Monday, May 30, 2011

All Kind Of Marathon Goals Handy

As a running geek, I know all marathon race prediction tables that are available. From my coach’s Chuckit, to running times, to runner’s world, to McMillan, to Marathon Guide, to Rogue.

For four years all my races in every distance have been right on with McMillan, give or take. When I was introduced to Chuck’s, I thought his was too conservative. Well, that happened to be good. Putting all my latest races results, 2-mile trials and tribulations, these were all the predictions I got for my 6th marathon, my 5th state (Idaho) in the pursuit of my 50/50 quest:

Based on Half Marathon
Based on 2-mile trial

I decided to base my Coeur D’Alene Marathon goal on Half Marathon results instead of the 2-mile trial. Reason is that I am a good sprinter and perform way better in shorter distances; therefore, the Half distance would be more accurate for me.
  • My “can live with this goal” was 4:45.
  • My realistic goal and the one I was sure I was going to get was 4:32.
  • My fantastic goal was 4:27.
  • My beyond dreams goal was a BQ, 4:15:59. Though it sounded crazy, if one predictor, based on a 2-mile trial made this goal still within range of possibilities, then I can dream about it.
To spare you a lot of reading I finished on 4:44. Am I happy? Yes, I got a PR by 15 min and was the goal I can live with. Am I thrilled? No. I was sure I could get a 4:30ish, and the race indicated I was going to get it.

The weather forecast by mid race was mid 40’s and rain; perfect for a Seattleite. But as any weather forecast, it changed the day before. Now it was going to be low 50’s by mid race and sunny with 10mph tailwinds for the first half; 13mph headwinds the second.

For first time ever I ran a very consistent pace for the first 9 miles. 10:00 min/mile sharp. This would put me in a 2:11 Half, and right on in a 4:30ish finish if I slowed down, or a sub 4:30 if things continued smooth. Well, neither. At mile 11 we got this already known long 6% gradient hill. It looked horrible when I drove it the day I got there, but no so horrible when I climbed it. Now we had to go downhill to lake level to climb this very hill after the turn around. At mid point I was in 2:14 and felt very good but very hot. It was 51F but the sun was s-h-i-n-i-n-g !!!! After the turnaround, at mile 14, I felt this delicious wind on my face as my private fan… Oh, wait. That means the forecast about the wind was right… The next miles were the introduction to a total new race: Running against the wind… for 12 miles.

Mile 18 is for me the mile to beat. If I pass it in good shape, I know I will be OK. I got there at 3:12 and I have already climbed back to the crest of the non-so-horrible hill that became horrendous. Back to lake level… the rest is flat. I felt good and thought the plan was still achievable. Did some math in my head, and realized that I would have to do a 10 min/mile for the rest of the race to get my goal. Thought of a Venezuelan guy that ran a sub-3 Boston this year and told me: It has to hurt. Ok. Hurt, pain, I am here to take you. Come on… Well, no. Not this time. The wind will not let me.  It’s noteworthy to say that I have run with worse winds, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that this time, this wind was IN the way of a fantastic performance!!!

According to Bob Glover's Runner's Handbook, "A 10 mph head wind will slow your forward progress by about 8 percent.  A 10 mph tailwind will push you along by about 5 percent faster. A head wind slows you more than a tailwind helps you…

Being that said and proven, nothing was left than trying not to go beyond 4:45. Mile 19 to 22 were the worst of all. I was feeling dehydrated (clueless on how this happened to me being the water-drinker I am). At mile 23, the 5K distance looked appealing and I pushed the pace to leave on the course everything I had. I gave it all...

At 4:44:04 I crossed the finish line. I placed 10 out of 24 in my division. A PR by 15 minutes. I conquered Idaho, my 5th state. 45 to go!!!!

Chuck won the predictions... and it was definitely good to have All Kind Of Marathon Goals Handy.

With running buddy Suzanne

With running buddy Shannon

About to puke after crossing the finish line
At Outback ready to attack a piece of steak

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Running By Heart... Rate!

I will run my 6th marathon in one week in the state of Idaho. I definitely should PR because I am in good shape, but, I am very nervous. After breaking the big goal of 5 hrs in Arizona, I was clueless in regards of what the next goal would be.

I hired a coach in February, who has helped me improve big time. He wasn’t too happy with me racing every weekend, but either he understood my driving force or he just gave in. Every single race result foretold a good pace for my upcoming marathon, but what pace that would be? Coach doesn’t put too much emphasis about pace; his emphasis is in quality Tuesday’s workouts and the long runs to be run as the body feels. The rest should come along. I think it’s a great tactic but for a fixated old dog like me, who only has worked with pace, it was a tough issue to understand. Though I followed suit, my evil twin was still asking every day, at what pace should Coeur D’Alene be run?

This weekend, my last before the marathon, I had scheduled 8-10 miles. I have never run a race the week before a marathon because what is normally available are Half Marathons, which are too far, or 10K, which are too fast. 10K the week before is a recipe for disaster knowing my idiotic need of wanting to continue PRing this distance. But, Seattle gave me a gift this weekend. Believe it or not, the running calendar had a 15K!!! 9.37 miles… Wow, wasn’t that amazingly convenient? I doubted on registering because my lack of judgment controlling pace and sprinting, but I thought this was a long enough race to not run it at 10K pace, and short enough to press a bit without getting into trouble. So, could I control myself for a change? I clicked the register button.

The race promised to be beautiful. One, the course, starting and ending in beautiful Gas Works Park, and going around Lake Union. What else can you ask to the Emerald City? Two, for three days in a row, we had sunny clear days and low 60’s. But, if you are trying to guess, you are guessing right. The weather on Saturday was rain, overcast and low 50s; but, as I put it a couple of years ago, “a rainy day is better than no day at all”.

My friend Benny went to cheer me on, and helped me to distract well enough that I was seeded back in the pack. This was good because it kept me on the leash at the start of the race. My mandate:  “run by feel”, and “do not sprint”. I removed pace from my brain and set up a heart rate strategy. Though I have tried to use this strategy in the past, it has never materialized. I broke the race in four segments and set my HR accordingly. The first 6K were run at about 155. It felt really easy. At 7K I cranked it up a notch and ran avg 162 until the 10K mark. It felt easy and good. Then, I raised it to 165 till 13K, but went higher at a slower pace as there was a trio of consecutive steep hills, short though. At 14K I raised it to 173, and kept it there. It felt good. For the last 2K I was easily passing people without running too fast. One, two, three… ten, eleven… many!!! and it was when FINALLY, FINALLY after four years, dawned on me what is to run with negative splits. The power was absolute and the body felt in good shape. 100 meters before the finish line, a guy sprinted and passed me, I was ready to chew him, when I saw a sign on my thighs: DO NOT SPRINT… You have only one week to recover!!! I didn't

I ran amazingly well and got second place in the division without looking for it or paying attention to the pace. I ran a very comfortable run, and finished with the absolute confidence that my marathon strategy now is well understood. This run gave me the response that I have been looking for weeks. And I am pretty sure that this will be my strategy from now on… Running By Heart... Rate! 

My splits with a second half faster than first by 3 minutes:
Mile 1: 10:21 – HR: 153
Mile 2: 10:03 – HR: 155
Mile 3: 10:04 – HR: 154
Mile 4: 10:15 – HR: 156
Mile 5: 9:56 – HR: 159
Mile 6: 9:47 – HR: 165
Mile 7: 9:21 – HR: 165
Mile 8: 10:28 – HR: 166 (3 very short & steep hills)
Mile 9: 9:18 – HR: 173

Time 1:31:11 for a 9:47 min/mile pace.

@ Beautiful Gas Works Park
With friend Benny who made this T-shirt for me. After my surgery last January I asked my Dr. when I could run again. Doctor said: Use common sense, though I know runners don't have any. Thank you very much Benny, I really treasure the gesture, the shirt and the phrase !!!!
Got 2nd place in the division
DO NOT SPRINT ding dong!!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Zeus, lord of sky, the rain god, paid Capital City a nice visit

Seattleites are outdoors people. Rain is here to stay, so we better welcome it in our lives. Once, my best friend asked me surprised: "Do you run in the rain?" A guy from Wichita that came to the PNW for work told me one day: "Lizzie, I saw people running last night. Do you guys run in the rain…and with these cold temperatures?" It was 55F. My answer is always the same. “If we don’t run in the rain, we would not run at all… unless we do it on the treadmill.” And 55F? That’s warm.

When spring comes, most of the people are already longing for sunny days; however, we haven’t seen much of that star during two months of the blossom season. The shiny star has only shown up two or three times causing those days heavy traffic around the parks. One of those days was two days ago, Saturday 5/14. It was gorgeous and warm, but I didn’t have a scheduled run for Sat because I was running Capital City Half in Olympia on Sunday. Will the weather forecast hold the sun? Well…No, of course not, not at all.

Started raining Saturday evening around 7 pm. At 1 am Sunday, 6 hours later, Seattle set a rainfall record, almost one inch of rain, and… it kept raining. By Sunday at noon, Seattle has set, not one, but two rainfall records. In 15 hours we had the amount of rain that we average for the month. Yes, and this happened all along Western Washington, being Olympia among the runners up. Yeah! The race is in Olympia… It was so wet, that even the most fanatic of the runners would’ve skipped a long run that day; but rain doesn’t block a road race.

I got to Olympia after driving 90 wet miles. Got my wet packet in a wet park; went to a wet porta potty; waited in the car while the very wet rain just smashed on us; started the wet race, with wet shoes, wet shorts, wet shirt, wet gloves and dripping cap. The lady at the mic requested to the cheering crowd “to keep the umbrellas away from the runners”. I’ve never seen so many umbrellas in my life. But with all this rain, I have to say I loved all of it. To me, any day is the most gorgeous day. I am alive, aint' I? No matter if it’s raining, or if it’s sunny, if snowing, or windy… well, I’ll pass on that last one.

I went slow and easy as I am tapering for my Idaho marathon in two weeks. I completed the run in 2:17. Rain helped me a lot to hold my pace. The highlights of the race, other than the constant rain, were: a guy running with a pluviometer on his hat, honest to God; countless amount of residents with umbrellas and tents in their backyards cheering on, unbelievable; and ice cold beer offered by a resident at ~mile 11. I yelled, “That’s what I am talking about”. Grabbed a cup and swallowed it. It tasted good!!!

My final sprint about 400 meters was so good, so good, and so fast, that the paper staff writer believed I was the marathon winner and interviewed me... (Marathoners started 45 min before us). You would've seen his face when I told him I ran the half, not the full. I think he wanted to scratch my answers from his little tablet, and erase the tape recording... I found it hilarious.

I was so cold that I was shivering. A couple of volunteers thought I was going to pass out and took me to the medical tent and covered me with a fleece blanket and a mylard. They were very nice, but truly, I would’ve preferred to go to my car to stretch and change completely my clothes as I know my body like nobody else, but I wasn’t able to speak. My bad. They gave me water and watermelon; took my pulse and blood pressure, which were of course fine. I have been there for 15 minutes and needed to move and go to my car, but when I flexed my left foot to put my shoe on, I got the mother of all cramps in my calf, which just killed me. I cried like I’ve never done it for a cramp. I think is the second worst after my pregnancy with my beautiful daughter …24 years ago!!! That kept me in the tent for an additional half hour while a therapist massaged my leg. If I was shivering before, I am now a 5’7” ice post. I asked a therapy to help me to put my shoes on, which she did to perfection for me to avoid flexing the feet. I walked to my car, changed all my clothes and went back to the park to meet my friend Benny, but didn’t get a hold of her. I also needed to give time for my leg to recover as my car is stick !!! Getting another cramp while putting the clutch would not have been too safe!

The race overall was awesome. It was in its 30-year anniversary and provided an exceptional design in an über nice race tech zip-up shirt, bag and coaster for swag. The course was gorgeous as Olympia’s architecture is really pretty. BTW, Olympia was named in recognition of the view of the majestic Olympic Mountains seen to the north on a clear day (not seen this past Sunday). These mountains were named Mount Olympus after the one in Greece, when English captain John Meares, seeing them in 1788, thought they were beautiful enough for the gods to dwell there. Certainly, Zeus, lord of sky, the rain god, paid Capital City a nice visit. 

Waiting in my car for the start of the race. It was pouring out there !!!

The gorgeous old state capitol

Awesome swag!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Let's Truly Inspire Hope

There was a 5K/10K in my neighborhood, 3 miles from my home, on Sat 5/7 supporting breast cancer: Inspiring Hope. The course is where I normally do my training. I have run hundreds of miles on that course. I know it by heart. But I am tapering for my next marathon in 3 weeks, and I didn’t want to go crazy in any of these distances.  You put me on a 5K course and I am going to try to go all out. This distance is too tempting for me because I love it. How do I pass a breast cancer support race in my backyard? Maybe volunteering? Or can I control myself and run it easy? My daughter told me “walk it, I don’t trust you”. My husband told me “jog it”. I told myself “don’t race it, run the 5K at a pace slower than tempo pace (8:55)”

I got there15 min prior to the race. The 10Kers left 10 minutes earlier and I had no time for anything, but to tell myself: slower than 9 min/mile…I got to the start line… 3, 2, 1, GO!

Set up my pace in 9:10 and so I went. I was happy sustaining that pace and no letting the watch show any 8:xx. Then, something happened… All of a sudden I am on the Mukilteo Speedway. As I far as I remembered the 5K was not running through the speedway. Then we go back and we come again to do the same loop. No, this has to be wrong. I told a volunteer that this couldn’t be the course. I am at mile 2.1, only one mile to go, but I am being sent far from the finish line. I see all of a sudden a group of about 10 runners talking to a volunteer, they turned back, I turned back as well. I saw my friend Benny going the wrong direction. I waved my hands for her to turn around… She thought I was saying Hi!. I knew what it took to run another mile to the finish line, but all those runners were 10Kers. So I followed them instead, knowing now everybody was out of course. I am running steady when my watch clocks 4 miles: 9:10 / 9:10 / 9:17 / 9:10 and I know I am less than a mile from the school, but nobody is entering in that direction. We are directed to what should have been miles 2 & 3 for both runs. At that point I don’t know any more how far I am going to run, so I let go, and purposely dropped the pace to 9:31 for mile 5 and to 10:03 for mile 6. I ended running 6.4 miles in 59:46 for a 9:21 min/mile.

After crossing the finish line I went to talk to the organizer. When she turns to talk to me, a tear is running down her face. I told her that I was registered for the 5K but if she could move me to a 10K instead. She broke and told me that everybody ran different distances and she didn’t know what to do. A guy mentioned he ran 8.3, other ran 6.7, and a gal from Chicago ran about 7.3. I put my hands on her shoulders and told her: not to worry. It’s OK.

Penny, the organizer, had a very well organized race, plenty of food, awards for the winners, raffles, and a warm big room for gathering after the race. Something went wrong. Yes, it’s true, but when she grabbed the microphone, and in tears she says that she would give us a free race during the summer, I was heartbroken. She put these races together as breast cancer fundraising.

I felt the impulse to intervene, raised my hand and was handed the mic. I told everybody: Hey, yes, the course was messed up. I was supposed to run a 5K and ended running more than a 10K, but this race is being done for breast cancer fundraising. I don’t think we should accept a free race from her. To the contrary, let’s support her with another race.

To all those that have lived through cancer this is nothing in the big scheme of things. Actually, this can be taken as an exercise of what life really is. We expect something, and then the COURSE changes.

This message is to all runners that ran it. This race is called Inspiring Hope. Please, let go. Let's help Penny. "Let's Truly Inspire Hope"

Penny. Thanks for all this. There is a learning behind every turn!
She had awesome pink boots...
A super awesome volunteer with a "Men wear pink" button.
With my good running friend Benny
On Sunday I had scheduled 15-miler and ran part of those with the Heroes Half in Everett. My tummy didn't feel ok, so I went as slow as I could, with a HR of 145 (160 for a regular easy run). I didn't do as bad as I thought I would. 2:13:33. Interestingly, before my new training scheme, a good Half was around low 2:20ish and a bad one in 2:30ish.. Now a bad one is 2:13? I take it!!!!!

My Mother's Day Weekend back to back swag !!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

It Was About Angie's First Marathon

We ran Birch Bay 30K a month ago. After the race, at lunch, I asked her: "Have you ever considered running a marathon?" She said: "No, and I will never run any distance longer than this". I grabbed my delicious hamburger and before biting it I said: “You are ready for it” and got back to my burger business without mentioning that day anything else about the distance.

I don’t proselytize about running. If somebody is not a runner, I don’t talk him/her into it. My son likes up to 5K, I don’t tell him to go to 10K. I have a good friend that runs half-marathons and doesn’t plan on going for a full. I don’t bug her to double the distance. I know a girl that likes to run 4 miles, 2-3 times a week, and doesn’t like racing, I don’t chase her to participate in one of the countless 10K we have. For all those cases, to change to the next level requires a different training, different commitment, and different mindset. And I don’t bug any of these people, because I get bothered when people try to get me into ultras. My boundary is the marathon, end of story.

Now, who wants to race a 30K as a boundary, especially when is more of an international distance rarely available in the US? A race that you can race once a year if you live in the Pacific Northwest, or a handful of times if you travel around the country?

Additional conversations during the following week, in regards 20 miles being the max long run for marathon training may have gotten her thinking. 1.4 miles more than 30K and that’s it? Yes, that’s it. For a person that already runs 15-17 miles as long runs, the physical part of the training was covered. Certainly, she was going to miss something. She didn’t have 16 weeks of mental training; she only had 4 to think about it.  But physically she was more than ready. She went for a successful 20-miler, and she was in. My only advice was how to taper: distance wise, nutrition, hydration, and resting. 

Four weeks after the 30K (i.e. yesterday), she ran her first marathon: Tacoma City Marathon. Her goal was a 4:45 which I knew she’d beat (HM: 1:57). However, I agreed with her. The first marathon is about learning the process, digesting the distance, and finishing. While in the start line she asked for the last minute advice. I told her: "Start slow for the first 5 miles and then go as you feel".

I had scheduled a 20-miler, the last one before my marathon. My plan was to run the half marathon, continue against the marathon course for 3.5 miles, and then come back with the marathoners. She would text me when she’d get to mile 20 so I could join her about mile 23 and run with her the last 3 miles. The marathon started earlier than the half, helping a little with the synchronization of our timing. I ran 18.2 miles and stopped to wait for her. The wait was not going to do any damage to my 20-miler. When I spotted her at mile 23.5 I asked her: How do you feel? She said “good”. Boy, if she looked good; she was running around 10:15 min/mile. I plugged back my earphones (no plan on distracting her) and paced her. I attached an imaginary cord between our wrists, which had to stay tense. If she pressed the pace, I’d do the same. If she slowed down, I’d slow down. Never looked at her, but at her shadow. At mile 24, I knew she could push it a little, so I did. She was in perfect shape. Avg 9:40+. At mile 25, I pushed more, she slowed down a little, so I did. It was her race, and needed to be good. Then, a push, 8:45 pace. At mile 26 I told her “only half a track” and I sped up. I exited before entering into the finish area, and saw her crossing the line at 4:25. I cried.

My run? It was good, a comfortable 2:10:36, 11/40 in the division, but for me, the day was not about my 20th Half Marathon, or having to run my last 20-miler before my 6h marathon. It was about those amazing 2.6 miles, being able to pace her, and paying back what others have done for me before. It Was About Angie's First Marathon.

Niece Angie & I at Hotel Murano, Tacoma, WA

With niece Angie and her mom Linda (my sister in law)