Wednesday, February 29, 2012

13.1Miami Pre-Race Workout

3 mile w/u + strides
Target: 15 min. tempo @5:45 pace; 3 min. jog; 3x3 min. @5:35 pace w/2 min. jog
Actual: Above
2.5 mile c/d
Total: 11 miles

Since I'm flying to Miami later this afternoon, I was afforded the opportunity to work from home for most of the day. It was nice not to be forced out the door by 6am to get this workout done, but with a reported impending snowstorm on the way--which will likely be the first/last/only one this winter--I knew I couldn't postpone forever. By the time I took a break from the computer and headed for the Neck around 11am it was cold, clear and eerily calm. There's almost always an ocean breeze blowing in Marblehead, particularly on the causeway leading to and from the Neck, but today the tree branches were motionless. Perfect workout weather!

Sure enough, I felt terrific throughout this effort despite being completely solo. My stride felt strong and light, and I delighted in pressing hard through some of the Neck's hilliest portions. Weather like this is definitely my sweet spot...which might be foreshadowing for how things will play out on Sunday in Miami. The snow began to fall a few short hours after completing my workout, and the juxtaposition of seeing the flurries swirling outside our dining room window--so thick I couldn't even see the causeway, normally clearly visible from that vantage point--while packing shorts and t-shirts into my suitcase was a bit surreal. I'm not sure how ideal the sweltering Miami heat will be for running, but at least I hope to come home Sunday with a sweet tan!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Week in Review

83 miles
4 doubles
5 runs in Charlotte
1 failed workout
10 bridesmaids dresses tried on

What a terrific week! Not only did I put in some quality time on the feet with friends, but I spent the entire weekend in Charlotte and got to snuggle with Caitlin four nights in a row. I also had the honor of being the first Karhu employee to sell some of the new spring/summer 2012 Karhu shoes at retail, as they just debuted
this week and were rushed to Charlotte Running Company for the Charlotte 10 Miler and 4 Mile Run. It was also super cool to see the second place male finisher and three of the top four female finishers rocking Karhu kicks at the race. The Charlotte running community has definitely embraced the brand, and I could not be more proud and honored to have played a role in that. Thank you all so much for your support!

L to R: Mo (in Craft capris), Michelle, Carolyn and Dalena. Speedy
and oh-so-stylish

Second place finisher Brad rocks his poison apple green Racers

From a training perspective, this week was largely positive. I unexpectedly succeeded in my first track workout of the season, then unexpectedly failed at what Caitlin and I thought would be a no-brainer 800-meter workout. (Our lackluster results are too embarrassing to merit a separate blog post, but feel free to read Caitlin's recap if you want to point and laugh.) Fortunately we redeemed ourselves with a quality long run on Sunday that saw appearances from over 20 of Charlotte's finest, including some of the fastest ladies I know: Stephanie "check out my new Newton contract" Pezzullo, Alana "fastest 15-year-old in the country" Hadley and Anna "was hoping to run 3:20 and ended up breaking 3 hours no problem" Donlan. At one point during the run, when the four of us found ourselves leading the charge, I remarked with all seriousness that I expect the same group to find ourselves toeing the line together at the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2016!

It goes without saying that one of the major highlights of the weekend was
accompanying Caitlin for some of her pre-nuptial planning. She tried on wedding dresses Saturday and I did the same with bridesmaid dresses Sunday, all of which was accomplished with our trademark speed and sarcasm. I had no idea we'd be doing this when I booked this trip last month, but needless to say I couldn't be more thrilled that Garrett accommodated my schedule with his timely Valentine's Day proposal. It is all about me, of course, which Caitlin proved by planning a secret surprise gathering on Saturday night with some of my closest Charlotte friends and running buddies. We had a blast drinking wine, being chastised by our waitress and then closing things out with some good old-fashioned dirty dancing before calling it a night at the astonishingly late hour of 11:30. We did have a long run the next morning, after all.

What a fun night with friends!

Without question, this was one of the most enjoyable "work" trips I've taken in a long time. Thanks to everyone in Charlotte for embracing Karhu--and me!--with open arms. I can't wait to come back soon!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Return to the Track

3 mile w/u
Target: 2x200m strides @40; 1x400m @80; mile @5:20; 1k @3:20; 600m @2:00
Actual: 37.7 (200m jog); 41.9 (200m jog); 79.3 (2:00 jog); 5:15.2 (4:00); 3:18.4 (3:00); 1:54.3
1 mile c/d
Total: ~7.5 miles

According to Jordan, it was necessary for me to step on the track so I could wake my body up and kindly remind it that workouts below 6-minute pace do exist. Okay, fair enough. But it's been so incredibly long since I've done a track workout, even longer since I've done one without Jordan pacing me and longer still since I've touched 5:20 pace--take all that into account and, suffice it to say, I was feeling a bit nervous about hitting the oval today. But I suppose it had to be done.

After delaying things as long as possible until a 2pm "lunch" hour, it was finally time. Fortunately our office is located literally a quarter mile away from the Beverly High School track, which is actually quite a nice facility. I jogged a comfortably long warmup while Jordan, who is still recovering from various ailments, also put in some time on his feet. Once I stepped onto the track for the workout portion, he promptly took my watch. I would be running on nothing more than feel and the splits he would call out at every 200 meters. Jordan purposely started things off with 2x200m and 1x400m, all intended to help me hone in on 80-second pace--which, as I mentioned, isn't exactly a familiar feeling. (In fact, I'm pretty sure the last time I ran an entire mile in 5:20 was when I "paced" Alana at the High Point 5k last year. I say "paced" in quotations because essentially I ran four laps before she left me in her dust. Needless to say, this memory did not set my hopes sky high for today's effort.)

As you can see from the splits above, the 200s were wildly inconsistent. It didn't help that I was facing a stiff 15+ mph headwind on the backstretch, which made it even more difficult to correlate pace and effort. I was able to settle down and dial things closer to the correct tempo with the 400, but I still remained skeptical I'd be able to run the same pace for four consecutive laps. What's sad is that plenty of high school girls run 5:20 miles every day, but for me it's about as rare as leap year. Taking that into account, I was quite surprised to not only run well under 5:20, but to do so completely solo and largely into the wind. Thanks to the ample recovery jog (plenty of time for my nausea to subside), I was able to maintain basically the same pace for the 1000 and 600 as well. I didn't exactly break any records, but for my first such outing in quite some time it was pretty much best case scenario. And just think, if I can just string together five more 5:15 miles back-to-back I just might have a shot at making the 10k Trials! Actually, when you put it like that, I definitely won't quit my day job.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Week in Review

83-84 miles
3 doubles
5 runs in Austin
2 runs in NYC

What a great week on all fronts! Training, travel, work, weather, time with friends--all went swimmingly, and I couldn't hope to feel better the week after a hard half-marathon effort. I had a blast working out with Allison in Austin and loved catching up with Jay, Heidi and Betsy on a very well-orchestrated run spanning the West Side bike path and Central Park. Jordan and I also spent some quality time at Paragon Sports, our partner for 13.1 NYC next month, educating both staff and customers on the benefits of Karhu footwear and Craft apparel. If you've never been to Paragon, you're definitely missing out as it's quite a shopping experience (not to mention practically an NYC institution). We also reunited with tons of Brownies while crashing at Craig's place in Chelsea, enjoyed several meals with the Holders as well as Jay's sister and her fiance and spent plenty of time on foot soaking up the sunny and mild winter weather. The only way this weekend could've been better is if it stretched on a bit longer--oh wait! It does! Thanks to all presidents past and future and to Huub for giving us the special treat of a Monday off and rare day spent at home.

What's on tap for the week ahead? A trip to Charlotte! As a sponsor of the Charlotte 10 Miler and 4 Mile Run, I'll be representing Karhu at the race and selling some sweet kicks. I couldn't be more excited about returning to the Queen City, especially in light of Caitlin's recent engagement and upcoming wedding dress shopping. I'm looking forward to seeing lots of familiar faces and getting in some quality miles with old friends. It's going to be a great week!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Austin Fartlek With Allison

3 mile w/u
Target (in minutes): 5, 4, 3, 2, 2, 3, 4, 5
5-4-3 @MP, 2-2-3 @1/2 MP, 4-5 @10k
Actual: Above
4 mile c/d
Total: 12-12.5 miles

After spending most of the week working and running--in short sleeves, no less!--in the great city of Austin, I finally felt ready to attempt a workout on Friday morning. My good friend and Olympic Trials running partner Allison, who has gamely volunteered to pace the Rogue Running 3:15 group at Austin Marathon in just a few days, was also interested in trying something uptempo. After requestin
g a workout based on time, not distance, from Jordan since we wanted to stick to the soft surface around Town Lake, he came up with the above. It looked challenging but incredibly doable, and both Allison and I were excited to give it a go.

Overall, I thought this went incredibly well. Of course, having no idea of our actual pace or distance, in reality we could've royally bombed it. But I don't think so; if anything, we might have been a little quick on our early intervals. The footing was a bit of a challenge in places due to standing puddles and thick, clumpy dirt from the previous night's rain, but the effort was right on point. Aerobically I was quite comfortable and my legs felt pretty darn peppy, and I'm both excited and relieved to feel comple
tely recovered from both the Trials (finally) and the Mercedes Half (quicker than expected). Not to mention today's session served as a perfect opportunity to talk Allison into racing the Philly Marathon with Caitlin and I in the fall since our workout felt just like the Trials again!

Our core group from the Trials with Allison
and me side by side

There was no time for dilly-dallying after the workout as we parted ways in a hurry, Allison to spend a day at the marathon expo and myself to prepare for another cross-country flight. I've got a busy, fun and productive weekend planned in NYC. Time to hit the road (and the air) again!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Week in Review

66-67 miles
2 doubles
2 days in Atlanta
3 days in Birmingham
1 new PR

A full month removed from the Trials, I finally feel as though I'm truly recovered and ready to kick my training back into gear. I aimed to hit 70 miles this week and fell a bit short, but that's okay. (It probably didn't help that I logged a measly three miles on Friday, but don't judge me! I had a 12 hour workday including travel.) Next week, however, my Karhu responsibilities will take me to two terrific but completely different running cities, Austin and NYC, and I should be able to log decent mileage amid account visits. After a few days of easy running to recover from the half, I hope to attempt a workout and a solid long run later this week. It's time to start training!

Also, my "Week in Review" post would be hopelessly lacking without mentioning the greatest news of the week: Caitlin and Garrett got engaged! Woohoo! Of course Cicero was involved in the proposal. I'll have much more to say about this in the coming weeks and months, but for now let me express my sincere joy and excitement, both for the wedding and for the preceding bachelorette party which I will get to help plan as part of my newly minted bridesmaid duties. Congrats, Caitlin and Garrett!

Mercdes Half-Marathon Race Recap

2+ mile w/u + strides
Target: 13.1 miles @1:16:xx-1:18:xx
Actual: 1:17:54 (1:17:56 gun time); 1st place female
2.5 mile c/d
Total: 17-18 miles

When my plane touched down in Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon, it was gorgeous and sunny and 62 degrees. Before going to bed on Saturday night before the race, I noted on Facebook that when I toed the line the following morning in Birmingham--which, let's be clear, is located a mere 150 miles away from Atlanta--it would be a frigid 24 degrees with a wind chill of 18. If anything, reality was slightly colder than I feared when I woke up on Sunday morning. I didn't even want to crawl out from underneath the hotel covers, much less run a full-fledged race.

Fortunately, I had plenty of incentives. For one, there was no small sum of prize money on the line. I was also looking forward to retracing my steps and reliving some nostalgia on the same course where I qualified for the Trials exactly one year ago. And, in the immediate future, my friend and soon-to-be racing buddy Meggan was planning to meet me in the hotel lobby to warm up exactly 45 minutes from the sounding of my alarm clock. I would be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind to forego the outdoor warmup and trot along for a few minutes on the hotel treadmill instead, but I knew that would only postpone the inevitable. And so we begrudgingly set out, Meggan and I and a few of her training buddies who were also running, everyone putting on a brave front of good spirits in spite of the conditions. A short half hour later, it was time to shed our protective layers and hit the starting line. Even after removing several garments, I was still wearing much more than usual for a race of this distance: compression socks, gloves, a wind resistant headband, a long-sleeve base layer and another shirt on top. It was a far cry from the boy shorts and sports bra top I'd packed for the occasion. Instead, I looked like a hobo--albeit an expensively dressed, very sporty hobo--and even at that, I was still freezing! Finally, mercifully, the starter counted down the final 30 seconds and we were off.

Within minutes, Meggan and I had not only distanced ourselves from the next female competitor, but we'd also assembled quite the male entourage. Our primary companion, a very tall (and even thinner) Trak Shak employee named Jake Kidd (nicknamed "The Karhu Kidd" thanks to his affinity for the brand, as evidenced by the bright green Racers on his feet), had expressly stated before the race that he was game for coasting along and blocking the wind for us since he "wasn't in shape" enough to run his own race. Hey, I wasn't complaining. With our spirits high and our blood finally flowing, the first mile came and went in 5:50--a bit faster than the 6:00-6:05 pace we'd planned, but it felt like a breeze. The next mile followed in similar fashion, then the next. Before we knew it, and unbeknownst to us at the time, we passed through 10k in a brisk 36:03. This is only 25 seconds off my 10k road PR, which might have been a little ambitious given the weather and my nonexistent training over the past month, but with the wind at our backs and positive group energy it felt downright easy. I barely even noticed the gently rolling hills up to this point, though in my mind I knew a long, gradual incline was waiting for us within the next few miles. Surely that would sap some of our strength, but until then we had nothing to lose by riding the positive vibe until it ran its course (pun intended).

That party train came screeching to a halt, as predicted, when we reached the dreaded hill. Though it wasn't necessarily steep, it was cruelly deceptive. Every few hundred meters brought a crest or a bend in the road, and with it our hope that we'd reached the top, only to find that there was still more climbing to come. By the time I finally did make it up and over, all that remained of our group was myself, Jake and a first-time marathoner whose name I didn't catch. (The marathon essentially runs the half course twice, which meant he was nearing the end of the first of two loops.) I glanced behind for Meggan and saw she was about 10 meters back, but fortunately there were no other women in sight. From this moment on I had no course of action other than to push as hard as I could into the wind for the remaining few miles on increasingly fatigued--and still surprisingly cold--legs. From that point forward, Jake's presence and words of encouragement were invaluable. I'm not sure how much he was physically able to block the wind for me--though tall, I doubt his frame is any wider than mine--but I was able to zone out and simply focus on the backs of his bright green Karhu shoes, just as I've done countless times with Jordan. My eyes were smarting from the bitingly cold air and bright morning sunshine, and everything beyond the green shoes everything seemed to blur together.

With a mile to go, as we turned back toward the now-familiar downtown streets, I couldn't help remembering the wave of emotions I'd felt tracing this exact route a year earlier. In many ways it feels like a lifetime ago, yet the details and imagery of those final few minutes came back as though they'd happened only yesterday. In the midst of this reflection, as I dug deep into my mental and physical reserves, straining to find enough strength in my legs to power my way to the finish, I found myself drawn toward one revelatory, all-encompassing thought:

"Shit, it's cold out here."

I broke through the finishing tape, arms raised high, dipping just under 1:18 and clocking a two-minute PR. A few seconds later I was approached by a female reporter and a man with a video camera, evidently representing a local news station. I don't remember a single question she asked me, but I do remember realizing with horror as I opened my mouth to respond that my lips were literally frozen. Have you ever undergone major reconstructive dental surgery? Maybe taken a couple hundred cc's of Botox straight to the upper lip? I haven't, but I can't imagine that either of those scenarios would have resulted in speech more slurred and or lips more incapacitated than mine were at that moment. Total, utter humiliation. As I walked away, I said to a nearby volunteer, "I thure hope thass not on the newths tonight." "Oh don't worry," he replied cheerfully. "It's live."

A few seconds later, Meggan crossed the line in second place with a nice PR for herself. After thanking Jake for his help, the two of us immediately scurried off in search of warmer clothes to begin our cooldown. Meggan is racing the New Orleans Rock 'n Roll full in three weeks, and I'm confident she'll more than surpass her own expectations. As for me, I surprised myself today with how comfortable I felt for the majority of the race in light of my past month's "training." And while admittedly my previous PR was softer than, well, a lip full of Botox, today showed me that I have the potential to run much faster at the half-marathon distance later this year. Today's race was a fantastic way to round out my marathon recovery and bring the entire Trials experience full circle to the place where it all began a year ago.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Baby Steps

3 mile w/u
Target: 2x1 min., 2x4 mins., 3x2 mins. all w/1 min. rest
Actual: Above + 2x30 secs.
2 mile c/d
Total: 8-8.5 miles

I must admit I was a little nervous for my first post-Trials workout, but fortunately Jordan prescribed something untimed and thus easily achievable. I took to the Neck for some hard running on familiar (albeit challenging) terrain, grateful for the opportunity to open up the legs and lungs without being pained by the knowledge of what pace or distance I was covering on each interval. I could've been running 5:40 pace or 6:40 pace--after drastically misjudging the effort on Sunday's long run, your guess is as good as mine--but the important thing is that my body felt strong. Not fast, necessarily, but strong and surprisingly willing to accept the increased effort. I still have no idea what I'll be capable of on Sunday, but it's exciting to finally feel mentally and physically ready to resume hard training.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Week in Review

65-66 miles
1 double
15 mile long run
8 mile "uptempo" run
1 hour yoga

By Tuesday of this week, I could tell that my body was finally starting to come around. My stride and cadence began to feel more natural, my breathing more controlled and my overall level of fatigue significantly reduced as compared to the previous week. On Friday I was feeling ambitious enough to attempt an 8.5ish mile uptempo effort--albeit with no real concept of splits or pace--and when I checked my watch at the end of the run I was pleased to see I'd covered the loop about three and a half minutes faster than I had the previous day on a not-slow "normal" run.

As if that development weren't exciting enough, the week was further improved when Jordan went out for a tentative tester run on Saturday and ended up covering a full 10 miles with me after proclaiming his back/SI joint felt 100% better. The fact that he will be as sore as if he'd raced a marathon afterward is of small consequence when compared to this mental and physical transformation. Though both of us have quite a bit of travel in the coming weeks, his return will definitely make it easier for me to resume my early morning run schedule and, just as importantly, significantly reduce his level of grouchiness.

Though the highlight of most red-blooded Americans' weekend is undoubtedly the Super Bowl, for running nerds like myself the prospect of a football game pales in comparison to attending the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on Saturday night. Tickets were already sold out when I checked the meet web site on Friday morning, but two of my kind and generous friends who also happen to be employed by New Balance hooked us up big time. It was great fun to cram into the stands like sardines with several thousand of our closest friends (including some of our actual friends like Jeff and Melanie, Teresa, Emily and her mom, and Tom and his girlfriend) and enjoy a competitive running event purely as a spectator. We capped things off by spending the night at Emily's and joining in on the BAA Sunday long run, where we once again traversed the Boston course and lamented the placement of Heartbreak Hill before finishing off the run with a few soft surface loops around the reservoir. Oh, and did I mention that Emily's husband Matt made brunch? After two weekends in a row of great runs and even better breakfasts, I could get used to this routine.

So now that my body feels like it actually belongs to me, I suppose it's time to think about resuming "normal" training. I'll probably try to increase my mileage into the 70s this week and I'm actually returning to Mercedes Marathon, home of last year's OT qualifying run, to attempt to recreate that magic in the half. Considering that this morning's 6:50 pace run felt like 5:50 pace for the final few miles, I'm less than optimistic about blasting a huge PR like I'd rather naively envisioned when I signed up for this a few weeks ago. Regardless, I do hope to get in a long, hard effort and at the very least revise my embarrassing official half-marathon PR of 1:19:58. (For those of you who aren't math majors, this time is about 30 seconds off of the half-marathon pace I ran twice in a row at the Trials. Pathetic.) Whatever happens at Mercedes, the important thing right now is that my body truly feels 100% and I'm finally mentally excited about running again. It's a great feeling!