Saturday, December 29, 2012

Experiencing (too much?) nature on Lake Hodges trails

Since I am base building in preparations for marathon training, I am taking advantage of the easy running time to check out a few new trails. Winter is a great time for trail running in SoCal because it is not dangerously hot on inland trails and the rattlesnakes are not as active.

So on Christmas day, I checked out some trails near Lake Hodges, which is a 20 minute drive inland from home (Solana Beach). I ran part of the north shore trail along Lake Hodges as well as the Del Dios Gorge and Sante Fe Valley trails, which lie west of and connect to the Lake Hodges trails (maps here and here).

This run was a 7.5 mile out and back. It is a great route for an easy run or long run because the trail setting necessarily slows down pace. I felt like I was running fast when I was doing a 9:00 pace. For the reasons you’ll discover in this post, the trail is probably best enjoyed when running with a companion. Snakes, cats, and bats: oh my!

These trails are part of the Coast to Crest trail system, a very ambitious project to connect Del Mar to Julian – 55 miles – by way of trail. I’ve previously written about a few other segments here and here, which are part of this trail system. The trails that I’ve run on in the Coast to Crest system so far are very well maintained. I ran the Lake Hodges route after about a week of wet weather – including at least one day of hard rain, cool temps, and a few days of continuous drizzle. There were a few minor puddles, but the trail was completely passable.

I parked at the Lake Hodges North Shore trail head off of S6 and the cross street Rancho Dr. I noticed that there is a café (Hernandez Hideaway) directly across the street from the trail head, so you could look up the address of this café and map it to find your way to the start. There is a port-a-potty at the trail head, or lots and lots of bushes on the trail. No water.

Lake Hodges North Shore

From the trail head, I ran west on the Lake Hodges North Shore Trail. This route only covers one short segment of this 7 mile trail along the lake. The segment I ran follows the shore for about a mile. Then it winds away from the lake through dense brush and lots of tree cover. The trail narrows, but it is still soft and not very rocky. Once the trail veered away from the lake, it got too wild for my comfort. As I said, this time of year, I am not as concerned about snakes. But cats – mountain lions – were definitely on my mind for this part of the run. Especially because I saw a deer on my drive to the trail, and deer are a mountain lion’s favorite prey. Deer, and probably little blond runners running alone. Then the trail widened and moved back toward the lake, phew!

Del Dios Gorge

The Del Dios Gorge segment begins where the Lake Hodges dam is located.

 And then the trail drops into a valley. The trail on this part of the run is flat and wide. It feels decidedly less wild. Most of the trail is adjacent to S6, aka the Del Dios Highway. But the highway isn’t noisy or busy. And most of the time, the highway isn’t even visible from the trail, which is sort of built into the side of the mountain that the highway runs on top of.

Rattlesnakes must like the habitat of the gorge, as the trail was lined with “beware of rattlesnake” signs every half mile or so. But since it is winter and the path is wide here, I wasn’t very concerned. And I didn’t need to be – I didn’t see or hear any snakes.

Sante Fe Valley

The Del Dios Gorge trail connects to the Santa Fe Valley trail by a bridge that runs across the gorge. 

This part of the trail has some steep hills and was a little bit muddy at the bottom of the hills.

I had mountain lions on the brain again because I saw deer hoof prints all over the trail. But then the trail wound behind some neighborhoods in Rancho Sante Fe, and I felt safe(r) again. There are a few very steep hills to run up if the mood strikes. And if rattlesnakes and mountain lions aren’t enough nature for you, you can also check out the bat houses. 

The end of the Sante Valley Fe trail is the turnaround point. Currently, there is no trail that connects to the Sante Fe Valley trail from the west.

In all, I would say I felt like I was about to become a mountain lion's next meal less than 10% of the run. And I felt the snakes and bats were no match for me. Not too bad? I want to check out other trails around Lake Hodges, but next time definitely with a companion runner!

two little runners

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Free as a bird and Christmas Prezzies

I'm not usually one to back away from a challenge. After the Las Vegas 1/2 went pear-shaped and my 10K was pretty underwhelming, Jake and Andrea suggested I hop in a 5K to get a PR and a good indicator of my current fitness. This, the thinking went, would really help me map out a training plan for future halfs/marathons in the new year. 

So I decided to do a Santa 5K run out in Rockaway Beach, Queens. Paid up and all. Which is weird for me, because I usually wait until the last minute, figuring there is almost always something that could prevent me racing (usually some dumb niggle).

Well I felt ok after the 10K. A bit tired but pretty fine. I rested for two days post race, then cross-trained on the elliptical the rest of the week. I was set to run the 5K on Dec 22nd. 

And then three things happened. I realized that because of Hurricane Sandy, the subway was still partly down in Rockaway. It would've taken me nearly 2 hours to get there and back with buses. Second, the weather went from a balmy 40-50 degrees to 30 degrees. The former is bearable. The latter begins to crush my spirit a little. Finally, the wind. 30mph winds were forecast. On a beach. With 30 degree weather. F*** that. 

So I felt a little wimpy for not doing the race. And I know I have a little PTSD with respect to wind after Vegas. But I was going to run it for a good PR/time trial, not to prove that I'm a complete hard-ass. So I figured it was going to be more fun to run a slower and less windy 8 miles through Riverside park and do a more 'true' 5K effort sometime later down the road.

Anyway, for now I am just going to enjoy some easy miles, get in some good strength training, and rest up my glute/hamstring weirdness before I set my sights on the next goal. It is so lovely, running whatever mileage/speed I want, outside of a training plan!! I feel free as a bird!

In the meantime, I am also enjoying two of my favorite Christmas presents. From the hubs, sexy new compression socks, made all the more attractive with the addition of wide-leg pants and Birkenstocks:

And my Christmas present, from me to me. A monstrosity of a down-coat, complete with fur-lined hood and water-proof shell, to  shelter me from the current impending gloom that is the New York winter. Below is not the exact jacket I bought, but very similar.

A re-enactment of Penelope's purchase of bulbous down coat, beneath which all legs look like toothpicks.

Merry Christmas all and have a safe and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Correcting an imbalance: aerobic base building

It's hard to know what lessons to draw from last cycle's half marathon training about what worked or didn't work because the conditions were so terrible during the goal race.

But reflecting on a year's worth of training and racing, I've come to a conclusion: my aerobic capacity is weak in comparison to my leg strength.

I spent a lot of time this year in the gym working on leg strength. Weekly running-specific strength and plyo workouts made my legs stronger than they've ever been.  Until this year, I'd never squatted more than my body weight. I definitely put on some muscle.

I also felt stronger running at 5K pace for short intervals than I did for threshold runs at a little slower than half marathon pace. My hardest runs during last cycle's half marathon training were definitely the thresholds. In contrast, I responded very well to speed interval training. Each week my speed workouts felt easy, even the pinnacle workout of 15 x 0.5 miles at 6:27. But I cut a lot of threshold runs short, unable to hang onto the pace. I also ran my long runs slower than I ever have before - but that could have been the heat wave that sat in San Diego all summer and fall.

Further evidence in the case of weaker aerobic capacity: I performed better in short distance races this year. My best 5K and 10K race times indicate faster half marathon times than I achieved. My June 5K time of 19:53 indicated a 1:31 half marathon time on a pace calculator. But I ran a 1:34 PR half in June. My November 10K pace of 6:33 indicated a 1:29 half.

Solving it - my to do list (Penny, note the effective use of a bulleted list, :)):

  • Increase overall running volume by adding an additional easy run in the week or by making easy runs slightly longer. 
  • Run more thresholds.
  • Tack on some progression runs to the end of easy and long runs. 
  • And since I'm now in marathon territory, I need to run longer long runs. 

Week 2, Unknown Spring Marathon: 32.25 miles/4h27m

Sunday 12/16 - Easy run (8:30, 2% treadmill incline) + progression (7:15 for 20"): 7.25 miles in 60"
     In Boston this week for work. Thank god for treadmills - it was cold, windy, rainy, and snowy. And thank god for hot tubs in hotel gyms. Felt so good to soak after a long plane ride. 

Monday 12/17 - Easy run (8:15, 2% treadmill incline) + fartlek (4 x 2 minutes at 10K pace): 4 miles in 30"

Tuesday 12/18 - Rest day, kind of.
     Lots of work, full day in court.

Wednesday 12/19 - Rest day, kind of.
     Another full day in court, plus over 8 hours on planes traveling back to San Diego.

Thursday 12/20 - Easy run (8:15) in Balboa Park: 7.2 miles in 60"; yoga

Friday 12/21 - Easy run (8:45) in Solana Beach: 6.8 miles in 60"

Saturday 12/22 - Easy run (8:00) in Del Mar/Solana Beach + 6 short hill sprints: 7 miles in 55"; yoga

two little runners

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Oh . . . the places I ran!

My favorite part of running is exploring new places. In 2012, vacations and work took me to lots of interesting places where I was lucky enough to squeeze some miles in and capture some of beautiful moments on camera. All taken on the run with my iPhone, amazing!

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Palm Springs, California

Seattle, Washington

New York, New York

Normal, Illinois 

Healdsburg, California

San Francisco, California

Malibu, California
My other favorite part of running is covering the same paths and experiencing how the scenery changes throughout the year. Just a few of many beautiful moments captured during my runs in San Diego.
Hot winter day in Mission Trails in San Diego

Hangliders above Black's Beach in La Jolla

Take off at Torrey Pines Glider Port in Del Mar

Clouds reflecting off the sand at low tide on a summer evening
at San Elijo State Beach in Cardiff

Sunset casting warm light against the cliffs in Solana Beach

Spring wild flowers on the Del Mar River Path
two little runners

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Year of Racing . . . 2012

Even after the Vegas incident, we must admit it was a great year for these two little runners. It was our first year of real running--i.e., having a training plan and actually following it. We both ran our first half marathons and PR-ed big time on our second attempts (within seconds of each others' time!). We survived SoCal Ragnar. We also picked up some great times along the way in our 10K tuneups. 

January - Carlsbad - K's first half marathon

 February - Cardiff Kook 10K - PR for K that lasted 9 months

 March - Mission Hills 10K - K's first first place finish

 April - SoCal Ragnar - K & P (along with 10 others) conquer 200 miles

 May - not pictured
K bruised a foot bone whilst running Ragnar night leg (dark, dim headlamp, dirt road, hole)
P training, training, training for Simi Valley Half  

RnR San Diego - K's half marathon PR
Simi Valley - P's first half marathon

P moves to NYC!
Bolt to the Q 5K - K and K's mom crush it!

 August - Americas Finest City 5K - K learned a lesson about mental toughness (need it)

Girl Scouts 5K - K's best race prize, a case of Girl Scout cookies
NYC Runs Labor Day 10K -  P sets PR and earns best race prize, 
free entry to next NYC Runs race

Still September
RnR Philadelphia - P's half marathon PR

October - not pictured - K & P training, training, training for RnR Vegas Half

November - United Run for the Hungry 10K - new PR for K!

 December - RnR Vegas Half - at least we finished!

Still December
NYC Hot Chocolate 10K - P's new 10K PR

two little runners

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Roosevelt Island Hot Chocolate 10K Race Recap

After our massively underwhelming race in Las Vegas, I decided to finish off the year with a 10K to take advantage of my race fitness. I chose the Hot Chocolate 10K at Roosevelt Island because I thought I could recover enough in two weeks while not loosing much fitness. And it was free because I placed last time, and I'm cheap, so you do the math. 

Traditional pre-race nutrition/clothing/arrival info:
Got up and ate a banana + oatmeal+ peanut butter. Great combo. Sits on stomach well and I haven't had GI stress from this yet. I'm thinking about trying an all-sugar combo (shot blocks or gu) for next race though. I highly doubt these complex-ish carbs have time to digest enough to be an energy source. Listen to me sounding like some kind of nutrition guru. Phhh.

Clothing choices. The weather was in the low 40s with high humidity and was raining a little. I chose long-sleeved Lulu running swiftly top + my running tights and Mizuno Inspire 9s because my feet and ankles were still hurting from my epic walking tour of New York.

My mum came to this race, which was fun. Unfortunately my husband usual race photographer
couldn't make it because he had to study for his finals. I know, so selfish.

We hopped in a cab to Roosevelt Island; I knew it would take a while on the subway, having run a 10K there before. And I was so amazing with pre-race prep that I managed to not plug in my Garmin (it was dead flat) until 5 minutes before we needed to leave. Awesome.

When I arrived at the start line (no warm-up as there was no time) the race director was telling us the race was rerouted because of damage Hurricane Sandy had done, and there would be mud on part of the path. Double awesome.  Honestly the mud was fine, mostly compacted, but the reroute added a few turns to an otherwise straight forward route.

So my garmin is recharging now (it held off dying until after the race, thankfully) and Im too lazy to get off the couch to get it... but my splits were something like this:

Mile 1: 6:22. Whoa. I decided to run by feel on this and it turned out to not be such a good idea. I was aiming for a 6:40 pace across the board, and this was a rookie mistake.
Mile 2: 6:37. Legs were feeling pretty strong. I should have been able to hold this pace.
Mile 3-4: both miles were 6:5x. Not awesome. We were running into some strong-ish headwinds which made me perhaps a few seconds slower per mile, but blah blah blah conditions, tired, blah etc.  The fact is, I could have run faster and didn't. [Edited to add: these miles were 6:57 and 6:53 respectively. So, basically like my half marathon tempo runs. Yay me.]
Mile 5-6: You'll be happy to know I actually did get off my ass to get the darn Garmin. These miles were 6:55 and 6:52. 
Mile 0.2: 8:15min/mile. Ah yeah, I thought I was getting in a real strong kick there. [Edited to add: actually I just realized that I forgot to switch off my garmin time at the finish line and it kept rolling for about 40 seconds. My pace for the 0.2 was right about a 6:00min/mile.]

1st in division, 4th female, 15th overall with a time of 42:07 and 6:48 min/mile avg pace.

So here are my thoughts in no particular order, because I know Kristen loves non-consecutive, unrelated bullet points:
  • Goal: was around a 40:xx (6:40 pace).
  • Physically: I could have run faster. No excuses, I just didn't. However, I will say that I should have rested more after Vegas, and definitely should not have walked 8 miles and been standing in lines for hours to see Christmas lights in New York for the two days beforehand. I also ran the first mile waaaaay too fast. A rookie mistake because like basically a lot of runners, a lot of lawyers and certainly most middle-class white females in their 20s, I apparently believe that the RULES DON'T APPLY TO ME. 
  • Mentally: I don't think my my heart was in this. I was sooooo fired up about Vegas and we failed by such epic proportions that I think I was a little done with racing on this one. Also on the mental front, not checking my pace is not as good a strategy for me as it is for some. Most of the time I speed up when I check my pace because its a kick in the ass. I think I'll continue the compulsive checking at least in shorter races.
  • Physically Part Deux: Maybe the wind in Vegas was a blessing in disguise and I just wasn't fit enough to run a sub-1:30 (about 4 seconds slower per mile). Though frankly I felt that I could have kept running this race quite a bit longer, so who knows. Sometimes you just don't run as fast as you wish you had and that is all there is to it. 
  • Overall: its still a PR, and I still took the opportunity to get first place in my age-group, which will be gone in January when I turn the big 3-oh. Oh and I have shaved off almost 3 minutes from last 10K in September. Times aside though, it was a fun race - NYC Runs is a great company, and I really enjoy what they do. It is no fuss, no frills and a relatively small field. 
Please also observe the obligatory race photo from my mum who figured out the sports-mode setting on my camera but didn't manage to crop out the inevitable 5K finisher and that awesome backwards-capped dude who had been drafting off me (but possibly couldn't cope with being beaten by a girl). Or my astounding heel strike:

Next up: two little runners go big. 2013 is marathon time. 


Last race/training of 2012

The week after Vegas, training-wise was relatively light on:
December 3-9, 2012
Monday: rest
Tuesday: easy 4 miles
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 7 mile progression run on the treadmill, with the last mile at 6:48. Like Kristen, I just had to feel like I could :)
Friday: 40 mins easy elliptical, + arm and core workouts
Saturday: 8 miles with 6x1 min fartleks at around 6:15 pace - a great run!
Sunday: Easy elliptical 80 mins + 10 mins stair master + leg strength = sore but stronger butt

The next week I kicked it up a bit:

December 10-16, 2012
Monday: rest
Tuesday: 70 mins easy elliptical
Wednesday: 7 miles on treadmill (1%) with 1x800 at 9.4mph then 8x400 at 9.5 (6:18)
Thursday: 45 mins easy elliptical
Friday: rest... but then walked 8 miles with my family who were in NYC visiting from Australia. I came home with sore feet. Weird how running for 2+ hours is fine, but slow walking for 6 hours is agony on your feet.
Saturday: rest... but then walked another 2-3 miles with family who were in town etc etc etc
Sunday December 16, 2012: 10K in 42:07, at 6:48min/mile. 1st in division, 4th female, 15th overall.

Race recap is in a separate post because this was getting too long even for me.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Enter Marathon

After nearly 2 years of regular running, and 1 year of 30-40 mile weeks, daily yoga, and weekly leg/plyo running specific workouts, my legs feel ready. They’re strong now. 2013 is the year – my first marathon!

I’m in the very early planning stages. I haven’t picked out a race . . . April, May, June? Or a goal pace . . . just leaving it open for now.

But true to my type-A personality disorder, I've read numerous training plans. The plans I've read generally have about a 6 week base building period devoted almost entirely easy running. Some throw in progressions or moderate tempos. Long runs here and there. But overall easy. 

After just completing 13 intense weeks of training for the RnR Vegas Half, I am ready for some easy running.

And easy running may be all I’ll have the time and energy for. Penny and I are scheduled to begin a 4 week trial in S.D.N.Y. on January 7. So we don't expect to have much time for running. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able hit the treadmill at some point most days, in between the 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 hour days we are anticipating . . . we don’t want to have to change the title of this blog to two little non-runners!

Any recommendations for a spring marathon?

12/3-12/8 Recovery Week after RnR Vegas Half – 0 miles
Running and I took a “break” this week. But my sore quads wouldn't let me forget what happened in Vegas. I took it easy by doing lots of yoga and stretching, some light weight training, and easy cardio on the elliptical and bike.

Spring 2013 Marathon Week 1: 12/9-12/15 – 4h45m/33.6 miles

S 12/9 – 60” easy in the San Dieguito Lagoon at 9:00 = 7 miles. Core.
            My first run post-Vegas broke me out of my race mourning (drama queen, I know). Started reading about marathon training. Decided to run one this spring. Excited about running again. Break over.

M 12/10 – 45” easy on treadmill at 8:30, 2-3% = 5.3 miles.
            Confession: last mile at 6:48 (RnR Vegas goal race pace), even though this was a scheduled easy run. Just needed to prove I still have it. 
T 12/11 – Legs/plyo.
            I felt like I was on PCP for this workout, or whatever the kids are taking now. Invincible. I could lift anything without the usual 40 miles on my legs. I am still paying for it. Queue sound effect [old man groan].

W 12/12 – 60” easy on treadmill at 8:30, 2% = 7 miles.

T 12/13 – 25” easy on treadmill at 8:10, 2% = 3 miles. Yoga.

F 12/14 – 45” easy on treadmill at 8:10, 2% = 5.5 miles. Core.

S 12/15 – 50” easy in Del Mar at 8:45 = 5.8 miles.

two little runners (Kristen)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Las Vegas Rock 'N' Roll Half Marathon: So not even close, so completely far away

It's hard to know where to start on a race recap when you miss your goal by such epic proportions.

We'll start with logistics: hotel, travel, nutrition, outfits.

We stayed at Tropicana. It was less than a mile to the start line, we could get a non-smoking room with two beds, and it was affordable (average rate was around $120/night and a $20/day resort fee). Plus, the casino and rooms were just remodeled. And check out the view:

If you are looking for a scene, Tropicana is not the place to be. The casino is very small. And we didn't see a nightclub - or if there is one, it's not popular because there were hardly any nearly nude young ladies tramping around the casino. If you are looking for a non-scene, Tropicana is the place to be. We were quite happy there.

Kristen drove to Vegas, bringing one metric shit ton of stuff for us. We had tons of bananas, oatmeal, peanut butter, crackers, our body weight in Gu, water, grapes, Gatorade, and energy bars.

She also brought all of our favorite torture devices (foam rollers, tennis balls, toe stretchers, etc). Indeed, our hotel room floor looked like a physio therapy clinic:

Penny could not bring as much because she was flying from New York but still managed to pack 7 pairs of shoes. 

On Saturday we decided to take it very easy. We hit the expo and bought the aforementioned new head bands, the one piece of girly running gear we have decided is acceptable because the velvet--ahem, the "non-slip technology"--in those things make you feel like you're wearing a nuns habit. In a good way. 

For breakfast we ate our traditional oatmeal, peanut butter, and bananas and then got takeaway food for lunch (chicken, rice and veggies for Penny, a chicken panini for Kristen). Dinner was Penny's traditional pre-race meal:  French toast! For some reason, this feels like the perfect combination of carbs, protein, and fat.

Kristen was still feeling some calf pain so Penny forced her to ice her legs. And then took a picture of it.

Calf pain went away by race day!
Race day, we decided to switch it up (we know, always a good idea to switch things up on race day). We discovered an article via Twitter about pre-race meals for evening races. Ah yes, we also established a Twitter account . . . follow us @twolittlerunners! Following the article's advice, we had a high protein brekky and our traditional carby breakfast for lunch. Because it was our first afternoon/evening race, we couldn't really rely on what we had done previously. But the eggs, toast, and hash browns for breakfast worked, and we forced down oatmeal, peanut butter, and bananas again for lunch. We then drank a Gatorade each up until 1 hour before the race.

Speaking of which, we should probably discuss the actual running portion of this thing. Well. Here we go.

We got to the race about 45 minutes early, and got through the porta potties just in time. We switched out of our pre-race scrubs (which we didn't really need, because it was 70 degrees out). 

No, I don't want no scrubs!
And then we jogged to Corral 1. We felt pretty cool. All the while completely in denial about massive gusts of wind hitting us in the face. In fact, at one point Penny said to Kristen "Well, good thing the gusts are happening now, instead of in ten minutes." As though the gusts just had to "get it out of their system" before we began our race. Ah yeah. Another of Penny's wishful thinking said aloud that didn't come true: "These winds are strong, but we are stronger."

We hopped in the corral, located the 1:30 pacer and took a picture of ourselves about to run some massive PRs.

Consecutive race numbers! We thought it was an auspicious sign . . .
Oh we also saw Meb Keflezighi and took a picture of him with some random dudes and texted them the pic. Good deeds. 

We lined up right next to Meb who was a 1:30 pacer. Unfortunately, this was the last time we saw Meb.

Mile 1: 7:04 (both)

We couldn't really believe this split. It was immediately apparent that this was harder than it should have been. The first mile was straight into the wind. The wind didn't feel terrible yet, but you know that energy you have at the beginning of a race, where you can run race pace without feeling a thing? Yeah, we didn't have that. Ever. We stuck together though, and figured that maybe it would be tons easier when we got to the hairpin turn and ran with the wind behind us.

Mile 2: 6:56 (both) 

Hairpin turn not what it was advertised. Penny, still the optimist, yells out at about mile 1.2, "We are right on pace." It felt really hard, harder than it should have. Mile 2 of Philly RnR, Penny ran a 6:50min/mile and it felt easy. Kristen just ran 6 miles at 6:33 at a Turkey Trot. But this? This was already sucking.

Mile 3: 7:23 (both)

As soon as we saw this split, Penny said to Kristen, "Lets just have fun with this." Kristen confirmed. Code for "a sub-1:30 is not happening today." We were a minute off pace. Our legs had no spring. We were not huffing and puffing; but our legs felt like lead from the beginning and there was no coming back from this.

Mile 4: 7:15 (both)

This was a gusty mile. We found out after the race that Vegas was under a severe wind advisory with sustained winds of 25 mph and gusts up to 45 mph. Sounds fun to run in that kind of tail wind. But the gusts made these tail wind miles (2-7) like a series of intervals. Fast sprints with the gusts; trying to recover between them. It was impossible to run at a steady pace. 

Mile 5

Kristen: 6:57 - I took a Gu at 5.5. Legs were burned up from the gust intervals. 

Penny: 7:15 - I lost Kristen at this point in amongst a few runners. At first she was just a few feet away, and I couldn't really run around people to get back to her. Stayed about 20 feet behind her for this mile. Took half my Gu. Got demoralized when the 1:35 pacer passed me.

Mile 6

Kristen 7:13 - I actually felt pretty decent at this point. Maybe it was the Gu - my first ever 2x caffeine. The 1:35 pacers passed me and I hung with them . . . for awhile. 

Penny - 7:23 - Here is where I began to hate the race. I decided not to catch Kristen. I watched her little legs keep pounding the road and hoping that she might be able to pull a PR out of the day. I got blown forward by some gusts, which at first was encouraging. But here's the thing about the wind being behind you. When its that strong, you are POUNDING your legs running with it. You might go faster for that interval, but then when the gust dies, you are left feeling weaker and slower than before.

Mile 7

Kristen 7:25 - I had my first I hate running moment. I knew I was only half way done. My legs were gone. And the second half would be into the wind and also slightly uphill. Curses!

Penny: 7:31 - Still had Kristen in my sights. Every mile I thought I might try to get back to her, but frankly, couldn't be bothered trying. I tried to hold a 1:35 pacer clopping away next to me, but let him go too. I was mentally done and only half way through. At this point, I also began to hate running and all the runners around me. And all running-related things. 

Mile 8

Kristen 7:32 - I lost the 1:35 pacers at a water station. Damn. I was supposed to take the second half of my Gu during this mile, but I didn't have the energy to retrieve it from my pocket. A lot of this mile was sideways to the wind. I saw some people running in a modified karaoke, or a pas de bourree as we call it in ballet. It didn't look effective. 

Penny 7:44 - Took second half of Gu. Didn't actually think it would help, but figured it would distract me from hating running for about 10 seconds at least. Got side-swept by the same wind as Kristen and veered from lane 1 to 3 of the road. Well at least I was practicing running tangents!

Mile 9

Kristen 7:54 - Miles 9 to the end were head on into the wind. The gusts were literally blowing me and others around. A giant 6 foot tall man actually blew into me while he was passing me. I got passed by a lot of runners. Each time one passed me, I told myself this was the one I would stay with. But I never did. As each runner passed, I was hoping it was Penny!

Penny 8:19 - First - of many - walk breaks. I wasn't that tired, but had no desire to continue. This mile turned into a few different streets before coming back around to the strip. So windy.

Mile 10

Kristen 8:10 - I got passed by a power walker. And it just keeps getting slower from here. 

Penny 8:36 - Walked a couple of times. I tried to walk for 10 seconds and then just keep moving. Kept being passed by people.

Mile 11

Kristen 8:41 - By this mile I could clearly see the Mirage - where the finish line was. Never have two more miles felt so far. 

Penny: 9:50 - Rolled my ankle. It only hurt for 30 seconds or so but it was an excuse to stop and walk. Again. I think I actually stopped altogether at the water station. Contemplated exiting the race for a DNF. Decided against it, only because the finish line was on the way back to our hotel; figured I may as well cross it on the way home and get a free chocolate milk. 

Mile 12

Kristen 8:49 - A warmhearted runner said, "You are kicking my ass." We ran together this mile. But I couldn't keep up with him. I watched him pull away. But he gave encouragement to each runner he passed. I don't know how he had the energy for such kindness. 

Penny 10:54 - Same as mile 11, sans the ankle rolling. I got passed by so many people. Stopped to walk about four times. I told myself to just enjoy running the strip at night. I looked up at some of the lighted hotels and felt like they were taunting me for walking so frequently. Back to misery.

Mile 13

Kristen 8:54 - I was determined to pick up the pace in this mile and finish strong. Every time I tried to kick, a gust of wind would blow and push me backwards. Ah - *&^% it!

Penny 10:24 - I had no desire to pick up the pace and finish strong. Gusts kept blowing me back. Crossed the finish line with about the most despondent look on my face I could muster. I didn't even feel tired. I just felt dejected. Found Kristen after a few minutes. I was simultaneously disappointed she couldn't pull out a PR either but kind of happy that she found it as tough as I did (albeit not giving up quite so dramatically as me).

Kristen's official results - 1:42:17 (7:49 average pace). 92nd female of 13487; 14th of 2612 in division F30-34. 491 out of 22087 overall.

Penny's official results -1:48:17 (8:16 average pace).  229th female out of 13487, 34th in division out of 1901, 1014 out of 22088.

Notes On What Went Wrong
So what went so dramatically wrong? We had both run 1:34 races earlier in the year with little to no speed-work or real conditioning. Just general fitness gains from running mostly easy and long. This cycle, we hit all our speed workouts and tempo workouts and - notwithstanding a few injury setbacks - felt our fitness was at, or very near to the 1:30 goal. By race day, all our injuries/niggles were gone. Penny's hamstring/butt felt fine. Toes (Penny's) felt normal. Kristen's calf was pain-free. So why the epic fail when many others toughed it out to the end? Well besides the wind, we have a few theories. The first is that we failed to adjust our race goal early enough. We kept pushing it in those early miles, holding onto the idea of a good PR at least, not realizing that we were trashing our legs (especially the quads) for the later miles. Second is that we weigh about 105-110 pounds. We get pushed around in the wind easily. Third, it was much warmer than expected; it was 70 degrees at the start line. Penny got hot early and lost a lot of sweat when then wind was behind us (had been training in 50 degree weather). Accustomed to this temperature, it didn't bother Kristen.

Mentally? That's a different story.

Penny: I think I just mentally lost it. When I realized our goal was outside of my reach, I didn't want to try at all. This was a fail on my part. I am great when I know a goal is on the line; in Philly I didn't ever let go because I knew that I could get what I wanted if I pushed through the pain. Here, I knew our goal was gone and that a PR was out of the question too; so I gave up. This is something I need to work on. Not every race will be a PR or a win. So I need to be able to adjust my goals early on, and be content with racing as hard as I can on the day, given the circumstances. 

Kristen: I was prepared for a different type of tough moment. You know, the one that comes at mile 9. I had my stock of mantras ready to go. But I was not prepared for the tough times we experienced here. I've only ever raced in near perfect conditions. Next time I'll stay tough in difficult conditions and have a better race strategy. I was inspired by some of the amazing performances at CIM where the conditions were probably worse (RoseRunner, In It To Win It!).

On the Race
One final note about the organization of the race. We had heard horror stories about last year's event. But we couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised to see how well-organized the race was. The corral was not too full, we were never in bottle-necks. The water-stations and finishing line were very well laid out and organized. The changes Rock N Roll made to the race were commendable and obviously worked. 

two little runners

Monday, December 3, 2012

Rock N Roll Vegas Half Race Recap To Come . . .

In short, we let the conditions get the best of us. WIND! We didn't come close to 1:30. Not close at all. Very, very far away . . . not even in the ball park!

But we PR-ed in cuteness with our new headbands to match our shirts!

two little runners