Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tempo pace is not race pace

After last weekend's 5k, Sarah and I were talking about training in general.  One of the things that we were discussing was how training and racing are two components, and how tougher training sessions don't always result in bad results.  Moreover, she was telling about some of her teammates (who are on the local racing team) who push too hard in training.  They have killer workouts and push hard in the tempo runs, but then don't necessarily see the results in a race.  As Sarah said, "No one cares if you have an awesome workout if it doesn't show on the road."  A lot of this was to say, don't freak out with training runs - a few tougher ones won't wreck anything.
Legs are weird.  They take a lot of pounding - when we run, when we walk, standing giving lectures, all day, they are put through some sort of turmoil.  Yet, on the big days, they know what to do.
I always look back at races with some sort of shock and admiration for the legs.  There really is something to be said for muscle memory and fast-twitch fibers.  I don't know how legs learn what kind of paces are feasible.  Moreover, most of the time, my legs are able to pull out all of the stops on the days when it really counts.
I had a good workout on Tuesday.  My hamstrings still felt mighty sore, and while it felt like a lot of work, I hit the times I wanted.  2.5 mile warm up, 2000m cutdown (starting at 7:20 pace and getting faster with each lap), 2 lap easy jog, then 4 x 1200 (5:05, 5:04, 4:58, 4:53), 2.5 mile cool down = 10.5 miles  It was hard, and legs felt so heavy, but it was a great run.  It was about 70 out, and the promise of fall weather was approaching.  And, I was pretty pleased for the rest of the day - nothing like a double digit run with some fast laps to encourage me to push hard and get my work (in that case, grading a class set of papers) done.
I had to laugh then on Thursday, when all I had was a 4 mile run.  Legs were tired, tired, tired.  I've had  people say that those 4 miles should be a piece of cake - I could bang 'em out under half an hour.  But nope, legs said otherwise, and 8:35 pace it was.  Why would it really matter if I could get it done 5 minutes faster?
Today's run was a 9 mile run with 4 miles at 6:55 pace.  I haven't had a good tempo run since early August? Late July?  I was hoping that this would be a good return.  Since I moved, the Capital Crescent Trail, where I did a lot of tempo runs last year is a bit far.  Last Sunday on my long run, I discovered the Mount Vernon trail, which runs along the Potomac on the Virginia side.  I decided to try that for the tempo run.  The weather was gorgeous - slightly cold in sleeveless - but felt great.  Mile 1 - 6:56, mile 2 - 7:00 - a little slow, but I hoped I could pick things up on the way back.  Grabbed some gatorade (Pacers - the local running store had a fuel stop there!), and then kicked it up for the second half.  6:55 for mile 3 - back on track!  And the 4th mile, it was easy to convince myself to push, knowing it was going to be over in under 7 minutes.  6:41 - wahoo!
The tempo runs are so interesting when you think about them.  They are faster than an easy run, but they are not race pace.  And that is an important thing to remember.  6:55 pace is slower than 5k and 10k pace, but it is still a fast pace.  And the more I thought about it afterwards, it felt good.  I could take the freak-out option and feel nervous that in 3 weeks, I am running the Army Ten Miler and hoping to run faster than tempo pace for 10 miles, not 4.  Or, I could remember that tempo pace is not race pace.  It would be absolutely ridiculous to run close to race effort in training.  What would you do, try to PR on any given Saturday?  Insanity!  If you tried to run at race effort full-on before the race, you wouldn't be ready on race day.  Before Chris Solinsky ran 26:59 in the 10k, did he do that in practice?  No.  Did Ryan Hall run a sub one hour half marathon at home before the 2007 Houston Half?  No.  So why should I get so caught up in simulating race pace?
I won't.  Lesson learned.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Double Header Racing Weekend: Me and my mom

The backstory (come on - I'm a historian - there is always a backstory): Saturday was the Clarendon Day 5k and 10k - the 4th running it, and the 3rd time I've run it.  My first year (2010), I ran the 10k in 45:51.  It was a lot of fun and one of my first Pacers-affiliated events.  Last year, I ran the 5k in 20:23, which was a PR.  I came in as 7th woman, and just missed placing in my age group.  I returned this year to move up place wise and aim for another PR.  This summer in San Francisco, I PRed in 19:32.  I had lost some confidence when I returned to the East Coast, but regained it last week at the Navy 5 Miler.  This week, I worked on honing in and getting ready for this race.  Sarah had estimated roughly 19:20 for my finish time.
I had my boyfriend over for dinner the night before - something that is becoming a nice pre-race tradition.  Nothing like a good date to be relaxed.  And I managed to fall asleep so quickly - a good sign.  I even woke up two minutes before my alarm went off at 6AM this morning - an even better sign that I was ready to go.  Warm-up went well - I got to cover a good chunk of the course and enjoy some quiet before the hustle and bustle of the race.
I nestled into position - second row.  I craned around to see if I could find Sarah, who would normally be in the front, but couldn't see her.  Maybe she didn't show?  There was no time to get caught up in it, because then we were off!
This course has a huge net downhill, with the first 1.5 miles going downhill.  You have to just take it out hard in the beginning, with gravity on your side, and not be afraid when you see your mile splits come up in the beginning.  A ton of people surged around me, like bees, and I let them go.  Like most races, I would prefer to have people in front of me, and work throughout the race to catch them.  I went through the first mile in 6:02.  And I didn't freak out - I knew it was going to be fast.  It didn't feel like an all out sprint either, so I continued with a similar effort.  Wasn't really moving in on any women, but that was okay.  Mile 2 - 6:07.  Holy cow - if I can hold onto this, this will be a massive PR.  It was at this point that I started to work on passing women.  I had gotten through the turnaround and counted myself in 7th.  If I could just move up a few places, that would be great.  I caught one woman, and that gave me a little momentum to just keep working to move up.  And then another, and then another - I think.  Sometimes it all happens so fast.  Or not.  I looked at my watch at mile 3 - 6:45.  What?  I figured I would slow down a little, but since I was passing people, I didn't think it would be by that much.  As I looked down at my watch, trying to do math in my head (which is never a good thing to do while running), I started to wonder/worry if I was still going to hit my PR.  But, I didn't have much time to think, because then there was just that .1...
6:14 per mile pace
4th woman/612
46/1092 overall
1st in Age group
Wow!  Right on track with Sarah's prediction.  This was a great race.  I went all out, blew up a bit, but still managed to move up to the front.  I am sharpening up my speed and learning what it means to go all out.  I knocked over a minute off of my time from last year - showing what can be done in a year.  If there's anything that can give me confidence about improvement, it is running.  In my life, it has been the clearest way for me to track progress.  Work hard, and the times will speak for themselves.  
It is kind of crazy.  I broke 20 minutes for the first time in March, which was a goal I had had for a while.  After that, Sarah said that it would become a consistent thing.  My next 2 5ks, I did not do that.  However, the most recent 2, I have gone under 20 again.  The new normal?  The last 3 races, my place time have been first, third, and fourth overall.  Really?  This is beyond anything I could have ever conceived of as a runner.  I don't know exactly what lies ahead in my running future, but if things continue at this rate, it could be pretty sweet.
And in other running and racing news, yesterday was my mom's half marathon debut.  Last year, she had been training for the Rochester Half Marathon through August, when ITBS got to be so painful that she couldn't run again until March.  After rehab and easing back into the mileage, she trained all summer for this.  Training went well, and she got in all of her long runs in with no problems.  Her main goal yesterday was to finish, but I knew she was hoping to run maybe 2:20 or 2:15.  But she and her friend pushed really hard and ran...
Sue and my mom after the race
My mom and dad
I was so floored and excited when she called me.  That is an amazing time - I have friends my age who would be happy to run that kind of pace for a half marathon.  She was so happy and excited, and who wouldn't be?  So, clearly I inherited some endurance from her - and my dad too (a triathlete).
It was a great weekend of racing in the Medievalist household.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Like coming home

Still so pleased about Sunday.  But post-race celebrations have to end at some point.  You clean up the confetti, and go back to the drawing board.  Because there is always more work to be done.  There is always another race, another goal, another ___ to work on.  So Monday was back to normal.  And on Tuesday, I returned to the track for the first time since JUNE.  Over 3 months - the longest I've been off of the track since...early 2009? After my mile race in June, Sarah suggested time away from the track, to build up strength on the roads, and then eventually return to the track after a long hiatus.  And Tuesday was the day!  Time for the homecoming!
Now, if you live anywhere on the East Coast, you may recall that weather-wise, Tuesday was kind of insane.  20 mph winds, torrential downpours off and on - quite the setting for the return to the track.  This track, which is at my university, has hosted the majority of my track workouts since 2009.  It has hosted so many memories: mile repeats, 800s, cut downs, sprints, failed workouts, outstanding workouts, and everything in between.  And it felt so good to come back.  Even in the rain - especially in the rain.  If you've read my blog at all before, you know that I hate the heat.  I will take the rain, the rain that cools everything down, I will take that any day.  So, really, the weather had set up quite nicely for the big return.
All in all, this was not a record-setting or record-breaking workout.  I've done harder and longer iterations of it before:  2.5 mile warm up, 5 x 800 meters (w/ 1 lap jog in between), 2.5 mile cool down.    My times were 3:29, 3:24, 3:22, 3:18, 3:11.  The goal of the workout was to get the legs moving without being too taxing. Because...
I'm running another race on Saturday!  I am doing the Clarendon Day 5k - which I did last year, and the 10k there the year before.  Now that I know from Sunday's race that I still have a kick, I am much more excited about it.  It has a net downhill, and is a great PR course.  If I can go out in a 5 mile race and run the first mile in 6:18, I am sure I can take things out pretty hard in the 5k.  And, Sarah (my coach) is actually running this race too - the first time we've ever run the same race.  She'll be running at least a minute faster than I am, so I'll really be just watching her in the distance, but still good to be running the same race.  She has lead me through several time trials, and I've found that if I just do my best to hang on when it feels like we're playing a drawn out game of Crack the Whip, things go well.
And really, this is a race I've done for 2 years - time to come home again.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Beyond any expectations: 2012 Navy 5 Miler

Now that I have more of a traditional racing season, the first race is known as the "rust buster" - designed to shake off the rust and be the first time of testing out my fitness in a while.  The last couple of "rust buster" races I've had were in 2 distinct weather conditions:

  • Last fall, I ran the Arlington 9/11 5k - and it was in the 80s
  • Last February, my rust buster was the Love the Run You're With 5k - it was 20, snowed overnight, and 22 mph winds
This split the difference - 60, beautiful morning, no wind.  I was really excited about the weather - best weather we've had in DC since I got back.  And I had had a good day yesterday - my boyfriend and I hung out, and since the packet pickup was on the Air Force base in Anacostia, we hung out at the base (there is a beautiful park there across from Reagan Airport) for a bit.  There's nothing like a nice, quiet, relaxing day to get ready for a race.

This morning I did my warm-up to the race from my apartment (definitely a perk about my new apartment - exactly 2.5 miles away), and the weather felt nice and cool.  My warm-up always freaks me out - I know I'm running several minutes slower per mile than I ultimately will in a race.  But, I knew better than to get too wrapped up in it.  The start was at the Washington Monument, and I was able to hit the bathrooms twice (seriously? the body is a weird and amazing thing) and check my gear, and slowly inch my way to the start.  There were already a lot of people lined up, so I had to push my way to the front to get my spot.  And then, with the clang of the Navy bell, we were off!

I saw a few girls run up way in front of me, but I knew all too well that I could not get caught up in passing people in the beginning.  I felt great - for someone who hadn't gone under 7:00 pace for any run since mid August - amazing.  I went through the first mile in 6:18 - which was way too fast for a 5 mile race, so I dialed it back in.  The next couple of miles were in the 6:30s, I felt like I had locked into a good rhythm.  I love running on Haines Point - it is is flat and beautiful, and it is so easy to settle in.  It's also fairly quiet too.  While it can be great to have crowds to motivate you, it is also very nice to have the quiet as well to just focus. I looked down at my watch at 2.5 miles, and had run about 16:16.  Wow, if I can just hold onto this, I will be well under 33 minutes. I was just really surprised at how good I felt - I was blazing, but didn't have the sluggish feeling that had been a part of my runs lately. Ok, this is feeling good. At around the 3.5 mile mark, I started to pick up the pace.  I think at that point I was in either 7th or 8th.  I wasn't sure - it was hard to see who was up front.  But I passed 2 girls, and then saw that up ahead of me was another pack of 3.  I decided to wait a bit more before I picked up the pace again.  I told myself to just go for it during mile 4, I could really push - one more mile would be fine to shift into that final gear.  I then felt like I was winding up and could push, and I passed them decisively.  It felt great.  I was not going to turn my head at all to cheek, I was just going to keep going.  We headed back to the Mall, where people appeared, cheering and clapping.  I felt so good.  Someone even yelled, "there's only one woman in front of you!"  Really?  I couldn't even see any other girls.  Then, within 100 yards of the finish, this other girl blew by me, I could not react to her fast enough.  But I did not care, because on my watch read:
32:32 (6:30) pace, and I ran 6:10 for the last mile!  So beyond my A goal!
I was 3rd woman overall - the highest place finish I've ever had in a DC race.  I just had a big smile on my face - this was beyond anything I could have expected for the day.  And in some ways, that made it all the more special.  I totally know the feeling of gratification after months of hard work that demonstrated great potential.  But as of late, I haven't been able to see that, and so this was just a great delight.  I've already gotten some grief from my parents, who said they knew I was going to run fast.  But still - when you have week after week (after week - really, it's been like 6 weeks) of runs that are sub-optimal, why would you expect a good one after all of that?
They had an award ceremony after, and check out the trophy!  I've never gotten one that big before - pretty sweet.
What a great way to start the fall racing season.  Looking forward to the rest of the season (and to more fall weather!).

Friday, September 14, 2012

The view from here isn't too shabby

The Navy 5 miler is on Sunday - my rust buster for the fall season.  Haven't really done any speed work (nothing on the track since June), and so I am just looking at this as an early effort to see where my fitness is at. They finally put up the course map this morning, and I am excited, because a lot of it is running around Haines Point.  It is flat, only a couple of turns, and I have run a number of races out there.  The view is gorgeous (right by the mall and Tidal Basin), and you can really just settle in to a groove and go.  When it went up on the website, I got a wave of butterflies in my stomach.  Few things do that like an upcoming race.  I honestly don't know how it's going to go - I could really surprise myself, but it's not like I have a stack of recent workouts to take comfort in.  No matter what, I am confident I will PR, as the only other 5 miler I ran was in May 2010 (Aurora House 5 Miler in Spencerport) and ran 37:00.  If I had an "A" goal for this race, it would be sub 33 minutes, and I think my "B" goal is somewhere in the 33:xx zone.  Who knows!
I did have some good cross training this week.  I'm in the process of running 5 days a week and cross training 2, versus the old days of 4:3.  This is good, because not only do I love running more, but the cross training just takes more time to coordinate.  I biked 12.2 miles on the stationary on Monday in 50 minutes - one of the faster (and longer) rides I've had on the machine.  And on Thursday, I got in the pool for the first time since Santa Cruz and got in my 2000 yards in just under 43 minutes - at the high end of my average pace for that swim.  Felt so good to get in the water.  I'm grateful that I am able to retain a degree of fitness that even if I'm not doing that sport for a while, I can come back to it.  I often do this with my cross training: I either bike or swim.  But they come in phases - I'll get wrapped up with one usually for a couple of months, and then pick up the other one, etc.  I don't know if there is any benefit to rotating through biking and swimming, but I've been doing it for a couple of years now, so...if ain't broke, right?
School is going well.  I'm TAing for a medieval survey that I've done before and love, so I'm happy to get another go at that.  I'm also teaching a class at my university for the first time, which has been a great experience.  It's an upper level undergrad seminar, and I've learned a lot about how to keep a 2 hour class dynamic - it is a lot of work!  Makes a 50 minute freshmen discussion fly by in comparison!  Not to mention that I got slotted into a sweet office for the semester - they put me in a professor's office who is on sabbatical, and his office is awesome.  There's a table, a couple, a huge mac, and a view of the National Basilica, which is amazing.  The professor's regalia (doctoral graduation robes) are also hanging in the office, and it's a good reminder of what I'm working for - the PhD.  I've gotten a lot of good reading done this week for my dissertation proposal, and I'm hoping to get some good writing done as well.
So the view from here isn't too shabby.  Aiming for clear skies, cool runs, and good medieval thoughts!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

It hadn't been ingrained yet/Different kinds of seasons

I was at the gym yesterday at my university, which is where I do my cycling on a stationary and all of my strength training.  While the gym is open to graduate students as well as the undergrads, it's mainly the undergrads there.  Which means:

  • The guys are all wearing white wifebeaters and grunting through their workouts
  • The girls have t-shirts from every college event possible, from orientation to pub crawls
  • Their conversations are...interesting to say the least
But all teasing aside, they are there: at the gym during their college years.  They've carved out time between classes and activities and parties to get there.  And I have to applaud that.  I went to the gym a little bit when I was in college - mainly to do the elliptical and some lifting of 5 pound weights, but not with any regularity.  I'd have those little spurts where I'd go 3 times a week...and then 3 weeks later, that stopped.  And picked up again 2 months later.  Or on Friday afternoons, my friends and I would play tennis or basketball (I was a real contribution to the team if you can imagine) for 2 hours and call it good.  Watching the undergrads made me flash back to my Holy Cross days when I spent 10 hours a week singing, not running.  A different time...and it was just over 4 years ago.
Anyways, I was thinking about all of this, and I was remembering that there used to be a time when I didn't have a regular exercise routine.  But it wasn't engrained yet to stick with an exercise routine.  If I missed a day, or two, or maybe a week, I didn't blink twice.  That was the old me.
The new a bit more neurotic.  Or organized - depending on your point of view.
And the new me has 2 races coming up!  I am doing the Navy 5 miler next Sunday - first race in a couple of months, and then on the following Saturday, the Clarendon Day 5k (one of my favorite 5ks). Very excited - racing is my favorite part of the running game.
Speaking of...running has been just okay.  I had a good 10 mile run on Tuesday with 10 x 90 second fartleks thrown in.  And it was in the 80s, and the effort felt great.  Thursday's 8 miler was also good.  Then Saturday was supposed to be 11 miles...and it was 5.5.  Too hot - was not going to push it.  It's been weird - there are no injuries, but the heat has just slowed me down.  Other than when I had ITBS, this is the hardest batch of running I've had in a while.  Not tough as in hard workouts, but I've just hit a bit of a lull, and that is hard to admit.  I don't know what it is, and it is my hope that when the weather cools, my mojo will come back.  It is just a weird feeling.  Santa Cruz running was fabulous, and this has been less than stellar.
Thankfully, today I had a good long run.  13 miles was the task, and I knew that especially since yesterday's run was a disaster, I needed some sort of redemption for the weekend.  The starting temperature was 69 - almost 20 degrees cooler than yesterday's run.  I wasn't drenched within the first half mile or anxiously looking at my watch.  Maybe I'll actually have success with this one.   Kept going, and then when I reached the National Mall I realized that this was the spot of the Nation's Triathlon, which was cool for 2 reasons.  1) A lot of the major roads were closed off to cars - yay! 2) It is just a lot of fun to watch people race.  When you have so many places to run at your feet, you can really see a lot.  I ran around the Mall, to Arlington, around the Tidal Basin (Jefferson Memorial), Potomac Park, pretty much anywhere downtown.  And I felt relatively good running!  Nothing spectacular - I was clicking off 8:15s at a medium effort, but I was not wilting either.  Now I just need to get my speed back yet.  The longest race I'll be doing this fall is the Army 10 Miler (10/21), so it's not right now a question of conquering the distance, but of speed.  41 days to go.  I need to remind myself that I've been able to do this before - pull out all of the stops when necessary.  Running and training is not a straightforward process.  There are easy parts, harder parts, peaks and valleys.  Sarah sent me an e-mail with the following advice,
You've put in so much good work since the beginning of the year, so don't let making adjustments or easing back on things here or there make you worry.  It's all part of the natural flow of things and serves as a reminder that each season is different, so we can't compare a workout that we did last year to this year--too many factors are different!  Trust me, it's a mantra I repeat to myself :)
I'll be holding onto that mantra for a while.