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Race Autopsy

November 18, 2009

Yes, time to do it again–because it won’t be long before I’m officially in training mode again.

What went well in this training cycle?
Hmmm . . . Let me check my log, because from my perspective right now, the answer is Not much. I’ve considered myself in training since mid-July, a long season of training for a half marathon. But the first four weeks of that I still considered myself in base-building mode, getting my mileage back closer to 40 mpw before starting to hammer the tougher workouts and longer long runs. Overall, the mileage was decent, averaging about 36 over the course of the toughest training weeks. I also did well at logging the long runs. The goal was to keep my base at 10 to 14 miles over the summer, and I did that, running at least one 14-miler in each of the sweltering months of June, July, and August. Come September, I started pushing the distance, four long runs past 16 miles. The other thing I did this summer that I hadn’t done before was race shorter distances–even a 10k as late as September.

How was this training different from training for my last half?
It surprises me to say this, but I put in more miles this time around, and at a faster average pace. My average training pace last year was 9:42; this year it was 9:27. Last year, between July 1 and race day, I ran 609 miles; this year, from July to race day, I ran 697. I did try to run six days a week this year, which I hadn’t done before, but mostly so that I could run shorter mileage the rest of the days as my mornings filled up with commitments that made it difficult for me to put in the 9-milers I used to. My weekly mileage didn’t seem to be much superior to last year’s, though I know I hit three high-mileage weeks (47, 48, 49 miles) instead of last year, when I just had one week at 48 miles.

What will I do again?
The over-distance runs, for me, are invaluable. Last year I’d pushed to 16 miles. This year I did two more to 18, and though I did them slow, the endurance of just knowing I’d gone that far was fantastic. Knowing as I stepped to the line, not sure of my speed but absolutely certain that 13 miles was a distance I could run, literally, any given Sunday, was priceless.

I’d probably run this race again, too. Though there are no pacers or separate corrals, I love the course. I love the organization, and the time of year is just right for me.

What did I do wrong?

  • Again, there were so many things I screwed up! First of all, I shirked on the tempo runs at race pace, and really, that’s just a rookie mistake. I think it was mostly because there were so many intervals I wanted to try out, and I kept substituting my regularly-scheduled tempo runs with new interval workouts. But so help me if I don’t remember this: there is no substitute for practicing your race pace! I think I was also avoiding practicing my race pace because it felt so tough, and I kept thinking it was a function of the heat and I’d feel so comfortable when winter came. Well, guess what? Winter never came, at least not before race day. I should have been practicing my pace, no matter how brutally difficult it was.
  • This is kind of a derivation of the last item, but I didn’t stick to the schedule very well. Part of that was wisdom–if I am feeling particularly tired, I do need to take a day off or at least run easy–but part of it was just inattention. I should have nailed my workouts. Instead, it took me all of August to get into a rhythm, figuring out which weekdays worked for speed workouts, how to do my long run and still make it to the Lamb’s soccer games, etc. It was a learning year, I suppose.
  • Because of the scheduling snafus, I didn’t do very well at recovery, especially after the long runs. No ice baths after the 18s made me cranky and tired and achy. Gotta hit the ice after the 20s, for sure.
  • I carried only the number of gels I thought I would need on the course, no more. I had one at the start, one at mile 5, and one at mile 10. But you know, once on the course, I kind of wished I’d had the option of having another. Just because. And then I realized, what if one of the gels had “malfunctioned,” as mine have in the past, where the top just doesn’t come off? I’d have been in deep trouble, because in this race, I absolutely needed my gels.
  • Visiting the porta-potties so close to gun time made for a nerve-racking start.

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

  • That running with Little G once a week is fantastic! It gives us both something to look forward to. We have our own training schedules, so we do our speed workouts, but try to get together for long runs when we can too. And that being a good running partner means being flexible–letting the other person go if you’re feeling sluggish; putting on extra miles if you’re doing more miles than she is.
  • That gear check can be done well. At this race, we turned in our bags into two school buses; at the finish, bags were organized by number onto different rows, which could then be accessed by appropriately-labeled windows. Fantastic!
  • That a post-race massage feels fantastic! Yes, it was my first.
  • That I can push through pain and discomfort on race day that I thought unendurable on training day. I must have run two-thirds of the race with a sharp pain in my upper thigh / butt. I did not want to think the word “piriformis” out loud to myself. I just kept running. Boy, was I in pain when the race was over!*
  • I seem to be developing a pattern where a migraine rears its ugly head every time I run hard or long without my morning coffee. This would mean every Saturday when there’s a long run and I forget to get coffee on my way to meet my family somewhere or, exactly like this week, after a race. I am beginning to consider the possibility of getting up even earlier on Saturdays to experiment with downing some coffee before setting out. I’m just at a loss for what else to do.
  • Honestly, I just don’t think I was as hungry for this one as I was last year. And that’s okay. As Little G said, maybe my focus this year has been on the marathon–maybe that’s why I’ve been running the weirdo intervals and the longer long runs, even though I haven’t thought it “out loud,” this is where my training is pulling me.
  • Hey, it’s okay to train slow! I need to worry a lot less about my training pace on easy days and develop confidence through my speed workouts and endurance development on long-run days. Nobody writes down in small print “yeah, but her average training pace was only 10:17”. The only thing that matters on race day is how fast you run from the gun to the tape. That is all.
  • That traveling with Little G for this race was seamless and comfy, like old jammies. We could definitely do a destination marathon together. And racing together works for us, too–no expectations other than seeing each other at the end.

What’s next?

Again, hopefully a PR in the 5k. This is a tough one, because my current personal best is a really hard time: 23:28, or a 7:34 pace. But I’d love to push and make that even faster. As for a 10k PR, I’m just not sure how that’s going to fit into our travel schedule–as of earlier this week, my family and I are traveling overseas for the Christmas holidays, which will impact both training and racing . . . in fact, I’m thinking of picking out a new 26.2.

I need to work on my form before the marathon, concentrating on strengthening my abs and back to provide a strong framework for miles 22 and onward.

*The fact that the race ended at a beach party was, at first, horrible for me. Walking on sand was excruciatingly painful, though, as Little G said, probably actually good for my piriformis and other aching muscles. But really, every time we wandered away from the sidewalk and back on the sand, I would wince just walking. Surprisingly, though I had a little bit of DOMS (maybe even worse than after the marathon), the piriformis itself no longer hurts at all. My first post-race run was very slow–like G said, we were both “trotting”–run at an average 10-minute pace, but doable. I took another rest day today, but intend to go out again for a few slow, easy miles.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 18, 2009 10:47 pm

    it’s always good to have reflections like this so you know what to work on, what stays, and what areas you need to push yourself more in. many good lessons-learned, put them to work and blaze your way to a new 5k pr! (and beyond!)

  2. Brad permalink
    November 19, 2009 7:00 pm

    The way I see it…you ran 2 miles under 8 minutes over your 1/2 marathon….I *believe* that was something like the 2nd/3rd mile and the 12th mile…..if you can do that, that you can run a 5k PR in the near future…I think its amazing how well you ran your 1/2…..I’ll be running PB in a few weeks…wish me luck 🙂

  3. November 21, 2009 8:50 am

    When I looked at the mileage I had run prior to my half PR (130-155 miles per month) and the mileage I ran prior to the other two (later) half’s (105-115 miles per month), it seemed obvious to me that the higher mileage had been a huge factor in setting the PR. I’m now working on building a bigger base of miles to see if I can set a new PR.

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