Friday, April 1, 2016

Tobacco Road Half Marathon

This post is about 3 weeks late, but better late than never I suppose...

When I started out the year and listed out some running goals I hadn't planned on attempting to run a half marathon until the Fall. But as I was training for my 10k I realized that as I was slowly increasing my mileage I was feeling really really good. As I was approaching double digit mileage for my long runs I was feeling no pain. I started flirting with the idea of running Tobacco Road as a long run and was given the go ahead by my physical therapist. I simply wanted to be on the start line and to finish. My main motivation was to prove my first PT wrong when he said I would never be able to run a half marathon again.

I don't care that Lost has not been on in years, this is a
perfectly legit and timely reference.

All I had to do was mention it to my running partner, Caitlin, a few weeks before the race and she was all in. I was a little concerned that Tobacco Road was the week after my 10k race. The 10k remained my primary goal, I just started increasing my long run miles on the weekends.

I haven't run a half marathon since Philly in 2013. I am now at least 20lbs lighter and running faster, so even running it as a long run I would set myself up for a nice PR as an added bonus.

This race has remote parking and you are bused to and from the start/finish area. We had heard horror stories about this from previous years where runners almost missed the start of the race due to traffic. We decided we would rather be early and wait around then be stressed out about getting to the race on time. This meant we had A LOT of time to kill waiting for the start. Luckily we ran into some fellow Oiselle teammates and the time passed rather quickly.

The first couple miles of the race are on the roads with gentle rolling hills. Caitlin and I were feeling fresh and our pace reflected that. I mentioned that I wasn't sure if I could maintain 10:00/mi pace for the whole race. We decided to keep it comfortably hard for as long as we could and just relax and settle in. We were looking forward to turning on to the trail because we knew a big group of teammates would be cheering. It was so much fun passing them. It gave us a great push as we turned onto the trail.

I love this team! (Photo cred: Julie)

Once on the trail we continued feeling good. The trail is nice and soft and mostly flat. Within a couple of miles we ran into Brooklyn who wasn't having her best day. The three of us worked together navigating the crowds on the narrow trail and checking in and making sure everyone was feeling ok. It was warm and humid so we made sure to hit every water table. I started pouring water on my head as well because it was getting pretty warm.

Because the course was and out and back we got to see a few Oiselle girls on their way back. It was nice to see so many friendly faces!

For the first 8 miles we maintained about 10min/mi average pace and everything was feeling pretty good. Things started falling apart in mile 9. We walked so we could take a gel but right after we got going again we came up on a water stop. Because of the heat and humidity we didn't want to skip it. Right after the water stop I got a rock in my shoe that I tried to ignore. I knew it had potential to cause a lot of problems, so we had to stop for that as well.  It was really hard to get our grove back and mile 10 was also a struggle. Caitlin asked to walk a couple of times. She told me to go ahead, but we were in this together and I wasn't about to leave her. What I didn't know at the time was that she was suffering with some pretty gnarly blisters. Afterwards when I found out I was shocked she finished as strong as she did.

We slogged through those two miles knowing that we'd see the Oiselle cowbell corner again at mile 10.5. We were really looking forward to that. We needed all the extra energy we could get to get to the finish.

Fake it til you make it (Photo cred: Kelly)

The last couple miles on the roads felt long and we were looking forward to finishing. We had picked up the pace again but walked up a couple of the hills. We knew we were looking at a 2:15 finish and I was pumped.

My favorite pic of the day. I should probably buy it.

We crossed the finish line in 2:15:38. This is a 12:50 PR for me and over 18 minutes faster than the last time I ran this race. I was so happy just to finish the race without feeling any pain and to have a pretty substantial PR was just icing on the cake. It was a fantastic day overall.

PR Bell!!

Best running partner ever!

Two PR's in two weeks, and without my hip bothering me, is what I would call a successful winter of training! Looking ahead to the spring, I'll take a couple of weeks easy and get back into training for the Kiwanis 15k in Asheville in May and the Running of the Bulls in June. I am excited to try my hand at some structured speed work for the next couple of months!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Florence Forth 10k

As I started back running last Fall I was determined not to repeat my 2014-2015 cycle wherein I work my way back into running only to get injured again and have to start all over. In a couple of shorter Fall races I was seeing paces in the 9:30's, which was really exciting for me. I decided a good and realistic (albeit slightly scary for me) goal to get through the winter was to shoot for a sub-60 10k. I could keep my mileage a little lower and have time to focus on my much-needed strength work as well. I would need to run 6.2 miles at 9:39/mile to clock a 59:59. I hit that pace in the Bull City Race Fest 5 Miler in October and in the Gallop and Gorge 8k in November. My goal was to be able to add one more mile and, most of all, not re-injure my hip.

I started seeing a new physical therapist in December. I decided to start going when I wasn't actually injured as a preventative measure to strengthen my glutes and correct all of my imbalances in order to avoid having to take 4 months off for the third year in a row. My new PT is amazing. She is also a runner and understands my desire to do whatever it takes to keep running. So with a focus on core and glute strength, I set out using the Another Mother Runner 10k Own it Plan as a guide. I followed the plan's weekly interval and tempo runs. I added one or two easy runs during the week when I did my core/hip work and then long runs on the weekends.

The training cycle went well but I still wasn't very confident going into this race. I struggled to maintain tempo pace in a few runs and just wasn't sure I had it in me to go sub-60. As the race approached I was most grateful to have made it through the winter without any major hip issues. I've missed March races for the past two years so I was primarily happy just to be at the start line. I was hoping that some race day magic would get me to my time goal.

I got to the start early and did a very easy 2 mile warm up around Duke's East Campus and some strides before the race. I was nervous about keeping the pace because I've heard that the course is hilly, particularly in the second half. I was comforted by the fact that this is my home town and I was vaguely familiar with most of the route. When the gun went off I just ran and told myself to do what I can.

Mile 1 was mostly uphill and I was surprised to find myself running a bit faster than my planned race pace while chatting with an acquaintance. When I saw my Garmin beep at 9:14 I knew I had to back off and settle down a bit. Miles 2 and 3 are a net downhill with a few rolling hills. I slowed down but was still hitting paces in the 9:20's. My watch hit the 5k mark at 28:56, which is a PR time for me. I started to get a little excited but knew I still had half the race to go and the biggest hills were still ahead of me.

Mile 4 had a pretty steep and long hill. I was certain I would have to walk part of it, but I shocked myself by making it up the whole thing without ever stopping. It took a lot out of me but my mile split was right on target at 9:35. The last big hill came in the last mile or so and by this time I let myself walk for a few seconds knowing I had a little time in the bank. The last mile is part of my weekly tempo run route so I knew exactly what to expect. I was pretty tired by this point and just wanted it to be over.

As I crossed the finish line my watch said 59:00 and I was so excited!

I found out soon afterwards that the race only counts the gun time, so my official time was 59:32. I was a little disappointed in that, but it is still sub-60 and knowing I can go faster than that will give me some added confidence in my next 10k.

Monday, March 14, 2016

2016 Goals

In the beginning of the year I made several running goals for 2016.

1. Run through the year without a major injury.

In both 2014 and 2015 I missed 3-4 months of running thanks to the same running injury. This year I am determined not to let that happen again. I have been seeing a new physical therapist since December. She is also a runner and understands my desire to do whatever it takes to keep running. The difference this year is that I started seeing the PT as a preventative measure to keep an eye on my hip and core while I am not injured. To this end I am making more of a commitment to the ancillary work than I ever have. It seems to be working as I am runner stronger than I ever have. I am listening to my body and backing off when need to.

2. Sub-60 10k

In the Fall of 2015 I ran a couple of races that made me think that this goal was not out of my reach. It seemed like a good way to test my body's boundaries as I started getting stronger.

3. A fall half marathon.

I want to see how my body responds to the increased mileage and if nothing hurts I want to run another half marathon. My last half marathon was Philadelphia in the Fall of 2013. When I first got injured in the Spring of 2014, my PT said I would never run long distances again. I refuse to accept that. Plus, as I've said, I am running better than I ever have before. I just want to see what I am capable of. The temptation is just too great for me at this point.

I think these goals are all attainable but they will take some hard work and consistency in all areas. I have to focus on the quality of my workouts and not get hung up on the amount of miles I am running. I will have to run less miles than I would prefer in order to have time to get my core and strength work done. But if it means that I can continue running without being injured, there really isn't a question about it. I also need to focus on cleaner eating. I think a large part of my progress is my 20 pound weight loss over the past couple of years. Less stress on my body is key.