My goal race is just under four weeks away. How are things going?
You may remember that a few days after I signed up, I decided to check the previous year’s results to see how many people ran it. I mean, it’s a small town (8000-ish people) in central Ireland. When I discovered only 250 people finished and that I’d have to run a PR race just to avoid being last, I had a moment several moments of panic. Well, I’ve been following the race’s Facebook page since March, and their most recent post announced that the half is 90% full. I asked what “full” looks like and learned that they’re expecting 700(!) half-marathoners. Out of those additional 450 runners, some of them have to be slower than me, right?? This news doesn’t change my goals at all, but it does take some of the pressure off.
Training-wise I’ve had a couple of confidence-building runs: a strong 12-miler and a solid 5K race. On the heels of the Cap10K when my legs felt like concrete and I walked too much the second half, I was thrilled to finish these two runs feeling strong. Between the warm weather and my tired legs, though, I struggled through several weeknight workouts. I just kept repeating my usual summer mantra–this will pay off in cooler weather.
Which brings me to this past weekend when I accomplished something new: running two races back-to-back for the Cleveland Challenge Series. I’d been doubling up my weekend runs, going out for three or four miles on tired legs to prepare for this, but I really didn’t know what to expect. I mean, I’m used to running a two- or three-mile shakeout run the day before a distance race, so I kind of thought an 8K race wouldn’t add too much to the degree of difficulty. But on the other hand, racing(ish) an 8K is quite different from cruising around the neighborhood for an hour. My worry increased with the temperatures in the Cleveland weather forecast–most of the weekend looked great, but Sunday morning threatened to throw thunderstorms and almost-70-degree temps at us. Blah.
Turns out, it went great. The weather for the 8K was perfect–50s and overcast. I took advantage of that and pushed a little harder than I planned, trying to salvage at least one strong race from the weekend. Which I did! Afterward, I focused on hydrating and foam rolling, and I wore a pair of compression tights all day (I think I slept in them too) to help with recovery. But I still didn’t have a lot of confidence in the half. Yet race morning dawned a little cooler than predicted, and even though I started feeling tired around the 10K split and had to make a pit stop around mile nine, overall I felt pretty good. My pace was about a minute per mile slower than what I’m shooting for next month, but that’s okay. I won’t be running a race the day before, and the weather should be a lot cooler. The course is supposed to be flat, too, and I’ve got another month of training to prepare. I don’t know if those factors will translate into a PR race, but they should at least work in my favor.
I think I did a good job with hydration and electrolytes leading up to my trip –I’ve been taking a Hammer electrolyte capsule the days I run and I added half a Nuun tablet in my water once a day. I can’t prove this helped quash the concrete-legs syndrome, but I can’t prove it didn’t, either.
Feeling somewhat confident about hydration, now I need to focus on nutrition. I ate well pre-race (pot roast/potatoes/broccoli Friday night, then mac and cheese for Saturday lunch and Vietnamese bún for dinner) but despite an Imodium, my usual breakfast, and the same Sport Beans I’ve been using, I still had a little internal wonkiness during the race. I avoided a complete gastro-intestinal meltdown a la Cleveland 2013, but I definitely felt a little off for several hours after finishing the race. I need to formulate a nutrition plan for Ireland knowing I’ll be on an international flight that Wednesday into Thursday (hello jet lag) and will be eating restaurant meals for three or four days leading up to the Sunday morning race. I’m not one to seek out American familiarity, food-wise, when I travel, so I’ll just have to make really careful choices those first few days after we arrive. It’s some consolation that we’ll be in Ireland for ten more days after the race, so I’ll still have lots of opportunities to try local cuisine.
This week, I’m going to be smart about recovery. Post-race I foam-rolled and wore compression tights; Sunday night we took K’s puppy for a walk–moving around helped, I think. I wore compression socks on the plane home, too. I’ll try a couple of miles tomorrow, then jump into whatever my coach recommends at our Thursday training group. Saturday I’ll drop the long-run distance down a bit, then return to full-speed workouts next week.
But today’s only exercise will be hanging up my three Challenge Series medals.