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.