Saturday, June 9, 2018

Lakeview 5k, Edison, NJ. 6/2/18

On Monday (Memorial Day), I had a wonderfully positive experience racing the Ridgewood 10k. I was faster than in 2016 (which is the training cycle I am using to model my Fall Training after this season). It felt wonderful to be “ahead of my pace bunny,” but in that race I could still feel the lingering soreness that manifested at the end of the Run for the Red Marathon. That pain in my butt had me walking it in the last 4 miles.

I was supposed to also race the 5k after the 10k at Ridgewood, but decided I did not like the tightness I felt high up in my hamstring where it met my butt. There was no reason to turn a great experience into a bad day so I skipped the 5k and returned home.

I have strained muscles before. I have some idea of what that feels like. This felt different. I took some recovery days, but noticed I was not really bothered when I walked or jogged. I could run eay and felt fine. Climbing bothered me when running but not when walking.  I was in much greater discomfort when sitting or when I increased intensity when running. It seems like the entremes were out but if I stayed in the middle of the intensity continuum I was ok.

That discomfort when sitting was isolated only to a small area exactly where my sit-bone is. This area is the ischial tuberosity and it is where the hamstring attaches.  This could be high hamstring tendonpathy or something else. After a few days of rest, by Thursday AM I was running 95% problem free.  With each day that passed, I was feeling better.  That is a pretty fast recovery for tendonpathy. I began to suspect something else. 

I had this 5k planned and figured if I was tight or sore I would not need to “race” it. I could just slow to whatever pace was not bothersome. Alanna who was kind enough to come join me for pre-race milage and the race.  3.1M is simply not enough for me right now. 

I ran 8.6M comfortably slow paced miles before the race. I was a little tight at the top of my hamstring but nothing hurt. It was hot and humid. I didn't expect to be fast. After a long warm up I felt like I could run 3.1M more.

The Start. 
The start was a little disorganized. There was a “Ready… Set”… and then nothing.  Then people spontaneously starting to run. And then, after a few steps, everyone suddenly stopped and started to take steps backwards to the starting line.  While taking backwards steps to the start, the starting gun then goes off and everyone starts running again. This was the moment I tweaked something.  Unfortunately, this sudden back and forth change of direction and my gut reaction to GO! when I heard the gun caused me to press off very hard on the side of my body that was already tender as I was stepping backwards. The force to suddenly get moving forward while momentum was going backwards triggered a sharp pain on these initial step. I gave myself a few strides to feel it out.  Due to the acute sting that settled down a bit quickly but not fully, the hill in mile 1, the humidity and heat, I simply had no power, felt less than 100%, and decided to not race.

Today was NOT the day to worry about time. I shut down my intensity, trying to find a place that felt comfortably fast but not problematic. That was as about 7:30-7:40 pace.  

However, by the time I hit the last mile, my hamstring/glute was aggravated. In the last tenth of a mile, my stride was altered. I skipped the 2M cool down I planned, walking just a few mintues instead, because walking did not hurt.

The race was small and not incredibly competitive.  I must say that Kathy Rocker was awesome and ran a wonderful smart race in tough conditions for the win.  I was 3rd Female.  Great work Kathy! 500 points! 

I was about 3 minutes and 17 seconds slower than my pace bunny from 2016... Oops. ;)  

So it is back to the drawing board for me. Time for more rest, more recovery, and to figure out when it will be time to see a PT about this. 

After doing some research to self-diagnose (like all panicked runners do), I have determined that I most likely have bursitis. I followed some recommendations about how to manage it and now 6 days later I am back running. I am not discomfort-free.There remains tightness that leads to discomfort if I try to push through it. I suspect this would become painful if I ran too fast (I am not sure. I haven't tried to test this). But slow paces are painless. I am back up to 8M without much trouble when running. I am still taking it easy and allowing recovery between longer runs. I am hopeful that soon I will be training and racing just fine again. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Ridgewood 10k, Ridgewood NJ Monday, 5/28/18

So it has been about a week since my fumble at Run for the Red (Poconos Marathon). I rested, recovered, and felt about 95% ready to go for my target pace of 7:20 +/- 10 seconds for this 6.2M.  

Looking back over my logs from my best racing of my life, I ran this race at 7:10 pace before training on to eventually PR in everything I ran later in the Fall of 2016.  

I don’t need to best my PRs right now to feel like I have a chance at new PRs when racing and weather gets good months from now.  I just want to be close to the same place I was in the last time I took this journey.  I am comparing my past training volume and paces, nutrition, body composition and race performances along the way to determine whether or not I am on track to race well come Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec. Myself from 2016 is my pace bunny.

Being realistic, I aimed for 7:20 pace for this race because the last time I ran Run for the Red I was about 20 minutes faster. It didn’t feel smart to expect to be faster than 2016 myself at this race only one week later. So using my past performance as my guide I set a realistic goal. I hoped if I ran smart I would beat that goal. 

At Run for the Red, I ran with wild abandon, knowing I was too fast too soon but ready, willing, and able to take my beating when it came. It hit hard around 21M.  My ego was bruised. My hamstring too.

This 10k was a Masters Women’s USATF-NJ State Championship Team Race so I wanted to be a part of my team. We have some fast masters women and it feels good to be pulled along by some amazing people.  They make me want to do better.

Unlike Run for the Red, which was a Check-In Race where mistakes were encouraged, this was a race that I planned to practice some skills. Success was not measured by my finish time. I was measured by my execution of the pace plan. I wanted to practice negative splitting and self-restraint. There is no value in blowing up at every race. It is tremendously harder (from a discipline stand-point) to start slow than it is to start too fast, but it is better in the long run. There is value is practicing how to feel the sensation of running "as fast as possible while retaining one more gear" (or two) for the last 1/4 of the race. 

Today the weather was a gift. We had the best weather I have ever experienced at the Ridgewood Run. There would be a lot of PRs today!  Not for me, but for those who were ready for one. I line up towards the front of the race, a few rows back, more rows back than I would if I was fit and fast.

The starting gun is sounded and we are off.

I am careful to not get swept away with the crowd. 7:20 +/- 10 second from M1 is my goal.   There is no excuse to not nail this. I have a computer on my wrist that tells me exactly what I am doing. There is no need to be any faster than that target pace. I would love a 7:10. After Mile 1, I can forget the watch and feel for that sweet spot that is just fast enough but no so fast that I can’t get faster. When racing smart, I always want to know I have more speed in my legs for the end. M1- 7:09 (perfect!)

Mile 2 has a little descent so I find my flow and start concentrating on my body, my legs, my breathing, and my effort. I want to appear to be working less hard than those around me not harder. I focus on myself, but notice how hard others around me seem to be working too. I try to gather information internallly and externally.  

I have no intention to race anyone in M2. I am ignoring the watch because I know my best running happens by listening to my body, not by watching the clock. I am in a comfortable place, in my own head, cruising along, knowing I can work harder later. I am not sandbagging, but rather riding what feels like just a few seconds slower than my red-line effort. My breathing is controlled and I am trying to run as smoothly as I can. M2- 6:50

I don’t look at my splits until the end of the race until after I finish.  I can tell if I am running faster along the way just by how hard I am working.  I think about the mile I am in and assess if I am feeling like I am running smart.  Today the answer is "Yes. Yes I am.”   

I start to notice people around me fading. I am starting to pass many who flew past me in M1 and M2. I am working hard. I am careful to not work so hard that can’t shift gears.  I adjust my pace as needed to stay in that sweet spot. I am ok with slowing a little to retain my gears. I remind myself that my best race will be determined by what I do in M5 and M6 not what happened in M3 and M4. 

I find my zone and I settle in for the ride. I have more to give, but now is not the time. M3 - 7:02

I am hitting a flow state. Oh, how I miss this feeling
. I can "hear" music start to play in my head. I am lost in the song. I am overtaking more runners than those who are passing me. I am moving in slow motion and everything else is a blur. Nothing else matters. I am working exactly as hard as I am capable of sustaining. Running feels like work. It is not easy. But nothing hurts. I am not worried that I can’t hold on. I know I can. M4 - 7:03.

I learned a while ago when racing a 24 hour race to think about the lap I am in by saying “Working lap [and naming the number]” rather than naming the lap I just started which then confuses me as I wondering if I had just completed that number.  I still do that now when I race. It keeps my mind on the mile I am in.  I think to myself “Working M5. Get ready to move at the M5 Mark.”  

In this mile, I allow myself to shift my focus from internal, task-focused pacing to external, ego- (or competition-) focused racing. This is when start to open the gates that I have put up to hold back my ego-focused side while I focused on my task. 

[Ego is not a bad word. Ego-focused just means Outcome focused. It is that part of you that is preoccupied with the overall results like finish time or placement. Task-focused is the part of you that is focused on smaller bite-sized tasks a long the way].

My task was to run hard but not too hard and to make sure no matter what I did, I had another gear.  The ego is the part that cares more about beating competitors and doesn’t care about the task. I race best when I am task-focused for 3/4 of the race and 1/4 of the race I let my ego pull me to the finish. It is a race, after all, and the point of racing is to try to beat competition. That is all ego-focused stuff.  If I let my ego-focused side take over from the gun, I can expect a crash and burn beginning to happen by the half way point. Discipline for me is to hold back my ego-focused runner-self until I know that once I let her loose she can do nothing to destroy my result, but only make it better. There wont be enough time for crash and burn if I wait long enough to shift gears. M5: 6:57

I am side-by-side with Karl. Karl has been part of my “pack” for a while. We both get faster and slower and sometimes don’t run together but over the years Karl and I have raced many miles side-by-side.  Runners who race a lot know who their pack is. Sometimes they are collaborators and work together. Sometimes they are "freinemies."  In racing, you get to work with your pack, but by the end it turns into a race and you are happy for whoever wins the day. You push each other to better times than you can alone in those last final miles when the race is ON. It is never certain who will take the lead over the finish line.

Karl and I greet each other in M5. I say something about how it is time to do work. M6 is a fast mile.  Karl asks “Where’s Ben?”  [I love this]. First I say (not getting it at first), “Well, he is on the side-line cheering and I think he is racing the 5k…(then I get it)... but right now, Ben is right there (and I point to the ground a few steps ahead of us)… Ben is one step ahead pulling the pace home.”   

Karl, Ben, and I were a pack. The three of us ran many races side-by-side just like Karl and I are today.  But Ben was injured when he was hit by a car while he was riding his bike and literally broke his back. His comeback has been miraculous. But he wasn’t racing the 10k today… in person.  But he was there with Karl and me. 

Karl and I do not like to let Ben win ;) so we kick it up hard, as hard as I could at the time. We picked up Laura, my teammate. Laura rises to the challenge and doesn’t miss a beat as Karl and I are flying. She joins us. Now we are three and we are haulingM6 - 6:33

Me and Laura flying. Photo by Blanca Alvarez Blaskovic 
My breathing is crazy. My body is working harder than it has worked in a long long time.  I am giving 110%. Karl pulls away. I can’t match him but I give everything I have to give.  

Laura is on my side. We are not giving up. We are in a race. There is no "let's finish together holding hands" :) or letting the other one have the win out of friendship. No. This is a race and we are racing. We will be friends after. ;)  It doesn’t matter who wins because we are on the same team. We push each other to a 6:06 paced last .2M and it feels amazing! I finish a half step ahead but Laura started behind me so she gets the win today!  

Laura turns to me and says (as I am hunched over dry heaving) that she just set a new 10k PR!  

Karl turns back after he finishes to say “I just set a new Age Group Personal Best because of that last mile.  That wasn’t just me out there. That wasn’t just you… it was Us… and Ben.” 

Karl is my pack. Ben too. And now Laura.     

42:49 (6:53 pace). Negative Split!
24th Female OA
8th in Age Group (40-44)

My final mile was the fastest mile I have run in half a year.  I followed my plan completely and beat my goal by over 15 seconds per mile. I am now ahead of my “pace bunny” <3

What a fantastic day!