Saturday, May 26, 2012

Time to be humbled...

I knew it was coming. I knew the weather would knock me on my butt eventually.

Texas summers are rough, and that's an understatement. I grew up where the climate was very mild, with summer days rarely getting above 85, usually staying below 80. Triple digit heat was a big deal, and difficult to deal with.

Fast forward to our 6th summer here and it hasn't gotten easier. Last year was definitely an extreme, with 90 triple digit days (a record) and roughly half the year above 90. I beat the heat by doing a lot of runs on the treadmill (a blessing because it helped me get faster, but a curse because I developed Achilles tendinitis). I vowed to stay outdoors as much as possible this year. I needed to get used to this heat.

We haven't had a triple digit day yet, but we've had several over 90. Our mornings were staying relatively mild for the most part until just recently. I had planned on running 13 miles today in preparation for my 30K on June 10, and I watched with a bit of apprehension as the forecast kept getting warmer.

When I arrived at Brushy Creek Trail this morning it was 77 degrees. Humidity was nearly 90% and it was overcast. It felt so muggy I was sweating before I even began running. I knew this would take me at least 2 hours and it wasn't going to be fun.

I've had a lot of great runs, long ones included, lately...even in 80 degrees...but I knew it would hit me eventually and I'd have a crappy run.

I woke up pretty sore this morning. Thursday was a 2-workout day, 4 miles of a technical trail in the morning and 4.3 miles of hill sprint repeats (1.6 for warm up and cool down, 2.7 miles of 9x.15 mile hill repeats). My legs were toast. I should have done an ice bath Thursday night but was so exhausted I didn't bother (mistake). I should have foam rolled Friday but was lazy (another mistake). I needed to eat and hydrate more than I did (you'd think I was a rookie). I pretty much set myself up for misery!

But I set out on the run anyway, repeating to myself that running a half marathon on sore and tired legs would toughen me up. My first 2 miles were in about 19:45 and I felt every ache and pain, but hoped it would only take a couple miles to loosen up. Nope, still very sore. I ran for 2 more miles, feeling the hunger pangs coming on. At 4 miles I fueled and walked for about .2 miles. As soon as I started running again I wanted to stop. I had almost 9 more miles of this crap? I felt like my breathing was just way too heavy. The humidity was sucking the life out of me. Yikes.

Once I got past Lake Park, I felt a bit better...I was now 5 miles into my run and got a bit of a second wind. It didn't last long, but I tried to concentrate on my scenery and not run too fast. I was running about 9:30-9:40 pace, so it wasn't my best but it was respectable. I should've been running more like 9:10-9:20 pace but that's typical of fresh legs and better weather conditions. If I could keep all running miles under 9:45 I would be happy.

At 7 miles I took another break, checked in with Greg, and trudged on. I noticed that there was water set out on the trail and planned to hit that up when I passed back by it after my turnaround, which was only about a quarter mile ahead. That was walk break number 3, and my longest one. Still 5 miles to run.

The last 5 miles went quicker than I expected. I felt a bit better, but was hungry for most of it, and would run about 2 miles and then take a short walk break. If that's what I needed to do to get me through this run, then I would take it. It was making my average pace go above 10 minutes per mile, but so be it. My running pace was still okay, even though it felt far slower.

I got back to my car after exactly 13.1 miles. 2 hours and 13 minutes it took me to run that half marathon, about 18 minutes off my ability. But it was a training run and on sore, tired legs, it would have been dumb to push myself any harder. I tried to remember that throughout the run. Still, it's humbling to post a slower time than what I'm used to.

Onto the next run!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My intro to a "real" trail

Last month I had this crazy idea to sign up for a trail run...a difficult trail run...a 30-freaking-kilometer trail run. In June. In Texas. When I've never run on a difficult trail in my life.

I honestly have no idea what I was thinking. 

But I did it and I'm committed to completing this run. Crazy or not.

I've kept up on my long runs since the winter marathons, so I'm not very worried about the distance. I've been running in the warmer temps, so I'm only mildly worried about the heat. The terrain? THAT I am worried about. I knew I needed to get myself out on a real trail to see what it's about, even if it's just for a few miles. I don't want surprises come race day.

My fabulous friend Red suggested the trail around Lake Georgetown, but to not go alone. So I recruited my awesome husband to go out there with me whenever he could squeeze it in while the kiddos were still in school. That day was today! We headed up to LGT right after dropping the kids off, but only had time for about 4 miles before he needed to be back home for work.

We found the trail head with no problem (thanks, Red!) and headed out on the trail. I knew it would be pretty rocky and difficult, but I don't think Greg was quite prepared for just how different it was. The first quarter mile is pretty mild, but then the really rocky part starts up, with a few smooth sections thrown in here and there. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've heard Greg complain and whine within the first mile of a run. I just had to laugh at him....and there was NO WAY I was going to utter anything other than pure joy about being out there. Ha!

At around the first mile mark, we get a view of Lake Georgetown. Totally makes the whole thing worth it.

Trail running is definitely done at a much slower pace. At the turnaround point at 2 miles we were already over 24 minutes into our run, where we'd normally only be 17-18 minutes into it. But I have to say it was so nice to just concentrate on where I was running and enjoy it, rather than worry about my pace.

We managed to run the 2 miles back quicker since we knew what to expect with the terrain, and we took advantage of the flatter and smoother sections with a quicker pace. We even managed sub-11 minute pace on Mile 4.

All in all, I think it was a great run and I had a lot of fun. I especially enjoyed all the shade! It was already getting very warm by 8:30am, so to have shade for 90% of the run was a definite bonus. I feel much better knowing what to expect on June 10, although I also now know just how difficult it's going to be to concentrate like that for 4+ hours.  I do plan to go out on the trail for a much longer run before the race to get even more comfortable.

The crazy continues!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Two shiny new PR's

Ever since my marathons were completed earlier this year, my focus has been on speed. I want a sub-4 hour marathon badly, and I feel like the time is right to finally make that a reality. I had two good marathons, feel comfortable with the distance, and have gotten much more mentally strong. Now...4 months after the Houston Marathon, 3 months after Austin, I'm 8 pounds lighter, feeling great, and getting faster. I've spent a lot of time running with other people and it's making a difference. Hills, tempos, speed's all coming together for me.

Georgetown is a little town just north of Round Rock and there are so many small fun races held there. I decided to take advantage of some of those. The Georgetown Running Club knows what they're doing when it comes to putting on races. I love the small ones especially. One of the ones I've thought about doing over the last couple years but never did is the Dam Mile...a 1 mile race across the Georgetown Dam. I haven't timed myself running just one mile since high school and it was time to see if all my hard work has been paying off. I got a good confidence boost just two nights earlier doing kilometer hill repeats....about half a kilometer is uphill, with the rest flat or downhill, repeated several times. My average pace over the course of the workout was 8 minutes even, about 7:40 if you look at the hill repeats only. I knew that if I could keep running that kind of pace uphill I could certainly break 7 minutes in a mile. I asked a few friends what they thought I was capable of....6:50 for sure, 6:40 stretch goal. I could certainly try it!

Race morning was just perfect. Great temps, good light tailwind, great scenery, good friends. Greg was also going to run it, and the kids came with us, ready to hang out while we did our thing. I opted for the 6-8 minute heat, while Greg planned to be one of 7 runners doing the sub-6 minute final heat.

My heat started out pretty fast, and as I glanced at my watch and saw a 5:50 pace I knew I needed to hold back or I would burn out by the half mile mark. So I slowed just slightly, hitting the quarter mile mark at 1:36. A little fast, but I felt very comfortable. I hit the halfway mark at 3:16....on target for a mile time in the 6:30s. Could I do it?  The next quarter mile I was definitely feeling the speed zapping me, but I tried to hold on, knowing it was only a couple more minutes of pain and then I'd be done. I could do anything for 2 or 3 minutes, right? The last bit of the race is on a slight downhill but by that point I had nothing left in me and only managed to speed up to 6:01 pace at the very end. I was running at full capacity. As I crossed the finish I was honestly shocked to see 6:38 as my time. Not only had I beat my first two goals (sub-7 and 6:50) but I had even beat my stretch goal. One of my buddies told me later he thought I could even do a 6:35 but didn't want to totally freak me out.

Out of 70 runners, I was 19th overall and 3rd female overall. I won the medal for 1st in my age group (30-39). Greg exceeded his goal of sub-6 and got 1st in his age group (7th overall) with a 5:51. It was a great day for the Hahns, that's for sure!

Even though I definitely exceeded my expectations, I know I can do even better. The female winner ran a 6:13...I want to do that next year - win the whole thing! I mistakenly told my 13 year old neighbor this...the same girl who can break 6 minutes in a mile. Big mistake - she says she's going to beat me next year.

On May 5, a week before the Dam Mile, I ran a 5K and was on pace to break 24 minutes in the race when it was discovered many of us had made a wrong turn and gotten off course. Unfortunately it was enough to throw me off pace, piss me off, and pretty much wreck the PR. I stopped my watch at 3.1 miles (24:56) and kept walking and running to the finish line, estimating that I really ran about 3.6 miles (in 29 minutes). I was upset, but these things happen, and knowing that I was on pace not only for a PR (which used to be 24:40), but I could have also broken 24 minutes, was enough for me to decide to do Vern's No Frills 5k on May 19, just two weeks later. Redemption race.

My running buddy Karen decided to run the race with me so the two of us headed up to Georgetown that morning, excited to spend some time together and hopefully both get a PR. Karen's PR was 24:05, so she and I had similar goals. She wasn't nearly as crazy as I was about breaking 24 and would have been happy with anything under 25, but she planned to stick with me as long as she could during the race.

It was a warmer morning, mid-70s, with a pretty heavy humid feeling in the air, but for only 3.1 miles it was going to be okay. We started off the race right on pace, getting through the first mile at 7:46. Karen was right ahead of me for most of this mile, but I caught up and we kept pace off each other for quite awhile after that. We were both feeling really great and that we could maintain that pace with little trouble. We hit mile 2 at 7:41, so still right on pace, although I was kind of hoping for something in the 7:30's. I could feel Karen right at my hip during this second and third mile and knew she was doing just fine. At about the 2.5 mile mark I definitely hit some fatigue. I just couldn't speed up at all and was struggling just to maintain my pace at 7:40. I didn't have any fear that I wouldn't make my PR but I really hoped to break that 24 minute mark. I definitely thought that Karen was going to blow by me at the end. Mile 3 came in at 7:42 and I tried my best to push the pace for the last tenth of a mile, but only managed 7:22 for that stretch to finish right at 24 minutes even.

So very close to breaking 24 minutes. But 40 seconds off my previous PR (which I've been trying to beat since Thanksgiving 2008) so I was THRILLED! Karen stuck with me the whole race and finished right behind me. We were the 4th and 5th overall females in the race out of 70 women. I beat 55 out of the 80 men who ran. To say I was happy is an understatement! And for Karen to stick with it the entire race when she thought she'd be a full minute slower was icing on the cake.

So in the last year I've gotten PR's in every big race distance except one, the half marathon, where I was 55 seconds off in March. My next half marathon is in July and I'm really REALLY hoping for 1:55. I'm on pace to hit that, I just have to keep believing I can do it and I have to keep working hard.

I've been told to only run 3 times per week and to keep every run a quality workout - speed, hills, or long distance. So far so good.

Getting faster with age....I'm liking this!!