Race Recap: Red Blue Half Marathon (Spoiler Alert: It’s a PR!)

This weekend, I ran a much-needed redemption race.  I know a lot of people will shake their heads in disbelief that I said that, but it is true.  I’ve been struggling mentally, off and on, since dealing with my psoas issues that started in April – I’m not going to rehash it again.  I’ve beat that dead horse enough.

After I finally got myself together mentally, I began looking toward this little race as a BIG chance to redeem myself.  I reflected on my race performances over the past few months to see what I could improve upon and I came up with a few things to practice during this race.

This race benefited local police and fire departments. The fire department hung this flag over the finish line!
This race benefited local police and fire departments. The fire department hung this flag over the finish line!

First, I wanted to get out of aid stations more quickly.  The last half of Rochester, my walks through the aid stations got longer and longer – too long.  Even though a half isn’t the same kind of beast as a full, I knew I could use practice getting in and out of the aid stations as fast as possible.  I can’t run and drink from a cup.  PERIOD.  I realized after Rochester that the temptation to slow down while walking through the aid station is too great – especially when I am tired and in the last stages of the race.  I decided to try stopping, downing the water and immediately moving on.  It worked in this race, but the temps were favorable and cooler and obviously I didn’t have to contend with mile 20.  Regardless, I’m sticking with this plan.  It seemed to work.

Second, I wanted to race aggressively.  Last Spring, I was finally learning how to manage taking risks during races but then – psoas happened.  I had to baby it and take it easy and not push too hard.  For MONTHS.  My personality is to stay in the safe zone anyway, so I didn’t need any encouragement to take it easy.  I have to constantly remind myself to get out of the comfort zone.  So my plan for the race was to warm up, keep my heart rate in mid-high 160s and then increase from there.  I executed this part perfectly!!  (Although I may have had some help from the steroids that I’m currently taking for my shoulder.  LOL!!)  Honestly, I was afraid that I started out too fast, but my HR settled into the zone that I wanted by mile 2, so I decided to stick with it as long as I felt OK.  I was still feeling really strong at the halfway point.  I knew I was sitting at 15th female overall because it was an out and back course and I had counted the women ahead of me.  I was a little (OK..A LOT) ticked that I was in 15th, so I used that as motivation for kicking it up at the half.  I cranked it up and ran in the upper 170s until the 10-mile mark.  I passed 3 women (and a handful of men), so I was sitting in 12th at this point.  Number 11 female was still a ways off with her pink pullover and her ponytail braid.  I didn’t really think I had a chance to catch her but figured I might as well keep trying to close the gap.

Side note: at mile 9, I began calculating what my expected finish time would be if I could maintain my pace.  (Disclaimer: I am HORRIBLE at run math!!)  I was on track for 1:45 at the half and I knew I hadn’t slowed, so I was expecting to still be on track for 1:45.  I was at 1:12 and started calculating in my head.  I was running 8 minute miles, on average, so I multiplied….forty minutes to go would put me at the finish at 1:52.  WAIT…HOW is that possible??  I spent an entire mile trying to figure out how I was suddenly so far behind and FINALLY realized that I multiplied by 5 instead of 4.  THIS is why I just run by heart rate!

My third and final goal was to spend the last 5k in the pain zone.  Like I said earlier, I usually play it too safe and end up still having a lot of energy at the end of the race.  It works well for negative splits, but I’m always left wondering if I could have done more.  My goal was to cross the finish line on empty, leaving NO doubt about whether or not I could have pushed harder.  Mile 10 came and I gave it all that I had, which seemed like a lot but didn’t really reflect in my splits.  Miles 12 and 13 were THE MOST PAINFUL miles I’ve ever run or raced.  I was getting close to pink ponytail braid girl, but I was right in the middle of the pain zone so I didn’t feel like I had any extra to give at that point.  I also felt like I was slowing down and really thought I ran mile 13 at an 8:30 pace (until I went back and looked at the splits and saw that it was 8:10).  My Garmin pace was all over the place even when I knew I hadn’t changed pace *that* much – this may explain why the course measured short on my watch.  Even through all this pain, I never entertained the idea to slow down or walk, which was a BIG battle won!!

Happier with mile 12 and 13 splits than I expected.
Happier with mile 12 and 13 splits than I expected.
Another win for the day: I successfully french braided my hair. YAY!!
Another win for the day: I successfully french braided my hair. YAY!!

Regardless of my time, I managed to meet all the goals that I set for myself so this race was a big mental boost.  Speaking of time…..I ran this race in 1:45:11!!!  Going into the race, I felt pretty confident that I could run a 1:45, but I was trying to focus more on the processes which needed improvement as opposed to the end result.  However, I was VERY excited to cross the finish with that time!!  I was pretty sure that I placed in my age group, but had to wait around for what seemed like forever for any race results to be posted.  I did end up 2nd in my age group.  I missed first place by only 21 seconds and…..pink ponytail girl was the one that snagged 1st!!  So close! LOL

I joked with pink ponytail braid girl about chasing her the entire second half.
I joked with pink ponytail braid girl about chasing her the entire second half.

One issue that I have is how to handle these super flat races, as Houston will also be pretty flat.  It does make it easier to manage running even splits, but I ALWAYS think that I am going up!  I seriously thought I was going up virtually the entire first half and was looking so forward to the second “downhill” half.  But then when I actually got into the second half, I still thought that I was going uphill.  And even though going up hills slows me down, I can still make up some time and get my heart rate down on the downhills.  I’ll be working on wrapping my mind around how best to handle this so I can be as mentally prepared as possible at flat Houston!

Happy Tuesday!!  Its TRACK day!! <squeals>

My *goalz* are making me uncomfortable

As usual, I’ve been meaning to write a post, but just haven’t had the time.  I just realized my last post was about Ragnar, which was wayyyyy over a month ago!

I’m still focused on my word of the year: uncomfortable, and I think I’m doing a fairly good job keeping myself on my toes….

Swim Update

Apparently, Dori finally found her fins (somewhat).  My first swims were terrible.  I can’t even imagine how painful it must have been for anyone else who had the unfortunate luck to be near the pool at the same time as me those first few swims.  I didn’t give up, though! Thanks to the guys at the pool who have taken me under their wings, I have made marked improvement which is DIRECTLY related to their tips.  Don’t get me wrong….I still have a LONG way to go.  I know this because I had Alli film me today when we went to the pool, and there is still a lot of work to be done.  But I am very happy with the fact that I can even swim 500 or 1,000 yards at once, regardless of the speed.

Running has been a pain in my psoas

Considering I haven’t updated since Ragnar, I should probably update on the psoas (aka hip flexor).  The psoas is directly responsible for lifting the femur during walking and running – believe me when I say it is a VERY  important muscle!  I have had some yucky injuries, but given the choice, I would choose a stress fracture over psoas trouble every time.

Right after Ragnar, I went to get a massage.  When I got up from the table, I knew that was a huge mistake.  OK…..I knew it was a mistake before I went but I did it anyway.  The MT really irritated a nerve in my glutes, which were over-worked from trying to pick up Mr. Psoas’ slack…..I could barely walk when I got up off the table.  That added some days to the recovery, for sure.

I had registered for Skyline Half Marathon, which was just 2 weeks after Ragnar.  I knew immediately that I had no chance of running it, nor did I want to.  I have some BIG goals (which I’ll announce later in this post) and I need to be as close to 100% as possible if I have a chance to reach them.

During the 2 weeks after Ragnar, all I did was bike and swim.  My coach had already built in a week of nothing after Skyline.  Despite my efforts, I couldn’t sway him to let me run….which was smart, by the way…(but he did add in a couple of bike workouts for me. 🙂

I started running again the second week of May and just this week have started feeling that I might fully recover.  All 3 of my runs this week have had minimal recovery and I haven’t noticed very often that my psoas is even there….which is really good news!

Goalz

A few months ago, I let my coach talk me into running a 50 miler.  Honestly, I was starting to get excited about it (there were 4 guys and me from my club ), but I had another idea that I just couldn’t shake.  I KNOW I can run a 50 miler, with the right training.  This other idea, though…. I am so close to being able to snatch it. But even with the right training, I could still fall flat on my face.  These 2 things – the 5oM and my idea – were on the opposite ends of the training spectrum.  The 50M is mostly endurance based and my other idea….well it is mostly speed with some endurance built in.

After A LOT of discussion with my coach, I decided to back out of the 50M to focus solely on this goal, which is <drum roll>……to qualify for Boston.  The timing of the 50M was terrible – with the training and then a month’s recovery after, I wouldn’t have had time to properly prepare for BQ attempt.  I couldn’t shake the feeling in my gut that it just wasn’t the right time.  My mantra became, “don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.”  This was instrumental in helping me choose my path.  I remember telling Brent that I couldn’t have anything to blame, except me, in the event I don’t qualify.  The 50M would have been a HUGE excuse.  This has to all be on ME.  Like I said, I don’t even know if I will qualify.  I do believe that I can get close, but there are so many variables on any given day.  It scares me to death but is exciting at the same time!

I’ve only told a handful of people about this BQ attempt.  I feel weird (ok…scared beyond belief) even talking about it in this blog.  I don’t want to be one of those people that ramble on and on about their BQ attempt ad nauseam.  I seriously debated about putting it out there at all, because if I fail…..well, you know.  I mean, who wants to put a goal out there then fall flat on their face??  (Hint: Not me)  But I decided that putting it out there will give me some accountability….just like the removing the 50M as an excuse….I need accountability.

The Road to Boston (Gosh, I’m so corny)

My first marathon of the season will be in Rochester, NY, in September.  I had originally chosen it because Brent instructed me to choose a ‘hilly’ marathon during that time frame to prep for the 50M.  It worked out perfectly because my Sole Sister, Jenn, just happens to be running her FIRST marathon in that VERY race!!  I am BEYOND excited that I will be there with her when she becomes a marathoner!!  This isn’t my BQ race, though.  OH MY GEEZ!!!!  The elevation is at least 3 times anything I’ve ever run in Texas!  I am just hoping to clock a decent time and get an idea where I stand for the “REAL” attempt, speaking of….

The “REAL” attempt will be at Houston Chevron Marathon in Houston in January.  January is a looooooooong time away!!  In reality, this will be broken up into a couple of training cycles.  Technically, I’m training for Roc right now, but I’m focused on my first triathlon (a sprint) that I will run at the end of July.  This distraction is good for Jen, mentally.  After Roc, I’m running Ragnar Hill Country Ultra with some bad asses from my club, Renegade Endurance.  (By the way, YOU should join and make sure that you tell them Jen sent you!!)  After that, I suspect we will scale the training back to build up to Houston.  My max training cycle is 4 months….anything over that starts to kill me mentally and physically.  Plus, there is an excitement in starting a new training cycle. (Or maybe that can be attributed to the fact that the training load is scaled back! LOL)

What if Jen falls flat on her face?

I have no idea.  I’m not even going to consider it right now.  Even if all my training lines up perfectly, race day can still be a bust.  You just never know what the race will throw at you.  I know I’m going to put my whole heart and body into training and hope for the best when I toe the start line.

And there you have it…

The cat is out of the bag and there’s no going back!  Now I need to play it smart until I get this psoas totally under control so that it doesn’t derail ALL my hopes and dreams.  (Sadly, I was only half-joking there…)

OH!!  SCHOOL IS OUT FOR THE SUMMER!  I SURVIVED!!!

Have a great weekend!!

Jen