1 + 3.1 + 3

“Want to run Coach Bill’s 5K? It’s the eighth anniversary and it would be cool to support him.”

“I need more than 3.1 miles this weekend.”

“We can run it twice. Or we can do another seven through the park.”

“Okay, why not?”

Famous last words. 

We got to the park early enough to register and pay our $1, and we decided to run a mile as a warmup/one mile we won’t have to run later.

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Keep the bib–it’s a monthly race and you can use the same one next time!

It was humid and my legs were still feeling the five miles I ran Thursday, I guess. I wasn’t running much of a decent pace; then again it didn’t matter for this mile. But it didn’t inspire confidence either.

The course directions are easy: it started northbound on the paved sidewalk through the park for about 1.25 miles until it ended and looped back on itself. I ran most of the second mile alongside a kid who looked to be about seven or eight–he was pacing really well, especially someone that age. Another boy, probably a year or two older, kept sprinting past me, then coming to a dead stop to catch his breath. Some of the kids had trouble knowing where their bodies were in space, but for the most part people were REALLY good about leaving room to pass and not blocking the path. I was impressed.

At about 2.25 miles, we passed the starting point (and the turnoff for the finish–sigh) and kept going until it too looped around on itself, sending us back for the final stretch. It seemed to take forever.

Finally, the turnoff for the last .1 to the finish. I’d gotten ahead of the kid from earlier, but just at the last minute he sprinted past me. I’d say he executed a pretty solid race strategy!

The race isn’t chip-timed–they time it manually, so everyone’s time is based on gun time. According to my Garmin I ran about a minute slower than my PR from November, and each mile was a little slower than the last. NOT a solid race strategy on my part. But in my defense I haven’t been training for a 5K–this was a spur of the moment decision. Anyway, Coach Bill put on a well-organized race and (after I stopped dying) we had a good time. Especially S, who kicked ass with a new PR!

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And the park is beautiful.

But let me just tell you: if you ever think it will be NBD to run a 5K and then add a few miles at the end, think again. Even though I didn’t run a PR race, I’d still run quite a bit faster than my typical long-run pace. And I certainly paid for it.

The second time around, my legs just would.not.move any faster. My BRFs were just little fluorescent-clad blobs way off in the distance–I couldn’t keep up to save my life. And a couple of times, the desertedness of the trail made me hope I wouldn’t need to.

Eventually we finished with 7.1 total miles–not 5-7 on top of the 5K–and called it good. And even though it wasn’t the distance I planned, I guess running three separate segments is useful practice for the Challenge Series’ back-to-back races in a few weeks. The countdown is on!

Spring is flying by

I keep thinking I have all this time to prepare for my big distance races in May and June… and then I look at a calendar.

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My coach puts on a no-frills 5K every month and tomorrow is the eighth anniversary of the race. So my BRFs talked me into running it, then adding 6-8 miles on after that, depending on how we feel after racing last weekend.

We’re running the Cap 10K next Sunday, which leaves two Saturdays before the Tri Doc 5K on May 13. And that’s it before my double race weekend in Cleveland.

Say what?

I’ve only run the half-marathon distance once since last Memorial Day, and it wasn’t a full effort. Although I don’t have any plans to PR in Cleveland because of the back-to-back Challenge Series races, I kind of hoped to be reasonably prepared for the distance(s) by getting in a 12-14 miler beforehand.

If we can run 8-10 tomorrow, then 10 and 12 consecutively after the Cap 10K, I think it will work. At least enough to give me a little confidence going into the Challenge Series, anyway.

But guess what? When I get back from Cleveland, I have only three more Saturdays before I leave for Ireland. This doesn’t worry me–I picked the Kildare race specifically because of its timing, since my training will be there already. But this has become my goal race (mostly so I don’t finish last) so while I don’t want to overdo it immediately after running 18.1 miles, I don’t want to squander the time between races either.

Oh, and we got a shout-out from the Kildare race’s Facebook page!

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No pressure or anything. 😉

But hell, by the time we get to Kildare, I will have conquered the driving a stick shift from the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road thing. So what’s a half-marathon after that??

At the rate Spring is flying by, it will be here before I know it.

The final Austin 10/20

I’ve run the Austin 10/20 every year except the first one, and each time we said we won’t do it again. The course isn’t terribly scenic (Burnet Road, anyone?) and there’s not a lot of crowd support other than inside The Domain. Miles 8-9 follow the Mopac frontage road up the kind of gradual incline that sucks at miles 8-9. And the last half-mile takes two years. But every spring, we run it again. Probably because of the medal.

But after today, we won’t have to make that decision.

The race director announced a few weeks ago that the 2017 race would be the last. It sounds like it was getting more difficult to arrange road closures, especially since The Domain has grown so much since the first year of the race. And I think registrations have dropped–I remember my first or second year, the corrals wrapped around the street into a parking lot, and it took 5+ minutes to even get to the start line. This year, they dropped the corral ropes and we moved forward, maybe a minute or 90 seconds back. It’s an expensive race–early registration was around $80–so that probably turned people off too.

Regardless, I’ve run a 10-mile PR at this race at least twice, so even though I hate the course, I have some fond memories of the overall event.

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Which medal is your favorite?

Last year, the weather was pretty cool at before the race, which definitely contributed to my PR, although the sun was out and it warmed up quickly. This year we haven’t had winter (except that one weekend in January) so it’s not a shock that it was 66* at the start. Did I mention the humidity? And the wind? Super-great conditions. In other words, my expectations were low.

It didn’t help that for some reason, the race started about 15 minutes late. But by about 8:15 we were underway.

We actually run on this stretch of Alterra Parkway three times during the race–we’d see it again around mile 7 and again at 9 to the finish. I had to be careful not to start too fast, but it was only a problem until we turned right onto a short, hilly street that dumped us out on Burnet Road. We ran this section of Burnet three times too, now that I think about it.

Near the first mile marker, I saw one of the Rogue coaches–crowd support here was pretty good. As we ran south on Burnet, though, it was down to us, the police officers, the bands, and the race leaders already at their halfway point, heading the other direction. And the wind.

The third mile weaves through an industrial area, then back out onto Burnet for the return trip. I had skipped the first water stop, but I took advantage of the rest of them. Honestly, through mile 5 or so, I was feeling good. It was almost fun.

Around mile 6, just before the turn into IBM, I saw my family, then some more Rogues–it’s great to hear spectators call my name. But I was flagging. By the 10K split I had hit something of a wall, and I was glad for both the water stop and the cold towel stop to rest briefly. Lots of people tossed their towels, but I hung on to mine, wrapped around the back of my neck.

I rallied a bit as I exited IBM–back on Burnet–and turned right into The Domain. And hey, another water stop! Then I made my second trip down Alterra toward the Mopac frontage road. By now quite a few people were coming back the other direction toward the finish. I was sooooo ready to be done too.

I knew the last two miles would make or break my under-two-hours goal, so I kept an eye on my overall pace. But have you ever reached a point in a race where you just say I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE GOAL ANYMORE because it’s sucking so bad? That’s how I felt after I looped around at Duval and headed back up the frontage road. It’s about a mile-long incline and while I ran most of it, my pace was off. I was also experiencing a little bit of stomach distress, and I worried about a repeat of the near disaster at 3M last year. Not to mention the damn headwind the whole way.

After the road curved under the highway I struggled up yet another incline, then got a little bit of a downhill before turning back on to Alterra for the final time. This stretch is deceptive though–it’s at least three-quarters of a mile from there to the finish. And while it looks flat, it actually has a gradual incline, then the last block goes up a larger hill to the finish line.

With about a half-mile to go, B jumped in and ran alongside me. He’d picked up a giant zip tie and was carrying it as he ran, chattering about some computer thing he and his friends are building. I appreciated the distraction–but yowza, I was suffering. I could see the finish line, still so far away.

At the bottom of that last hill, a huge group of Rogues saw me and yelled like crazy. B observed that I had my own cheering section–and damn did it feel good (it was kind of the only thing that did….). Right after that B had to peel off, so I was on my own the last 100 yards or so. By now I could see the clock–still under two hours–so while I didn’t kick it into a sprint or anything (unlike two girls who blazed by me) I managed to push all the way through and across the finish line.

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Thanks for a good run, Austin 10/20

Official time was 1:57:58. About two minutes off my PR from last year, but also about 15 degrees and a billion percent humidity higher than last year too. Thank goodness for the cloud cover or this would have been much uglier.

As finale races go, I am pleased with this one. I mean, the course sucks and the weather was soupy, but I went into it with pretty low expectations, unsure if I could finish under two hours. The last 10-mile race I ran was in October, after which I lost two months to injury over the winter. So I didn’t know what to expect in race conditions. Now I have a better gauge of what “goal pace” might look like as I train for two upcoming half-marathons.

But now it’s time to eat all the things and enjoy a lazy afternoon. Because there’s no rest for the weary: tomorrow we’re running after core class.

Plodding along in concrete shoes

After a couple of looooong Saturday runs, it was nice to turn around after “only” three miles today.

We’re running the (final) Austin 10/20 next Sunday so my coach had us drop our mileage this morning. Which is good, because I’m still struggling with fatigue. My legs feel heavy and my pace is slower than it should be. But it was a hilly route and not only did I run all of the hills, I passed people on the hills. The uphills. So there’s that.

Monday night I ran two miles after a core class that involved 100 squats, some large number of side lunges, a bunch of other torture moves, and–just for fun–ten burpees at the end. So I wasn’t alarmed when I felt like I was dragging on my two-mile run afterward. That, and I ran with a faster friend, so just keeping up was exhausting.

Tuesday at the track, we ran Yasso 800s as described by my coach:

One-mile warmup and cooldown, 12x400m with 200m recovery. Pace is your goal half-marathon time converted to minutes. For example, if you want to do a two-hour half–marathon then you should do each 400m in two minutes. The idea is to keep them exactly even (plus or minus 2-3 seconds).

Yeah, I didn’t quite hit the pace, but I wasn’t super-far off and each lap was consistent. It was hot (already mid-80s in the afternoons) and windy, and I still had the sore-quad/heavy leg feeling, so running 12 of those suckers took forever.

I took a rest day Wednesday, but Thursday I struggled through 4.25 miles, same issues.

I’m not sure what’s causing this. Typical heavy-leg culprits are hydration, stress, or lack of sleep. Well those things are constants in my life.

  • I have trouble hydrating well at school–depending on the day, I teach at least two 90-minute classes back-to-back without a break, and my campus has a grand total of four single-stall faculty restrooms for about 100 staff members. The closest one is out one set of doors, across a bridge, and through another set of doors, which makes leaving the kids alone a bit risky. And between classes there’s often a line which means the students arriving to class are unattended in my classroom while I wait. I usually drink coffee in the morning and 1-2 bottles of sparkling lime water (I think they’re 16oz each?) starting at lunch. But after spending 20 years carefully gauging my daytime fluid-intake-to-bathroom-availability ratio, it’s not so easy for me to change that mindset. But I’m going to work on that this week.
  • I teach six classes of about 150 students total. They’re 12-13 years old, and it’s spring. ‘Nuff said. Also, this week the campus got some significant, disappointing news and on the heels of that I had to deal with a difficult student situation. I stuffed and distributed about 250 invitation letters to prospective Honor Society members, then answered 49484596 emails either asking questions that were already answered on the website or complaining that their child did not receive an invitation. On top of that, my subject is tested twice by the state each year (writing and reading) and one of those tests was administered this past week. On Tuesday I had to walk around my classroom for four hours to monitor 30 kids while they answered multiple choice questions and wrote an essay. They were trapped in the testing room until almost 1:00, went to lunch, and came back for another half-hour. Then we had 20-minute classes the rest of the afternoon. The following day, even though a different grade level was testing we were not allowed to have classes. The kids not tested were assigned to various classrooms where they … sat quietly, then went to another classroom and … sat quietly. So yeah, stress is pretty much a given during the school year, especially in the spring. The education trajectory, both in the Legislature and Congress, does not bode well for stress-free teaching going forward, either. I mean, stress from my job is part of the reason I run!
  • I am chronically tired–my Garmin scowls at me a lot over my sleep data. Over summer vacation I sleep 9-10 hours per night, but during the school year I leave the house by 6:30. In order to reach those sleep numbers, I’d have to go to bed before 9:00 PM. Not feasible.

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Like I said, these elements are constants in my life, so I’m not sure why any of them would suddenly cause me to feel sluggish, but if I want to run well next weekend I’ve got to do something different. First I’m going to focus on hydration. I’ll also try to get to bed early every day, at least by 9:30–no matter what else I do, that can’t hurt. And as sad as it makes me, I’m cutting back on my go-to snack, string cheese. It’s got a lot of sodium–well, not each individual stick, but I almost always eat two at time, and more than two per day. Clearly I’m not good at moderation, so perhaps I just need to quit cold-turkey and see what happens.

So the plan is to run after core class Monday, do whatever the Tuesday night training workout calls for, and then instead of taking a rest day Wednesday, at the very least walk around the long block. Thursday will be a short run, probably three miles. Fridays are always rest days, and Saturday I’ll sleep in, then go to the 10/20 packet pickup. I hope that’s a reasonable combination of non-running strategy, running time on my feet, and rest.

Ugh

(Oops. I wrote this a week ago but evidently forgot to publish it. )


Two weeks until my next race–a 10-miler–so I went out for 12 miles this morning. Working on rebuilding my endurance, although I planned to pick up the pace the last 2-3 miles for a fast(er) finish.

Yeah, no.

Even though the temps were cool and it was a gorgeous morning for running, my legs felt sluggish and slow. I am guessing it’s at least partially due to fatigue–re-entry after Spring Break is tough, made more difficult by, well, life. And pollen.

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Monday I had a horrid headache, probably caused my the albuterol from my asthma inhaler, which I’ve had to use a lot more than usual this week. I suffered through core class and our subsequent three miles, but I was miserable and pretty much fell into bed when I got home.

Tuesday I spent eight hours at the Capitol, 7:58 of that waiting around to testify in front of the House Public Education Committee. But wait I did, and I had my two minutes in front of the microphone to convey several significant problems with STAAR testing.

House Committee 2017

That’s me (in the raspberry-colored shirt) in front of the committee

I’ve done this three times before and know it’s a long shot that any meaningful changes will happen this session. The gears of government grind ever so slowly. But I constantly preach to my students about speaking up, speaking out, and taking a stand. I can only ask of them what I’m willing to do myself. It cost me a personal day, $12 in parking, and time equivalent of a workday. But I tried.

Anyway, while I was sitting in the same chair I’d occupied since the hearing started at noon, I missed my Tuesday night training group run. Fortunately another Rogue group does the same workout on Wednesday nights, so their coach was kind enough to let me jump in. It was a 1.75-mile warmup, then 4-5 1K loops, and 1.75 miles back. I wanted to stop at four loops, but I knew S would have made me run five if I’d run with her Tuesday night. So I did five. Another group member ran five because I did, so I feel good that I could be the one pushing someone else to complete more work. 😉

Thursday evening I was going to just drop dead into bed, but I kept hearing S’s voice reminding me of the fast Irish people and I fired up Fitness Blender and completed two core workouts and followed up with a two-mile run. THEN I dropped into bed.

Friday’s a rest day–I stayed up “late” to finish my book, but I was asleep by 10:30. Up at 6:15, out Rogue’s door at 7:00. I missed a quarter-mile in there somewhere when I paused my watch to wait for a light and apparently didn’t restart it until it beeped “power saver in 30 seconds” and I realized what happened. Gah. So instead of turning around where the map said I should, I turned around when my watch said six miles.

I almost got taken out in the crosswalk twice (people blowing the crosswalk to right-turn-on-red), my quads were an exhausted mess, I had to use my inhaler a couple of times, and I didn’t really manage a fast finish like I’d planned, but I finished it. Actually 12.25 miles, to be exact. Not sure how that happened, but whatever.

It was ugly, and it didn’t inspire confidence for my race in two weeks. But I have to remind myself that I’m still working my way back from injury and it’s gonna be slow for a while. Especially since S tweaked her knee somehow on last week and is resting it, hoping it fixes itself in time for the race.

I don’t really expect to maintain a PR-worthy pace, but I’ll do the best I can do. And it turns out, this will be the 10/20’s finale-I’ve run all except the first one–so I’m glad I’ll be able to close out the series with five of the six 10/20 medals. Here’s hoping S and I both make it to the finish line.

Hills are our frenemies

It’s that time of year again: Saturday morning field trip to run the River Place hills. My coach says that hills are our friends, but I tend to think of them more like frenemies.

The most difficult thing about this route–and there are lots of difficult things to choose from–is the fact that it’s (steeply) downhill the first mile and a half, then big rolling hills the rest of the way up to the turnaround at mile 3. Which means the return trip involves the inverse. That last hill, with about .75 to go, is a killer.

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In the top left picture, can you see, between the two trees on the left foreground, a break or grey spot? That’s the road up to the turnaround. Pictures do NOT do this route justice.

Anyway, I ran about 3/4 of the way up each of the hills, and once I got to the top of the last hill (leaving just a gradual upward incline) I fired up some music and picked up the pace to finish strong on tired legs.

We knew when we headed out that our Run the Year team was a little more than 18 miles short of earning the 1000-mile badge, so when the route turned out to be right at six miles, we each tacked on an extra half-mile to ensure we got there today.

RTY 1000

Don’t worry, our productivity will fall off once it gets hot around here!

Six miles, even considering the hills, wasn’t exactly enough to warrant the magical breakfast afterward. But it sure was delicious.

Spring Break

There was a time in my life when a bunch of us piled into someone’s car and spent a week at the beach with a gazillion other Spring Breakers whose average age was about 19. One year, the sun came out for about five minutes the whole week, but who cared? We weren’t there to swim anyway. All I can say is I’m glad all of that happened before the age of social media. No one can prove anything.

The adult version of Spring Break? TURNING OFF THE ALARM CLOCK. That’s it. That’s all I wanted to do.

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Except that would have to wait until Sunday, because I got up early Saturday morning to run 12 miles. I made a wrong turn somewhere around mile nine so I really ended up with 12.5 miles, but the coffee date afterward made up for it.

Monday I met S and ran three miles before core class. This is one of my goals as I train for Cleveland and Kildare–three miles, negative splits even though it’s uphill the whole way back. S has had a kick-ass winter and she’s WAY faster than I am now, so my training is basically chasing her.

Tuesday was a track workout. We started with a 1.75-mile warmup on a crushed granite trail. The recent rains washed some of it out so I had to pay attention to my feet, especially in places where cyclists’ tires had pressed grooves into the soft surface. Then we ran 200s on the track–200 at 5K pace/200 easy for four laps, then repeat–and ran the same 1.75 route for a cool-down. Again, I was chasing S the whole time so it wasn’t really a “cool-down” per se. I was dead tired after those trips around the track, but S reminded me that I need to PR this race in June just so I won’t be last. Now all she has to say is “fast Irish people” and I’m re-motivated.

Wednesday I ran the 1.1-mile loop around the block. My current shoes are approaching 200 miles–they might make it to race day, but by then it won’t be wise to race in them, so I decided to start breaking in a new pair now. Besides, after Monday and Tuesday, 1.1 miles was more than enough. I used it as a warmup before doing a tough Fitness Blender workout. I’d avoided HIIT workouts when my leg was injured, but now I want to rebuild my cardio endurance. I also went to the dentist, which is how you know you’re an adult on Spring Break.

Thursday, S and I ran my usual 4.25-mile route from my house. It was overcast and relatively cool, so even running at 9:30 in the morning was pleasant. Well, as pleasant as chasing someone faster is ever gonna be! No complaints though–it’s what I need right now. Fast Irish people….

Fridays are normally rest days–we go out to dinner after work, and that precludes any kind of evening workout. But today I’ve got time, so I planned another Fitness Blender core workout. Not too much–we’re running the River Place hills for 6-7 miles tomorrow–but enough to offset whatever we snack on at the baseball game tonight.

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It turns out, though, that workout had a lot of lower-body stuff. Should make tomorrow’s hills extra-fun.