Monday, October 21, 2013

I ran 3:07:11: Nick was worried when I didn't finish sooner

Nick still has nightmares about a certain race, where I had trained well enough to possibly run 3:20, but wound up running 4:15. (It was a very bad day, but one that I'm proud of.) Now if I miss the mark by even a measly 2 minutes and 11 seconds, he worries. He's so cute. After I finished the BayState Marathon on Sunday, he said to me "I was so worried!" With furrowed eyebrows and a smirk I replied, "I was only 2 minutes behind my goal of 3:05". To which he said, "I know, but I thought you'd be faster and when you didn't make it by 3:05, I thought you might be hurt." I actually thought this was really sweet. You see, Nick is ever the engineer. He's almost always logical and data driven. He's been keeping track of my training and really believed that I could and would run faster.

So does that mean I had a bad day on Sunday? No. It was a spectacular day. I felt good. The virus that has been plaguing our home seemed to lift Saturday, I've been getting a reasonable amount of sleep (6-7 hours), and there was nothing wrong with my legs. All great omens come race day. The weather was beautiful being sunny and 50-58 degrees during the race. The 3:07:11 time I posted is a 4.5 minute personal record, and I was the 3rd female finisher. Coming in 3rd really made the day. I might have been a tiny bit disappointed that I didn't go under 3:05 had I not had such a nice finishing place.

If I was feeling ready to go, the course was flat and fast, and the weather was cool, then why wasn't I able to post my initial goal? Well, it was probably a combination of going out too fast and a nasty headwind. My first mile was 6:52, which was good, but by the 8 mile mark I was averaging slightly under 6:45 pace. That was based on the race clocks not my Garmin (looking through my Garmin splits it reports some of my miles being in the 6:37 range). I didn't look at my Garmin at all during the race. I tried to run more by feel, but I guess I was getting a little a head of myself. I crossed the half around 1:29, which I didn't think was too too fast, but there was also a 14 mph headwind for a good stretch of the course. The course is a loop done twice, so there were portions with a tailwind too, but from what I've read the two don't cancel each other out. A runner doesn't gain the same benefit with a tailwind, as the deficit that is acquired with a headwind. You can check out the Daniel's calculator where you can enter headwinds and tailwinds and predict what times might have been. Using the Daniels calculator and guessing that roughly half course had a tailwind and half had a headwind, it seems I might lost 3-4 minutes there. That combined with running a little faster than I should have for the first half probably accounts for my finishing time. My legs were dead after about 17-18 miles, and by the time I hit 20 I was telling myself to "just keep running". Really the finish couldn't come fast enough. My two final miles were 8:10ish (and I was surprised they were that fast), because at the time it felt like I was running slower than 10 minute pace.

Now I would hate for anyone to think that I'm complaining. I am so happy! Overall, my race experience was great. There were a good number of men running near me, and they were all supportive. Guys passing would say things like "you're crushing this race" or "you're awesome". A few times I found myself in a group of guys, and they were always friendly. Spectators seemed excited to see the "3rd female". So as much as the last 8 miles were a suffer fest (which was probably my own fault), everyone was just amazing. My parents, Nick, and the kids were all at the finish. And I ran a 4.5 minute PR! It really was a great day.

Running the race also made me realize even more how great the Greater Lowell Road Runners (GLRR) are. (The GLRR hosts the BayState Marathon.) Technically I'm member of the GLRR, but I don't really participate. I just don't have the time right now (or my priorities are just elsewhere at the moment), but every single person I've met from the group is so nice. Some are fast and some aren't, but all of them are great.

Here are some post race pictures! I'm sure they're boring to you, but it's the first time I remembered to take some pics with my phone after a big race, so I'm excited to have them!

 Ahhh, family photo!

 Nana and Grampy get in on the action

 My ladies and me :)

And Nick and me

What's next you ask? Some rest and recovery for now. Then I have my sights set on Boston, though I don't know that Boston is the course for me set any crazy PR's, but a solid time would set me up nicely for another go of it next Fall. :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Marathon Musings

It’s almost exactly 5 days to go time, and it feels surreal. Am I really running a marathon in just 5 days? This training cycle has just flown by, and I haven’t been thinking much about the race because we’ve simply been busy. I was reading Dani’s blog post yesterday, and reading it reminded me that I too have a marathon to run in a few days…then I remembered that I need to pick up more glide and gels before the race…

Am I uber psyched for race day? Well, to be honest, that’s generally not my style. It’s hard to get extra super excited to run as hard as you can for 26.2 miles. And while I’m being so very honest, marathon pace doesn’t feel “easy” to me. It’s not a pace that I can “run all day long”. I can run it for 26.2 miles (hopefully), and not much longer. Does this mean I have a bad attitude? I don’t think so. I’m simply realistic and generally aware of the difficulty of the task before me. Now some people like to ask me: “Why? Why do you do it? Why do you race?”

I guess it’s a fair question. I’m never going to be elite. I’m not going to the Olympics. I’m busy with children and work. Here’s the real deal though, I simply love running. I love training for a goal, and trying to chase that goal. I may be terrified of what will come on Sunday, but that’s all the more reason to do it. Eleanor Roosevelt said “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I am so behind because I only do something that scares about once a month.

Overall, I’ve had a great training cycle. 20 weeks, with 9 weeks being at 70+ miles. I’ve run five 20+ milers, three 18 milers, and several 16 milers. Two of my 20+ milers were fast finishes, where I ran the last 4-6 miles at 6:45 pace, which is a nice confidence booster. I just ran a reasonably good (for me) half marathon with no taper, which is also a nice confidence booster. I’ve done the training, and I’m as ready as ready can be. That being said…there are never any guarantees. That’s partly why race day feels so terrifying for me. All the hard work is necessary to having a good day, but it doesn’t guarantee a good day…

Getting back to the question of “Why?” Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote isn't really why I race. I revisit this question every marathon cycle. It’s a philosophical question, and while the why of running may change from day to day, the why I race stays fairly constant. See below…

That's going to be my mantra "Keep Calm, and Stay Fierce." I love it! Racing lets me stay fierce...whatever happens on Sunday...I hope to keep calm, and stay fierce.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Numbers Game

The Fun Part:
So I was bored, and decided to check some race predictors. You know, I have this marathon coming up, and I just ran a half, so yeah, it seemed like a fun thing to do. (Do you like how nonchalant I am?) I've only run two races recently. A 5K in 18:41 and a half marathon in 1:25:55. I used the half time for the predictors. Here's what I found:
  • I found this race predictor calculator over on Race Times, and really liked the predicted times it spit out at me. For one, based on my half marathon time it predicts an 18:41 5K time, which is exactly what I ran a month ago, so that's sort of interesting. And for another it predicts a marathon time of 2:59:08. Cool beans. 
  • This Race Predictor predicts an 18:51 5K and 2:59:35 marathon time based on my half time. (I like this one too.)
  • Another Race Calculator predicts an 18:26 5K and 2:59:56. Those are sweet times too (for me).
  • Yet another predicts an 18:42 5K and 2:59:07. This one is my favorite (for obvious reasons).
  • McMillan, on the other hand, is raining on my sub-3:00 parade with a prediction of 3:00:49. Boo, hiss, McMillan!
It seems only natural to find methods in which to predict one's marathon time. Especially once the taper begins. I mean, as the runner is forced to run less, we are also forced to go crazy. We tell ourselves that playing with the numbers is a way to keep us sane and mentally prepare for the big day to come, but in truth the numbers game really just displays our crazy for all to see.

Here, let me share an example. I was jauntily sharing with Nick how four of the five race predictors were predicting a sub 3:00 marathon based on last week's half marathon time. Rather than looking thoroughly pleased (as he should have). He looked really uncomfortable. Of course, I could tell what he was thinking. Race day performance is impacted by a variety of things like the weather and how one feels and a million other factors that play into having the "perfect" day. (Something I don't think I've experienced yet by the way.) Yeah, yeah, I know, but it's still sort of cool that some race predictors are predicting that I could possibly break 3:00, right? RIGHT!? (He pretty much continued to look uncomfortable until the topic of conversation changed.)

The Reality:
Do I really think I can break 3:00 on October 20th? I don't know. This is starting to feel stressful. Don't pressure me!!!

Seriously though, I have no idea. I didn't really train with a particular goal in mind. It's possible, but it seems (to me) if I am capable of breaking the big 3:00 mark, it would have to be a pretty darn good day. For one, I've never been able to run what the race predictors say I can run for a marathon. Realistically speaking, there's no evidence to suggest that this year I'll suddenly be able to run those predicted times. For another, though I haven't had a particular goal in mind, I've generally trained with a 7:03 marathon pace in mind, which is a 3:05.

Oh, also, I just started working full-time, which is definitely adding some unforeseen stress to this taper time. I woke up this morning at 4:50 am to run my 6 miles to find I had a sore throat and glamorously hacked out some thick green mucus before heading out on my run. On the plus side, I ran fine, so there's that. Am I worried? Hmmm, good question, I know I've been running well, and it would be nice just to feel reasonably well on race day, but I really have been more relaxed this training cycle. I have a lot going on, and other things that are taking priority right now, and that's just the way it is sometimes.

On a positive note, this was my last long run (yes, I'm still taking picture of Garmin and will use those pictures to console myself should I have a bad race day):

This "training" cycle has treated me surprising well. For this week, I'll embrace the taper, and focus on surviving work stress. Next week...well, let's not get too ahead of ourselves...

The Fun Non-Running:
We went apple picking again this weekend, and this was my favorite phone photo from the day. I love how my phone has a camera. I get to record these moments without any fuss or planning.

A Little Poll:
Do you believe in race predictors? Does anyone out there actually run the times that are predicted?