Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Marla Runyan Half Marathon

If you didn’t already know, I am a huge race promo code shopper! Some people clip coupons and I browse for discount races. It’s rare for me to pay full price for a race and often I’ll run a race just because I got it for a good price. This last race I ran was one of those! Earlier this month, I ran the Marla Runyan Half Marathon that benefited the Boys and Girls Club of Camarillo. Thanks to Groupon, I got this race for $30 when the regular price was over $60. An added bonus to running this race is that it is part of the Gold Coast Run Series, which puts me two races closer to receiving the jacket!

As per usual, I went into this race with the mentality that it would be a training race. I did just about everything wrong if I had planned on racing it. I didn’t taper until I realized halfway through the week that I was tired and tried a halfhearted taper (I’ve been hitting some high mileage). I went out with friends the night before the race and ran around a maize maze followed by gorging ourselves on Yogurtland (yum yogurt)! I slept terribly because my bro was having a going away party/thing (they didn’t consider it a party) that didn’t end up finishing until 3:30am. But none of that mattered, because I was just going to run it as a training run.

Maize mazes are cool... but creepy!
 I tried to talk Daddio out of going with me because I didn’t want him to lose a morning of sleep to wait for me to finish a training run, but he insisted on tagging along (my Dad is awesome). So we left the house a 5am to get down to Camarillo for the race. This race had the option of getting your packet race morning and I took advantage of that. So we got down there in the dark, I got my packet and we huddled in the warm car till race time.

About ten minutes from the race start, I followed a group of sleep deprived runners as we tried to find the starting line. We were soon directed by a voice from above (bullhorn?) and we found the starting balloon arch that was still being pumped up as it lay on the ground. Surprisingly, the race only started a few minutes late.

Ready for my training race!
We set out in the cold foggy morning and I set myself a decent pace. My goal for my last race of the year (Santa to the Sea Half Marathon) is to break the two hour barrier. So I started my pace around a nine minute per mile. I wanted to see how well I could hold it over the long distance (again, just a training race). It felt good! The morning was chilly and the other runners were quiet. All I heard in the beginning was a horde of feet hitting the ground, one of my favorite sounds.

Watched the sun rise as we ran
 For the first time in a while, I didn’t carry my own water, instead deciding to rely on the water stations. I rarely do this, but I needed the practice and once again, this race was just training. The volunteers were amazing and the police traffic control was wonderful. Everyone seemed so happy to be out there helping! There were plenty of aid stations and several even had gels! My only complaint, and it’s not really a complaint, just a suggestion, is don’t place the trash cans right by where the runners get cups, place them down the street about twenty feet. I hate throwing cups on the ground, so I stopped to drink each time I needed water (I know, I’m weirdly considerate like that). Also don’t use plastic cups, runners can’t fold those for quicker drinking as they run. Otherwise, awesome job!

This race was a very weaving out and back, so I got to see the lead runner as he passed. I cheered him on and he actually smiled and thanked me. Usually the person in the lead is so focused that they don’t acknowledge the cheers of others. That was a pretty cool moment.

Lead guy picture taken by Daddio at the beginning of the race.
Same mile markers as last month's race!
I was trying out some longer intervals during this race, running for fourteen minutes and walking for one. Even with this, I was holding a great pace around 9:10 per mile. I have to hit a 9:09 per mile to hit the two hour barrier. I was feeling so good around mile six and seven that I started picking up the pace, trying to get my pace where it needed to be. Slowly the pace starting dropping and by the time I got to mile ten it was around an average of 9:06. At this point, I was thinking “Wow, I can do this right now, why wait two months!” so I decided to hammer on.

Miles eleven and twelve were when things started to unravel. To that point, I felt like I was flying, everything was just cruising along and the pace was easy to hit. These two miles it turned into work! My feet started hurting due to a bad taping idea I was trying out that ended up causes massive blisters and my hips started to feel tight and sore. I just kept telling myself that I was almost there and tried to distract myself by talking to each runner I passed, because guess what, I was passing a lot of people (crazy, this doesn’t happen to me). Anywhere past eleven is where you start seeing people losing steam and slowing down. I like to dib it the zombie zone, this is the time in the race I get most chatty (got to love endorphins!). And this time I was gaining speed!

The last mile was brutal. I was now around an overall average pace of 9:04, so I knew I was going to make it unless I fell down dead. My Garmin had been right on at every mile marker, so I knew it was accurate. Each step was hard, but also exciting! I wanted to tell every person I passed what I was about to achieve! As the finish came into view, I passed the last person that was between me and my goal. Shortly after, I hit the thirteen mile marker and my Garmin was off by a tenth of a mile! I was about to have a heart attack! What if I didn’t make it that last tenth in time! What if I missed a sub two hour time by mere seconds! Thankfully what was left of my exhausted brain kicked in and reminded me that I could finish a tenth of a mile in less than two minutes. I decided to jog it in…. which lasted about a second before I heard Daddio yell “Now sprint!” so that’s what I did.

The finish line! It felt teasingly far away!

Final sprint!
 I crossed the finish at full sprint, stopped my watch and threw my hands up in the air. I’ll admit, I shed a tear or two and stumbled over to get my timing chip removed and to receive my medal. I kind of stumbled around trying to figure out what to do with myself next until a wonderful volunteer approached me and pointed me to the water and the after race goody tables.

What an after race spread! There was water, sports drinks, cookies, croissants and chocolate dipped strawberries to name a few. I reached the large plate of cookies and stared. The server asked me which type of cookie I wanted… I think I may have mumbled something incoherent, because even I didn’t know what I was saying at that point. I couldn’t figure out what kind of cookie I wanted! I finally just said “something from the middle”, since apparently I couldn’t say sugar cookie. It went just as smoothly when I was offered a croissant and I called it bread.

So excited that I took a picture!
Daddio took a paparazzi style picture of me stuffing croissant in my face before I spotted him. He congratulated me excitedly and pointed out that I had just shaved another four minutes off my half marathon PR. He pointed me to the beer area where the results were being posted on TV screens. I quickly weaved my way over to find out my official finish time of 1:58:33 and to my complete surprise I discovered that I finished third in my age group!

My Dad, the only paparazzi I have

Please ignore the boob sweet, this geek girl worked hard.
Note to self: never wear this shirt to a race again!
We hung out till the award announcements and I exuberantly ran up to receive my $20 gift card to Tri Running and my blue plastic cup. So once again, I proved that I’m terrible at just running these as “training runs”.

Marla Runyan Half marathon is an awesome race, but I might be slightly bias now!

My cup that proves I'm a winner... or something...

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Feeling Fantastic!

I’ve been having a couple of really great running months lately and have been achieving a lot of new personal records. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you stay injury free for more than four months!

This last week, I finished my first thirty mile training week. It doesn’t sound like much, but that is huge to me. I’m always excited when I get back up into the 20’s and I’ve gotten extremely close to the 30’s before, finishing one week with 29 back in 2011, but have never made it till now! I’m probably in the best running shape of my life and have so much further I want to go! I'm just now starting to believe that another marathon may just be in my future!

I have made a lot of changes to my training this year and they seem to be paying off. I slowed my increases down to a painfully slow progression, but my body seems to be handling it much better. Some people may be able to follow the 10 percent rule (increase your weekly mileage by 10 percent from the previous week), but my body couldn’t handle it. Last year was dominated by injuries where this year I only experienced a few minor problems.

Another change that I have made was incorporating some treadmill runs into my schedule. I added these just over a year ago after recovering from a stress fracture. I’m not sure just how beneficial these runs have been, but the dramatic decrease in injuries speaks for itself. I also invested in a pair of Hokas. I never wanted to pay more than $100 on a pair of shoes, but these are well worth it! I bought these back in May when I was struggling with some pain in my left foot that disappeared as soon as I started doing all my high mileage in these shoes (I still run my shorter runs in Nike Vomeros). I've run 240 miles in these babies and they still feel fantastic!

The Doctor says it best!
Last month I started calorie counting and food tracking which I’ve never done while trying to increase my mileage. The first two weeks were rough, but these last two weeks have been fantastic! I’ve dropped more than six pounds and been having some awesome long runs. I’m an idiot when it comes to nutrition, so I’m always learning something new. I usually have a natural cycle of one awesome week of training followed by the next week of fatigued training. As of today I’m just entering my third week of energetic runs. It’s too early to tell if this is diet related, but I have high hopes!

If you are plagued by running injuries, switch things up, try something new. I have no doubt that you can be a runner, you just need to find what works for you.