ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)
[personal profile] ilanarama
The title of this entry is a reference to this race report from 2009, when I ran the Steamworks Half Marathon for the third time, but the first time having actually trained for it (and by training I mean running more than twice a week and 15mpw). That race, I had hoped to get under 1:50 - all my tempo running had been at around 8:20 pace - and shocked myself by clocking a 1:44:19, which is slightly better than an 8 minute pace. I ran this race two more times before this year, in 2012 (1:38) and 2014 (1:36).

This year, I had hoped to come in at maybe something like 1:43, but instead I couldn't muster any speed at all. After three sub-8 miles, my pace was mostly around 8:20, and toward the end of the race I was just hoping, you guessed it, to get in under 1:50. I managed 1:47:21, my slowest half time since those first two undertrained races. Still, that was fast enough to give me first in the F50-59 age group (out of 17), and 13th overall woman, 38th overall human being out of 260 finishers. Also, to my surprise, looking through the results I just discovered I was also the female Masters winner, that is, first woman over 40. These placings are more due to the fast old ladies staying home than due to any speed of mine, though!

It was a hot day (for a race), and the sky was cloudless, which made for a beautiful but sweaty experience. I took two cups of water at every aid station (they were two miles apart) and dumped one on my body, except at the mile 10 aid station where a guy with a SuperSoaker offered to squirt runners, and I said "Yes, please!"

Steamworks Half 2017

I'm #286; the other woman in a turquoise top and I leapfrogged each other for much of the race. She passed me for good around mile 8, saying she was going after a woman ahead of us in red shorts, and finished at just under 1:46, about a minute and a half before me. I eventually also passed Red Shorts, though she was waiting in line for a porta-potty and so maybe that shouldn't really count. :-)

It was 70F by the time I hit the unshaded uphill section just past the 11-mile marker, and it was unsurprisingly brutal. (The course climbs 70 feet in half a mile, dips slightly, and then climbs 80 more feet to the finish.) It's also brutal to hit the end of the course because the quiet country road with little traffic ends, and the course turns onto a busy road with cars parked along both sides, making it feel quite narrow and dangerous. Fortunately the course marshals are there to guide runners and drivers - I did this job one year when I couldn't run due to injury - and so I pushed along to the crossing where the policeman stopped traffic for me, hooray, and did a pathetic sprint to the finish line, where members of the Durango Roller Girls encouraged finishers.

Steamworks Half 2017

In my analysis of the Narrow Gauge 10 Mile I attributed my failure to improve over my last year's time to doing absolutely no taper, which caused me to fade hard in the late miles. For this race, I...sort of tapered. That is to say, I didn't run at all in the first part of the week, as I was in Moab to mountain bike with friends. Which means I mountain biked. Our original plans to do the White Rim fell apart due to the heat, but we did a couple of hours of riding each day. Mountain biking for me, especially on singletrack, is more of a mental than a physical workout. Other than one day with a long, steep uphill, there really wasn't anything strenuous in these four days, and other than one 15-mile day that was net downhill (with a car shuttle) all the rides were under 9 miles. When we were home and I did a little 3-mile shake-out run on Friday morning, I felt fast and good. So I don't feel as though I went into the race fatigued (but read on).

Here is my taper week compared between 2009 and 2017:

2009: M 4 / T 7 / W 20mtb (8 singletrack, 12 return on the road) / Th 4 trail / F off / S race
2017: M 6mtb (easy) / T 8.8 mtb (hard) / W 15 mtb / Th 8.5 mtb / F 3 / S race

Comparing my current preparation to my preparation in 2009, it's actually sort of interesting how similar they are in rough numbers:

2009: 37.2mpw over 12 weeks, 43.3 over 8 weeks, average pace (12 weeks) 10:10
2017: 37.9mpw over 12 weeks, 42.1 over 8 weeks, average pace (12 weeks) 10:13

So, not including race week, I was doing roughly the same mileage, though this year I had a slower build to a very slightly lower average. In terms of quality, this year I did more short, fast stuff (track workouts), with faster tempos (7:50 pace vs 8:20 pace) for shorter distances (longest this year was 2x2, also 3 continuous; longest last year was 2x4).

I ran the Narrow Gauge 10 both years, and actually was a couple minutes slower in 2009, but I don't think the results are comparable because the course was different, with the big uphill much later in the race which makes it harder. One possibly important point is that Steamworks was held a week later in 2009, so there were three weeks between races rather than two. I think there's a very good chance that I failed to recover completely from the race effort in the 10M only two weeks ago. I had not thought that it would take a lot of recovery, but it's possible that as I'm aging, I need more recovery.

Incidentally, despite the eight years' passage of time, my weight for both of these races was nearly the same! In 2009 I weighed around 121.2 one week before (I was in Breckenridge at a conference during race week and did not weigh myself); last Saturday, on race morning, I weighed 122. (Not to say I've weighed the same during those eight years; my low-healthy point was around 112 during my PR season fall/winter 2013, and my high was 125 in February 2015. I am happiest around 116, though I haven't been there for about a year.)

It's difficult to do a mile-by-mile comparison of my race each year, because in 2009 I had my old Garmin 105 which was not very accurate, and I manually lapped at the mile markers which...were also not very accurate. Both years my fastest mile was the first (downhill - and coincidentally almost the exact same pace both years), my first three miles were faster on average than the rest of the run, and the last two miles were the slowest. But these gaps were much smaller in 2009 than this year, and miles 2 and 3 were faster this year than last year. In retrospect I was probably aiming too high, but my relatively low heart rate - in mile 3 it averaged under 144, which is what I typically see going uphill on an easy run - suggested to me I was not overdoing it.

Actually, my HR was unusually low during this race. My monitor ran out of battery (oops) just past mile 10, but my HR averaged 145, as compared with an average of 153 over the first 10 miles of my most recent previous half marathon in October. I think this supports the conjecture that I was fatigued and not recovered from the 10-miler.

Back to pace comparisons. This year, after the first three miles, my fastest mile was 8:08 in mile 6. By contrast in 2009 miles 4-13.1 averaged 8:06! In fact, this makes a revealing but depressing table:

mile 17:397:37
miles 2-38:047:50
miles 4-118:048:18
miles 12-13.18:158:57

Looking at this, I wonder whether I was just fooled by my 7:50-paced tempos, and my sub-1:42 October half, into thinking I was in better shape than I really am and going out too fast, and paying for it later. After all, my weight and my mileage were pretty much the same this year as they were in 2009. Why did I think I could run faster than I did in 2009?

Well, for one thing, I am faster on the same mileage - or I used to be. When I ran Steamworks in 2012 my 12-week mpw was the same as this year, and my 8-week mpw, 38.7, was even lower. Yet I managed a 1:38:12! (I had much higher mileage in 2014, and a faster time.) I did have slightly higher mileage in October before The Other Half, 42.2 over 12 weeks. But I'm surprised to have done so much worse.

It's hard to make a comparison with the 2009 race over the long-term because I didn't keep a logbook before late 2008, and because I took almost all of December 2008-February 2009 off from running as we were traveling in New Zealand. But when I compare total mileage August-May (10 months) before both races, I've actually run far more miles this year, averaging 132/month vs 88/month. Comparing a whole year's worth of running for this race and my October 2009 race, I come out a little low, 124/month vs. 130/month. Maybe those 72 extra miles made a big difference. Or maybe they make a bigger difference now that I'm post-menopause.

Anyway, I think it comes down to this: Now that I'm an old lady, I can't just half-ass my training and still improve. I need to allow a lot of recovery after races, I need to get and keep my mileage (relatively) high, I need to be conservative with my taper, and I need to be realistic about my goals. There's a pretty good chance I've had my last PR; conventional wisdom gives adult-onset runners about seven years of improvement before the curve starts going the other way, and it's been eight years for me now. But as long as I can at least beat the other old ladies, I will be (reasonably) happy!
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ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)

August 2017

131415 16171819
20212223 242526

My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

You can reach me by email at heyheyilana @


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