Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Reindeer Run 5k: Vixen and Dasher

I came home to Rochester for Christmas Thursday night. 5 weeks into my higher mileage and happy to shift from the roads of DC to those of my hometown. Although instead of enjoying the bizarre warmth that DC was experiencing, it was a rainy weekend. But my dad and I were doing the Reindeer Run 5k - the largest 5k in Rochester, and ran on the inner loop (the freeway), which they closed part of it for the race. My mom was supposed to do it too, but she wasn't feeling well. Better to skip the rainy race, and so we had father/daughter time. Lots of old friends around too for the race. And this was all about having fun. I had a time goal of sub 21 minutes for 5k in mind, but it was more about having fun. They gave us reindeer antlers to run with, so 2,000 Rochesterians towed the line ready to take on the city on a rainy, reindeer day.
I was in a good mood. I had went out with my best friend and her sisters the night before (2 drinks, no worries), and was just happy to be home. But the start was so bottlenecked. Even though I was close to the front, it was just clogged with people really until for the first mile. I ran through mile 1 in 7:00. It felt slow, and I say that recognizing that that is fast for many. But, used to being able to come through a first mile at least 30-40 seconds faster, it felt slow. Ultimately, this became both a progression run, where I was just trying to speed up from there, and an obstacle course of trying to avoid the enormous puddles and getting soaked immediately. It was fun to run along the highway, donning reindeer antlers, and just enjoy the race. I felt comfortable picking things up, too. The way the course was shaped, there were a couple of times where you could see a section of other runners, so my dad actually saw me (and yelled out to me) twice while we were on different parts of the course. The finish was a bit confusing, as there was a clear mile 3 marker, but the way the course moved, you couldn't see the finish from there (there were a couple of turns before the end). So, finally meandering my way in, I came through the finish line in 20:18. 6:33 pace - not too shabby considering the pace of the first mile (and the 2 drins the night before) 5th woman, 2nd, in my age group, (out of 135) and 45/1667 overall. My dad ran 34:33 - not too shabby after getting over a cold! We were happy to go inside the Strong Museum of Play (sponsor of the race, and a museum we used to go to growing up) afterwards and warm up (even though we were soaking wet). This was my award - a trophy with a My Little Pony on it - one of the funniest awards I've ever seen. After a hot shower once we got home I had a bloody Mary and took a nap. Perfection.
Dasher (Dad) and Vixen (Vanessa)
Went back to the gym to run on the treadmill and get the day's total to 11 miles. Not too bad on the Saturday before Christmas.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Thanksgiving Tradition Continues and Grows: Race with Grace 10k 2013

Written the day after Thanksgiving...just got late in posting this
I have a very tiny memory of doing a Turkey Trot in 5th or 6th grade at my elementary school. I have no idea how far (my guess is a mile or so) it was or how well I did. That was about 1996 or 1997...and had no desire to trot again for well over a decade. In 2009, I did my first Race with Grace 10k, and a tradition began. My parents always came to watch me, and last year, my dad cheered both me and my mom on. This year, all 3 of us signed up - this would be my dad's longest race ever (he did a 5 mile race last spring). Last year, it was 40, sunny, pretty nice for Rochester in November.
This year, we had over 6 inches of snow on the ground already and it was 20 degrees with a windchill of 6. Chilly! At least the sun was out. It looked absolutely picturesque. We picked up my mom's running partner, Sue, who is absolutely hilarious, and had a full car of 10k runners. Pretty funny since 6 years ago it would’ve meant a morning of parade-watching and that was it. How things change.I
I had no huge goals for a few reasons:
My racing season is over
I’ve slowly started to up my mileage (50 miles per week). Last year, this was a failed experiment when I tried to consistently run 60-70 mpw for 2 months. This year, I am being more conservative.  So no point in taking out this race too hard. My best time on this course was last year in 40:22 – I didn’t foresee that being a reasonable goal.
It was so cold! This was not a day for PRs, no matter what. So, why not just go out and have fun, and celebrate my 5th consecutive time doing this.
Me and my parents before the race

Me and my mom after
I blew through the first mile way too fast in 6:20 – I was rather astounded that right now the legs could go that fast. A spectator said I was in 4th, and the next pink hat in front of me was way too far away from me. I was just happy with my position, happy to have a good pace going, and just happy to be out there. I ran through the first 5k in 20:05 – much faster than when I did the 10k a couple of weeks ago. At this part, I started to let up in terms of pace and totally okay with it. I was choosing to slow down, not because I was tired, but because I just preferred to maintain a comfortable pace – no need to be grueling. And while it was cold, I did have all black on and the sun was out.  I wasn’t freezing – the sun was glistening off of the snow banks that lined the sleepy town that was waking up. It was so quiet – there were few enough runners at this pace that it was just peaceful. I was in control, I was having fun, this was great. I finished in 41:30 – not a PR, not a season or course best, but just a good time. It turned out I was the 5th woman (was there a woman that that spectator did not see…or thought were men?), 2nd in my age group, good enough for a $10 gift certificate to a local restaurant, and 64/1068 overall. I did a short cool down to bring my day’s mileage to 8.4 miles, and headed back to the finish to watch my mom come in. I don’t often spectate, but it was fun to watch her and I was proud to see her finish in 57:02. Not a PR for her either, but still a solid time, and she still ran strong. We met up with her friend (who ran 54:xx), and then waited for my dad – it was like a Taylor relay of us coming in at staggered intervals. It hadn’t felt too cold until I realized how long I had been standing still after having finished – the gloves were back on, the jacket was zipped and hood up, but I was just frozen. We were happy to see my dad come in way ahead of his time goal of 1:15 – he ran 1:12:45 – pretty impressive for a late entry 10k debut! He had only really been training since late October for this race, and under cold conditions, did a great job. We milled around a little longer – a reunion with many people from my hometown, and then headed home, to get ready for the arrival of my brother and his girlfriend. We Taylors trotted well, and it was a fun way to kick off the Thanksgiving holiday – much to be thankful for.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Don't tread on me

I am a card-carrying anti-treadmillist. Anti-treadmillarian? Regardless, I'm not a fan. And this sums it up neatly for me:
Seriously, could time move slower? Needless to say, I don't jump at the opportunity to use one. This fall, I used one a few times to do speed work when I couldn't make it to the track, but at least the intervals made it go by a little faster. But just a long run on the treadmill? No thank you.
I had just finished gushing about my higher mileage, so excited to hit 57 miles for 2 consecutive 50+ mile weeks. And the snow that fell Sunday morning quickly turned to ice. And since I chose church over an early morning run, our little town in Northern Virginia looked like this:

Yep, Mr. Freeze got a hold of Vienna, VA and it was not pretty for the runner. Sure, cozy to look at while wearing sweatpants and sipping hot chocolate, but not an enticing one to spend a couple of hours in. I stepped outside, and within 3 steps, I realized that this was a no-go. I love running in the snow - I think it's a lot of fun. But ice? You can't beat the ice, and no one was out salting the roads. So, reluctantly I headed back in, and changed for the treadmill.
And since I forgot to mention, the schedule called for 14 miles. This was not going to be pretty. I hopped on, hit play on a podcast, and began to trudge on the treadmill at 7.7 mph. 10 minutes in, and this felt painful. Maybe I'll just do 3 miles...that's better than nothing. Then I hit 4 miles, then 5. 5 is good, you could just do that. More anguish about the idea of not completing the long run, mixed with dread of being on the treadmill for more than another hour. At one hour, I cranked it to 8 mph (7:30) pace. It wasn't until 10 miles in that I realized it was better to just hang on and finish this. My only saving grace were the podcasts keeping me company:
  • The Nerdist - a comedy podcast where they interview comedians and they are pretty hilarious
  • The Marathon Show - a weekly marathon talk show
I started to switch over from listening to music during runs about a month ago. Rather than hearing Katy Perry's "Roar" for the hundredth time, it's fun to hear something new and be in suspense as to what comes next. So, in addition to the two I listened to on Sunday, I also have to recommend:
  • Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me - NPR weekly news trivia show with Runner's World columnist Peter Sagal - I have been often known to laugh out loud during this...which I am sure looks strange
  • Marathon Talk - a weekly British marathon show with great interviews with elite athletes. Plus, British humor is always fun.
  • House of Run - 2 runners who ran in high school who shoot the breeze on hot running topics
  • Runner Academy with Matt Johnson - good tips and interviews with elite athletes.
  • Anything you want to add or recommend?
So, the Nerdist interview with Tina Fey carried me through the first hour, and then The Marathon Show got me through the rest. That e-card is right, time moves the slowest on the treadmill. I finally finished my 14 in 1:47, averaging 7:38 pace. That's the fastest long run I've ever done on a treadmill. A couple years ago, while getting ready for Boston 2011, I did 19 miles at 8:18 pace. I think if I had to stay on for 5 more miles, I may have gone crazy on Sunday, but I think I could've kept it to under 8 minute pace. I hope I won't have to do that for a while!
But I finished and laid on the floor in our apartment for a while - this knocked me out in a different way than a typical long run. There was a lot more mental exhaustion this time. But I got in my 14, and hit my 57 miles for the week, and now am rewarded with an easy week. We're getting a lot of snow/cold weather for the DC area, so it is possible that if the ice stays, there may be more treadmill runs. But hopefully none so long! 

Of course, this was the daily Runner's World quote of the day the following day by Emil Zatopke: If one can stick to the training throughout the many long years, then will power is no longer a problem. It's raining? That doesn't matter. I am tired? That's besides the point. It's simply that I just have to.

And that's why I couldn't get off the treadmill.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Lost in the miles

Last week, I ran 59 miles, this week I'm going to be running 57. This is the highest mileage I've run in a year. I am really loving my long runs. I've had a longest run of 14 each Sunday, and then a couple of other double digit runs scattered throughout the week. And they've given me just the tiniest bit of thirst for longer distance. I actually ran 15.5 miles - the longest I've ran in over 2 years. I finished it in just under 2 hours, so under 7:30 pace for over half a marathon. I'm not chomping at the bit yet - there isn't a marathon on the horizon. But I've just appreciated how much I've enjoyed that transformation that takes place when you do spend more than an hour on a run.
On pre-dawn runs, when it is pitch black, it is very quiet and still. I'll wake up at 5 (and I know some of you out there get up even earlier - but I have my limits) and there's a lot of hesitation. Did I really need to get up this early? How cold is it? How stiff am I? Oh good grief, just get out there and get moving. I've been carrying a small flashlight to light the way, and occasionally on the trail, I'm greeted by another beacon of light. When it's another runner, the light bobs up and down. When it's a cyclist, it is steady. And for those few seconds, it is the sign of another person out there getting in a workout before the start of a day. But then they would continue in the opposite direction donning neon clothing. Running by houses, I'll see some of the lights on - an early bird rising, but a lot of dark houses too. A bunny hops across the trail, a deer scampers quickly, clearly not expecting company. And it's just me and my thoughts, enjoying the quiet. Plus, as the holiday season is upon us, there are these fun surprises to stumble upon.
Merry Christmas in Vienna (Virginia)
But on the way back, after 8 or so miles, and it's still not even 7AM, the first hints of a sunrise emerge, the sky beginning to pink up. And in the course of that kind of run, you realize the transformation that takes place. We've moved from night to day, and the whole world is waking up. I went from doubtful to exhilarated. I had my first victory for the day, and was ready to fight the other battles of the day.
And there are other transformations too. On my long runs, I've been running on the W&OD trail, which moves from town to town: Vienna, Reston, Herndon, etc. That really shows the distance - traveling from place to place, not just running around a town, but legitimately changing towns. And just feeling comfortable being out there for 2 hours - that's a cool feeling, to know I can comfortably hang out there on the road and not be too trashed/exhausted after.
There are no speed workouts, so the pace of all of these runs are flexible. But other than being perhaps tired from a longer run, there is no soreness that I would feel that day after a track workout or tempo run. So, my legs are actually feeling pretty fresh.
There's no pressure. Yes, I'm following a schedule. But there are no races scheduled yet - I'll do one Reindeer Race, but nothing is even thought of for 2014. And so it is really more just for the fun of it right now. The miles are piling up (as are the desserts!) and I'm just enjoying running in its simplest state. And as Henry David Thoreau said, "Simplify, simplify, simplify!"