Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sugar Land Half Recap + The Great Fuel Debate

Do you take fuel during half-marathons? Until today, half-marathon #7, I never had because I've never felt like I needed to. Here's my half history:

NYRR Manhattan Half-Marathon, January 2009, 2:07:39, 9:44 average pace

Country Music Half-Marathon, Nashville, April 2009, 2:07:25, 9:43 average pace

NYRR Queens Half-Marathon, September 2009, 2:06:54, 9:41 average pace

NYRR Grete's Great Gallop, October 2010, 2:03:45, 9:26 average pace. Training run for the NYC Marathon.

By the time I ran my first half, I knew I'd be running the 2010 New York City Marathon as my first 26.2. Since that was nearly two years away at that point, I didn't worry too much about pace or fueling. I knew I was capable of running ~10 minute miles and coffee and a granola bar were enough to help me reach my main goal of finishing without stopping or walking. And what do you know? All PRs. (Such a vast improvement in 2009, lolz.)

NYRR Manhattan Half-Marathon, January 2011, 1:57:50, 8:59 average pace
Post-2010 NYCM, this was my first half with a concrete goal of running in under two hours. Before this one, I had a substantial variation (Nutella toast and coffee) of what I'll call my "perfect race breakfast," PRB for short. As for the goal? I nailed it! All I know is that even though it included the toughest hill in Central Park, I felt great the whole time. Why did I wait so long to get a Garmin?? (Because you were all but broke when you lived in New York, EB, lolz.) No mid-race fuel on this one either. Not even water, because both times that I ran this race, it was below freezing outside. Suffice it to say, I wasn't thirsty.

Houston Half-Marathon, October 2011, 1:45:57, 8:05 average pace
As you might know, despite the great marathon bonk of 2011, I had fantastic training, and this race was part of it. Before this one, I had the fully developed version of the PRB: 6 oz. cup of coffee, 12 oz. glass of half water, half Gatorade, two slices of toast with Nutella, and an energy gel. Goal time was 1:47:30. Ended up beating it by more than 90 seconds.

Livestrong Austin Half-Marathon, February 2012, 1:56:14, 8:52 average pace
Going in, I knew this would be my first non-PR and I was okay with it. Since neither Carla or I considered this a goal race, we didn't put too much thought into breakfast. I had coffee, a little bit of water, a Clif Bar and a few shot bloks. Again, nothing mid-race. I ended up slowing wayyy down in the final three miles and I'm still convinced that this was because of the gnarly uphills I wasn't used to.

And today: Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Half-Marathon: 1:53:58, 8:42 average pace
With the exception of some extra coffee (5:20 a.m. is earlyyy, yo), I had essentially the same breakfast as I did before the Houston Half. (Is the gel part weird? Today's was a strawberry banana PowerGel, so in a way, it was like yogurt...)

The Livestrong Half was my first half in which I had my Garmin on me. I say death-by-mile-10 was thanks to the beastly hills. Boyfriend said I should have fueled. When he agreed to pace me in today's half (he ended up sitting it out to avoid aggravating a potential injury, sad faces), he again suggested eating mid-race and I was dubious. But when several other runner friends also said it's been working for them lately, and since today wasn't a goal race (actually, especially since it wasn't a goal race-- never try anything new on a big race day!), I decided give it a shot. Three Clif Shot Bloks at mile 6, to be exact.

Here's how the race went down:

Mile 1: 8:02- Lots of adrenaline. Made sure to rein it in as soon as I clocked this one.
Mile 2: 8:25
Mile 3: 8:20

Mile 4: 8:21- Managed to throw back a sip of water without slowing down or spilling all over myself! Huzzah.

Mile 5: 8:24, saw BF here, listened to "Edge of Glory" by Lady Gaga twice, "Fighter" by Christina Aguilera 3x, and "Til I Collapse" by Eminem twice throughout Miles 5 and 6. (I felt like I was flying when these songs came on during the Houston Marathon. Needless to say, they're training/racing staples now.)

Mile 6: 8:28- Per the race volunteers, I was still averaging an 8:20 pace. I felt great and thought I could have held on to it if I just kept going. But I went for the shot bloks as planned. And since I wasn't actually hungry, I slowed down to avoid choking on them.

Mile 7: 8:40- I knew this one would be slower after the fuel point. I figured I should be able to pick it back up again on the next mile.

Mile 8: 8:40- No such luck. I have a really hard time picking my pace back up again once I slow down in a long run. This really wasn't anything new to me. Taking another sip of water here didn't help either, as I didn't grab it as gracefully as I had earlier.

Mile 9: 8:53- Took another sip of water just before this mile. Saw Boyfriend at the same spot (it was a double loop course) and he asked how I was doing. I really suck at talking when I'm working out hard, so I think I ended up giving him a high-five and a death glare at the same time. Oops...

So humid. The sweat-soaked ponytail is totally in, right?
Mile 10: 8:59- I was So. Ready. to be done at this point. I felt so discouraged and basically cursed myself for the next three miles. I knew what had worked for me in the past; why did I decide to mess with it?

Mile 11: 9:07
Mile 12: 9:03
Mile 13: 9:07

Home stretch, por fin!

Mile 13.1 (or 13.19, per the watch. Better than the 13.26 I ran in Austin!), 1:25, 7:22 pace. I definitely thought I'd have nothing left to give as I finished the last two miles. In the end, I did. Yay.

With the spectator of the day.
Despite all the negative thoughts that filled the second half, I wouldn't call today's race a fail. Based on my recent training, I expected to run somewhere around 1:52-1:55, so my mini-goal was to just run it faster than Austin (and I did, by more than two minutes).

My final verdict on the fueling? If it ain't broke, don't fix it, or, as the ever-wise Megan often says, "Imma do me and you do you." In other words, everyone is different. I felt sufficiently fueled by my breakfast and the mid-race shot bloks were overkill, IMO. Today further confirmed what I believe works for me and, as I already knew deep down, I shouldn't let other people's habits influence my plans.

My next 13.1 is the Country Music Half in Nashville with Jocelyn. No mid-race run food will be consumed at this one. I just bought supplies for our race outfits and cannot wait!

What is your half-marathon fueling routine? And do you eat something immediately afterward? In addition to never feeling hungry while covering long distances, I also usually need to wait an hour or longer to eat after a half or full. When I cross the finish line, all I want are fluids. Am I totally weird??


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Brief update

In the past week, I:

1. Was diagnosed with "reactive airway disease," AKA temporary asthma as a result of an untreated upper respiratory infection. I'm about 95 percent recovered now, but lesson learned: If you have cold symptoms that all disappear except for a nasty lingering cough, don't mess around. Get it checked out.

2. Got the left side of my chest and back beaten up by a rollercoaster. The rodeo was awesome (who knew fried bacon and Moon Pies could be so delicious?), but I got jostled around way more than anticipated on Monday night and I'm pretty sure I bruised a couple of ribs. If you've always been skeptical of carnival rides, trust your instincts. People have died on those things!

Chicken fried bacon. It's an appetizer, obviously.
NEVER AGAIN. Photo credit:
3. Lost a toenail that was revealed to be dark blue when I took my hot pink polish off. Okay, so I wasn't really worried about this hindering my training, but I figured I'd share since it's relevant to the blog topic. Thanks for the souvenir, Austin Half. You're welcome/I'm sorry for the lack of photographic evidence.

Even with these minor setbacks, I've still been able to have a few solid runs. I was definitely in too much pain to run the morning after the carnival incident, but after smearing some Tiger Balm on the affected area, I was good to go for the rest of last week.

Since I've been taking more rest days than I would like lately, I decided to try an 8 mile x 3 day experiment versus my usual 6 miles x 4 days + weekend long run. Despite the earlier weekday wakeup call, I felt great during and after each of these runs and I want to try to fit in longer runs before work more often.

This past weekend, Boyfriend and a good chunk of RHC were out running all or part of the Seabrook Trail Challenge, so I headed down to spectate and fit in my own workout by banditing part of the marathon course. The plan was to cover the second half of the course (two 6.5 mile loops) but I decided to quit after just one because I felt like I was melting in the heat. I felt like that was a cop-out excuse since I've managed tougher conditions before, but I definitely didn't hydrate enough beforehand and knew that 13 miles likely wouldn't happen without a little bit of passing out or throwing up. Sorry friends.

Yay finishers!
Needless to say, I'm not counting on a PR at the Sugar Land Half if it's this hot next weekend. I might still let BF set the pace, though, as spring training has highlighted my incredible talent in positive splitting. Stay tuned.

Congrats to everyone who did finish the Seabrook races! And congrats to Jocelyn who ran her first sub-2:00 half in New York today!

Have you ever ran bandited a race? I was surprised at how easy it was to sneak in but felt a little guilty every time a professional photographer snapped my picture!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

On whining, goal races and Lululemon

No PR at last weekend's 10K. Finish time was 53:50. Long story short, my legs still felt trashed from Austin and I was ready to be done by Mile 2. Two. Not surprisingly, the last 4.2 miles weren't anywhere close to the sub-8:00 first two. Sad faces. Except not really, because unlike with marathons, I can easily attempt another 10K or two or three at any other time this year.

Moving on: You may have noticed that my posts have grown extra-infrequent over the past couple of months. That's because I like to keep the content centered around my running life, and lately there hasn't been much to say beyond the fact that I've felt weak and slow since running Houston and Austin and the nasty cold I've been fighting hasn't fared well for the running front. In other words, whine, whine, whine, complain, complain, complain. No one wants to read that, right?

I was hoping to get a 10-miler in this weekend and while my legs said "go," my lungs said "no." Attempt #1 turned into six miles and #2 was seven. On top of being sick, I've also been feeling a bit bored and unmotivated about running fast without a goal race on the horizon. Since I won't be racing (much) this summer, I may or may not have convinced Boyfriend to pace me to a half-marathon PR in three weeks. Gulp. So here's hoping I'm back in the long run game by next weekend!

On Lululemon

Confession: Until last month, the only time I'd ever set foot in a Lululemon store was when I was a recently graduated, borderline broke New Yorker. I curiously strolled into the Union Square location, flipped over one price tag and walked right out. From then on, I used to silently scoff at the Lulu-clad runners in Central Park. I couldn't imagine dropping more than $50 on one piece of clothing I was going to sweat all over.

Fast forward almost three years later. Boyfriend went and got me these shorts as part of my birthday present and I have to admit that them. Like pretty much every other pair of shorts in the world, they're a little short for my liking (such is life when you've got giraffe legs). But unlike most of my other spandex-y running shorts, they don't ride up to the most unflattering degree in the back. And they have three, count 'em, three pockets!

This is not my butt. Photo credit:
What I didn't love: the pushy Lulu salesgirls who hovered outside my dressing room door, hounding me with questions, when I went to exchange them for size.

The verdict on LL? I'm going to have to take extra-good care of these fancypants shorts, because I'm still not sure I would actually shop there on my own. Although I'll pay ~$30 apiece for my Nikes and Under Armours, my go-to shorts are actually from Old Navy, and I prefer to splurge on my running shoes over clothes.

PR shorts!
Other weekend finds. Old habits die hard.
Do you shop at Lululemon? Or splurge on other running gear? And how do you break out of a training funk?