Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Race report: Hy-Vee Road Races half marathon

This won't come as a surprise to anyone who follows me on Instagram, but this year's Hy-Vee Road Races half marathon was the polar opposite of my 2013 experience.

The short version: Race-day weather was perfect, I didn't stop to walk once, and I finished with a milestone personal record that far exceeded my goals.

The numbers: 1:58:59 (9:05 pace) overall; 56:32 (9:08 pace) at 10K; 1:02:27 (9:03 pace) for the final 6.9 miles.

I did Bulldog Hill in 4:19:54, which because I never bothered to time myself during training doesn't mean a whole lot. My preliminary results sheet says that was good for 17th in my division (in comparison, my 10K rank was 38 and my total race rank was 25).

So, to back up, for anyone who cares. Cory and I both decided to keep the 2:00:00 pacers within our sights for as long as it felt OK. That turned out to be the entire race, though how close they were did vary. (We figured out eventually that they went out a bit fast to bank time on the hills.)

I didn't feel fantastic starting out, but by mile 2 it became apparent to me that it was simply a matter of warming up. Everything felt springy and good until close to mile 7.

At that point, we'd changed directions, and we both actually started to get a little too hot. I even had a moment of light-headedness, so I made sure to get some water at the next aid station. That, plus a light breeze and more shade along the route, seemed to do the trick.

Somewhere after mile 8, Cory and I made a friend whose name we forgot to ask and for whom we later wished we'd waited at the finish line. We chatted with Mr. Quad Cities for nearly three miles about beer, pets and careers (as well as running) — a really nice way for us to keep our minds off the hills ahead.

Speaking of hills, the worst one for me was actually up Fleur Drive back to downtown. Not only was it the only one I hadn't practiced, but also it was very exposed to the strongest winds we'd felt yet that day.

After that, Cory and I were feeling much more confident: We'd entered our home turf. Up Grand we went, trying to encourage all the walkers (in an honest, voice-of-experience way), and turned onto 28th ... at which point I got butterflies.

We were so close at that point. I knew I had locked down all my safe goals, but only Cory had a sense for just how well we were doing. But so close didn't mean so easy.

Just as we got to the intersection of 28th and Ingersoll, I glanced at the spectators and saw co-worker Chris, there to cheer on his girlfriend with their beautiful dog. He recognized me too and yelled some encouragement, and I shouted back that I'd practiced on Bulldog Hill, I had it in the bag.

And maybe that was the pep talk I needed — not from him, but from myself — so up I went, passing quite a few walkers on the way. (What a jerk, right?)

Not long after we crested the hill, Cory turned to me and said he was gonna step it up. This came right as I felt the worst, far enough from the hill where we'd both caught our breath, but close enough where the fatigue had suddenly all settled into my left quad.

"Go ahead," I said. "I don't have anything extra." He tried to be encouraging, but I let a little whine creep into my voice as I insisted I really didn't.

I'm sure I slowed up some, yet I never lost sight of Cory. And once I was within sight of University Avenue and had about a mile left, my legs found a second wind.

I have never, ever, felt so strong during mile 12 of a race. Not even during the 2013 Des Moines Half Marathon, when I PR'ed by eight minutes. I did pass a few people and gained some ground on Cory, and my revival was rewarded when I entered the stadium ...

... this year, you barely had to run around the track. Instead of a quarter-mile left, I had not even a quarter of the track!

My spirits went from great to over the moon. I think I yelled "f--- yeah two hours!" as I sprinted that final leg, arms in the air, tossing that monkey off my back with conviction.

Once more: 1:58:59. I cleared 2:00:00 with a whole minute to spare. There is literally nothing I can think of, from my taper week through mile 13.09, that I wish I'd done differently or better.

Time to kick back for a week and bask in my glory before deciding what's next.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sightings in the wild, part II

I've been spotted by co-workers while out on the loose again.

A while back, I was running past Walgreens as co-worker Jennifer was walking out to her car. I think she recognized me, in spite of what was almost certainly a crazy outfit; at the very least, she returned my wave.

A more recent spotting came from Jill, who was in a car at the time (but not the white CR-V that honked at me along 42nd Street).

It was raining at the time, which evidently prompted Jill to turn to her school-aged daughter and ask, "Do you think we should stop and offer her a ride?"

I didn't look miserable, though (hooray, no race face!), so they kept going. However, I think this was the same day it hailed, because I don't remember any other rainy runs ... maybe they should have stopped.

* * *

As for Sunday's Hy-Vee Road Races half marathon — I did it, and I did it well. I want to blog about it well, too, and today I just don't have the brain space. But details will be forthcoming, I promise!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

And now, the waiting begins

I went on my last run before the Hy-Vee Road Races half marathon today — a slow 3.25ish-mile endeavor. Nothing notable to report from it.

Tomorrow I'll ride to work, as usual, but otherwise rest up, and on Saturday, I'll be volunteering at the Run for the Trees 5K/1-mile fun run before probably just bumming around the apartment.

I really wanted to do the tree race, but it just seemed like a risky move, even when I don't have much half marathon pressure ... given that I'll likely be on my feet when I'm there, maybe it's ultimately a wash and I could have run ... but then again, standing is lower-impact.

Anyway, I've, unsurprisingly, been thinking about my weekend meals, for both before and after the race.

Saturday night dinner is looking like chicken pasta, maybe some garlic bread, and a beer (it's tradition!); Sunday breakfast could be scrambled eggs/toast or possibly blueberry pancakes.

After the race will probably be "wherever serves us fastest and cares least about how we smell" (in 2013, that was the Drake Jethro's breakfast buffet).

And now that I've wrapped up the workouts, I can lay out my race-day gear. I'm going with the standby outfit — pink T-shirt, black shorts, pink sweatband and sunglasses — and my newer Balega socks.

So that's probably it from me until next week, but I imagine I'll be posting my time on Twitter and Daily Mile, at the very least. Maybe there'll even be a sweaty selfie on Instagram afterwards, too.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hy-Vee Half Marathon forecasts

We still have a whole week for this to change, but I am optimistic about the weather for this year's Hy-Vee Half Marathon.

A week of temperatures in the low to mid-60s lies ahead, which will be a welcome contrast with 2013's race-day weather. Unlike in 2013, though, I've had a chance to run long in warmer weather, so the system will be less shocked. Probably still angry, but less shocked.

And also unlike 2013, I don't have a slew of ambitious race-day goals. My goal had been to get into shape for a 5K personal record (mission accomplished) and to feel less miserable during this particular race.

Cory and I have discussed, casually, what time range we'd like to see out of ourselves, though. He'd like to beat his 2014 Dam to Dam time (2:08) -- as would I, actually, given that Dam to Dam was my second-best half marathon time.

We haven't timed our long runs, so I don't have anything more specific that I think I can do. Also, I don't want to start building up expectations with the reality of spring weather and late, steep hills.

However, I don't think it would be unrealistic to hope for a 2:05:00 finish, along with ending with a smile. That would pretty decisively wipe out memories of 2014 Dam to Dam and 2013 Hy-Vee Half.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Taking over the streets

Recently I was riding through Beaverdale in the middle of the day, and oddly enough, I was neither the only non-automobile on the road, nor the most unusual-looking user of the road.

First I came up behind two women in motorized scooters — on the road, not the sidewalk. I've seen how uneven, narrow and noncontinuous sidewalks can be, though, so I'm not judging.

It was kind of funny, in a way, to see how they took control of that lane. They were side by side, not in a line, for what I assumed was greater visibility to drivers.

Closer to home, I turned a corner to find myself behind a tricked-out golf cart zooming along a side street. Evidently that's how florists now deliver.

But hey, if I had the chance to do my job in pleasant springtime weather instead of in an enclosed space, I'd jump at that chance, too.

Cheers to my fellow travelers using means other than the automobile.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Entering the taper

Sunday's 10-miler was the last significant run before the April 26 half marathon. Woo-hoo!

This route was even more race-day-specific than its predecessors; it included a loop around the Capitol as well as the hills up from Gray's Lake, from downtown to the base of Bulldog Hill and of course Bulldog Hill itself.

It was another solid, strong effort. We had some obstacles in a strong southerly wind and an early side stitch for me, but we stuck it out.

Oddly enough, I kept a better pace and attitude going up Bulldog Hill than I did at the end of my nine-miler — I don't get it, but I'll take it.

So what now?

I'd already started to scale back workouts that weren't the long run, just to save my feet a little bit, but I'll continue that.

I'll still have a longer run this coming Sunday (thinking about five miles), and I'll continue with the speedwork (just at a shorter distance).

Originally I'd thought of incorporating more yoga to keep active, but if the weather continues to grow nicer, bike rides might be more tempting.

And I'll just enjoy the dramatic spike in free time. People always talk about the taper crazies, and maybe my own memory is fading and I've ranted about them in the past, but right now I'm just glad to scale back a bit.

I am profoundly grateful for having found the right post-long-run routine to prevent stiffness ... but it definitely takes up time beyond what the run already sucked up.

Throw in eating and a shower (and, OK, the procrastination before the run!), and it often feels like the day is totally gone.

But not this Sunday!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The agony and the ecstasy of Midwest springtime

It's only natural that a bit of a down post would follow such a cheerful one.

To be fair, I'm using a little bit of artistic license to help inspire the blogging, but it was still a pretty mediocre week in terms of workouts.

We started out with thunderstorms in the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, meaning I chose to drive to work rather than bike. (Safety second, not being cold and wet first.) I never stop being surprised by how guilty I feel when I drive someplace that I generally bike to.

At least on Thursday, I felt confident enough in the weather forecast/my ability to persuade some nice guy to rescue me via car, if need be, to start biking again. And holy moly did it feel great to be chilled by a damp cold wind as I flew downhill that day.

I had a similar struggle-and-redemption story in my running. Given that it was overcast, cool and wet, and that a cold virus was still lurking in my sinuses, I didn't really want to run.

Tuesday, I went on an easy three-miler without issue, but I got lazy afterwards and didn't complete my foam-roll regimen. You better believe I felt it the next day, when I mustered the ambition to get ready for a tempo run.

"Expect rain to end by 11:45 a.m.," said the forecasting website as I warmed up around noon. Liar.

A gentle rain began to fall as I ran a mile away from my apartment. It picked up when I got to where I intended to cross the street, so I could eventually head south, and I tried to wait for the light to change.

But the crosswalk light was elusive, and my patience finite, and the skies ever-gloomier. Forget it, I thought, I'll just head back to the apartment and maybe cross there.

You know what those 30 to 60 seconds resulted in? My being that much farther away from the apartment when the hail hit. Emphasis on hit. Poor arms.

By the time I got back inside, dried off and did my complete round of stretching, the rain had stopped. Go fly a kite, Mother Nature and

To make up for the 10 minutes of tempo running I didn't do, though, I did a short hilly run on Friday, when sunshine and dry weather returned to Des Moines.

Oh, the euphoria of running in pleasant weather after you've completed what you feared would be a brutal work shift, without having a meltdown, in time to have a friend-filled Friday night!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Progress report on Hy-Vee Half Marathon training

I have been a very diligent little runner this spring, and it seems to be paying off.

Of course this year, I haven't had to contend with the polar vortex, so skipping workouts has been harder to justify.

Nor have I brought my phone on most of my long runs — I get tired of holding it and of obsessing over the statistics. Also, Cory has joined me on most of them, so I feel less likely to encounter trouble with no way of calling for help.

So that means I'm judging progress on feel alone, which is OK. I signed up for this half marathon to keep myself accountable in general and to get in tip-top shape for a spring 5K. (Mission accomplished.)

Here are my takeaways from the long runs so far, though.

Seven-miler: My parents had visited us this weekend, and while we hadn't indulged ourselves on a Roman emperor's level, we certainly hadn't skimped on the calories or hydrated optimally.

We also didn't head out until midafternoon on the first truly nice weekend Des Moines had seen all year, so temperatures were a little higher than what we were used to.

Nevertheless, I felt amazing through the first four or five miles. I did lose a little bit of giddy-up once we hit Bulldog Hill, which only surprised me because of how good I felt leading up to it, and how easy the hill had felt in earlier shorter and colder long runs.

Eight-miler: We left much earlier this time. It took me longer to find my groove during this run, but I did find it.

Our route also hit three hills that we'll encounter in the race: up from Gray's Lake, west on Grand Avenue from downtown, and up Bulldog Hill. Yep, definitely getting harder ... but not impossible.

Nine-miler: I noticed my enthusiasm shrivel once I put running clothes on, a sure signal that training is peaking and that race day had better be soon OR ELSE. (This is the second-to-last long run of the plan, so race day is close.)

If you were in Des Moines on Easter Sunday, you can easily imagine how this run took some effort. If you weren't — it was warm and windy. Not constantly windy, or constantly in-your-face windy, but definitely drying.

I felt slow and sluggish at first, probably because of both the weather and a lingering cold, and when we stopped for water around mile 5, I developed a side stitch. Good timing, as we had our three hills still ahead of us.

Either my random prodding of muscles worked, or my body handled the stitch on its own, because by the time we got up Grand to take on Bulldog Hill, I don't remember it being there anymore. In a way, I was glad for the wind, heat and cramps — any or all of these could happen on race day, so might as well be prepared.

Cory peeled off at 28th, so I had to do Bulldog Hill alone. Even without peer pressure, I did NOT cave and walk. But man, is that hill growing tougher as the runs get longer ...

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Upcoming races, of sorts: Woofin' It 5K and Walk MS

May is apparently my charitable athletic month this year. I've signed up for two events that benefit causes with particular significance to me, so I'll use this platform to recruit others to join me.

May 9 is the Woofin' It 5K, which loyal readers recognize as a fundraiser for Furry Friends Refuge, the no-kill shelter that kept Dusty for 1.5 years before I adopted him.

The first picture I ever took of Dusty, when he'd just come home. I wasn't sure whether he'd like me, and he probably wasn't too sure about the whole situation, either.  
It's literally the cutest 5K I've ever done and probably will ever do, because dogs are invited to accompany their owners and participate in a costume contest.

So. 9 a.m. start on Saturday, May 9, in Campbell Park in Clive. Registration is still only $25; sign up here. (Please. Think of the puppies! And the kitties, even though they're not invited!)

A week after that is an event to help humans: the MS Walk in Cedar Rapids. My good friend Chelsea has been doing this event for a few years now, inspired by our friend Doug's battle with MS.

In the past I've given to team Mighty Myelin Power Rangers, but this year I'm headed out to the actual event. If you feel like supporting my endeavors without running, you can donate here.

/end soapbox.