Archive for March, 2009

Breaking Barriers

Event: Strongsville Super Saturday 5K
When & Where: 9 a.m. Saturday, March 21, Strongsville, Ohio
Results: 22:51 (PR); 4/30 women’s 35-39 age group; 12/138 female entrants

For 2 1/2 years I have been trying to set a new PR at the 5K distance. My old PR from the 2006 Waterway 5K is 23:01, and in the half dozen or so 5K’s I’ve raced since then I’ve finished 23:10ish-23:30ish. It seemed like I could not get through the 23 minute barrier.

In January I ran a 23:08 on a flat course in San Diego and promised myself I would improve my PR in 2009.

I have been training diligently for the Boston Marathon: increasing my weekly mileage into the upper 50s, and doing more hill running than ever before because I actually live somewhere with hilly terrain now. Ten days prior to this race I did one 6 X 800 workout and was encouraged by my interval splits, a few seconds faster than when I was doing them last fall. But other than that, almost every “easy” run has felt anything but – sluggish, fatigued, etc. and my easy pace is almost always a little slower than it was during my last marathon training cycle.

The Strongsville Super Saturday 5K is well attended, with about 450 entrants. The course was described as having a fast 1.5 miles followed by a “challenging hill.” I went into this race with the goal to run hard and not let up on a hilly course as practice for Boston, and to get a good workout in the process.

Temperatures were around 30, with overcast conditions and no wind. I warmed up with about 15 min. easy running and a few short bouts of fast running. My legs felt good and ready to go, but I felt generally tired which I told myself to ignore. I lined up where I thought I should and soon after we were off.

It took a couple minutes to find a groove. In the first few minutes I had all those thoughts of “why do I do this – it’s so hard. I don’t feel like this today blah blah blah.” I wish I never had feelings like this, but I do at quite a few races. I’m not a hyper-competitive athlete, and have discovered I don’t naturally love racing unless I have a strong emotional connection to a particular race. I do love when I overcome “race ambivalence” to have a good day or occasionally PR. Then the feeling of accomplishment, fun, and improvement makes all the mental garbage worthwhile.

Back in Strongsville, we turned onto a road with a slight down grade. That seemed to open up my stride and energize me, so I went with it and quickly felt better. Mile 1 – 7:03 and I felt strong.

We started heading downhill again. For some reason downhill running suits me and I used the descent to naturally and easily speed up. At the bottom of the hill we were at about 10:30. Then the road curved and I could see the “challenging hill” we’d start to climb. I’d run bigger and harder hills, but not in a 5K. I focused on shortening my stride, using my arms more, and pushing myself up. It was steep and I felt pretty bad at the mid-point, a short flat respite. The road curved again and the hill continued, longer but not as steep. I had caught my breath enough to feel better on this part of the hill. Mile 2 came at 14:37 according to the volunteer – my watch had missed the split.

I didn’t feel too bad from the big hill and realized I had a good shot to PR with 8:23 left to run 1.1 miles and still do it. I was encouraged and pushed as strong as I could. The course was still slightly climbing at points, but not bad. It also didn’t feel anywhere as near as miserable as a 5K usually does at this point – more like a hard tempo effort. I focused on keeping my pace as strong as I could.

We made the final turn at about 20:00 and I knew I could get to the finish in less than 3 minutes. I probably even eased up a tiny bit. I was excited to have a good shot at a PR, so these last minutes weren’t as miserable as they usually are – funny how the mental state makes such a huge difference.

I crossed the line smiling at 22:50 by my watch and 22:51 official time. The last 1.1 miles had been 8:09. Not a huge PR, but set on a much more challenging course than my previous.

This was a good encouragement that Boston training is working, and good practice for staying tough on hills. I feel fortunate to be running, and am hopeful of staying healthy for the next weeks to see what happens on April 20.


March 23-29 Training

I’ve heard 60 is the new 40. Whoever said that wasn’t talking about weekly running mileage. This was my first-ever time logging over 60 miles in a training week. Actually, if I went by a Sunday – Saturday calendar, I moved 68 miles closer to Boston in a seven-day period due to shuffling around the long run last weekend.

Unlike current popular human development theory, there is a big difference between 60 and 40. The main difference is the amount of time needed for all the running. I am grateful my life right now allows the flexibility, and look forward to seeing if the time and miles contributed make a difference on April 20.

March 23-29

Monday – 8 easy

Tuesday – rest from running; taught 90 min. pilates/yoga class

Wednesday – 9.5 miles including 8 x 800 m intervals (average 3:30/800m)

Thursday – 10 easy

Friday – 4 easy; taught 90 min. pilates/yoga class

Saturday – 22 mile long run

Sunday – 6.75 easy

Totals: 60.25 miles running; 2 pilates/yoga classes; additional core/functional strength exercises most days

Good stuff: Other than a few fleeting achy/tight spots, I felt good and am apparently healthy. It was exciting to log my highest mileage week to date. Saturday’s long run in 65 degrees and sunshine was also much appreciated – it was a perfect day to be outdoors.

Stuff to keep an eye on: As always, what I put in my mouth! I naturally prefer nutritious food, but basically took a sabbatical from careful nutrition since last Boston. Then the stress of unexpected relocating/new job last fall showed up on the scale. This year I’ve slowly lost half of the goal I set for myself, and if I am careful can meet it by race day.  To hold myself more accountable, I am including the link to my food journal. I find that logging is an excellent way to track a daily calorie budget and helps prevent straying from a plan. In the past I’ve had success with weight management using FitDay.

Goals for the week: The key workout this week will be practicing marathon pace in Saturday’s Spring Classic Half Marathon. I haven’t been doing much marathon pace running this training cycle, so it will be good to remember what 8:30 minute miles feel like.

2009 … so far

Cough! Sniffle! Hack! Look at that cloud of dust! Is that a cobweb?  ‘Scuse me a moment while I grab a broom, open the windows, and air this place out.

Please forgive the disarray of In The Distance. Quarterly new posts fall far short of my best intentions.  The Blogkeeper’s been working hard to get herself and her students in better shape, but in the process let the place atrophy a bit.

While I spiff things up, I’ll re-cap the first season of 2009.


Sunset Dec. 31 2008, San Diego

Sunset Dec. 31 2008, San Diego

Lloyd and I watched the sun set on a remarkable year in a beautiful place: an oceanfront condo in San Diego, where we spent part of our holiday vacation.  We started 2009 with an impromptu Polar Plunge in the Pacific. On Jan. 3 I entered a local 5K and surprised myself by coming within 7 seconds of my PR. “I am going to do my best to smash that this year!” I vowed.  A red-eye flight delivered us back to Ohio, and before I could adjust to the time zone change I was back at work.

Somewhere around last Thanksgiving, I realized the same fear of falling that holds me back when trail-running is exponentially worse if there is even a rumor of ice on the ground. Hesitantly I baby-stepped across frozen sidewalks and parking lots, certain the slippery stuff was waiting to kiss my agility-challenged, non-acclimated butt.  Walking was precarious enough; I wasn’t going to consider running on slick surfaces. In the middle of one of Cleveland’s snowiest, coldest winters, I retreated to the safety zone. Out of 20 runs completed in Ohio, 14 featured this view:

I logged 181.5 miles for January; 130 were treadmiles and I raced one 5K (23:07).


The snow and ice kept on coming. I remained in my winter quarters:

I learned the Brecksville Rec Center treadmills’ every nuance and quirk. ” This one shocks you when you touch it. This one has a weird belt. This one feels wobbly and lacks cushion.” And there was plenty of time to bond: With long runs approaching 20 miles, it became more apparent that I was marathon training again.

February’s running log lists 167.3 miles, 105 of which were on a moving belt. Clearly I have a high tolerance for boredom, and paired it with considerable gratitude for a comfortable mid-winter running environment.

On rare ventures outside, I was able to get in touch with my inner trail animal. I discovered that I love to plow, leap, and slide over a powder-covered trail. Something about the pillowy white stuff turns off my tentative trail gene. Who cares if I fall when I’ll land in softness and deja vu of playing in the snow as a kid?

Deer Lick trail in the snow, Brecksville Reservation

Deer Lick trail in the snow, Brecksville Reservation

Valentine’s Day weekend marked one year since my first trip to Cleveland, and it was also the occasion of my friend Mert’s first visit. We had a great time catching up, exploring, shopping, watching girlie movies, and especially seeing Michael Franti and Spearhead‘s warm and sunny blend of reggae, rock, soul, folk, rap, pop, and peace activism turn up the heat at the House of Blues.

Feb. 14 was also supposed to be my second Chili Bowl Classic 5K race and I eagerly looked forward to trying to better last year’s time. Instead, my warm up nearly stopped me in snow tracks on top of ice. I slip-ran the race all easy pace instead, disappointed in the weather and berating myself for “being an ice-fearing wimp.”

It turned out to be one of the coldest, snowiest Februarys on record. Despite gratitude and amazement for the manner and timing of moving to Northeast Ohio, I felt pangs of regret over leaving a mild climate.


Land ahoy! March 1 was the date of my first 20 miler as well as the first long run of the year that did not involve staring at an electronic console.

With two months of cushioned belt running, my legs were less prepared to take on the Boston Marathon course than they had been a year earlier training in flat coastal North Carolina. Attempting to make up for lost time, I sought climbs, rolling terrain, and descents on run after run. The Shamrock 15K race, which steeply then relentlessly climbs for its last 5 miles, was a good challenge that left no doubt that I have some work to do.

Reluctantly, winter released its frigid lock on Northeast Ohio. Climbing up and cruising down the miles, I spotted spring robins and saw near-record snowfall become gushing melt.

Brandywine Falls, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

With the arrival of spring , by the calendar if not yet the thermometer, I had an opportunity for another 3.1 mile test. The Strongsville Super Saturday course was not perfectly flat like the San Diego race, but thankfully it offered clear, dry pavement. Channelling February’s 5K frustration up a steep second mile hill, I hung on and for the first time found myself at the Finish in less than 23 minutes. After feeling like much of last year was a running recession, an unexpected PR was an extra rewarding surprise.

In this new season of rejuvination, I’m especially determined to give myself and training extra TLC in the coming 24 days leading to Boston. I’ll share highlights here before the dust has a chance to settle again.