Monday, February 18, 2013

Winter Marathon, Albany, NY. 2/17/13. (Racing off high volume and no rest).

This was never a goal race, but I did go planning to finish it.  I know that it is always a windy,  it is winter, and it is Albany, so it is going to be cold.  None of that was a shocking surprise.

There were three reasons why I went to this race. (1) I thought it would be a good place to take a beating and toughen me up a bit, (2) I wanted to use this as my last long run before a race in March, and (3) I just wanted to see what it would feel like to run a race off of NO rest at all after running the highest mileage by far of my life and after running 20 miles the day before.

I have hit 100 miles in a week in training but usually the week before and the week after were less mileage.  It was always a major accomplishment for me to see triple digits.  However, in the last 4 weeks I have had by far the highest volume of training of my life with 70, 90, 100, and 100.8 miles in that time. The day before the marathon I ran a double, 15 miles in the morning and then 5 at night.  I had no intention of going in rested and I just wanted to see how hard it would feel to run tired.

In fact, my focus for the last 14 days has been to keep my "Last 7 Days" of mileage rolling along at 100 or more. That meant for the last 20 days I was averaging 14+ miles per day. My average pace for this effort was about 9:20.  Not blistering fast, but all a good effort.

In the back of my mind, I wondered if my body had acclimated so much in the last 4 weeks that I could run a fast marathon on no rest at all.  I also wondered when the suffering would start and how bad it was going to be.  I just wasn't sure what to expect.

John P. arrived at my house at 5:45 am.  I knew he would be there at 5:45 because I told him to be there at 6:00 am. I drove the 3 hours up to Albany while John reported the catastrophic weather report... "19 degrees, feels like 2 degrees with winds at 20 mph and gusting to 40+mph."  I refused to believe him.  This was likely going to be the coldest marathon I have ever run, but I have trained with Alanna in colder weather for hours so I wasn't too worried about not being able to tolerate it if I dressed properly.  But that was the hard part, to decide what to wear so I can race fast while also staying warm.

My long runs with Alanna involved lots of layers and my super warm mittens.  I knew there was no way I could open gels and handle water/gatorade with bulky mittens, so I opted for my convertible glove/mittens (gloves that have a slip over cover that make they wrap fingers like mittens).  My head was warm in a fleece hat and I had a neck wrap I could pull up over my face to block the wind. I wore bike shorts and compression sleeves under my tights, and that was a good choice.  My knees felt cold but everything else was warm enough.  I also wore a thin sleeveless tech shell, two thin long sleeve layers and a light jacket.  All layers were very thin, and wicking and I felt great in that amount of clothing.  Cold at first, but warm while running hard.

The race was small with a relay.  I started up front.  I got an early lead and then got passed by a girl in pink by the time we reached the clock that told us it was 19 degrees at best in the windless sun. She passed me and slowed to my pace, so I sat behind her. If I tried to pass, she would take a few quick strides and stay ahead.  I was content to sit. I was trying to hold my pace around 7:20 and that is where we were.

We finished lap 1 and on lap 2 I did manage to pull ahead when we she slowed a teeny bit.  I was hoping the temps were rising but it was still 19 on the clock.  With the winds it really felt much colder.

I felt good on this second lap, even after being handed the icy cup of water at the aid station.  At mile 6 I took a gel from my pocket it an was a frozen mess.  I opened it, held it in my cold hand and it never really warmed up.  I was able to get it out in small batches and wash it down with cups of slushy icy water.  I can't explain how demotivating ice water is at a race that is below freezing.

I tried to stay focused and my pace was still mid-7:00's on average, but the wind was kicking up harder. The struggling started when fighting the heavy gusting and this gave me enough information to know just how bad my body is beaten from the 380+ miles in the last 30 days, 20 the day before.

On Lap 3, I tried to focus on the nice parts of the course.  The shielded parts where 19 felt balmy or the down hills which felt nice to run fast, but I was loosing this battle fast.  The uphills into the wind were kicking my butt and burning my quads.  I was still lead women, but I already knew that it was just a matter of time until I get passed me.  My pace was fading to the 8:00 in the windy parts and my quads felt like DOMS was setting in as I ran.

As I came around to the end of Lap 3 (abt 15 miles), we hit an incline into the headwind and I knew I was done seeing 7's for the day.  I ran through the turn around and saw John who said he was done running.  I was so sad to hear this.  I managed to convince him to come back out with me for one more slow lap.

I didn't NEED to finish this race. I needed just 20 miles to maintain my streak of 100 miles in 7 days and that last lap would do it for me. I did think if I ran a slower lap with John, I would likely still go out and finish the last loop just to complete the distance even if the time was slow.

As John and I started off, I got another cup of ice water from the aid station volunteer, I asked him if he could set me on fire because I was freezing.  I was feeling depleted, like I could use a gel but all my gels were frozen in my pocket.  I didn't even bother to try to get one open.  The wind was worse on this lap than the one before. John told me about some pain he had in his foot that made him think that stopping was a good idea. We took it slow to see whether he thought his foot pain would stop him.  It didn't.

Because I had slowed down significantly and possibly because I drank a cup of ice water and ran off into a 40 mph head wind, I suddenly became overwhelmingly cold.  My hands went numb and I didn't notice at first.  As we ran along, suddenly my finger tips and nail beds became extremely painful. John told me to pull my fingers out of the finger holes and make fists inside my gloves.  I realized then that I couldn't move my fingers.  John grabbed my hand to try to help me pull my fingers out of the gloves and my nail beds and finger tips hurt so bad when he touched them that I had to stop moving.   I was considering just turning back.

John had ski gloves on. He pulled my gloves off my and gave me his.  We started running again while I warmed up. After back in motion for awhile my hands warmed within his gloves. It was a while before he would finally accept his gloves back and I took mine. I didn't want his hands to freeze but he is a good friend and helped me to not cry in public.

My gloves were soaked with probably a combination of sweat and water from the water stops. I wondered if it was likely that the wet gloves were freezing on my hands (at least the finger tips) and my finger were starting to get frostbite?  My nails have felt bruised since, but nothing turned black and blue.

We plodded through the lap, I reported that I had planned to go back out for the last lap because I could still be under 4 hours, but after one hard gust I simply decided that it was not worth it to me anymore.

We finished the lap, jogged until my Garmin rounded me out to 21 miles and went inside for hot chocolate and soup.  We took off shortly after and we were home before sun-set.

I learned a lot of lessons while out there.

First, I will not run a marathon in temperature that "feel like" single digits ever again.  This is not the first time I had severe pain from cold hand, but this is the worst pain I ever experienced.

Second, I proved to myself that running fast and far without any rest off of super high mileage is really hard to do. I am proud of those 21 miles in 2:57.  Even with a slow last 5 miles my pace was still 8:26. I was holding about 7:30's for the first 15.  I feel that was a good run for me under the circumstance.

Third, I learned that my suspicion that I would not need a taper was not actually based on my belief that I have become really strong and fit from high mileage, but more driven by my fear that if I drop my mileage down to under 100 in 7 days, I may never get back up to that mileage again without injury.

I have been very proud of running so much without any issues.  It was a lot of work to get up to 100 miles in 7 days.  Over time I was surprised to find that it felt easy to maintain 100 miles in 7 day.   It is harder for me to build up than to sit at high volume, so I know dropping down will mean I have to build up again.  I wanted to avoid the build, not avoid the taper.

I have a race I would like to do well at in two weeks.  I do not want to feel like I did at this marathon.  I would like to feel more like I did at my last 50k, when I started that one well-rested.  So I started my taper today.  Hopefully in 3 weeks I will be back up to 100 miles in 7 days again, where I have been very happy to sit for almost the entire month of February.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

FARC 5k Season Closer, Freehold NJ. 2/3.

Logging High Training Mileage:
January was a moderately-sized mileage month.  I was hoping for over 300 miles but ended just over 285.  Not ideal, but December was over 300 so maybe I needed the rest.  I gained a few pounds and I am not thrilled about that.

To get back on track, I made a concerted effort to run more.  However, what I found was that even though I am a little heavier, my running feels easier at training paces.  I feel too heavy for racing paces so this is clearly not my optimum weight, but after the last three days of high mileage I am pleased with my ability to run far and feel good.

I run a lot of doubles and sometimes triples to get to high mileage without injury.  I would like to work on keeping the doubles, but growing the length of one of the run, making the double feel more optional and recovery-paced only.  Looking back over my log, Thursday and Friday I managed over 13 miles.  Saturday I started with a 15.3 mile Team in Training Run, then ran 6 more on my own only later to be invited by Sidney to run with him and Enzo for another 5 giving me over 26.3 for the day, Saturday.

As for today (Sunday), previously I invited Alanna, Dave, and Kathleen to join me for a long double-digit warm up before a cheap 5k club race and then a few miles of cool-down.  I hoped for 20 miles by the end of the day. 16 miles would hold me at 90 miles for the last 7 days.  So 16-20 miles was my goal.

Eleven Miles of Warm Up! What? :)
We got started about 7:30 am and Alanna as our fearless Sherpa, lead us through the streets of Freehold and the dirt packed, snow covered roads of Turkey Swamp Park.  We logged about 11 miles and Oh Boy were my legs tired.  I felt like a slug but I had logged a lot the day before and I was purposefully training depleted (with minimal fuel) for my own good reasons.  This made the easy pace feel hard.

We got back to the park and I had brought a some clothes to change into while in my car.  I needed to get out of my heavy winter layers and into something more race friendly.  I wanted to try my Brooks Drifts in shorter race to see if I still love them as much as I did in the half (OMG, do I!). They are a really comfortable shoe and I actually didn't even change out of them for my cool down.

Being in lighter clothes, with still a sweaty sports bra on under it all, in 25 degrees made me feel so cold. I was so ready to just get in my car and drive home. But I already dropped the hefty $5 race fee for the race so there was no turning back now!

FARC 5k Race and Spontaneous Pacing of a Super Star in the Making!
Dave and I head up front.  Alanna and Kathleen decide to move back.  It was small club run.  I just wanted some fast mileage after a ton of slow training.  I am focusing my thought on Caumsett where I would like to run faster than 4:10.  I need to be comfortable running sub-8's and as deep into the 7's as possible in order to run well.  I need to be able to sustain that.  Running faster than 7 on tired legs should help me.

I had logged 37+ miles in the 27 hours prior to this race, so my body was sufficiently pummeled and running fast was going to feel very hard.  We took off and I tried to move, but my legs felt like limp spaghetti especially as I worked the pace down under 7:00.  Within the first quarter mile, I had to slow down as I started to worry that I might actually pull something running too fast while too tired in too cold air.

At some point just past the mile mark, a young girl in a bright pink cruised up next to me. As she began to overtake me she offered some incredibly kind words often not heard uttered by young teenagers in the mist of competition.  She politely said "Come with me.  Let's do this together!"   OMG!  My heart melted right there.  What a sweetheart.

My response: "Oh no. I can't. But you go without me.  I ran a lot yesterday and I am pretty much toast."  We were hovering at close to 6:55 instant pace at that point after a bit of a faster start.  I hoped to pick up my pace over the distance running this 5k as a Progression run.  Secretly I was hoping to catch back up to Dave, who pulled significantly ahead of me from about .25 into this thing.  After the girl pulled ahead, either she faded or I started to reel her back in as I speed up.

As I caught back up to her, we were moving up an incline and I could hear her working for it.  We settled in together and I offered some encouragement back.   I generally do not offer race advice in the midst of a race, but I felt compelled to assess whether she could or was even interested in talking to me.  We exchanged names.  She asked how far I ran yesterday. I told her I ran over a marathon in mileage.  She did a double take.  Since she asked some questions first, I asked her what her PR was.  Like a true racer she said "On this course,  I run about 21:30 -21:40." I loved that.  She didnt give her all time PR. She gave relevant useful data.  (This race is a weekly series and she has run there the last 4 weeks consistently in that range).  However, being that we were about 6:53,  sub 7 min miles was unlikely to get her a PR.  For some reason, I suddenly wanted to see her do amazing.

Stride by stride we ran, as I purposefully pushed down our pace down from 6:50... to 6:40... just to see when she faltered... i noticed at 6:41 she would start to breath hard right before letting up off the throttle a lot.  She was all or nothing (kind of like me).

But we were at 2 miles now. I slowed down a bit while encouraging her back up to me. I asked her to focus on just getting to 2.5 and worry about the rest later.  She was tough, she dug down and caught up.   I told her just abt 1 mile left.  Stride for stride we ran.  I talked about hugging the tangents and not giving away her hard work.  I shared some thoughts about  not fighting so hard to work the uphills, but rather to let the natural slow down happen while planning to make it all up on the down hills.

We hit 2.5 and I let her know that if she stayed strong she was getting a PR.  She didnt say much but seemed to respond and appreciate that data.  She pushed our pace, but then would fade a little, but always came back from it.  We were at 6:40 pace as we approached 2.8 miles and I asked her if she has a kick.  She honestly said "Sometimes." I liked that.  She was a good judge of herself.  I really wanted her to kick.  I wanted her to kick past me in the last .10.  I wanted her to finish strong and have a good memory of the race experience.  I didn't want to push her so hard that she blew up before she could drop her speed.

As we hit the last cone, we were running 6:36 pace. I told her she was running great. She responded by picking it up.  My watch beeped for 3 miles and I advised that we were now running 6:24's, we had only a 10th to go and it is time to GO!  I kicked and she was right with me.  Stride for stride, but about half way to the finish she let up and let me go.  I thought she was going dig deep and blast by me into the shoot.  But she did not.

I crossed 21:03 and she was 21:05. She PR's on this course by about 30 seconds!  I was so incredibly happy for her.  She made me forget how tired I was by giving me a focus.  I learned just how much fatigue is truly a state of mind.

We did a short cool down together and I asked her if she would ever run a marathon.  I loved her answer.  She didnt say "Oh boy, that is SO far!" or "I don't know if I can!"  Instead, she said very matter of factly, "I am too young. I am only 15."  I let her know that ultras let 15 year old in. :)

At the end of the race, they called the overall leader names.  My name was announced as 2nd Female. She was 3rd.  I was in the back talking to (a different Dave).  The girl was closer to the front.  She could have walked up on her own and got her applause.  But she didn't.  She waited, she looked for me, and gave me a HUGE smile and a High-5 as  we walked up together to get our wool hats prizes and our photo taken together.

More Mileage
I logged about 16.1 miles at the race with warm up and cool down.  I got home and once again Sid was waiting for me to go for a run.  He, Enzo and I logged 4.5 more at the park.  It was so cold that Enzo's fur got covered in dirty icicles by the end of the run. (He didn't even seem to notice!)  I got my 20.5 for the day!

Looking back, I am in pleased with the mileage I have run in the last few day.  I am doing it while feeling relatively strong in comparison to how I have felt at other high mileage weeks. It is a gift when running feels this way.

400 days running since 2012 = 3800.5 miles for an average of 9.5 per day
In the past 4 days I have logged 73.2 miles.
In the month Feb (past 3 days) I have logged 60.2 miles
In the last 2 days I logged 46.9
In the 5k (after 37+ miles): 21:03 (6:47)
2nd Female in a tiny club race
Awesome experiencing witnessing a kind young girl run her heart out in the cold.

Thank you for reading!