Tuesday, March 29, 2016

On the Run: Rock CF 1/2 Marathon 2016

I wasn't ready to race a half marathon.  I hadn't done a true speed workout or tempo run since before the NYC marathon in November.  None of my paces have improved over the course of my training cycle and if anything, they have only become more challenging to maintain.  To make matters worse, my quads had been sore for a week from a hilly long run.  Yet here I was, toeing the starting line on March 20th at the 6th annual Rock CF Rivers Half Marathon.  This is my favorite race and I wouldn't miss it for anything.  

Brian and I arrived at 5:45 to volunteer at the packet pickup table.  I love handing racers their shirts and bibs and wishing them luck on the race.  This year everything was staged at Grosse Ile Middle School for the first time - packet pickup, port-a-potties, start/finish, and post-race snacks.  There has been a gradual shift from the high school to the middle school over the years and it was nice to finally have everything at one location.  While I had to sneak away from my shift a little early to prepare to run, Brian could stay on as super volunteer even after the race started.

The atmosphere at Rock CF is always fun and relaxed, thanks in large part to Emily Schaller, race director extraordinaire.  She is why this race has been such a success since it's first year.  I waited in the corral with some of my Be Bold Crew friends, which helped me relax a bit.  I don't get nervous for races often but today I was worried.  How fast should I run?  How fast COULD I run?  Would my quads hold out?  This was not going to be pretty.

Starting the race with Coach Geo

What was pretty, however, was the sunshine.  And the blue skies.  And the water.  So I took it all in as I ran.  This course is beautiful as it winds around the island and the miles always pass quickly.  I was pushing hard but with each passing mile, my legs grew more and more tired.  Generally I'm able to pick up the pace as my legs warm up but I was fearing the worst - I had gone out too hard and was going to bonk.  I took my gel around mile 7 (earlier than usual) in hopes that it would help give me some added energy.  Before I knew it I was approaching the relay exchange, close to the 8-mile mark.  I saw several RUNdetroit friends .  They cheered and I waved, which gave me a confidence boost.  This was great but I also ran a little too fast after because I was excited.  My pacing was just all over the map!

Nothing beats a Rock CF sunrise

Between the exchange and mile 10 I started to struggle.  My quads, which started giving me trouble around mile 3, began to seize up.  I had real doubts about being able to finish the race in any respectable time.  I sidled up to another racer at the 9-mile mark and started chatting.  We talked for about a mile until we got to the hangar.  I knew there I would see Justin and ACE! from RUNdetroit - another boost.  Upon exiting the hangar there is just another 5K to go!  The next mile flew by for me.  YES!  I can do it!

Then I hit a wall.  Yes, a wall in a half marathon.  I'm still not sure I've ever hit one in a marathon but here I was at mile 11 of a half marathon and I was DONE.  My quads were screaming at me.  It was windy.  Every "hill" felt like a mountain.  I couldn't stop looking at my watch.  I contemplated jumping in the police car I passed.  On the outside I was smiling and waving but on the inside I was cursing and crying.  

I passed my friend Zach with about .6 mile to go.  "How ya feeling?" he asked?  "Like sh*t!" I yelled back with a laugh.  "Almost there!" he said.  And although I really was almost there, it felt like forever before I rounded the corner into the finish chute. 

Running through the finish chute felt as if my legs were in slow motion.  Did Emily fill it with pudding this year?  Surely she must have.  I did not give it my all because I had nothing left to give.  I ran it in smiling and waving at Brian.  I wasn't fast but I was happy.  

Photographic evidence - no pudding in the finish chute

Emily congratulated each racer as he or she finished

The best part about the day was being with my running families - RUNdetroit and Be Bold Crew.  RUNdetroit sponsored the 5K and representation was strong in the 5K, half marathon, and 2-person relay.  Everyone ran strong and many people set PRs.  We had a few pacers, as well!  I was proud of each and every one of them!

RUNdetroit Flight Club

Coach Terra was there with the Be Bold Bus and had the tent set up with snacks including bagels and Nakee Butter.  Everyone in the crew set PR's for the half marathon and Roger relayed in his fire fighter gear. 

Be Bold Crew

Coach Terra says I set a happy PR because I ran with a smile.  As for my time, I ran this race 6 minutes slower than two years ago.  Yes, a 6-minute negative PR.  I wasn't happy about that but it gave me a wake-up call about where I am in my training.  It reminded me where I want to be and forced me to take a good hard look at what I need to do to get there.  It's still early in the season.  I have plenty of time for happy, bold, and fast running ahead!


7:13 min/mile
CLIF Shot - Vanilla (during)

10th Floor Ghost Girl / Cibo Matto
The Joke Explained / Wilco
Ex's and Oh's / Elle King
St. Cecelia / Foo Fighters
Black and White / Parquet Courts
Born Again Teen / Lucius
Violent Shiver / Benjamin Booker
I'm Shakin' / Jack White
Gold on the Ceiling / The Black Keys
After the Disco / Broken Bells
You Were on My Mind / Lucius
Runaway Baby / Bruno Mars
Dead Brains / Jessica Hernandez
The Walker / Fitz & the Tantrums
Shake it Off / Taylor Swift
Pedestrian at Best / Courtney Barnett
S.O.B. / Nathanial Rateliffe & the Nightsweats
Anklebiters / Paramore
Ship to Wreck / Florence + the Machine
Blood for Poppies / Garbage
Rattlesnake / St. Vincent
The Innocent / Mayer Hawthorne
Deceptacon / Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas
50 Ways to Say Goodbye / Train
Man / Neko Case
Race for the Prize / The Flaming Lips
Brave / Sara Bareilles

And of course, none of this would be possible without my rock - Brian.  What other husband would get you to the race at 5:45, volunteer before and during the race, take amazing photos, and be there waiting with a hug when you're done?  

All photos by Brian Wolski

How do you feel about racing when you are not race-ready?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

I'll go run hills next week.  I first said this a month ago but each week came and went without me running any hills.  The first time I didn't go because I was sick.  Valid excuse.  Then my friend was going to do a long run with me in Detroit.  I abandoned my plans in a heartbeat to stay and run with her.  Then Brian and I planned a spur-of-the-moment weekend trip.  Hey, I can't go if we're out of town. Last week I was really going to go . . . but the roads were icy/snowy/slushy and it's a 45-minute drive to PR Fitness in Ann Arbor where I was running.  Running close to home just sounded nicer.

That brings us to yesterday.  No more excuses.  The Boston Marathon is just over 5 weeks away and if I want to have a halfway decent race experience I need to get my butt on some hills.  Real hills.  Not the overpass that leaves me breathless on the Green RUNdetroit loop.  Not the rolling bumps of Hines Drive in Dearborn.  No.  HILLS.  

Training this week was my toughest yet.  I'm at peak mileage and my legs have been toast since Tuesday.  Forget a tempo run.  As yesterday's 20-miler drew closer, I started to worry.  I knew I could run the miles but with what my week has felt like on flat land, I was sure to be a snail on hills!  I texted Coach Terra, asking for her advice.  She told me that my legs are tired from the week's volume, not to worry about pace, and the hills would be fun.  It will be good for you, Terra said.

Okay, coach says do it.  And that's when I finally admitted the real reason I've been putting this off.  It wasn't the miles, the hills, the pace.  I was nervous.  Nervous to run with a new group.  All the what-ifs.  What if I don't have someone to run with?  What if I get lost?  What if people aren't friendly?  What if I have a bathroom issue in the middle of nowhere?

As it turned out, I met another girl who is training for Boston.  We ran together and talked the whole time.  The miles passed easily.  Because I was running with people there was no way I could get lost.  Everyone was friendly before, during, and after the run.  All my worries went unfounded.  Well . . . except for that last worry about the bathroom issue. Story of my life.  But even that could have been worse.

Now that I've gone out to PR Fitness once I'm looking forward to going back.  Friendly people, hills, new places to run, water stops.  If you never step out of your comfort zone you might never find out what you're missing.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Little Bold Victories

This marathon training cycle hasn't been about typical milestones.  I'm steadily building my mileage; increasing my weekly volume and long run distance.  The runs themselves haven't been overwhelming; however, I feel that each one has presented a new challenge to overcome that has left me feeling bolder and stronger.

Due to some crappy weather this week, I ran on the treadmill one day.  Treadmill runs are hard for me because my stride is different, putting strain on my hamstring.  The faster I go the worse it is.  The solution?  Run slower, which means more time on the treadmill.  Better safe than in pain.  About halfway in at a slower pace I felt good and was able to increase my speed to my aerobic pace.  Getting to that point was my bold victory.

Another day this week I had a 12-mile tempo run.  My plan was to warm up 2 miles, run 3x3 tempo intervals (2 minute jog between), then cool down for the rest.  As soon as I started I could feel my legs were not up for the task.  My first set was faster than aerobic but hardly tempo pace. There was no way I could run out my miles as planned.  When I hit my turn-around point at mile 6, however, I decided to give it another try.  I knew I had 3 miles of open road stretching out ahead of me so I ran as fast as I could - my own private 5K time trial.  It was the fastest I'd run in months!  Making that choice to run those 3 tempo miles when I was ready to give up was my bold victory.

Yesterday I ran 18 miles.  That was not my bold victory.  It was the little moments within the run - introducing myself to a girl I didn't know so we could run together and talk for 7 miles, running through my favorite parts of Detroit by myself, sloshing through the slushiest snow with a smile - those were the bold victories.  

Don't lose sight of the small moments, the little victories.