Victoria BC Canada half marathon 10/13/13

WOW. I am amazed, baffled, astounded at how this race went for me. Let’s just get the big part out of the way – I was hoping to break 2:10, and at least PR (current PR is 2:12:58), but NOTHING could have prepared me for the number I ended up with:

That there is also a 10k PR!

That there is also a 10k PR!

WHAT. Just WHAT. How the crap did I pull that off?! Even more astounding to me was Henry the Garmin’s report:

Holy poop!

Holy poop!

Not a single 10+-min-mile to be found. And mile 12, what whaaaaaaaat? How on earth did I pull off a sub-9-min-mile in a half marathon!? How the crap did I run at a 9:17 average for the whole race? (I’ve run 5ks at a slower pace than that!)

There were a few significant things I did different during this training cycle, a few of which had me convinced this would probably be a SLOW race for me:

1. I did about 95% of my training runs on the treadmill, and the vast majority of those were at a 0% incline, because I’m lazy and hate hills.

2. I had that dumb 2-month cough that interrupted my training a bit over the summer.

3. I started doing halfhearted speedwork (400m sprints and Higdon-style tempo runs) this time around.

Maybe it was number 3 that made the biggest difference, who knows! I think maybe doing my 10-milers on the treadmill may have helped me in ways – I did take walk breaks during them, but they kind of taught me to hold a consistent pace and keep going (whereas when I run them outdoors my pace goes all over the place). I am a notorious hater of hills as well, and while this course isn’t totally flat (there are a lot of mild undulations and a few gradual uphill slogs), there are no giant ego-crushing monster hills like there are at NODM and Seattle RnR. I think as a result of that I was able to run every step of this half marathon and didn’t take a single walk break – that’s a first for me!

not flat, not ridiculously hilly. Think this is my new favorite course, sorry NODM.

not flat, not ridiculously hilly. Think this is my new favorite course, sorry NODM.

The day before the race we hauled our crap on the boat over to Victoria and hit up the expo first thing to get it out of the way, then wandered around being touristy for awhile. We ended up going to one of the several Irish pubs downtown to carb load – and the pasta at the Garrick’s Head Pub was actually pretty fantastic! I also had probably the best cider I’ve ever tried.

delicious, delicious carb loading and the BEST CIDER EVER AMG

delicious, delicious carb loading and the BEST CIDER EVER AMG

Dusk was falling as we wandered back in the direction of our hotel and though I’ve been to Victoria countless times I couldn’t resist snapping some of the typical touristy photos. Our route went by the Parliament building and we stopped by the finish line that was still getting set up, on the road right out in front of the building:

The Parliament building (top, where the race started/finished) and the ivy-covered Empress Hotel

The Parliament building (top, where the race started/finished) and the ivy-covered Empress Hotel

See you tomorrow, finish line.

See you tomorrow, finish line.

I was up at the miserably early hour of 5:30am and promptly chugged coffee and got dressed. One advantage of having a hotel so close to the race start was that I didn’t have to use the portapotties, but rather the warm hotel bathroom… yesssssss. It was FRIGID and I decided to keep my long-sleeved running top on, even though I know I’m my own little furnace and odds were good that I’d be tying it around my waist at some point. After a rousing rendition of “O, Canada” (ha it had never occurred to me up until that point that other countries might, you know, sing their own anthems before sporting events) we were off!

It’s been kind of a trend now with my last few halfs (halves?) that I feel really stiff and awkward for the first mile or so and wonder what I’ve gotten myself into, but this is probably more because I don’t usually run at 7:30 in the morning. This race was no different and as we looped around the parliament buildings and up by the harbor I felt like I was running through jello, but I was still passing people pretty consistently. I remember glancing down at the Garmin somewhere around here and seeing a sub-9-min-mile pace. Oops!

I was yanking my overshirt off by mile 2. I should have known I wouldn’t need it! It became my awkward waist buddy from that point on, flapping against the back of my legs for the remainder of the race. You’d think I would have learned my lesson after last year, but noooooooo…

Somewhere in the first few miles, as we were going up a hill, I passed a guy in a wheelchair who was wearing a racing bib. This wasn’t a sport wheelchair though, this was a regular old standard wheelchair, and he was wheeling himself along the course. I couldn’t help but be impressed by how hardcore that was. I can’t imagine propelling myself through 13.1 miles with my arms!

The course takes its first real uphill jaunt into a few loops around a pretty big park right about mile 3.5 or 4. I only really remember this because I took my first Gu at mile 3.5 and also because I hit the 5k mark in the park at a number not far off from my PR, which was a little scary, but I was feeling good so I just went with it. The uphill sections were a little slow but I just kept putting my feet to the ground and trying to take quick, short steps.

Coming out of the park we hit the long section of road that travels right along the coast of the Strait of Juan de Fuca:

A good section of the course is out along the water like this - it's beauuuuuuutiful. And you can see my hometown across the way!

A good section of the course is out along the water like this – it’s beauuuuuuutiful. And you can see my hometown across the way!

This part is all fairly downhill/flat (but is part of an out and back, so what goes down must go up in this case) and easy to just plow through. The sun was in our faces a bit and I kind of wished I’d brought along my runglasses. Also, the signs that said “water stop ahead” along this part might as well have said “slip and slide zone ahead” in my Pureflows… man I love those shoes, but they do not grip a wet road at all! This part of the race went really quickly though and before I knew it we were curving up a slight hill into the residential part of the race, which winds through some neighborhoods before looping around at a turnaround point shortly before mile 8. I vaguely remembered this part from last year but couldn’t remember exactly where the turnaround was and kept hoping to see it just around the next bend (which is always annoying when it ISN’T). I kept looking at my watch here as well and seeing numbers I totally did not expect, not to mention the fact that I was way ahead of pace to hit my goal of 2:10. But I still felt good and just kept going with it!

At mile 7 I took Gu #2 and shortly after that hit the turnaround. I have a memory from this part of the course with Laurel last year – she wanted to take an extra long walk break as we ate GUs, so we walked and enjoyed knowing we were more than halfway done. This year I rolled on through and back through the residential part of the course. I remembered at this point last year Laurel and I started to see the super-fast elite full marathoners (and the guy in a business suit) and realized I wasn’t seeing any this year yet… probably because I was running quite a bit faster this year!

I popped back out onto the road running by the water for the “back” portion and set myself down for the uphills I knew were coming. On one of them a guy was standing outside his house with cups on a tray, and as runners would reach for them he’d yell “it’s not water!” At that point I saw his sign – FREE BEER! Haha. I allllllmost went for it, but you know, nothing new on race day and all that.

I saw the guy in the wheelchair again around this point going the other way – still chugging along! SO HARDCORE. Huge props for that guy, I was tired and his arms must have been killing him.

At mile 10 I took my final GU (I didn’t do a 3rd one at NODM or Seattle RnR and felt pretty dead in the last few miles, so figured I should go ahead with it this time) and chugged up the gradual uphills back in the direction of the park (which thankfully we would run by instead of looping around again).

Heading up one of the longish moderate hills in mile 11

Heading up one of the longish moderate hills in mile 11, on the “back” part of the out and back

I kept seeing faster times than I expected on my watch and going holy crap, well, ok! The race had seemed to go by pretty fast up to this point but I was starting to get tired (the complete lack of walk breaks probably also contributed to this) and time began to drag. We hit a long downhill in mile 12 (see my Garmin’s clocking above) and I tried to use it to my advantage and just blitzed it, passing a bunch of people in the process. I knew once I got through this mile we’d twist through a few windy streets and then be heading straight for the finish, which was a part I remember being really fun last year, but last year I wasn’t racing faster than I ever have before for the distance. I tried to distract myself and cranked my music as I came off the bottom of the hill and headed into the final mile, just trying to keep my feet chugging. (sorry to the spectators who saw me dancing like a dork!)

As we moved into the final winding streets I spotted a photographer – right after I coughed in front of him, which he so kindly preserved on film for me:

I noticed him right after this and was like oh great..

I noticed him right after this and was like oh great.. also, charming sweat mark there!

After a final annoying hill there was the 800m to go sign (of course all I could think was agh, that’s half a mile!) and further down I could see the row of flags over the course! I tried to pick up the pace but my feet felt like rocks. And there was the finish, so close and yet so far away – but I could see the clock counting down and knew that unless I totally biffed it I was going to shatter my goal of hitting 2:10. I tried to give it all I had and crossed the finish with pretty much nothing left to spare.

Apparently it took me 3+ min to cross the start line!

Apparently it took me 3 min to cross the start line!

I found Laurel on the sidelines shortly after and showed her the frozen face of my Garmin with my shiny new PR plastered across it:

I just noticed you can see Gu on my arm from where I wiped my mouth. Hot

I just noticed you can see Gu on my arm from where I wiped my mouth. Hot

She wasn’t allowed into the immediate recovery area so I collected my medal, grabbed the free milk and bananas and etc, and worked my way through the masses to reunite with her and gimp-walk up to the same waffle place we hit up after the race last year for the best recovery breakfast evaaaa.

We've done this twice, it's now a tradition.

We’ve done this twice, it’s now a tradition.

Afterward we walked back to the hotel (well she walked and I shuffled) where she rubbed my legs down (having massage therapist friends = bonus!) and I had a nice soak with a Lush bath bomb, which unfortunately had the side effect of giving me a raging migraine for a few hours (memo to self, drink more water and don’t immediately suck all the moisture out of your body with hot water next time) but I recovered in time for us to go out for a dericious recovery meal and drinks later that afternoon. We spent an additional day in Victoria just being touristy and enjoying not having to rush back home… and in all it was a great weekend, a fantastic PR race (I’d probably call this my favorite course ever at this point), and full of all the fattening delicious carbs my stomach could ever desire!

Seattle RnR recovery… and what’s next?

This was me the first few days after the Seattle RnR half:

My personal TMI of suckiness: getting on and off the toilet. I felt like an 89-year-old woman!

I was actually pretty jazzed up after the race and looking forward to my next half, the Victoria BC half on Oct 13, since I remember it being overall fairly flat and fun when I ran it with my friend Laurel last year. (It also might have been more “fun” since it was her first half and I ran it with her at her slower pace, but there’s nothing like a first impression!) I’m even considering bumping up to the Intermediate training plan (gasp!) and adding SPEEDWORK (gasp!) and maaaaaaybe seeing if I can inch toward a 2-hour half!

Then I saw this awesome deal posted by Gametiime on twitter:

Now, I have avoided Seattle’s hometown race up until this point, for several reasons – it’s December 1st (winter in Seattle is typically a never-ending foggy cloud of rain, slush, drizzles, more rain, and some showers to go with it), I always hear it’s a ridiculously hilly course (me and hills are like cats and bathtubs full of water), and I’m poor and can’t afford to run ALL THE RACES, so I pick ones I know I (should) enjoy. But I guess you can’t really judge a race till you’ve run it yourself, and this deal was too good to pass up. So – I’m now registered for the Seattle half on 12/1! (At least there should be Christmas lights up by then and I can throw some Christmas tunes on my playlist? Yeah, I said it.)

Why not the full, you ask? Because reasons. I just don’t know if I could run a full. The amount of training time involved is substantially more than that required for a half… and I’m tired enough after 13.1 miles… why double that?! Then again, running a full is one of those bucket-list-type accomplishments that it seems every runner has to check off at least once, and there is a tiny part of me that kind of wants to see if I could do it. I don’t know. Maybe someday, I guess.

Until then, I’m nursing my sore ankle (it was feeling ok so I tried 3 miles on the treadmill last night, which felt fine, but I woke up this morning and it was more sore than it had been, so I probably need to back off) and easing back into training. I’m scheduled to run a midnight 4th of July 5k next week; I might just take a break from running until then and try to run it easy.. perhaps in costume?

What about you, fair reader – have you ever run a full marathon? If you have, were you terrified of tackling it, and how did you overcome that? If you haven’t run one, is it on your running bucket list?

Onward and upward!

Half training, activate!

I celebrated the start of training by gaining 3 pounds over the weekend. Oops! Ah well, I’m still in far better shape right now than I was at this time last year (both speed and weight wise) so I won’t let my dreams of a PR be dashed quite yet. I got another one of my favorite running bras (let’s just say I am not the most well-endowed, and this bra has the dual bonus of ensuring I will never suffer from headlight-heavy race photos, ever again!) and a new pair of running shorts –  actually my first pair of Brooks shorts, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to wear them by themselves and not have to layer a longer pair underneath. (Did I mention I am not a big fan of my thighs?) They are shooooort! Shorter than I’m used to, but as long as I don’t suffer from chub rub and don’t accidentally flash the world whilst running in them, I’ll give them a shot… they were seemingly comfortable on their maiden voyage on my treadmill, but 3 miles in the privacy of my home is a little different than 13.1 on the roads with thousands of people watching…

In one of those “HEY I’m training now and I should maybe, you know, eat healthy all the time” moments I got a sudden urge to learn how to roast broccoli, found this recipe/guide online, and as I sit am now curiously waiting out the 20 minutes to try this (hopefully) delicious and blessedly carb-free “dinner.” (I’m not what you’d call handy in the kitchen by any means, I can make like… three things, two of which are breakfasts and so don’t really count. Maybe that should have been a New Year’s goal… learn to cook a 4th thing.)

I’ve been kind of (loosely) following the Skinny Rules, the hardest of which is the “no carbs after lunch” thing – I dunno about you but carbs are the best thing ever, and resisting their siren song is TOUGH for me. Why are the tasty things so fattening?! I know if I want to drop the 10 pounds I gained back, though, I need to be a leeeeeettle stricter with what I shove into my mouth. Pretty much this:

But but… donuts!

I can totally empathize with this girl, yo:

ahahhaah so true

Yeah, pretty much.

Well hellooooo

Jeez! I have been an absentee blogger lately. Truth be told I had a lot of relationship drama explode in my life over the last 3-4 months and it kind of sucked the motivation and discipline out of me and replaced it with kind of a depressed apathy about most everything in my life, including running. I’ve still been running but it has been a bit inconsistent and not at all following the half marathon training I’m supposed to be doing right now.

In spite of that, I lost about 15 pounds and I think purely due to that my natural speed has automatically increased – I realized I was going faster than before with the same amount of perceived effort – like I was suddenly just going faster without feeling like I was trying any harder. When I ran 6 miles effortlessly under an hour I knew something had seriously changed – I’ve struggled to maintain even a 10:30 pace on runs over 4 miles in the past. I guess hauling around less of myself really does make a big difference!

But, I’m kind of left in a weird place where my first half marathon of the year is in less than a month (NODM on June 3) and I have about 2 weekends left to get long runs in -I completed 7 this last weekend and I know if I can hit 8, 9, and 10 over the next few weeks, I’ll actually probably be able to finish the race (hopefully without injuring myself in the process) – but I wish I hadn’t let my training kick rocks the way I did over the last few months. I was hoping to PR and I still might with my newfound increased speed but it won’t be the MEGA AWESOME race I was hoping for. I guess there’s still Rock n Roll Seattle on June 23rd to shoot for!

Running resolutions

I’ve never been big on new year’s resolutions. The stereotypical 2-weeks-guns-blazing that turns to inevitable failure has never been my thing. These little stats for 2011, however, made me want to set some new year’s GOALS:

Miles ran in 2011: 537 (lol.. still have time to increase that, though!)
Pounds lost gained in 2011: 7 (ughh)
Half-marathons completed: 3
5ks completed: 9

Looking at my new year’s post from last year, I hit most of my goals (basically completing the halves, though I paid off a bit of debt too and stopped playing WoW), though that “pounds gained” stat kind of sucks. At this point last year I was down 17 pounds from my starting weight of 170, clocking in at 153; as of yesterday, I’m weighing in at 160. Boo! My weight has been a pretty steady plateau… I just can’t seem to lose anything. I know it’s mostly my eating and that’s one thing I’d like to rein in this year, along with better/more consistent mileage (and just MORE miles in general).

I’m planning to start half training again Feb 12th and get into a consistent rhythm of running 3 times a week in the weeks leading up to that. I’m going for Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 half plan this year, a slight step up from last year.

My watermark goals are:

-Beat my half marathon PR (2:27:36) and maybe even push for a 2:15 finish. I’d really just like to get my average half pace under an 11 min mile >_>

-Beat my 5k PR (29:27) which may happen naturally during my more rigid half training

-Lose 11 pounds and get down to 149! I know I can do that, it’s not THAT lofty a goal. It’s going to take some work, though, given my track record.

Here’s to a great 2012!

My bro, me, my friend Garrett's buddy Brandon, and my friend Garrett at our work Christmas party.. I left my coat on the whole night, haha! #sociallyawkward

Victoria BC half marathon – registered!

My friend Laurel, who recently ran her first 5k with me, expressed interest in running a half marathon next year with me and also her dad, who has been looking to get into shape and start running again. We looked at a bunch of the summer halfs around Seattle but due to Laurel not being done with college courses until late June, a fall one looked much better in terms of time to train (and of course weather, since I loathe racing in the heat). Victoria sounded like a great option – it’s an hour’s ferry ride away from our hometown (we literally grew up next door to each other and made many trips to Victoria over the years), it’s an awesome city, the race is in early October, and Laurel has some strange love for all things Canadian, so what better way to go at her first 13.1?

The early bird rate of $60 (Canadian!) lasts until May 15th but of course I couldn’t contain myself and went ahead and registered last week. I’m committed now! I’m pretty excited; all of my previous halfs (halves?) were run solo-style, and having Laurel and her dad along will be awesomesauce. I don’t care how fast or slow we go, I’m stoked to run this race with my best buddy. Hopefully everything works out and she’s able to sign up and train as well… haha.

She currently lives about 2 hours north, where she’s going to college, and I’m already thinking I could drive up or take the train on weekends to meet her for long runs. HA, my wheels are spinning and there’s still 11 months to go before the race!

This will also be my first race in another state, or country for that matter… hurray!

2011?!

Wow, time sure flies these days… I think that’s a sure sign of getting older. 2010 was a pretty great year for me – I started running in May, have completed 2 5ks, and have lost about 17 pounds since I started, even though my training has been a bit sporadic the last month or so with the holidays. I think you can even tell!

I also came down with an energy-sucking cold the week of Christmas and basically took that whole week off, wallowing in all the crapulence and coughing that colds bring. But now that it’s the new year (and I’m finally feeling better) it’s time to start it off right, with some goals! (I don’t really believe in “resolutions” so much as the average resolution only lasts 2 weeks…)

The biggest of these goals, naturally, are to successfully train up to and finish the 2 half-marathons I signed up for this year – NODM on June 5 and the RnR Seattle half on June 25th. I have about 6 months to prepare so that should be doable ;) – and after that point my legs will probably want to mutiny and detach from my body in protest.

In other life matters, I’d like to be a fruitful fig tree, get my finances a little more under control (maybe pay off some credit cards!), and spend my time a bit more wisely instead of choosing to drown all my free time in mindless entertainment (I’m looking at you, WoW). Maybe I’ll sign up for more races to keep my time/mind occupied with training and improving my running, and maybe even cross training regularly instead of, oh, once every few months… *whistles innocently*

I’m planning to go to the gym tonight (I cannot WAIT until it’s light enough outside after work that I can run around my neighborhood instead of on a dreadmill) but I just realized it’s likely to be packed with people who made new year’s resolutions to get in shape… maybe I should give it 2 weeks? ;)

My current loose plan for my half marathons is to start Hal Higdon’s beginner half training plan on Feb 13, which gives me 12 weeks plus 3 “floater/emergency” weeks (and a St Patrick’s Day 4mile race thrown in there) until my first half, NODM on June 5th. Until Feb 13th, I plan to run 3 times a week and gradually increase my “long” (i.e. long for me) runs in half mile increments, so I should be up to a 6 mile long run by the time I start half training.

After NODM I will take an easy week or 2 and then just try to maintain fitness until my second half, the Seattle Rock and Roll half on June 25th! Then we’ll see how much my body hates me and take the second part of the year from there….

Craziness!

I just signed up for the Rock n Roll Seattle 1/2 Marathon next June! And yes, that means I’ll run 2 halfs that month – the NODM half on June 5 and then RnR on June 25th. A nice crashing introduction to the marathon experience!

I was on the fence until I saw the contest you’re automatically entered into for registering today – so if you’ve been thinking about this event, now is the time! :)

Now to pick up the training… gotta get rid of those 4 Thanksgiving pounds that crept up on me! Boot camp tonight (ack) should start me off with a bang…

Things that have changed (via running)

Since picking up the torch (and my feet) back in May, I’ve slowly noticed changes in my life and self. They didn’t just march up and make themselves obvious; most were small, gradual changes I didn’t really notice until I thought about it.

The good:
-I can walk up the giant flight of stairs between my work and the street above without my heart threatening to burst out of my chest
-Beyond that, I can walk the 4 blocks uphill to my bus stop and my heart rate returns to normal far quicker than before
-17 pounds gone!
-My jeans are a lot looser, YAY! Maybe I will actually be able to wear my snowboarding pants this year
-Water tastes a lot better (don’t really know how to explain this one)
-I actually fit into my knee-high boots now! and my legs do look better too

The not-as-good:
-I have to shave my legs more often in the winter. Ha, ha
-I stink when I ride the bus home after I’ve been at the gym
-I’m hungry ALL THE TIME
-I have what seem to be perma-callouses on my feet from blisters (no black toenails yet, but I’m not exactly running long yet)
-wearing spandexy pants in public

All in all I’d say it was a pretty good tradeoff ;)

Oh, and to wrap up from my last post, the Breeder’s Cup Classic last Saturday was amazing – Zenyatta didn’t win, but put on a performance you have to see to believe, and came extremely close to keeping her undefeated record intact after struggling with the track and dropping completely out of the race in the early stages…