Monday, January 26, 2015

Taking a giant leap........

My trip to Disney is already a week old. I survived running back to back races. I turned myself inside out for the 10k PR. The next day was the half marathon. I knew walking to the starting line that another hard effort or PR was not in play. My legs felt some serious fatigue, especially from running down the overpasses.

When the gun went off, I took it easy and decided to use the first 3 miles to warm up and get a rhythm going. I opted to not look at my watch for splits. I used the clocks at every mile to do some quick math and get a rough idea what my pace was. By the time mile 4 rolled around, I felt a little more comfortable running. I was zipping along until mile 10. Then my legs started getting tighter from the effort the day before. I had to walk a couple of times so I could stretch my legs.  Starting to run after a break was excruciating. Each time I swore I would stop taking the stretch breaks.

By the time mile 12 rolled around, I told myself that this was it. The last mile of running and all I had to do was to keep one foot moving in front of the other.  I could see the finish in the distance. When I finally crossed the line, I was so happy that the running was done. My quads were like rocks. I collected my medals and put on some warmer clothes.  I walked back to my hotel to shower and change. It was nice to achieve this task of a back to back run and pull off a hard 10k the day before.

On my flight home, I realized something had changed. I was now able to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Yes, that sounds weird. But if I wanted to achieve bigger goals, I needed to race on that edge. I had to be uncomfortable when racing and not let up.  I was texting back and forth with Sinead after my races and she commented:

"Getting stronger every time you dig deep"

I gave those words some serious thought on my flight home. I have to continue embracing being uncomfortable if I want to get better, faster, stronger..........

I had two bike workouts scheduled after my short recovery from the races. For my workout Saturday, Danielle gave me a choice of two bike workouts based on how I felt. I felt a little cocky and opted for the harder one. I looked up my power numbers from the last time I attempted it and decided to try and put out higher numbers. The workout was called "9 Hammers" and that's exactly how you feel during and after the workout. I turned myself inside-out and outside-in while riding. I worked so hard during the VO2 sections that the Threshold seemed 'easy'.  When the workout was done, I was in a sweaty, crumpled heap sitting next to the bike trying to take my shoes off.  When I stood up, my legs felt like jell-o and my arms were rubbery too. The workout was a success. Or was it? I uploaded my power numbers from the workout and compared them to the prior workout.  All 9 Hammers were higher than the previous 9. Yes, it was a success!!  The fatigue in my legs was totally worth the effort.  Once again, I was able to stay in the 'uncomfortable' zone and not back off.  These are definitely things to build on!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

First Race of 2015

And it was a doozy.  Last spring I signed up for the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon weekend and picking the 'Rebel Challenge' for my race.  The challenge consists of a 10k Saturday and a half marathon Sunday.  I spent the last two and half months getting ready for this race.  I had a goal in mind of a PR for the 10k race.  Realistically, I knew a half marathon PR would take too much out of me this early in the season. But the 10k is manageable this time of year.

I arrived in California Thursday and picked up all my race numbers/shirts. Last night we went to a hockey game in Anaheim to help pass the time. We left the game early (end of the 2nd period) as I had to get up pretty early this morning for my race.

My race clothes were already laid out. I just had to get dressed and walk out the door.  The Wingman accompanied me to the starting corrals, then he bid me good luck and farewell. I was fortunate enough that I was starting in the first wave, which meant I would have to deal with less traffic running in front of me. Disney did a nice job for the racers waiting around. There were clips from the Star Wars movies to watch. Before I knew it, it was time to run.

I knew I had to go out and run hard from the beginning. The hardest part was running in the dark. The course was lit by street lamps, but it was still fairly dark out. I really had a hard time perceiving my pace so I knew this was going to be a hard effort.

What today was all about

The first mile had 3 overpasses we had to climb up which means I get to use the downhills to make up time.  We were out on the streets for the 1st mile, then tucked back into the park. I am not that familiar with the Disneyland grounds so between the darkness and all the turns, I was quickly disoriented. I think it was around 1.25 miles in when I thought "Crap, I have a ways to go still." It was a hard effort and I knew I had to keep it up. Danielle and I reviewed my goals for the race and I knew I had to go for it, otherwise I would regret it.  Around the 5k mark, I just stopped thinking for a while. My brain just couldn't function while my legs were screaming.

 The Truth

I followed the course and was fortunate that there weren't too many runners ahead of me. That makes it easy to get through the aid stations. Only once did I give someone a light shove on his back when he crossed right in front of me without looking. I didn't want anyone getting in my way. I was on a PR mission.

I could feel my Garmin vibrating at every mile, but it was too dark to catch a look. I didn't want to mess with the backlight button. With my luck, I would probably stop the watch and mess up my run. 

I saw the marker for mile 5 and the race clock. I realized I was making great time and then said "If you go all in now, you can shave off more time that you originally thought." I knew I had 1.2 miles left to hang on, so I dug in deep and asked my legs for just a little bit more effort. Thank goodness they complied and didn't revolt. 

Before I knew it, I was coming around the final stretch. I could see the finish line and knew I had to make a run for it. I had 30 seconds to get to the line so I dug just a little deeper. I just had to hurt for another few seconds.  When I crossed the line, I knew I had a great race. I shaved almost 2 minutes off my previous 10k PR.

I laid it all out there this morning. Looking back, I can't imagine where I could have run any faster. Sure, maybe if it was light out and I could have seen the course better I might have shaved a couple more seconds, but it would not have been anything dramatic. I ran as hard as I could today.  Over the last few months I have gotten much better at being uncomfortable when running or biking hard. That's the key. If you want to get faster, you need to learn to not back off when the effort is hard. 

All those workouts Danielle wrote to build my speed worked. I pushed hard hoping for a good result and I got it today. My running has gotten better over the last few months. Early to Mid 2014 it was all about keeping me healthy. Then late 2014 was about getting faster. And the 'getting faster' part isn't over yet.

But for now, I am focusing on recovery for the rest of the day. I have a half marathon to run tomorrow.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

First race of 2015, coming up!!

In less than two weeks, I will be toeing the line in California for the Star Wars race series.

I am signed up for the "Rebel Challenge" which consists of a 10k on Saturday the 17th and a Half Marathon on Sunday the 18th.  It's been a few years since I've done a back-to-back race.  The distances aren't too long for me, but it's the effort level that I'll be putting out for the races that will be challenging.  I didn't sign up to 'coast' through these races.  I plan on hitting the 10k hard and then hoping to still have some good legs for the Sunday race.

Over the last month, I've been doing some back-to-back longer runs to see how my legs hold up.  So far, it looks promising that I can pull off two good races.  My only concern is the temperature difference.  I am used to running in 20-30 deg temps the last few weeks.  The temperature in Anaheim is lows in the upper 40s and highs of low 70s.  The highs don't bother me as the race starts at 5:30am.  It will be on the cooler side for the start, but slightly warmer than I am used to.

Words of wisdom for the race

Once this race is over, I am looking forward to some shorter runs for a few months before I ramp up for my races this summer. I've been working hard on the trainer for my bike workouts since the weather hasn't been too cooperative for outdoor riding.  I've gotten a huge boost from the Sufferfest videos.  Danielle has been assigning me some workouts based on the videos.  They really are a good tool to help break up the monotony of traditional trainer workouts.  

I'm not a fan of watching movies on the trainer (if you are watching movies on the trainer, chances are you are spending too much time on the trainer and not enough focusing on your workout).  My longest workout on the trainer to date is 1:40 and it was full of threshold and VO2 work. I love reviewing my data at the end to see if I hit my power goals for each segment. And of course if I repeat a video every week or two, I like to compare my numbers to see if I had a better outcome. It should be interesting to see my progression as we get closer to spring.