Category Archives: Running

musings on talent and running

I’m all signed up for the Seattle Half Marathon this weekend.  I know what day it’s on.  What could possibly go wrong, other than getting sick, of course?  (I’m healthy as a horse right now.  In fact, our entire family has been ridiculously healthy lately.  We’re due for something nasty.)  Well, the current weather prediction is 60% chance of rain from 7 to 10 am.  (It starts at 7:30 and should take me about two hours.)  Um, eek?  I will not run 13 miles in the pouring rain.  I would instead kiss my entry fee goodbye and just decide a fall half was not meant to be.  However, I will run a half in light rain.  Even light to moderate rain.  And the forecast calls for 44 F at 7 am, climbing to 46 by 9 am, which is not bad.  The worst part of rain, for me, is being cold and not able to warm up.  So, we’ll see.  I’m kind of depressed about the whole thing.  Seattle weather just sucks in the winter for exercise.

Meanwhile, my sister ran the Berkeley Half Marathon this morning 1:31.  That’s 7-flat pace folks, and the course was a bit hilly.  She came in 14th out of 1800 women.  Meanwhile, she barely trained.  Most of the time, I’m just really proud of my sister, but sometimes, I’m jealous.  This is one of those times.  My half PR, from ages ago, is 8:29 pace.  I REALLY want to beat that, and I am not feeling optimistic.  At all.  And sis is running 7-flat pace!  Obviously, we are all given differing abilities in all manner of pursuits, but having your little sister be so much more athletically gifted than you can be challenging.  What I really need to do is take heart.  If Maeve, who usually runs about a minute faster than me, can run 7-flat pace on a hilly course without training, surely I can run 8:20 pace with lots of training, right?  If the weather isn’t too brutal?  I guess we’ll see.

Carkeek Cooler 5K Trail Run – my first trail race in 20 years

I’d been planning to run the Lake Washington Half Marathon this weekend, but I’d put off signing up because temperatures were predicted to be in the low 30s, and I didn’t want to run if it was also raining. Unfortunately, it ended up selling out! I’ve actually never had that happen to me before. I’ve been taking it easy for the last week and a half, so I wanted to race, but there aren’t a whole heck of a lot of races in November, and it’s predicted to be low 30s and pouring rain Sunday morning, so it had to be Saturday. I ended up deciding to try a trail run. I haven’t done one since high school cross country. The Carkeek Cooler is a 5K/10K (where the 10K just does two loops), and it features 500 feet of elevation gain. To put that in perspective, my normal neighborhood run, which feels pretty darn hilly to me, has only about 300 feet of elevation gain.

This morning, waking up to 33 degree overcast weather (after cold, clouds and snow yesterday) did not make me super-enthused to go out and race, but I persevered. I’d gone for a training run yesterday in about the same temperatures, though it was snowing, in long sleeves, a light GTX jacket, and tights, and I’d felt a bit overheated. Therefore, I decided to wear tights, long sleeves, a hat, and gloves today. When I went to sign up for the race, I just felt freezing. There was no sun whatsoever to warm us up, just that cold, damp, gray air so typical of Seattle at this time of year. I got my number, dropped off my stuff in the car, used the bathroom (which was surprisingly clean), and started warming up. I didn’t used to be a fan of warming up, but since I’ve gotten old(er), I’ve begun to appreciate it. This morning, I just ran until I got warm wearing a cycling jacket over my race outfit. After about a mile (forgot to turn on my watch initially), I was warmed up, just like usual. It was about 20 after, with the race starting at half past, so I headed to the start and stood there jogging in place waiting for the race to start.

The people at the race looked more athletic and serious than your typical 5K clientele. I saw lots of trail shoes and lots of thin people without a lot of clothes on, given the temperatures. I’m not saying they looked like pros or anything, just not like they were running their first 5K. Finally, the race director told us about the course, warning us about the steep hill at the midpoint, and assured us the course was well-marked. My biggest worry was getting lost. That would definitely suck, but he turned out to be right; the course was very well-marked, and it would have been hard to make a wrong turn.

When we finally started out, I started at a very cautious pace. Between the cold, the hills, and the rough footing, I wanted to start cautiously and pick up the pace later if I felt good. This turned out to be an OK strategy. While it meant I felt pretty good throughout the race, I got stuck behind slower runners, and it was very hard to pass on the narrow trail. We ran up a slow gradual hill to the first mile marker, and I felt great. At the turnaround, I was ready to run fast, but passing just wasn’t safe, so I had to maintain a slower pace. I gradually picked off a few ponytails, though. I’m still waiting on results, but I was near the front as far as women went.

At maybe 1.5 or 1.7 miles, we hit a short but very steep hill and gained about 150 feet of elevation. My pace slowed to as much as 16 minutes per miles, per my GPS. (I take the GPS with a bit of a grain of salt due to all the tree cover.) I actually walked up a couple sets of very steep steps. Then there was a flattish section, sort of slight rolling hills, a little more unphill and a steep downhill. Apparently I hit 5:50 mpm at the end of the downhill, but it many places, it was difficult to pick up any real speed due to narrow, steep steps. The race finished with a nice flat stretch, and I hammered it in feeling pretty good. Unfortunately, the HR monitor on my watch didn’t work properly, so I don’t have that data point, but I’d classify this as a hard effort, but not really all out.

Overall, I’m proud of myself for trekking across the city at o’dark thirty (forty minute drive) and getting out to run up hills in the cold. The race director assured us that he measured the course with the wheel, and it was in fact 5K. (My watch read 2.97, not shocking given the tree cover.) Therefore, my pace was 8:35 per mile overall – not bad given all the hills. I’ll take it. On to the next!

life

Last week, I traveled to Virginia and spent a few days with my brother and his six-week old baby.  Then I came home, and H went on a business trip.  He’s getting back tonight.  No anxiety.  No panic.  OK, there was a moment when we were socked in in fog on a Bombadier heading to DC from Richmond and the flight was going on and on longer than the pilot had said it would and I feared a repeat of the tri-cities incident.  But, it was fine.  Honestly, I feel like I used to feel before this panic problem started, more or less.  I can’t understand why a three-day business trip used to induce panic and why it doesn’t now.  But I’m just trying to embrace the feeling of having my life back  and not worry the tides will turn again.

Running is going well.  I hit 34 miles a couple weeks ago, and ran 25 miles the week I was on vacation.  My hip has been a little sore, and my feet continue to hurt, but overall, I feel good.  I didn’t end up doing the half marathon I’d planned a few weeks ago due to various logistical reasons.  there are no more flat half marathons this year, so I’m considering doing a hilly one the weekend after next.  Weather permitting, I’ll do it.  (No half marathons in pouring rain.)

And life goes on.  Loving my kids, working, what else is there?

Jordan Hasay: 2:20

Today was a great day for American marathoning.  To be honest, I don’t care that much for Rupp.  I’ve been cheering for Jordan Hasay, however, since she was a freshman in high school and won Foot Lockers.  Today she ran the fastest time run by an American woman in the Chicago Marathon – 2:20:57.  So awesome!  She came in third, a great showing at her age.  Tirunesh Dibaba came in first off a murderous paced first half.  She is one of my other favorite marathoners.  (Too bad she’s not American.)

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Running speed is a funny thing.  The range of speed of runners – let’s just say women – is mind-boggling.  Consider the marathon.

  • Chicago Marathon course cut-off: 6:30 / 14:52 mpm
  • Average women’s time: 4:42 / 10:45 mpm
  • Boston Qualifying Time, W35-39: 3:40 / 8:23 mpm
  • New York Marathon Qualifying Time: 3:15 / 7:25 mpm
  • Olympic Trials Qualifying Time: 2:45 / 6:17 mpm
  • Top 3 at Rio 2016: 2:24 / 5:29 mpm
  • World Record: 2:15 / 5:10 mpm

The slowest marathoners are going SO slowly compared to say a 4-hour marathoner, who is barely moving compared to a New York Marathon qualifier, who’s jogging compared to an Olympic Trials qualifier, who is in turn radically slower than an Olympic medalist.  What I love about running is that there is room for all of us. In a major marathoner, you have people running from 5 mpm to 15 mpm.  How cool is that?  What is even greater is that people at all speeds appear to get great satisfaction from just finishing and or achieving a personal best.

a week in running

  • M: 400 m swim, 2:03 / 100yd
  • T: Rest
  • W: 7.4 mi run @ 9:26 mpm
  • R: 4.0 mi run @ 10:33 mpm
  • F: 5.8 mi run @ 9:25 mpm
  • S: 4.0 mi run @ 10:34 mpm
  • S: 9.0 mi run @ 9:08 mpm

I took it easy Monday, with a swim to give my joints a rest after the half marathon.  Wednesday, I did an endurance run at long run level of effort, though all my neighborhood runs are slower due to the hills.  Thursday and Saturday were easy neighborhood runs.  I did a couple up-temp sections during my Friday run, and a long run on Sunday.  For some reason, Sunday’s long run just felt, well, long.  I was tired the rest of the day.  The deteriorating weather conditions are not helping my runspiration.  Basically, rain makes me want to hibernate.  I haven’t had a run yet where it rained on me the whole time, but I’ve definitely experienced intermittent rain.

I also did 135 push-ups, and I’m on track for about 4900 for the year.  I’m nearly caught up with my objective of 5000 for 2017.  I think doing push-ups has been really good for me, and I’m planning to set a new push-up goal for 2018.  I can’t decide how ambitious to be.

Next weekend, I’m planning to attempt the Fall City Half Marathon, though I haven’t signed up yet, and I reserve the right to back out if the weather’s looking particularly nasty.  If I do run, my racing plan is as follows:

  • Miles 1-5: 8:30 – 8:40 pace
  • Miles 6-9: 8:20 – 8:30 pace
  • Miles 10-11: 8:10 – 8:20 pace
  • Miles 12-13: 8:00 – 8:10 pace

My goals are:

  • A goal – Break 1:50
  • B goal – New PR (under 1:51:04)
  • C goal – Run first 5 miles at better than 8:40 pace

Achieving C should be physically easy, but I always struggle at starting fast in a half marathon.  It just feels like a bad idea.  So, I’m trying to tell myself it doesn’t matter if I have to walk the last 3 miles as long as I start on-pace and go for it.

Hanson’s race equivalency calculator gives me a projected time of 1:47:42 based on my 12K time from last December, and I’ve done a lot of running since then.  My recent 7K time projects a 1:41:02 half marathon; I’m 99% certain I can’t acheive that (and will not be setting out at a pace to try).  Extrapolation is always dangerous, I suppose.

Orca Half Marathon

I ran the Orca Half Marathon this morning in West Seattle.  I’d planned to run this as a training run and more or less did, though I couldn’t restrain myself from picking up the pace at the end.

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The race started at Lincoln Park, and it was a point-to-point race, so I parked a half mile from the finish line, picked up my number, used the bathroom, and caught the shuttle to the start line.  The shuttle ride seemed to last forever as I kept thinking we’d have to run all the way back.  Then, from the drop-off to the actual start line was another half mile walk.  Finally, we were at the start line at about 8 am.  (I got up at around 5:30.)  All of this is fairly inconsequential except that I was dealing with crazy nerves the whole time.  Part of the reason I wanted to do this race was to take some of the mystique away from the half marathon.  I’ve always found longer races terribly intimidating, and of course this one was no exception.

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There was a long line for the porta-potties at the start, maybe 10 minutes.  That’s my only major complaint.  Otherwise, the race was well-organized.  The race had wave starts, and I was in the 8:15 wave.  Finally, 8:15 rolled around, and we were off.  My plan was to target 9:20 to 9:30 pace for the first five miles.  I tried to go out at a nice easy pace and found myself in a bit of a crowd on the narrow path.  The race had pacesetters – the first race I’ve run that had them – and I’d fallen in with the 2 hour group in spite of myself.  I tried to let them go while keeping my desired pace, and this helped me get a bit of space.  The first mile went by in 9:06, a little fast, but definitely within range of my target pace.  In the second mile we hit the only significant hill of the race (and it wasn’t all that bad), so I slowed down and tried to keep my effort consistent: 9:36.  Mile 3 passed in 9:07.  In mile 4, we lost the altitude from mile 2, so I hit 8:47.  Mile 5 went by in 8:57.  Everything felt completely effortless at this point.

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I planned to take miles 6 through 9 at between 9:00 and 9:10 pace.  My actual times were 8:51, 8:55, 8:56 and 8:57.  Obviously, I was going a little faster than planned, but not too much faster, and I was feeling good.  Tired, but good.  It was during these miles that time seemed to go a bit slower and I felt my breathing pick up a little.

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Finally, we reached the 9 mile mark.  This was a milestone because it began a 2 mile out and back section; at 9 miles, we actually passed by the finish line.  Mentally, this provided a boost, and seeing faster runners coming back beside me motivated me.  I’d planned to take miles 10, 11 and 12 at between 8:50 and 9:00 pace.  Everything still felt easy at this point, and I started having trouble holding myself back.  I just wanted to go.  Mile 10: 8:43.  Mile 11: 8:35.  By mile 11, I was definitely feeling tired.  The turnaround seemed to take forever to come, in part because I’d thought it would be at 10.75 miles rather than 11 miles.  In any case, I threw caution to the wind with two miles to go and start speeding up.  Mile 12: 8:01.  I’d decided pre-race that I’d go as fast as I wanted for Mile 13, and it went by in 7:42.  Mile 13 HURT.  But I think that’s expected, right?  I finished the last tenth in 7:15 mpm pace, and my overall time was 1:55:09, 8:46 mpm.

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I finished 10th in my age group, and got a nice medal for my efforts.  I felt tired at the finish but not like I was going to die, not the way I felt after my recent 5K or 7K race.  I was just exhausted and ready to go home.  So, I did.  I didn’t stick around for any of the after-race stuff like I usually do, and went home and collapsed and wasted time on the computer for several hours.  (Thanks to H for facilitating that!)

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Hopefully I didn’t overdo it since the baseline plan is to run another half in two weeks.  I’m not so sure about that plan right now.  My average heart rate was only 149 bpm, though I hit 176 bpm at the end.  Hopefully the 149 heart-rate means I didn’t kill myself.  My legs are pretty darn sore right now, though.

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running documentary

This is a fabulous documentary on the lives of Kenyan runners trying to make it in Europe.  I don’t have much insight into the lives of the poor around the world, but for me, running is a small connection.  American distance runners are far, far from rich.  Well, perhaps the best make good money, but the vast majority are either dependent on spouse or parents, or more often, making a living at the local running store.

The comparison, though, to the extreme poverty of these African runners is extreme.  American runners have good coaching, sponsorship that provides gear and the like.   They train carefully for target races and rest.  These African runners are so driven by the need to earn winnings at races that they have to make training and racing decisions based on payouts and short-term needs.

This documentary is a bit heart-breaking, but I loved it.  I love that it makes a real person out of two of the many African runners I always see at the front of the various marathons.