Friday, March 28, 2014

Freak Out Time??

My marathon is 2 days away. I've had freak-out moments all week, but then a distraction would come along. Now I suspect the jitters are here to stay. If all goes as planned, in 48 hours I will be in the home stretch of the race - smashing the PR I set on the same course 2 years ago.

But. I keep coming back to that nasty word. But what if...

This race is important to me. 2 years ago I set a goal of a sub 5 hour race. Instead of finishing strong, I went out too fast, the air quality got to me, and I blew up in the back half. Just last weekend I was ashamed to tell someone what my current PR is.

During that race, I pushed hard. I wanted to give up. But didn't. That's nothing to be ashamed of.

What if I don't reach my goal? This terrifies me. I've set a lofty goal for this race. Based on training paces, I think I can hit it. But it will require some hard work and mental toughness on my part. So as a hedge, I started considering some lesser goals. Only I couldn't pinpoint on a finishing time for the worst performance which I would still be happy with.

That's a road I just don't want to go down. Instead, I have a solid goal. I have a race plan calling for me to run conservative at the front, and speed up when/if possible for the middle and end miles. I have my goal. My success or failure won't be determined based on the number on the clock, but rather how much of myself I gave this race. I realize its a very "well duh" statement to make, however I've allowed myself to be ruled by numbers for most of my running career.

So that's my official goal - run a race I can be proud of. Give it my all. Race smart. Take in my surroundings. Enjoy my companions. And at the end of the day, no matter how close or far I am from the finishing time in my brain, I can be satisfied.

Can't be that hard, right?



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

To blog or not to blog

No this isn't one of those "I'm not sure I should keep blogging" posts. But rather a post of indecision about a blog topic.

My 3rd marathon is coming up on Sunday. I have a game plan. I have goals. I have a strategy.


I'm torn about whether or not to share them with them world.

Should I blog to put them out there? So my readers will know what I was hoping for when they read my race report?

Or should I keep them to myself. Only share them if I hit the goals?

Cause taper madness is all about finding trivial crap to stress about. This is just as good as anything.

What say ye??

Friday, March 21, 2014

Best. Invention. Eva

Once again submitting a bit of randomness for Nancy's Hit Me With Your Best Shot link-up.
My dad received this as a free gift for ordering a box of cigars

Now I want to take up stogies just to get a cool hat.
Who am I kidding?
 I want my dad to just give me his.

EDITED: its a bottle opener. on the bottom side of a ball cap.
you know, for when you're smoking a cigar and having a bottle of pepsi.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon - 10 Days and Counting

Excluding my training race reports, I haven't blogged much about my preparation for the 10th annual Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon. Maybe because my mid-week training doesn't resemble a typical marathoner's, or maybe because it never quite felt real to me. With less than 2 weeks until race day, stuff just got real!!

I've been blessed to have an excellent group of training buddies accompanying me for most of my long runs. Between races, organized group runs, and impromptu meet ups, I've not done a single long run alone.

We've chatted the miles away, kept one another from going out too fast, and encouraged one another when the going got tough. Johnny experienced a Half Marathon PR at Strawberry Plains. Amy's 5K PR came during Barley's 5K (yes, the one where we were trying not to push too hard.)

Brad, Amy, and Sharon will each be experiencing 26.2 for the first time on March 30th. Johnny and I are going for PRs at the distance and given our current training paces we both have a good shot at it.

The race is also given me the chance to meet up cyber running friends. Kelly & I met Jay for the first time back in October. This time around the 3 of us hope to discover if Pete is really an IT dude from Michigan, or actually some chick from Montana.

I've spent the last 2 years working on speed and endurance. I've proven to myself negative splits and starting slowly does actually work the way "they" say it does. I've obsessed with pace calculators and making a race strategy. Now I'm excited to join my friends at the start line to finish up another epic adventure.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Barley's {almost} 5K - Race Report

Last year, Barley's 5K became my PR for the distance. I was training for the Covenant Health Knoxville {half} Marathon at the time and was thrilled for a new personal record given the lack of 5K specific training in addition to the warm/humid temperatures of race day.

The race environment is so fun, I knew I wanted to run it again this year. However, St. Patrick's weekend fell during my marathon taper period so I didn't want to push in an attempt to PR. 5Ks are easy to find in this area, and it just isn't worth risking my marathon goals for a race I'm not trained for.

The temptation to race, however, is always great for me. I chatted with buddies also running, trying to find someone willing to "fun run" with me. Holding back is always difficult for me, and buddies help tremendously. For the same reasons, my marathon training friend Amy volunteered to run with me.

us. after the race. holding other people's trophies. cause we can.

The weather promised 100% chance of rain at the race start, and this was one time we were thankful they always get the weather wrong. Race conditions were nearly perfect for the start, and not a drop of rain to be had.

Amy started out faster than I felt comfortable with, but I picked up my pace to keep up. This is probably because the race starts on an uphill and she's better at those than me. During the whole first mile, I could see my friend/coworker/running buddy Kelly and her husband. Kelly's fast and was racing this one, so I knew seeing her meant Amy & I were going too fast.

Mile 1 - 8:17

The hills of the 2nd mile slowed us down naturally. Amy was feeling the fast first mile, so we tried to bring it down to a more moderate pace. Still, we were running in the 8:xx range, a full minute or more per mile than we have been training at for our long runs. (For reference our first taper "long" of 13 miles was done at a 9:59 pace, longer training runs have been slower).

Mile 2 - 8:52

After a brief up in the last mile, we had a mostly downhill finish. A quick breather then we picked up the pace to finish strong. We've been running these same streets for our marathon training, but its crazy how much different the rolling hills feel for a short run/faster pace.

Mile 3 - 8:36

I had a bit more pep and picked it up at the quarter-mile-to-go turn when I saw the finish line ahead. Amy didn't follow, so with less than a tenth of a mile to go I doubled back to run it in with her. Even still, my watch didn't show a full 3.1. I stopped my watch long enough to allow them to remove my timing chip, then i finished the remaining 0.04.

Final 0.1 -{7:34}

Loved this race. I felt comfortable enough the entire time to know that, despite being 40 seconds off my 5K PR, I have a PR within me this year. Also, I had a little hip flexor soreness the next day (left only, cause my body is weird like that), just enough to make me glad I didn't race this one all out.

Chip Time - 26:13
Final Time - 26:30
Age Group - 8/34

But we all know this race wasn't about times, places, or even PRs. 

Now that's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

I'm not much of a photographer, but my buddy Nancy hosts a photo link up every Friday.
 While mine could never be mistaken for art, I do have an interesting picture I thought I'd share.

Ground pork.
In the shape of a pig.
You're welcome.
Have a great weekend!!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Run Hard Columbia - Race Report

Last year I ran the Famously Hot, Surprisingly Cool {half} Marathon. A buddy of mine lives in the area and I wanted a good pre-Knoxville test race. That race died, but I was pleased when I learned it was resurrected as the Run Hard Columbia {half} Marathon. Despite the new name, all the major components - course, date, time - stayed the same.

Unfortunately, the race was the same day as my last scheduled long run for the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon. Both races are "for fun" type things, so I decided to compromise. A couple of buddies experienced in distance training assured me that 20 milers aren't all they are cracked up to be for the training process any way. I guess time will tell if doing this race instead hurt me!

As with my other races this year, this was a "training race." Instead of an all-out effort in an attempt to PR, I was once again tweaking my negative split strategy. My previous half this year was a 2:07:51 finishing time. During that race, I'd started at a 10 m/m and had too much left at the end. The plan for this race meant starting with the 2:07 (or rather 4:15 marathon) pace group, then speed up at the end.

The plan worked. Kinda. I enjoyed chatting with the group, and they really helped me from going out too fast. With the exception of mile 2, most of the beginning of the race is flat or downhill. Given that, we very rarely hit the 9:44 mark. As a matter of fact, until the final 0.1 kick, I was behind them for the last 3 miles of my race, yet averaged a 9:24 pace. Suppose they were banking time for lap 2?

Mile 1 - 9:41

The 2nd mile of the race is where I lost the pacers last year and never caught back up. Despite the crowds early on, I had no trouble as we weaved in and out of traffic up the hill. Then once at the top, I really had to pull back to not get too far ahead on the downhill.

Mile 2 - 9:31
Mile 3 - 9:21
Mile 4 - 9:19

Those early miles were just about settling in to a comfortable pace. Honestly going that slowly was the hardest part. And "that slow" doesn't look all that slow looking at the numbers. But they felt really good. We all chatted about past races, future races, and our goals for this particular race. 

Mile 5 - 9:04
Mile 6 - 9:15
Mile 7 - 9:28
Mile 8 - 9:35

Last year, I started to struggle on the long slow pull towards the end of the race. This time around, I'd hoped to conserve enough to make it up without a problem.  While I didn't feel great, I didn't feel defeated like last time. I thought it was just a pacing/mental thing. Turns out despite my half marathon specific training last year, my splits for the last portion were better this year.

 Once again the local Hashers had beer on the course. Everyone else in my group was running 26.2, so it was too early for them. Not me - I walked through the station and enjoyed a cold, crisp beer. 

Mile 9 -  9:40
Last year - 9:48

The plan called for me to pick-up the pace around mile 10 and blast it in. There is a series of 2 steep hills during this mile, so effort was greater despite a slower pace. I took a 1 minute walk up the 2nd hill but quickly got back to running.

Mile 10 - 9:53
Last year -  10:05

With the major hills behind me, I truly picked up my step. Too much, I suspect because early readings showed this mile in the 8:XX range. Obviously I wasn't able to sustain that pace.

Mile 11 -  9:10
Last year -  9:17

The last 2 miles were relatively flat and I was able to pass a few people. Some could have been doing the full marathon, so this is no feather in my hat. Just a sign I was picking it up a bit. Towards the end of the last mile, I passed a dude who seemed to be struggling a bit. I checked for a green half marathon bib, and when I saw it said "This is it dude! We're truly almost there."

Mile 12 -9:39
Last year -  10:16

Mile 13 - 9:23
Last year -  9:33

I had been talking early about my new found kick at the end, and was a bit disappointed with my splits thus far. By the close of mile 13, I'd caught back up with the pace group. I hollered my appreciation for their company on the run. My new buddy Kevin said "let's see that kick!" and I took off.

Final 0.1(7) - {6:30}
Last year -  {8:36}

What the what??? I don't run that fast. Ever. Especially after 13 miles. Except I must.

Chip time: 2:04:00 - hit my goal right on the nose. How does that happen? This race has me feeling confident leading up to the Knoxville Marathon, but also excited about half marathon specific training and the awesome new PR I'm going to earn when the time comes!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What I'm Reading Wednesday - Book Thief

I started reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak at the first of the year. I'd heard good things about it and I wanted to read it before the movie came out. Almost 2 months later, I finished it last night. It took me as long to figure out what I didn't like about it as it did to finish it.

Early on, I asked Facebook if I should press on. Does it get better? Is it this way the whole book? I got mixed reviews, so I pressed on. After all, who wants to be a quitter?

The book isn't a difficult read. In fact, I like his writing style. Although dealing with a difficult subject, it isn't hard to read. The pages seemed to fly by. When I could sit down and make myself read. And I'm not the kind who has to be forced to read.

Last night, I decided to read other people's less-than-favorable reviews. I found someone else pin down what had escaped me for 550 pages.  "Nothing happens then {spoiler}." In other words, this book lacked plot.


While I liked the characters, I wasn't passionate about finding out what happened to them. Because as I read, nothing was happening. I kept reading, believing once the back-story was set up, the action would begin. But it never did.

Enough people liked the book for it to be made into a movie, so I won't tell you not to read it. But its definitely one of those love-it-or-hate-it kinda books. If you get 100 pages in and find yourself struggling. Give it up. Then email me and I'll tell you what you missed in 100 words or less.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Whitestone 30K - Race Report

The Whitestone 30K is the 3rd and final race in Knoxville Track Club high mileage series leading up to the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon. My last go-round with the marathon, I chose to do the same distances on my own, rather than paying to do what essentially would be a training run.

This year I wanted the full experience, so I signed up for the 3 pack of races: Calhoun's 10 miler, Strawberry Plains Half Marathon, and Whitestone. $60 for all 3 races is a steal of a deal for distance racing, and the series hasn't disappointed. I've gained a lot mentally from these training races.

Kingston is almost an hour of and a half from my house, so my training buddy and I got a hotel room about 20 minutes away. Was our room number coincidence or sign from God that He loves us and wanted us to half a good race?

Okay maybe God doesn't care so much about the race. But love us? No doubt!! The next morning, some online friends I have leftover from the ABC Lost message board days pointed out this was the number of one of the failed flights in the show. Thanks ladies for the boost of confidence.

Great breakfast.

These were the descriptions I'd been given prior to the race. Thankfully we were prepared with a plan (start slow, drink water, try not to die) and these awesome good luck bracelets made by her daughter.

Given the course elevation, Amy, Sharon, Brad and I decided to treat this as a training run. We would start slow, and run this one nice and easy. We gave lip-service to the idea of starting at a 10:30 pace, but the downhill start and our race excitement quickly over powered any plans we had.

I wanted a good idea of what I'm capable of for the marathon, so the plan was to turn on the speed in the final miles. With a 3 loop course, I bookmarked the 3rd loop in my mind as the place I'd crank it up.

Mile 1 - 10:02

We settled into a comfortable, chatty pace and began to tackle the hills as they came. The race is held on open roads, but the country setting means traffic isn't much of an issue. Save for relay racers, I think we saw more dogs on the course than cars!

Mile 2 - 10:04
Mile 3 -  10:07

As a group of 4, we tried not to run 4 wide so others could pass us if needed. Chatting about future race plans and ideas, these first miles were easy.  Talking to her later, mile 4 is where Amy started hurting. She's been having IT band issues and the downhill start made for a rough race for her.
Mile 4 - 10:17
Mile 5 - 10:14
These early miles were hard for me mentally. I think its the discouragement of knowing just how much further there is left to race. "Talk to me Brad!" I was getting too mental and I needed to shake it. Some chatter with him along with some aid-station high-fives and I turned it around.

Mile 6 - 10:07
Mile 7 - 10:08

I'm not sure at what point Brad and I pulled ahead, but by the time I noticed they weren't behind us it was too far of a gap to hang back and let them catch us. Brad starting pulling away a bit in the big mile 8 hill, but I caught him on the down. At this point I offered high-fives to those struggling up. 

Mile 8 - 10:07
Mile 9 - 9:46

Brad had a shoe pod tracking his cadence. Whenever our pace or turnover would get too fast, he'd warn me and I'd make an intentional effort to slow it down.

Mile 10 - 10:01
Mile 11 - 10:03
Mile 12 - 10:19
Mile 13 started the loop series for the final time. In the first 2 hills, Brad fell back. I asked if it I had sped up again, but he told me he was slowing. He tried to keep up, but eventually got to where he couldn't catch me on the downs.

Mile 13 - 10:05
Mile 14 - 10:05

Less than 4 miles to go, I tried to pick it up. Enough can't be said about those hills. They are standard country road hills. The difficulty comes in their perpetual appearance in the race. Reaching the crest of one only promises a brief down recover followed by another climb.

Mile 15 - 9:57
Mile 16 - 9:35
Mile 17 - 9:51

I passed quite a few people walking the hills in these final miles. I'd said going into this race. No shaming in walking the tough ones. By mile 17, I was too stubborn to take walk breaks. With a pace in the 9s, I just kept pushing.

Mile 18 - 9:44

For the final stretch, I made keeping a 9:XX pace my goal. Not knowing the course, I was surprised to be instructed to stay straight past the driveway. I had counted on the energy of the other runners to carry me to the finish. About half a mile of the last stretch was long and lonely. By this point the field had stretched out so much there was no one in front of me to challenge myself with passing, nor behind me to chat with.

full disclosure: this picture was taken before the race
never do i run like that
especially after 18 miles

 The last quarter mile didn't concede anything on the uphill, but at least there were people, pretty things, and the end in sight!

Final 0.6 (or 0.77 by my watch ) - {10:10}

Chip time: 3:08:15
A/G: 5/6
Overall: 84/116

I needed this race to be mentally strong. I got that and then some! I executed a strong race plan, churned out stellar splits, and still had a bit left to round my mileage up to 19 miles before heading inside for biscuits and gravy.