There’s probably a bit of dread mixed in too, but getting back on the ol’ half marathon horse is exciting.
June continues! And onward we push through those thirty posts that I’ve been writing every year this month. For the fifth year in a row I’m back to a month of daily blogging: each day a new post on a new topic, but on the same blog-per-day topic as last year, creating another set of Those 30 Posts in June. Today, that post just happens to be about something that I am:
Ignoring… That Whole Race Goal Running Thing
I’ve run a lot of races this year: technically five half marathons and one almost-but-not-quite-though-I’m-counting-it-as-a-half eighteen klick run through an epic mountain pass in the heat of the June sunshine.
My goal, as I’m pretty sure that I publicly stated at some point much earlier in the year, was to run one half a month. And now that I’m half way through (5 + ~1 = ~6) I’ll admit it: I’m ignoring the other six. No, not giving up. I just find that I can’t quite get myself organized to find and register for the other six remaining halves to meet my goal.
Oddly enough as it turns out, half marathons are not as commonplace as I originally imagined.
Actually, they seem to happen less often than once-per-month locally even in the summertime. And when I have found one for a couple of the gap months I’m stuck trying to reconcile scheduling conflicts.
This doesn’t even count the fact I’m pretty sure we’ll need to leave the country to find a half marathon in December. After all, who wants to be running a half marathon during the holiday season and through a few feet of snow?!
Races are awesome. Every race I’ve run follows me around with a little story that shapes my own little personal running history. Whether it was pushing my own limits in some of the epic mega Disney runs, or plodding through the local streets with long-time running friends or pounding out the klicks along the asphalt strung like a ribbon through the amazing mountain passes of our national parks with a random stranger… there are curious tales that bubble out of every start and every finish.
I shouldn’t be ignoring this opportunity. I know that.
Photo credit: A friend of the aforementioned “random stranger” via instagram
One of the problems falling sideways out of a dedicated running schedule is that on those occasions when you need to break out of it, say for a rest after two weekends of back to back long races, is that you tend to feel more guilty than restful. I made the rational decision to consider my mental and physical state and (given the rainy day we’re having) take a day off and instead enjoy a coffee and a treat and some quiet time. Rather than feeling restful, however, I just feel guilty for skipping my run. I guess I need to work on that whole life and balance thing. *sigh*
Another weekend, another race. But actually…
Our little group seems to have so many meaningful race day milestones these days –a mark of pride and achievement, to be sure– that I’d be remiss to try to name any of them as the “Definitive Weekend of Running Awesomeness” for fear of leaving one out. But if I was forced to make a shortlist of, say, the top five annual(ish) weekends that leave an indelible mark upon our crew, Calgary Marathon Weekend would likely be in that list.
Sure, it’s only been a couple years in which Team Terwillegar has found ourselves populating the ranks of runners racing through the downtown streets of our neighbor city, but in those two years we’ve earned a consecutive pair of outstanding and epic participation badges from whichever higher running authorities happen to award that sort of thing.
This year was no exception.
We met for a pasta dinner the evening before, twenty-eight of us filling the tables in a crowded corner of the Old Spaghetti Factory down by Eau Claire Market. There was a distinct air of pre-race jitters, not a drop of alcohol displacing the forty jugs of water that were consumed between heaps of delicious pasta. And the talk was largely a mix of anxious nervousness and speculation on the fate of another of our running pals who, in those very moments, was in the last hours of his 100km ultra marathon a few hundred kilometers away… but who hadn’t checked in to social media for a few hours following an ominous “at 50km very dizzy” comment. (He turned out mostly fine, not quite finishing the race on a bungled ankle, but earning more admiration in all our eyes than I think he’ll ever believe…)
Then race morning arrived. A few lingering nerves. A transit system that left at least one of our crew running for the start line, and a packed corral that scattered a large lot of our team to the winds of solo running.
I stuck with Lynda and my brother for the first third of the race before I lost them in the shuffles. Lynda raced ahead and the next I saw of her was at the finish where she was celebrating her first sub-2 half and, of course, a personal record. Derek had some foot issues, and lost his momentum, but finished still standing. And unbeknownst to me, Stacey was less than a minute behind me for most of the race and nearly matched my time, coming in a mere sixty-odd seconds at my tail.
Jenn had some leg cramps, a frustrating prospect to which I can relate all-too-well thanks to a similar episode last year at the Edmonton Half. To her credit she worked through it and lost only a couple minutes, still cracking a half marathon PR. As she announced as she found me in the grandstand-slash-finish line at the end, she’d “pulled a Brad” and tumbled down to asphalt town thanks to some calf cramping. Potassium!
Leon surprised us all, announcing the evening before (in classic Leon style) that he’d in fact registered for the ultra 50k race… and not the impromptu running of the marathon which we’d assumed he’d spontaneously registered for less than a week previous. He rolled through with a little more than five-hours and thirty on the clock, though I have some evidence in my phone’s chat history that suggests he spent more time texting in the last 8 klicks of the race than running. Still… he ran for three-and-a-half hours longer than I did yesterday.
Oh, and don’t forget Dave, who pulled out a Boston Qualifier time in the marathon yesterday. A bunch of us hung around to watch him finish, squeezing in a nail-biting time with just a minute to spare. Much deserved kudos there!
And of course Heather’s crew who has let the rest of us schmoes mooch and shadow them in their diligent and (obviously) rewarded training regime of the last four months. All those hills and meticulously paced tempo runs made for a slate of awesome first half celebrations. I’ve only just got to know a lot of these folks but hopefully their experience this weekend was positive and keeps them coming back for more torture… at least for the rest of the summer. After all… Edmonton is only a few months away!
I’m hesitant to try and find logic in my own time. I rolled in with a 2:04 on the clock. Four minutes slower than my last half, and not quite meeting my soft goal of casually hoping for a sub-two time. I hadn’t slept great and I had some random aches and pains, not to mention the heat and I are generally not great pals anyways… I would have preferred a steady eight Celsius over the gradual climb into hot-and-sunny that met us during that long morning. That said, I didn’t crash. I just started with a really strong first ten klicks, a strong but slightly slower next five, and an average last quarter. No walls. No fails. Just a solid, but okay race. I probably could have pushed through some of the fatigue, but part of me was just fine with trotting along at a sub-six for two hours and seeing where that landed me.
And I’m happy with that…. particularly since I’ve got another crazy run next weekend.
Call it a lazy weekend, or call it a taper… either way, I didn’t run very much. (Almost sad, when I call fifteen klicks over a weekend “not very much” though!) The next two weekends, however, are race frenzy. I’ve been signed up for the Calgary half marathon for months, so that was not unexpected. But it seems I’ll be filling in for a leg of the Banff-Jasper Relay just one weekend later. That’s a lot of driving punctuated by a lot of running, nearly a marathon’s worth spread over six days… and nineteen klicks of those is through a high altitude mountain pass. Excited. Daunted. Pondering my own sanity. But either way, I thought I deserved a moderately quiet and restful weekend with the family in anticipation.
I’d like to think that I’m finally reaping the benefits of that run-every-day effort of a few weeks ago. I’ve been noticing that –particularly when I go out on my own and I’m not throttling my pace against other people– my speeds have been up. Last night, for example, I went out for what I planned to be an easy run, but what turned into a relatively speedy run. Total distance was 8.75 klicks. My average pace was 5:25 min/km. Not exactly record-setting, I know, but two things: this was (a) literally my second-fastest average pace in 2015 to date, the fastest being that awesome 5k I ran on January 1, and (b) roughly 40 sec/km faster than I was doing for the same distances/routes only about two months ago. I think that’s worth noting, don’t you?
Two weekends in a row: thanks to some cooperative motivation in the sunshiny perfect weather of Sunday morning, a couple of us squeezed out the exact distance of a half marathon as a training run. It was my second half-distance (albeit not a race this time) inside of a week, and thanks to the company, distractions, and more leisurely pace, it felt pretty good all things considered. The extra distances between both Saturday and Sunday nudged me over my weekly goal giving me nearly 50 klicks on the week, and pushed me happily over the 500 klicks on the year mark, nearly 49 klicks ahead of schedule to meet my annual goal. It’s nice place to be sitting right now. Even compared to last year, pre-injury and post-marathon, I’m currently more than 60 klicks ahead of all that effort. It’s all feeling pretty solid right now.
Last night, Emma made sure I felt just a little wee bit guilty for “being so negative” in my recent race evaluation, despite my assurances that I was mostly just trying to be objectively critical of a few minor mistakes I’d made so that I could improve in the long run. As such, I figured I would throw some (happy) retrospective analysis in here at the end of it all, as a sunshiny-positive conclusion to the April that was. I’m not running tonight (rest day) so I can safely say that my total distance on the month will turn out to be this: an above average 188 klicks across twenty-five runs in approximately 19 hours worth of effort at an average training pace of 6:04min/km. This included a lot of solo runs, a lot of tempo runs, at least four nights of hill training, a few longish runs, a pair of very early mornings, running while out of town visiting my relatives, and one very hilly race with a personal best half-marathon time of (chip) 2:00:48. I’ve also had the pleasure of running with some great folks who keep me motivated and coming back for more self-torture. Huzzah for April! Now… bring on May.
It’s funny how you can be very happy with a result and simultaneously kicking yourself over the same thing.
Despite (and against) a number of factors, I scored a personal record in this morning’s half marathon. A PR for my best half marathon ever. KA-POW!
According to the official chip tracking posted on the website and forever immortalized on the Edmonton Police Foundation Half Marathon webpage my time was a respectable two hours and fourty-eight seconds. That’s right: 2:00:48… blasting through my previous best time of 2:03:45 set back in 2012 by nearly three whole minutes.
As a side note: according to my watch, my time was 2:01:45. This is technically wrong, only because after crossing the line I noted that my distance (which varies by the accuracy of the GPS on any given day, was at 21.03 klicks. Strava, which I use to track everything these days, doesn’t give you credit for a half marathon, and thus a record for the half, unless you hit that 21.1 klick mark. No mulligans. No editing or adjusting after. I’ve missed credit on February and March because my watch came up short and with this record I wasn’t missing this one. I think that’s a bug, but whatever. So I walked for about a minute after crossing the line to make sure I got the full 21.1 km — knowing the chip would record my verified race time.
It doesn’t sound like much but in a half marathon, three minutes is a heavy chunk of time. Three minutes is months of hard, fast, painful training pushed out in rain, or snow or at five in the morning when I’d rather be sleeping. That three minutes, for me at least, was hard won.
Back in 2012 I had just trained crazy hard all summer. It was in that few months that a monumental shift occurred in my effort and attitude towards this crazy sport and I’ve yet to look back. Even so, I’ve yet to even come within five minutes of that time since. Two-tens, two-twelves, and even a two-oh-eight once, but always the elusive two-hour mark was far, far away.
Now, a roughly two hour time is not amazing, I admit, and it’s definitely not going to put me into contention for elite status or win me any fame and glory anywhere besides my own head, but for a guy who sometimes (read: often) questions the sanity of this whole running thing, it’s nice to know I still can find room to improve. So all in all you’d think I’d be over the moon right now.
The thing is… I choked. I could see the last stretch and I just couldn’t for every yelling, screaming, berating pep-talk I was giving myself inside my brain, bring it home. With two klicks left to run my legs were not cooperating with my brain: the wall had officially been hit, and…
But let’s back up a bit, shall we?
The weather was chilly, right around freezing and threatening to only warm up a little bit. I got to the race just in the knick of time, traffic and parking being unexpectedly insane and literally jogged the klick from my car to the start to catch the gun. In this moment of haste, I had to decide between the gear I’d brought along, parsing out a few of the options based on weather and weight. I went for the slim belt, no jacket, cap and gloves. I left my hydration fuel belt in the car –dum, dum, dumb– along with my nutrition.
I ran the whole race only stopping at about half the water stations and never taking any extra calories. This seemed fine, at least for the first nineteen klicks. Then it was all I could do to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I even had a few seconds of head-spinny dizziness and walked it off, but it passed. But the effort was lost and the seconds were squandered.
I mentioned in the open that I was kicking myself over a great time.
The fuel is why: I checked my math at 10.5 klicks along and holding my pace I would have hit 1:57. I checked my math at 16 klicks, and with five klicks to go I was still on track for about a 1:58. Ditto at seventeen. Ditto at eighteen. Ditto even as I entered the home stretch at nineteen. A few jelly beans or gummy bears or a couple swigs of Gatorade and I’d probably be rocking a blog post about my first sub-two right now.
Runner meet the wall.
But all that aside, half marathon number four of 2015 was otherwise awesome, and a great run. The route was challenging but amazing. The event was really well organized. And I’m still standing to write about it a few hours later.
And I guess I have a goal for Calgary in a few weeks. Sub-2?
Done. Done, done, done! My three-week-streak is complete with tonight’s lazy tempo run with the group. I hobbled out a sub-6, seven klicker, putzing off the pre-planned route with a little self-made detour and shortcut that shaved about two minutes off our original path. Sam met us afterwards at coffee, fresh off the plane back from Boston, and regaled us with tales of his marathon adventure while we basked in the mellow afterglow of a sunny spring run. Total distance in 21 days: 145.6 klicks! Now, I rest and await half number four (of twelve in 2015) on Sunday morning.
Plus One Is…
Today is my last day. An evening tempo out with the crew tonight will mark twenty-one out of twenty-one days in April. Then, for both personal sanity and responsible training reasons, I’m taking a few days off to rest-slash-taper for my half marathon on this upcoming Sunday. I hear there are lots of hills.
I Like Numbers
For curiosity sake I added a couple of extra calculations to my already cumbersome training tracking and logging spreadsheet. These were to sum up all the time and pop out a total time-running on the year. I’ve logged about 425 klicks in about 45 hours in 2015. Too bad those aren’t billable hours.
My calves have been bugging me for the last few days. Not sideline-bugging-me, but after my double-cramp experimental sidewalk smash of last August’s half-marathon, you can’t blame me for being a bit wary. I’ve opted to (a) crank up my hydration another notch and (b) take magnesium supplements. I hate pills, but I hate cramping even more.
I noticed the registration for the 2016 Disney World Marathon weekend featuring the Dopey Challenge opens in about one week. I think we already agreed that 2016 isn’t in the cards, but a re-run is not completely off the table for a year or two later.
A Running Challenge of a Different Sort
Lastly, I’m working on putting together a different sort of running challenge for my group for this summer. We like to post lots of crazy pics to our (invite only) Facebook group, so I thought why not crank up the stakes a little. A photo scavenger hunt… of the kind only runners could do. How is that not gonna be awesome?
Photo by: Jenn B
We ran hills tonight. Three BIG ones. Which is really six climbs. Which is really what we count as nine hills… because we measure by a set distance not by actual repeats.
But you can call it whatever you want. Just don’t call it lazy.
In all it amounted to roughly eleven klicks of up-and-down in the dust of the nearby road with the evening sun casting elongated shadows in the temperate spring air. It was running awesomeness incarnate.
As a bit of a side adventure: a few minutes into the warm up trek to the top of the hill we encountered a stranded car. Some poor lady had stalled her car in the turning lane of an otherwise busy road and a few of us assisted to push her onto a side street.
The excitement never ends on hill night.