Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fartlek Around the Neck

2.5 mile w/u
Target: Whatever Jordan makes up
Actual: Above, with intervals ranging from 200m to 600m; active rest ranging from 61 secs. to 91 secs.
Fastest pace: 2:58/k (4:52/mile)
Slowest pace: 3:35/k (5:46/mile)
Average pace: 3:17/k (5:15/mile)
2 mile c/d
Total: 8.5-9 miles

This morning Jordan and I embarked on a fartlek in the truest sense of the word, especially from my perspective. By his own devious plan, I had no idea how far or how fast each interval was supposed to be, nor did I know how long each of my rest segments would be; instead, I was at my trusty pacer's mercy (or lack thereof). I stayed close on his heels over the rolling terrain of the Neck, at times feeling a bit flat and sluggish but at other times feeling strong and powerful. It wasn't until we finished that he shared some of my splits, which didn't end up being half bad given the wind and the hills. In fact, the only time the pace slowed above 5:20/mile was during a 400-meter interval on the hardest uphill section of the entire loop. This was much more fun and less stressful than duplicating the same intervals on the track, and I still ended up achieving respectable splits thanks to Jordan's presence and encouragement. In fact, with all said and done I ran over 5.2k of "on" distance at sub-16:30 5k pace. If I want to sharpen my fitness over shorter distances like 5k and 10k (and actually, you know, run 16:30 without taking breaks every other minute), this is exactly the kind of work I'll need to do.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Week in Review

87 miles
1 double
17 mile long run
4 days in NYC
5 AFDs

This week's mileage was right back where I want it to be thanks to a solid long run on Sunday. Although I was exhausted from working the 13.1 event, racing and then driving home on Saturday night, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to join Terry, Carly, Betsy and Elle in tracing the first half of the Boston Marathon course. We carpooled up to Hopkinton together in spite of the cold and dreary weather, toed the fading but still visibly painted starting line and set off in the direction of the finish line. Predictably, my legs felt stiff and tired from the previous day's effort, but fortunately for me Carly is knocked up and therefore amenable to not pushing the pace. We got dropped by the other girls more or less immediately but then w
ere joined by Jenn Donovan and her fiance for a few miles. After they turned back for home, Carly and I were alone together to finish out the run. To be honest, the first 10 or so miles of the course are completely unremarkable (and relatively unattractive). It isn't until you reach the well-manicured lawns and quaint storefronts of Wellesley that it begins to look like anyplace you'd actually enjoy spending a bit of time. What is noteworthy, however, is the almost constant downhill grade. I could very easily see myself setting a new half-marathon PR en route to a huge implosion if I weren't prepared for the terrain. Fortunately Elle and Betsy are much smarter than me; they both cruised through the first half today and then crushed the Newton hills en route to a solid 22-miler. Carly and I called it a day at 17 and opted to get bagels and coffee while offering them moral (and vehicular) support. This wasn't one of my better or more enjoyable long runs from a physical perspective, but I had a blast with the group and am definitely glad I went.

The historical Hopkinton start line

With a big training weekend behind me and a much less stressful travel schedule ahead, I'm eager to continue to push my limits in the coming weeks. I'm also excited to report that I've added another goal race to my schedule, this one even comfortably farther away than the New Balance Boston 10k. I'll be joining Caitlin, Camille, Alana and many other familiar faces at the US Half-Marathon Championships in June. This race is held in conjunction with Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN, and utilizes part of the same lightning-fast course, so I'm very excited to see what I'll be capable of running there. For now I just need to keep doing what I'm doing, training hard and staying healthy. It's easier said than done but I'm up to the challenge!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

13.1 NYC Race Recap

~3 minute w/u
Target: Win and run sub-1:17
Actual: First place, 1:17:19, $1000
Total: 14 miles

The Karhu Bear at the start of the 5k. Will he get a new bear record??

One of these days, I'm going to run a race like a normal person. I'll arrive to the destination city a day or two before, spend plenty of time relaxing off my feet, then enjoy a delicious pre-race dinner and a restful night of sleep. On race morning I'll arrive to the event site an hour or so early with plenty of time to get in a proper leisurely warmup. I'll make my way to the starting line feeling fresh, rested and incredibly confident in my preparation.

Of course, today was not that day. I spent the majority of the previous 48 hours walking up and down the labyrinthine stairways and back corridors of Paragon Sports working packet pickup. The night before the race, Jordan and I undertook a well-orchestrated four-part transportation sequence that included walking a mile back to our friend's place from Paragon, taking a taxi to Grand Central Station, hopping a train to Pleasantville to retrieve our car, then driving 45 minutes to scenic Queens so we could pass out for a few hours at a hotel near the race site. (It goes without saying that the takeout meal I snagged at Grand Central was less than ideal.) Fortunately, the New York edition of the 13.1 race series boasted the latest start time of them all, a blissful 9am, which meant that we didn't need to arrive to Flushing Meadows for setup until 6:30. (In stark contrast, the Miami 13.1 race a few weeks ago was already a few miles underway at this time.) That said, with plenty of setup necessary before gun time, I barely had a chance to say hello to Jay and Billy and haphazardly pin on my number before frantically sprinting over to the start line.

A few minutes later, aft
er a particularly ear-piercing taped rendition of the national anthem, we were off. Luckily for me, "we" included an entourage I have since dubbed "the three J's," consisting of Jay, his Urban Athletics teammate Josh, and a surprise late-entering JSK. For the next hour-plus, these three gentlemen made it their mission to keep me on pace, block the wind during some particularly drafty sections, offer me water and Gatorade when necessary, and provide plenty of verbal encouragement. During the later stages, when the course criss-crossed over itself several times and we found ourselves doubling over some straggling runners and walkers (and generally unaware park visitors), the three J's expended plenty of their own energy shouting at people to get out of the way and blazing me a clear path (albeit one that several times included dodging shrubbery and hopping over unfortunately placed curbs). At one point, an errant soccer ball from a hotly contested Mini Mexico tournament strayed directly in front of our path, but one of the J's deftly kicked it out of the way without even breaking stride. What more could a girl ask for?? These guys were a huge help, both mentally and physically, and I undoubtedly would've missed my time goal by an even wider margin had they not been there to act as my queenmakers. I think this finish line shot says it all:

The three J's bow out gracefully to the right so I can
get the glory. What class acts!

Of course, as soon as I broke the tape, I immediately began calculating where I could've gained back the 20 seconds that cost me a sub-1:17 showing. Though almost perfectly flat save for a few short overpasses, the course had about 100 turns that often slowed my momentum and broke my mental rhythm. Along the back section of the park around mile 8, we inexplicably encountered a wet, slippery, disgusting muddy section about 25 meters long. Gingerly tip-toeing through it definitely didn't do me any favors--not to mention also didn't prevent my entire backside from the waist down from being completely splattered with mud--and resulted in what was probably my slowest mile of the day. But even taking these things into account still can't explain why my legs felt flat and heavy from the gun. By mile eight my energy and optimism was flagging and I could feel every muscle in my hips and hamstrings vehemently protesting what I was asking of them. Regardless, I'm happy to have persevered and set a new PR even if it wasn't quite what I was hoping for. I also just discovered from Jay's blog that our sub-5:40 final mile was the fastest of the day, which is promising. (Jordan took my watch at the starting line and recent experience has taught me to distrust my math skills based on the race clock, so this was news to me.) My training is going well and I just have to trust that the incremental fitness I'm gaining from each race and workout will all culminate in a breakthrough performance soon enough.

It's also worth noting that our Karhu Bear absolutely dominated the 5k, finishing 5th overall and shattering the previous bear record of 18:47, set at the Los Angeles 13.1
in 2011. If you haven't seen or felt this bear costume in person, you can't truly understand what an impressive feat this is. We might need to drug test his honey pot!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pack Mentality

4 mile w/u
Target: 3x1k @3:30 w/3:00 jog; 3x800@2:44 w/2:00 jog; 3x600@2:00 w/1:30 jog; 3x400 @78 w/1:00 secs jog
Actual: 3:28, 3:30, 3:31; 2:42, 2:44, 2:43; 1:58, 1:59, 1:58; 78, 77, 74
2+ mile c/d
Total: 12-12.5 miles

Unlike last week, the objective of this workout wasn't necessarily to see how far I could push myself or how fast I could go, but rather to practice running comfortably hard with an increasingly short amount of rest. With my trusty coach and newly healthy pacesetter at my side, Jordan and I set off for the soft surface of the Marblehead rail trail/bike path. Although straight and almost completely flat, the terrain runs somewhat slow due to the dirt and rocks and occasional uneven footing. Given today's goals and my desire to limit the pounding on my body, it was the perfect choice.

Despite the pedestrian starting pace, I initially struggled to settle in. I found myself checking my watch every few hundred meters, worrying about whether the pace was too fast or too slow and projecting my finishing time based on different landmarks on the trail. In fact, for almost the entire first half of the workout I missed the point completely. Finally Jordan reminded me to pretend like I was midway through a 10k race on the track, tucked into the pack and completely focused on the person in front of me. In that situation you're rarely worried about pace or splits; all that matters is remaining relaxed and controlled and expending as little energy as possible. Once I readjusted my mindset, stopped looking at my watch and simply locked into step behind Jordan, the entire tone of the workout shifted. In the end I actually surprised myself by recovering almost immediately after the 400s, to the point where a minute of rest almost seemed excessive. I finished feeling strong and confident thanks to Jordan's help and encouragement.

And now for some optimal post-workout recovery...a four hour drive to New York! Big Apple, here we come.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Week in Review

75 miles
2 doubles
6 days in Georgia
5 AFDs

Despite yesterday's epic fail, I'm actually quite pleased with this week's training. Had you asked me last Sunday, I would've predicted this week's total to end up in the 50-55 range given travel and my crazy work/expo schedule. Instead, I was able to complete a respectable 75 and even snuck in 5ish on Saturday morning before an epic 14+ hour workday. The week wasn't perfect, but it was the best I could've hoped for under the circumstances. I choose to believe that Wednesday's workout is indicative of my current fitness level, while today's race is indicative of nothing more than my current exhaustion level.

Fortunately/unfortunately, I'll have the chance to prove the veracity of that statement next Saturday in New York. I'll be racing (and working, of course) 13.1 NYC, which promises to be relatively flat and fast. I'll also be accompanied by the uber-fit Jay Holder who is fresh off a 4+ minute half-marathon PR last weekend en route to next month's Boston Marathon. He has graciously offered to keep me company as part of his marathon-paced workout, and I'm hoping his presence will help guide me to sweet sweet victory. Time to recover from a busy week in Atlanta and prepare for an entirely new busy week in NYC!

Publix Georgia Half-Marathon

~8 min. w/u
Target: Finish top 3
Actual: 1:19:59; 4th place
14 miles

PGM Finish Line

I didn't decide to run this race until about 12 hours before go time. Until that point, I'd assumed that I'd be too exhausted from working the expo and too busy on race day to even fit in a short run, much less actually toe the official starting line. But by Saturday afternoon, my spirits buoyed by the encouragement of my coworkers and a pleasantly disaster-free event, I started to reconsider. In previous years, any time in the 1:22 range was plenty fast to land in the money. If I could wake up early to set up our booth, run the race as a workout and take home a bit of money for my efforts, then go straight back to work, why not give it a go??

As you can see from the above results, it was clearly not that simple today. Not only did I underestimate the infamous Atlanta hills and my own exhaustion from a long week of crazy expo hours, but I also drastically underestimated this year's competition. The women's winner ran an eye-popping 1:14--which, given the elevation profile of what was unequivocally the hilliest course I've ever run, is nothing short of astonishing--and she was trailed by Risper Gesabwa, the winner of the USRS 13.1 National Championship in Miami a few weekends ago, and Justyna Mudy, who most recently bested me by three minutes en route to winning 13.1 Dallas in the fall. I finished a woeful fourth, over two minutes slower than my personal best and practically the same pace I split through halfway in the Trials marathon a few months ago. To put it mildly, this was not my best performance.

Not that it matters, but I definitely noticed some conflicting splits on the race clocks that led me to believe the course may have been a bit long or at least mismarked. First of all, let me preface this by saying that I will never, ever be someone who says, "Well, my Garmin measured the course to be 3.1782 mile
s instead of 3.1, so technically my 5k time should have been 18:32.63 instead of the official time of 18:41." One reason I will never say this is because I don't actually own a Garmin. Another reason is I always maintain that a certified course has been measured multiple times by a highly trained team of people actually paid to do such things, so any discrepancy in distance measurement likely lies with the runner. Furthermore, everyone is running the same distance anyway so why the hell does it matter. That said, today's time/split discrepancies were a bit discouraging simply because they lulled me into thinking I was only moderately sucking, only to prove just a few minutes later that I was, in fact, sucking quite terribly. Allow me to illustrate with a few splits that I remember. Again, these are splits from the official race clock, not from my own watch or GPS device:

Mile 3: 17:35--clearly well under 6:00 pace despite some crazy early
Mile 4: 23:35--ditto the above
Mile 8: 47:45--still under 6:00 and feeling bette
r thanks to a long-awaited downhill section
Mile 10: 59:30--sweet! Looks like I'll comfortably break 1:19. Not my best, but not bad all things considered
Mile 11: 66:xx--uhhh, what? I know this mile is uphill, but I guarantee I did not split close to 7 minutes
Mile 12: 73:xx--wait a second...are you telling me I'm barely going to break 1:20?!
Mile 13: 79:20--yup, looks like that's what's about to happen

Finally almost finished!

So as you can see, somewhere between the 10 and 11 mile markers, something shifted. I spoke to several people afterward who verified that the same thing happened to them. One possibility (and obviously the one I would like to believe) is that the latter part of the course was a bit long. A second, more likely scenario is that some of the previous mile markers were actually marked a bit early, which led me to think I was running faster than I actually was. Either way, I gave it my all out there but was no match for the course or the competition. Still, I'm glad to have been afforded the opportunity to 1) run today; 2) run through some of my favorite old neighborhoods in one of my favorite old cities; 3) run a few miles with Jordan before dropping him off at the bus stop (I'll let him tell you more about that); and 4) finish out the day by selling tons of Karhu and Craft gear with the great folks from Big Peach Running Co.! An extremely successful weekend more than makes up for a lackluster run today, and it's hard to argue with the prospect of spending a beautiful Sunday morning in Centennial Park. No complaints here.

Lots of action in the Karhu and Craft tent

Spectacular view of downtown Atlanta and the post-race party
in Centennial Olympic Park

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Piedmont Park Workout

2.5 mile w/u
Target: 2xmile @5:30-35 w/3 min. jog; 3x1200 @4:08-09 w/3 min; 2x800 @2:40 w/2:00; 2x600 @2:00 w/2:00
Actual: 5:29 (3 min jog), 5:26 (3:00); 4:00 (3:00), 3:59 (3:00), 4:01 (3:00); 2:40 (3:00), 2:35 (2:30); 600 @1:58 (1:30); 400 @73
1.5 mile c/d
Total: 11+ miles

I don't really have time to write about this right now, but I'll have even less time until Monday so I want to at least jot the details down. A few quick points:
  • Did this on a ~one mile road loop in Piedmont Park. I'd planned to use the crushed gravel Active Oval but upon arrival we found it was quite muddy with several ankle-deep puddles.We made a game time decision to switch to the road.
  • The loop was relatively flat and fast. First 800m was gradually uphill with a sharp, almost 180-degree turn at 600m, while the second 800m was slightly downhill to flat.
  • From the first interval, I was running hard. Really hard. I had to augment the rest and change the last two intervals because I didn't think I could do another 600 at the same pace. I took advantage of the slightly downhill section and cranked out a hard 400 instead.
  • This was likely the first, last and only time I've ever dropped Jordan in a workout. Clearly he is coming back from injury and hasn't worked out in several months, but that doesn't mean I won't give him a hard time about it.
  • I'm still light years away from where I need to be in May, but today's effort gives me hope. Everything was done at my current 5k pace or faster.
  • I'm glad to have my workout buddy back!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Week in Review

95 miles
3 doubles
22+ mile long run
7 nights in my own bed
4 AFDs

And BOOM goes the dynamite! This week I achieved my highest mileage since well before the Trials marathon with relatively few doubles. Admittedly, notching 37 of those miles over a two-day period may or may not be the most advisable course of action, but as of Sunday night I'm feeling only vaguely hungry and surprisingly no worse for the wear. In fact, my body feels strong in a way reminiscent of the final month leading up to the Trials, when I could do a hard long run on Saturday and an even longer run on Sunday without any ill effect.

On the flip side, my "workouts" this week were either lackluster or practically nonexistent. On some levels that makes me feel anxious. On another level, who cares?? I've got nothing on the immediate calendar but a few half-marathons and local races here or there, so if it's more fun to do two long easy-ish runs with Emily than try to grind out a hard tempo on my own, then the choice is obvious.

That said, after speaking with several of the other girls this weekend, I think I do have a tentative "goal race" on the calendar, the New Balance Boston Twilight 10k on May 19th. This will be my first serious track race in two full years, and I would be lying if I didn't admit that typing this already has me a little bit nervous. But this race is still comfortably far enough away on the calendar and I feel confident in my ability to capitalize on my current winter/spring marathon strength. If I can just stay healthy this spring and put together 4-6 weeks of 10k-specific sharpening work beginning in April, I just might have a shot at running a respectable time. Qualifying for the Trials is a long shot, but I do think that breaking 34 minutes (and ideally not getting lapped) is an attainable goal. There will be several other fast girls in the race with similar goals in mind, so it should be a good opportunity to run fast.

Unfortunately, I doubt that next week's training will do much in the way of furthering my fitness. I'll be in Atlanta from Tuesday night until Monday morning for our biggest event of the year, the Publix Georgia Marathon. Karhu and Craft will have a huge presence at the expo and the race itself, which means plenty of long hours and little opportunity for mileage. I'm mentally treating it as a down week in an effort to spin this as a positive thing, although there will be very little true "down" time to speak of. Another busy week ahead!

Weekend Warrior

On Friday night, I went to bed at an embarrassingly early hour, excited to get a good night's rest and then head into the city for a reasonably long, reasonably hard run with Emily. I woke up at 6:30 on Saturday morning to this:

Beautiful, yes. Motivating, not so much.

In an instant all my aspirations vanished, and I could think of nothing more enticing than the prospect of brewing a hot cup of coffee, retreating back under my warm covers and spending the morning tucked into a good book. Instead, I got dressed and hit the road in the hopes that the deluge of snowflakes would subside by the time I reached our meeting point at the Harvard track.Sure enough, I arrived to chilly air and a blustery wind but only a few flurries. Along with Emily I was greeted by Jenn Donovan, a New Balance Boston runner training for the 10k, and Elle Pishny, a Duke alum and fellow Trials qualifier who's preparing for Boston next month. We set off down Comm Ave. in the direction of Heartbreak Hill with only vaguest plan for how the run would unfold. The first 10 miles passed effortlessly as we chatted, passing scores of other runners all logging miles on the Newton hills in preparation for next month's race. At some point we turned around and returned the way we came so we could drop Jenn off at her house, leaving Emily, Elle and I only a few miles from where we'd started but desiring at least another hour on our feet. At that point Emily and I agreed to commit to 20 miles, since that's what Elle's long run schedule dictated. I was feeling great and still harbored intentions of picking up the pace, but I only had a general idea of where I was geographically and besides, what's the fun in running hard by yourself when you can click off the miles while enjoying good company and conversation?

Instead of attempting a full-fledged workout, we all compromised by subtly picking up the pace for the final 45 minutes--or, should I say, what I thought was the final 45 minutes. We rejoined the Charles River path around the 2:15 mark, and just as I was about to congratulate myself for finishing off a strong 20 miler, I heard Emily's far too chipper voice saying, "We've only got another two and a half miles from here!" Uhhh, excuse me? Did you say two and a half minutes or miles? And thus I proceeded to complete pretty much my longest run ever, excluding marathons. (I was mildly worried that Coach JSK would be angry at me for overdoing it, but I quickly dismissed the thought after realizing that he would have (and has, in fact) done the exact same thing in my situation.) Of course we still finished hard and of course Emily still dropped me toward the end, but all in all the three of us were very pleased with our efforts. As a reward (not that we wouldn't have an
yway), Emily and I treated ourselves to a delicious brunch at Sofra as we made plans for a repeat outing Sunday.

Oh, and as for the snow, had I not seen it with my own eyes a mere six hours earlier I wouldn't believe it ever happened.

Nothing but waves and blue skies when I returned home in the afternoon.

Less than 24 hours later and only slightly groggy from springing forward we were back at it. I was excited about this run because 1) Jordan was finally back in town and healthy enough to join; 2) we were taking a field trip to a new (for me) venue--and soft surface!--called Battle Road in historic Lexington; and 3) the pace was advertised to be relaxed and slow. The group consisted of Jordan and myself, Emily, Carly (the cutest and fittest pregnant lady I know), Brett (my new friend from the Trials) and her husband Matt, and another BAA runner named Katie. As promised, the trails were terrific and the pace was nice and easy, and before I knew it over 14 miles had elapsed. I wasn't exactly planning on a 37+ mile weekend, but with great company and several new venues I certainly wasn't complaining. I'll be out of town the next few weekends for work, but I'm already excited about rejoining these ladies again soon.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


2.5 mile w/u + strides
Target: 3x8 mins. @5:40 pace w/3 min. jog; 6x1 min. @5-5:15 pace w/1 min. jog
Actual: Something resembling the above
2 mile c/d
Total: 11+ miles

Nothing exciting to report here. My legs should've been fresh and strong despite the solo early morning start time, but they weren't. Instead of feeling like I was running fast, I merely felt like I was running hard--and unfortunately, in this situation, those two words aren't necessarily interchangeable. Given that I wasn't running with a Garmin, for all I know I could've been crushing the pace...but I doubt it. For that reason it's probably better I didn't see any numbers other than the time elapsed, because I likely would've gotten discouraged and cut things short had I known I was missing the splits. I'm hoping to join Emily for some sort of long run/tempo combo this weekend with actual pace objectives, which will hopefully give me a better indicator of my fitness.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Week in Review

75 miles
1 double
3 flights
5 AFDs

Welp, this week was largely unimpressive. I planned to hit at least 80 miles, but three evening flights and three workdays ending past 7pm proved prohibitive. (Dropping out of a half marathon less than halfway through didn't exactly help either.) I had a great workout on Wednesday before leaving Boston, but given that it was designed as a "pre-race" effort it likely wasn't long enough to engender any appreciable fitness gains. Nor was the five mile "tempo" that today's race devolved into. Sigh.

On a positive note, my motivation to train and get fit is now at a near all-time high, buoyed by several friends' stellar weekend race performances. Check it out:
  • Camille Herron coming within seconds of her Trials PR with a 2:37:18 win at The Woodlands Marathon in Houston
  • My Mercdes racing buddy Meggan Franks joining the sub-2:50 club with a new 2:49:06 PR and win at the Rock 'n Roll New Orleans Marathon
  • Jay Holder rocking his first sub-16 minute 5k on a hilly course in NYC
  • My Boston/NYC pal Betsy popping a 16:42 out of nowhere at the same NYC race while knee-deep in marathon training
Good grief, if that's not enough motivation to kick my butt into shape, I don't know what is! Fortunately I have a rare entire week at home coming up, and with Jordan out of town for work I'll have nothing else to do other than go to work, train and hang out with Weezy. I should also have a chance to venture into the big city next weekend for a BAA run or two, which is always worth the trip. Time to get serious!

13.1 Miami FAIL

~5 min. w/u
Target: 13.1 miles @~1:16-1:17
Actual: 5 miles @30:20, 1/2 mile walk/jog, 5 mile jog back to start
Total: 11+ miles

81 degrees, 15 mph winds, 92% humidity.

Am I describing a tropical rainforest? Perhaps a location somewhere in the bayous of Louisiana circa mid-August? Nope, these were the actual r
eal-life weather conditions that greeted me when I woke up at 4:22 for this morning's 13.1 Miami race. I stared at the iPhone screen, shook my head to clear away the early morning cobwebs, then looked again. Yup, still the same numbers. This was going to be brutal, and it probably didn't help that I'd spent a full 10 hours the day before baking in the sun during the South Beach packet pickup. Now don't get me wrong, there are plenty of worse places to be working on a Saturday afternoon--and I fully realize that selling shoes, as opposed to running, is my actual job at these events--but ideal pre-race prep it was not.

My "office" on Saturday afternoon

Posing with the Karhu Bear and my buddy Frankie Ruiz--US Road Sports employee,
ING Miami Marathon founder, high school cross-country coach and
SoleRUNNERS running store owner. Needless to say, he's
kind of a big deal in the Miami running community.

Grumbling all the while, I got up and dressed--scantily so, no doubt considered normal given the weather and the standard South Beach dress code--and shuffled the two blocks from our hotel over to the beach start/finish area. It was equal parts amusing and astonishing to see the streets packed with people still out enjoying Saturday night's revelry and merriment. As I said at this event last year, I'm pretty sure South Beach gives NYC a run for the "city that never sleeps" moniker. Absolutely nuts.

After spending 30 minutes or so setting up our booth for the morning, it was already time to head to the start. I only had a few minutes to spare for warming up, but none was needed. I was already sweating and parched. Had this race not been the 13.1 Marathon Series national championship race with a whopping $13,100 at stake for the winner, I doubt I would've toed the line at all. After a surprisingly decent showing at Mercedes Half in Birmingham a few weeks ago I had aspirations of running 1:16 or even 1:15 h
ere, but by race time it was obvious that would not be the case. I couldn't help but flash back to the similar conditions at 13.1 Chicago last June, a race I won but paid the price for by feeling exhausted and lethargic for over a month afterward. This morning I lined up fully acknowledging that I was not willing to push to the same limits today, even if that meant walking away empty-handed. Some might contend that means I'd already given up before even starting, but I don't think that was the case. I was prepared to run hard, prepared to hurt--but only within sensible reason. It's a fine line only recognized when one is on the precipice of crossing it.

Fortunately the Karhu bear didn't pass out during the 5k
this year! He placed 14th somewhere around 21 minutes.

The gun sounded at 6:13 on the dot, and immediately three of us were clear of the women's field. We ran side by side directly into the wind for two miles, the clock reading 11:50 as we passed, and I was already worried at my level of exertion. My legs didn't necessarily feel bad, but the unrelenting headwind made every step a struggle. My breathing and heart rate were already well above what I'd expect at this stage in a race--two miles into Mercedes I could've carried on a lengthy conversation--and by the time we hit our second long overpass a mile later I could tell I was cooked. Each mile was a few seconds slower than the previous one and significantly harder. I split 6:10--slower than marathon pace--for the fourth mile and was nearly hyperventilating. The lead woman, a lithe African, had separated herself before 5k, and though I was matching the eventual second place finisher stride for stride I could see spots in my peripheral vision. I'd already double-fisted at the first two water stops but it clearly wasn't helping, and a mile later I realized I was unequivocally done. Whatever the prize, it wasn't worth ignoring my body's deafening warning signs.

And so, I took a little break on the ground for a few minutes. I refused medical attention but did request water and a long rest. When it was clear I still had to make my way back to the start/finish area, I began a slow and shaky trot in the direction from which I'd come. After a few easy miles I felt everything returning to normal, and with that came a sense of frustration and disappointment. I knew I'd made the smart decision, but I also knew I could've practically walked the rest of the race and still taken home the $500 third place purse. Honestly, though--and I realize this might sound crazy to some--I think I'd be embarrassed to win prize money for the time in which I would've eventually completed the race. I want to earn my winnings--which I vowed right then and there to do at 13.1 NYC in three weeks--and, more importantly, I want to preserve my body's health while doing so! Miami may have gotten the best of me, but I'll be back and better than ever soon enough.