Saturday, December 14, 2019

(1) A8K, Glenn Ridge, NJ 11/28/19, (2) NCR Trail Marathon, Spark, MD, 11/30/19, and (3) The Holiday Hustle 5k, Lincroft, NJ 12/8/19.

I will try to be brief. I make no promises. 

I have been racing a lot again and it is amazing. All for training. Nothing has been a goal race. I can’t be happier with the results, although I can’t say that I am nailing my goals perfectly. When I miss the mark I set for myself (like in the last of these races), I feel more motivated to look at my training, nutrition, sleep, stress, etc and see what I can tweak to help me get one step closer to my "A" Goal.

My last race was the Clifton 5k on 11/17. I wanted to run 6:20 pace and I ran 6:41 pace that day. I did not feel like it was my best work. I did not feel like I had the ability to dig deep at the end to pull down my pace. I left feeling dissatisfied with my performance and not really sure what I could have done differently. This concerned me. It easy to accept missing a goal when you know why.  It is hard when you have no idea why you just didn’t “have it” when you wanted to. Was I reaching some limitation that I wasn’t prepared to find yet? 


Ashenfelter 8k, Glen Ridge, NJ 11/28/19

As a result of all of the above, I had some mixed feelings about the A8k. Before the last few races, I was overwhelmed with pre-race anxiety. This could be sabotaging me. So this time I tried to be much better about pre-race stress.  First I NEED some anxiety to run well but not so much that I can't function well the day before and get to bed hours later than I should.  This time I slept better. I ate better. I managed my schedule much better. But I can’t say I felt as confident in my ability as I would have liked to feel. After all, I wasn’t trying to run a PR, I was simply trying to identify a realistic goal and then achieve it. This should not be that hard for me to do since I do this for others as my job and I do it well.

Annemarie, my Clifton Road Runners Team Captain, asked for my A8K goal so she could put me on the appropriate team.  Without hesitation, I wrote, “I plan to run 6:20-6:40 pace.” I hit send and then thought to myself “What? I just raced a 5k at 100% effort and only managed 6:41 pace. I just said I could run an 8k faster than that. Ok, I guess I need to do it now.”

I love the A8K. I have run it maybe 5 times? It is a fast race. It is huge race. But the race is always good to me. I like the course. 

So how did it go!  It was awesome.  I nailed it! Negative split. Raced a chick into the finish and passed her just before the finish line.  I was pleased!


NCR Trail Marathon, Sparks, MD, 11/30/19

Two days later, I got up a 4:00 am, drove from NJ to MD and raced the NCR Trail Marathon, then drove home.  It was a great day! 
I have run the A8k/NCR double many times and it always goes well.  There is something special that can happen when a higher volume runner races a fast short race a few days before a marathon. I feel like it wakes up the fast-twitch. But it only works if the runner has enough volume under them that a 3-5M short race doesn’t take too long to recover from.  I felt I would be find in two day, but I was also not concerned because the NCR was not a goal race for me. 
But what was my goal? This was hard to figure out. First and foremost I wanted to negative split this thing. The course is set up for this. I has about a 1% incline out to the turnaround and then run down that same 1% decline on the way in. But 1% is not very significant, but it is still 1% and any percent can help with smart pacing.

My goal window was huge, based upon my 6:23 pace at the A8K two days prior I was looking to come in under 3:10, but that was pretty ambitious.  My last marathon was in Atlantic City on 10/21/19 and it was a 3:35. I would need to drop a minute per mile

How did it go?  Well it was amazing!!! 

I was smart and careful and confident the entire way. I allow myself to settle into whatever pace felt “fast enough” for the way out which would still allow me to really work hard on the way in. It was cold for me. I wore my extra layer for 14 miles, when I usually drop a throw-away shirt by the first aid station. My hands could not stay warm until I picked up the pace on the way in.

I had moments during the race where I felt like I starting to slow down slower than I had expected to, like all the miles in the 7:30 on the way out, with a long way to go. 

But I have to say, I never let the watch dictate my mood. If I felt concerned, I shifted my focus and I told myself “You are doing really good work right now. You are doing what you came to do. Just wait for the turnaround and see what you can make happen.”

First half splits: 

The turn around was at 13.7M.  I have been enjoying pushing my pace with 12.2M left. I just feel that if I waited patiently at a pace that is not overwhelming me for 14 miles, then I would be able to handle harder work for the last 12.2M.  I know that when I work too hard from the gun, those last 12M become physically and emotionally overwhelming and once the wheels fall off, the demise always results in more lost time at the end than I would have lost in the beginning had I been more disciplined and patient. 

Once you learn that negative splitting a marathon will almost always result in a faster time and feel better along the way, there is usually no return to racing in a way that allow the race to control the pace. 

I did not need to or want to bank time. Planning to do that means you I would be start my race with the negative expectation that I was going to fade and there was nothing I could do to stop it. That is a self-defeating, self-fulfilling prophecy based upon a lack of confidence in ability and training. I had neither. I trust my training. I believe in myself. I know I can negative split a marathon at comfortable paces.  But this one was going to start to get into the uncomfortable zone. But still, I wanted to start with the expectation that if I keep my first 14M comfortably hard, I would set myself up for a negative split. The question would be just how fast could I bring it home. 

Well again, I nailed it!  6-minute negative split! 1:37-1:38 on the way out. 1:30-1:31 on the way home!

Second half splits. 

On the way back, I had more miles in the 6’s than I thought I could run and they felt amazing! In the last 10 miles, I moved from 6th place woman to 2nd place! I was 51st place overall at the turn-around and 27th OA by the finish.  There is nothing more amazing than flying into the finish at a marathon. 

At mile 21, I passed a pack of men and one asked, "Are you in the half????"  I said, "No. The full!" And he replied, "HOLY CRAP!" And I was gone. Talk about a confidence boost! 

There was a moment during mile 23-24 when the course slightly inclined and my pace slowed. I got worried. I had told myself to hold on until 2.2M to go and then dig… and here I was just before that mark and I was fading. I did not want to fade. 

And then I hear what sounded like a kennel of dogs barking like mad. We were in the woods on a trail. Not deep in the woods. There were home nearby. I don’t know where the dogs were, but they were loud. This snapped me out of my funk. 

On the ride down, I had a conversation with Enzo.
For those who don’t know, Enzo was my canine ultra-endurance training partner who passed away from cancer in May. Now, when I run I think of him always.  I miss him. When I race I carry him with me in my heart.  On the ride down I said to myself “Ok boy, you love running in the woods. You ready to rock-n-roll?  Show me a sign that you are with me…”  

And at that moment I passed “Dogwood Road” Seriously.  Ok, I will accept that. You are with me. Game On little buddy. Let's go crush a marathon.  

So back to the race. I am at 23-24M. I am fading for a moment. I hear the dogs going nuts. I snap out of it.  Omg, Enzo! You are reminding me to fight. I imagine him grinding away ahead of me with his leash tethered to my arm like he always was.  I can see him in my mind's eye PULLING me. Pulling the pace. LOVING it.  

And suddenly, I have wings.  

I drop my pace to 6:32 for the next mile, fade slightly to 6:44 for mile 26 and then dig for a kick of 6:21 pace to finish in 3:08:19, 2nd Female OA.  #EnzoIsMyCoPilot! 

We did it, Enzo!  We did it!  Thank you! 

Holiday Hustle 5k, Lincroft, NJ 12/8/19

I have been on a high from running a 3:08 at the NCR for days. But by mid-week, my mind shifted to the next challenge: The Holiday Hustle 5k.

My last 5k (mentioned in the beginning) felt very dissatisfying. My 5k PR is from the Holiday Hustle in 2016. I like this race. I did not taper for this. I did take a “Rest Week” after NCR but that meant I just opted for a lot more treadmill running because the weather was turning very cold and I felt more comfortable inside. I wanted to take advantage of the give the treadmill offered so my running was slightly lower impact and I considered that my "rest." I ran 75 miles for the week ending with this race.  

I was still tired from the marathon but I was able to run 14M on Monday 12/2. I skipped my interval work and ran 8M on Tuesday 12/3. By Tuesday afternoon, I felt my left calf was having a problem. If I kept pushing I would end up strained. I wasn’t sure if I would even make the 5k. I was definitely NOT racing if my calf was angry. But because I caught it so very early and I took a rest day (2M) on Wednesday, by Thursday I was back to 100% and I did my hills.  

I also resumed lifting heavy weights again between the NCR and the Holiday Hustle. I was lifting heavy before the Clifton 5k, but I cut out the lifting starting after my lighter session on the Monday three days before the Thursday 8k and NCR double. I wanted to get back to my strength work, so I knew I would sacrifice something at the 5k. I didn’t really expect it to be much.  

5ks are too short for me to count as a training day. I met Alanna and we ran 11.2M before the race. I could argue that the 11M w/u made me "tired" but I don’t really believe that was true. I was likely just not fully recovered from the marathon the week before. 11M did not deplete my glycogen. I refueled and rehydrated between the w/u and the race. If anything, I was probably a pound or two lighter by gun time for doing a long warm-up, which would help. I have raced PR 5ks with 10-12 mile warm-ups. If I was a 20 mpw week runner, an 11M warm-up would be ridiculous.  But at 75-90 mpw it really did not physically take much out of me, especially because the pace was easy. 

Kim had asked me my goal prior to the race, and I said “Well, I just ran an 8k in 6:23 pace so I really would like to be faster than that! My last .4M at the NCR  Marathon was a 6:21 pace, so I will aim for a 6:21 first mile and try to pull the pace down from there. 

So how did it go? Ugh, 5k’s are hard. 

This course starts with a slight decline, the makes a big loop and returned back to the starting line. One thing that worried me and definitely impacted my pace was my fear that there was ice on the bridges and some parts of the path. I did not want to fall. During my warm-up, I did feel how slippery the bridge was.  But that was at 9:00 am before the 10:00 start. At 9:00, I told the RD about my concern to see if anyone wanted to or could do anything about this.  They put cones where there were slippery patches. I know I slowed on the bridge in the first/last mile on the way out and back.

I was in control for the first mile and was happy to see a 6:22. I was behind 5 guys, well like three teenagers and 2 grown men. One kid was a rocket and gone. The other 4 were in range. I was in no rush to pass anyone. Instead, I wanted to stick to my plan. 

About halfway, I looked at my pace and says 6:15. It just felt like a lot of work to lift my legs. My breathing was not terrible. I did not feel cardiovascularly taxed. Instead I felt like I did not have any other gears to shift into and I still had 1.5M to go, with an incline to the finish.

I was able to move past the men just after the half way point and from there I was running alone. And even though I wanted to get more lift and generate more speed, I just couldn’t do it.  My legs said, “No. Not today." I settled on just hanging on, trying to not fade. I cruised through the finish line at 19:38, but couldn’t stop my watch due to my giant mittens getting in my way. 

Sub-20 is good. I was really hoping for 19:11, not 19:38.  27 seconds off my goal. This felt like the disappointing Clifton 5k all over again for me. 
But this the work. This feeling is dissatisfaction is the process. Everything can’t be easy. I don’t expect success after success. "Failure" is where learning happens.  

So what happened? I could make 1000 excuses. Was it too cold? Did I warm up too much? Were my legs tired from lifting too much? Was my calf still not 100%?  Was I not fully recovered from the marathon the week before? How much did my fear of slipping slow me down? Did I not enough grit? Did I drop the ball mentally? Did I lose motivation because there was no one to chase and no one chasing me? Am I just maxing out my top speed because I am 44 years old and 5ks are hard? Is this the best I can do and I should be happy? All of the above? None of it? Who knows? 

It doesn't matter. I will assess my training and lifestyle.  I will change what I can change to move me in the right direction. Keep working hard. I will chase the dreams I have set for myself in my heart.  

I have time to grow.  I will see where this leads.  

But truly I am racing again! I am racing again!!!  And this fact, all on its own, is a victory. 

I can't lose. 

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