Sunday, May 29, 2011

One Kick Ass Day in May... The Other 28 Days, Not So Much.

My last couple posts have been about my relative success on the racing front.  First, I kicked some bootay in a 2 miler scoring my first PR (12:22) in several years, and placing 1st in my AG.  The next weekend, I submitted my photo to Webster's Dictionary so they could place it next to the word "awesome" after I set a PR by over 6 minutes in our local half marathon (1:36:02).  That was May 1st, and that was the last time I was able to run without being injured or fatigued this month.
Setting my 2 mile PR.  I just got this pic from a friend, so I figured I'd share it, even though my race report was a month ago.

I thought I was being prudent enough taking a couple days off after the half mary, but I should've slept in a third day because less than one and a half miles into my recovery run (running 1 minute slower than marathon pace) I got a sharp pain in my right knee.  I am no stranger to knee problems.  I've never had a serious knee injury, but it seems if my body is going to break down, my knee is always the first to go.  The next time I ran was about 7 days later.  Although I had been going to the gym every day, even logging a 2 hour session on the elliptical machine, hitting the pavement again seemed a bit awkward.  I thought my knee was getting better at that point, but about 10 days later I aggravated it again.  All the while, my fastest runs only approached marathon pace.  It seemed the more I increased stride length aka speed, the more likely my knee was to complain.

I almost went to see the doc., but I knew whatever Latin term he would assign to it, the advice would be the same, it needs rest.  Well, I don't have time to rest, although I would if that was the only way to heal up.  Instead, I took one day off, then started wearing my knee strap on.

I don't know why I didn't think to start wearing it earlier, but I have slowly been seeing progress ever since.  This past Thursday, I ran a 7 mile progression run.  By the time I hit my last mile, I was up to my 5k race pace. My knee by no means felt 100%, but I think I might finally be on the mend.

While I'm on the topic of knee straps, let me mention that the first time I ever came down with runner's knee was several weeks before a marathon.  Another runner informed me about what knee straps are, and even loaned me his to try.  Cut to the marathon, my knee was still an issue, and I didn't think I would be able to finish, but I gave the race a try with the strap, and I was able to finish the 26.2 miler without making my knee much worse.  In my own personal opinion, these knee straps are miracle workers for runner's knee.  Infomercial done!

Another oddity about my month:  My cardiovascular system kept wanting me to push harder, but my endurance (usually my strong suit) wasn't having any of it.  In other words, my heart rate and perceived level of exertion are rockin' the house, but after 5 miles, depending on the day, my energy is depleted and asking for a rain check.  I've been able to counter this a little by consuming more calories during my runs.

I've got a 10k race coming up June 4th, and I am planning/hoping for another PR, so I hope my knee will cooperate.

Last but not least, I feel compelled to mention that I'm a closet fan of Oprah Winfrey.  As you might know, she pulled the plug on her talk show after her 25th season last week.  Some of her episodes weren't all that interesting to me, but others were very entertaining and/or informative.  Even though I almost never made it a point to catch her show, it happened to be on at a time when I tend to watch TV.  To name a few recurring topics of hers, I found the visits from Dr. Oz very informative and useful.  Also O's "Favorite Things" was always a wild affair.  "Favorite Things" involved her giving out expensive gifts to everyone in her audience and them going ape shit.

I did, make it a point to see her final 3 shows.  Maybe if I had seen more of her shows, I'd be more in touch with my emotions to explain why.  I won't go into any more detail, but now that she has moved on, I wanted to give her a shout out as someone who made a difference in my life.

Hope everyone has a good Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Despite My Best Effort at Self-Sabotage, I Still Had a Great Half Marathon!

Flash back to last month.  I had just come off a PR set in a 2 mile race.  I had the Wichita Half Marathon coming up the next weekend.  How do I approach it?  Not my preferred way.  First, I was feeling pretty good Monday of that week, and I wanted to do a test run of 13 miles and kinda gauge my 1/2 marathon fitness.  Well, my training run turned into a bit of a race itself, and I finished 13 miles about 4 minutes faster than my previous half PR.  A bit of a confidence builder, but probably not the smartest thing from an injury perspective to race a 2 miler plus 2 half marathons within a 1 week span.

Someone needs to fix this defective bell.
The next day, my employer, sends me off to Philadelphia to visit the Liberty Bell meet with a customer.  The trip started off badly.  Our connecting flight was cancelled, and the only way to make it to our meeting the next morning was to fly to New York City and drive to Philly.  Long story short, my head hit the pillow the next morning at 4:00am, got 5 hours sleep, and missed my run that morning.  Part of the travel process is that the company picks up the tab on all the food (and adult beverages).  I enjoyed plenty of seafood (hopefully not from Japanese waters), and a fair amount of beer (not too discerning where the beer was from).

Normally, this would be an ideal time to travel since the week of the race doesn't include too many miles.  However, when you mix fewer miles with increased food intake, you get to come home with a little more cushion for the pushing to love.  What I'm getting at is that I came back to Kansas a good 2 to 3 pounds heavier than when I left, and I lacked the self control to turn down plentiful/free food.

My final attempt at sabotaging my race was working outside pretty much the whole day before helping a mason build us a fire pit.  Everybody knows you should take it easy the day before a race, and I tried, but I had the obligation to get this fire pit built, which meant carrying around bags of mortar and cinder blocks.  It also meant being out in the sun.  So even when I wasn't working, I was busy getting a slight sunburn around my neck, and my lips got chapped.

So here's my recap of race week:
Monday - Race pace for 13 miles (over training)
Tuesday - Awake for 23 hours getting to Philly
Wednesday - Miss run, over eat
Thursday - Over eat
Friday - Arrive back home from Philly 2 -3 lbs heavier
Saturday - Spend most of the day outside working or getting sun
Sunday - Race Day

Now it's time to overcome all that and race my first half marathon in almost 2 years.  I honestly wasn't feeling very fit come race morning, and my final couple taper runs felt hard.  I was just hoping to get lucky and run about the same time that I did on Monday when I felt good and logged just under a 1:38:00 for 13 miles, before all that nonsense I put myself through the previous 6 days.

The race conditions were near ideal: mostly flat, 50º weather, little bit of a breeze (in Kansas terms).  My plan was to stay near a 7:30 pace and try to hold it as long as I could.  After 3 or 4 miles into the race, the initial adrenaline had worn off, and I was still questioning if the race would turn out as I wanted it to.

I think the turning point came around mile 7.  I was maintaining a pretty steady pace, but it was starting to feel more effortless, or like I was finally loosening up.  My mile 7 split clocked in at a 7:22.  By this point in the race, the runners were starting to get spread out, and little did I know I was really starting to negative split the rest of the way.

I think there were only 2 runners who passed me from here, meaning they were running the second half faster too.  One of those runners was a girl.  I was getting chicked.  Not a big deal to get passed, she was running her pace, I was running mine.  She slowly pulled away from me while staying in sight over the next couple miles.  She was looking strong, but keeping track of her gave me something to focus on.  All the while I'm thinking to myself, now I can blog about getting chicked, and I started composing a race report in my head.  I thought it kinda funny to be thinking about what to write on my blog as I'm trying to excel in a half marathon.  Then around mile 10 something happened.  Not to me, but to the chick doing the chicking.  She stopped to stretch her leg.  Must be cramping.  She was far enough ahead that I didn't catch up to her by the time she was running again, but for the first time, I felt I could catch her.  To my surprise, she continued to run strong.  If I get to the point where my legs are cramping, then I'm probably to the point where I'm about to walk (or not run strong).  Hats off to her.  If I was running a steady pace, I still might not have caught her, but this was turning out to be my day and my pace was now up to about 7:15 and I passed her at mile 11 being sure to say good job to her as I did.

Also at mile 11, I glanced at my heart rate which was looking good, and I was starting to taste the finish, so I decided it was time to drop the hammer, which in my case is more like a plastic toy hammer and bring on the speed.

In looking back at the splits from my Garmin, I'm really proud of my last 2 miles.  I had hoped to run a sub 7:30 average pace, and in my ideal scenario, maybe some 7:15 splits, but I was ecstatic when I downloaded my race data and discovered mile 12 was a 7:04 while mile 13 was 6:55!  My official race time was 1:36:02 and I PR'd by over 6 minutes.  Not to mention, my best case scenario was to finish in the 1:37 - 1:38 time frame.

There were a lot of runners that day setting personal bests, and that caused a lot of excitement at the finish line during the post race festivities.  I got to see and talk to a lot of runner friends who showed up, some who didn't even participate in the race.  Also, this event was about the first chance for everyone who is not 2Slow4Boston (aka those who ran in the 2011 Boston Marathon) to make an appearance back on the local scene, and you could tell who they all were cause they had their nice new Boston Marathon jackets on.  I'd bet it could have been 95º out, and they would still be representing with their jackets.  I would be, they looked cool.

Here are my splits:

About the only thing I can think of that went wrong for my race is it took me 20 seconds after I finished to stop my watch.

2Slow4Boston's Wichita Half Marathon Stats
Chip Time1:36:02
Overall Place87/1068
Age Group12/72
Average Pace7:20
Average Heart Rate182
Max Heart Rate202