Sunday, April 27, 2014

Four Weeks to Go...

...until Vermont City Marathon! In the midst of chaos with work and travel (more on that in a minute), the race seems to have snuck up on me. But just in time, I finally had what I would deem my "breakthrough workout" yesterday afternoon. I typically have one or two of these sessions during each training cycle (so, one outstanding workout for every handful that really, really stink)--you know, the rare occasion where you hit or even exceed your prescribed splits and actually feel strong doing it as opposed to counting down every excruciating second until you can just hurry up and get it over with already. Even better, yesterday's surprisingly-not-terrible workout came on the heels of the aforementioned life craziness, making it even more gratifying.

But first, the deets:
Target: 2x5 miles w/4-5 mins. rest: first set @6:05-6:10 pace; second set @5:50-6:00 pace
Actual: 5.01 miles in 30:09/6:01 pace (5:59, 6:08, 5:59, 5:59, 5:58); 5.05 miles in 29:20/5:49 pace (5:35, 5:57, 5:53, 5:52, 5:49, :15 @5:29 pace)
Results for second interval @Ring Around the Neck Five Miler 

The past 10 days have been a blur: working 10+ hour stretches at the Boston Marathon expo, making an ass of myself in the BAA 5k, carrying on my Marathon Monday tradition of running/spectating with friends in Wellesley, boarding a plane later that night bound for the Craft international sales meeting in Sweden, then capping off said sales meeting with a 22+ hour day of Stockholm sightseeing and return travel on Friday. After all that, plus a 12/4 double on Saturday with Sarah (who dropped midway through Boston due to some wicked quad cramping, which I was objectively disappointed about but selfishly pleased with as it meant she would be attempting to rally with me at VCM instead), I simply hoped I'd be able to somewhat approximate the desired splits on Sunday.

Fortunately, I had company--and for the second interval, lots of it, as we'd planned the workout around the Ring Around the Neck Five Miler in Marblehead. It's a great little race that we sponsor which runs to and from the downtown area with a delightfully scenic (and painfully hilly) loop of the Neck in the middle. Prior to, Sarah and I planned to run a preview loop of the course at marathon pace. With Jordan gamely on board as our queenmaker and the timing meticulously allotted down to the minute, we set out from the starting line eager to tackle this big girl workout (read: get it over with). Fearing the consequences of running the first loop too fast, my last words to Jordan before we started were: "Absolutely no splits under 6:00." Naturally, our first mile was 5:59, setting the tone for the day. Only the second mile, inherently impeded by the steepest hill on the entire Neck, approached a pace as slow as our original target. We finished with just enough time for me to jog to the nearby bathrooms and then to our car to inhale a gel. I returned to the start line mere seconds before the race started, still out of breath from the first five miles and my less than relaxing break. Was I really going to be able to run faster for round two?!

Fortunately/unfortunately, I kicked the second interval off with some generous time in the bank thanks to my friend Larissa taking off at a veritable sprint. Despite splitting 5:35 through the first mile I was still several steps behind her, and that's the closest I would get for the duration. A self-proclaimed hill hater, I thought I might catch her on the rolling middle section, but she ran strong and confident throughout and only put more distance on me as the race progressed. Still, I was pleased to finish only four seconds slower than at the same race last year--and this time I ran a frisky warmup lap first! Sarah came across the line close behind me, decisively banishing any lingering disappointment from Monday and showing that her fitness is better than ever. Just a few more weeks of workouts and long runs--and that pesky 26.2--separate us from taking an honest crack at the Olympic Trials standard in Vermont. After today, I finally feel confident that I'm well on my way.   

A podium sweep! Me, Larissa and Sarah...with Jordan creepily photobombing

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Training Update

Okay, let's just get this out of the way first: I suck at updating my blog. I know it, I feel bad about it, and I do have aspirations to improve. But for the time being, you'll have to take what you can get: an amalgamation of the past month's training and a few photos of good-looking ladies.

Secondly, let's consider this my long overdue "official" announcement: I'm racing the Vermont City Marathon (yay!)! In five weeks (yikes!)! Similar to Hartford, this is a relatively fast, relatively flat regional race within reasonable driving distance of my home that has a great setup in place for local and regional elites. They've graciously invited me to participate this year and I couldn't be more excited about chasing my second Olympic Trials qualifying time there! As an added bonus, I'll have the queenmaking help of Charlotte friend Aaron Linz (I would link to his blog here, but it's either defunct or even more outdated than my own). Aaron's a great runner and solid pacer and was easily persuaded to become my buddy on race day. I love it when a plan comes together!

So, with 26.2 looming on the horizon, exactly what is the state of my current fitness? I can confidently say it's situated somewhere between "not terrible" and "reasonably sufficient." Am I in sub-2:43 shape right this minute? Probably not. Can I get there in five weeks? Totes. And unlike at Cal, I'm not going to hold myself to lofty--some might say unreasonable--ambitions of smashing my PR and attaining the "A" standard of sub-2:37. After a winter like ours, and with only six weeks of solid training under my belt, that's simply not realistic. I won't go into the day expecting anything miraculous or exceptional, and I'll be just thrilled if I can run 2:41-2:42 and punch my ticket to Los Angeles in 2016.

A few notables from the past 4-6 weeks:

1. Four runs in the 19-21 mile range, three of them taking place the day after pretty substantial workouts, all of them taking place with Sarah B. She's crushing Boston next week and then presumably taking some time off, which means I'll have to find some sort of intrinsic motivation to put on my big girl pants and do the rest of my long runs without her between now and VCM. Is this possible?! TBD.

2. Lots more runs and workouts and even a spontaneous game of Taboo with my new Marblehead neighbor, Larissa. She and her husband were on vacation last week in some tropical clime and I still managed to run a track workout, so perhaps I can do this by myself after all. (Except that Jordan did my track session with me. But you're focusing on all the wrong details.)

3. A fun, amazing, abs hurt from laughing so hard weekend in Charleston with my Charlotte running besties, which was only slightly marred by a mysterious stomach bug that derailed my hopes of notching a new 10k PR at the Cooper River Bridge Run. I woke up feeling distinctly nauseous, half-heartedly jogged 13 minutes of warmup in hopes that conditions would improve, started the race realizing they wouldn't, ran a 5:28 first mile, then promptly threw up in the bushes. Womp womp. On a positive note, Caitlin cruised to an impressive 34:45 finish and scored some serious cash for placing second American, which meant she was willing and able to buy shots for anyone who felt well enough to drink them later that night.

At the expo on Friday evening with my lovely ladies

Headed out for a night on the town post-race. What a difference 24 hours and a curling iron can make!

Danielle M. Crockford + Dalena M. Custer = Run DMC. Fun shirts to celebrate their joint b-day on our Sunday morning wog! (P.S. Once you spot Nick's epic photobomb you won't be able to focus on anything else.)

4. A handful of solid, respectable, not-life-changing-but-somewhat-encouraging marathon-pace workouts such as 3x20 minutes and 2x6 miles, plus a few laps around the Beverly High School oval at slightly faster than 5k pace. I finally downloaded Garmin Connect, so if you're really that interested and need a distraction to pass a slow day at work, knock yourself out.   

5. An unexpected but totally, unquestionably deserved nomination for the 2013 Running Photo of the Year contest featuring some (family-friendly) hot tub action with Laurie, Caitlin, Sarah C. and OH YEAH MEB after last year's Grandma's Marathon. At press time we are currently in second place behind some other picture that is somehow managing to outrank ours despite its total and complete lack of quality and overall hotness. To be honest, the voting process wasn't 100% clear to begin with and I'm not 100% sure the polls are still open, but just in case you should probably click on this link and then like or tweet our photo for good measure.

So, there you have it. Spring is finally here, my pale legs have made their first tentative forays into the ever-warming sunlight, and the training and racing season has finally begun in earnest. As I type this, tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of last year's Boston Marathon and all the events surrounding it. This entire week will serve as an opportunity to reflect and remember, while looking forward to this year's Marathon Monday with pure joy and excitement. I can't wait to race the BAA 5k and then cheer on my marathoning friends as I've done the past two years, watching Boylston Street be reclaimed for good. After that, it's just four short weeks until my own 26.2 attempt in Burlington.

I'll be ready.