Thursday, February 25, 2016

Saints and Sinners Half Marathon Race Recap 2016

It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times... That's how I feel in a nutshell.  This was my slowest time for this course, and I'm somewhat disappointed. But, I'm not going to feel too sorry for myself.  I got to hang with one of best friends that I don't see very often before the race,  and 10 days prior to the race I was so sick with a sinus infection that I'm grateful I even made it to the start line to begin with. 
I'm also wondering what's going on with my training.  I feel like I'm losing some of my natural speed and I don't know why.

Before the Race
I had one of the shittest tapers that I've had in awhile...  I've gotten colds before races (taper sickness is real), but my sinus infection really wiped me out.  I didn't run for a whole week and when I returned to running a week later I was still blowing massive snot rockets and feeling rundown.  The week prior to the race, I ran a total of 12 miles, and I just told myself that the extra rest would do my body good...  I also had some family issues, where my kids needed me at home, and I was leaving work early to take care of them. I was nervous about the half, but I was still looking forward to toeing the line.

On the  Wednesday before the race, I started adding extra carbohydrates into my diet.  A banana with breakfast and an extra serving of rice or dinner roll with dinner.  On Friday for dinner, I had a small slice of cheese pizza and a bowl of rice and beans.

I also drank a glass of beet, apple, carrot juice.

On Saturday, I woke up at 4:30 am to make coffee, eat breakfast, and get ready.  For breakfast, I went with a starchy white Bollio roll, two eggs, and a banana.

Earlier in the week, my coworker and friend Clarice, gave me these neat lighting bolts to attach to my shoes.  The lighting bolts came with instructions, but sometimes I can't figure out how to do the simplest things.  I tried to get the lightening bolts to lay flat against my shoes, but that didn't work.
They kept rubbing against my ankles, and I was worried that they would bother me during the race.  I will save them for a future event...
For shoes I was torn on wearing a light weight shoe, a trail shoe, or my regular trainers.  The course is mostly paved roads, but four and a half miles are dirt trail with rocky gravel sections....  In the end, I went with my regular trainers.

I arrived at the race site at 7 am (the race started at 8 am) I picked up my bib that morning, and I was happy that they still had race shirts left in my size....
I warmed up by jogging to and from my car, and to the port a john.  My friend Jenn kept me company, and it was nice to catch up with her...  

I also brought my two secret weapons with me.
By 2010 iPod, with 2010 music still on it.
I've given this up for dead many times,
and it still comes back to life.

My mother in law bought this wrist pocket for me a few years
ago, and I love it for carrying energy chews. The zipper opens and
closes really easily.
I jogged up the hill to the start line.  I lined up a few rows back from the front, and I chatted with a few runners.   Then it was go time.  My strategy was to hold back during the early miles and finish strong.  I think I followed that plan for the first 3 miles..... I had hoped to run a sub 1:35 half and my goal was to run 7:10-7:20's for the first six miles.
The gun went off and I found my groove... The first 3 miles are a screaming downhill.  I tried to reign it in. Quite of a few people take these first miles super aggressively.   There is some jostling, and people trying to fight for position.  I  had a few people cut me off going around some of the early turns.  I told myself to ignore everyone else and run your own race.

Mile 1- 7:01

Mile 2- 7:09

Mile 3- 7:03

We then hit my absolute favorite section of the race, after three miles of screaming downhill, there is a nice hilly section of switch backs, and one big hill to climb.  I  really hit this stretch with a lot of effort.  I made it a game to pass as many runners as I could.  We are also treated to our first view of Lake Mead.

Mile 4- 7:11

I think I was a bit cocky, making such a big surge up that hill because I paid for it the rest of the race.  I knew that the course  would continue back downhill, and I expected to relax and recover a little bit during miles 5-6.

Mile 5- 7:22
I pulled out an energy gel, and every time I passed an aid station. I would grab a cup of water.  It was a nice morning, and it wasn't super hot.  But, the temps were in the mid 60's.
 I gave the thumbs up but I'm hurting.

Mile 6- 7:15
I spotted a few runners in front of me and tried to reel them in.  We were approaching one of the relay point exchanges, and it was nice to have the crowd support out there.

The downhill section had come to an end, and the trail section had begun.  I had been dreading this section.  The trails are a mixed bag, some areas are hard packed dirt,  some are soft dirt with rocks.  My goal was to stay light on me feet, and to just run by feel. I knew my pace would drop some, but I didn't want to obsess over my Garmin data.  It was also nice to get out of the sun.   In between the canyons the temperatures were cooler.

Mile 7- 7:54
Some of the 2nd leg relay runners went flying by me.  I had no idea what place I was overall.  I didn't see too many women in front of me.  One of the ladies I had been trailing was a relay runner.  I thought maybe I might have a shot at placing overall.

Mile 8- 8:19
I started to see some of the lead men heading back from the turn around point.

We start to run through some of the train tunnels.   The tunnels are several hundred feet in length. You go from running in the sunlight and into complete darkness.  There is a total of 5 tunnels that you run through, then you hit the turn around point. These tunnels are freaky and cool at the same time.  I was also worried about tripping and falling.  I tried to be as quick and careful as possible.  
Not from last Saturday's race, but I had to show you
what the train tunnels look like.
Some of the women were now coming back from the turn around point.  I was the 4th woman overall.
I made it to the turn around point, I told myself to be extra careful here (this is where I fell last year).  I grabbed a cup of water, turned around and began to head back through the tunnels.

Mile 9-8:02
I am starting to hurt really bad.  I had been worried about my bum hip.  But, surprisingly my hip was A-okay, I was just feeling gassed (tired and exhausted).  I pulled out two energy chews and hoped for the best.

Mile 10- 8:33  
I looked down at my watch and it was reading 1:15:XX and I knew that I was two minutes above my previous finish times.  I just tried to keep it together. I was also playing hopscotch with another runner.
I knew that I had a 5k left, and I just told myself to hold on, and just keep plugging along.  
Mile 11- 8:23  
I actually stopped at the last aid station to gulp down two cups of water. I was feeling dehydrated.
But, I knew there were a few women nipping at my heels so I took off as fast as I could, I was treated with more downhill running

Mile 12-7:39

I can feel someone breathing down my neck, and he makes his move to pass me.  I didn't have any fight left in me to go with him...

I did manage to catch two other runners is front of me.  I ran down the final straightaway and through the finish shoot.

The course always measures short (12.87 miles), and because I'm obsessed with my stupid Strava data, I actually grabbed my finishers medal and ran out the final .3 miles....
The reason the course measures short via Garmin data is that the train tunnels interfere with the GPS signal.  The course is 13.1 miles long.
Mile 13-7:42

Garmin/Strava data: 1:40:41
Official Race Time: 1:38:56
4th Woman Overall
1st in my age group
28th out of 451 finishers.
Garmin stats for transparency

Offical Race Results I'm stoked that I won my age group.

Oh man, I was so happy that I squeaked in under 1:39.  But, disappointing is mostly the feeling I felt after I crossed the finish line.  
Maybe I was still recovering from my sinus infection?  Maybe I shouldn't have taken the first 6 miles so hard?  *Shrugs shoulders*  
I guess I'm still trying to reconcile my feelings about this race, but on the other hand I have noticed that my workout times have been slowing down as well.

I think I am ready for a break from racing for the next few months.  But, I will save those whiny thoughts for another blog post.

Thank you for reading this whopper of a post.

And thank you, Jenn 

for being my run buddy last Saturday, Love you girl.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The last few workouts before the race, Race strategy and goals for this weekend.

Last Friday, I went for my first test run, since the beginning of my sinus infection.  I mostly wanted to run, because I had been feeling blue....  Being sick stinks, but not being able to run really stinks.  I miss my daily dose of feel good endorphins.  I still didn't have a ton of energy, but I wanted to do a short test run, to see how I felt...

I headed over to the Wetlands Recreation area.  Instead of making my usual left turn to head out to the Sunrise Picnic Area, I turned right instead and ran through an area that I previously hadn't discovered.

When I first took off, I felt incredibly sluggish, and my right calf cramped up almost immediately..... Ouch. I stopped to stretch and I told myself "if you still feel shitty in  five minutes turn back around. "  But, once I was warmed up, I felt fine.  I took my time and just enjoyed the scenic views.

I ended up running two miles, and then I flipped a u-turn to head back towards my car.  I ran 4 miles at an average pace of 9:10 per mile.

Saturday 2/13- Rest.  I just want to ease back into training, and I'm not feeling the greatest.  I did watch the Olympic Marathon Trials.  OMG it was such an exciting race! The hot temperatures made for a very technical race. Desi Linden is my hero! She was trailing behind 1st and 2nd by over a minute at mile 17, and she was able to close the gap and end up in 2nd place overall.  I think she ran a very smart race.
Photo courtesy of 

Sunday 2/14-  7.6 Miles,  4 x 5 minute pick ups at half marathon pace.   I had wanted to do a short speed work session. I don't want half marathon pace to feel like a complete surprise this weekend.

 I didn't want to do this workout too close to the race either.   I had originally planned on just doing 3 x 5 minute pickups, but during the 2nd interval I decided to tack one more interval on.  I ran about 23 minutes to warm up, and I did a little bit of form drills before I got the workout started.  I chose a route that was slightly downhill because the race course has some significant downhill stretches.

The first two intervals didn't hurt too bad, but during the 3rd repeat I was starting to regret adding the 4th repeat on.  The 4th interval started on an uphill climb over a bridge, and I was dying at the end of that 5 minute interval...  During the first three intervals, I was giving myself a 90 second jog recovery period. Before the 4th interval I gave myself a longer break (2-3 minutes).

Overall I still felt a bit sluggish from being so sick, but I was able to hit my paces. I had been hoping to keep these intervals around 7:15 pace, and that was doable...  I then ran a 15 minute cool down.  I sometimes prefer to do intervals by time, as opposed to distance (400, 800, etc.). Here's what the data looked like:

In my head it doesn't seem so intimidating to run hard for 5 minutes, as opposed to being disappointed if I'm not hitting .5 miles at a certain time standard.

Monday 2/15 Rest, I did take my kids to Sunset Park to run around on the play ground, and to feed the ducks.  So I did do some run/walking..

Tuesday 2/16 6 x 400's.  This was the final speed work session of this training cycle.  The temperatures are now 74 degrees at lunchtime.  I was worried that the heat would bother me.  But, it wasn't so bad.  I headed over to Cornerstone park for my workout.

I ran about 1.65 miles to warm up. During this warm up I slowly jogged around the park, I also did some form drills and a few strides, I stopped my watch to stretch and use the bathroom.
Here's the data.
99, 98, 99, 97, 94, 99. The slower intervals had 180 degree turn a rounds so that slowed down my momentum some. I chose to run the intervals on a dirt gravel path.

I wanted to simulate the surface of the trail section of the race I will be running this weekend. These intervals also included a few uphill and downhill sections. Nothing too steep just some gentle rollers. I feel a little more confident after this workout.

Wednesday 2/17- 3 miles easy in the morning before work.  I didn't wear my Garmin.  I did  use Strava mobile to track my data. But, for the most part I was running by feel.

Tomorrow I have one more short run/weight training session.  I'm going to the gym mostly to stretch. I don't want to lift heavy and be sore for Saturday's race.

Race Goals and Strategy.
I have raced the Saints and Sinners Half Marathon twice before.
Saints and Sinners 2013 Race Recap
Saints and Sinners 2014 Race Recap

Each race had a different strategy.    The first year that I ran the race, I was hoping just to break 1:40.  I held back during the early miles, and I was able to finish this race strong.

The following year I had a much loftier goal of running in the 1:33's,  I didn't have the luxury of holding back during the early miles.  That race hurt, and I didn't fuel properly (no fuel really).  I ran a sub 1:35 but, I hit the wall hard, and the trail section was actually run slower than the previous year's effort.

 The Saints and Sinners half marathon course has a net drop of about 1200 feet, so it is very PR friendly, however  the trail section is something that you need to take into consideration.

The trail portion is four and a half miles.  There are five or six train tunnels that are several hundred feet in length.  You run into complete darkness, and it can mess with your head.  I also took a tumble at the turn around point at the last train tunnel during my 2014 race.  I need to be aware of my feet at all times during this section.  I don't want to fall again.

I think I'm going to go back to my original game plan of holding back during the early miles.  I'd like to think that having a larger mileage base from marathon training last fall, and by doing a few longer runs this winter has helped my endurance, and hopefully my ability to maintain a faster pace for a longer period of time.  I am worried that I haven't done a lot of speed work during this training cycle.
I did intervals about once a week.  But, Hal Higdon also had tempo runs, that I swapped out with hill workouts or longer runs instead.  I did also race a 5k and 10k during this training cycle, Before I became ill, my hip was starting to act funny (again), so maybe a whole week off was a good thing?

A goal- sub 1:34:51- This is my course PR on this course,  also I just don't think I'm capable of anything that much faster right now.

B goal- sub 1:36-  This should be doable.

C goal- sub 1:40-  I will be pissed if I don't break 1:40.

Thank you for reading and see you on the other side.

Friday, February 12, 2016

This is not how I wanted to taper. Weather rant, and a Summary of my sinus infection.

I had a cold that turned into a sinus infection.  I'm feeling a little better.  But the last week, has been shitty.... I'm glad that I was able to get one last long run in before the race. I know that I can't really add much to my fitness during the 7-8 days leading up to the race.  The hay is already in the barn, and I hope that I have done enough work to run a quality half marathon next weekend.

Weather Rant
Las Vegas has two seasons hot and cold.  Last November the temps went from an 85 degree high on November 2nd down to a day time high of 55 on November 10th.  I can't complain about that because our winters in the desert southwest are fairly mild.
However, once it starts to warm up we slide from mild to hot overnight.  Last Tuesday I did my 4 x1600's in capri length tights because the temperature was 41 degrees at noon.  Today the daytime high is going to be 77 degrees. (WTF man?!)

I'm going to have to break out my hand held bottle a little early this year.

Training Updates (since my last post)

Wednesday 2/3 2 miles at recovery pace, and then I lifted weights in the gym.  I did three rounds of circuit training for three sets (9 sets all together) ,  I did the following exercises:

1st Round
with 35lb EZ curl bar
Bicep Curls
Good mornings
Shoulder Presses
Hamstring Dead lifts
Incline Bench Press

2nd Round
Cable Bicep Curls
Cable Flys
Kettle Bell Swing Squats

3rd Round
Seated Rows
Push ups.

Thursday 2/4-  I was a forgetful dummy, and I forgot to pack a sports bra.  No running or working out on this day.

Friday 2/5 13.2 Miles with a tempo finish.... I came in early, and then I stayed late to take an extra long lunch break. This run was on the hilly side, with most of the climbing happening during the first five miles.  In hindsight I should have taken the first part of the run easier, because I was hoping that my closing miles (8-12), would have been a little faster.

I ended up stopping my watch twice.  Once at mile 5 to buy a bottle of water, and then again right before mile 8 to stretch my oh so tight hamstring.  I then forgot to restart my watch for about .2 miles... Grrrrrr....  I hate when I do that. Here's the data.

Since I ran this during the lunch hour it seemed like the traffic was heavier than usual.  Streets that I used to take for granted as being nice long stretches of empty road, are now filled with aggressive drivers that come barreling up or down the hill.  It adds so much excitement to my runs (sarcasm).  But, to be honest I try not to look at my Garmin at all on these busy roads, I have to pay attention to all the damn road hazards instead.

That night I started to feel shitty. I figured it was because I pushed myself and that I was sore from running 13 miles.

Saturday 2/6- Rest.  I knew that I had some sort of cold, and my daughter also has a cold too. Wonderful.

Sunday 2/7 Rest  Yep, I'm sick. I hope this isn't the flu.  I had a flu shot earlier in the winter, so I'm hoping that even if it is the flu, it won't last as long.

Monday 2/8- Rest.  I went to the Dr. for an annual exam.  I was feeling a little better and the Dr. informed me that it wasn't the flu just a cold. But, that night my sinuses started to really hurt.

Tuesday 2/9 Rest- Oh god, who punched me in the face, and what keeps on squeezing my head.  My cold has now turned into a sinus infection.

Wednesday 2/10- Rest  I didn't even go to work that day. I was really sick..

Thursday 2/11- Rest, Back to work.  Maybe I'll run at lunch time... Yeah right....That night I went to a fancy grocery (similar to a Whole Foods), and I picked up some homeopathic remedies.

I had been taking Nyquil since Monday night to knock myself out to sleep every night. But, I think the Nyquil may have been making my sinus symptoms worse by not letting my sinuses drain at night.

Over the last few days I have taken so many steam showers just to ease the pressure off of my face.

Friday 2/10-  I woke up feeling so much better.  I'm going to go for a short run 2-3 miles today just because I really want to. It's been a whole week since my last run, and I miss the feeling.

I'm grateful that I have a three day weekend coming up.  Since I was sick last weekend I wasn't able to do the normal mom stuff with my kids (trips to the park, library, etc.)  I'm hoping to catch up on that this weekend.  Also tomorrow at 10:00am pacific time, I will be glued to my TV to watch the Olympic Marathon Trails.  I'm sad that Deena Kastor will not be racing this weekend.
I did manage to get their Valentine cards together for class.

I also hope to return to my regular running schedule next week. I'm not going to ramp up my training. I hope to get a brief speed work session in on Tuesday, but I still need to take it easy for a few days.

Next week I will discuss goals and strategy for the half.

Thanks for reading, and letting me bitch about my cold.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

4x1600's and some food pictures.

I had 4x1600's on my calendar, and this workout always makes me a little nervous.  I didn't want to run these on a treadmill, however running them on the street is very dangerous in the high traffic area near my workplace.

I headed over to the park that has a dirt track that is approx .35 miles long. I ran two miles to warm up, after the first mile I stopped my watch to use the bathroom and stretch. During the second mile I did some form drills (A-skips, butt kicks, side stepping, and high knees). I also did a few strides to warm up. The temperature was a crisp 41 degrees at noon. I needed to make sure that I was warmed up probably. I also decided to wear my trail shoes for this workout. I wanted to get used to running tempo pace in them, in case I decide to wear them for the half marathon.

I did the first repeat 7:21, I had to share the track with the city workers who were maintaining the landscaping.  They didn't seem to happy to share the track with me. I switched directions for the second 1600, and according to my Garmin I  ran a 6:53.. That didn't seem right. I don't think I ran the repeat that much faster and I was worried that the track was skewing my data, so I did my last two repeats on a hilly bike path and on the streets surrounding the park. I hit both of those intervals at 7:10. After the workout I ran almost two miles to cool down. Here's the data:

Some Food Pictures
I'm still a vegetarian and during my marathon training last fall I would show you pictures of my food.  I kind of fell out of the habit,  but since I discussed weight loss recently. I thought it might make sense to show you some of my typical meals.
Breaded Eggplant over microgreens, with melted cheese.

A batch of vegan muffins.
These are my homemade cliff bars.
Homemade Cliff Bars
Pan roasted veggies.

I know Brown rice is healthier, but I still prefer white rice.

Red potatoes that I like to microwave
for lunch.

Pinto and Black beans are
A big staple of my diet.

Vegan chili, with those
red potatoes.

Potato chips for when I really need a salt fix.

Another one of my favorite snacks.
Add caption

Home made pomme frites.

I eat at least one banana a day

I'm still trying to kick my diet coke habit. When I first stopped drinking alcohol, I really leaned on diet soda as a drink replacement/behavior modifier...
Now I drink a lot more unsweetened carbonated water, but every so often I will crave a fountain soda.

Beet juice on the left, Diet crack on the right.

I'm going to post the rest of last week's workouts in my next post. I had a killer run on Friday. But, today I'm laid out with a nasty cold. I hope this isn't the flu.

Thank you for reading and I'm sorry for the wonky formatting issues. (I'm typing on a tablet)