Tuesday, December 22, 2015

(4)0 Degree not so W, Trail Festival

A week and a half ago, I did something that I hadn't done in a while. I raced on trails! Running on trails is very infrequent for me, racing even more so. It's not that I don't like them, it just isn't my first choice right now. But, I had agreed to do this race and was even excited about it. It is the last Trails ROC race of the year, very low key, low priced ($1 for every mile you run- 5, 10, and 15 mile options), and all around a fun afternoon. I spectated last year, which was quite a bit different scenery. The race is called 0 Degree WTF, as in...Winter Trail Festival. This unseasonably warm weather we are having didn't bode well for the "winter" part of the race. The race director scolded the runners for our lack of properly functioning snow dances- sorry Eric, I didn't do one at all.
Spectating and making snowmen last year....
I felt a little out of place pre-race, but eventually decided to go out and run a short warm-up and shake off the cobwebs. I only did a little over a mile on the roads around the lodge, but was enough to get my legs ready and my mind prepared to handle 10 miles of trails. I finished my bottle of UCAN and ate a pack of honey stinger chews for good measure.

Something I love about trail races is the feeling of ease at a start line. It's so much less formal, everyone is just joking around, laughing and saying well wishes. It's not that they aren't serious, don't care, and aren't about to kick ass- it's just generally more laid back. I like that.
I don't know why I look so serious here, I mean...how serious could I be with my foxy $1 target gloves and "Beer me" singlet on!
The course is a 5 mile loop with roughly 1300 feet of elevation gain throughout. The 5 milers run the loop once, 10 mile race twice(2600ish ft/gain), and 15 miler rounds out 3 loops(3900 ft/gain). When I signed up for the race, I decided on the 10 as an active challenge but not over reaching with the 15 miler (after not running trails, not running a ton of hills, and also coming back from taking a week off of running). That elevation or distance might not be a lot for some people- but I knew it was going to be character building for myself.

The first loop, was great until it wasn't. I found my heart rate absolutely skyrocketing with each climb, even when walking. I hiked hills when I needed, and focused on preserving myself- I didn't want to walk the entire second loop. "Ski hill" was a bitch, and admittedly defeated me the first time through. I passed off my gloves at the top, and walked for a bit after trying to re-focus. A while later came "hell on roots", though there was a rope to help climb it unlike when I ascended it on a preview run. I did my best, and reached the top trying to smile. I definitely muttered something like "I'd rather do a marathon". That was the fear and insecurity talking. I'm comfortable on roads, I'm comfortable pushing pace and breathing heavy on asphalt, and I'm comfortable with 26 miles. 10 miles of trails isn't comfortable when you don't do them often, it isn't naturally easy for me and I let some negative thoughts get the best of me.

Then I remembered why I was doing this race in the first place. To be uncomfortable, to do something different in the "offseason", and also to appease Eric of Trails ROC who had been asking me to try trail race for a while now. I was there to run, have fun, experience some scenery change and to challenge myself--I spent a minute reminding myself of that and then embraced the rest of the first loop and got excited to go at it again.

Between loops, I stopped at the aid table and drank some of my Nuun that I had left there. It wasn't a long stop but it was good to hydrate, and catch my breath for a minute before heading back out. I had caught up to two men also in the 10 mile race, and figured it would be good to push myself and chase for a while. We bantered back and forth, and our pack of 3 went down to two. I had found a new set of wheels and was having a blast. The guy I was running behind at one point asked "you're not going to make this easy on me are you?"....I replied with a simple "nope". Friendly competition at it's finest.

I hiked up "Ski hill" again, but with a much better attitude. I went up "hell on roots" still huffing a bit but again....a better attitude made all the difference. Shortly after that I knew I could run the rest and at a decent enough pace. I could still have a strong finish. I tackled the rest and ran the last bit of the course (around a grass field to the finish) as if I were on the roads- that felt good. I got my big high five at the finish, crossing first female and third overall for the 10 mile distance.

Due to the favorable conditions- all of the course records fell, and fell hard. The male winner of the 15 miler (who totally lapped me even though we started at different times), broke the record by 16 minutes and the leading female broke the record by about 9 minutes. In the 10 mile race the male broke the record by about 18 minutes, and I broke the female record by about 12 minutes. The 5 mile records were both broken by 1-2 minutes. So when I say it was a solid running day, in comparison to previous years conditions- I wasn't kidding. No way in hell could I have run that time if there was a foot of snow! But, I'll take it. It was a successful day all around.

Post-race was, in my head- how it should be. Cheer for other runners, congratulate others on their race, share beers with friends and strangers, and take joy in the fact that we have a commonality in running. Being the "new girl" in the situation was a little odd at first, but the cries of "she doesn't even go here!" never came. Most everyone was welcoming, inviting (for more trail running, of course), and friendly. We chatted running (trails and roads), beer and life- I left the race with a big smile on my face and it had little to do with a time or a placement but for an experience.

If you want to see some AWESOME photos from the race, check out The Ascend Collective- WTF Gallery--> here.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Freezeroo #1 Don Curran Memorial 5k 2015

I mentioned last week that I was excited to be doing the Freezeroo series this winter, as a way to stay motivated and get outside. This weekend was the first race of the series, and oddly wasn't very Freezerooish with the weather- but no one was complaining. Temperatures were in the low 40's I think, with a slight breeze.

One of the things I love about the series, is that the races don't start until 10 AM. I was in bed until about 8:30 with my coffee, waffles and the newspaper....maybe even a little later. The series races take place all around Rochester, and this one happened to be 10 minutes from home.

My friend was working the packet pickup and said it was a fast course ( I didn't know this course) and I thought he was messing with me, I would proceed to spend most of the race waiting for a mountain to jump out of nowhere. It didn't.
Photo credit: GRTC
These races are so low key, everyone just hangs out chatting until the start. We took off and I instantly went out way too fast. I was running 5:35-45 pace for the first half mile- NOOOOO Laura. The first mile had lots of little turns through and around parking lots until we finally got out on a main road. I hit the first mile in 5:58, I was like okay just hold on to that.

The second mile featured a half mile out and back portion. This told me I was somewhere in top 10 overall, and only had one female in front of me. Goal, don't get passed. I enjoyed the out and back portion, cheering for friends and hearing their support on the other side as well. Mile 2 was 5:59.
Smile for the camera....in the last mile.
The last mile meant weaving back through the parking lots and turns, which didn't excite me but wasn't a big deal. I knew I could keep running for a few more minutes and just focused on hitting one turn to the next. I could hear heavy breathing not far behind me and knew someone was close, DON'T get passed damnit.

I found that kicker of a gear and went through the line without getting passed, 18:49 and good enough for second female and my second fastest 5k time.  I also took 5th overall, always fun to do that....nice to see 2 women in top 5 of a race(even for a small race).

I'm really happy with this, and it was a good start to the series. I know I won't be able to run "race speed" for all of the races....snow and sub-zero temps are inevitable. So it was nice to come out with a bang and can then try and hold on for the remainder of the races whatever the weather brings. The girl who won the race was not registered for the series, so she gets the race win but I get the points for the win in the series (if that makes sense).

As for my personal race, I'm happy with the time and also happy with stringing together those two sub-6 miles. I struggle with that and found this race to be good progress. I do wish though that I had more grit in that last mile. My kick was faster than it should have been, meaning I wasn't doing enough in the last mile. I could have been pushing more, there may not have been people around me but I should be able to push myself regardless. Not a complaint, just something that I know I can work on though going forward.

The next Freezeroo race is on New Years day, which I will not be doing. It's important for me to not have running/racing invade every part of my life. I'm looking forward to ringing in the New Year with Brian and not worrying about what needs to happen the following day. This will probably be the only series race that I miss, and that's ok. You need 4/6 of the races to be eligible for awards and I plan on doing all of the rest. Lucky for me, I should have some company from Britt and Heather for the 5 miler on January 9th!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Winter Training & Racing

After not running for all of last week, here we are and it's December. Seven full days off of running, and I tell you what- it was just the thing I needed.  It also made me even more excited for the upcoming months of training and racing.

I get that 7 days off isn't a lot. It's a week. We have FIFTY TWO of them in a year, and I took ONE totally off. But in that one week, I got what I needed. I got more sleep than I have in a while, I spent quality time with family and friends. I caught up around the house, and little odds and ends in life. So nope, not a big deal to take 7 days without running. It's better than not taking it and needing WEEKS down the road because I didn't take it now though.

I would much rather take time off on my own terms, which allows me to recover and recharge. That is much better than NEEDING the time off for other reasons. So, I embraced the hell out of my self-imposed break.

After Boston Marathon this year, I took 4 days off of running. After Erie Marathon I took 4 days off of running as well. Besides 1-2 day stretches within training (2 days in a row off was semi-rare), those 4 day stints were the longest I took off of running since last December. I took 11 days off of running after Memphis Marathon last year, and it was so good and oh-so-necessary. Had I raced another late fall marathon this year, I would have taken at least another 10 day running hiatus.

While I have been feeling good, and even after my PR at the Philly half marathon- I knew that I was due for a break. Tina and I did some chatting about this, and I know that the break was important. In my head I said at least a week of no running, but perhaps a little more depending how I felt come Monday.

I ran on Monday night after work, with fresh legs and a renewed sense of motivation.

What exactly is coming up? 
December plans are to get back into routine, enjoy the holidays and get ready for the new year to start with a bang for Boston training. No crazy miles or workouts, just getting myself into that aerobic monster zone that worked so well before specific training before Erie.

What is Boston training going to look like?
One of the things I accomplished on my time off last week was compiling a pretty good rough draft of my Boston training plan. After parting ways with my coach around the time of Erie, I decided that I would go through at least another marathon cycle on my own before potentially considering another coach. I'm excited to be in the drivers seat again, and I feel like I can be more successful now than when I was self-coached before. I've learned a lot, and have a much better idea of what works and doesn't work.

With that said, I would like to see some things with my training this time around. I want another gradual mileage bump, I've taken this pretty serious over the years about no drastic changes and it's kept me healthy. I also want to see consistency with "the little things" that I know can make a big difference (core work, dynamic stretching, hydration, post-run strides, hill sprints etc.). Workout wise I'm still playing around with them, but most won't be anything crazy different or new- just good solid race specific efforts. I will be updating my training logs each week over on Salty Running.

What is next for racing?
Two winters ago I did more racing than this past one. I used the local Freezeroo series as a way to motivate myself to get out regardless of conditions. Last year I didn't do it for a bunch of reasons, but kind of missed the commiseration of scheduled hard run in sub-zero temps with other locals. I never really stressed about those races, because the conditions were always different and never usually ideal- but it meant a good workout and a morning with other runners. Something to be said about low-frills races as supported workouts during training.

With that said I decided to register for the series this year. It's $65 for SIX races, which is a nice tag for supported runs. Some people pay well over $11/class for a workout so why not pay roughly ~$11 for a supported running workout? I know for a fact I won't do all 6 races (already nixed the New years day one), but I will plan on at least 4 so I can be eligible for series awards (2 years ago I took second place for women). 

Besides the series, I am also registered for two halves- both of which will most likely be workouts and not all out races. I'm glutton for punishment & going back to Lake Effect even after this years mess- but will be much better about adjusting goals and such if need be. I am also doing Syracuse Half Marathon again, but the new race date is only 2 weeks from Boston so it will likely be a marathon workout or just another long run.

So that is where I am at, and what is next. I'm really excited with life in general right now, which makes running the icing on the cake. I'm gonna have this cake and eat it too.

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