Saturday, January 29, 2011

Marathon Eve

Yesterday: Rest day
Today: 2.1 miles easy

Tomorrow I will be running my 5th marathon, the Miracle Match Marathon in Waco, TX.  It seems like the taper weeks just flew by and I'm hoping I am as prepared as possible.  Unfortunately, I have had a few obstacles working against that preparation.  For starters, I spent 9 days of this month (the first part of my taper) on a family ski vacation in New Mexico.  The vacation was a lot of fun, but it made it difficult to get mileage and intensity in, both of which I would have liked for the beginning of the taper.  Then, once I returned to Austin, I was thrown back into what is turning out to be a hectic semester of work.  This week in particular, being the final week of my taper, I have been striving to be relaxed, calm, rested and hydrated.  Circumstances at work have been doing everything possible to thwart this.  First, it has been hard to finish up anywhere near an 8 hr day.  While I am at work, I am almost never sitting, instead I'm doing bench work standing up or walking back and forth to different labs.  I've had deadlines, which doesn't help the "calm" and finally I cannot drink water while physically in the lab, which has made hydration a challenge.

But that is all behind me because today is Saturday and I slept in this morning and I am feeling well rested and happy.  I ran an easy 2 miles this morning and got a good stretch in.  Right now, I am eating some oatmeal and blackberries for breakfast and I'm feeling good.  In the early afternoon, boyfriend and I will make the relatively easy drive north to Waco, stop by the expo for my stuff and check into the hotel.  I booked a hotel room literally a block from the starting line, so I'm expecting an easy morning tomorrow.  While the weather forecast isn't ideal, it's looking pretty good...57 to 64 F but high humidity (starting at 96% and dropping to 70%).  I would have liked a race 10 degrees cooler, but you can't control everything.

So here we go, marathon number 5!  Tomorrow I'll be taking off the watch, running by feel, and seeing what I can do.  This is a hilly course, so I'm not focusing on a time, but rather feeling good and controlled in the race.  Best of luck to everyone running Houston tomorrow, as well as any other races!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Running in Santa Fe

Adobe home in Santa Fe, NM
After Albuquerque, I headed north to the capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe.  While Albuquerque takes your breath away at 5,300 ft above sea level, Santa Fe is located at an impressive 7,300 ft.  As a city, it is much smaller than Albuquerque, but it has a rich history, having been established by Spanish missionaries 400 years ago.  The architecture is truly unique, with the majority of the buildings being in the Adobe style of the Native Americans.  I spent two full days in Santa Fe; one skiing and one sight seeing.

Ski Santa Fe base lodge
Ski Santa Fe is located just 15 miles outside of Santa Fe's city center.  While the access road is only 15 miles, it climbs over 3,000 ft to the ski base (10,350 ft).  Ski Santa Fe is a really cute area!  They had gotten several inches of fresh snow, overnight and that morning, which made for great conditions.  However, visibility was somewhat limited while the snow was still falling, and it was COLD (especially for a person living in Austin, TX).  The base was just below 20F (-6C) and the summit was 10F (-12C) without the wind chill.  I found out afterwards that this was unseasonably cold weather for the area, and turned out to be the coldest weather for Santa Fe in well over a year.  Lucky me :)  Getting back on my skis was a lot of fun and I realized after two runs how much I missed it.

On my non-ski day, I managed a nice 7.3 mile run.  I wasn't sure where to go, so I asked the hotel concierge.  A lot of times, that doesn't work out.  The hotel staff either has no idea why I would want to run outside as opposed to on their treadmill, or they detail a 1 mile loop for me (without understanding that I would prefer something in the 5-8 mile range).  This time, however, the concierge handed me a printed and highlighted Santa Fe Running Map!  There were three unique loops, all starting from and ending at the hotel, with street names clearly printed.  The loops had multiple cut-offs with distances ranging from 2 to 7 miles.  It was fantastic!  I headed out on the 7 mile loop, which took me through the historic downtown, and then out along Canyon road, lined with art galleries and colorfully painted adobes.  This road ran next to a beautiful park and winded up towards the mountains.  It was breathtaking!  I was treated to a fantastic sunset as headed back towards downtown Santa Fe, and finished up the run with an average 8:20 min/mile pace - fantastic considering the altitude.

This time around, I definitely noticed the effects of the altitude, which left me feeling winded for the first 20 min of my run.  This part of the run was also a gradual but steady climb up the canyon.  I do think I am adjusting somewhat to the thin air here, and I'll be able to test it again on my next run in Taos, NM.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

An Albuquerque Run

Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque, NM
This past week, I hit my peak mileage goal (well, 1 mile short) with 59 total miles over 6 days of running.  Now, 3 weeks out from the Miracle Match Marathon, I have started my taper.  This perfectly coincides with a 9 day trip to New Mexico.  I flew from Austin to Albuquerque yesterday, and took a much needed day off from running.  In the previous two days, I had run a 7.8 mile hilly tempo run with a sub-8 minute mile pace, followed by a more relaxed, but still hilly 9.1 mile run at a sub-8:30 minute mile pace.

Channel Trail, Albuquerque, NM
So now that I am tapering and on vacation, I decided to start off this morning with a relaxed but enjoyable run.  Fortunately, I woke up to a perfectly clear, blue sky and bright sunshine.  While it was cold here (high 20s), the sunshine made up for it.  Nonetheless, it was an adjustment coming from Austin.  I had to put on running tights and a running hat for the first time in about a year.  I skipped the gloves though.  The hotel was located right along a bike trail called the Channel Trail, which runs for miles along a steep, concrete drainage channel.  The bike trail runs alongside some busy roads, but is completely separate from the traffic, which makes it ideal for an uninterrupted run.  Also, because it just keeps going for miles, it makes it really easy to head out for a run without getting lost.  The scenery wasn't great, but running in a new place is always interesting enough (the first time around) so I didn't mind.  I simply ran for an hour, 30 minutes out and then turned around.  My splits were perfectly even and I ended up covering 7 miles, just what I was hoping for.  My legs were still feeling pretty tired from previous workouts, and I felt a little winded, which I attributed to the high elevation of 5300 ft (for reference, Austin has an average elevation of 576 ft).  While I didn't feel like I could bust out a fast track session this morning, I did feel fit and had no problem holding an 8:30 pace.

Today we move North to Santa Fe and tomorrow will be a ski day.  I may not run tomorrow, but if I'm feeling good I might get a short run in.  I'll be skiing 4 of the days on the trip, so I intend to run at least the other 5 days, maybe more.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Long Run Recap

Yesterday: 7.25 miles with Ike (7:43 pace)
Today: 22 miles in 3:01:50 (8:15 pace)

Suspension bridge across Brazos River in Waco, TX.
The Miracle Match Marathon finishes across this bridge
Today I got up and out early for a grueling long run.  Boyfriend and I are babysitting Ike, who was pretty disappointed that he didn't get to go with me.  Unfortunately for him, 22 miles is just too long, so he had to stay home.  This was my final long run in preparation for the Miracle Match Marathon in Waco, TX.  I signed up to run this race and it takes place on January 30th.  This race is only 4 years old, and is held on the same day as the very popular Houston Marathon, so expect it to be small and low-key, just how I like my marathons!

Counting today, I've had 4 good long runs leading up to this race.  Towards the end of November, I ran a 30k trail race, followed by a 20 mile training run and a 30k training run, and of course today's 22 miler.  Today's weather was cool and calm.  I ran from my apartment, 4.3 miles to Town Lake, around Town Lake with a loop of the steep Stratford Hill Rd, and 4.3 miles back to my apartment.  I was happy with the overall pace, but the last 3 miles of the run were very tough for me.  I had to take a couple walking breaks, my legs were really beat up.  I did however, seem to get a fresh wind around 21 miles, go figure.  I'm hoping that a long taper will give me the extra energy I will need on race day to power through 22 miles, and run 4.2 more.

Speaking of taper, I will have an extra long (and easy one) for this marathon.  Next Saturday, I'm headed to New Mexico for a ski trip with my parents.  I will be out of town for the next two weekends, which is why my longest run had to be 4 weeks out from the race (as opposed to the 3 I would prefer).  I will definitely be bringing running attire with me on the trip, but I know I won't be able to run as frequently or as far as I would prefer.  However, now that I live in TX, its really important to take every skiing opportunity seriously, they are few and far between.

I have been experimenting with my long run nutrition.  A cycling friend of mine mentioned he likes to take dried fruit with him in lieu of gels, bars or sports drinks.  I tried both apricots and dried apples on my run this morning and found them very palatable and (fairly) easy to digest - no harder for me than a sports gel is.  I think I'm going to explore this further for several reasons.  First, I buy dried fruit in bulk, which means that calorie for calorie, dried apricots are way cheaper than GU.  Further, I hate consuming GU without water, it makes my mouth sticky and gross, and it gets all over my hands if I'm not careful.  I didn't have either problem with the dried fruit, which surprisingly I handled well without water.

For Christmas, I received some EnduraSoak bath salts as a gift.  This product is designed to be added to a warm bath as a post-workout recovery system.  The product claims to be gentler than an ice bath but deliver the same results.  I was feeling some serious leg fatigue when I finished my run this morning, so I gave the Rosemary Peppermint salts a try.  I have tried ice baths in the past, and they are extremely effective, albeit uncomfortable, especially in the winter.  So how did the EnduraSoak compare?  At the very least, the bath smelled delicious, and being in warm water was much more comfortable than cold.  At the time, I definitely felt like I noticed the difference, and my legs were significantly less sore today than after previous long runs.  I'd like to say the product was effective, but I won't know for sure until I wake up tomorrow.

Because Ike couldn't run with me this morning, I took him for a consolation walk this evening.  It was a good excuse for me to stretch out my legs.  We practiced walking through the neighborhood off the leash.  Ike was extraordinarily well behaved, staying on the sidewalk and never going into the street without my permission.  Whenever he reached the end of the street, I told him to "wait" and he would stop and wait until I caught up to him.  He is very obedient, which makes him easy to go running, walking and hiking with.  He did get into a little scuffle with a cat, and the cat smacked him on the snout.  I don't think he'll get close enough for that to happen again :)