Marathon, Race Recap

Race Recap: Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon (PR!)

Well guys … I finally did it! I ran the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon Sunday and it was everything I could’ve hoped for and more.

Finish Line 1

Having recently run a massive 5K PR (17:22!) that wasn’t really in line with any of my other race times, I was in uncharted territory going into this race. I shared lots of details about my training cycle in my last post, so check that out if you haven’t already! The TL;DR version is that strength training makes a BIG difference (get you some!), I ran lower mileage in general and my longest run was 16 miles. I wasn’t comfortable basing my marathon goal off of a 5K time, especially given that my times don’t typically translate as expected the longer the race distance gets. I typically fare better in shorter races than longer races. Based on my 5K time, the VDOT calculator predicts a 2:46 marathon time which makes me laugh out loud a little bit.

Ultimately, I approached the race with 3 goals. My A “pie in the sky” goal was < 2:50. I knew that this was likely not going to be the outcome, but my coach felt like it was a reasonable goal. My B “more likely than not” goal was < 2:55 and my C “I’ll be happy, but somewhat disappointed” goal (which has been my A goal for years) was < 3:00.

I REALLY wanted to negative split this race (meaning that I wanted the second half to be faster than the first half). More specifically, I wanted to start out at a somewhat conservative pace and make a conscious effort to pick the pace up (even just slightly) every 6 miles along the way. I saw a quote that said, “In the first half don’t be stupid and in the second half don’t be afraid,” and this really stuck with me. I guess that basically became my race mantra. I told myself to “be smart” and to “be fearless” over and over. I also told myself to “not be stupid” and to “not be afraid,” but I ended up liking the positive phrasing better. Both versions were needed at different points along the way though, which is kinda funny. I spent lots of time out there trying to decide if I was “being smart” or if I was “not being stupid.” The marathon is a funny thing.

Pre-Race

The marathon started at 7 a.m. in Pass Christian, Mississippi. The packet pickup closed at 5:30 a.m. in Biloxi, Mississippi (where the finish is). Biloxi is only an hour and fifteen minute drive for us, so several of us decided to ride over together Sunday morning. I set my alarm for 2:40 a.m. (YIKES) and decided to get up, take a shower, have coffee, etc. and meet my friends just before 4 a.m. to leave. I don’t typically take a shower race morning, but I knew that I would feel so much better if I did and really, you just need to do whatever it takes to put yourself in a good place mentally pre-race. A cup of coffee and a shower go a long way with me!

I made another cup of coffee to drink on the drive and also packed my breakfast and a bottle of UCAN to drink about 30 minutes before the race. I laid all of this stuff out the night before to eliminate as many steps as possible on race morning. I also had all of my clothes laid out and packed the night before as well. In case you are curious about the clothing, I went with my McKirdy Trained singlet, Lululemon Train Times 6″ shorts, Handful Y-Back sports bra, Target gloves, Injinji socks and my trusty Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% shoes. It should be noted that I have essentially raced in the exact same outfit for every race this fall. Call me superstitious, but it’s working and I see no need to change anything now. The only thing I hesitated about for the marathon distance was the shorts, as they only have one pocket and I could only fit two gels in there. I ended up putting the other two gels in the back of my sports bra. Perhaps not ideal, but it got the job done.

We made really good time and arrived in Biloxi at exactly 5:00 a.m. The packet pickup was very easy. There was no line (most runners had picked up their packets the day before) and we were in and out in no time. We made a quick pit stop and then made our way towards Pass Christian to the start. Thankfully it was still dark out, because the 26.2 mile drive to the start line seemed very long and would’ve seemed even longer had we actually been able to see how far we were going!

We had plenty of time to relax and collect our thoughts before the race. It was chilly out so we didn’t really want to get out of the car, but otherwise, we were good. We made our way over to the starting area about 30 minutes before the start. Unfortunately, the porta potty lines were out of control and seemed to hardly be moving. Also, several people that did come out indicated that there was no toilet paper. Not cool! I stood in line for about 15 minutes before realizing that there was no way I was going to make it to the bathroom and to the start line on time. I knew from last year’s race that there were plenty of porta potties along the course and I just told myself that if I had to stop, it would be okay (luckily I was fine and didn’t have to stop).

The weather was quite nice. There was a mix of a tailwind and a crosswind, but nothing crazy. The temperature was in the upper-40s and it was overcast. Pretty much perfect conditions for marathoning. It was time to GO!

Miles 1-6 (6:48 pace)

7:05
6:48
6:43
6:44
6:40
6:51

I planned to start the race around 6:45 to 6:50 pace. When my first split beeped at 7:05, I was a bit concerned, as I felt like I was running at closer to 6:45 effort. I tried not to let it bother me too much and told myself that I just needed to warm up a bit and settle in. I was the lead female from the gun, so I had a bike escort with me the entire race. This would prove to be very beneficial during the final miles once the full marathoners caught up to the half marathoners. After the first mile, I pretty much settled in right where I needed to be. I had a couple of guys to run with here and there, but I never got to run with any sort of group to speak of. I took my first gel at mile 6. I didn’t feel like I needed it yet, but it is best to fuel “early and often” and I knew that I would need it down the road (literally and figuratively).

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Miles 7-12 (6:42 pace)

6:46
6:42
6:39
6:39
6:40
6:46

I got into a slightly better rhythm during the next section of the race. My splits were pretty consistent and I didn’t feel like I was working too hard. My mom and dad planned to meet me at mile 12 and I was really looking forward to seeing them! It was really nice to have things to look forward to along the way to help to break up the course a bit. I really like this point to point course, but it starts to feel a bit redundant after a little while. The course runs along the coast and the scenery is great, but with no turns, there just isn’t much to break up the monotony. I saw friends at several points along the way and that helped me tremendously. I took my second gel at mile 12. By then, I was actually ready for the gel and knew that I needed to take in as much as I could to keep myself running efficiently.

Mile 16

Miles 13-18 (6:26 pace)

6:37
6:29
6:24
6:19
6:23
6:23

Once I got to mile 13, I felt like the race was really just beginning. Mentally, I was feeling very good. I “only” had a half marathon to go! I never expected that to be a thought that I had during a marathon, but it was there and I went with it. I guess when you don’t go out too fast, you don’t feel like death halfway through. Who knew?!

My half marathon split was 1:28 and some change. I expected to be somewhere around 1:27, so I was pretty much right on pace. The good news was that I felt really strong and I was able to dig deeper and click off some quicker miles after the half. I saw my mom and dad again at mile 16 and as they drove by, I said to them, “I’m going to do this! Today is the day.” If you’ve run a marathon, you know that making a statement like this at mile 16 is a bit risky. A LOT can happen in the last 10 miles of the race, but there was literally no doubt in my mind that I was going to break 3 hours. The question then became by how much.

Mile 22

I took another gel at mile 17. I had been taking them in 6 mile increments, but that would’ve put the last one at mile 24, which wouldn’t have done me much good. I decided to do 17 and 22 instead and this seemed to work really well. I had a decent breakfast before the race (two granola bars with peanut butter and a banana) and I also had a serving of UCAN. Fueling wise, having breakfast, UCAN and four gels along the way seemed to work really well for me. I also took water at pretty much every water stop along the way. There were water stations every mile and a half or so and I only took a few sips each time, but this kept me properly hydrated during the race.

Miles 19-24 (6:20 pace)

6:17
6:16
6:17
6:15
6:25
6:30

I started to feel REALLY good during this section of the race. My coach told me before the race that if I felt good during the second half of the race that I needed to JUST GO. He said that at some point I would need to make a decision about how much I was willing to dig. The miles in the 6:teens were likely a bit rich, but it was a calculated risk that I was willing to take. I felt really strong and smooth and didn’t feel like I was too far out of my comfort zone.

I was passing tons of half marathoners at this point, as the half marathon started 30 minutes after the full and started halfway along the course (we all finished together). My bike escort was riding ahead of me and was letting people know that the “lead female” was coming through. Everyone was SO supportive! I got so much encouragement from the half marathoners. Lots of “you go girl,” “girl power,” etc. I loved it and it really pumped me up! I took my last gel at mile 22 and told myself to just get to mile 24. I knew I could will myself in for two more miles once I got to 24.

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Miles 25-26 (6:41 pace)

6:45
6:38
2:04

During mile 25, you run up the infamous interstate “on ramp” and run along I-110 for about a mile. The good news is that this year, we actually did run an entire mile on I-110 (the course was short last year and the snafu happened due to the placement of the turnaround cone on the interstate). The wind hadn’t been too much of an issue during the first 24 miles of the race, but when we turned north and starting running on the interstate, it was TOUGH. The wind was right in your face and it was definitely blowing. I think my effort stayed fairly consistent, but my pace faded some. I am so happy to be able to say that “my pace faded some” only means that it faded 15 to 20 seconds per mile. Believe me, there have been many a marathon in the past where my pace has faded closer to a two minutes per mile during the last part of the race.

The race finishes at MGM Park and you can see the finish line from I-110 as you run out during mile 25 and back during mile 26. I wasn’t even really thinking about what my overall time was at this point. I changed my watch over to average pace during the last two miles and I knew that my average pace was close to 6:35. I knew that I needed 6:30 average pace for 2:50 and 6:40 pace for 2:55, so I guess I could’ve deduced that my time was going to be somewhere in the middle, but I wasn’t really thinking clearly at that time. I made the turn into MGM Park as Guns N Roses Sweet Child of Mine played over the loudspeaker. They announced me as the first place female and I crossed the finish line in 2:53:05!

Finish Line 3

My previous best marathon time was 3:02:47, so this was almost a 10 minute PR (9:42). I am over the moon happy with this result!

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Post-Race

I was so happy to see my friends and family after the race! There were hugs all around. Of course as soon as I stopped running I was about to freeze to death, but otherwise, I was as happy as can be. My dad graciously let me wear his jacket. I’ve got several post-race photos in his trusty blue jacket actually now that I think about it.

Rebecca paced the 4:00 group, so we had a little while to hang around before she arrived (right on time, of course)! There ended up being a pretty good group of runners from our area that made the trip over to Biloxi, so we saw lots of friends and friendly faces. I was so happy to have Rebecca and Jessica there with me. They’ve both been like sisters to me over the years and running definitely wouldn’t be the same without these two.

Post Race 3

Going back to my pre-race mantras, this was BY FAR the smartest race I have ever run. I stayed patient (which is hard for me) and I trusted myself to pick it up when I needed to. My fueling was on point and I never really “crashed” or “hit the wall.” My mental game was also on point and I never went to a dark place. I trusted my training and it got me where I needed to go! This race was years in the making and I have learned so much along the way. As always, I am so thankful, both for the ability to run and for every mile that has brought me to this point.

Thanks for reading and following along with me on this crazy journey!

Marathon

Taper Thoughts

I am racing the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon THIS WEEKEND! Surprise!

I have been toying back and forth with the idea of quitting blog life (and I actually did for a while), but at least for now, I am going to do another post or two. I have an overdue Turkey Trot recap to write! I wrote a post at the beginning of this training cycle about “All the Small Things” that I planned to do this training cycle. I’m happy to report that, for the most part, the small things seem to have come together to make a big difference! In the above-referenced post, I wrote, “I am not going to be making drastic improvements. I am fighting for every second of improvement at this point.”

Cue Chandler Bing voice, “Could I have been any more wrong?” Fighting for every second is what I had been doing for years (years!) and that turned into taking minutes (minutes!) off of my 5K, 10K and half marathon times over the course of one training cycle. It should also be noted that I have trained at a fairly high level for many years and there is no way that this training cycle would’ve come together like it did had it not been for the solid foundation that I developed over the last 3 or 4 years (I didn’t run many PRs during those years, my fitness base continued to improve along the way).

I couldn’t be happier with how this training cycle has gone down. Being the analytical person that I am, I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect and jot down a few thoughts about this training cycle. Granted a few thoughts will likely become a very long post. You’ve been warned.

What happened you ask? You didn’t ask? Well, you are reading this post so I’ll just assume that you are somewhat curious. I changed up a good bit of training stimuli this cycle. I ran A LOT less and A LOT slower than I used to run. While this seems counterintuitive, it also seems to working for me (everyone is different!). I averaged 55-60 miles per week this training cycle, whereas in past marathon training cycles, I averaged closer to 75-80 miles per week. I also did zero doubles this training cycle, whereas I used to do two or three days of two runs per day each week. The longest I have run consecutively is 16 miles. I did 16 twice and 17 once, but the 17 mile day was the day of the half marathon, so there were some breaks in between the warm up, cool down, etc. I typically have gone up to 24 miles during previous training cycles (and even did a marathon last year as a training run during my goal race build up … I do NOT recommend that).

My legs feel so much fresher this training cycle and in general, I have a lot more energy. Granted, I haven’t actually raced the marathon yet, so we’ll see how the decreased mileage and long run translates come race day.

This specific training cycle was 14 weeks (including taper) and 815 miles long. 638 of those miles were EASY miles at 9:33 average pace! 57 miles were RACES (2 5Ks, 2 10Ks and a half marathon thus far) and the other 120 miles were WORKOUTS. In past training cycles, my easy run pace was likely closer to 8:30. We always hear to slow down your easy run pace and honestly, I thought I did a good job of that in the past, but … I took it to another level this time around! I think this has a lot to do with why I feel so fresh and have been able to really focus on crushing the workouts and races.

Mileage wise, this is what it looked like:

09/03/18: 55.80 miles
09/10/18: 56.05 miles
09/17/18: 61.55 miles
09/24/18: 63.25 miles
10/01/18: 64.95 miles
10/08/18: 60.00 miles
10/15/18: 60.60 miles
10/22/18: 64.00 miles
10/29/18: 64.60 miles
11/05/18: 48.75 miles
11/12/18: 57.35 miles
11/19/18: 52.60 miles
11/26/18: 50.30 miles
12/03/18: 55.70 miles

Workout wise, this is what it looked like (M = marathon pace and T = threshold pace):

2 mi. WU,  5 X 1k (4:01, 3:59, 3:58, 3:57, 3:53), 5 X 200 (37, 40, 38, 38, 39), 2 mi. CD
2 mi. WU, 8 mi. @ M (6:57, 6:54, 6:42, 6:47, 6:55, 6:39, 6:47, 6:48), 1 mi. CD
1 mi. WU, 8 X 800 @ T (3:20, 3:18, 3:18, 3:14, 3:14, 3:10, 3:11, 3:08), 1 mi. CD
2 mi. WU, 4 X 200 (41, 44, 42, 42), 4 mi. @ T (6:33, 6:31, 6:39, 6:23), 4 X 200 (42, 42, 44, 43), 2 mi. CD
4 mi. WU, 7 X 800 (2:56, 2:50, 2:51, 2:49, 2:53, 2:56, 2:53), 4 mi. CD
2 mi. WU, 8 X 1k @ T (3:52, 3:50, 3:47, 3:46, 3:52, 3:47, 3:48, 3:46), 5 X 200 (40, 42, 43, 41, 42), 2 mi. CD
4 mi. WU, 6 X 1k @ T (3:44, 3:38, 3:37, 3:37, 3:38, 3:37), 4 mi. CD
2 mi. WU, 2 mi. @ T (6:25, 6:30), 1 mi. @ T (6:22), 2 X 800 (2:54, 2:50), 2 mi. CD
3 mi. WU, 2 X 5 mi. @ M ((6:46, 6:44, 6:42, 6:45, 6:35), (6:41, 6:32, 6:35, 6:32, 6:27)), 2 mi. CD
3 mi. WU, 10 X 1:00 @ T (5:50 avg.), 3 mi. CD
2 mi. WU, 3 X 2 mi. @ T ((6:12, 6:12), (6:05, 6:10), (6:02, 6:04)), 1 mi. CD
2 mi. WU, 5 X 1k (4:01, 3:53, 3:48, 3:50, 3:49), 5 X 200 (40, 39, 39, 40, 39), 2 mi. CD
2 mi. WU, 10 mi. w/ varying paces @ M/T (6:31 avg.), 2 mi. CD
4 mi. WU, 10 mi. @ M (6:36 avg.), 2 mi. CD
2 mi. WU, 8 X 1:00 @ T (5:42 avg.), 2 mi. CD
3 mi. WU, 6 mi. @ M (6:26 avg.), 3 mi. CD
1.5 mi. WU, 4 X 1k (3:53, 3:44, 3:41, 3:36), 1.5 mi. CD

I have also focused more on strength work than I ever have before. I did Pilates every. single. week and core work every. single. day. Physically, I am stronger than I ever have been and I know that this has made a big difference in my running! I have also fueled better than I have in the past. I practiced taking gels during all of my long workouts and races. I have neglected this in previous training cycles and I am definitely seeing the benefits of proper pre-run fueling at this point.

Mentally, I am in a good place! I didn’t read any of the pre-race “mental toughness” books that I planned to read, but I don’t even really feel like I need external sources of mental strength at this point. Running brings me joy and nothing can take that joy away from me. I know that at some point (or well actually probably at several points) during this marathon, I am going to have to dig deep within myself to stay mentally strong. I’m actually excited about that and feel up for the challenge. My coach has helped me tremendously with this. He keeps everything very fun and relaxed and that has helped me to not take this thing too seriously. After all, it’s just running.

Let’s do this thing!

Holiday, Race Recap

Race Recap: Turkey Trot (PR!)

I ran in the local Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. I have a lot of love for the local Turkey Trot. It’s so much fun to start the day off with a race (granted, this applies to most any day of the year as well). We had over 1,100 runners this year! Woo!

My coach thought that I was in PR shape and that I had a chance to run under 18 minutes for the first time. We made a conscious decision to back off of marathon training for a week or so in order to be fresh and ready to go for this race. I actually wasn’t even sure that I was going to do a marathon at all at this point, so really going for it in the 5K sounded like an excellent plan to me.

The plan looked like this:

Mile 1: 5:50
Mile 2: 5:45
Mile 3: 5:40

I did a two mile warm up plus some strides and made my way to the start line.

The race start was chaotic, per usual. I steadily passed people the entire first mile. About half a mile in, we made an unexpected turn. There was road construction along the regular route and we were diverted. I wasn’t sure how this was going to affect the overall distance of the race (more to come on that), but I wasn’t going to let that mentally derail me during the first mile. I kept an eye on the pace during the first mile, mainly in an effort to not start out too quickly. It’s too easy to get caught up in all of the hype and excitement of the first mile and I didn’t want to crash in the final mile. My split for mile one was 5:47.

I was pleased with this split and was ready to keep my head down and keep pushing. I actually didn’t look at the pace at all during the second mile. In fact, when my watched beeped and I looked down at the split, I had to do a double take. Did that say 5:32? Surely it was 5:52! But no, it was 5:32. Goodness. I thought the third mile might be a bit of a struggle at that point, as I thought I had surely just pushed it way outside of the limit of what I was capable of running.

To my surprise, I was able to maintain and even slightly drop the pace during the last mile. My split for mile three was 5:30 (only a few seconds over my one mile PR (eek!)). Unfortunately, I came to the finish line a bit too quickly (i.e., the course was short). I had 3.05 miles on my watch when I crossed the finish line (the time was 17:02 at that point). There was absolutely NO WAY that I was stopping. I ran right through the finish chute like a madwoman. There were a few people in the way, but I managed to dodge them and didn’t take anyone out in the process. I continued my “race” down the street and over to the next block until my watch clicked over 3.10 miles. I know that I likely can’t “officially” count this time, but I really have no qualms calling this a PR. I finished with 17:22 on my watch, which is 50 seconds faster than my previous 5K PR (10 weeks prior).

Race Recap

Race Recap: Northshore Half Marathon (PR!)

Hey guys! I’ve got another race recap to share with you. I think I have officially overcome the fitness plateau where I was stuck on for seemingly years. It’s very rewarding to finally see the years of hard work paying off. I would absolutely work hard either way and I wouldn’t stop if I wasn’t seeing improvements, but it’s a very satisfying feeling for sure.

Last Sunday morning I ran the Northshore Half Marathon (formerly the Gulf Coast Half Marathon) in Mandeville, LA. This was my third time to run this race. The first year was 2011 (my time was 1:33:21 (7:07 pace)) and the second year was 2016 (my time was 1:32:18 (7:02 pace)). This is and has always been a very well-organized race. The parking, the bathrooms, everything along the course (volunteers, markings, aid stations, etc.) and the post-race awards were seamlessly executed and very efficient! I would highly recommend this race to anyone that is looking for a flat, fast fall half marathon.

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The course is beautiful. It starts in the Fontainebleau State Park, winds through some residential areas of Mandeville and runs along the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The race starts at 7, which is great! Usually I like it because it makes a big difference because of the heat and humidity, but this year we had cool temperatures and low humidity. It was an absolutely perfect day to run. We really couldn’t have handpicked better conditions. The temperature was in the upper fifties and the dew point was in the forties!

We went over to Mandeville the day before the race with Jessica and Wes. It was only about a two hour trip, but it was nice to get our packets the day before and also nice not to have to get up at 3 a.m. or something silly the day of the race in order to get there on time, which I have definitely done before.

Race morning was pretty low key and typical. I woke up around 4:45 a.m. and went in search for coffee (which I found in the lobby of our hotel). I drank two of the tiniest cups of coffee I have ever seen in my life (hence why I had two) and got ready fairly quickly. We were instructed to arrive at Fontainebleau State Park no later than 6 a.m. to avoid traffic issues. We got there just before 6 and had no trouble getting into the park or finding a parking spot. We hung out in the car for a few minutes and I took a gel and ate a banana while we waited (about 45 minutes before the race). Shortly thereafter we headed out to do a two mile warm up.

We timed everything pretty well and arrived back to the car about ten minutes prior to the race start. I quickly changed into my #fastshoes and made my way over to the start line and into the corral. I met a few fellow McKirdy Trained athletes while we waited, which was cool (hi Valerie & Jennifer)!

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The race plan looked like this:

First 6 miles: 6:20 – 6:25 pace
Second 6 miles: 6:15 – 6:20 pace
Last mile: We race!

Actual splits were:

First 6 miles: 6:26, 6:27, 6:12, 6:21, 6:15, 6:23 (6:21 average)
Second 6 miles: 6:25, 6:20, 6:26, 6:32, 6:27, 6:19 (6:24 average)
Last Mile: 6:17!

I don’t really have a play-by-play recap of this race. First of all, it’s been over a week ago now and I honestly don’t remember as much as I would have had I gotten to this recap sooner. Oh well. Life happens. Secondly, while it was a long race (relative to the other races I have done recently), there wasn’t a whole lot of excitement as far as passing people, etc. I was the second female from the starting gun to the finish line. The first place girl dropped me like a hot cake in the first half mile! She went on to run a 1:19 half marathon (6:01 pace), so that makes sense. At the time, I thought she might fade back at some point, but that definitely didn’t happen. She was smoking!

Daniel ran the first five miles of the race with me. In addition to the half marathon, there was also a 10 mile race option, which worked quite nicely. We worked together for those first five miles and then parted ways. I was jealous that he was half way done at that point and that I still had over 8 miles to go. Eight miles seemed like a really long way to run. Looking back at the splits, I see that miles 3 and 5 were a bit too quick. I felt fairly comfortable, but I wasn’t really able to pick the pace up at all during second half of the race.

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The half marathon course merged with the 10 mile course somewhere around mile 9 of the half marathon. This really didn’t affect me too much. We were running on a rail to trail section at that point and I had to weave around some of the runners, but it wasn’t problematic at all. Miles 9, 10 and 11 were the toughest of the day by far. I really felt like I was starting to fade. In actuality, I guess I didn’t fade as much as it felt like I did, but I definitely didn’t feel comfortable at all. I told myself to get to mile 10 and then it would just be a 5K to go. I was working possibly harder than I ever have before during a race in order to just keep the pace somewhat consistent.

When we got back into the park and made the final turn towards the finish line, I found another gear and added a bit of extra pep to my step. I averaged 10 seconds per mile faster during miles 12 and 13 than I had during miles 9, 10 and 11! I’m happy with that. Even though I was completely uncomfortable and working insanely hard, I still managed to dig just a little bit deeper. I repeated to myself over and over again to “finish strong,” and I feel like I did just that!

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I crossed the finish line in 1:23:22 (a one minute twenty second PR!) as the second female and eighth overall finisher. Daniel captured the above photo of me at the finish line. I knew he was running strong for the first five miles of his race, but after talking to him at the finish, I learned that he ran strong the entire race and came away with a 10 mile PR in a time of 1:03:51! We went back to the car briefly and then eagerly waited for Jessica to come in. She came in at 1:34:53, which was a PR as well! Woo hoo! PRs ALL AROUND. We were all ecstatic!

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Jessica and I headed out to do a two mile cooldown, giving us 17.5 miles for the day! Definitely a good day of quality marathon work. We stayed around for a little bit after the race and waited on the awards. The post-race party is always fun at this race and it was a beautiful day to be outside and soak up the sunshine and bask in the triumph of our PRs!

Race Recap

Race Recap: Shrimp Festival 10K (PR!)

Howdy friends!

I can’t believe that I am saying this, but I ran a PR at the Shrimp Festival 10K yesterday morning! After years of seemingly no major PRs, it feels absolutely incredible to see the pieces coming together and the hard work paying off.

I had a 4:45 alarm set for a 5:30 departure Saturday morning. I made coffee, looked over my race plan and wrote my paces on my hand before we left the house. I’ve mentioned it before, but I really think that the process of thinking about the paces and having it “tattooed” (temporarily) on your body, makes you more accountable and more invested in the plan. We dropped my car off at work on the way to the race (it was on the way anyway) and arrived at the Orange Beach Sportsplex around 6:30. I still needed to get registered, which was a very quick, seamless process. They had laptops for us to use to get registered day of and the race was actually chip timed this year (so fancy)!

My pre-race “plan” had me doing a 2 mile warm up about thirty to forty minutes out from the race, taking a gel about ten minutes out and then doing a few strides right before it was time to roll. Daniel ran the warm up miles with me. It felt absolutely ahh-mazing out. The temperature and dew point were in the LOW 60s, which is quite the change from any racing conditions we’ve had over the last 6 months. We ran into Lizzie and Jill along the way. We don’t get to run together as much as I’d like for us to, but it’s always so nice to see sweet friends.

We made it back to the car right on schedule and I made a last-minute wardrobe change into my McKirdy Trained singlet. I had on a different tank that started to feel like it was weighing me down (it was falling down in the front and becoming a dress) during the warm up and I didn’t want to deal with that mid-race. I changed into my #fastshoes, took a Huma gel and made my way over to the start line.

The race plan looked like this:

Miles 1 and 2: 6:05 – 6:10
Miles 3 and 4: 6:00 – 6:05
Miles 5 and 6: 5:55 – 6:00
Last two tenths: Roll Tide! My coach actually wrote this in my race plan, which I thought was both hilarious and amazing!

I had a wonderful pre-race pep talk with my coach on Thursday evening and after that conversation, I KNEW that I was ready to do this thing. If I ran at the upper end of the range for each mile, I would’ve been close to 38:00 and if I ran at the lower end of the range for each mile, I would’ve been close to 37:30. My previous PR was 38:32, so either way, it seemed like a PR was within reach. Granted you never know what might happen out there, but it felt really good going into the race knowing that my fitness was there and I was ready.

The race starts and finishes at the Orange Beach Sportsplex and runs on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail (a trail system with over fifteen miles of trails throughout Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and the Gulf State Park). The trails are all paved and it’s a great location for a race. The only minor drawback is that the GPS satellites have a tendency to be a little wonky. Thankfully, I didn’t have any issues with mine yesterday!

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I started out pretty much right on the start line. I felt pretty confident that I would be within the top 5 to 10 runners, so I didn’t feel bad about taking a front spot. I wasn’t sure who, if anyone, I would be able to run with going into the race, but as it turned out I had two guys to chase for the majority of the race. I LOVE having someone to work with and chase during a race and I was so thankful to have those guys up there. I settled into third place overall within the first half mile and that’s where I stayed until the fourth mile. I know that isn’t super exciting or anything, but it is what it is.

The guys in front of me were only a few yards ahead and their pacing was right on point with what I planned to do. My splits for the first four miles were 6:06, 6:04, 6:03 and 5:57. I didn’t look at my watch during the miles at all. I did, however, look to see my splits. Sometimes I get into a bad habit of looking down during the mile as much as every quarter-mile, which I think only seems to make the miles feel longer. I didn’t do that and the miles truly seemed to be flying by. I felt strong, smooth and in control.

I knew that miles five and six would be a challenge. John and I talked about this a good bit during our pre-race chat. He told me that I would have a gut check around mile five and that was when it was time to really get serious about racing. He also suggested focusing on anything that wasn’t hurting (eyelids were his suggestion :)). I passed the second place guy and caught up to the first place guy during mile five, so that mile really didn’t seem to be that bad. I had other things to focus on at least. My split for mile 5 was 5:58.

As it turned out, mile six is where things really started to feel tough for me. The great thing about that was that I knew I only had about 5 or 6 minutes to go. I knew I could hold on. I also knew it just might hurt a lot in the process. I was running right behind the first place guy at this point and I assumed that we would work together for the duration of the last mile. Unfortunately, just passed the fifth mile marker, he almost took at wrong turn! We were turning right to head back along the same trail that we had run out on, but the 5K runners were going the other way and he started to turn left. I said, “I think we go right,” and continued right without any hesitation. He lost a second or two at that turn and I hated to make the final pass in a situation like that, but at the same time, it is the runners responsibility to know the course.

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Even though I was struggling a bit, the last mile also went by very quickly. The 5K runners are running the opposite way on the trail and it’s always motivating to see all the other runners and get a few words of encouragement. I love out and back courses for this reason. I told myself to stay strong, to finish strong, to run strong … basically just BE STRONG. Before I knew it, I was at the sixth and final mile marker. My split for mile 6 was 5:59! All that was left was to kick it in (or roll tide it in as the plan prescribed) to the home stretch. I tried to make a conscious effort to pick the pace up. My final two tenths were 5:41 pace! Whew. My official time was 37:30! Just over a one minute PR! Holy smokes. I was on cloud 9 and over the moon. I think I paused at cloud 9 briefly on my way over the moon!

I stumbled back to the car, feeling tired but incredibly euphoric at the same time. I texted my coach and he immediately called me to talk about the race. I was still a little bit out of breath as I tried to tell him how it went. I texted everyone I could think of that would be interested in the outcome (not that it is a long list) and then headed out to do a couple of cool down miles. Daniel ran the cool down miles with me as well, which was nice. We called it a day after two miles and made our way over to the post-race party and the awards.

I needed to get back to go to work, but I couldn’t not stay for the awards after a race like that. I’m so glad that I stayed too, because not only did I get to visit with my friends for a bit longer, but also I got all the amazing prizes. I got a medal, a coffee cup and a really pretty shrimp painting (that just so happens to match the “color scheme” of our house). Sweet! I honestly would’ve probably just been happy with the medal and the coffee cup, but the painting just really put it over the top.

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Even after all that, I still made it in to work by about 10:30. I felt like complete and total garbage when I got there, but I went and got it done. My head was poudning, my stomach was “unsettled,” and my heart rate was definitely still elevated, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. I knew I had done some solid work that morning and I was so happy about it. Runners are so weird. After my solid work on the roads (or paved trails in this case), I did some solid work on the taxes. Just two more returns to wrap up by tomorrow (and yes, one of those is my own)!

 

CIM, Marathon, Weekly Recap

Training Log – 10.07.18 (CIM Week 6)

Hey friends!

Life is a bit crazy and tax deadlines are a bit stressful. While I am a bit behind on my training log post this week, I am frankly just doing good to know what day of the week it is at this point (and I do know that it is Friday :))!

Last week will forever been remembered as the week of all the thousands!

Here is what training looked like the week of 10.01.18 – 10.07.18:

Monday – Easy: 8 miles (9:29 pace)

Tuesday AM – Easy: 8 miles (9:21 pace) + PM – Pilates

I’m still going strong with the Pilates and still enjoying it very much!

Wednesday – Quality: 10.5 miles (8:02 pace)

Wednesday’s workout was a two mile warm up, 8 X 1000 @ threshold pace w/ one minute rest, 5 X 200 w/ 200 rest and a two mile cool down. We took the workout to the roads Wednesday, as threshold pace is more manageable than what would have otherwise needed to be taken care of on the track. I set the workout up on my watch the night before and tried to map out a good location on the road for the repeats.

In hindsight, doing this workout on the road (in the dark) was maybe not the best of ideas, but I knew that I was going to be doing more thousands at a quicker pace on Saturday and I just didn’t like the idea of running at the track for both workouts. I also think that it’s good to do some workouts on the roads too, since the marathon will be on the road and there will be gradual ups and downs in the terrain along the way. We found a stretch of road with minimal traffic and got it done!

My splits for the thousands were 3:52, 3:50, 3:47, 3:46, 3:52, 3:47, 3:48 and 3:46. My goal pace for these was actually 6:17 pace and I somehow ended up averaging 6:07 pace. I’m not entirely sure how that happened, but I just went with it.

My splits for the two hundreds were: 40, 42, 43, 41 and 42.  Doing the 200s on the road was definitely a bit tricky, but all in all, we managed to get this one taken care of, which is a victory in and of itself.

Thursday – Easy: 10 miles (9:47 pace)

My easy runs somehow seem to be getting slower and slower, but my coach has actually reassured me that this is perfectly acceptable. He’s even mentioned a couple of times that I am very good at taking it easy when needed. Don’t have to tell me twice!

Friday – Easy: 8 miles (9:29 pace) 

Saturday – Quality: 12.75 miles (8:47 pace) 

Saturday’s workout was a four mile warm up, 6 X 1000 @ 5K pace w/ two minutes rest and a four mile cool down. The thousands on Saturday were supposed to be done at 5K pace, which was made this workout a bit more challenging than Tuesday’s threshold workout. The four mile warm up and four mile cool down also made this workout a bit more challenging, but also made it a great marathon prep workout!

My splits for the thousands were 3:44, 3:38, 3:37, 3:37, 3:38, 3:37. My goal pace for these was 5:46 pace and I ended up averaging 5:51 pace. It’s still quite difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that this is my 5K pace! I was very pleased with the consistency of the last 5 repeats, which were all within 1 second of each other. I couldn’t do that again if I tried. While I was a bit slower than my goal pace, I felt in control the entire time. I even felt like I could have done another one or two repeats at that same pace. Granted, I didn’t want to do any more than I did, but if I had to, I think I could have.

I had a runner fail moment during the cool down, as I forgot to start my watch back when we started running and I didn’t realize it until it started to go into power save mode (half a mile later). I was temporarily devastated (slightly exaggerating for effect), but was quickly relieved to remember that Jessica could “tag” me in her run on Strava and I would get credit for all of my miles! Phew.

Sunday – Easy: 8.4 miles (10:01 pace)

Total – 65.4 miles

Have a great weekend!

CIM, Marathon, Weekly Recap

Training Log – 09.30.18 (CIM Week 5)

Happy Sunday Wednesday! Better late than never I suppose.

I ran lots of easy miles and two quality workouts last week! Here is what my training looked like the week of 09.24.18 – 09.30.18:

Monday – Easy: 8 miles (9:20 pace)

Tuesday – Quality: 10.35 miles (7:47 pace) 

My workout Tuesday was a two mile warm up, 4 X 200, 4 mile tempo, 4 X 200 and a two mile cool down. We had a good little group that met for this one! Always nice. We did the warm up and the first set of 200s on the track and then took it the road for the tempo portion. Daniel made a 4 mile loop that started and ended at the track, so that we were able to hop back onto the track for the final set of 200s after the tempo. Those final 200s were tough!

The goal pace for the 200s was 43 seconds (5:46 pace) and the goal pace for the tempo was 6:20 to 6:30 pace. Splits were as follows:

200s: 41, 44, 42, 42
Tempo: 6:33, 6:31, 6:39, 6:23
200s: 42, 42, 44, 43

The first set of 200s felt great! The tempo portion definitely felt harder than I was expecting. I struggled in the third mile, but somehow managed to rally a bit and finished with a solid final mile. It started raining on us halfway through the tempo miles, which perhaps wasn’t ideal, but felt quite nice. It was lightning and thundering a little during the final 200s and the cool down, but thankfully we were able to finish up the workout before we had to deal with any sort of major storms.

Wednesday AM – Easy: 8 miles (9:15 pace) + PM – Pilates

Thursday – Easy: 8 miles (9:12 pace)

Friday – Easy: 6.5 miles (9:22 pace) 

Saturday – Quality: 12.4 miles (8:18 pace) 

Saturday’s workout was a four mile warm up, 7 X 800 and a four mile cool down. Jessica came over and ran this workout with me! We used our same four mile route from Tuesday’s workout for our warm up and cool down miles. The 800s were done at 5K pace, which was definitely challenging. My coach texted me Friday asking if I was ready for the “big dawg” workout the next day. I knew it was going to be tough, but I hadn’t really thought about the fact that my “new” 5K pace was much quicker than I have ever run for 800 repeats. My goal pace for the 800s was 5:46! Eek.

My actual splits were 2:56, 2:50, 2:51, 2:49, 2:53, 2:56, 2:53, which averages to 2:52 and exactly 5:46 per mile! The first few 800s felt super easy and relaxed. I was shocked! Then all of a sudden, on the second lap of the fifth repeat … things got real. The last two repeats were very challenging. My pace faded a bit, but nothing too crazy. For a hot minute there at the end, I thought that the four mile cool down was going to be the hardest part of the entire workout, but once we got moving, we settled into a good groove and got it knocked out.

Sunday – Easy: 10 miles (8:58 pace)

Total – 63.3 miles

Have a great week!