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Archive for the ‘Race goals’ Category

As I sit here with yet another case of race jitters, I ask myself why I race. Why put myself through this if it makes me feel this way — anxious, nervous, exposed, vulnerable? Yup, if I had to choose one word, that’s how I feel: vulnerable. I care about the race experience and the outcome. I’ve put in the training time, I’ve paid my money, I want to see it all pay off. I’ve put my goal out there (race to the best of my ability, PR if I’m lucky, qualify for Boston someday). And I don’t want to embarrass myself or get injured.

But really, how could I embarrass myself? It’s not like anyone cares about my race time but me. It’s not like if I tripped and fell, other people would laugh. Quite the opposite, I’m sure. Family, friends, fellow racers, they would all offer sympathy and concern. So I why do I feel so vulnerable? I equate it to going up on stage to perform in a play. The actor has rehearsed for months and wants to do well. He knows if he flubs a line, it won’t be the end of the world. No one will throw tomatoes or boo him off the stage. His friends, family and fellow actors will still care for him, and they’ll offer sympathy. But he will still feel embarrassment, and a sense that he let himself down by not doing his best. And yet in spite of the pressure, he goes up on stage anyway, and makes himself vulnerable.

So why do I do it? Why do I race?

1. The challenge makes me grow.

2. Fear is a good motivator. I love to train, but sometimes that’s not enough to get me out the door early on a weekend morning for a long run. Having a lofty race goal on the horizon keeps me accountable.

3. The reward for putting oneself out there is greater than the risk of embarrassment or injury.

4. Every race teaches us something. A great race affirms our training and our choices. A “bad” race points out what we could do differently next time.

5. Pushing past that feeling of vulnerability gives you a sense of accomplishment, no matter the outcome.

Courage is its own reward.

~ Plautus, Roman playwright.

Tomorrow I will hit the starting line of the La Habra 10K. It’s a hilly, two-loop course that presents an interesting challenge. Two years ago I completed the race in 51:29. My 10K PR from the Turkey Trot trail race is 50:26. I’d love to finish this race in under 50 minutes. Who knows what race day will bring, but I am willing to make myself vulnerable to find out.

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Well hello! I’ve been so busy with my latest project — Get All the Laundry Washed AND Put Away at the Same Time — that I’ve got a lot to catch up on around here.

The year 2013 ended in a whimper with a serious case of the flu that wiped out most of my family for over a week. There’s nothing like wrapping Christmas presents on Christmas Eve when both my husband and I had a fever of 102. The one kid who didn’t get sick declared the next day “the best Christmas ever” in spite of the fact that we had frozen burritos for Christmas dinner (well, those of us who felt like eating, anyway). Good times.

It took me a while to crawl back to my prior level of fitness. After conquering three full marathons in one year (Santa Barbara, Mountains 2 Beach, and Long Beach) I tried to be a good girl and cut back on working out in an “off-season.” Basically that meant I went from working out seven hours per week to four, and cut back my long runs from a max of 20 to 6 miles. Unfortunately, then I got hit with a cold and then the flu and I stopped working out altogether for that week of the flu. Not only did I feel miserable physically, I felt miserable mentally. I seriously look at working out as a (near) daily pill for mental health. So, I slowly scraped my way back to running and biking, in spite of the fact that my legs felt anything but rested and fresh and my lungs screamed in protest.

Thankfully, now I’m back on track and even managed a PR of 24:09 in the 5K at the iTry 5K trail race in February, where I came in first of eight in my age group.

My girls surprised me with a cake to celebrate my 5K race. It says "Go M!" for Go Mama!"

My girls surprised me with a cake to celebrate my 5K race. It says “Go M!” for Go Mama!”

Then I raced the Brea 8K — the only race I’ve ever done three times — and came in 6th of 174 in my age group with a time of 38:46 (a 7:47 pace for nearly 5 miles). In 2012 I came in 5th of 180 but that’s okay because the person who knocked me out of 5th place is Boston Bound Brunette (who, by the way, just rocked the LA Marathon in spite of the heat on race day).

The year 2013 turned out to be a great year. I cut 10 minutes off my full marathon time to 3:52:42, putting me within seven and change of a Boston Qualifying time (3:45).

My total mileage breakdown for the year?

Swim: 13.67 miles.

Bike: 829.54 miles.

Run: 1132.64 miles.

Strength training and other workouts (DVDs, skiing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding): 49 hours.

Up next?

I run my first one-mile race next weekend at the Encinitas Mile. The next weekend I race the La Habra 10K (recap from the first time I did that race). On May 3 I’ll do the iCureMelanoma 5K in Fullerton for fun and fundraising (see my team’s page to sign up to join our team or make a tax deductible donation toward melanoma research!) At the end of May I’ll do a hilly but beautiful half marathon in Santa Ynez, the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half. At the end of August I’ve got full marathon #4: the Santa Rosa Marathon. After watching people struggle in the heat for the LA Marathon last week, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Santa Rosa in summer isn’t scorching hot! Finally, I’ll take on my first Ragnar Relay from San Francisco to Napa Valley with the Ragnaritas!

Any tips for me on racing the mile? My strength is long distance and if I left my body to its own devices it would settle in at marathon goal pace of 8:35. Based on recent speed workouts I think I can do the mile in under 7:00 but I’m really nervous. The course is a half mile out, half mile back and I have no idea how to keep myself from going out too fast and not blowing up in the first quarter mile. It will be a learning experience for sure!

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You can read about the fabulous start to my third full marathon in Long Beach Marathon Recap — Part I.

As you might recall I’d run the first half of the race in 1:51:57. My goal for the race was to beat my personal record of 3:57:29 from Mountains2Beach. In order to do that I’d need to run the second half in 2:05:31 or less.

Miles 14, 15, 16 (8:31, 8:34, 8:30)

The first half of the Long Beach course is so nice that it’s no insult to say that the second half is not as spectacular. On this section you’re running through a nondescript part of the city. I simply focused on keeping pace and running steady.

Miles 17, 18, 19 (8:35, 8:59, 8:28)

Around mile 17 you enter the Cal State Long Beach university campus. It’s nice to see some college kids out early on a Sunday morning to cheer on the runners. Unfortunately that hill during mile 18 is tough. On the plus side I used the subsequent downhill to pick the pace back up and break through the wall that I started to hit around mile 18 in my last full marathon.

Miles 20, 21, 22 (9:06, 9:31, 9:41)

Here you’re passing back through that same part of town.

Thumbs-up at Mile 20

Thumbs-up at Mile 20

It got harder and harder for me to keep running strong around mile 20. I wouldn’t say I hit the wall though, because when that happened in my last full marathon my times dipped into the 10s and 11s, whereas here I managed to stay in the 9s.

There is a steep, quarter-mile hill as you approach mile 21. I am actually pleased to see that split of 9:06 for that mile.

I struggled to take in liquids around this point, both because my body was tired of drinking that much and because I was working so hard by this time that I was having trouble catching my breath after running and drinking at the same time. Somewhere around mile 21 I made the executive decision to walk for about 5 seconds every mile so I could drink a few much-needed sips of sports drink and then resume running. I have no shame about not running the whole way and in retrospect I consider it a very good decision to adopt the strategy to walk for my fuel breaks.

I also grabbed a couple of cups of water on the run and dumped them over my head. The sun was out in full force by this time and I was feeling the heat.

Miles 23, 24, 25 (9:50, 9:57, 10:04)

Right before mile 24 the full marathon course joins back up with the half marathon course at its 10.5-mile point. I’m sorry to say this about what is overall a very nice course, but this joining back up with the half marathon course just plain stunk. By that point in the half marathon race I’d say the vast majority of half marathoners were walking. Maybe it just seemed like that to me in my frustration with the giant sea of people in front of me. It was such a tough time in the race anyway and it was not fun to deal with having to dodge people who were walking in the middle of the course and did not have the courtesy to walk to the right-hand side.

Mile 26 and the Finish (9:41, and for the last .44 by my Garmin: 8:48)

In spite of the crowds I managed to pick the pace back up a bit for mile 26. I basically told myself to embrace the pain and let my legs go.

It was a huge relief when the course split off into two different chutes just before the mile 26 mark and very few runners split off with me to the full marathon chute. At that point the course turns off Ocean Boulevard and heads down a very welcome hill right into the finish chute. I turned on the speed and with a huge kick at the end I brought my pace down into the 8s. I felt like I was flying at the finish and it was wonderful to hear the announcer say my name!

Of course as soon as I crossed the timing mats I came to a stumbling stop and could barely walk. Funny how you can run at what feels like a blistering pace for 26.2 (or 26.44 miles by my Garmin) miles and yet struggle to walk as soon as you stop running.

I was so thrilled to be done that I forgot to stop my Garmin until after I got my medal. I knew I’d beaten my former personal record of 3:57:29 but I wasn’t quite sure by how much. My watch said 3:54 something by the time I stopped it. I later got an email from the timing people saying my time was 3:53:27, but it turns out that was my gun time and my official net finish time was 3:52:42! That’s a PR by 4 minutes 47 seconds. That might not sound like much but it’s huge for me. My goal pace for the race was 8:35 and I ended up averaging 8:52. I achieved my “A” goal of running a personal best time, and also achieved my “B” goal of not bonking. While I ran the second half of the race significantly slower than the first (about 9 minutes slower, in 2:00:55 compared to 1:51:57), I wouldn’t say that I hit the wall, certainly not anything like I did in my second marathon.

Recovery

Best of all, I met up with my family and I felt well enough to walk back to the hotel with them without visiting the medical tent this time. I now believe that the uncontrollable shaking I experienced in Ventura after Mountains2Beach was due to underfueling. This time I stuck to my pre-race and race nutrition plans and that paid off. I ran just as hard this time, but with more training and better fueling, I stayed quite strong through the end and my tank wasn’t empty when I finished.

I feel a need to give an unsolicited shoutout to the C2O Coconut Water sponsors. That cold can of cononut water tasted so good at the finish line that I drank the whole thing right down within seconds. I don’t think I could have tolerated another sip of traditional electrolyte sports drink and I was grateful to have that instead. There were other great treats given out at the finish line too but frankly I could not tolerate eating any solid food. I had exerted myself so hard, left it all out on the course, and — let’s just be real here — I was trying not to throw up. So it was: coconut water = liquid gold; my favorite post-workout protein bar = dirt.

All in all I’d call it a hugely successful race. Ask me if I’d recommend Long Beach to a friend and I’d say yes! (More review to come in another post. I know what you’re thinking but yes it is possible for me to have more to say!)

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Remember how I joked that you know you’re ready for your big race when you start seeing “signs” or omens? The other night I was doing word puzzles while soaking in a hot bath (one of my favorite taper luxuries) and I solved an 8-letter word scramble:

word puzzle

Yup, I’d call that a sign.

With just two more days until the Long Beach International Marathon, I am busy with last minute details (reservation at Italian restaurant for carbo-loading dinner: check) and I am firming up my goals for the race. This will be my third full marathon. I ran Santa Barbara in 4:02:39, and Mountains2Beach in 3:57:29.

So, my goals, in no particular order:

1. Beat my best time of 3:57:29.
2. Do not bonk (not as hard as last time, anyway. I fully expect to slow down toward the end but I want to stay strong, of course).

Training this round has gone well. I’ve stuck to the plan (from Run Less, Run Faster) and the training has gone even better than it did for Mountains2Beach. I have definitely gained some speed if my ability to complete the speed workouts and tempo runs is any indication. I am also working on my nutrition plans for pre-race carbo-loading and fueling during the race. I think I seriously under-fueled during my last full marathon and it was not a fun experience. I’d really like to fix that for this third full marathon. To that end, I’ve been reading The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition: A Cutting-Edge Plan to Fuel Your Body Beyond “the Wall” and tweaking my nutrition plans.

If you’d like to follow along with the fun on race day starting at 6 a.m. PDT on Sunday you can plug in my race bib number 3601 into the Racemine Result Kiosk. That site will provide time splits at five points along the course. Wish me luck! And be sure to spare some good race vibes for Kim at Day with KT as she does her 50 mile race!

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With the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon coming up in two more days, I have been thinking a lot about my race goals. I could say that I want to beat my 4:02:39 from my first full marathon, or to sub-4, or even to qualify for Boston with a 3:45. But lately I’ve been thinking that I don’t so much want to GET a good time as I want to HAVE a good time (keeping in mind the thought that those two things often go hand in hand — if I have a good time, I’ll likely get a good time).

I want to enjoy the race. Soak up the positive energy from the spectators. Take in the view. Appreciate the privilege of getting to run somewhere new, down open roads and bike paths and beach boardwalks. I want to finish the race happy. I want to feel that I put in my best effort, made the most of the journey, and enjoyed myself along the way.

Wish me luck on Sunday! Think good thoughts for me from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Pacific Standard Time!

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