Monday, December 19, 2011

CIM 2011 Race Report

I know, this is really late... but better late than never, right?

At 5:15am I was wide awake and ready to get up for CIM. After my traditional pre-race breakfast of coffee & oatmeal, we (myself and my two supporters) headed out to the start of the race. The drop off point was supposed to be about a mile away from the start line where I expected to have to walk/jog to the start. Thankfully they had buses there to actually shuttle runners from the drop off point to the start of the race, bonus! So, I got in line and onto a bus, Dan and Nicole saw me off and on my way, I looked forward to seeing them very soon along the route. So the bus takes off towards the start of the race, makes a couple turns and then all of a sudden stops in the middle of the road. It seems she missed a turn! Oh great, I thought! I'm going to miss my chance to hit the bathrooms again before the start of the race, or even worse, miss the start! It took several minutes to get the bus turned around and heading back in the right direction. By the time I got off the bus I had 10 minutes before the start. No time for a warm up, I headed straight for the bathrooms! First I stood in line near the front and was starting to worry I would never get to use it before the race started. Then someone yelled that there were no lines down the road, so I trotted down and got right in! After I was finished there I jogged towards the starting line (finally got my warm-up in!), with only a few minutes to spare. By the time I found my spot in behind the 3:30 pace group, the gun went off. Whew, I made it!

The first mile starts off on a decline, I was very careful to watch my pace so that I didn't take off too fast. Not too much after the first mile I came to the rolling hills. These rolling hills terrified me because they seemed like they were much larger than what I had trained on. I tried not to think much about it, but made sure I wasn't pushing too fast up the hills, attempting to keep my heart rate in check as much as possible, and then speed up slightly on the downhill. Around mile 6 Dan and Nicole were there to cheer me on, it was great to have Dan there, he ran beside me for about 30 seconds just checking in on me. I was still feeling really good at this point and it was nice to see them both.

Shortly after that I was looking forward to running through the little town with all the chickens running loose, but I am sad to report that I didn't see any of them! When we drove the route the week before they were all over the place, but I didn't see a single one when I ran through there, what a bummer! :) A couple more miles and now I'm at mile 11, I've just climbed the steepest hill on the route and see Dan just up ahead. When I meet up with him, he runs with me again as we head to Nicole who has my first bottle exchange. I remember asking Dan something about "where's the big hill, was that it?" haha, he said it was and I was so relieved that it didn't feel like a big hill at all, we laughed about it and then I was on my own again. Immediately after this exchange I found myself in front of another hill, which looked to be twice the size of the previous one, and it surely felt like it too. Whew, that was a tough hill to get up! Even looking at the elevation chart it doesn't look like a big hill, but it felt that way and took me a while to recover from it.

The next few miles were relatively uneventful, maybe even slightly boring. I can't think of anything specific that happened, my pace seemed to be in check, there were still some rolling hills to battle, etc. I was surprised around mile 15 to see Dan and Nicole again, such a great surprise too, I needed it even though I seemed to be doing ok. Next time I would see them would be at mile 22 for my second and final bottle exchange. For the next couple miles I found myself in a zone and what I thought was moving along quite well, until I started to hear a large group catching up to me. Occasionally I would hear a man's voice giving some suggestions and encouragement to a group of runners. I didn't want to look behind me to see what was going on, but I started to think maybe it was a pace group, I was thinking oh, maybe it's the 3:40 pace group, which would mean I'm still on target, great! Then, another mile or so later I heard some people cheering on the side of the road, "way to go 3:45 pace group". My heart sank. 3:45 pace group? That can't be! If they are catching up to me then I'm going to miss my goal of 3:42!! It was then that I realized I needed to speed up and that my pacing must be off. This happened somewhere between mile 18 and 19... my pace for mile 18 was 8:30 and then mile 19 was 8:24. Thereafter I kept pushing myself as much as I could, within reason, to get away from that guy's voice and the 3:45 pace group!

Soon I came up to the infamous bridge that everyone says is really tough, right around the 22 mile marker. I was SO happy to see that bridge because I knew that Dan and Nicole would be just around the corner from it. I started talking to myself, "it's the bridge, it's the bridge!" I got my feet into a rhythm and charged up that bridge like I owned it, I really needed to see Dan and Nicole at that point. Then, there they were! There was Nicole, with my bottle and ready to jump in next to me. She hadn't decided whether she might run with me or not, but I was so thankful that she at least started to run with me. Then, in that instant, she apparently decided to run the rest of the race with me. I confessed that I was getting tired and then she started peeling off clothes and throwing them at Dan. He was so confused, he asked her what she was doing, she's like "I'm running!"... he said "all the way?" and she said "yes!" and I was so happy I could have cried! I really needed her support and was so thankful to get it.

For the next 4.2 miles, Nicole was my rock. She held my water bottle for me and passed it over when I needed it. When I started to falter or slow down she would give me words of encouragement. Even when I wasn't slowing down she kept saying how awesome I was doing. At one point I said something about getting tired or falling apart. She told me to "F@#$" the pain, it was all in my head, I could do it, etc. She was truly amazing. We hit the mile marker 25 and for some reason I thought it was 26, Nicole said "less than 10 minutes to go" and I was like "how long?!" and she repeated herself, then I realized I was off by a mile. Must have been wishful thinking. I didn't let her know I thought I was only .2 away though, I played it off like I just didn't hear her, haha!

The last stretch I was really hurting, I was worried I wasn't even going to maintain my 8:29 goal pace and I was right, the last mile was 8:31, but really that wasn't all that bad considering how I felt. For the last .2 after we rounded the corner and I knew the finish line was coming I gave it everything I had. I did the best sprint I could, grunting the whole way. My calves were about to seize up but I just kept going until I crossed the finish line. Yes, I made it! I stumbled towards the volunteers who gave me my medal, wrapped me in the heat blanket and gave me a bottle of water. As I received one of those items I tried to take a step, lost my balance and almost fell over. Nicole was there to catch me and proceeded to walk me around, arms around and supporting me. She really was my rock and I will forever remember how she got me through that race.

My official time was 3:41:42, 18 seconds under my 3:42 goal and a 14 minute PR from my first marathon earlier this year. And to top it off, I negative split! All thanks to the 3:45 pace leader creeping up on me and forcing me to push forward to reach my goal.

I've not decided whether or not I'll do this marathon again, but it truly was an amazing experience. Regardless of the next race location, rest assured I WILL qualify for Boston!

(Here is Nicole running with me towards the end of the race!)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

No BQ attempt for CIM

It's been a rough and interesting training cycle for CIM. I've been injured, disappointed and had to re-adjust goal paces. No longer am I going for a BQ as I so desperately wanted, now it's simply an attempt at a new PR. Sitting here just finishing up breakfast and reflecting on my training... I don't want to say I'm bummed, but I'm a little bummed. I really wish I was going for the BQ. I know that getting a PR is good too, but there is just that level of accomplishment by qualifying for a race that requires you be able to run a certain pace to actually compete in it. I was hoping I might have something interesting to say, but it seems the only thing on my mind is the fact that I'm not running for a BQ. This is the first time I've sat down and really thought about the race and my goals... not having an excited or nervous reaction is sort of anticlimactic. I suppose that tonight or tomorrow morning I'll finally get the butterflies and start getting nervous about the race, but it doesn't seem to be the same. I think this is a good lesson for me to experience, not every race will be great or successful and I should appreciate the fact that I'm going for a 14 minute PR only 6 months after my first marathon... I SHOULD appreciate that... I WANT to appreciate that. Good luck to all the runners at CIM tomorrow, may we all accomplish our goals for the day.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Playing Catch Up

It's been a while since I put up anything new... I have no real excuse other than I like to have something interesting to talk about, I guess my life and training hasn't been all that interesting. :)

I CAN say that my plantar fasciitis is completely healed, it took about 4 weeks before I was back at 100%. After the initial injury I took a full week off, then I slowly added in miles, one at a time until I was back on my training plan and some slower paces. I wasn't pain free but I was at least back into my plan, a few weeks later I finally had a pain free run. I've heard horror stories of people taking months to get back into their training, or longer, so I consider myself lucky that I was able to get back into things so soon.

I ran a half marathon a few weeks ago, deciding a week before to run it as a warm-up to the marathon and just try to hit GMP. Sigh. I am sad to report that I did not make it. I BARELY beat my previous half PR which was 1:49:18... I ran this one at 1:49:14. Ugh. The average pace was 8:21... my GMP is 8:10... not good. I went into the race feeling good but not even at the halfway point I could tell that I was struggling, even my heart rate was higher than usual. To think, I had intentions of trying to race this at a 7:50! That was quite a frustrating day for me. I went back over everything and the only thing I can think of is that I skipped breakfast and had just a GU packet before the race started. In my past I always would have oatmeal before a race, but recently I've been doing all my morning runs without breakfast, even my long runs which were up to 16 miles. I really do think it was breakfast though... and since then I make sure I have oatmeal before every long run, no matter what. I have every intention of having oatmeal the day of the marathon too. A few days after the race I went out and ran a 7 mile tempo run at a 7:45 pace and my heart rate was lower during that run than the race, so that really tells me that my body was working way too hard to maintain such a moderate pace.

Since that race I have continued to struggle to maintain any runs with GMP miles at the end. It's been difficult and frustrating, but I'm trying to stick with it. All my speed and tempo runs are right on and continue to go smooth... it's just the all important endurance with GMP miles that is killing me. Today though, I'm happy to say I ran my first 20 miler of this training cycle, and it went pretty well. I treated it as a progression run, started with a 9:30 pace and continued to increase speed through the end, with which I was able to maintain 8:05 for the last mile. I felt really good about getting some miles in around my GMP and I hope that it means I'm closer to my goals that I previously thought.

Next week it's a 24 mile easy run and then I start my taper! I can't believe it, two weeks away from my taper for my second marathon. It's so crazy and awesome!

This is such a great time of year to be in full training mode too, the fall temps here in Michigan couldn't be better. I'm loving every minute of it... even if sometimes I may complain a little, I really do love it.

Wishing you a Happy Halloween and hoping you are enjoying the fall weather as much as I am!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Best Laid Plans...

As the saying goes!

I was well on my way into week 3 of my marathon training plan, had an unbelievable 800s workout that showed I was making progress. It was a ridiculously hard workout but also very rewarding, I felt so much more confident after this workout, it was awesome.

The next morning I got up for work, took a step out of bed and nearly fell over with pain. I've never felt this kind of pain before, ever. I hobbled out of bed, wincing and headed straight to the internet! I started researching the pain, where it was located, what it felt like, etc. I did a self-diagnosis and declared it Plantar Fasciitis. As I continued to read about recovery/healing I started to become worried that it was going to seriously affect my marathon training.

Fast forward to 8 days later, I've been able to consecutively run for the last 3 days with runs totaling 1.5 miles, 2 miles and 3 miles. I was supposed to race a 10k this weekend, sadly this is not happening. I hope that in another week I'll be back to my regular schedule, but really I'm taking it 1 day at a time.

So far my daily routine has included icing, stretching the foot, stretching the calf, calf raises and rolling my foot on a golf ball. I've heard from several people the recommendation of rolling my foot on a frozen bottle of water. I'm not sure I see the difference between that and just icing my foot and rolling it on a golf ball? So far I'm seeing progress so my method must be working to some degree, so I might as well stick with it until it doesn't work anymore. Right?!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Early Morning Runs - Friend or Foe?

As seen in previous posts, I've been struggling a bit since my first marathon to get back into the swing of things. One contributing factor that I've previously thought was something I just had to deal with was the weather. Michigan has some hot and humid summers that make running relatively miserable, especially in the late afternoons. Recently I've been encouraged by a couple friends to try doing my quality runs in the morning before work. Ugh. Really? I've tried the "getting up early to workout" routine before and it usually lasted a week, maybe two and then I'd be back to my usual after work exercise. I decided to give it a shot again though, after I got home from work last week and the high temps and high humidity just seemed too much for me and I didn't want yet another unsuccessful run.

So that night I set all my gear out, just like if I were preparing for a race the next morning. Alarms were set and my plan of action was in place. My alarm goes off at 5:30a sharp and immediately I'm up and heading down for my coffee. I realize after I'm settling into that first cup that it's still extremely dark outside, not a huge fan of running in the dark and alone so I waited until the sun was peaking out before I got dressed. As I headed outside I realized that the humidity was really high, but the temps were close to 15 degrees cooler than after work the previous day, so I figure it's got to be better, right?

I was right. I was amazed. I felt good. The run went well and one of the nicest perks, after work I was free to do whatever I wanted instead of rushing home to get a run in. So, being that this was so successful, I decided to try it again two days later, Friday morning. Who wants to get up at 5:45a on Friday morning, me I guess? Because that is what I did! The run was great! The temps were great! Wow, this is GREAT!

Fast forward to Sunday morning, we are on a climbing trip, I get up at 6am from the camping site to do my run. Wow, now it's starting to catch up to me. I slept in a bit, got a late start and had to shorten my run... not the best results, but it was still an early morning run and outside of it being short, it was still a great run. I'm starting to feel like I've got my legs back and I'm ready to tackle this new marathon training plan.

I've done one more morning run since then, yesterday, and although I had to drag myself out of bed, it was still a good run. I think I'm convinced that this early morning running is a good idea... I just have to figure out how to adjust the rest of my schedule to make sure I'm still getting all the sleep my body needs.

Reality check: I've only been getting up early for a week. I'd say it's too early to tell if I'll actually stick with it for the long haul... but I sure hope I do! So far my vote is that early morning running is friend and not foe, but I reserve the right to change my mind, like any woman should ;o)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Still Recovering... Really?

For the past couple of weeks I have been trying to get back into training mode with little success. I'm finding that I'm struggling to maintain paces I was able to keep towards the end of my marathon training. I've tried some speed work with some success, although my paces are a little slower than I wanted. My tempo runs however, they just plain suck. My last training run before the marathon was 7 miles at just under an 8 min pace. I've tried a couple times to do 4 or 5 mile tempos and I'm hovering close to 10 seconds above an 8 and really struggling to keep that. Granted, it is summer... but I'm finding it hard to put the blame on just the weather.

After several weeks of frustrating runs my coach recommended I hit the reset button. To do this, I ignored my garmin, adding my ipod back into the mix and just ran to enjoy it. Yesterday it was close to 90 degrees with 70% humidity and I did an 8.5 mile run at a moderate pace, and I loved it. The music was a great distraction that I haven't incorporated into my running for 6 months or more. With the weather being so hot I expected to hate this run, but I actually really liked it. It wasn't easy by any means, but because I enjoyed it we are counting this as a successful run.

This week I'm going to do 3 more runs just like this, ignore the garmin, add the music and just run to enjoy. Hopefully this will get me over my hurdle of bad runs so that I can be ready to start training for marathon #2 in a couple weeks. I'm hoping that recovery after my second marathon will go better than the first one, as in faster. I don't know if I can handle another recovery schedule like this.

I wonder if I'm the only one struggling like this? Is it just because it's my first one and I didn't know what to expect? Or maybe I'm just not cut out for the marathon?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Marathon Recovery... Dislike!

You know how sometimes when people post updates on facebook and instead of wanting to "like" it, you want to "dislike" it? Don't you wish there was a "thumbs down" button? Anyways, I'm currently in the "dislike" mode for marathon recovery.

Being that this was my first marathon, I really had no concept of what the recovery would be like or how long it would take. After all my half marathons my max recovery was 2 days, other race lengths would be 1 day or less. Just based on the time I needed to recover from a half, I figured I'd be set for the full after a week. I was already planning an aggressive 5k plan for a new PR and wanted to get started right away. Well... I was wrong, really wrong. It's been almost 4 weeks now and I'm still waiting for the run where my legs feel fresh. I took a full week off from running and since then have only averaged 2 runs a week. I've picked up extra spin classes to try and stay active and increase recovery time, but it's just not going how I thought it would.

I've been in training mode for the last year and a half straight, always training for something. Always planning hard workouts for speed and distance work and never taking more than a week off from running. It's quite the shock to all of a sudden not be able to train for anything, not even a measly 5k, because my legs can't handle a run at even marathon pace, let alone 5k pace. I'm pretty miserable and am worried that I'm losing all of my speed and endurance that I have built up over the last year.

I have noticed some small improvements on my runs, but it's not enough for me to be excited about it. I'm trying to accept that recovery is a necessary evil and that eventually I will be back to normal and ready to train again... it's just really hard to believe it at this point. I've already signed up for my next marathon and my training will start Aug 1st... I sure hope I've recovered by then, otherwise I'm screwed.

On a side note, my foot appears to be completely healed, hooray!