Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year in Review (TL; DR)

So, I guess a “year in review” post is one of those annual things many runners/bloggers do.  I did one last year, so what the heck.  I like this year’s summary a lot better.


Boring for everyone else; exciting and terrifying for me.  After being cleared to run right before Christmas 2010, I tentatively start my return, running once every 2-3 days for short periods of time while continuing to pool-run like crazy.  By the end of the month, I’ve worked up to 5 miles continuous, which is a thrill.


I continue my return, carefully building.  I’m still mostly pool-running, but start to add in longer and longer runs, and then my first track workout.  Shortly thereafter, I do the “By George 5K” as a tempo – it’s possibly the worst conditions I’ve ever raced in – on an exposed peninsula with steady winds of 25 MPH, and frequent gusts to 50.

MARCH 2011

Still building up mileage, and carefully transitioning from pool-running to land.  I do my first track intervals workout, and then my first real race back later that week – the “St. Patricks Day8K.”  I run the first half mile of the race at the same pace I did my 800m repeats a few days before, and you can guess where the story goes from there…  A good lesson, though I detest the fact that it’s not the first time I’ve learned it.

As I ramp up, allergies and breathing issues start to plague me more and more – my coach tells me to start using my inhaler again, and it does help significantly.  My digestive system, always a bit tender, is also protesting more as the mileage increases.

APRIL 2011

I run the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler – always one of my favorite races -- on April 3.  I’m thrilled just to be able to start; when I broke my foot in November, the projected timetable was such that I’d likely only be fit enough to do the 5K.  But, even though I’m not at full fitness, I’m capable of racing 10 miles.  I’m better about going out controlled, and manage 69:39.  It’s about 90 seconds off of my PR, but I’m happy just to have broken 70 minutes, which was my realistic goal for the race.

The pollen’s still killing me, and the stomach issues are getting worse.  I try an evening 5K on April 15, and it ain't fun.   Massive stomach cramps hit me, and the race is a struggle – I finish only because I absolutely refuse to drop out of a 20-ish minute race due to stomach pain.  I’m sick for several days afterwards, and end up visiting my GI doctor, who orders tests that are a bit TMI to be discussed in detail here.  Verdict – besides the dairy, chocolate, and wheat products that I eliminated last year, I should also try eliminating ALL gluten products, oatmeal, and dried fruit.

(I’ll skip to the punch-line – best thing I ever did.  Even several months later, I continue to feel better and better each week).

About this time, I also start adding in swimming breathing drills to address my sharply limited lung capacity issues (on my first swim, I can’t make it three strokes on one breath).  Beth provides me some suggestions, and I start to play a game – seeing how many gentle strokes I can take on one breath.  Over the rest of the year, this becomes one of my standard cross-training workouts.  I don’t swim hard, but instead take 20 minutes (using a pull buoy) of swimming once or twice a week – eventually building up to 13 strokes per breath.  Similar to the dietary shift, this seems to result in a huge improvement in my running; if nothing else, I’m no longer gasping every stride during tempo. 

[In non-running mis-adventures, a water pipe bursts in my condo, resulting in thousands of dollars of damage.  Fun times.]

MAY 2011

I run the Broad Street 10 Miler on May 1, and crash and burn (69:27 on an assisted course).  I think it’s due to the warm temperatures and bright sunshine; coach thinks it’s due to overdoing my training and failing to taper correctly.  I agree to cut back on my training and also to taper more.

A week or two later, I decide to try a bit of barefoot running on the track infield post-workout – just 3 minutes.  Bad idea – I end up with plantar fasciitis, and skip my planned 10K race (Capital Hill Classic – I *always* register, and then I *always* miss it – it’s a tradition).  Pool-run for a few days, then back to work.

JUNE 2011

I run the Komen Race for the Cure in the same conditions as Broad Street, and have a better performance – 20:11.  Still not close to my PRs, but I’m improving (and my PRs are all from 45 degrees or colder anyway).

I also try my first track race – doing a mile at an all-comers meet.  I have absolutely no idea what to expect, and pace it hilariously poorly (lesson: when you like to kick from 200m in a 5K race, why would you kick from 400m in a mile race?).  I run 5:48.66, which at least is well under 6 minutes.  But I’m really excited about the possibility of running much faster with better pacing; and also thrilled that the heat and humidity doesn’t seem to affect me much for these shorter races at all.

I get a running gait evaluation done in June as well, and get some helpful feedback that informs my injury prevention routine.

JULY 2011

Face of pain - July 4th
I’m feeling good about my training, and so I decide to break my previous rule about not racing in bad summer weather.  Heck – it’s a good chance to practice good pacing, right?  I race a 5K on July 4 in hot, humid, hillyconditions (temp 77, DP 70).  I attempt to race conservatively, and succeed for the most part, but get impatient and start pushing way too hard with about a third or a mile to go.  I blow up comically (time: 20:44), and need several days to recover.

I try to do another track race in July, but it’s cancelled at the last minute, due to excessive heat.  *sigh*

In the last week of July, I develop a blister on my right toe – it’s a bit painful, but the skin doesn’t break, so I’m not too worried about it. 

A day or two later, it starts to really hurt, and I start to feel really tired.
Long story short, it's a cellulitis infection.  Antibiotics and no exercise in a shoe for a few days.
  When my foot’s healed up enough for a shoe, I try a Sunday long run – it’s the only long run that I’ve ever struggled on and had to battle just to finish (I am later educated that if I’m ever struggling that much, I need to just cut the run short). 


 Still on antibiotics, and my runs are a nightmare, with each one a bit tougher than the last,.  I have to stop a workout after the first repeat – I just can’t breathe.  Research my antibiotic (Bactrim) and…side effects include shortness of breath, especially for people with asthma.  Call my doctor, and she agrees I can go off of it early.  A few days later, I start feeling better.

Still naively optimistic, I take a shot at the Leesburg 10K (temp 71, DP 70).  And crash and burn again, this time effectively dropping out (I walked for a while, then finished the race at a run, and so technically got a time).  I want to blame the heat, but I’m also thinking that maybe I’m just a wimp and a headcase, who can’t dig deep when it counts.  It takes me about a week to recover from the race.

Oh, in August we also had a hurricane and an earthquake.


And, with the fall comes the return of my allergies.  Desperate, I research different remedies, and decide to give quercetin a shot (I’m already on Allegra, Singulair, and use a neti pot several times a day).  And, whadya know.  Miracle supplement.

I also get a consult with a nutritionist – my coach thinks that I’m not hydrating or getting enough carbs.  I’m also inclined to do it, as I know my diet’s really restricted between my migraine and my GI issues – I want to make sure I’m not neglecting something.

Carefully log my food for 5 days, send it in, and…whadya know -- I’m actually really good.  In fact, I’m one of the few people who gets almost all the nutrients they need in their normal diet – due to the fact that I don’t eat processed foods, and eat a ton of fruits and veggies.  I do need more carbs, so we work out ways to add those.  I also get to eliminate my daily multi-vitamin – there’s no need for it (I do keep my calcium supplements).

In mid-September, I run the Philadelphia Half-Marathon in what are excellent conditions.  Despite great weather and a very fast course, I run way below what I am capable of, again due to blowing up near the finish (1:31:19 – most unsatisfying PR ever).  I try to blame bad hydration at first, but the truth is that I’m becoming an excuse maker and a head case who can’t seem to run through her finish lines.  I’m furious with myself, and resolve to try even harder, and to never ever voice another excuse.   I also get a sports psychologist.


So, take a shot at another race – the Run for the Parks 10K.  I run this solely with the goal of running hard through the finish line no matter what.  And I do, but it’s an underperformance and still poorly paced (first mile 6:20, last mile 6:52 on a perfectly flat course).  I’m just…I don’t know.   I win my age group and the time ain’t horrible (41:25 on a course that deviated from the certified course), but I’m still not happy.  Oh well, I have the Army 10 Miler the next week – that’s another chance.

And then, I get sick.  Real sick.  I decide that Army’s just going to be a fun run.  A friend of mine at this time also suggests that I may be just trying too hard in my races.  Rather than running a race with the goal of leaving it all out on the course, I should try racing with the goal of finishing with something in the tank.

At the same time, my sports psychologist is noting to me that everyone’s got an optimal level of arousal for competitions – about 7 on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is not caring whatsoever and staying in bed; 10 is as amped as it gets.  Most people tend to naturally be somewhere below 6-7, and need things like splits, fellow racers, etc, to get them motivated up to the right level. 

My personality, alas, is a bit too driven, and I’m already naturally at 7 (or more likely above it).  Tell me that I need to give it all and be tough, and I go to 10.  Which is great, if races were won by those who tried the hardest.  But they’re not -- those people usually implode (remember that Pre finished fourth in the Olympics).  They’re won by the fastest.

With all this in mind, Army becomes an experiment (this is easier because I’m still sick, and have every excuse not to race it all out).  I fix my Garmin screen so I can’t see splits, and run the race solely with the intention of NEVER straining.  I hand slap, wave, tell jokes, cheer on teammates.  I get teased at the 9 mile mark because I’m supposed to be working harder and not able to chat.  Whatever.  I’m experimenting.

And, I finish in 69:09 – my best 10 miler this year, despite not working at all, completely failing to warm-up, and being sick.  Most interesting – my last mile split (on a mile with a hill) is faster than my current 5K pr pace. 

VERY educational.

So, I start playing.  I still wear my Garmin, but I no longer look at pace or distance while running, whether it be easy, workout, or race.   I also start approaching all my workouts and races with the goal of laughing, chatting, and more or less blowing off the whole thing.  Anything to get myself to relax down to that mental place of optimal performance.  And it’s working.

I run the Marine Corps 10K in 41:45.  It looks slow on paper, but I’m thrilled – conditions were icy and horrible, and I actually consider it one of my best races of the year (everyone was substantially off of their PRs).  I’m getting excited for the Richmond Half, but also trying to be careful to practice a relaxed, carefree attitude.


November 2 is the one year anniversary of my broken foot, and I’m thrilled with the past year.  And looking forward to Richmond. And then my life falls apart the week of Richmond. 

First Pepco sends a power surge through my condo while changing a meter, destroying my tankless hot water heater (which ends up costing over a thousand dollars to replace, plus 14 days no hot water).  Just as I’m dealing with that fiasco, work explodes.  In my job, I sometimes have to deal with major crises that can require near 24 hour coverage for up to several days at a time – usually these happen 2-4 times a year.  Unbelievably, two of them happen on Monday and Wednesday mornings.  I get very little sleep, and am horribly stressed – not optimal for a taper.  And it’s looking very unlikely that both will settle to the point where I’ll be able to take Friday off to drive to Richmond in time to grab my bib.  I’m still hopeful I can run if I can just get there late Friday night, so I make arrangements for a friend to grab my bib.

Then this all is put in perspective, as it becomes more and more clear that my significant other has coronary artery disease severe enough to require medical intervention.  The work crises are actually quieting down, but I’m pretty much resolved that I can’t abandon Brian to run the race. 

After tons of reassurances that he’ll be fine and that he doesn’t need my constant eye (and that he’ll feel horrible if I miss the race), I decide to give it a shot after all.

Did I mention that I’m also feeling sick, no doubt due to weakened immune system from lack of sleep and stress?  I feel better Friday, when I drive down, but late Friday night I feel horrendous – massive headache, chills, dizziness.  I wake up race morning just about resolved to skip the race and head home, but then run it out of sheer stubbornness.  It’ll be my worst race ever, but still a chance to practice good mental habits.  And I didn’t abandon Brian and drive all the way down here for nothing.

Run the race.  Again, I’m watchless, smiling a lot, chatting with other runners.  I’m running my slowest half ever, but oh well.  There’s hills, but I don’t care about them slowing me – heck, I’m already slow, so I just back off some more and chill out, while enjoying the sights.

And then my coach tells me at the 12.5 mile marker that I’m about to break 90.

Final time: 1:29:37 – major PR on a course that’s slower than Philly, and the age group win.


PRs are great, but I’m still horrendously stressed.  The Monday after Richmond, Brian goes in for a stent, and we learn instead that he’s ridiculously close to a heart attack, and needs bypass surgery.  The next few weeks I’m at the ICU once to twice a day (jobs where you telecommute are awesome things).  I no longer have to work at not caring about my running – it’s no longer my focus, just my escape – my few minutes where I can forget about my worries.

Brian has his surgery the Monday before Thanksgiving, in what’s one of the longest days of my life.   As it becomes clear that he came through well, and is recovering well, a weight starts to lift. 

On Thanksgiving, I do the So Others Might Eat Turkey Trot 5K.  Again, I run it without watch feedback, and with the goal of having fun and not running all out.  And I PR (19:30).  I’m giddy, and not just from the PR, but also from the fact that Brian’s doing so well.


Things continue to go well.  As Brian gets better and better, I start to worry less about him, which means I start worrying about running more.  Once again I have to work at NOT thinking or caring about my runs or races – something that will always be a challenge for me.

I do the Hot Chocolate “15K” race, and enjoy the heck out of what is the worst organized race/disaster I’ve ever experienced.  Because I’m enjoying it so much, I end up running very well.  I could write another few paragraphs here, but I’ve already said it all in my race report (2159 page views as of today -- go ahead, click.  Y'know you want to).

A week later, I do the Jingle All the Way 8K.  Despite a) the pressures of knowing that I’m running well and b) my shoes coming untied halfway through, I set a major 8K PR (31:52).  It’s also a nice bookend to the year, as the course is the same one that I ran in March as my first race back, and blew up in.

I’m getting there.  I just need to keep being patient, keep relaxing, keep backing off.  It’s truly hard to take it easy, but I’m trying.

 In the last week of the year, I get a minor shin splint on my left leg due to cranking my left shoe too tight.  I don’t feel it at all when I run (only when I flex the foot upwards against resistance), but my coach advises strongly that I “not run a single step” for several days.

And, I comply.  If nothing else, it’s good practice at relaxing and not overdoing and not worrying.  And that skill, more than any tempo or weekly mileage count or cross-training routine is what I really need in order to make it to the next level.


Most other people do a long litany of goals for the upcoming year….PR this, PR that, run this many miles, etc.  I’ll stick with a) avoiding injury and b) having fun and not worrying.  Those seem to have worked well for me this year.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Training log - Week ending 12/25/11

This week was 66 miles of “real running” and 18 “miles” pool running plus 2000m of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

This was a fun week, despite the onset of some mild allergies, due to our unseasonably warm weather (mold is one of my triggers). I was very happy with my hill workout on Tuesday – my coach had instructed me to slow down the recoveries a lot more than I had been running them last week. The result was to actually make the workout harder – sudden changes in pace always drain me. It ended up being much more of a “power” workout, which I think is the point of this workout. I was definitely a lot more tired at the end.

A big highlight of the week was a spontaneous “Holiday run” on Saturday. A small group of my teammates met at the standard Saturday meeting place, but after a quick discussion, decided to bypass our normal routes, and instead do a tour of downtown DC’s Christmas decorations. So, down past the White House Christmas tree and Menorah, then up 15th Street past the fantastically decorated Willard hotel, before returning via Dupont Circle and Georgetown. Really a great run.

On Sunday, I got to meet up with a group of people I used to run with regularly (before I started training with Capital Area Runners), and ran with them for the first 12 miles before solo-ing the last 5.  It was great to catch up with them.

(and yes, I did my long run on Christmas day. And enjoyed the heck out of it. This wasn’t an OMYGODIMSO DEDICATEDFORMAKINGMYSELFRUNONXMAS thing. I think running on Christmas morning is a special treat – it’s beautiful and crisp and serene, like no other day. You celebrate the holiday your way, and I’ll celebrate mine.)


Monday: In the morning, 1000m of swimming breathing drills and 50 minutes of easy pool-running for “5 miles,” followed by strength training (focused mostly on core) plus injury prevention exercises. Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: In the morning, 11.5 miles, including 6 hill repeats – nonstop circuit of up a hill for about 2 minutes, a 90 second easy jog, a stride, and then some more easy jogging to the bottom (whole circuit takes ~5 minutes). Averaged 7:38 pace for the full 6 repeat circuit (just over 4 miles). Was much better about running the recoveries slower, as opposed to last week. Followed with some injury prevention exercises and then a shakeout 25 minutes easy pool-running, for “2.5 miles”. Floor Barre class plus foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 11 miles very easy (9:03 – it was PITCH BLACK OUT), and then yoga, followed by 3.5 miles at very easy pace (8:02). Foam rolling in the evening.

Thursday: In the morning, 50 minutes of easy pool-running for “5 miles” plus 1000m of swimming breathing drills, followed by upper body and core strength work, plus injury prevention exercises. Foam-rolling at night.

Friday: 12.5 miles, including a tempo intervals workout on the track that was scheduled as 2x2 miles (with 2 lap recovery between each), and an optional 1 mile follow-up. Splits were 13:02 (6:39/6:22); 12:42 (6:28/6:14). I skipped the optional mile because I pushed the last mile of the second repeat a bit too hard, and went slightly anaerobic. It was a tough call, but I’m trying to develop the habit of knowing when to say when.   Followed with 30 minutes of very easy pool-running to flush stuff out (“3 miles”) . Pilates and foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10.5 very easy miles in the morning (8:41 pace) – DC tourism run. Weights, core strengthwork, injury prevention exercises, and foam rolling at night.

Sunday: A long run of 17 miles at 7:34 pace, split as 9:00 pace for first half mile, then 8:15 pace for the next 5.5 miles, 7:29 pace for the next 6.5miles , and then 6:37 pace for the last 4.5 miles (last 10th of a mile was a kick at 5:42 pace). Followed with injury prevention work and 30 minutes easy pool-running for “3 miles”. (yes, there’s a gym open in the DC area on Christmas day, it has a pool, and it’s 10 minutes from my parents’ home. Score.)   Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Guest Post

I'm completely breaking from theme, with a post that's not related to running or pool-running.  I think it's worth sharing anyway.  And I get to engage in the blog cliche of the "guest post", so that's a plus.

Us.  In September in Philly,
the night before I raced a half-marathon.
Anyhoo...In early November my sig other/love of my life, who smoked for many many years, started experiencing what we thought was heartburn after we went out for dinner.  At first, we didn't think much of it, but it ended up being the entry point to a downward spiraling healthcare voyage that we rode through the end of November, before starting to ascend again.

Below is his post from about 3 weeks ago, copied from some of his online accounts (with his permission, of course).  And since this is my blog, I've inserted some editorializing, though I've made no other changes.


Long story short - what started about a month or so ago as some chest discomfort that I was convinced maybe was acid reflux or something similar rapidly deteriorated into advanced coronary artery disease and eventually resolved itself with quadruple bypass surgery.

Never before been under the knife so, hey, go me for jumping in with both feet.

I've only just started the recovery procedure thus while I've been assured the worst is over there is still a long road ahead before I can consider myself "recovered." Right now so much of the body's resources are directed to repairing the trauma of opening up the chest and gaining access to the heart that the simplest of tasks are exhausting and time consuming. All hail my wonderful girlfriend who has moved in until I'm able to at least navigate my house and property without killing myself.

Ed: moving into his house, which is right next to a) the track, b) the pool, and c) my favorite running trail does not make me a wonderful girlfriend.  Cleaning his cat's litterbox daily for several weeks?  That makes me a wonderful girlfriend.

All told I ended up being in the hospital's combined cardiac ICU/step-down unit for about 13 days.

The cardiologist I had seen middle of the week prior to the odyssey put me on some heavy duty anti-coagulants because the plan at the time was to do some imaging through an arterial catheter and maybe install a stent or three depending on what was found. Who could blame him? Risk factors were evident, certainly, especially smoking, but youngish guy and no family history of heart disease, plus a nuclear imaging stress test had been administered about 3 months prior and it indicated absolutely nothing wrong. The NIST is only designed for 80% accuracy but, c'mon, it'd have to be some unlucky son of a bitch to hit a false negative on that AND have coronary artery disease advanced to the point of active symptoms while at the same time being below the age of 65 or so.

Greetings, I'll be your unlucky son of a bitch this evening.

Ed: Luck's a matter of perspective, sometimes.  Taken from the perspective of..."we caught it before a myocardial infarction," I think we were extremely lucky.

As I said most of the time spent in the hospital ward was in the 'waiting for stuff to happen' phase. The anti-coagulant used needed 7 days to flush out of my system to minimize the risk of my bleeding out on the table or soon after. If you are under the impression that a hospital is a restful environment please allow me to correct you of this fallacy.

Unless "undisturbed bed rest" appears on your orders you will be awoken almost hourly; sometimes for the simple collection of some data (BP, blood O2 levels, body temp.) but seemingly just as frequently so a wide array of someones, with varying skills, can stab you with something. You will develop a complex against people coming into your room at night because you will be convinced they are there to stab you. Everyone is *very* friendly, but that's quite possibly because they can do so knowing full well they can come into your room in the middle of the night and stab you.

Ed: Yup. On the plus side, he doesn't complain anymore about me waking up early and making kitchen noise while preparing to go for a run.

I was the youngest person admitted to the ward in some years and thus was somewhat of a curiosity for the staff there. Not much clinical experience with guys in their mid-40s who are there because they might stroke out at any time and thus require constant watching. I ended up receiving the unofficial award for "person with the longest stay in the cardiac ward prior to any cutting being done on their body" as well as the overwhelming feeling I'd become some combination of mascot/pet/fixture. 

Ed: We were definitely the odd balls of the ICU.  I think we were the youngest people there by 20 years at least.

Something else noted that should be passed on; the words, "I'll be right there" when uttered by a nurse or PCA/tech has no relation to clock time. It roughly seems to translate as, "if you're not in some sort of medical distress and I can't resolve your issue without leaving the room, this probably won't get done for a while." It's not that anyone is lazy or being spiteful, it's that they have their own prioritization algorithms and a multi-vector interrupt queue that you cannot comprehend without several years of education or one very, very fortunate acid trip.

The cardiologist(s), the surgeon(s), the nursing staff, my GP - all went to great lengths during my extended stay in the cardiac unit to explain just how lucky I was to be in this situation.

O_o Lucky? I was freakin' terrified.

While bypass operations are serious, majorly invasive surgery they are also performed thousands of times daily on people in far, far worse health than me and the clinical knowledge is extensive so it is about as routine a surgical procedure as one might encounter. I also lucked into getting one of the best surgeons in the area. Any cardiac surgeon where our pre-op/post-op facility also contains multiple repeat customers of his that are back for additional (not warranty) work and have a decades-long history with him is ok by me. Met some fascinating people. Didn't realize retired Admirals were so prone to heart disease.

Ed: I feel compelled to note that the care at Virginia Hospital Center was outstanding.  Really good.  Really really good.

As for the "self" acceptance and what my future looked like post-op it was made very clear that there is a vast difference in long-term clinical outlook for those who had a bypass at a result of a heart attack and those who were found to have advanced coronary artery disease but not yet have suffered a myocardial infarction.

My heart is as-yet undamaged, is normal for pumping performance otherwise, and with the plumbing rerouted then what I had to look forward to was in effect a do-over after decades of abuse. Clean pipes feeding the heart, no more blockages to suddenly fragment and kill off part of the heart muscle, and quite possibly even a better quality of life since the circulatory system will now be more efficient than it's been in years. Nothing but upside.

As long as I don't pull a dumb-ass and not make the necessary "lifestyle adjustments" which in my case translates directly to "quit smoking." That was the single biggest contributing factor to my situation, and once the mechanism of precisely *how* smoking affects arterial plaque was explained, the decision to quit came pretty easily. That said - if one more health care professional suggests Chantix to me I'm there's going to be another operation in my future involving the removal of my foot from someone's anus.

So here I sit, one week into recovery, maybe 11 weeks to go to return to normalcy, and an unknown amount of time to fully rehabilitate myself to where I was so I can get closer to where I want to be. 

Ed: Regarding rehabilitation, it's kinda funny.  I've never been one for the "long romantic walks on the beach" thing, but modify it slightly to "long rehabilitative walks around the high school track while tracking with Garmin and building up distance", and I'm a bit more open to the concept.  Shows where I'm focused.


So there you have it.  The Cliffnotes version (do those still exist?) is long-time smoker develops coronary artery disease at a very young age.  The more he's poked and prodded, the worse the news, with the eventual finding being disease that requires a quadruple bypass just before Thanksgiving.  But, since it was caught BEFORE the imminent heart attack, he's got a clean slate.  A do over.  And I'm excited to do whatever I can to help (without pushing).

A bit eye-opening for me -- despite the massive education programs that are out there, I had always assumed that the biggest risk from smoking was lung cancer.   Nope.  Coronary artery disease.

Before this episode, I'd always been a supporter of smokers' rights -- which surprised others, given that I'm a competitive runner with health conditions that are aggravated by second hand smoke (asthma and Raynauds).  Self-interest and all that.

And after this...I still support smokers' rights.  To each of us, as individuals, belongs the right to choose our own means of health or destruction, to live our lives as we see fit.  But I'm hoping the above is at least educational, and assists others in making their own decisions.

If he started smoking again or stopped exercising, I'd be upset, but I wouldn't nag or fight.  In the end, his life is his -- I'm just fortunate that a) he shares it with me and b) that we've hopefully got a bit longer together than we did before.

And heck, right now I get to do track workouts with my boyfriend.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Training log - Week ending 12/18/11

This week was 65 miles of "real running" and 16 "miles" pool running plus 2000m of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

Training continues to go well, and my confidence continues to grow - all three workouts this week felt like silk. Of course, as was pointed out to me this week, that’s exactly when I start to get really overenthusiastic, and shoot myself in the foot, and get a major setback. And that’s the mistake I can’t make again, because it's held me back from my potential before.

Big focus this week will be on making sure I treat my recovery MORE seriously than I treat my workouts, both within workouts and between. And remembering that harder ain’t always better for workouts or for races.  Probably my toughest obstacle -- getting out there in bad weather is easy and even sadistically fun.  Holding back when I feel good, not fun at all.

From Letsrun:

Sorry but number one is hard work and finding out what part of training the athlete does not like to do and then giving them the science why it is necessary....The true science is getting into the head of the athlete and his commitment to bring every thing out and get a commitment and not looking back.

The part of training I don't like is the holding back.  I need to keep reminding myself of the benefits.


Monday: In the morning, upper body and core weight training plus injury prevention exercises, followed by 55 minutes of easy pool-running for "5.5 miles," and 1000m of swimming breathing drills. Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: In the morning, 12 miles, including 6 hill repeats - nonstop circuit of up a hill for about 2 minutes, a 90 second easy jog, a stride, and then some more easy jogging to the bottom (whole circuit takes ~5 minutes). Averaged 7:14 pace for the full 6 repeat circuit (just over 4 miles). Followed with some injury prevention exercises and then a shakeout 15 minutes easy pool-running, for "1.5 miles". Floor Barre class plus foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 11.5 miles very easy (8:31), and then yoga, followed by 3.5 miles at easy pace (7:47). Foam rolling in the evening.

Thursday: In the morning, 50 minutes of easy pool-running for "5
miles" plus 1000m of swimming breathing drills, followed by upper body and core strength work, plus injury prevention exercises. Foam-rolling at night.

Friday: 10 miles on the track, including a tempo intervals workout that was scheduled as 3x2 miles (with 2 lap recovery between each), though everyone else ended up doing 2x2, and I only got to do 2x2+1. Splits were 13:05 (6:36/6:29); 12:45 (6:28/6:17); and 6:00 flat. I note with amusement that the net time for this tempo that totaled 8K was 31:50 -- almost exactly the same as my 8K PR from last week -- indicating underperformance in my race (I firmly believe that if your tempos are approaching your races, you're massively underperforming in your races).

(excuse: the 8K race was run without 5 minute breaks on a course with a moderate hill, multiple hairpin turns and an impromptu shoe-tying break, and weather was better for tempo and I was warmed up... /self-justification)

Followed by 20 minutes of very easy pool-running ("2 miles") . Pilates and foam rolling at night.

Saturday: Upper body strength training + core work and injury prevention exercises, followed by 11 miles at easy pace (7:54).

Sunday: A long run of 16.5 miles at 7:23 pace (split as 8:14 pace for first 3 miles, 7:26 for next 6.5, 7:11 for next 4, 6:52 for next 2.25, then 6:19 for final .75). Followed with 20 minutes easy pool-running for "2 miles". Restorative yoga and foam rolling at night.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Training log - Week ending 12/11/11

This week was 56 miles of "real running" and 22 "miles" pool running plus 1600m of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

Another slight down week, as I took it easy/tapered for my 8K race on Sunday. 8K went pretty well, with a major PR (report), and was a good way to close out the year. I’ve decided to skip racing on New Years Eve, as I’d rather have a quality Sunday long run in preparation for my next half-marathon, in mid-January.

In other amusing learn-from-my-fail news, over the past week or two, my stomach’s been a bit tender. Not horrible, but enough that I’ve REALLY been hitting the Pepto pre-run (TMI?).

Looked on the back of my rice container this morning, and turns out that the new wild rice blend I’ve been using (I eat rice for breakfast) includes not just rice but also spelt and rye berries. Both of which have gluten. Ooops. Glad I caught that one.


Monday: In the morning, 75 minutes of easy pool-running for "7.5 miles," plus upper body and core weight training, and injury prevention exercises. Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: In the morning, 11 miles, including a track workout of 1600m, 4x800m (with half distance recoveries). Splits were 5:56, 2:51, 2:51, 2:51, 2:47 (so, consistent). There were optional 400m repeats, but opted to skip -- I felt like I had run a full workout with just the basics. Followed by injury prevention exercises and 30 minutes of very easy pool-running for "3 miles." Floor Barre class plus foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 16.5 miles -- 4.5 miles very easy (9:48), and then 12 miles at easy pace (8:06), followed by 20 minutes of very easy pool-running . Foam rolling in the evening.

Thursday: In the morning, 80 minutes of easy pool-running for "8 miles", followed by upper body and core strength work, plus injury prevention exercises. Yoga in the afternoon.

Friday: In the morning, 12 miles at easy pace (7:58) plus strides and drills. Pilates and a massage at night.

Saturday: 1600m of swimming breathing drills, plus injury prevention exercises. Foam rolling and stretching at night.

Sunday: 16 miles total. 3 mile warm-up, then 8K race in 31:51 (6:24 pace). Later did a 8 mile run at very easy pace (8:19), followed by 15 minutes of easy pool-running for "1.5 miles." Foam rolling and stretching at night.

Race report: Jingle All The Way 8K, December 11, 2011

I ran the Jingle All The Way 8K this morning, finishing in 31:51 – a 54 second PR that was good enough for ninth place female overall (meaning no age group award) out of 3024 females.  I also learned that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t outrun your early childhood failures.

More on that later.

Jingle All The Way” is a fairly big deal race in the DC area, and quite competitive.   In past years, it was held as a 10K on Hains Point in DC, meaning the course was insanely fast (each year I’d set my PR there).  But this year, they had to swap it to an 8K course held in downtown DC near Freedom Plaza.   I was disappointed when I learned it had been changed – I had been looking forward to a shot at a 10K PR.  But the 8K course, though far slower than Hains Point (a slight uphill/downhill, plus 4 180 degree hairpin turns) had its own appeal.  In March of this year, I had run my first race after healing from my broken foot.  And I had gone out stupidly fast, and crashed hard (time – 33:55).  This was a chance for revenge.

The race had a 9:00 am start, which was oddly luxurious.  I got to the race site around 7:30 to get a good parking spot, and then kicked back and caught up on some magazines in my heated car.  Around 8:10, I stepped out to drop off my bag at bag check, use my inhaler, and start my warm-up.

It was low 30s, with a bit of a wind, and pretty darn chilly.  I felt ridiculously tight and stiff at first, and so jogged very slowly until I began to loosen.  I finished my warm-up with about 12 minutes to race start, and a nice slight sweat under my throw-away shirt.  Perfect.  I walked for a moment, and then started my drills and strides.  I’d normally like to do 4-5, but I felt super zippy after 2.  I didn’t need anymore, so I decided just to lightly jog for the last five minutes.

And then the race was delayed – flash backs to one aspect of last week’s Hot Chocolate 15K Fiasco.  But with two key differences:
  1. The delay was the result of a police stop on the course – we could see the flashing lights a mile away near the US Capitol (which the race runs past).  This was completely out of the race management’s control, in clear contrast to the Hot Chocolate delays that were the foreseeable result of planning failures.
  2. The race management did a fantastic job of explaining exactly what the situation was, and giving all the accurate information that we needed, while also not making light of the situation.  With no lies (again, direct contrast to last week).
Races always have snafus – it’s all in how the management company handles them.  And the difference between this week and last week was like night and day.


But still, I had been warmed up, and now I was cold.  I was wearing my team’s tank top, shorts, and a throwaway light polar fleece that would have been perfect for a 5 minute wait.  But now we were waiting longer than that.  

With a delay of indeterminate length, I also wasn’t sure what to do in terms of modifying my warm-up – I didn’t want to expend tons of energy, but also didn’t want to freeze and lose the benefits of my warm-up.  Finally, I settled for a combination of walking, slow jogging, and skipping drills.

I was also retying my shoes continuously.  I usually CRANK my shoes tight right before a race – they feel good while running, but hurt otherwise.  For 5 minutes or so, I can take it, but my feet were started to cramp and scream.  So I loosened them up, fiddling continually in an attempt to find a tightness that wouldn’t make my feet cramp even more, but still be enough to keep the shoe on for some drills and strides.

At 9:22, they announced that the race would start shortly, and gave us a 2 minute warning.  I did another two strides.  Crap.  I was cold and stiff.  But, everyone was in the same boat, and nothing to do except be careful to go out slow so I could warm-up on course.  I retied my shoes again, but couldn’t get them as tight as I would normally like.  Oh well.  First world problem.  I double-knotted them, and jumped into the starting area.

(are you seeing the foreshadowing here?)

The race started, and I rode the brakes, watching (per my norm) teammates that I normally run with zipping ahead (I’ve made my peace with the fact that I am VERY slow off the line, and can only do myself harm by pushing hard to keep up with my perceived peers in the first few miles).  

I focused on not racing, but simply warming up, for the first 2 miles or so (missed the first mile marker).  Once I felt good, then I started easing into race effort, and relaxing past others.  Things felt OK.  I was pushing an honest solid effort, but still relaxed and in control.   My shoes felt a bit looser than I’d like, but heck, only 3 more miles to go, right? 

And then, somewhere around the 3 mile mark (which I missed), my right shoe came completely untied.  Laces flopping; shoe falling off of foot.


There’s a bit of a history here:  I have HORRIBLE fine motor skills.  I can barely thread a needle, let alone sew a straight line.  Heck, I had trouble coloring in between the lines in kindergarden.   

As a young kid, the two things that I failed repeatedly were a) tying my shoes and b) handwriting.  I was told repeatedly that my truly lousy handwriting would keep me from achieving my potential as an adult.  In reality, as someone who types all day and runs for fun, the shoe tying thing has been the much tougher obstacle.

The shoe-tying thing’s become a bit of a joke, even.  I can quadruple tie my shoes and run the loops through my laces, and they still come undone during long runs -- it's a tradition.  The problem’s especially pronounced in my Kinvaras (which I wear for all easy runs and nearly all workouts).  I race all distances in the Saucony A4; in that shoe I haven’t experienced the same issue.  Until today.

[and yes, I’ve also tried “Yankz” and other shoe-tying substitutes – the problem is that I also have tendencies towards bad tendonitis on the top of my feet, and lace substitutes aggravate that – the cure is worse then the disease.]


I pulled to the side, indulging in language generally associated with adolescent males in drug rehab programs, rather than a lady of my (questionable) maturity and stature.  Yanked my gloves off, retied the right, checked the left, and then took off again (holding my gloves in hand – I didn’t want to lose any more time). 

I was livid, and I was surging.  This was not good.  I run my best when I channel my inner Bob Marley; I was feeling a lot more like Trent Reznor.

I grabbed hold of myself mentally and relaxed – the time lost was gone, and I’d only destroy my race if I tried to make it up in the next half mile.  With a sigh, I started patiently relaxing past the same backs I’d seen 2 minutes ago.

I kept my flow until almost the end – a woman was right ahead of me, and I forgot myself and gunned it.  Had I just stayed patient, I might have had her, but the forced surge cost me and she answered and held me off.  My legs tightened and stiffened like heck, but I held it together to the finish line – noting with satisfaction that the clock was under 32 minutes (since I run with a blank watch, I generally have no idea what my time is until I cross the line).  


Splits ended up being:
Miles 1-2: 13:06 (6:33 pace – includes uphill and downhill, plus 2 hairpin turns.
Miles 3-4: 12:56 (6:28 pace– includes a hairpin turn and the stop to tie my @#&(#! shoes)
Final .97 – 5:49 (6:00 pace – includes a hairpin turn)

Final time was 31:51 – 6:24 pace.  Good enough for 9th female overall (no age group, since they don’t double dip).  My previous PR was 32:45 – set on an extremely fast 8K course a year ago (albeit I was sick that day).  To bust that PR by nearly a minute on a much slower course while taking a break to tie my shoes is nice, though it would have been nicer to bust the PR by more with well-tied shoes….

Looking at my Garmin data, it looks like I was stopped for at least 15 seconds to double tie everything (I took a bit extra care, to make sure I didn’t stop again).  I can’t really say it cost me 15 seconds though – I think you also gain back a bit of time from the brief breather.


Other notes:  my mildly asthmatic lungs were having a bit of a problem with the cold air, so I took 4 puffs of the inhaler (ended up being an hour before race start).  Lungs ended up not limiting me during the race, though I struggled again to catch breath post race, and have a nice bit of track hack.  I’d rather have the lungs hamper me AFTER the race than during.

Took a shot of Pepto 90 minutes before race start.    

Warm-up was 3 miles continuous, starting at very easy jog and working gradually into tempo effort.  Felt really good, and would have been set had race started on time.

Next time – someone’s tying my shoes for me. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Hot Chocolate commemorative edition).

a) I don't usually do blogger rituals.

b) I don't do "wordless" - I much prefer text to pictures (and often skip through posts where there's too many images).

That being said, I'll play sheep this week. And so...

picture 1:
On your left, the posted "Hot Chocolate 15K course", on your right, what we actually ran. 
Note a) the different finish line, and b) the additional loop at the bottom of National Harbor. 
So they took away distance, but they also added, and the mile markers were approximations.

Picture 2:

On the top, elevation; on the bottom, heart rate.  Note the nearly steady (slightly increasing) effort even with the elevation changes.

Pretty happy with that one.

Picture 3:

Post count at 72 hours post publishing time for race report -- 1500+ separate page views.  My little blog has upped its game.  I'd like to thank RAM RACING.  Couldn't have done it without you.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Training log - Week ending 12/04/11

This week was 59 miles of “real running” and 22 “miles” pool running plus 2500m of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

This was a recovery week, capped with the Hot Chocolate not-quite-15K race. Which was a hilarious race experience, covered in great detail in my separate race report (so won’t touch here). Things were looking up this week.

And then I learned on Sunday afternoon of the passing of yet another friend from my “scene” days (DC goth industrial music scene – aka “the scene”). I feel old, and yet way too young to have lost this many friends.

Heather Kenny McNeally was known for a) her cooking (she’d want me to put that first), b) her incredibly strong will, and c) her fierce defense of those she cared for. Her passing is a loss.

Heather (center)was featured on the Food Network’s “Food Network Challenge”,
where she finished second in the “Build a Better Burger” challenge – one of many accomplishments.

Monday: In the morning, 60 minutes of easy pool-running for “6 miles,” 1000m of swimming breathing drills, and light weight training. Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: In the morning, 13.5 miles, including a track workout of 800m, 2x1600m, 800m (with half distance recoveries – splits were 3:00, 6:09, 6:06, and 2:52, followed by injury prevention exercises and 10 minutes of very easy pool-running for “1 mile”. Floor Barre class plus foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 11 miles of easy running (7:59 pace) and then 1500m of swimming breathing drills. Yoga and foam rolling in the evening.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body and core strength work, plus injury prevention exercises, followed by 8.5 miles of easy running (8:00 pace), plus drills and strides, and then 15 minutes of easy pool-running.  Foam rolling and stretching at night.

Friday: In the morning, 55 minutes of easy pool-running for “5.5 miles” followed by injury prevention exercises and stretching. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: In the morning, 12 miles, including 1.5 miles of warm-up and cool-down, plus a “15K” race that ended up being a tempo workout of about 9 miles at 6:42 pace. 45 minutes of easy pool-running in the afternoon for “4.5 miles.”

Sunday: 14 miles at easy pace (7:46 – I was pretty peppy and we ran a fast route) followed by a yoga class and 35 minutes of easy pool-running for “3.5 miles”. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Race report: Hot Chocolate "15K", December 3, 2011

I ran the "Hot Chocolate 15K" this morning.  The time's not relevant here (61:35 for a tempo effort of 9.19 miles, if you care).  I ran it simply to experience a "RAM RACING event".  And I was not disappointed.

From the very first promotions, I had a hunch that this race would be....special.  The promotions were ubiquitous and glossy: "it's finally here DC!  The Hot Chocolate 5K/15K is coming! America's Sweetest Race!" 

To which I thought, "huh?  Never heard of it."

Several acquaintances posted the promotion on their FB walls.  And I'd respond, asking what the big deal was.  As far as I could tell, there wasn't much of one.  And no one could really vocalize what was so cool about the race, except for a few comments to the point of "they have chocolate."  Which wasn't a selling point for me (acid reflux plus dairy sensitivity makes most forms of chocolate off limits to me).

And yet, like a sheep, I registered.  I've never run a 15K before, I've never raced in National Harbor before, and I love racing in November and December -- I run my best in 30-45 degrees.  And so many of my friends were doing it that it'd be fun for that reason alone.

I was a bit concerned by the way the promotions focused on the swag (chocolate and a jacket) rather than other details, such as a certified course, description of the type of bib, disclosure of cut-off times, etc.  But I thought all the race details would come.

They didn't.  When I checked in late October, the course still did not show up on the USATF website as certified.  Course certification is not a MUST for me; I've run plenty of $5 local races on uncertified courses and had fun -- in the end, it's a race, and what truly matters is that everyone runs the same distance.  However, for larger races (and this one had over 20,000 bibs), I see course certification as an indication that the race has its act together. And I had no such reassurance here.


That was the first trouble sign.  The next came in early November, when our weekly update email informed us that we had three options for parking: a) park on-site (you needed to pay $10 and to carpool); b) park at a remote location and take a shuttle (no cost, but needed to carpool), or c) park at another remote location and take a shuttle (no need for carpool, but did need to pay).  You had to register for one of the three options ahead of time.

As a friend of mine noted: "The NYC Marathon has simpler logistics."  He had a point.  DC is home to several large races - Marine Corps Marathon (30K runners); Army 10 Miler (20K runners), Cherry Blossom 10 Miler (12K runners).  None of these races involve anywhere near as much difficulty in getting to the start line as this race.  Runners tolerate logistical issues for races like Boston or New York Marathon because, well...they're Boston and New York.  But for a first time race cum debacle?  Not so much.

As the emails continued to come from the race organizers, continually clarifying the parking situation, I grew more concerned for another reason.   They appeared to have a plan for parking (albeit a complex one), but if they were dedicating so much thought to parking, did they have enough resources for all the other aspects of race management?

My guess was, probably not.  And I came close to not running this race.  And then I decided that I wasn't going to let these guys profit from their own incompetence -- I'd paid my money, I'd make them deal with me, and potentially my post race wrath.


As we approached the last week before the race, it became clear that this was a disaster in the making.   The official race Facebook site posted conflicting information on whether the roads to the race start would be closed by 6:30 am, and how far "on site" parking was from the start finish.  (I had mapped it out before, and determined that "on site" parking was a bit disingenuous - the parking lot was a bit over a mile from the race start).

There were other issues too.  The race repeatedly refused to answer the question of how many runners were registered, and mis-cited USATF rules as the reason why bib transfers weren't permitted.  If the race won't allow bib transfers, then that's fine, and makes sense from a logistics standpoint.  But don't lie about the reason why.  Especially when the USATF rules are available to anyone with an internet connection and Adobe Reader.

Let us also pause here, in recognition of the irony of a) mis-citing USATF rules as the reason something can't be done, while b) running a race on a course that is not USATF certified.


The FB complaints on the website kept coming.  Some would be pruned (I wish I had been faster with the screen caps) while others would get a constant refrain: "yes, problems...but, CHOCOLATE".

This race was leaving a bad taste in everyone's mouth.


My biggest concern, besides the obvious clusterfuck in progress, was the fact that the race was apparently being run on roads that weren't completely closed to traffic.  I am NOT a race director, but even I know that a race on partially open roads is risky for the participants, and even more so when it's over 20K runners on those open roads.  Once again, I was sorely tempted to bail.

And then I had a revelation of a sort.  This wasn't a race anymore, but an adventure.  The Washington DC running community's version of the Hindenburg was in the making.  I had the opportunity to witness history of a sort, and return with a running war story to be passed down for years to come.  Heck, I couldn't miss this.

I also considered the fact that my coach has been pushing my running group to take some time off during this time of year,.  Though I don't want to take a complete break (I have a half-marathon in mid-January), it made sense to take this week for recovery.  So, I'd skip my tempo and progression long run workouts, and instead simply run this race at something like tempo effort, while enjoying the show (and taking care not to be hit by a car or get injured).  And if the race ended up so completely screwed up that I didn't even race, no big deal.  It'd just be a rest day during a rest week.

I was set.  And I was looking forward to it, with cackling glee.


At this point in the report, I'd say something like "race day dawned crisp and clear," but the truth is that the sun was a long way from rising when my carpool group met at 5:50 am (for an 8:00 am race start for a race 16 miles away).  My carpool (down to three from the original planned five -- did I mention that of the 25+ people I know who were registered for this race, about 8 ended up running it?  The rest gave up in disgust) departed in timely fashion and arrived at the race site a scant 40 minutes later.  I'll take the credit for this, due to some masterful planning on my part that I won't describe in detail (I need to keep some secrets).  As we sat in the relatively short line for parking, we saw the glittering lights of stopped traffic on the beltway, extending for miles and miles from Maryland across the Potomac into the Virginia distance, as the cars one by one were allowed in the parking lot from RAM RACING's recommended route.

Interestingly, RAM RACING claims that the massive back-up on the beltway was due to a major traffic accident on the beltway.  Curiously enough, there was NO mention of this "severe accident" on any of the local traffic coverage stations or sites....

Once parked, my car convened to discuss bag check strategy.  We decided that, given our experiences with this race so far, there was NO way we were trusting them with our stuff - we decided to use my car as bag check, and hung out there until 7:15, when we left to jog the mile+ to the start line as our warm-up.

It was a brilliant plan.  Or it would have been, had the race started on time.  But it didn't.  We were delayed, and delayed, and delayed some more.

To explain in more detail -- this race was scheduled to run as a 5K starting at 7:30 am, and a 15K starting at 8:00 am.   However, in a spectacular example of poor planning, the 10 thousand plus 15K runners walking for their 8:00 am start were directed to walk down the 5K course.  Which meant that the race scheduled to start at 7:30 am couldn't start until the racers for the 8:00 am race were near the start of their race....

Am I the only one who sees the problem here?


So, the 5K was delayed, and delayed.  And, all runners had to be cleared of at least the first two miles of the 5K (minimum 15 minute pace, so 30 minutes after last runner starts) before the 15K could start.

And thoughout it all, the refrain, ever more shrill. "Yes, we know the raceisdelayed/you'refreezing/etc, but....CHOCOLATE".   I am willing to bet that most of the runners will never see Ghirardelli (the sponsor), in quite the same way.  For my part, I now associate Ghirardelli with delayed and ultimately unsatisfying gratification.


The 5K finally started a bit after 8 am.  Of course, with thousands of runners in that race, just clearing the start line took significant time, delaying the 15K even longer.  Finally, at 9:02 am (yes, 62 minutes late, and a LONG time to be standing in the corrals in sub-40 degree weather) we were off. 

[I'll briefly note another possible screw-up here.  Generally, major races have two timing mats at the start and finish -- the first of each which counts, while the second 10 feet later is a back-up.  However, at our race the starting corral extended OVER the first timing mat to the second, with many runners standing on or in front of it.    For that reason, I made sure not to cross either timing mat until the gun had gone off.  I did start my watch when I hit the first mat, not the second, and my Garmin time matches my official time, so....I'm guessing some other people are going to be WAY unhappy with their reported times].

The course itself was... a course.  Not a great course for a race with 20K plus runners. The starting corrals and first 5 miles were about 17 feet wide (WAY TOO NARROW) and the race featured a 180 degree hairpin turn within the first half mile (and two more within the next five miles). 

The race also started with a SCREAMING downhill.  That, after a hour of standing still in the cold (so all muscles were tight).

Yup - that's a downhill.

Mindful of the elevation profile, and of my primary goal DON'T GET INJURED, I took the turns very slow, and kept the first 3 miles to near-easy pace (which was still 6:5x -- REALLY downhill).  Then I picked up the effort to tempo level, and started to pick off people.   From there I just cruised.

The first 5 miles of the race were on Indian Head highway in Maryland -- a six lane major highway (three lanes each way)  frequently trafficked by tractor trailers and the like.  For the race, two lanes on the southound side of the highway were closed, while the third was used for traffic.

The downhill of the first 2.5 miles was mostly on one lane of  the highway, the side that bordered a grassy shoulder. That was followed by a 180 degree turn, and then returning up that same hill.  On the return, we ran in the middle lane.  The occasional cone separated a) oncoming runners from each other and b) runners returning up the hill from the open road on the other side.  The painted lane lines on the road were our main shield from the oncoming traffic on our right (which was fortunately backed up).  I chose to run in the very center of the lane, to minimize my chances of colliding with either an oncoming runner or oncoming car.

At one point, I suddenly had to hurdle a runner lying on the course, stretching a hamstring.  I wasn't shocked at all that his hamstring had cramped.  Standing in the cold for an hour, followed by downhill and then uphill, is prime territory for cramping.  What did surprise me was that he had chosen to lie in the center of the course to stretch it out.  I cursed him out as I leapt over him.

And then I realized, he had nowhere else to go.  On the one side of him was oncoming vehicular traffic; on the other was oncoming runners (these were the slower runners, and so more tightly packed). 

The center of the race course was literally the safest place for him to lie down and stretch his hamstring.


Besides the hills, the large parts of the final two miles of the course were also on a) a narrow 10 foot bike path and then b) a gravel and sand path, 8 feet wide.  Did I mention that this race had over 20 thousand runners?  Luckily, I had started in the front corral, and was pretty much by myself, so the narrowness wasn't an issue.  But wow.

I was continuing to pick off women, while running well within myself.  I saw 2 more women about 50 feet ahead as we approached the 9 mile mark, apparently struggling.  I got a bit competitive, and decided that I'd go ahead and start kicking a bit past the 9 mile mark (a 15K should be 9.32 miles - which would give me plenty of time to catch them, and I had a ton in the tank).  And then we turned a corner, and the finish line was RIGHT THERE (*profanity*).  I went into 200m repeat mode, but ran out of real estate.  Sigh.


Splits were
Mile 1: 6:25 (.93 miles - 6:54 pace)
Mile 2: 6:52
Mile 3: 6:51 (1.02 miles - 6:43 pace)
Mile 4: 7:05
Mile 5: 7:08 (1.01 miles - 7:03 pace)
Mile 6: 6:29 (1.03 miles - 6:16 pace)
Mile 7: 6:56 (1.01 miles - 6:50 pace)
Mile 8: 6:28 (1.03 miles - 6:16 pace)
Mile 9: 6:42 (1.03 miles - 6:29 pace)
Final .12 - 41 seconds (5:49 pace)

Overall 61:35 for 9.19 miles - 6:42 pace - extrapolates to 62:27 for a full 15K, had I been able to hold the pace a bit longer - and there's no doubt in my mind I could have.

[Yes, I'm relying on the Garmin for paces and distances -- the course appears to have deviated in parts from the posted race course -- for example, there were small extra turns in the path we actually ran that do not show on the posted course.  The Garmin ain't perfect, but my other alternative is to believe that I tempoed a hilly twisty turny 15K race at 6:36 pace.  I'm in really good shape, but not that good.  Not yet.]


And that was pretty much it.  Grabbed a bottle of water, skipped the chocolate, reconvened with friends to grin at the insanity some more, and then returned to car and drove home, laughing all the way.  It was a satisfying tempo, and I definitely got the show I had so anticipated.  I also had hopes of an age group award -- by my count (counting women at each turnaround), I was in the top 10 women.  However, the results so far show me as 23rd female and 6th in my age group.  I strongly suspect that this was due to the MASSIVE bib swapping that happened during this race, as everyone bailed (there were also reports of women seen cutting the course...).  I'd love for RAM RACING to take the simple step of checking photos to confirm that the top female finishers were actually female -- naive hope blooms like a rose eternal from the Ghirardelliesque feces fondue.

So no, they probably won't.  Not like they gave out good prizes anyway (supposedly top three women got free finishers plaques with their pictures as their prizes for finishing tops in a $65 entry 20,000 runner plus race).

But I finished, and had fun and didn't get hurt, and have great stories to tell.  And that's what it's about.  And heck, I didn't even come close to the chocolate.

[did I mention I can't eat chocolate, due to acid reflux?  No, I'm not bitter about this at all]

Disaster of horrific proportions, but they don't care...CHOCOLATE!