Monday, June 22, 2009

Speed training

For the first time since college, I'm doing a track workout in the morning. (And yes, that's me on the left being coached at one of those college workouts.)

To be honest, I'm a little nervous for the early-morning intervals. I keep times and monitor my pace during some runs: we run mile repeats every now and again, and two years ago Julie and I did some half-mile repeats on a loop course, but nothing at the level I'll be able to in the morning.

However, this is good. There is a goal here: Run fast! I want to run a fast half-marathon just to see how speedy I can be. It's kind of a silly plan, because really I'd rather do a four-hour run as training for an ultra-marathon, but this is good for me and it's good for the triathlon training. Also, it's just fun. I like that tinge of fatigue in my legs every morning and the accomplishment of running 10 miles at an 8:30 mile pace (that was Sunday morning) even though it hurt.

But there's one more reason. I think I'm faster than my times show. I run challenging, not fast, marathon courses and over-train (or at least don't taper) for shorter races, so I never gauge what my capabilities really are. I'd like to find out.

And here's the back story: It had been a long time since I had a bad race. College. Probably this really horrible 10K performance I had at Avenue of the Giants one year when I thought I was capable of running 6 miles even though all I'd done for the past four months was eat crap food and drink.

Anyway, point is I'd had a good streak of runs. Until a few weeks back.

Sarah (my sister's friend) and I met up to run the Nitro Trail half-marathon in Pinole, a suburb in the East Bay. The course was fairly flat and fast. Sarah and I ran together through the first half of the run, clocking sub-8 minute miles throughout. It was awesome, especially because it was Sarah's first half marathon and she hadn't done much training. Pretty much, she's just awesome.

So I started dropping back around mile 8 (I think, it's all a bit hazy) but still had a really amazing pace going at mile 10. Then there was a fork in the trail, no volunteer in sight and I was surrounded by a forest of pink ribbons. Right turn or left turn or straight? I went one way, questioned myself and turned back. I found a different trail and followed two women (who turned out to be the winners). I finished in the remarkable time of 1:36. I ran approximately 11 miles.

The race director had no compassion for the unfortunate turn of events in my race. Had I made the correct directional decision, I prolly would have scored a sub-1:50 time, which is a huge PR for me. Instead, I pouted and cussed and was generally disagreeable over it.

The following weekend, I ran a much more challenging half in Nisene Marks -- hilly single-track trail sometimes so steep that I walking was the only option -- for "fun" and finished in just over 2 hours (2:00:16). It was actually my fastest half-marathon race finish ever, but I ran 1:55 and some change at the mid-point of the Seattle Marathon last fall.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A break ... from blogging, but not running

Tandem training is happening now ... for a both a speedy half-marathon and a triathlon.

The half-marathon will be first, next month in Los Gatos (just over the mountains from me here in Santa Cruz). The triathlon is the one I've been talking about for ages -- the Santa Cruz Triathlon (formerly "the Sentinel") in about three months.

Figuring out how to train for both while enjoying the spoils of summer at the beach is a challenge. Go for a bike ride or sit in the yard for a reading/sunbathing session? I've got to be honest, the serial killer book and a lawn chair won out last weekend.

Also, training for just a half-marathon -- I know, JUST -- seems almost like being a woman without a race. I could cover that distance tonight after work if I felt like it. In fact, I've done two half-marathon races in the past three weeks (more on those later) and taken no time off after them. So getting it through my head that I need to run a certain distance at a certain pace can be a tough sell.

The one thing I'm actually getting really into is swimming in the ocean. Yes, totally insane. Nuts. But it feels like such an accomplishment every time I finish loop around the buoys at Cowell Beach. Don't get me wrong, it's no fun when I'm out there. Sunday morning, I thought kelp that caught on my ankles was a sea monster. Sometimes I get little panic attacks from the cold, choppy water. But once I can touch the sand again and run up out of the waves, I'm ecstatic. And this weekend I may try swimming the Wharf, which is the full distance I will have to cover during the triathlon. Woot woot!!

Running-wise, it's time to update my iPod playlist and start cranking out the miles again. I know it's not ideal for some of the racing I'd like to do, but the weather's great and I have a couple running buddies who will explore some of the single-track trails I'm too cowardly to take on alone ... mostly for fear of getting lost.

What are you searching for?

"So be prepared to quit. Do it willingly and with honest resolve. You'll be back. The marvelous thing about running is that you will never become jaded by it. Boredom, injury or anguish may overtake you from time to time, but the reward that first drew you to begin logging the miles remain untarnished and available -- always. Just put on your shoes and head out the door."