Sunday, August 21, 2011

Half Of The Fury

I threatened last week to come back with fury because it promised to be a fantastic week. Six fun runs nicely planned. But one thing is what the mule thinks and another what the rider does (A Spanish saying BTW).

I very seldom get sick. And when one of the small signs of cold shows up (e.g. sore throat, itchy ear) I do everything under the sun to avoid that the cold develops further. Reason being, cold combined with my chronic asthma are synonym of high probabilities of complications, including pneumonia. Zicam is immediately introduced to my system to stop the cold development. It always works, and in 2-3 days the enemy is gone without having caused any disruption.  But last Monday either I didn’t recognize (never ignored) any indication of getting sick or I didn’t have any. On Tuesday I had more than cold symptoms. I definitely got a cold. My loyal Z came to me but the cold has advanced more than I wanted. As I had too much work and I am taking vacations next week, I couldn’t afford to call in sick. I sneezed all day, my eyes were watery and I felt really bad. However, chest was not affected, so I was still planning on going to my favorite workout, Tuesday’s speed work at the track, 12 x 400.

When I got home, hubby had me a nice bowl of chicken soup and told me: you should stay home. I recognized some wisdom on those words, and decided to stay and take a nap, but after the nap, to go to a closer track as I would miss my coach’s workout time.  Then I started shivering, but still thought: after the nap, and the fever gone, I can run my intervals on my treadmill. Later, knowing that I was not going to be the Hero of the Week, I took a Theraflu  PM, went to bed, and not precisely for a nap. At 7pm I was knocked down and slept like a rock.

On Wed I felt still sick but needed to be present at work for a couple of important meetings. As the day passed-by, and the magic Z, aspirins, and tons of water made its way through my system, I started to feel not only better but also able to run a planned summer 5K. When I got home, hubby repeated the same words he said the day before: you should stay home. Nah… I feel better. As I got ready I didn’t let my brain to provide an opinion, because it would say: no way. My son was going to join me there, and he also asked: Are you going to run being sick? In a total dictatorial matter, brain, hubby and son’s opinions were not heard. I went to run the race, but once there, I knew it was going to be hard. I didn’t have any chest difficulty, but because of all the sinus congestion, my breathing was not easy. Ah, and this is nothing but a 5K, by definition, a fast race. If I were somehow smart (I still think I am), I would at least jog it to avoid compromising my respiratory system, but me? A 5K? My brain can’t process that. So, there I go, after sharing some time with son, and a 10-min warm up. I forgot my heart rate, so I went by perceived effort, which was simply extreme effort. I hyperventilated during the whole run because, of course, it’s a 5K and I only know how to run it at max, but because I was breathing more deeply I was for sure running over my VO2 Max… But it paid: I PRd. 26:19 for an 8:29 pace. Nevertheless, the prize came back to haunt me when during the night, I got worse. At 4 am I had fever and in this cold Summer in Seattle I had to turn my electric blanket on. I knew I could not even go to the office so I would work from home. The Adventure Run with my friend Marie on Thursday night had to be cancelled.

Thursday went by very similar to Tuesday; hence I was at square zero: sneezing all the time, watery eyes, fever… Dumb girl (but I got a PR)… Though I was planning to go back to my routine on Friday, I couldn’t. I had a headache for most of the night, and the best for me was to cancel everything, from work to my Friday 5K in Redmond. Also I considered bailing on my two 10Ks on the weekend, but the decision would be made on Saturday morning, depending on how my Friday night went, and... it went well, so Snoqualmie was on.

Snoqualmie Railroad Days 10K is my favorite 10K of the region for the very reason that is the Pacific Northwest Track & Field  (PNTF) 10K championships and gathers the fastest runners of the PNW. So, it’s very fun to watch the competition that close, and as the course is out and back it’s possible to see the neck-to-neck race. Lots of orange shirts are present: Club Northwest with the monopoly of all these runners.

I felt without much energy as I had not eaten well during the week, had been taken a lot of medicines and in three words, I was sick, but I was definitely in recoup mode, so wanted to test what the body could do. I set up my watch in HR mode, as I don’t run by pace any more but by effort. I have found out that this is a very appealing way to run because I can tell why my body is behaving in one way or another. Also, all my runs done this way are organized and efficient. I set up my standard 10K rates: 85% for the first two miles, 90% for 3 & 4, 95% for mile 5, and 98% for last mile.

So how did my body adapt to run at these efforts after a week being sick? Slowing the pace. And this is the beauty of heart rate strategy. If I would’ve gone by pace, I would’ve hyperventilated as I did on Wed, and being a longer race I would’ve crashed very soon because my body would’ve needed higher efforts to maintain my 10K pace. But, to keep the HR for a 10K, the body just slowed down to the point that I ran closer to my half marathon pace than to my 10K’s. Still, it was such good run because my body systematically adapted to increasing the effort to the point that my last mile was the fastest with 98% effort (178 BPM). The last 0.2 were done at 99%, however the paces were not even close to my 10K pace; they were 30 sec per mile slower. I finished in 58:56 and got 4th in the division (and there were trophies in this championship, of course, 3 deep... darn!!!)

Though I pretty much know how to race every distance I continue learning about my body, pace, heart rate, effort, running. And this learning is wonderful for being a better runner. After this experience, I decided not to run Lake Union on Sunday. Not because I ran slower, but because the body told me, “hey, I am recovering from a cold. I need probably a couple of additional days to fully recover”. So, I heard the running machine, which was not broken but getting amended, and Sunday was a placid day to sleep IN, and to take now care of hubby, who is, guess what: SICK! Contagious? Ya think?  

In summary, six planned runs, only 3 were done. 4 planned races, only 2 were done. I came back this week only with Half Of The Fury. 

Snoqualmie Railroad Days
Snoqualmie Railroad Days
Sizzler 5K, Auburn

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I Will Come Back Next Week With Fury

Four weeks until my next marathon and the plan called for a 20-miler (32K) long run. As I always mix my long runs with races, I looked for opportunities to run a Half and then run 7 additional miles, or register in a marathon, and bail at mile 20. However, the only long races in the area for the weekend were a 12 continuous hours run around one loop of 1.5 miles; and a Half Marathon Trail Run. For the former, I thought I could join the runners and run my 20 needed miles, but 13 laps looked already mentally challenging (the lake loop in front of my house is 1.6 miles and I can’t do more than 2). And for the latter, I just don’t do trails. Too loose ankles, recipe for disaster.

Being definitely on my own, I designed a nice plan that could allow me to run on Saturday a 5K race with a 2-mile warm up and then 15 miles in Burke-Gilman. The plan was perfect until Friday night came along, with its social tricks, and wine; too much wine. With a night short of sleep I made the wise decision at 5am of not running the 5K. Snoozed, dozed, 8:00 a cup of coffee. Everything was moving slow. At 10, I had a brilliant idea: to run 14 miles in the neighborhood, drive to Olympia for a 10K at 6:30pm (Pasta Dash) and then go to my Coach’s Summer Party. When I started calculating the timing, and got to the “driving 80 miles for 1 hr 20 min to Olympia”, the brilliant idea looked nothing but stupid. Hubby was just cracked up that at midday I still was in bed trying to come up with something. He insisted “Sweetie, that’s OK”. At 11, the plan was completely disregarded: "Lizzie, it seems you will not run today a race, let alone a 20-miler". With a “who cares” attitude, I wandered around the house for the rest of the day doing nothing until it was time to get ready for the Summer Party.  There, when everybody was asking everybody: how far did you go today? the who-cares attitude became a guilty one. 

But there’s always tomorrow. There’s always redemption.

Sunday came and I got up as slow as I always do. Coffee, snooze, more coffee, more snooze, oatmeal in bed, snooze. At 9, I was still tossing and turning, boy if I am lazy. Hubby stopped from time to time, and smiled. At 10, I was out the door.

To have a new 20-miler experience I decided to change course and run where I have never done it before: East Sammamish River Trail. The temp was high 50’s with a forecast of mid 60’s by the end of my run. The first 5 miles were just bliss. There were enough people to feel company, but it was not crowded: bikers, runners, walkers, even skaters. The trail is remarkably beautiful with lines of stunning poplars facing the quiet and smooth river. Though it was warm, it was partially overcast and there was a very nice breeze. I felt in heaven. As I was doing an LSD the heat was not pressing much, but in the second quarter of the race I started to feel hot. At mile 10, when I turned around, I had to take my shirt off. I felt liberated and the run became easier. Thanks God for fine-looking running bras. 

Things looked different while running in opposite direction, but the beauty was the same. At mile 13 I stopped along the trail to refill my water bottles from a water fountain, and in the bathroom I practically submerged myself underneath the faucet. The water was cold and delicious. I felt in very good shape. I was comparing with other 20-milers I’ve done and today I didn’t have the mental pain that others have caused on me. Today was definitely different. Everything was so magnificent, so positive, so striking. Around mile 17 I saw again a pair of running shoes left on a bench that were there when I started my run. From the distance, they looked like very muddy shoes. Interestingly, they were bronzed shoes bolted into the bench. I learned later they were placed there in honor of Liz Duncan, runner and employee of Brooks, who was killed by a car while running. Her favorite spot to run was the Sammamish River Trail. When you learn things like this as part of your run, everything changes. Everything gets a different meaning. 

Bronzed running shoes in honor of Liz Duncan. Photo from
The Sammamish Trail ended and the last stretch was done in Burke Gilman. I picked up the pace and ended my run very strong. Called hubby: Please fill the tub with COLD water. I’ll be there in 15. 

This was one of my best 20-milers, and though I have no remorse for not racing this weekend, just wait and see. I Will Come Back Next Week With Fury. 

Coach Chuck's Summer Party. A fantastic gathering with nice company and awesome food. THANKS Chuck
A Summer Night in Western Washington. !!! Yes, bonfire!!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Another One Bites The Dust

3:45 am was the time to wake up to drive to Tacoma for one of my favorite half marathons in the area: The Tacoma Narrows. Curiously, last year the Tacoma Narrows was my race #50. Today, a year later it would be #103 for a logic deduction of having run 53 races in the last 52 weeks. Nice.

The drive was uneventful, with the usual good number of Staters on the side of the road after having pulled over those that tried to be too smart. Parked by the finish line at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center, and went to the line for the shuttles. The buses would take us across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to drop us at the Tacoma airport where the point-to-point race would start. The ride went fast after having a delightful conversation with Andy, a very agreeable Maniac.

Got my packet, saw Tony, Sharon and her husband, pix were taken, porta-potties and bushes were visited and we were all ready to go. But before the start, all Maniacs were called for a photo shoot, which happened to be an amusing moment. Three of our Maniacs were wearing straitjackets for the picture. It was the epitome of our madness.

My strategy for the race was going to be again a heart rate strategy. It’s working so great, that no need to fix what is not broken. The goal was uncertain. I felt rested for running at a good pace, but I really had not figured out what I was expecting from the race, so I decided to let the heart lead the way.

My heart rate was adjusted from the start at 80% (148) and I was able to keep it there for the first 3 miles. Interestingly, even though I was running at a low effort, the pace for these 3 miles was 9:30. Have I gotten to that place where you run faster with less effort? I was more than surprised and pleased. This led me to believe that if the trend continued I would PR (current PR: 2:09:13 – 2 weeks ago); but because this course has an important hill before mile 4 and it would take a while to bring my rate back to normal, I decided not to be too attached to this thought. The hill came and the heart rate was elevated to 166 (90%) with an of course, slower pace. It took me a while to regulate it back to where I needed to have it for mile 5 (155). At mile 6 I had caught up with my pace and knew that I was going to feel stronger at the end of the race. I was now at ~90%, and kept it there for a couple of miles. The pace was getting faster and at this point I sent the brain the order for a PR of 2:08.

At mile 8 I saw the 2:10 pacer, and authorized myself to pass her. I needed to do that, as the psychological effect of having her in front of me would distract me as I would be above the PR. Instead of waiting calmly to pass her, which I knew would happen in less than one mile, I decided to do it right away. When I passed her I told her: You are right on the money. She was perfectly pacing the people that were running with her for a 2:10.

Passing her so fast came with a price. My HR went to 94% when should've been around 90%. My pace slowed down in the sub-sequent miles. At mile 10 I was in that point of the course where I met Angie to pace her when she ran her first marathon back in May. I pictured myself pacing her with the same strength. The last two miles were fabulous, as this Half ends downhill. I put my HR at 175 (96%) and got 9:13 min/mile for mile 12, and 8:48 min/mile for mile 13. The last tenth of a mile were all out at 100% and I clocked a 2:07:21 a PR of almost 2 minutes.

After the race I joined Sole Sisters Maryanne and Ginger, and Miguel and Tony. Maryanne and Ginger ran a fantastic race. Maryanne with a 1:43 for first in her age group and Ginger ran a 1:33 for 1st in her age group, 2nd female masters, and 7th overall. Miguel ran a 1:12 for 2nd overall, and 1st in his age group. As seen, the race was a total success for everybody.

I doubt I would run again by pace as the heart rate is working so good for me. With this, another half marathon PR has been crushed. Another One Bites The Dust. 

With Sharon
With Ginger
Sole Sisters Ginger, Maryanne, and Lizzie
Miguel Galeana, 2nd Male Overall
Ginger, 7th Female Overall, 2nd Female Masters, 1st in her age group
The bling: a glass!!!

Satisfied. Extremely Satisfied.

I have gone through this before. What do I love more, the ocean or the mountains? I settled on this issue back in the 90’s when I realized that I could not pick one or the other. I loved them both the same. The origins may come from my mom’s love for the ocean, and my dad’s love for the mountains. And as I didn’t love mom more than dad, or a child more than other, I found out that I didn’t love the ocean more over the mountain or viceversa.

Living in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), transfers me constantly to my experiences around my Avila Mountain; wet weather, mist, fresh and cool air. I simply love it. Many people complain about Seattle’s weather, but I LOVE IT. It doesn’t matter if it rains 120 days straight, I love it. Every morning when I open the door of my home and I see the mist over the lake, and the overcast skies, I breathe deeply, close my eyes, and feel joy. I love this. I really do. And there is nothing that I enjoy more that running at 40+ degrees while drizzling.

Notwithstanding, when I run by the ocean, I get transported to the Caribbean: The smell of the ocean, the warmth of the sun, the breeze that refreshes; the exhaustion that takes to complete a run under the heat.

One week after Ragnar, I went back to relay territory to run Anacortes Half Marathon. Met my niece Angie, and there I went with low expectations. Ragnar let me fatigued. I was never sore and nothing hurt, but I was very fatigued to the point that I didn’t log any miles during the week. I know my body, rest and recover is very necessary for me when I feel like that. In March 2010 I backed off for 3 weeks, doing only my long runs on the weekends. It works for me.  On race day I was not only fatigued, the sun was shining and the temperatures would reach high 70’s. My orders were to run slower than average pace.

The first four miles were delicious. Strong headwinds felt like heaven in that heat. The scent of the bay took me to my childhood when I used to go to the beach with mom, dad and siblings. I enjoyed every second of those four miles. The sensations were overwhelmingly beautiful. After crossing gorgeous Fidalgo Bay we encountered a very long and steep hill. At this point, around mile 5, two girls passed me; one dressed in black; and another with a sweater around her waist, and two shirts on, one being long sleeve. I needed her to go. Just to look at her with all that gear distracted me and made me feel hotter. The wind was gone and the heat was burning. 

We ran by Tesoro Refinery, which is located in March’s Point Peninsula, east of Fidalgo Bay. The run took me to the Paraguaná Peninsula in Venezuela. Hot, windy, oil industry, and nothingness. It took forever to run around it. Though our scorching temperatures of 78F/26C are not comparable to the Paraguaná’s temperatures (100F/38C) I felt the same. It was simply hot for a mid 40F/7C degrees runner. I was starting to feel dehydrated. I asked for two cups of water at every station; drank one, and poured another over my head. I saw the same “delusions” you see down the road when is hot. We had now crosswinds, and I wondered if I was even moving. I lost sight of the two girls. They had taken huge advantage over me. At the distance, probably a mile away, I saw the bridge that would take me back to town. I welcomed it. When I hit the 10 mile mark, at the start of the bridge, I saw the girls, far but now I could see them. I pressed the pace though I was way behind my pace. At mile 11 I passed the sweater girl, she was done. At mile 12 I was shivering, sign I was dehydrated. As I had only one mile to go, I continued with the effort because I knew nothing serious would happen. At mile 12.5 I passed the girl in black, she couldn’t believe it. Though I was running at a very high effort, the pace was not corresponding to such effort. 

Finally, the finish line was at my reach and there was Angie waiting for me. I crossed the line at 2:18, 9 minutes slower than my best run. While Angie went to kindly get water for me, I went to a corner because I was about to puke. It was done, it was tough, and I was, as always, happy.

After having a nice brunch with Angie, I drove back home to take a nap, and get ready for the second race of the day. Seafair Torchlight 8K (5 miles) at 6:30 pm. If the morning was hot, the evening expectations were hotter weather. Met my friend Benny, and we adventured among thousands of runners, as the Seafair Parade overture. Thousands of fans cheered for us, and thousands of kids along 4th avenue just wanted to touch our hands for a high 5. The skyscrapers kept us in the shade for more than a mile, which really helped, until we turned around by Qwest Field to face hilly Alaska viaduct... and the sun. My pace was slower than my 10K, but I felt in good shape. After mile 3 I knew I had a PR in my pocket. Miles went by fast, and when I was about to finish with a thought of 47+ min, Broad Street widely opened its gullet to chew us in the last stretch. The incline was brutal. I clocked 48:50, a PR by 2 minutes. Day was successful.

After a nice cold beer with Benny at the Michelob Beer Garden, I headed home with 18 miles completed in a day, split in two races. I was Satisfied. Extremely Satisfied.  

With Angie prior to the race
Brunch in Anacortes downtown. Pretty.
Seafair Torchlight Run

Climbing Alaska Viaduct
After an 18-mile day, I can afford a nice, cold beer