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!

Ugh

I have a 4-miler on my plate for this weekend (yes, that is still my “long” run) but the weather forecast is looking way awesome:

booo

yay, Seattle!

In other news I did 2 miles on the treadmill at the gym today and I have about 7 weeks till the next 5k I’m signed up for.. maybe I can get a little more consistent with the training schedule before then instead of skipping my cross training EVERY WEEK >_>

HH10k week 5 day 5: chug chug

Did my weekly 2 miles + random machines for “strength training” yesterday at the gym downtown. I decided to push the speed a little since this is my shortest run of the week and ran most of it at 5.2mph before bumping up to about 5.5mph in the last few minutes, finishing in 23:11. Was another good run wherein I felt fairly strong and like I was getting into a groove. I think I could up my cruising speed even more at this point, but I’m still not sure how far I could carry it!

When I got home my roommate decided to order pizza for dinner, so I ended up eating 2 slices of that…. ugggh! Heh, after staying away from greasy food for awhile I really felt the difference. :X

I’ll be in my hometown all next week and possibly up in the lands of Canadia for my birthday, leaving my roomies to fend for themselves (I’m sure I will arrive back home to piles of takeout boxes and no toilet paper), and I need to map out some running routes over there so I can keep up my semi-training whilst on “vacation.” Strangely, when I look at my hometown on mapmyrun I realize how small it is compared to Seattle… the same distance I run around my neighborhood here would take me halfway across town over there!

Hopefully I can keep the progress rolling and not gain 10 pounds from my mom’s cooking ;D

HH10k week 3 day 5

2 miles on the treadmill at the gym and some strength training. My run wasn’t as awesome as my last few runs have been , probably because 1.) I didn’t really hydrate well today or eat lunch, and 2.) I forgot my ipod, GAH! I think I also tied my right shoe too tight as it was bugging me for the first mile. In spite of it I completed the 2 miles in about 23:58 and skittered off to stretch and then about 20 minutes of strength training. Felt allright by the end but not the encouraging “YES I could run forever!” feeling I had the last few times out. Oh well!

I have 3.5 miles lined up for Saturday and I’m a little worried about where I’m gonna run it… my normal loop is about 3 miles exactly. Guess I could backtrack and loop again but that seems like it would be mentally crushing, haha. Will have to see…

Pretty good run

yay! I actually had what amounted to a good, comfortable run today. I won’t say it was EASY but I felt like I hit a zone or whatever and was able to maintain it pretty well.

My schedule called for 2 miles on the treadmill, followed by strength training. I walked for a few minutes to warm up and then launched into my run at 5mph, trying to focus on my music and on keeping my back straight and not hunching forward. I picked up my feet and just kind of settled into this good rhythm, though a couple times I over-thought what it was exactly that was giving me the good rhythm and messed it up a bit, haha. The 2 miles seemed to fly by fairly quickly and I even upped the speed to about 5.2mph by the end. This was also the first run where I didn’t feel the annoying desire to stop the entire time, wooohooo!

I walked again for a cooldown, stretched out, and then wandered around to various machines at the gym for strength training. I should probably figure out some areas I want to target and work those as opposed to just picking machines randomly based on what looks familiar, haha.

I must say I kind of wussed out and didn’t do any of my crosstraining this week.. I gotta start that if I want to really progress!

But regardless, I’m feeling pretty good today.. hope my 3mile run Saturday goes better than my last outdoor run! >.>

Couch-to-5k week 7.2: neither good nor bad

Welllll I completed this run yesterday afternoon on the dreadmill at the gym. Overall I would say my legs felt pretty good but my breathing seemed to be a bit out of whack (like I couldn’t take enough air in fast enough) which may be an indication of my crappy cardiovascular fitness. I ran most of the 25 minutes at 4.5mph; I slowed to 4.4mph for a brief while (I think it’s more mental than anything… that .1mph doesn’t make THAT big a difference) and finished out at 4.7mph for the last 2 min or so. About halfway through my run a girl hopped on the treadmill next to me and started running and while I couldn’t see how fast she was going, I noticed she was taking a LOT more steps than I was – in the sense that they were quicker and her feet were hitting the ground far more often. I tried to pick up my cadence and take shorter, quicker steps, which I’m not sure did much for me… is that something I really need to worry about at this point?

All through the run I had that constant urge to slow down. Again I have no real reason to, my legs felt fine and my breathing, while weird, was managable – I think it’s more my body isn’t used to exercise, haha, and is like “Hey stupid, why are you running? There’s no reason to run! Go ahead, slow down, go eat a Krispy Kreme!” so I have to fight my natural tendancies to be lazy.

I think I actually need to start doing things on my day off other than sitting around on my arse playing WoW… especially if I want to increase my strength and eventually run a 5k under 40 minutes, haha.

Couch-to-5k week 5.2: slogging through it

One more day down! Today was the walk 5 min, run 8 min, walk 5 min, run 8 min, walk 5 min workout. I started the first 8 min run feeling pretty good, running at 4.9mph (not as fast as I’d like to be going, but better than I started out at for sure). Toward the end of the 1st 8 min I started to feel that not-hurty-but-kinda-uncomfortable feeling of effort, and was surprised when I reached up to push my bangs out of my eyes and my forehead was slicked with sweat… eww, haha.

Somehow when the interim 5min of walking started I reset the treadmill timers (bahhh) so I lost my average pace and distance. I know it shouldn’t really matter at this point – the whole idea is to finish the couch-to-5k program, not worry about how fast I’m running yet – but I really, really want to get faster and reach the point of a 10-min-mile pace. 4.9mph is right around a 12:30ish pace if I remember right and that just seems embarassingly sloooooow.

The 5 min of walking was somewhat refreshing and I kicked into the second 8 min run at the same 4.9 mph speed. Most of this run gave me that crawly uncomfortable effort feeling, like I WANTED to slow down and walk, but knew I had no good reason to. My breath was a little more labored than Monday’s run but my legs didn’t feel toooo bad, just that weird efforty feeling, which I guess is a good thing.

When the podcast announced the final minute I pushed the speed up to 5.0 mph again (wee, a 12min mile pace :P) and tried to finish strong. I felt ok but wasn’t sure how long I would be able to hold that kind of pace with the constant desire to walk poking at the back of my mind. Carrying it on for 3 miles still seems pretty far off… how do people maintain those 8 and 9 min paces? Right now it’s mystifying!

Afterward I stretched and noticed my left inner hamstring was twinging a little bit. As I walked back to the locker room it made its presence known as my knee flexed with my steps. It’s not a pain at this point, just a little ache, so hopefully the day off tomorrow will give it a chance to recover and I can still do my 20 min run (aiee!!) on Saturday. I’ll just try not to push the pace like I was doing today >_>

So.. coming up on Saturday, I have the last workout of week 5! The 20 min run.. crap, it’s going to be challenging.. and I’ll be running it outside, so I’ll have to remember to take my time and take it slow and just get through it. I can duuu eeet!

On one slightly annoying note I still haven’t lost any weight (in fact, according to Wii Fit when I did some yoga yesterday, I gained a pound and a half…) I heard that most people lost around a pound a week while doing couch to 5k, so ugh. What’s wrong with you, body? I know the dreaded inevitable conclusion to this…. I have to start counting calories and make sure I’m burning off more than I’m putting down the hatch. Gah. I was hoping just adding running to my life would automatically change some things in the fat department, but I guess I need to put in a little more effort.

It doesn’t help that I chugged THREE starbux coffees today (2 were nonfat!)… I blame bad merger news at work and a coworker who drags me with him every time he goes. Aside from that I had:

a banana, a starbux whole wheat wrap thing, a handful of almonds, water, half an organic orange pop, baby spinach with balsalmic dressing, and some brown rice. oh and cran-apple juice, which is the best juice ever, I promise you.

SOooooo yeah I will likely need to change things up with the diet. I don’t eat much straight up junk or candy anymore, at least… but I need to watch those calories a lil closer. :(

Couch-to-5k week 5.1: cautiously optimistic

I hit up the gym after work (well… after going to Niketown and spending a bit too much) for the first run of C25K week 5. This is the walk 5, run 5, walk 3, run 5, walk 3, run 5, walk 5 workout. I hadn’t eaten lunch aside from a peanut butter Balance bar (mmm so tasty) so I was feeling the early pangs of hunger, but I went ahead and started the run out at 4.5 mph.

I actually didn’t feel bad. I didn’t feel GOOD either, but it was kind of an uncomfortably positive, I-feel-like-I’m-working here sensation. My legs weren’t entirely happy but they didn’t complain like they normally do. Not sure if that’s due to the treadmill (as opposed to the road) or my fitness improving but I’ll take it! I actually kept expecting that feeling to disappear and be replaced with my usual exhaustedness, haha.

For the 2nd 5-min run I upped the speed to 4.7 and fell into a pretty good cruising rhythm. It felt like my legs were finally able to stretch and recoil without protest and my breathing hit a sustainable, consistent pattern. I just cruised along listening to the techno music in the C25K podcast and watching the silent TV in front of me. The 5 min seemed to be over fairly quickly and I fell back to walking at 3.5 mph. When the final segment rolled around I upped the speed again (just barely… heh) to 4.8 and managed to find my rhythm, again not feeling GOOD per se but feeling like I was working, making progress, plunging forward as opposed to dragging my sorry bum along. When the podcast announced the last minute of the run I pushed it to 5mph (oh man so fast! ;p) and was able to maintain that pace through the end, slowing to the final cooldown walk.

It felt pretty good, and like I could actually be making steps forward. The 2nd run of this week doesn’t sound too awful at this point (walk 5, run 8, walk 5, run 8, walk 5). The full 20-minuter at the end of the week is still intimidating but I think I can do it!

Modified schedule for the rest of the week (based off the weather and my available gym days):

Tues: rest or Wii Fit yoga
Wed: Wii Fit yoga or rest
Thurs: Couch-to-5k week 5.2 @ the gym
Fri: rest
Sat: Couch-to-5k week 5.3 outside (<– 20 min of running.. aiee!)

Ganbatte!

Couch-to-5k week 3.2 redux: Feeling pretty good!

I hit up the gym after work today and decided I would push myself a little bit more than I have been doing. This is still the walk 5 min, then jog 2 min, walk 2 min, jog 3 min, walk 3 min, repeat, cooldown part of the plan, and I did all the walking at 3.5 mph and the running I upped to 4.7mph, which according to the treadmill was about a 12 min mile – so I’m not far off from a 10-min-mile pace! I tried to relax as much as possible and make my steps as light as I could and I was feeling good. When the time would come to walk I wasn’t gasping and slogging into it like I’d never jogged in my life, and in fact the walking seemed to be reaaaallly slooooow. I managed to keep this up throughout the 30 minutes and even practiced kicking up my heels a bit more (I feel kind of like I just sluff my feet along) for the last running bit.

Afterward I stretched for a few minutes and then meandered back to the locker room feeling pretty good, my legs weren’t sore at all and I’ve pretty much beaten the foot pain (though I do feel like I’m sliding in the shoes a little bit still). And MAN do I need to get some new capri running pants… these new balance ones are comfy but they seriously add 20 pounds. I caught myself in the big weight lifting mirror on the way downstairs and wanted to gag. I hear the spandexy capris are best but I think I will save the world from that view of my flabby bum until I’ve been running awhile longer :P

I also redid my running playlist somewhat after the difficulties I wrote about earlier and this is what I have now:

1. I ran (so far away) – Flock of Seagulls
2. Heart of the country – Paul McCartney
3. Be more – Paul Dateh
4. Telephone – Lady Gaga (short version :P)
5. Don’t stop till you get enough – Michael Jackson
6. Man we was lonely – Paul McCartney
7. Dead man (carry me) – Jars of Clay
8. Starstruck – Lady Gaga (I love the video I have linked here YAY Zenyatta)
9. Harder, better, faster, stronger – Daft Punk (another sweet vid)
10. Womanizer – Britney Spears
11. Nausea – Beck
12. Withered hope – They Might Be Giants (awesome dancy TMBG song)
13. Bills, bills, bills – Jonathan Coulton (vid is a live version, I was at this show!)
14. Top 40 remix – Paul Dateh (awesome vid, srsly go watch it)
15. Hello – Bill Hilly Band (sadly cannot find a vid of this)
16. Single Ladies – Beyonce
17. Mrs. Vanderbilt – Paul McCartney (vid is a live version – I was at this show too! :O)
18. Hide and seek – Namie (bonus: here is a SWEET wow vid set to this song, and I mean sweet)
19. Let em run – Bill Hilly Band
20. Check the rhime – Tribe Called Quest
21. Poker face – Lady Gaga
22. Toxic – Britney Spears
23. The fixer – Pearl Jam
24. Come as you were – the Bird and the Bee (such a floaty ethereal bouncy song)
25. Blood on the dance floor – Michael Jackson
26. Bodysnatchers – Radiohead
27. Space suit – They Might Be Giants (awesome cooldown song… haha)

YAy! so hopefully this works a little better :D AS you can tell my taste in music is kind of all over the place, I pretty much like everything but country, gangsta rap, soft cheesy rock, and that kind of thing.. pretty much anything else I’ll give a listen to :>

Couch-to-5k week 3-2: Augh

I did 30 min on the treadmill today (after visting a local running store to get an assessment on my shoes – apparently they were too small) and tried to up the speed, essentially following Week 3 of the Couch-to-5k running plan. I did most of the running around 4.5 mph and the walking at 3.5. (I cheated and ran the last 5 minutes at 4mph, though). About halfway through the run I could feel my blisters beginning to flare and by the end it was sharp stabbing blisterpain in my arches again. I suppose I should have popped the original ones before I returned to the treadmill today…

Needless to say they are now larger, and very angry. Ow. Is it ok to run on painful blisters?

Still not sure if I’m ever going to be able to build up the endurance to do a 5k. My legs seem fine while I run but my feet ache and tense up and hurt (beyond just the blistering). Not sure if this is due to running on a treadmill (I’ve noticed I don’t run as “freely” on one) so I may try actually running outside this weekend if it’s not raining. It could be my flat feet getting used to shoes with arch support and/or getting used to running after such a long period of inactivity. I also haven’t really broken in my shoes properly.. maybe it’s a case of all of the above? Anyway, I hope it gets better, not having my feet constantly hurt while I run will definitely improve morale.

Off to shower and bed…