Sunday, July 6, 2014

Firecracker 5k GPS adventures

After my last 5k fiasco, where I employed the "fly and die" method of racing, I figured the goal for my next 5k attempt would be to pace smarter. When I had come home from Williamsburg a few weeks ago, I got a wonderful hand-me-down gift from my future maid of honor, Amy. It was her old Garmin Forerunner 210, still in fantastic (looks new!) condition, and she knew I was trying to focus on running and becoming a fast marathoner. Of course, my best friends know me better and always humor me, knowing that sooner or later I end up back on the Dark Side (triathlons).

I haven't run with a GPS watch before, as I've been waiting for them to become small and cute--an ex-boyfriend back in grad school had one of the original Ironman GPS systems, where you had to attach a huge pod to your arm, like the size of a Walkman. This was back in 2006 (holy crap), and I've waited for them to get smaller and cuter. I've never been that much of a techie with the running/biking/swimming gadgets so I questioned needing to know my speed and distance, only gauging those metrics when I ran on the track or treadmill.

But, I had been running with the CharityMiles app on my iPhone as it donates 25 cents to Team RWB for every mile I run. So of course I go from being a non-techie with an aversion to huge GPS watches to running with my iPhone, which is way bigger than any GPS watch. Go figure.

I did a few runs with Amy's GPS watch and confirmed why I never wanted to buy a GPS watch--it tells me how slow I'm running when I'm running slow. Which is 9- to 10-minute miles. Ugh.

Still, I seem to have the ability to run fast when I need to (in race situations) even though I'm such a slowpoke trainer. And all this is a long-drawn-out introduction to the 5k I ran on Friday, the Firecracker 5k in Reston, VA.

This was my first RWB event last year, and there's always a great turnout for the team and for the race itself. Kevin asked the night before if I would win it, and I started laughing, because he's seen me win the only 5k he's ever been at, so I had to pull up the results from the previous year. I didn't even crack the top 40 for females, as the winner went 16-something (there are always elite Africans that show up for the small prize purse, that's how popular this race is). I had run a 21:49 and taken 44th female.

I figured that I would race with a GPS watch for the first time ever, to at least keep me from going out too fast and "flying and dying". My goal was to actually run all three miles under 7-minute pace, since my average at the last 5k was a 6:56 even though only the first mile was a sub-7! So I held back somewhat, started in the front but not the front-front, and it took me 5 seconds to shuffle across the starting line once the gun went off. I was surrounded by fast-ish people the whole first mile, and kept in control, going fast-but-not-too-fast.

I was really happy to hit 6:33 when the GPS chirped for my first mile! Excellent. Except...the "Mile 1" marker was still up the road. NOT excellent. I hit the mile sign with my watch at 7:31. EW. Not good at all. Then I started wondering if I was turning into one of those GPS geeks who is all like "yeah that wasn't really a half marathon, my watch said it was 13.23 miles!"

I tried not to overanalyze, and instead focused on picking up the pace if I really did run the first mile too slow. My "moving pace" was in the mid-6:30's, at least that's what the satellites were telling me. (I haven't really read the watch manual or anything.) So I kept hustling and when the watch chirped again, it said "6:30", awesome. And once again, a bit before the Mile 2 mark. Maybe just the first mile was a touch long.

I was still feeling strong and catching up to people, or at least not getting caught, and during the third mile felt some people passing but dug deep, increased my pace, caught back up and kept moving. I still felt like I was suffering, but not dying a horrible death like I did at the last 5k. The last mile was pretty painful, "Chirp! 6:44", and then of course when the watch hit 3.1 miles, it said something like "20:23", which would be a PR for sure! But alas, the finish line still loomed ahead.

Kevin didn't run, but he was waiting at the finish line faithfully. He is always easy to spot in a crowd:

As I sprinted towards the clock, I saw it tick over 21:00 and so, my official chip time would be 21:09 and I became "one of those" dorky GPS wearers who started wondering if my watch was off, or the course was off, or I didn't run the tangents as well as I should have. Many others commented that the course was long, and I'd like to believe so as my race pace according to the results was 6:49, even though my GPS pace for 3.23 miles was 6:39. I certainly didn't disappoint with a Quadzilla ugly face and super legs:

Oh well, I ended up with what I think is a PR, 21:09, and even snagged 2nd in women's 30-34, although I didn't bother going to awards as I figured I was too much of a slowpoke to get anything. As it turns out, apparently I better get myself under 21 minutes before I try to go for sub-20. 5k's are painful. I'm happy that I ran all 3 miles under 7 though. According to my watch anyway.

Happy 4th of July weekend!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Going Halfsies!

So...about 2.5 weeks ago (yup, the day after winning that little 5k), this happened:

And as much as I told myself I had already done my one triathlon for the year, and that I was in full-on marathon training mode...before the end of that week, this happened:

Yes. I know. I signed up for a half ironman. I still have almost 4 months to train for it. Phew.

Anyway, if you are feeling oblivious, the awesome chick in the photo above is none other than the very famous triathlon superstar, Rebecca Preston. Other than winning multiple Ironmans and finishing in the top 5 at Kona, my favorite un-retired pro triathlete is better known to me as being my former teammate, training partner, and then my coach when I first left teamTBB back in 2011. Even better, she is Australian but was the one who introduced me to American pop culture gems such as Glee (back when it was good and Finn was still alive) and the Hangover... while we were living in a dirty hole-in-the-wall hotel in Thailand. She is also still the first person mentioned in my "Thank You" tab for old sponsors and supporters.

What's crazy is we hadn't seen each other in over FOUR YEARS! We email and chat on Facebook all the time, so it doesn't seem like it's been that long. But of course immortalized in the blogging world, I think the last time we hung out with each other was when we were roommates at Ironman Malaysia in 2010, smack in the middle of my last teamTBB training camp. Life is funny, because you never know when it's going to be the last time you'll see someone for a while. I had no idea that would be my last TBB training camp ever...

So Beck was in town--well, a 3-hour drive away in Williamsburg, racing the Rev3 tri with her beau Ben, who also races pro. We got to catch up and I played cheer squad, watching them both DOMINATE...Beck was women's champion in the Olympic distance race and I was very impressed as I haven't ever seen her race. We were always racing together or at different races, or at different times. After the race, they came up and stayed in the DC area with me and Kevin for a few days, as our first houseguests at the new condo.

It was great to see how well Beck is doing--she retired from the full-time pro ranks a bit before I did, helped me transition from being a TBB athlete, and then was my mentor throughout my decision to step down from pro triathlon and beyond that. She herself works as a speech pathologist in Australia these days while doing triathlon for fun...of course she is so fast, she ended up getting her pro card back.

I guess spending several days with her made me realize that everybody can do triathlon on their own terms; it's okay to still race as an ex-pro if you figure out how to balance the training (and expectations) right with working your grown-up job. Of course her visit happened to coincide with my body feeling disgruntled with running miles only (I was starting to throw in some bikes and swims to offset the impact of increasing run mileage) and my realization that yes, of course I am still very much performance-oriented. I can't even step up to the starting line of a 5k or Olympic triathlon without "going for the W". And I've always known that having a weak swim but very strong bike/run combo makes me much more successful at a half vs. Olympic distance--the swim is only 400 meters longer but the bike and run are more than double the distance.

And Kevin is a very supportive future spouse who encourages my triathlon training (keeps me happy and not fat). And the training for a half vs. an Olympic is really not much more, other than slightly longer hours on the weekend. And then of course my neighbor and triathlon friend Carmen wanted to do a late season half IM too (she did her first one at Eagleman 70.3 last month).

(Yes, that is us running in the MARCH.)

With all this coming to a head, me and Carmen both clicked the button and on October 25 will be racing this one:


It'll be a 6-hour road trip to Wilmington NC, with a dedicated training partner and support crew, and of course 16 more weeks to train, and...perhaps a DOWNHILL SWIM! There is still that marathon we signed up for 3 weeks before B2B, which we have another month to decide if we're going to downgrade to a half marathon or maybe do a very easy first half and very speedy negative split second half. And there's still a wedding to be planned (for next September), but at least I have a plan to get me into wedding dress shape. :D