Monday, October 29, 2012

Wouldn't change a thing

This post is going to be about documenting the details of things that were under my control so that I can remember what worked and try to replicate it or improve on it next time.

Shoes: I've been running in Brooks Defyance shoes since February and they seem to really be working for me. Both of my pairs were getting up in mileage so I bought a new pair about three weeks before the race, and also started using a new set of custom insoles. At first the new shoes/insoles didn't feel quite right which was weird because it was the exact same as what I'd been running in, just newer. I had several debates with myself whether to wear my old shoes and insoles, the old shoes with the new insoles, or the new shoes with the old insoles. I finally went with all new because it just seemed too crazy to run a marathon in shoes that already had 395 miles of wear. The new shoes had 75 miles going into the marathon and I think it was the right choice. By the end of the race it definitely felt like I'd been on my feet for a few hours, but they didn't feel overly beat up.

Carbo-Loading: I mentioned in my pre-race post that I haven't been a believer in carbo-loading in the past. I guess I should modify that by saying it's not that I didn't think it worked for some people, but more that I didn't really see a need for me personally to put it into practice by doing anything that different before a race. But now I've realized that it really does seem to make a difference in my performance. The important part is to still keep my eating under control and not stuff myself to where I'm uncomfortably full.

I started my carbo-loading on Friday night at Chipotle. I've had Chipotle now before all three of my marathons so I think I'm going to have to make it a tradition. I don't really think of Chipotle as carbo-loading because it's basically rice, meat, and vegetables (I don't add beans, sour cream, or cheese)... the same thing I eat everyday but with Mexican instead of Asian flavors. But this time I also asked for the tortilla on the side and nibbled on it along with my typical carnitas bowl.

For lunch on Saturday I had quite a bit of bread, along with a slice of quiche and a bowl of tomato basil soup. Then finally for dinner on Saturday I specifically searched Yelp for a pizza place. Unfortunately the pizza wasn't that good, but it still did the trick. I guess I should also mention that I had a couple cupcakes on Saturday too, plus I drank a lot of water of course.

Race Fuel: I had my usual cool mint chocolate Clif Bar about 65 minutes before the race start. I like this Clif Bar because it tastes good, doesn't have nuts, and contains caffeine (50MG). About 15 minutes before I had a (sample) pack of strawberry GU Chomps (four pieces).

I carried four gels with me during the race. I could only fit three in the pocket of my capris, so the fourth I pinned onto the waistband. This worked really well and I didn't even notice it was there. At mile 6 I had a chocolate Clif Shot. Normally I don't use Clif Shots, but I think I got it as a sample from somewhere and it was the only gel I had without caffeine. I didn't like the consistency because it was thicker than GU and harder to squeeze out of the packet. But I'm not sure if that's because the Clif Shot was the gel I had pinned on while the other three were closer to my body and therefore warmer from my body heat. Anyway, at mile 11.5 I had a vanilla orange GU Roctane. I haven't gathered any personal evidence that GU Roctane is better than regular GU, but I'm choosing to believe the marketing and assume that it helps. At mile 17 I had a vanilla GU and finally at mile 22 I had a triberry GU.

I can't remember exactly what I did at my previous marathons, but during training I usually don't take more than 100 calories per hour. This leads to me sometimes feeling hungry during a training run, but my philosophy is that it's better to train on less fuel than I'm going to use on race day. During the marathon, there was only one point where I started to feel slightly hungry but I think it went away when I drank some water. I feel like I had a good fueling plan and adding in another gel would have been too much.

I switch back and forth between liking gels versus chews. I used to prefer chews because they're less messy, but lately it seems that GU Chomps are hard to get out of the bag. The gels worked really well for me this time. I had to slow down a bit to take them, but I liked that I could squeeze it out quickly and then focus back on the race.

Clothing: Of course I can't talk about clothing without talking about the weather. The forecast was something like 51 F at the start and 59 F at the finish. The decision between shorts and capris was pretty easy. I don't think I would have been too cold in shorts, but with capris I don't have to use body glide. The decision between short or long sleeves was harder. I don't usually wear race shirts to races, but somehow I'd gotten the idea in my head that I wanted to run in my Rock 'n' Roll Seattle shirt. In the end I went with long sleeves because I figured I could deal with heat better than cold. If it had been really sunny, I probably would have been okay in the short sleeves, but most of the race was cloudy and gray so the long sleeves ended up being the perfect choice. I never felt hot during the race, even at the end when the sun started to peak out and I was running hard to the finish.

I bought a new Moving Comfort sports bra on sale recently and wore it on a 13-ish mile training run without any problems so I decided to wear it for the marathon too since my other sports bras are getting old. Well Sunday morning when I put it on the shoulder straps felt extremely tight and I was kicking myself for not packing a second sports bra. There was nothing for me to do but put a ton of body glide on my shoulders and hope for the best. Amazingly, I ended up not even giving it a second thought once I left the hotel room.

My favorite brand of socks is Balega and I have these turquoise socks that are the perfect combination of cushioning without being too thick. I actually have two pairs of them and somehow I accidentally packed one older sock and one newer sock. It's probably hard to tell, but the sock on the right is a little more well-worn.

It's silly, but I had a slight moment of panic thinking that having different socks was going to throw me off my game because I hate to be "unbalanced". Once again though, I didn't give it a second thought during the race.

Finally, I wore one of my trusty white Road Runner Sports hats. I can't remember the last time I raced without one. Perfect for keeping my hair out of my face and (for the most part) the sun out of my eyes.

Looking back, there really isn't anything I'd do differently that would have led to a better race. It's awesome to have figured out what works for me after just three marathons, but then I've had a ton of half marathons to practice with. Maybe I'll learn some new tricks for the next race, but if not I'm confident that following a similar plan as this time will be successful.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Did that really happen?

Wow, so I set a new PR today by 13 minutes!!! I'm still riding a runner's high, but at the same time am already thinking about the next race and trying to break 3:40. And then maybe, just maybe, working toward a Boston qualifying time of 3:35. Before today I was fully expecting to wait another 10 years before trying to BQ, but now it actually seems possible in the next few years. I think the question is how badly do I want it? But figuring out the answer will have to wait for another time.

This and the next few posts are going to get into some pretty detailed, boring stuff about the race. This is purely so that I have a record for myself to look back at because as I was trying to figure out what to wear for the marathon I was wishing I had more info about how I felt at past races. For the rest of this post I'm going to take stock of how I'm doing post-race...

I'm still amazed at how good I feel right now. Not too much worse than after a long training run. I thought I might stiffen up after sitting in the car for five hours but I was still okay afterward. It probably helped that I wasn't driving so I could move my legs around a bit.

Immediately after I finished I had to stop and catch my breath, but after a few minutes of walking and drinking water I pretty much felt fine. It seemed like such a marked contrast between my other two marathons. After Route 66, I remember being so tired and walking so slowly and almost wanting to cry because I was there all by myself without anyone to help me. After Rock 'n' Roll Seattle I was in a better mood but still sore enough that walking, and especially sitting and stairs were difficult. Today I can even walk up AND DOWN stairs with ease. You know you're a runner when being able to carry your own suitcase downstairs after a marathon is a big deal. :-)

I have a few small aches and pains but nothing really worth noting yet. I think they'll go away with a good night's sleep or two. Also despite my liberal use of body glide, I have a couple blisters between the toes on my right foot but they don't bother me much.

Before the race, I was hoping to "empty my system" but my body didn't cooperate. I was worried that I might have GI issues during the race or that all the carbo-loading I did would sit heavy in my stomach, but luckily I didn't have any problems at all. It wasn't until afterward that my stomach started to feel a little funny. I'm not sure if it was from the stress of the run on my body or from something I ate, or maybe both.

I've noticed that I seem to get weird side effects from caffeine. I have pretty much no caffeine on a daily basis, aside from any minute amounts of caffeine that might be present in chocolate. Occasionally I'll have fuel with caffeine during a long training run, but I keep it minimal. That's because I don't want to build a tolerance to caffeine so when I have it during a race I get the maximum benefit. I used to think that the side effects were from the effort of running hard, but after doing some races with less or no caffeine, I realized it was the caffeine. While in the car on the way home, the way I described it was that it made my face feel dry. My skin felt hot and tight and I'm pretty sure my face looked flushed. I was constantly putting on chapstick. And I could also feel it in my nose... it's hard to explain, but it's sort of like when you go to the dentist and the anaesthesia goes all the way up to your nose. My nose wasn't numb, but it didn't feel normal. I think the warmth and stuffiness of the car made it worse, because I started to feel better as soon as I got home although it still hasn't worn off completely. The alertness and energy benefits go away pretty quickly while the side effects linger much longer. It's annoying, but I can put up with it in order to get the performance benefits.

Okay, time to sleep now and hopefully everything will feel better in the morning. I'm going to cross my fingers that I won't wake up stiff and sore tomorrow.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tri-Cities Marathon Goals

Well, tomorrow I'll be running my third marathon. This one is different than the first two because it's smaller and almost completely flat. I'm hoping the flat course will help with reaching my goal time, but I'm concerned that because I'll be using the same muscles the whole time that my legs will tire faster.

My goals are:
A- 3:50
B- 3:54 (new PR)
C- 4:00

I'm also a little concerned because I didn't follow a specific training plan and probably didn't do enough speedwork. But at least I think I did a pretty good job with the mileage. Two 18 mile runs, six 20+ mile runs, and several mid-week 13-14 mile runs.

A couple other things I'm doing differently this time around are that I got a massage yesterday and I'm going to carbo-load tonight with pizza. In the past I haven't been a real believer in carbo-loading, but lately I've noticed that my long runs seem to go better if I've had more carbs the night before. So hopefully it helps tomorrow.

I'm using the Blogger app so that's all I have the patience to type now. I'll report back after marathon #3!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Race for the End 10k

A couple weekends ago I decided to run a VERY last minute race. It was about 12:30am on Saturday night (technically Sunday) when I stumbled across a listing for the Race for the End 5k/10k on Sunday morning. Normally I'm not an impulsive person, but this race had all the right elements going for it... The course was around Whatcom Falls Park in Bellingham and I've been wanting to get out and run in that area. The registration was only $15, even on race day. It was for a good cause - to promote awareness of and try to end domestic violence. And most importantly, it didn't start until 10am, meaning I could still get a fairly good night's sleep.

So I got there Sunday and registered, then had about half an hour to kill before the race started. I hit the bathroom twice and did a bit of dynamic stretching (mostly leg swings) but skipped doing a warm-up run. I ran 24 miles on Saturday, so my plan was to just take the 10k as a slow fun run. I ate a Luna bar at 9am and skipped my usual pre-race GU.

I thought I started out pretty conservatively, but my Garmin says otherwise with a 7:59 first mile. Both the 5k and 10k started at the same time so at first I didn't know who was running what, but the courses split fairly quickly and then things thinned out a lot. There was a turnaround about 1.5 miles in and that's when I realized that there were only a handful of people running the 10k. I also saw that I was the third female.

I still wasn't trying to race, but my legs felt good and the gab slowly started to close between myself and the two women ahead. I ran the second mile in 7:38. I passed one woman and then would have been content just staying on the heels of the first female and letting her set the pace. But as we were coming up on an intersection in the trail, I guess she didn't see the volunteer pointing us to the right and she overshot the turn. At that point I "took the lead".

I ran miles 3 and 4 in 7:40 and 7:03 according to my Garmin. For that fourth mile, either my Garmin was off or I did a great job taking advantage of the downhills because I almost never run a mile that fast. There was a lot of downhill the first portion of the race and I was constantly dreading the fact that eventually we'd have to climb uphill again.

By the time I reached the uphills, I'd put a pretty good distance between myself and the other women and I didn't think they'd be able to catch me. But I still made myself run the hills and not stop to walk. Somewhere on one of the hills I managed to pass a guy and I want to say that I don't think anyone passed me anytime during the race although I'm not positive on that. The fifth mile was my slowest at 8:33.

I got a bit frustrated during the sixth mile because the course met back up with the 5k and I was dodging walkers as well as people just out for a Sunday morning stroll in the park. I ran up on a family with two little girls on bikes right in the middle of the trail and yelled "watch out, watch out, watch out". I'm not sure why I felt compelled to say it three times... I guess to make sure they were paying attention because it's hard to tell what little kids might do. I also had to yell "on your left/right" several times. Afterwards, I wondered if I had been too aggressive in trying to run past everyone. I wasn't going for a PR and I was probably far enough ahead that I could slow down a bit without sacrificing my lead. I don't think I behaved badly, but maybe I could have been a bit more polite?

I ran the sixth mile in 8:11. The mile 6 marker was placed early so at first I thought the course was short, but in the end my Garmin read 6.21 so I guess the course was about right. I picked it up for the last bit of the race - thankfully it was flat - and ran the last .2 at a 7:12 pace.

My official finish time was 48:33 (7:50 pace). Even if I hadn't placed first female, I would have been extremely happy. I honestly did not think I had it in me to run under an 8:00 pace that morning. I felt surprisingly well considering that put me at 30 miles in a span of about 26 hours... although I was definitely more sore than usual on Monday.

There was a great post-race spread with bananas, oranges, bagels, bread, and gluten-free brownies. I got a ribbon for placing first in my age group and a $25 gift certificate to Fairhaven Runners for placing first female. The small turnout worked in my favor, but I felt bad for the organizers because overall it was a terrific event. I think they lacked publicity. If the timing works out, I would definitely consider running this race again next year.