“At first an ordeal and then an accomplishment, the daily run becomes a staple, like bread, or wine, a fine marriage, or air. It is also a free pass to friendship.”
~ Benjamin Cheever, Strides

Friday, May 31, 2013

Reality Check

Every time you train for something challenging, you have those workouts that hit you sort of like a slap in the face.  The workout that lets you know you have a lot of training ahead of you.  No???  Maybe that's just me then.

For my Rainier Climb this August, Wednesday was one of those slap-in-the-face kind of workouts.  It's funny.  I kept talking about this workout in terms that I indicated that I knew how tough it would feel..."I'm going to torture myself at the dam on Wednesday," "ready for my torture session," "maybe I'll be able to run the next day," etc.  Nonetheless, I don't think I really thought it would actually be torturous.  I thought it would be tough, but not really any tougher than my long runs or my long hikes with weight.  Sometimes I am stuck on stupid.

That morning, I made a fatal karmic mistake.  At 4:45 am, my husband woke me up as he rolled right off the side of the bed in a bundle of sheets while still sound asleep..  I laughed.  BEFORE I asked if he was okay.  After I knew he was okay, I kept giggling.  I had trouble going back to sleep for that extra 15 minutes because I just kept giggling.
Who's laughing NOW Mommy?
My plan was relatively simple, drive over to the Alum Creek Dam to be there right around sunrise, walk up the steps/hill, and run a warm-up mile and a half or so along the top of the dam.  Then run the hill next to the steps up the dam 10x, jogging down the steps as a recovery after each uphill run.  Afterwards, I would run another 1.5 miles along the top of the dam as a cool down.

Maybe it was the karmic laughter, but my stomach was rebelling a bit that morning.  It was also already soupy and humid out, so my asthma was rebelling as well.  Plus, the flocks of VULTURES hanging out all over the parking lot next to the damn steps seemed a little too fortuitous.
Your husband called and said breakfast was coming!
I got breathy WALKING up the hill next to the steps to start my warm-up above the dam.  WALKING.  This was not a good sign.  I started jogging along the top of the dam, much slower because of the asthma issues and the grass issues.  Running on grass bothers my feet and makes me very nervous about twisting an ankle.  I couldn't find a "line" in the grass that was comfortable to run on.  Strike 2.   I did, however, see a gorgeous sunrise and paused for a couple photos.  I think I was just delaying the truly hard part.
This makes that morning look so peaceful
As I got back to the stairs, I realized that my stomach was REALLY rebelling and I needed a bathroom, immediately.  Luckily, there is a full service bathroom just below the dam, so I jogged down the steps for another detour.  I swear, all the vultures were laughing at me.

After my potty break, I went back to the steps, climbed over the stair railing and started running up.  I have never felt like I was going so slow in my entire life.  And.  Oh Holy Calf Work.  I jogged back down the stairs, went down far enough to go through a gap in the railing, walk over a pile of rocks and start again.  Have I done 10 yet?  Jogged back down and repeated the process.  On the fourth time, I walked down the steps and just tried to breathe.  I paused for a minute at the base of the hill to assess why I do stuff like this.  Then back up the hill I went.  On the way back down the steps, I acknowledged that I was going to have to walk a few of the repeats if I really wanted to get 10 of them.

I walked the 6th time up.  Ran the 7th, except for the last 6 feet or so.  Walked the 8th.  Ran the 9th, forcing myself to finish those last 10 feet.  I had to pause for a minute because my legs were shaking before I walked the 10th.  Then I started my cool down miles.  I ran the opposite way from the top of the dam in order to run on pavement and gauged how far a different parking lot was away for the next time I did this nonsense.  When I got back to my car, I was 3.6 miles for the day.  Really?  That's it???  I ran around the parking lot (paying close attention to the geese and the vultures) until I hit 4 miles.  On the way home, I had to adjust the angle I had my leg at when it was on the breaks because my leg was shaking.

Clearly.  I am out of shape for hills.
But not too out of shape to take a picture at the end of it all.
I'm not sure this picture does the hill justice.
Am I REALLY going to climb a mountain???  At least I'm not crazy enough to think I'll RUN up the mountain.  (There are RMI guides that do just that!).  Good thing this workout came 3 months before my climb and I can work on improving my performance each week.

My husband asked how it went when I got home and I just stared at him.  He normally runs the steps on Wednesday nights, and was a bit surprised at my reaction.  Then I asked him if toddler rails would be an appropriate Father's Day gift.  Apparently, I hadn't learned my karmic lesson.  HAHA.

Mark ran the hill instead of the steps that night, I think so that he could tell me it was easy.  Instead, he came home and admitted that running the hill is harder than running the steps.  That made me feel a lot better!  Nonetheless, I have a lot of work to do in three months!  Plus, my calves are still tight today, 48 hours later.

This round, the damn dam hill won.  How many workouts until I get a win?  Only time will tell.  At least the vultures didn't eat me.

When was the last time you had a workout that gave you a slap in the face???

Anyone racing this weekend?  I have a 5K I'm running for free on Saturday.  :)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Training Tuesday - 5 lb gorilla

Week of May 20-26, 2013:
Current Weight: 156.0 (Up 2.8 lbs since last week)
Total Lost to date (since September 2011): 64.8 lbs

And so the plateau or yo-yo or whatever phrase you want to use continues.  I am currently in the building phase for Rainier training though.  I cannot let frustration with the scale sabotage the training.  

Major changes from last weeks workouts:  Increased weight on Tuesday's strength training.  Both Tuesday and Thursday are now total body with heavier weights on Tuesday.  Increased pack weight on Sunday's hike.  It is astonishing how much difference a measly 5 lbs makes in a workout.  It took me almost a mile to adjust to the pack's weight.  I had indention marks in my shoulders from the increased weight when I finished the hike.  AND, I was very, very, very glad to be finished with the hike.  Maybe it really WAS a 5 lb gorilla...and I'm going to be working up to a heavier pack???  

Fun stuff from last week:  I volunteered at a race, the Field of Heroes 5K on Sunday morning before my hike.  Avery came out to check out all the flags and cheer on mommy as I manned the registration table and post-race refreshment tables.
Here is how the week played out...
Monday: 5 mile recovery run, 10 min/mile avg
Tuesday: 1 hour strength training, 52 min hike with ~32 lb pack
Wednesday: 6 mile run, 9:35 min/mile avg
Thursday: 1 hour strength training, 6 mile tempoish run, 9:05 min/mile avg
Friday:  REST DAY
Saturday: 13.1 mile run, 9:31 min/mile avg
Sunday: 2 hour hike at High banks, 38.4 lb pack, no breaks.
Wild life sighting on the MandyLynne Impromptu Half Marathon Saturday

Bullets of things to improve from last year's Humble Pie Post
  • Lose X lbs.  I will define that number once I have my Bod Pod Assessment done.  To date, I have lost ~10 lbs since last year's attempt.
  • Train with a heavier pack (Up to 50 lbs).  I am building up to this.  However, my heaviest pack last time was 37 lbs.  This weekend I trained with 38.4 lbs.
  • Start pack training earlier.  I went through my old training updates.  My first official training WALK was 2.2 miles with 16 lbs on Feb. 19th.  My first pack training this time was just after Goofy on Feb 3rd with a 22.5 lb pack on snow and ice.  This may not seem like a lot early, but this year my climb is almost 2 months later in the year, so it is significantly earlier.
  • Longer sessions without a break.  Work to 2 hours consistently.  Done.  This past weekend, no breaks, no nutrition, no water until the end of the 2 hour session.
  • No Rest Step.  Done.
  • Interval training.  I was doing interval training during Pig training that was running specific.  I will add a different form of interval training this week.
  • Asthma evaluation.  Done.  Upgraded my inhaler.  I have already noticed a difference.
  • Tougher, more specific strength training.  In process.
Any additional suggestions from those of you who have followed my training and my failed attempt last year?

I called to make an appointment for my Bod Pod Assessment and VO2 max testing and hopefully will have that scheduled soon.

Ironically, after last weeks post regarding no races on my schedule until October, I got suckered into a couple of 5Ks.  I'll be racing the Jake Strong 5K this weekend benefiting the children's hospital with my trainer (for free), and I will be running the Dash for Donation 5K in July as part of Team Superman with a lot of my friends.

Anyone race this past weekend? 

Anyone try any new workouts lately?  Or update old ones?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Training Tuesday: And so it begins..again

Although the week immediately after Flying Pig was technically week 1 in RMI's Fit To Climb program for the dates of my Rainier climb, I rested that week...mostly.  Thus, I considered this past week my first week of true training for Rainier.  I would even go as far as to call it Rainier Light Training because I am not yet doing everything that will eventually be in my weekly schedule.  My intention is to ease into adding each new thing, one thing per week.  Then, slowly increase the intensity/weight/etc. as each week passes.

Week of May13-19, 2013:
Current Weight: 153.2 (Down 1.8 lbs since last reported weigh-in)
Total Lost to date (since September 2011): 67.6 lbs
Waist: 31"  
Hips: 41"

Here is what this week brought:
Monday:  Recovery Run, 5 miles. (Avg pace 10:23 min/mile)
Tuesday:  Strength Training (1 hour, moderate);  82 minute easy hike with ~35lb pack and my 5 lbs boots
Mommy - tell them that I walked a puggle!
Wednesday:  6 mile Run on the treadmill.  (avg pace 9:54 min/mile)
Thursday:  Strength training (1 hour, moderate); 4 mile tempo run (avg pace 8:33 min/mile)
Saturday:  Ran 13.1 miles (avg pace 10:06 min/mile)
Me and Lynne, about 8 miles in.
Sunday:  122 minute hike (30-35 lb pack, boots), High Banks
All smiles on the training hike!

The week before last week was primarily a rest week, so almost this entire week shows a change from last week.  HA.  However, the main change over pre-Pig weeks is a slight shift in the running days and the addition of a mid-week easy hike.

I am pretty satisfied with this past weeks training especially since Mark was out of town Monday through Thursday last week.  I also paid the remaining balance on my Rainier trip this week, and turned in my registration packet for the climb.  Looks like I'm pot committed now!

This coming week I'll be stepping up even more with the strength training while keeping almost everything else pretty constant.

I really intend to focus on fixing my diet over the next few weeks as well.  I need to work on my getting my sleep too, the tiny tyrant has her own ideas on THAT aspect.

What is everyone else training for now?  Any tips or tricks that work best for you when you are trying to buckle down for a hard training session?

It's hard to believe my next race on the schedule isn't until October!  When is your next race?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Thank the powers that be that it is Thursday and my husband gets back from his work trip today!

1.  I have a much deeper respect for single moms this week.  Mark has been away for work, and Avery decided nap times were more guidelines than actual rules.  Oh, and it's that time of the month.  To say that the word patience has become more and more absent in my daily vocabulary would be an understatement.  Thank goodness for toddler distractions...
I'm ready Mommy!  (Actually, what she usually says is "ready, ready, ready"
This will only hurt for a minute Cassie...
2.  Peanut Butter M&M's are delicious and addicting.  My friend Deb is both evil and wonderful at the same time for enabling that addiction and bringing over a giant bag of them after Avery was in bed last night.  They were/are AWESOME.
They are also a magic pre-race food.
3.  The end of an era.  I have my last MOPS meeting of this year tomorrow.  I've mentioned before how I got suckered into being the coordinator this past year.  I can't say that I've been the best coordinator ever.  I made a lot of mistakes, and I fear that my heart just wasn't in it enough.  Nonetheless, it is a great group of moms.  I've learned a lot from them.  If I do a moms group next year though, I plan to find one closer to my house.
As long as the new group has trucks!

Hope everyone is having a great week!

What is your favorite guilty self indulgence?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Training Shift and Is this normal?

Normally, I post training updates on Tuesdays with a list of what things I did that week for training, the weight loss update, etc.  I won't be posting one tomorrow, because it would be a lot of "I rested while recovering from the Flying Pig."  First time I've been really proud of myself for NOT exercising.  I did not run until the Saturday after the Flying Pig, almost an entire week!  For the first time post marathon, it actually wasn't that hard to take that time off.   By Friday though, I definitely was feeling lazy rather than recovery resting despite some light workouts on Thursday.  I ran on Saturday and rested AGAIN on Sunday.  Back to work this week though.

A question or two has been asked about what I actually include in those training updates.  I typically post training runs, strength training and Rainier training.  I don't typically include walking the dog, yard work or toddler wrangling.  Basically, I don't include activities that I consider "normal day stuff."
Throw me higher Mommy!
Toddler wrangling may be my new favorite term.  It is one of the terms I used to describe my daily activities on the form I had to fill out pre-massage last Wednesday.

Yes, I said massage!  I decided to get a post-marathon massage to assist with the healing process as I did post-Columbus last fall.  This time,though, the massage was AWFUL.  (How is that even possible?)  As in, I'd rather have my toddler beat me over the head with a pan awful.  The place I went to always asked how everything was when you check out (i.e. pay).  My response was "do you want me to be honest?"   Turns out, they did.  I told them how awful it was, and on the spot the manager looked at who I've seen in the past that I liked, and asked if I wanted to come back from a free massage with that person.  Free massage???  Gee, let me think.   The second massage was FABULOUS.  Much better than toddler mayhem.
What else did I do with my extra time last week?  I wrote out a schedule from now until August 18th for the Rainier climb.  This is harder than it may seem.  I wanted to keep a minimum of 20-30 miles per week of running in the schedule, while placing the primary focus on Rainier.  RMI has been emailing us a "Fit To Climb" training program for the past 14 weeks (designed to start 16 weeks out from the climb, which for me was last week.)  The first couple of weeks are pretty light and then it gets hard fast.  Their plan was not written for runners.  Thus, I wanted to make sure I was somewhat following that plan, while also getting my runs and my strength training in.
This may have consumed an entire Avery nap session.
Major changes I made from the RMI program?  They have an hour long cross training on day 6 for many weeks of the plan.  This will be my long run day, despite the fact that my long run will not typically be limited to one hour.  I omitted all of their once weekly circuit training because I will be working closely with my trainer for two strength training sessions per week.  (one HARD, one lighter).  I replaced one of their light easy hike days with a 5 mile recovery run.  To some extent, I have replaced their stair interval training with a running interval training on the dam stairs/hills.  (a fairly even trade).

The big change though?  For the first few weeks, RMI's plan has no weighted pack on any of the hikes.  I've already been carrying a 30 lb pack on my "long" hike, and I'm not going to back track at this point.  Especially since RMI's plan jumps from a 15 lb pack to a 45 lb pack in one week!  I intend to increase the weight in my pack in 5 lbs increments more regularly until I have a pack weight of 50 lbs, which just makes more sense to me.  For any shorter week day hikes, I will be carrying Avery in the Kelty pack, so that pack will be closer to 30-35 lbs.

I also intend to revisit my "Humble Pie" post that I wrote with a list of how my training should have been different after my first attempt on Rainier.  I'll come up with a bullet list to check myself against each week.  Call me on this if I don't.

What else will I be doing in the future?  I will have both a VO2 max test and a Bod Pod assessment done.  My husband gave me a gift certificate for both as a mother's day gift.
What a bod pod or body compensation analyzer looks like
It was the perfect gift, to me, and something I've been wanting to do lately.  I had to wonder, though, is that normal for a woman to appreciate a gift that will assess her health and BODY FAT PERCENTAGE?  There have been many points in my life where I would NOT have appreciated such a gift.  A lot of my friends thought the gift was pretty cool.  So, either it IS normal, or I hang out with less than normal people.  Nah, that can't be it!  I'll try to get some cool pictures of both apparatuses and post full reports/reviews once I do both.

Anyone have any races/events coming up in the next few weeks?   What's the next big thing on your schedule?

Do you create your own training plans or following something written for you?

Would you enjoy a gift of a VO2 max test and Bod Pod assessment, or is that abnormal?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Flying Pig Recap

I absolutely LOVE this medal.
Race: Flying Pig Marathon
Distance:  26.2 miles
Date:  April 5, 2013, 6:30 am
Finish time:  4:15:11
What sets this race apart:  Flying Pig theme, hilly course, some say the spectators

I had big goals for this race.  It was my main prize focus for this running season.  Everyone told me - "Don't expect to PR at the Pig,"  "the Pig is really hilly," "oh the hills."   Nonetheless, I knew that with my current training, my weight loss and my changed focus, I was a faster runner and still hoped to PR.  In fact, my primary goal was to beat my Dad's marathon time of 4:19:xx.

I PR'd.  By 37 minutes.  

I had a detailed plan for the race that had different pace goals for each mile based on the terrain of the course.  I.e. the plan allowed for me to go slower on the biggest uphills and faster on the downhills.  It also allowed for me to start slower if the corral system wasn't up to par.  (This was the first year that Pig had instituted a corral system).
After a photo op in the hotel lobby, we all headed to the corrals pretty early so that we could be well positioned.  
Me, Amy, Laurie and Lynne in the corral pre-race
I really think that paid off, as I never felt like I couldn't run my own pace, even at the beginning.  I got the benefit of a huge crowd feel, without having to do too much weaving.  Lynne and I stayed together for the first couple of miles until she decided she wasn't up to that pace for the day.  We wished each other fabulous races and parted ways.  As a result of the proper corral placement and the parting from Lynne, I got a bit off plan in the early pre-big hill miles.

I decided that I'd simply banked time for the amount I would run the marathon long.
Proof that the race crossed into Kentucky!
The end of mile 6 was supposed to be the start of the "big hill".  This hill started at the end of mile 6, continued through miles 7 and 8 before topping out right around the 8th mile mark.  I really tried to slow down, knowing that I had a lot of time allowed for on this hill, but the hill really didn't seem that bad.  Also, I felt really strong here.  The view from the crest of the hill was pretty awesome.  Not long after that, the half marathoners split from the pack.  It was a bit disorienting that they left us so early.  (At Columbus, they stayed with us through mile 13!)  The next couple miles were more lonely and included more downhill with a few uphills.  The gain/loss was in favor of a downhill though, so my plan had me speeding up.  I ran by feel rather than keeping my eyes glued to pace, and as a result, continued to stay ahead of plan.
I have to admit.  At this point, I was doing the math of how much time I'd banked, and the idea that I might be able to hit a secret super stretch goal of 4:15 entered my mind.  As I result, although I tried to slow down and match up with my planned pace at this point, I probably didn't make enough of an effort.  

Miles 11-15 were a section of my plan that I had originally thought would be the key to whether or not I made my goal.  Because of their relatively net flatness (gain and loss were either equivalent or favoring a net loss), my plan had this series of miles as my fastest miles of the day.  Although, it wasn't overly evident on the elevation profile, this section of the course continued the rolling hills that would haunt the entire course.  Nonetheless, I managed to have a net-gain on the plan for this section as well.
I remember clearly the moment when I hit the 16th mile.  Why?  Because I looked at my Garmin, saw where I was mileage-wise, and thought "OMG, I still have 10 more miles."  I admit, I was lonely, I was feeling a little more tired than usual at this point in a run, and the spectator support wasn't what I'd hoped for.  I don't know if that was the rainy, gloomy weather effect, if people were more nervous to spectate from previous years, or if people had simply played up the spectators more than they deserved.  That being said, the little town centers were awesome.  All the people handing out orange slices from their front doorsteps in the neighborhoods were extremely appreciated.  I partook of several orange slices throughout the run, and they were the best oranges I'd ever tasted!

One thing that was surreal about the race, were the sights I wasn't used to seeing on a race course.  When running through the town in this 4th section of the race, one of the things that caught my eye was the policeman walking a bomb dog through the spectators.  In addition, several times on the course, I saw military men (I'm not sure which branch) in full flack gear carrying semi-automatic riffles.  Every time I saw them, I thanked them for protecting us and those on the course watching us.  It was a very surreal experience seeing them during a race though.  Flying Pig's Facebook photos included a picture of one of the bomb dogs out on the course pre-race.  I'm including it here, because when I saw this it was somewhere in this 4th section of the race.
Somewhere around mile 18 or mile 19, I hit the rain.  It was just a light rain at this point, but for some reason it hit my tired mental state and I could definitely sense that THE WALL that I had never previously experienced was hovering nearby.  Although it had been sprinkling on and off throughout, this was the first steady light rain.  I took a GU and paused longer at the water stops in an effort to keep the looming wall at bay.  Still, through this section, I stayed pretty close to plan.
I'm almost embarrassed to talk about the last 10K of this race.  I think this may be my first experience with a true "wall" during a race.  I don't know if it was the rain, the fact that I chose to run without music in hopes of great crowd support which wasn't really present, going too fast at the beginning or the knowledge of my plan that did me in.  I remember consciously thinking at this point, "the plan allows for a fade in these miles, I can slow down, I can take longer at the water stops, etc., etc."  Giving in to those mental thoughts is my one regret from this race.  I remember distinctly hating all of the relay runners.  They started their last leg shortly before the last section and were way too fresh.  

Other embarrassing thoughts?  I clearly remember thinking around mile 23, "I never want to run another f-ing marathon again in my life."  This thought was closely followed by the "why did I sign up for Detroit" thought.  I even prayed about not giving up.  I told myself I was allowed to walk to get a drink at the hydration stops, but I WOULD NOT WALK any other time.  If I needed to slow down, fine, but no walking.  I did dally longer at most of the water stops in this last 10K though.

Of course, the rolling hills continued here.  In the last mile, there was a slightly steeper hill.  As I was going up it, a spectator yelled "only a quarter mile from the top of this hill."  I pushed harder up the hill as a result and got to the top only to find that I couldn't see the finish line in the distance. I looked at my watch, the finish line was still at least 0.5 miles away depending on how far I'd run the course over.  I have never wanted to hit someone so much in my life.  Note to spectators, it is acceptable to lie to someone about how they look at the end of the race, but it is not acceptable to lie about how much distance remains.

Once I could see the finish line, I looked at my overall time.  Once it shows hours, my Garmin doesn't also show the seconds, but I realized that whether or not I made the 4:15 goal was going to be tight and picked up the pace.  Unfortunately, I picked up the pace a few seconds too late (or maybe dallied a few seconds too long at one of those water stops) and missed the sub-4:15 by 11 seconds.  
Can you say wall?
I also continue to run marathons about 0.25 miles long.
My time DID beat my Dad's marathon time with a hefty margin though, and that's what really matters.  :D

After I crossed the finish line and was walking through looking for medals and refreshments, for the first time, I felt the hobble effect of post-run cramping muscles.  OW! OW! OW!

I really feel like this finish line area was a bit of a mess.  It started raining harder just as I crossed the finish line.  What bananas they had looked absolutely disgusting because they'd been exposed to the rain for who knows how long.  I never saw anything with protein in it (although I've been told there were protein bars present).  Most things were in little packages and we had nothing to put them all together in.  They did have cups of Gatorade and water bottles.  It was also pretty cool that the volunteer actually put the medal over my neck instead of simply handing it to me.

I hobbled through the finish area and decided to head to the hotel to pick up my cell phone (I'd left it behind because of the rain forecast) before my friends finished.  Here is where I made a fatal error, on the advice of the information guy, I decided to take advantage of the hotel shuttle.  I think my hotel was 1-2 miles from the finish line.  The shuttle ride felt like a tour of Gilligan's Island.  Instead of dropping runners off at the hotels right there, we drove over into Kentucky to parking lots over on that side of the river, stopped at a bunch of places no one on the bus wanted and then the driver got lost.  She was asking us which street we were on!!!  What would have been a slightly long walk, became an HOUR LONG shuttle ride.  Absolutely ridiculous. As a result, I didn't make it back to the finish line and missed my friends finishing.  Very disappointing!

I did meet back up with them at the hotel and got to take a cheesy picture of new marathoner Heather and I lying on the floor of our hotel room.  She rocked it!
Medals and friends and floors make everything better!
After we showered and checked out of the hotel, a group of us went to lunch at a local brew house before my friend Laura and I drove back to Columbus.  Runners are such fun people!  Definitely a highlight of my weekend.
Yes, we took our picture in the brew house.
Other race specific observations???  The expo had lots of cute picture opportunities.  
Lynne, Laura and I with the Finish Line Flying Pig
However, we got there late in the day on Saturday and most of the official merchandise was sold out.  Traditionally, the Pig gives out a bag with a pig logo each year.  This year it was a cooler.  
Race stuff: Poster, shirt, bag, medal, bib and pace band
Bottom line - I had a great race, if with a somewhat disappointing finish from an energy/wall standpoint.  It was a MAJOR PR and a new family record!!  The medal is absolutely fantastic, and crazy heavy.  I actually LOVED the first half of the race, and not-so-much with the last half. 

Would I do this one again?  Probably not.  I feel like there are a lot of awesome Spring Marathons that would conflict with another Pig at this point, and the logistical stuff with the shuttle and the finish chute were big detractors for me.  I also felt that, at least this year, the spectators weren't as awesome as advertised.

Now, I intend to enjoy this one, take a few days off of running to recover, and switch focus to mountain climbing.

Anyone else race this weekend?  Any races coming up?

Friday, May 3, 2013

NWM DC Recap

Race: Nike Women's Half Marathon DC
Distance:  13.1 miles
Date:  April 28, 2013, 7:00am
Finish time:  2:12:33
What sets this race apart:  Tiffany Necklace at Finish Line

What they did right:

  • Giving out of Tiffany necklaces was well organized and smooth
  • Finisher's t-shirts at the finish line instead of a race t-shirt in the goody bag.  (Although the people in the store and the expo wouldn't TELL you that when asked about it - maybe a ploy to drive up sales?)
  • Beautiful course in DC
  • Good maps and directions to the course and the corrals
  • Excellent entertainment on course
  • Very cool packet pickup electronic system that allowed you to go to any open station regardless of last name.  Downside?  Apparently lines got bad when they lost power on Saturday.
  • Time-checker tent.  They called it something else, but it was a tent with computers that allowed you to look up your official chip time instantly.
  • Did I say Tiffany necklace already?
One side of the necklace
The other side
What needed work:
  • Crowd control.  Separate corrals is not very helpful when it's all self-assigned and there is no stagger start.  From the START there were people casually walking from the front of the super crazy crowd.  My corral covered paces from 10 min/mile to 12:00 min/mile.  Because the corral was overcrowded, we were out on the sidewalk and at the back of the corral.  We did not pass the 11:27 min/mile pacer until mile 5.
My friend Laurie actually snapped a photo from our location outside the corral.
  • Hydration stations.  For the first 8 miles or so, I didn't even try to get hydration from their aid stations.  (Luckily, I wear a belt and didn't need to).  All the hydration stations were only on one side of the course.  Given the size and sardine like quality of the crowd, it would have been very hard to take hydration at these early stations.  In fact, I never even SAW the first station because I was running along the right side of the course and it was on the left side.  If the day had been hot, they would have been in trouble.  The fact that this race had a higher than average percentage of first-time half marathoners made this worse.  (Many stopped at the first table and backed up the course, instead of moving down to one of the later tables).
  • Finish line food.  While the food itself was EXCELLENT, there were not nearly enough people handing it out to handle the crowds.  So much so, that some of the volunteers handing stuff out were down right rude about people helping themselves.
  • Expo had no real vendors.  (Rumor is there was a separate expo with venders in another location?).  Expo was 2.5 miles away from the start lines and hotels so that it was conveniently placed near their Georgetown Nike store.
We did take advantage of the photo ops!
Those are the quick and easy bullet point recaps.  For those with limited attention spans, you need read no further.  For everyone else, here are more specifics about my race and time in DC...

The favorite part of the race for me was the fact that I got to go away to Washington DC for a weekend.  I stayed in a hotel that was right at the start/finish line, and walking distance from the National Mall.  I probably walked 15-20 miles site seeing by the end of the weekend. 
Lynne and I at the Lincoln Memorial with the Washington Monument in the background
On our way to the Lincoln Memorial - it was a gorgeous day!
Everyone needs a good Bomb Pop to walk the mall
Because this wasn't my goal race, I could afford to do that, and I loved every minute of it.  My only complaint was I didn't have nearly enough time to go to all the museums nor spend the kind of time in the museums that I would've liked to.  Next time I go to DC for a race, I will plan extra time post race for this kind of thing.
Our Columbus group pre-race!
The race itself?  Have I mentioned crowds yet?  At the beginning, we were stuck in the back of the corral that included paces from 10-12 min/miles.  It was wall-to-wall people.  We went slow enough that I actually said "I can walk this fast" a few times, and then did so.  (And I am not really a fast walker!)  The only real way to move forward at this point was to run on the sidewalk on the side of the course, and many people were doing that, so that was also start and stop.

The sprint/jog cycle was bad enough, that I told my friend Lynne, who I was running the entire race with, that I would pull myself from the race if it didn't get better soon.  My worst fear was injuring myself the week before my goal marathon.  I also said out loud multiple times "this is worse than Disney!"  Each time I said it, a different random runner would agree with me.  Lynne and I had to actively work at not losing each other each time we shot through a gap in the crowd, which I'm sure impacted our overall time.

I didn't feel like we were able to run with any kind of steady pace until somewhere around the 10K mark.  That was also when I noticed that we were already 0.2 miles longer than the actual course distance.  The next time I remember looking at my watch was around mile 8 while we were running along the Potomac.  I rather enjoyed this section for several reasons.  First, I could finally run my stride with only slight modifications here and there.  Second, the river was beautiful.  Third, there was a lovely, light breeze coming off the river.

My next favorite part was when we returned to the National Mall area in the last 3 miles or so.  The course ran towards the capital, around the little park in front of the capital, and back to the finish line.  This entire section of the course was LINED with spectators.  It was a very cool and very surreal experience to run towards the gorgeous capital building in the sunshine surrounded by screaming and adoring fans.  Okay - so they probably were there to cheer for their friends and family, but it was still pretty awesome.

Lynne and I were going much faster than planned at this point, but it felt good.  In the home stretch, I really tried to encourage Lynne to ramp it up for the finish line.  She'd confessed to me that she'd never really pressed or sprinted to the finish line.  I am proud to say that she can no longer say that.  :)

Our mile splits according to my Garmin:  10:28, 10:10, 9:59, 9:26, 10:07, 10:04, 10:09, 10:17, 10:28, 10:01, 9:29, 8:27, 9:12, 8:33

After we crossed the finish line, Lynne and I took turns taking each others picture with the tuxedo-clad gentleman handing out Tiffany necklaces.  Then, we waited in the crowds for water and food.  I think Lynne was more annoyed about crowds than even I was, and she would have foregone refreshments all together if I hadn't grabbed her a few things.
Beautiful -day for a little blue box!
Then we went through the finish shirt area to get our shirts.  I really love the Tiffany blue color!  We quickly realized that finding and cheering on any of those in our group that hadn't finished yet would be next to impossible with the crowds.  So, just for grins, we looked up our official time in the time-checker tent.  Then we put on our pretty finisher shirts and our necklaces to snap a post race self-photo.
Looking Fabulous!
End result of the race?  We ran 13.51 miles in 2:12:33.  Oops.  That is officially the longest I've ever run a half marathon course.

I asked Lynne if the Nike San Francisco race was as bad crowd wise, and she said no.  That made me feel better about her sanity in signing up for another Nike Women's race.  While I enjoyed the location of this race and the race rewards, I don't think I'd do it again unless they improved their corral system.  I am beginning to learn that I really am not a fan of truly crowded races.  I like the big race feel and the big race amenities, but I get really frustrated if I am unable to run my own stride and pace.

Oh - in case anyone was worried - I did bring back presents for Avery.  A stuffed penguin, a geode (rock) and a shirt from the National History museum.

Now, I am trying to focus on my remaining taper, getting things ready for Grandma's arrival, and getting ready for the Flying Pig on Sunday.

Anyone else race this past weekend???