Sunday, December 27, 2015

Race Report: San Diego Holiday Half Marathon (AKA that time I signed up for a race less than 24 hours before the start)

Posted by Chen

Oh hey, blog world! Remember me? I didn’t intend to abandon this site for so long, but when you stop working out for 4 months, you don’t really have much value to add to a training blog :-P.

Before I get into my race report, you might be wondering what I’ve been up to since the Ironman. Well, post-vacation (see Rachel’s amazing recap), I returned to normal life and intentionally took August mostly off. I won’t lie - it was glorious! Lots of seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a while, eating delicious food, and drinking all of the wine.

Once September rolled around, I diligently made a 12-week training plan for the California International Marathon (CIM), just like I’d done every year since 2011. I’ve always loved training for and running this race (it holds two of my marathon PR experiences!), but this year, it just wasn’t meant to be. To make a long story short, life got in the way; my motivation remained at an all time low, and I ended up deferring my entry to 2016. I also managed to not run the Healdsburg Half Marathon for other life reasons (though the rest of Team Running for the Win(e) ran it and crushed it!).

Running and I were officially in a fight.

Then, about a month ago, I went through a pretty difficult personal time, but instead of abandoning running further, I took it back up with a vengeance. It came crashing back into my life during a time when I needed it the most, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I’m currently on a running streak (27 days and counting!), and I’m reminded on a daily basis why I love this sport so much.

Most of my runs have been untimed and easy, which is exactly what I’ve needed. No pressure – just running for the pure joy and calm of running. I know I won’t be able to keep this streak up once I start my next marathon training cycle, but for now, it’s allowing me to get out there every day, process my thoughts, and heal.

My next few months will see the Austin Half Marathon with a Princeton friend in February, the Oakland Marathon with Rachel in March, and my goal race – the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon in May, where I will try to finally break 3:30 after years of failed attempts. Side note: I’ve already convinced one of my coworkers to run M2B as well – hi Chris! :-)

Given this upcoming race schedule, I’ve been trying to increase my weekly mileage as well as my long runs throughout this running streak. I was aiming to run 14 this weekend, so when I realized yesterday that the San Diego Holiday Half Marathon was happening today, I decided to sign up on a whim. I’ve had some pretty impulsive race sign-up experiences in the past (hello, first M2B experience), but this one probably takes the cake. I registered for the race at 11am, and 20.5 hours later, I was toeing the starting line.

Was hoping this shirt would magically help me fly :-)

I ran this race a couple years ago, so I generally knew what to expect when it came to the course and race logistics. The starting line is only 4 miles from my parents’ house, so I didn’t have to get up too terribly early to make it to the 7:30am start.  Parking was a bit more nightmarish this time (the race must have grown since 2013), so I had to walk ~0.6 miles from my car to the starting area, which left no time to wait in the porta-potty lines. I kind of expected that might happen, though, so I purposely didn’t drink anything until right before the start, and everything worked out OK (contrast that to my 2013 race experience, when I had to use the porta-potties no fewer than five times. Lesson learned – there IS such a thing as too much fiber).

I did have time for a 1-mile warm-up to hit 14 for the day, and I arrived back to the starting area just in time to hear the national anthem. I inched my way into the right corral, reset my Garmin, and at 7:30am, we were off.

I knew the course was a fast one with a net drop of over 700ft, though it had some considerable rolling hills throughout. I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of a time, but based on my 12-miler with Rachel last weekend when we averaged an 8:29 pace while talking the whole time, I figured that a sub-1:50 might be a reasonable goal. That said, I didn’t pay much attention to pace early on and instead wanted to keep the effort easy – I basically didn’t want to be breathing hard unless I was going uphill.

Very reminiscent of M2B; just half as long!

When my first few miles clocked in in the low 8’s, I was surprised, but I continued to keep things easy. The last time I’d run 14 miles in a single day was over 5 months earlier, so I needed to play it safe, at least for the time being. The crowd slowly thinned out as we made our way onto the bike path that would take us to the beach, and I found myself getting into a groove. I took in the lovely scenery and chuckled at fellow runners who were in costume or in funny shirts, including a green painted Grinch and a dude whose shirt said, “I didn’t ask for this present.” For the record, I would LOVE to receive a race registration as a gift!

Mile 1: 8:08
Mile 2: 8:06
Mile 3: 8:14
Mile 4: 7:45 (way downhill – as in, elevation loss: 184ft; elevation gain: 0ft)
Mile 5: 8:00

During the middle miles, I was still feeling strong, so I allowed myself to pick the effort level up a bit. Every time I glanced at my Garmin and saw a pace in the 7’s, I would start to get a little nervous (because let’s be honest: after 4 months off, I had no business running anything that started with a 7), but then I’d remind myself that running by feel usually results in a smart race, so I kept on.

Mile 6: 7:54
Mile 7: 8:04
Mile 8: 7:51
Mile 9: 7:42
Mile 10: 8:01

After mile 10, I was still feeling good, so I decided to kick it into high gear to see what I had left. I knew by this point that a sub-1:45 was possible, and by Mile 12, I knew that a sub-1:44 was in the cards if I could just… hold… on. I haven’t done ANY tempo work since July, and I was being reminded of just how badly tempo work can hurt. It was painful, but it was also a good kind of pain – the type of pain that reminds you what you are capable of. I was expecting to average an 8:20 pace this morning and instead ran my last full mile in 7:24 - who knew I still had that pace in me! My overall time was far from my fastest, but I crossed the finish line feeling just as elated as if I’d run a personal best.

Mile 11: 7:39
Mile 12: 7:43
Mile 13: 7:24
Mile 13.16: 6:47

Overall time: 1:43:37 (~7:53 average pace; ~7:55 official pace)

I’ll run a race that ends at the ocean any day <3

I'm not sure when I'll decide to end my running streak, and I have yet to put together a training plan for either Austin or M2B, but there's one thing I do know: Running and I are no longer in a fight ;-).

Sunday, December 20, 2015

8 weeks until the LA Marathon

Posted by Rachel

It's been about 3 weeks since my last update, so here's how the training has been going.

3 weeks ago
I spent the week in Switzerland for work, so needless to say my weekly mileage was low. As in, my grand total mileage for that week was lower than the # of miles in a marathon, which is probably not sufficient for marathon training. There were a lot of challenges though, including having to run in the pitch black darkness every day. I had a light but I just wasn't sure how safe it was, so I kept running back-and-forth in the section of well-lit path behind the train station. Having to work too much was another challenge, though I stayed an extra day with a coworker and sacrificed running to have some fun. I just can't justify giving up sightseeing time in Europe in favor of running.

Europe has awesome Christmas markets, and Zurich has one of these including a Christmas tree covered in Swarovski crystals. Old Town Zurich on the Limmat was really nice, and one of my legit Swiss meals included what was basically mac and Swiss cheese with an excellent Burgundy (chocolate not shown). 

A day trip on my last day included awesome views of the Swiss countryside (so green!), a stop in Lucerne, and a couple of hours at 10,000 feet. I walked across the world's highest suspension bridge, rode ski lifts, and enjoyed the awesome views. As a bonus, it wasn't even that cold that day.

Two weeks ago
Back to reality. I got home from Zurich on Sunday evening then jumped right into a week full of work and marathon training. Not much to say about that week, except I had a solid 9 mile tempo run (2 x 3 mile segments with an average 7:14 pace) and a good 18 miler that included the hills of Piedmont. I capped the week with a concert Friday night and a party on both Saturday and Sunday. 

Cookie party, with great friends and entirely too much sugar

This past week
Another pretty solid week of training with a good track workout, solid 9 mile goal marathon pace run, and 20 flat miles at a steady pace on the Bay Trail (8:23). The best part was the long run because I got to meet up with fellow blogger Chen who ran the middle 12 miles with me. Since she's not posting about training right now, I stole her pictures to post here. The weather was perfect for a long run, and I never stop appreciating how awesome it is to be able to live and run here!

Views like this and awesome training buddies make it pretty easy to get out for that 20 miler

With mileage for the past two weeks of 45-50, I'll be taking a step back next week. I know this is lower mileage than a lot of plans out there, but I run a lot of them hard and am still maintaining 2 swims per week, which has to be in some way good for my fitness (I think?). Happy holidays! Here's to overeating, drinking too much, and hopefully managing to keep up with marathon training!