Sunday, September 21, 2014

Air Force-Navy Half Marathon race report

Soooo...I have a small dirty confession. I don't have an official half marathon PR, because the last time I jumped into one, I was a dirty, dirty race bandit. It was the San Francisco Half Marathon in August 2008. I even dug up the email I sent to my old coach, Brett Sutton, which was a month before I met him in person at my first TBB training camp:

Still gives me the heebie jeebies re-reading some of these old email exchanges. "exciting times ahead." !!! That's for sure!

Anyway, flashing forward 6 years, I haven't raced the half marathon distance since. As my bandited PR is apparently a "1:35", my goal for the Air Force Navy half marathon last weekend was to go sub-1:35.

My lead up to this race was pretty terrible. Last you heard from me, I did a 10-miler PR at Annapolis, then the weekend afterwards was "Lanco Labor Day"--race car camping with Kevin's friends whereabouts everybody came down with a cold during the weekend, and I caught it once we got home. Just sick enough to not work out very much, but not sick enough to stay home from work. I think I just did a short swim with Adam (a RWB triathlete newbie who needed to get in at least ONE swim before Nation's!), and then the RWB group run for Steve & Kerry's baby shower. Nothing else that week, other than running around the Nation's tri race course cheering for the noobs. The next week I was battling the inertia of the previous week. It's so easy to get out of routine and so hard to get back into it!

Still, I was going to go after 1:35. It's a 7:19 pace. We Metro'ed there in the morning with Carmen and Hiza. I was a bit skeeved out about getting to the race on time! The race started at 7:10am right on the Mall by Washington Monument, and the Metro was running earlier at 6am for the race (it usually starts at 7am on weekends). It got to Grosvenor station (our neighborhood) at 6:13am and we just got to the starting area with enough time to hop into the porta potty line (morning poops FTW) and then jump the barricades so I could get in by the sign that said "7:00-7:59".

I'm learning that the best thing to do at these big running races is to start off NOT right at the very front. If I have slower runners to wade through (but not too many!), it keeps me from going out too fast. So apparently it took me 44 seconds to get across the starting line, and I just told myself to go out sort of hard, but controlled.

I decided to race with my Camelbak, as I'm very likely to race with it during my half ironman. I'm emulating my nutrition/hydration plan I used when I was racing Ironmans professionally, and even though some people thought it was very "un-pro" to race with a Camelbak, I always did well in the Ironman marathons that were in the extreme heat (China and Malaysia) and found the benefit of not relying on aid stations to carryover when I raced at other venues. Of course, these days I have to make sure that "hydration packs" are allowed in races, as they were temporarily banned following the craziness of the Boston Marathon bombings.

My game plan was to break down the race into 5k segments. 4 x 5k and then all out for the last mile!

So here's how it went down:

Mile 1) 7:11. Ok, good, controlled, go easy getting through this crowd.
Mile 2) 7:29. Huh, that's a little slow.
Mile 3) 6:50. Huh, that's pretty fast for a steady effort! (In hindsight, the mile 2 marker was clearly off.)

Mile 4) 7:12. Nice!
Mile 5) 7:18. Good, good, keep it steady.
Mile 6) 7:18. Don't go any slower!

This was probably my first race longer than a 5k since I joined Team RWB over a year ago where there were a ton of RWB Eagles (we missed the photo op of course, no thanks, Metro!) and in the places the course looped onto itself it was really cool to cheer for people I knew and have people yell my name as well.

Mile 7) 7:11. Not bad. Keep holding strong!
Mile 8) 7:12. Aw yeah! Killing it!
Mile 9) 7:17. Hang in there.

Mile 10) 7:21. Oof...

10-mile split) 1:12:24

At this point in the race, I started feeling mentally and physically tapped. Seeing my 10-mile split (there was actually a timing mat) kind of tripped me out, as on one hand, I was kind of psyched I beat my 10-mile PR from a few weeks ago during a longer race, but may have mentally freaked out that I still had 3 miles to go! Yikes :(

Look fierce! And consternated!

Mile 11) 7:30. Ew...hanging on...
Mile 12) 7:39. Not good. Not good at all.
Mile 13) 7:45. Wheels coming off!

Mile 13.1) :41

For a total of 1:36:00. Damn! Just one second and I would've been 1:35:something. Don't you love how my facial expressions throughout the race get more and more consternated???

My lack of fitness the last couple weeks seemed to catch up with me those last 3 miles (and ok, the Red Badge of Courage had showed up the day before as well). I feel like I had just enough to get through 10 miles quickly but not quite enough for the full 13. Which is fine, as in another 2 weeks I have a chance to go after it again, at the Wine Glass Half Marathon!

Anyway, compared to a similar effort 6 years ago, I feel like my pacing was much steadier, although it's so sad that the pace for the first 10 miles was a 7:14 (right on target!), and then the last 5k was a 23:36, or a 7:35 pace. Uggghhhhh. Overall, a 7:20 pace, I'd like to go just a touch faster, please!

new baby nephew!

In the meanwhile, we are looking at 5 weeks to go for this Beach2Battleship half ironman. Yipes. With a trip home to California thrown in later this week, as my little bro has popped out the first grand-offspring! There will be baby-cuddling, football watching, wedding dress shopping, and of course, our favorite, chillin' at the beach. Can't wait!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Nation's Tri as the RWB newbie coach

I ran a half marathon yesterday morning, but they haven't posted any race photos yet, and what's a race report without action shots, right??

I also need to blog about my second year at the Nation's Triathlon. Apparently it is DC's only triathlon (according to anyway). Last year, I was working full-time at Walter Reed and ended up on a wounded warrior relay team with Josh. Hmm, I don't think I ever mentioned that we "won" our division but ended up getting DQ'd because he only did one loop of the bike by accident. Details, details!

This year, the RWB DC tri leaders Chris and Marjorie recruited me to help coach some newbies with our first ever triathlon training series. (Something about me being an ex-pro triathlete and full of questionable knowledge.) It would consist of 8 weeks of various triathlon clinics starting in July. I couldn't make all the sessions, but that was the same for everybody being busy during summer and being spread out all over the DMV region (that's local speak for DC-Maryland-Virginia and why you have to go to the "MVA" and not the "DMV" to get your driver's license sorted out...because calling that the "DMV" would be confusing). Our fourth leader, Lee, has been doing tris since the 80's or something ridiculous! So amongst the four of us, there was always at least a couple leaders covering the different practices and clinics.

I took my job as newbie coach very seriously! I made sure to make hand-drawn flyers (in colors!) for my first presentation at the intro clinic. I got to talk about "How to Fit Triathlon Training into a Busy Life" (which I am still trying to figure out). Filled with plenty of exclamation marks!!!

Yes, speaking of exclamation marks, it was very exciting being around newbies! Actually, I consider anyone with less than 5 years in the sport a newbie, not to be elitist but because I feel like an old lady in triathlon having done it for the last 15 years. There was just always that nervous excitement of "OMG I signed up for this crazy scary three-sport thing and I don't know if I can actually do this or if I will drown or crash my bike or collapse on the run!!" that reminded me of the fun and excitement and scariness of my own newbie years.

Newbie Kathryn's awesome hand-drawn RWB tri logo

So I give the RWB newbies a ton of credit for getting me excited about triathlon again this summer (in addition to Beck and Amy and Randy of course). When we had the first couple of RWB tri leader meetings, I was kind of in that whole burnt out "one-and-done" mentality after the Rock Hall triathlon. So thanks, Chris and Marjorie, for pulling me back into this. I loved it! I am totally all trigeeked out again.

the infamous Carmen selfie

As for race day, we were all a bit sad the swim was cancelled the night before (although most people found out the morning of). There was a sewage spill up the Potomac River after it rained very hard the day before, and so...well, as we reassured ourselves, nobody wants to swim in the POO-tomac. It always sucks when a swim is cancelled, as much as we know it's for our own safety. We had several newbies that were very nervous about the swim but still didn't wish for it to be cancelled! It's not a triathlon without the swim. This is the second local race (Columbia Tri in May had the same thing happen) with a cancelled swim this year, and we had a few athletes who have done those two "duathlons" but still have not done a triathlon.

Still, we had an amazing turnout for both the sprint and Olympic distances. I didn't race, as I proudly yelled at everybody, rang the cowbell, took some photos, and had the most important job of being flag bearer for Team RWB. (We run it back and forth for anyone who wants to run with it through the finisher's chute.)


Coach Marjorie & more cowbell!

Logistically as a spectator, it was pretty difficult to track 30+ athletes in different age groups and divisions, doing the two different events! The race is so big that as the first Olympic competitors were finishing up the run, there were still people waiting in the last sprint triathlon wave to start their race.

I tried to cheer for as many people as possible, yelled a lot, waved the flag, had a grumpy old lady tell me that the flag was hitting runners in the face, passed the flag over to our finishers, and ran it back. I wanted to yell for every RWB person but there were so many!!

Fearless leader Brennan

Carmen, not in a selfie

Go Holbert!

Yay Tedd!

Eric & Kaitlin

And if you didn't catch me on course yelling and waving the flag, here I am again. And the newbies that ran it in:


So yes, sign me up to coach again! I am happy to ramble on and on and tell all my old triathlon stories ("that one time, it was my first triathlon and I doggy-paddled the swim and got a flat tire on the bike...") and provide questionable advice ("you should definitely eat ice cream the night before a race") where apparently nobody can tell if I'm telling the truth or not (I totally am) because I smile a lot and say outrageous things. I haven't even gotten to the whole chapter of "this one time, at TeamTBB training camp..." but there will be more time for more stories next season.

In the meantime, I am super proud of all you newbies! YAY! We will do this again, but with a swim first, ok?

Photos courtesy of: Marjorie, Hiza, Swim Bike Run Photo, and elsewhere on the Facebooks!

Friday, September 5, 2014

That sweet finisher's jacket AKA Annapolis 10-miler race report

Let's talk about my Annapolis 10-miler before I forget! This was on the agenda back when I was focusing on a fast marathon at the Wineglass Marathon in October, along with the next road race, the Air Force Navy Half Marathon. These would be 6 and 3 weeks prior to the marathon, respectively, which I thought would be a great build-up. Of course, since then, I've gotten back into triathlon training, signed up for the B2B half ironman 3 weeks after Wineglass, and as of last weekend (phew!) was able to switch from the full marathon to the half marathon.

But I digress...the first reason I signed up was as prep for the Wineglass Marathon, but as soon I started the registration process, the REAL reason I signed up was that instead of a medal and/or t-shirt, you got a FINISHER'S JACKET WITH ZIP-OFF SLEEVES SO IT TURNS INTO A VEST!!! I could hardly contain my excitement and did what any respectable person with a jacket fetish would do...recruit more friends!

Within a few days (this was back in May...over 3 months before this race), we had over 25 RWB Eagles signed up so we could get this sweet jacket. Yes, I was the instigator. And let me tell you (spoiler alert!), the jacket did not disappoint. There was a specific women's version and THEY HAD THUMBHOLES!!!

Some of the RWB Eagles suckered by the sweet finisher's jacket
But of course we had to run 10 miles first.

So as I write this, I'm trying to find my race report from my 10-miler PR, which would be the Turkey Burnoff 10 in Gaithersburg last Thanksgiving. Sorry, but I must've been on blogging hiatus then; all I can get you is the official results that peg me at 1:14:17 gun time. I also did the Army 10-miler a month prior to that at an easier clip, as you may recall my 2013 season was plagued with strange injuries, inconsistent training and general apathy. 10-milers seem to be a popular distance on the East Coast, as I don't recall ever racing these elsewhere. I was actually pretty shocked and impressed while running that Thanksgiving 10-miler last year at how fast I was going! I held a 7:26 pace and was hoping to hold 8's. It was also BUTT COLD.

All that said, I've been feeling much fitter than I did last Thanksgiving, so my goal was to break 1:10. 7:00 pace per mile. A bit ambitious, but I figured I was fat and slow last Thanksgiving, so I should go way faster right? Of course I'd already forgotten that it was just a little over TWO MONTHS AGO, I was just hoping to hold 7-minute pace for a 5k. Yeah. 3.1 miles. And I barely did it, averaging 6:56 at that Lockheed Martin 5k mid-June.

Then I averaged 6:49 at the Firecracker 5k on July 4th, and then 7:01 in my triathlon 10k just the weekend before Annapolis. So, um, obviously I could hold 7-minute pace for an open 10-miler, right?

Well, I didn't account for the hills. And when Nevie posted up the elevation profile on her blog, I was a little freaked out, then looked at the scale, and was kind of like "oh, don't worry the scale is only 120 feet!"

Interestingly enough, my mile splits look very similar to the elevation profile!

And because I am clever and nerdy with these computer things, I actually overlayed the two graphs:

I know! I'm such a nerd! But look how nicely they match up! It's amazing!

Amazing nerdyness aside, I guess I already gave the story away. I didn't average 7:00 miles. But if you still want the blow-by-blow, here's how it went down:

Mile 1. 6:53. Hold back, hold back, but not too much back. Whew, sub-7! Good pace! We got this!

Mile 2. 7:01. A little bit tougher, still feeling speedy, ok, just a second over 7:00, we got this.

Mile 3. 7:04 (21:00 split). Just another touch tougher, oh no, 4 seconds over. Crap, did I go out too fast again?!

Mile 4. 7:30. OH IT'S A HILL!

Chugga chugga choo choo

Mile 5. 7:12. Some uphill and downhill, make up for that lost time! Ugh, not quite!

35:42 5-mile split. Well, I could still go 1:10 if I negative split.

Mile 6. 7:27. Negative split my ass! There be more hills to climb! Wah, I think I ate too much for breakfast.

Mile 7. 7:54. Cramps?! What, c'mon, I haven't had running cramps since I was in high school! Totally ate too much for breakfast. Just jog super duper easy and let the cramps go away.

Looking worried here.

Mile 8. 7:25. Still another hill. Sigh. Did I just screw up my whole race because I ate too much and went out too fast?

Mile 9. 7:03. It's still salvageable! Pick it up, slowpoke!

Downhill! We have some downhill!

Mile 10. 6:59. It's not too late! Make like that awesome French track chick who anchored the 4x400 relay and came from way, way behind to win!

Final time: 1:12:29 chip time.

Last hill OMG I'm gonna die
Whew. So, I was kind of disappointed at first that I couldn't hold 7-minute pace, but was also happy I beat my PR by almost 2 minutes. On a much hillier course. And realized that another reason I run just as fast in triathlons is because I'm already warmed up and awake and don't eat so much prior to the run that I get stomach cramps.

My mild disappointment was short-lived as I picked up THAT SWEET FINISHER'S JACKET, caught up with running friends, and cheered on the other Eagles as they came through the finish!

All in all, a great way to spend a Sunday morning! I was proud of our RWB showing in Annapolis as we had some first-time 10-miler finishers and others that PR'd. Whoop whoop!