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Archive for the ‘Race goals’ Category

Five years ago I first ran the local school district’s Turkey Trot 5K. (Five years ago? How can that be?!) I couldn’t run it again until now because the date always conflicted with my fall marathon training. But it fit in nicely this year since my next marathon is not until February 4, the Death Valley Marathon. I didn’t train specifically for a 5K and I only tapered two days for this race, so I didn’t have a great idea of what I should set for my race goal. It’s a hilly course so I knew I couldn’t expect to come close to my 5K PR of 22:19 set at the Downtown Anaheim 5K over a year ago, but I at least wanted to beat my time from the 2011 Turkey Trot, 24:37, and I hoped to come in under 24 minutes.

It was a gorgeous morning for racing. Cool but not cold, sunny but not blinding.

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292 finishers participated in this lovely neighborhood race.

The junior high choir sang a beautiful rendition of the national anthem, and then promptly at 8 a.m. we set off with the sound of the blow horn. So many youngsters took off at a blistering pace and my job in the beginning was not to trample any little kids. You would think I would learn not to get swept up in the excitement and go out too fast with them, but when I first checked my Garmin the pace said something in the 6 minute mile range! Oops. I reined it in over the rest of the mile and the mile splits for the race ended up being 7:39, 8:02, and 7:57. Maybe someday I’ll master 5K pacing and not suffer so much in the 2nd and 3rd miles!

I raced the big finish line clock down the home stretch to come in just under 24 minutes as I hoped. My Garmin said 23:56. But then I checked the official race results and my time said 24:07. So unsatisfying! That’s the problem with races that are not chip timed, I guess. I shouldn’t care so much, but I do, so I ended up writing the timing company to ask why my result didn’t match the finish line clock (I don’t expect my result to match my Garmin, but I do expect it to come within a few seconds of what the finish line clock said). At any rate, I was happy with my effort in the race and pleased to win 1st in my age group out of 20 women ages 40-49 (I am 45).

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The first place medal came with $15 in gift certificates to A Snail’s Pace running shop in Brea.

Saturday is my long run day and my plan called for a long bike ride (this plan from Smart Marathon Training sometimes substitutes long rides for long runs, which I find very refreshing). So after the race I drove to a paved path and rode the ElliptiGO for an hour and 40 minutes.

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Oh how I love a dedicated bike path!

That hour and 40 minutes on the ElliptiGO was truly easier and more fun than running a race for 24 minutes, let me tell you! I listened to running podcasts (Another Mother Runner had on Dean Karnazes and The Runner’s World Show talked about Running While Female) and enjoyed all the thumbs-up I got for the ElliptiGO, which remains a curiosity on the trails.

Are you watching the NYC Marathon today? Because I don’t have cable I’ve had to content myself with following the live coverage on Twitter. Hooray for American Molly Huddle coming in 3rd for the women in her marathon debut with a time of 2:28:13!

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My seventh marathon was the Boston Marathon in April 2016. I find it pretty funny that five months later — just as people are submitting their applications for Boston 2017 — here I am signing up for my eighth marathon, and it isn’t Boston (I qualified at Revel Canyon City but I won’t be going back to Boston next year — that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me). Instead of a race with 30,000 entrants, I’ll be going for one that has just 350 entrants. Can you guess which one? Here’s a clue in the form of the book that’s on my bedside table:

Ground Afire: The Story of the Death Valley National Monument

Ground Afire: The Story of the Death Valley National Monument

Yes, I’ll be running the Death Valley Marathon on February 4, 2017! I figure it’s the closest I’ll ever get to the Badwater 135. Just like the Badwater ultramarathon, this race runs along Highway 190 through the heart of Death Valley National Park. I’ve wanted to visit the park for a long time now. It’s just 4.5 hours from my home in Southern California but I’ve never made it out there. Now I get to go for a quick weekend trip during one of the nicest times of year to visit the park.

I know this race isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. No spectators are allowed on the course aside from the volunteers. You cannot wear headphones or otherwise listen to music on the course (I never do anyway). It’s not a closed course. You get a cotton t-shirt, not a tech tee. But I hope I don’t have to spell out the appeal of the race. How awesome is it to get the privilege of running in one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world? Add in the bonuses of race day packet pickup, lodging in the park next to the race start, and practically a guarantee of an age group podium finish if I merely complete the race (only two women in the 45-49 age group ran the race last year).

So, let the countdown to marathon #8 begin! 4 months and 17 days until Death Valley Marathon 2017!

Have you ever been to Death Valley National Park? Do you have any recommendations for must-see sights or must-do activities in the park? Have you ever run the Death Valley Marathon? (If so, please tell me all about it!)

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Imagine the satisfaction of completing your first half marathon. Then imagine the satisfaction of beating that finishing time and setting a new personal record. Then double all that satisfaction and you just might get to the level of satisfaction I felt as I watched my 14-year-old and my husband complete their first half marathons at the Fontana Days Run last weekend!

About five months ago I encouraged Mike and Shannon to start training for a half marathon. I chose the race, the Fontana Days Run, because it offered a gentle downhill profile, the timing was right with the race taking place on June 4 a week after Shannon graduated from 8th grade, it was inexpensive for a half marathon, it was just a 45-minute drive from our house, and we could pick up our race packets on race morning.

I wrote out a training plan for Mike and Shannon to incorporate into their busy tennis schedule. They play 10-15 hours of tennis per week, so I figured they could get by with three runs per week: two shorter runs of 4-5 miles (one easy, one with some hills or informal speed work) and one long run on the weekend that gradually built to a 13.1 mile training run and tapered to an 11.7-miler and a 6-miler in the two weeks before the race. Everything seemed to go well in training, although I had no idea what pace they should target for the race. Shannon set the pace for the long training runs, and that generally averaged out to about 11 minutes per mile. I knew Mike and Shannon wanted to break 2 hours for their finish time, and that would require a pace of about 9 minutes per mile. Could they really run two whole minutes per mile faster in the race than they ran in training? I encouraged them to go out at a comfortable pace and not let their legs fly too fast on the initial downhill (the race has a drop of 2,125 feet from start to finish).

Unfortunately, a heat wave hit Southern California in the week leading up to the race. The race day high was 100 degrees in Fontana. The temperature in the mountains at the 7:30 a.m. race start was about 68 degrees F and the temperature at the finish in Fontana at 9:30 a.m. was 82 degrees. That further muddied the waters as to what pace Shannon and Mike could be expected to run. Here’s a chart from Runner Academy that estimates the impact of hot weather on running pace:

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So I expected them to run about 30 seconds per mile slower in the heat than they could have if we’d had ideal race day temperatures.

 

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As you can see in this photo of me it was quite sunny at the start.

Without fanfare or much warning at all, really, the starting gun went off and Mike and Shannon set out at a comfortable pace. I carried my iPhone and used the MapMyRun app to keep track of our pace, but I kept the data pretty much to myself the whole race. The first few miles of the course run down the road through the San Bernardino National Forest and it’s simply gorgeous!

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After the first few miles though we were in full sun and by mile 5, I really started to feel it. There were adequate aid stations but some just had water and not Gatorade. Thank goodness I brought my own sports bottle and could refill it at the aid stations every 3-4 miles. Given the unusual heat that day, the volunteers drove around in a golf cart and handed out wet washcloths which I appreciated. I coached Shannon to run through the aid stations and just grab a cup of water and dump it on her head. Then I handed her my bottle of Gatorade to drink every mile or so. This worked very well.

 

Mike ran just slightly ahead of Shannon and me, and he seemed to have an internal, innate sense of pace. I mean, just look at the consistency of these splits!

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The course is downhill but it’s so gradual that it never feels taxing. The last seven miles are a straight shot into the town of Fontana, which means you don’t have to worry about running the tangents. It’s not the most scenic, but it’s fantastic for a PR attempt or a first-time race.

 

By about mile 10 I knew that Mike and Shannon could come in under 2 hours, and I started encouraging Shannon to keep up the pace and not let off. She had the best attitude the entire race and never complained. We caught up to Mike around mile 12 just as his calves started cramping due to not taking in enough Gatorade. I passed him my bottle and he was able to revive and keep running. Shannon sprinted to the finish to come in at 1:54:21. I was one second behind her with a huge grin on my face! Mike clocked 1:54:49.

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A happy Mike at the finish line (and some random guy’s rear end. My photography skills can use some work). 

I could not have been more proud of Mike and Shannon. They blew away my best hopes for them and did not seem at all affected by the heat. And for the icing on the race cake, Shannon came in first in her age group!

 

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Later in the week, I interviewed Mike and Shannon separately about their experiences. I probably should not have picked the day of their peak soreness (delayed onset muscle soreness peaks about two days after the race). They didn’t have much to say, but what they said warmed my heart.

Me: Are you glad you did the race?

Shannon: Uh-huh.

Mike: Yup.

Me: Did you meet your goals?

Shannon: Yeah.

Mike: Yes.

Me: Would you do another half marathon?

Shannon: Yup.

Mike:  Maybe.

Me: How did I do as your coach?

Shannon: [Thumbs-up.]

Mike: You were A+. It made it easy. It made it so we could not fail. We were going to meet our goals no matter what. I give you 99% credit.

 

Ahhhh! What a relief. They had a great race, came out of it uninjured, and were happy with the results. And for those wondering about whether or not it was a good idea for a 14-year-old girl to run a half marathon, I can say in our experience it was a very positive, safe, healthy experience for her. She had a checkup with her pediatrician this week including blood work done, and everything came back normal. And today, only 6 days after running the half marathon, Shannon won the Girls 14 and under division of the 18th Annual Laguna Niguel Junior Open Tennis Tournament!

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I can’t believe tomorrow is race day! I picked up my bib yesterday at the expo and had this surreal experience as I waited and waited while the volunteer searched for my bib number. She started to get a worried look on her face and I actually had an irrational moment of panic where I thought she was going to say there was a problem and I wasn’t going to get to run the race (this is leftover anxiety from when I qualified for Boston 2015 but found out a few weeks later that my time did not meet the registration cutoff). But then she smiled with relief and handed me bib number 20130 and wished me luck! I confess I got teary when I finally held the bib in my hands (you all know it doesn’t take much for me to get emotional about these things).

Speaking of emotional, I got pretty excited when I rode in a car on part of the marathon course (not on purpose, we just happened to be going that way) and I saw this:

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I’ve gone through waves of nervousness and excitement and now I’m just looking forward to tomorrow and ready to start taking in the whole experience. I trained hard but do not have a goal time in mind. The goal is to enjoy the race while running strong (I have a lot of respect for the history of the Boston Marathon and the course itself, so I want to run strong and well without pushing myself so hard that I miss soaking up the whole atmosphere). I hope that makes sense. I anticipate coming in around four hours or less but who knows how I will feel on race day. I am recovering from a cough and congestion that plugged my ears up on the plane. I’m just grateful I can hear again and am well enough to toe the line for the 2016 Boston Marathon!

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My eyes are welling with tears as I write this post. You see, today marks five years to the day since I started running and tracking my progress on MapMyRun. You can see my first entry here:

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Does a three-mile-per-hour pace count as a run? You bet it does when you’re pushing a 2.5-year-old in a jogging stroller over 180 feet in elevation gain for your first run in five years! I’m just as proud of that first mile in 20:23 as the mile I raced in 6:34 a few years later! I had made a decision that I wanted to be “fit at 40” after having the last of my three children. I was on the higher end of a healthy weight and I felt I could stand to lose about 10 pounds. So I got out there for nine runs that first March and logged a total of 24.9 miles.

I quickly got hooked on running and the sense of accomplishment that comes with every workout. My confidence grew over the summer and I added biking and swimming into the mix. Eight months after that first run, I took on my first sprint triathlon at SheROX San Diego in November 2011. And heck, that went so well, I took on an Olympic distance triathlon at HITS Palm Springs the next month! Fast forward through my first half marathon at the OC Half Marathon in May 2012 to my first full marathon at the Santa Barbara International Marathon in November 2012. Somehow in just 18 months I’d gone from 1.67 miles at a 20:23 pace to 26.2 miles at a 9:16 pace (4:02:39.5 for those trying to do the math). And that was at age 41 no less. Proof that you’re never too old to start running or challenging yourself with big goals. Five marathons later if you ask me which is my favorite marathon, I’ll say Santa Barbara, not because it was the easiest course (it wasn’t — my goodness I still remember that hill at mile 23) but because I ran that whole race with such joy and appreciation for what my body could do.

The next several races I chased a Boston Qualifying time, a sub-3:45 for Women 40-44.

Mountains2Beach Marathon, May 2013, age 41, 3:58:29 (race recap)

Long Beach Marathon, October 2013 age 42, 3:52:42 (race recap)

and finally my first BQ at Santa Rosa, August 2014, age 42, 3:44:26 (race recap). Then came the crushing news that a BQ minus 34 seconds was actually not fast enough to meet the registration cutoff for Boston 2015. So I set my sights on the Phoenix Marathon in February 2015 and came in at my current PR time of 3:36:58 (race recap), a BQ minus 8:02 at age 43 for Boston 2016. I tried to top that time at REVEL Canyon City in November 2015 and came in a little slower at 3:39:08 at age 44 on what I now consider a difficult downhill course (race recap). Fortunately there’s a benefit to the Boston Marathon qualifying math, and at age 44 I had bumped up to the 45-49 age group for Boston 2017 with a 3:55 qualifying standard, so that time was a BQ minus 15:52.

Now with just six weeks to go until my first Boston Marathon race on April 18, 2016, I’m savoring the opportunity to race on such hallowed ground. I’m training hard so that I have a good race, but I’m in this one for the experience, not the time on the clock. So I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about this historic race. On my bookshelf right now:

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I’m loving Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run Boston with an official bib and a major player in the push to get the women’s marathon into the Olympics in 1984. (Such a #runnerd, I’m tearing up again thinking about it!) Let’s all just take a moment, man or woman, to thank those before us who have helped advance the sport of running. And of course, one of those people is Boston Marathon director Dave McGillivray, author of The Last Pick. I’ve listened to him speak on a few podcasts and found his stories to be very inspiring, so I can hardly wait to read his book.

The next two on the list are The Boston Marathon: A Century of Blood, Sweat, and Cheers and 26.2 Miles to Boston: A Journey Into The Heart Of The Boston Marathon.

Any other books you suggest as recommended reading about the Boston Marathon? Have you run the race before? Tell me about it! And feel free to link to any blog posts or race recaps of yours or anyone else’s that you think we all might enjoy reading.

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It’s the last week of taper here and I got in a nice four mile run on Monday morning — two easy and two at marathon pace. And it was a good thing I wore my new Garmin 220 to pace myself because I realized that when I originally set the data screens, I chose “average pace” (average pace for the entire four miles) instead of “average lap pace” (average pace for the mile you are currently running). For marathons I like to keep an eye on my average lap pace, and that will be particularly important for this downhill marathon, REVEL Canyon City, because I expect the pace to be faster in the first half than the second. In fact I used the pace band feature at FindMyMarathon.com to create a free pace band that is specific to the REVEL Canyon City course. Other marathons I’ve generally tried to run an even pace, but that doesn’t make sense for this course. It’s nice to see what the predicted adjustments to pace are for the hills — both up and down — for this specific marathon.

Yesterday I did an easy three-miler that nearly undid six months of marathon training when I got distracted and rolled my ankle on this sucker:

Marathon killer: the magnolia seed pod of doom, next to my Brooks Adrenaline for size comparison

Marathon killer: the magnolia seed pod of doom, next to my Brooks Adrenaline for size comparison

In the instant my left foot rolled on the pod, pain shot up my left ankle and the marathon flashed before my eyes. My run came to a screeching halt. I quickly took a tentative step and tried to walk off the injury. By some miracle it felt a million times better after a minute of walking and I was able to finish the run. Throughout the rest of the day it stiffened up and became sore, but I iced it before bed and this morning it’s almost back to normal. Every taper has its aches and pains and this one is no exception. Now I just need to do one more easy three miler (including three strides and not including magnolia seed pods of doom) on Thursday and I’ll be ready for the race on Saturday.

While I ran on Monday I listened to an inspiring Runners Connect podcast interview with Olympic medalist Deena Kastor. Usually before a marathon I watch the movie Spirit of the Marathon again to see Deena race at the Chicago Marathon, but this time it was nice to listen to her advice for getting ready for a big race. She suggested that a runner list five reasons why the upcoming race should be successful. That helps calm your nerves and gives you things to draw upon during the race if and when your confidence falters.

So, here are five reasons my sixth marathon could/should/will go well:

1. With my switch to a traditional training plan that had me running five days a week, I managed to hit my highest mileage week ever (40.5 miles) and highest mileage month ever (156.3 miles in October). Not exactly numbers to write home about but pretty darn good for a 44-year-old mother of three.

2. I had that successful and joyful practice 20-miler on the course in the San Gabriel mountains.

3. I looked back over my training log (I keep one on my paper training plan and one on MapMyRun) and reminded myself that I kept consistent with the training. I didn’t miss a single run. Several times when the plan called for cross-training or rest, I rested, but I did every prescribed run. One 16-miler I cut short at 10.6 miles because I felt dehydrated and under-fueled and it was more important to set my ego aside and call it a day than continue and risk injury just to hit that 16 mile number. Sure enough I went on to have several confidence-boosting long runs after learning from my mistakes on that one “bad” run.

4. I made sure to keep up with the strength training at least twice a week. If you asked me the one thing I would recommend to other runners to improve their marathon performance, it would be to add strength training if it’s not already a part of their regimen. As little as 20 minutes twice a week can pay off tremendously in better running form and ability to hold pace in the final miles of a race when your primary running muscles are tired.

5. I nailed down my carbohydrate loading plan and race day plan. It’s not easy to consume over 600 grams of carbohydrates a day but I’m doing my best. I didn’t mind the whole wheat pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast this morning!

So, if you want to see if my ankle cooperates for the race, if my training plays off, if the carbo-loading prevents me from hitting the wall, you can track me on race day (Saturday November 7 starting at 7 a.m. PST) through my participant tracking link. The tracking registers my time at the half marathon point, 5K to go (mile 23.1), and the finish. I expect the first half to be significantly faster than the second given the 4,000+ foot elevation drop in the first half, so don’t be surprised if it takes me a while to pop back up at the 23.1 mark. Cross your fingers for a sub-3:55 (BQ) and better yet a sub-3:36:58 (PR)!

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Random fact about me: I’ve never paid for a race photo. I am just too darn thrifty and I’d rather put that money toward another race. They’re never the best photos of me anyway. Case in point, the free race photos from my last two races:

iCureMelanoma 5K

Downtown Anaheim 5K

I’m not sure what I was pointing to in that photo. Maybe I was signaling for help in catching my breath? Anyway I’m glad to have these free photos.

Training officially starts next week for the Revel Canyon City Marathon on November 7. This week was a transition week and I filled it in with an easy 5-mile run on Monday and a tempo run yesterday. Spell-check tried to correct that to “temper” run. I did almost have a temper tantrum because I was scared to run 3 miles at 7:46 pace, but I convinced myself to just get out the door for the two-mile warm up and then see how I feel. Two miles into any run I usually hit my stride and feel a lot better. It’s like my legs give in and say, “Fine, if you’re really going to do this, I’ll cooperate.” It went well and I tacked on another two miles of cool-down for a total of 7 miles.

Today the schedule said “Rest or cross-train.” I wanted a nap and was in fact resting on the couch but my six-year-old asked if we could do one of my workout videos. How did she know I needed some motivation? We did the Insanity – Cardio Abs workout. Perfect! 17 sweaty minutes. I really believe that strength training has made all the difference for me in racing. Not only does it help with injury prevention, it also helps maintain good form in those last miles of a race where the leg muscles need the support of several other muscles in the body.

Cheryl from Why Mom Runs is also starting training for a November 7 race, the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. She laid out her race goals and inspired me to do the same. I always set out several goals:

1. Sub 3:55. The best thing about aging is bumping up an age group, and with that wacky Boston Marathon Qualifying math, even though I turn 44 in August, this is the year I move up to the 45-49 group for Boston 2017 and the qualifying time jumps from 3:45 to 3:55. I’ll take that advantage, thank you very much.

2. Sub 3:36:58. It would be nice to get a PR over my time from the 2015 Phoenix Marathon.

3. Sub 3:35. I’ve set my training runs/paces to hit a 3:35 time.

4. Sub 3:30. This is the in-my-wildest-dreams time. It would require perfect training, perfect weather, and perfect execution on race day, but it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. In fact, if I plug my 3:36:58 time into the Marathon Time Converter from Find My Marathon, it says I could run Canyon City in 3:22:12, simply due to the advantage of the downhill profile of the course. But that comes with its own challenges. I am going to need to be careful about not going out too fast, not trashing my quads on the downhill, and not hitting the wall. Easier said than done. Plus I am taking a chance on a new training plan. I enjoyed the Run Less, Run Faster and Smart Marathon Training plans I used for my first five marathons, but this time I am going with the “Own It” marathon training plan from Train Like a Mother.

What training plan(s) have you used? What are you training for right now, if anything?

 

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