A Look Back on 2015: Chasing A Time & Trying Again Another Day

Now that I’m all settled in a new place, here’s one of the posts that’s been sitting around…


The last year has been a bit unusual for me.

Over the past 3-4 years, I’ve pretty much PRed every race I’ve run.

If not a new PR, I’ve run exactly the same time as my then-PR (twice! Once in back to back half marathons and another with 5Ks that were a year apart). Disregarding races when coming back from injuries of course.

So the Boston Marathon was a bit of an anomaly.

Add into that, Boston is Boston. It’s a race full of fast people that some of us (who are young or not serial Boston runners) have dreamed the ‘if only one day I can be fast enough to run it’ dream.

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I Ran My Slowest Half Yet & Had A Blast

Fair warning: half recap & half general thoughts ahead.

Last weekend I ran the San Jose Rock’N’Roll Half Marathon.

It was my slowest half marathon yet at 2:13, yet it’s probably near the top as most fun I’ve had during a race. Normally, I’m a hyper-competitive racer & while that is fun in itself, there’s always a little extra stress involved in chasing a good time.

I signed up for San Jose several months ago, when I still had plenty of time to train and the intention of doing so (it’s a flat course, so could be a good one to try for a PR). Unfortunately, life got in the way between then & now. No training happened and running by itself barely did.

To make competition even less likely, I caught a cold the weekend before that I’d been fighting to shake all week just to do the race. Before Friday, I wasn’t sure I could make it to my car without passing out. So my participation was up in the air. Luckily, I managed to fight the cold off enough to at least take part but I knew I wasn’t going to be really competitive.

At the start, I had decided I would just aim to stay under 2 hours. Pacing for the first few miles had me comfortably around a 1:55 finish time. But this is the Rock’N’Roll race series, what’s a good race without some good music?

Somewhere around mile 5 or 6, I passed one of the bands & they were playing a song I love: Flirting with Disaster by Molly Hatchet (thanks dad!). And I decided: why struggle to get a “good time” when I know I wasn’t in shape for it, when I could take it easy, enjoy the music & just have fun making it to the finish line?

So that’s what I did! Took short breaks near the bands to dance & enjoy the music, walked through water stations while I chatted with the volunteers, and just appreciated a beautiful day in San Jose. I did have to make use of my trusty inhaler once during mile 12. It worked out though, as I was joined by a few mobile paramedics checking on me while I walked and got to chat. They can definitely appreciate not pushing too hard to make it to the finish line.

I remember always telling myself that if I was injured or not feeling well or not trained up or any other excuse, that I’d simply bask in running a race and having fun. Yet I’ve always been too competitive to do so. This is the first time and I had a blast!

Sure, I’d love to come back & run RnR San Jose again when I’m trained because it really is a flat course. It could be great to chase a PR on it. Yet when it was all said & done, I feel just as accomplished finishing this half marathon slower than any other I’ve run and rocking out during it.

The moral of this story: it doesn’t always have to be about competition or chasing a PR. It is entirely possible to just have fun at a race.

Joint Pain & Being MIA

I don’t know if I’d call it a mini-hiatus considering I’ve already been MIA for a bit. But still, I’ll lay out the current on-goings.

Joint pain sucks.

As some of you may remember, I can blame my family for not so great genetics. Bad joints, especially the knees, is pretty common for us. And mine are already in a bad way. Normally it’s not too much of a problem. I do exercises from my physical therapist and am not afraid to apply ice.

For whatever reason, my knee joints have been exceptionally painful the past 2 weeks. Even with low mileage and a bit of cross training. So may just take time completely off and lounge out in the pool (that’s not at all good for swimming laps).

No races on the calendar.

Still, I guess it works out since I don’t actually have any races on my calendar yet. The plan is pretty much to take it easy this year. Depending on how well I can ease back into more moderate mileage (30-40 miles per week), I may pick up a few fall/winter half marathons.

At the moment, the only real “racing” I’m considering is picking up my first triathlon. There’s a very popular sprint that’s known for first time racers at the end of July. Since the training necessary to complete a sprint isn’t too much, may just try it.

The point is…

What I’m not really hinting at is that unless I do sign up for that triathlon, there’s not much happening to blog about. Madness with the family aside, I’m not racing myself and I’ve even been slacking at spectating.

That said, I may make a list of worthwhile topics that aren’t racing or training related (at least directly) and space them out across the next few months. If you don’t see any posts, don’t be surprised. I’m still around, just not doing anything worth writing about.

Except maybe scuba diving.

Race Recap: Gasparilla Distance Classic Day 2 (Half Marathon & 8K)

I finished! Day 2 did not go quite as well as day 1 did. That said, I completed all 4 races so I’m happy. Though day 2 is definitely when I questioned my sanity for agreeing to do this.

Another early start to carpool out for the races. Met up with Jason, my running buddy, for day 2 and this time he remember his Garmin so we could technically say he was pacing me.

Almost donneeee!!

Almost donneeee!!

The Half Marathon

This year the half marathon had a modified start from previous years. So grateful for that! The previous start featured a 180 degree sharp u-turn a quarter mile in that cut the course from a 3 lane road to a one lane on ramp/bridge over to David Island. The new start location featured us taking a different bridge/ramp across to the island that had two lanes and was a straight shot with no sharp turns and funneling.

But the start! Once again our shiny yellow challenge bibs got us entrance into the front start area for seeded runners and teams. And again, it was warm and humid out. Ugh, not exactly ideal race conditions. Still, I decided to be crazy (against Jason’s advice) and chase after the 1:35 pace group. As a mini-reminder, my current half marathon PR is 1:36.

Our position so close to the start and my determination not to lose space getting shoved around helped us get moving without being crowded back in the field. So we pretty much got going for a lovely jaunt in the dark around Davis Island (my favorite part of the course besides the finish). The 1:35 pace group got up to speed and passed us, but we decided to hook in onto the end of the group and try to stay with.

Davis Island is about the first 5 miles of the course. I like it because it’s still dark out (so generally the coolest portion of the race), the roads are wide, there’s often entertainment in places (a guy juggling flaming batons!), and the random people on their front lawns drinking spiked coffee while cheering on runners. As Jason had never raced the half marathon at Gasparilla before, it was fun hearing his thoughts on the course as we went along.

We would yo-yo off the end of the pace group, usually after water stations, as we’d lose distance on them and then trek it a bit to catch back up. Then you cross a ramp back off Davis Island and it’s Bayshore all the way to the finish. By mile 6 I had started to lose steam and we began falling off the pace group a bit. But I kept going along, though after mile 3 it was only because I kept telling myself “mind over matter.” So true in running, most of the time.

By mile 8 I was done with attempting (and by that point, failing) to stick with the 1:35 pace group and told Jason so. He pretty much already knew it, but humored me anyways. From there, we had another mile on the water side of Bayshore before we swung onto the back side of the road to head back to the finish.

I lost a lot of speed and I knew it. Mad thanks for Jason running with me because he was constantly positive encouragement to keep going towards the finish. ‘Only 3 miles to go,’ etc. If it wasn’t for him, I would have been going a lot slower than the 8 minute miles we had been doing.

There was some positivity seeing members of the running group as we went along. Near the end we were passed by the 1:40 group and Jason pushed me to stay with them. I had admitted at the start that chasing a 1:35 was stupid (not that it stopped me) and realistically I wanted to get in under 1:40. Well, there was my chance for that.

Most of the pacer’s group went on ahead to break the time so there weren’t a lot of people surrounding us as we came into the last quarter mile. However, Matt (you sandbagger!!) looped past us within the last 0.2 miles and I was yelling at him. Stuff along the lines of “darn you!!!” and “come back here!” Pretty sure the spectators were definitely laughing at me.

Still, we finished solidly (not sure I’d say strongly) and I managed to make it exactly 1:40:00 on the half marathon. Huzzah! Of course, like the day before the heat had gone up and the humidity lessened only a little as the race went on (so happy we had cloud cover). So Jason and I had a fun trip to the med tent where I got to use my inhaler and relax for a bit with some cold water. I do like that the Gasparilla team had brought out mini hand towels that were kept in ice cold water and handed out to runners as they finished. Helped to throw that around your neck and let it cool you off.

So med tent trip completed, we headed off to grab our medals and change out our gear before the 8K. No PR this time around, but a solid enough time considering the challenge.

Distance-13.21 miles

Time-1:40:00

Pace-7:37

Place-234 overall, 2nd in my age group

Between Races

This time we headed back to the car (no tent today) and made use of the nearby CVS to change clothes and shoes. So glad I did this because the humidity was just killing me. We also found that I had two blisters that totally explained by it hurt so much to walk around. Of course, they were in strange places on my foot, to it was quite interesting to switch my socks and shoes. By this point, I just wanted the last race to be done.

The 8K

To sum the 8K up in just a few words, CRASH AND BUUUUURRRRRRNNNNNN! All caps, bold, and extended length intended.

Besides actually training for this challenge, I probably should have taken another gel or snack and more than just water between these two races. Jason had this illusion of grandeur that we’d be running 7:30s. In my mind, I knew we’d be lucky with 8:00 miles. By the time we lined up for the 8K start, I just wanted to finish.

We started out pretty solidly, even though the clouds had started to disappear and the sun coming out meant higher temps on top of the humidity. The first 3 miles actually went relatively well.

And then I hit the wall.

This one was significantly worse than when it happened during the Miami Marathon. (And in my blogging failure, I never actually recapped that race for you guys. Suffice to say, hitting the wall sucked.) I didn’t just slow down, my body full on said ‘stop.’ As shamed as I was to do it, especially with Jason being an awesome sport and staying with me, I had to walk.

This is something we struggle with at times (as athletes with a competitive spirit). I had to be realistic though. As much as I would have rather kept running, even if it was slowly, my level of hydration (or rather, dehydration) combined with the sun, heat, and humidity made it a possibility that I would pass out if I kept going like that. So I let go of my pride and move to the side to walk.

Jason, amazing running buddy, pacer, and friend that he is, stayed with me even though he could have easily kept going.

20140223_113347So we rotated between walking and very slow jogging. At the next water station, I walked through it and grabbed several cups of gatorate and water. I needed the calories and electrolytes just as much as the hydration from them. That was enough to give me a little boost and we ended up jogging the last 0.4 miles or so in.

Ironically, I was able to lengthen my stride a bit for a tiny bit of speed to finish. And what happened but one of my calves seized up and I nearly face planted. Once again, Jason to the rescue as he grabbed my arm before I could go down and pretty much dragged me to the finish. Okay, we more like hobbled since I did contribute to the movement, but still. Course, he let me go a few feet away and told me I had to finish on my own. Haha, you Jason, are a fun and terrible friend 😛

I finished! I made it across the line for 4 out of 4 races and claimed my 5th medal for completing the Gasparilla Ultra Challenge.

Distance-5.02 miles

Time-53:47

Pace-10:43

Place-1858 overall, 71st in my age group

Closing Day Two

Woohoo!! Even if I failed miserably in that last race, I finished! Completing these last two races to round out all four makes me feel so accomplished. The fact that I made myself finish that 8K even though I was fully prepared to collapse on the side of the road is not diminished at all by my less than stellar time.

I didn’t voice it (don’t want to be negative and all that) but I fully expected my body to decide enough was enough during the half marathon. Would I have liked to complete all 4 races competitively? Of course! Yet realism had to rule out and the facts were simple; I had not trained for this event.

Even being dead tired and with horribly sore feet (and muscles!) I enjoyed chatting with everyone post race. When all was said and done, I am super pleased with what I accomplished over this race weekend and I plan to do it again. Except this time, I’ll actually train for it and maybe I’ll be able to place for the women overall. I can dream at least!

So my totals for day two – 18.23 miles in 2:33:47.

100_4395Which rounds me out for the entire weekend to about 30.4 miles in 4:06:07. That puts my overall, average pace under 8:10 and let me place 65th out of 631 Ultra Challenge participants (and #8 of the women—I missed 3rd place for the ladies by about 13 minutes, which could be made up if I ran a good 8K). Definitely thinking I’ll be trying again next year.

So I close up my recap with the fact that I had a blast racing and seeing all my friends across the weekend. Major thanks to Jason for being my partner in crime for all 4 races, even when I wasn’t doing so great. You can pace for me any time! (I’d offer to pace for you, but you are mad faster than me.) Also, mug #3!!

20140223_160255

Race Recap: Gasparilla Distance Classic Day 1 (15K & 5K)

Ahhhh the start of my crazy weekend of running. Day one of the Gasparilla Distance Classic race weekend featured the 15K and 5K races.

20140221_165329-1The 15K

I had held onto the hope that we would have good weather, but alas it wasn’t to be. We started off with temps in the low 70s and 98% humidity at the 7AM start. A positive of the weekend is that a fellow runner from my group was also signed up for the Ultra Challenge and like me, had not trained for it. As he is usually much faster than I am, he offered to run with me for the bulk of the races. So we met up before the race and headed into the corrals.

As is my usual luck, the start didn’t begin how we wanted. We were about 15-20 bodies back and near the 7:30 pacer. Exactly where I wanted to start. Of course, the actual start we got slammed to barely moving and ended up crossing the line behind the 8:00 pacer (how?!). So once again, I (and Jason, my running buddy) spent the race chasing after the 7:30 pacer.

Now my original goal was to try and run around a 7:15 pace. Of course, my logic for this was skewed—I ran my half marathon PR at about a  7:20 pace, so I figured a bit faster was doable. Yeah, didn’t really consider the fact that I’d be doing 4 races across the weekend. But regardless, we started slow and got to spend another race chasing.

Felt pretty solid and got the 7:30 group within sight, but since my Garmin had us under that pace time we just kind of cruised along. However, the humidity was really causing a struggle. I definitely took advantage of each of the water stations along with my e-caps.

The 9+ miles went relatively well and we finished strong. As it was only my second 15K, it ended up being pretty easy to PR by nearly 5 minutes.

Distance-9.35 miles

Time-1:09:05

Pace-7:23

Place-251 overall, 7th in my age group

Between Races

I had somehow convinced my parents to take part in the 5K, so they had shown up by the time Jason and I finished the 15K. There was a bit of socializing, getting refueled and re-hydrated, grabbing the totally awesome medals, and switching out gear. I ended up changing my shoes and top before we headed back out to the 5K start line.

The 5K

Tackling the 5K at Gasparilla is always interesting because it holds the bulk of their registrants. This race was split into 4 waves: red wave (seeded and under 35 minute finish time), blue wave (35 to 50 minute finish time), the stroller wave, and the walker wave (anything over 50 minutes). The Gasparilla 5K usually gets around 15,000 entrants.

Originally I had considered doing the 5K with either of my parents (dad was blue wave and mom was walker wave) but they encouraged me to try and race the entire weekend. It probably didn’t help that I had thrown down a challenge or two to some of my running buddies also doing the Ultra Challenge.

So Jason and I hopped in near the front of the 5K wave only to realize that our bibs for the challenge, which were yellow, got us into the front area for seeded and teams (who also had yellow). Huzzah! Now we were already tired, the temperatures had gone up even if the humidity was down into the 80 percents, and decided this one was more for completion. No PRs happening in this 5K.

As Jason kept reminding me, it was a very crowded race and we had to keep in mind that we would be running 18 more miles the next day. Good thing he was kind enough to run with me all weekend (though I admit I would probably have gone much slower all around on my own). So that said, we just sort of had fun and took it easy on this one.

100_4382While I would have liked to come in under 23 minutes, still making under 24 and sub-8:00 miles was a solid way to end day one. We enjoyed all the people we saw even if it was crowded and featured a lot of dodging. I also kept taking the inside track and missing the group handing out beads along the course (a Gasparilla tradition). Darn it!

But we ran our 1.5 miles or so out and hooked a u-turn back towards the finish. I did feel a bit jipped because you run under a bridge less than a quarter mile from the finish with a sign that said something along the lines of “you’re almost there.” But the curve of the road makes it so you go under that sign but can’t see the finish banner yet. It’s a lie! Haha there was some amusement due to me complaining on that one.

Yet another solid finish for the 5K with a decent time for Jason and I to close up day one of racing.

Distance-3.14 miles

Time-23:15

Pace-7:28

Place-337 overall, 10th in my age group

Closing Day One

PhotoGrid_1393105862039From there it was hanging out and chatting with friends before grabbing my second medal. Then it was off to see the other waves and cheer on the parents. I am super proud of both of them for completing the 5K! (It was my dad’s first!) Also, mugs!!

20140222_094405Day One’s totals: 12.64 miles in 1:32:20.

Keep an eye out as part two of my recap will feature Sunday’s races.

Say Hello To My Newest Friends – Shoes That Is

It’s that time again. Sadly.

My latest shoes, the Saucony Mirage 3 and Pearl Izumi eMotion Road N2, were fantastic in getting me through the end of marathon training and PRing several races. I’m actually quite sad to feel the amount of strain I’ve done to the soles. I ran a BQ in these shoes and then went on to PR my half and 5K. They had some of my best runs, training and racing, so far. Yet sometimes you just have to let go (totally making my shoes sound like a good friend—because they are!).

So as I start to ease off these two old ones, I’d like to introduce my newest pair. The Saucony Ride 6. In the un-missable color that my friends call highlighter yellow. Ha!

100_4338 These are more of training shoes that the last two. Since I don’t really have any race goals besides finishing in the near future, I’m expecting to just log miles. As such, these should take a little more damage than the two before it. I’ve only gotten a couple runs in them so far, but I’m loving the feel of a new shoe and all the cushion.

I’m a bit undecided if I should go for another pair of trainers or pick up more of a racing shoe for the second pair. Luckily, I appear to have enough time to think on it as I get these new ones into my routine.

Race Decisions & Time Off

I didn’t broadcast it, but I had been throwing around the idea of running the Jacksonville Marathon on December 29th.

My original thought process was that I could come off the half at the end of November and get a couple weeks of hard, high mileage training. Maybe about 2 weeks of good work in and then slip into taper with the intent to try and beat my MCM time at Jax. I say this because Jacksonville is supposedly a flat and fast course, a small race, and generally has good running weather.

The first week of December I got in a good 45 mile week, but caught a mild cold going into the second week. After pretty much getting no miles in, I made the executive decision to nix Jax for the full, and a few days later, the half as well.

As I was reminded, I’d basically been training with no time off for well over 6 months. There were rest days, but nothing really under 1-2 days off and 35 miles minimum a week . After deciding I couldn’t tackle another marathon the way I would want (which would be chasing a better time, not just for fun) it really settled on me that it was the best decision.

So for the last couple of weeks I’ve just been running casually. Nothing longer than 10 miles and spread out with more days off. Pretty much just letting my body relax and recover from a hard year of running.

I’m super happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish this year, even if half of it was spent rebuilding myself as a runner. But sometimes it’s making the decision to back off and let your body just enjoy being in good health. So while I may pick up anything from a 5K to a 5 miler in the next week just for fun, no major plans at the moment.

Take this as some friendly advice: taking a break from training to just enjoy life and maybe run can do a lot to keep your body and motivation going. Plus, I definitely don’t want any injuries since I plan to have an awesome spring season of running too.

So I’ll relax until after the new year when I can start tackling the build up for Ragnar and a potential ultra challenge for Gasparilla. Are your spring racing plans already set?