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.

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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?

Shopping Struggles, But Running Saves the Day!

There was a time when I loved to shop for clothes.  LOVED it.  It was fun and exciting and was a way to express my creativity.  These days, however, I loathe the task most of the time.  I don’t know how many of you reading are thirty-something women, but let me tell you, the options out there for us are pretty sad.

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There is a vast wasteland of clothing for women my age who want to look mature AND sexy.  Fun AND professional.  Casual AND put together.  There are shops for professional women that veer toward dull and stuffy.  There are shops for young women who clearly are spending their nights in clubs and their days taking in (what’s left of) the summer sun.  And there are outdoor stores that would be great if I was planning on hiking everyday during my office hours.  But, a store for an almost 33 year old who still feels youthful in many ways, but whose club days are far behind her?  It seems impossible.

This has been a real struggle for me as I strive to fine tune my image at this stage in my life and it’s a struggle that is not showing any signs of easing up anytime soon.  When I work up the energy to go on a shopping trip these days, I usually end up tired, discouraged, and more than a little confused about my personal style and how to find anything that expresses it appropriately.

So, where is the bright light in this sad little rant?

Running.  Running is the bright light (isn’t it usually?).

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More specifically today, running apparel is the bright light.  I love shopping for running apparel.  Give me a rack stuffed with Oiselle and a shelf full of Adidas and I am in my shopping heaven.  Singlets and shorts and capris and jackets and base layers and, of course, shoes.

One of the wonderful things about running is that it gives you a built in, non-arguable reason to buy a new pair of shoes every few months.  And such it was this weekend that it was time for me to pick up a new pair of Mizunos.   So I headed down to one of my local running stores (Foot Traffic) with a mission.  I’ve grown loyal to my Wave Riders and I was thrilled to bring home a new pair.  New color, slightly lighter than my last pair (even better for racing), and just waiting to see me through my next round of training that will start in the coming weeks for the Holiday Half Marathon.

Aren’t they beautiful?

If only all of my shopping trips could be so fruitful.

Race Recap: Portland’s Inaugural Hop Hop Half Marathon

Sunday marked my third (yes, third) half-marathon race.  Just typing that makes me a bit excited.  To think that I ran my first half just last October and now have three under my (race) belt is pretty satisfying to say the least.  As I mentioned in a previous post, my marathon training plan (for Newport in June), called for a half as part of the preparation and the timing of this one was just about perfect.

This was the first year for the Hop Hop Half (I’ve got to admit, I’m not a huge fan of the name – a bit cutesy for my preferences – but I do understand the desire to tie it in with the holiday) and going in to it I felt like it may have been a bit of a risky move for the race sponsors.  Coming on the heels of the Shamrock Run, which is a very popular and large event, I wasn’t sure how the turnout would be.  It turned out to a moderate-sized, but lovely race.

Starting line

I had a strange set of feelings and expectations heading in to this event.  For the first time, this was not the event I’d been training for, but was part of a bigger picture.  Because of that, I didn’t want to place too much pressure on myself, but did want to give it a good effort and see how my racing ability was progressing.

Race day started out well enough.  It was a bit chilly at the start, but dry and sunny –  perfectly good racing conditions.  The event started off with a 5k that was winding down by the time the half-marathoners got going at 8:20am.  I think it’s worth noting that the race started pretty close to the scheduled time (only a minute or so late).  An on-time start always pleases me.

The race started off well and was fairly uneventful (in a good kind of way).  The first couple of miles weren’t the most interesting to run, but after about mile 3, we made our way onto a path that travels right alongside the Columbia River.  It was beautiful!  On such a lovely Spring morning, the sky was relatively clear, providing a beautiful view ahead (to the East) of some of the gorgeous mountains in the Pacific Northwest, to the left of the Columbia, complete with seagulls stretching, soaring, and basking in the sun, and the Portland Airport to the right (which may not seem like much, but is actually kind of lovely to see from that vantage point).

Rounding the turn

I’m the one in the center of this photo – in all black!

The course was pretty darn flat, so I chugged along steadily most of the way.  I did encounter an uncomfortable situation right after the turnaround point (around mile 7, I think it was).  I wanted to share it because it was so unusual and am curious if others have encountered this.  I was coming up behind another runner ahead and was running at a slightly faster pace than he was, so I was nearing him.  I was clearly going to pass him, so I maneuvered to the left, where there was space to move around him.  He glanced over his left shoulder, saw me coming, and moved directly in front of me to block my path and cut me off from passing!  It was very apparent that it was no accident.  I had indicated my intent to pass by when he looked back at me and he made a very deliberate shift in his position on the pathway.  I was shocked.  Seriously, seriously shocked.  Neither of us are elite runners, we weren’t racing to win.  Furthermore, even if we were, that is not how runners behave in my experience.  I am so used to friendly runners.  Runners who respect each other and share a certain camaraderie, even in competition, that I was totally taken aback by what happened.  Has anyone else had this happen?

I will say that I eventually still maneuvered around him and never saw him again.  Plus, my faith in the goodness of runners was restored later in the race, with less than a mile to go.  I was right at pace with another male runner and eventually started to pull ahead.  Instead of another weird encounter, this runner nodded and encouragingly shouted “Looking strong!”  It warmed my sappy runner’s heart.

When all was said and done, I finished with a new half-marathon PR – 1:49:17 – and placed 91 out of 618 total finishers!  I’m totally happy with my performance and finish, though it didn’t take long for me to realize that in just about 10 weeks I would be doing it again – twice.

Heading under the bridge

Me in black again – heading towards the final mile!

A couple of other notes on the event and race.  First, runners were treated to complimentary mimosas after the event.  Nice.  I much prefer this to the beer that is often present after a race!  While I certainly know that taking in alcohol is not the best recovery plan, I did enjoy my free brunch-y cocktail after having a couple cups of water.  I definitely approve of this beverage choice!

Second, along the way, I noticed a very young runner participating with an adult by her side.  Curious, I looked at the age group results after they were posted and saw that an 8-year old girl finished the half-marathon in just a bit over 2 hours! I am so impressed by that.  She looked like she was having the time of her life when I saw her on the course and I am so inspired by someone of that age having the focus and dedication (not to mention the skill) to do that run.  I can only wish I had had some of that when I was so young.  Amazing.

Hats off to Foot Traffic (one of my local running stores) who organized the event.  It was a smooth race and delightful event to kick off the spring running season!  I would absolutely consider running it again next year.

Newport Marathon Training Update: This Is Starting To Get Real, You All!

Being that today marks week 6 of training for my first marathon in Newport, I figured it was about time to check in about how it was going.

Newport symbol

First, I will say: so far, so good.

Thus far, I haven’t done anything that I haven’t done before, so to speak.  Honestly, I’ve been doing a bit less than I’ve done before.  My training plan (as training plans are keen to do) builds up over time, so my first few weeks have been relatively easy.  I’ve been consistent with my schedule and laying the groundwork to start increasing mileage.  I’m happy to say that I’m feeling strong so far.  My body is feeling healthy; I’m running what I should be and I’m fitting in some cross-training for overall balance.

Second, I will say: I think I’m about to turn a (exciting, but sort of nerve-inducing) corner.

In the coming weeks, I will surely test my endurance, time commitment, and mental resolve.  This current week is still ‘easy’, but things will start to steadily build from there.  My plan calls for me to start increasing my weeknight running mileage, as well as to build up my long run up on Saturdays.  In a month’s time, I will be pushing myself close to setting new distance personal records for myself.  I’m excited to make this progress, but, of course, my mind is always chirping at me with some self-doubt, too.

One of my biggest concerns is simply the time factor.  I know that I will make the time to log the miles that I need, but being a person with a tightly packed schedule, it does give me a bit of stress thinking of what I will have to cut back on or forego in order to make it happen.

But I will.

I will make it happen (and I’m sure I’ll tell you how it goes).

The reality of my marathon-mission set in this weekend as I took two more steps forward.  I finally booked my hotel room for the overnight stay and I registered for a half-marathon as part of my training.  My plan actually recommends that I run a half-marathon right around the mid-point of my plan, so I set out to see if there is a local one happening that weekend . . . and there is!  I’m now registered for the Hop Hop Half on March 24th!

hop-hop-half-logo-2013

So, there you have it.  Marathon training is fully underway, accommodations are arranged, and I’ve got a new race to complete in three weeks!

I know many others are also ramping up your training as spring heads our way.  How’s it going for you?

7 Resources for New Runners – To Learn, Connect and Be Inspired

Something very strange (and very exciting) happened recently.  I was contacted, twice on the same day, by two different people – asking me for advice/recommendations on where to find good information about starting to run.

You may wonder why this is strange.  Perhaps it isn’t strange to many of you, but to me, it felt . . . odd.  People are asking me for resources?  People want my input??

I still sometimes have a difficult time thinking of myself as someone that others would come to for such information, but I am also rational enough to know that I have learned and experienced so much over the last year+ that I can proudly share what I know with new runners.  But, of course, I am a resource only because I’ve sought out and learned so much valuable information from others who have been doing this running thing a lot longer than me.

In that vain, I wanted to share some resources that I have found to be invaluable in my journey to becoming a more experienced runner.  Anyone can start running without accessing any of these resources at all – that’s one of the wonderful things about the activity – but if you’re looking to become a more efficient or effective runner, it can help to do some reading and research.  If you want to run faster, farther, longer, or safer, for instance, it’s beneficial to draw upon the bounty of information that is out there.

I hope others who may be thinking about taking up this great activity, as well as those who have already done so, will find these resources useful and will put to good use the tips, encouragement, and motivation to continue hitting the pavement (or the track or the trails or whatever)!  Please know, that this is not an exhaustive list.  I have accessed many, many books, articles, websites and other resources over the last year or so.  These are, in my opinion, just some of the best places to start!

For Useful Information, Understanding the Basics, & Tips on Training & Recovery:

1.      The Runner’s Handbook: The Bestselling Fitness Guide for Beginning to Intermediate Runners by Bob Glover  runners handbook

This book is a gem.  Some of the information may seem very simple, but it’s fantastic for building a foundation of knowledge about running basics.  From gear to injury prevention to various training methods, this book will answer loads of questions – including some you didn’t even know you had.  It’s been around for decades for a reason.

2.      Runner’s World

Both the magazine and the website are filled with useful information.  Whether I have a very specific question I need answered or just want to browse interesting stories and helpful tips, I head here first.  I used their SmartCoach Training Tool to guide my training for my first half-marathon and I always get excited when a new issue arrives in my mailbox.  They also pay special attention to include specific features (print and online) for beginner runners.  Have a question that you feel dumb for asking, because you think you should know it (you shouldn’t feel dumb, by the way, but I can relate)?  Go to Runner’s World.  You’ll find the answer.

3.      No Meat Athlete

I’m a vegetarian.  Maybe you’re not.  I bet that even if you’re not, you can still get benefits from this website.  Matt Frazier, the creator of this site (and the podcast, which is also worth listening to) knows his stuff.  He provides training plans, tips, advice, recipes and stories for runners at all levels and he does so in a very accessible, engaging way.  I was thrilled when I found this website and I subscribe to the RSS feed so that I get all updates.  I’ve also recently purchased the Marathon Road Map as a guide in my continued training.  One of the things that I think I like most about Frazier and his site is that he conveys such a genuine love of running and respect for all runners – at all levels, all ages, all types.

4.      Strength Running

Jason Fitzgerald is another regular runner guy who really knows what he’s doing.  Or at least he seems to from his website, which I read regularly.  He’s a USATF-certified running coach and he provides his coaching expertise privately (for a fee) and more generally (for free on the site).  Check it out  for great training tips and information on how to stay injury free (and, we all want that, right?).

5.      Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking Your Athletic Potential Health, Speed, and Injury Prevention  by Jay Dicharry

On average, you may not pay much attention to anatomy or be all that intrigued by science.  I know that I’m generally not, except when it comes to my health and fitness.  Then, my ears perk up a bit.  This book is written for people like me.  It provides clear, relevant information about my anatomy and how to leverage it for my best running potential.  Best of all, it reads intelligently, presenting what may be unfamiliar biological terms and concepts clearly, without dumbing anything down. This book is fantastic for getting to know how your body really works and sorting out facts versus myth about running-related anatomy.

For Inspiration & Motivation:

6.      Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek

Since the release of this book, Jurek has become a bit of a running rock star.  He’s often talked about in regards to his success with and promotion of a vegan lifestyle (for overall health and running benefits), and as important as that is, his book is so much more than that.  It’s an incredible personal journey to read and also offers loads of helpful information about running along the way.  Not to mention that it also includes tasty recipes for a healthy runner’s diet.

7.      Second Wind: One Woman’s Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents by Cami Ostman   second wind

To say that this book inspired me is an understatement.  Ostman’s story is told with an honesty and frankness that is refreshing and enlightening.  I don’t want to discourage men from reading this, because I think they can get a lot of out of it, too, but I will say that for women runners in particular, I highly recommend this to help with seeing what’s possible and what running can do for your spirit.