Monday, August 8, 2011

Photos from Riley's Rumble

The elevation map of doom, from my Garmin:

And the course map. There were a lot of out-and-back sections, this was both inspiring and depressing. It was nice to see runners, especially since it was so desolate, but seeing the same runners repeatedly had you questioning just how damn long the course actually was:

We insisted on making sure that we got photos at every opportunity. Last year we realised the slower groups weren't well represented in the end-of-the-year slideshow since the photographers don't often stick around (not that I blame them). So here we are around mile 6 or so:

At the you're-almost-halfway-there-though-it-feels-like-you've-been-running-forever water stop:

Closing in on those ice pops. I told the photographer, "I'm going to smile like this doesn't suck!"

And at the final water stop, taking a break to refuel, rehydrate and mentally regroup before pushing to the finish:

August 7th - Riley's Rumble Half-Marathon - 13.23 miles - 02:58

The race website says, "Riley's Rumble is the evil half that your mother warned you about. Don't be seduced by the lush bucolic countryside of rural Montgomery County. This race will challenge the best runners. If you want the 3 H's (hills, heat, and humidity), this is the race for you."

I am not the best runner and I certainly did not want any of those things, let alone all three. I wussed out last year and skipped this run, there were a lot of emails the night before about how awful it was and would be because it was stupidly hot last year - so hot and humid, in fact, that they didn't time it and turned it into a fun run. The weather this year promised to be better so I figured what the hell.

This is not a race for our program, but a well-supported training run. We do it to test race day strategies and night-before/morning-of prep but we're not supposed to go all out. I figured just finishing this thing would be enough of a challenge for me anyway so I wasn't stressed about it, though I was kind of terrified.

I got to the parking lot about 30 minutes before the start and it was packed, I have no idea why this is so popular. Hit the bathrooms, found my 12:30s and we lined up at the back of the pack. This is where we would stay and I had no problems with that. The weather wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been but with most of the road being surrounded by trees there was nowhere for the heat and humidity to escape so it was a bit stuffy. And there weren't as many water stops as I'd expected, I guess logistics made it kind of tough.

As a group I think we had a great first half, we ran the hills at a decent pace, took walk breaks at all the water stops, and were feeling pretty strong. Somewhere around mile 6.5 or so we started to split up, we regrouped around maybe mile 7, split up again. At mile 8.42 (yes, exactly, as the sign said) there were ice pops. These are magical and wonderful and were the best part of the race.

We stayed in three separate groups for the rest of the race so everybody had at least one other person for company (after Kathy turned in one hell of an amazing performance on some hills and stopped to wait for us to catch up). Which was great because, while the scenery is lovely, there is NOTHING out there. And no one. It's dead quiet, there are no spectators. Running with music was allowed but the roads weren't closed off so I don't think it would have been advisable.

The last 3.5 miles were tough and we did quite a bit of walking. We had enough energy to half-way run half-way up some of the hills, but there were SO DAMN MANY it became impossible for us. Even walking to the top of some of these things we were out of breath. Looking back you always wonder how much better you really could have done, but while you're out there it's so mentally and emotionally draining, plus you know this isn't your goal race and there's no reason to kill yourself for it.

I had my Garmin but didn't look at it until I knew we were close to the end. I saw we had about .4 miles to go and we'd make it under three hours if we ran so we did. We rounded the corner, saw the clock at 2:59:25. Sweet, just in time! We finished a little under 2:59, which is kind of exactly where I thought we would be. It's not a good time, but it was over. They're not lying, this thing is evil. Sure the uphills are often followed by some nice downhill stretches, but they do not even come close to making up for those inclines. I know I say this all the time about races, but I am NEVER doing this again!

Today I feel fine, surprisingly nothing is sore or injured and I'm not all that tired. I may still be, and always will be, a big girl but I'm a big girl who proves you can be big and healthy.

August 3rd - MCC Track - 5.97 miles - 01:12

I do not have an entry for a long run on July 31. This was to be a 17 miler with the group but I spent the morning on my couch in my pajamas instead. The night before I'd gone to the Outlaw Jam concert to see Poison and Motley Crue (yes, seriously). And it was AWESOME. So awesome, apparently, that I passed out cold while waiting for Poison to start. Not drunk, not dehydrated, just really hot I guess. I managed to recover, with a few trips to the medical and misting tents, and make it through the rest of the show but I woke up Sunday feeling like I'd been hit by a Mack truck so I decided to skip the long run so I didn't, you know, die.

When I got to the track Wednesday I found our little group and we were like the Waddling Wounded. I was still a little nervous about overheating, and confidence was not inspired when I tripped over the curb on the warm-up lap bruising my knee and scraping my elbow. A pace group buddy I hadn't seen in a while returned, hadn't been running due to work, vacation, then bronchitis. And our last friend had six stitches in his mouth from recent oral surgery. I told Coach Mike up front that the three of us were in somewhat rough shape and he could just let us go, but please check on us every once in a while.

Erring on the side of caution Bronchitis Buddy and I just tooled around the track at a decent pace - about halfway between LSD and speed. That was fine with both of us, and for not having run in a month or so Buddy did a great job. We walked a few cool down laps for a total of probably 6.5 miles. All things considered, even falling over, I was pleased with our performance.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Photos from July 24th run

Over halfway in, posing with Mr. Lincoln:

About half a mile from the end, 15 miles of 90+ degree weather down. This is when I learned that the Capitol is, in fact, at the top of a giant hill:

Recap - July 3rd - July 28th

Wow, didn't realise how far behind I was! I'll make one giant post with a few points, since what I can remember about the last few weeks is probably pretty minimal anyway.

July 27th - MCC Track - 6.8 miles
Forgot to pause the Garmin while we sat and chatted for a while so I'm not sure of total moving time but I know it was fast! Workout was 5 2x800, but the weather wasn't too miserable (high was only in the low 90s) so it wasn't too bad. After Sunday's run my legs were a little tired but I kept up with the coaches and completed the workout successfully, and killed the cool-down lap around campus.

July 24th - Bethesda to Union Station - 15.5 miles
This was a run that probably shouldn't have been done, and one that makes you feel like a badass when you've finished. The weekend was miserably hot and humid, we were close to having to cancel the run due to heat and humidity and the turn-out was a little light due to it. But we had a good, sturdy group of 12:30s. We may have cut half a mile off of the planned 16, but whatever. We plowed through the first 8 miles, stopping by a water and popsicle stand set up by a good friend and coworker of mine (who also graced me with a washcloth full of ice cubes and a frozen water bottle). Took it real easy the last 7.5, plenty of walk breaks, since a lot of it was in the sun. We ran most of Hains Point, which I like, and liked even more since the sprinklers were on and we got SOAKED. Without those I'm not sure I would have made it all the way to the end.

July 20th - Mormon Hill - 3.84 miles - 00:44
I had been dreading this run, so much that I skipped it last year. Instead of hitting the track we go to neighborhood around the Mormon Temple and charge up a half-mile-long hill. What wasn't mentioned was that the route leading to the hill is also A LOT OF HILLS. It was exhausting, and we only ran the hill once because it was also 95 degrees. Luckily there are a lot of good downhills too so even though we planned to run 13s I averaged a 12:12 mile. All in all it was amazing and I want to tackle that miserable hill again in better conditions. And afterward the program went to Royal Mile Pub for beer and snacks. We were hot, sweaty, and stinky but we had a great time.

July 17th - Ken-Gar to Needwood - 14 miles - 02:57
I now know why they call this the "make or break" run. It's HARD. The weather cooperated as well as it could for July but I was BEAT by the end. Lots of hills, big and little. The hill into Needwood comes at the turn-around 7 miles in, and I hate that hill (though I will admit that this year I have completely owned it and made it my bitch). Then you turn around and run a bunch of nasty hills again. The last two miles were brutal, my legs were sore and I was exhausted. But I made it!

July 13th - MCC Track - 5.93 miles - 01:08
Walked 3/4 of a mile before, and walked a 1.25 mile cooldown neither of which I counted. Owned this speedwork, even though I thought I was going to die. It was just me and my coaches, and since my coaches are awesome they kept me going. My back was killing me (damn herniated discs) so I took two breaks to stretch it out and made it through all of the sets (5 2x800). I think this was the week I learned that the speedwork is done at an 11:30 pace (2:52/lap), and I learned I can do it with some help from my friends.

July 10th - Candy Cane City/Rock Creek Park - 10 miles - 02:07
This run was awesome, I didn't even notice the miserable hills on Beach Drive. Great weather, great company. Took some walk breaks to keep the group together but otherwise ran hard and strong.

July 6th - MCC Track - 5.65 miles - 01:04
I cut this one a little short because of my back, long runs don't seem to bother it but speedwork is tough on this big 'ol bod. Still averaged just under 11:30 so can't complain!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

June 29th - MCC Track - 6.18 miles - 01:12

Another tough one! And I finally did some math to figure out why.

We run at LSD pace, 12:30/mile. "Fast" laps are to be at 12:15/mile, or a little over three minutes per 1/4 mile lap. Right? Right. Coach had us running 2:52/lap, in the outside lane. My first four mile splits: 11:47, 10:53, 10:45, 11:10. I can run that fast, on a cool morning or during a race. I can't do it on a hot Wednesday early evening after work.

I kept up with the group for a while, then I hung back. I've been having some shin pain and didn't want to push it that hard for that long. As I stopped for water at some point I saw Coach Don, and I've never been happier (other than when he met us with cold water on Sunday) to see him. I ran the last two miles with him, perfectly on pace and feeling good. We did the recovery laps walking, though, and I'm fine with that. I still ended with an average pace of 11:46. Once I realised that I CAN run what I'm SUPPOSED to be running (and not consistent 11 minute miles, if I could do that I'd be in the 11:20 pace group) I felt really good about the workout.

Monday, June 27, 2011

June 26th - Ken Gar South - 12 miles - 02:25

Well that's more like it! A relatively beautiful morning for a run, actually a little chilly standing around in the parking lot. That's always a good sign, the sun never really did come out and the humidity stayed on the lower side of sauna.

There are parts of the run south that I really hate, I don't care for mile 3 and mile 4 past the Mormon temple and through some neighborhood just annoys me for some reason. Tends to sap the energy right out of me, and when I know it's coming up I preemptively get cranky. Instead of letting it get to me I starting cracking jokes, I think there was a lot of talk about butts, and tried to keep my mind occupied. I'm not often a talker during runs, not that I'm not able to but I just don't have much to say. So unless someone's chatting at me, which I don't mind at all, it's just me and whatever thoughts are in my head. More often than not those are negative thoughts so I'm actively trying to banish those and replace them with something more positive. Like butts.

We ran out to the stables where, if you're lucky, you get to see and possibly pet some horses. And if you're even luckier Coach Don will be there with two coolers of ice cold water. What a welcome sight (Don't smile as much as the water). On the way back Coach Kathy and I stopped to use the bathroom, telling the group we'd catch up. The entire group must have been hauling ass, we weren't in the bathroom that long and they were much farther ahead than we thought they would be! So much ass was hauled, Kathy and I ran that mile in about 11:20.

We knew as we were going that we were fast, but not uncomfortably so, and so we pressed on as a group. I think we slowed a little around mile 10 or so, a much needed moving rest, but we finished as strong as we started. Kathy and I ended with an average pace around 12:05 thanks to the bathroom catch-up, the rest of the group just under 12:30. How awesome is that? Seriously awesome.

June 22nd - MCC Track - 5.86 miles - 01:19

Not gonna lie, this was the worst track workout, probably the worst run actually, I've ever done. The weather wasn't the worst it's been, it was hot and humid, but it was worse in the weeks before. But I was tired to begin with - I'd run six out of the previous seven days and I just don't usually do that much running. Add to that some hormones and the fact that I hadn't slept well for weeks and it just was not my day.

The workout was the ladder:
Warmup of 1.4 miles.
1 x 400 (1 lap) ; recovery lap
1 x 800 (2 laps); recovery lap
1 x 1600 (4 laps); recovery lap
1 x 800 (2 laps); recovery lap
1 x 400 (1 lap); recovery lap
1.25 mile cool down.

Not sure I ever did this last year, I know it was on the books a few times but the weather was just so insane more often than not we just tried to run without passing out. I felt very sluggish during the warm up, trying to take it slow but still struggling. And once we hit the track it was all over. I immediately fell behind and had no hopes of keeping up with the group. All plans and intentions went out the window, I just wanted to get a few miles in before calling it quits. Mentally I was a little bummed but in this case it was definitely my body letting me down and telling me to knock it the hell off.

I ran a few lonely laps until I caught up with Ameenah, we ran, or jogged, or walked probably two miles together. We chatted about all kinds of things and kept each other company, I ended up with almost six miles on my legs and that was more than good enough for me. Had it not been for my buddy I would have bailed much earlier.

I was upset about it afterward, but not overly so. I didn't crawl home in tears like I had last year. I sucked it up, chalked it up to a bad day, ate some pizza and hoped for better runs in the future. When I actually did look at my Garmin I found some decent miles 12:02, 11:23, 10:56 WHAT, 12:37 - the fast laps were only supposed to be at 12:15/mile pace so I think I did a pretty decent job when I was actually running. That did make me feel better, but I still ate pity pizza anyway.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June 19th - Bethesda to Union Station - 11.2 miles - 02:20ish

This run made me a little nervous on Sunday morning, for a few reasons. I made it through last year's Union Station run (which was a week later in the season) before I was down with tendonitis for three weeks and I somehow convinced myself that run was to blame. And Sunday would be my third running day in a row - I rarely run two in a row and NEVER three. Friday I did about 4.5 miles with a friend, Saturday I ran the Run for Roses 5k with the group I helped coach. It was a hot, muggy, sweaty race but we had a lot of fun and I think I've created some new monsters who are ready for bigger challenges. My work there is done.

I also knew we'd be short two coaches who were out of town, but we had a stand-in, so we'd hopefully be able to get to the metro on our own. I've run it before but once I get past mile 8 into DC I'm pretty much completely lost and dependent upon the kindness of coaches with good senses of direction (or, failing that, Google maps).

The good part about this run, which starts on Capital Crescent, is that it's downhill and never goes back up. It's a gradual decline down to the river and while that's much better than going up I find it tough on the knees after several miles. There also aren't a lot of stops - there's water at mile 3, water and a bathroom at 4.75, and if you're lucky a hose to use around 7.5. Then you're out in the open through DC, past the Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pool, up the mall. Luckily it wasn't sunny this year, and not too hot.

And it's scenic - the trail is lovely, then you run along the river before hitting the monuments. This year we got to check out a bit of the Dragon Boat races as well as folks participating in the DC Triathlon. We had to stop to cross the street between bikers or runners, and cheered as loudly as we could. Seemed like crowd support was pretty light and DC was eerily quiet despite two big events, I felt bad for the athletes out there with nobody clapping and yelling and telling them how awesome they are. I know it's a silly thing, but seeing a familiar face along a race route goes a REALLY long way. I didn't know any of these athletes but I sure cheered like I did.

I always get lost in DC and am always surprised to end up where I was meant to. But sure enough we made it. My Garmin's batteries died somewhere around mile 8 so I don't know total time or splits, I do know that the last three miles were definitely the fastest. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised to have that much energy left in my legs after two previous days of running. I enjoyed a completely unhealthy cookies & creme smoothie (all the other ones are made with bananas and I really really hate bananas) while we all chatted and relaxed before getting our stinky selves on the metro for the ride back. I have no idea what I did the rest of the day but I'm sure it involved using my legs as little as possible and almost as sure that it involved downing some Manhattans.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June 15th - MCC Track - 6.93 miles - 01:24

What is this? It's... springy! Nice and cool last night, I think the high yesterday was only about 80. Downright chilly at first, but a much better night for running than last week.

The workout was to be 16 laps, every other one 15 seconds faster than LSD pace. But, frankly, it's really hard to keep track of that! I lose count of laps after the first one but usually someone's on top of it. We ended up running pretty quick anyway and when we got a little tired we just slowed it down. By lap six I wasn't sure I'd finish the first half, let alone the whole thing - I had some pretty awful cramps that made my abdomen and legs feel like bricks. Coach Kathy saved me with some Advil which I think really helped and I didn't have any problems during the last two miles or the cooldown.

We ran the last half of the cooldown much faster than we should have, trying to keep up with Coach Mike. But we couldn't, that guy is FAST. He said his legs were just starting to warm up by the end, but mine were exhausted. I don't usually have that problem and I'm glad I was able to finish strong despite it. I hope this weekend goes better - I have a 5 mile training run Friday morning, a 5k race Saturday and a 12 mile point-to-point Sunday!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 12th - Ken Gar South - 10 - 02:06

A decent morning for a run, cooler than the last few weeks but still humid and sticky. Apparently this year's Sunday group is more punctual than usual and I never get the good parking spot I used to get so I have to park in the little neighborhood and I always feel bad about it. Nobody wants their quiet little street lined with cars and people before 7 on a Sunday morning.

Nothing much to report from this run (especially three days later when any significant thoughts I may have had have evaporated). I didn't get much sleep Saturday night but I was up and out of bed at 5:30 in a decent mood and feeling like I'd have a decent run. And we did, though it was a little slow for the first half. We picked it up and ran at least the last two miles faster for a decent average pace.

The runs end at the same park and when we arrive there are either a ton of people hanging around and relaxing from their runs or nobody left because they've already gone home. There was a decent crowd this day and before rounding the corner Coach Mike gathered us all together so that we would show up as a triumphant, cohesive group. That was awesome, we need to start wearing giant foam fingers that say "WE'RE 12:30!"

June 8th - MCC Track - 4.05 miles - 49:00

Going into this workout I knew I'd have to cut it short. It was my husband's birthday and we had margaritas to get to! I needed to leave by 7:45. I had considered going early to get in the miles I'd be missing but since it was about a million degrees out I decided that whatever I'd get done by 7:45 is what I'd get done. After all, there is no "only 4 mile" run, every mile is an accomplishment to be celebrated.

The showing was light, Coach Andy proclaimed that you were there because you were either running off stress or Type A. Or completely crazy, I guess. There was a heat advisory so we were all reminded to take it easy. Some folks dropped after just the warm-up lap, I wasn't too upset at leaving after 10 of the 16 laps on the schedule (not including the 1.3 mile cool down).

Again, despite the heat, I wasn't feeling bad. I did chug my bottle of coconut water and chia seeds to stay hydrated and energized but I didn't feel the heat like I usually do. Maybe this summer won't be so bad after all.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

June 5th - C&O Canal (Carderock) - 10 miles - 2:09

I'd run the C&O Canal before, but not from Carderock, and had not been impressed. I recall the uneven terrain being really rough on my knees and ankles and wasn't particularly looking forward to this run. Didn't help that I didn't arrive home until midnight the night before then spent an hour on the phone with my mother dealing with family issues.

But there I was, nice and early, arriving at 6:20AM. Plenty of time to use the bathroom - real bathrooms! With porcelain and running water! So nice I used it twice. It was a bit misty when we arrived, and had rained on the way down, which did nothing to ease the humidity. At least it wasn't too stinkin' hot.

The 5 miles out were uneventful, we hit another (real) bathroom and stopped to get a group photo overlooking the river. I don't think we ever got group photos last year, I know we didn't when we ran the canal. Go team!

On the way back we took a vote to see if everyone wanted to go check out the falls, about a quarter of a mile out of the way over some little bridges. How could you run there and NOT go see it? So we did, and well worth the diversion. Amazing how many things you see that you didn't know existed while you're running. I'm not sure what the falls are called, Great Falls maybe, but they're really something incredible. We stared for a good few minutes, I think all of our side trips added an extra 25 minutes to the outing (though I didn't count that in miles or time).

Over the last four miles or so the group started to split up a bit, I stayed in the front (quite a difference from last year when I was straggling at the back of the pack). And we stopped or slowed down every so often to regroup. I'm also experimenting with different things, like coconut water (nature's Gatorade but nature really needs to add some artificial sweeteners because this stuff is nasty) and chia seeds which I do think are helping me feel more hydrated and energized. When we finished we waited for the rest of the pack to show up, cheering for them and forming a human finish line. High-fives all around!

Friday, June 3, 2011

June 1st - MCC Track - 6.16 miles - 1:13

I spent most of Wednesday hoping the track run would be cancelled. Bo had just gotten home from his month-long around 2AM, I didn't get much sleep and it the temperature was well into the 90s. But, alas, it was not to be. And in the end I was grateful for that.

Probably due to the heat there didn't seem to be too many folks out but we did have a good sized group. All three coaches and I think maybe 4 or 5 runners. The plan was to run 16 laps "Ranger style." Apparently they do this workout every year but we didn't do it last year, I think because it was so hot. We were to line up single file, then the person at the end would run around to the front of the pack. Repeat, for 16 laps.

We started with lap one and thought we would pass out if we did it for 16 laps so we debated just running "Ranger style" every fourth lap or so. But it turns out that once you settle into it it's actually not too bad and it made the laps go by MUCH faster, in my head, than usual. What also helped was that we asked questions that everyone would have to answer on their way to the front. Simple questions that implored runners to name their favorite band, restaurant, dessert, vacation or in our case swear word (we answered those quietly).

It was kind of a tough day to try this style of running because it was so incredibly hot, but I actually didn't feel the heat like I usually do. Maybe it's the magical chia seeds I've been using, maybe it's because we were just having so much fun chatting and getting to know little things about each other. By the time we finished the group had split up and by the cool down lap it was just Mike, Kathy and I. We wandered through the campus together, until Mike took off like a horse galloping back to the stables. Sad that I can't quite keep up with a 74 year old dude, but I finished in good spirits. Probably the best track run I've ever had.

Monday, May 30, 2011

May 29th - Ken Gar North - 9 miles - 2ish hours

On a hot holiday weekend I didn't expect too many folks to show up, but I guess everyone wanted to run off their Memorial Day meals early. I arrived around 6:40 and it was packed. I had enough time to use the bathroom (porta potties are starting to get that nice summer stank) and meet up with Coach Don who handed me an American flag bandanna.

We had a decent sized crew, though looking around we are probably one of if not the smallest pace groups. And all women, with the exception of Coaches Don and Mike. Poor guys, surrounded by an awful lot of estrogen for an awful lot of miles.

The route was north for 4.5 miles, it's not the hardest path on earth but it's tougher than south. Little hills add up after a while, especially on a hot morning. And as happens, at least with our group, we started to separate a bit. This is always tricky, and I don't envy the coaches. You want the group to stay together as much as possible but if someone's having a bad day there's no sense in beating them down during a training run.

Don hung with the back of the pack, Mike and Kathy moved up. At water stops we would hold up the front of the group until the rest of our runners caught up with us. We're still getting used to Coach Mike and he's getting used to us but I love the way he works. He's legitimately concerned about keeping us a group and if we can't all stay together then making sure subgroups have someone to keep them company. With Mike's leadership skills and Kathy's amazing ability to chat and keep us upbeat and Don's support we're unstoppable!

I lost some mileage when I forgot to restart my Gamin, I clocked 8.66 miles at a 12:44 pace. I know we picked it up a lot in the final charge home after the Silencer so I'm sure we did a little better than that. I clock all of the moving minutes, even if we're walking, but stop the watch when we hit the water fountains or red lights. Given the weather and attempts to keep our group together I think we did just fine. And we had fun, which is the most important part.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 25th - MCC Track - 6.45 miles - 1:16

Looks like it's going to be another stupidly hot and humid summer. Yay.

With Bo out of town I stopped home to feed the dogs, then I hit every read light between my house and the track. Normally I would have had a mini-stroke about being less than 15 minutes early, but I'm so much more comfortable and confident about training this year I didn't sweat it (ha - summer joke!).

I rolled up pretty much right at 6:30 to relieved looks from Kathy and Ameenah. We chatted for a few minutes before taking off for the warm-up lap. I stuck with Ameenah and we did it right this time, like a minute and a half slower than I did it the last time. It's got a few little hills, though to me every hill is huge, and I tried my hardest not to wear myself out. I declare that lap a success!

Then to the track - 14 laps with laps 4, 8 and 12 (I think) being 10-20 seconds faster than LSD pace. It took a while to get into a groove, we have a few people who'd never done track runs before and a coach who didn't entirely realise that the outside lane (to which we slowpokes are relegated) is longer than the inside. We would occasionally gain and lose group members as the speed, heat and humidity took their toll. Coach Mike wanted to stop for water only once, after lap 7, but we out voted him and decided to take a quick break every four or five laps. Speedwork or not, on an 85 degree evening with 85% humidity some of us needed frequent water stops.

We finished with a group five strong, and four of us headed out for the cool-down lap. It's a different route from the warm-up but I don't like it any more. Still when Coach Mike gave us the option of five more laps around the track or one around campus we immediately jumped on the campus run. I can only take so many circles! We headed out of the track and went right, most groups seemed to go left. I think I like left better, going right you come back up a hill through a parking lot that seems worse than it is but you usually don't want to do when you're so close to your car. I usually fall behind here but I refused to let Coaches Kathy and Mike one-up me and I stuck with them to the end.

It was hot but I actually had a really good time out there. We ran fast (math shows an average 11:53 pace) and at times it felt a little tough but when it was over I felt happy and strong. And sweaty.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 22nd - Ken-Gar South - 8.25 miles - 1:43:14

I was out of town last week joining my husband and crew on part of their epic cross-country motorcycle ride so I wasn't around for the group runs. I did 5 miles last Tuesday with some friends before I left, then the Warrior Dash on Saturday after returning home. If you haven't done a warrior dash, do it! It's amazing, and a little muddy.

With all the travel and few hours of sleep I wasn't very peppy for this morning's run. Not that I ever am, I guess. But I like the long runs so off I went, and got there around 6:40. I used the bathroom and chatted with Coach Don until the rest of my crew arrived. I soon saw the familiar pink shirt across the parking lot and with her was my favorite blue bandanna, Ameenah. She was my rock last year and while we never lost touch I'm glad to see her back after recovering from gallbladder surgery.

Not much to report about this run, I guess. We had a good sized group, one worthy of three coaches. I ran all but maybe the last .75 miles at the front of the pack, not some place I'm used to being. And most of that with Ameenah until she dropped back just a tiny bit (but, man, she is a BEAST and when she wants to do something you can't stop her so she plowed through like a champ). Talked with some friends old and made some new ones, at least one other group member lives pretty close by so I think I found a buddy for my weekday morning runs. That should be a huge help.

We were led during the first half by Don, then by Mike. with Kathy taking the middle or back and keeping everyone in good spirits. These guys are phenomenal pacers, we averaged 12:30 exactly with little variation in our splits. I already knew I loved Coaches Don and Kathy but I really dig Coach Mike too. He's a really awesome "old-timer," I think he's like 74, very supportive and helpful, willing to answer questions and give (and take) advice. The route was nothing new or fancy, but I had a solid run and a fun time.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

May 11th - MCC Track - 5.9 miles - 1:10

I will make no bones about it, I hate the track. I always have and likely always will. There's something about knowing that I have to run in repetitive circles for an hour... it's really not THAT bad and if I didn't mentally psyche myself out every Wednesday it really wouldn't be a big deal.

What is still strange to me is the warm-up lap. As always we go as one big group around campus (through it when school isn't as busy). It's a sight to behold, I'm sure, 100+ runners moving as a herd. The problem is that the front of the herd consists of gazelles and the back of the herd is full of elephants (which I mean in the nicest way possible). So an 11 minute-mile is super duper crazy slow for a bunch of people, but for those of us in the back it's not exactly a relaxing warm-up. We could slow down, then we'd be late to the stretching session and getting on the track so I, for one, will likely never learn and will continue to run this lap too fast. I did the 1.4 mile warm-up at a 11:15 pace.

And then to the track. We almost had more 12:30 coaches than runners. Either the girls from Sunday weren't there or they decided to change groups, not sure. The track is an interesting place, even more so when you're joined by the "regular" runners - hot guys with their shirts off. I don't want to say that the 12:30s aren't a serious group of runners, perhaps I should say that we don't take ourselves too seriously. We're out there every week just like everybody else, and often for much longer, but we have fun while we're at it. We take breaks when needed (after six laps this time around). We joke, we complain, we laugh. And that's why I keep going back.

Coach Mike was tracking our time each lap, but what wasn't taken into consideration was that our laps were like .31 miles and not .25 since we were on the outside and didn't stagger our stopping and starting points. So my Garmin says we ran the miles on the track at 11:37, 11:37 and 11:45. These were supposed to be done as LSD pace so no wonder Don and I were sweating a bit! It always seems tougher on the track, I can run 10 sub-12 minute miles (back in the day I did 13.1 of 'em straight through) but for some reason doing it in circles seems harder to me. Again, it's probably mental.

We enjoyed a slow cool-down lap, then three of us amigos walked a lap together. We hope to get the group together for pizza after track workouts from here on out. These folks have become really good friends and I'm glad we're all back together for another year.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Photos from May 8th run

We have an awesome club photographer who snaps pics during training runs and races. I'm usually not in any of them, and while he got a ton of our group this time I seem to be hiding in most. I'm kind of visible here, in the pinkish shirt, black capris and blue hat:

We were stopped at a light and I tried to get the team to run excitedly across the street for the camera but only two of us seemed to want to do it:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

May 8th - Ken-Gar South - 7.03 miles - 01:27

As soon as I finished the marathon in October I swore I wasn't doing another one, but clearly I cannot be trusted! I am registered for MCM again, and Virginia Beach in March 2012, possibly running Philly in November 2011. Since then I haven't been running too much (a 5k, half-marathon and 10 mile race), usually just weekend runs with some members from last year's 12:30 pace group. I was pretty undecided on actually doing it again I found out that most of my buddies were in and I knew we had great coaches. So here I am, again, running for a good cause.

The first run of the Montgomery County Road Runners' First Time Marathon (MCRRC FTM) began bright and early on a beautiful Mother's Day. I suited up in my CWX capris and new shirt and was at the park by 6:50AM.

The park was crowded and buzzing with the excitement emanating from participants new and old. Unlike last year I wasn't scared out of my mind and Coach Andy commented that I looked ready this year. Quite the compliment!

We had three wonderful coaches - Don, Kathy and Mike. I know Kathy well and she's super-duper awesome, Don is one of the nicest guys I've ever met, and this Mike fellow was a really nice, supportive guy. In addition to my buddy Kathy, Hengameh and Joelle from last year's 12:30s were also there today, and I know a few more will be joining shortly. We had a few members that had done the program before but I didn't really know, along with a couple of total noobs. Coach Andy and his running buddy Jan also hung with us today.

As they said during the announcements, this should be the easiest run you've done in a long time. And so it was, we ended with exactly a 12:30 pace (including two brief walking water breaks). And negative splits! I don't think I've ever actually done that before, so thanks guys!

The run was uneventful, on a course I've seen a million times. We ran slow and steady and enjoyed the weather and the company of friends new and old. I think some of the new folks were getting a little anxious, kept running in front of the coaches and pushing the pace. I know how it goes, I'm pretty sure I did the same thing on my first run last year (I recall Hengameh and I being referred to as "horses galloping back to the stables"). They may stay with our group, they may not. Heck, even I considered moving up a pace group but I'm in it to run with my friends, not necessarily to improve. Running 7 slow miles on a near-perfect day is quite different than running 20 miles at that pace on a miserably hot, humid August morning. But no matter who stays or who goes I think we have a great group this year and we'll have a lot of fun over the next 26 weeks!