Sunday, March 23, 2014

My March Madness (aka #BostonMarathon)

In the middle of March Madness, I find myself in the middle of my own revelation: Boston looms just 4 weeks away. Most importantly, that means just 3 weekends remain for long runs. Up until now, I've used the Snake River Half Marathon and the St. Paddy's 5-miler as races to spur my motivation to cover distances that have surpassed no more than 18 miles. I've run from home in Nine Mile Falls to the north YMCA. Today, Maci and I enjoyed yet another long run on the Fish Lake Trail. 

My first time running on that trail, it proved to be nothing short of perfect. Perhaps the sunshine helped spur my pace; the robins flitting alongside the trail surely helped as well. Up until today, I'd thought the trail passed through open fields where headwinds and crosswinds made for a slightly unenjoyable experience. Was I ever wrong! During the entire run, trees surrounded me. With them, so, too, did the birds make for perfect distraction. Maci and I watched a red-tailed hawk scoping out the hills alongside our trail. Robins darted in and out of trees, surprised by our arrival in an otherwise quiet environment. I also spotted my first yellow flowers in amongst the rocks--a sure sign of spring.

Our feet hit the trail just after 8:30am, and it didn't take long for us to meet other runners and two groups of riders out enjoying the weather, too. Just starting out into my run, I struggled to find much to enjoy. My coach's plan for this 2 hour, 15 minute run looked like this:

30 minutes race pace
30 minutes at 10 seconds faster
15 minutes cool down

Maci didn't know what I had in store for her, so I fed off her naivety and simply started to run. Our first four miles at race pace felt good, but we ran them faster than what I'd initially anticipated. Actually, that seemed to be the trend for the entire run. Maci just kept plugging along, her footfalls clipping the pavement like a metronome, keeping me on pace. She owned her position closely behind me just off my shoulder. I knew she was in the "running zone" when we'd pass other runners with dogs or cyclists and nothing phased her. She started out on a leash, but quickly proved to me she didn't need it. She is the perfect running partner. I am the proud mama of my vizsla redhead. 

Boston is just on the horizon, and barring any unforeseen injury or illness, I am looking forward to running a fun race. May sunshine and beautiful scenery make the end of March and the beginning of April perfect for these last long runs before #BostonMarathonFun.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Snake River Half marathon = complete success

Last weekend I finished one of those races that, upon reaching the finish line, makes you feel like you're exactly where you want to be. For those of you who raced the Snake River Half Marathon, you  likely felt the same way I did waking up that morning: fearful of wind so strong as to blow us all into the river. I know I woke up to winds out of the north that made the house creak and the American flag hanging off our porch assume a new resting position in horizontal. For a race already known for its strong headwinds, I knew it could only be worse if additional winds were forecasted, too.

Bryan and I considered staying home. In hindsight, that would have been our first and only mistake of the day. If we'd never have driven down to the race, we likely wouldn't have run at all that day. The closer we got to Wawawai landing, the calmer it felt. We looked down to the Snake River driving down Wawawai grade, taking in the view of a river free of white caps.

I had a long warm up to do considering the temperatures hovered in the low 30s. It precluded a fast race start. I started out running with B&B Physical Therapy owner and TriFusion sponsor, Mike Lauffer and his friend. My coach advised me to start out conservatively, but if the pre-race adrenaline caused me to run faster than my goal pace, I was only allowed to take advantage of it in the first 5k. Using this as my motivation, I bridged a gap between Mike's group and the group I desired to run in: the one led by Russell-the-work-horse-Abrams. To bridge my gap, I found myself running about a 6:50min/mile pace, which fell just on the boundary I'd established for myself as too fast.

Nonetheless, I'd just passed the 3-mile marker and snuggled in close to Lora Jackson running behind her man, Russ. We ran comfortably behind him until the 5th mile marker when Russ began to lose his steam. After giving him my thanks, Lora, Allison Beall Chauvin, and myself struck out against the headwind to the turnaround point, at which point the strong headwind turned into a billowing tail wind. The hardest work of the race had just concluded. Now, all that remained involved a tough mental game.

Allison and I ran together for much of the way back until about mile 12. At this point, I reveled in the feeling of legs that had not completely given out yet. I began to thank myself for running conservatively up until then. I don't think I've run a race feeling as though I had a substantial kick to use to the finish line. The last time I'd run this race, my feet burned for the last 4 miles. This time Ruby's Lube successfully kept my feet comfortable, even preventing the calluses on my arches from turning to blisters as they've been known to do in the past.

I pushed myself to the finish line, and with the finisher's clock visible in the last half a mile, it served as incredible motivation that contributed to a nearly 1-minute PR. I finished 2nd in my age group with a time of 1:28:53, happy to have followed my plan, exhausted from a hard effort, grateful to have avoided a disastrous flop.

It definitely set me up well for this final 6-week push to the Boston Marathon. This morning, I used last weekend's race experience to propel me through my 17+ mile training run with my pup. Maci and I ran from home to the YMCA. Bryan found us mid-run to hand out water, then continued on to the gym to swim. While he swam, Maci and I made our way through Whitworth campus before approaching the Y. We ate a snack, I sat in the hot tub and stretched, and we cleaned up all before the rain began to fall.

Currently, Maci sleeps swaddled in her blanket, snuggled as close to me as our bodies will allow. I am anxious for what next week's training plan has in store. Most importantly, I am blessed.