Monday, February 06, 2012
With my next race now just 6 weeks away, this was the best weekend to do a test run on the course. I knew the course was going to be challenging for a few different reasons, so I wanted to get out and experience it for myself ahead of time. I am glad that I did - and big thank you to my wife for making a trip of it with me. She got to bring out daughter for a play-date with her friend down at the lake.
The first part of the course is a paved out-and-back that goes out approximately 2.6 - 3 miles (I'm not sure how far because the course map on the race website is a poor Google Earth overlay that doesn't do a good job of staying on the trail and only adds up to 12.08 miles) in a long steady uphill climb before turning around and some random undefined location. What I didn't realize was that the climb actually ends after 2.2 miles and then goes downhill to the wherever the turnaround point will be, after which we have to go back up that last downhill before being able to do the 2.2 mile downhill. That could be a big mental hurdle if I didn't know about it beforehand. The uphill climb also seemed to take forever, so I'm glad I've done it so it won't seem so endless during the actual race.
Once we return back to the original start line, we continue on past the start line for 4 miles along an only railroad track that was converted into a graded rock/dirt trail. This takes to an overlook with a great view of Hoover Dam before we turn around and head back towards the start line where we finish right next to where the race began. This was the part I was most nervous about, even though I've run a 5k on it two years ago and it's practically perfectly level. Since it's packed and graded, but with lots of scattered and embedded rock, I'm nervous about turning an ankle, or tweaking a knee and messing them up before my races in April.
But, the one thing that made me REALLY glad I ran the course was because of the last mile and a quarter of this trail leading up to the dam overlook.
From the race description, it seemed that the course was practically all level until it dropped down a short hill to the overlook. However, the last mile and a quarter before the overlook is a 250 foot descent to the overlook which we then have to do in reverse on our way back after having finish 9 of the 13 miles. If I'm going to have unexpected hills, I prefer them in the front of a race when I'm fresh than at the back of a race when I'm already tired. So, I was very glad I found this out, now, so I will be mentally ready for it on race day. And at least it's not steep.
When I finished, another couple was also out running the course and we had a nice chat about the course. I hadn't run it, before, but he had and he knew where the turnaround were. He said that the first loop was actually 3 miles - not 2.6 - and he also was able to explain to me where the real turnaround point is at the Dam Overlook at mile 9.
So, for my run, I ended up doing about 12.7 miles in just under 2 hours 4 minutes. If the first loop is closer to 3 miles, like the other couple told me, then that will add the extra .4 miles that I missed. I swore than I ran slower than that. I felt slow on the first uphill and I slowed down a couple times on the downhill to read a couple texts on my phone, and then I stopped at Dam parking structure (the old mile 9 turnaround point) to take a few pictures.
This actually bodes really well for race day. I felt like I was running slow. And at this pace, I would've finished the remaining .4 miles in 3 or 4 minutes for a projected time of 2 hours 8 minutes. My PR is 2 hours 4 minutes and included no walking or Dam picture taking. So, with race day adrenaline and the extra effort that comes with running a race, I think I should be able to at least match my PR, if not beat it.
The only things that could conspire to beat me are myself, and the weather. The weather was nice. 50's and breezy, but not too breezy. As long as both of them cooperate, I should have a good race.
Thursday, February 02, 2012
Since I essentially did speed work two days in a row, today was a recovery run. And boy was it the right day for it!
Little B (our daughter) woke up sometime between 2am and 3am last night. While my wife went to put her back down, I jumped up to use the bathroom and I could hear the wind howling outside. In the back of my mind I knew this was probably not a good thing, but I quickly forgot about it until my alarm went off at 4:40am.
Lately, I dread these mornings because I am tired and just don't feel like waking up and getting out of my nice warm bed. This morning was nothing different. I grumbled to myself and got out of bed to turn off my alarm and once I was standing up and had turn off my alarm, I was up, so I might as well run.
I started to get dressed and I could hear the wind howling outside, again, and I was none-too-pleased. I've run in the heat and the cold and the rain, but in my opinion, nothing is worse than running in gusty winds.
I checked the weather on my phone and it said the 12mph winds with biggest gust measured at 32mph. THAT should be fun. (eye roll)
I very much considered not running at all, but since I was up, I just couldn't convince myself that going back to bed was going to be worth it. Instead, I just kept getting ready and eventually I found myself downstairs and ready to run. Well, screw it. Looks like I'm running.
A side note: All summer long I looked forward to cooler weather. Late fall is really nice. But, once winter hits and it's in the 20's, 30's, or low 40's, I no longer enjoy the cooler/colder weather. And that's a real downer because normally I LOVE cold weather. I love wearing jeans and jackets and gloves and beanies... Just ask my wife how many jackets and sweatshirts I own. Actually, it's probably better that you not.... Anyway, so I love the winter, but I don't so much enjoy running in it. It's better than running in the summer heat, but... Anyway, I digress. Let's just say I hate ruining a good winter by wishing it was warmer just so I could run in warmer weather, even though I love everything else about the cold weather.
Okay, so, back to this morning. So, lately I've been feeling less excited about my runs. Even tho it feels like I'm getting faster, again, the cold, early morning runs are getting to me. I'm excited for my races and that usually translates to being excited to train. But, lately, my motivation seems to be gone and my energy sapped. I no longer feel tempted to try to push myself to run faster, even though I want to run faster. This morning, I was very close to not running because of the wind, but I still know I need to train to get the results I want, so I ran, anyway.
And, wow, did my run feel big time blah. Trying to run fast into the wind is mentally difficult, so fortunately, I was already planning on running slow, but it was still a mental battle the whole first half of my run as I ran into the wind. Every step I questioned why I was running, why I was up so early, why I was running in the wind, why didn't I just go home where it was warm and calm. Every step was mental agony.
But, finally I passed the halfway point and the whole return trip was with the wind and I just couldn't wait to get back home. But, at least I knew I was heading home, so the mental battle was over. I feel much better for having run. I know I would feel down if I had skipped the run. And truth be told, I've run into worse headwinds. This wasn't as bad as I feared it would be. But the mental drain was the worst part.
But, if I can just hold on, I know it will warm up in March and half the battle will be over. I just need to keep training so I can enjoy my races and see the results. It will get better. I know first-hand the pitfalls of choosing to skip runs. And if the lows continue to stay in the mid-upper 40's, that will be a really nice change.
I hear the wind is going away, tomorrow, so my 12 mile run on the March HM race course on Sunday morning should be a nice one that I am actually looking forward to. So, hey, looks like motivation hasn't blown away after all. I can't wait to get that shiny race finisher's medal in March and I'm really looking forward to filling out my Half Fanatic application in April!
Looks like motivation is back! For now.
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Yesterday, I ran a strong tempo run. One my fastest 5 mile training runs, yet - second fastest according to my training log. So, I decided that I wasn't going to do interval training, today.
I usually do a standard pace or recovery run for my 5 miles on Tuesday and interval training for my 3 miles on Wednesday and then either a standard pace or tempo run for my 5 miles on Thursday, depending on how I feel. But, I use the word "usually" loosely. So, of course, after doing a tempo run on Tuesday and getting to bed a little late Tuesday night, I didn't want to do my usual intervals, this morning. So, I started out at an easy pace and contemplated what I would do, today. Running my shortest workout at a recovery pace always seems like a waste, to me. I thought about running a timed mile for my second mile, but I wasn't sure if I felt like running that hard.
Well, as I approached the 1 mile mark I had to make up my mind, so I decided it was time to run a self-timed mile. I think the last one I did was quite a number of months ago and I ran it in 7:30. Yesterday's run I did at an 8:45 pace. Today I was tired and wasn't sure I had 7:30 in me. But, there I was, and it was put up or shut up time.
So, off I went. I didn't feel particularly energetic, so I decided that instead of starting fast and pooping out that I would start out on the slow side and gradually speed up. The halfway point was when i hit an intersection and had to turn around 180 degrees to come back the way I came and I knew that would mean slowing down and losing momentum as I turned around. I made a wide turn to try to conserve whatever momentum and energy that I could and also decided to hit the split button on my watch so I could compare my out and back times.
I gradually picked up my pace until I could tell I was moving pretty fast shortly before I finished. Then I did a nice recovery run back the house before doing my usual half mile cool down walk.
The first half of my mile I did at 3:53. A little under 8 min/mile pace, so not bad. The second half of my mile I did in 3:11. Woo! I was totally not expecting to run this fast. I definitely knew I was running slow for the first half. I guess I really made up for it during the second.
Now, if I could put together two of those, I would have a 6:22! Hoo! That would be smokin'! Maybe one of these days - probably after I finish my HM training in April - I will try to run a flat out mile and see how close I can get to that mark. Last time I pushed myself like that, I blew away my 5k PR by over a minute. But, that will have to wait.
But, for now, I will enjoy my time and maybe do this again in a week or two after I've had a bit more sleep...
Just for fun, I punched my mile time into the McMillan Running Calculator and it said my equivalent HM time would be 1:55:02. Saw-weet! If I don't break 2 hours in March, I will be very disappointed in Mr. McMillan. ;)
Seriously, tho. If I can run 5 miles at an 8:45 pace, shouldn't I be able to run 13.1 at a 9:10 pace? I guess that remains to be seen.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
First off, the first week of January looks a little low, but that's because my 10 mile run that weekend was done on Saturday Dec 31 instead of Sunday Jan 1.
I've run almost 92 miles this month. And I should easily run over 100 in February as I increase to 5 days a week. March should be about the same as February. I used to barely eek out over 50 miles. And these miles aren't my total fitness miles because every one of my runs includes at least a half-mile cool-down walk, so that adds 8 or 9 miles to bring me to just over 100 fitness miles in January. Sweet!
I'm hoping I'm am building up slow enough to prevent any overuse injuries. However, my knees have been a little sore, lately. I have two ice packs, but they are at work and I haven't been able to use them after my runs. I try to remember to bring them home - or at least use them in the office - but I have so far been unsuccessful at that. I'm pretty sure that my recent attempts at offroad running are the main culprit, but it's a neccessary evil to get my legs and knees used to it before my half marathon in March which will require me to run the last 8 miles on a graded trail. So far, I haven't done more than 2 miles of trails during any of my runs and will probably keep it that way. I hope that will be enough to get me through my race without issues.
Today was my last January run and I didn't intend to run it fast, but I ended up pushing myself a little faster than I expected and ran my 5 miles in 44:02. It was my fastest time for this route, and my second fastest time for any 5 mile training route (my fastest was 43:22, so I'll have to work a little bit harder to beat that). Considering I wasn't expecting to run this fast, I'll take it.
Here's hoping this run is a pleasant harbinger of things to come in February and beyond.
81 more days until my big race in April!
Monday, January 30, 2012
Completely on accident, I ended up with some crazy GPS errors during my run, this weekend. I even have pictures. But, before I get into that, a little point-counterpoint.
Three weeks ago, not long after I posted my original two GPS blogs, I ran an 11 mile run. Plotting it on mapmyrun.com estimated it to be 11.08 miles. When I ran it, I used the imapmyrun app to track my run. It estimated my run at 11.1 miles. That's pretty darn close, right?
Well, yes and no. The numbers look almost exactly the same, but a comparison of the actual routes shows quite a bit of difference. I ran a nice straight down the sidewalk. If you look at the line that my SmartPhone GPS plotted, you'll see that it's quite wiggly. However, because wiggles cut a lot of corners, the mileage ends up looking pretty accurate despite the wiggles.
So, that gets me back to my original point.
This Sunday I ran a route that was supposed to be 7 miles in an hour an 3 minutes. I didn't feel I was running particularly fast, but when I finished, my SmartPhone GPS (using imapmyrun) told me I had just run 7.23 miles at a pace of 8:45 min/mile. That would be pretty fast, for me.
Well, I went on my computer to take a look at the route and found it had some crazy inconsistencies. I've posted a couple photos below. In any case, my actual route when hand-drawn into mapmyrun.com and the SparkPeople Fitness Maps totals out to just 6.97. At .26 miles, that's a full quarter mile difference! My actual pace was closer to 9:06 min/mile.
The first is my supposed starting location which is a good quarter mile away with some crazy squiggles. This area is fenced off and a quarter mile south of where I actually began running.
The second photos shows where I supposedly ran down the middle of the street at the top before cutting the corner thru a power pole and then weaving back and forth between both sides of the road and the dirt area on the right of the road. In reality, I ran down the sidewalk at the bottom of the road at the top before crossing into the dirt area and heading south and staying in the dirt area the whole time just below the power line.
So, sometimes your mileage can be pretty darn close, even tho the route is not accurate. And sometimes, it's completely wacky. It's always a good idea to load it up on your computer and hand-correct it to see just how well it measures up to reality (or as close to reality as we can get).
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