The One Where I Prove I’m an Idiot

  WTF pretty much sums up what I was thinking as I ran a mile to warm up for a training race/run this morning. The air was pretty gross. The upside was that it wasn’t unbearably hot. My fog-resistant sunglasses, which normally do great, were no match for the humidity. How is it not raining when it’s 94% humidity?

I’ve done this 5k race before, but they changed the course this year. It now included 15(!!!) turns, with 6 of them being in the last .6 mile. Turns tend to slow you down, so my goal this race was to practice surging after the turns to get me back on pace. I ran 16 miles last Sunday, did a couple speed workouts Tuesday and Thursday and ran easy 2 days, taking yesterday off with a sports massage (which you shouldn’t do the day before a goal race). So, not setting myself up for a PR (spoiler alert: no PR). 

  

This is a decent sized local race, over 1,000 runners. A lot of the high school kids come run it and, for the most part, kick everyone else’s collective asses. It’s also opening weekend for the track, and the race is right next to it, which means the whole area is a traffic mess. I think that’s why they changed the course this year, to keep runners off the main road to the Saratoga Racetrack. 

They don’t have a timing mat at the start, which means it’s kind of a clusterfuck at the beginning. The last two years they had folks with pace signs to get people to loosely seed themselves, but they didn’t do it this year. I wish they had. An announcer tried to get people to line up basically with sub-19 in the front then sub-24 then everyone else. As you can imagine, this wasn’t exactly precise or followed. 

My plan was to hit start on my Garmin at the gun, then hit lap when I crossed the start line, just so I could see what my time/pace was if there had been a net time. 

Which is where I first screwed up. 

Apparently I hit pause instead of lap. So I recorded about 10 seconds of about a 14 minute mile while I tried to navigate the crowd leading to the start line. Because I’ve been running Garmin-blind, I didn’t realize the watch was stopped until it buzzed on my wrist about .6 of a mile into the race. I uncovered it to see what was happening and saw it was counting down to automatic shutoff. Dumbass. 

I turned the watch back on, and hit lap when I passed the one mile marker. 

 

Above is my Garmin recording where it looks like I ran from the start right through the middle of the horse warm up track. I don’t think the horses would’ve liked that very much. Or the jockeys and horse owners. 

Luckily, we only did one turn in the race during that missed data period. And I wasn’t able to surge much that time because of people in the way. 

I only surged for about 3 seconds or so each time, just enough to knock me back to my pre-turn pace. A few people seemed a little weirded out by me doing it, mostly if I passed them. I tried to ignore any attempts at “racing” me when this happened because I wanted to maintain my pace, not borrow someone else’s. However, my pace still degraded during those last six turns, which you can see by the map came in fairly quick succession. One thing I learned from the pace data is that I probably slow down too much while in the turn. You can see in the graph of my paces that I drop off a lot in the turns. Wherever you see a peak corresponds to a turn. Even with surging afterward, I don’t think I should be slowing down that much around every corner. 

  

The second time I was an idiot this morning was at the finish line when I yet again hit the wrong damn button on my watch. This time I hit lap instead of stop, and it took me 10 seconds to figure out I’d done that dumb thing. I win for ineptness today. 

Because I am missing data from the first .6 mile and I’ve got additional time/distance due to my watch not being stopped at the finish, I kind of backed into my first mile pace for my own educational purposes. My official time was 24:48, so to estimate my first mile I took off the 10 seconds to get to the start line and used the .4 mile of data I do have to get these splits:

1 – 7:52-7:55 (estimate)

2 – 7:55

3 – 8:05 (lots of turns)

.11 – 7:05

  Note: I’m not pretending I actually ran faster than I did by cutting off those first 10 seconds — I just did it to figure out how I did for the turn exercise. My official time of 24:48 is what it took me from gun to finish on a certified course and that’s that. :)

It was an interesting exercise, but I wish I’d done better. The pace wasn’t terrible, but it did feel harder than I’d have liked for not being a 5k (or even 10k) race effort. And I almost got dusted by a race walker (wow was it cool to see her move!). I would’ve liked to have seen a better execution of surging the turns in that final mile. I’ve got plenty of work to do here. 

Post with Pictures

Hey there! I’m still around and running, but not posting much (and seriously behind in blog reading — like 200+ posts behind). I did get approval for my coaching plan for my volunteer runner, so I’m officially a probationary running coach. I think my biggest hurdle now is keeping her motivated through the heat of the summer. 

I’ve been cooking a lot of recipes from the Runner’s World Cookbook. They are all so delicious! (Not a sponsored post — I originally tried some of their recipes when I ran the Heartbreak Hill Hat Trick last year, then a few from the magazine, then broke down and purchased the cookbook). P

   
    
   

Quick Update

Metabolic testing was really interesting. I will do a full write up when the expert sends me his full report. We did both a resting metabolic test and one on the treadmill. 

If you’re considering getting a VO2 max test, be aware that the mask is kind of awful. I’m not claustrophobic (except when in crowds because I’m short and get panicky when I can’t see an exit — all I see is butts, lol), but by the end of the test, it was really hard to breathe with it on and I started freaking out. As soon as I stopped the treadmill, I was clawing at it and saying, “get this thing off me.” So there’s that. He had to use the “petite” mask on me, and it kind of pinched the bridge of my nose and also made it so my mouth couldn’t open much. 

But I think despite that, he got solid readings on me. Of course one immediate recommendation was to slow down my easy runs. Luckily, I have been slowing them down this training cycle, but some of this is due to the heat and humidity. He’s going to give me heart rate ranges to target, and right now my runs are a bit above his initial recommendations. He wants me around a 9:30 pace with a heart rate in the 130s for easy runs. 

One other observation was that he said there appears to be some sort of metabolic suppression indicated in my resting state vs my active state. I’m not entirely sure what he means by that, but I think he was saying my resting metabolic state wasn’t where he expected compared to how I performed (which was pretty well, I guess). He feels it’s probably a fueling issue and wants me eating the bulk of my daily calories before 2pm. That definitely would be a major change, not just for me but for my husband also since I’m usually the chef. 

I’m eager to hear what else the tester finds from the data. He works with a lot of professional athletes and also helped the guy who did my gait analysis achieve a 10 hour or so Ironman his first time trying (it was his first marathon ever too). I think he knows his stuff. Fingers crossed that I braved nearly suffocating in exchange for a plan to become a better, more efficient runner.

Metabolic Testing

Just hanging out waiting for my turn to get metabolic testing. The kid who came before me is finishing up, and the tester is trying to convince him to slow down to some 8 minutes miles. LMAO. If I’m right, this kid is in college and runs low 4 minute miles. Just like me! BAHAHAHAHAHA!

I’ll post on what I learn and how it works. I’m excited. 

Hill and Turn Surges

Happy July 4th Weekend! I don’t have any special plans except to volunteer at the local Firecracker 4 race tomorrow morning. 

It’s been a recovery week for me, and I have to say I needed it. Marathon training is going to be cranking up the miles soon, and my body needs to let some of the creaks out. 

Yesterday’s recovery run featured a soundcheck for Kid Rock’s concert in the park last night. Tonight Dave Matthews is playing, so maybe I’ll catch more free music on this afternoon’s run. 

 

13/150 in my AG :)

 I wanted to talk a little about hill running because it’s something I’ve been working on. The Fairfield Half has several short but steep climbs, so it was a good opportunity for me to put into practice some techniques I’ve been using on training runs. 

I’m short, like as in 5 feet tall short. A common misconception is that short people (got no reason to live) aren’t as fast as tall runners. Because we have shorter legs to cover the same distance. But as many runners know, short people can have a few advantages over taller people, especially for distance running. One has to do with how or energy systems work (without getting technical, larger mass is harder to carry for longer periods of time and also burn fuel to do so more quickly). 

Another advantage that I’ve found is on hills. With shorter legs and a lower center of gravity, I’m usually able to tackle hills more efficiently than other runners with similar speed to mine. I almost always pass people on hills and I rarely get passed on them. One technique I use going up is shortening my stride, making sure I lift my knees, and use a quick cadence. My body registers less of a gravitational pull and makes the hill feel less tiring. 

On the way down, I really focus on fast feet to carry me down. But I also do not “open up my stride”. Doing so is really hard on my hip and knee joints because my feet are not landing underneath me, and it ends up just adding force to the pounding. I keep my feet lower to the ground, almost like shuffling. I started working on this earlier this year, and I started passing people going down too. It used to be that the people I passed climbing a hill would pass me going down, but not anymore. I’ve noticed that I’ve been able to get really face paces (like in the sub-6 minute range) on downhills without stressing my body. Plus, it’s kinda fun. I’ve maybe squealed “Weeeeeeee!!!” going down a few times. But only during training runs ;)

But one of the latest things I’ve been practicing is to perform 5 surges when I crest a hill. The idea is to re-establish my pace after slowing down on the hill. I’ve read that you can gradually slow down your overall pace of you don’t make an effort to reset pace after a hill, and I noticed in my Garmin data that I was indeed continuing to run slowly for a bit after I stopped climbing, sometimes never getting back to my previous pace. 

To be honest, forcing myself to run faster before recovering from a hill climb … sucks. All I want to do at the top is catch my breath, not push harder for several seconds. However, These strides seemed to make a big difference in my race on Sunday. I kept really even splits, and I think I can partly credit this technique for keeping me on pace. It feels like I recover a little faster from hills doing this, even if while doing the surges I’m kind of hurting. 

I also read that these surges are also great to use after turns, sharp ones in particular. I meant to do that in his race as there were quite a few turns, but I forgot. I blame not practicing it enough during training runs. I can’t recall where I read this info (I think it might have been a training tip email from McMillan Running), but I believe there were some analyses showing a trend of declining pace by runners in races with many turns except for those runners utilizing the surges. 

Here were my splits:

8:20, 8:06 (this is when the men & women converge after a separate start. I always run this mile too fast, I think due to excitement), 8:26 (2 hills with one downhill between), 8:11 (downhill), 8:21, 8:19, 8:16, 8:20, 8:26 (hill), 8:17 (downhill and uphill), 8:19, 8:24 (I think this is due to multiple turns that I didn’t use my surge technique :-/ ), 8:17, 7:59 (.2). 

It doesn’t seem that the extra surges saps much energy since my husband noted that I was passing quite a few runners in the last couple miles. I kept a pretty even pace throughout. 

Anyway, so that’s my latest technique strategy. Try it! 

I will probably run this race again next year. It’s convenient for me because my mother-in-law lives nearby, plus now my son lives in Fairfield. I warmed up by jogging the 1.3 miles to the start then cooled down by jogging (more “shuffling” at that point) back to my MIL’s. It’s really nice to not have to worry about parking and traffic. 

During the race, my husband ran for a bit with me just before the finish chute. These pictures crack me up because of how in sync we are while running. I’ve still failed in getting my husband more excited about running, but I haven’t given up. 

   
    
   

Fairfield Half unofficial: 1:49:40

Official: 1:49:39

I had a decent run today considering I wasn’t going for a PR (although I was hoping for a course PR, which I did by over 7 minutes). My splits were really consistent, with just a kind of disappointing mile 12 (no idea what happened there) and not as much kick at the end as I’d have liked. But this isn’t an easy course, and it is my second best half marathon time and my third time going sub-1:50. I ran with my Garmin covered again, and I thought I’d be wheeling in at around a 1:52 or so based on my perceived effort. It’s nice to have done better than expected. 

We got lucky with overcast skies, temps in the 60s and none of the forecast rain. It was, however, very humid. This race was quite hot my first time and only slightly less hot last year, so it was a welcome change. I was also glad to not have to deal with soggy feet. 

I finally got to see my prodigal son this weekend. It’s been about 6 months. Holy mackerel, did he need a haircut. Which we took care of yesterday and now he’s grumbling that the stylist did a crummy job (can’t really argue with him there — it’s not the best haircut he’s had). I missed my boy terribly. We played the board game Pandemic the last couple nights with my husband and my mother-in-law. It’s actually pretty fun, although we messed up a few of the rules both times. It definitely beats the game Settlers of Cattan, which we all thought was incredibly awful. We haven’t dismissed the idea that we maybe just didn’t get it, but we unanimously hated it, so there’s that. 

It’s so peaceful here by the beach. It’ll be hard to leave my kiddo again, but I hope we’ll see him again sooner next time. 

So, half marathon #7 for 2015 is done.