Sunday, October 30, 2011

Week in Review

66 miles
0 doubles
1 workout
1 night as a flamingo
4 AFDs

True to plan, I took a glorious "down" week from running, which consisted of only one workout, no long run and absolutely no doubles. It was quite od
d. Also true to plan, I managed to make the most of my downtime by fitting in a massage with Byran, a stretching/bone cracking session at Greenapple Sports & Wellness, and plenty (read: too many) meals out with friends and glasses of wine. The week culminated with a wicked going away/costume party on Friday night, my best friend Brookelet's wedding on Saturday night (and also the only public event I've attended since knowing Jeff Gaudette during which he has not removed his shirt) and, much less enjoyable, a full 12-hour packing/boxing/loading/disposing marathon on Sunday. I was more sore from going up and down our stairs a hundred times than after the hardest workout in recent memory. It's a good thing I didn't have any grandiose running plans for the week, because it simply would not have been possible to fulfill them.

Walter White from "Breaking Bad," some loser who didn't
dress up, a saucy flamingo and her devil friend

Standing on one leg. It's what flamingos do.

If you thought I'd have a less hectic week on the horizon to start the month of November, you would be drastically mistaken. Tomorrow morning, bright and early, Jordan and I will lock the doors to our Uhaul trailer, unceremoniously dump our bewildered cat into the fully stuffed backseat of my car, and drive away from Charlotte forever. Well, definitely not forever, but for the time being. We hope to conclude our two-day drive sometime on Tuesday evening with our belongings intact and our kitty cat (and the areas of my car she will no doubt use as her personal litter box) no worse for the wear. We'll have less than two days to get somewhat settled in before jumping back in the car and heading down to the Big Apple for NYC Marathon weekend. For what might be the first time since starting my career in the running industry over five years ago, I'll be attending a major marathon without the intention of working the expo or participating in the event. Instead, Jordan and I will be joining our CEO and footwear designers for some industry media interviews on Friday plus a Runner's World party on Friday night. After that, the weekend is our oyster, and we plan to take advantage of the trip into the city by meeting up with friends from literally all over the country--some Charlotteans in town for the race, some industry peeps working the expo, some Brownies and some actual NYC residents--for a weekend of running, socializing and of course marathon spectating. As much as I desperately need a quiet weekend in our new place to spend some time settling in, there's absolutely no way I would pass up what's sure to be an amazing weekend in an equally amazing city. Time to hit the road!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

McAlpine Tempo Run

2 mile w/u
Target: 5 mile tempo @5:50ish pace; 5x30 sec. surges w/1 min. jog
Actual: 29:14 (5:50, 5:56, 5:54, 5:48, 5:46); 4 min. rest; 5x30 sec. w/1 min. jog

Once more for old time's sake, I met Caitlin an
d Pezz at Old Bell for some good, solid tempo action. I was not solo, as my friend Dane is in town for a quick visit and I somehow managed to convince him to join us for this early workout despite his body being firmly set in Mountain time. We all rolled up to the parking lot a few minutes early, a rare enough occurrence on its own, and promptly set off into the darkness for an easy warmup. The plan was for Pezz to start a few minutes ahead of us with a hard mile followed by a few minutes of rest, then join us as we passed the mile marker and continue on together for the rest of the tempo. The mid-40s temperature felt even colder down by the creek, but we all reluctantly shed our top layers in preparation for the hard effort ahead.

After only one brief costume change, Pezz charged out of the parking lot and onto the trail for her first mile. Caitlin, Dane and I stretched and dawdled around for a few minutes before setting off in hot pursuit. The first mile felt hard, as expected for the temperature and the early hour, but miraculously we went through exactly on pace. Dane, who is fighting a bum Achilles, wisely backed off after this mile while Caitlin and I rejoined Pezz. I wasn't feeling great and was worried that the two would immediately leave me in their wake, but to my relief (not that I wish a bad workout on anyone!), neither of them seemed to be feeling stellar either. We forged ahead together. By the two mile marker Pezz and I had put a slight gap on Caitlin, and I swiveled my head around to make sure she was sticking close. I wanted to shout some words of encouragement but I was already pressing to an uncomfortable level so I kept silent. Pezz and I ran side by side through three, then almost to four, when I saw Caitlin jogging across the pond toward us. Apparently she'd taken a short rest after the third mile and was now joining us so we could finish together. Her reappearance could not have come at a better time, as I was hurting and already contemplating dropping out. Legs buoyed from a few minutes of easy jogging, Caitlin bounded to the front of our train and seemed infused with a new energy. The final few minutes were dangerously close to the redline for me as I clung to them for dear life, resolving not to let down the group on what would surely be our final workout together for some time. We finished in unison, breathing ragged but satisfied with our efforts. After a few minutes of walking (yes, walking), I felt recovered enough to stride out my uptempo sections around the pond before we trotted back to Old Bell together. Regardless of the workout's outcome, I always consider it a privilege to run side by side with these talented ladies, something I'll sorely miss in Beantown. I may have to sneak back down this winter to get in some more workouts together!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Week in Review

85 miles
3 doubles
5 days in Dallas
5 AFDs

Overall I'd consider this a very successful week from just about every vantage point. I found a way to maintain the quality and quantity of my training despite a hectic travel schedule, enjoyed the opportunity to see some old friends and spend time with my parents, and helped the inaugural 13.1 Dallas event go off without a hitch. The remainder of my weekend following the event could not have been any better. I ate good food and took in a movie with my parents, got a facial with mom and took a leisurely early Sunday run with pops before leaving for the airport. Upon arriving to Charlotte I was picked up by Caitlin and reunited with my pr
ecious Weezy after two weeks sans snuggling, then capped off the evening with a costumed CRC fun run from Freedom Park. (Not having packed anything resembling a costume, I went dressed as a Karhu and Craft rep. Very clever.)

A motley crew at the CRC costume run

With only one week remaining in Charlotte (sniffle sniffle), I've got a lot of activity to pack into a short period of time (including literally packing). I need a massage from Byran, some bone cracking from Dr. Greenapple and a few quality runs with Caitlin and the CRC crew. I've also got a stellar weekend to look forward to, beginning with our very own going away party hosted by Caitlin and Rebecca and culminating with the wedding of my dearest friend Brooke on Saturday night. And did I mention packing? We plan to be on the road at some point on Sunday for one more epic northbound drive. With such a busy week on tap, it's a relief that this is a planned down period for my training. After six consecutive weeks of 80+ miles, I'll drop down to 60ish this week with only one light workout planned. My 10-week (gulp!) Trials training plan starts November 1st, and the goal is to wake up next Monday feeling fresh, strong and eager to tackle the miles ahead. I've worked hard since rebounding from injury in early September to lay a good foundation for my winter training, and after a surprisingly good race at Army 10 Miler and a reasonably not bad race at 13.1 Dallas, I'm confident in where my fitness stands right now. The building blocks are in place; now it's time to rest up and prepare for what lies ahead!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

13.1 Dallas Race Recap

~1.5 mile w/u
13.1 miles @1:19:58*
3rd female, $250; Results
Total: 14-15 miles
*includes bathroom break (oops)

As is always the case at 13.1 races, I was up way too early for a Saturday morning to help set up the Craft and Karhu tents. Fortunately my parents arrived yesterday, which means I was able to stay with them at the Marriott mere blocks from the start instead of at the ghetto LaQuinta with the external rooms where I had the pleasure of sleeping with one eye open on Wednesday and Thursday. So I got to sleep in until the indulgent hour of 4:45, which was lovely.

Immediately upon stepping outside into the early morning darkness, I was chagrined to discover that the air was significantly warmer and more humid than any other day since my Wednesday arrival. Earlier in the week I'd run in capris and long sleeves, but with the temperature hovering around 65 and a humidity percentage in the 80s, I was already uncomfortable in my lightweight jacket. This did not bode well for my upcoming race performance, but there wasn't exactly anything I could do about it. I jogged over to the start/finish area and spent the next 90 minutes setting up our space and preparing for a morning of sales. Before I knew it there were fewer than 30 minutes until the start which left little time for dawdling. I quickly warmed up with my friend A
ndrew, then hustled over to a construction site with the hopes of finding a port-a-potty without a line 30 deep. Victory attained, I stripped down to my skivvies under the Karhu tent and then made my way to the start. I recognized several familiar faces from my previous time in the DFW running community, as well as a few speedy ladies who I knew would be contending for the prize purse. One was Melissa Cook, a multiple-time All-American from Texas A&M and a multiple-time Olympic Trials qualifier as well. She's been around for years and is legit. I also spotted Justyna Mudy, whom I recognized from her 1:17 performance on the horrific hills of 13.1 Atlanta a few weeks ago. No question they were both fit, and likely out of my league. I spotted a few other potential contenders but was confident I could run with anyone else in the field.

Once the race began, it quickly became apparent that the placing would be anticlimactic, at least from my perspective. A relaxed 5:58 first mile put me at least 20 seconds behind Melissa
and Justyna and the same distance ahead of all the other women in the field. Though a considerable gap would form on either side of me as the race progressed, my placement would not. Around mile 2 I caught up to a group of guys and inquired if I could tuck in for a few miles. "Sure!" they enthusiastically replied before sprinting off and leaving me alone once again. For much of the race this is how I would remain, though I didn't mind much. Years of living in this area enabled me to recognize almost every street on the course, which was surprisingly comforting. Though my legs were heavy, my breathing felt calm and relaxed, and I made it through the early miles by repeatedly reminding myself that the Katy Trail section would begin at mile 7. This would mean a straight, gradual downhill for almost four miles, and I knew I could use that real estate to make up for some slower early miles as we gradually meandered to the top of the trail.

During mile 9, however, a situation arose. Had my personal race been closer, had a championship of some sort been on the line, perhaps I would hav
e tried to fight through it. Instead, with several minutes separating me from the next woman on either side, I didn't think twice about scampering into a port-a-potty near the side of the trail a few minutes later. Ironically, my split of 6:26 for this mile (including the stop), my slowest of the day, would've actually been my fastest had the brief detour not been necessary. Oh well. Mentally the break did nothing to dampen my spirits as I knew the finish line was within reach, and once we exited the trail near the American Airlines Center I had no doubt that I could push through for two more miles. It certainly didn't help that the last of those miles was almost entirely uphill, the steepest and longest grade in any direction on the course, and with mere minutes to go I got passed by two guys who had been trailing me for the entire race. I desperately tried to latch onto them, succeeding for a few strides, before watching helplessly as they pulled away. Frustrated, I almost shut things down and shuffled in until I rounded the final turn and saw that I could still edge under the 1:20 barrier. I crossed the line just a few ticks under, happy to set a new (admittedly weak) PR and score a few bucks. The last time I raced a half in Dallas was at the 2007 White Rock Half-Marathon, when I was pleased to run 1:26:30 and just barely miss a then-personal best. It's easy to get discouraged now when the top women finish leagues ahead of me, but looking at how far I've come helps put things in perspective.

Karhu Sisu congratulates me, Melissa and Justyna

But enough about me. Let's discuss the real noteworthy Nedlo performance of the day, that of my dad John. Not only did J-Ned win his age group, but he also ran his fastest time in years, a blistering 1:36. Oh, and did I mention he is 62?! Simply incredible. I wish I could've seen the faces of the guys half his age as he left them in his dust. After several years of struggling with injury and motivation, rarely breaking 1:45 in his half-marathon attempts, my dad has finally been able to string together an entire year of solid training (and, not coincidentally, an entire year of solid training in Karhus), enabling him to absolutely crush his goal for the day. Congrats, Dad!

Me, Andrew and my coworker Tinley slinging shoes post-race

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Katy Trail Mile Repeats, or "The Time I Beat Troy Aikman"

2+ mile w/u
Target: 5xmile @5:35-5:40 w/2-3 mins. jog
Actual: 5:41 (2), 5:34 (2), 5:38 (3), 5:34 (2), 5:36
2 mile c/d
Total: 10 miles

Ah, the best laid plans.

I woke up at 6am on Tuesday morning with every intention of completing this workout on the high school track in Marblehead. Only problem was, once I jogged over to the track I discovered it wasn't a track at all, just a football field with nothing around it. Awesome. By the time I realized where the actual track was I didn't have enough time to run over there and utilize it before work. Fail #1. My fallback was the Beverly High School track which is located a mere 400 meters from our office. However, they're currently redoing the infield so when I jogged past on my second run at lunch there were men in hard hats and bulldozers and the like making a mess of the place. Fail #2. This left me with only one option, and that was to attempt to squeeze this in mid-day Wednesday after waking at 5am and flying until noon and before working all afternoon at the 13.1 Dallas packet pickup at Luke's Locker. That the pieces all fell together in such a way that I was afforded a full 90 minutes to squeeze this in was a miracle in itself. So, while feeling as though I'd already lived through a full exhausting day prior to a solo hard effort might not be ideal pre-workout protocol, it was all I had.

Originally, when the workout plan was Tuesday, Jordan had prescribed six faster intervals with two minutes rest. Given the switch to Wednesday and my upcoming half-marathon on Saturday, the decision was made to decrease the volume and intensity slightly with the intention of preserving my legs. But if I'd thought that mid-5:30s would feel easy, I was wrong. The fact of the matter is I'm just a horrible solo pacer, particularly on a completely straight stretch of pavement such as that of the Katy Trail. At least it was marked every quarter mile, though I question how precise some of those measurements are. I'd like to blame my erratic splits on the potentially erratic markings, but the reality is just what I stated earlier. I'm a horrible solo pacer, and traveling for eight hours before working out sucks.

As alluded to in my blog title, the highlight of this working was beating Troy Aikman. (Just in case you, like Caitlin, are one of two people on earth who doesn't know who he is, see here.) To be precise, he had no idea we were racing. We just happened to be covering the same ground at the same time. Although--and I'm being completely honest here--it really wasn't a race because of how fast I blew past him. The first time I thought, "Hmm, that guy looks a lot like Troy Aikman." The secon
d time, when we made eye contact, I amended that to, "That guy is definitely Troy Aikman. And I'm definitely kicking his ass."

So no matter what happens at 13.1 on Saturday, at least I have that going for me. Which is nice.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Week in Review

80-81 miles
3 doubles
7 nights in Marblehead
2 nights in our new house
4 AFDs

With most of the weekend devoted to moving into our new place, Jordan and I are finally starting to feel like Marblehead residents. Of course, with half our belongings (including Weezy!) still waiting for us in Charlotte, it's difficult to truly feel grounded anywhere. It will likely take several more weeks and at least one more epic road trip before this new chapter of our life can officially begin. Every day is an adventure, that's for sure.

From a running perspective, I'm comfortable with where I'm at right now. Comfortable, yet hungry for more. For comparison's sake, this time last year I was just a few weeks off a foot injury that had me sidelined for the entire month of September. On October 24, 2010, I averaged 6:00 pace for the Uptown Run 8k. Last weekend I ran over five seconds faster per mile for twice the distance, and on October 22nd I hope to race 13.1 Dallas at approximately the same pace as the Uptown Run. It's obvious that I'm in significantly better shape than this time last year, now I just need to stay healthy until the Trials and trust that the fitness will come.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

First Massachusetts Long Run

1 hour 57 mins. (15-15.5 miles)

For our first Saturday in Massachusetts, Jordan and I had big plans. For starters, it was move-in day at our new place. This meant we'd finally be able to unload Felix (the Jetta Sportwagon) after a week of Jordan craning his head and muttering "I can't see anything" and me wrin
ging my hands nervously every time he tried to change lanes. I'm sure my boss, Huub, who has been acting as our hotel proprietor and pancake maker for the entire week, was also excited at this prospect. But before we left Chez Valkenburg, he offered to take us on a running tour of his favorite long run route to and around the nearby peninsula of Nahant. Though I traditionally do my long runs on Sundays, I couldn't think of any reason not to move it up a day this week. After all, I'd only worked out once and it was already several days ago, so why not run long a day early and facilitate better recovery leading up to next Tuesday's workout? I was game.

After several days of seemingly incessant rain
and fog, Saturday dawned beautiful and crystal clear if a tad breezy. We slept in past sunup for the first time all week, not stepping outside with Huub until after 8am. Though Huub rarely runs more than an hour at a time, he was confident he could survive the entire run albeit at a restrained pace. Since we had no idea where we were going, the plan was to hang back with him to and around the peninsula, which should take about 75 minutes, at which point we were free to rev the engines for the return trip. We began the run by turning right on Atlantic--which, not coincidentally, borders the Atlantic--and hitting the pavement toward Swampscott. The unfortunate name of this seaside town belies how picturesque and truly lovely it actually is, particularly on a stunning autumn morning such as this one. Tons of people were out walking, running, riding their bikes and otherwise embracing physical activity with the cascading surf as their backdrop. For the entire run out approaching Nahant, we were faced by a stiff cheek-flapping headwind which would've made maintaining a respectable pace rather futile, so I didn't mind tucking in behind Jordan and moseying along at Huub's speed. When we turned left on the causeway to the peninsula the gusts intensified, but once we entered the refuge of Nahant the conditions improved measurably. By an hour into the run I was itching to drop the pace, but every time we approached an intersection or fork I had to wait for Huub's guidance, so eventually I just fell back in step with the boys.

Once we turned back onto the
main causeway, our return route apparent, Jordan and I made our move. The 20-mph wind which had previously been buffeting our every step now acted like a jetpack strapped to our backs. Organically the pace dropped almost two minutes per mile, and before I knew it I found myself running near marathon pace with little strain. I couldn't help but be reminded of the 2011 Boston Marathon, which boasted similar conditions, and found myself jealous of all those who'd taken advantage of the opportunity to run screaming fast times on that day. It's no stretch of the imagination to envision that conditions would've been ripe for a huge PR.

Jordan and I finished the run with Huub not too far behind, then spent a few minutes doing some stretching and core in the basement fitness center. After showers, breakfast crepes and some freshly made espresso it was time for Jordan and I to head over to our new home at the fort! For those of you who don't know, we've acquired a seasonal rental through the end of May overlooking the harbor near the grounds of historic Fort Sewall, a public landmark that represents the easternmost point in Marblehead. In fact, we learned upon meeting the owners yesterday that the original part of our house used to be the fort caretaker's cottage. Our place is furnished (with another family's belongings, which is sort of weird but unarguably convenient), and offers some of the most stunning ocean views I've ever seen. I must admit that typing this right now while overlooking boats bobbing in the harbor waters does seem a bit surreal but I'm certainly not complaining. We're lucky to call this place our home for the next few months while we seek something more permanent. And I've heard that watching storms from here is amazing! Check out a few photos while we try to get settled in.

Driving up to our new home, the square one right on the water

I took this photo from our dining room window. True story.

Our nice, big living room with doors opening into the two guest
bedrooms. Ocean views from both! Come visit!

"Our" fort, Fort Sewall

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tired Legs Workout

3 mile w/u + strides
Target: 6x4 mins. uptempo w/2 min. jog; 6x1 min. hard w/1 min. jog
Actual: 6x4 mins., w/1k splits of 3:36-3:38 on #1-5 and 3:31 on #6 (3:35 for 1k = 5:45 pace)
6x1 min. hard
2 mile c/d
Total: ~12 miles

Jordan and I were up before the sun to knock this out before heading to the Karhu offices. As we're staying with my boss until we get the keys to our new place on Friday, we decided to do this on the now-familiar dirt bike path that begins less than 400 meters from our temporary home and runs all the way into Salem. Specifically, we warmed up to the end and then chose the final ~1k stretch for the workout portion as it was unbroken by any street crossings. This meant the scenery was repetitive and somewhat unexciting, but it was well worth it to stay on a mostly flat soft surface for the entire workout.

Overall, this went about as well as could be expected for two days after the 10-mile race. Aerobically I felt great on the 4-minuters, with breathing that remained controlled throughout the intervals and quickly returned to normal during the rest segments, but I could tell that my legs still felt flat and fatigued from Sunday. Sure enough, I was barely able to muster a faster pace on my one-minute "hard" sections than on the previous intervals that were four times as long. This was frustrating but not unexpected, and given the proximity to the race I was not too disappointed. I have plenty of recovery days remaining this week and should be ready for a speedier effort next time around.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Week in Review

83 miles
2 doubles
1 night in DC
1 night in NY
5 AFDs

Another solid week of training in the books, capped off with a respectable performance at Army 10 Miler. There's still plenty of work to be done, but I'm happy with where my fitness is and willing to be patient over the coming months.

JER and MRN ready to enjoy (read: devour) a
post-race brunch

As I often say, however, the best part of this week's training was not necessarily the miles themselves but rather the friends they allowed me to spend time with along the way. Running side by side with Caitlin along the National Mall is an experience I'll remember forever, made all the more bittersweet by the fact that races together will be fewer and farther between now that I'm moving. Spending the night with Jilane on Saturday and then with Madeleine in New York on Sunday were also rare treats. I'm so grateful to have friends spread across the country as it makes anywhere feel a little bit more like home!

Army 10 Miler Race Recap

~.75 mile w/u
Target: 10 mile race @sub-60 (6:00 avg.)
Actual: 58:55 (5:53-54 avg.); slowest mile 6:00, fastest mile 5:48, 10k split 36:30
10th female; Results
2.25 mile c/d
Total: 13 miles

After a full day of traveling in a severely overloaded ve
hicle, Jordan and I arrived to Jilane's place in DC just before dinnertime on Saturday. She and I set off on an easy 10-minute shakeout while Jordan put in a more substantial run before reuniting with Caitlin, Garrett and former Charlottean B-Mac for a pre-race dinner and strategizing session. We left eager to get a good night's sleep and toe the line in the morning.

Full of nervous energy, I awoke immediately at the sound of my alarm and was out the door by 6:20. The plan we'd decided on the night before was for both me and Caitlin (along with Boriana, who came in from Tyson's Corner) to rendezvous at the Pentagon metro stop near the race start/finish. Jilane lives just a block away from a metro so it should've been no problem for me to hop on a train there and ride it all the way to the race. But as I was approaching the Capitol South metro station in the early morning darkness I could tell that something was a
miss. A dozen or so other people, each dressed similar to me and sporting an Army 10 Miler race number, were standing on the sidewalk outside the station wearing expressions of annoyance. Turns out that for some inexplicable reason the station was closed. Trying to stay calm, I asked the guy next to me where the closest alternate station was, assuming I'd jog there. Overhearing my question, another guy said that he'd just parked nearby and would be happy to drive us to the next station. Despite having no indication that he was anything other than a deranged serial killer masquerading as a runner who'd staged the station closure as an elaborate ruse to kidnap and murder us all, I happily agreed. (Dad, don't tell Mom.) I piled into his car with the randos while texting Caitlin about where she should start looking for my body in case things went awry. Fortunately he whisked us to the next station without a hitch, and a few minutes later I was safely on a metro train bound for the Pentagon station with smooth sailing--or so I thought.

The first part of the ride passed uneventfully. As our car emerged from the underground to cross the Potomac River, revealing a stunning sunrise splashed acro
ss the backdrop of the Mall, the man sitting next to me turned and said approvingly, "It's going to be a beautiful day." I'd barely begun to nod my agreement when he added, "Last year I ran this race in Afghanistan." Wow. Talk about putting the event in perspective. In an instant my earlier transportation difficulties were all but forgotten--until a few minutes later, when our train lurched to a halt amid crackled words from the conductor about door trouble from the car ahead. My anxiety level slowly began to rise with every passing minute as my watch ticked to 7:00, then 7:10, then 7:15. At this point I was already 15 minutes late to meet Caitlin and, with no reception in the tunnel, I figured she'd already gotten tired of waiting and decided to head to the elite tent without me. Once the train finally pulled into the Pentagon station, however, I learned that the "door trouble" mentioned earlier was actually the result of 30,000 participants trying to exit for the race. I was barely able to shove my way out of the door and onto the platform as it was covered with wall-to-wall people. I soon learned that Caitlin and Boriana faced the same obstacle, and by the time we'd fought our way up the escalator it was already close to 7:30. It took us several minutes and a few uses of the iPhone compass app to figure out where our elite tent was located, but once we had our bearings we took off in more or less a dead sprint. This wasn't exactly the warmup I'd envisioned, but it would have to suffice. We arrived at the tent with just enough time to change out of our warmups, stand in line for the bathroom and take a few gulps of water before being directed to the starting line. After the ordeal we'd just endured, it seemed as though the race itself would be a piece of cake.

For the first few miles after the starting cannon sounded
, it was just that. Caitlin and I settled into a rhythm next to each other, consciously allowing a group of 4-5 women to go out ahead of us while we adhered to our goal pace. We split our first mile in 5:51, then the same for the second, then the same for the third, all the while telling each other we needed to back off and conserve energy but still clicking off the same splits. I was pleasantly surprised to feel so comfortable running what amounts to an aggressive pace for my current fitness level, but in the back of my mind I feared the early miles might catch up with me later. Through the halfway point, however, I felt terrific. It was amazing to run the race with Caitlin at my side--believe it or not, with as much as we train together we rarely have the opportunity to race this way--and despite our increasing effort levels we managed to offer each other bits of encouragement every few minutes. It also didn't hurt that the day was, in a word, perfect. The 60-degree start temperature, though unseasonably warm, was tempered by low humidity and no wind. To be honest, anything colder would've been to my detriment due to the extremely abbreviated warm-up. The course itself, which begins and ends at the Pentagon and offers a running tour of the National Mall, the White House, the Kennedy Center, the Watergate Hotel and plenty of other attractions, was mostly flat and fast. Several times during the race I found myself just feeling thankful for the opportunity to enjoy such a fantastic race on a beautiful day while feeling healthy and strong.

Caitlin and I running with our male escorts early in the race

Eventually, however, my euphoria gave way to fatigue. I stuck with Caitlin through six miles, then through the 10k, before the quick early pace began to take its toll. At some point during the seventh mile I inexplicably caught back up to her, excitedly proclaiming, "I'm back!", only to watch her pull away decisively a few meters later. From that point on she would remain fixed in my field of vision, at times slightly farther away and at times a bit closer, but all the while decidedly out of reach. The last 5k, which just happens to feature the only hills of the entire course, found me in no-man's land. Remember when I said I needed to work on my mental toughness? Well, be careful what you wish for. Somewhere toward the end of the seventh mile Jordan popped up on the sidelines, entreating me to stay focused and telling me I was in the top 10. In reality I think I was in 11th or 12th at that point, but his comments and a few cheers from Jilane renewed my determination to finish strong. I split 5:51 for mile 8, my fastest thus far of the second half of the race after a few 6:00s in a row, passing two girls in the process. With two miles to go I was able to roughly calculate that I'd need to split two 5:55s in order to break 59 minutes.

The bad news is Caitlin dropped me shortly thereafter. The good news is I then
dropped the girl in pink.

Unfortunately, with the ninth mile featuring a long uphill grade on one of the bridges, my best efforts could not prevent another 6:00 split. At one point I passed a wheelchair racer, who looked at me and said, "Hey, I think you're the first woman!" I have no idea why he thought that since he'd clearly been passed by quite a few other females, so I quickly replied, "I'm not." His response--"Well, you are for me!"--brought a fleeting smile to my face, once again putting the entire race in perspective. With just five minutes of hard running remaining and determined to meet my goal, I forged up the final hill before taking a sharp downhill to the finishing straight. I could see Caitlin crossing the line just ahead as I managed to sprint in just a few ticks under 59 minutes. Not only had I beaten my goal, but I'd finished with my fastest split of the day and achieved what is realistically my best case scenario for where my fitness is right now.

Me, Caitlin and Boriana looking fresh as daisies as we represent CRC post-race

Wogging back to Caitlin's hotel after the race--there was no way in hell we were getting back on the metro--we recapped the run and how much we enjoyed the course. Though I might plan my pre-race preparations a little bit differently, I have every intention of returning next year in better shape and improving upon this year's finish. As for the rest of 2011, well, now all I have to do is get fit enough to run 16 more miles at this pace and then I'll be all set!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Final Speed Loop Workout?

3.5 mile w/u
Target: 3 miles @~18 mins. (5:55-6:05); 3x400m @77-78
Actual: 17:22 (5:55, 5:45, 5:42); 75, 73-high, 73-low
3.5 mile c/d
Total: 12 miles

With only a few precious opportunities remaining to run with my Charlotte friends, I was excited at the prospect of working out with Caitlin and Pezz, who's in town for most of the autumn, early this morning. Caitlin and I are both racing Army 10 Miler on Sunday and Pezz has the Tufts 10k up in my new stomping grounds on Monday, so all of us were looking for a workout that was moderately difficult and not too high in volume. Since the above was on Caitlin's schedule from Mark Hadley, that's what we went with (except Pezz the overachiever threw in a few more reps afterward).

Also in the mix was Jordan, who isn't 100% fit but is finally 100% healthy, which makes him the perfect candidate for dragging us around the Dilworth Speed Loop. We started off conservatively, the three girls chatting about upcoming races while Jordan lagged behind, until he got frustrated with the slow pace and the conversation--he hates, hates for people to talk during workouts or races--and shot to the front. Within the span of a few meters the pace dropped significantly and the gabfest dwindled to silence. He told me after the workout that we'd run our first 1k at 6:10 pace so he wanted to bring us back down to the prescribed 5:55. To be honest, I would've been fine with starting off a bit slower, but when everyone changes gears at the same time I'm not looking to get left behind. Sure enough, we split 5:55 on the dot for mile one before hanging a left and cruising through the slight downhill section of the course. My breathing grew increasingly labored, to the point where I couldn't even muster a hello to Michelle and Thomas, whom we saw a few minutes later. I was both relieved and distressed to see a 5:45 split at the mile marker--relieved that my 10-mile race pace should not, in fact, feel this difficult, but distressed at the prospect of holding the pace for another mile. Surprisingly, I never really felt my effort increasing past that point, and though the final few minutes were tough I was able to stay with the group and finish strong. After a generous rest and an equally generous cup of water from Rebecca's porch (thanks for the Crystal Light packet too!), the 400s came and went in no time flat. Aided by the slight downhill, we were able to open up our stride and easily surpass the prescribed pace. It's the fastest/hardest I've run in months and it felt great to test the legs. Here's hoping all three of our races go just as well as this workout!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sometimes the Hardest Thing and the Right Thing are the Same

I don't know a witty or eloquent way to ease into the big news, so I'm just going to say it: Jordan and I are moving. To Boston. Very, very soon. For those of you we haven't told in person, I apologize for this mass notification. I know from reading a book on social media for a book club that I'm now unable to attend that sharing the news in this way might be perceived as impersonal or inconsiderate, but there's just no other way to guarantee that you'll all start planning our going away party together at the same time.

As you might expect, this change has come about as a result of opportunities presented to us by Karhu North America (KNA). Several events fell into place in such a way that enabled KNA to award me a promotion while also offering Jordan an opportunity in sales and product development. Both of these positions necessitate us living near Beverly, a North Shore suburb of Boston, where the KNA corporate office is located. For me, I knew from day one of accepting a position with the company that all roads pointed north if I wanted to advance. Neither Jordan nor I expected it to happen right now, or in such a way that would allow him to be so directly involved. To help architect this footwear brand and hopefully grow it to the potential that Jordan and I both see in the near future--well, it's an opportunity that can't be ignored. Though we've known about this and wanted to share it with you for several weeks, we had to hold back out of respect that I'm sure many of you business professionals can understand. Not only is the news now out, but the first stage of our multi-phase moving process (which involves two cars, a very uncooperative kitty cat, a houseful of running shoes and at least two 16+ hour drives) will actually begin this weekend after Army 10 Miler. We'll be back and forth a time or two after that, but will likely be gone for good at the end of the month.

As with any major life decision, this one involves an element of risk. I was just thinking on an easy run this evening about all the unpredictable paths that my life has traversed to this point. Many of them shared that common element: uncertainty. Almost exactly seven years ago, I was just a young and inexperienced 22-year-old with little insight into the direction my life should follow. I slowly developed a passion for both the sport and industry of running, was offered my first "real" job as a tech rep for Mizuno, and embarked for the city of Atlanta sight unseen without knowing a single person there. And yet without taking that leap of faith, I doubt I'd be here today, able to say without a hint of regret that I've turned that first tech rep position into a blossoming career. Another unpredictable and equally life-changing opportunity came my way three years later via my then-coach Jeff Gaudette. I still remember cradling the phone to my ear and listening uncomprehendingly as he basically said, "How would you like to quit your job, move to Charlotte and run track as a graduate student for this small private school called Queens University?" The idea was so ludicrous, so unfathomable that I had no choice but to acquiesce. Had Jeff not believed in me, and had I not taken a chance on myself, I would've never gone on to become a multiple time All-American and most certainly would not have possessed the courage to attempt qualifying for the Olympic Trials, much less actually done it. Those decisions and others like them have been filled with uncertainty but ultimately transformed my life in amazing, rewarding ways.

Of course, the saddest part for both Jordan and me is the people we will be leaving behind. I could write volumes about the relationships we've developed over the past few years in Charlotte, but suffice it to say that if you're reading this then you've been part of our journey in some way. I heard once that there are three types of friendships in this life and, though admittedly cheesy, that sentiment has stuck with me. The first kind of friendship is there for a season. Some of the friends we've made here are just that, friends who are present for this season in our lives. Maybe they were just peripheral friendships or maybe they were a result of proximity, but for whatever reason these ties will gradually weaken and fade as time passes. Other friendships exist for a reason. Whether that reason was attending Queens, working at Run For Your Life, joining CRC or any number of other circumstances, for whatever reason these friendships were made possible during our time here. Some of them might wane, but others have been strengthened over time to the point that they will accompany me no matter where I travel. And finally, the third type of friendships are there for a lifetime. These, of course, are the ones that make me most sorrowful at the prospect of moving. And yet, paradoxically, knowing that I'm leaving these friendships also offers me comfort, because I know that a few thousand measly miles can't even begin to erode the bonds that we've created. You know who you are, and I hope you know how much you mean to me. To both of us.

I could go on and talk about the Charlotte running community, about CRC, about lazy Sundays at the pool, about early morning group runs and nights at Common Market, but I'm trying not to get too emotional just yet. Instead I would just like to say thank you to everyone who has played a role in our lives during our time in Charlotte. No matter where our life leads, we will carry part of you with us.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Week in Review

80 miles
2 doubles
3 workouts
4 days in ATL
4 AFDs

For the second week in a row I managed three workouts/quality runs while maintaining respectable mileage and feeling strong and healthy. Without a doubt, this can be considered a rousing success for where I'm at right now.

On the list titled "not a rousing success" might be my pitiful attempt at racing 13.1 Atlanta yesterday. I won't go into all the details, but basically I need to be more realistic about my current fitness and the race course needs to not pass directly in front of the start/finish area at five miles. What was I supposed to do, not stop?! Seriously though, I'm frustrated that I wasn't able to capitalize on such gorgeous cold weather and force myself to push through when the going got tough, but I'm also grateful that I was able to complete five miles at tempo effort and watch my new friend Meggan Franks crush a huge PR. I don't need to make a habit of dropping out of races, but with Army 10 Miler on Sunday and 13.1 Dallas in three weeks, there are still plenty of opportunities for quality performances this month. The weather is finally changing and I'm finally gaining strength and fitness--now I just need some mental toughness to go along with it!