Sunday, January 28, 2018

Training log - Week ending 1/28/18

This week was 62 miles of running, 17 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was my first week of marathon training.  I felt sluggish and run down for a lot of this week, which I initially attributed to poor recovery from the Houston Half.  As I think about it more, it's also due to an uptick in land mileage this week.  My four weeks previous had been 42 miles, 53 miles, 38 miles, and 39 miles as I rested and tapered and raced and recovered.  And my only long run during those four weeks was the Houston Half.

When you look at it that way, it's no surprise that I'd feel a bit tired from bumping my mileage back up to my norm and adding in long runs again.  I didn't feel awful though, and I've been sleeping well, which are indications that this was the "good" tired - a temporary symptom of increased workload. Insomnia and difficulties focusing at work are the warning signs that I'm overdoing stuff and need to back off.

I did feel better as the week progressed, and by Sunday I felt pretty good, with a solid long run that felt very controlled.  So that was nice.


I'm targeting Boston as my spring marathon, which requires runners to wake up fairly early to catch a bus, only to wait for several hours at the start line before starting at 10 or 10:30 am.  More than one of my teammates who have run Boston have told me that they regretted not practicing the long wait/late start.  And more specifically, how to eat in preparation for a race with a 10 am start but an early bus ride.

So, I decided to learn from their example, and practice the late start.  This weekend's long run made sense to use as practice - 16 miles is long enough to test my eating plan (i.e. did I have enough energy?  Did I need to make stops mid run?), but short enough that the late start wouldn't mean committing my whole Sunday to long run and recovery.

On Sunday I woke around 5:30 to take my asthma meds and eat my "first breakfast."  I then hung around home for a while before eating "second breakfast" around 8:15 am.  Then started my long run at 10:15 am.

This worked very well from a digestive standpoint.  However, I did feel sluggish at the start of my long run, which I attribute to eating too much sugary stuff plus a bit of caffeine for my first breakfast - 4 hours was just long enough for the sugar/caffeine to wear off, resulting in a crash.  So now I know - first breakfast needs to be light on sugar and caffeine, saving that stuff for closer to race start.  I'll probably use my second 16 miler at the end of the cycle to test this out.


Monday: Yoga and 6.5 "miles" pool-running; foam rolling at night..

Tuesday: 11 miles, including 2000, 4x800 in 7:46, 3:02, 2:58, 3:00, 2:57.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy (9:06) to yoga, yoga, and then 6 miles easy (9:05), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

 Upper body weights and core plus 10.5 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday10 miles, including a 4 mile tempo in 25:58 (6:43/6:30/6:24/6:22).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles easy (8:45), followed by drills and strides, and then upper body weights and core. Foam rolling in evening.

Sunday:  16 miles progressive, split as first 5 miles averaging 8:45 pace; next 5 averaging 7:38; last 6 averaging 6:48.  Followed with injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Training log - Week ending 1/21/18

This week was 39 miles of running, 12 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.  

This was an off week, as I blended race recovery and a business trip.  I was a mess for the first few days.  I attribute this at least partially to poor recovery choices in the 24 hours after the race: margaritas in lieu of water; french fries instead of foam rolling; and aquarium tours rather than pool-running.  But, the mind needs recovery too, and slacking off on the little things for a few days was the right choice for me in the brief intermission before Boston training kicked in at the end of this week.

My trip was to Tampa - the second leg of what I dubbed "fall 2017 hurricane tour."  Similar to my experience in Houston, I didn't notice any hurricane damage.  Of course, it's been several months since the storms hit, and it's impossible to distinguish buildings boarded up from hurricane damage versus those boarded up for other reasons.

Tampa experienced a cold snap during my stay there - on Thursday morning, temperatures were in the high 20s.. Fortunately I had packed some winter running gear - I never bring running tights when I go to Tampa, but this time I had planned ahead.  The local population was in shock at the temperatures, and I don't blame them - they just weren't prepared for sub-freezing temperatures, in terms of building structures or clothing choices.

A friend of mine coined the term "cold-shaming" and I think it applies here.  Throughout this winter, everyone on the east coast or mid-west has been dealing with temperatures 20 degrees or more colder than their norm, and it's tough regardless of where you live.  

The fact that those who live in Tampa (are they properly referred to as Tampans?  Tampanians?  Tampons?) are struggling with temperatures that are normal in DC does not reflect negatively on them, any more than the DC area's shock at conditions that are normal in Minnesota reflects poorly on us.  It is truly relative - we're all handling weather that is far from our norms.


As I've discussed previously, I raced the Houston Half in the Vaporfly 4%s - it was a slight  risk, as I usually don't like to wear a shoe model for a half or full until I've done several long runs in it.  However, I had done a workout and a 5K race in the Vaporflys, and based on that experience, I decided to take the (small) chance.  Some final (for now) thoughts based on my experience with the shoe this past weekend.

  • I've now worn the Vaporfly for two races: a 5K and a half-marathon.  I liked the shoe much more in the half.  The shoe has a rocker-type action, where your foot rolls forward (I understand Hokas are like this also).  This action is more effective when your footstrike is further back, more towards the heel.  The shorter and faster the race, the more forward my footstrike, and the less I like the shoe.  In longer races, I strike further back on my foot, and the shoe feels much more natural.

    To this point, I read somewhere that Bernard Lagat was the only pacer in the Nike sub-two project who did not wear the Vaporfly - he tried it, and said that it didn't work for his stride, since he almost always lands on his forefoot.  Given my experience with the shoe, this makes a lot of sense to me.
  • As for how much the Vaporflys took off of my time in the half?  Of course there's no way to know for sure.  I don't think it was 4% - it may not have been anything.  (to be fair, the representation is not that they make you 4% faster, but 4% more efficient)

    I have a teammate who is very very similar in ability to me when we're both in shape.  I wore the Vaporflys, while she did not, and we finished the Houston Half in nearly identical times.  Had I finished significantly ahead of her, I would have suspected some assistance from the shoe.  But that wasn't the case.
  • My sense is that the Vaporfly's bounce and "energy return" properties work better the more force you apply through the shoe.  I'm not a ground pounder, but more of a skimmer - my speed comes from efficiency, not power.  My hunch is that those who run with a power stride or weigh more than I do may benefit more from this shoe than I do.
  • I tried to kick at the end of Houston, and couldn't - that matches my experience in my 5K with this shoe.  You can't change gears suddenly, you can't speed up your cadence, and you can't get up on your toes.  At the same time, the rocker action of the shoe really helped me when I was just barely hanging on in the later miles at Houston - if I could just keep my form together, the shoes kept me rolling forward.

    Conclusion: if I've made some pacing errors and am struggling late in a race, I want the Vaporfly on my feet.  If I've executed a perfect race and want to outkick someone else at the end, I'd rather be wearing the Adios or the Takumi Sen.
  • One of the big selling points of the Vaporfly is that they supposedly speed your recovery - you bounce back better from the race if you've worn these, due to all the cushioning.  That was not my experience at all - I was trashed after Houston, and my legs felt awful.  Of course, this may also be specific to me.  I do not handle cushioned shoes or soft surfaces well - 10 miles on our local towpath beats me up much more than 10 miles on asphalt.  This relates to my flimsy ankles and related stability issues.  Others, especially those who run in cushioned shoes regularly, may have the opposite experience.

    I was concerned that I would have ankle pain during or after the race because of the softness of the shoe, but it turned out to be minimal - most likely because I taped my ankles heavily pre-race.  I did have some arch/foot pain post-race, which is normal for me with cushioned shoes or soft surfaces.  Luckily that seems to have faded away this week.  But that arch/foot pain is another reason not to train in these shoes, but to save them for goal races where I can take time off afterwards.


MondayNothing except travel from Houston to Tampa.

Tuesday: Yoga in the morning, plus some self-massage with tennis ball.

Wednesday: Upper body weights/core and then 6 miles moderate (9:27) (the pace was "easy" but the effort was not).  Followed with self-massage with tennis ball.  (I really wish I had shipped myself a foam roller).

Thursday:  3 miles very easy to yoga (10:04), yoga, and then 6 miles very easy (8:47).  Travel from Tampa to DC.

Friday12 "miles" of pool-running and some blissful foam rolling.

Saturday: 10 miles very easy (8:33), followed by drills, strides, upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday:  14 progressive (plus an additional half-mile diversion to a working bathroom) split as first 5 miles averaging 8:56 pace, next 5 miles averaging 7:55 pace, and last 4 miles averaging 6:51 pace.  Followed with light injury prevention work at the gym and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Training log - Week ending 1/14/18

This week was 38 miles of running and 15 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.  

This week was all over the place, literally.  I was supposed to do a track workout on Tuesday morning, but opted out after a two mile warm-up on a track that was a bit too icy for my tastes.  So I waited until the sun came up, and then relocated to my old friend, the Whitehurst Freeway, to do the workout there.  As it turned out, the Whitehurst was very foggy, with poor visibility - I'm not sure it was a better choice.  But got it done.

By Friday, the weather had tilted the other way, in the lower 60s and humid.  Just in time for me to run (too fast) a pick-up mile before flying to Houston, which was colder than DC at that time (though warmer than DC has been recently).

The race went well, which was nice.  I'm now taking a down week before jumping into Boston training.  This break is timed with a work trip to Tampa, so I don't have to worry about fitting in workouts or high mileage while here.  Very convenient.


Monday8 "miles" pool-running and DIY yoga.  Foam rolling at night

Tuesday: 2 mile warm-up part 1, then 2 mile warm-up part 2, and then a variant of 1600, 4x800 under the Whitehurst (splits were 6:06, 2:56, 2:56, 2:51, 2:52 for something close to those distances).  Followed with 2 mile cool-down.  Foam rolling at night

Wednesday: 7 miles very easy (8:51), followed by drills and strides and DIY yoga.  Massage in afternoon.

Thursday:  7 "miles" pool-running, followed by light upper body strengthwork and core, plus DIY yoga.  Foam rolling in evening.

Friday6 miles, including a pick-up mile in 6:08 (too fast, even after allowing for the fact it was downhill).  Then flew to Houston.

Saturday: Nothing save DIY yoga and a bit of tennis balling.

Sunday:  2 mile warm-up and then a half marathon in 85:43.

Race Report: Houston Half-Marathon, January 14, 2018

I ran the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon yesterday, finishing in a time of 1:25:43 - good enough for an age group win as well as a significant half-marathon PR.  So it was a good day.

I have a past history with the Houston Half.  Back in 2012 I had planned on Houston for a PR attempt only to get injured and miss it.  I always meant to give it a second try, but other racing plans and/or injuries always got in the way.  

Finally, this past spring I had some good races at the half-marathon and 10 mile distances.  I checked the website for Houston on a whim, and realized that my times were probably good enough to get me into their Athlete Development Program ("ADP"), especially after adding in the age factor.  (I've learned that if a race has an elite or sub-elite standard, and you're close but not under, they'll sometimes give you a bit of leeway if you're over 40).  

So I applied, and they kindly let me in.   Yay.  I knew that I'd likely be training by myself for this race, since my team doesn't usually send anyone to Houston.  But that was OK - I've done that before.

 As it turned out, though, this year was an anomaly with a total of 11 people from my team doing either the full or the half at Houston.   A very pleasant surprise, and it made the cycle a fun one.


Per my normal practice, I flew into Houston on Friday afternoon for the Sunday race.  I never like to fly the day before a race, both because long flights drain me and because of the risk of delays or cancellations.  As it turns out, Friday was a difficult day for air travel due to storms in the midwest.  Our flight (a teammate and I were on the same flight) ended up delayed for 90 minutes, and we were the lucky ones - many other flights in the same terminal were cancelled.    I was very grateful that I hadn't waited until Saturday to travel.

Once we landed in Houston, I defaulted to my standard pre-race routine - hanging out in my room save for brief excursions out to the race expo and to Chipotle (of course). While there was a Chipotle very close to my hotel, it was closed on weekends, so I took a tour of Houston using their light rail system, to the nearest open Chipotle.  Pre-race rituals are important - especially when they involve excellent corn tortilla  chips.


Race morning started very early for me with an alarm at 3:50 am (4:50 am DC time).  The race started at 7:00 am, and I needed to take my asthma meds three hours pre-race, so 3:50 it was.  Getting up that early had other advantages also - plenty of time to eat, drink, digest, and stretch, before taking a leisurely walk to the GRB center to drop off my bag.  (I left my hotel around 5:40 am)

Houston uses the GRB center as a pre- and post-race staging area, and it works really well.  Bag check was located inside, as were family meet-up areas and port-a-potties (referred to as "port-a-cans" here - somebody really needs to do a linguistics study of the different names for portable toilets by region).  There was also an area dedicated to stretching, with a selection of yoga mats for use - brilliant.


After briefly seeing my teammates at the GRB, and dropping off my bag, I headed out for my warm-up, jogging towards the well marked starting areas.  The ADP corral closed for entry at 6:35 am sharp, so I planned to do much of my warm-up outside the corral and then enter around 6:20, finishing my warm up in the corral - it was my understanding that the ADP corral had enough room to warm-up inside the corral. 

As it turned out though, there was no room to jog in the corral - apparently I had misunderstood.  So back out to do a bit more jogging before re-entering the corral at 6:30.  

Many of my teammates were also in the ADP corral - so we stood and chatted and did drills in place and bounced to House of Pain (actually that was just me) and debated how long we wanted to keep our throwaway clothes on.  It was pretty cold, so I delayed my strip time from 6:45 to 6:50 to 6:55 to 6:56:30, before reluctantly removing my sweatpants and top.  

[As an aside, music by "House of Pain" is an absolutely brilliant pre-race choice that works on multiple levels.  And much better than hearing that darn U2 song one more time.]

At 6:58 they released our corral and the A corral right behind us, and we jogged up to the front to line up behind the elites.  The jogging was not for optimal placement at the start line, but rather a quick attempt to loosen up after 20+ minutes of standing still.  Then, at 7:00 on the dot, we were off, running into a still dark Houston.

My plan was to stay conservative for the first 2-3 miles, and then hit a rhythm which I'd hold until I was close to the finish, when I'd start kicking.  I had looked at the course video and identified a slight decline a bit after the 2 mile mark that would be the perfect opportunity to upshift.  I've always found it easier and more logical to structure my race plan around geographic features of a course, rather than mile markers.  

It was hard to hold back those first two miles.  I was amped up and ready to run (and cold to boot).  And surrounded by those faster than me.  I had to repeatedly tap the metaphorical brakes and let others go past.  Surprisingly soon, I hit "my" decline and shifted into gear.

The Houston Half course is like Chicago in that it's very flat, with scenery that doesn't change much throughout.  Other than a brief tour through a nicely treelined neighborhood, it was a sequence of box stores and concrete.  Which was fine with me - I didn't come to Houston for the scenery.  The race course was marked in both kilometers and miles for the first seven miles, which made time pass quickly as I flowed forward.  

This race was a PR attempt on a fast course on a cold day, and so I ran a bit more aggressively than my norm. Nothing stupid, but definitely the harder side of tempo, rather than the safe side.  I was wearing my Vaporfly 4%s, which very much encourage a rolling stride, and I went with it.

The miles were ticking by, and I felt in control, though I was starting to work.  At mile 7 I took a last sip from my handheld water bottle and then tossed it.  Shortly thereafter, I fumbled with my Rocktane Gu (I had forgotten to pre-tear it).  I got it open and took half a slurp gut started churning.  Nothing horribly urgent, but I decided not to finish the GU - this wasn't a marathon where I had to get nutrition in, and it wasn't worth the risk.  I did have a non-rocktane on me as well, but I decided not to try that one either.  Again, not worth the risk if my stomach was already on edge.

Somewhere after mile 8 things started to get hard.  This wasn't a total shock (I mean, it is a half-marathon race, and 8 miles is nearly 2/3rds in) but I was surprised at just how hard it got.  In retrospect, I think it was a combination of two things - a moderate headwind coming back, and my aggression earlier in the race catching up with me (which probably made the headwind seem a lot worse than it was).  I usually take at least one GU during a half, so not finishing my GU might have played a part as well.

Whatever the cause, I was hurting.  I was also by myself on a long bleak Houston road, with a few runners coming back to me very slowly.   I reminded myself that this was a rhythm course, and just to hold the rhythm.  Don't worry about the pace or what others were doing or what mile marker I had just passed, just lock into that rhythm as if I was dancing, and hold it until the end.

So that's what I did.  The last mile of the race was difficult - a mile-long stretch in downtown Houston with the finish line nowhere in sight.   I kept slipping into a bad mental place and then pulling myself out.  

Wonderfully, the race had posted signs at 800m and 400m to the finish (every race should do this, IMHO).  Once I saw those, things got slightly easier.   Even though I couldn't see the finish, I trusted the signs and visualized my last two laps in a track tempo.  It was time to close strong, and so I stretched up and emptied the tank, kicking as best I could (though the Vaporfly 4% is NOT a good shoe for kicking).  And then, thankfully, I saw the clock ticking down 1:25:4x, and I knew I was going to break 86.  And then I was done.

My final splits were:
Miles 1-2: 13:33 (average of 6:46)
Mile 3: 6:26
Mile 4: 6:30
Mile 5: 6:24
Mile 6: 6:25
Mile 7: 6:29
Mile 8: 6:23 (I think I hit lap a bit early)
Mile 9: 6:39 (see note for mile 8)
Mile 10: 6:31
Mile 11: 6:33
Mile 12: 6:32
Mile 13: 6:32
last bit: 46 seconds

A more or less well paced race, but I think I would have benefited from being a bit more patient in the early part of the race, around miles 3-6.  I'm usually a very strong closer, and I wasn't on Sunday.  

But I'm not too upset about it.  I was able to hang tough when things got hard (blowing up a bit in my tune-up 5K was actually very useful practice), and I broke 86.  Perhaps next time I'll be able to break 85.

Other notes:

  • I stayed at the Club Quarters, which was a great location.  Nice hotel, with a CVS nearby and easy access to Houston's light rail system.
  • On the flight over, both my seat mate and another person in the row were clearly sick.  Thankfully, I was wearing a flu mask, which I pressed to my face with one hand the entire time to ensure no gaps.  Upon landing, like the race induced hypochondriac that I am, I ran immediately to the bathroom, where I washed hands, then face, and then zinc-swabbed my nostrils prophylacticly.
  • For the duration of my stay in Houston, I had issues with my throat and sinuses burning slightly.  At first, I was sure I was getting sick (damn seatmates, damn airplane).  And then, when checking the weather, I realized that Houston was having a bad air quality day.  A trip downstairs to the hotel gym, where the air was heavily filtered, confirmed that it was Houston, not me. 

    I was worried I'd have some breathing issues on race morning, but fortunately that turned out not to be the case, save for one stretch early on where we ran through a bit of smoke or similar.  I tightened up briefly, but then things loosened up as soon as we moved past that block.  Whew!
  • I ended up winning my age group (women 40-44) and was fourth female master, losing to three women in the 45-49 age group.  While I never like losing, it's pretty cool to lose to several women older than myself.
  • I wore the Vaporfly 4% for this race, and thought it worked well.  Of course, I don't know if I would have run faster or slower in the Adios.  But the Vaporfly was an excellent shoe to hit a rhythm in, and the extra cushioning probably didn't hurt on a concrete course.  I'm definitely still very sore and beaten up this morning, but that's what happens when you race a half-marathon all out.  I do think that I would have been able to kick faster in the Adios - my kicking is all about getting up on my toes and increasing my cadence, and I can't really do either in the Vaporfly.
  • A teammate and I, who are of similar abilities and had a similar race schedule this past fall before targeting this half, finished in essentially identical times (she got me by 2 seconds).  This was despite having utterly different pacing strategies and training schedules.  My training for this race was characterized by very slow easy days, limited volume and length of long runs, and an emphasis on track workouts, while her easy runs were more moderately paced, her volume was higher, and she emphasized marathon-like strengthwork.  Similarly, I went out very conservatively and then dropped the pace, while she ran a more even race  (we do the same thing in workouts - I descend in pace in my workouts, while she hits even splits). 

    I'm noting this because I think it's a beautiful illustration of how there is no one perfect way to train, taper, or execute on race day.  I think that if she trained or paced like I do, she wouldn't run anywhere near as well.  And the inverse is true too.  Though there are some absolute rules (hard to run a solid half marathon on 10 miles a week; don't do a track workout if you're limping), there's also a lot of individuality that has to be recognized.  Don't conclude that if someone is training differently from you that it means that one of you is wrong.  There is more than one right way in running.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Training log - Week ending 1/7/18

This week was 53 miles of running and 16 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.  (No recovery swimming this week - the pool was closed a lot.  Also, it was just too darn cold.)

Another oddly structured week.  No Tuesday track workout, since I raced on Monday, and then Friday's tempo was moved to Thursday to accommodate some super chilled weather. 

Generally, I'm a big believer in training in all conditions, since you never know what you'll get on race day.  Additionally, since I train by effort, not pace, I don't perceive a workout run at X pace in perfect weather to be superior or more productive than one run at X pace+10 seconds in sub-par weather.

That being said, I don't believe in being stupid either.  Friday was forecast to be single digit air temperature with sustained winds of 20-30 MPG - a track workout in those conditions was asking for a pulled muscle.  Better to bump things up a day.

As it turned out, we then had snowfall on Thursday morning.  Since the track and all local running trails were covered in snow, I ended up tempoing under the Whitehurst freeway. 
Water Street - view from one endpoint

For those of you not in DC, there is an elevated 
highway in the Georgetown area of DC known as the Whitehurst Freeway with a street that runs underneath it - Water Street.  When it snows, runners will run back and forth on Water Street under the Whitehurst.  

The covered section of Water Street is fairly long - about 1200m end-to-end one way - so running here isn't awful.  

You can do intervals by running one direction, jogging in small circles at that end to recover, before running back. And you can tempo by ping-ponging back and forth- a teammate who was a former swimmer used to love Whitehurst workouts, since they reminded her of pool workouts.

The one downside (depending on your perspective) is that it's impossible to know exact distances run on Water Street.  Garmins are worthless there due to lack of signal, and you can't measure your exact distance on MapMyRun because you never take the same path or turn at quite the same place twice.  So you just do a time and effort based workout and guesstimate distance.  For those who focus on paces and splits, it's disconcerting.  Since I pace off of perceived effort, I don't mind too much.  And I prefer Water Street to the tedium of the track and its never ending circles.

The tempo went well, and between that and Monday's 5K, I'm feeling pretty confident for next weekend.  I don't have any numbers to point to in support of that confidence - my official time for the 5K was meaningless for umpteen weather and course reasons, and I have no numbers at all for Thursday's workout.  But both felt like good performances.  Plus I'm feeling bouncy and fresh and peaking, and that's a very good thing.


Monday: 3.5 mile warm-up and then a 5K race in 19:37.  Later 5.5 easy (8:36); foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 8 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights/core.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 6.5 miles very easy (9:03) to yoga, yoga, and then 3.5 miles easy (8:51), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:  11 miles, including a 20 minute tempo under the Whitehurst freeway, followed by lower body strengthwork and injury prevention work.  Foam rolling in evening.

FridayYoga followed by 8 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 8 miles very easy (8:48), followed by upper body strengthwork and core. Foam rolling in evening.

Sunday:  12 miles moderate (7:51)  followed by light lower body strengthwork and injury prevention work, DIY yoga, and foam rolling.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Race Report: New Day - New Year 5K

I ran the New Day - New Year 5K in Ashburn, VA - finishing in a time of 19:35.

I had my choice of several races to do in the DC area on New Years Eve/New Years day.  And...I went with the one that was furthest from my home.  And also quite possibly the coldest. 

There was a reason behind my seemingly poor decision.  We had a significant snowfall two days ago, accompanied by fairly cold temperatures for the DC region.  I was concerned about the possibility of ice on the race course, and this race - held on well traveled roads in daylight - seemed the least likely to be affected by ice.    Since I just wanted a tune-up for Houston in two weeks, my priority was a hard, safe effort.  And this race was the best choice for that.

Race morning dawned, and it was frigid.  Out of morbid curiousity, I checked the weather report for Ashburn before I left - 9 degrees Fahrenheit.  (It did warm to 15 degrees by the time the race started).  

Fortunately (in a sense) it's been pretty cold all week so I'd had plenty of practice dressing for the conditions  On the bottom I wore compression shorts with tights over top; on the top I layered a sportsbra, a long sleeve shirt, and then my team jacket (the same one I usually put on AFTER the race).  Thick mittens with handwarmers and a thick headband completed the ensemble.

I warmed up with about 3.5 miles, including some hard surges. The course was mostly gently rolling, with one significant climb in the first mile.  I reminded myself of the importance of staying conservative and not throwing away my race on that hill.  No tight turns, which was good since I was wearing the Vaporflies.


The race started, and I was dropped instantly by several other people, including two women.  Part of this was that I'm always slow off the line. But it can also likely be blamed on the Vaporflies -  those are definitely very hard to get moving.

For whatever reason, I was dropped, and I let it flip my "bad judgment" switch.  Instead of patiently making my way up the opening hill and then starting to race, I gritted my teeth and started working.  By the top of the hill I was second woman, only about 5 seconds behind the first.  I'd remain in that ordinal place for the rest of the race, but that would be the closest I'd ever be to the first place woman, who would eventually gap me by 40 seconds or so.

I used the downhill after the first uphill to gain some more speed, but by the end of the second mile I was starting to struggle, and the last mile was just holding on.  I was completely by myself (very small race), which gave me plenty of opportunity to start doubting myself.   Which was good - that's why I do tune-up races - to practice dealing with that BS.   And also to occasionally re-learn that starting out hard and hanging on doesn't work well for me.

Finally, after taking way too long, the finish line was in sight.   As I turned the last corner, a spectator yelled "it's OK, you can slow down - there's nobody behind you."  Had I been able to speak, that would have earned a "WTF, dude?" in response.

I noted the clock ticking 19:3x as I crossed - slower than I had expected but whatever.  I got what I came for - a good hard effort, some mental callousing, and a solid test of how the Vaporflies felt on tired legs (going out too hard and struggling at the end was a very good thing, from this perspective).


Since it was so cold and I was wearing my heavy mittens, and since there were no tall buildings or tight turns to massively screw up the Garmin, I set it to auto-lap each mile.  I don't usually rely on autolap, but I knew that it'd be almost impossible to hit the lap button manually using my mittens-that-double-as-boxing-gloves.  

My splits ended up being: 
Mile 1: 6:19
Mile 2: 6:00
Mile 3: 6:11
last .18 - 1:05 - so supposedly 6:04 pace.

My Garmin read the course as long.  I'm not generally the "but my Garmin said..." type - that argument usually annoys the hell out of me, since Garmins have their own accuracy issues.  However, the course felt a bit long, and the mile markers seemed to be all over the place.  Plus, this wasn't an officially certified course, so it's not surprising that it wouldn't be an exact 5K.  (I don't think it was massively inaccurate).   How long was it actually?  No way to know, and not all that important.  We all ran the same distance, and I got a solid tune-up in, and that's what I cared about.

[Addendum - since I was procrastinating other stuff, I checked out the race Facebook page.  There, I noted that they said they were using "the standard course" but in reverse.  So...I did some digging and found "the standard course."  Yup, they ran it in reverse (which didn't change the distance) but also used the same line for the start and finish, which added some extra distance.  Not a huge amount, but enough to be noticeable.  

I'm assuming they did that because of the cold - it had to be easier to manage one timing mat than two.  If that's the reason, I don't begrudge them that at all - certainly understandable, given the weather.]

Other notes:

  • Weather ended up being 15 degrees with a DP of 8, and some wind (though not too bad).  Wearing a thin jacket over a long sleeve shirt was the right choice for this weather.
  • I wore the Vaporflies here.  Based on today, I can confirm that I don't like the Vaporfly as a 5K shoe - too slow off of the line, too clunky, and even gentle turns were slightly awkward.  Additionally, my cadence gets pretty high in a short race, and I think I run best in the Vaporflies when I use a slightly slower rhythm.  It's a shoe for efficiency, not top end speed.  But I did get to experience how they felt when my gait was starting to fall apart, and I didn't hate them then.  Good.
  • It was 35 minutes from Arlington to Ashburn - not bad.  It would have been 30 minutes, had my EZpass not flaked out.  Rolling down my car window to use my credit card at each toll gate wasn't pleasant.  Additionally - those toll gate credit card slots are clearly not designed for women with short arms.
  • Major kudos to the race staff and volunteers for being out there on a very cold morning.  It's far easier to race in this weather than it is to work bib pick-up.  It would have been understandable if there had been some race day hiccups, due to the conditions (nothing goes right when it's that cold).  But no, the race went smoothly, and the race management gets a lot of praise for that.