My running's been sporadic over the last two years, after my herniated disc injury, much lower mileage than it used to be, and alas much slower as well. But after a spring and early summer more devoted to mountain biking than to running, I've started to get serious again.
Though I've run a dozen races post-injury, I didn't really train for any of them, and of course that shows in my race times. In 2013 I set non-downhill 5K (21:43), half (1:35:55), and marathon PRs; post-injury my best 5K was 24:12, my best half just under 1:44, and I haven't dared run another marathon.
But I'm a competitive person. I like to race because I like to do well - and I don't like not doing well. I registered for The Other Half Marathon
, one of my favorite races and the course on which I ran my half PR (these things are probably related :-) with the idea that I'd have 12 weeks after our Weminuche backpacking trip to train. I wrote an "unplanny plan" - a skeleton layout of weekly mileage goals, long run goals, and key workouts - and started doing it. And now I'm halfway there!
I'd been running 20-35mpw most weeks, with occasional weeks of 10 miles or less when I was doing other things or sick, so I decided to start out with three weeks at 40mpw, followed by three at 45 - though the second week of this included most of Labor Day weekend and our Rio Chama raft trip
, so my actual mileage that week was only 38. I also started incorporating speedwork: first strides and hill sprints, which I'd done occasionally in the previous month but now do weekly, and then formal intervals, followed by tempos.
Now I'm about to ramp up to 50mpw for the rest of the cycle, and I feel pretty good about it. The more I run, the more comfortable I feel running. I also find that consistent mileage (which I haven't had in a few years!) improves my fitness quickly. And I got a reminder of that when I ran a 5K this past Saturday morning.
I was a bit handicapped by the loss of my Garmin. Well, I didn't really lose it; the strap broke when I took it off my wrist after Tuesday's run. I ordered a new strap kit from Amazon that was supposed to arrive on Friday, but somehow it ended up getting sent to the wrong transit center, causing a delay. (It's still not here. The tracking page says Wednesday. So far it's gone from the Garmin warehouse in Phoenix AZ to two different places in California, and is now in Salt Lake City...)
The day after my strap broke I had a 2x2 tempo run (after my usual two-mile warm-up: 2 miles tempo pace, 2 minutes easy, 2 miles tempo pace, where 'tempo' = 'more or less hoped-for half-marathon pace') and I thought maybe I'd try it by feel, so I put what was left of the watch in my pocket and set out. Unfortunately I couldn't feel the watch buzz at the first mile mark, which meant I wouldn't be able to tell when my intervals started and stopped (okay, I know this route so I pretty much know where 2 miles is, but still) so I took it out and held it in my hand as I ran.
My next run two days later was an easy run, so this time I did just keep the Garmin in my pocket the whole time. And what do you know, my pace - retrieved after the run - was pretty much my usual easy pace. By then I had gotten the notification from Amazon that my strap wasn't coming in time for the race. I decided that it would be good practice in racing by feel, since I knew I wasn't in PR shape so if I failed, I wouldn't be too upset. My goals for the 5K would be: a) get a new valid HRmax, b) pace reasonably despite not being able to look at my Garmin (I kept it in my pocket), c) come in 1-3 and get an award (no age groups), d) break 24 minutes.
I ran the 2.4 miles to the race as a warm-up, with my Garmin in my pocket; checking it later, I was a little on the fast side but not bad. The race itself was a typical small Durango race, though with both a 5K and a 10K starting together, so I had to look around and see both who else was lining up near the front, and which course they were running, according to their bibs. One of the fast women I know was out of town, according to her husband Steve who was there (he won the men's 5K) and I didn't see anyone else that looked definitively faster than me, so I was feeling pretty confident as we took off.
I knew I couldn't keep up with Steve, nor with the other fast men who were at the front, so I didn't try. Instead I attempted to keep a hard-but-not-brutal pace and not let any women pass me. The course went gently downhill for the first mile, then there was a short uphill followed by a steeper downhill to the 5K turn-around. Unusually for a small local race, they'd gotten three bands to play along the course, which was fun and motivating, especially since after the guys had taken off I was pretty much running by myself. Every so often I'd glance over my shoulder but never saw anyone there other than one guy who passed me about a half mile in.
When Steve passed me going the other way we yelled cheers and encouragement at each other. At the turnaround I saw there was a woman maybe ten seconds behind me, but after I glanced around at the next curve she was gone, so I figured she was running the 10K. The second half of the course was net uphill, since it was an out-and-back, and I concentrated on holding what I thought was a reasonably fast pace without blowing up.
Since my Garmin was in my pocket I had no idea what pace I was going, and so I was pleased to see the finish clock reading just under 23 minutes as I approached; I sped up to try to get a 22:xx but the seconds ticked over inexorably, and the clock read 23:06 as I hurtled myself past the finish line and then tried to catch my breath.
As far as my pre-race goals, I'll give myself 2.5 out of 4. On the negative side, my heart rate data was not as unambiguous as I would have liked, with no real legitimate max, but I think I am fairly comfortable saying that it supports the numbers I've been using for HR training. My pacing felt okay while I was doing it - I didn't feel like I was dying halfway through - but my splits were terrible, though part of that's likely due to the down-and-up course profile.
On the other hand, I smashed my sub-24 goal. Still nowhere near what I used to do but my best 5K in two years. Oh yeah, and I won. First overall woman, 4th or 5th person. Which basically means that the fast women didn't show up, but hey, I got two $50 gift certificates, one for each of the running stores in town, so that's a $70 profit on my entry fee investment!
Now I'm looking ahead to the half marathon in six weeks. While I'd like to run under 1:40 again, this 5K result is not as good as I'd need for that; plus, while my tempo workouts are indicating I'm in better shape than I was before my last half, they're not supporting the sub-1:40 either. Of course, I still have six weeks. But I'm okay with not hitting that goal, which is arbitrary anyway. I mostly want to improve on my last half time of 1:43:46, and if possible, beat the time of 1:41:44 which I ran my first time on this course.