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!

My Snowy Weekend In Pictures

I realize that there have been oh-so-many posts about the wacky winter weather we’ve all been having this year, but here’s one more for you, anyway.  I had to write it, as it includes my VERY FIRST SNOW DAY!  Exciting, right?

RIGHT?!

Totally.

As you may recall, I live in Portland, OR and I’m originally from Phoenix, AZ.  My geography has left my exposure to snowy conditions quite rare and I have never in my life had an official snow day.  On Thursday, however, the snow started to fall and I headed out of work a few hours early – knowing it was going to wreak havoc on my bus ride back across the Willamette River.  By Friday morning, the snow was starting to accumulate and it wasn’t letting up.  I was thankful to the powers that be whom opted to close down my office for the day, thus letting my snow day began!  Snowlandia continued throughout the weekend – culminating in thick, dense layers of ice which starting FALLING FROM THE SKY (or, you know, tree tops and buildings and such).

It’s all been very eventful.  Here’s a peek:

I’ve always wanted to make a snow angel and finally got my opportunity on Thursday evening!  My first one ever:

snow angel collage

On Friday (my official snow day from work) the weather compelled me to spend time in the kitchen.  I drank lots of coffee and baked this vegan, gluten free chocolate chip banana bread from The Healthy Maven, which was absolutely delicious:

Slice with mug - edited

I did some running on the treadmill throughout the weekend, because in all honesty, running in the snow was a bit confounding to me.  I know people do it, but how, exactly?  I found myself feeling cooped up, though, and headed out for a couple of walks over the course of the weekend.  It was gorgeous!

Snowlandia 2014 - collage

I stopped for a few snow selfies along the way (and, yes, this IS the first time I’ve actually used the term selfie in regards to any photos of myself – another first!):

Day 3 - Snow Selfie 4 - edited

How was your weekend?  Any snow-filled festivities come your way?

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?

Anatomy of a Long Run

My alarm beeps at 5am on Saturday mornings, just like it has all week long, but instead of snoozing for another half an hour, I generally get right up.  On Saturdays, when so many others are sleeping in, resting from their work weeks, I pop out of bed and begin a well-practiced routine.

Saturdays are my long run days.  Some runners love long runs, others loathe them.  I pretty much consider them sacred.

I shuffle into my kitchen, where a glass of water and a Picky Bar await.  Snack consumed, I make my way back to my bathroom for teeth-brushing, contact-inserting, and, well, using the bathroom, of course.

Then . . . I wait.

Street Crossing - croppedNeeding to pass some time for my pre-run snack to settle a bit, I crawl back into bed, pop myself up against the wall, and crack open a book.  I avoid the news, the internet, or anything else that would shock me into the events of the real world before I’m ready.  30 minutes fly by and it’s time to change.

Running clothes are donned, shoes laced, cap pulled on over my messy hair and out I go.  Pausing only at the edge of the sidewalk to give my Garmin time to lock on to a trusty satellite, I am off.

Most of the year, it’s still dark.  The streets are calm and quiet.  I pass by dim storefronts and glance inside, peeking at the goods which line the shelves and wait to find a home.  My eyes wander across the lawns and porches of houses that tease me with glimpses of cozy kitchen tables and warm fireplaces.  Stop lights tell me “Don’t Walk”, but after glancing in all directions, I generally see that it’s all clear and run right on through.

Early risers creep their cars through the drive-in coffee windows and the sun starts to rise.  Depending on the time of year, it may be warm or frigid, dry or wet – all of it telling.  It is on these runs when I watch the seasons change.  I notice that what was once 30 minutes spent in darkness turns to 45 as the winter inches in.  I watch ducks usher in the summer mornings with their quacks and squirrels gather up their food stores as the warm weather fades.  I notice the very first of the leaves fall and the precocious flower buds of early spring.

My first loop – just over 8 miles – eases me into my day.  It’s a loop that I’ve run many times and is by now comfortably familiar to me.  I traverse it with gut recognition and instinct, providing me the time to fully wake up and warm up.  My mind drifts, not thinking per se, but just letting random thoughts pass through.  Some are meaningless and others seem genius at the time, though I can never remember them later.  Mostly, I am just completely present in my thoughts, in my body, and in my city.

By the time I sprint up the stairs to my apartment for a quick pit stop, I’m totally engaged.  I spend no more than five minutes inside.  Bathroom.  Water.  Snack.  Back out I go.

My second lap varies.  The distance and route bend to my particular goals and feelings on any given day.  By this time of the morning, though, the sun has risen and the day’s mood is making itself known.  Have the clear skies brought the other runners, leaves on wet road - croppedcyclists, and rowdy kids playing in the streets?  Or, are the grey skies rushing people from one shelter to another?  Either way, I run on with thoughts of breakfast starting to enter my mind.  My day’s task list begins to take over head space, too, and my body begins to yearn for coffee.

Regardless of the specifics of that morning’s second loop, I tend to run a path that leads me down some fun hills, spitting me out into one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in my town.  Those last few miles, momentum building and spirits lifting, are the best.  This is where the calmness of the morning turns into energy for the day.  It’s also where the negative split takes hold.  And, for those of you who are runners, too, you know how much we love a negative split.

Then, just like that, I’m home.  I kick my way through the parking lot, stop at the door, click stop on my trusty Garmin, and begin the rest of my day.  Shower.  Coffee.  Food.  Compression socks.

Contentment.

My Birthday Weekend In Pictures

On Friday I turned 33.

I’m pleased to say that my (usual) birthday anxiety this year was fairly minimal, so I was able to enjoy it mostly stress free.

I took the day off work and enjoyed a (well earned) long weekend.  It was three days filled with amazing food, good people, and fun outings.

Since everyone else was at work on Friday, I enjoyed a leisurely day about town on my own.  It started with a morning run (of course) and then I headed to one of my favorite breakfast spots, the AND Cafe, for an absolutely delicious vegan, gluten free waffle covered with mushroom-dill gravy and savory tofu.  I scored a deeply discounted frock at J. Crew and returned home in time to rest up before heading back out with Mr. Move Eat Create and a good friend to catch The Pet Shop Boys in concert at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.Friday Collage

When I returned home, the night was finished off with birthday cake!  If you’re ever in Portland, by the way, do yourself a favor and pay a visit to Back to Eden Bakery.  This 100% plant-based, gluten free bakery is amazingly delicious and my toasted hazelnut cake with vanilla bean frosting was so good I can’t even do it justice.

Outside - edited

Saturday was an absolutely beautiful day for my weekly long run (15 miles this week).  Coffee and my favorite oatmeal from Harlow re-fueled me afterwards.  Enjoyed along with a good book to read over breakfast, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the day.

Oatmeal and book - edited

Saturday evening was my official birthday dinner at Portobello, my favorite place in town for an upscale, yet relaxed meal.  My delectable (vegan, gluten free) feast included an appetizer of pommes frites, a couple of whiskey drinks, the first pizza I’ve had in months, and a salted caramel hot fudge sundae.  In my excitement to eat it, I forgot to take a picture of the sundae!  You’ll have to take my word for it that it was beautiful and amazingly tasty.

What a meal!

Oh, and of course there was presents!  Here are a few of them.  Can you tell I’m a reader?

A few of my gifts.  Can you tell I'm a reader?

I wish I could do it all over again.  Here’s to another 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!