Sunday, June 28, 2015

2015 Charlevoix Half Marathon

Expectations for this race were not met. Nope. Not even close. Sub 1:45 continues to elude me.


Five minutes slower than I thought I would be running.
Three minutes slower than I would have been happy with.
One minute and forty one seconds slower than my PR.

As I'm sure you can guess, I am pretty disappointed with my time. I thought I was better prepared for this race. I honestly did not expect to be writing such a sad race report. Anyway, on to the race.

Shoe and I drove up to northern Michigan Friday night. My in laws have a cabin up there which gave us to a place to stay about 45 minutes away from Charlevoix. The race started at 7:00 am Saturday morning so I woke up at 4:30 to give myself plenty of time to get ready and eat breakfast (Clif bar) before the race.
At the starting line. Fingers crossed for good luck!
Packet pickup was available the morning of the race; it was quick and easy. Once I had my bib I took my time finishing my pre-race routine (sunscreen, inhaler, double checking shoelaces, bathroom, etc). About 10 minutes before the start I made my way over to the starting line and did a few dynamic stretches to warm up. I felt excited and confident.

Miles 1-3 (7:48, 7:48, 8:00)

I watched the 1:40 pace group pull further and further away from me, but I knew it was best not to try to stick with them. I focused on relaxing and making sure to keep my pace easy. My main goal was to keep each mile under 8:00.

Miles 4-7 (7:51, 7:57, 7:42, 8:00)

Right around mile 4 I started chatting with another a runner. We ran together with some occasional chit chat through mile 10. Even though we didn't talk much it was so nice to have some company. We were also wearing the same shorts! The course doesn't have a lot of crowd support and for awhile it felt like I was running all by myself. It is an out and back course so at 6.55 miles we turned around and were running into on coming traffic.

Miles 8-10 (8:06, 8:04, 7:55)

It was tough to maintain our pace through this section. This part of the course is a paved bike path wide enough for 3-4 runners. At this point in the race there were more runners approaching the half way point than there were on their way back to the start. This made passing people very difficult. I wasn't too worried about a few seconds since most of my miles had been under 8:00). Mile 10 had a misting station set up and running through it was so refreshing!

Miles 11-13.17 (8:22, 9:16, 10:01, 1:14 (7:08 pace for 0.17 miles))

I knew after the 10 mile mark that I just had a 5k left. I also knew that I was starting to get pretty tired. I did some quick mental math and determined that as long as I kept the pace under 8:30, I could finish under 1:45. Not my top goal, but I would have been happy with that time. My plan was to slow down for two miles and pick it back up when there was just a mile left. Instead, at 11.6 miles (thanks, Garmin) I got a horrible stabbing pain in my side. I knew I was close to the finish, but this was the sort of pain that I could not run through. It was excruciating. I spent the next mile running when I could and being forced to walk every few minutes. I watched 1:45 slip out of reach and then watched a PR slip away too.

I've been dwelling on my disappointment pretty much since I crossed the finish line. I hate that this has now happened to me in two half marathons and I still don't really know what is wrong with me or how to fix it (is it just a side stitch? Am I really such a newb runner that I get side stitches? OR is it something I am eating before/during the race? OR is it dehydration? OR am I starting too fast? OR ???).

I have about a million thoughts swirling around my head about what went wrong and why, but I think I am going to save that for another post. Prepare yourself for another few days of whining and complaining. But there were a few good things about this race. Mostly the shirt! I am so in love with this race shirt! It actually fits nicely and it isn't plastered with sponsor information. The Michigan design with the runner cut out is fantastic. I would run this race again just for another awesome shirt!

I spent the afternoon relaxing on a boat so, in spite of having a bad race, I really shouldn't complain too much. It was a beautiful day.

Any advice on abdominal pain while running? Also any thoughts on the fact that it still hurts the next day? Do you think I just started the race too fast and paid for it in the end? Really any advice is welcome! I know I am not an expert runner so I always appreciate feedback!

Friday, June 26, 2015

It's race week!

Supplemental training: Strength + core + flexibility

Distance: 8.0
Pace: 9:22 average pace with 10 strides

Distance: 3.75
Pace: 9:44 recovery run

And that is it for the week! Yesterday and today are rest days and Saturday is the race.

Based on past race results I think I have some pretty good data for setting a goal pace for this weekend's race. Last September I ran a very similar schedule to what I ran this month. A 5k (with a long-ish run the day before) followed by a half marathon 1-2 weeks later.

2014 Race results
9/13 10.3 mile run
9/14 Growler Gallop 5k 22:15
9/21 Capital City Half Marathon 1:46:11

2015 Race Predictions
6/5 9.0 mile run
6/6 Run 2 Save Our Youth 5k 21:36
6/27 Charlevoix Half Marathon ????

For race predictions, I like to use Greg Maclin's "Race time estimator with adjustable "aggressiveness" settings" (found here, it is an Excel spreadsheet that you download). To establish which aggressiveness setting to use, I asked for a half marathon prediction based on last year's 5k time and adjusted the aggressiveness setting until it predicted a 1:46 half (Moderate was the winner). Then I entered in 21:36 for the 5k and, with a moderate setting, it predicted 1:43.

I've also played around a bit with the McMillan calculator. My 2014 5k predicts a 1:43 half marathon. I actually ran a 1:46 half marathon, which is 3% slower than the prediction. A 5k of 21:36 suggests I am capable of a 1:40 half. Add 3% to that time to get 1:43.

And just to be safe, I looked at a third prediction, VDOT tables found in Daniel's Running Formula. VDOT is a way of measuring running abilities based on your performance in past races. The higher the number, the better/faster you are.

22:15 5k = 44 VDOT
1:46 half = 42 VDOT

If the same relationship holds, where my VDOT decreases by 2 when moving from the 5k distance to the half, then...

21:36 5k = 46 VDOT
1:42 half = 44 VDOT

So basically anything between 1:42 and 1:43 seems like a reasonable prediction. My 5k PR predicts faster results than this (more like 1:40ish) and it is really tempting to just go for it and try to run 1:40. I've gone back and forth on whether or not I will just go for it, but, ultimately, I think it is a bad idea. If I pace for 1:43, that is 7:51 per mile. Pacing for 1:40 is 7:37 per mile. 14 seconds per mile faster might not seem like much, but by mile 10 it could be a disaster. This will be my third attempt at sub 1:45 and I do not want to get greedy and blow it.

In non-running related news: On Sunday Shoe and I will be celebrating 10 years together! We started dating on 6/28/2005 (we didn't get married until 2013...we were only 19 when we started dating). I'm so lucky to have such a wonderful guy in my life. He's even getting up at 5am on Saturday to drive me to the race and cheer for me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

5k Training: what worked and what didn't

I've been mentally shuffling through the content for this post for the past few weeks. I wanted to make sure to get something written down about my spring 5k training before marathon training completely takes over. Taking on a training plan to improve my 5k time was a completely new experience for me. I've made a lot of progress with the 5k since I started running, but the progress I made this spring really blew me away.

I love this photo of my trying not to die after the race.
To recap, I created a 10 week training plan that was based on the information found in "Solving the 5k Puzzle" by Pete Magill. My training plan was comprised of the following elements:
  • form drills
  • hill repeats
  • 5k specific endurance
  • easy runs
  • weekly long runs (10-12 miles)
This was probably one of my worst training seasons in terms of consistency. I missed 2 full weeks of running due to illness and clumsiness (road rash/swelling/bruising...but no serious injury!). So all told I only ran 7 weeks of training and one cut back week leading up to the race. For future seasons I think I will try for a longer training period (12-14 weeks) and finish with a series of races each a few weeks apart. That way, should training interruptions happen, I will still have plenty of time to get back on track. Also, instead of putting a ton of pressure on one race, I will have multiple opportunities to PR.

In the 7 weeks of training I averaged 30 miles/week. I am happy with this volume based on where I was leading into the training. I took a look at last year's training log and in the 10 weeks prior to my injury last fall I had been averaging 36 miles per week (no speed work!). December - February was spent rebuilding my mileage. I expect in the future I will be able to maintain a higher volume, but for now 30/week with weekly speed work was the right level for me.

Speaking of speed work, it was the worst. But also maybe the best? Running intervals at 5k effort always left me feeling completely wiped out and exhausted. After every session I found myself thinking that there was no way I would be able to sustain that pace for 3.1 miles instead of just a 4 minute interval. But I did! I really did! Any future 5k training plans that I craft will be including these intervals for sure.

One thing that didn't work was trying to include hill repeats the same week as 5k efforts. My plan called for 5k effort intervals on Tuesday, easy running on Wednesday, and alternated between hill repeats and form drills on Thursday. I had no issue with the form drills, but trying to run the hill repeats on already tired legs was draining. I ended up reducing the workouts and, eventually, cut the hill repeats entirely because I felt like I was pushing toward an injury.

Hill repeats are supposed to help train the muscle fibers needed to run fast over long distances (in this case the 5k is considered a distance race). "Fast-twitch type IIa muscle fiber provides much of the "speed" associated with fast-twitch type IIx (sprinter) fiber, but it also has the capacity to function aerobically. Bingo! This combination allows us to run faster longer -- the definition of 5K racing." (source) The next time I focus on the 5k (next spring?), I want to include more hill repeats. I think it would work best for me to alternate between a 5k effort workout one week and hill repeats the following week. 

I didn't have any problems with the easy runs, long runs, or form drills. For future plans I might make the easy runs a bit easier, more in line with a recovery run, and the long runs just a smidge longer (12-14 miles?). I'll want to keep my running volume up so I can easily transition to longer races. Also higher volume means better endurance, and I know I already have more speed than endurance. I'd like to say I would just cut the form drills, because I didn't love doing them, but I can't expect to stay injury free and all that if my form is sloppy. 

21:02 good enough for first place!
In terms of results, yes, this plan worked! In 2014 I raced two 5ks and finished in 22:12 and 22:15. After completing my training cycle this spring I ran a 21:02, which included stopping to tie my shoe! I am hoping over the next few years I can continue to improve my time. I have a kind-of-scary goal of someday running a sub-20 5k. I don't know if this is the exact plan that will get me there, but taking 1:10 off of last year's time is a serious step in the right direction!

I guess that is it. If you are interested in focusing on the 5k, I definitely recommend reading the article that I linked. But, please remember that I am not a running coach/expert/etc.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Charelevoix Half Training - Week 6

Supplemental Training: Cookie baking.

Oh, you mean baking (and eating!) delicious cookies doesn't count as supplemental training? Whatever.

Distance: 9.0
Pace: 2 miles easy, 5 miles at HMP (8:08), 2 miles easy

Brutal. This run was so damn brutal. It was in the low 80s with not a cloud in the sky. I have been aiming to run my half marathon pace runs at 7:45-8:00. Adjusting for the temperature, I aimed to hit 8:00-8:15 for this run.

Mile 1: Oh hey, this isn't too bad. I can hold this pace for 5 miles no problem.
Mile 2: Wait. What is happening? This is really starting to suck.
Mile 3: Dying. I am dying. Just get through this mile then take a break.
****paused watch for about a minute to get my breathing under control****
Mile 4: Wow! That break really helped! 2 miles shouldn't be a problem. That is just 16 minutes of running. Easy, right?
Mile 5: 8 more minutes! You can do this! checks watch Okay 7 more minutes. checks watch Still 7 more minutes. I need to stop checking my watch. checks watch Half a mile to go. I'm dying. I won't make it. checks watch Ugh. Quarter mile. 2 minutes. checks watch x1000 Done. I can finally die now.

The last 2 easy miles were pretty awful too. I stopped at the drinking fountain in the park before running back to my house but it wasn't working which was extremely frustrating.

Distance: 5.08
Pace: 9:48 recovery run

Distance: 9.06
Pace: 9:43

Another miserable run. It was hot and humid. I was aiming to run 10 miles but I was really struggling with the humidity this day. It finally started raining about 7 miles into my run, which was refreshing right up until it became a downpour. I just didn't have it in me to push through one last mile. I figured I could try to add a little extra distance to my weekend runs to make up for it.


Distance: 16.36
Pace: 6 miles easy, 10 miles at MP (8:34), 0.36 cool down

I was kind of preparing myself for this to be a rather difficult run, but it wasn't actually all that bad. The first four miles at marathon pace felt easy. Miles 5-7 were a bit more work. I had to work to keep myself from thinking about how much further I had to go and worrying that I wouldn't be able to hold the pace. Once I got down to just 3 miles remaining, I knew I had it. I finished feeling strong, like I could hold the pace for another mile, no problem.

It is way too early in my training to start thinking about goal times for my marathon, so I'm not really expecting my pace on race day to be 8:34 (though it would be fantastic if it were!). McMillan predicts 3:43 (8:31) based on my half PR from last fall, but I know I have more speed than endurance. So that might be a touch optimistic. For now, this training pace seems like a decent place to start.

Distance: 5.65
Pace: 10:02 recovery run

Distance: 45.15
Speed work: tempo run + MP run

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Charlevoix Half Training - Week 5

Supplemental Training: strength training, flexibility, core, and lots of foam rolling!

My right calf was still feeling a bit tight from Saturday's race so I was grateful to have another day off from running. I was pretty sure it was just a tight knot in the muscle that needed to be worked out, as opposed to being an actual injury. Overall I think I made the right decision in taking Sunday off.

Distance: 8.25
Pace: 9:01 average pace with 10 strides

After two days off I was ready to run! This run felt great! My calf did not bother me at all during or after the run.

Distance: 5.00
Pace: 9:49 recovery run

Distance: 10.25
Pace: 9:17

Ugh. This. Run. Sucked. I ordered some new running shoes this week and they were delivered on Thursday. I ordered two pairs of the same shoes in size 9.5 and 10 so I could figure out which size fit better. The size 10s must have been mislabeled because they were SMALLER than the 9.5s. What the hell? My new shoes should be here this week and *fingers crossed* they will actually be the size I ordered.

So after spending 30 minutes on the phone trying to get that sorted out, I was all cranky when I left for my run. All I wanted was to finish my run and drink a beer, which wasn't likely to happen since the fridge was empty. Fortunately my husband managed to read my mind and picked up some beer AND made pizza while I was running. I love that man!

rest day

Distance: 4.1
Pace: 9:57 recovery run
Supplemental: flexibility

Distance: 15.25
Pace: 9:18

My long run felt great! I started my run at 6:30 am which allowed me to finish my run before 9, beat the heat/humidity, and I even got lucky and missed the downpour that started right after I finished my run. I started my run with a slow mile, around 10:00 pace, and then settled into 9:15-9:30 for most of the run. Since I was feeling awesome, I picked the pace up for the last four miles and ran all of them at a sub 9:00 pace.

Distance: 42.85 miles
Speed work: strides + fast finish
Supplemental: 2 flex, 1 core, 1 strength

In terms of running, this week was perfect. I easily managed to run the prescribed distance each day and I am quite please with where my paces have been landing. My long run average pace is a bit deceiving since the last four miles were significantly faster than the previous 11 miles (9:30 average pace compared to my last 4 mile splits of 8:51, 8:49, 8:43, 8:22). I would not typically expect a long run to be quite that fast...although the paces felt easy/comfortable. So perhaps my endurance has been improving over the past few months.

I still am slacking on the supplemental training. Core work really needs to be done 2-3 times per week. For this next week I am going to add it to my recovery run days, before the run, so I have zero excuses!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

2015 Run 2 Save Our Youth

On Saturday, June 6, 2015 I ran the 9th annual Run 2 Save Our Youth 5k. As I mentioned in my training check in, this 5k was not a new PR and I pretty much did everything wrong when it came to getting ready for this race. All things considered, I am really happy with how this race turned out. Also I was a terrible blogger and took approximately 0 pictures.

Goal: just run fast and see what happens!
Actual: 21:36 
Since I finally bought a Garmin I can now analyze my splits. Look who started too fast and faded hard in the last mile!
Three things I did wrong leading up to this race...
  1. Ran 9 miles the night before the race. Literally less than 24 hours before the race.
  2. Ate and drank all the things while on vacation the week of the race.
  3. Filled my vacation with ATVing, which can be really hard on your quads. I know I'm sitting in the picture, but imagine me standing and using my legs as shock absorbers. It was basically a million squats every day of vacation (plus a run on top of that). 

I have run this race every year since 2009 (okay, fine, I walked it a few of those times), but this year they moved it to a different location. Instead of being a lovely out and back course, it is now a twisty loop with 15 (!!!) ninety degree turns and one 180 degree turn. That is a lot of turns for just 3.1 miles. I miss the old course, even though it had a few rolling hills and this one is pancake flat.

The morning of the race I could tell that I was just not in peak performance mode. Mr. Shoe was not aiming for a PR, my friends who were running were not aiming for PRs. It was just not a PR sort of day. My warmup felt slow and sluggish. I did not feel ready to race mentally or physically. When it was time to line up for the start, I had no idea what to expect. I managed to hold the lead for about half a mile when a woman (Amy, I would later learn) passed me. I managed to stay with her for the next mile.

As we neared the halfway point of the race, a guy slowly started to pass me and Amy. I forced myself to follow him and reclaim the lead. Unfortunately Amy was not about to give up and she stayed right on my heals. Amy and I both slowed during the final mile, but as we rounded the corner to the finish line she shot passed me.

This is the one part of the race that I am not thrilled about. For a few seconds I didn't even bother trying to stick with her, I just let her pull away. Then I realized that I still had a bit of speed left in me. I tried to catch her, but in the end I ran out of road. She crossed the mat just 2 seconds in front of me. If I would have treated this race as a goal race and went into it rested and prepared, it might have turned out differently. But I didn't and that's that. On the upside, I was still almost 40 seconds faster than my best 2014 race!

Next year's goal: learn to execute a stronger finish!
After the race I congratulated Amy on her win and had a really nice chat with her while I waited for my husband and friends to finish the race. She and her husband are aiming to run a marathon in every state, which is like the super version of our plan to run any race in every state. Mr. Shoe came in at 27:14. After the race we really only stuck around long enough for me to claim my award; we had a busy day of brewery visits ahead of us. And also a concert. And also a middle-of-the-night-milkshake because I was hungry after the concert.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Charlevoix Half Training - Weeks 3 & 4

Sorry for the lack of blog updates in the past couple weeks! I was on a mini vacation in northern Michigan for 5 days and then spent the next few days getting caught up at work and at home.

Rest day. It was supposed to be a strength training day, but I had the day off for Memorial Day and was completely lazy instead. 

Distance: 10.3
Pace: 9:00 average pace

It was quite hot and humid during this run. I spent the entire run convincing myself to just keep running for another mile and then I would take a walk break. I never actually stopped for a break but it helped to think about running just one more mile instead of thinking about the 6 miles I still had to run.

Distance: 4.0
Pace: 9:51 recovery run

Distance: 8.0
Pace: 2 miles easy, 4 miles at HMP (7:43), 2 miles easy


Distance: 14.2
Pace: 9:40

I got up early Saturday morning to do my long run so I could get it out of the way before leaving on vacation. I tested out a new hydration pack during this run and was super impressed! A full review will be coming later this month; I want to use it a few more times first.

Distance: 4.1
Pace: 9:57

Distance: 40.6 miles
Speed work: 1 tempo run
Supplemental Training: yeah, no.

Distance: 10.0
Pace: 9:24

Mondays are typically a rest day, but this was the one day of vacation where I had nothing else planned. Even though my legs were a bit tired, this run was amazing. The road I ran went through the woods next to a lake. There was a nice mix of sun and shade and I ended my run by jumping in the lake. So refreshing!

rest day

Distance: 5.0
Pace: 10:11 recovery run

rest day

Thursday was my downfall of the week. I got home from vacation late Wednesday night and even after a long nap Thursday afternoon, I just did not have the energy to go for a run.

Distance: 9
Pace: 10:01 average pace with 10 strides

I kept the pace nice and slow during this run because I had a race the next morning. Not my greatest plan, but I didn't want to skip Thursday's run completely. This was only meant to be an 8 mile run, but I miscalculated my route.

Distance: .5 mile warm up + 3.1
Pace: 6:57 (21:36)

This wasn't really a goal race for me and I blew my chances of getting a good time when I chose to run 9 miles the night before the race. That said, I'm pretty pleased to have finished only about 30 seconds slower than Shanty 2 Short's! Full race recap later this week!

After the race my husband and I spent the afternoon visiting breweries and we ended the night at a concert (Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness). It was a very busy day, but it was an absolute blast!

Distance: 0.0

My training schedule called for a 15 mile long run. I got as far as mapping out a basic route before I decided to take a rest day. My right calf is super tight and painful. By taking Sunday off, I get two rest days in a row. Plus instead of spending 2.5+ hours on a run, I was able to prep my breakfasts and lunches for the week. Week 5 should be back on track.

Distance: 27.6 miles
Speed work: strides + 5k race
Supplemental Training: