Friday, March 7, 2014

Snake River Canyon Race - 2014

Well, to start with - What a race!

The Snake River Canyon half-marathon takes place along a desolate stretch of road that winds around the steep, rocky hillsides of the Snake River. It is a simple "out and back", with little to look at other than grey-brown hillsides and a flat, wide, grey-brown section of river. The location is twenty minutes outside of Pullman, Washington, which is already in a rolling rural area of the state. The weather is typically much warmer than the surrounding area due to the microclimate along the river canyon. That is a "plus" for a race in March. The flipside is that the race is often windy, and some years people have reported gusty headwinds - in BOTH directions! Despite this the race is sort-of a rite of spring for many runners in our area. I like it because a lot of friendly and fast people show up, and the timing means you can't just slack off through January or February if you want to do well.

I ran Snake River in 2011 while I was training for Ironman Coeur d'Alene. That year I was in fantastic shape, and the conditions for the race were ideal. I finished in about 1:38, which was one of my fastest half-marathons ever. I even placed third in my age group.

This year I was very, very nervous about this race. It feels like it has been forever since I ran Missoula nearly 8 months ago, and despite all my training I really didn't know what race day would bring. Coupled with remembering my glorious 2011 experience, and the threat of wind, snow, ice and frigid temperatures in the forecast, I felt more nervous for this race than anything in recent memory. It may have even cost me a few minutes of sleep last week!

My "ultimate goal" for this race was to run a 1:45, which would mean running 8 minute/mile pace for the whole thing. My long runs lately have been very hilly and with a lot of tempo work, but still rarely approaching that pace. PLUS I missed two weeks of long runs for our trip to Colorado, so I was especially unsure about my fitness level.

At the start of the race I tried to run cautiously, but quickly found myself settled into a 7:40ish pace. This was much to the dismay of my dear friend Brenda, who was under the impression I would be a bit slower! But once I had my legs moving it felt GOOD! And even after a few miles I really felt like it would be ok to stick to that sub-8 pace. Around mile three the wind really started to kick up - and then something amazing happened: I found myself in a drafting group! There were four or five of us running in a straight line, breaking the wind for the person behind us. It was surreal to run that close to a bunch of folks you don't know, and to all work with each other to take turns at the front. There were virtually no words spoken, but it just happened and it was great. The twist, however, was that staying in the draft group meant I was staying that somewhat obnoxious pace of 7:40ish... but made a conscious decision to stick with them until the turn-around at mile 6.5 when we would (hopefully) lose the wind. I figured it was worth it even if I needed to slow down for the second half. It turned out to be a great decision. When we hit the turn around it was eerie to suddenly be without the headwind, and it felt like the temperature went up by 20 degrees. I quickly felt warm and after another mile removed my heavy outer layer. Then I just kept moving - thinking I was going a bit too fast, but feeling mostly great. It was very odd. And so by about mile 8 or 9 I began to accept that maybe - just maybe - this pace was what I was supposed to run! I started to enjoy myself, stretch my legs, and get into my head in a good way. The next thing I knew my pace was dropping... all the way down to 7:28 at mile 10 and 7:30 at mile 11. By mile 12 I felt a little bit of a tweak here or there, but I knew I was going to finish waaaaaaay under my goal. I glided through the last mile at an easy 7:45ish pace to finish in 1:40:23. WOW!! I was totally amazed. And I only became more amazed the more I thought about it. I had a great race! I ran even splits! I didn't feel sick or sore or anything! And more than anything, I didn't really even feel like I was pushing that hard - I felt pretty darn comfortable.

So, needless to say, WHAT A GREAT RACE! And, maybe, just maybe - I'M BACK!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Running, Running, Running

My first race of 2014 is coming up this Saturday: The Snake River Canyon Half Marathon. As usual, I have given myself three progressive goals for the race, starting with the mandatory "C" goal: Just Finish.

C Goal: Finish, alive, preferably with all limbs intact.

B Goal: Run 1:49:XX or under - this would be close to my time at the Missoula half in July 2013, and I'd hate to have "gone backwards" after 6 months of pretty solid training.

A Goal: Run 1:45:00 or under - because this would mean I'm headed in the right direction!

Training has been going really well. Over the past few months I've rediscovered how important running is to me, and how important having a real training schedule is to running well. Through December I averaged 25 - 30 miles/week, usually on 4 or 5 runs, and for January and February I've been trying to keep my weekly average between 30 - 35 miles. I spent a week at the end of January at a conference where I was very active, but not running. I came back from that feeling a little nervous about the looming race. Last week I ran 35 miles, including a mid-week 8 with tempo and speedwork, and a slow 12-miles in a blizzard on Sunday.

So what's it worth? Well, we will find out on Saturday!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Burke Gilman Trail

Training is going well, and this past weekend I had a chance to do a longer run on the Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle. It was early Sunday morning, Seattle grey and wet, and despite being in a city of one million people I had the place nearly to myself...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Training Log for the week of October 14th

Training Log for the week of October 14th:

Monday: Ran 30 minutes of hills. Felt tired, maybe in part due to the bad air quality. Had planned to run 5 miles but cut it short.

Tuesday: Skipped my early morning strength training, but had a moderately demanding riding session in the afternoon.

Wednesday: Ran 5 easy miles before dawn.

Thursday: Ran 6 miles in 48 minutes. I would never have run this fast on my own but I was out with a very fast friend. We ran the first three miles fast and I spent the last three slowing her down.

Friday: Planned to not run but lift weights. Skipped the weights, being lazy. But at least I was not sore from my Thursday hard effort.

Saturday: 5 miles, mostly 8:15 pace on easy terrain. Total time 42:30ish.

Sunday: 8.3 miles 1:09ish. Ran to the grocery store to meet up with the family. I was keeping my pace up on purpose but not pushing too hard, and it felt like a mild to moderate effort. Also, this was my first run in months that required a water bottle and GU... like a "real" long run! Wahoo!

Weekly Run Total: 27ish miles, Approximately 3hr 45 min.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Shifting Gears, Revving the Engine

The past few weeks I've been feeling healthy and happy when it comes to running. Many times I've headed out for a simple 5-miler only to decide I was having enough fun to stay out longer- usually for 60 minutes or so. I'm feeling motivated, and even more importantly, I'm feeling very committed to taking my training the next step. So starting this week I am writing myself an actual training plan. This plan will take me from my current 20-25 mile weeks up to running consistently 30+ miles/week. This will partly come from starting to gradually lengthen one weekly run into a "long run" close to 2 hours. Just as significantly I'll start doing planned tempo work rather than just an occasional randomly faster effort.  My goal is to make it through the winter and arrive at spring ready for some medium distance racing.  My first goal: Run sub 1:45 at the Snake River Canyon Half Marathon in March.  And, dare I say it, my big goal in 2014 is to run sub 1:40 at any half- either Snake River or Missoula, most likely. It feels like a good challenge. 

First step: Get to sleep right now so I can run in the AM! Stay tuned for much more... 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cross Country Series

Last weekend I ran the first in a series of races that constitute the Bloomsday Road Runners Club Cross Country Race Series. The first race takes place at Finch Arboretum in West Spokane. It's funny how these yearly races give you a barometer to gauge your fitness from year to year. I remember running well at Finch at few years ago... and two years ago running slowly as I was still recovering from our big trip to India. And last year I missed the race because I thought it was a week later! This year I ran ok. I was definitely not "fast", although given the hills and the terrain I wasn't particularly slow either. I ran the race (approximately a 5k) in 24:45. It hurt!

Jim Hoppe took a lot of photos of the women's race and got a few of me. These actually aren't too bad. (Thanks Jim!) This weekend I'll be back out for the next 5k in the series. I love having these small affordable races to look forward to for much of the fall.

around the half-way point, I think

about to finish the race - I am laughing because my daughter was throwing a
small fit on the sideline because I'd just run past her instead of stopping to pick her up

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Starting to feel like the real thing!

As our summer grinds to a hot, dry close I am pleased to say that I have been staying on track in my training despite having to balance a lot on my figurative plate. I just finished teaching our accelerated summer quarter, which is the first official class I've taught since I took leave during the Spring. It was tricky to balance my work schedule with training, because on days that I didn't teach I was often the sole caregiver for our 23 month-old daughter. She will be starting daycare next month when I resume full-time teaching, and I'm hopeful that with some clever scheduling it will give me some added time to do high-quality stroller-free runs! The stroller is a great way to keep fit, and challenge a whole new set of muscles (oh, the hills, oh...) but it doesn't really lend itself to feeling fast or "in the zone". As I said to someone a few weeks ago, it will be hard for me to ever take another cool, quiet and fast early morning run for granted again!

For the last few weeks I've been consistently running either 4 or 5 days of the week and about 25 miles/week. I'm starting to work in some actual tempo training, and it feels like the idea of racing a half marathon in the spring is pretty reasonable. With my training back on track I've started keeping a log again on twitter... You can follow me at @jayeruns if you want daily reports on what I'm up to. Stay tuned!