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Race Autopsy

November 20, 2008

We used to do this in school, dissecting a lesson or unit we’d prepared, to talk about what had gone well and what hadn’t and get ready for the next step. I figured I’d do this now since I might not be taking too long before beginning training for the next race–either a 5k/10k training cycle or a 26.2 race.

What went well in this training cycle?
I trained with a specific goal in mind and I stuck to the plan. In this specific case, ambition worked to my advantage–though I aimed to go sub-2, I didn’t know how far under it I could go, so on speedwork days I did push past the stated pace. But on easy days I didn’t push the distance.

How was this training different from training for my first half?
I put in a lot, I repeat, a lot, more miles this time around. My highest training week before my first half was 29 miles, my highest mileage month was 118 months, and my longest run was one 14 miler. This time around, my highest training week was was 48 miles, my highest mileage month was 168 miles, and I ran two 15-milers and two 16-milers. My taper was shorter, too. Last time I ran no speedwork. This time I ran speedwork every week. Last time I trained for my half in about ten weeks; this time around I’ve considered myself in serious training for this specific race since July, and I was training to improve my short-distance times since March. So yeah, basically I never stopped training after my first half.

What will I do again?
I think I’ll keep taking turns on speed days between the intervals and tempo runs. I used to hate intervals, and I don’t anymore, maybe because, since I’ve considered myself in long-distance training, I’ve given myself permission to do only very long intervals–that is, mile repeats with quarter-mile recoveries. I do push the pace on those, and I run them progressively, so that I run the last one at what I would consider breakneck pace. I don’t generally have to walk my recoveries, though.

What did I do wrong?

  • Ah, let me count the ways! Well, first of all, I missed a week of training three weeks out. But that was largely unavoidable–overseas air travel is expensive and we had to get the tickets when we could, and nothing could have predicted that I would not get even one run in while we were away. Besides, I’m not an Olympian, and I was only chasing a PR, not Kara Goucher. Rule #6: Running is supposed to be part my life, not my whole life. It just wasn’t worth making our trip miserable to fit my running in. So the shoes got to go on a nice little overseas trip. In the end, I jumped back into the schedule when I got back. It may have cost me a long run, but life is like that.
  • I didn’t practice with Gu at race pace. That was inexcusable, especially having had the experience that I couldn’t take Sport Beans on the run. I knew the Gu didn’t bother my stomach, but I should’ve taken the opportunity to find out if I could swallow it while running at 9-minute pace. Instead, I stopped to take it on my long runs. And I did do a few miles at race pace on my last pre-race long run, so like I said, inexcusable. I didn’t realize my mistake until mile 10 of my last long run, eight days out from the race. By then there was nothing to be done. But it was a stupid oversight.

What new discoveries did I make about gear/tools/tricks?

  • Well, that Gu isn’t as revolting as previously imagined. Which is funny, because I’m not rushing out to buy it in flavors other than Chocolate Outrage, and though friends have recommended Accelerade and Hammer gel, I still have my reservations about those products, which I know rationally are just like Gu. But, there you go. Whether the impact was physiological or not, I credit a few minutes of my race time to the two well-timed packets of Chocolate Outrage Gu.
  • That hydrating well, especially as summer begins in these southern climes, is important. Later on, as your body gets accustomed to the insane weather conditions, it gets easier to complete a one-hour run without stopping for water, but initially, at least, it’s important not to. Training through the summer here can be downright dangerous.
  • I discovered long ago that BodyGlide between the legs is a wonderful thing. I never had an arm issue. But, lately, I did start developing blisters. I started freaking out because on my last half this happened at the tail end of my race. I was worried about starting the race with blisters. Wearing a bandaid that might slip around inside my shoe seemed like a less than ideal solution. BodyGlide to the rescue! Yes, I now BodyGlide my feet before every run.
  • That IcyHot before a run can be important for people with chronically tight calves.
  • That running that bridge gave me some muscled legs! You should see some of my pictures. Yikes!
  • That some seriously beautiful women run. At first, I was insecure about my lack of speed. But looking around in Ft Lauderdale, I started wondering if I was pretty enough to be running around out there. Gorgeous women on A1A. Remarkable. At least one in full makeup. Really.
  • Dark colored running shirts are good. Or, if you like the white tempo top (hey, mine is white), then a dark colored running bra. Please, don’t make me tell you why. I really want to know how pretty you are. What, you think you don’t sweat?

What’s next?
Well, hopefully, PR’s in the 5 and 10k. I’ve never been one to set high goals, mostly because I hate disappointing myself. Well, maybe I should be honest and say that I don’t state high goals. I set high goals for myself but I don’t say them out loud; then I disappoint no one but myself.

My current 5k PR is 26:15. I would love to go sub-24.
My current 10k PR is 59:15. I could be very conservative with this one because it’s such a bad number, but I really want to go sub-54.

PRs in the shorter distances are hopefully not far off, now that I know I could run 8-minute miles in the 5k and 8:30 or better in the 10k. But to shave off even more time in 2009, I think I’ll have to improve my diet. I seriously do not watch what I eat, mostly because I don’t have to anymore. After I lost all that weight, I’ve been blessed to keep it off just by running. I recently cut out most dairy from my diet to see if it improved my digestion and lost another five pounds, so weight is not an issue. But I eat more junk than I should.

I also ought to cross train more. Better abs might mean I could run in just a running bra–a definite training advantage in July–and they would improve my running form. And my flexibility is a weakness, so I should explore yoga more.

I like the 13.1 distance, so I’d like to run another half in ’09, though I’m not as anxious to break another barrier this time.

And, of course, I want to finish a marathon. That’s it for that one. No time goal.

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