Monday, December 31, 2012


Before my children were born, I ran mostly for the social aspect of it.  I never did speedwork, I never did long runs without other people, and they were pretty much run-walk gossip sessions with my girlfriends. In 2010 I did get into triathlon (by default, after breaking my foot), and I enjoyed them, but my goal was always just "to finish."

Following Jack's birth, I was 40 pounds overweight and running slowly wasn't getting me anywhere in that department.  I even trained for a sprint triathlon, which I completed when he was ten weeks old, but I hadn't lost a single pound since leaving the hospital.  I started monitoring my diet and doing intervals, which I read were great for weight loss.

Apparently they were also good for improving my speed.  A month later I went out for an easy 5 miler and was amazed to see that I, a former 10 minute miler, did it in 45 minutes.  I started training for a half marathon with the goal of breaking 2 hours.  I'd never really had any running time goals before, partly because I was afraid I wouldn't meet them.  That Thanksgiving I raced a 5 miler in 40 minutes -- an 8 minute mile!?!? - and just before 2012 I met my time goal and broke the 2 hour barrier - by 9 minutes!

2012 was e a year of goal-setting, goals I set throughout the year.

Goal #1: Break 4 hours in the marathon.
Goal #2:  Break 6 hours in a Half Ironman
Goal #3:  Do an Ironman.  No time goal.  Just do it.
Goal #4:  Win your age group in something.
Goal #5: Qualify for the Boston Marathon
Goal #6:  Do an trail ultramarathon.  No time goal.  Just do it.

So... a lot of miles, a lot of early mornings, and a lot of hard work went into the past 365 days. In March I did a marathon in 3:54.  In July I finished a Half Ironman in 5:34.  In August I did an Ironman.  In November I won my age group in a 5K and came in 2nd overall.  In December I qualified for Boston with over 3 minutes to spare and two weeks later I ran my first trail ultra.

I ran 2039 miles.
I cycled 2069 miles.
I swam 101 miles.

Of all my goals, I am proudest of #5.  You'd think it would be the Ironman, but it isn't.  Why?  Because I always knew I could do an Ironman if I put in the time to train.  But I never, ever in my wildest dreams thought I could qualify for Boston.  When they changed the qualifying standards from 3:40 to 3:35 around the time Jack was born, I just rolled my eyes and figured, hey, what's another 5 minutes when your best time is 48 minutes slower than a BQ -- why not make it 53?  Even when I lined up at the start for the race, I didn't really think I could do it.

This year has changed me in so many good ways.  Some might call it narcissistic, all the training I put in.  However, I believe it makes me a better person all around.  Conquering these goals has given me confidence I never knew I had.  I have found my runner's high, and that makes me happier, and a much better parent/ wife/ teacher/ etc.

Goals for 2013?  Let's see:

#1.  Do a much better job of cleaning the house.
#2.  Sleep more than 6 hours max per night.
#3.  Cook healthier food and stop eating Clif Bars for breakfast.
#4.  Limit Facebook to 4 times a day and stop leaving it on when cleaning the kitchen after dinner because then the kitchen never really gets clean.
#5.  Clean out the closets.

Oh wait, fitness goals?  I have some... not sure what they all are yet.  I'l save them for another post.  Til then...

Happy New Year -- May 2013 bring your good running, good times, good laughs and good company.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Race Report: VHTRC Magnus Gluteus Maximus 50K

This is another great event put on by the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club, the same group who does the trail half marathon I ran in September, and the Bull Run Run 50 Miler that I didn't get into (lottery) last year.  All these runs are on the same course, but obviously the 50K and 50 miler use a bigger section than the half marathon.

This is a low key event - you show up, you run, and you write your time down when you finish.  If you don't want to finish, you turn around early and tell them you didn't do the whole thing.  They have aid stations that you hit four times, so like most ultras you need to carry some hydration.  There is a big party with pizza and beverages at the end.  And they request that you run in seasonal colors.   Here's a video of the start, right before we get on the trail-- you can see me run by about halfway through.  I'm on the left, and have a green shirt and a Santa hat on.

I really had no idea what to expect, other than I knew the course was tough.  I came in 24th out of over 250 at the at the half marathon and my pace was 10:13.  There are a lot of ups and downs.  Here is an elevation chart of the entire 50 mile course (we did 31 of these miles in the 50K) that I stole from someone else's blog:

As you can see, the course begins with an insane descent.  I fell for the first time here.  The ground was frosted, there were leaves everywhere, and the rocks were wet underneath them.  I realized right away that I apparently need a better pair of trail shoes, and that most of these runners were a lot more experienced on this terrain that me.  They were flying on the downhills.  

At about three miles in we reached a section along the river that wasn't really run-able.  There were steep rocks and we were walking single file.  Everyone was chatting to each other.  Totally a different atmosphere than road racing.  I started talking to a girl who just moved here from Seattle.  She was a very experienced trail runner.  After we got out of the rocky section, I chatted to her on the flats and the uphills, but when we got to the downhills, she flew.  I couldn't go that fast - I was afraid I would end up with stitches -- so I was alone for a good stretch.  I caught up to her at the first aid station, and barely spent any time there, but lost her again within the next mile.

About one hour in, I started hearing a guy behind me talking about the Chesapeakeman Iron Distance Triathlon, about doing the Bull Run Run 50 last year, and about recently qualifying for Boston at the Marine Corps Marathon.  I realized that this might be the co-worker my husband is always talking about who is crazier about endurance sports than I am, as I knew he was signed up for this.  I waited to see if the friends he ran with called him Jim.  They did!  I turned around and said "Hey!  I'm Jamie's wife!  You work with my husband!"  And then I had a running buddy for the next hour!  Wahoo!  Jim wasn't doing the whole run, though -- he and his buddies did about 23 miles total -- so I bid him farewell around the 11.5 mark (maybe. I honestly have no clue what the mileage was anywhere on the course) and ran alone for a little ways.

At the second aid station, I filled my bottles with Gatorade, grabbed some cookies, and kept on going.  My old boss, who has run the Bull Run Run 50 every year since it began, said that people waste a lot of time at those aid stations and you have to plan what you need to do before you get there.  I think I only stopped for 90 seconds.  Long enough to drink some cola and grab five oreos.  

Finally we made it to the "Do Loop."  They warned us that people always get lost on this section, which is right around the halfway point, and that we should run it with a veteran.  I was with a big group of people, but none of us were veterans.  Sure enough, we got lost.  I think we probably went an extra .4 or .5 miles.  Ugh.  BUT on a positive note, we were in a group.  It was at this point of getting lost that I met Dan and Elena, who actually seemed to run about my pace, and we stuck together for the entire second half.  So in a way, the rest of the race was a bit less mentally challenging than the first when I had sections I did all alone.

I thought I was a little bit crazy for running 70 miles a week during my last training cycle.  The great thing about running an ultra is that you meet people who are crazier.  In a good way.  Elena runs 70 miles a week pretty much every week, but she does it ALL on the trails.  Dan has done 50 milers and 100Ks and told me all about the last race he did, on a course in southern Virginia that was tougher than this and 62 miles long, that he finished in the dark.  I have no clue how people can run these things in the dark.  I was falling at least once an hour, and it was broad daylight,

When we hit the last aid station, 4.5 miles from the finish, I realized this was the longest I had ever run at one time.  I remembered 8 years ago, when I trained for my first marathon, every training run I did was the "longest I have ever run."  I hadn't been able to say that for awhile.

I looked at my watch and realized that I could probably finish in under 6 hours.  There were a lot of tough sections coming up, and it would be close, but I made that my goal.  It kept us moving.  We got to that rock scramble section at the river and had to take it slow, but the run on the dirt section was at a 9 minute pace.  Then we hit that crazy descent from the beginning, except this time it was straight up.  Like straight up a cliff. What kind of cruel joke is this?  I walked every step of that "up."  And then... remember that nice flat section in the video from the start?  I knew that was all that was separating me from lots and lots of pizza.  I also knew I was really going to have to book it to finish in under 6 hours.  I ran as fast as my legs could carry me (which wasn't all that fast) and pulled in at 5:58:23.

I walked in, entered my time, and then I ate one... two... three.. .four... maybe five slices of pizza.  Okay, maybe six.  Then I drove home.

Now I can't walk.  But that's okay.  Cause I am an ultramarathoner!!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Guest Race Reports: Jingle Bell Run 5K

This fall, 11 boys trained hard with me every Tuesday and Thursday to run the Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis 5K on December 8.  They each logged over a marathon of miles over the course of 10 weeks.  For some it was their first 5K.  For others, this was a second or third season.  All of the boys did an amazing job and ran a great race!  Here are their race reports.  

My 5K Jingle Bell Race Report by Andrew, Age 9

When I got up three days ago I had to get ready to run a 5K.  I got my running clothes on.  I got my shoes that have jingle bells on them.  It took so long to get to the race.   I got with my running buddy, who is my teacher Miss Van Acker, and I got ready.  It started 20 minutes late.  Since there were about a thousand people in front of me I had to walk for the first five seconds.  I got out of that crowd and then I ran.  I felt relaxed.  In the first mile, though, it felt really long.  At halfway I got a drink of water and I lost my buddy.  From then on my running got faster and faster.  By the second mile, I felt more relaxed than I did in the first mile.  When I got close to the end I did an all out sprint.  When I crossed the finish line I was all out of breath.  I found out later that I was third in my age group!  It was really fun.

My Jingle Bell Race Report by David, Age 10

At the beginning I was kind of nervous.  On the first mile it was tricky because in the beginning there was a big hill, but once I got up the hill it was easier.  I was getting a little tired on the second mile but my Dad/ Running Buddy kept me going.  On the third mile I felt like I was going to pass out.  But once again my dad kept me going .  I felt really relieved when I crossed the finish line.

Jingle Bell 5K Race Report by Gavin, Age 11

We were all cold when we were at the race start, and we had to wait about 25 minutes because some people still were not signed up and did not have their race bibs.  Then when it started, I ran the first mile – A-okay!  I ran the second mile somewhat okay and when I went around the cone and turned the other direction I got to say “hi” to all my friends and cheer them on.  The third mile it started to hurt and I was wearing out when I saw the finish line.  I sprinted the last few seconds.  I wanted to stop but neither me or Shivane could feel our legs so we kept on going to the end.  We finished, finally!  We felt like we needed to barf at the end but when we drank water and ate we were just fine.  When everyone else got to the finish line and it was time for me to go home, I felt awesome!  P.S.  Mrs. Lynch was my running buddy.  I finished in 25:38, twenty seconds better than in June.

My Jingle Bell 5K Race Report by Michael, Age 10

It was six o’clock in the morning and I couldn’t sleep because I was excited for doing my second Jingle Bell Run 5K.  Later when I got to the race with my mom and dad I hoped that it wouldn't rain halfway through the race, and it didn’t.  So when I ran the race on the first mile I was really tired because there were hills in the first part.  In the second mile I was feeling a little tired after the hills.  But on the last mile I was energized because it was downhill.   And I got a time of 36 minutes with my dad!!!

Jingle Bell 5K Race Report by Joseph, Age 9

When I first started my 5K I was very nervous.  I work up at 5:00 a.m. to exercise but I was feeling very sick.  My running buddy was my brother and he said hey, let’s run the whole way.  So we did but the whole way I felt sick.  But when I was done I felt proud and happy.

Jingle Bell 5K Race Report by Sam, Age 9

On  12/8/12 I did a fabulous 5K with one of my best friends, Mr. Stanley! It was my 2nd 5K and I crushed my old time by four minutes! My time was 38:15! If I could say what it felt like I would say that it was the best race of my life.  GUYS ON THE GO ROCKS!!!!!!!!!

Jingle Bell 5K Race Report by Shivane, Age 11

Gavin and I were trying to find our way to the start, and it was so crowded!  I was surprised that we were in the second row of people at the starting line.  We had to wait and wait, but then 15 minutes late, suddenly someone said “GO!!!!”  That was so abrubt!  When we reached the hill that was early on, I started to talk with Gavin and Miss Williams about the pace I should run.  The first mile was a breeze.  The second one was a little tougher.  During the third mile I really felt like giving up.   When it was all downhill I picked up speed.  On the final stretch I sprinted my heart out.  It felt so good to cross the finish line.  The 5K was a good experience!!!

Jingle Bell 5K Race Report by Spencer, Age 9

At the starting line there were a lot of people.  We had to wait 15 minutes past when it was supposed to start.  When I started I was fast then I slowed down but I did not walk.  On the first mile I ran but had to slow down.  On the second mile I felt good and tired.  On the third mile I was so proud of myself.  I have run since the start of September and all the way to December.  I have run lots of mornings with my running partner Miss Katherine.  I finished faster than I did last year!

My Jingle Bell 5K Race Report by Yusuf, Age 9

I woke up around 7:00am.  The first this I realized was:  

1.  Today is the race and 
2.  I need to get out of bed. 
I have a habit of as soon as I get up I use the computer.  So that’s what I did.  Then I remembered the race again so I used it for only 5 more minutes.  Then I got ready and went to the race.  The race place was soooooo crowded!  Me and my uncle started looking for the group.  We found our group in the longest line ever!  Someone had taken my uncle’s race bib, so he had to get a new one.  We started the race and it seemed fine.  Then people started coming on the other side.   My race buddy saw the turn.  So I started running a little faster.  I started getting tired right before the turn.  We started walking more after the turn.  A quarter of the way to the finish line we started running again.  I saw the finish line and I started running faster.  Me and my uncle crossed the finish line in a time of 43 minutes.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

RACE REPORT: California International Marathon

My alarm was set for 4:45am, but I was wide awake at 4.  I immediately went to the Accuweather app on my iphone.  It was perfectly calm outside -- perhaps the storm would miss us?  Nope.  It predicted the rain would start at 6:00am and last until 11:00am.  Pretty much exactly the time I'd be racing.  Fantastic.  I was pretty upset -- 12 weeks of training, and I'd be running in a downpour and 20mph winds.  I figured Boston was pretty much not happening, but I didn't fly out here to not give it my all.

I boarded the bus at 5:15 and we headed for the start.  Our hotel had a VIP tent with heaters and port-o-potties.  I. loved. our. hotel.  If you do this marathon, you must stay at the Lake Natoma Inn.  It is right on the American River bike trail, a five minute walk to quaint historic Folsom, only two miles from the race start, and THEY HAVE A VIP TENT WITH HEATERS AND THEIR OWN PORT-O-POTTIES!  They have 2pm late check out so you can actually shower after the race.  And did I mention the VIP Tent with heaters and port-o-potties?  It was freezing and pouring when we got there.  Everyone else had to huddle at the gas station across from the start line to stay dry, except for those of us that were in that private tent.  I sat for an hour next to the heater and made some new friends.   The winds were insane.  They were knocking over chairs INSIDE our tent.  Apparently they were up to 36mph.  AND there was a tornado earlier that morning in West Sacramento.  Yes, friends, this marathon has perfect weather 95% of the time, and my sister claims it pretty much never does more than sprinkle around here, except when I come, and then we get the peak of the biggest storm of the season right during my race.  Of course.

I only used the port-o-potty... five times?... during the hour and fifteen minutes we were in the tent.  When I emerged for the final time at 6:52, there was no one else in the tent.  Oops.  Better get to the start so I could find the 3:35 pacer.   I finally spotted him as the gun went off, and I was still a bit behind.  Oops again.  Guess I'd have to catch up.

Except it was SO crowded.  I could not get through.  I have never been in a marathon where it was this crowded at the start -- I couldn't even weave around people.  I tried to move forward and accidentally elbowed someone.  He yelled at me -- "Sheesh, girlie, you've got 26 more miles, you can take it slow here."  "NO I CAN'T!  I CANNOT AFFORD A NINE MINUTE MILE, YOU HEAR ME?  NOW GET OUT OF MY WAY!"  Okay, I didn't really say that.  But I kind of really wanted to.

Eventually I caught up to the 3:35 pacer. His strategy was to go by effort and since this was a hilly course -- not crazy challenging hills, but lots of rollers along the way --  he was going a bit slower than 8:10s on the uphills but really booking it on the descents.  There were tons of people in the 3:35 pace group.  I stuck with him until the 5th mile and then got sick of elbowing people accidentally.  3:35 is the open women's Boston Qualifying time so it was extremely crowded.  I saw that up ahead of him it was pretty clear, so I sped up to get some of my own breathing space.

Around the 6th mile, we start to head directly south for awhile.  The winds were heading southeast, and that stretch of running put us in the direct line of some serious crosswind.  Coupled with the torrential downpour, my miles around here got a little slower.  Aside from my slow-due-to-way-too-many-people first mile, I'd been averaging about 7:55s.  The winds really slowed my pace here and they were close to 8:15s.

A few miles later, we turned and headed west again.  We went through this cute little town called Fair Oaks that looked like it was straight out of an old western movie -- I was half expecting The Three Amigos to pop out and cheer me along.  We were nearing the halfway point, and I looked forward to getting there so I could turn on my music.  That was my little mental game -- no headphones until 13.1, since the second half is where the real challenge begins.

I crossed the halfway point at a little under 1:46.  I was pretty surprised - I didn't realize I'd gotten that far ahead of the pacer.  The rain was really coming down at this point, so I put on my music and tried to zone out and just concentrate on my foot cadence.  I had to keep an eye on my watch to make sure my pace didn't slow down.  I felt fine, but it took some willpower to keep those feet moving at the speed that felt so easy in the first half.

Around the 16th mile I got my first side stitch.  But I was prepared!  I know these are pretty much always due to a salt imbalance, and I had brought salt tablets!  I took one and felt better within a couple of minutes. Only ten miles to go.  Really.  That's what I was thinking.  Because when you do a run of 17 miles or more every single week, and another run between 12-15 miles in the same week, ten miles really doesn't seem like that big of a deal anymore.

The rain lightened up a bit around the 20th mile.  Was this the wall?  I still was feeling strong.  No wall at 20. I kept on trucking.

When I got to 23, I felt fine cardio-wise, but my legs were starting to ache.  So began my mantra -- you ran a marathon when it was 96 degrees outside after you biked 112 miles.  You can do this.  This is nothing.  I looked at my watch and realized I could run 9:00 miles for the rest of the marathon and still break 3:35.  I started to cry.  All those Tuesdays where I left my house at 4:30 to get in 15 miles before work, all those weeks where I put in over 70 miles -- they had paid off.  As long as I didn't cramp or break my foot (knock on wood -- I'd done that before during a race!) -- I was going to qualify for Boston.

24 and 25 were my slowest miles -- 8:15 and 8:17.   Another side stitch = another salt tab.  My legs were fading a bit.  I tried to kick it when I hit the final mile -- that ended up being 8:05.  And then I could see the finish.  I gave it all I had, and the clock hadn't quite hit 3:33 when I ran over the line.  I knew I'd taken at least a minute to get to the start -- so it was 3:31-something-close-to-3:32.  Still awaiting final chip time, but the unofficial results say 3:31:53.

As soon as I crossed the finish line, it stopped raining.  I kid you not.  The clouds departed and the sun came out for the first time since I had landed in San Francisco on Friday.  Figures. I called my sister to come pick me up (she and my mom had been entertaining Jack for the morning.)  It was 10:40 and I was starving.  I found a cute little cafe and ordered lunch while I waited.  I was still in shock.  How did I finish in under 3:32?

Ten marathons ago, I ran a 4:36.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could do this.  Even when I started today, I was pretty sure 3:35 was not in reach.

I can't believe it.  I'm going to Boston.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Here we go...

Well I'm here.

This is my tenth marathon. My first marathon in Chicago 2006 was cold (starting temps near freezing,) windy, and wet.  The leader slipped on the timing mat and hit his head, causing a big confusion over who actually won the race since his entire body did not cross the finish line.  I personally ended up in the med tent with hypothermia.

So it is only appropriate that for my tenth marathon, the weather forecast brings 20mph winds, torrential downpours, and possible flooding.  It will certainly be a mental challenge.   I sincerely apologize to anyone who signs up for the same races as I do, because my bad race weather karma follows me wherever I go.

I'm having a fantastic weekend with my son, sister, and mother.  Jack traveled well, we had an amazing champagne brunch this morning in San Francisco, and are staying at a lovely resort hotel right near the start line in Folsom.  I had no idea when I picked the hotel, but they offer a free shuttle to the start and a VIP heated tent with (wait for it, wait for it...) private port-o-potties. If you know me, you know how important this is before a race.  So I am feeling blessed.

Here we go.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Whether the weather be....

I signed up for this marathon back in March after the weather for the Rock 'n Roll USA Marathon ended up being close to 80 degrees after training in winter temperatures.  Having virtually no time to acclimate, it definitely affected my race.  So when I signed up for California International Marathon, I knew it wouldn't be hot.

But I still have bad race weather karma.

Let's look at my 2012 races.

JFK 20K.  Despite a winter with hardly any snow, we had a blizzard that morning.  Thank goodness for YakTrax.

Burke Lake 8K - Rainy and Muddy.

Rock 'n Roll USA Marathon - Sunny and 78 degrees, despite perfect marathon conditions the previous weekend.

Peasantman Olympic Triathlon - Drizzle.  Not bad.

Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon - Pefect Weather!

Musselman Triathlon.  MONSOON!  Windy and DOWNPOUR.  Cloud to ground lightening on the bike portion.  85 degrees and humid during the run.

Ironman Louisville - 96 degrees.  The weekend before was a perfect high of 82.  But no, I get 96 degrees.

Heritage Half Marathon - Perfect Weather!

(Apparently I have a lot of luck with half marathons.... everything else, not so much.)

AND NOW... the predicted weather forecast for the marathon I have been working towards for the past 12 weeks...  RAIN!  WIND!  FLOOD WATCH!!!

The good news is -- it won't be hot.

Musselman definitely had the worst race weather I have ever experienced, and ironically my fastest bike split pace of any triathlon I've ever done.  Perhaps this because I pedaled like crazy to avoid getting hit by lightening and to just be done with it?  So maybe if it is raining it will motivate me to get the race over with?

Wet socks.  Ugh.  That's what I'm not looking forward too.

MAYBE.... just maybe... the forecast will change. And hey, it won't be a hurricane like they had in NYC.  It could be much worse -- I could have flown across the world for a non-marathon, as many, many folks did a few weeks ago for the NYC marathon.  Nope, I'm just looking at bad weather.

And as we used to sing at Aloha Camp:

"Whatever the weather we'll weather the weather, whether we like it or not."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Race Report - Giving Thanks 5K (Vienna, VA)

Jamie and I have done a Turkey Trot every year since 2006, and this year the original plan was to do the Virginia Run Turkey Trot (25 minutes west) 5K. Jamie runs with the kids in the stroller and I get to run solo.  We usually do the Alexandria race, which is 5 miles and has an actual jogging stroller division complete with awards, but with my marathon only 10 days out and Jamie's last Sunday, we figured this was a better option.  I went to sign up on Monday, and it had sold out -- 5000 participants! Ugh.  So I looked online and saw that they had a race right in downtown Vienna, only 5 minutes from my house.  How did I not know about this?  They also had race day registration, and since my body was still pretty beat up from last Sunday's 15-miles-faster-than-planned followed by a three hour power walk around Philly, I decided to wait and see how I felt this morning.

Alarm went off at 6:30 and I felt great.  Jamie, however, had run the Philly marathon with a touch of bronchitis and sounded like he was going to hack up a lung.  My iphone informed me that the temperature was 30 degrees.  So... a break in tradition.  Jamie decided to save $35 and do his 5K on the treadmill later on.

I arrived at the race site at about 7:15 and registered.  Then I headed out for a quick one mile warm up.  My Garmin said my pace was about a ten minute mile on the way out.  I added 3 100 meter strides on the way back.  My pace jumped to 6:XX -- hey, not bad!  I had no idea what to expect since the last time I actually raced a 5K was in 2006, and I think my time was about 25 minutes, which is more time than it usually takes me to cross the 5K mark on a half marathon nowadays.

I sat in my car until 7:55, then used the port-o-john, and sprinted to the start.  The gun sounded and I took off.  Within the first third of a mile there was a MONSTER hill.  I refused to look at my pace on the way up. There were a few women ahead of me at this point.  On the way down, I gave it all I had.  I passed a couple of women and was pretty much just running with men at this point. I felt like I was working hard but could keep this pace up for awhile.  When I hit the first mile marker, the watch said 6:47.

The second mile headed west on the W&OD Trail.  I biked this portion enough during the Ironman training to know this was what is called a "false flat" -- and I was on the decline.  Meaning it would be an incline on the way back.  At this point, I started seeing the leaders heading back to the start.  I only passed one woman.  I was in second place.

I hit the turnaround, and soon my watch buzzed that mile two was complete.   6:55.  And then it started to hurt.  5Ks always hurt.  Mentally knowing I was ascending about 100 feet during this mile made it hurt even more.  That finish line felt like it was never going to come.  I glanced down at my watch and saw I was having a hard time keeping the pace under 7 -- in fact, sometimes it would be as high as 7:30.  I was really tired at this point.  My watch buzzed -- mile 3 was 7:17.   Blech.  BUT I could see the finish line.  I booked it and finished the last .1 at a 6:55 pace. Final time was 21:47.

There were a lot of people doing the race, and I figured I could get in another two miles before the awards ceremony.  I jogged a mile out and a mile back, then went to check the official results.  I couldn't find my name, but I KNEW I'd come in under 22 minutes.  So I started to look for my bib number.  And then I saw it.  Second woman overall:  Aietienen Lynch.

Well that is an interesting name.  I am not sure how you get that from "Gretchen", even if my handwriting isn't fabulous. I went and talked to the timing folks who corrected it and told me to hang around for the awards ceremony since I came in second overall.

So they then called up all the Age Group finishers -- 3rd, 2nd, and 1st place.  I guess because I placed overall, I was not included in the Age Group awards.  They handed gift certificates to all of these folks.  Then they called the overall winners. And then the awards ceremony was over. Huh?  I definitely had a faster time than any of the female age group winners.  I went up to ask the announcer and tried to explain to him that I wasn't in the age group awards because I had placed as an overall winner.  He totally didn't understand what I was saying.  He told me to go talk to "the lady with the red hair."  I explained it to her.  She said "Oh.  So maybe that is why we ended up with these extra prizes?"  She handed me the envelope that said "18-29 Woman - 2nd "   Yeah, I'm pretty sure that was the wrong envelope.  Whatever.  I give up.  The first time I ever podium, they spell my name wrong - no, not spell it wrong, completely butcher it - forget to call me at the awards, and give me the wrong prize.  Of course.

Despite all this I'm still pretty ecstatic.  There is no way I could have run a sub-22 5K a year ago.  No way in the world.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Race Report - Philly Half (Sort of...) + Important Lesson in Iphone Usage

Some people celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary with a trip to Bermuda.  My husband and I, we get my dad to come and babysit for the weekend so we can run.  Hey, whatever floats your boat.

Jamie only decided to run the Philly marathon 10 weeks ago, right before it sold out, and I am already registered for the California International in two weeks, so I decided to sort of do the half marathon.  They don't really care at Philly what bib you are wearing on any part of the course, as long as you have a bib, so instead of doing the south loop, I jumped in for the north loop to run with my training partner Brittany who was attempting to qualify for Boston.  It seemed pointless to run the first half with her since that's not where it gets mentally tough.  And plus I didn't really want to race all out when the marathon is only two weeks away.  I assumed she would do 8:10ish miles, which would be a good pace run for my own race.

We were staying at the airport Courtyard hotel (as all the downtown hotels were booked) and set off for the starting line at 5:30 a.m.  All was going smoothly til we got to the exit for the Art Museum (where the start line is.)  It was backed up.  Crazy backed up.  Brittany and Jamie still needed to check their bags, and the traffic was not moving.  So I figured I'd try the next exit and backtrack.  Except.. oops.  We ended up over the river.  And the traffic going the other way on the interstate was backed up for miles.  I guess this is what happens when you put 33,000 runners at the start line all at the same time and there isn't really a great public transportation option.   It was already 6:25... race starts at 7.  I said I would check in their bags.  We finally got to an exit (though not the one we wanted) and noticed runner after runner hopping out of their cars.  My GPS said we were .7 miles from the start.  So Brittany and Jamie jumped out and I went to go find parking. I was able to get off on the left exit, which let me out at Rittenhouse Square.  I found a parking lot, stuck the ticket on my window, and ran the 1.5 miles to the start with both of their gear check bags.

As it turned out, I didn't really need to be concerned.  Plenty of people were still checking gear bags at 7 when I arrived... and past 7.  In fact, people were still being dropped off at the starting line at 7:25.  At 7:37 they made an announcement that they really needed everyone racing to cross the start line because the first half wheelchair participant would be over the line in less than ten minutes and they needed to change it to record the finish instead of the start.  Guess we were not the only ones with traffic problems.

I headed over to Whole Foods to have some coffee and wait for auto texts with Jamie and Brittany's 10K splits.  Jamie's came first, saying he was on pace for a 3:21 and Brittany's next, at 3:33.  I still had some time.  I chatted with some people, used the bathroom, and waited for the 20K split.  Except it wasn't 20K, it was half -- Jamie's came in (on pace for 3:18) and I realized I needed to get back to the start line to catch Brittany for the North Loop.  I bolted out and grabbed my phone -- no text yet.  Phew, I hadn't missed her. I was freaking out that I was the worst friend in the world who was more interested in my coffee than helping a friend through a grueling 13.1 miles when I heard "Gretchen!  I'm here!"  And we were off.

The north loop runs up the Schuykill River and had some nice fall views, but it definitely isn't the most interesting half -- I was glad I had Brittany to talk to.  Our pace was just conversational - we weren't out of breath, but if I ran any faster I would have to quit talking.  Jamie had my Garmin on and so I had my old Forerunner and I turned off the pace since this was Brittany's race, not mine. I did notice that we were getting further and further ahead of the 3:35 pacer, to the point where we couldn't see him anymore.

Soon we saw the lead man come down the other way.  As the out and back crowd got thicker, we tried to keep an eye out for Tuan and Jamie.  Then I got another text that my darling husband had crossed the 30K on pace for a 3:15.  Seriously?  The guys runs 40 mile a week max for 10 weeks and is on pace to qualify for Boston?  Around that time we passed Tuan, who was right alongside the 3:05 pacer and only had two miles to go.  He was definitely going to Boston.  Brittany, I was pretty sure at this point, was going to Boston.  Jamie had a chance of going to Boston.  Talk about putting on the pressure for my next race.

I spent miles 22-23 staring at my phone, willing it to text me right at 10:22.  It did not.  Jamie had not made it across in a sub-3:15.  His final time was 3:17:43.  Which doesn't qualify him as a 41 year old man.  It does, however, qualify him as a 41 year old woman, which he was mistakenly entered as.  This is the second time this has happened.  Last December he won the female masters division of the Jingle Bell 5K in 20:05.  He does not check the female box.  These things just happen when your name is Jamie.

When we got to 25 (12 for me) I looked down at my watch and said "Brittany, you could stop and walk this mile and you would still go to Boston."  She looked at me and said "Are you crazy?  I'm not walking!"  "Yeah, I didn't say you should walk.  I just meant you are killing this thing.  You are pretty easy to 'pace' since all you do is speed up."  Which she did.  When we got to the 26 mile marker, I turned the pace back on my Garmin.  We ran to the finish at a 6:45.  She killed it.  3:30.  I was so excited for her!  Our half split was 1:43:48 which is definitely not the 8:10 pace I was looking for today.  More like 7:55.  Oops.

And here is where things got interesting...

The plan was to walk back to Rittenhouse Square, have brunch, get the car, and get home at 4:30 or so.  I went to get the car while Jamie was paying his bill.  I went to the lot where I thought I had left it.  No car.  I went to to the kiosk and noticed it was $15/ day.  My lot was $11/ day.  Wrong lot.  I asked the attendant where the next lot was. He told me.  I walked there.  Wrong lot.  That attendant gave me another address.  Nope. Wrong lot.  I took out my phone to try to google map where lots were, and my phone promptly died.  Then I got lost.  I had no phone, no way to find Jamie, and no idea where I was.  I walked.  And walked.  For an hour and a half.  I didn't find the car, and when I got back to the restaurant, Jamie was gone.  The waitress let me use her phone and Jamie answered.  He was in a coffee shop flipping out that I'd been mugged.  I went to find him, and as soon as I arrived, his phone died too. So we had no car, no phone, and no way of getting ahold of my dad, who thought I was missing.  Jamie's legs were too sore to walk, so I told him I'd figure out where the car was if he could just stay at Starbucks.  I walked for another hour, 6 other parking lots, no car.  Back to Starbucks.  Jamie had been talking to a woman there who suggested I go to the Apple Store and charge my phone.  At this point I had probably walked 6 or 7 miles in the same 2 mile radius.  I knew my car was right by that park.  What was I supposed to do?  I called my dad once my phone was charged, and he thought my car had probably been towed.  But I had yet to find an $11 lot.

Finally, I went to the police.  "Did you pay with a credit card?"  they asked.  "Why yes, I did."  "Well, call the credit card company and ask which lot you used."  So I did.  And they told me.  And it was pretty much right in the vicinity I had walked up and down and up and down and up and down, except it was kind of up an alley and hidden by four very tall buildings.  Yup, less than 2 blocks from the Apple Store and the place we had brunch.  There was another very visible lot right across the street, which I had frustratingly visited about 10 times in my search.  I picked up Jamie and we headed off.

As we pulled out onto the highway, I noticed that my head was throbbing.  I was seeing spots.  I told Jamie he had to drive.  It felt all too familiar to my Ironman finish and my last marathon finish.  Sure enough, in similar fashion, I started puking.  Jamie pulled over but it was too late.  We headed to a rest stop where I cleaned up.  I tried to drink some Gatorade.   20 minutes later I was puking again.  Then the tingling arms.  Another case of severe dehydration.  Not from the race, I don't think -- I had Gatorade at every stop.  Nope, I think this was from the three hours that I power walked the streets of Philadelphia searching for our car and didn't drink anything.   The 2.5 hour drive home was pretty much torture.  When I took off my socks, my feet were swollen up like pillows.  Dehydration symptom #782.

I got home and Susanna says "Mommy how was your race?  Did you have to go to the doctor again?  Are you sick again?"

After a soak in the tub, a half a bottle of Powerade, and a slice of pizza, I started to feel somewhat normal.  So much for my taper.  I ran 15 miles total - 13 a little faster than I should have - and probably walked 7 or 8.  Hopefully I will be fully recovered in two weeks.  Tomorrow will be a rest day, and I may cut my mileage a little more than originally planned this week - the legs are very sore, which wasn't in the plan.

AND I learned from my father the important "Drop Pin" feature on the Iphone.  I did not know you could basically bookmark your location.  An important feature that would have saved me 3 hours of panic.

Overall, a great weekend, and since I am Gretchen, it wouldn't be complete without a "Gretchen Story", now would it?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

CIM Training Week #9 - Peak Weeks Complete

The peak weeks are finished.  5 weeks at 70 miles a week.  I did it.

I don't think I've gotten much faster, but I definitely have developed more endurance.  I think my half marathon proved that.  I had the speed to go 7:40 for ten miles, and I was able to bump that up to 13 miles for the half marathon.  But my tempo pace still seems to be right there at 7:40. Hopefully what this means is that I can hold an 8:10 pace for a lot longer than I used to be able to -- 26.2 miles?  We shall see.

I have to remember that despite all this insane training it's just a race.  I've had a lot of friends or acquaintances that have bonked or DNFed on recent races they spent months training for.  I guess the important this to remember is that I don't just do the training for the race outcome.  The training itself is the biggest benefit, not whether I can cross the finish line in 3:35.  The training is where I've met good friends, where I've had some of my best solo thought processing, where I've pushed my limits, and where I've squashed some of the stress that comes with being a full time working mother.

So now the taper begins... (and at 58 miles this week, which is where I peaked the last training cycle, it doesn't seem like much of a taper.)  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

CIM Training Week #8 - A Bit of Burnout

This marks the fourth week in a row that I have hit 70 miles. For the most part, I've enjoyed the training.  But at the end of this week I hit a little bit of burnout.

The week began with Hurricane Sandy, whose arrival was enough to get us out of work for two days, but just grazed the DC area and didn't even cause us to lose power.  (My friends in NYC and Jersey were not nearly as lucky and some of them still do not have power or heat.)   It wasn't really safe to run outside on Monday but I did get in 9 miles on the treadmill.  On Tuesday the rain and wind were virtually gone by 10am so I put out a post to the "Moms Run This Town" group and found someone crazy enough to want to do a long run with me on the Accotink Trail.  It was great to run with good company and I got in 15 miles.  Wednesday my alarm went off for my usual recovery run with my neighbor, but she texted and said she was tired and I could not motivate myself to run solo so I turned off my alarm and went back to sleep.  I had a dentist appointment at 4:30 and was taking my kids trick-or-treating that evening so I had no idea how I was going to get in seven miles.... I finally decided to run from work to the dentist and then run back to my car and drive home.  I made it home by 5:45pm with seven miles run and clean teeth.  Thursday the motivation was still waning... I was supposed to do 12 miles with 10 X 100 meter strides before work but I kept hitting snooze and only wound up with 9.5, so I then forced myself to do the strides on the treadmill with the kids in gym daycare (took less than 20 minutes) before we hit family swim.  Friday was supposed to be a 10 mile recovery run.  Again, I hit snooze and didn't get up.  Jamie said he was fine picking up the kids and I could run after work, so I left as soon as school finished. I wanted to quit two blocks into the run.  I figured I'd feel better once I hit two miles or so.  Nope.  At 2 miles I still wanted to quit.  And I still had three more to go before the turnaround.  At three miles in I really wanted to quit.  At 3.5 I really, really really wanted to quit... so I turned around and figured I would do the other three miles on Sunday.  

Saturday was chilly and I showed up at the marina at 6:30 so I could get in three miles before meeting Tuan and Brittany for the remaining 14. I put on my headlamp and took off on the Mount Vernon Trail -- and immediately started freaking out.  Where were all the other runners?  Normally they are out in full force, but I guess the Marine Corps Marathon put an end to that. I guess most of them were done training for the season.  I was all alone on a dark trail along the Potomac River.  I turned around and ran across the 14th Street Bridge over and over for the remaining 20 minutes.  At least that was well lit.  I was very glad when 7 o'clock rolled around and I had company for the remaining 2 hours...

So my mileage was at 68 and I swore I'd hit 5 weeks of 70 and I really REALLY did not want to run on Sunday.  At all.  I took the kids to swim lessons, soaked in the hot tub, had a great afternoon with the kids and then forced myself to do a 2 mile recovery run at 5pm before we went to our neighbors for dinner.

70 miles.  Done.  One more week of this craziness.  And reading the above... well, it really does sound a bit crazy.  Hopefully this week will be filled with a bit more motivation.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

CIM Training Week #7 - The Calm Before The Storm

This week training went pretty smoothly.  I also got to enjoy much of my running with company.  71 miles total.  A quick recap:

Monday - REST!  No really, I did.  For the first time in 11 days.
Tuesday - 15 BEFORE I started teaching.  I can't believe I actually did it - the mid week long run.  I found this group online called "Moms Run This Town" and they were meeting at 5am for 7 miles.... so I set my alarm for 4:30am, was out the door by 4:40, ran with them for 7, ran back home, another few in my neighborood, showered and got the kids ready for school, and then finished up with 2.5 with the boys running club I coach.
Wednesday - 7 recovery.  I did 4 with my neighbor and finished up on my own.  Entire run was finished by 6:30am.
Thursday - I did three in the morning with the running club (and paced a speedy little 5th grader for the last mile to figure out a goal pace for his 5K.  He did an 8 minute mile for his last mile, after already doing 2.5 --I'm not sure I'll be able to pace him for the actual 5K, which is a week after the marathon!)  Then I did a 9 mile tempo run on the W&OD with Brittany.  Our goal was to hold half marathon pace for 7 miles, with a 1 mile warm up and cool down.  Our average was about 7:35 for the tempo miles, but we did stop a couple of times to drink/ Gu/ complain that the last 3.5 miles were uphill.  So we sort of did a tempo run, and vowed that next time we will only stop once.  And then the next time we won't stop at all.  Ya know... we gotta build up to being real runners.  Who follow real plans.
Friday - 6 recovery miles with an awesome co-worker right after work.
Saturday - 22 miles with Tuan and Brittany at 6am.  We were supposed to pick up the pace at the end.   The first 16 miles were between 8:45 - 9:10 (aside from one ridiculously slow mile right at the beginning.), and the last 6 were between 8:22 (that was the fastest one) and 8:40.  So the last 6 were all within 30 second of marathon pace.  Booyah.  (However, I am not sure I could have held actual marathon pace for those last six miles...  within 30 seconds was hard enough.)
Sunday - This was my first year to spectate at the Marine Corps Marathon.  My friend Michelle was trying to break 4:30 and I said I'd meet her at The Wall (AKA Mile 20) and push her til she wanted to punch me in the face.  Which I did.  And she finished in 4:25 -- PR of about 20 minutes!  I ran to the metro and up and down the 14th Bridge -- got in a total of about 9 miles.

I greatly enjoyed being a spectator.  We held up this sign:

The real runners totally got it.  Some of them even asked us what their Paul Ryan Projected Finish time was.  But some people thought were there supporting the Romney/ Ryan ticket -- I guess I should have work the shirt I wore to MCM 2008:

(Sidenote:  Yes, that's a pregnant tummy, and no I didn't run the whole marathon in 2008 -- only the 10K.)

So there is a HURRICANE on the way and I have no idea what that's going to do to next week's mileage, which is supposed to be another peak week.  I may have to rest on Tuesday since that's when we're supposed to have monsoons and 50-60mph winds.  And possibly power outages.  Ugh.  I'm already worried about the food in my freezer.  They have called off school for the next two days.  I think I may need to get out and run just to keep my sanity - two kids and a house with likely no electricity is going to be... interesting.

At least my massage therapist called and said she will be doing massages by candlelight tomorrow as long as we can get there.   :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

CIM Training Week 6 - We Are Halfway There

Really?  I'm halfway through training? Three more weeks of 70 plus miles and then three weeks of taper.  And then I put my body to the ultimate test.

I've already decided I'm not going to put too much pressure on myself.  If I don't sub 3:40, I'll sign up for a spring marathon and try again.  Maybe I'll have to try again and again and again.  My half marathon time says I have the ability to meet the goal.  But it was a race with ideal conditions where pretty much everything went right.  Races are unpredictable.

My week in a review:
Monday - 6 recovery miles before work and 4 at 10pm (no I didn't want 10pm.  Susanna wouldn't sleep.)  Legs were still pretty tight from the race the day before.
Tuesday- Rest (although I did two with the boys running club I coach -- Tuesday is not a good day to choose "rest" because those boys won't let me.)
Wednesday- GA (general aerobic) pace 9 before work, 6 after.
Thursday- 3 with the running club before work and then insane speedwork -- .75 mile repeats at a 6:45 pace with .25 jog recoveries plus warm up and cool down.  So 8 more miles.
Friday- 6 recovery miles in the morning, 2 in the afternoon
Saturday- 17 at 8:45ish pace
Sunday- 9 recovery miles
Total mileage:  72.  Another record.

Tomorrow is rest. WHAT?  I have run for 11 days straight, and my mind is having trouble grasping this concept of rest.  I have a feeling the taper is going to be very, very itchy come November.

A couple things I learned this week:

1.  I can't run at 5am every morning.  I need a couple mornings a week where I can relax and not feel rushed and sleep in a bit longer.  I also hate speedwork in the mornings.  So it looks like Thursdays will be my "Run After Work Day."

2. Though all these solo runs are great for mental toughness, I really enjoy running with others.  Saturday long runs I always do with the DSG folks.  These past two weeks I've met up with Brittany once outside of DSG to do a run.   I also started doing my Wednesday moring recovery runs with a neighbor.  It's hard to fit in a social life with two kids and a full time job (and, er, running 70 mile a week) -- this helps.

This week Brittany and I are meeting up for speedwork on Thursday.  We are somehow supposed to hold half marathon pace (about 7:40) for 7 miles, sandwiched between a mile warm up and cool down.  I have no idea how I'm supposed to run that fast if I don't have a timing chip on and someone to chase down, but we'll see how it goes.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

CIM Training Week 5 + Heritage Half Race Report

This was a recovery week and oh did I need it.  After giving blood and running 71 miles last week, I was happy to cut back my mileage to 50 to mini-taper for my half marathon tune up race.  I didn't have a lot going on in the evenings, Monday was a holiday, and so I also didn't get up early to run -- I figured I could catch up on some much needed sleep.

So.... Monday was 9 on the Accotink Trail - ran from the gym while the kids were in daycare and Jamie was on the treadmill, then we all did family swim.  Tuesday I did 2 with the Guys on the Go team I coach (3rd - 6th grade boys... wasn't sure if I should count these miles in my training since I usually do them super slow and stop a lot to motivate the kiddos, but hey why not?) and 6 at the Tysons Running Store, Wednesday I rested for the first time in 11 days, Thursday was 2 with the Guys on the Go plus 3 miles of speed training after work, Friday I ran 6 with Brittany right after work from the marina before heading off to Pentagon City to get a new iphone (note to all:  do not put your brand new iphone in your running jacket, then throw all your sweaty clothes in the laundry without checking your pockets...) -- it is SO nice to run with someone else who is my pace, wish she lived closer -- and then Saturday was insane and all I could manage was to run home from swim lessons before jumping in the car and heading to an inservice for work.  At any rate, I felt pretty tapered for the race today.

Brittany (who was NOT tapered as she decided to run 14 miles yesterday) picked me up at 5:30am and we headed off to Gainesville.  The weather was pretty perfect for running -- 50 degrees, no wind.  We picked up our bibs and did a warm-up lap around the track, then I went to the bathroom (for the record, I went to the bathroom 5 times before the race started.  Yes, that is five times between 6:15am and 7:00am.  I am always terrified I'm going to have to lose precious seconds during the race in a port-a-potty, but I think Brittany thought this was a bit ridiculous by the 4th time....)  Then I drank a bottle of Gatorade, did one more lap, (visited the ladies room a few more times), and got in line for the race.

My goal for the race was to try to keep the same pace I did for the ten miler in June - 1:17:13, so a 7:43 pace.  I figured, hey, it's only three miles longer, I can do it, right?  So I took off at what I thought was somewhere around 7:40.  The Garmin buzzed and I looked down.  7:22.  Oops.  Anyhow, whatever. I didn't feel like I was pushing it and figured I'd settle back into a groove once the first mile adrenaline wore off.  Sure enough mile 2 was 7:44.  Then 7:42, 7:46, 7:55, -- these were all downhill and I was feeling great til I quickly realized this was going to be UPHILL on this out and back course and that the UPHILL would come when I was much more tired, AURGH - 7:44, 7:48 7:42, (and here comes that downhill-now-backwards-meaning-the-devil-uphill) 8:02, -- despite the fact that my 10th mile was the slowest of them all, I was thrilled that I crossed it right at 1:17, so I was on top of my goal - 7:59, 7:55, 8:03 (completely uphill! - elevation here if you are curious:, AND finally we are at the last 1.1 -- no more hills, and there was a girl who looked like she might be in my age group within sight of me... I tried to catch her, and as we made it onto the track for the last 400 meters, I ran past her.  I was a pretty good distance ahead and had my music blaring, looked back at the curb and thought I had her. My Garmin said I was running towards the finish at about a 6:50 pace... and then as I got to the last straightaway she somehow managed to kick it up to like a 4 minute/ mile pace, I swear, and she blew ahead of me by like 5 seconds.  I felt like I was going to throw up, but only for the last .15 miles.  I did the last 1.1 in 7:29, I think.... my watch and and my official time were not in agreement.  Final chip time was 1:41:05.  7:42 pace = Goal Met.

Last year the 3rd place winner in my AG was 1:43 so I decided to stick around for the results.  Brittany is in the next AG down so we were not competing, but she had finished around the same time I did.  We waited and waited in the cold for the race to end.... then we got in her car... then we got back out and waited some more.  Finally about an hour and 15 minutes later they posted preliminary results.  I was 6th in my AG and Brittany was 7th in hers.... oh well.  Guess they had a speedier field (or perhaps better race conditions) this year.

Overall I'm happy -- that was a PR by 3:49.  See happy photo:

My schedule called for 18 miles today with 12 at race pace... I counted our .5 mile warm-up, then ran from my house to Firehouse Subs when I got home to get in another 4.5.  Jamie met me there with the kiddos.  It was a slog - 10:20 pace (I walked up Pickett Hill) - but I knew if I didn't do the run right when I got home it wasn't going to happen.

Next week the training plan is back to insanity, and my week is kind of ridiculous as well.  My tenth anniversary is Tuesday so I don't think I can really run after work.... we will see how/if I get in all 70 miles on the schedule.....

Saturday, October 6, 2012

CIM Training Week #4 - A Lesson Learned in Blood Donation Timing

Giving blood is good.  Giving blood when your marathon training plan calls for the heaviest volume you have ever done in your life may not be so good.  And giving blood two weeks before a key race -- definitely not the brightest idea.

You would think I would have learned my lesson after last year's 5K debacle.    The Inova Blood Center has been calling me since I was eligible in July, but I had so many races over the summer, plus the Ironman training was pretty intense, so I promised them I would give when the Ironman was over.  I meant to give mid-September before the training volume got too heavy but then work got busy and I kept putting it off.  After the 5th voicemail (Hello Mrs. Lynch, we have noted that you said you would give after August 26th... we have a shortage and you are the universal donor... please call us and make an appointment.) the guilt really hit. So after my 18 miler last weekend, I scheduled a donation.  I figured since Sunday was a rest day, I could relax and I remembered I felt pretty recovered (despite the horrible 5K) by Wednesday the last time around.  However,  last April I wasn't doing much that was high intensity, I wasn't running as much and I definitely wasn't running as far.

Monday I had 13 miles scheduled - 9 in the morning and 4 after work.  I headed out at 5am and noticed my "steady" pace was considerably slower than it normally is.  I was annoyed with myself the whole run, but I couldn't get my pace under 8:50 without feeling like I was pushing it.  The afternoon pace was no better.  The next day was even worse - 9:20 pace in the morning and so pathetic after work that I turned off my Garmin (the fact that Susanna was in the stroller didn't help matters.) Wednesday was a recovery day so I have no idea what the pace was.  Thursday was my tempo run.  I left my house at 5:20am and did a two mile warm-up without looking at the pace, then I shot off at what I thought was my Lactate Threshold.... I figured my first mile was about 7:25 based on my effort.  The Garmin clicked off and I glanced down -- 8:19.  !?!?!?!?!  I started running harder and assumed the next mile would be at least 7:50.  When the watch buzzed again, it said 8:09.  Seriously?  I decided to bag the tempo at that point and just ran to the 4.5 mile halfway point.  I glanced at my watch and saw that it was already 6:04am.  Uh oh.  How in the world did it take me that long to get that far?   I had exactly 41 minutes to run 4.5 miles and get to my front door.  Of course then I realized that I had to go to the bathroom.  I zoomed into the Exxon station, waved to the attendant (we've become 6am friends), and then booked it as fast as I could. Luckily the elevation on my 9 mile route is uphill out, downhill back.  Somehow I made it to my door exactly at my deadline (Jamie was waiting by the window.)

So how long was it going to take me to recover?  As I made the kids' breakfast, I googled "Blood Donation and Marathon Training."  Here's what I found:

When you donate blood, you give up a pint of fluid containing mostly water along with various proteins and cells in solution. During high-intensity endurance activities however, it is hemoglobin, found within our red blood cells, that is most important.  Hemoglobin delivers oxygen to our tissues, and when we exercise our muscles require increased amounts of oxygen. If we lack sufficient hemoglobin, anaerobic, or without oxygen, metabolism will ensue (producing lactic acid) at even seemingly moderate levels of intensity. Donating a pint (450cc) of blood results in a depletion of about 10 percent of your total blood volume. Of that, only about 160cc are red blood cells. The fluid component, the remaining 290cc, is replaced within hours, but the red blood cell replacement takes about two months, (which is why you may not donate more often than every two months). What then are the lasting effects of this red blood cell loss?  Assuming that your cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped by the heart) remains constant, a drop in hemoglobin concentration associated with donating blood will reduce your oxygen delivery to working muscles by 10 percent. Still, when you are at rest, or even during moderate levels of exercise, oxygen delivery, even at this decreased capacity, far outpaces demand. However, once you reach a heart rate that is around 5 to 10 percent below your usual anaerobic threshold, your body's demand for oxygen will outpace its supply. For example, if your metabolism typically becomes anaerobic at a heart rate of 170, then after donating blood you will become anaerobic at a heart rate of between 157 and 164 beats per minute. 

Well, that explains why my Lactate Threshold run felt like Death-On-Toast.

I decided to take it easy the rest of the week.  Friday was a recovery day and I did 4 miles after work at about a 10 minute pace (just guessing as I left work at 4:20 and got back at 5.)  Today, luckily, was a Long Slow Distance run -- 18 miles at 60-90 seconds above planned race pace.  I didn't look at my watch at all, told Tuan to run without me (he was being SO kind and going at my plodding pace, but since his BQ requires a 7:23 pace, I told him to run with Fast-Ethiopian-Jake.)  I could make new friends.  I met a guy visiting from Arizona who was training for his first Ironman and ran with him for awhile.  I finished the 18 miles in 2:53 - almost 20 minutes slower than last week.  Which is fine because last week was a pace run (2/3 of the run at Marathon Pace - 8:12.)  9:38 is still within that 60-90 second window, so overall not a bad run.

Weekly totals:  66 miles in 6 days.  That's definitely a record for me.

Next week is a recovery week - a drop back to about 45 miles and culminating in a half marathon race on Sunday.  And this is why I am SOOO mad at myself for the timing of this blood donation.  This race was supposed to be my crystal ball into what pace I should run on December 2.   Missing my red blood cells is not going to give me the ability to race to my full potential so the race isn't really going to tell me anything.  Apparently they have tested hemoglobin levels of those who donate blood on a regular basis and it takes anywhere from 20 to 56 days for it to be back to normal (with 36 days being the average.)  The more you weigh and the more athletic you are, the faster the recovery time.  So I've got the fitness on my side, but at 127 lbs (speaking of which, the scale did not budge this week) I lost a larger percentage of my blood volume than a 180 lb athlete such as my husband.

Don't get me wrong.  I am glad I gave blood.  If people didn't donate, the hospitals couldn't save lives.  However - I should have donated THREE WEEKS AGO!!!!

On another note, my husband also ran 18 miles today.  In 2:20.  Somehow I think he is still going to hold the Lynch Marathon Record in 2012.  Just like he did in 2011.  And 2010.  And 2009....  Sigh.... no matter how many more miles I run, he will always be faster than me.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

CIM Training Week #3 Recap

61 miles this week - that's the most I've ever done.  I said I was doing 62.  I might just have to take the dogs for a one mile jaunt after dinner because I said I was doing 62.  Mileage junkie.  I know.

 This week I started doubles -- running more than once a day.  So while I max out at 10 miles in the morning, I get extra easy miles in the evening.  I can do these with the jogging stroller, which gives Susanna and I some chat time after school.  Her school is RIGHT on the W&OD Bike Trail, and it's pretty much exactly 2.5 miles to Whole Foods.  I can bribe her with a fruit leather, pick up anything we need for dinner, and get in my 5 miles all in one trip.  Nice.

Tempo pace on Thursday was about 7:35-40 and I felt like death.  I really really want to get that tempo pace down to 7:20.

I am forcing myself not to look at pace for recovery runs the  day after key workouts. It's pretty easy to do after work when I really don't need to be anywhere, but on Friday when I attempted to just go by feel I didn't make it home on time.  Granted, I was only 60 seconds late, but Jamie was in the car with it running and called me as I was turning onto our street. I guess I do need the Garmin in the mornings, though I know it probably makes me go faster than I should.

My long run today went pretty well considering I still felt like death from Thursday's tempo run when I went to sleep last night.  I started out pre-dawn to get in 5 miles before the group showed up and I got some fabulous photos:

Today was supposed to be 17 with 10 at Marathon Pace.  I did NOT keep marathon pace (8:12) for ten miles. My last mile was 7:50, but I was anywhere from 8:15 - 8:45 for the other 16.  The average was 8:35.  The issue I have with these plan-prescribed marathon pace runs is that I like to run with other people, and they don't particularly want to do what is on my plan ;)  Since I do all my other runs solo, and I really do like the social aspect of my Saturday runs, it's a training fact I'll have to accept.

I lost 2 lbs this week.  I think that losing another 8 or so is key to getting my pace a bit faster and really is the key to a BQ.  I did a great job of logging all my food M-Th but did not do so great this weekend.  I am going to track it but I know I went overboard yesterday thanks to my lovely husband who brought home luscious desserts from Whole Foods.

I also finally gave blood today, after putting it off during the heavy Ironman training.  I wanted to make sure I was fully recovered.  I felt pretty guilty going in there for the first time in 5 months... egads.

And now... if you were wondering how to improve your marathon time with hardly any training, please see below:

You too can "PR" the marathon!  Just visit to reach your full potential!  DSG Running approves this message.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

CIM Marathon Training Week 2

This was supposed to be posted Saturday but Blogspot wasn't working.  Anyhow....

Marathon Training Week # 2 is complete.  55 miles in 6 days.   Here’s a quick recap:

Easy Runs on MTWF ranging 7-9 miles

Speedwork Thursday:  Mile Repeats at 7 min pace with half mile recoveries (4 of those)

Long Run:  17 miles, 2:29:40.  I ran with Tuan and Brittany.  I think my easy run pace is more like 8:50 – 9:00.  I did the first three miles on my own around 9-9:15 since they were only doing 14, and ran the rest with them.  They averaged 8:35, and were pulling out 8:15-20s at the end.  I was no longer in “easy run” mode – but it’s probably good for me since some of the long run should be within 30-60 seconds of goal marathon pace (according to the Pfitz book…)

One thing I have to address:  my weight.  I’m not sure how I managed to gain 8 pounds training for an Ironman, but I did.  Sure, I’m still in the healthy weight range, but I’d really like to get back to what I was last March – "racing weight" - since it will make the faster pace feel easier.   So how do I lose weight running 55-70 miles a week?  It’s tough because I’m usually starving.  Starting Monday I will be tracking everything on My Fitness Pal so I can get a better idea of what's going into my body.  I have a feeling I am eating pretty badly -- too much sugar.

All my runs this week were done before 6:45am (weekdays) and 9:30am (long run) – however, 5:15am is my limit for getting out the door, as I have to have a bit of buffer time for traffic lights and potty breaks, so next week when the mileage gets longer I will start doubles.  Heavier mileage in the morning and an hour or less right after work a couple days a week.

Somehow Jamie and I are managing to train for marathons at the same time.  He is doing Philly two weeks before I do Sacramento.  He runs right after work (3:00pm) and can get in 6 miles and still pick up the kids.   If he has to run longer I can pick them up.  On Saturdays I finish by 9:30am and take the kids to swim lessons (okay, I take Susanna to swim lessons, drop off Jack at the day care, and sit in the hot tub) while Jamie does his long runs.  We both get our 6 day of running in that way.  As a general rule Sunday is our family day.  I’m always jealous of people who get to run with their husbands, but without any family nearby it is pretty much out of the question for us.  

Grandpa (my dad) is coming the weekend of the Philly marathon and taking the kids because he is awesome.  I told Susanna he was coming so Daddy could go do his race.  She looks at me and says "Is his race a long race like yours, or a short race like mine?"  (She was referring to her Ironkids 1 mile run, and the Ironman I did the next day.)  "Well Susanna, his race is a marathon, so it's pretty long, but not as long as the race I did."  She says, "So he won't start when it's dark, and race all day til it's dark again, and then have to go to the doctor because the race makes him sick?"  I had to crack up.  I do try to set a good example of fitness for my kids.  Apparently ending up with in IV right after they cheer you into the finish didn't exactly make an impression of good healthy living on my three year old.  

62 miles planned for next week.  That will be the most I've ever done in a 6 day period.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Operation Choose A Plan (Fall Marathon Training Week 1)

My original idea was to go with the plan from the book Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfizinger. Everyone on the Runners World web forum swears by it and says that if you want to PR, you have to do it.
BUT it has a 12-15 mile run every Wednesday.  If it takes me over 2 hours to run 15 miles, and I have to be back to my house by 6:45am, that means I have to be out the door before 4:30am.  Um... no.  I just can't do that every week for 7 weeks (that's how many 14-15 milers there were in the plan.)

So then I put in a recent race time into SMARTCoach on the Runners World Website and it spit a plan back to me that looks pretty reasonable.

Then someone emailed me that he really was a fan of the Hanson plan, featured in RW.  So I checked that one out.  It has me running every day after the first three weeks.  Same mileage as the other two mentioned.

So... I think I've decided to do the Hanson plan, but with some modifications to get in some tune up races, and also start out with higher mileage on the long runs since I've just come off IM and have the endurance.  I'm using the core and weight training plan from the Advanced Marathoning  book which I love because it does not involve going to the gym.  Now that I'm back at work, I just don't feel great about sticking the kids in gym daycare much on weekdays.

I chose my tune up races -- Heritage Half Marathon on October 14 (7 weeks out) and the Potomac Valley Track Club 10K on November 17 (2 weeks out.)  I'd actually prefer the half marathon to be closer to the race -- like 3-4 weeks out -- but I haven't found one that's local and I don't feel like driving to Richmond.

Training went pretty well this week.  50 miles total.  I ran easy on M, Tu, W, and F, did a Tempo on Thursday (Tempo pace was 7:40ish, I think) and a 20 miler today.  Average pace for the 20 miler was 9, but I felt really crappy at the end.  All the plans I have looked at have a bunch of 20 milers, which is supposed to "get rid of the wall."  We shall see.

This is SO much better than Ironman training.  Every run this week was done before 9:30 a.m.  I actually have time to cook and do laundry.  :)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Race Report: Virginia Happy Trails Running Club Women's Half Marathon

I almost didn't do this one.  My legs have felt like lead since the Ironman, and I was advised not to run at all for 14 days -- wise seasoned Iron People told me that racing 13 days after crossing the Iron finish line was not a good idea.

BUT I decided to do it anyhow.  I figured I would just treat it as a training run and not really race it.  Why the heck not?

I pulled into the Fountainhead Regional Park lot and saw what looked like a lot of hardcore trail running folks.  The men in the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club serve as volunteers for the race, and I think most of them have done the Bull Run 50 Miler that I hope I get into next year.    I asked if  there was a key drop, and people just kind of looked at me funny and one of the volunteers said "Don't you have a place you stash them in your car?  I put them in my gas cap."  Hmmm.....  Ok.  Mine is electric so that wouldn't work.  I took a deep breath and put them behind the passenger side wheel and hoped for the best.

I lined up at the start -- no chip time here, just everyone off at once.   They start the race through the parking lot and paved park entrance for nearly a mile, I think so that people spread out according to pace and the trail isn't so crowded at the beginning.   In race tradition, the men serenaded us, and then the clock started.  I took off at at an 8 minute pace, which lasted until we veered into the woods.  It is single track and for the first few miles a pack of us were right at each other's heels.

I hadn't really looked at the course elevation until last night.  Once we hit the "Do Loop" it was pretty much up, down, up, down, up, down.  The "ups" were steep.  Here's a course profile:

I was definitely still worn out from Louisville.  I ran the first "up" and decided I wouldn't be doing that again.  So I'd walk the "ups" and side shuffle the "downs"  Around this time a woman passed me on a "down" and then fell flat on her face.  This trail running thing is totally different than road racing.  Another racer and I helped her back on her feet and kept going.  I chatted to the three other ladies that were on pace with me, but then I got a horrible side stitch and walked for a few minutes and let them go ahead.

A few minutes out of the "Do Loop" I hit aid station #2.  Hmm... only 5.5 miles in and my stomach was not cooperating at all.  My right side was not happy.  I came to a full stop and checked out the spread -- maybe cola would settle me.  And jelly bellies.  I know they say not to try anything new on race day, but the Heed from aid station #1 hadn't done me any favors.  I topped it all off with some Swedish Fish and headed for Fountainhead.

The next couple miles went pretty quickly, and I caught up with the folks I had let go in the first half.  As I neared them, I saw two bridges that cross a steep ravine.  They don't have handrails, and as I crossed the first one I saw one of the women lose her footing on bridge #2 and I was terrified she was going to fall straight into the stream.  She grabbed the bridge with both arms and ended up spread eagle, but safe.  Phew.  She said "Oh my gosh I was sure I was going down."  Yeah, so was I.  Again.  Phew.

Everyone was complaining about how hot it was.  It was humid, yes -- 93% in fact.  But it was only 82 degrees.  Not 94.  Personally I was in heaven, temperature-wise.

Another mile in, and I could only see one runner.  I asked her if she'd ever done this course before, and she said it was her 5th time running it.  "So what's the Wolf Shoals section like?" I asked.  "It's hell."  she replied. And then she took off.  I was alone on the trail.

I looked down at my watch and saw that I'd been averaging closer to 10:30s for the past few miles.  I already felt like I usually do at the very end of a half marathon.   As far as I could see, there was no one behind me and no one in front of me.  Had I gone off course?  I have a really amazing talent for getting lost on trail runs.  I kept going, and then I saw a sign (backwards) that said "1 mile to go."  My GPS told me I still had five miles to go, so I figured it must be an out and back.  I hadn't seen anyone heading back yet.  I had no idea where the other 200+ runners were.  I just kept moving.

Somewhere around the time my GPS hit 9.5 miles, I finally saw another human being -- coming towards me. I recognized her from the website -- she was the course record holder.  "Way to go!" I yelled.

A few more people passed by, and I finally saw the other aid station.  "Number 110!" they yelled.  "You're in 25th place."  (might revise that later once the results are up -- I think I just made up that number.) (Okay, revised, at the time it was 26th.)  I still had that stupid side stitch.  I again stopped completely and started drinking cola.  "You know, you can keep running... people are going to catch up to you.  You've only got a half mile to the turnaround." said one of the volunteers.  Really?  Cause I hadn't seen anyone for ages. Well, I wasn't going to let anyone pass me.  I grabbed more jelly bellies and took off.  Ten miles down, three to go.

Up, down, up, down, up, down. Then I finally saw more runners - a lot of runners - heading the other direction.  Guess I wasn't doing too badly.  I could see no one behind me so I wasn't really motivated to run any faster.  I still had the cramp, and on top of that, an excruciating blister on my right foot.  (I guess perhaps I shouldn't have raced in the trail shoes I hadn't worn for six months, or at least given them a test run last week.)

Then at 11.5 miles I heard someone behind me.  I'd seen her nearly catch up to me on all the "downs" but then she would slow down on the "ups."  No more walking the "ups."  I only had a mile and half left.  I started running.  And then I saw more humans!  The last third of a mile was all up, and I managed to catch them.  I crossed the finish in 2:13:something-around-close-to-the-the-next-minute-since-my-watch-clicked-to 2:14-as-they-were-writing-down-my-number: 53.

Great finish -- they had homemade smoothies and took requests!  I had strawberry pineapple and it was fantastic.  There weren't that many people who had finished, so I decided to stick around for the awards ceremony.  I doubted I won anything but who knows?

And guess what?  I podiumed!  I was third in my Age Group ranking, although the overall winner was in my AG so had she been counted, I would not have.  I won granola.  So much better than a medal.  Out of 205 finishers, I was 24th (and 214 started - 9 DNFs.)

I loved the race.  I want to do it again.  I also really loved the course and think I will be using it for some of my long runs over the year.