Thursday, December 29, 2011

A (Long) Look Back

December 31st of last year I outlined my fitness goals for 2011:
I plan to complete my first sprint and Olympic distance triathlons as well as my first duathlon, marathon and ultra.  As far as time goals go, I want to break 25 in a 5K by June, break 60 in a 10K, and 2:15 in a Half (maybe in New Orleans??).  I don't have a time goal for the tri's, the duathlon, McKay, the marathon or the 50K.  I'm planning on making P90X a staple of my fitness routine, up my running mileage, and bike and swim at least two to three times a week.
While I didn't achieve all of these goals exactly as I planned (no duathlon, no ultra, I didn't break 25 in a 5K by June, I didn't break 60 in a stand alone 10K, and I didn't make P90X a staple of my fitness routine)...I did achieve much more this year than I ever would have believed possible.

I have already given a lot of thought to my hopes, no, my GOALS for 2012 and have a training plan outlined through April (when I'll complete my first Half IronMan!!).  However, before I lay those out for the world to see, I want to take a look back at 2011.

Not the discipline I used to give myself!
The friend who I borrowed a bike from told me she would want it back in the spring.  I decided it was better for me to train on the bike I would be racing on, so in January I bought a road bike!!  I rode that new bike farther than I had ever ridden a bike in my life...TWELVE AND A HALF MILES!!  If you take out the long stop during mile 3 (the group I was ridding with had to show IDs in order to enter a military base), my average speed was about 14 miles per hour.  I had a couple of moments when I got up to 19 or 20, but only because I was going down hill!  I also swam farther than I had ever swam before --all of about 500 yards (and had a TERRIBLE time keeping count!!).  I wrote about being over-trained under-rested, undisciplined, and about how completely stoked I was about starting tri training.
Notice the shirt...

I ran the Mardi Gras Half in February.  As if that weren't memorable enough, I also joined a Hood to Coast relay team, the Dixie Daredevils!  Our fearless captain and I went to see the movie premier in thing led to another and the next thing I know I'm hitting up all my friends (and friends of friends) to get a team together!  We set out to raise $15,000 for American Cancer Society by August in order to guarantee our spot.  (Skipping ahead--YES we did it!!)

March was supposed to be a banner month.  I had been seriously looking forward to my longest run ever...15 miles...the McKay Hollow Madness 25K.  I had been training and mentally psyching myself up to become a Billy Goat and embody last year's winner David O'Keefe...all for naught because, sadly, the race was cancelled due to terrible thunderstorms.  Determined to "earn my shirt" I went out the following Monday and ran the course by myself.  I had a fantastic time.  It actually worked out well because I was able to stop several times and take pictures (something I would have NEVER done in the middle of a race).  Other than the sound of streams flowing everywhere (thanks to all the rain), and the squirrels playing, it was completely quite out there.  Truly my favorite solo run ever.  (Check out the post to see some of the pictures I took that day!)  I will certainly go ahead and sign up for this race again this year--CAN NOT WAIT!

Coaching was a big part of my spring.  I was one of the coaches for both the NOBO (5K) and Next Steps (10K) training programs through Fleet Feet.  I've said it before...and will say it again...I LOVE coaching.  The thing I like most about the training programs is that you aren't just signing up to have running buddies.  You are actually receiving coaching/training/instruction.  I didn't realize how important it is to have someone to help you learn how to run efficiently and properly.  Most people, like me, think you can just go out and run.  The truth is, you can.  However, if you want to run well...if you want to run faster...if you want to run farther...if you want to keep running injury free for a long should learn how to do it correctly.

My goofy pre-tri pose (I lost arm/shoulder muscle when I stopped swimming!)
April marked my debut into the world of triathlon with a 3rd place age group trophy at Frank Maples.  I'm pretty sure this race will be the only reverse tri I'll ever do.  I did not like swimming last, (although it was nice to be completely dry on the bike).  I will certainly do this race again...and "should" be able to knock a good bit off last year's time (although I can't seem to find my overall time anywhere--my watch only got my run and bike time).  Looking at the mistakes I listed on my race seems as though I got a decent handle on most of them by the end of the year.  ((This is one reason I love to write this end-of-the-year I can "clearly" see how much I've grown.))

May was a banner month.  I swam without shorts. I completed the Iron Girl (sprint tri), and was beat by a girl with a broken foot.  I set a new 10K PR at Cotton Row and then paced in the Cotton Row 5K with my NOBO group.  I have to say, it's funny because by that point in time I had run 13.1 straight with no breaks, and 15 miles (with picture breaks), and had completed a longish sprint tri but I felt totally bad to the bone running 10K and 5K races back to back (maybe 10 miles total with the warm up)...even though I missed my goal of running a sub-60 minute 10K by 40 seconds (gun time, 24 seconds actual).  Next year I WILL certainly PR again.  I also started Tri201, which I will forever see as a turning point in my training. 

In June, I started looking for my Pain Garden and found myself completing MUCH tougher workouts than I had ever done in my life (complete with SWEAT).  I became a "real" trail runner (everyone says you have to take a fall as initiation into the club, and well, I just didn't want to be left out!).  I also quickly found out there's no part of pain that should be called a "garden"!  Remember how I told you in January I biked a whopping 12.5 miles??  In June I upped my game quite a bit and in one brick workout I rode 40 quality miles and followed that up with 2 miles fast-for-me (at the time) running!  I took to calling myself a triathlete.

My 27:37 PR in the July 4th Firecracker 5K showed me the value of multi-sport training.  Mid month I completed my third sprint tri-the Wet Dog and once again learned some valuable lessons I believe I'll carry forward into this next season.  The coolest thing, by FAR, that happened in July was the Long Course Training Camp.  If I start talking about just how much I learned that weekend I don't know if I'll be able to stop.  It wasn't that I learned so much about the was what I learned about myself.  Eric told me I could do it, and that I would leave with more confidence than I could imagine and he was so RIGHT.  This camp is also where I met Doug--one of the most positive, encouraging people I know!

Rocket Man
With August came the culmination of my summer's tri training group with Rocket Man.  I am quite bummed I won't be able to do this race in 2012 (I'll be at Hood to Coast).  It was a fantastic race even though I wasn't just completely THRILLED with my performance (mainly with the run).  I also started the marathon training group through Fleet Feet.  The big non-sports thing that happened in this baby started her senior year in high school.  (Hard to believe this time next year she will be done with her first semester in college!!)

Frantic Frog

I took golf lessons a long time ago; the pro told me it's always important to end on a good stroke...Frantic Frog was me ending tri season in September on a good race!  I finished this race 9/23 in my age group, and was (still am) thrilled with this result! I believe I'll do better next year, but this was pretty darn good in my book!!  I can't forget...I turned 42 in this month as well.  I don't feel 42....
Start of MS 15K

In October I set a new PR at the Monte Sano 15k (( was my first race of that distance, so it was an automatic PR, but still, it wasn't too bad all thing considered).  I also saw a new number on my running log for a single long run (16 miles).

In November, I not only ran Cecil Ashburn, I also tried to RACE the Huntsville Half Marathon, and ran a sub 25 5K while I was Chasing the Turkey.  I say I tried to race the Half, because although I set a new Half PR (1:56:30, an 8:54 pace), I (once again) learned some valuable lessons about racing that distance.  I'm not disappointed with my performance...I mean I cut over 20 minutes off my previous PR...but I'll certainly be glad to have another go at this race next year!  I was THRILLED to meet the goal I set last year to run a sub-25 5K, and can't wait to see what I can accomplish chasing after that dang turkey in 2012 (my husband says he is going to run it as well...I'll have some real incentive to race all out, even with no chance of beating him if we are together at the final stretch).
Chip time 4:23:44

I'm now almost 3 weeks post marathon...but it seriously feels like it was MONTHS ago.  I ran 4 miles today which has been my longest distance since the race.  I haven't been sore or even really tired...I've just been lazy.  Knowing I'm about to jump into HEAVY training next month, I've allowed myself to have some complete down time.  It's been weird because in the past this much time "off" would mean an end to my workouts.  But working out is no longer just something I's part of who I am.  I am an athlete.  I'm not in the front of the pack, but I'm gaining on it little by little.

Next year is bringing with it a lot of very exciting things.  Although I can't wait to tell you all about them...this post is WAY long enough!!  If you're still reading...THANK YOU for holding my hand on this (long) walk down memory lane.  Come again soon for the look ahead!  In the mean time--HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Coach Hubby

My husband has been feeling a little under the weather the last few days but yesterday he decided it was time to get out and breathe some fresh air.

Even though the man smoked me in the final yards of last year's Turkey Chase, he hasn't run for any extended distance in a long while.  He has however been getting up almost every morning to work out on the elliptical, finding it increasingly harder to ramp up his heart rate.  He figured it was the right time to test out his legs on real ground so we went up to Monte Sano for a cruise around the South Trail.  His plan was to run a little, walk a little and just take it nice and easy.

I was a little nervous because he is quite a bit faster than I am.  I was certain I could take him in the long run, but I wanted to stay with him the whole time.  If he decided to have some sprint intervals I might actually be in trouble trying to hang on to him.  My fears were allayed when we started jogging at a nice, easy pace.  After about a mile he decided it was time for a little break so we walked for about half a mile then started jogging again.

I was following him at a nice easy pace when I started to realize he was pulling away just a bit.  My first thought was that he was just taking some longer strides to get over some obstacles...but I quickly saw that was not the case and had to push myself to stay with him.  I had to remind myself he wouldn't hold this faster speed for long and was relieved when he started walking again.

After another half mile break we reached the gravel road section of the trail.  He said he wanted to kick things up a notch or two and have a short, fast interval.  He told me to start running and then pick up as fast as I could go up to a certain spot (maybe 100 yards).  I knew what was about to happen...he was going to blow by me like I was standing still...and I was okay with that, but I wasn't going to go down without a fight.  I started running and picked up just as fast as my legs would go.  He said, "THAT'S GREAT DANA!!!  THAT'S REALLY GOOD...NOW FIND THAT NEXT GEAR!!!"  ...and then he blew by me like I was standing still!!

Uhm....for the record, that was my highest gear!  I felt very discouraged because it felt like I was going SLOW.  It felt like I was going at maybe an 8:15ish pace, but that was seriously as fast as my legs would turn over.  I told myself it was because I just ran a marathon a week and a half ago...but that didn't really help much.  We walked a little and then jogged a little until we got out to the road.

As I was telling my sweet husband how much I was enjoying our run together...the man started talking smack.  Knowing how competitive I am he was saying how he was going to beat me back to the car and how there was nothing I could do about it.  I told him there was NO WAY he would beat me if I was willing to leave him right then because there was NO WAY he could hang with me the whole distance.  And then he said it... "you THINK so, huh??"  Really??  You're going to challenge me on what I consider my home turf??  I run that route ALL THE TIME.  I even tried to tell him it was father to the car than what he thought it was.  You know what he did??  He LAUGHED at me!!

So I did what any loving, sweet, kind and humble wife would do in my situation...I took off running!!  I picked up to a pace I thought I could hold the whole way (about a quarter of a mile).  I started getting worried because he was right with me for longer than I expected.  I didn't want to speed up too much because I didn't want to peter out and let him pass me, but I wasn't willing to ease up either.  The man actually even started saying he was having a heart attack.  (For the record, I knew he was joking, but it really did almost work.)  He even tried telling me, "Okay, you win, I give up."  (For the record, I knew he was trying to get me to stop so he could blow by me and win.  That almost worked, too.)  I kept going until I got almost to the very end.  I couldn't hear him anymore so I turned around.  He was walking.  (For the record I did start to go back to him so we could walk it in together...that almost worked, too, but when I realized it was a TRAP I turned back around and pushed it in to the "finish" line.)

I felt like I had achieved a decent pace (maybe 8:00 with a finish around 7:00)...and it felt great.  When I got home and uploaded my Garmin data (I didn't look at the whole time we were running)...I found out I was wrong then and had been wrong about my earlier pace.

At the end of that second running interval, when I felt like Dwayne was speeding up and I had to push to catch him...I sped up to a pace of about 7:20 (for a very short distance).  In the little sprint we did (when he flew by me)...I was running at about a 5:00 pace (again, a very short distance).  In that last little stretch until I turned around (about a quarter of a mile) I was running at an average of about a 6:45 pace, and then kicked it even faster in the sprint to the "finish line".

As Coach E sometimes says, data or it didn't happen:

Now, I'm very aware Garmin pacing can be off...but I know what it usually looks like in those sections for me and this was the fastest I have EVER finished that course.  Sure, I wasn't running hard the whole time, but it's still very encouraging to me, and I'm THRILLED.  (Best pace of the run:  4:55!!  ...sure it was all of maybe 20 feet, but I'll take it!) 

If you have noticed, my fastest pace ever was 4:19, and that was when I was racing my husband.  I'll sure be glad when he's running for real because when that happens, you'll see me on the podium a lot more often!!  I say it all the time, but I'll say it again here...he makes me a better me in so many ways.

Thanks for stopping in...come again soon!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

To Recovery and Beyond!!

      (this is the musical symbol for a "whole rest")

Two days after the marathon I ran a couple of mile on the trails...and felt FANTASTIC!!  I had to make myself stop after two because I kept hearing everyone I know telling me I needed to recover.  The thing I believe to be true (from everything I've read) is that lack of muscle soreness is NOT a good indicator of muscular healing (roughly quoted from an article from McMillan Running, but I've read this same kind of thing in several places).  I didn't want my desire to get back to running override my body's desire to rest and I let two miles be enough.  Two days later the weather was simply DIVINE (like 72 degress!!) so I decided to take my bike out for a spin.

Remember Doug, from the Long Course Training Camp, let me borrow his aero bars?  Well, even though I had them put on my bike a couple of months ago, I haven't been on it since Frantic Frog in September.  So many people told me I would be wobbly and feel like I was unstable I was slightly nervous to ride with them....but WOW, I LOVE THEM!!  I planned to ride an hour and (again) I had to MAKE myself stop after that amount of time.  My sit bones were probably grateful but boy did I want to keep going!!

Since that ride (a week ago tomorrow)...I have not worked out even one single time!!  This is the longest I've gone without doing some form of work out in almost two years!  I didn't intend to take off this long but I think it's been a good rest for me....and I'm ready to get back into the swing of things.  I'm planning to run in the morning and maybe spin tomorrow afternoon (if I can con my way into the Y one more time this year--I've already used up all my "visits" but maybe I can sweet talk someone into just one more).  It's my intention to ease back into swimming next week.  I'm going to be taking it fairly easy for another couple of weeks, then I'll start my training plan for the half iron I'm doing in April.

To recovery and beyond!!  (Sound familiar?)

Thanks for stopping in!  Come again soon!

Monday, December 19, 2011


As I promised in the Long Version of my marathon recap, I want to talk more about Garmin data.

First of's my data from the race

Not surprisingly, I spend quite a bit of time thinking about what information I think I'm going to want during a workout/race.  The Garmin is like any other tool, you have to know how to use it properly to get the results you want.  Some people use it simply as data collection, and that's fine, but ideally I like to use it to help me during my workout.

For running I use the Garmin Forerunner 405 ((oh Santa, please bring me the new Forerunner 910XT for Christmas!!)).  It has the ability to give me 3 screens of data with 3 fields each (plus a heart rate screen which I don't actually use anymore because my heart rate monitor doesn't seem to work like it's supposed to, and a virtual partner screen which I turned off for the race).

For the marathon here's what I decided to display and why:
  • Screen 1
    •  distance-I wanted to see how far I'd gone at any given moment
    • time-I wanted to have my "chip time" for certain splits (10K, 1/2, 20 miles and 1 mile to go)
  • Screen 2
    • PACE (practically useless really since it seems to be off a good bit of the time, but I wanted to have some idea of how fast slow I was going at any given moment
    • average pace-much more useful since this is the average pace over the whole distance
    • lap time-this would give me an idea how close I was to the end of another mile time wise
  • Screen 3
    • AVERAGE PACE-I wanted this information on the bigger display even though I had it already on screen 2
    • average lap-the average pace in my current lap, important when I set my watch after coming up with Plan B
    • lap-how many miles I had already run
(When the screen is divided up into 3 fields, there is one large reading at the top and two smaller ones at the bottom.)  I had the watch set to auto scroll so I didn't have to touch it to switch to a new screen...which is why I had some redundant data (so I didn't have to keep staring at my watch to get the data I wanted at any particular time).

My experience with longer runs and races told me my brain wouldn't function as well toward the end (although I surprisingly did NOT have that problem this time as bad as I usually do-which was a testament to my success on fuel during this race) so I didn't want to have to think a lot about what my data was telling me which is another reason I had the watch display some redundant information.

If I had stuck with Plan B, I would have needed the data the watch displayed more than I ended up needing it with what amounted to Plan D (after mile 15 when I pretty much decided to just run by feel and not my watch).   Here's why....if I had stuck with my plan to start with the slower group for the first 3 miles and then speed up slowly over the next however many miles...I was going to want to know my average pace JUST FOR THE MILE I WAS ON to be able to make sure I was on track to increase SLOWLY and have a set pace for each mile that was slightly faster than the last one.  

For example...If I were going to run the first 3 miles at a 10:00 pace my average pace would be 10, my average lap would be 10 and my pace would be 10 (if it were correct).  If I were then going to run the next 3 miles 5 seconds per mile faster for each one.  My (current) pace/average lap (ideally) would be 9:55 (mile 4), 9:50 (mile 5), then 9:45 (mile 6).  My average pace would decrease with each mile and would (I think) be 9:55 by the end of mile 6.  (I'm not a mathematician and didn't do the calculations, but I think that's right.)  Hopefully you see why it is simply having pace or even  average pace wouldn't help me as much in the moment as average lap.

Now, if you are still reading, I think that means you have some interest in data collection....I want to know your thoughts.  What kind of watch do you use?  How do you use it?  I'm just starting to play around with the workouts feature (where you can set up the exact workout, complete with paces, you want to do and the watch will beep at you like a chirping coach!).  Does anyone out there use that feature?  What do you think?

As always...thanks for stopping in.  Come again soon!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rocket City in a Nutshell

I wish I would have sat down as soon as I got done to write up my full recap.  I was on a complete high and actually very proud of what I had just done.  Anyone who knows me or has been reading this blog knows I can sometimes be a little tough on myself if I don't meet the goals I set (some would say high expectations).  I'll be completely honest...self criticism has started setting in like a bad cold.

However, I'm going to fight it this time!!

I'm going to say right now.  I'm proud of what I accomplished yesterday.

I'll write up a full race recap later, but in a nutshell: 

26.2 miles (more according to my Garmin, but that makes sense because I can tell you I did NOT run tangents) in 4:23:44 (chip time).  Good enough for 27/68 in my age group* and 679/1130 listed finishers (1500 registered, not sure how many started the race).  My family came out to support me and traveled around the course so I could see their smiling faces 4 times.  Sweet Daisy braved the cold and cheered me on.  More friends than I can count cheered for me and made signs of encouragement.  I had the best running partner I could have asked for who stuck with me until I ran off the last mile to the finish line.  Mile 23 was actually one of my favorite miles of the race (the mile everyone says is the hardest for some reason).  I finished VERY strong and was overjoyed with what I had just done when I got there.  A dear friend welcomed me "home" with my medal and finisher's hat (and a super cool foil space blanket!).  I feel like I did about all I could do yesterday.  I ate when I planned to (although I can say I did NOT want to), I drank as much as I could (both water and electrolytes), I did walk a couple of times (other than aid stations), but I believe those little breaks were helpful overall (mostly going up the slight inclines that aren't enough to be called hills on any other day but looked like mountains yesterday!), and I finished in better than my C goal with a slightly better than 10:00 pace.  That was truly one of the best (athletic) experiences of my life.  I can't imagine not doing that (a stand alone opposed to a marathon at the end of an Ironman) again.

Thanks for stopping in!  Come again soon!  I'll write the long version later.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rocket City Marathon-The Long Version

I posted the "nutshell" version already... This will be the "Dana" version...much wordier and probably slightly incoherent at times!  (For those who "scan", I've made it easy by highlighting the key points!)

I had a plan, but after a long discussion with  Daisy (my dear friend and running partner), I decided to scrap the plan, line up with with 4:10 pacing group and hang on.  Daisy knows me very well; she said she felt like I might fall into any number of pitfalls if I tried to start with the 4:25 group and speed up.  ((I might get to talking to someone and not want to leave them.  I might speed up too fast and then burn out.  I might end up running completely ALONE, especially on the worst stretch of the race (5 miles of straight open road).  It was supposed to be windy which would make running alone even harder.  My rationale for wanting to start off slower was to get warmed up and not start out too fast, but she felt like I'd be holding myself back to even run at a 9:30ish pace considering race day adrenaline.))  So Friday I went to what amounted to plan C (run with the 4:10 group the whole time, and speed up the last mile or so if I felt like I had it in me).

PRE-PRE Race (hey...told you it was the Dana version...)

From the paper!
I was blessed to have had an article in the paper the day before the race about me and one of my training buddies being first time marathoners.  The reporter interviewed us and we had a super-fun "photo shoot". 

Instead of letting the "celebrity status" go to my head (ha), I worked packet pickup all afternoon...and (as usual) loved it.  It was great to see so many people I knew (volunteers and runners), and talk to so many people who were running their first marathon (one who was from Hawaii!!).  While I was there, a friend of mine decided if I was going to run with the 4:10 group then she would too.  I'm going to have to devote a whole post just about her, but for now I'm going to call her Iron Angel.  She is a two-time IronMan and multi-time marathon finisher...and is truly amazing in more ways than I can count.  She is one of these "I-haven't-really-trained" people who can go out and run 26.2 miles just because it's fun.  She's beautiful, inside and out.  It was such a blessing to have the opportunity to run with her.

I had already laid all my clothes out and had my water bottle and Gus ready so there wasn't anything for me to "do" the night before, so my sweet husband took me to a get-your-mind-off-the-race movie, "Hugo".  It was fantastic, despite the fact there was a gang of 10 year old girls playing/talking VERY LOUDLY in the top row (who were told by another lady and by me to STOP twice before the night was over).  When I got home all I had to do was put my number on my race belt, double check my gear and alarm and post some comments on FaceBook.  Thankfully I fell right to sleep, and although I woke up several times, it seemed like I slept well enough.

PRE Race

As soon as I got to the race, I remembered I had forgotten to get my husband to take my goofy pre-race picture.  I've only ever not done this one time.  Thankfully as soon as I parked I saw a friend who could snap the picture for me.  (Yes, it's truly goofy, and I'll probably do it forever!)
Final hugs before the start of the race!!

The 26.2 Training Group
I love the energy of a race day!  My training group met up early for some pictures and last minute encouragement.  After a lot of hugging and smiling, and trips to the bathroom, everyone started heading out into the cold to get lined up.  I quickly found the 4:10 group and Iron Angel.

And...They're Off...

I never heard any announcements or even the National Anthem but I sure did hear the signal to start the race (even if I can't remember what it was at the moment!).  I knew it was going to be congested and that it would take a little while to get to the start line (about 30ish seconds)...the thing I didn't account for was all the body heat!!

The temperature was about 32 at 8am, and was supposed to get up to about 40 by noon...but the winds were supposed to be between 10-13 miles per hour.  The sun had not yet come out, but was calling for a clear day.  At the start I was wearing CWX tights, a short sleeved top, arm warmers, a running vest, a throw away long sleeved running top, 2 pairs of running gloves, and a head sweats beanie.  I actually thought I would start out a little chilly.  WRONG.  I was hot.  With all the bodies packed around me for the first mile or so there was virtually no wind hitting me.  Not to mention I think adrenaline creates more body heat.  Put 1200 people together, you're going to be warm.  I shed a layer pretty quickly.

It felt surreal, like I was in a dream.  Iron Angel and I were chatting it up, along with another couple of gals who were also running with the 4:10 group.  The course wraps around downtown and, at mile two, comes back pretty much to the start.  I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I can't tell you the number of times in that first two miles I actually considered quitting.  My mind was swimming in discouragement and we hadn't even gone TWO MILES.  Thankfully I realized how upset I would be if I DNF'd (DNF is a term used in results for a race:  Did Not Finish), especially for something as silly as race jitters.

Even though we were running with the pace group, I was still keeping an eye on splits.  I had my watch set to show me the current pace (I don't pay close attention to that because it can be wildly wrong sometimes), current average lap pace, current lap (set to "auto lap" each mile, something else I might change "next time"), and overall average pace.  I'll go more into data in a later post for anyone who cares.  I pretty much only looked at my watch when it would beep at me to signal the end of a mile.  For the first maybe 13 miles or so Iron Angel and I were within about 20 feet of the 4:10 pacer...but our splits were faster than the 9:30 pace so I wasn't worried about being right on top of him.

The pace group slowed/walked through aid stations, but I didn't do that until much later. (I thought I'd be able to tell by looking at my Garmin data when I walked; it looks like I didn't at all until about mile 19, but I don't know if that's right or not?); I was worried if I started walking I might not want to start running again!!; Since I was carrying my small water bottle, I just unscrewed the cap as we got close to an aid station, grabbed a cup as I ran by a volunteer and refilled as I continued forward.

I had planned out my hydration and fuel.  I decided to begin with water in the bottle so I could take a Gu before the start (since I don't eat ahead of time).  I wanted to make sure I was getting electrolytes so I carried Nuun tablets which I planned to use with every other water bottle fill up.  However, it's important to take Gu with water (not Nuun).  Consequently, I had to time my fluid consumption around Gu so I didn't end up with a bottle full of the wrong thing when it was time to suck down a gel.

I wasn't hot and didn't feel like I was sweating (although my clothes proved otherwise) so I really didn't feel thirsty...and I did NOT want to take a Gu when I planned to (every 45-60 minutes).  However, experience told me if I waited until I wanted it, it would be too late.  ((You can not chase hydration and/or fuel, you have to stay ahead of it which can be difficult.))  I'm not 100% sure I took Gus when I was supposed to, but as best as I can remember, I did force them down pretty much on schedule.  I had a harder time drinking that I expected to.  I only used 2 Nuun tablets (I probably should have used at least one more).  I am VERY glad I had planned that all out ahead of time because I know I could NOT have thought about it at the time--there were way too many things going on around me--even if I didn't execute EXACTLY as planned, it was fairly close.  ((This is certainly an area I want to devote some research to and experiment with in the future.))

I've only ever run two 10Ks, both on the same (somewhat difficult) course (in 2010 and 2011).  I was overjoyed to reach the 10K point in PR time!  I was feeling on top of the world; running felt effortless.  Iron Angel and I chatted and laughed the miles away.  At the half-way point, we were right on target for a 4:10 finish, if we maintained the pace.  On the long straight (read: BORING) stretch of Bailey Cove, we were talking about the fact the wind was supposedly at our backs but we didn't feel it at all.  I was slightly worried because my husband (who is always right) has told me you won't feel the wind at your back, your running will just feel very easy.  (Back up to where I just said how effortless it was feeling....)

When we made the turn onto Chaney hit us.  The wind was every bit of 10-15 miles per hour as predicted.  Without changing any measure of perceived effort, we (I) started falling behind the pace group.  At some point Iron Angel and I discussed how we needed to catch up to the group just to have a wind block.  But I didn't really want to push to catch up when I didn't know how expending that effort might effect me in the end.  I decided to stop worrying about my time and just simply run by feel.  I wanted to enjoy the experience and at that moment I believed I would be happiest if I finished feeling good even if my time wasn't as fast as it could be if I pushed. 

Iron Angel told me not to let her hold me back.  HA!!  As if.  It was actually the other way around, but I was too selfish to tell her not to let me hold her back!!  (I did eventually, but it wasn't until like mile 21!)  I didn't notice other runners around me as much as I usually do in races (who I'm passing, who's passing me), but IA told me we were passing tons of people (a lot of people were walking).  I know it shouldn't matter, but it did make me feel better.  ((I do know a lot of people passed us toward the end because every time I noticed I made sure to tell them "GOOD JOB" or "WAY TO GO"!!  I was so happy for them to have that kind of energy left at the end.))

As we passed mile 20, I realized I would quickly be in all new territory distance-wise as 20 POINT TWO TWO was my longest run up to that time.  (Yes, the .22 matters, that's almost a quarter of a mile!!)  I started nervously anticipating the "wall" everyone talks about.  What was it going to feel like?  Would I cramp up?  Would I just start walking like I had in the past, feeling like I just couldn't MAKE myself run?  People had told me how everything hurt, as if you literally hit a wall...but would it happen all of the sudden?  I did feel tired, and I was completely unmotivated to attempt speeding up (why hit that wall sooner rather than later?).

All of the sudden I felt a SNAP on the outside of my left knee.  It almost caused me to fall down and did cause me to stop immediately!  IA looked at me in horror and asked what happened.  It felt like my IT band broke.  I've never had anything like that happen before and was momentarily paralyzed with fear to try to move.  She encouraged me to walk, and miraculously it didn't hurt.  After a few steps we started running again....and it didn't hurt.  ((I still have no idea what that was, but I hope that never happens again!  It was a little tender at times after the race, but it really is completely fine.))

Thankfully it was about this time my sweet husband and daughter made another cheering appearance!!  Seeing them is like a shot of pure energy!!  I felt so bad for them because they were standing in the cold least I was running to keep warm!

As we neared the tunnel, IA said how funny it was to think we were JUST THERE a short time ago.  The time had flown by, and here I was feeling like a completely changed person.  When I went through earlier I was still wondering if I was going to be able to pull this thing off...and just a short time later, I was really getting it done!

But... what about that wall??  Many people had said it would happen at mile 23.  As we entered the paring lot of Holy Spirit Church I took hamstrings were tight and I was actually thirsty, eagerly anticipating the aid station so I could walk and stretch just a tad (there was no water there and it would be almost a mile before we'd get any--I was glad I had been hydrating all along because I was able to convince myself this was a feeling of thirst not a reality of a need).   But, overall, I felt FANTASTIC...way better than I usually did during long runs!

As I crossed Airport Road, I felt like I had somehow circumnavigated "the wall".  I looked over at IA and and said, "HOLY STINK!!!  I'M REALLY DOING THIS!!"  Right or wrong, I had this overwhelming sense I would NOT hit the bricks.  I had no doubts at all I would finish feeling great.  We finally made it to the FCA aid station (mile 23.8ish).  I not only had my physical thirst quenched, I got a HUGE spiritual fill up as well (complete with hugs and fist bumps from my FCA teammates).  I took a second, or five, to stretch out my hammies...and then plowed ahead.  Knowing my friend's house was right around the corner, and hoping to see my family again, I looked at IA and said, "I'm going to do everything I can to speed up from here on out."  She told me to charge on.

When we got to my friend's house (about mile 24.5) I was OVERJOYED to see my sweet family!!  They were cheering like crazy people!!  Just after that, one of the marathon coaches ran up beside me and asked if I wanted her to run with me to the finish.  I told her yes, and we sped up even more.  I could feel the change in effort and worried for half a second it might kill me...but I knew I didn't want to finish running this marathon feeling like I could run another couple of miles so I tried as hard as I could to stay focused on leg turn over and making my arms pump.  I even considered tossing my water bottle.  "Coach" did a GREAT job of helping me focus on short milestones and giving me clear goals ("mile 25 is right there, the right around the corner you'll see the 'one mile to go' sign").  She told me I was going to beat her first marathon time (SHOCKER since she is a phenomenal runner for whom I have a ridiculous amount of respect).  She told me there would be slight incline and then it would be all downhill until just before the finish.

This is the last .2...finish line is just ahead!
As we got closer she told me to focus on pushing it in, and keep my eyes on the finish line.  I told her I was going to cry...and she laughed.  There was a girl who was running with us who had jumped up ahead of me.  I decided I wanted to "beat" her so I pushed as hard as my body would allow me to push all the way to the finish (one second behind her).

I knew they were announcing names at the finish line.  It's always comical to me to hear what race MCs do with my name.  I heard him say, "Dana............" and I yelled out, "DEBARDELABEN"!!!  Just as I crossed the mat!!  (I'm sure that's a horrible finish line photo, but it sure was funny.)  Just on the other side was my good friend waiting with the space blanket and my medal.  The poor man didn't know what he was getting himself into...I plowed into him with a sweaty/smelly hug.  I think I was in a state of shock.  All I could do was smile!!  Another friend, who was managing the line, came up and hugged me as he gently led me out of the way.  I got my medal and hat and another volunteer came up with water (which tasted like nectar from the Gods!!).  I started getting slightly worried because I didn't see IA coming in.  I didn't think I had put that much time on her...and then there she was (only about a minute behind---she told me later she had become VERY parched and stopped to drink a couple of full cups of water at the last aid station).


We walked into the hotel and were directed to food and free massage.  She went for the former (since she had not taken in even one calorie the WHOLE ENTIRE RACE!!!---okay, how is that possible???)...I went for the massage since my hamstrings felt like they were shriveling up in my legs!  I can say I will "ALWAYS" avail myself of that service from now on...I believe with all my heart that is a big reason I didn't feel as sore as I expected I would.

I debated whether or not to stick around for the awards...and decided to go ahead and do it.  I was completely amazed by the finish times!  Later I went out for a big hamburger (my first one in about 2 years!) tasted pretty good, but was not really worth the stomach upset that followed.
Of course I took a picture!

I completely expected to be stiff and sore the next day, but I actually felt really good.  (I did wear my calf compression sleeves all night, all day Sunday and all Sunday night.  I think I took them off Monday after noon!)  I went out Monday for a little 2 mile trail run, and had to FORCE myself to stop, it felt GREAT.

I still can't believe it's over.  Thanks for stopping in...sorry for the novella, but I want to remember it all!!  :D

Come again's almost time for the year end recap and 2012 goal setting!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Plan

I know a lot of people say don't go into your first marathon with a plan, just run it...I can't do that.  If I didn't try to map out my pace I would most likely start out too fast (when I'm feeling all good and spunky in the beginning) and then have to walk the last 10K. it is.

I have all my clothes laid out already.  I'm wearing Asics Kaynos, Features socks, CWX tights, my favorite bra, a super soft pink Nike short sleeved top, hot pink Saucony arm warmers (they clash, but I love longer will my family complain they can't tell who's me!!), thin Nike running gloves (or maybe my Brooks thermal gloves), Head Sweats cap, a really cool vest I won from Fleet Feet at a coaches dinner, and carrying a small Amphipod water bottle.  I'll wear some throw away gloves on top of the Nikes, and a throw away long sleeve top.  I'm going to carry 4 Gus with me, along with 2 Nuun tablets and some Aleve.  I'm either going to use my race number belt so I don't have to worry about where to pin my number and can always have it on top of any layer I'm wearing at any given time.

I am going to get up about 5:30, take my thyroid meds, take a shower (yes, take a shower)....get dressed and head to the race (6:30-7ish).  (That might be a tad early, but I don't know what to expect with parking since last year when I got there with my Starbucks and walked around hugging all my friends who were about to do the race, I was completely oblivious to the parking situation.) 

I'm going to take a Gu about 15 minutes before the start of the race and then take one every 45 minutes to an hour.  I'm going to carry my small water bottle so I can sip whenever I want to and don't have to stop at aid stations if I don't want to.  (I've gotten pretty good at filling up my water bottle as I run.)  I'll plop in half a Nuun with every other fill up.  I'll shed my top layer and my throw away gloves if I wear them along the way (it will be picked up and donated).  If it gets too warm, I'll shed my vest.  (I'll have several friends along the course who I can leave it with so I know I won't lose it.)

Now...the million dollar question...pace??

I'm going to run 3 easy miles tomorrow which may or may not have an impact on the plan I'm going to outline here....but as of right now...

I'm going to line up with the 4:20 pace group.  I'm going to stick with them for the first three miles.  If I'm feeling good, at that point I'm going to SLOWLY increase my pace to try to meet up with the 4:10 group.  I'm going to do my very best to increase speed at a very slow pace.  If I catch up with the 4:10 group and finish with them, I will actually be ahead of that time since they will have started before me and it's chip timed.  If I do catch up with them and pass them, I'll be even closer to my 4 hour mark.

I have figured up a pace plan, but I'm not going to get too anal about it.  My goal is to simply enjoy the course, enjoy seeing my friends out there, but at the same time...try to slowly catch up the the 4:10 group.

I am going to remember when I ran the NOLA half.  I was out there alone although I knew some other people there, I was running the race by myself.  I talked with some people along the way, but just enjoyed running the race and seeing the sights instead of the conversations I usually get to have on long runs.  This time the sights will all be familiar, but I'll be able to see a lot of friends on the course.  THAT part is going to be FANTASTIC.  Although I think it would be ideal if I had someone to run the whole thing with...I don't have a lot of confidence in being able to hold a 9:05 or even 9:33 pace the whole time in order to stick with either of those groups.  So I think my plan is about the best I can come up with.

I think my worst fear is holding too much back, then trying to kick in when I'm tired...and finishing feeling like I had more to give.  But...I don't know what I don't know.  I like the plan I've come up with...the real key will be in slowly catching the 4:10 group.  This plan gives me time to warm up and gives me a challenge.  I won't be relying on anyone other than myself to get me to the finish in the time I want.  I'm keeping my goals: A) 4 hours, B) 4:15, and C) (since I don't know what I don't know) 4:30.  However, I know I've trained well....I know I've thought it through...and I've got experience in negative splitting a longer race (albeit half the distance, I did that on both the NOLA half and the Women's Half, both of which I ran alone for the most part). 

I not only can do this...I will do this.  I will simply "behave in accordance with a decision previously made".  I'm ready.  I feel much calmer than I have (probably because I have a plan).  This time 36 hours from now I'll be getting ready to run the race.  In just 38 hours I'll be running.  And in about 43 hours I will be wearing my medal!!!!  It almost doesn't seem real.  I'll bet it will feel real 48 hours from now!!!

Thanks for joining me on this journey.  I'm not "there" yet, but it sure has been fun so far.
Come again soon!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I woke up this morning after a night filled with an anxiety dream about not being able to sleep.  I took up arms against the thoughts producing such angst and began listing in my mind all the

Things I KNOW (about the race Saturday):
  1.  I have trained properly.  More than that, I've trained well.  The Rocket City Marathon Training from Fleet Feet has been top notch.  I followed the well thought out plan fairly closely (except the paces in the beginning).
  2. I might not be able to control the weather, but I've got clothes for just about any probable scenario.  Since I'm in my home town I can toss off layers with reasonable confidence I will get the stuff back.  ( is assuring me it should be near perfect conditions for a marathon, high of 45 low of 27, sunny...I'll ignore the wind prediction for now...)
  3. I'll have a lot of friends on the course, running, volunteering and cheering.  THAT will be nice.  Instead of looking at people who are cheering on the stranger running next to me, I'll have some people all along the course who will be cheering for me. 
  4. I have been moving toward this goal for two years.  In 2009 I remember coming home from Christmas shopping at Best Buy when we were stopped by a traffic cop at the intersection of Governor's and Gallatin.  I watched as several runners passed and told my husband, "I'm going to do that.  I'm going to run a marathon."  (I had planned on doing it last year, but realized this is not an end goal, this is a step in the walk of a lifetime.)
I began thinking more about that last point, how much my life has been transformed in the last two year.  Just two years ago I weighed almost 20 pounds more.  My resting heart rate was probably 20 beats per minute faster.  I couldn't jog to the end of my street without getting out of breath.  I couldn't "hike" the South Loop of Monte Sano (about 3.5 miles) in an hour.  I couldn't have run a mile if my life depended on it.  Yet, I made the decision I would run a marathon.

In a post about WHY I would want to do such a thing as this, I said:
Setting a goal that will not be achieved for a whole year really involves a change in lifestyle.  In my mind, running this marathon will be an outward symbol of the me I've come to know on the inside--someone who CAN "go the distance".
(Little did I know then just how much of a "change in lifestyle" I would have.)   As I was pondering, my phone buzzed with an incoming email, the Merriam-Webster Word of the Day.  Now, if you click on that link, you'll get the current WOD, but, for today, December 7, 2011, it's: 
Usually I don't read the definition for a word I already know, but under the circumstances, I read every word:
\DIL-uh-junt\  adjective: characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort : painstaking.  
You're more likely to be diligent about something if you love doing it. The etymology of "diligent" reflects the fact that affection can lead to energetic effort. The word, which entered English in the 14th century by way of Anglo-French, descends from the Latin verb "diligere," meaning "to value or esteem highly" or "to love." Of course, you don’t need to care for the task at hand in order to be diligent, but it certainly does help! (emphasis mine)
What a great reminder.  I set this particular goal to be an outward symbol of an inward change.  No longer am I quitter.  I will persevere (intransitive verb: to go on resolutely or stubbornly in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement) with diligence.

I think I might sharpie those two words on my arms.

Thanks for stopping in; come again soon!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Taper Tantrums

I think I can feel the "taper tantrums" coming on.  You know when children are about to go into full blown melt down?  You can hear it in their voices, see it in their faces.  No matter what you do, it's coming faster than a crude one-liner in one of the hundred and thirty seven American Pie movies.

I went out for my three mile easy run today...I could hardly believe that was all I was doing.  It was like giving a starving man a morsel of bread.  All that little joglet did was whet my appetite and make me want more.  I had to keep reminding myself it was supposed to be EASY.  I breathed through my nose the whole time to make sure I wasn't picking up the pace.

The really good news is my body is actually starting to feel better.  Okay...that's the ticket...focus on the positive.  Don't focus on the fact I feel more uptight than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs (nod to my dad there).  Don't focus on the fact I have more fears swimming in my head than jelly fish in the ocean (maybe not that many).  Don't focus on the fact I have NO IDEA if I'm going to really be able to run the full 26.2, much less in the time I want to run it in (even my C goal)...I have only gone 20.22...and the other day there was a group of people talking at the packet stuffing about how mile 23 is the WORST MILE of the WHOLE RACE.  Really???  Did you have to tell me that??  That's like the person who came up to a pregnant woman telling her all the horrors that can happen during childbirth.  Don't focus on the fact is now saying it's supposed to be a low of 26 and a high of 44...  TWENTY SIX.  Winds are supposed to be 9mph.

Okay...stop.  Just stop.  Really stop.

Looking ahead, I don't know what is on the plan the rest of the week.  I have been diligent in listening to my coaches.  I think that's key in training, coming in second to "pick a coach you can trust"!! :D  In my case I picked a program I could trust, the 26.2 training program from Fleet Feet.

...I don't think I've ever felt like this before.  I'm currently self-exiled to my bedroom since I've been told I'm cranky more times in the last 24 hours than I have in the last three months (or more).  I'm trying to get my heart right, but so far it's not really working.

I haven't had HIGH mileage through this training program (not nearly as high as I expected to have), but the mileage I have had been running as been SEVERELY cut back so I can't help but think that's what's causing this antsiness...

Or maybe it's just good old PMS.  Who knows since they are both happening at the same time.

How about that for something to worry about??  For all my female readers...I came across an encouraging article about this very subject today.  (NOT taper tantrums...)

Enough said about that...and enough said for now.

Thanks for stopping in.  Come again soon.  :D

Saturday, December 3, 2011

"Run Your Own Race"

I think I'm finally getting a grasp on what this statement means for me.

See, I can tell other people all day long what it means for them.  Trust your training.  Pay attention to your body.  Focus on yourself.  Don't get sucked into a pace that is faster, or slower, than what is "comfortable" for you.  Adrenaline can carry you away at the start line and have you speeding away from your intended pace faster than you can look at your Garmin.  You feel great so you start convincing yourself you can hold this pace the whole time...only to putter out half way through (or faster as was the case for me in the Huntsville Half).

So with this in mind...I am beginning to work through a race strategy for the marathon.  My first marathon.  The marathon I will run in just SIX days from now.  The marathon which has been in my cross hairs for almost two years.  The marathon I've been training for long has this training group been meeting?  (Feels like six months!)

Okay...for all the talk, I am not feeling confident about a 4 hour goal.  I was confident...but not anymore.  Everything hurts and I haven't had a really great run (except my PR 5K last week) in a long while.  I'm not ruling it out completely, because I keep hearing how the taper will make me feel GREAT come race day.  At the same time, I'm not going to hold onto it at the expense of reality.  Because I don't feel super confident about it, I don't plan (right now) to start out with the 4:00 pace group.

So...the million dollar question is, what will I do?  Will I "run my own race" and just start the race and run what feels right at the time?  Will I come up with a set race strategy (even splits, negative splits, X pace for this many miles, then X pace for so many more...)?  Will I find another pace group to hang with?  If so, which one.

I'll tell you right now...I have no idea.  My head is swimming.  I wish I could coach myself and tell me like I would tell someone else what they need to do.  The problem is my mind.  I have a whole host of fears swimming around in my head.

Maybe I'll start by naming my fears and then planning my strategy to overcome those hurdles.  After all...I think a HUGE aspect of running a marathon is mental.  (You know, since I'm an expert at it!)

For now I'll just say I don't know what I don't know and all the planning in the world won't give me what I'll have this time next week...experience.

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Slow Down to Run Fast

I've been doing a lot of research on this idea of slowing down on training runs in order to run faster in races.  I'm a believer.  Worse than that, I've become a zealot!  I can't say I've completely complied with the idea during marathon training, but the problem there is the fact I didn't have very accurate training paces to start out with.

And that's the key, having accurate paces on the front end.  If you've been running a while and you seem to be racing at the same pace as you train (or worse, slower), you've most likely been training too fast.  This isn't just me talking here...take a look at an article on McMillan Running titled Finding Your Sweet Spot (Maximal vs. Optimal Adaptation Rate).   Basically McMillan says  
The maximal adaptation rate occurs when your body is adapting as fast as possible to the stresses you put on it. It summons all its resources to build new blood-delivering capillaries, energy-producing mitochondria, and stronger muscles and tendons. But adapting at the maximal rate requires that your body be stressed to its limit. Over time you're bound to push past that limit and get injured or burned out and perform poorly.

The optimal rate of adaptation, on the other hand, occurs when the body is stressed to a tolerable level, allowing it time to adapt without having to draw on every ounce of its physical and mental reserves. It gradually adapts and is at far less risk for injury or burnout. At the end of a training run you feel pleasantly fatigued but also know that you could have done a little more.
Remember my post a while back on Lactate Threshold Training?  It's basically the same thing.  In the Candy Shop episode of I Love Lucy (see the clip in the other post)...Lucy and Ethel were able to handle wrapping the chocolates in the beginning...and even when the conveyor belt sped up a little bit, but eventually the candies were coming out much faster than they could wrap them up.  If you train too slow, you aren't challenging your body (and won't get faster).  However, train too fast and you'll end up fatigued and/or hurt (and most likely running races at the same or slower paces than you do in training).

Finding the "Sweet Spot" is just as important in running as in golf!
So...HOW ON EARTH do you find that optimal pace?  The easiest way is to hire an experienced coach.  However, even a coach will need information to determine what paces to plug into your plan.  The best way to start out finding the training sweet spot is to look at races.  What are your recent PRs?  McMillan has an excellent pacing calculator.  I have no idea how he did it, but all you have to do is enter your most recent PR and he gives you training paces, and expected finish times, for various distances (provided you've trained appropriately).  I'm finding it to be extremely accurate.  I can't say I've been the best at holding my training paces down, but I am getting better.

After you have a starting point, you need to closely monitor your training.  How are you feeling?  Is your speed work getting faster?  How do you feel the day after harder efforts (ie: long runs, speed work, hills)?  Are recovery runs leaving you feeling recovered or exhausted?

If you have any specific questions, please leave a comment, or feel free to email me at I Will Run Strong at Gmail dot com (spelled out to hopefully avoid spam spaces).

Thanks for stopping in.  Come again soon!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Beating the Turkey

Several people have told me last year's Turkey Chase race recap is one of their favorite race stories of mine.  This year's race went a bit different, starting with the fact my stinking sandbagging cheating husband didn't register.  The turkey I was going to chase this year was the one in my mind!

Here's the thing...I knew with a fair amount of certainty I would set a new PR.  I'm in considerably better shape now than I was when I ran the Firecracker 5K in 27:37 last July; I can usually run a 9:00 pace on any given day.  My tempo pace during the marathon training runs has been around 8:15-8:20 so I felt fairly confident in setting the goal to break 25 minutes...if my mind didn't let me down.

In all the marathon speed training runs (except one) I've been running with someone else.  I ran the first three miles of the Huntsville Half in 24:40 (but was running with someone I was trying to race-albeit unsuccessfully in the end-as well as a pacer) not to mention I would have an additional .1 mile to run, which would add on about 45ish seconds if I were running at an 8:00 pace.  I was a bit sore from my long run the Sunday before.  I had been in the car a total of about 40 hours in the previous 7 days (driving/sitting that much is exhausting!).  The wind was blowing about 14 mph according to

My mind was throwing up obstacles to my sub-25 goal faster than I could shake them loose.  So, I told myself what I would tell anyone can't change your training at this point, all you can do is EXECUTE.  Time for that turkey in my mind to get the ax!

I set a plan...I wanted to run the first mile in 8:20, the second in 8:10 and the third in 8...that would leave me with pushing hard for the last .1.  The biggest problem I was facing was not trusting my Garmin.  It's been acting very strange lately and not giving me accurate pace information during runs.  Last week I was running fairly hard and looked down to see 14:30.  Granted, it doesn't stay there and the splits seem right, but if I can't see the correct pace how can I run it (because I CERTAINLY can NOT feel it)??  So when I met a women who said she thought she'd be keeping between an 8 and 8:30 pace I just about hugged her!  However, I should have known that was subject to change when her first answer to, "what kind of pace will you be running?" was, "it depends on who shows up today!" which was followed by some start line smack talk with another (obviously) local gal who was there to run with her son in his first 5K.

As the race director made final announcements, I took a deep breath and told myself to stay calm the first mile, run comfortably uncomfortable the first two miles, then hammer down the last mile, and kick the final .1.  The horn blasted and we were off.  I knew it felt a little fast at first, but when I looked down and saw 6:30 I thought I might faint.  Was the Garmin right?  I didn't think it could be by the way I was feeling, but could that just be adrenaline?  My "pacer" was about 15' in front of me.  The mom/son team were just behind me.

I told myself to stop watching ANYONE else.  The only race for me on this day was against the clock.  Sub 25 was my goal.  Sub 25 was my target.  But...without having a reliable watch to gauge my pace, how on Earth was I going to be able to make sure I didn't blow up in the last mile???  I reminded myself I KNOW about what an 8ish pace feels like.  What I needed to do was try to take myself out of the race, erase all the people who were running with me, bring my focus back to my body and stay centered. race was against the clock, it didn't matter who passed me, even if the man pushing the stroller just trucked by as if I were standing still....even if my "pacer" was getting slightly further ahead with every step...even if the 12 year old boy running with his mom just trotted by...even if the FIFTY EIGHT YEAR OLD WEARING SHORT SHORTS AND A SPORTS BRA went passed me as if I were taking a walk in the park.  (Yes, I checked her age after it was said and done, she was 58, and no, I never caught her.)

I had to keep reminding myself to block out every other thought and remember what an 8ish pace feels like...and HOLD that.  When I saw the mile one flag, my Garmin only showed .9, and it read 7:23.  I decided I needed to stop looking at it and just run.  ...Yeah, right, like that was going to happen.

My mind was racing (7:23, holy stink...that's way too can't hold should slow, you are THIRSTY...there's water at 2 miles, you should take a cup and get a sip, just to wet your throat...this isn't the goal race here, you don't want to get hurt running a stupid 5K...).  I could feel myself slowing down.  Garmin: 9:23.  I knew that was wrong.  I knew there was no way I had slowed that much.  I decided I needed to stop looking at it and just run.  Just let the time fall as it may and know I did my best.  But, what is my best???

The wind was brutal.  My mouth and throat were so dry.  All I could think about was the water at the 2.something mile marker.   The mile 2 flag was coming up.  I wanted to look at my Garmin, but knew I needed to just run.  I knew I had slowed down but I just didn't want to know how much at that point. I know I looked, but the time didn't register with me.  I saw the water table.  I had a decision to make.  I could let the turkey in my mind have it's way with me, allow myself to get water and slow down, or I could remember my plan to hammer down the last mile and kick the final .1.

I sailed passed the volunteer offering me a cup and started the chant in my head (only .9 to go, .90, .90, .90; only .89 to go, .89, .89, .89......I know how dreadful it sounds, but it works wonders on speeding me up and keeping my mind occupied).  I concentrated on my breathing.  I concentrated on strong legs and arms.  (Thinking about arm swing is another thing that usually helps me speed up.)  I tried not to notice when the NINE YEAR OLD body and TEN YEAR OLD girl raced by, or when lady with a dog on a leash passed me.  I took a deep breath and heard Chick Pea's voice in my head telling me to run my own race.  I heard the three Erics telling me to SUCK IT UP.  I heard Daisy telling me, "you got this."  About that time, I heard my sweet husband yelling, "DANA YOU GOT IT...YOU'RE GOING TO MAKE IT...GO GO GO!!!"  (It was at this point last year that same sweet husband left me eating his dust as he FLEW to the finish line.)

I focused in on the finish clock which read "24:something"...and I KICKED as hard as I could.  I was so focused on the clock, I didn't even notice I sailed passed the woman running with her dog.

Me after the race before pulling out the 20/20 hindsight glasses!
24:43.   Good enough for third out of 30 in my age group (40-49) and 42/181 over all.  More importantly than that...good enough to beat that turkey in my head.

...At least it was for about 5 minutes.  When I looked at my Garmin data, it said the first mile was about 8, the second about 8:25, the third about 8.  Immediately I started beating myself up for that second mile.  I could feel the slow down.  The prattle in my mind only got worse when I realized one of the women who passed me in the very end was the 2nd place winner of my age group (thirteen measly seconds ahead)...and first place???  THE LADY WHO WAS RUNNING WITH HER SON!!!!!  (They were less than a minute ahead of me.)  I don't think I could have realistically knocked off a full minute on that particular day...but I KNOW I could have knocked off 14 seconds.  I vividly remember her passing me because she was wearing a bright blue shirt.  I remember thinking I needed to hang on to her and take her DOWN.  It was about that time the little boy and girl raced passed both of us and the woman with the dog made her move.  I felt totally demoralized at that point...but my mind kept telling me I would be happy if I beat that blue shirted woman.

You know mind was wrong.  Yes, if I'd have beaten the blue-shirt I would have beaten my goal AND would have come in second place.  But then I would have beaten myself up for not trying harder to beat the nine year old boy and ten year old girl...and if I'd have beaten them both, hindsight would have me upset I didn't target the mom and son.  The truth is I'll always be chasing a turkey, and the truth is...I like it that way!!  I'm not beating myself up.  I'm reveling in the fact I broke my 5K PR--blew it out of the water in fact.  I'm thrilled I didn't stop for water.  I'm ecstatic I pushed through all the thoughts in my head and had the ability to hammer down the last mile and kick the final .1.   On that day...I beat the turkey I set my target on.

Turkey chasing only makes me stronger.

What's next?  A sub four hour marathon on December 10, 2011.  The things that will get me there are trusting my training, making a plan, and EXECUTION.  That bird is MINE.

Thanks for stopping in.  Come again soon!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Huntsville Half Race Recap

Boy do I have a lot of thoughts about today's race (as usual).  I'm going to try to "just" give a recap and leave all my feelings and comments out of it for now.  (We'll see how that goes...)

As I said, I was really nervous this morning.  (Hmm...okay, nevermind, I don't think I can write without including my feelings...)  Anyway...I don't think I clarified earlier why it was I was doing "reverse calculations" for a 1:50 half.  I had originally wanted a sub-2 hour time.  After Wednesday night's workout, one of our head coaches said if I was looking for a 4 hour marathon, I should shoot for a 1:53 half.  The next day as we were talking about it, he said I should go for a 1:50.  One of the coaches offered to pace for that time so I decided to go for it. 

I had calculated the pace for 1:53 (8:40), but not for 1:50.  Three minutes, how much faster could that be over 13.1 miles.  (Yes, my husband, like many of you, could calculate that out without blinking, but I didn't want to think about it.)  Right out of the box my pacer told me... for a 1:50 finish we'd need to run an 8:23 pace. 

What?  REALLY??  That's really fast.  I tried to put that out of my head and focus instead on the fact I would have a pacer, as well as Chickpea, running "with" me.  I decided to try to stay focused on them and not on myself.  The marathon training group ran a little over a mile warm up; after some pre-race announcements and the National Anthem, the gun sounded and we were running!

Sometime during the first mile (which was feeling okay, not great, but not HORRID either), Chickpea said she was going to slow down.  She was looking at her Garmin.  I was NOT.  I told her NO was going to get better and to just hang on.  I told her what I was trying to tell myself, we'd settle in after a couple of miles and it wouldn't feel like that anymore, just take a few deep breaths and don't look at your watch!  She listened and stayed strong.  I listened, then "forgot" my own words of advice!

Mile one according to the split timer was like 8:21...according to my Garmin data it was 8:11 (I'm sure glad I didn't see THAT number on my watch, I'd have freaked out right then.)  As we were running a couple of others joined our little group.  I was encouraged--more people for me to "hang on to".  I try to mentally rope myself to someone and fall in step behind them in order to lose myself in the run.  It worked for mile two (8:16) (**all times according to my Garmin**) and mile 3 (8:13). 

At about mile 3, the route passes back in front of the start (where my husband was).  I told myself I needed to hang on to my pacer at least until we passed by then I could let up for a little if I felt I needed to....which is exactly what I did.   BIG MISTAKE.  I didn't think too hard about it, I just simply couldn't keep up.  I kept the group (mainly Chickpea) in sight for several miles.  I started gaining on them at one point, but, again, I just couldn't hang on. 

Let me say,  I love running races here in Huntsville.  I have the good pleasure of knowing so many people in the running community, there's always someone calling out my name!!  (Either that or there were a lot of "Dana's" out there today!!!)  Usually when I'm running races I am looking around for people I know and cheering them--either for their running or their spectatorship (yes, I just made that word up).  In fact, if I don't see someone I know on the sidelines, I cheer for them anyway and tell them to feel free to cheer for me!!  I usually tell all the volunteers THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE TODAY!!!  I talk to anyone around me.  I sing (usually NOT out loud).  I look at houses/scenery.  I look at running styles and/or clothes and/or shoes.  I sometimes even think about my breathing or my body (what I coach others to do--go from head to toe relaxing all body parts, including breaths).

Today however, from mile 3 thru about 7, although I heard people cheering for me at various spots, I didn't have the energy to even see who the people were.  Every now and then I tried to look in the general direction of the voice and throw up a hand to say THANK YOU, but most of the time I couldn't even look.  A friend of mine who was running the race came up beside me and started talking a bit, asking how I was doing.  I really couldn't even answer, I just sort of grunted.  He laughed and said I was obviously working since I couldn't talk...he ran on up ahead.)  About mile 7.5 I started huffing out some congrats to the front runners who had already made it to the turn around and were on the way back.  But even those cheers were few and far between. 

I was looking forward to getting to the aide station on the greenway about as much as the finish.  They even had a finish line blow up thing out there!!  That is the BEST aide station EVER.  They have music, dancers, sidewalk chalk (GO DANA--I was so happy to actually see that!!  THANK YOU to who ever put that out there!)...and naturally water and power aide.  Not to mention, tons of people I know!!!  Faces barely even registered with me, but everything else pumped me with a burst of energy.   As I neared the turn-around I saw my pacer and Chickpea on their way back.  It seemed she was less than a minute ahead of me.  However, after the turn around I noticed I was getting better and better and talking to people.  I knew I wasn't pushing at that point.

I realized there was NO hope of catching Chickpea and the pacer at that point.  I was quickly losing the chance of making it to the finish in 1:53.  I reasoned with myself that at least I would surely get a PR.  About mile 11 or so I saw another friend who is a little older than I am, and who is FAST FAST FAST.  I knew she must have had a problem for me to be catching up to her.  She said she had bonked big time.  I tried to encourage her, but she said she just didn't have anything left in the tank.  I took a little internal inventory and realized I did in fact have a good bit left in my tank.  I was talking quite a bit, and although I was hurting, nothing was so bad I wanted to cry.  Another friend passed and told me to stay with him.  I tried, but didn't have quite that much left.

My sweet husband was waiting for me at about mile 12.75.  I almost cried.  I could hardly even look at him.  I was hurting.  He told me I was doing great and looking strong.  I felt like poo.  I had wanted to do my best but I felt like I had given up.  About that time I heard someone cheering on the friend who blew by me in the last mile or so of the Monte Sano 15K...she was behind me!!  Seeing my sweet knight in bald head combined with the knowledge there was a fierce competitor behind me was what it took to finally get my reserve tank engaged.  I gave it all I had from that point to the finish....for a final time of 1:56:30 (8:54 pace)!!  Good enough for TENTH (out of 59) in my age group!!! 

Almost instantly I was disappointed.  Yes, I am hard on myself.  Yes, I know it was a PR by 22 minutes and 44 seconds.  Yes, I know how far I've come.  But I have no doubt if I had started slower (say at an 8:40 pace), I could have finished "much" stronger.  I was so thankful to have an elite racing friend tell me it was a GREAT thing to start out too fast every now and then.  He said with increasing RACING experience I would learn more about my body but if I never went out too fast I would never know what "too fast" was.  AND, I know if I had run solid the whole time I would have been beating myself up for feeling like I didn't push hard enough.  Yes, I know...I'm "never" satisfied.

Lessons learned:
  1. I actually really like carrying a water bottle.  I can sip any time I want, I don't have to stop at water stations, just grab and pour, and I can take my Gu when I want to, not when there's going to be an aid station nearby.  Also, I could put EFS in it which I think is WAY better than Gu.  (I just don't know how I'll carry more of it.  I wish they made pellets of some kind like Nuun to drop in along the way.)
  2. Duh...don't go out faster than I planned to go.  It's GREAT to have a pacer, but know ahead of time what the pace is going to be and what it will look like (positive/negative splits or steady).
  3. I am VERY confident with a 4 hour marathon goal.  VERY.
  4. Smack talk can make some people feel personally attacked even if that's NOT what I EVER want to do...some people do NOT like to RACE.
  5. Although I do LOVE to race (even if I'm not quite fast enough just yet to be in the running for awards), I LOVE coaching and pacing others.  ((I'll write about a guy I "coached" on the course, and running in with some of the final finishers, another time.))  It's like coaching infuses me with energy.  I think it would be ideal to coach someone who doesn't realize she is faster than me because then I can coach AND be challenged/pushed.  Come to think of it, that's why I loved NOBO2 so much--those gals in my group kept me going and they didn't even know it!
  6. If I'm talking, I'm not racing.
  7. I picked the absolute PERFECT first marathon.  I hope I'll have as many dear, sweet friends on the course as I did today.
Okay...after writing it all out...I had a great race today.  I didn't have the exact outcome I hoped for.  I didn't run nearly as well as I wanted to from miles 9-12.5, but I didn't fully give up.  When I look at where I've been, I can see just how far I've come and I'm completely overwhelmed.  For anyone who says they want to get faster...let me tell you--YOU CAN DO IT.  IF you want to.  There is NOTHING wrong with NOT wanting to go faster.  Everyone has their own goals.  But, never say "can't"'s not the same as "don't want to" but also don't try to fool yourself into thinking you don't want to because you think you can't.

Splits:  8:11, 8:16, 8:13, 8:53, 8:19, 8:32, 8:47, 9:06, 9:11, 9:07, 9:21, 10:01 (I actually stopped to take a drink during this mile--had I just grabbed and gulped I wouldn't have had one single mile over 10 minutes!), 9:03, 1:24.

On top of the half marathon PR, I think it's crazy I set a HUGE 5K PR time , as well as a HUGE 10K PR time (in the first miles of a half)!!  I don't think I even recognize myself anymore.  I can't possibly be the girl who couldn't run 2 miles in like 18 minutes when I was 18 year old, can I???

Okay...not exactly, but getting closer!
Thanks for stopping in, come again soon!!