Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Key West Half Marathon, Key West, Fl. 1/19/14

Key West Airport
 Why I love this race: My first race after completing cancer treatment:  The Key West Half means a lot to me.  Last year I wrote a lot about why.  The short of it is back in 2007, Sidney paced me through the race, which was my first half marathon ever.  I ran it 3 weeks after the last infusion of my cancer treatment.  I had a left mastectomy and reconstruction, 4 months of chemo, then a right mastectomy and reconstruction, and then a year of Hercepton infusions given every three weeks.  I had been racing 5k almost weekly since completing chemo, while getting Hercepton. I ran a 10k on Thanksgiving Day 2006, the furthest run of my life, and the next day ended up in the Emergency Room due to some cancer treatment-related immune system crash.  I have visited the ER about 6 times because my immune system crashes at random through the year. The Key West Half was my first race post-cancer where I felt strong. I was excited that I was finally done with treatment.  We ran a 2:01 and I felt like true survivor!

Renting a Plane and Flying with Enzo.
Rental car parked next to plane while Sid grabs some bags
Each year, with the exception of the one year we did not go and the one year the alternator died while we were in flight causing Sidney to make an Emergency Landing in Atlantic City, Sidney and I fly to Key West for this race.  We rent a small airplane, a Mooney, load up our luggage and our dog Enzo and head south for a week.  We stop somewhere in the Carolinas for a night, then make our way to South Florida for a few days so he can see his mom, and then we end up in Key West for the weekend.

Sidney spoils me whenever he flies me to races.  I will always appreciate how awesome it is to not worry about what I am allowed to pack and how easy it is to simply drive the car right up to the plane to load and unload.  I will forever be impressed by Sidney's skills as a pilot and how he makes things that seem so complicated to me look easy.  He is brilliant and I love that I get to be a witness to his talent and skill.

People Watching in Ft Lauderdale.
Enzo has been to Key West three times now.  Not bad for a dog someone dumped on the highway like unwanted trash.  He has developed quite a set of skills, himself, when it comes to flying and travel.  He is now able to board the plane on his own, waiting until we give him the OK and then he jumps up onto the wing, climbs inside and takes his seat in the back.  He allows me to reach back and stuff jumbo cotton balls in his ears, leaning into my pressure to assist me.  He leaves the cotton in until we begin our descent, no matter how long the leg.  As we begin descending for our landing, Enzo observes with interest and at some point before we touch down he will shake the cotton out of his ears.

When flying over water, the FAA requires life jackets to be handy for all passengers.  So of course,
"I dont think this "parachute" feels like it is packed right?"
Enzo has his own.  Rather than plan to fumble with Enzo's life jacket in an emergency,  I put it on him as soon we approach the Gulf of Mexico.  His life jacket is a huge pain to wrestle onto him and he helps me.  I assume hard to get on suggests it would be hard for him to slip it off if he needed to put it to use.  When it is time to put it on him, he stands up and allows me to pull and tug that jacket into place making it possible for me to get it on him while I remain in my seat up front.  He is such a great dog for flying.

Whenever Sidney files his flight plans, he always includes Enzo in the list of passengers.  Not all pilots do as it is not required to list pets.  The controllers alway ask us about Enzo as we get handed off along the way, usually asking how he handles flying or what he is doing.  Enzo usually is sleeping, unless it is bumpy then he sits up.  If it gets very bumpy like it did on our way down,  I may reach back and he will place his head on my arm until the turbulence passes.

So back to the Running:

Orthotics Free in 2014
This was the second race I have run without orthotics. It has been a little over a month since I got rid of mine. The transition has been smoother than I anticipated.  One issue is that now my shoes fit differently because the orthotics seem to both take up a bit more room than the standard insoles do as well as alter the way my feet fit and functioned within my shoes.  Not so much that feel I need a smaller shoe, but enough that I need an acclimation period because my feet are rubbing differently now.  As a result of this change in fit, I have noticed some hot spots where I haven't had trouble before, primarily on the balls of my feet. This happened, first, during my first long run in my training shoes. My long runs are not fast so this was not too big of a problem.  In about two long runs, my feet acclimated. I am still acclimating to my racing flats.

The first race I ran without my orthotic and in my T7s racing flats was a 5k.  I raced that 5k fast for me, so I did get up on my forefoot. I noticed my feet feeling tired and my plantar fascia becoming irritated at about two miles, but soon the race was over and there were no lingering issues. 

Last year, I had trouble with severe blistering on the balls of my feet at this race. I attributed it to me racing in a new pair of Drifts, which had an extremely roomy toe box.  That coupled with the high humidity and heat causing me to douse myself with water, my feet and socks ended up soaked and slipping in my shoes. The course has many tight turns, which really irritate hot spots and encourage them to develop. This year was cooler and less humid.  I didn't anticipate a blister issue. 


Last year we were trapped in the crowd at the start where it took about a minute to cross, so this time we tried to get up front.  However, due to this race growing too big for its own good, and the starting line being on a dead end street, runners for both the 5k (which is supposed to start 5 minutes after the half) and half marathoners need to enter the corral from the front. Runners can't seed themselves, because it becomes impossible to push into a crowd of 3000 runners. We didn't do too bad this year, and it took us about 5 seconds to get to the start mat. Once running, the crowd was thick and boxing in was a big problem again. I am not very patient and worked to get out from behind groups of slower starters to find some room to settle in to my pace.

The night before, Sid had asked me what my plans were and I told him that this race is never a goal race for me, although I want to make a genuine effort. It would depend a lot on the winds and the humidity.  My plan would be the same no matter what the weather brought, to start just sub-7 and see how long I can hold it. The weather was wonderful this year.  

Gun Goes Off
I get out of the crowd after about 45-60 seconds.  I find my pace, but I noticed my asthma was really effecting my ability to take full breaths today.  I could only fill my lungs in part but I was able to hold my pace, so I just proceeded hoping it would get better. It did. M1: 6:50 

The course routes us through the old town section but involves many turns as we weave across town. I was cruising a long at about a 6:55 pace when a runner comes up beside me and asks me "So is this your normal pace? Do you normally go out at this speed?" I thought that was an odd thing to ask and I took it as suggesting he thought I was working too hard.  So I said (with a smile and a wink), "No, I normally don't go out at sub-7, but today I am hoping to save a little something for the way back" ;)  I had noticed my pace had crept to 6:47 so I wished him a great race and I settled back down. M2: 6:55

As we crossed the island, another guy caught up to me and got in stride with me. He commented, "You run just like my daughter." Again, I thought this was an interesting comment and not sure how to respond. so I said "How's that?" He was sweet.  He said,"You look strong. You have the same form"  I thanked him and told he looked strong too. M3: 7:02

I dont look at splits until after the race but I could feel like I was slowing up. Together we hit the 5k mark and I called out "21:30".  He asked how fast that was. I responded, just under 7. He said "Really?" He slowed a bit and I picked it up a little. 

As we turned onto the 3.5 plus mile stretch along the water, another guy cruised up and said, "Now the torture begins. Nothing but cement for a while." He was right about the cement. The course was all sidewalk from just past 3 to the turn around and back. He tried to say in the street, but I could hear his feet slipping over the sand that had collected in the shoulder. This made me wonder whether from a physics perspective, hard concrete with less spring than asphalt was faster than asphalt covered in sand. The guy popped back up on the curb. I shared, "I think it might be faster up here. I could hear you slipping." He kinda shrugged and pulled off ahead. M4: 6:51

Because there was a long stretch to view, I tried to count ladies. I could see two ahead in the distance moving well. Then out of nowhere another chick blew past me and then settled in a little ways ahead. Not close enough for me to run with her.  Her form was interesting and a little inefficient. I wondered if I look like that too because I know my right leg always kicks out to the side in race photos, while my left seems better behaved.  I wondered if the crazy stride meant she was working too hard. However, after watching the NYC marathon women's winner, I know you can never underestimate someone with funky form. I decided to stay on my sub-7 plan, observe, and not make any decisions until 4 to go.  M5: 6:54
Lovely hotspot-turned blister. 

I wondered if I could be in 4th. It is hard to tell with the winding streets and not starting at the line. But since this is an out and back, I would get my answer soon. Leaders were on their way back and within in the top 5 was the first woman. A minute or so later was the second.  That put me in 6th. It was here I started to notice the blister forming on the balls of my feet. Crap.  M6: 7:04

As we approached the 10k mark, I managed to reel in and over take one of the ladies ahead of us.  I didn't see any other women ahead that I didn't account for and that put me in 5th with work to do.  Half way: 45:30

I was happy as I still felt strong and in control. We went over a little bridge, hit the turn around where that first guy, who asked me if I normally go out at sub-7 saw me and gave me some encouragement which I returned. That was nice. The tight turn just tore up my feet and I knew I was in trouble. I passed the second place hand cycle guy and cheered him on. He reeled me back in and cruised next to me. I commented that hills must be tough. He said "Not really." I still think it looks hard to crank yourself up hill by hand. I have tried to ride a bike uphill and that was hard. As we passed the 7 mile mark he told me to try to catch the girl up ahead, the one with the crazy form. I told him I was going to try but it was too soon.  M7: 6:56

A trick I like to use to catch and pass a competitor just ahead of me is to focus on catching anyone I can see ahead of her.  In this case the woman in orange was about 30 seconds ahead but I told myself that I had time to reel her in. As we approached mile 8 I thought to myself "ok, 4 to go... If I want to negative split this I need to move!" I picked up, passing the chick ahead of me with authority. She cheered me on. I returned the encouragement. I focused on trying to gain ground on the woman in 3rd, but she was moving well.  It took me until about 8.5 miles to realize that 13 minus 8 is 5. Not 4. Oops. Lol! 
M: 6:51

I was working to close the gap, but I wasn't sure I could catch her. My pace felt strong but my burning feet were getting worse with each step. Any turn in the course was just tearing things up. I new I didn't have much straight away left, so now was my chance to make up some time. M9: 6:47

And then she looked back. Yes! She looked. This means if I can catch her I will most likely take her. Accept the hurt.  Run.  I tried.  My legs were starting to feel spent and I realized I never took that gel I carried and I had not even seen any sports drink yet on the course.  I took it and tried to convince myself that in 10 minutes I will have a second wind. She look back again and then she sped up and widened the gap. Crap.  M10: 6:55

I maintained the fastest pace I could sustain and reeled her in more than she pulled away. Then again, she looked back and widened the gap again. It felt like some unfortunate magnetic pull. I make up ground, she'd widen the gap back, then I would shrink it by more. I was reeling her in but she was making it really hard. M11: 6:49

We hit the residential streets and it was back to twists and turns, which just burned my feet. I couldn't get up on my toes like I wanted to. I tried to ignore the pain. I was still getting closer. M12: 6:53

One mile to go. And the worse weaving and turning was before us.  Sharp turns through the harbor, over cobblestones (come on!) and around street corners. I was slowing down on the turns. She was holding the gap. M13: 6:55

I kicked. She kicked. Where the heck is this finish line. I caught a guy he told me to catch her. Man I was trying. Jello legs. Blistered feet. I had nothing left to shift into. I tried. Last 0.10  0:41 (6:00 pace).

And then she was done... 5 seconds later I was too. With a negative split and a new PR. I never PR in Key West.  

Man, what a great race! I tried but I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed that I didn't get her. When I looked at the net time, she got me by a second! So close!  But I know I can't be too bummed. I ran my fastest race with a 35 second negative split. I had no real kick, but I didn't train to run this well.  I hope this means that with some focus, some half marathon specific training focus, that I may someday have a shot at breaking 1:30. 
Leaving the Keys

But for now I am thrilled with what I have accomplished.  A new PR and it wasn't even a goal race.  What a great day! 

Time: 1:30:26 (6:54 pace)
Place 26th overall of 1904
Gender: 4th
Age Group: 1st

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

CJRRC Hangover 5k Run, Westfield, NJ. 1/1/14 (Higher Mileage Goal, and Running Orthotics Free)

And Let the Racing Begin! 

Last year I started the year off with a fantastic 5k at the Hangover Run in Westfield NJ.  The course is a good one for fast times with well placed inclines that show up when energy is highest and then turn into declines that carry you home when the race is coming to a close.

I am not in 5k shape. I have done no speed work in months. I did not race all of December, so I didn't sneak any in that way. I have been focused on building a solid base of higher mileage for bigger goals in the future.  I want to start the New Year ready to log the type of weeks that will allow me to run my best year to date.  I ended December with 326 miles for a 10.5 mile per day average that month.  I would like to hold that as long as possible this year.  I had also started ramping up the paces of some of my mid-week training runs since I am returning to the race courses and feel a little stale.  This made me feel beat up and exhausted. But that is ok sometimes.

Transitioning Out of Orthotics
One of the biggest changes I plan to make for 2014 is to finally free myself of my orthotics. It is going faster than expected, but I am still not feeling safe.  I got my first pair back when I was 15 years old. I needed them after repeated, recurrent injuries related to some bone alignment issues.  The final straw was ending up in a soft cast to help heal some seriously debilitating tendonitis.  I also had shin splints that would cause my shins to bruise badly from the inside out, as well as chronic and painful plantar fasciitis.  I was also a newer runner and not training nearly enough back then.  After an asjustment period, the orthotics helped me to run when I couldn't.  Since then it was a no-brainer for me to just wear them if I wanted to run as pain-free as possible.

My first pair lasted me 20 years! 20 freaking years and they were fully intact.  After my first years of ultras, my feet were hurting so bad that I decided to get a new pair made. I suspected that I was long over-due anyway.  Since then, I had two separate pairs, and both were no match for my high-ish mileage running.  I cracked both pairs in half.  Duct taped them back together so I could keep running, while I waited 3 weeks for new ones.  After the second time, I just couldn't help but think if I can run with orthotics that are taped together there is a really good chance these things are no longer doing as much for me as I think they are.  I suspected that my high mileage running has strengthened my feet so much that I could try to go without them.

Starting on December 19, I opened a new pair of Brooks Launch and decided to go for it Orthotic Free.  I actually intended to ween my way off.  But that was the first run in about 24 years where I was finally able to feel the soft cushy soles of my shoes. OMG. I had no idea this is what running shoes feel like for other people! No hard plastic between my feet and my support.  It was heaven.

I decided to stick to the treadmill at first, so that I could step off if I felt any pain. I went back to the orthotics for my long runs, but by 10 day I was doing my long runs without them as well.

Today's race would be my first orthotic-free race since I was 15 years old.  The only issue I had was I did not save the insole to my racing flats.  I did have a new pair so as much as I hated doing this, I took the new insoles and put them in the old racing flats, which only have 36 miles on them.

The Race
- Weather: 29, feels like 23 degrees. Winds 5 mph from W. Humidity 42%
- Clothing: Capri pants, calf sleeves, thin tech long sleeve, tech T-shirt over the top, thin fleece neck warmer (for neck or over ears), throw away gloves not thrown away.  Took Neck Warmer offer at mile 1.5 and wrapped it around arm.
- Shoes: Brooks T7 Racing Flats

I was pretty tired from two fast 10 mile training runs the two day prior to this race.  I am doing a few experiments with my running and knew I would end up at the starting line tired.  This was ok, every race can't be a goal race.

I am used to racing a lot. When I don't race weekly I start to feel out of practice.  I actually get very nervous about racing.  The idea of putting myself out there and risking failure can be stressful.  I feel like life is full of stressful situations and risks of failure, so if I can handle stressful events on purpose then I should be better prepared to manage the unplanned stressors.

I warmed up 2 miles, lined up towards the front, about one row back of a wide street with runner across the entire way.  I appreciated that just before we were ready to go a guy then stepped up and planted himself directly in front of me as if I would be holding him back. I wish I got his bib number so I could see if he beat me.  It is fine if he did.

The gun went off, and my legs remembered just what to do.  Up the first incline I started counting women.  4 were in front of me.  Around the first loop we completed the first mile. M1 - 6:12

I didn't feel like it was too fast, but at this point we are back at the first incline again, and doing it a second time took its toll on me.   I could also feel my left Plantar Fasciia feeing irritated and I wanted to pay attention to it.  A female passes me, and then a guy who starts coaching me.   He tells me to get back on their heels (but I don't want to do that)  Then passes me and then waves me up. (I don't respond)

Honestly, I do understand that people are trying to be helpful.  It is better than people being unkind, but it is interesting to me.  If you race enough this is bound to happen to you, the Mid-Race Coach. Now I may not mind as much IF this person had already finished, then ran back to me and offered some support and guidance.  But I always wonder what makes people who are running at the same exact pace as me, feel that it is there job to spontaneously start telling me what I should do.  Usually a male that does this, but not always.  I cant help but think that if I am a female and I am running just as fast as that guy, who is technically supposed to be genetically pre-determined to be faster than me, then possibly I should be the one coaching him. ;)

Although I was encouraged to speed up, I held my pace because that is what I felt was best for me at that point in the race.  At 1.2 miles, it was way too early to make a move. I was more interested in pacing myself in a way that allowed me to run a fast last mile than crash.  I could feel I was on that line and was happy holding my pace.  The guy pulled away, the ladies stayed in range and I continued onward.  

Before we hit mile 2, one of the ladies faded a bit and I passed her.  I pulled up to another and sat there.  My "new coach" stepped off the course and I not sure why.  I did not see him again. M2 6:40

This race has a fast finish built in.  I was feeling very tired at this point.  The 10 milers I have been doing in training had taken a toll on me.  But I wasn't ready to give up yet.   With about a half mile to go, I passed the girl who I was tailing. She did not challenge, but she also did not allow me to pull away.

And this is why (many) serious racers do not race with music.  I could hear her breath.  I knew she was close. I knew exactly where she was. She was sitting on me now. We were approaching the finish. And I knew exactly what she was setting herself up to do.  The Sit and Kick.  She was planning to blast past me at the finish.  [If I had on headphones, I would have missed all of that.  I do understand that there are many serious racers who do listen to music while racing.  This would a rare experience for me. I have listened to music at a few 24 hour races, but in short fast races, I want to know what is going on around me).]

The only defense to the Sit and Kick, is the Pre-Emptive Demoralizing Burst even if you can't hold it the whole way. If you break the spirit of the Sit and Kicker by making a move early, they won't kick and usually they let up. If you fade just a bit later, it is usually too late for them to kick to get you.  Unless this is for the OA win and the Sit and Kicker is just messing around, most people using the Sit and Kick strategy do so because they are tired and redlining as well.  Some people use it when they only want to run fast enough to win and the race is easy for them.  Most Sit and Kicker don't feel they have enough energy to race you all out to the finish (if so they would simply pass you with authority and see if you challenge). Instead they have to use a strategic plan to save themselves for a short surprise attack at the end.

Bear in mind, there is nothing wrong with this strategy.  I do it all the time.  When you are racing your hardest, sometimes you have to do everything you can to move up the leader board and strategic racing is still racing.  To break the Sit and Kicker,  burst early (but not so early that you fade and they Kick past).  Timing is key.  Put some distance between you and the Sitter.  If they don't give in, it will force them to shift gears early.  They already feel they cant hold a kick that long, so you just have to do everything to hold the kick until you break them or you finish.  But often they don't even bother to chase you down and let you have the position..  M3 6:24

Well, I somehow managed to reel in a social butterfly, a teenager, who was treated his 5k like it was his personal parade.  As he saw his friends he would wave and yell stuff.  He was having a lot of fun. At one point I said, "kick now and break 20" (hoping it would remind him he is in a race and I was behind him trying to hurry up.) He turned back to look at me which slowed his pace.  Since we were running a tangent, I was directly behind him.  His slow down, was just before the final turn and where I needed to execute my Pre-Emptive Burst to hold off my Sit and Kicker.

As I pick up my pace, I can hear her coming up on my shoulder.  Then I can see her in my peripheral.  A blur of green in the corner of my eye.  So I move out to pass the teenager and I KICK just as the Teen decides to extend his left arm out across my line of travel so that he could wave to his fans, almost knocking me in the face.  I bob and weave out of his way, and fully turn on whatever I can muster. I somehow still manage to hold her off through the shoot.  She was a very good Sit and Kicker and thanks to her, I ran my second fastest 5k ever! Last .1 - 0:39

Time - 19:55 (6:25 pace)
Place - 25 OA of  786
Gender- 4th of 375
Age - 1st of 51

2013 Running Year in Review

2013 Year in Review: 3,456.8 mi in 9:36 pace. I estimate that this many miles equates to almost 100 lbs of snacks consumed since I didn't lose a pound. I completed two full years of streaking averaging 9.5 miles a day now since 12/28/2011. I wanted to beat my mileage from last year and I did so by 0.6 miles. Last year I ran 3456.2 but at a slower 10:00 average pace.

I finally broke 20:00 for the 5k (I need to find my fast twitch), I PR'd in most race distances I ran. My best race was most likely my 7:41 50 Mile run at Lake Waramaug. I had a good 6 hour run for 41.48 miles, a 4:03 50k at Caumsett and a 1:31 half. I got my ass kicked in Albany in -2 degrees and 40 mile winds, but I held it together at LBI running 18 miles in 2:12 in a 20 mile an hour head wind with 35 mile gust the whole point-to-point way. 

I learned a lot about depletion training.  Mostly that I need to learn a lot more.

I ran 9 miles up a mountain from abt 6400ft to over 10500ft elevation in NM with my husband Sidney to celebrate my 8 years of being cancer free anniversary.  He did not kill me when we got to the top. James Plant was there too. He did curse at me as he finished. 

I placed 7th at the National Championships at both the 50 km and the 50 Mile. I won a few ultras along the way and placed 3rd OA woman in the shorter race distance USATF-NJ Grand Prix year long road race series.

I wanted to focus on shorter ultras in 2013 because I got sick of puking in 2012. I believe I managed to not vomit all year long! Hopefully I have marinated and adapted enough from high mileage running to look into a return to longer races in the year to come.

I coached a lot of amazing people to their own PR's from all over the country, including a few different groups for good causes, like all my TNT runners, my Cancer to 5k group, and my Veteran's Running Group.

Alanna Garrison-Kast was even somehow able to make me get up before 5 am to meet her places for crazy long runs in the woods. Thank you for that. I don't think I fell down as much as I have done in the past.  But when I did, I made it count.

Now to do it all over again but hopefully a little better in 2014!

All my 41 race reports are linked here: http://shannon-creatingmomentum.blogspot.com/p/racing-pacing-and-training-runs.html