Tuesday, March 06, 2007

How many miles are you planning to run today?

that is what I asked a woman Saturday when I saw her get off course 3 times

This was a big weekend. It was the start of big weekends to come in the next 5-6 weeks.

I am 11 weeks away from my 100-miler. This was the first 'big' weekend leading up to it. In the next 6 weeks, I have three 50k races or training runs as well as a 50-miler. I looked at my schedule a few weeks ago wondering how I'd be able to do it all.. would my body hold up to the pounding.. am I really in shape?

This weekend was my first test.

I could've headed out to the Shenandoah this weekend for some climbing miles, but opted for my first big back-to-back weekend. I had tentatively scheduled to do the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon on Saturday, and then the B&A Half-Marathon on Sunday. One is point-to-point and held on dirt trails, while the other is an out-and-back course on a rails-to-trails 'trail'. The Seneca trails are very running runable and I figured the B&A would be a nice complement since it's a very flat course with a mild hill at the turnaround and a slight downhill the 6 miles back.

Relatively 'easy' day 2 miles.

I had done the Seneca marathon last year, so I registered a 'time to beat'. Conditions were much different, though, as last year it was a dry course, but the temperature was ridiculously cold and windy. This year, the temps were in the high 40s/low 50s, but most of the trail was either covered in ice or ankle deep mud. It was manageable, but after running in the mud for so long, it started to wear on me. You start to 'feel' those extra few ounces of mud caked on your shoes everytime you pull your foot out. You start to 'feel' how hard those smaller muscles around your hips and glutes really have been working over the miles.

You want to be done.

The two miles between aid stations feels like four. But when you're told "you're the 6th female overall for the marathon" at mile 21-ish, you first question the number of participants ("Let me guess, there are 8 of us," I actually replied since I knew of 2 others doing the marathon) before you start to wonder how far off #5 is. Yes, I'll admit, the adrenaline kicked in, but only because I left the aid station with female #7 and didn't want anyone to pass me.

I ran in hopes of finishing in 5:30, which would've been 20 minutes faster than last year. I ran to practice moving fast, or faster than I normally would, with tired legs. I ran up runable hills that I would normally walk. I ran with lighter and quicker steps.. hey, even if it didn't look like it, I tried to get it to feel like that.

With less than a half mile to the final aid station 2.5 miles from the finish, I caught up with #5. She left a little before me with another runner who acted as her pacer. I let them go, but kept them in my sight less than 50 yards away. It wasn't until the road section, where she was slow to get off the trail, where I finally passed her. I wasn't sure if the aid station volunteer was right that I was #6, but it was the motivation I needed to keep moving at a consistent pace.

I carried that consistent pace to my race Sunday. This time around, I wanted to stick to the 10 minute run/1 minute walk routine. This was a nice flat course, so it was very doable. I also had the mile markers to go off of, so I kept my mile splits, then walked at 10 minutes, 21 minutes, 32 minutes.. etc. I would eat/drink while walking, too, and planned on using what I had in my 2 bottle waist pack - no reliance on the aid stations.

I tried to keep my goals modest since I was using this race as a test, not as a race. I wasn't out to set any PRs, but hoped to finished between 2:00-2:15. I was very sore Saturday night and spent a lot of time stretching, and because of that I was feeling surprisingly well Sunday morning. I nixed any warm-up (never do one anyways) and just went with the gun. I was worried I was going out too fast with 9:45 and 9:41 mile splits for the first two miles with the third coming in at 9:51 and fourth at 9:57. I finally settled in and focused on my heart rate. It was tough having to walk, but stuck with it anyway.. and I looked forward to the walk breaks.

Mile 10 split was 9:11. Thank you, gradual downhill on the way back. At this point, I was doing the mental math and knew I would finish closer to 2:00 than 2:15. Sub 2?? The last walk break was around mile 11. This had turned into a race. I thought I could go sub 2:05, but the finish for the half was back at the school - about half a mile further than I expected. I still finished with a good time and was very pleased with the back-to-back runs/races.

One thing I try to take away from big training weekends are 'what can I do to improve for the next weekend?' In the past it has been core, nutrition, etc. This weekends lesson was rest.. I need more of it to recover. I had a total of 7 hrs of sleep over the weekend. I'm I night person and a morning person. By Saturday afternoon, I was exhausted while out shopping and had to nap in the car. I slept on the sofa that night. Exhausted. Muscle wise, I felt good. Even now, 2 days later, I have very little soreness. That is a good thing.

I have another big test this weekend with more to come. I'd like to think I passed, but the learning process continues.


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