Saturday, April 28, 2012

10K @ Illinois Marathon — race report

Great race this morning!

The day began bright and early, with the babysitter arriving at 6 a.m. sharp. The weather was cool and windy, with a 40% chance of rain. I checked the marathon site just in case and they had a message confirming the race was on, but we found some slightly warmer clothes to wear out. We parked our car just as the marathoners and half-marathoners were starting off. We watched the corrals set off one by one while trying to keep warm. But by the time we were getting lined up at the start, it was much warmer. It's amazing how effective a couple thousand people are at generating heat and serving as a wind breaker! We lined up with the 11 min/mile group; I was planning to run at a 10:30 pace and Lenore wasn't really sure, though we were thinking between 11 and 13.

As soon as the race started, Lenore just took off ahead. I decided to keep back to maintain my pace, though I noticed that, feeling the energy for the crowd, I was still running faster than planned. My first mile split was 9:54, but my heart rate was in the 160s, which I figured was most important. I kept looking ahead for Lenore, figuring that she would slow down at some point, but didn't see her anywhere, so I kept running.
Second mile felt great; feeling lots of energy from the crowd, still running faster than expected, for a split of 10:06. There was a small grade at the end of it, which sent my heart rate above 170, so I tried to moderate my pace a little bit.  During the third mile, I was starting to worry that I had gone out too fast; my pace was slowing down a bit and I was noticing having to breathe a little heavier. My heart rate stayed at about 170 the whole mile.

I crossed the 5K mark at 31:20, which was about 30 seconds faster than my last 5K race back in March. I was still worried about the pacing, knowing that there was another 5K to go, but I figured I could start tapping into anaerobic reserves now, and my heart rate stated creeping up into the 170s. After the 4 mile mark, I decided to throw caution to the wind and stop worrying about my heart rate; it shot up to high 170s as I pulled out a 9:42 split. Somewhere towards the end of the fifth mile, I noticed that my average pace was 10:04 and realized that a sub-10-minute pace was within reach. I kicked it up a notch, switching to 2-2 breathing, and then to 2-1 when there was about a mile to go. Around mile 5 is also when I realized that if I had not caught up to Lenore so far, it wasn't likely to happen. I kept thinking that maybe I had passed her without noticing, but that seemed unlikely.

Approaching the stadium, I was definitely having to push myself pretty hard. I remember feeling really disappointed when I saw that we actually had to run a little past the entrance and then turn around, since my body was ready to stop any minute now. I did manage a sprint towards the finish, crossing just after 1:02 on the clock time. And there, holding her finishers medal, was Lenore, waiting for me. She had finished ahead of me by about a minute and a half!

My official chip time was 61:08, or a 9:51 pace. This was way faster than I had planned, and I pulled off one hell of a negative split, with 9:05 for mile 6 and 8:54 for the last little bit. But Lenore's time was even more of a surprise; we were both totally convinced that I would finish significantly before her and I had at one point estimated her finishing time to be around 1 hour 20. Boy, were we ever off!

My results:
Clock Time 1:02:17
Chip Time 1:01:08
Overall Place 705 / 2218 (32%)
Gender Place 379 / 730 (52%)
Division Place 62 / 105 (59%)

Lenore's results:

Clock Time 1:00:41
Chip Time 59:33
Overall Place 595 / 2218 (27%)
Gender Place 250 / 1488 (17%)
Division Place 31 / 201 (15%)

I was pretty excited about beating the 10 min / mile mark, but a little disappointed when I realized that this still puts me in the bottom half of my age group. Lenore, on the other hand, was in the 15th percentile in her division! We were pretty excited about this, until we learned that everyone else we knew running this race was faster than us. We finally settled on thinking that we're probably faster than most of the people we knew who did not run a race this weekend! And we got medals to boot, which the twins loved playing with the whole day.

It's been great training for this race and a lot of fun running it. I have a week off and then it's time to start training for the Chicago triathlon in August! Lenore's not doing that one because she doesn't feel comfortable enough swimming, but she's excited to find another land-based race to kick my ass in!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Taper week

I ended up again skipping my recovery run on Monday. I nearly skipped my last race pace run on Wednesday, too. My plan was to get in an early morning run, but then the dogs woke me up at 5 and I heard the kids crying. I went to check on them and discovered that it was 95 degrees in their room! The space heater we use has this UI bug where you have to set the thermostat temperature each time you turn it on, otherwise it simply ends up on the "max heat" setting by default, and Lenore must have forgotten to do that last night. There was no getting them back to sleep and I failed at waking up Lenore, so I ended up feeding them an early breakfast and watching them until Lenore finally got up, by which point I had to rush out of the house to make my doctor's appointment.

At the end of the day, I was feeling exhausted from being up since 5, plus suffering from either a minor head cold or allergies. But, after taking a break on the couch, I convinced myself that it was probably just allergies, and I was feeling really disappointed about not running at all this week (other than the 10K, of course), so I laced up my shoes and went outside. Once I was actually running, I felt a million times better!

My goal was to run a 3 miles at a 10:30 min/mile pace to practice for the 10K. My splits were 10:15, 10:25, and 10:37, averaging out to 10:26, so pretty close to the mark. My average heart rate was 163 bpm and it actually stayed pretty close to that during the whole run. So I think my target pace is right on target; I figure I'll aim for it for the first 5 miles and then pick things up for the last one, assuming I have any energy left.

I picked up our race packets this afternoon at the fitness expo. From what I saw, the event seems pretty well organized, with lots of signs and volunteers pointing you in the right direction. (Though they did screw up Lenore's shirt size and were unwilling to exchange it.) We'll have to see how much of a zoo it will be on Saturday, with 20,000 people. I also talked to the folks from the Second WInd running club; they seemed very nice. They apparently hold speed work sessions Wednesday nights, so I might try to incorporate that into my triathlon training schedule.

It seems that the allergies turned out to be a head cold after all. I'm hoping that a good night's rest will keep it from taking a turn for the worse, so it's time for some NyQuil and bed.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Last long run before the 10K!

I headed out for a last long run this afternoon before the 10K race next weekend. I decided to try running at a "conversational" pace, which is what everyone seems to recommend for long runs, but I've almost always opted to run faster than that. I tried to keep my heart rate in the 150–160 range and not worry too much about the pace. The good thing about this pace is that it's really easy to maintain for long distances and still have energy reserves to tap into if needed. The bad thing is that it's a little boring; I didn't get much of a runner's high at all until around the 5-mile mark and I finally decided to kick things up a notch for the last 3/4 mile just to keep things a bit more interesting. I guess a conversational pace is probably more pleasant when there's someone to have a conversation with.

It's weird comparing this run to one from two weeks ago. The distance was the same, and my average pace was close (11:19 vs. 11:21), but my average heart rate was a full 10 bpm higher two weeks ago, and back then, I was really huffing and puffing towards the end, where today I felt like I could have easily kept going. In fact, I was barely breaking a sweat. Granted, I think I wasn't as well rested then, and was battling a headwind for longer, but it's hard not to think that at least some of the improvement is due to the training program working.

I didn't run far enough to see the cows today, but I did see some newly planted corn.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Weather delays

They say that having a running partner helps keep you on schedule and I definitely think that I would have progressed much faster through my C25K training if I had had a partner, rather than taking 6 months to finish a 9-week plan. But yesterday, my experience was just the opposite. I had gotten myself out of bed just before 6am, getting ready to meet up with my old friend Steve for an early morning run, when I got a call from him calling to cancel due to rain. Now, I would have been willing to run rain or shine, but Steve wanted to bail, and who am I to argue with such a seasoned athlete?

Of course, it's easy to think that I was willing to run and get soaked when it's a hypothetical. I could have proven it by going out and braving the rain by myself. More realistically, I should have probably taken advantage of being up early and spent some more time in the pool. What I actually did was go back to sleep for about an hour and put off my final run until the afternoon.  

On the other hand, the run ended up being so great that I have no regrets. The weather improved to low 50's with partial cloud cover—perfect for running! I headed out to do a 4-mile 10K race pace run, but turned left leaving the hotel instead of right, running along 148th avenue. Turns out that this route is much more flat than my run on Wednesday; my total climb was only 139ft, which is not quite Midwest-level, but  pretty close. I also managed to hit my target pace of a 10:45 mile spot on for the last mile split and was only a second/mile off for the 4-mile average! My heart rate stayed in the 160's for most of the run and, most importantly, the whole run felt like a very pleasant level of exertion: hard enough that I enjoyed the run, but not so hard that to do any convincing of myself to keep pushing forward.

In fact, I felt like I could have easily kept going for quite some distance. This makes me think that for the actual 10K race, I can push myself a little harder and aim for a 10:30 pace. The course is also more flat, which should make it easier to keep up a faster pace. I think I'll practice that pace during my run on Wednesday to make sure to get a good feel for it. 6 days left!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Total immersion, lesson 1

I managed to wake up a little earlier today and went to the hotel swimming pool by 7. I wanted to try out the exercises from the Total Immersion book. The book actually mentions a hotel pool as a good place to start the drills, and it was indeed perfect: it's shallow, so you can stop any time, it's short, so you don't need to kick very much to get to the other end of the pool, and most importantly, it was completely empty, so i didn't have to worry about sharing a lane with other people.

The first drill is simply lying on your back, gently kicking, and focusing on proper form. This was pretty easy for me since I used to do a lot of swimming that way as a kid. I learned pretty early on that this was a much more energy efficient way of swimming than having my head out of the water and doing a doggie paddle or a weak breast stroke. Today I focused on floating as horizontally as possible and "pressing the buoy," which TI uses to mean consciously lowering your upper body so that you pivot about the lighter-than-water lungs and raise your lower body up.

The second drill is similar, but you're supposed to turn your body slightly sideways (since most actual swimming is done with the body at an angle). Even though the delta is small, this was significantly harder, since it upsets the balance of the body and my hips and legs kept wanting to sink down.

Unfortunately, just after I started the second drill, I started getting a headache, and then after a couple of more laps, I started feeling increasingly nauseous. I'm not quite sure what caused it; perhaps it was taking my supplements on an empty stomach, or maybe it was when I ran into the pool wall head first (the downside of swimming on your back in a short pool). I decided that throwing up in a pool would be poor form so I decided to stop.

I think I might try to make another stop at the pool before I head home; I like the exercises overall and I think I need more practice before I move on to lesson 2.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Running for the hills

Nothing ever goes according to plan. I once again failed to drag myself out of bed in the morning, using in part the excuse that my legs were still feeling a bit tired. I also figured I would have some time in the late afternoon for a run, after my meetings. But first, I went shopping! I seem to have lost my old swim goggles, plus they never quite formed a good enough seal, so I headed down to SpeedyReedy to try out a few pairs. The sales staff were nice and helpful and I ended up walking out with a Tyr Orion. I also picked up a pair of Tifosi Vogel sunglasses:

Together with my new swimsuit [image redacted], I ended up just slightly over budget for this month, so no new toys or race entries until May!

Back in Bellevue, I was anxious to get in a run before dinner and to test out the sunglasses in action. My plan, if you recall, was to do some speed work intervals, so I cued up the program on RunKeeper and headed out of the hotel parking lot and down a steep downhill descent. It was fun barreling down, trying to keep my foot turnover high, even though I knew I'd have to pay for it later. But the real pain came sooner than that, as my path took me up another steep hill. Just as I made it over the crest, my interval timer chimed in for me to start a "fast" half-mile. I looked at the next hill in front of me, checked my heart rate (still in the 170's) and decided to ignore the intervals and just try to make it through the hilly run. I think I actually did reasonably well for someone whose training has been nearly exclusively in flat prairieland, but I did end up walking for a couple of short stretches.

I love how well both my pace and my heart rate track the elevation in this chart! The vertical scale here is about 230ft; the total climb that RunKeeper recorded was 668 feet. I'm definitely going to try to find a flatter route for Friday's run!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Running past my bedtime

I have sometimes been lazy and skipped the recovery runs during the 10K training, but I figured it was really needed since my legs were pretty sore after Sunday's 7-miler. Nevertheless, the morning run with the dogs didn't happen since I woke up late, feeling lazy, and, as the last straw, my iPhone was out of charge. (I should get this poster framed!) I figured an evening run would work out OK, but I first had to get the twins to bed, finish taxes and take care of a few other chores. Before I knew it, it was after 10pm.

I finally got on the treadmill and set myself up for an easy 12 min/mi pace. My heart rate climbed quickly into the high 140's so I slowed things down to 12:30 and played around with various strides—long steps, quick turnover, and a rolling, nearly walking shuffle. My heart rate was relatively stable but I was sweating like crazy, so I decided to take my shirt off... and slid off the treadmill in the process. I had the safety key clipped to my shorts so the treadmill stopped as designed and I was a little jarred but not hurt. Yet another reminder of why I prefer running outside, but it's not really an option when I'm home alone with the twins.

I made it to 45 minutes, allowing myself to speed up just a tad and go out of my heart rate zone for the last couple of minutes. Was nearly falling over tired at the end, though I expect this was largely due to the late night rather than the exertion of the exercise.

Today is my rest day, which is good because a) my quads are still pretty tired, b) I only managed to get 5 hours of sleep, and c) I'm spending half the day on airplanes on my way to Seattle.  I'm writing this from 37816 feet up in the air, as a matter of fact.  I will be in Seattle until Saturday, my workout plan is:

Wednesday: speed work (following the same plan as last Friday: 4x800 5K pace with 400 rest in between)
Thursday: do some total immersion exercises in the hotel pool
Friday: 3–4 mile run with a friend, if that works out

The time change should make it easier for me to get early morning workouts in before starting the day's business. I just have to find some good routes where the hills won't kill me!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cows in Champaign? Moo!

Yesterday was my peak distance run (7 miles) in my 10K training! At 1h20, it also looks like it's going to be longer than anything in my upcoming summer triathlon training plan, too (which is time based), though I expect that I'll gain enough speed over the summer that I'll hit 7 miles again.

There were high winds coming from the south, so my route headed west, then south for one mile, and then back east. In retrospect, it may have been even better to do an out-and-back east-west run, since the mile running into the wind was one long and slow mile! But once it was done, the rest of the run felt pretty great. And I got to see some cows and horses this way.

I got tired again at the very end, with about a quarter mile to go and collapsed on the floor at home for a bit. I'm going to need to figure out a hydration plan for runs over an hour, since I think that's a factor in feeling so exhausted. Though again, looking at my tri training plan, I won't be exceeding an hour in running until July. (The 10K in 2 weeks, of course, will have water stations along the way.)