Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I really am fortunate and blessed in many ways, so it doesn't seem feasible to make a list of everything that I am thankful for.  But I will say that  running would be pretty high up on such a list!  
Great friends and Bull City Track Club teammates
My wonderful and supportive husband/cheerleader/race photographer
Destination marathons
(clockwise from top: Boston, Miami, Paris, OBX)
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Battleship NC Half Marathon

I ran this race in 2009, in what was my slowest (2:06:52) and most miserable (temps in the 80s) half marathon to date.  I'd never run more than 13.1 miles, was going by feel because my watch died that morning, and went out way too fast before getting sick at mile 7 and walking a good bit of the second half. Since that race, I've run over 5,000 miles and have taken 12 minutes off of my half marathon PR, so I barring anything disastrous, this was pretty much guaranteed to be an improvement over the first one.

After racing the 10 miler last weekend and putting in a pretty respectable post-race training week (about 35 miles since that race), the plan was to use this as a training run.  After conferring with my running friends, it seemed that a progression run was the best option, so I decided on 4 miles moderate, 6 miles comfortably hard, and 3.1 miles at Dallas goal pace (6:59).

Weather was perfect: low 50s and sunny.

First 4 Miles: From the Battleship through downtown Wilmington
Goal: 7:30  Actual: 7:25
As usual, I got caught up in the crowd at the start and went out a little fast, but worked to correct that pretty quickly.  This section includes two bridges, which equate to small to moderate hills, and then goes through downtown Wilmington parallel to the Cape Fear River.  There were some nice views from the bridges, it's a cute downtown area, Monte and several other spectators were near our hotel at mile 3, and I was running a fairly comfortable pace, so these miles went by pretty quickly and easily.  The most challenging aspect was that some of the footing was less than ideal, particularly the metal grated section of the second bridge and some of the cobblestones through downtown.  I definitely felt like I could have gone faster, but stuck to the plan.

Middle 6 Miles: Around Greenfield Lake
Goal: 7:15  Actual: 7:15
This section is a loop with a lot of turns (including a 180 around a cone) and a lot more hills than you would expect in for a race near the coast.  I picked up the pace a little and was just below my goal pace without much difficulty.  Around mile 8, I ate a Gu, not because I felt like I needed to, but because I thought it would help give me some extra energy at the end for what I hoped would be a strong finish, and having only used gels in marathons, I thought I should practice taking them during a shorter/faster race in preparation for Dallas.  That turned out to be a huge mistake.  It never really settled well at all, and by mile 9 I was pretty sure I was going to be sick.  At least I learned this during a training race rather than my goal race.  I decided to try to push through one more mile, telling myself when I got to the end of this section I could jog it in.

Last 5k: Across Memorial Bridge and back to the Battleship
Goal:  7:00  Actual: 7:40 for 3 miles, then 6:30 for last .13
By this point my stomach was not happy at all, and I was just aiming on keeping everything down until getting to the finish line. This part is definitely the least scenic section of the race, and there are parts that you have to run on the sidewalk, which is challenging because for most of the race you're going by walkers (who start one hour earlier than runners).  It wasn't bad when we were in the road with plenty of space, but there were so many of them walking side by side and taking up the entire sidewalk without any consideration of the runners trying to pass them that I was starting to get annoyed.  Each time you'd have to run off the sidewalk into the wet grass/mud and no one even moved over at all.  Once we headed onto Memorial Bridge to go back to the Battleship, things opened up again, but then I was wishing there were people in front of me to block the headwind!  Even though I was feeling bad, I managed to pass a few more people who were seemed to be pretty miserable.  Given the incline, headwind, and painful-on-your-feet metal grates, I could see why.  Coming off the bridge I tried to pick it back up a little, and when I heard Monte yelling I decided after sandbagging the last 3 miles I should at least try to kick it in.  Though the little pick up at the end got me in under 1:37, it was probably not the best idea and as soon as I stopped that Gu finally came back out.  So I am 2 for 2 in vomiting at the Battleship Half, but thankfully this time it was after the finish instead of right in the middle.

Final time: 1:36:53 (4th F30-34, 13th female out of 865)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Tobacco Trail 10 Miler

The Tobacco Trail 10 Miler was my A race of the season.  One of my goals for the year was to run a sub-70 10 Miler, so this was my shot.  I've done this race 3 times in the past, so I definitely know what to expect.  The way my training has been going, I know that running sub-7 miles for this distance would be at the edge of my fitness and everything would have to go really well to hit my goal time.

Weather on race morning was unseasonably cold (30 degrees at the start), but I would definitely take that over unseasonably warm.  Monte dropped Sara and I off at race headquarters around 8:25, giving us just enough time to go through the bathroom line and jog a short warm up before the 8:50 start.  We nailed the timing, but the start was delayed because too many people had tried to get the last shuttle bus, so despite our efforts we ended up standing around in the cold for a bit.  I learned that the girl next to me was also shooting for sub-70, so we figured we'd try to keep each other in sight at the very least.  About 10 minutes later we were underway.

Everyone thinks the ATT is flat, but there is very little flat on this part of the trail.  Granted, there are no hills, but it's nearly all a slight incline or decline.  The first 2 miles have a loss of about 130 feet, and though I knew I had gravity on my side, I tried to stay on pace and not go out too fast (6:56, 7:00).  Then it's back up another 100 feet in mile 3 (7:09) and down a little in mile 4 (6:56), then flattening out to the turnaround point (7:06).  It's an out an back, so it just goes back through flat (7:02), up (7:12), down (6:57), and the last two mile up (7:12, 7:15).  Sadly those splits all add up to 1:10:48, so I didn't meet my goal.  

Every year my mile 7 split is quite a bit slower than the others (usually about 20 seconds), and I knew this year I couldn't afford to lose so much time.  Since I was right on pace through 6, I worked harder to keep my pace close to the target, and when that 7:12 popped up, I was really disheartened.  I knew I had one mile of decline before going back up to the finish and would have to make up the time there, and I just didn't.  When I passed the mile 8 marker, I realized I'd have to average under 6:50 for the last two miles and at that point the idea of speeding up on an incline just seemed impossible.  I had a hard time continuing to push myself when I knew I was not going to meet my goal, and my feelings of disappointment squashed any motivation I had left.  In hindsight, I am kicking myself for that mental lapse and wish I hadn't thrown in the towel just because I wasn't going to hit that arbitrary number.  On the positive side, I think that loss of focus/will/strength and my subsequent regrets have taught me a little more about myself and about racing, so hopefully I'll be able to use that in the future.

Despite not getting the sub-70 that I've been working for, I did come away with a new PR (previous best was 1:12:57) and finished first in my age group.  Sara finished right behind me, and is now the Female Master's State 10 Mile Champion, so the morning was certainly not all bad :)

Family Race Weekend

I just love fall racing!  The problem is that there are so many great races around, I always end up signing up for way too many things.  Fortunately I've gotten pretty good at really "racing" only a few key races and using the others as workouts, so it hasn't been a problem.  

After doing the Augusta 70.3 and Ragnar DC within a 7 day span, my back was really bothering me and I ended up skipping the 5k that was on the schedule for the weekend of October 12.  Given everything else, I didn't feel that bad about it, and I think the forced break was probably a good thing.  Thankfully by mid-week I was quite a bit better, just in time for the family race weekend that we'd been planning since the spring.  First up was the Oktoberfest 8k in Raleigh.  My goal was to run comfortably hard and hopefully win the glass boot for fastest in a dirndl.  

The first mile was a bit fast, but then I settled into a more tempo-ish pace until picking it back up in the last mile in an effort to work on my (currently non-existent) finishing kick. Unfortunately the guy in front of me suddenly stopped dead in his tracks around mile 4.7, causing me to run into him and the guy behind me to run into me, creating a Kara-sandwich and some not-at-all happy runners. I was able to regroup and chase down a few more people, and it helped to have my dad, brother, and husband all out there cheering near the finish line.  Despite the crash, the last mile split was 6:45, which is definitely the fastest last mile I've run in an 8k, and my final time was 35:22.  Not a PR and not what I feel like I am capable of, but pretty close to what I was shooting for, so I was happy.

After the race, I collected my free beers and chatted with my family while waiting for the awards ceremony and brat eating contest.  Though I think I would be victorious in endurance eating (say how many brats can you eat in an hour), it quickly became obvious (as seen in the video) that speed-consumption is not my forte!  It was fun though :)

The next day was our big family race day at the Bull City Race Fest, and, most notably, my brother's first half marathon.  Dad and Mary had registered for the 5 miler; and Brittany, Adam, and I were all running the half.  For the first couple of miles, Dad, Mary, Adam and I all ran together, which was really nice.  Eventually Adam decided to speed up a little, so I told him to go ahead and I'd catch up with him later.  We were then down to three.  In the last mile Mary picked up her pace and did an amazing job finishing her first 5 mile run in less than an hour.  Dad ended up 3rd in his age group, and after looking at the garmin, I saw that we ran negative splits (12:30-11:41-11:37-11:28-11:24-11:16), which is pretty impressive!

I took a post-race photo of Dad and Mary, chatted for a second, and then set off to catch up with Adam.  I ran about 3/4 of a mile just above 7 minute pace, during which I photo bombed Kelly and got an enthusiastic high five from Nan, before finding Adam and settling in for the second half of the race.

When I met up with him, he was doing GREAT, and the miles seemed to go by pretty easily.  At each mile marker, I'd run ahead and take a photo as he went by, and even at mile 10 he was smiling and feeling good.  The course is pretty tough, especially the climbs at the end, and as we passed a bunch of people who were walking up the hills I thought about how glad I was to not be racing that one.  But despite the lack of hill training in Dallas, Adam was a trooper, finishing his first half marathon in under 2:30.  Before January of this year, I don't think he'd run a mile in at least 10 years, so to take up running and finish a half marathon in such a short time is a big accomplishment.   In fact, I was so happy and proud of him that crossing the finish line was just as exciting as running a PR for myself.  I'm so proud of everyone, and so glad this was something we were able to do as a family.  Next up for us: the Dallas Half Marathon in December!