Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tar Heel 10 Miler

This Saturday I had the pleasure of pacing Jen Dixon at the Tar Hell (typo but it stays) 10 Miler.  It seems that every year we're out of town for this race, so this year I signed up even though I knew I'd be running Boston only 5 days before... primarily for the Duke Crash the Party shirt.  I suggested that we could run it together, Jen agreed, and the goal was to run faster than what she'd finished in last year (1:24:59).   I knew this wouldn't be a problem for her, and figured based on her recent half marathon at 8 minute/mile pace, we should definitely be able to break 80 minutes for the 10 miler.  According to the McMillan calculator, her predicted 10 mile race time was 1:18:20, which is 7:50/mile.  So I had no doubts that she could set a big PR, but I did have some doubts about my ability to function as a good pacer on legs that were still a bit sore from Monday's marathon.

A group of us met at my house at 6:15 to carpool to the race, and we arrived just in time to use the bathroom, run to bag check, run back around the stadium to the start line, duck under the rope as they played the national anthem, and take off. 

My plan was to start off with a conservative mile or two, settle in around 7:45, hang on through Laurel Hill, and hopefully finish strong with Jen getting a nice PR.  Given the course layout, this seemed like a pretty good plan.

There was a bit of weaving through the early, crowded portion of the race and my watch went a bit crazy as we ran through a few tunnels, but we crossed the 2 mile marker just under 16 minutes.  The next miles went by in 7:51, 7:33, 7:40, 7:47, 7:44, and 7:46... just as planned.  Jen was doing great, my quads were a little sore but functioning better than expected, and we had some fun running by Monte at the 7.5 mile mark (having the photographer at the end of a long hill is always helpful).

Then came Laurel Hill, which I knew would feel long and difficult, and we tried to just keep up a good effort without worrying about our pace too much.  That mile ended up as a 8:23 and we were still ahead of the 8:00 pacers, so I knew we had the sub-80 in the bag.  We were able to get back on pace coming down Laurel Hill and ran the last mile in 7:38 to finish in 1:18:23 (7:50 pace).  I guess McMillan is pretty accurate!  I was really pleased with how my legs responded in my first real run since Boston, but most of all I was thrilled to have run with Jen as she took over 7 minutes off the 10 mile PR that she set on the same course last year.

Boston Strong

After a 90 minute ride on the trainer, Jeannelle, Monte and I headed down to Raleigh for the Boston Memorial Run.  This was a really nice and well-attended free event, and we were happy to drive down to Moore Square to show our support.  After meeting up with some BCTC friends, we joined hundreds of other runners for a nice out and back three mile jog.  It has been great to see how people around the country and in the running community everywhere have come together in support of Boston and the Boston Marathon.  It has been less than a week, but it has been a long, exhausting one, and I am glad I was able to end it on this note.  

Friday, April 19, 2013


It's been a pretty stressful week, as you would imagine.  The highlight was definitely the belated post-race get together, which over half my teammates who had run Boston were able to attend.  

Mike, Bart, Laura, Ellen, Kara & Kate
I've gone over Monday's events so many times that I just don't feel like talking or writing about it, but if you want to read the short version, you can find my story over at the Press Republican, or peruse the thoughtful commentaries written by Mike and Ellen.

The physical recovery is coming along as well, and over the last three days I've managed 30 minutes on the trainer, a 3 mile walk with Jeannelle and Nicole, 4 easy miles with Sara (34:07), another 4 with Allie (31:47), and a 1500 yard swim.  Tonight I'll take it easy and hit the foam roller, and hopefully my legs will cooperate as I try to pace Jen D at the Tar Heel 10 Miler in the morning.  

Thoughts and prayers to all in Boston... 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

2013 Boston Marathon

Wow.  Well obviously there are a lot more emotions and many things far more important than the actual race than I'd planned on putting into this report, and I think I'll have to write out the end of the day separately, because I am still trying to process everything.  So for now, the actual "race report" portion of my Boston experience...

Monte and I flew into Boston on Saturday afternoon.  After a great carb loading pasta dinner with friends, we drove out to our hotel in Milford, which is only about 15 minutes from Hopkinton.  Sunday we drove out to the start and though to that point I had mostly been nervous about my lack of preparation and in the mindset of "let's just get this over with," being at the starting line really got me excited about the race and the whole experience of my first Boston Marathon.  

From there we test-drove the route that I'd mapped out for Monte to use on race day, and then took the train from Riverside into Boston.  First stop: packet pickup at Hynes Convention Center.  My stepdad, aunt, and uncle met us there, and my four spectators were great sports as we went through the expo, picked up my packet and checked out the marathon gear.  I bought the official jacket (of course), and some sweet new Boston edition Kinvara 4s, which I might actually save for next year's race.  I also ran into my teammate Nancy, who was set to start in my corral, and after discussing her pace plan - a very conservative start and then consistent miles with the goal of finishing in about 3:25, we decided we'd run together.  With this new plan to have company for the run, I was even more excited and optimistic about the run.   After getting lunch and visiting with the fam for a while, we headed back to our hotel and I proceeded to lay in the bed without sleeping for a few hours, as is usually the case on the night before a big race.

Staying out near the start is a bit challenging logistically, but the upside was that I was able to leave on the hotel shuttle bus at 8:30 and still make it to the start area before 9.  I immediately went to the porta-john line, and then met up with Ellen, Allie, and Sarah near the bag drop bus line.  We heard from Nancy, who was stuck in a bathroom line, and didn't see her at the planned meet up spot, so as we walked to the corrals, I decided to start with Ellen and Allie, who were one corral behind my assigned one.  I thought they'd be going faster than what I had in mind, but figured I'd start with them and just hang in there as long as I could.  After Ellen and I made one last pit stop (behind a rock and dumpster, respectively - we're classy like that), we got into the corral and got ready for the start.  To our pleasant surprise, Nancy and her husband found us in Corral 5, and the five of us started out together.

It was really crowded at the start, of course, and this helped us to keep the first mile in check.  Even with us all in agreement that we should start out slowly, I worried about going out too fast, but we came through the first mile in a little over 8 minutes as planned.  The first few miles to Ashland were downhill and uneventful, and we stuck to the conservative start plan, coming through the 5k at 24:46.  I knew this was downhill and it was so tempting to run faster, but from everything I've read, that is the worst thing you can do on this course.  Keeping that in mind and following the advice of far wiser runners, I shortened my stride and tried to minimize the impact on my quads, hoping that would benefit me later.

The next 5k into Framingham were also conservative and uneventful, and we covered those miles in 24:41.  We then started looking for Monte, and ran by him somewhere around 6.5.  It's always such a good boost for me to see him!  Still feeling good and comfortable, so we hadn't blown it yet!

I ate my first gel, and was feeling really great about my decision to run with my friends.  At that point, the race had flattened out some, and we set about keeping our pace around 7:45.  Right on pace again as we went through the next 5k split in 24:09.  As we came into Natick around mile 10, Allie needed to make a stop and said she'd catch up in a bit, so we continued on as a group of 4.  

Coming through Wellesley was really fun - reading the Kiss Me signs and feeling the energy of the crowds cheering us along.  We did the YMCA, chatted, and I found myself smiling most of the way.  Before we knew it, we crossed the halfway mark.  1:43:05 - right on schedule!  We saw Monte again around mile 14, and were all still feeling great and having a fabulous time!

I ate a second gel, and had a little sloshing and stomach cramping, but nothing major.  I noticed that we'd fallen a bit off of our pace, so I picked it up and just focused on keeping it around 7:45 until the Newton hills.  Nancy and Ellen fell a little behind at that point, but I knew I'd slow on the hills and figured they would catch back up then, so I continued along.  

I think the first of the Newton hills is the worst.  You can see the wave of runners going up, and I thought, "oh crap, I guess the race starts now."  Again I tried to use a shorter quicker stride, and slowed a little, aiming to keep my heart rate and breathing low, because there were several more hills and 8 miles left to go.  Surprisingly,  the hills didn't slow me down as much as I'd expected, and the 5k split at 30k was 24:13.  I knew there were three hills before Heartbreak, but somehow I lost track and as we climbed another hill I noticed a broken heart drawn on the pavement in chalk.  Was this Heartbreak Hill?  As we neared the top, I asked a runner next to me if it was indeed that storied hill, and when she said yes I was shocked!  Wow, that's it??  I'm almost to the top!  On PR pace and it's all downhill?  Can that be right?  I'd made it through the toughest part of the course and the 35k split was 24:47.  

I was definitely starting to feel it, but just in a 'my legs are tired' way, not a 'I might die, need to walk, or maybe vomit' kind of way, so that was great.  I calculated that I could average a 9 minute mile and still re-qualify, and was sort of amazed given my lack of preparation for this race.  Since I've been focused on triathlon training in preparation for the Raleigh Ironman 70.3, my running volume has been pretty low - staying in the 35 mile a week range - and I did only one 18 mile long run.  To see a potential PR as a possibility with only 5k to go was surprising to say the least!

From the time I could see the Citgo sign, through the turn onto Hereford, I just kept waiting for something to go terribly wrong, and didn't want to push myself too soon.  I also kept waiting for Ellen, Allie, and Nancy to go flying by with a strong finishing kick as I just held my steady pace, but to my surprise I didn't see them again.  I heard Alan yell, "Go Kara" and it was so nice to know that they were there for this race, and I thought about how my mom would be cheering like crazy, and that she probably was from heaven.  Definitely a bittersweet moment.

Making the final turn onto Boylston was awesome.  I tried to pick it up a little, but despite my effort I only managed to go slightly faster.  I concentrated on taking it all in... the crowds, the runners, the finish line of the freakin' Boston Marathon!!  It was definitely a highlight of my running career, and I crossed the finish line in 3:26:02 (average pace of 7:52/mile).  A PR of over two minutes on the toughest course I've run to date.  And I'd run a negative split (by only a few seconds, but still!)... could not have been happier.  I waited for Nancy, who came in just behind me, and then made my way though the finish area, collecting my water, gatorade, snack bag, and mylar blanket.  When they put the medal around my neck, I almost cried - running Boston was such a big goal, and to have run the majority of it with my friends, finish with a personal best marathon time, and still feel relatively good... wow.  I couldn't have imagined a better race day.  Of course that was soon to change, but I will save that post for another time...

Congratulations to everyone who ran today - the BCTC put in some really stellar performances and came out with a bunch of shiny new PRs, and I am so proud of all of you and happy to be a part of such a great group of people.  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Not exactly a taper...

My overall volume has been pretty low, as are my expectations for Boston, so despite the upcoming marathon I've been sticking to my half ironman plan.  I'm just not sure that you need a long taper when you're only running 35 miles/week!  I may regret this come Heartbreak Hill, but for now I'm feeling good and hoping for the best...

Monday: 5M (41:47) and 2M walk
I had planned to take the day off after the 50 mile ride on Saturday and 18 mile race-pace run on Sunday, but it was just too nice to stay inside!  Thankfully some friends agreed to join me, and I enjoyed the beautiful (though fleeting) spring weather with a run on the ATT with Jen D, Moonberries fro-yo, and a walk around Woodcroft with Jeannelle and Nicole.  

  AM - 1500 yard pull swim (35:00)
  PM - 3M run/walk around campus with Nicole

  AM - 45 minutes moderate on the trainer
  PM - 8M (59:19) including 4 x 1M.   
I decided to run later in the day (when it was in the 50s instead of the 30s, which meant running the prescribed BCTC workout on my own.  I generally have a tough time with workouts and tempo runs if left to my own devices, because it is just so easy to say "well 3 mile repeats is good enough" or "maybe I can break the last 2 into 800s," so I was happy to just get this one done!  The repeats were supposed to be at 10k pace, which according to various calculators should be in the 6:45-6:55 range.  I went out a little fast (downhill from Scott King) and swallowed a bug during the second repeat (the downside of warmer weather, I guess), but otherwise stuck to the plan (6:32, 6:55, 6:45, 6:50).

Thursday: 1600 yard swim (38:00) including drills and a few 100s

Friday: 8M (60:57)
Ellen has agreed to train with me for a 1:30 fall half marathon, and looking at the schedule it looks like we'll be doing a lot of miles in the 7:10-7:20 range, so for today's run we decided to throw in a few tempo-ish miles in the middle of our Rise run (7:16-7:18-7:17). This pace is not particularly challenging for Ellen, so she is able to chat and distract me the entire time, which is awesome, and I am really excited that she is going to help me through fall half training!  

Saturday: MS Spring Fling 50M & transition run
This was my first organized ride, and it was awesome!  Breakfast, supported aid stations, a well-marked course, police holding traffic at intersections, and lunch, plus the proceeds went to a good cause... undoubtedly well worth the $30!  I started out with the BD team, and stayed with them until the first rest stop.  As a group, we were averaging about 15 mph, but I wanted to push myself a bit more in preparation for the upcoming half iron, so I headed out on my own and reconvened with the team at the turnaround and then again at the finish. I averaged about 18 mph riding solo for the second half of the ride and felt pretty good, so I am feeling optimistic about my goal of finishing the 56 miles of the triathlon in under 3 hours, which requires a pace around 18.7 mph.  With the ride complete (48.3M, 2:54:25), I changed into my running shoes and did a quick mile just to start re-acclimating my legs to the bike-run transition (7:20).  8 weeks to go!

Sunday: Pacing at Umstead (12.6M, 3:58:28)
I left the house around 11:30 to make it to Umstead for the midnight gate opening and started my pacer duties right on schedule at 1:45am.  This is my second year pacing at the 100, and this year Val asked me to accompany her on lap 7 (miles 75-87.5!).  We chatted, walked up the hills, jogged on the flat and downhill stretches, and made it through the lap without incident. I was exhausted by the end (not surprisingly considering I'd normally be sleeping during those hours), so I couldn't even imagine how Val was feeling after having completed 87+ miles.  She did awesome though, and rocked her last lap to PR in her 3rd Umstead 100.  I will never ever do something that crazy, but it's nice to be a part of it and support my nutso friends :)  

After spending a good bit of the day lazing around, I met Jen & Jenn on the ATT for a little shake out run.  We'd all had rough weekends, and I was relieved that there was consensus on taking it easy.  So it wasn't far or fast (4.6M, 40:13) but at least I got my butt off the couch and ran off some of the mornings' Bojangles.

Monday: 5M (38:58) and 2M walk
Did the usual Monday Rise recovery run with Ellen, and for the first time this year it was warm enough for shorts at 6:30am!  After work, I met up with Nicole for a little walk on the ATT and it was actually hot outside... Hurray for spring!  

  AM - 1800 yard pull swim (37:00)
  PM - Speedwork with Jen D (6M, including 4 x 2 minute and 2 x 1 minute intervals)
I realized that a Wednesday workout would mean running every day this week, which isn't really ideal with Boston less than a week out, so Jen agreed to a last minute change of plans and instead of just easy miles we added in some 2 minute and 1 minute intervals.  I think I was supposed to run the intervals between 10K and half marathon pace and I tried to run at what felt like a challenging but sustainable pace, but somehow they ended up around 0.3M/2 minutes (6:40 pace).  Despite the odd time of day for a workout and the heat (82 degrees - I think we just skipped right over spring), I felt great.  And we ended the run with Moonberries fro-yo, so I really have no complaints!

Wednesday:  45 minutes moderate effort on the trainer

Thursday: 45 minutes easy on the trainer

Saturday:  Quick 3 mile shake out with mile 2 at goal marathon pace, and off to Boston!!