Monday, October 1, 2018

Ragnar Relay DC - 2018

I just finished the DC Ragnar Relay, Sep. 28 - 29, 2018.  It was a fun experience!
I'm going to try to write out the events in detail so that I can look back and remember it.

I was in Van 1.  The Van 1 runners:
  • Runner 1: Ashley
  • Runner 2: Thomas
  • Runner 3: Melinda
  • Runner 4: Vonn
  • Runner 5: Michael
  • Runner 6: me
We all drove up in the two vans on Thursday evening, Sep. 27.  It was pouring rain and miserable.  Van 2 was a little behind, so Van 1 went to the packet pick-up, which was supposed to be open until 9pm.

Well, we got there at 8:25pm, and they told us they were closing at 8:30pm!  So we hurried to get the six reflective vests and two headlamps and two taillights we had to show for our safety equipment.  Then we watched the safety briefing video.  Everything was so miserable in the heavy rain.

We met Van 2 at the hotel.  After we got checked in, we went to what seemed to be the only restaurant in town still open - an Italian restaurant.  I thought it was pretty good, actually, and they didn't seem to be too upset that we walked in about 40 minutes before they were supposed to close.  I got Rigatoni Bolognese, which was good.

We got back to the hotel for showers and some sleep - we had a 4:30am wake-up time.  I got to bed at 11:30pm, so 5 hours of sleep for me. 

Van 1 made it out the door in the morning to get to the start line.  We were supposed to start at 6:15am.  Start times are assigned by expected pace - the slowest teams started first.  Some teams had started as early as 5:00am.  At least it had stopped raining!

Ragnar allowed the 6am starters to go, and then they mysteriously held everyone indefinitely.  It turns out that the heavy rain the night before had flooded out some roads and bridges along the race route and where the exchanges were located.  At about 6:45am, they told us it would be at least a 3-hour delay.  We went back to the hotel for breakfast and naps, as the hotel was kind enough to let us back into the rooms we checked out of earlier.

Well, the delay turned into a partial race cancelation.  Besides the flooding, Ragnar had to keep the race reasonably on schedule because of the the volunteers and support needed.  So they canceled legs 1 - 9 (36 total legs) and said everyone would start at the beginning of leg 10. 

We were bummed!  That's 25% of the legs in the race, and everyone from Van 1 and half of Van 2 missed running their first leg.  Ragnar said we could double up with another runner in order to get in some of the miles that we missed, so I started planning how to do that.  The leg I missed was 6.0 miles.

I thought that I might run leg 10, which was being run by our captain, Dawn.  It was several miles longer than the leg I missed, but she runs much more slowly, so if I stayed with her, it wouldn't have been too hard.  This was the plan, but then at the last minute it didn't work out.

So I went with Van 1 and we got some lunch before we started - with leg 10 starting at 2:15pm, our first runner in Van 1 didn't start until about 6:30pm Friday!  It was exciting to finally be doing the race!

Ashley starting at about 6:30pm also started the night time hours, where we had to wear the reflective vests, headlamps, and taillights while running.  After Ashley came Thomas, who crushed his leg.  I decided that I would run Melinda's night leg with her, because she was nervous about running alone in the dark.  The photo below is Melinda and I before the start of her night leg.

This was a good plan, except that she usually runs faster than I do.  She said she'd slow down for me, but that didn't really happen.  We ran pretty darn fast!  The splits were 9:28, 9:29, 9:23, 9:25, 9:10, and 9:05 - the last was a little short because I started my GPS late.  This was the fastest 6 miles that I've run in awhile!  Melinda was really thrilled to have crushed her leg. 

In fact, she stayed on the course and ran with our next runner, Vonn, who was also nervous about running in the dark.  I got in the van and we were able to leapfrog them for much of this leg and provide some support.

Then Michael had his night leg, and Thomas ran with him to get back some of the miles he missed.  Then it was time for my own night leg, just about 2.5 hours after I ran the fast leg with Melinda - at about 11:30pm on Friday!

My own night leg was only 3.5 miles, but it had huge, steep hills in them.  Since I had just run that fast 6 miles, I decided that I would take this leg slow and go for 12:00 min/mi.  It was really very pleasant - nice and cool, and so quiet and dark.  The sky was beautifully clear - Venus, Saturn, and Mars were visible.  I had to make sure I looked down enough to stay on the road!

The uphill part was really hard.  I ran it all, albeit slowly, except for about 0.1 miles at the very top.  I had thought the hill was supposed to go on longer, so I was very pleasantly surprised, when I started going down.  The downhill side was so steep that I just let gravity pull me down as fast as I thought was safe.  My splits were 12:16, 12:49, 11:31, and 9:27.  I was pretty pleased with that. The photo below shows me coming in to the exchange at the end of my leg.

This exchange had an ice cream shop, so I changed clothes and got some chocolate peanut butter ice cream.  By the time I was done with that, the rest of the runners in my van were back in the van trying to go to sleep.  I tried to, too, but I just couldn't get comfortable in my seat.  I dozed a bit, but not much.

After a few hours, we drove to the next exchange where we would start running.  These would be all of our last legs.  But I started feeling like something was going on in Van 2.  They seemed to be taking a really long time to get their legs done.  Someone got lost (and found).  There were some issues for sure, but those of us in Van 1 didn't really get told about them.

At any rate, when we got running again around sunrise, the runners in our van did well again.  Ashley had a good leg.  Thomas had fewer than 3 miles in his leg, so he burned it up.  Melinda had another strong leg.  Vonn did well, but got off-course - several other runners did in that area, too, so we are suspicious that a marker was moved or stolen. 

Michael's leg was a little over three miles, and he really blasted them out.  We got to the exchange to meet him, and luckily I went out to the exchange a little early, because he showed up earlier than we expected!  He traded off to me, and I was on my last leg shortly after 11am on Saturday.

This leg was 8.2 miles, and it goes on some trails that I run frequently.  I had done this leg as a training run earlier, so I knew the route.  I wasn't sure how fast I'd be able to go with the hard running I had already done.  It was also warmer and sunny.

Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised.  It wasn't easy, but I got some pretty good speed going.  My splits were 10:25, 10:30, 10:41, 10:59, 11:25, 11:02, 10:49, 9:50 and 0.2 miles at 9:07.  There were numerous stoplights that added on to some of the slower miles.  Not bad!   I also passed 4 runners, which made me feel good this late in the race. The photo below shows me passing off to Franklin in Van 2.

Once I finished, Van 1 was done!  A photo below of us after my last leg:  Thomas, Michael, me, Ashley, Vonn, and Melinda.

There was a community center just next door that was allowing runners to shower and change.  That was so nice!

After that, we drove down to the Yards Park in Southeast DC where the finish line was to wait for Van 2.  The traffic was horrible - of course! - but we got there a little after 3pm.  We picked up some food and then settled in to wait.

And we waited a long time.  It seems like Van 2 was getting slower and slower.  We did get some updates, but it was pretty dull. (I'm sure they were bored when we were running!)  Ragnar had a big party going on at the finish line, but it was really, really loud and just not my thing.

Eventually we gave up on sitting in the party and went back to the van to hang out.  Van 2 had a runner get off-course, and there seemed to be other issues.

Finally, Van 2 arrived to park near us and their last runners (one had doubled up) were getting close!  They arrived and we all crossed the finish line together a little after 7:00pm.  We had changed into the Ragnar t-shirts and got some team photos and our medals.  Below is a team photo, then all of the team medals together, which make a message.

We finished 28:51:34.  It turns out that only two teams finished behind us, so that was a bit of a bummer.

Since it was getting dark and everyone was exhausted, we broke up pretty quickly.  I came home on the metro.

It was a really fun and exhilarating experience!  Being there to cheer on your team and having them cheer you into an exchange was really motivating!  It made me want to work harder, even though I knew we weren't competitive.

I also really enjoyed meeting the people on the team.  We were especially fortunate in Van 1 that there were no personality conflicts and everyone was mature enough to be tolerant for the few days we would be together.  It was a bonus to meet some great people on the team!

I'm already thinking about Ragnar for next year, so we'll see if it works out.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Frederick Running Festival Half-Marathon, May 6, 2018

I ran the Frederick Running Festival Half-Marathon in 2014 as my first half-marathon, and it's still my PR of 2:07:16.

This race was not a top goal race for me because I just had a hard HM 8 weeks ago, and this time of year my job is pretty stressful and busy, so I don't get a lot of rest.  Even so, you never know what race day will bring.

For 2018, I had requested and been granted a race-day pick-up of my bib.  However, when I got there, they didn't have my bib for some reason.  They gave me a new bib and number, which will be relevant after the race.

I was there 90 minutes before the 7:00am start, so I hit the port-a-potty twice and then at about 6:15am, started an easy jogging warm-up for 15 minutes or so.  I also did some dynamic stretching and made sure the shoes were tied right, etc.

I got into the starting area at about 6:45am.  There are no corrals - just signs for paces.  This race only has about 3000 runners, so it is not very crowded at the start and everyone spreads out pretty quickly.  In 2014, there had been pace runners, and I was hoping to start with the 2:10 runners, but I didn't see any pace runners this year.

We started on time.  The weather was perfect - mid-50s F, not windy, cloudy so no solar glare, and the rain that had come through overnight had stopped.  I wore my rain baseball cap just in case.

My plan was to run a pace between 9:50 - 9:59 min/mile for about the first 9 miles and then see how I felt and if I could push it faster at the end.

The first miles went exactly to plan:
-Mile 1: 9:56
-Mile 2: 9:55
-Mile 3: 9:55
-Mile 4: 9:57

My breathing was good and effort wasn't too hard. I was killing the tangents, as the race has pretty good sightlines, so I could pick my path way ahead to hit most of them.  At about mile 3.5, I started feeling some pain below and slightly inside of my left knee.  This is an area that is sometimes sore after hard/long runs, but doesn't usually bother me while I'm running.  I can usually run through most things without a problem.

-Mile 5: 9:56

By about mile 5.5, the pain below/inside the knee got pretty bad and started feeling like it was going up and over the front of my knee.  It was getting bad enough that I couldn't keep from limping.  I've never had an issue during a run that has affected my gait, and that did kind of scare me.  I slowed it way down and tried to feel it out a bit.  I was hoping I wouldn't have to DNF, but on the other hand, I didn't want to do something that was really going to mess it up.

-Mile 6: 10:20

Very oddly and rather suddenly, at about mile 6.5, the pain almost completely went away to a typical you're-working-hard sort of feeling.  I accelerated back to my planned race pace gradually, and it still felt OK.

-Mile 7: 11:05

I got back on track with my planned pace.  I knew a PR (2:07-ish) was totally out of the question now, but possibly I could beat my previous HM time of 2:10-ish if I could push the last couple of miles.

-Mile 8: 9:53
-Mile 9: 9:48
-Mile 10: 9:53
-Mile 11: 9:51

Trying to dig deeper for the last couple of miles.  A little before mile 12, we were going up a long, gradual incline and I was trying to push. Breathing was hard. And then I started getting a little dizzy with dark spots in the vision and cold chills.  Well, that put a stop to the big push at the end, as I decided that I wanted to finish in the upright position.  Not sure whether it was dehydration (I had been drinking from my hydration vest of Gatorade) or heat exhaustion (in the 50s F with a tank top and shorts?), but something was going on.

-Mile 12: 10:09
-Mile 13: 9:59

The race started right outside the Frederick Fairgrounds race track, and it ends with the last bit of the race going about 1/4 of the way around the clay horse-race track. Fortunately the track wasn't as sloppy as it was for the Kentucky Derby yesterday!

Tried to get a last push on the track, but it wasn't happening.

-Extra bit: 10:11

Gradually made my way out to pick up water, snacks, medal, and cool State of Maryland race jacket. At least I was able to walk - I was a little afraid of what would happen when I stopped moving.

Texted my husband to see what my chip time was.  He said my time wasn't up yet, even though enough other times were that mine should be there.  I was suspicious that there was a problem because of my new bib assignment.  Before I left, I wanted to make sure I really would get an official time, and so spent another 30 minutes being taken from person to person to get to someone who knew what was going on.  Yes, because of my new bib number, my time wouldn't post immediately, but would be posted eventually when the timing company wrapped everything up. Annoying when the bib problem wasn't my fault.

Overall I like this race a lot.  The logistics are great for me.  It's only a 45-min drive from my house, and it's about 5 minutes from the highway exit. There is a lot of fairground parking that is very close.  A nervous Nellie like me, who gets there 90-min early, can park literally a few hundred feet from the start line.  They have a bag check, but who needs it if you can park that close?  Lots of port-a-potties, and a few actual flush toilets.  Despite my bib issue, I feel like they are pretty well-organized - and with my bib issue, everyone was willing to help me immediately.  Since I carry my own water, I don't use the aid stations, so I can't speak to them.  The course isn't the most scenic I've ever run, but it goes through historic downtown Frederick and does have some nice country scenery.  Not a lot of turns and not very hilly.

I didn't get my official results until almost 5:00pm the next day.  My chip time was 2:12:52.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A week of activity

On Monday after work, I did the next run on my training schedule.  This was a 4-mile run at a pace of 11:18 min/mi, or 5.3 mph on the treadmill.  For some reason, this run seemed too hard.  Possibly it was because I had done a long run (of only 6 miles) the day before plus the two hours of tennis.  I also wondered if it was because when I run on the treadmill, I'm running in the relatively warm house.  I don't know.

Tuesday morning, I did "workout 1" from Nia Shanks's website.  I think I've described it here before.  I also did some foam rolling and stretching.

On Tuesday after work, I did the next run on my training schedule.  This one was my first speedwork on this training plan.  I did this on the treadmill.  I did a 1-mile warm-up at 4.7 mph, which felt very slow.  Then I alternated 1 mile at 6.4 mph with 1 min at 4.7 mph.  Finally, I had a 1-mile cool-down at 4.7 mph.  I got through the first fast mile with no breaks, but it was tough.  I was starting to feel like I had a band around my chest so I couldn't breathe well.  I'm not sure what my heart rate was doing, because I felt like it wasn't reading right on my Garmin.  I had to take some breaks during the next two fast miles.  In order to "cool" myself during this run, I turned on the small fan on my treadmill, and I wore my neck ice-pack.  I was definitely a little cooler, but I'm still not sure if this is a big issue.

Wednesday morning, I did my agility and plyo workout.

Wednesday evening, I had a 6.5 combo match.  My partner and I won, 6-3, 7-5.  This was a good win for us!  Our opponents switched sides in the second set, which definitely helped them, but we managed to adjust and get the win.

Thursday morning, I did "workout 2" from Nia Shanks's website.  I also did some foam rolling and stretching.

Thursday evening, I had a 7.5 combo match.  Unfortunately this ended up being a loss.  My 4.0 partner and I won the first set easily 6-0.  One of our opponents was a big hitter and had a hard serve, but she couldn't get it in in the first set and made a lot of errors.  In the second set, she stopped making errors, and they managed to win the set 6-4.  We couldn't figure out how to adjust and also lost the match tie-breaker.  Definitely a bummer.

Friday morning I decided to get an extra hour of sleep after my late matches the two nights before, and I skipped my morning workout.  In the evening, my husband and I had a 7.5 mixed combo match together.  This turned out to be quite a match.  The opposing man was a very big server and hitter, with a lot of topspin.  I really had trouble getting his balls back in the first set, and my husband was making some errors, too.  We lost the first set 6-3.  But we both managed to tighten up our play in the second set, and we won it 6-3.  We kept the momentum in the match tie-breaker and won the match.  That was very satisfying.

Saturday morning, I did the next run on my training schedule.  This was 5 miles at a 11:18 min/mi pace.  I did this outside on Sligo Creek.  It was about 30 F, which was great weather to run in.  I managed to get 4 of the 5 miles within my pace target, which was good.  I missed the other one fast.

Saturday afternoon, I played two hours of tennis with our Saturday contract time group at Wheaton.  This was fun!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Tennis & Mobility

Yesterday I subbed in to some tennis contract time, so I played doubles tennis for two hours.  It was good to play again after some time off around Thanksgiving.  I felt like I was playing pretty well in terms of net play.

This morning I did my routine for tennis and running strength and mobility.  These are intended to be low-weight, high-rep moves for more accessory-type muscles.  Here are the moves:
  • 2 x 15 per arm external shoulder rotations with 5-lb dumbbell
  • 2 x 15 per arm vertical shoulder rotations with 5-lb dumbbells
  • 2 x 16 steps per side "monster walks" - lateral steps while squatting with a resistance band around the calves
  • 15 per leg "sneaky lunges" - walking lunges where the entire sequence is done on tip-toes
  • 2 x 15 per leg calf raises with 30-lb dumbbell
  • 15 eccentric calf raises
  • 3 x 30 sec walking on tip-toes
  • 15 hamstring curls on Swiss ball
  • 15 per side hip strengtheners (from Runner's World)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Weekend Runs

On Saturday morning, I did the next run on my training scheduled.  This was a 5-mile run at an easy pace of 11:18 min/mi.  It was warmer than the morning before and looked like it could rain, but luckily it did not.  This run went fine.  I hit the correct pace on 3 of my miles and missed the other 2 a little fast.

This morning, I did my first official "long run" of this training plan.  My long run pace is 10:56 min/mi.  I had a 6-mile run.  It was a nice, chilly morning around 40 F, with some Sun.  I hit my times for 3 of the miles, but missed the other 3 a little fast.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving Week Exercise

On Tuesday morning, I did my agility and plyo workout.  It had 8 agility moves and about 8 different plyo exercises.

Tuesday evening, I had gotten an invitation to play tennis, so I played two hours of tennis with some ladies that I know.  It wasn't very serious tennis, but it was fun.  I was happy to get in a little more tennis, because the next time I will play is the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Wednesday morning, I did the fourth workout from Nia Shanks's website.  I changed the sumo deadlift move, since I have a hard time keeping my back straight in deadlifts.  The moves were
  • 3 x 5 - 7 Romanian deadlifts with 25-lb dumbbells
    • 3 x 8 - 10 close-grip chin-ups
    • 3 x 8 - 10 one-arm dumbbell push presses with a 20-lb dumbbell
  • 3 x 10 - 15 per leg split-leg squats with 15-lb dumbbells
    • 3 x 15 wrist curls with 5-lb dumbbells
    • 3 x 15 reverse wrist curls with 5-lb dumbbells
  • 3 x 10 - 15 per side upright slow bicycles
Wednesday evening, I did the next run on my training schedule, which was a 3-mile run at a 12:00 min/mi pace.  I did this on the treadmill.

On Thanksgiving, my husband and I were traveling to my mother's for Thanksgiving, so I didn't have time to do any exercise.

On Friday morning, I did the next run on my training schedule, which was actually something differently!  I had to run 4 miles at a faster "easy' pace of 11:18 min/mi.  I also had 4 strides to do during the run.  I ran outside on the local walking/biking path along the Allegheny River.  It was quite cool - a little lower than freezing out, which felt great.  I missed the paces on the first two miles by being a little too fast.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Workout + Run

This morning I did the third workout based on Nia Shanks' website.  The exercises were:
  • 3 x 8 - 10 goblet squats with 30-lb dumbbell
    • 3 x 10 - 15 decline push-ups
    • 3 x 8 - 10 pull-ups (I did negatives for the ones I couldn't do)
  • 3 x 5 - 7 Romanian deadlifts with 25-lb dumbbells
    • 3 x 15 wrist curls with 5-lb dumbbells
    • 3 x 15 reverse wrist curls with 5-lb dumbbells
  • 3 x 30s per side side planks, with arm and leg extended

This evening after work, I did the next run on my training schedule, which was yet another run at 12:00 mi/mile pace for 3 miles.  I did this on the treadmill.  One more run like this before I get to start doing some variations!