Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wrapping It Up

Yesterday's 30K wrapped up the 2012 Striders Winter Running Circuit in Ogden. It was another gorgeous day for a run---sunny, perfect temperatures, snow-capped mountains in the vista. I was a bit unsure how my body was going to respond after last weekend's hard effort and the effects of an allergy flare-up this week, but once I started warming up I knew it was going to be fine. The goal was to run a controlled effort and not let the other ladies who were in contention for the overall title get too much of a gap. I had a minute and forty-odd seconds to play with so I figured the best strategy was to simply stalk the other girls and let them do the pacing work. So that's what I did and it ended up working pretty well. I felt strong for most of the run, with just a bit of tightening up in the last two miles, and held on for 3rd place on the day in a time comparable to my 30K run split at the ITU World Champs last November. It was good enough to earn the overall cumulative series title, which is a nice validation of the hard work and progress I've made in running over the past year or so. Most rewarding, and I hope a sign of good things to come!

Some highlights of the day:
---The relaxed yet highly organized atmosphere of a Striders race; they know how to do it right!!
---Chatting with some of the other ladies in the middle of the race, miles 6-9.
---Running alongside the "wild" horses at Stink Corner...both human and equine athletes seemed to enjoy it.
---Hot drinks at the finish line; nothing beats a hot chocoloffe!
---Pausing just before the start to watch a hot air balloon drift by.
---Soaking up the post-race atmosphere with friends old and new.

This week's round of thanks go to Albert for motivating me to get out the door and run, Powerbar for keeping my energy stores stocked, Pearl Izumi for the cool AND functional footwear and gear, and Recovery Pump for keeping my legs fresh.

Next up: REV3 Knoxville next weekend! Can't wait to break out the new Fezzari speed machine!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

It's Getting Better All The Time

So to get the full effect you have to read that title with the tune of the Beatles song in your head. I'm not sure how many people know this, but in middle and high school I listened to everything by, and read just about everything about, the Beatles. To call me a fan is putting it mildly. I was obsessed. If I had been alive during Beatlemania I would have been the most manic of them all, a hair-pulling, teeth gnashing, hormone-ridden shrieking sobbing teenage fanatic. I've mellowed out in my old age (ha!) and while I'm still an ardent fan of their music (and can probably sing AT LEAST 95% of their songs word for word from memory), I'm not the same Beatle-knowledge-obsessed girl that I used to be. Times change. (On a side-note, my dad's 64th birthday was yesterday and can you guess what song was running through my head all day? Of course you can...but I digress.)

Back to speaking of times changing and things getting better all the time...I ran the Salt Lake City Half Marathon today and, boy oh boy, did my time ever change! Two weeks ago I ran a solid PR of 1:26:07 on an honest course in Ogden. I was surprised by that performance because my running volume has been relatively low so far and I haven't done any high intensity work (other than races, that is). It got me thinking that if I could let go of any preconceived notions of what a "sensible" pace might be and just run by feel, that I just might be ready for a real breakthrough at Salt Lake. And I was not disappointed! Thanks to perfect weather, a nice clean start in the first corral, and by adapting a strategy of completely ignoring my watch, today I was able to knock another minute and forty-three seconds off my time from a fortnight ago for a new PR of 1:24:24. Yes, that's right folks. I'm tooting my own horn! It's just part of the gig of being a professional athlete, however insignificant your sport may be in the grand scheme of things. Stand aside while I inject a little personality here!

In all seriousness, this run was a huge step forward for me and it's taken years of hard work to get here. I had some success in the running arena when I was younger but then my body changed, I stopped running, and swimming became my sole focus for a time. When I discovered triathlon and started running again in my later college years, I could get by in shorter triathlons with a stronger swim and a decent bike, then still manage to hold off a lot people during the run despite lumbering around with a stereotypical swimmer's top-heavy build. Eventually I realized that you can run up a hill faster when you're carrying less weight around, and over the past couple of years Albert and I have made some significant (but not drastic) changes to our nutrition that have helped me pare down to more of a runner's shape. That, along with consistency in training and a renewed joy for the sport, has really been a huge piece of the puzzle. My ultimate goal is to be the best, most well-balanced triathlete that I can be; running has perennially been my Achilles' heel but I think it's safe to say that the gap has been whittled down some. There is certainly still work to do, but today's result tells me that I'm headed in the right direction.

A huge shout out to all the friends, acquaintances, and random spectators who were out there cheering today. Your support really did give me wings! It was a wonderful feeling to see so many familiar and friendly faces along the course, to have my name pronounced correctly 9 times out of 10, and to catch up with long-time friends at the finish line. There really are some priceless joys in doing a "hometown" race. Thanks to the police officers, race staff, and volunteers who helped keep everyone safe; this event could not have happened without you. Thanks also to my sponsors who help make this lifestyle possible for me; I am particularly grateful this day to Charlie at REV3 for believing in me, Pearl Izumi for the fast shoes & race kit, PowerBar for giving me the power to push, and to Recovery Pump for keeping my legs fresh. Congratulations to the winners, and to all the participants across the board who overcame their own personal challenges to get to the starting line today.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Round Four: Striders Winter Running Circuit

Last weekend marked the fourth installment of the 2012 Striders Winter Running Circuit in Ogden. The course is essentially run on the first part of the Ogden Marathon route, so it's a nice preview for those who are gearing up for the marathon in May. For me it was a nice step in my training progression of doing some longer runs at a good effort in preparation for the triathlon season. I love training in the Ogden Valley, and what better way to kick off a beautiful spring morning than doing a little run with the spectacular view of a snow-capped Mt. Ogden in the distance!

Rather than writing a complete recap of how the day unfolded, I'm simply going to include a list of highlights (and challenges) from the day. Here they are, in somewhat chronological order:

---Doing a local race = a relatively normal morning! Wake up, eat, walk dogs, drive to Red Moose Lodge.
---The bus ride up to the start line: who doesn't enjoy a good ride in a cheese wagon full of runners?!
---Running in my new Pearl Izumi Streak II shoes...happy happy feet!
---Experiencing a shoelace malfunction (read: it came untied) around Mile 2.
---Cursing myself for not having put lock laces in my new shoes.
---Despite wearing gloves, having fingers so frozen that I could not fix the shoelace problem until Mile 3.
---Enjoying the crisp spring morning sunshine, the mountain panorama...and the inevitable country morning aroma of skunk wafting through the air.
---Running past my training partner's house and thinking of all the good bike rides we'll do in the valley this summer.
---Playing my favorite running game of "Go Fish" and working hard to reel people in.
---Duking it out for 3rd place over the last mile of the race.
---Setting a new half-marathon PR in spite of the time spent fiddling with my shoelace.
---Hot chocolate and coffee at the finish line!
---Even better...a hot breakfast inside the Red Moose Lodge!!
---Bumping into some fellow "Ben Lomond Morning Swimmers" in the food's always funny to see people out of context.
---Chatting with my new friend Phaedra (who rocked the Masters division!).
---Visiting with some of the old Salt Lake crew: Demetrio, Carol, Bill, Gene, and Brandon. Always a treat to see you guys!
---Earning $50 for my efforts...I think it's the first time I've ever won money at a running race!
---Sharing 3rd place honors with Albert. We're rich! Or at least we can buy a new pair of shoes.
---Leapfrogging into first place in the overall cumulative series. Four down, one to go!

Thanks to all of my sponsors, on this day particularly to Pearl Izumi for the great shoes and running apparel, to Powerbar for fueling me to a good time, and to Recovery Pump for the pre- and post-race squeeze. A big thank you to my friends and family for continuing to humor me in my athletic undertakings, and to my fellow runners for inspiring me to dig deep and aim high. Happy running!