Tuesday, March 19, 2013

An Interesting Run

So I continue executing the Half-Marathon plan and I'm currently on week 4. No major issues yet. On Sunday I did a 7 mile long run, which the furthest I have run thus far. I was a little sore the next day and my back was acting up a bit but I think it was more because of sleeping in an awkward position that night rather than the run itself. I have a 2 mile run today and I'm ready to go so again, no major issue.

The interesting run I mention in the title happened  last Thursday. As per the instructions, I was supposed to run 5 miles in which I would start slow for one mile, then run three miles at the pace  I want to run the actual Half, then run the fifth mile slow. I believe this is called a tempo run though I'm not sure. It sure sounds better than what I was calling it: The "shifting gears" run.

It was not a bad run by any means. I felt great during the whole thing but it was weird for some reason. Since I'm so slow I usually don't worry about keeping a certain pace so I go by feel. My plan was simple enough: Aim to finish the first mile below 15:30 then try to stay above that number for the next three which is my goal for the Half. Then slow down to below 15:30 the last mile which should not be too hard as I was supposed to be tired. Simple right?

It's at times like these when you realize just how set in your ways you really are. The first mile, was a struggle to slow down enough if you can believe that. It sure put the whole "starting fast" issue into perspective. It's amazing how much stored energy you have at the start of a run and how eager your body is to just go spend it. I don't know, maybe it's just my body going: "OK you want to go run? Then hurry up and get this over with so we can go play Assassin's Creed III". Whether it's me or it's a common thing for runners, I could not manage to go below 15:30. In fact I ran it in 15:06 so I was a bit worried I was gonna get tired fast trying to keep the HM pace but...

Never happened. I picked up the pace and after a while I noticed I was actually pacing in the 14's. I again tried to slow down a bit but I was actually feeling pretty good. The HM pace miles didn't feel like I was running significantly harder so those three miles ended up being faster than scheduled: 14:44, 15:15 (big hill here which naturally slows me down) and 14:47.

The final mile was a struggle of another kind. I had no trouble slowing down but then came the hurry-up-you-are-almost-done feeling one gets when close to finishing  and caught myself speeding up a bit so I would slow down. But my mind would wonder a bit and I would speed up again. It was actually kind of funny (and a bit weird) to keep telling myself to slow down after a year of complaining I'm too slow. Go figure.

So the numbers were not perfect but it was a good run nonetheless. I felt really good the whole way and keeping the HM pace did not tire me out as much as I thought it would which is a good sign. Also, on the following Long Run I worked on keeping and maintaining a slower pace and I seem to be getting better at that so it's full sail and on course for me!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Half With a Plan

March marking my first running anniversary and all made me look back at my log to see if I could detect any noticeable improvement in my numbers. I mean, sure I feel a lot better since those humble beginnings but what about the stats? Well I went back to my first recorded run. Not my first ever (though I wish I had recorded that) but close enough. It was a 2 mile run and I ran that distance in 33:13. The average pace was 16:36 min/mile.

Like I said... humble beginnings.

Now, in my latest race, the World's Best 10K, my official time was 1:37:21 with an average pace of 15:36 min/mile. Exactly one whole minute difference in pace and I was running three times the distance. Not bad.

Even more telling though, are the numbers from a run I did last Saturday. It was a 2 mile run that is part of my newly started Half-Marathon training plan. It had been a while since I ran such a short distance so I decided to go all out and run as fast as I thought was possible while still finishing. Result? 24:05. Almost 10 minutes faster than that old 2 mile run and my average pace  was 12:01 min/mile, which includes an amazing (at least I thought so) 11:33 first mile. Back in January I had made a couple of "silent" goals I hoped I could achieve through the year and one of them was to run a 12 minute mile. Anywhere in the 12's would have been fine and here I am 30 seconds ahead. Obviously I can't sustain that speed for an entire race and I certainly still run in the "snail" category but I would definitively call this past year a success and full of improvement.

The Half-Marathon plan by the way is going pretty good. Without showing you the actual plan (I'm sure Runner's World would not be happy if I posted a plan they sell to people on a book) I can tell you it's pretty fitting for where I am right now as a runner. There really are two differences between the plan and how I was running until now: a)The plan has 4 running days and I was doing three. b) It has a variety in terms of types of runs, where I was focusing on distance exclusively. It starts at 13 miles per week which is exactly what I was running and it peaks at 23 miles around weeks 8 and 9. (it's a 10 week plan)

As I mentioned previously, one of my concerns about running a Half-Marathon in May was my pace. Mindy, who's blog Road Runner Girl I read frequently, mentioned that it would be a good idea to try speed work to improve my pace. This plan doesn't include that but I think I can work it in a bit. Because the plan has 4 running days, the miles are more spread out as opposed to what I was doing that concentrated everything in three runs. This means two "short" days, or days where I run just 2 or 3 miles. Why not push it a bit on those days to work on speed? So I'm definitely picking up the pace on those days.

Also, there is one "medium" run during the week where according to the plan, I have to run a part of it at "Half-Marathon" pace. Now, I've heard about this before. "Marathon" pace, 10K pace, etc... Like you're supposed to run them all different speeds. I only got one speed folks, which I like to call "Half-Elephant" pace. My mom would tell me in my teenage years I had three speeds: Slow, Very Slow and Standing Still, but I digress. The point is that these runs where I have to "shift gears" will be interesting. I don't know what my Half-Marathon pace is but since my goal to not get picked up and the race pace limit is 16 min/mile, I think my goal pace should be between 15:00 and 15:30 min/mile.

Can I pull it off? It remains to be seen but I can tell you I'm working hard to make it so.

Friday, March 8, 2013

One Year of Running

This month of March has sure kicked off in a very interesting way. I was looking forward to this month as it marks my first year of running on a regular basis. However the celebration was cut short. Last Tuesday, my mom suffered a heart attack. She had just received an award in the Capitol in recognition of her contributions as a woman and leader in the labor movement. (Congratulations to all women this month by the way) She collapsed while I was driving her to the office.

She is alright now. We called an ambulance and took her to the ER. Thank goodness, they found no obstructions in her arteries and she is now resting in her house but you all can surely understand how freaked out we all were.  Still are actually.

As if I needed any more reinforcement that this running "thing" I'm doing is important, something like this happens. I would love to tell you this is the first time this has happened but I can't. My dad went through the same situation a couple of years ago but much more serious. After a severe heart attack, they found several clogged arteries and it took several trips to the hospital to work it all out. He was forced to stop smoking  after that though so at least something good came out of that.

Life sure makes you put things in the right perspective at just the right time. A week ago I was still riding high after my first 10K, thinking I had accomplished so much this past year. Now, not so much.

On my last post, I had asked for advice about an upcoming Half-Marathon, which by the way, thank you all for your suggestions, encouragement and motivation. It was sure great to read all different points of view on this. I was just thinking about writing on the blog regarding my decision when all this happened. I had decided to to go for it and train for this Half. Here what my decision boils down to:

1. First off, I'm in no rush to run this race but I do want to race it. There is nothing in the "Runner's Codex" that says you have to run a Half-Marathon before you run a full. But...

2. I do however, want to push myself a bit more. When the upcoming race is another hurdle I have to overcome, it helps me focus and work harder.

3. This also doesn't mean I'm not aiming to improve my times in the 5K and 10K. There are actually 3 races before this Half that I sure want to race (and one I already signed up for) and I'm not gonna do them just for the pleasure. I have some time goals I would like to reach and that means racing.

4. I have time. If I see further down my Half training that I'm not ready, then I won't sign up for it. It's that simple.

The bulk of advice I got can be summed up like this: I was asking the wrong question. I shouldn't have asked "Should I run this race?" or even "Can I run this race?" The real question was "Do I want to run this race?" And the answer is yes! I do want to run it so I'm gonna get ready for it.

This week I started the beginner's Half-Marathon training plan from The Big Book of Marathon and Half-Marathon Training from Runner's World. I will let you know what's it all about and how I'm doing on the next post.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

So What's Next

So I finished a 10K. Been there, done that. So now I'm pondering my next move and quite frankly need a bit of help.

Going from zero to marathon means a progressive increase in distance. So far, so good. I have gone from doing nothing to running a 5K, to then doubling that and running a 10K. Looking at things logically means that I have to go for a Half-Marathon next. Here is where the problem lies.

Looking at the race schedule I see plenty of 5K's and 10K's to run this year and there are many I actually would like to run, but no Half-Marathons. Not a lot of them anyway. While this particular distance has exploded in popularity in the U.S., it hasn't really caught on down here. Both Marathons and Half-Marathons are very rare in Puerto Rico. I blame the weather. I was just talking with some family that this year both the Walt Disney World Marathon and the Princess Half-Marathon had heat advisory warnings because the temperatures went up to the 80's. That is actually winter weather here and summers can be pretty brutal with both heat and humidity. I guess the prospect of running that long under those conditions puts off many people.

The biggest and most important Half here is the San Blas Half-Marathon, which is one of the oldest in the World actually. But it was held the week before the WB10K so if I want to run it, it's gonna have to be next year. The other half on the calendar is a new one. The Puerto Rico Marathon/Half-Marathon. The course promises to be quite scenic, passing through both the new and old parts of tour capital, San Juan. It could actually be a perfect next race but...

This will happen on May 5th. It is exactly 9 weeks from now. Can I double my current longest distance by then? I don't know. On top of that, the race has a pace minimum of 16 minutes per mile, just like the WDW Marathon. I'm currently right on the knife's edge of that. So I'm on the fence here.

If I pass on this, there is a chance the rest of the year might go by without another chance to run a Half. If I do run it, I could end up making a fool of myself by a) not being ready and having serious issues, including not finishing or b) falling behind and getting picked up which also means not finishing.

This week, I start the 10 week, beginners Half-Marathon plan from the Big Book of Marathon and half-Marathon from Runner's World minus the first week so the schedule falls into place with the upcoming Half but I'm kind of torn here. This race sounds like a big deal and if not a lot of "casual" runners enter I could end up alone in the back racing against the pickup van. I guess I'm just a little scared of the unknown here. Some advice, encouragement or maybe a little bit of both would be nice.