Monday, June 30, 2014

Running While ...

I intentionally failed to mention in my Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run recap that I ran Cherry Blossom about 20 weeks pregnant.

I signed up for the Cherry Blossom lottery in December. I didn't even look into it last year, and it was literally on the day I moved to Washington, DC the year before that. After a series of injuries in 2012 and 2013, I was finally back to regular mileage and in the range of my pre-injury speed. It was time to pick a race and actually race it.

Two days later, I found out I was pregnant. Of course I was going to get picked in the lottery. And I did.

My plan was to keep running as long as I could. Generally, as long as you don't have any complications, you can keep doing whatever pre-pregnancy exercise activities you were doing. Sure, I had to be careful to not push too hard or get dehydrated or overheat.

That meant I had to approach training for Cherry Blossom differently. I used a modified version of Hal Higdon's intermediate 15K/10 mile training plan. Believe it or not, I had never trained properly for a 10 mile race. I couldn't attempt a PR or do speedwork, nor did I want to. My goals shifted from "run fast and PR" to "run for a healthy me, healthy baby, and healthy pregnancy and have fun." I gotta say, I was really frustrated in the beginning that I had to slow down. A lot. Running wasn't all that fun. I used heart rate as a general guide and quickly learned how to run by perceived effort level. I would try to keep my heart rate in the high 140s-low 150s. Mid-150s was (and still is) my threshold for easing up.

I knew Cherry Blossom had an official transfer period in February, so that was an option in case I couldn't run. I reached my second trimester during February. I was still running, and in fact running started to be fun again. I got some of my energy back. My pace started to pick up. The weather was terrible this winter, but I didn't stress if I missed a training run. Baby measured on target and had a nice strong heartbeat. OK. Baby and I were all in for Cherry Blossom.

I had a great time running Cherry Blossom, in part because my only goals were to have fun and finish. And run around 1:40-1:45. Check, check, and check. Better than check on that last one. Baby has a 10 mile PR of 1:39 and change. Good work, Baby. I did the work for you this time. Next time, you're on your own.

When I went past 30 weeks, I was still running. I didn't go very fast or very far. Most runs were in the 3-4 mile range. I took frequent walk breaks. I didn't run up hills. I stopped if something didn't feel right or I just wasn't feeling it. I carried water most of the time. And I didn't feel bad if I had to cut a run short or switch to walking.

I made it to about 31 weeks and decided I just didn't want to run anymore. It was more like run-walking at that point anyway. It wasn't that anything hurt or felt uncomfortable (other than my calves and sometimes my hips). Running wasn't enjoyable. The heat and humidity in particular are getting to me. But have no fear, I am not a total couch potato. I switched to low-impact activities, such as walking, the stationary bike, and pre-natal yoga. Maybe the elliptical if I I feel like hauling my gear to the gym at work. Probably not, though, since I have to deal with public transportation. That's difficult enough as it is without extra stuff to carry.

The wee baby bump at Cherry Blossom
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Same outfit and the baby bump at 30 weeks
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Oh, and in case you're wondering, Baby is a boy due to arrive in August.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run Recap and Review

This is way overdue, but I figured better late than never!

I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run on April 6, 2014. Cherry Blossom is one of the largest road races in Washington, DC.

Overall, I really liked Cherry Blossom. I knew from the beginning of my training that it was not going to be a PR or even close to one, so my goal was to treat it like a fun run with thousands of other people. And a fun run it was!

This year's course started at the Washington Monument, went around part of the National Mall, went over the bridge behind the Lincoln Memorial just barely into Arlington, VA, then back over the bridge, along the Potomac River to the Kennedy Center, turned back down along the Potomac, around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial, down and around Hains Point, then back up to the Washington Monument. Most large races in DC have several miles around Hains Point, which can be windy and lacking in spectators. But it was relatively calm, and a group of people were at the tip of Hains Point giving out beer. The peak of the cherry blossoms was a few days after the race, but most of the cherry trees were turning pink.

None of these pictures are from Cherry Blossom, but here are some of the things you will see along the course.

Washington Monument, near the start and finish area
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Bridge to Arlington and the Lincoln Memorial
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Jefferson Memorial (inside, you'll see the outside and the Tidal Basin
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Potomac River
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Based on my training, I thought I would finish around 1:40-1:45. I had no pressure to run any particular time. It was the easiest 10 mile race ever. I crossed the finish line in 1:39 and change, including a 2-minute bathroom break just before the 10K/6.2 mile mark. Go me!! Beat my time goal? Check. Had fun? Check.

I liked:
The entry fee was reasonable. You could pay extra if you wanted a medal or technical shirt.
The course is flat/pretty and took us along the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, the Tidal Basin, the Jefferson Memorial, the Potomac River, and the Washington Monument.
The weather was good. Cold at the beginning but clear and dry. Not too windy along Hains Point. Pretty much perfect weather during the race.
There is an official transfer period in February. This is a nice option. Most race entries are non-refundable and non-transferable.

I didn't like:
The course was crowded the whole time, although you had enough space to move after about the first mile.
The corrals were not enforced and people pretty much started wherever they wanted to. I actually moved one corral back because I knew I was nowhere capable of running the projected time I put down on my registration. Based on the corral cutoffs, I should have moved back two corrals. But one corral ended up being perfect. I was running with people at about my pace the whole time, and I passed and was passed by about the same amount of people. So I seeded myself appropriately. Not everyone else did, though.
The hassles of a large race. Getting there early. Crowded course. Allowing extra time to check your gear, use the bathroom before the race, and get into your corral.
Entry is through a lottery. This is not a downside for me, since I think lotteries are fairer and work better than opening registration at a certain time and having the system crash because too many people tried to register at the same time. But it means you can't just decide to run Cherry Blossom close to the race.

Bottom line? I would run Cherry Blossom again.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thoughts on Boston

One year since the 2013 Boston Marathon. Seems like forever ago and yesterday at the same time.

I was one of the last few thousand people to experience crossing the finish line of the "old" Boston Marathon. Last year, 17,580 people finished. I was the 15,961st.
It makes me sad that no one else will get to experience the old Boston Marathon.
It makes me angry that the Boston Marathon has changed for reasons that have nothing to do with the Boston Marathon. Road races in general have changed ... extra security, clear gear bags, restrictions on costumes and spectators and backpacks, and a whole bunch of reactive measures that may or may not make races safer.
I have no doubt that the 2014 Boston Marathon will be the best Boston Marathon ever. It will be different, though.
Maybe it will be different in the way that everything after 9/11 was different. I spectated at the 2002 Boston Marathon. I don't remember whether it was or wasn't different, but I do remember waving an American flag. Back then, I had no idea what a big deal the Boston Marathon was.
One year later, I am happy to report that I have zero long-term effects. Sure, I was hypersensitive to sirens on emergency vehicles for a while, but that is barely noticeable now. Part of why I am fine was self-care in the days following the Boston Marathon. My coping skills kicked in without even thinking about them. I knew what I had to do, and I knew what I had to look out for.
But I will never unhear those explosions. I do not walk the streets of Boston the same way. I will never use the expression "Have a blast" again. Ever. I have to be careful about media coverage, especially around anniversaries.
I am still counting my blessings that of all the things that could have put me or my husband in the wrong place at the wrong time, not a single one of them happened.

Boston Strong.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Night before Cherry Blossom

Originally, the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run was a tuneup race for DC area people running the Boston Marathon. Well, that is exactly why I didn't try to run Cherry Blossom last year. It was too close to Boston. Cherry Blossom is typically a week or two before Boston (depending on how the calendar lines up). A 10 mile race fits well into most training plans the week before or two weeks before a marathon.

Now, Cherry Blossom is way more than Boston Marathon tuneup race. It is one of the largest road races in DC. The course is reasonably scenic. We'll forget about that loop down to Hains Point, but hey, if the cherry blossoms are out, you'll see cherry blossoms at Hains Point.

I haven't done a 10 mile race in several years. Given my focus on marathons since 2011, it is a significant step down to train for "only" 10 miles. But that is the point where I am in my life right now. Ten miles sounds just about right.

Bring it, 10 miles.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Cherry Blossom Training Halfway Update

Halfway already? Whaaa? Well, I guess that's what happens when you are used to 18-week marathon training plans.

So far, so good. I have ran 5 times a week (averaging in the low 20s for the week), strength trained once a week, and did yoga once a week. I need to be better about foam rolling my calves, but other than that everything is good.

I can't say I am a fan of this winter, though. I don't mind snow and cold, but it's just been one storm after another. We're all tired of it. March looks like it will come roaring in, so that must mean it will leave quietly. Yes? Please please?

In comparison, the last two winters, where I was training for marathons, were relatively mild. The winter of 2011-2012 was the warmest winter on record. It barely snowed. My usual long run path stayed clear the whole winter. There were some days where no cold weather gear was required. The winter of 2012-2013 was not as warm, but it didn't snow much. I only needed to bust out my Yaktrax once. In late March. While I was just beginning taper. Can't say I can complain about that.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Spring Is On Its Way

This is the last week before I officially start training for the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run on April 6. Lucky me got picked my first time in the lottery.

I've done 10 mile races in the past. I ran the Blessing of the Fleet 10 mile run in Narragansett, RI many times. But despite that, I never followed a formal training plan.

This time I am adapting Hal Higdon's intermediate 15K plan. I haven't run 5 days a week in almost 2 years and I am not doing speedwork, so I may swap out one of the runs for cross-training. We'll see. I tend to be rigid with training plans, but I'm just not at a place in my running where I need to or want to be rigid. I won't be trying for PR. The only place I will be rigid is my rest day. Thursday has been my traditional rest day for several years.

My general plan for the week:

Sunday - yoga & strength training
Monday - short run & strength training
Tuesday - sorta long run
Wednesday - short run & strength training (might do a boot-camp style class in the evening)
Thursday - rest
Friday - short run
Saturday - long run

By strength training, I don't mean long sessions. More like 15-20 minutes at a time. Typically, I will leave some extra time at the end of a cardio workout at the gym for strength training, or I will do some exercises while I am doing laundry or watching TV.s