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Archive for the ‘Race goals’ Category

Trust me when I say that I’m not sitting here feeling sorry for myself, but you better believe I feel tremendously disappointed that my Boston qualifying time of 3:44:26 did not gain me entry into the 2015 Boston Marathon. That honor belongs to people who qualified by the qualifying standard minus 1:02 or faster, not people like me who qualified by -0:34. I had an inkling this would happen, but I had no idea how disappointed I would feel when I didn’t gain entry. Let’s just say I’ve shed a few tears and leave it at that. I had hopes that the BAA would be generous in light of the success of the race last year with such a large field, and it would expand the field to let all qualifiers in this year. No such luck. I am one of the 1,947 time qualifiers who won’t gain entry based on marathon performance.

That leaves me thinking about what to do next. I feel lost without a race on the calendar. I’m not that excited about racing again but I know it does me good to have a goal on the horizon. I might run the half at Canyon City in November and/or the full at Surf City in February or LA in March. But this idea of chasing a Boston qualifying time has lost most of its luster. I’ve worked a full two years toward that goal. To qualify and then not get in feels like someone told me I could have a cookie if I ate my peas, and I ate my peas but I didn’t get the cookie.

Have you run Surf City or LA? Any recommendations?

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My goals rarely change for a full marathon. They’re pretty standard this fourth time around:

My “A” Goal: Qualify for Boston with a 3:45 or less.

B Goal: PR. My previous personal best is 3:52:42 from the 2013 Long Beach International Marathon (recap).

C Goal: Don’t bonk. Fuel properly.

D Goal: Enjoy the privilege of running on a beautiful course at Santa Rosa!

I know I’ve got my “D” goal covered. I think if I can accomplish “C” (fueling properly) then that will lead to “B” (a PR). Reaching my “A” Goal of qualifying for Boston would be icing on the race cake. [I wrote these goals down before I caught the cold my kids brought home from school. So far it’s a headache/sore throat cold and not a stuffy nose/chest congestion cold. Fingers crossed that it gets better and not worse by race day!]

You can follow along with the fun on Sunday morning starting at 6 a.m. PDT by plugging my bib number, 1573, into either the mobile or desktop RaceTec Live Trackers:

Mobile RaceTec Live Tracker

Desktop RaceTec Live Tracker

It should post results at five points along the course: the start, 8.24 miles, 13.1 miles, 20.2 miles, and the finish.

Wish me luck!

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Four days and 13 hours to go until my fourth full marathon, The Santa Rosa Marathon on Sunday, August 24, 2014. I’ve reached the point where my stomach does a little nervous flip-flop when I think about the race. As usual, it’s ridiculous, and I wonder why I put myself through this. (Answer: The sense of accomplishment after every finish line and every workout).

Taper is going well. I knocked out a 6-mile tempo run on Sunday with five miles at an 8:00 pace. Monday I biked 15 miles and did 30 minutes of core work. Today is a rest day. Tomorrow’s speed workout is just 4 x 200 m with 200 m rest intervals, for a total of three miles with the warm-up and cool-down. Thursday is a rest day, Friday is 10 minutes of drills, Saturday is a rest day and Sunday is the big race day!

I’m busy worrying over a few things:

1. Weather — the race day temperature still looks favorable with the 6 a.m. temperature starting at 54 degrees and not going above the low 60s by 10 a.m. The problem is that in the early morning hours the humidity is nearly 100%, a “dripping fog” as local organizer and legendary ultrarunner Arthur Webb puts it on his very helpful blog. Here in SoCal I train in bone-dry, drought-ridden conditions. I guess it’s a good thing my last long run was in the high 80s and so muggy it felt like I was running through the pool locker room at the gym.

2. Tapering — While I still regret running 18.25 miles of speed workout just 10 days before the race, I am consoling myself with the fact that 9.25 of that was at 10K pace, 2 miles at easy pace, and the rest was walking. I also did a bunch of reading and research on carb loading, and in reading Matt Fitzgerald’s book Runner’s World Performance Nutrition for Runners: How to Fuel Your Body for Stronger Workouts, Faster Recovery, and Your Best Race Times Ever, I saw that he said:

I always recommend doing a final longer run [15 miles] about a week before longer races (half-marathon and up) for maintenance of endurance adaptations.

(p. 131). Bless you Matt Fitzgerald for easing my mind a bit!

3. Health — My three girls started junior high and elementary school last week and two of them have already managed to bring home cold viruses. I find that marathon training revs up my immune system and I rarely get sick during training (knock on wood). The one exception is during the reduced workouts in taper. I am going to be very disappointed if I show up to the starting line with a cold.

4. Bonking a/k/a Hitting the Wall — If I want to come in at 3:45 or under, I need to maintain a steady pace of about 8:30 per mile over the course of 26.2 miles. I looked at my last two big races, the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon and the Long Beach International Marathon, to see how I did on pacing. In the half I did a good job of pacing (especially in light of the hills), with an average of 8:10 pace and a 7:54 for mile 13. No problem there. The concern comes when I get to about mile 18 of a full marathon. While I wouldn’t say I hit the wall in Long Beach (I didn’t have to spend time in the medical tent like I did at Mountains 2 Beach), my pace dropped off after mile 18. I averaged 8:30 for most of the race, then 8:59, 8:28, 9:06, 9:31, 9:41, 9:50, 9:57, 10:04, 9:41 and the last 0.2-mile sprint at 8:48. Not exactly the strong finish I’d like to see at Santa Rosa. Now, rest assured, I’m not just crossing my fingers and hoping for a better outcome this time. Here are four things I have done or will do to power myself for an even pace at Santa Rosa:

1. Strength training. My core is much stronger now than it was almost a year ago at Long Beach. I know I can draw on those muscles to help maintain good form throughout the race.

2. Carb loading. I’m paying particular attention to what I will eat over the next three days, increasing carbs to about 70% of my daily diet. That translates to 10 to 11 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight.

3. Starting slow. It’s been a hard lesson for me to learn, but now I understand that going out even a handful of seconds too fast at the start of the race can cost whole minutes at the end of a race. I plan to start slower than marathon goal pace and ease into it over the first four miles.

4. Not carrying my fuel with me. This is the first full marathon where I will rely fully on the aid stations on the course. By not carrying that extra weight with me, I can shave a few seconds off each mile (which, granted, gets balanced out by stopping to walk every two miles through the aid stations). I practiced this at my last half, and I practiced it on my 18.25-mile speed workout. I’m still worried about not getting enough fuel at each aid station, but I have calculated that I need to get 6-8 ounces each time and that seems manageable.

Anyone else have a race coming up soon? What have you done differently during your last round of training?

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After my last 20 mile run on Sunday, I eagerly embraced taper and the reduced workouts on my schedule. Except I didn’t read the schedule very closely, and I now realize that the week has pretty much been the same as every other week:

Monday: recovery day with 30 minutes of strength training

Tuesday: bike 20 miles (hilly) in 1:02:30

Wednesday: run 6 miles (drills, warm-up mile, 3 x 1,600m at 7:41 with 400m rest intervals, cool-down mile)

Thursday: bike 20 miles (fast) in 52:30 plus 30 minutes of strength training

Friday: run 8 miles (I plan to run a warm-up mile then 6 miles at marathon goal pace of 8:25 and a cool-down mile plus drills. [edited to add: run done in 1:12:42.])

Saturday: rest day

Of all the workouts I find the Friday 8 miles to be the hardest. It’s just long enough not to be short, and too short to be long, if you know what I mean. And when I finish those 8 miles later today, my total running mileage for the week will be 34, which is high for me.

So, while I haven’t been taking it easy this week, I have been thinking a lot about race day and tapering for it, and I’ve come up with my list of tips for taper.

1. Don’t try to cram in any extra mileage. It can be tempting to get one more long run in to boost your confidence before the race, but while it may help you mentally, it will hurt you physically. Now is the time to let your legs recover from all the hard work you did in training so they are fresh and ready to go on race day.

2. Do throw in a bit of speed work. As you decrease the mileage during taper, you can increase the speed for some of those miles. Now is a good time to get some more practice running at race goal pace. I like to run on the treadmill for some of these runs to train my legs to run at an even marathon goal pace, then get outside to practice regulating my own pace for race day.

3. Don’t try to lose weight. We’ve all heard how shedding a pound or two of excess weight will shed a minute or two off your marathon time. However, taper is not the time to go on a crash diet to lose a few pounds before race day. If you try to lose too much weight too fast, you might just lose muscle rather than fat.

4. Do watch what you’re eating. Follow a balanced diet and be on your best behavior. I usually follow an “everything in moderation” plan without getting too crazy about restricting my diet, but during taper I find that it helps to pay a little more attention to eating well. That makes me feel good about my preparation for the race, and it keeps me from gaining weight during the time of reduced workouts for taper. Keep in mind, though, that it’s normal to see 2-3 extra pounds on the scale as you carbo-load on the few days before the race.

Runners who have properly carbo-loaded should gain about one to three pounds-but don’t panic! This weight gain is good; it reflects water weight and indicates you have done a good job of fueling your muscles. For every ounce of carb stored in your body, you store almost three ounces water.

(Nancy Clark on Carbohydrate Loading.)

5. Don’t obsess about every ache and pain. It seems inevitable. A muscle will tighten up, a strange twinge will appear out of nowhere, or an ankle will twist on the playground. I guess our brains and bodies go looking for something to fret about during the weeks before the race, and we worry that a last minute ache or pain will take down months of marathon training. While legitimate injuries happen, in my experience the vast majority of taper aches and pains evaporate by race day. Focus on stretching and foam rolling and take extra care during these last weeks before the race, but don’t panic if you notice an odd pain or two.

6. Do obsess about the race day details. Review the course and elevation maps online. Plan your fuel for race day — what will you eat and drink for breakfast before the race? How and when will you consume fuel during the race? (See Active.com’s Fueling for Peak Marathon Performance.) Don’t introduce anything new, but review what worked for you during your long training runs and create your plan based on that. Also plan what clothing and gear you plan to use, and make sure you’ve tried them out on several runs before race day.

7. Don’t go crazy with your race day ambition. Trust me, it’s not fun to go out too fast in the early miles of a marathon and bonk in the second half. I’ve done it and I never want to do it again. In fact I just read in Runner’s World that to warm up properly during a marathon, it’s a good idea to run the first mile at MGP (marathon goal pace) + 40 seconds, the second mile at MGP + 20 seconds, the third mile at MGP + 10 seconds and the fourth mile at MGP. I’m going to follow that plan at Santa Rosa as best I can, and I’ve printed a marathon pace band and made a few handwritten modifications to it to reflect a slower start and what I hope will be that elusive negative split (running the second half faster than the first).

8. Do nail down all the details for the race expo, travel and lodging, and parking and shuttles on race day. I have printed out my hotel, car rental and flight reservations, plus the times and locations for the race expo, race day parking and race start. Be extra careful if you need to take a race day shuttle from parking to the race start. I had a friend confuse the race start time with the shuttle time, and he showed up for the shuttle just as the race was starting! Thankfully he found a lift to the start, was allowed to cross the start timing mat 40 minutes late, and finished the race with an accurate chip time! I cannot imagine the stress of doing that though — and it certainly messed with the timing of his fueling for race day.

9. Don’t question your training. Hmm, that seems a little hypocritical to say when I just spent some time assessing my marathon readiness, but what I mean to say is, don’t beat yourself up over the workouts you did or didn’t do. Now is the time to trust that you’ve put in the hard work that will pay off on race day.

10. Do have faith in the magic of taper. It’s especially hard for first-time marathoners to believe that they can go from a longest run of 20 miles in training to completing 20 + 6.2 more miles on race day. The rest and recovery during taper will work its magic, and fresh legs will be able to go the extra miles! The night before the race, remind yourself of that fact and visualize yourself executing the race and crossing the finish line, holding your arms up in the air in victory!

Do you have any tips for taper? Do you go crazy during taper time or have you learned to embrace it?

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Irrational thought number one: If I talk about my goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon someday, that will jinx it. Such hubris will be punished by the running gods.

Cliché-filled thought number two: That’s ridiculous! Own your goal! You’ve got to believe it to achieve it!

So, here’s an honest look at what I’m thinking right now. I’m 42 years old and currently need a 3:45 to qualify for Boston.

Previous marathon times:

4:02:39 at the Santa Barbara International Marathon (race recap) in 2012

3:57:29 at the Mountains2Beach Marathon (race recap) in 2013

3:52:42 at the Long Beach International City Bank Marathon (race recap) in 2013

That means I need to cut 7 minutes and 42 seconds off my time to qualify for Boston. That might not sound like a lot over the course of 26.2 miles, but it’s the difference between running at a pace of 8:52 per mile (about 6.8 miles per hour) and 8:35 per mile (about 7 miles per hour) for those 26.2 miles. Take into account that it’s hard to run the tangents perfectly for 26.2 miles, and I really need to hit more like an 8:31 pace (7.04 miles per hour) for 26.4 miles.

How do I plan to do that? Well, I’ve been mixing up my training with more hill training, strength workouts, and speed intervals. Then I tested my legs by training and tapering specifically for a half marathon. I came in at 1:48:02, and promptly plugged that time into the McMillan Running Calculator, which predicts that if I can run a half marathon at 1:48:02, I can train to run a full marathon at 3:47:22 (so close to 3:45)! Adjust for the fact that the half marathon had 764 feet of gain over 13.1 miles, while the full marathon course only has 300 feet of gain over 26.2 miles, and I’m optimistic! But then adjust again for the fact that it’s likely to be hotter for the Santa Rosa Marathon in August than it was for the half in Santa Ynez in May, and adjust again for the fact that it’s a challenge for me to fuel properly for 26.2 miles, and I’m completely humbled and intimidated by the prospect of running another full marathon.

All of those calculations and speculations led me to examine the Boston Qualifying standards again, and something stood out to me. The Boston Qualifying rules state that for the age group qualifying standards:

The qualifying times . . . are based upon each athlete’s age on the date of the Boston Marathon in which they are participating.

Did you get that and what it means? It means that in order for me to bump up to the 3:55 qualifying standard from the current 3:45, I can run a qualifying marathon time for the 2017 Boston Marathon in the fall of 2015 when I am age 44 (because qualifying times for the 2017 marathon must be run on or after mid-September 2015). Right?

So, to put it another way, I realized that if I don’t qualify for Boston 2015 at Santa Rosa in August or for Boston 2016 at Surf City in February with a 3:45, I could go for a Boston 2017 time at a fall race in 2015 when I’m 44 but will be age 45 at the time of Boston 2017, which pushes my necessary qualifying time to 3:55. So that means if I can hang on to or better my current PR of 3:52 for another year, I might just make it! Of course, the rules and standards for qualifying could change between now and then, but it seems encouraging to me.

Am I looking at this correctly? Have you qualified for Boston and/or are you currently targeting a BQ at an upcoming race?

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It’s the Tuesday before my next big race on Saturday, a half marathon. I’m doing my typical pre-race freak out. By “freak out” I mean there’s no hand-wringing, no crying, no tantrums, just a mild case of pre-race jitters that has me asking — yet again — “What have I gotten myself into?”

After a year of focusing on the full marathon, I thought it was a good idea to pick a race that I could run for “fun.” For the location, for the scenery, for the sheer joy of running someplace new on a closed course. So I chose a race put on by “Destination Races,” the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon. It runs through the vineyards of Santa Barbara county from Santa Ynez to Solvang. Sounds perfect, right? Well, yes. I think it will live up to its claim of being a gorgeous destination race. There’s just one little problem: me. I thought I could sign up for a race for “fun” and not care about my finishing time. I thought I could be happy soaking up the views and not care whether I clocked a PR. I told myself that even if I did care about my finishing time, I could look at it as a race where I cared less about the finishing time itself and more about where that time put me in relation to the rest of the field of 40-to-44-year-old-women-who-chose-a-race-that-has-a-wine-stop-on-the-course.

Yet again, however, running and racing have taught me some things about myself:

  • I’m competitive, not so much against other people, but against myself. I do want to get a PR, and I do want to better myself in comparison to the field (not because I care about beating other runners, but because I revel in improving my overall performance).
  • I enjoy training more than I enjoy racing. One might wonder why I sign up for races then, but the fact is that I like having a goal race on the calendar. I like having a training plan that builds up to a race. I like crossing off each workout on the plan.
  • I take each race a little too seriously. I don’t race that often, so when I do race, I care a lot about how that race goes. I use each finish time to gauge how the training is going and whether or not I am improving over time. (I think these things are true about many runners, it just took me a little while to realize all this about myself).

So why the heck did I sign up for a race with an elevation profile like this:

elevation profile Santa Barbara Wine Country

Of course not every race is going to be pancake-flat and “fast.” And the hills are what make for some of the best views along this course. It’s just that if I care so much about my time, I probably shouldn’t have chosen a race with total climbing of 764 feet! I have no clue how to pace myself when the first seven miles are basically uphill and the last six miles are basically downhill. I could run by how I feel, rather than by the pace on my Garmin, but if there’s anything else I’ve learned about myself it’s that I would run a lot slower if I just ran by how I feel! I am a very poor judge of pace, going out too fast at the start and running too slow thereafter. I can run “naked” for the occasional training run but I want and need my Garmin for a race.

(Just for the record, don’t think that I have ignored the course elevation profile until now. I have been hill training specifically in preparation for this course. I live in the “Heights” for goodness sake — I have run a hill or two in my day. And I have been quite dedicated to the training plan. If you look at the calendar last month, I worked out on every day but one. Some of those days were 15-25 minutes of strength training only, and were “rest days” from running or biking, but I did some form of physical activity every single day).

I’ve been running and racing for three years now. During that time, I have only run two official half marathons, my first ever big race, the 2012 OC Half in 1:55:10 (smashing my goal of a sub-2 half), and a training run/race for a full marathon, the 2013 Spring Blast Half Marathon in 1:53:34. I ran the first half of the 2013 Mountains2Beach full marathon in an unofficial time of 1:51:01. I believe I am capable of a time in the 1:4x range, given the right course and given the proper training and taper before the race. And I need that 1:4x as a confidence booster to prove to myself that I am capable of training for running a Boston Qualifying time in the full marathon. To BQ with a 3:44:59 in the full, the McMillan Running Calculator says I would need to hit a 1:46:54 in a half.

Maybe the gorgeous views of the Santa Barbara wine country will help me fly up and down the hills to a PR, maybe not. What I need to do now is re-focus on my original goals for the race. I thought I could enjoy a race for the scenery. I think I can! I thought I could set aside the goal of a PR to focus on doing my best in comparison to the field. I think I can!

Do you ever run a race just for fun? Just this past weekend I ran the iCureMelanoma 5K with my 9-year-old, and I have to say it was a lot of fun to run with her and not worry about my own race time. But unless I’m running with my kids, I run for the “fun” of pushing myself to a personal best.

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“Fundraise for charity in connection with a race” occupies a high priority spot on my bucket list. I’d always secretly admired people who made the commitment to raise funds along with committing to training for a race itself, and I made it a point to donate what I could to each of my friends who sent out a fundraising plea in connection with a walk or run. Finally I’ve gotten the opportunity myself to fundraise in conjunction with the iCureMelanoma 5K Run/Walk on May 3, 2014, in Fullerton, California. So far “Team Book It!” has raised $935 towards melanoma research at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) Melanoma Research Division.

Here are some fundraising tips I’ve learned along the way:

1. Choose a race, a location, and/or a cause that have meaning to you. The race I chose is a local trail race that makes it easy for many of my family members and friends to participate. Also, it helps me ask local businesses to support the race and charity, because those businesses know that the race participants are some of the most likely candidates to take advantage of their businesses.

As for the cause of melanoma research:

Melanoma Cancer is rated as the fastest growing cancer in the U.S. and worldwide. In fact, recent statistics reveal that 1 in 50 people will develop invasive melanoma in their lifetime.

Some of you may know that I used to be an estate planning lawyer. One of my clients, a long, long time ago, came into the office for estate planning. One of the paralegals in my office pulled this person aside and offered advice about getting evaluated for potential skin cancer. Two months later (thankfully after the estate plan was in place), the person passed away from a particularly aggressive cancer. The risk of developing skin cancer is especially significant for endurance athletes like runners and triathletes who spend a lot of time in the sun. I had no qualms about supporting the important research being done in this area.

2. Investigate the charity and how the funds raised will be used. Is the affiliated charity a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity to which donations are tax deductible? How does the charity rate on Charity Navigator and similar sites? What percentage of the funds raised will go to pay for the race, and what percentage will be donated to the designated charity? In my case, it is the goal of the race organizers to pay for the race expenses through sponsorships so that all of the registration fees and donations go directly toward melanoma research.

3. Make it a group effort. I am lucky that my book discussion group decided to read Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run in conjunction with running this local 5K. That’s allowed us to solicit donations from my friends and family PLUS the friends and family of my friends. Don’t discount the fact that race registrations also benefit the charity involved. Team Book It! has 25 members with the hope of more, and all those registration fees benefit the charity.

4. Make friends with the race director. The race director is your best resource for materials and methods to ask for donations from local friends and businesses. Often a race director will have drafts of letters and sponsorship materials that you can pass along to potential corporate sponsors and business donors.

5. Capitalize on connections. Either you or your team members are bound to have connections to local businesses that will be happy to support your race efforts. Do you buy your running shoes from a local running store? Do you work out at a local gym? Is your friend on the board of a company that promotes health and fitness?

6. Use social media. What else are Facebook, Twitter and other social media for than to promote just such fundraising campaigns? I cannot imagine a better use of social media.

7. Don’t be shy. Now is not the time to be modest about your fitness efforts. Post about how hard you are training to do your best at the race. Ask for support! You might just be surprised how many people are willing to chip in what they can to support your fundraising and training efforts!

8. Consider unique fundraising methods. If you have a unique skill, take advantage of it! Can you run a bake sale where the proceeds benefit your charity? Do you have crafty friends who would be willing to donate hand-crafted items to be sold online to benefit the cause?

9. Pay your friends back in kind. If you want your friends and family to support you in your efforts, make sure you give back what you can when they ask the same.

10. Thank each donor personally. Pay attention to the donor roll or ask the race director to give you the names of people who donated to your fundraising. Write a personal thank you note, or, if you think the donors would not mind, thank them on social media for their contributions. It’s not about the amount, it’s about the fact that the donors were kind and generous enough to give what they could to support you, your race, and your charity of choice.

If you feel strongly about melanoma research and/or supporting random bloggers’ efforts at fundraising, please consider making a tax deductible donation to Team Book It! through that link. Can you help us push our donations for melanoma research over $1,000?! Thank you. (Please don’t be shy about leaving a comment to tell me that you donated! I really mean it when I say I would like to thank you personally!)

Have you ever raised funds in connection with a race? Do you have any advice to offer?

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