Thursday, June 20, 2013

The year in review...and what's next

While I have been a runner for many years (my first marathon was 17 years ago!!), the last year has been a time of significant growth for me in my life as a runner.

Until last year, running had always been a very solitary pursuit for me.  I did all of my running by myself, partly due to scheduling conflicts but mostly because I didn't know any women runners who lived nearby and enjoyed running longer distances.  I wasn't a member of any running clubs and never had someone to keep me company on my 20 mile training runs.  As much as I loved running, it was never something that I was able to share with anyone else -- literally (as in running with someone) or figuratively (as in writing/reading/talking about my passion with someone else who actually cared).

Last June, I was searching the internet for others who had successfully battled tendinitis of the foot when I came across some running blogs.  I had never been one who read or followed any blogs and didn't have any friends who wrote one, either.

I started reading about these women and their attempts to balance their passion for running and their struggles with eating healthy, raising kids, working (in or out of the home), grocery shopping, cooking, volunteering at their kids' schools, practicing yoga, keeping their houses (relatively) clean and keeping their spouses (relatively) happy.  These women supported each other, encouraged each other, comforted each other and motivated each other.

They certainly don't all have everything in common -- some are married, some are single, some have kids, some are childless, some are young, some are old, some are overweight, some are thin, some are fast, some are slow, some are vegan and some live in the midwest.  [Any vegans from the midwest??]  But they all share a love of all things running.

I became inspired.

I started a blog.
I hired a running coach.
I registered for Boston.
I set a big goal to run a sub-3:30 marathon.
I turned 40.  (Okay, this one wasn't something I chose to do or even wanted to do...but it seemed like a big deal to be doing all of this while turning a pivotal age where most runners are starting to slow down.)
I made new running friends who believed in me.
I put in the miles.
I hit the track.
I became comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I added cross training.
I developed a strict post-run recovery routine.
I started going to bed earlier in order to maximize sleep.
And last, but not least, I started to believe in myself.

a jacket I literally had to work for

40th birthday celebrations

Putting in the miles
The site of many 800m repeats

learning to become comfortable running in freezing temps

post-run smoothie

I've looked at this many, many times during my runs

I almost reached my goal in Boston when I ran a 3:30:30 and then finally did a few weeks later with a 3:25:25 in Newport, Oregon.  I was so happy at that moment that I was ready to hang up my running shoes and walk off into the sunset.

But now that a couple of weeks have passed, it is time to start focusing on what's next.

I took a full week off with no exercise whatsoever and then decided to start the Insanity DVD's.  I had bought them a year or so ago but had never actually done them.  I am almost finished with my second week of the program and am really enjoying it so far.  I thought it would be a good way to strengthen my core while also giving my legs a little bit of a break.  As it turns out, my left knee has been really bothering me every time I have tried running so it is probably a good thing for me to be mixing it up a little these days.  Sometimes I run 2 miles on the treadmill after the Insanity workout but even that short run bothers my knee so now I'm taking another week off from running.

I also am realizing that Hood to Coast is just two months away and, at some point, I will need to start training for it.  Running HTC this year is not something that I was planning on doing.  I ran it one time, about ten years ago, and had a great time but I was a last-minute addition to the team and only knew one person in my van.  I knew I wanted to do it again one day and then the opportunity presented itself about two months ago when a friend offered me an entire team to buy.  I jumped at the chance and am looking forward a fun, exhausting and unforgettable weekend with a mix of college friends, high school friends, friends of friends and my husband!!

I haven't yet thought much past HTC but my tentative plan is to run some shorter races in the fall and then pick another goal marathon for next spring...I'm thinking of Boston or maybe Eugene.  And I'm definitely planning on setting another big goal for that race!

Has anyone done the Insanity program?  Thoughts?  Results??

Anyone else running HTC this year?

Has anyone else run the Eugene Marathon?  Would you recommend it?

- Kristen

Thursday, June 6, 2013

2013 Newport Marathon -- Part II

Yesterday I wrote about the days and hours leading up to the Newport Marathon but ran out of time to recap the actual race.  I left off with Kate and I standing at the start line, just moments before the starting gun was fired.

As far as race strategy, my coach had recommended that I run the marathon based entirely on feel and not look at my watch.  I had employed this strategy when I ran a 15k race a couple of months ago and was very happy with it, not only based on my results but also on how freeing it felt to not be a slave to my Garmin.

However, there is a big difference between maintaining a pace for a 15k and doing the same thing for a marathon.  I was mostly concerned that I would go out too fast so I decided to look at my watch in the first few miles and then, at some point during the race, start running entirely on feel.

Mile 1 - 7:57
Mile 2 - 7:55
Mile 3 - 7:57
Mile 4 - 7:34 (downhill)
Mile 5 - 8:11 (uphill)

Although my goal pace was 8:00 per mile, I planned to run the first few miles closer to 8:10.  It was a good thing I was wearing my watch at this point because I had to slow down quite a bit and still ended up just under 8:00 pace.  Mile 4 included a steep downhill portion followed by a steep uphill portion during mile 5.  These first few miles wind through the town of Newport and include some gradual hills.  Mile 5 begins the out-and-back portion that makes up the remainder of the race.

Mile 6 - 7:45 (gradual downhill with a steep downhill part)
Mile 7 -7:54 (gradual downhill)
Mile 8 - 7:48 (gradual downhill)
Mile 9 - 7:56
Mile 10 - 7:53

Miles 6-8 are all gradual downhills and it was at this point that I felt myself running very comfortably and starting to position myself behind a group of runners that looked to be running an even pace.  I remember looking at my watch about mile 7 and thinking that I wasn't sure I could maintain this pace for the entire race, especially considering I'd be climbing this gradual hill at the end.  At mile 10, I glanced at my watch for what would be the final time of the race.  It read 1:18:52.  Basically, I started doing the math in my head and realized I was running an average of 7:53 for the first 10 miles.  I didn't think I could possibly keep it up for another 16.2 miles and could only hope that the little bit of cushion I had built up would be enough to keep me under 3:30.

It was also at mile 10 that I made a conscious decision to go for it.  I had said before that I was going to run it aggressively and leave it all out there.  So at that point, I started to pick up the pace just a bit and enjoyed the immense freedom that comes with running only based on feel.

Mile 11 - 7:50
Mile 12 - 7:45
Mile 13 - 7:42
Mile 14 - 7:45
Mile 15 - 7:44

These were some of the best miles of the race.  I was feeling great and was surprised to find myself passing one person after another.  It was a slow progression but one by one, I would pass every person that I found in front of me.  In fact, not one person passed me (and stayed ahead of me) after mile 10.  I took my second GU during mile 13 and continued with my strategy to walk through every water stop for a good 15 or so seconds, while drinking a cup of gatorade and giving my legs a brief break.

Mile 16 - 7:48
Mile 17 - 7:42
Mile 18 - 7:46
Mile 19 - 7:39
Mile 20 - 7:50

Somewhere between mile 15 and16, we turned around a cone and headed back the way we came.  Once I hit the mile 16 marker, I knew that the race would soon be turning into a mental battle so I did my best to keep running consistently and strong.  My friend, Petra's, words were running through my head:  stay strong and run happy!

When I hit mile 20 and knew I only had 6.2 miles remaining, I was so tempted to look at my watch but refrained from doing so and kept plodding along.  I took my final GU and waited to see if I was going to hit the wall.

Mile 21 - 7:44
Mile 22 - 7:40
Mile 23 - 8:03
Mile 24 - 7:54 (gradual uphill)
Mile 25 - 7:58 (gradual uphill)
Mile 26 - 8:10 (gradual uphill with a steep uphill part)
Last 0.2 - 1:31

I was so focused on the race and yet so relaxed at the same time that I was missing mile markers as they passed.  At around mile 22, a guy ran up along side me and glanced over at me.  "3:25?" he asked.  "Umm, 3:25??", I responded, "Hell, no!  I'm just trying to run a sub-3:30!"  He mentioned his PR was a 3:30 and he was hoping for a 3:25 that day.  That was my first indication that this might turn out to be a very good day for me.

We ran together for the next half mile until we hit a water stop at mile 23, at which point I walked for a good 20 seconds to prepare myself for the next 3.2 miles and the gradual climb up the hill.  When I started up again, he was about 30 yards in front of me.  I watched as he stretched the lead to almost 50 yards and just hoped I didn't fall apart and lose my 3:30 goal.

Although I still hadn't looked at my watch, I knew that with just over 3 miles remaining, I had to keep running strong for just about 25 minutes.  I thought about the last few months of training -- all the sacrifices and hard work it took to get me here -- and knew that my goal was within reach if I could just push through 25 minutes of pain.  Although, honestly, I wasn't in any real pain.  Just standard marathon pain and a strong desire to be done!

At about mile 24, a gazelle passed me.  Or what looked like a gazelle.  He was maybe in his mid 20's with long, lean legs and he had a running style that made him appear to be causally loping along.  I wondered at that point what I looked like and was pretty sure no one would describe me as a gazelle.

Over the course of the next mile, I gradually gained on the guy with the 3:25 goal.  As I neared him and was close to passing him, I began to yell encouragement at him.  I was yelling at him to keep it up and to stay with me.  Even after I passed, I was shouting at him to come along with me but saw he had nothing left to give.  (He found me in the finisher's area and thanked me for my help.  He finished with a 3:27:xx and an almost 3 minute PR.)

Somewhere close to mile 26, I realized I was about to pass the gazelle.  I couldn't believe it.  Who would believe that a 40 year-old, mother of three who used to be content with her 10:00 miles was going to pass a 20-something guy who looked like Ryan Hall?!  As I passed him, he very nicely told me I was "looking strong" and I responded with something equally kind.  At that point, I smiled inside and crested the steep hill that was at the end of mile 26.

The last 0.2 miles were a steep downhill before a sharp turn to the finish.  As I crossed the finish line and saw the time on my watch, I was in shock.  I honestly never in a million years thought I would run a time even close to 3:25.  My official time was 3:25:25.  (I knew Kate would love my time because it had the same ring of perfection as the 3:30:30...but just a bit faster!)

(that pace is only for the last 0.2 actual ave pace was 7:50)

I was barely off the finish mat when I heard someone yell, "Kristen!!!"  I looked over and there was Raina on the other side of the barricade.  It was the first time we had met in person and she gave me a big hug while I apologized for getting her all sweaty.  She was so sweet and I look forward to meeting her again someday for a local race.

Raina -- a.k.a. Small Town Runner

my Boston 2013 medal will always hold a special place in my heart.  But this finisher's medal made of sea glass is absolutely gorgeous!

I quickly picked up my race bag and called Kate to see where she was.  Kate knew she wouldn't be able to run the entire distance so she ran her own unofficial half marathon and then jumped on a spectator bus to get a ride back to the finish.  She then walked/ran another two miles back to our hotel and drove my car to the finish so I wouldn't have to walk anywhere after my race.  I can't possibly thank her enough for all she did for me over the weekend.  Her positive and supportive attitude helped me relax and just enjoy the race.

We headed back to the hotel so I could take a quick ice bath and then went to lunch where I was sporting my awesome compression gear for the long ride back to Portland.

even the ice bath couldn't wipe the smile off my face

rocking my compression socks at lunch

I called my coach from the car to thank him for all the help, support and guidance he has given me over the past six months.  As much as I'd love to continue having him as my coach, with his help, I accomplished what I set out to do this training cycle and it is time for me to take a break.  I said to him on the phone that it was "time for me to retire -- I'm going to go out on top like Michael Jordan did (the first time, anyway)."  I was so happy and content that I felt I would be okay if I never ran another marathon for the rest of my life.

But then he said, "Now it is time for you to go get that 3:20."  And I must admit, he's got me thinking...

- Kristen

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

2013 Newport Marathon -- Part I

I am not even sure where or how to begin writing my recap of the Newport Marathon.  It is ironic because the last six months of my running life have been focused on one goal -- to run a sub-3:30 marathon at Newport -- and now that the marathon has passed, I am at a loss for what parts of the experience to share.

I suppose the best place to start is on Thursday afternoon when I pulled up to the airport and welcomed Kate to my beloved city.  It was Kate's first visit to Portland and she had a long list of places she wanted to go, food she wanted to eat and drinks she wanted to consume.  But first, we had to get through the marathon.  

We had dinner at home with my family where my kids immediately fell in love with Kate.  (I know she was feeling the love early Friday morning when they woke her from a deep sleep by climbing in bed with her.)  What's not to love about these faces?

they finally discovered the tinted chapstick that my mom put in their Christmas stockings

After spending a few hours eating breakfast, walking to my favorite coffee shop, getting packed and picking up some yummy vegan food for the road, we finally left downtown Portland around 12pm and headed for Newport, Oregon.

just about to leave my house for Newport

As we drove the 2.5 hours to the race expo, Kate couldn't stop gushing about how lush, beautiful and green the trees were.  And how many there were.  As much as I envy her the constant sunshine of San Diego, I really would miss being surrounded by green.  (Or at least that is what I tell myself.)

The marathon is limited to 900 runners so the expo was really small -- a couple of folding tables selling t-shirts and not much else.  After picking up our race packets, we headed to our hotel and had this amazing view from our room.

Newport beach

The weather was shaping up to be almost perfect for a marathon with low 50's forecasted at the start and no rain.  Unfortunately, I was feeling anything but confident as my head hit the pillow that night.  Due to some "aggressive" self-massaging of my left IT band, I had a bruise on my left knee that hurt to the touch and was painful while walking.  It had shown up three days earlier and I had skipped all workouts in the days leading up to the race in order to rest it and ice as much as possible.  The worst part was knowing a self-inflicted pain could derail months of training.

As Kate pointed out, however, I had already had run a great race in Boston where I set a new PR of 3:30:30.  And Kate loved my time so much that she almost thought I should just let it stand -- something about the 30:30 part of it seeming so perfect.  I knew she was right that I had a lot to be proud of and I think it helped ease my anxiety enough that I got a good amount of sleep.  Or at least what I consider to be good before a marathon (5.5 hours).  

The first thing I did when I woke up was to gingerly touch my knee to see how it felt.  I felt a huge wave of relief when I discovered it was almost completely better!  I made coffee and had some breakfast while reading my emails to pass the time.  

The first message I read was from my sweet friend, Petra, wishing me luck on the marathon.  She ended her email with the words "stay strong and be happy!"  I immediately decided to adopt that as my mantra for the race.  Petra was also running a marathon that same morning in the UK and was targeting a sub-3:40 time.  Given the time difference, her race was already over.  I was bursting with happiness for her when I read that she had run a 3:37:39 and won her age division!!  Additionally, it gave me some confidence that I could reach my goals, too.  

A few more pictures before the race...

about to leave the hotel...ready to go!

the state park where the race starts
our twin Brooks Pure Flows

As we stood shivering in the starting corral, I looked over at Kate and mentioned how nervous I was. 

There is something unique to knowing you are about to embark on that which you have invested so much in -- hours and hours of precious time, lots of hard work, countless early mornings, gallons of sweat -- and it all comes down to what is right before you.  The physical, mental and emotional challenge of running 26.2 miles is one that both frightens me and invigorates me.  That feeling of nervous excitement just before the guns goes off is unparalleled.  At that point, your destiny is in your own hands and in your heart.  You just have to go get it.  

[To be continued with the actual race recap...]

- Kristen