Hop Hop Half Marathon Race Recap and A Marathon Training Check-In

Where does the time go?! I mean, seriously, I feel like it was just a couple of weeks ago that I was putting together my training plan for the Newport Marathon and here I am, only about 4 weeks away from the big day. Is this another one of those signs that I’m getting old? The sensation of time going by so quickly, I mean. It must be.   It’s right up there with my new, annoying need to use the zoom function on my computer screen when I’m reading text these days. (Does anyone else feel like 12-point isn’t what it used to be?!)

Enough with the questions and the lamenting about the passage of time, I have a race to tell you all about. Held on the Saturday before Easter, the Hop Hop Half Marathon served as sort of a trial run for me.   Six weeks out from Newport I wanted to test my fitness level, and even more importantly, my pacing. I struggle with pacing myself evenly and I know that this is going to be a key element in my marathon success.

hophop2014

I’m going to put it right out there and acknowledge that this was a tough race for me. I did not taper, as I was considering this just part of my training plan, and I definitely felt fatigue in my legs and body when pushing my speed. I also got caught up in a bit of self-doubt about my clothing choices at the last minute, which resulted in me hastily adding an extra layer on top, which I almost immediately regretted after the run got going. I overheated and struggled with the ramifications of that for the majority of the race.

Despite all of that, I only finished 31 seconds short of my half-marathon PR AND I did a relatively consistent job (with the exception of one tough mile) of pacing myself evenly, while staying in tune with my level of effort and my actual pace time. There’s also something to be said about the level of mental focus that I had to hone in on, given the challenges I was having.

Hop Hop Half Medal and Bib - edited

The course was the same as last year, which is to say, it was absolutely enjoyable and peaceful. The route took us along the Columbia River, with what was a clear, impressive, and positively imposing view of Mt. Hood for more than half the route, until we made the turn around. The staff and volunteers from Foot Traffic were great and the logistics of the run all seemed to go off without a hitch. I also was super lucky to cross the finish line when I did. About 10 minutes later, as I was in my car and headed home, the sky absolutely opened up and those still out there were treated to some serious rainfall!

It was a tough race for me – a really tough one, actually. But it served its purpose. Looking at it from the perspective of it being one part of a larger plan and goal, I’ll even go as far as to say it was successful in some ways, too. I feel good having that trial run under my belt – and I hopefully learned a lesson about making last minute wardrobe decisions based on pre-race anxiety!

Holiday Half Marathon Race Recap

Well . . . let’s see here.  It has taken me a bit more time then I had anticipated to post this race recap.

Clearly, this finding life balance thing is still a work in progress.

So, anyway, here I am, a bit late, but still eager to report back on my 2nd year participating in the Foot Traffic Holiday Half Marathon.  I ran this event on December 15th and it was the final race of the season for me (side note: How cool is it that I had a racing season???).

Holiday Half

In 2012, this event was remarkably cold, windy, and damp.  So it was with much joy that this year’s weather played out differently.  It was chilly, for sure, but dry and calm – nothing some strategic layering couldn’t address to keep me warm.

Mr. Move Eat Create accompanied me to the race.  With him handling logistics (such as transportation), I was free to focus on my performance.  My confidence level and thoughts heading in to the race were messy and conflicting.  On the one hand, I was feeling good about having recently noticed improvements in my pace times.  On the other hand, I had been coping with a strange foot pain that had seemingly popped up out of nowhere and I hadn’t completed any real focused or targeted training for this specific event.  Yet I was, of course, still gunning for a PR.  Go figure.

Holiday Half Bib 2013 - edited

With that in mind, here is how things shook out with this race, including the good and the bad.

Cons:

1. The first mile was frustrating.  Frustrating not because of anything I did or didn’t do, but because of the worst route congestion that I have ever experienced.  With no wave start, no corrals, no pace signs to line people up accordingly, and a large, diverse group of runners and walkers, it was a bit of a mess.  I found myself stuck and blocked in for at least a mile and finished mile one a full 1:00+ minutes slower than I had intended and was capable of.  Boo to that.

2.  I’ve mentioned before that I have Raynaud’s Disorder.  Since going gluten-free, my symptoms have lessened significantly in frequency and severity (Yay!), however, they started raging during this day’s race (Grr!).  It was painful and distracting.

3.  In a total running blunder, I apparently had recorded two different race times for my last half-marathon, which had been my PR – leading to great confusion on my part as to what my best time actually was (huge runner fail on my part).

Holiday Half Medal 2013 - edited

Pros:

1. The route is a nice one.  I really enjoy running through old Portland neighborhoods and this had a lot of that.  Plus, the clear sky provided an exceptional view of the magnificent St. John’s Bridge.

2.  Transportation and parking for this event are both wonderful.  I love the shuttle buses that take you from the large free parking spaces to the start line.  Stress free!

3.  Plenty of space (indoor and outdoor with heaters) to meander pre-race, lots of port-a-potties, and a coffee truck on hand for warm, caffeinated beverages.  All very good things.

4.  After much confusion, followed by embarrassment about said confusion, and then initial disappointment, I did discover my true previous PR and, to my delight, I set a new one!  Setting this PR provides me with some validation that the consistent work I’ve been putting in, even if it wasn’t via a targeted training plan, is paying off.  It is always nice to see concrete, measurable improvement and growth in my running, and it was a great way to finish up the season.

My final numbers:

  • Finish Time: 1:47:24
  • Overall Finish: 359/2505
  • Age Group Finish: 31/332

Now my off-season has begun!  Slightly reduced mileage and strength training will be the focus for a few weeks while my 2014 calendar takes shape.  More on that to come!

Preparing For the Last Race of My Season

Tomorrow morning I will race for the last time in 2013 at the Holiday Half Marathon in North Portland.  I also ran this event last year and recall it being a very wet, windy and cold morning.  The extreme frigid and icy weather that we’ve been experiencing the last week or so was making very extremely nervous for the prospects of this year’s race, however, things seem to be easing up.  Thank goodness!  When I went for a training run last night, the 37 degree temperature felt like such a warm relief compared to the days prior!

Holiday Half

Heading in to this last race of the year, I’m finding myself having some mixed emotions.  I’ve been training consistently, and have noticed myself getting a bit faster, but I probably haven’t focused on specific training patterns as much as I should have in order to really deliver a peak performance.  Due to this, my confidence in delivering a PR is not super high, though I find myself still hoping that I might be able to achieve one, nonetheless.  I’ve also been having some weird pain in my left foot that I’m not super happy about.  I don’t think it’s anything serious, but it feels like it needs some tending to after tomorrow’s race is said and done.

I’ve been a bit tired lately and am looking forward to finishing the season strong, and then allowing myself some more relaxed running and cross-training for a month or so to rest and recuperate from this past year.  During this time I will also work on planning out my major 2014 racing events – so I’m sure I’ll be posting more about that soon.  I’m excited to think about what the coming year will bring for my running.

If you’re up and about Sunday morning and think of it, please feel free to send some good running vibes my way!  I’ll, of course, report back about how it goes next week.

Anyone else preparing for their final races of the year?

Race Report: Pints to Pasta 10k (The one in which I surprise myself)

I surprised myself this weekend.  I ran the Pints to Pasta 10k on Sunday and managed to pull out a much better performance than I had anticipated.

Kudos to anyone who recognizes what my tattoo is.

Looking serious before the start. Kudos to anyone who recognizes what my tattoo is.

I say that because I have not been ‘officially’ training for this race.  I’ve been focusing very specifically on building my weekly mileage at the expense of any real speedwork or fine-tuning for any performance peak.  I plan to add more variety (including speedwork) back to my training techniques once I’m comfortable averaging right around 40-43 miles per week on a consistent basis.  I signed up for this 10k knowing full well that was my plan and, as such, I expected that my pace would be slow, but I still wanted to participate in the event regardless.

But, I repeat, I surprised myself.  I ended up finishing several minutes faster than I expected and even had (what I consider to be) a decent showing in the final rankings.  Here’s how it fleshed out:

  • Finish Time:  50:44
  • Average Pace:  8:10
  • Overall Finish: 299 out of 1738
  • Age/Gender Group Finish:  18 out of 203
Reuniting with Mr. Move Eat Create after the finish.

Reuniting with Mr. Move Eat Create after the finish.

This was my first 10k race, since I jumped right from 5ks to half-marathons and then the full marathon in my running, and I will say that I was pleased to see how much I enjoyed racing this distance.  The route was quite enjoyable, too.  We started in North Portland, headed South, crossed the Broadway Bridge, and then headed further South along the waterfront.

Yes, that’s right, we crossed a bridge.  This is another reason that I surprised myself.

Let me explain.

I am TERRIFIED of water and, by extension, bridges.  While various things may freak me out to some extent, this is my major fear.  I don’t know how to swim (no triathlons in my future!) and deep water really unnerves me.  I cross the various Portland bridges by car or bus almost every day to commute across town, but crossing one on foot felt even scarier to me.  I was definitely intimidated by the prospect, but decided to look at it as another challenge to conquer.  I even managed for a short time to look out over the side of the bridge at the Willamette River below without getting overwhelmed by the watery aisle of terror and death that flowed beneath my feet, and without hesitating in my stride one bit.

Shannon = 1, Scary Water = 0

Fun Morning!

Fun morning!

Another thing that stands out for me about this race was my prowess on hill inclines.  Now, this race was not very hilly at all, but where hills did exist, I was quite happy with how I took them.  I managed to gain some solid momentum on the elevation increases and passed quite a few other runners in those key spots.  Living in a hilly neighborhood is paying off!

Overall, this 10k was a big win for me.  Beautiful day, fun course, and to top it all off, with today’s race I have now logged over 1000 miles for the year

Not bad.

A (Brief) Race Report: C.A.T. 5k

On almost a whim, I decided to register for the C.A.T. (Cancer Awareness & Treatment) 5k held on the Fourth of July.  Having spent the last several months focusing on building endurance (and then subsequent recovery time) for the Newport Marathon, I had not done any speed work for slower races.  I had no idea how I would perform, but wanted to get out and see what I would do at my post-marathon training baseline fitness level.

The C.A.T. 5k is a walk and run event held in Hillsboro, a suburb of Portland, and raises funds for a local cancer treatment center.  The courseCAT 5k travels through the center of the town and along some lovely residential streets, as well.  1000 participants were on hand for the event, along with dozens of friendly and courteous volunteers.  I didn’t get any pictures, as I went alone and brought nothing beyond what I needed for the race, but it was an enjoyable morning.

I am pleased to report that, despite not having worked on my speed much at all over the last several months, I did set a new PR for the 5k distance!  This progress is quite exciting and makes me think that with some additional focus and attention, I can continue to bring down my time.

So, how did I do?

I finished in 62nd place, in a time of 24:16.  I would love to get my 5k time down to under 23 minutes, so that’s something to shoot for.  Next up on my race calendar is the Pints to Pasta 10k in September.  I’ll certainly be adding some speed work into my training to see what I can do there!

Stripped: The Experience and Exposure of Running My First Marathon

Nearly a month has passed since I completed my first marathon.  Since then, I have sat down many times with the intention of writing a post about what I learned through the process of training for and completing the 26.2.  My plan was to make a list and offer up my mistakes and successes as tools for others starting their own marathon quest, but every time I’ve started to do this I’ve gotten stuck.

I’ve gotten stuck because while I did learn many things worth sharing, I keep coming back to one key, core lesson.  So that’s what I’ve decided to share with you today.

Me nearing finish 4 - edited

I learned, more than any other thing, what it feels like to be stripped down to the very core of my being.  To be raw, exposed, and so completely of my self.

Here is my journey to that place.

At the start of my race, I imagine I was like many other first-time marathoners.  I had about a million and a half thoughts and feelings running through me, many of them contradictory, all of them clamoring for attention.

There was both excitement and anticipation (obviously). There was fear and apprehension (seems typical).  There was tiredness (who sleeps well the night before a big race?!), but there was also exuberant energy (thank you, adrenaline).

There were the voices of logic and reason (“Remember your training.  Don’t start out too fast.”), of pride (“I am so impressed with myself for getting here.  I am a badass.”), and of skepticism (“Who am I kidding?  I didn’t nearly train enough!”).

There was gratitude (seriously, I’m lucky to have two people here today to support me, cheer me on, and believe in my success), as well as anger (also seriously, certain other people didn’t even bother to text me good luck?!).

And more.

Runners along cars and mile 11 sign post - edited

Then the ‘gun’ went off and over the course of 26.2 miles, it all got stripped away.

First went the adrenaline-fueled, childlike excitement.  After the first 3-4 miles, I had to let it go.  The realization sets in of what I’m doing and I know I need to be focused on the present moment, the lifting and planting of my Mizuno-clad feet.  There is no room for exuberance that hasn’t yet achieved its goal.

Next the apprehension is shaken off.  I’m here.  I’m doing it.  It’s happening.  There is no sound reason to believe I can’t finish, so get your head in the game, Rose (my last name).  You’ve started this; you’re finishing it.

Another few miles down the road and I could feel the anger slipping away.  It ate up too much energy.  It didn’t make people’s actions (or lack thereof) okay, but I needed my energy for the race.  They didn’t get to have any of it right now.

Further on goes the vanity.  Sweaty, knowing as you pass by those clicking cameras that the look on your face will be anything but attractive, but who cares?  A few bad pictures are absolutely worth the end result.

Further still, deep into the race, when inklings of pain and discomfort begin to manifest, all bravado and lingering facades are dropped.  It doesn’t matter anymore if I’m smiling at bystanders, if I’m exuding confidence, or making it ‘look easy.’  All of that has to go because all that matters is what I’m doing – one foot in front of the other, with as much speed and precision as I’m capable of.  Period.

All of this stuff, these extraneous feelings and thoughts that seem so important on so many days and in so many moments suddenly just.  don’t.  matter.

What’s left then without them?

Finish Sign 2 - edited

Well, the simple, honest, and most accurate answer is just Me.

What I learned, you see, is that there is a point in a marathon when all of the expectations, the pressures, the images we create, and the faces we wear, are all gone.

All I was left with – all that I had in those moments – was the truest part of my own self.  Stripped of ego and artifice, I have never been so raw and essentially in tune with my self than I was during those last few miles.

There’s something about that – something incredible about that – testing your limits and pouring the sum of your physical and mental energy into a singular activity, for a sustained amount of time, that strips you of pretty much everything else.

And I can unequivocally say that (despite being pretty generally terrified of being exposed and vulnerable) that state of self-clarity and awareness is amazing. Completely amazing.

It teaches you; at least it taught me.

It taught me about who I am, what matters to me, and what I’m capable of (and I don’t just mean physically).  The wisdom and strength I gained from that experience is unmatched.

And while I may find another time to share what I learned about fueling and training and race day preparation, this lesson is the most valuable one I could have ever hoped to have gotten.

Newport Marathon Race Recap (i.e. I Did It!)

Is there any other feeling quite like crossing the finish line at your first marathon??

Not that I’ve ever experienced.

Me nearing finish 6 - edited

Months of training, hundreds of miles, and hours of mental and physical effort finally peaked for me this past weekend at the Newport Marathon.  And though I was seriously having some pre-race jitters in the 24 hours before the start, I am incredibly proud to say that I did it!  Not only can I say that I did it, but I am pleased with how I performed, so even better.  Before I get into some of the details of the event, here are my final numbers:

  • Finish Time: 4:08:28
  • Overall Place: 384 out of 751
  • Division Place: 36 out of 77
  • Gender Place: 154 out of 385

I had hoped going in that I could finish under 4:15:00 for my first marathon, so I am thrilled that I beat that by several minutes!  I would love to get myself to a sub-4 hour performance, but there is time for that, right?  One thing at a time.

Start Sign - edited

I was definitely nervous going in, though those nerves didn’t really kick in until the night before.  I actually did better then I had expected during my final taper week (though I still didn’t enjoy tapering one bit), but by the time I went to pick up my race packet the night before the marathon, I was all over the map.  I was excited, anxious, doubtful and confident all at the same time (yes, that is possible).  One thing that helped with my nerves was the fact that the race was really well organized.  The packet pick-up was smooth; there was a shuttle the morning of the race that stopped at all the popular hotels, picking up runners and spectators to take them to the start line, and the race started promptly.  All excellent things so kudos to the race director!

The course was beautiful.  Even for someone like me who is TERRIFIED of the ocean and deep water in general, it was gorgeous.   We started out with the first few miles running through the city, then headed down by the ocean and along the bay.  The views were definitely a plus – sparkling water to one side, lush trees to the other, with a smattering of homes, shops, and ocean-front businesses along the way.  The locals were also amazing – many of whom set up outside their homes to cheer everyone on.  To top it all off, the weather was pretty much PERFECT.  After a week or more of cold, constant rain pounding the Pacific Northwest, all was well.  The sun was out, the wind was calm, and temps were moderate.

So, with all of that good energy, how could I not be set up for success, right?

Me waving - edited

At the start, I was eager to go, but still a bit nervous.  But, I settled into a rhythm that I carried pretty well for well over the first half of the race.  I felt good.  I felt loose and strong.  I remember at one point, around mile 13, thinking: This is great!  Maybe it won’t hurt after all!

Oh, that’s funny to think about.  Sometimes I’m just silly.

Anyway, the majority of the way things were really solid and I was pleased with my pace.  I certainly started to notice some pain, though, and realized the error of my earlier thinking.  My left hip and lower back began to ache around mile 18 or so.  It grew steadily until the end of the race and during miles 22-25, I honestly was in quite a bit of discomfort.  My pace slowed significantly (though I never once stopped running).  At that point, though, it was close enough to the end where I could just focus on each individual mile.  I celebrated every little blue mile marker I passed.  When I strode by mile 25, I was thrilled.  That last 1.2 miles was actually pretty amazing.  Knowing that I was that close to finishing, the pain I felt became irrelevant.  I was able to pick back up my speed somewhat and finish with a surge.

Finishing a race with a surge feels GREAT.

Me with medal 3 - edited

When I crossed the finish line I was certainly tired and sore, but I was also thrilled.  I have some great moments in my life, don’t get me wrong, but the feeling of that moment is uniquely special to me.  And it reminds me of how very important running has become to my life.

I’m already thinking about my next races and my future marathons.  I never doubted wanting to run the race or wanting to run the next one.  I knew even in those moments of pain and fatigue that I was ready to do it again.

And again.

And again.