Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Just an Update

I had a pretty good spring of running, until I was hit with a my first major running injury. Yes, after years of being equal parts proud and thankful that I had never had any major injuries - something I attribute to being very cautious in my training -  I really blew it. After a spring of over-indulging in ice cream (and beer... and chocolate? And pretty much everything...) I found myself carrying a little more mass than ideal, which I know (Really! I KNOW!) puts anyone at higher risk of an injury. Then, a few days before memorial day weekend, I put myself right in the eye of the "perfect storm" of risk factors. On one day I was pushing our daughter in the jogging stroller up and down hills in the afternoon heat, and the next day I was on my feet in my normal high heels all day... and then despite waking up with tired legs, I still went out for an intense (planned) 8-mile tempo run. BAD MOVE. I was thirty-five minutes into the run when I pulled (tore? ruptured? completely imploded?) my right hamstring. It was terrible. I came to screeching halt, and had to hobble my way home.

To make things worse, I have no experience being injured and was totally na├»ve to how bad the situation was... in fact if you look at my last post I said I "strained a muscle deep in my thigh"... I was in complete denial. So I did little to take care of it, and basically did everything wrong to make it worse. Really. To start with, an hour after the injury I was back in high heels (yes, I'm an idiot) and, to make things worse, I was so off-balance that later that morning I rolled my ankle severely, making my hobbled state even more pathetic. And then (*here we go... what ESLE could she possibly do?*) I ran on the leg the next day.

Yes, I did that. And I am deeply, deeply sorry to the running gods for this display of stupidity. Really.

It took me a few days to come to terms with my own stupidity, and my body's totally reasonable response to what I was doing. But goodness knows I probably lengthened my recovery time substantially by not just getting myself to a physical therapist immediately.

And so, the rest of May and June were all about just healing and getting myself well again. BUT, there was a caveat. July would bring with it my annual trip to the Missoula Half-Marathon, which I have never missed since its inception in 2007. And common sense be damned, I was not about to let a standard running injury break my streak, given that I have run that race in all sorts of conditions, including with the flu in 2012. So, my goal was to finish  that race. I didn't care if I had to walk the whole thing (a very real possibility), I was going to do it.

I did scale my mileage way back, but I made it my goal to keep some long runs on the weekends after a few weeks of doing nothing more than 4 - 5 miles. I had a couple of weeks that were just terrible, but by the end of June I mostly felt ok. NOT GREAT, but ok. I was also running very slow - partly on purpose, but partly because it was really all I could do. And so, two weeks ago on July 13th, I "ran" the Missoula Half-marathon for the 8th year in a row. And I actually ran the whole thing. I was very cautious with my pace, telling folks that it would be nice to finish under 2 hours, but going any faster than that would mean I was being (frankly) stupid. My finish time was 1:56, and I felt virtually no discomfort until the very last mile. As far as I was concerned, this was a major accomplishment.

Still, let's hope next year's Missoula training goes a bit more smoothly!

I have taken the last two weeks easy because I know that even though the race felt ok, it was asking my hamstring to do a lot. Now I have to tackle the issue of what to do next. I already have a half-marathon on my schedule for next January (plenty of time to heal!) but I would just LOVE to do an actual marathon this fall. But looking at the calendar it is obvious I would need to do a very late marathon... November or December, to give myself plenty of time to train cautiously. And my goal would be to finish. No concern about time or PR or Boston Qualifying... just to finish.

So stay tuned to see what happens next.... because something always does happen!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Aiming for... Something?

After the great run I had at the Snake River Canyon Half Marathon, I took it relatively easy for a few weeks. The timing was ideal as we finished up an academic quarter at work and then took the whole family down to visit my 96 year old grandmother in Arizona. It was tough to get back on the bandwagon, but with the Missoula Half Marathon looming in July I knew it had to be done. My goal is and was to run sub 1:40 at Missoula. I have done that twice before, including my beloved 13.1 PR of 1:35:42 in 2008.

But something happened as I started to train back up in April; the fall marathon calendars kept popping into my head. Now I am not sure if I'm ready to run another marathon, mostly because the time commitment required for my long runs is tricky with the combination of my and my husband's work schedule and the new responsibilities of being a parent. I had pretty much written it off entirely for 2014... But those darn race-listing websites just keep me coming back! I theorize over timing, goals, training schedules, etc... And I still feel a little lost. Several races have "caught my eye" for different reasons, but none seem to have the perfect combination of timing and motivation. So as it stands I seem to be training - a little ferociously - for races unknown. And that, of course, is dangerous. I am pushing my body hard, and my body is trying to solve the riddle of what to do in response. Some workouts are wonderful. Others feel hard, but I surprise myself. And this week I strained a muscle deep in my thigh after a perfect storm of stupid training decisions. No one to blame but myself.

So who knows that the next few months will hold. For sure - the Missoula Half - but beyond that.. It's anyone's guess! Stay tuned!

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...