capitol City marathon in Olympia, WA. I have done several two hours runs recently, and feel I am in pretty good half-marathon shape, but then, when isn't more better? So I signed up for the marathon instead.

I woke up this morning at 6:41; the alarm hadn't gone off. The drive to the start was about 20 minutes away - not good at all, considering the marathon started at seven. I was instantly wide awake and in a panic with my heart racing. Fortunately, the whole thing was just an anxiety dream, it was really only 3:30. But with all the adrenaline coursing through my veins at that point, I didn't sleep another wink until I finally got out of bed at 5:15.

At seven we were off - this time a cannon boom heralded our start. My plan was to go nice and easy - the whole thing was just a stepping stone on my way to Portland, where I am hoping to have a great race. In fact, I put 3:50 as my predicted finish time - just under nine minute mile pace and something I would consider a good solid workout and nothing more.

About two-thirds of a mile in I passed a lady who's shirt said, "We love you Grandma Lee" with a picture of cute Asian kids beneath the text. Most of the others around me seemed to be guys pushing 60. "Ah, running with the grandmas and the grey-hairs," I thought, "certainly this must be a nice easy pace." My first split was 7:41. "Oh [crap], that is way too fast." When I first started road racing after college, I seemed to have a problem with going out too fast - not a good strategy for endurance races. Before my running hiatus (kids), I had gotten pretty good at avoiding this, but it seems like I am starting from square one again. I decided to slow it down a lot for the next mile; my split was 7:44 -aaargh!

Right about the time I was coming up on mile mark two, there was the pounding of quick footsteps as I thought someone was making a pass, but this guy (Bob) fell in step and ran along side me. "I have been about 8 steps behind you for the last mile, so I thought I'd catch up so I'd have someone to run with." That sounded good to me, and we ran together for the next 15 miles, chatting it up every now and then.

At mile 4 a woman up ahead went crashing into the bushes, presumably haven given up on finding a port-a-potty on the course. I kept expecting her to come roaring back, but I never saw her again. By mile six the volunteer informed me that I was running in second for the women's race. Huh - that was completely unexpected! I still wasn't expecting much out of this race, so I kind of just gave a shrug-my-shoulders acknowledgment, as in "whatever, that won't hold up."

Running with Bob was a bit of a mixed blessing. I really enjoyed his company, he was great to talk to and he made the miles go by a lot faster. But he was in good shape, meaning he had actually been training for a marathon (imagine that!) - for a full year no less! - and was ready to have a good day. Because I liked having the company I kind of got caught up in his pace instead of running my own race. And that pace was getting faster - we strung a couple of 7:30's together between miles 6 and 10 and even threw down a 7:28 at one point. Not the direction I wanted to go!

By mile 16 I was feeling it, and slipping. It didn't help that it was now over 70 degrees. We lost 4 seconds. I slowed down another 4 seconds in the next mile. Right after we passed mile 17, Bob kept going, while I kept slowing, but I was still running in second.

Bob's wife was also in the field and also a speedy runner; the two of them had done a lot of research about the course (Bob could always tell me exactly when the next hill was coming or how long we were going to have a downhill stretch). When I expressed my surprise at my position in the field, he had told me that 3:30 was usually good enough for top 3. So at that point, I started thinking damage control: how could I stay under 3:30 and at least place? The only thing I could come up with was just keep running, even if it is very slowly; re-evaluate how you are doing when you get passed.

I hit mile 18 and a volunteer let out a big whoop - "First woman!" That became contagious and the small crowd all started cheering for me, the "first woman." I hadn't passed anybody, so what happened? Did she drop out? Right at the end of the crowd, somebody was finally paying attention. Right as I passed I heard her yell, "that's not right but you are doing great."

In the 18th mile we were back into the neighborhoods and onto the roads shared by the half-marathon course and I started passing all of the half marathon walkers. Many of the houses had small little crowds out to watch the race. For the next four miles, I was alternately told I was first woman or second woman. I knew, though, that I was running second. I mentally joked that the woman ahead of me must be very butch, and therefore not always recognizable as a woman.

Miles 20-24 were painful. I hit the proverbial wall and this wasn't any ordinary wall - this was a wall with barbed wire and and spikes coming out at every angle. These all fell just barely under nine minute pace, which was my initial goal for the whole race, but at this point I was pretty disheartened by it and the slower pace didn't seem to make it any easier to run. in fact, I walked through the mile 24 aid station. I prolonged the rest by taking two glasses, but when they were gone I started running again, intent to keep going till the finish. Mile 25 came and I set my last split - ten more minutes I told myself. And then we passed 19th street. In my mind I only had to make it to third. I started counting down: 19th, 18th, 17th, aaaah! - Maple Crest? what the Hell is that doing here? Finally 16th. On down to 14th and then Union? What the %$#@ is wrong with these people? Don't they know how to number their streets? But then I could see the finish and I no longer cared that 13th was actually two blocks away from 14th. It helped that the finish was also on 7th and not third as I had expected. I crossed in 3:27:44 - second in the women's race (32 of 315 overall).

At the finish a lady handed me a card - "2nd W"- and told me I could redeem if for a top 20 T-shirt. It turned out this was an awesome turquoise running shirt with the marathon logo on the front, quite easily the best thing - schwag or prize - that I have ever gotten from a race. I put the shirt on and limped over to the free massage area, which was heavenly and left me limping a little bit less.

Afterwards Bob came up and I am sure meant to be congratulatory, but it felt like he was taking a cheap pot shot: "Good job. You managed to hold on to second place!" Managed, as in "Boy you were really flailing big time, I can't believe nobody passed you!"

The woman's winner finished in 3:05, twenty-two minutes ahead of me. She had a thick blond pony tail and wasn't at all masculine, as I had joked. It seems she was just so far ahead of me, that she no longer registered in people's short term memory by the time I passed by. Or more likely, she was so far up in the half-marathon pack that people mistook her for a half-marathon runner. Bob kept up a great pace after he shed his extra baggage (me), and finished in 3:19, averaging 7:36 miles. He was a little upset to miss the Boston cutoff (3:15), but I know he'll be there soon with little additional effort. His wife was seventh in the women's race. Her 3:34 was good enough to qualify for Boston.

So to date my marathon history is as follows:
1) Washington Birthday Marathon, Feb. 1999 - My first marathon. My only goal was to finish. I was woefully under-trained (longest run = 10 miles) but I was too ignorant to even know it at the time. The course was three loops on deserted rural roads on a sunny but very chilly day. The puddles were all frozen at the start; it hit 36 degrees by the time I finished. Besides the aid stations there was nobody on the course. I had no idea where I was running and I didn't care. I finished in 3:13:53 - still my best marathon time (hoping to break it in Portland!). The time would have handily won that race pretty much every year since, but that year it was only good enough for second place.

2) Sacramento Marathon, Oct. 2000 - I had been training hard for Portland, but we got invited to a Napa wedding, so instead I opted to do the Sacramento Marathon, which was on the same day as Portland. I led the race for 22 miles but totally bonked in the 80 plus degree heat ( I am sure it didn't help I spent the day before outside at a wedding on a day so hot, a bridesmaid fainted). I got passed in the last four miles and finished second, in 3:22.

3) Valentine's Marathon, Feb. 2001 - My friend wanted to do Boston in 2002, and I thought I needed a qualifying time (turns out the Sacramento Marathon was actually in the 18 month window so I ended up using that time). Again, I had don't much long running, but was in good shape for the short stuff. I led for 20 miles but really wasn't up to the distance, so I ran/walked the last six miles as slow as I could and still be under 3:40. The eventual winner actually stopped when she passed me walking because she was certain something was wrong. Nope just not ready to go more than 20 miles I assured her. I finished second.

4)Boston Marathon, April 2002 - This one doesn't really count with the rest as it is a marathon of international acclaim and not just a community marathon. I trained really well for this one and even did a five hour race for "training," running six miles more than a marathon (ironically, this is the one event that I have ever won). I thought for sure I'd set a new PR, but I just started slowed down a little too much at heartbreak hill and never picked it up again. I finished in 3:15:53 (267th female out of 5,251; 3452/14400 overall)

5)Capitol City Marathon, May 2008 - you already know how that turned out: Second place.

So you see, I am well established as the first loser!

Side Note: Really I don't care about winning one of these (no really!). I know my place is all based on who shows up for the race as there are MANY women out there who are faster than me, and always will be. And unless you win one of the BIG races, the prizes aren't that great. I will, however, be very disappointed if I never break that 3:13:56. Running really comes down to being competitive with yourself; no one wants to think their first effort was their best and that they never improved after that. I hoping that I will be at that point for this year's Portland Marathon (October).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Coach, Train Thyself

We've all heard the phrase,"Doctor, heal thyself", a gentle admonishment to physicians to practice what they preach. It might be good advice, but I have an M.D. after my name, too, so why do I need some family practice doc to tell if I am doing alright?! In other words, I don't think there is any reason for scheduling my "annual" check-up any more frequently than my current five year intervals.

On a different topic, any good coach will tell you to work up to a major goal gradually and to make sure you are ready for any major athletic undertaking. I am currently JD's consultant coach for his marathon training and I wouldn't tell him anything different. In fact, I did tell him 16 weeks is not enough, he should start running now to ensure readiness. After January's 10K Get Fit Quickly scheme, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I decided to ignore this advice.

Though I have been pretty diligent about running since the year started, doing five days a week most weeks, my mileage has been quite low. I usually do one 6 mile run a week, that is, if the weather is nice, and everything else is about four miles. A lot of these four mile sessions include some sort of interval work, mostly just because I get bored running the same speed on the treadmill. I did one 7.5 mile run, but that was back in February. So naturally, a 20 mile race seemed like a good idea (actually only a mere 19.5 miles). And, oh yeah, it was going to be on trails, which is something that seems to be lacking in Salem, so I haven't done any trail running. I was feeling a little scared about my preparations, so Monday I ran the nine miles home from work. I managed nine minute mile pace pretty easily, so thought, "How bad could things go? I could walk the last ten miles if I had to."

Hoping NOT to walk much though, I had a goal sequence for myself: Tops on the list: nine minute mile pace or 2 hours, 55 minutes. Barring that, I wanted to break 3 hours. And then between those was the time of 2:58, which based on last year's times, would be good enough for a top ten finish. And then the very scared (and reasonable) part of me was thinking,"It'd be good to just finish."

I spent the latter half of this week with laryngitis and then the Sisters fire department decided to control burn all of the underbrush this weekend, making the air thick with smoke, but neither of those things really seemed to factor in until after the race was over, when I my lungs felt like it was a smog alert day in Southern California, so I'll skip to my Peterson Ridge Rumble race report:

There was no gun. Just a guy with a bull horn, saying "Ten seconds...three, two, one, GO!" And we all set off. The fast people headed to the front, the slow people crowded in the back, and I found myself in no-man's land, running somewhere in the middle. A little over a mile into the race, a bearded guy with grey hair and a bright orange shirt came up from behind along with his younger running partner. They caught up to a pack of ten or so guys about five yards ahead. I figured it'd be nice to be with a group, and so I caught up and leeched on to the back of the pack. I didn't think the pace changed much at all over the next two miles but slowly the pack dropped off until it was just me, the grey haired guy and his friend. We shared our city of origins at that point (they were from Corvallis), but not our names. As we turned off the dirt road on to the trail, the pair asked me if I wanted to pass. No, I told them, I was very happy behind them. Frankly, I was a bit nervous to be with them at all since they made such quick work of our pack. What pace were we running anyway?

I came out of the first aid station at 40 minutes. Many good runners write the splits they are aiming for on their race number or their arm. While I had calculated out 9-minute mile splits, I thought it'd be a bit pretentious to write them on myself and so I was a bit foggy as to what this split was supposed to be. In my mind it seemed like we were quite a bit ahead of pace.

I left the aid station right behind the Corvallis duo and let them pace up the hilly section to the top at aid station 2. The pair refueled faster than I, but I saw the orange shirted guy signaling me to join them as they were leaving, so I tossed back my water and grabbed a couple of animal crackers for the trail. "Thanks for letting me run with you." I said to them. "No, problem," my companion answered back, "besides we are going to need you to pace us on the way back, I can tell." As he said this my legs felt springy and light. Internally, I joked to myself,"No wonder my morning four miles seem so hard - it takes me eight miles to warm up!" I took the lead for our trio, as we started our 3.4 mile loop around the top of the hill on our way back to the previous aid station (now re-named aid station 3). When the trail went to single track, I was feeling good. I passed three guys; I chatted it up a bit with my new bud, Theo (his friend was falling behind at this point). And then even Theo wasn't hanging with me anymore. I passed two more guys before finishing the loop.

At this point, I gulped down a salt tablet and was immensely amused by this. While most Americans are getting something like five times the recommended dose of sodium from their diets, here I was ingesting salt in pill form. And this wasn't a small pill like I had imagined (sodium and potassium are measured in milligrams after all), this was an electrolyte horse pill. In my mind I jested: "Hey, Tiger, I might not have Gatorade specially formulated for me, but I need extra electrolytes, too!"

With the salt in my belly, I headed out and immediately passed a guy. Then on the downhill, I caught up with a guy and a gal running together. The guy asked if I wanted to pass, but I was ready to have someone else in the lead, so I hung back. A minute or two later he veered off the trail, presumably to the call of nature. The gal immediately picked it up, I figured she didn't like me on her tail. I thought she needn't worry - I was starting to feel tired and her stride looked a lot springier than mine felt at that point. Plus I figured if she paced me to the finish in strong time (for I knew we were ahead of my 2:55 goal), I would gladly let her finish ahead of me. We caught up to another woman about a quarter mile before the next aid station. I recognized her grey singlet with florescent pink piping as someone who had started in the fast pack at the beginning. We ran in line to the aid station - 2:12 - a good deal ahead of schedule, but man, my quads were getting tight fast.

I wolfed down a few candies and gulped a water. The two ladies were still munching when I took off. Less than a mile later we were back on the dirt road; I had passed one more guy. The road was hot and boring. Several wilting people were ahead of me. I passed four more guys as they took walk breaks, but I was slowing down fast. We crossed a road and I knew I was 20 minutes away, at least that is how long it took me to get there from the starting line. I ran six minutes, my thighs burned. Two more I told myself, then you can walk a bit. But with 12 minutes of running left, I thought I should get to the ten minute mark before I walked. At that point, I thought I should just slow down my pace for a few minutes before I needed to walk. It was all mind games, but it was working. A tiny downhill got my legs going a bit faster - keep it going for one more minute. Then let's try a couple more slow jog minutes. One of the wakers had started running again and he passed me back - the only person to pass me the entire race - Run with him for a minute. Ok, two more slow jog minutes. And, then I saw a fence and a building - CIVILIZATION! - you can go a few more minutes, you are almost there. Now you are crossing to the school, can't stop now, people are watching. At that point, there was nothing to do but keep running to the finish.

It took me twenty-seven minutes to get to the finish from the road, but that is because I hadn't considered that the finish was about a half mile past the starting line (with an evil lap around the track at the end). I didn't walk and so probably only lost a couple of minutes. I crossed the line in 2:47:22, ahead of all of my goals (8:35 pace!) and good enough for sixth place. The guy who passed me finished just ahead of me (Joe M.). Springy-legs Girl was seventh in the women's race. Theo finished in 2:50 and change.
After the race with my lime green finisher's socks (no, seriously - they are quite nice and much more practical than a useless finisher's medal) and the Montrail hat I won in the raffle.

Who needs good advice and good training? And don't expect me to make a doctor's appointment anytime soon either!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Get Fit Quickly

Mac is preaching (and practicing!) the get fit slowly point of view. It is a very sensible plan, one the doctor in me whole-heartedly supports,but one the rest of me has a big problem with. I am more of an all or nothing kind of person, and so I am trying to get on the fast track to fitness.

I have been whining to Mac recently about being out of shape, needing to run, blah, blah, blah. But New year's came and went without serving as an inspiration to get moving. But two recent conversations with friends served as the push that I needed.

First, my good friend Debbie told me she was planning to do the Honolulu marathon this year (Dec. '08). Debbie had her son five months after I had mine, so it seemed like I should be able to get back in to shape five months before her.

And then, I tried to convince another friend to do the Portland marathon. I figured if he committed to it, it would become a priority and he would do it and feel good about it. It all sounded like good advice, so I decided to heed it.

And so on Tuesday, I ran two miles. And then Saturday I ran three. And since I was running again, I thought I might as well do a 10K today and so I did.

It is probably not advisable to run a race when all of your total training mileage put together is less than the actual race distance (6.25 miles), and so it should come as no surprise that I ran my slowest time ever, by a long shot. My unofficial time of 55:30 is a time that I hope to be able to run when I am 55. But I ran the whole thing. The last mile was very painful, as all last miles are. Afterward, I was tired and quite sore - sore enough to curse our two-story house and its thigh-searing staircase- but I also felt great. I had that exhausted exhilaration that I remember so well, the runner's high, one could say.

This has helped motivate me to get running again and I hope I stay motivated. Especially, since at this accelerated training pace, I should be ready to run the Vancouver (WA) half marathon in two weeks. ;)