Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Colchester Causeway 15k

Last month a coworker told me about the Colchester Causeway 15k. Would you believe that I had never run the Causeway in all of the years I lived in Vermont, even during my time running for UVM? I was curious about the race, especially since I had never ran a 15k, but didn't sign up for it until the day before, on Friday. Lately, it seems that once I hear about a race I can't get it out of my head until I run it.

Tom volunteered to watch Ella and cheer, so our little family headed out that morning. I've been slacking on warm ups, barely running at all, and certainly not doing any drills. Saturday was no exception. I wasn't as excited to race that morning, unlike the last two races. It didn't seem like a race, just a long run with a lot of people. However, I did approach it a little differently. Unlike the last two races, I knew that I could get through 9 miles and because of this I had a finishing goal time in mind.

The start was interesting for me: I was up with the lead men as we ran around a dirt trail at Airport Park before heading onto the causeway. Perhaps if the VCM had not been the week before there would have been other runners there to push the pace, but for the first mile I was right there with the leaders. Lately when I wear the watch I turn it to face the ground so that I can't see it, but I had to check my pace because it felt too easy.  We were at a 7:00 pace so I stuck back with them until they finally started pulling away after the first mile.

Once we were on the Causeway it was a lot of the same ol' scenery. The morning was muggy and there was a fog in the air, so there wasn't too much to see except the open causeway ahead of me. This was probably the hardest part of the race, as the race was more of a mental challenge rather than a psychical one. All of the other ladies were behind me and there were a few men in front of me. I didn't feel like I had to push the pace, only maintain it.

Miles 1-5: 
7:04, 7:07, 6:56, 7:09, 7:12

We turned around at mile 5 on the out-and-back course which gave me an opportunity to take my mind off of the rocks and gravel and cheer on the runners heading out. I calculated that I had around 2 minutes on the next female and figured that I would need to just hold onto my current pace. I wasn't sure if she was going to try a negative-split technique, where she could run back faster than she ran out. I assumed she wasn't going for that and that maintaining my pace would be enough.

Miles 6-9: 
7:09, 7:17, 7:24, 7:16

These were lonely miles as the 15k runners were now behind me, there were no spectators, and there was only one man ahead of me, far off in the distance. I was so lonesome that at one point I began to cheer for myself out loud. Anyone would think that I was crazy but I figured that since I was doing it in my head I might as well say it out loud to keep myself awake.

Around mile 8.8 I saw my little cheering section - Tom and Ella! She was awake this time, unlike the first time I passed them while heading out at the start. I also began to pass some of the folks that were heading in from the 5k that started just after us.

Final time: 1:05:36
5th Overall, 1st Female

There were no awards at the finish, just food and socializing. My goal was to get around a 1:05, so I was content with the finish. It's interesting to think that in DC that was my 10 mile time. I know I haven't pushed myself anywhere near my max so the next race I run I will need to do it, to see what I'm capable of. I seem much more laid back about racing right now than I used to be, but plan to get in some actual speed work in now that I'm done teaching and will have time this summer.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Pump It Up 5 Miler Race Recap

This past Saturday marked my return to racing when I decided last minute (on Thursday) to jump into the Pump It Up 5 Miler. I have done no speed training and I am truly lucky if I get out for 5 runs a week. Some days those runs are only 3 miles, but I am OK with that because hanging out with Ella is usually much more fun than going for a run.

Speaking of Ella, I was supposed to race a half marathon last month but Ella came down with a stomach virus (that I also came down with two days later) and we were up all night. I couldn't justify leaving her that morning and didn't run it. It seems baby sickness is becoming a prerequisite before races as Ella came down with a cold Friday and did not sleep well that night. Thankfully, Tom was awesome and was able to stay home with her that morning even though they (or he) wanted to be out there to see me run.

The race was held in town. I debated about running to the start as my warm-up but decided to drive. It was a gorgeous, sunny morning with temps in the 50s. I felt light and more like my old racing self during warm-up and thankfully got in line for the one port-a-potty early so I could continue with some drills and strides after.

I didn't have a plan for the race except to run at a faster pace than I have been. Tom and I are doing the VCM 2 person relay at the end of the month and I wanted to get in some faster runs to somewhat prepare for that race. I had some goals in mind for Saturday, but only in my mind. I didn't know how feasible the first two were:  Plan A (dream plan): Run 34-35 minutes, Plan B: Break 37, and Plan C: just hit 40 - an 8:00/mile pace. I just had no clue what my body could do. I had only run 2 miles at a tempo pace (faster than 7:10) so this was going to be an adventure.

There were 85 runners and my plan at the start was to go out easy and at my own pace, then work into the race, hopefully finishing faster in the second half. It was an out and back on a dirt road, so we would see everyone in front and behind us. Interestingly, women did not line up in front of me, even though I was standing back from the start. Once the race started I ended up leading the women for a few minutes. I tried to keep a relaxed pace but felt pressure knowing that I had women right behind me. Finally they got the hint and took the lead and I stayed tucked behind the third place woman, now happy with the pace I was running.

Mile 1: 6:47

I was surprised to see how easily that 6:47 came for the first mile, but wasn't surprised at the time knowing I had run faster at the start. The second mile was more challenging as we entered the "rolling hills" portion of the race. The distance between the 2nd and 3rd place and me widened a little.

Mile 2: 7:25

In the third mile I began to catch up again to the 3rd place woman. I felt bad when she stopped at the turnaround to fix her shoe. Unfortunately, that must have offset her pace and shortly after that I passed her. At that point, my old racing self would have focused my eyes on the back of the 2nd place woman and made her my goal to pass. It was different this time: I had now reached the point where I had not run that fast for that long in about a year. I didn't know what was going to happen, so I didn't push it. I wasn't running an easy pace but I knew I was far off from my top speed.

Mile 3: 7:10

I had a few moments on Saturday when I began to feel tired only to realize that that feeling was NOTHING like what tired and the pain of childbirth was like. And while I'm on that topic - I never got to use the relaxed breathing techniques that I learned in my Hypnosis for Birth classes during Ella's actual birth because she came too darn quick for me to calm down enough to think. However, I am now putting those strategies to use while running and made sure to relax muscles that didn't need to be tightened and to take controlled deep breaths while running on Saturday. It really does wonders when I focus on these actions in the race and can regroup my thoughts and running.

Mile 4: 7:22

The last two miles flew by. I just kept thinking how amazing it was to be out there, how lucky I was that the weather was perfect, how my body seemed to be doing great with no speed training, and I began to feel optimistic for what the next few months of running could be like.

Mile 5: 7:07
Final Time: 35:53
3rd Female, 1st in AG

Since I didn't approach this as a real race, I didn't put forth a truly hard effort. I finished and wasn't tired and know that I have so much more in the tank to give. The race served its purpose. It gave me more confidence in my abilities and now I believe that my body is ready for faster paces and more regular running.

The last two weeks have really shifted my mind frame for running. Two weeks ago I had a New Mom Consult at Evolution PT because my body felt so off while running. While I could go into more details, the brief is that my right glute is weak, causing pain in my right quad. I also found out that my ab separation is closed, so I have resumed some modified core-work. All of this is good news as I am no longer afraid of damaging my body and I have exercises to do to make it stronger. This race also showed that my body is capable of handling more. I have resumed running very cautiously, and perhaps more so than I needed  to, but I fully believe that it is better to be safe rather than sorry when starting to run after 4 months off and a child birth thrown in there.

I really enjoyed the race and will certainly want to keep doing this one in future years. I didn't mind the out and back and there was enough food at the finish to refuel before awards. The smaller race size (compared to DC) was relaxing and more fun. Oh - and the awards weren't bad either: I had to choose between Snowflake Chocolates or Poorhouse Pies, and while chocolate is almost always a no-brainer, the pies seemed to have quite a reputation.

And folks - Poorhouse Pies are amazing. I haven't been to their self-service pie shed yet but I seriously would have no problem going there once a week for a pie this summer to try them all. I picked the blueberry pie with streusel topping and wanted to eat the entire thing myself in one sitting.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

2014 Monthly Recap - January through June

At one point in my life I updated this blog on an almost weekly basis. I was doing a lot of running while trying to figure out how to be a teacher and a coach, and I was getting too little sleep. Fortunately, I came to understand a word, priorities, and made a few changes to make life easier.

Blogging had to be cut down in order to dedicate more time to teaching and coaching. Running is still happening (somewhat), but since it isn't my job, I can't justify spending more time on it to sacrifice what I get paid to do each day and for what actually matters in this world. The work I do every day makes more of a difference than the running I do.

There are some days that I wish I had more time to dedicate to running, but I am happy knowing that even if I can't get all of the running in that I want to, at least I have a job (coaching) that allows me to experience running every day. I get paid to think about running and wear running clothes. It could be worse.

As we approach the holiday season I find it nice to reflect on the year. I'll do it a little differently this time around - a month-by-month summary and then I'll conclude with my favorites of the year. Here it goes!

Overall running this year
Two summers ago I was hitting 200+ miles per month. I was running 60+ miles a week and saw some nice PRs in the marathon. That hasn't been the case this year. I've had much lower mileage each month, but I have focused more on strength training. As a result, I saw PRs in each distance this year from the 5K to the half marathon. I can feel a huge difference in my running form and strength.

January: 143 miles: Marathon training for Boston had started. It was cold. There were lots of snow days. I was miserable. It was to become the same routine for the next three months. I began to do weekly indoor workouts to get in some cross training and to save me from the cold. The track workouts no longer existed.

Layers can help to get out the door on cold, winter nights

February: 149 miles: Another month into Boston training, and a month in which my mileage should have picked up. It did, but only by 6 miles. More indoor training days and a dread for Boston developed. Boston simply wasn't feeling like a marathon I wanted to run. I had no internal motivation to do it, therefore, hardly any motivation to train, especially with more snow! I thought I had moved to a warmer climate, but we had a total of 8 snow days this winter!

An 8 mile run in our worst snow of 2014

March: 177 miles: Alas! Some more miles. The weather started warming up and the outdoor track season was in full competition. A switch turned in my mind during one run: I wouldn't focus on training for Boston. Instead, I was going to focus on the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler that I would run two weeks before Boston. I decided to follow my marathon training, but rather than thinking about Boston each time I ran, I focused on getting a PR in the Cherry Blossom. All of sudden I was excited about running again!

April: 129 miles and 2 races
I spent the first week of April in Boston at a conference. It was just what I needed to get excited to run Boston. I love the city and the buildup to the race had already started. I ran by the finishing line each morning before the city woke up. The first time gave me goosebumps.

I snagged a new PR in the Cherry Blossom 10 miler (1:05:47) that qualifies me for automatic, seeded entry into next year's race. The only problem is next year's race is ONE week before Boston. DANG!

Boston also happened. My legs had been sore for over a week from the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler and I knew I didn't have the miles put in for a PR at Boston. However, the weekend was one of my favorite marathon weekends: talking to Shalane Flanagan in the bathroom at the airport, having dinner with high school friends, eating brunch with college teammates, and then meeting up with Laura and other bloggers at the start. I paid for the lack of training starting at mile 14, but the amazing crowd support carried me to the finish line and I finished with a 3:20:36. I loved the weekend and had a huge weight lifted off my shoulders when the race was over.

With the marathon done I could now focus on speed. I promised myself that I would do no more marathons for a few years. It made me happy to know that crazy training and hours from my weekend life would no longer be a problem. My new goal was to get a PR in the half.

May: 90 miles and 1 race
I was a little bummed to find out earlier in the year that Tom and I would not be able to make Vermont City Marathon work. With so many weddings this year, we could not justify another trip to Vermont.

My mileage was lowered as I focused on the end of the year teaching tasks and finished the season with the track team. A bunch of colleagues and students ran in the Capitol Hill 10K Classic, where I ran my 2nd 10K of all time. I finished with a 40:05 and a new PR. What surprised me about the race was hitting the 3rd mile below 19:00. I knew that I needed to get into a 5K to see what I was capable of. I hadn't run a sub 20:00 5K since college and knew that I was ready to do it.

June: 146 miles, 1 race
The end of the school year brought excitement for a summer filled with running and more hours to dedicate to wedding planning. My mornings became the same: Wake up, eat, run, eat, shower, wedding plan all day.

I managed to hit up a Father's Day 5K and nabbed a 19:18 finish. The race had that same 5k pain that I hate, the kind where you want to throw up and I almost did. I raced a silly race, going out too fast, and knew that if I raced a smarter race I could break 19:00. I was determined to do it!

Did you really make it down to the end? Congrats to you! I'm going to assume that 6 months is enough for one post and will write about the second half of the year in another post. For now, I'm going to enjoy these next few days of relaxation, food, and even some snow in this city of DC! Yes, snow! And for the first time in years I actually have some winter boots. I was probably the only Vermonter going to school in Vermont without some real winter boots, but I have finally smartened up!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Veteran's Day 10K

It's becoming the same story with races now: Too little sleep and too little running during the work week. The week leading up to this 10k was hectic. Crazy hectic. It was the end of the quarter, which meant comments for 110 students needed to be written, I played my saxophone in the jazz band during the Fall Concert on Wednesday, and then we had our Fall Sports Banquet on Thursday. I love it all while I'm doing it, but then I get home at 9:00 and there's no chance for a run.

A co-worker posted this race in our faculty room in October and after hearing that it was a fast course I decided to sign up. For the last month this race was my focus on all of my runs. I wanted to break 40:00. I had good speed leading up to it and had just raced a new 5k PR two weeks before. However, after the crazy work week, I had to reevaluate what my goal for the race would be. On race morning I decided that finishing would be enough. A PR would be great, but I couldn't expect it, nor did I want to put my body in the pain that would be required to get it.

I'm not a professional so I don't have the time to dedicate to running. Sometimes I have to be OK with 12 or 17 mile weeks. When those weeks happen to fall in the week leading up to a race then I have to try my hardest to talk myself into racing by convincing my mind that I'm in better shape than I am.

The basin at 7:00 on race morning

Race morning started off in the low 40's, but it was sunny and not windy. This was a relief, especially since we were racing on Hains Point. Tom and I volunteered at a 10K there the weekend before and the wind was horrible. I would have cried if I had to race with the wind, and the weather for this 10k was just about perfect.

We met up with a few co-workers of mine before the start. It was awesome to see and be with familiar faces at the start!

The Race:
I did an extra long run for warm up by accident and didn't get in the drills in that I normally do. I was OK with this, considering everything else had worked out better than could be asked that morning. The gun went off and we were out. I knew I was cruising and was not surprised to see 6:15 on my watch for the mile 1 marker. A little too fast, but nothing to freak out about.

I stayed right behind two girls starting at the second mile, which I went through at 6:28. When mile 3 came (6:26) I was bummed that it wasn't a 5k. 5Ks feel so nice now and I would have been very excited to be done racing. This was my third 10K ever and I still didn't know how to race it.

I passed the two girls in front of me at this point. My fourth mile was strong. I felt strong and it flew by in 6:23. I started to feel the race a little more during the 5th mile, but held on, finishing that mile in 6:29. Tom was at the 5th mile marker and that is when two girls came out of no where from behind me. Good strategy, chicas. They knew just how to throw me off my focus. They looked strong and I wasn't feeling strong. I kept counting down the tenths of a mile, which is not a great way to stay calm.

I got to mile 6 with 0.2 to go (6:31) and felt the 10k-urge to vomit. So did one of the girls in front of me who suddenly stopped and pulled off to the side. I shut my eyes knowing that if I saw anything come up I'd lose my cookies too. She saw me at that moment and decided that finishing was more important than vomiting and hopped back into the race.

Once again, like the last race, I saw the clock tick its way closer and closer to 40:00 and could not make my legs get to the finish any sooner.

Tom's phone deleted all of the photos he took of us while running. The only photo that somehow survived is me  after getting my award

Final Time:
New PR
9th Female
3rd in Age 
(not including the overall winners)

I'm a little frustrated, but I know that a 39 will come with better training, more speed work on the track, and a better work week. 

We hung out at the finish for some time and it was fun to be with friends. After the awards, Tom and I paid a visit to Thomas Jefferson.We had fun enjoying the peacefulness of DC at that hour in the morning. 

It looks like the next race is a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. Hopefully I'll get in some quality runs between now and then. It's nice not having to worry about a training program yet. That will come at the end of December as Tom and I both begin to prepare for Boston. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

2014 Walk (RUN) to end HIV 5K Race Recap

During my first year of teaching I made a bet with a student that if we ran a race I would beat him. He was an 8th grader back then, and at the time I figured we wouldn't actually race each other. Little did I know that he would come out to join the cross country team the following year. Nor did I know that I would get a chance to race him this year, as we both ran the Walk (I say RUN) to End HIV 5K two weekends ago.

Pre Race Summary:
  • Sleep the week leading up to the race was not the best. Too many weird dreams and waking up at 2:30 am. 
  • I was eating too much Halloween candy. I bought it for the trick-or-treaters and made the terrible mistake of opening the bag to "test it" for safety concerns. Kids can't get bad candy can they? 
  • My right eyelid was twitching constantly leading up to the race. Was it stress? Caffeine? Something else? No matter what, something wasn't totally right with my body. 
  • I barely got any miles in the week leading up to the race. I probably got a total of 12 in. 
Race Morning:
  • Woke up at the same I normally wake up for school, just so my body was used to doing its morning routine. It was nice to do my normal breakfast and know that I'd be OK for the 9:15 start time.
  • It was gorgeous: sunny and 50 degrees when we arrived at the start
  • I got in enough warm up but I felt sluggish during the slow-running warm-up portion. The drills at the line helped to wake me up. 
  • I felt confident for a good race all week and all morning. The mental prep is key when hoping to run a good race or to win a bet. 
It was really fun to be able to run in a race with all of my cross country kids for the first time. They were excited to be running a flat road race instead of the hilly and grassy courses they are used to. They were also really cute at the start when they did their traditional pre-race cheer, and made sure to change up the cheer to shout "Coach Svetlana", their nickname they gave me last year.

They all knew about the bet, of course, and it was awesome when the athlete I had the bet with walked up to the front of the line saying "If we're going to race then I need to start up here with you."

Right before the gun went off I kept telling myself "6:10. 6:10. 6:10". I didn't want to go out in a 5:55 like the last two races. A 6:10 would be nice. 

A few of the boys on our team went out ahead of me. I let them. I knew how to run my own race. I also thought that the boys would slow a little later in the race which would allow me to catch up. A few women also sprinted ahead of me at the start. I felt off and couldn't stay up with the, nor did I want to ruin the 6:10 that I knew I needed to hit. I didn't feel energized like my last few races, so I had no clue what was in store for me.

We got to the first mile marker: 6:14. Good. I was OK with being slower than 6:10. It gave me the confidence that I wouldn't die, but I knew that I also needed to push over the next two miles. Two of our kids were ahead of me still at this point. 

After mile 1, the course took us in a new direction and the wind was blowing against us. Luckily I was able to get behind a few guys to draft for that portion of the race. Sometimes it comes in handy to be a female and the shortest one around. 

The course was an out and back which allowed us to see everyone behind us as we made our way through the second half of the race. A lot of our athletes cheered for us, but I was way too focused to cheer back. I felt so bad for doing that. I could barely breath at that point, let alone shout out to them, and I was way too focused on the boys ahead of me.

I caught up to one of our athletes, the boy I made the bet with, at this time and together we made our way to mile two. We hit it at 12:25 - a 6:10 mile. GOOD! It was a good time for me, but an even better time for the kid I was running with, who hadn't run that fast of a this season. I was super excited to see our kids racing their way to a PR, but couldn't form a coherent sentence to tell them.

I eventually pulled away and set my sites ahead of me to another boy on our team that was running with the two women ahead of me. I was afraid of pushing too hard at this point in the race to make myself throw up, but now know that I should have pushed harder. I kept getting closer to the lead ladies, but not fast enough. At some point I realized that I was totally letting myself trail behind them and that I wasn't actually in Race Mode. I needed to work, and this was my last chance. 

With about 40 seconds left of the race I passed the two women ahead of me at the same time. Not having seen the any other females for some time, I starting to think I was in the lead - but definitely not positive. I saw the clock hit 19:01 just before I made it to the end and my first thought was that our lead boy was going to get over a minute PR for the day! I also realized that he was going to beat me and become the first boy on our team to beat me in a few years!

I also realized that I had made some mistakes in the race that cost me breaking 19:00, which has been my goal time this summer. The whole time I was racing I felt like crap and thought that I was going to get a 20:00. Everyone in front of me looked slow. I felt slow. I just thought 20:00 would be it for the day, NOT a low 19. I believe I could have pushed harder but didn't do it until it was too late. You live and you learn.

Final Time
2nd female
New PR!

I ended up winning the bet, but I am confident that if (or when) we race again, I will lose. This kid can beat me in every distance shorter than a 5K and by next fall, he'll take that honor as well! While I hate losing, this will be a bet I will be happy to see him win. 

This race was a PR, but am I happy with it? Not 100%. I was stupid:
  • I didn't fuel at all properly during the week.
  • I didn't pay attention to the watch and just went by feel - which was 'crappy'
  • I didn't push myself at all out there and never actually felt like I was dying.
The good news, however, is that every one of our athletes got a PR and some kids got HUGE PRs! It was so much fun to end my race and to turn around and watch our athletes finish their races with huge smiles on their faces. All of their hard work from the year paid off and it was fun to reward them with a fast PR on a fast course.

Also, I secretly really like running 5ks and 10ks in the city. It's fun to run the streets, in between the large buildings, and to see the sites like the Capitol.