Posts Tagged ‘time’

Shamrock Half Marathon 2014

Sherpa. The word specifically refers to the ethnic people of Nepal. It evolved to refer to the mountaineers who act as guides for people climbing mountains in the Himalayas. They go up the mountain first and make a way for those ambitious and less experienced people to make their way to the top. Among runners, you will hear it used as slang for the person who takes care of you so you can go race.

Byram is my sherpa. The week of a race, he takes care of logistics, planning, organizing, and communication. The night before a race, he takes childcare duties, and leaves me all to myself if that is what I want. The day of the race would never happen if not for my sherpa. He gets me to my starting line and is with me in spirit the whole way. When I get done with a race, he is there to greet me, schlepping all my post-race necessities along with him so I don’t have to worry about checking a bag or anything.

He makes a way for me to achieve my goals. I couldn’t do it without him.

It has been a crummy winter. The Winter That Won’t Die. It’s snowing like crazy, right now, on St. Patrick’s day. I have known I have a race on the calendar since January 7th. Did I really train for it? Sorta. I only got serious about it in the last 4 weeks. And every other week has been snowy and icy; treadmills have been in short supply and sidewalks have been essentially nonexistent for long stretches at a time.

The Shamrock Half was a gift, and it was one I treated a little shabbily in the weeks leading up to it. We went down to Virginia Beach on Saturday afternoon; it was a beautiful day and we spent several hours at the beach after packet pick-up and seeing the expo. We got a really good deal on compression socks, so I broke a cardinal rule (never try something new on race day) and put my new green socks into the clothing plan for the next day.

I had requested phở for my pre-race dinner and we got a recommendation for a place not far from the oceanfront. After a bit of confusion, we lucked into finding it, and I can say without reservation that Phở 79 has truly excellent broth. We made our way to the home of our friends Rich and Genie and Ian, and we settled in for a wonderful evening of catching up and reminiscing about the old days. The kids played until very late in the night, and the grown-up sat up chatting until very early in the morning. We trundled off to bed around 2am; it was a great evening but it set up a rough start when the alarms (I set 2!) went off at 4:30. Duane let me sleep as long as he could, but he wasn’t going to let me off the hook for a race just because I chose to stay up all hours of the night. I love him for that.

He got us to the oceanfront with no drama and we found a parking spot right off of the interstate and in a spot that would allow us to get right back on the interstate to leave with only two left turns. I didn’t mind the mile and a half walk but I felt bad for Byram. The weather was crystal clear; we started under the full moon as just before sunrise. The change in lighting was so gradual, I was startled when I realized the sun was up and we were running in full daylight.

The Shamrock Half route is very very simple. You start at Atlantic and 42nd Street and you follow Atlantic until you turn north west onto Shore Drive. Shore Drive is trees and swamp; not especially inspiring. Around mile 5.5 you turn right into Fort Story back on Atlantic Avenue and you officially “inbound”. I have been on Fort Story before a couple of times, but I didn’t remember it being such a bleak and stark place; particularly the northern end. Maybe it was partly because of the harsh winter we have suffered, or maybe I just went there later in the year when things were greener, but Fort Story as it appeared yesterday seemed to have all of the color drained from it. Everything was beige. It felt like we were running through a relic of another time, like World War II hadn’t quite ended for this place. It didn’t help that in the Fort, all of the intersections were guarded by mostly unsmiling, uniformed soldiers. I always try and smile and wave and say thank you to race volunteers, but the soldiers didn’t really respond. It felt a touch unfriendly and after a while, I just gave up on them. Thinking back on it, they probably weren’t “volunteers” in the traditional sense. They were on duty. At work. On a beautiful Sunday morning.

The sight I had looked forward to the most was in Fort Story though, which made unsmiling soldiers worth it. I got to see the two Cape Henry lights. There was a sundog in the sky and the morning was beautiful and clear, and the lights were there, solid and strong as ever. I have climbed the 1792 Light twice. I love it. The lights are at Mile Marker 8, and I was feeling great at that point. I was drinking water at every station, I had taken a gel around the 5 mile point, and all was well.

We continued on through Fort Story for another mile, which was a slightly less depressing section; there was some base housing, a few spectators, a few new and really expensive homes (clearly for top brass types), and after Mile Marker 9, we exited through the gates where I got the only friendly experience with any of the military types. The MP at the gate was smiling and giving out high fives to anyone in reach. I got one. I needed to see a smiling face and to shake the depressing dust of Fort Story from my heels.

Back into Virginia Beach proper, we completed the “loop” around the base and were back among the civilians. There weren’t lots of spectators, but those who were out were enthusiastic, several of whom had set up beer stations. It is always amusing to see beer being offered along a race course, amusing to see who chooses to take the offerings, and what the offerings are. The highest class of beer I saw being passed out was cans of Rolling Rock. It wasn’t even up to Pabst Blue Ribbon standards. No thanks.

I made a terrible mental mistake while we were running back to the ocean front. I noted the street number when we first got back in to Civilian Virginia Beach. We were at 89th Street. And I also knew that the finish line was at 30th Street.

I started doing math.

With 4 miles to go.

This was NOT the best idea ever. All of the sudden, in my mind, I knew I had almost 60 full blocks to still run and I started counting them down. This was BAD for me. I started tuning out my music and tuning into numbers. I was not disassociating from the normal late-race aches anymore. A few blocks from Mile Marker 11, at 67th Street, I heeled up for a one block walk break. I took another one block walk break between 50 and 49th Streets. After that, I was afraid if I walked anymore, I wouldn’t start up again. Seeing Mile Marker 12 cleared my head a lot. I plugged back into my music and told myself I had maybe 12 minutes left to go. It was better.

When we veered left on Atlantic where it splits from Pacific, we turned right into heavy and frigid winds. The wind gusts between intersections were spectacularly powerful and cold. I had stopped counting street numbers, so that was a good thing. I knew we were almost there because I could hear cheering.

The cheering was at 37th Street; a huge group of LiveStrong folks were set up where we turned off Atlantic and onto the Boardwalk. At the same time, we were turning into some hardcore wind and people were cheering and there were encouraging messages written in chalk on the sidewalk, and I was very tired and a little emotional. The wind was so strong and cold it literally took your breath away. Also, as I got around the corner and onto the boardwalk, I saw how far away the finish line still was (7 more blocks, but I didn’t know that number at the time). I got a bit teary for reasons I still don’t quite grasp. Fortunately, Thrift Shop by Macklemore came on my iPod and that song just cracks me up.

I know it wasn’t that far, but that boardwalk stretched on for what seemed like an eternity. The concrete hurt to run on. I was freezing and all I wanted to do was get through that finish line. As I approached Neptune, I took off my hat and gave him a little salute and plowed on through the finish line. I noted the clock time, knew it was not my chip time, and didn’t have any feelings about it one way or the other. I was just happy to be done. I felt like I had run a really good race despite a couple of rough miles near the end (they always happen, I think).

Taking off the hat was a mistake. Byram was looking for that hat, not wet red hair, and so he missed me when I passed him (I didn’t see him either). The chute stretched on a whole block and it was not easily navigable. I got my enormous medal from the most unenthusiastic volunteer ever, which felt odd. A long walk brought me to a station where they were handing out hats, then another long walk to water and Gatorade, then another long walk to the beach towels, then a granola bar stop; I mean it just went on forever. Then there was this enormous crowd of people coming and going to the beer tent up a fairly narrow set of stairs to the beach. I wanted nothing to do with the beer tent, I just wanted to go meet my husband at the arranged location.

Our reunion got all dorked up because I don’t carry my phone with me and he hadn’t seen me cross the finish. But that was just a sidebar to everything.

Shamrock was a really awesome and fun race with a touch of odd and awkward. Logistically, it was not easy, but like the other 30,000 participants, we managed. The course was fast and flat, and that was a nice change from moderately hilly Richmond, and the trail terrain of Instant Classic. The atmosphere of the party at the end would have been awesome if it had not been so bitterly cold that it felt like all 30,000 people were crammed into the beer tent. It did not have that friendly, whole town turns out vibe that Richmond does, but then I think the race must be an enormous PITA for the people who actually live in the area. It definitely lacked the mutual goodwill between spectators and runners of Richmond. It was cool to run along the beach. It was a great weekend to be with my family and play at the water’s edge too.

I keep getting asked if I would run it again and today my answer is I don’t know. If my March race choices come down to Instant Classic and Shamrock, it is tough to call between them. IC is 15 minutes from home, inexpensive, low key, calm and small. Shamrock is the opposite of all of those things, but Shamrock comes with the Big Race amenities like portajohns and freebies and swag bags and such. Not so with IC. Shamrock is flat and fast. IC is, well, not. Shamrock is pavement and concrete (to say, hurty), and IC is a trail (less hurty).

I don’t know and right now, it doesn’t matter. I am going to register for the Crawlin Crab half marathon in Hampton, running the first weekend of October. For that race, I am chasing down the King Crab challenge and will do the 5K with Byram on Saturday and the Half on Sunday.

Thank you to my best friend, love of my life, and sherpa, Byram, for making a weekend of incredible memories for our family.

One final note, added post script. As an indication of how much I just ran this race for the fun of it, I forgot to mention my final time. I shaved 2 minutes off of my last PR in November. 2:33:48. #ShamrockOn


I Didn’t See That Coming

Four years ago this week, I had just gotten my surgery date to undergo gastric bypass. Yesterday morning, I got up before dawn and made my way in Downtown Richmond with 19,000+ other runners, and a untold number of cheering spectators. I arrived just at the end of team photos, which I didn’t really care whether I was in or not, and walked around the Capital Square in the pre-dawn gloom looking for familiar faces.

All the weather prediction sites called for a 20% chance of showers. They were off by about 80%. It was a light drizzle for a while, until it became a frog strangler just in time for the 8k racers to take off. There was ankle deep water running down the gutters at one point. I had planned accordingly and grabbed a trash bag on my way out the door, so I was mostly sheltered under my plastic covering and a hat. At the expo, the day before, I had found a pair of neon green arm warmers for $10, and I bought them. They were the best $10 I have spent in a while. I was glad to have them. Nothing to be done for my feet; I would run with wet feet.

Like last year, I stood near the 8k start line to cheer those runners on, listened to the National Anthem and the energy of the day and the song got to me a bit. I love the emotions that get tied into the beginning of a race, but at least it was raining hard enough that no one could tell tears from rain drops. I walked up and down Broad Street in the rain in search of Mary Beth or Matt, two runners I knew in the half marathon, or anyone else that I happened to know. I did eventually find Matt in my own corral and was introduced to an old friend of his named Terry. It was nice to say hi to them, but I really really wanted to find Mary Beth to thank her for giving me this opportunity. I never found her in the crowd, even though she was in the corral just in front of mine. I only saw her once on Brookland Park while she was going back to Hermitage, while I hadn’t reached the turn-around yet.

My plan had been to use that amazing energy of the beginning of the race to close the gap between my corral and the 2:30 pace corral ahead of me. Unsurprisingly, this did not happen. Two minutes is actually a very long time on foot, and that was the time gap between corrals. I started as close to the very front of my corral (2:31-2:59 anticipated finish time group) and took off as soon as I hit the starting line. I still managed to maintain some control and managed not to blow myself up in the first mile.

The first 2.25 miles of the race are dull as rain, and the only really interesting thing is the signs the spectators carry and looking at the many thousands of people ahead of you in the human snake heading west on Broad Street. Also, watching the elite marathoners pass you is pretty humbling.

Last year, I ran into trouble on Boulevard overpass over the train tracks and I had vowed that this year, that hill would not leave me struggling so much. I controlled my ascent, took the decent easy, and conquered that hill, unlike last year. That said, the steep downhill set my left knee to aching, a theme that would follow me for the next 10 miles.

The Boulevard/Hermitage/Brookland Park miles were uneventful. The only thing of note was that I felt suddenly depleted very early and regretted not eating anything before the race. I took a GU a (Salted Caramel flavor, FTW!) at the 3 mile point, much earlier than planned, but it offered the relief I needed. I would also regret bringing only 2 GUs with me later. I hit Bryan Park, my least favorite stretch of the race at the 1 hour mark and hit the 10k mark at 1:09. That might be my fastest 10k time yet.

Right after the 10k mark, the wheels came off for a while. To give you some background, I have been hopping from one ailment to the next for 4 weeks. I had the flu, strep, then a head cold, which morphed into a sinus infection that was working its way towards an upper respiratory infection as of this week. I saw the doctor on Friday and had a Z-pack waiting for me to start immediately after the race. I was going between Dayquil, Nyquil, and behind-the-counter pseudoephedrine all week. The Sudafed would dehydrate me terribly, but on race day I opted to take one because I was just so miserable. Well, right after the 10k point, I discovered I was badly dehydrated and at the same time, the Sudafed that I had taken about 4 hours earlier had kicked out.

I stopped sweating. My head was thumping. My face was on fire but my body was shivering. I felt feverish and weakening. Being only the halfway point of the race, this was a very scary feeling. When I hit the party zone in the park, I wasn’t sure I would finish. I contemplated asking for help, but pride and (I know how this sounds) the race medal kept me silent. When I hit the 7 mile point, I walked for 2 or 3 minutes and took on 2 cups of water plus a Powerade. And I vowed to keep going.

The water helped immensely. At every water stop after that, I grabbed two waters and a Powerade. At the 8 mile marker, I grabbed an AccelGel and tucked it under my sports bra strap as a just-in-case, knowing they tended to have an adverse affect on me, but knowing I might need the extra energy. It was the spectators on Pope and Fauquier Avenues that really kept me going during those rough few miles there. I was in awe of their excitement and their willingness to come cheer us on in the crummy weather. It kept bringing my mind back to Boston and the fact that the dead and injured there were almost exclusively spectators. That made me even more grateful for their presence.

I took my second GU on Brook Road at Mile 9 or so. I had gone too long between gels so the effect of the second one was particularly noticeable. Brook Road felt like forever, just as always. It always, whether in training or racing, feels like a blessing to turn on Lombardy after the long stretch on Brook. Still, when I hit the 10 mile marker, which is celebrated with a “5k Fun Run Race” sign and lots of cheering spectators, any darkness in my mind was dispelled and pure joy replaced it. This was FUN!

Of course, this also hurt and I still had at least 30 minutes left to go, but none of that mattered. I was ready to go. On Lombardy, by the Kroger Store, I heard sirens behind me and knew that the leading marathoners were catching up. It is an awe inspiring thing to see a man run past you, a man who has run about 24 miles so far, who left about 10 minutes after you did, and only has a little more than 2 miles to go. We cheered for him and for the others that would pass us. The turn onto Grace was especially well-cheered. I thanked as many of the spectators for coming out as I could.

And I ran. Oh my goodness but it is a LONG way between Lombardy and 3rd Street. Turns seem to make the distance pass more swiftly. Grace to Third, Third to Franklin. On Franklin, a band was playing “Lonely Boy” by the Black Keys and I started singing it out loud. I didn’t care. I love that song. Coach John, the Big Cooter, met me between 4th and 5th Streets and asked how it was going (he knew about the IT injury). I told him I had been suffering for a while, but I was not quitting now. He ran with me to 5th, encouraged me to take it easy going down the hill on 5th Street to Browns Island because steep downhills are IT killers, and I promised (knowing I was lying) to take it slow.

Onto 5th Street, the last turn until the finish line. All downhill. I was overwhelmed with excitement, hope of seeing my family, and the feeling that things weren’t as bad as they had seemed about 6 miles ago. I had no clue what my time was; I left my watch at home. I let the downhill take me and started going all out.

It is a surprisingly long way between Franklin and Tredegar. I ran and ran and ran and wondered when the heck this would end. I looked for my family, but once I hit the MeadWestVaco building, the going was too steep and the runners in front of me too slow for me to do anything other than watch where I put my feet. I sprinted down the hill in a gut churning effort to cross the finish line. I remember raising my hands over my head at a point where I thought my photo was being taken. I crossed two lines; I am not sure which actually marked my finish point, but I didn’t stop hauling ass until I was underneath the finish line structure. And then very happily, I slowed to a trundle, wondering how long it would be until I had a medal in my hand.

I received my medal, but then I realized it was water that I wanted more, though I was too queasy to drink too much. I received my fleece blanket, which I gratefully wrapped up in, and made my way to the food tent, because there is nothing better than a slice of cheese pizza after a race.

I waited for my family at our appointed spot, but due to bad luck, they had not seen me cross the finish and had no idea I was done. It was about 40 minutes and a borrowed phone call later before we were reunited.

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I had no idea what my time was and I wasn’t stressed about it. I simply didn’t care for the time being. I figured it was around 2:40 to 2:45 and I was good with that, especially after the awful 3 mile stretch between Bryan Park and the 10 mile mark. Once reunited, we went over to Legend for a post-race beer and soft pretzel. My knee hurt very badly and did not want to bend; I had anticipated this, but it still hurt a good deal. I limped home, content with my day.

Of course, later I became curious about my actual finish time. It was late in the day before the results were posted, so the anticipation had a lot of time to build.

I am not kidding when I say I was completely shocked to see that my finish time was 2:35:37. That is 6 minutes faster than any of my previous races. No, it wasn’t the 2:30 I am dreaming of beating, but I hadn’t even dreamed that this race would be faster when I had been sick for so long, and injured to boot.

I remain overjoyed by the time I managed to achieve. It was such an amazing day. I cannot say enough good things about the volunteers and the spectators. I love this race and I plan to run it again next year, though I am contemplating running the full distance (albeit, not too seriously). I could not have done this without the support of my Crew and my FaceBook friends, and even the random people who cheered my by name (from my bib) throughout the race. I am grateful to have the chance to even attempt such distances and I look forward to future accomplishments.

“‘Til The Lights Go Out”

I have been trying for weeks to write a post. Probably 2 dozen half posts have been written and then I lose my train of thought, the message I am trying to convey gets stale, work considerations take over, or I just realize what I have written is not very interesting, and the words vanish off the screen.

So as it stands, I am 47 days from my next half marathon. Last week, between Sunday and Saturday, I logged 30 miles, which might be the most miles I have ever run in a week. Maybe not though.

Saturday, I ran my hardest long run in a very long time. Probably the combination of the high mileage and a weight training session the day before contributed to PAIN. My legs hurt so much at the end of the run that I am forced to admit that I just leaned against the van to hold me up at the end. I was completely wrung out.

Adrenaline can come out in the form of the “runner’s high,” which is an enjoyable feeling. It can also (in my experience) come out in the “crash and burn” feeling. Emotions and pain come out. Not fun. That’s where I found myself Saturday morning; crashing and burning.

It’s all good. That happens. I came home and discovered that I had run the route at around my goal race pace. Well, rock on. I maintained my desired race pace for 2 hours. I just have to tack on a couple more miles at that pace and I will achieve my desired outcome in November. It’ll hurt. Of course it will. I don’t think I have ever finished a long distance race where I didn’t hurt by the end.

I went through some dark times on Saturday morning. Every time I finish one of these really difficult runs, I learn a new way to help me push through and I learn more and more that my limits are mostly in my head. My difficulties began when I realized I missed a turn with the intermediate team and dropped some distance off my overall run (I didn’t know it at the time it turned out to be less than a half mile lost, so not a big deal). Mentally, I took it very hard. “What?! Lame ass, you cut your run short! You are SUCH a slack ass. Why even bother running if you’re just going to cheat!” My brain hates me. I suspect it is an evolutionary response to help encourage self preservation.

I wanted to quit and I was on Monument Avenue where every single intersection for almost two miles offered me the opportunity to turn left and head for home well before it was time. I can’t express how hard it was to not make one of those left turns in shame and defeat, but limp my way home and end the pain and discomfort.

Eventually, I saw someone who I have seen here at the office; he is on the same team I am and we work in the same place. I decided it was time to make an introduction. His name is Greg, he works in Insurance and he works closely with a few of my lawyers. We chatted a bit and it really did help pass some time and get my mind out of the negative spiral it was caught in. As I passed Sheppard Street, which was the same street we would ultimately loop back to and use to reach our finish point, I crossed the intersection knowing I had committed not to give up and finish the distance, with roughly 3.5 more miles to go.

I turned up my music, I sang out loud, I talked out loud. I recalled Grace’s birth (her birthday was last week so it came easily to mind) and reminded myself how much that hurt but how I couldn’t quit until it was done. That became some sort of mantra in my head. “You couldn’t quit until she arrived and you won’t quit until you get back to the Stadium. Period.”

I told Grace later that she was my inspiration to keep going when it felt too horrible to go any further.

The last mile was all downhill on Douglasdale but it is a steep uphill (from any direction) to get back to City Stadium. Whatever was left in the tank I poured out and sprinted as fast as I could without throwing up all the way up the hill to my van.

Where I cried. I admit it. Tears happen.

I survived, I came home, discovered my much faster than expected pace, and plunked myself into an ice bath that did indeed relieve my pain and left me more than able to get up and go for the rest of the day.

A difficult, grueling, painful run does not have to qualify as a failure. They are chances to break through barriers and overcome what you didn’t think you could. I don’t even think crying in the parking lot while my driver’s side door was the only thing keeping me on my feet was a failure. It was the byproduct of an intensive education session. I learned I could keep going (even sprinting to success) when every fiber of my being was ready to quit. I learned that I do have the strength of will to not turn left and go home early when it didn’t feel like I could go any farther.

I learned that 47 days from race morning, I truly am capable of running my desired race pace for 2+ hours. Isn’t it amazing how a mentally crushing run can turn out to be an incredible confidence builder?


I have been working really, really hard on retraining my brain.

You see, I believe it is my brain holding me back more than my legs, lungs, or heart. Right before the Instant Classic, I wrote about how I was practicing smiling while running. It works! I know that sounds stupid, but if you make yourself smile, you think about why you are smiling. When I smile when I run, even if I am forcing it at first, all of these great thoughts start moving through my brain.

“Man, this is actually FUN!”

“Bet that lady who sees me grinning thinks I am an absolute nutter. Cool.”

“I could be sitting at my desk looking like I am ‘chewing glass’ right now. Glad I am out here smiling instead.”

When you are smiling, you can’t think “God, why do I choose to do this to myself?” It helps banish the thoughts like the one I had yesterday: “How in the HELL is Broad Street uphill both ways on Church Hill? It simply isn’t possible!”

It’s working and I can empirically prove it. My pace is coming down. I can see that on my Daily Mile training charts. The major improvement I have been looking for, which is getting faster, is finally happening. More and more of my runs are averaging mid 10 minute miles rather than mid 11s. I am even getting some averages in the low 10s, and on the treadmill I am starting to see some upper 9 minute mile averages.

I started running 3 years ago this month, in April of 2010, 3 months post gastric bypass surgery. Back then, I didn’t know a thing about pace or distance or anything. I was just running laps in the bottom of my parking deck, trying not to die after a single minute of running, and hoping to God that no one actually saw me.

Once I became conscious of things like pace, I knew more that I wanted more than anything to run a sub-12 minute mile. That was my first real goal once I had more or less succeeded at the Couch to 5K training program (which took more like 6 months, not 6 weeks for me).

I did eventually succeed at that goal, but I have since languished in the 11-12 minute mile range. Looking back, I realize I was doing just enough work to call a workout a run, but not really putting in the work to make real gains.

Now, all I want in the world is to get under 10 minute mile averages on a regular basis. My legs, lungs, and heart can do it; it’s my head that gets too heavy to carry. It is more than just smiling, of course, but the act of smiling does help ground my brain and shift from a negative headspace to a positive one.

Yesterday, a coworker saw me running down Church Hill and he said I looked like I was having a good time. At that point in my run, I was. After climbing Libbie Hill and then going up to Chimborazo Park, I had suffered a bit, and so that steep downhill of Broad Street heading west back towards the Downtown area felt kind of like an easy treat, and I definitely running a sub-10 minute mile pace. But I was also smiling and focusing on how glad I was to be out and about and running.

It’s Tuesday and Tuesdays are for speed, which is why I am particularly miffed that I left my gym bag at home today. It’ll have to be an evening run in the Chester YMCA, and the combination of the Chester Y and evening runs are especially hard on my brain, so tonight, I will practice smiling, and keep working on retraining my brain.


Close enough now to the race that I can see it on the 10 day forecast. I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, but the weather is forecast currently to be cool (30s to 60s for the day) and cloudy. Now, it’s Virginia, and as I like to say, the weather around here can change so fast it’ll give you whiplash, but I am really hoping for this forecast to stick.

I have talked to a few first-timers for this race this year, giving them what I can recall of my experience last year, and things I learned.

One thing I am going to do differently this year is I will wear my fuel belt. I didn’t last year and it was so warm last year (last year was Summer In March when we were having 80s and 90s in March) that I had to stop at every single water stop because of the warmth. Whatever the temps this year, I won’t lose as much time stopping for as much water.

I am probably going to leave my watch behind this time too. I was really hung up on my 2:30 half marathon goal time last year, and when I found myself at 10 miles at 2:10, I was devastated and the mental hit was as hard on me as all those hills were. This year, I recognize that even as hard and as well as I have been training, there is no comparison between training on the streets of Richmond and running in Pocahontas, and that 2:30 is an unreasonable goal. That said, my brain can’t let go of that magic number and so it would probably be to my benefit to have no clue what time it is at any point along the way. Just worry about the trail ahead of me and let the clock do its thing while I do mine.

I will take my music with me, aware that I will probably not want it the entire distance.

Obviously I will be watching the weather closely and make my clothing decisions based on that. I have a full spectrum wardrobe now and I have clothing appropriate for the 90s all the way down to the 20s.

I plan to wear my trail shoes and not my road shoes. They are the same make/model (Brooks Adrenalines), just different for trail/road. With all the rain/snow we’ve had this year, I expect damp/muddy conditions on some parts of the route (more rain is scheduled for mid-week next week), and the trail shoes provide better traction and protection from wet toes.

I can’t remember if I mentioned it here or not, but I chopped off 2 feet of my hair last week. No more running in a braid/in braids for me. This has proven to be a double edged sword. Actually, not even that: it has come out for a net-loss for running. I tend to sweat the heaviest from my head and all that hair used to do an excellent job of soaking it up; with so much hair, it was easy to hide the wet mess under a relatively dry top layer. Now, sweat just runs off the short curls and down my back, and I come back from a run looking like I took a bath. Worse, I have to actually style my hair too; not easily done after a lunch run with no shower options. I am sure it will be cooler in the summer, but for now, as far as running goes, the new ‘do is a pain in the butt.

I have no post-race festivity planned this time. Last year it was reservations for brunch at Can Can, which was nice but mostly wasted on me. I was done after a lovely cup of coffee and a croissant. The duck and mushroom omelet was completely wasted on my surgically-altered guts. Last year, we also celebrated with a fire bowl and beer in the backyard. Same as after the Richmond Half. This year, I am running stone sober, so no post-race beer, and the weather looks too chilly for sitting around the fire bowl. We will be attending an SCA event immediately after the race, so that will probably be sufficient post-race festivities for me.

There isn’t much training time left now. I ran Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and took Tuesday and Wednesday off due to work (court on Tuesday) and weather (snow/rain/wind yesterday). I may or may not get a run in this evening depending on whether or not we have gotten power back at home. I don’t like going 3 days in a row without a run, though. We’ll see. I intend to run tomorrow (Friday) and then 8 miles on Sunday.

My schedule for next week should work out to 3 miles on Monday, 4 miles on Tuesday, and 3 miles on Wednesday or maybe Thursday, instead. After that, I will rest until Saturday. No speed work next week, no hill training, no double digit runs. No funny or risky foods after Wednesday (nuts, dried fruits, other roughage, etc.).

If I follow my usual pattern, I tend to get very thoughtful, chatty, and ready to share the week of the race; posts will probably pick up even though I won’t have anything really new to say. I am already in my regular pattern of easily irritated, aggressive, and agitated in the 14 days before the race. At least the fights that have broken out have been minor and easily dialed back. My family has shown a lot of patience with me and I am enormously appreciative their forbearance.

Is it more than a little weird that I kind of wish I could get into some kind of MMA style activity after this race?

Sure it’s more than a little weird.

That’s just how aggressive and pent up I’ve been feeling.

Look out, World. It’s been all short skirts, short hair, and picking fights from me lately.

Fair Weather Runner

As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to skip the run with the Shamrock group on Saturday morning. The weather was inclement and the family schedule simply worked better if I moved it to Sunday. While a few hardy souls (soles? Hah!) were out running 10 miles in the rain, I was on a grocery run with my favorite grocery-shopping partner (hint: she’s 5 and she has excellent taste in vegetables).

It worked out all for the best. Sunday morning I got up and at my leisure, put on my running clothes, my fuel belt, my headphones, and just went. No drive. No waiting to see who would get us started first. No getting lost in the city. The weather was awesome; dry and cool. It was a great run.

The first mile and the last mile were the only really hilly parts of my route; most of the route was spent running on Route 10 in Chesterfield, mostly a 55 mph section of highway. My experiences with running in my immediate area have not always been good, but maybe since it was early on a Sunday and many of the travelers on the road were on their way to Sunday Meeting, no one was disrespectful or outright rude/scary to the lone runner. No curse words were flung, nor any sexist/suggestive comments yelled, nor were any horns honked and no cars swerved at me in mockery of attempted vehicular manslaughter. In fact, many drivers even were kind enough to change lanes when they had the ability to do so to give me plenty of room over in my bike lane. This is a rare kindness in a county where runners on main roads are as common as blue roses.

The best part about the whole run was visiting very briefly with my family at my half way turn-around and the fact that I ran the whole thing at my desired (road) race pace (I have no illusions about the trail!). I finished my 10 miles in under 2 hours.

Not much else to say about it otherwise. I am at that stage of training where 10 miles really isn’t a big deal anymore (and I am really sorry if that sounds arrogant). This weekend we have our last long run; 12 miles and we are running in northside Richmond again (blah). I hate running on Brook and Lombardy; they are almost as dull as running on Broad Street.

Where 10 miles isn’t really a big deal, 12 still sort of is, but having done 13 already, it isn’t a huge deal. I hope I will still feel that way on March 16th.

The weekend of March 9th, Byram is running a 5k so I will not be running with the Shamrock group. That weekend should be scheduled for 8 miles and I will do those at home. I would like to do them somewhere other than the same out and back route onto Route 10 that I took this weekend, but my neighborhood is bounded by the Defense Supply Center of Richmond, Chippenham Parkway, some nice areas with no shoulders on the side of the road (forget sidewalks), and some really sketchy areas where I just won’t run. Period. I’ve got some time and Google Maps to figure something out though.

Tomorrow is looking like a seriously rainy day, which makes it all the easier to put myself on a treadmill for some speedwork. Tuesdays are still for speed. I am less than 3 weeks from my race and I am just now finally feeling like all the speedwork, long-slow-distances, and hills are finally paying off in my training.

At least it’s paying off late rather than not paying off at all.

Back on My Feet

After an entire week spent recovering from the Cold of the Decade (not really, but that’s how it felt), and not having run the first step all week, I chose to skip the training team run and map out a longer route at home. I do love running in my neighborhood. It is familiar, there are some sidewalks, there are some very quiet sections, and if I got in a real bind, help would only be a short distance away.

Saturday, the wind was insane. It was at its worst along Cogbill Road in front of the high school there; the wind was so cold and blowing so hard, it made it very hard to breathe, similar to taking a cold shower, when you are gasping from the cold. It made for a much slower run than I was hoping for, but I was still happy with my results. 9.5 miles in 1:53 and some change. My pace was better than the 11 mile run the previous Saturday, but not tons better.

The best part was that I ran in my new Brooks for the first time. I was worried that 9.5 miles was too long for a first run in them, but they were great. For the second week in a row, I got a calf cramp, which this time progressed to soreness behind the knee. I don’t know if that behind the knee soreness was related to the heavier shoes, the fact that the left foot is the one that overpronates and these shoes stabilize that, or if it was something else entirely. Still, soreness or not, I loved the shoes and a 9.5 mile break in run did not hurt my feet in any way.

Yesterday, I lifted.

Leg Press: 3 sets, 10 reps, 170 pounds (woo! Up from 150)
Hamstring Curl: 3 x 10, 50# (I always feel like I am risking my lower back with this machine.)
Squats: 2 x10: 27# (slowly working my way back to a standard 45# barbell.)
Calf Raises: 3 x 10 holding a 35# dumbbell (up 5#).
Back Extension: 3 x 10 w/ a 15# dumbbell
Crunches: 2 x 15
Reverse Crunches: 2 x 10

Short, sweet, hard. I love lower body days. There isn’t anything complex about these workouts. I could add lunges, but I always feel like I am risking a knee injury with lunges.

Tuesdays are for speed and that means either more structured intervals or a less structured fartlek run; I’ll decide when I put my feet on the treadmill. My bootie is a little sore today from the increased weights on the leg press machine and my squats and the run will either improve that soreness or kick it into high soreness, but that will be okay. It just means I am getting stronger.

I am feeling so very much better than I did last week. Mentally better, physically more energetic, and physically stronger.

The countdown is on. The last long training run is this weekend. Someone has already posted a suggested 12 mile route and it takes me out way into the West End, past St. Mary’s hospital. It is a little mind blowing just how far 12 miles looks on a map.

I say…bring it on.