Update and Goals

I ran the 8K Book’n It for the Library race yesterday. Going into it I was tired and my legs are still tight (this is my own fault) since the marathon, so I didn’t expect a great performance from myself. It wasn’t chip timed and I don’t think our times have been posted online yet, so I don’t know how it compares to the only other 8K I’ve ever run, the Turkey Day 8K. My big goal for the day was to beat Bob (our 86 year old local running legend), which I did. It was a fun race.

What I learned (or re-learned) from the race was that I don’t know how to run short races. Short races are actually more difficult for me in a way. By short I mean anything below a half marathon distance. When I run marathons or half marathons I know how to pace myself, but with a short 8K race I’ve got no idea. It’s a short distance so I should be able to go out faster from the beginning, right? But how much faster? And since I have so successfully avoided doing any speed work all this time, I really have no clue how fast I can run.

Which leads me to the giant jumble of goals I’ve got to sort out. I think I have too many to tackle all at the same time.

First off, I realize that doing some speed work would be good for me. If nothing else, it would help me in these shorter races. Second, I need to start training for the Blue Mountain 30K. I’m neither a trail runner nor much of a hill runner, so I really need to get on that. And since it’s a 30K I’d like to just keep a decent distance base rather than having to train back up. I have also had an idea in my head to start doing some back to back weekend runs to help improve my recovery. And I’m trying to decide which races to run this fall. I really like the Sweathouse Half, but does it fit into my training for Blue Mountain? And I’m registered for Diva Day this year, and have the most perfect costume. But it’s right after Blue Mountain. I will probably be very slow.

I feel really lucky to live in a community where one of my “problems” is that there are just too many races to choose from. That seems like a good problem to have.

Also, I need to find the motivation to do core and upper body strength work. I was so good for the first 1/2 or 2/3 of Marathon training last year, but since then I’ve been terrible and that needs to change.

So to recap the goals:
Speed work
Hills and trails
Maintaining distance base
Back to Backs
Upper body and core strength

It doesn’t look that overwhelming on the screen, but I haven’t yet needed to draw up my own training plan, so I’m not sure where to start.

Additionally I’ve decided that at some point I’d like to run the Missoula Half Marathon, but I don’t want to do it unless I’ve done or have registered for a full somewhere else that same summer. (Apparently I have to do at least one full marathon each year. Or so my brain tells me.) So I’m looking for affordable marathons in other cities, particularly cities where I have friends who might be willing to put me up for a night or three.

So as you can see, I have no shortage of goals at the moment. This may be why I didn’t experience the blues after the marathon this year.

I’ll probably be tracking some of these goals here, as I go along. So check back if that sort of thing is of interest to you. In the mean time, enjoy running!

Not a Fluke – My new Best Marathon Ever – Missoula 2013

I feel incredibly lucky to live in a community that hosts a great marathon each year, and is also home to such an amazing and supportive running community.

This year, I started out the marathon running with several of my running buddies from class including my pace group leader from last year who has been in the training class for three years, but was injured for his first two. This year he made it all the way through to the finish line and I was honestly even more excited about that, than I was about finishing myself.

Early on in the race we were passed by Jeff Galloway, who is responsible for popularizing the Galloway run/walk/run method that enabled us to run the marathon.

Jeff Galloway, running past in his trash bag.

Jeff Galloway, running past in his trash bag.

It was actually pretty cool to see him go by and get a chance to see a little bit of his running form (what wasn’t obscured by the trash bag, anyway) in action. He takes really small, quick steps. It was also cool to see someone who has made what appears to be an amazing career out of traveling around the world, running marathons and helping other people achieve that goal, but isn’t too proud to don a trash bag at the start of a race and throw it off after warming up.

In the early part of the race I tried to take quite a few pictures. Last year I didn’t have a good camera with me, so I was determined to get some good photos for this blog this year. The biggest problem with that is that I’m not actually a very good photographer. But here you go anyway.

This is where I get to live and run. Jealous?

This is where I get to live and run. Jealous?

Somewhere during the first few miles of the race, we were joined by four other Galloway runners from other states. Two were 50 Staters and two were Marathon Maniacs. It was really great to chat with them and hear their stories. I’ve been saying often lately that if anybody had ever told me that marathons could be a social experience, I wouldn’t have believed them. But they can be, at least for us slow runners. We get to meet awesome people from around the country and around the world. Joining groups like the Maniacs, the 50 Staters and even just the family of Galloway runners can make it even more social by giving you something in common to bond over. We even passed Negative Ned, who you may remember from last year. I recognized him as we went by and was really glad to see that he’d already latched on to someone else. I hope he had something positive to talk about with that person.

horseback

Not even the first people we saw on horseback.

I really love this race and the race course. It’s beautiful and fun. I don’t know much about other marathons yet, as I haven’t run any others. I might be wrong in assuming that not many other races have people sitting on horseback cheering the runners on.

The best cloud that ever clouded.

The best cloud that ever clouded.

Our race day weather was really wonderful. The morning started with cool temps in the low 50s and warmed up slowly. I actually wore a fleece vest for the first couple of miles and some of my buddies wore “throw away clothes” as well. Later in the morning as we climbed the hill at Big Flat Road, we were gifted with a large, fluffy cloud. It kept the sun off of us during a part of the race that can be quite warm for the runners. I loved that cloud so much that I had to take a picture of it. That could is my favorite cloud of all time.

motivationalsign

The most straight forward sign.

Also on that same stretch of road, we came across this sign, which made me laugh out loud. Perhaps it was the fantastic weather, or having so much great company, or the fact that I felt more confident about my ability to run a marathon this year, but I had a truly great time. I usually enjoy races, but this one stands out. Through the whole race I just felt so lucky to live and run in such a beautiful place with so many supportive, wonderful people. Even when I started to feel my aches and pains, my happiness didn’t diminish.

Do other marathons have people playing a piano on a lawn? Ours does. It’s pretty cool.

piano

Beautiful music for a beautiful day.

Not long after this I apparently stopped taking pictures. I suppose I was a bit too focused on other things at that point. It’s a shame, really, because we ran through some really beautiful parts of town.

Somewhere around miles 18 to 20 our group started to break apart. Some of us needed to slow down. Slowly, over the next few miles our group thinned out more and more until there was just one other runner, Jody, with me. Jody and I chatted and kept each other going. We pointed each other to nearly every sprikler we went past. One woman on Beckwith was standing with her spray hose and she hosed down our backs for us. That was glorious!

Park2

Running through the Loop of Sadness. I look so sad, don’t I?

As we trucked along toward the “Loop of Sadness” we passed more and more runners and run/walkers who had slowed way down or were walking. We shared cheers and encouragement but Jody and I were not prepared to slow down. We pushed on, winding through miles 22, 23 and 24. Other than some minor issues, I was feeling good and strong.

Looking back through my official pictures, I was sad to discover that somewhere along the line my shirt got stuck up under my race belt, so my belly is hanging out in all my photos. At first I wasn’t going to share them because of that. Then I thought, “Screw it. So my belly was hanging out. I was running a marathon for frak’s sake! I look happy and that’s what is important.” So here you get to see a pic of me during the “Loop of Sadness” complete with belly flesh.

As is my tradition, if you can call something a tradition when you’ve only done it during two races and two training runs, we turned off our timers as we approached the intersection of Gerald and 4th and took an extended walk break. Then came the bridge and our “sprint” to the finish. Coming up to the top of the bridge and seeing the finish line at the end was even a little more emotional this year than last. Last year I was excited to finish for the first time and achieve a goal I hadn’t even conceived of just one year earlier. This year I was excited to be finishing just a little faster, and also to be proving to myself that this isn’t a fluke. This distance running thing is a part of my life now. I have no plans of stopping.

My final time was 5:45:34 which is just a touch faster than last year’s 5:58:09. I’m pleased.

bridgethumb

Running across the bridge, giving the thumbs up to whomever called my name. I was pretty out of it.

One interesting difference between this year and last year is the absolute lack of “post race blues”. Last year I had a very rough time after the race and I was very glad for the reminder our class leader sent out about the blues being perfectly normal. I do have a lot more plans and goals this year than I this time last year. In fact, I’m not sure how I’m going to accomplish everything I want to do. I’ll just have to put one foot in front of the other and take it one step at a time, I suppose.

It’s only 356 days until the next Missoula Marathon. I don’t see any reason not to run it!

Keep running happy!

Failing to Catch Imaginary Bob

I ran the Snow Joke half marathon yesterday. My intention going into the race was just to run for fun, enjoy the scenery and not worry about time. Those plans sort of worked out, and sort of didn’t.

This was my first time running the Snow Joke, but I doubt very much it will be my last. The course is really lovely, the race itself is the least expensive half marathon I’ve ever heard of ($15 for the entrance fee and an optional $15 for a t-shirt). If you read through all the pages at the website, you’ll find some things that rub me the wrong way, but not enough to cause me to forgo the race.

I caught a ride to Seeley Lake with buddies from my running class and that was lovely. I hadn’t had much of a chance to chat with these ladies before so I was really happy for the opportunity to ride with them. We’d all heard stories about the long lines during registration so we left relatively early and got to town at a decent hour. It turns out that the organizers had made some changes this year so things went a bit more smoothly than we anticipated and the race started pretty much on time.

My buddies and I started off the first little bit of the race just jogging, to let all the faster people pass us, before setting our timers to 30/30 for run/walk/run. The front of the pack zoomed on down the road and the herd thinned out fairly quickly. As usual, once we started our timers, we began to play leap-frog with runners near us. We did gain on and pass a number of other runners, and even gained another running buddy for a while, in a gentleman who was having some trouble with his shins. He hung with us until the pain worked itself out, and then off he went.

On the up-slope of the biggest hill in the race (around mile 3) we leap-frogged for a while with a young man who was both tall and otherwise large. We were quite impressed to see him running and tried to be positive and encouraging as we leap-frogged and then passed him.

A little while after that, we caught up to Bob. For those of you from other places, Bob is an 86 year old local runner and bit of a legend, who runs all the races. Bob is great and many of us often speak about how we’d like to “grow up to be like Bob” meaning we want to keep running into our 80s and 90s and even beyond.

We leap-frogged with Bob for a while and then pulled ahead of him on the hill. But then, Bob overtook us on the downhill slope and pulled away a little. We weren’t too worried about that. I’m not sure what my buddies had in mind, but I figured we’d pass Bob eventually, and if we didn’t, as long as we kept him in our sights, I could take off towards the end and pass him if I wanted.

That plan seemed very do-able until the debacle at the aid station at mile 6. Two of my buddies needed to visit the porta-potty, and I was fine waiting for them. Except, the young man I mentioned previously, jumped in line and got into the potty before the second one of my buddies and he was in there for ages and ages. I’m guessing that he doesn’t know how to eat the day before a race yet, and had some serious digestive issues. While I do feel some sympathy on that count, it really did slow us way, way down and that made us all a bit cranky.

After we were finished at the aid station, I was pretty driven to pass the young man at least. My buddies had the sense not to let me pull them along too much, so I ended up running for a while with one of our other running buddies and then even he dropped back. From around mile 8 I was on my own.

For a while, I just ran a comfortable, but slightly faster than usual pace, and enjoyed passing people as I went. After a while, I began to wonder if there was any chance of catching up to Bob. In all reality, there probably wasn’t ever a chance that I could have pulled that off, but it motivated me to go a bit faster.

As I rounded a corner around mile 9, I was sure I saw Bob up ahead. I picked up the pace a bit and before long I caught up to the person I thought was Bob, but it wasn’t Bob. But then, up ahead, I saw another Bob, and off I went. Once again, when I caught up to that person, she wasn’t Bob and didn’t actually look anything at all like him. She just happened to be wearing something blue.

But wait! There he is!  That must be Bob there! I thought, as I came up a hill and around a corner. Upon catching up to this new Bob I had to have a good laugh at myself. It was a mailbox. A blue mailbox, but still just a mailbox.

For the next couple of miles I continued to catch up to one Bob after another, but none of them were actually Bob. Finally, I tried to catch one last Bob as we came up the hill at the end of Boy Scout Road, before the turn back onto 83. But of course, he wasn’t Bob either.

I followed a small pack of runners across the street and into the home stretch, but as I turned that corner I became a bit disoriented. I hadn’t noticed any markers pointing us that direction, and I felt certain we’d turned the wrong way. I slowed down considerably, waiting for them to discover their error and turn around. But they hadn’t actually gone the wrong way, and I eventually figured that out when I saw them turn the corner to the finish line, and sped back up.

As I approached the finish, I could hear a runner behind me and I was bound and determined not to be passed so close to the end, so I put every bit of energy I could into speeding up and crossed the finish a few seconds before she did. After getting my timing chip clipped off my shoe, I wandered back out to the corner to wait for my running buddies. I drank my water and cheered everybody in, and before too long there they were. As they came around the corner I fell back in and ran those last few steps with them and then met them on the other side of the line.

We all made it in under 3 hours, even after having so much time basically stolen from us by the young man and his digestive issues.

Here are the times my watch shows for each of the 13 full miles, so you can see exactly what happened.
Mile 1 12:34:51
Mile 2 12:40:00
Mile 3 12:46:00
Mile 4 12:59:00
Mile 5 13:06:00
Mile 6 13:17:00
Mile 7 18:07:00 (Look at how much time we lost!)
Mile 8 12:30:00
Mile 9 12:20:00
Mile 10 12:28:00
Mile 11 12:25:00
Mile 12 11:45:00
Mile 13 12:10:00

In the end, I caught up with at least 6 imaginary Bobs, including the mailbox. But I never did catch up with the real Bob. Bob finished in 2:48:47 and I finished in 2:52:43. I had a great run, through beautiful country and except for that delay, I enjoyed it very much.

RealBob

Here is a pic I took of Real Bob that first time we passed him on the hill around mile 3. He really doesn’t look much like a mailbox.

 

New Year, New Goals

Well, I did it. I committed to being a Pace Group Leader for this year’s Galloway Marathon Training Class. Class starts on January 27th and I’m really excited. I had such a great experience last year and I really hope I can help others have a great experience this year. I’m especially excited about any first-time marathoners in my pace group. I’m actually really pleased that I kept this blog during my own first attempt at the marathon. I plan to use it to help remember what it’s like that first time through, so I can be a better PGL.

I’ve been running more regularly than not, since my last post. I’ve missed a few runs here and there, but overall, I’m on track. And I know that being in the class will help as well.

As I’ve mentioned previously, my goal races for this year are the Pengelly Double Dip in June and the Missoula Marathon in July. In the mean time, I’m also planning to run the Snow Joke and any other fun races that don’t conflict with marathon training.

And before I forget, I should tell you that I accomplished something today. I actually ran a whole mile without a walk break! I’ve never done that before ever in my life! Now, to be fair, I haven’t actually tried to run without walk breaks in quite some time. I’ve been very faithful to the run/walk/run method because it really works for me. But this weekend I washed my Gymboss timer and I haven’t replaced it yet.

When I went out on my run today I was a little dismayed to be without my trusty “coach”. But rather than allow the situation to depress me, I decided it would be the perfect time to see if I could run a mile without a break. So after my five minute warm-up walk, I pressed start on my GPS watch and started out running nice and slow. As I kept running, I was really surprised and pleased not to feel tuckered out. When my watch beeped for 1 mile I was shocked! I wasn’t struggling at all. Just then a passing runner commented on my calf-sleeves, so we had a nice little chat until he pulled too far ahead. In all, I ran 1.25 miles before I decided that was enough for the day and went back to run/walk/run. I did my best to approximate a 30/30 split using my watch and counting my breaths. All in all, it was a great run.

Running a mile without a walk break may not seem like much to most runners, but for me it’s an accomplishment, and I’m very satisfied. Over the next several months I will probably continue to add distance on until I can run a few miles without a break. To be honest, though, I love run/walk/run and I don’t really plan to attempt any serious distances without it.

And here’s a bit of news that is specifically for the ladies who read my blog. I’ve decided to take the “Instead Softcup Challenge“. I’ve been looking for a better feminine hygiene solution for long runs and came across a blog post about the challenge at Slow is the New Fast. Friends have recommended similar products in the past, but I’ve never actually tried them, partly due to the expense of some of the options. I thought this challenge would be a great way to try out this type of product. I’ve just gotten my supplies in the mail today, so sometime in the next few months, I’ll be posting my review. In the mean time, if any of you ladies are interested in taking the challenge, check out the link. They’ll even reimburse you for your race entrance fees for one upcoming race, as long as you post your product review before the end of June.

I hope to post more regularly once class begins. I’ll actually have things to post about after all. I hope you’re all still running happy!

Running to Finish vs. a Time Goal, Which is Right for You?

This post is a part of my series, Tips for New Runners. It is based entirely on my own experiences as a new runner and may be missing a lot of information. This series is intended to help my readers find what works for them by sharing what worked or didn’t work for me.

During the Galloway Marathon Training class that I took, we got some very different advice on the “time goal.” Jeff Galloway is adamant that a first time marathoner should run to finish. Our class leaders also adhered to this approach. Several of our expert guest speakers, however, disagreed.

Ultimately you have to decide for yourself whether a time goal is right for you for your first race or any race you run. Some runners and run/walkers find that they gain motivation from the time goal. They are competing against others, or perhaps just against themselves and their own limits. Having a goal keeps them on track in their training and pushes them onward during the race. On the other hand, pushing yourself too much can make you more likely to become injured. So in that regard, it depends on your priority. How important is it to you to make it through your training and finish the race healthy enough to continue running afterwards, vs. how important is it that you run your race in a certain amount of time? Only you can make that determination.

I am not a competitive runner at all. I didn’t even start run/walking until age 37. I’m not fast and I don’t anticipate being fast enough to even win my age group any time soon, if ever. What I do want is to keep run/walking for the rest of my life. So for me, avoiding injury is much more important than any time goal.

In fact, I find that trying to have a time goal causes me stress. Toward the end of our marathon training class a particularly persuasive guest speaker told us how important it was to have a time goal in order to stay motivated during the race. Since I was completely inexperienced at running races, I took her advice to heart and tried to set a time goal for myself based on Jeff Galloway’s Magic Mile prediction formula. Whenever I looked at the difference between my suggested training pace (13:46) and race pace (11:46) it started to freak me out. I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to run 26.2 miles 2 minutes faster per mile than I was used to. Other runners advised me that races are different and I’d get a boost from the adrenaline and race energy and go faster without even realizing it, but I had my doubts. I actually found myself having bad dreams about it.

As the day of the race approached, much was made about how hot it would be that day, and how we needed to slow down to protect ourselves from the heat. I think that all the concern about the heat saved me from a lot of stress. As I once again let go of the idea of having a time goal, not really knowing what to expect from the heat, I suddenly felt much better about race day. My attitude turned from dread back to excitement.

The morning of the race, my pace group buddies and I chatted about what we wanted and agreed to run a conservative race and focus on having a good time. I am so pleased with that decision. We ended up running  very close to my training pace and the truth is, I had a great race that I will always be able to look back on with pride. It doesn’t matter to me that my finish time is just barely under six hours. What is important to me is that I finished a marathon and I had a great time doing it. It makes me want to run the marathon again next year. If I’d tried to speed it up 2 minutes per mile I probably would have had a very different race, and I suspect that I wouldn’t have come across the finish line as excited and happy as I did. I know myself well enough to know that if I’d hurt myself in the process, it might have discouraged me from running at all after that.

So when you are deciding whether or not to have a time goal, consider what is best for you. Will you be motivated by it? Will it help you get stronger and faster and be a positive force in your training? Or, will it cause you unnecessary stress and take your focus away from finishing and having fun? Your friends, other runners, teachers and experts can tell you what they think, but they can’t see inside your head and know what is best for you. Just do be careful about choosing your time goals at first. Make sure you’re not setting yourself up for disappointment. Be conservative. It’s probably better to set a conservative goal and meet or surpass it. At least, that’s what I think.

Happy Running!

The Sweathouse Half Marathon

The Sweathouse Half Marathon follows a really gorgeous course through the woods and fields outside Victor, MT. It was a hazy day, smoky day thanks to all the forest fire smoke, so the cellphone pictures I took are even a bit worse than they would have otherwise been. I need a decent little camera, I think.  Nevertheless, here is a little peek at the course.

I ran the race with an awesome lady who was in my pace group during the Galloway class and who I run with often on Saturdays. Running with a buddy really makes so much difference, especially when you have someone smart and interesting to chat with. Periodically we were also joined by a gentleman who trained for the Missoula Half with our class, as he was working on finding his best pace. Looking at the posts in our Facebook group this morning there appears to be a strong sentiment that running with a buddy is the way to go. I know a lot of folks like to run solo and find it really relaxing and refreshing to do so. But for many of us, running with a friend helps keep us motivated, entertained and gets us through the rough patches. I am still surprised that I prefer running with others to running on my own. In so many other aspects of my life I’m an introvert and often prefer solitude. The lesson there is, don’t assume you will like or dislike running with others based on your attitude towards the rest of life, at least for me.

Prior to the race I’d been told by a few people that there were only two or three hills of significance, of which one was quite steep but also quite short so I was mentally prepared for that as much as I could be without having run the course before. The steep, short hill is right around mile 10 and was exactly as described. It’s a challenging little hill, but thankfully quite short and very satisfying to conquer.

The course was very, very well marked with orange and green spray painted arrows, and little bits of encouragement as well. I wish I’d taken a few pictures in places where they’d painted things like, “1/2 way! Woo hoo!” or “It’s a short hill! You got this!” but I doubt they would have come out.

My goal for the race was to have fun and run happy, and I think I knocked it out of the park in that regard. I don’t have an official time yet, and I managed to forget to stop my watch until I’d been standing around a little bit at the end, but I believe that my time was very close to 2 hours and 45 minutes. It seems that the 12 minute, 45 second pace is where I am most comfortable at the moment. Interestingly, based on my Magic Miles from earlier in the year, that is exactly what my training pace for a half marathon should be. Given that I’m running to have fun and finish rather than running to compete, it’s not surprising that I am sticking to my training pace. My marathon finishing time was less than two minutes short of the predicted finish at my training pace, so it would seem that Galloway’s predictions are quite accurate for me, once I take into account my total lack of competitiveness and focus on the training pace column.

I did have a short rough patch around mile eleven, but it passed quickly. I think I’ve gotten really used to my Saturday morning routine, which includes a coffee break around that point, after the breakfast run, before I run home. I was also quite a bit hungrier after the race than I usually am after a 13ish mile Saturday morning breakfast run. I am wondering how much of that was mental. A local business, Cowboy Troy’s generously provided free pizza and beer after the race, but sadly wheat and I are not friends so I had to pass. We also received a black cotton event t-shirt and a finishers medal.

My Missoula Marathon 2012 medal on the left and my Sweathouse Half Marathon 2012 medal on the right.

As The Accidental Athlete pointed out recently, it’s not really a collection until you have more than one, so I have now officially begun my race medal collection. I hope to get many, many more.

Nearly all the races coming up in my area for the next several months are 5k races. Even though 5ks don’t spark my interest, I may have to run a few just to keep my head in the game, as they say. And if a good opportunity comes up to travel to a not-too-distant half marathon, I still plan to stay ready to do that without having to train up for it.

The next Missoula Marathon is over 307 days away, but I still plan to be there and be ready to have fun and run happy.  I’ll be back to my Tips for New Runners series in the next day or two, so keep an eye out for that. Happy running!