Saturday, March 30, 2013

Lots of Races and a Coach!

In July, I've committed to working with elite marathoner and 61-time marathon winner Justin Gillette for 4-6 months.   I feel like I've plateaued in terms of speed, and I want a fresh perspective.  It helps that he seems like a really nice and funny guy.   He's going to help me lower my half marathon and marathon times.  Without Justin, I think I could break 2:05 in a half finally, but not 2 hours.  With Justin, breaking two hours seems a little more possible.  Without Justin, I think I could break 4:35 in a marathon (PR is 4:36), but with Justin, maybe I could break 4:25 or even 4:20.    (You can hire him, too!  Go to )

Between now and July 1, I want to have as much fun as possible running!!  I want to try some new things.  I want to do what I want to do, run as fast as I want to run, and run as far as I want to run.   Then it will be Justin's turn to tell me what to do.  And I'll do it. 

I have a half marathon in two weeks as sort of a fitness test and then a trail marathon at the end of the April.  I won't be tapering for the half--there's no time!  I literally just decided to do this trail full and only have a month to train.  I'd been planning on doing one in 2013 and there's no time like the present!   LBL was supposed to be my first trail full marathon, but I just didn't get the chance to train for it with my ankle sprain. 

I ran 17 miles today and it went EXTREMELY well (10:47 pace and last mile was 10:11--fastest of the day!).   My longest distance since November had been the 14 miler at LBL, and as you may know, I fell apart and hiked a bunch of that instead of running.   My longs have been 10, 14, 12, 12.5, and 17.   I was surprised that 17 went as well as it did.  I hit 13.1 at 2:20 and felt great.   I only walked a couple of the ridiculous hills at our Greenway, but never got so tired I felt like I even wanted to walk.  It was one of the best long runs I've ever had. 

I'm a believer in 3-hour training runs being sufficient for a marathon.  (Today's was 3:03.)   I've read many articles from Marathon Nation and the Hanson-Brooks project that espouse this plan.  Apparently, the training adaptations needed from the stimulus of a long run occur around the three-hour mark.  For slow runners like me, that is only 16-17 miles.  Putting my body through a longer run puts more stress and strain on it and takes too long to recover.  Sure, if your relaxed long-run pace is a 9:00 minute mile, you can run 20 miles in 3 hours.  Mine's certainly not!  In Europe, a longest run of 30K or 18.6 miles is the norm.  The U.S. is the main place where we worship at the altar of the 20-miler.   A couple of years ago, I declared that I was done with long, slow 20-milers that take me 3:45-4 hours and leave me sore and starving for days.   And since then, I've PR'd two marathons on no 20-milers!    For me, the key is getting in plenty of weekly mileage (several 30+ mile weeks), doing two or three 16's and maybe one 18 miler (I figure 3:10 or 15 isn't too harmful).    I also throw in a little back-to-back mileage running 3-6 on Friday before or Sunday after the long run.   It works for me (fairly well).  Ha--obviously not well enough.  It will be neat to see my coach's philosophy on 20-milers.

After the trail full, I'm scheduled to do a half marathon on some lovely country roads called the Viola Valley Half Marathon in mid-May.   It's just to get in one more long training run for the ultramarathon Run Under the Stars in June.   I've got to keep up with some long mileage.  I want to do well at RUTS.  I've set the goal of 60K.  I have 10 hours.   That's averaging a 16-minute mile (but that time includes all bathroom breaks, food, shoe/sock changes, etc.--stuff you don't have to worry about in a marathon).   My goal that night is to just OUTLAST.  I want to go until the clock runs out if my feet can possibly carry me that long.  

My RUTS training strategy is to do back-to-back long runs and keep my mileage up over 30-mpw.  I need to train both walking muscles and running muscles.   After the trail marathon, I will be alternating high mileage weeks with easy weeks.  I plan to taper for two weeks prior (and I'll be on vacation in Florida one of those weeks!).

After RUTS, I may do one or two last "crazy" events.  The Run It Fast Club is possibly planning on a series of marathons in late June.  I may try to do one or at least crew/volunteer.   Then the Loonies Midnight Marathon is in July.   It sounds like a lot of fun.  It falls after I've started training with Justin, but I'm sure we can work around it. 

Happy Running!!! 

Friday, March 15, 2013

13 Weeks to Ultramarathon

Since I have an ultramarathon in 13 weeks, it is perhaps time to GET SERIOUS about training.   It is not a traditional ultra---it is Run Under the Stars 10-hour Endurance Event in Paducah, KY.   We will run around a 1/2 mile horse track for 10 hours--starting at 8:00 p.m. and ending at 6:00 a.m.   Sounds fun, right? 

Last year, I had a rough go of it.   I suffered from both boredom and blisters early on.   Every step was painful mentally and physically after mile 7.   My feet swelled due to the heat, my sodium intake, and the fact that the race began at 8:00 p.m. (and feet are naturally larger in the evening).   My normal running shoe size (which had fit just fine for 26.2 with just one blister!) no longer fit.  Finally, around mile 13, I borrowed a man's shoes several sizes too large, and running awkwardly in them at least dulled the pain for a while.   I felt and looked ridiculous in my giant man-shoes, so that kept me somewhat occupied.  Honestly, up to and after 26.2 wasn't too bad.  My knee started hurting around 30, but I was so close to 50K that I continued.   When I got to 31.5 miles, I stopped.   There was still time left in the event, but I had met my goal.

This year, my goal is to keep going until

A.  I simply can't go any longer in flip flops if necessary OR
B.  Time runs completely out on the clock. 

I hope to watch the sun set on the course and the sun rise on the course.  

I think I have the boredom situation covered.  I've made many new ultramarathoning friends over the past year who will be running RUTS.  I will be cheering them on and chatting with some of the more "normal" ones who jog or walk some of the miles like me. 

The shoe/blister situation is a work in progress.   At a summer night race, your feet are going to swell.  I have started buying shoes another 1/2 size larger since those awful blisters caused the loss of four or five toenails.  My street shoes are a ladies' 9, but I'm rocking a 10.5 in running shoes!  One-and-a-half sizes up is actually quite comfortable.  I should have gone up sooner!  I may take an old pair of my 12-year old's shoes to have as a back up.   He has outgrown me by a couple of sizes already.   His worn out, stretched out New Balance $50 shoes are still better than finishing in flip flops. 

I'm trying to get a handle on the training situation.  Last year, I was well-trained for a 26.2 that was 6 weeks from RUTS.  This year, I don't have a definite full marathon on my schedule in April or May.   I refuse to do the Country Music Marathon again and pay their ridiculous price.    I'm considering the Flying Pig in Cincinnati, but that involves a hotel stay and travel expenses PLUS the race fee.   I could technically do a 26-mile training run on my own for free, but  I'm not sure I have the gumption to run 26.2 on my own.   I will probably just put in a couple of 20 milers with maybe a 6 or 8 the next day. 

There is nothing like a BAD race (LBL trail race last weekend) to motivate you to get into gear!   I feel extremely motivated and not the least bit burned out.  

That's a good way to start 13 weeks of ultramarathon preparation, don't you think?  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Three Weeks of Races

I completed my 3rd race in three weeks yesterday.   That was definitely a first. 

Race one:  On February 23, I "got back on the horse that threw me" and ran the Race Judicata 10K in Percy Warner Park.  It is the toughest 10K course in the state of Tennessee.  My goals were to not resprain my ankle, to run hard and not walk any of the GIGANTIC hills, and to come in around a 10-minute mile.  I texted my friend Michelle, "10-minute miles or bust" the day before.   It was tough, but I met my goal!  I'm fairly certain my heartrate was at 110% of my max heart rate as I fought my way up a hill that was close to a mile long and later a shorter, incredibly steep one.  But determination won out.  I finished the race at a 9:55 pace.  Unfortunately, the course was short, so it was only 5.75.  I continued running after the finish until I was at 6.2, lowering my average to 9:53.  Yay!  For such a hilly course, that was a win.   I definitely had flashbacks to the Flying Monkey Marathon (I walked up the two terrible hills that I ran today).   On the downhills similar to the ones where I fell, I was very paranoid and couldn't just let go and let gravity do the work.  I think I will have to relearn how to run down hills or just overcome that fear of falling. 

Race two:  I participated in a little 5K race in my hometown called ReLove Haiti.  I planned to use it as a fitness test.   Race morning was snowy, with large, fat, wet flakes that just melted on the road.  It was about 33 degrees and very windy.   It snowed the entire race, which I loved.  I ran it hard.  I stayed with my friend Tim until about 2.5, then pulled ahead (that rarely happens to me!).  I finished 3.07 in 27:20, about 21 seconds off a PR.  I realized the Garmin wasn't quite at 3.1, so I continued (once again!) until 3.1, which was about 27:32 or so.  (I accidentally went to 3.13, so I'm estimating.)   I averaged about an 8:52 pace, which I can live with.  I was happy to be relatively close to my pre-injury running pace.  I ran a 5K in September in 27:11 I think.   I'd like to run one at an 8-8:30 pace later this year.   However, I came out with an age group 3rd place for ages 35-44.  I'll take it!

Finally, race three was yesterday:  Land Between the Lakes trail 23K.   I actually enjoyed this one more as a social event than a race.  I had about six Facebook friends coming to the race with whom I've talked running for a while, but whom I'd never met.  I'm a member of a page called Run365 as well as the Run It Fast Club (no idea why they let me in!).    Both have members all over the U.S.  Some are elite runners, most are regular runners like me.  It's a great running network.   I had dinner plans with 6 strangers the night before the race.  We managed to find one another at the restaurant based on Facebook pics, and I really enjoyed chatting with them.  We found common ground even outside of running.  They were just easy to talk to and be with.   I got to meet one of the runners from the club who is a bit of a "running hero" to me.  I'd been following his running escapades on Facebook, so it was nice to finally talk in person. 

Social networking aside, the race was kind of AWFUL.  My goal was to beat last year's 2:50 finish time (11:52 pace) even though I had only a four-mile longest run on trails and a 10-mile longest road run.  Last year, I was in the heart of marathon training with a couple of 14-mile and 16-mile long runs under my belt.  BIG DIFFERENCE. 

I got up at 4:42 a.m. after little sleep to have breakfast at my hotel.   Unfortunately, they ran out of coffee!   I had about 1/2 cup of caffeinated and the rest was decaf.  I'm accustomed to 2 cups of caffeine at least on race day.   Not a great start to the day.  I drove 5 minutes to the start and immediately got in the port of potty line.   Then I wandered around trying to find our Run It Fast group picture.  I needed to get back in the port o john line though, but by then they were extremely long.  I figured I could make it to an aid station.  Our group met up and took a pre-race pic, and it was time to start at 6:30 a.m.   There was about a 1.5 mile run on the road to the trail that was fine, but I noticed I felt less energy than usual.  Then we turned onto the single track trail.   The first mile on the trail was really crowded and a couple of people started to walk, so we all had to walk.  It was very stop and go, like being in rush-hour traffic.   I was getting frustrated.  We finally settled in at about a 10:30 pace.  I was (perhaps stupidly) pushing to run about 10:15-10:45 in those early miles.  But it felt HARD.  That should have tipped me off!  I generally know what kind of day I'm having in a race by mile 4.  By mile 4 or 5, I thought I might not be having a great day.  My legs felt heavier than normal, and though warmed up, I still felt low in energy.

I was running along with a fully bladder hoping for an aid station with a restroom.   I didn't see one at the mile 4 aid station, so I kept moving along.  I was gelling about every 3.5 miles in hopes of finding that missing energy.   I tripped for the first time in about the 3rd mile.  I didn't fall, but it was unsettling.  I tripped on a root again a few minutes later.   Then in mile 6, the one thing I didn't want to happen happened--I rolled my left ankle--the one that had just healed.   That familiar burning pain came immediately back and stayed with me for the rest of the race.  I think that was when I lost the MENTAL GAME.   I felt scared that I had reinjured it and knew I had 8 miles to go on it--similar to when I sprained it in the marathon at mile 10 and had to run 15 more miles.   It hurt, but was manageable, so I was sure it wasn't as bad as the first time.  

I finally got to mile 8, where there was a lone restroom and about 7 people in line.  My bladder was hurting by now.  However, I thought I might be on track for a PR still at that point, so I couldn't afford the time.  Instead, I saw a road that went alongside the trail.  I went down that road a few yards (passing two gentlemen who had just done what I was about to do) and tried to find a discreet place.   I hiked through some brush and found the fattest tree I could.  I tried to hide behind it and finally relieved my bladder.  The funny thing is that I could SEE the runners on the trail, so that means they could also see ME if they chose to turn and look.   But none of them looked (that I know of).  In these situations, you just do what you've got to do!   I felt better.  

Shortly after my pit stop, the trail turned much more difficult.   I remembered these hills from last year, when I really didn't think they were that bad.   I was apparently on crack when I ran it last year.  They were TOUGH.   Between 8 and 11, I began to fall apart.  By mile 10, I had lost the mental game and was walking all the hills.  I was just plain over it.  By mile 11, I had lost the physical game-- my legs had just left me.  I hit THE WALL.   I simply had no energy, and no amount of caffeinated gels seemed to help.  My muscles were tight and began to cramp, especially my glutes and calves.  I generally don't cramp up in a race, but I did in this one.  I tripped HARD on a rock in mile 11, went airborne briefly, and landed awkwardly on my right leg.  I wrenched my back a bit in the landing and everything just tensed up.  After that, basically everything from my lower back to my feet hurt.   I was running some/hiking some.   I just wanted to be finish.

The worst part--- in the last mile, I could see a RACE WALKER ahead of me.  AHEAD.   And he was approximately 75 years old.   Awesome.

I finally finished  17 minutes off last year's time.    But I made it.  I had a shower and a brief nap and went back to watch the marathon, 60K, and 50 mile finishers.   It was really inspiring and made me want to come back and redeem this race next year.   I should probably train for it next time.  

Still, I enjoyed my mini-vacation to Kentucky Lake.  I watched the sun set the night before the race sitting alone on a jetty over the water.  It was amazingly peaceful.  I enjoyed my solo hotel stay and just a break from grading papers, walking the dog, cooking, cleaning up after 3 kids, and just life in general.  I made six new friends, and I spent a few hours enjoying a beautiful trail with some incredible views of the lake.   I was inspired by the determination of the ultramarathon finishers, especially the ones who completed the 50 miler in better shape than I was after 14.  I don't know how they managed to sprint that last 1/4 mile. 

Today, mainly my right foot hurts.  The ankle feels ok, which is a relief.   I'll live to run another day.