ASH Dash 5K

I ran a race today!  It was far from my best 5K time but I truly feel happy just being able to run.  Also, for once my pacing in a 5K wasn’t a complete disaster and I managed to pass someone right at the finish line!

The build up to this race was a bit of a mess.  Here’s a summary of my running in 2017 thus far:

  • January: Houston Marathon
  • February: Recovery from Houston Marathon/easy pace runs maxing out at 10 miles
  • March: Injured
  • April: Started running again…slowly.  I’ve maxed out at 6 miles so far.  Managed two track workouts but both were pretty conservative– didn’t check my watch during the repeats, just ran what felt like a hard effort.  On Sunday I ran a 7:39 mile that felt like 5K effort.  So I thought that maybe I could aim for a sub-24:00 5K.

Yesterday I still wasn’t 100% sure whether I would run the race– 2.5 weeks of regular running seemed like too little time to prepare for a race.  But packet pickup (which was Friday from 3-7 at Austin State Hospital) gave me an excuse to visit Pinthouse Pizza.  So I got my bib, declined the other swag (cotton t-shirt– already have too many of these), and fueled for my race with some beer and pizza.  In the end, the race’s proximity to questionable pre-race carb loading is what made me decide to run.

Speaking of which, I loved that this race is so centrally located.  An 8:00 start time and a 10 minute drive from my apartment meant that I could wake up at my usual time (6:00) and have plenty of time to eat something, get to the race, and do a 1.5 mile warm up.  The course is two laps around the flat, tree-lined ASH grounds and there’s a ton of parking.  The race raises money for the hospital and the course is USATF certified.  Honestly, this is definitely one of the best local 5Ks I’ve run and I’m not sure why it took me until 2017 to hear about it!

Before the race I set my watch to autolap every 0.5 miles.  I figured this would be a good way to see my pace without checking my watch every 2 seconds.  This worked out really well and is something I plan to do for future 5Ks.  I didn’t want to constantly check my pace since I knew this would not be a fast time for me.  But I also have a tendency to start too fast in short races (today was no exception), so getting a split before I was a full mile into the race helped me settle down before I completely dug myself into a crater.

I treated the race like 6 x 800m repeats on the track (a workout I’ve done many times) plus a final hard push.  For sub-24:00 I had to run around 7:40 pace, so I focused on running 3:45-3:50 for each split.  The slight uphills and downhills, needing to reel myself in after the first half mile (“LOL you are NOT going to be able to sustain this!”), and my general lack of track work and racing meant that I wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked.  But I was able to work a downhill with 0.5 miles left and I had enough speed left at the finish line to catch a guy who’d passed me earlier.  I can’t remember the last time I passed someone at the end of a 5K!

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My official finish time was 23:47.  This time last year I could run 10 miles at this pace, so my race today was far from peak fitness.  But it felt good to get back to racing after a 3 month hiatus and have a baseline that I can hopefully improve on over the next few months.

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Three Weeks of Cross Training

Well, I made it to the other side of three weeks without running.  I stuck to my plan of following my 10 mile race training with easy mileage on the elliptical and workouts on the stationary bike, though it’s tricky to figure out how to translate running effort to the bike.  So I ended up with workouts like 10 x 2 minute sprints instead of 10 x 400m @ 5K pace and 35 minutes of harder-than-easy-pedaling instead of a 35 minute tempo.  I finished all of my bike sessions extremely sweaty, so I hope that means I did something right…?

Since I don’t have much running to report I thought I’d make the rest of this post a round-up of other things I’ve been seeing/doing/enjoying.

TV

The three seasons (sorry, “series”) of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix have been my savior for the past few weeks.

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I download 1-2 episodes on my iPad before I head to the gym and then tell myself to pedalpedalpedal hard until the Victoria sponges are out of the oven.  I’m nearly done with the third season, which means I rather desperately need a new Netflix show to watch!

All of my other current TV shows are ones I watch with my boyfriend:

  • Last Week Tonight (one of the few things keeping me sane these days)
  • Bob’s Burgers
  • The Americans
  • Feud: Bette and Joan— I love the idea of this show but after three episodes it seems very uneven.  Boyfriend and I saw Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? a few years ago, so I went into this knowing about the movie and the offstage drama.  I think it would be a bit weird to watch the show without seeing the movie and apparently the writers felt the same way because there was a ton of exposition in the first two episodes (e.g. here’s special guest star Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland explaining studio contracts!).

But then there are scenes like this that are, to quote Mary Berry, sheer perfection:

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#goals

Movies

I’ve been to the Alamo Drafthouse a lot over the past few months but most of the movies I saw were older.  They showed all of Hayao Miyazaki‘s films in February; even though the movies we saw were all rewatches for me, it was cool to see them subtitled vs. dubbed.  The only newer releases I’ve seen are Jackie (okay), La La Land (loved the music and the production design and the pretty dresses), and Moonlight (completely amazing and I’m writing this post in part so I have a platform to tell more people to see it).

Books

Not gonna lie– I’ve been in a reading rut this month.  I started reading Who Killed These Girls?which is about a brutal local crime from the early 90s.  But I lost interest about halfway through (probably because I already know how the court proceedings will turn out) which means I wasn’t very motivated to keep reading and then I had to return the book to library before I finished.  I’m on the wait list again but I’m not sure I’ll follow through with checking it out when it’s available.  Since I have a finite amount of time and literally hundreds of books on my to-read list, I’m trying to be better about quitting books I’m not enjoying.

I’m currently ready The Romanovs: 1613-1918.  It’s quite good if you’re interested in Russian history– goodness was there a lot of poisoning and beheading and torturing back in the day!– but it’s quite hefty (over 600 pages).  I think I need to switch to some lighter fiction after this one.

Gear

I’ve had a Running Warehouse gift card sitting around for nearly a year.  Since it’s starting to get hot here in TX I decided to use it on some sleeveless shirts.  I also decided I’d be more motivated to go to the gym if I had a fun new shirt to wear.  I bought four shirts and ended up keeping two.

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Janji Ombre Longsleeve (doesn’t seem to be available at Running Warehouse anymore)

I hadn’t heard of Janji before I embarked on my shirt quest but I’ll be stalking their shirts in the Running Warehouse sale section from now on.  I love both of these even though I won’t be able to wear the long sleeved shirt outside until, oh, eight months from now.  The prints are fun and 10% of each sale goes to charity.

These two were utter failures:

The arm holes on the first one are really low– my entire sports bra was exposed– and the second shirt was so long it completely covered my running shorts.  (I’m 5’6″, so usually I don’t have issues with shirts being too long.) It’s been awhile since I’ve bought new running shirts, so perhaps there’s a super long shirt trend that I’ve missed out on…?  At any rate, 2 out of 4 isn’t bad, and hopefully I can use my refund on another fun print Janji top.

And speaking of running

Today I went out for a 2 mile test run, which was very slow but completely pain-free!  Even so, I’ve already gone ahead and deferred my Broad Street entry to 2018.  I want to remove any temptation to start training too quickly, especially since I have other goal races this year.  I’m going to alternate some short (2-3 mile) runs with cross training days and very gradually build in more running.  I’m not sure yet whether I’ll run a 5K in April as planned but– assuming I remain injury free– I will definitely run a few other 5Ks this spring/summer to help gauge fitness before the Reykjavik Half.

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The Rocky Road Back to Running

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Haven’t had any Rocky Road recently but I took full advantage of a Girl Scout cookie ice cream sale a few weeks ago…

In my last post (which was ever so long ago) I was feeling hopeful about slowly returning to running and tackling a few spring races.  After one week of complete rest I thought I would start with some easy miles, gradually add 5 miles per week and build to a 30 mile week, and then add in a little bit of speed work.

At the beginning of February I entered the lottery for the Broad Street Run which is happening in Philly on May 7th.  It seemed far enough away that I could recover from the marathon and then work a bit on my speed.  Broad Street was my first 10 mile race way back in 2010.  It’s a great point to point course with a slight net downhill but I had a miserable race due to unseasonably hot weather and starting too fast.  Since then I’ve managed to PR at every 10 mile race I’ve run, going from 1:22:22 to 1:15:57.  When I signed up I knew I’d lost some speed from months of marathon training and then recovering from months of marathon training but since the course is so fast I thought sub-1:20 would be achievable; maybe I could pull off sub-1:15 if my training went perfectly and the weather cooperated.

I also signed up for a new-to-me 5K in April so I could see how my training was going.

Broad Street training kicked off on February 27th.  I chose this Hal Higdon plan as a training guide.  It’s definitely lower mileage and less speed work than the last time I trained for a 10 mile race but that seemed like a good way to ease back into actual training, especially since my re-introduction to running after the marathon was rough.

That whole add-5-miles-a-week goal (and that whole train-for-a-race goal) did not go according to plan:

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Weekly running mileage

I felt OK the first week back– definitely tired, but I think I still had enough of a post-marathon high to override the fatigue.

Week 2 is when I had several days of really bad migraines (usually I only get bad ones once or twice a year).  I only managed 20 miles because I rallied and ran 10 with my running group on Saturday.

Work was absolutely nuts during week 3.  I also randomly woke up with a fever in the middle of the week.  This was another weekend warrior week– most of my mileage was on Saturday and Sunday.

On Week 4 I wanted to break the weekend warrior pattern and managed an 8 mile run during the week.  Then I decided that attempting a progression run on the treadmill would be a good idea– nope!  My marathon pace felt like a sprint.

Finally, things started to click during my fifth week back.  I did a little speed work on the track, which is always much better than the treadmill since I don’t feel locked into a certain pace.  I ran 8 x 200m repeats at “as fast as you can go” pace with 200m recovery.  I didn’t check paces during the workout but saw later that my fast paces were about the same as they were during marathon training.  (I definitely needed a longer recovery though.)  But all in all that was promising.

My best run since the marathon (by far) was during week 5. My running group does a run to Mount Bonnell every few months. I’d been dying to join one of these but travel plans or marathon training conflicted with all of the previous runs.  So, I was really excited to run some hills and explore a new running route.  The weather was great and for once it didn’t feel like a herculean effort to maintain a sub-10:00 pace, even with the hills.  I actually ran an 8:18 mile on the gradual downhill towards the end.  An 8:18 mile is something I haven’t seen in quite a long time!

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Hilly run!

And then came my first week of Broad Street Run training.  I felt a little beat up at the beginning of the week after my hilly weekend run but I felt optimistic again after my first track workout in the plan (4 x 800m @ 5K pace).  When I’ve been doing 5K pace speed work consistently I can hit 3:30 for these without too much trouble.  I knew that wouldn’t happen now and I honestly didn’t even know if sub-4:00 would be possible.  But somehow my body was able to lock into something that felt like 5K effort and resulted in 3:34, 3:32, 3:34, and 3:30 splits.  I definitely had some work to do but it was nice morale boost to know I could still run a little fast.

Unfortunately, that was my last good run for a while.  I’d felt some discomfort in my shins during my track workout– possibly shin splints, I thought at the time– but figured a few days of easier running and rest would fix it.  The next morning (Monday, March 6th) I went out for a short easy run and noticed that I was sore only in one area near my right shin.  When I got home and pressed my thumb up and down to the left of my shin I noticed that the sore area was very localized.  Basically, it felt a lot like the time I had a stress fracture.

I was able to see my doctor that afternoon, which was awesome.  One takeaway from my 2014 stress fracture was that I do not want to stick my head in the sand and ignore something problematic until I’m in unbearable pain.  My doctor confirmed that I have a “stress injury”, i.e. not a stress fracture, but it would probably turn into one if I kept running through it.  He told me to take 3 weeks off from running, then start back up slowly with 2-3 mile runs.  He was optimistic that I could still do Broad Street, though probably not as an all out race.  My endurance is still pretty good, so covering 10 miles is not a challenge– running a faster pace is the hard part.

That means that right now I’m still following my original training plan, except I’m doing the easy mileage on the elliptical and workouts on the stationary bike.  So, instead of 5 easy miles on Wednesday I did 50 minutes on the elliptical and a 30 minute tempo turned into 30 minutes of what felt like roughly the same effort on the bike.  I am not thrilled about so much cross training but at least I have several seasons of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix to keep me entertained.  (Seriously, this show is pure magic even if I get confused when anything with jelly or pudding is not what I pictured).

While it’s frustrating to have a setback just as running started to feel good again, running generally has not felt good for the past eight weeks.  I’m cross training with the plan to still run my 5K in April and Broad Street in May but honestly– even if I’m able to return to running without any issues– I may skip one or both races.  The 5K is a charity race, so the money I spent will go to a good cause, and I can defer my Broad Street entry to 2018 and spend more time eating cheesesteaks during this spring’s trip to Philly.  And the only other race I’m currently registered for is over five months away:

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I’m running the Reykjavik Half Marathon on August 19th in Iceland!  Some friends from my running group started organizing a trip at the end of last year and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to visit a new country.  My boyfriend and I have been talking about taking a trip to Europe for a long time but we could never settle on a destination, dates, flights, etc.  This gave us the push we needed to finally commit to a trip.  The race course is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous– there are views of the ocean, glaciers, and various historic buildings.  I was really tempted to sign up for the full marathon (and I can actually still switch my registration anytime up to a few days before the race) but I went with the half because I think training for a full during summer in Texas would make me miserable.  Also, I’m tentatively planning on running the Dallas Marathon in December.

So, lots of ups and downs on the running front in the two months since Houston but nothing too bad.  I’ve returned to running after injuries and multi-year long hiatuses, so this is a relatively minor blip.

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Marathon Recovery (So Far)

It’s been ten days since the Houston Marathon so I figured I’d try to keep up my semi-regular blogging with a post on what I’ve been up to since the race.  (Spoiler: I haven’t really been up to anything, so feel free to stop reading now.)

tl;dr version:

One of the things that made me finally train for and run a marathon was a somewhat morbid curiosity about what would happen to my body after running that far.  How many toenails would I lose?  (Zero, amazingly, though the toenails I’ve kept are nasty.)  How hungry would I be immediately afterwards?  (Not very but then I inhaled a burger and fries for dinner.)  How sore would I feel?  

My legs cramped up right when I finished.  I kept walking past the finish line but it felt…odd.  And difficult.  I had to walk to get my finisher shirt and then walk to find my boyfriend and then walk even more to get back to the hotel.  Even though it was initially uncomfortable, I think all of the walking immediately after the race was good– my legs generally felt decent for the rest of the day.

On Monday the DOMS set in.  I expected this based on my other hard race efforts but what surprised me was the intensity.  For example, I know that moving from a sitting to standing position the day after a half marathon will be uncomfortable but the day after the marathon it was bad.  I would stand up and then curse myself for forgetting that standing up was terrible.  Walking up stairs was basically impossible, so on Tuesday (my first day back at the office) I took the elevator all the way up to the second floor.

So the answer to the question “How sore would I feel?” was “Ten times as sore as post-half marathon soreness for two days, then regular soreness for two days, then basically back to normal.”

In addition to a bit of walking I did some foam rolling those first few days.  We have a foam roller like this that I usually find too soft; however, it was perfect after the marathon when I was still very sore but wanted a little massage.

screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-8-19-07-pm Other than that, I basically did nothing for a week and it was fantastic.  In the past I haven’t been great about giving myself real breaks after training cycles.  Usually I’ve taken a day or two off and then resumed easy running.  At some point during my marathon training I told myself that I was going to take at least an entire week completely off from exercise after the race.  Let me tell you: it was so necessary.  I used the extra 8+ hours in my week to get some much needed sleep (I was super tired for several days after the race) and do a lot of reading and binge watch The Crown and eat tons of ice cream and not think about when I needed to run or how fast I needed to run or how far I needed to run.  Clearly I needed a physical break– marathons really do beat you up!– but I think  needed the mental break even more.

Over the weekend I spent way too much time combining my love of Stranger Things with my love for race spectating.  This was the result:

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On Sunday I had a great time cheering at mile 11 at the 3M Half Marathon.  It was fun to see some fellow Stranger Things fans get a kick out of the sign 🙂

After spending my Sunday morning watching other people run I felt a desire to ease back into running again.  I haven’t done very much but so far it’s gone well.  There are a bunch of races I’m interested in running this year (more on that in a later post) but I haven’t signed up for anything yet, which means that I’m looking forward to enjoying a few weeks of running when I feel like it and taking a day off when I feel like it.  It feels good to be a little physically active again but I’m prolonging my break from the confines of a training plan.

Here are this week’s activities (completed and planned):

  • Monday, 23-Jan: 2.6 miles easy running + foam rolling with the more intense foam roller
  • Tuesday, 24-Jan: 25 minutes yoga
  • Wednesday, 25-Jan: 4.2 miles easy running + foam rolling
  • Thursday, 26-Jan: 25 minutes yoga
  • Friday, 27-Jan: Maybe a little running or elliptical or just rest.
  • Saturday, 28-Jan: Group run, mileage TBD
  • Sunday, 29-Jan: Group run of 5-6 miles
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Houston Marathon Miscellany

For a summary of my race experience– written the afternoon of the race, which is why it sounds a bit delirious– click here.

So, the weather was really unfavorable for this race.  (In addition to the warm temperatures and killer humidity, my last mile was in pouring rain!).  But that was pretty much the only negative aspect of the race and generally the weather isn’t so rough in January.

Here are some other random bits and pieces of information that may be useful for anyone considering the Houston half or full marathons:

Expo

The expo was huge.  That shouldn’t be too surprising since the marathon and half marathon (plus the 5K the day before) are enormous races.  But I’ve run comparably sized races in Dallas and Philadelphia with much smaller expos.  I was there on Saturday afternoon and packet and t-shirt pick up went very smoothly.  As with most elements of this race, everything was extremely efficient and well organized.

There were a ton of vendors, elite athlete meet and greets, photo opportunities, and so forth at the expo.  There were some interesting speakers lined up but unfortunately I was there during the 2-2:30 dead time on Saturday.  I am not sure what the parking situation was at the expo since I walked over from the hotel but it’s at a huge convention center downtown, so I imagine there’s a garage nearby.

Hotel

We drove to Houston on Saturday and spent the night at the Westin Houston Downtown.  This seemed a bit swankier and pricier than necessary (which was my fault– I forgot until late November/early December that oh yeah, I’m probably not going to drive 2.5-3 hours to Houston on Sunday for a 7 AM race start). However, I booked our stay through the marathon website, which meant we automatically had a late checkout time on Sunday.

The Westin also had a pasta buffet on Saturday night for $24.  While I don’t think the food was worth that much money, I was happy to have a convenient option, especially since a lot of places downtown seemed to be closed over the weekend.  The hotel also opened the cafe at 5 AM on Sunday morning so runners could grab coffee and/or food before the race.  I did not visit the cafe because I preferred stay in the hotel room and hole myself up in the bathroom with coffee from the coffee maker, an HEB bagel, and my pre-race neuroses.

The Westin was also 2 blocks away from the entrance to corral A at the start line and within walking distance of the finish line and convention center (where the expo and finish parties were held).  So, in the end I was very happy to have paid a bit more money for extra convenience.

Race Course

The half marathon and marathon courses overlap for eight miles.  Since each race has over 10,000 participants, the course is pretty crowded but it’s all on pretty wide city streets.  Also, the corrals (A-E, plus maybe another at very front for elite athletes) have staggered starts, so there didn’t seem to be an awful bottleneck like I’ve noticed during some of the big Austin races.  The corrals and the routes to each corral were really clearly labeled, which I appreciated– at the Dallas Half I had some trouble finding the entrance to Corral A and narrowly avoided starting back in B.  Also, there are tons of port a potties in each corral.

Most of the marathon race course is flat.  There’s an overpass at mile 12 and then a ~50 foot climb in mile 23 or 24 but that was it for hills.  There are some turns throughout the course– including a weird hairpin one at mile 13 which I assume only exists so the course would meet the exact distance–but other than that it’s very simple.  And that’s why I think Houston is a fantastic choice for a first marathon: it’s not complicated!  You don’t need to worry about massive hills anywhere.  There is crowd support for pretty much the entire course, which is amazing.  It didn’t seem like there were any awful spots where the sun is right in your face or beating down on you but it’s hard to say because yesterday was mostly cloudy.

I was really impressed with the water stops.  There were so many volunteers handing out Gatorade first, water second. Honestly, I usually don’t think too much about water stops because I’m usually not running quite so many miles (:-)) and most of my races over the past few years haven’t been so muggy.  But I really appreciated these volunteers and how well organized the stops were.  There were also quite a lot of medical tents on the course, which I’m so thankful I didn’t have to visit aside from grabbing a water bottle at mile 25.  But again, I was so glad they were there, and unfortunately I think they were very necessary on a day when a lot of people were overheating.

After the finish line runners are funneled into the first floor of the convention center.  There are areas to pick up finisher shirts, get food, take photos, and meet up with friends or family.  I really liked this setup since, as I mentioned, it was pouring rain when I finished.  I imagine it’s also quite nice to be able to move quickly to a heated area on a cold race day .

Swag

I got a cotton t-shirt just for participating (mine is in the laundry, so just picture a blue cotton t-shirt).

For finishing, I got a medal, another t-shirt (in a tech fabric), and a glass mug.  I was super excited about the mug since it’s always cool to get something more useful or unusual  than a medal after a race.

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(My finisher shirt is also in the laundry since it got rained on during my walk from the finish to the hotel.  Here is a random photo I found on Instagram).

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My only complaint related to the race is that the two shirts I received are too big.  I think this was an issue for a lot of the female runners because there was a long line at the shirt exchange area when I finished and by the time I got there they were completely out of anything smaller than a medium.  It’s not a huge issue since I have far too many race shirts already but it would have been nice to keep the shirt from my first marathon in my regular rotation.

I’m really glad I did this race, especially as my first full marathon.  I keep thinking back to the post I read on Texas Running Post  a year ago that got me seriously interested in training for a full.  There are so many little details that make it a great race experience and I highly, highly recommend it!

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