Week 10 Training (March 5-11): in which I make choices

This week I’m just going to show you how my crazy brain works. I call it runner brain, where anything seems sensible if it benefits the training and means getting the runs and miles in.

My runner brain went into synapses-firing mode Saturday morning  when I finished packing for the trek that the commute to the BAFF race location, running a 13.1 race, shower and refuel after the race, and commute back home would entail. I was standing there, ready to go, when I checked the Berlin public transportation app one more time. Oops. One of the S-Bahns wasn’t working according to plan. I wouldn’t get to the one stop I needed to get to on time in order to board the bus that would take me to the final destination, and therefore wouldn’t make it to Marienwerder, which is about 30 miles north of Berlin*. So, no race for me.  I was a little relieved, since I was already rethinking the plan when I discovered on Thursday that I wouldn’t be home until quarter of 6 PM, since the buses only run once every two hours. I’d packed some work, but this change did mean I could actually shower and get some work, like taxes, done at home.

So now what?

I had a few possibilities… none really satisfying, but one has to do the best with the circumstances one has. My priority was to take advantage of my mini-taper and pre-race fueling, and to get the serious effort out today. Also, I really wanted all the mission points that SquadRunner offered-which meant I had to plan something that would enable me to run 13 km the next day, so no über long run. Planning around mission points has  probably the crux of some of my difficulties in running planning lately, but in the end, I have nothing to blame but my own competitiveness. In theory, I could have run 45 minutes yesterday to complete one mission, then do a long run today to cover the 13 km for the mission, but really, I just didn’t want to lose too much of my Sunday. Saturday’s are for the hard work. “Still, looking at the weather report, Sunday is the nicer day…”** “okay, stop it, Dorothea. Don’t let a little bit of rain stop you.” “And I could just postpone the race effort, maybe find another race somewhere else…” “Dorothea! Stop! It’s week ten. The plan says week ten. Let’s just do this.” My melon committee had a field-day yesterday.

I decided I had two options, given my two preferences:

  1. I could run on the treadmill in the gym, which wouldn’t get me a proper race effort time… but at least I’d be motivated to stay on pace and have a supported run…plus, I found this treadmill pace chart that, while showing insane speeds for a 7:26 real effort (I’d have to hold 13.5 km/hour), could help me feel better about pushing myself to the pace that I’m looking for. This is, after all, a test run. It’s to see where I’m at in my fitness. Also, it would keep me out of the annoying drizzle that also decided to pop up today.
  2. I could suck it up that it’s drizzling and I won’t have competition, quickly set up a loop near me, bring my own fuel, and dig deep to get the motivation I need to hit the paces I need. I was looking for a sub- 1:37 race, but would have be happy with anything under 1:40.

While working through my options, however, it dawned on me that I don’t have to kill myself for this. A good compromise could be a 10 mile race effort (again, aiming for sub 1:15) and then the easy 8 miles tomorrow.

3. I could do a repeat of the 10-mile trial run a few weeks ago.

So I set out for 10 miles with only a pack of Powerwhatever fuel and my music, three layers and warming up with a mile. The warm-up felt stiff, but I felt good. And then I started. And then I decided, around mile 2, that I felt so good that I should just continue for 6.5 miles before turning around and get a half-marathon effort after all.

race effort

It wasn’t a supported run, of course, and I had to rely on my own gumption to get through those last miles (which also happened to be uphill). But I have to say, self-talk works really well. I kept telling myself that if I couldn’t do it now, how could I expect to pull it off during the race in April? And I also figured that I needed the 13.1 effort in my training, which caused me to dig slightly deeper than the 10 mile would have, so that’s why I decided to do it anyway. And the best part? No injury!

So long story short, it all worked out in the end. It wasn’t my best or worst half-marathon, still in the top half of results! But for my next marathon, I think I’m hiring a coach. Figuring out all these things for myself takes a lot of time. I think I’m ready to just do what someone tells me to do.

And that was only one day of this week, but the rest of the week seems mild in comparison. Though, admittedly, it was the highest mileage I’ve done in a over 3 years.


Monday: 5 miles in the AM, 5 in the PM with 2 1 mile intervals. They were decent at 6:32 and 6:40. I’d have liked to be faster, but I was also keeping it easy to be prepped for the race on Saturday.

Tuesday: 11 miles easy. This was partially on the plan and partially a compromise to be able to stick to the plan for the rest of the week and still get 30 km overall between Tuesday and Friday (mission points were at stake!)

Wednesday: super easy and tired 5 miles. Just needed to get them done.

Thursday and Friday: Rest!! and an easy 3 mile before weights. Really wanted to keep these days restful and easy in order to ensure good running chances for Saturday.

Saturday: already said enough about this. Just one more thing to add: looking at the results and given my total time yesterday, I could have placed 1st overall for the women. coulda woulda shoula. Also, who knows if I would have paced myself the same way. It’s all good.

Sunday: a super easy 13 km in sunlight and t-shirt and shorts and just ah. So nice. Also still kept a 9 mpm without meaning to-guess I am getting a little faster. But tomorrow? Tomorrow is a rest day…

Hope you had a great week, too!

*in retrospect, my brother pointed out to me that I’d misunderstood the app… the S-Bahn wasn’t running through, but a bus transport system had been temporarily set up. If I’d left 10 minutes earlier, I would have been fine. Major woops. Thank goodness the race only cost 10 €, otherwise I’d have been really mad at myself.

** today really was a beautiful day. The first shorts and t-shirt running day of the year!!


Backwards and Forwards

Dear readers,

Happy new year. May it bring us all positive answers, a stronger sense of security, and some peace.

The days between the years were great. I went home to blue skies and lots of sunshine for Christmas and flew back to Germany on the 31st. Long flights leave room for thinking (if one doesn’t get too distracted by the onboard entertainment, this time including the pilot), and this time of year invites reflection in general. So I will reflect on a year of PRs, months riddled by injuries, and a much lower mileage than I had planned for.

First of all, if anything, I can appreciate my 10,000 lifetime recorded miles. Assuming I continue running, I can’t expect another 10,000 until 2023. But to run strong through 2023 is a good long-term goal! I’d love to not have any injuries until then, but to ensure that, I am going to need some assessments of my health that I hadn’t taken seriously enough, and age 25 is a pretty good time to start, especially if I want to continue to be a runner. I have a few doctor appointments planned.


All things considered, I had a pretty good year running the majority of the time.

Not meeting my 1500 (bumped up in June to 1700) miles goal is not bad news to me. I accept that I was challenged by injuries (one major one not running related) and should have been smarter. I reached 1367 miles this year, which is a nice prime number if you ask me. As long as I’m logging more than a mile a day for a year, I’m in pretty good shape.

I guess not meeting a mileage goal (the first time I ever set one, actually) helped in the realization that I don’t have to take myself as seriously as a runner. I still have my lifetime goal of a sub-3hr marathon, but that’s not a priority, especially not now while I’m working on my doctorate. I don’t know if I’ll ever have time to focus on the training enough to dedicate mind and spirit, whole-heartedly, but for now I am grateful with consistency that will always leave a starting point better than square one, should I chose to reach that goal. Running is a part of my life and always has the potential to be more. Right now, that potential is enough, especially when I’m continuing to score age group (and super-occasionally overall) wins.

My training from 2015 paid off into 2016 with a PR in the half-marathon in January and an 18 minute PR in the marathon February. I didn’t race again until Fall 2016, but did fairly well (considering 6 weeks off due to broken toe) in a 10.7km, 8.6km, and a 20km in December. I never recapped that race, but I was 7th overall for the females and ran a 1:33:40. Not amazing, off my goal by about 3 minutes, but still a good race considering the injuries, etc.. It also probably prepared me to end the year on a positive note with a 5K race on New Year’s Eve.

In my race Saturday, I ran 21:32, placed 8th for the women, won my age-group and was off my 5k PR by only 18 seconds despite a hurting back, a freshly stubbed toe (race-morning wandering around the house in the dark, because I didn’t want to wake the whole household up) and not having trained specifically for a 5K nor training properly at all, due to a hurt tendon in the foot after the 20k.

My weeks (Dec. 5-Jan. 1st) since the last time I posted looked like this:


One can see how I took a few days off after I hurt my foot (coinciding well with a scholarship application due on the 15th), and slowly ramped up the mileage the following week. I learned again not to do too much too soon following a race, and the graph shows I had a better month than I allow myself in my memory. In general, the stats always seem better than the reality in my head. I need to get out of my head more often.

One last running highlight of the year that I’d like to mention was volunteering at the Berlin marathon. I somehow missed signing up for the lottery for 2017, but may just volunteer again, anyway.

Looking forwards, I intend to keep logging my running and keep updates with my blog posts. I also am running at least one marathon that I’d like to PR at on April 23rd. I haven’t decided yet if I will do another one (I signed up for one on April 15th, but am not sure about messing up my chance to PR on the 23rd), but for now the plan is to just slowly start upping the mileage anyway. I will also continue strength training, since I noticed a huge shift in the effort in the fall after the work I put into increasing my core and upper body strength.

I plan to get to 50 miles a week by the middle of February and once I’m there, double-marathon specific training can still be decided. I can also use this time to address my nutrition without stressing about specific workouts, and in general focus on my academic life a little more. In February, it’s time to reassess and think about later in the year. But for now, I’m satisfied in my planning and excited about a lot of easy and long runs.

Wishing you all a great year of running- and otherwise.


A little bit wiser…

A little bit wiser after a lot of stupid. Fans of the expression are welcome to write it in the comments below: told you so.

I guess I thought I was immune to the rules of nature, and figured that after five weeks off running, I’d be able to return to an only slightly modified marathon plan. “That’s insane,” many of you would say. “You’ll regret it if you go too far too soon,” you would warn.

Well, now you get to say “told you so.” But I know that most of us, while gratified to see that no one is immune to the rules of nature, also sympathize with someone who suffers as a result of an Icarus-like flight.

Things were looking most excellent last week. The week before, I had tested with three runs no longer than 4 miles. Then I progressed a bit fast, but runs were feeling great, only mild phantom aches near the end of 6, 7 miles. I thought I was benefiting from my rigorous cross-training regimen. I even made it through a longer run with my only complaint being the huge blister that developed on arch of my foot. I think things would have been okay had I continued with easy runs, but stupid me, I ignored ALL the advice (nowhere- except maybe here* [of course, that’s the one I listened to]- is it recommended to start up with speed-work within two weeks off a major injury) and thought I was ready for speed-work. Not only did I do speed-work, but I did intervals and a tempo run within three days of each other, just like my plan usually asks for. But that plan was for runners not coming off a broken toe.

I know, I know, I know it’s my own fault that I’ve fractured my fourth metatursal, and that it’s time to accept that I won’t run the Munich Marathon.

And I have. I somehow found a groove to remain positive.

It helps that I can sell my entry to someone (there’s an advert on eBay, if you’re interested) and officially switch. It helps that I can still go to Munich and rebook the bus ticket so that I get back to Berlin at a decent hour as opposed to after midnight. It helps that there are so many other things going on in my life, that I can say “I don’t live to run.”

Once I can run again (this time, no pressure of a marathon to get back into it hard), I will run to live–but this time, let’s just step back and take the time it takes to heal and start back up properly, right Dorothea?

These past few days, since ending the tempo run in a limp, I’ve been doing a lot of pep-talking to myself. Anger, frustration, and sadness keep popping in my head, but then I just tell myself: “look, this is your own fault. You can’t blame anyone or anything, not even bad luck on this.” I was stupid. I am responsible for the actions that led me to injury #2 in just as many months, and I accept this responsibility and the consequences. I am a lot more responsible in other matters… though I understand how people could just shake their heads at this. Add a competitive personality to determination and grit, and you get a perfect storm of stupidity, sometimes.

So, it looks like I’ll be sticking to my habit of no more than one marathon a year, for now.

Now, post this, Dorothea! Otherwise you’ll still think you can run a marathon in three weeks! Just let. it. go.

(it’s hard)

*I think the suggestions for returning from an injury can be misleading. For example, in the article by Runner’s World “How to Return to Training After Time Off”, the author suggests that if you return six weeks out from the race, and the first two runs are fine, it’s okay to get back into the plan. The problem is, a plan usually includes speed work and those, happening too soon and too often back into the running, can cause a re-fracture of a bone. “The cause and type of injury ultimately determine comeback.” Yes. Also, listen to your doctor… but try to find a doctor experienced in the injury you’re faced with and the fitness you have. A podiatrist who works with a lot of runners is going to be able to advise you better than one who deals with little old ladies with fallen arches.


Running Log: Jan 11-18

First weeks and birthdays and PRs, oh my!

The first week of the semester hit me hard. I finished teaching on Friday and felt like I’d been steam-rolled with a pair of my student’s textbooks, not to mention that I still had a class to go to. Let’s all agree that it’s a good thing there was race-day packet pickup. Still, the first week is over and now a routine will slowly settle and at least I didn’t have a hard training week, since I was tapering for the half. What that bodes for this upcoming week… we’ll see in a week.

At any rate, I took it easy, and it shows in my training.

half training week

Monday 1/11: 5.3 miles easy, no point in pushing it too hard during a taper week
Tuesday 1/12: 3.5 miles on my first day of teaching, got them in early while I still could, did a few miles on the bike trainer after bro’s birthday celebrations with the family.
Wednesday 1/13: 5.7 miles early in the morning to get them out of the way before a long day at the uni, and then added a few miles in the evening when I got back for good measure. The morning miles were a fast set of intervals that I didn’t expect, and then the evening miles turned into a 7:30 tempo run. What what?
Thursday 1/14: rest day? rest day it was.
Friday 1/15: 2.3 miles to shake the legs out. Felt hard and slow, which is to be expected after a lower volume week. Had to talk myself out of admitting that this meant I would fail at my goals in Saturday’s race.
Saturday 1/16: 1:37:25 Half-marathon PR. (beats my PR from last Dec. by 1:33) I almost did mess myself up at the race though, coming out the first mile at 7:02 and then thinking I could hold it for a sub-22 mile 5K for the first round. Should have been smarter (I guess I was delusional and thought I had the fitness for all 7 minute miles). I thankfully didn’t fall too far off the mark and held the 7:20-ish pace throughout. I don’t understand my splits, since there are too many 7:32, 7:27, 7:13 patterns, but I’ll get over that confusion. Ultimately, it was most important to me to  practice my fueling strategies (I’m a stop and drink kind of person; no walk and sip for me) and gauge my fitness. I’m pretty happy with where I’m at, and I’m grateful for the PR even with the stupidity at the start!
7:02, 7:09. 7:21. 7:17.7:16, 7:32, 7:27, 7:13, 7:32, 7:27, 7:13, 7:32, 7:27, 7:49, 7:51, 7:32, last .1 at 6:05.
Warm-up and cool-down (I forced myself to cool-down so that I avoid most of the pain from DOMS) brought the total to 16.5 miles.
Sunday 1/17: pretty sore, though not as much as last year. Really wish I would have had some time for any sort of light movement, but had too much physics to do (funny, reading about things in motion while sitting around on my you-know-what).

Total: 36.7 miles

Monday 1/18: Worked out the soreness this morning with an easy 7.4 mile run. The beginning was hard, every down-hill hurt, but surprise-surprise, I loosened up by the end. Round this out with a nice walk with the family on the beach after breakfast, and the day was good before it even became noon.

Happy MLK day, everyone. Hope you have a good week.



A tale of two logs- Running Logs 12/6-12/20

Really? I couldn’t think of anything less cliche for a title?

Short answer: nope. Long answer: also nope. Sorry folks. It already seems as though I can barely blog… with a post once every two weeks. But I have pictures this time!

Obviously, life was normal enough the last time I wrote. It was, after all, only the first advent and I knew I’d be done with grades and university obligations by the 13th… or so I thought. Unfortunately, I underestimated my obligations and yesterday was the first day I could breath deeply. Seriously, international freshmen are a different species of student.

But it’s all good. My running actually went well.


I won’t break it down like I normally do, but I will say that I had two tempo runs, two interval sessions, two long runs, and a race (that was more like a cool-down for my long-ish run yesterday) to fill the past two weeks, with three rest days and five easy days. Actually a solid cycle of training, other than the fact that I always wish I could do more miles. But those weeks will come. 12/7-12/13 was 40 miles, which is more than I’ve done in a good long while. 12/14-12/20 was 36 miles, which isn’t shabby for a down week.

The best runs of this cycle were the long run last Saturday and the runs yesterday.

Last Saturday, I set out for 16 miles. After how I felt during that week, I thought 15 would be okay too, but I also thought 16 were reasonable (even if I only did 13-14 the week before…). Turns out, the route I took brought me to near 16.7 miles, so I ended up with a solid long run at a pace that’s surprising even for me: 8:36. I did some miles at tempo (8:00-8:15) and some at something slower. I feel confident that I’m going to be able to do 8:30 at my next marathon, but I’d like to be able to do 8. We’ll see.

While I felt good during and following the run, I felt kind of tired this entire week. I don’t know if it was because of the psychological stress I was experiencing or the long run, but I was glad to just head out for 4-6 miles every day. I’m looking to do two 40+ mile weeks through New Year’s, with a 19-miler and a 20-miler, so there was no point in pushing this week.

The other special run of this cycle was a Jingle Bell Jog 5K. It was the slowest race I’ve ever run (that’s including my first ever 5K): 27:19 . I did it on purpose, though.. I really had to reign my self (and tongue) in, but I wanted to run the race with my brother, who is a tad out of shape (his PR beats mine by quite a bit). I wore the full Santa get-up and since this is in South Florida, it was quite warm. I also ran a long warm-up of 9 miles (met my brother at the race) so that I wouldn’t feel tempted to run too fast. It turned out to be worth it, as we both sprinted into the finish and have the first (and likely last) finishing photo of both of us together, and I’m waiting for those race photos to come in and share them.

So that’s coming up! As well as some serious post catch-up (I mean, I don’t always just need to talk about myself, I have some great running advice I’ve collected these past few months). Yesterday’s race (such a fun, holiday-themed run, the first I’ve ever done!) rounded out the 5K season for me, which brought my erhofft für (hoped for) PR. Now, it’s onward to a marathon PR (hopefully) and serious marathon training. I have a tune-up half marathon in January to look forward to, but I’m looking to building mileage these next few weeks to carefully get me to peak training condition.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and/or days off (if you don’t celebrate it). :-)



Remembering Trotting Through a Turkey Trot

I’m going to open up with this photo that makes me laugh each time I see it. This is definitely what I look like while running:

Running hamster

Photo credit goes to Julian Rad from Austria, who submitted it to Die Welt photo-contest.

But I really don’t have the time I’d like to dedicate to this post.

I just need to get this down before I get consumed by the finals haze and forget everything except for my name and the date. Wait, today’s still Saturday, right?

Let’s get started by saying today was not an ideal race to PR at.

First of all, this is what the weather looked like:

Temp (°F) 73° 74° 77° 78°
RealFeel® 78° 76° 78° 84°
Humidity 94% 88% 85% 83%
   5 AM  6 AM  7 AM  8 AM
















  5 AM 6 AM 7 AM 8 AM
Wind (mph) 4 ESE 4 E 6 SE 6 SSE
UV Index 0 0 0 0
Cloud Cover 65% 62% 100% 96%
Dew Point 71° 70° 72° 73°

The race started at 7:31. On the plus side, there was 0% chance of snow, so that’s nice. Also, more seriously, 100% cloud cover is nothing to complain about.

But the dew point was no fun. If you recall this chart that I’ve talked about before, a dew point above 70 degrees is “very humid and uncomfortable,” and one should “expect pace to suffer greatly.” At least the chart isn’t telling me that I should skip the run, but I’ve run a race like that before, and it isn’t that much worse than it was today. It was raining off me already after my 15 minute warm-up, so I was already not thrilled about how this race was looking to go.

Then, let’s also consider that there were no course markings at this race, and my GPS watch has been broken for a few weeks. The race organizers are a good group, and I’ve run races with them before. I’ve never experienced a run with them without at least mile-markers though… if not the huge mile clock timers.

So yep. I basically ran this race “blind.”

At least I had my stopwatch on me, and I figured out that it was an out-and-back course at the turn-around point (which I reached around 10:38), so I was able to kind of know how I was in pacing… but not really. And I had none of the positive feedback that could have picked me up during miles two and three. I really struggled during minutes 15-17. It was getting even harder to breath- and that’s saying a lot since I started the race already trying to suck out the oxygen from the water in the air. I guess I’m lucky that part of the course was what I run every Saturday with the running group, so I knew the course to some extent. Otherwise, this race would have had three ingredients for a recipe of disaster.

But it wasn’t. It wasn’t a stellar race, and the weather makes me think that I could pull off a faster time in better conditions, but I did-in the end, after all the sweating and fretting and killing myself to get to the end without knowing if the end would even ever come- PR.


If you’ve been following me, you’ll know that this is breaking a nine year record. A new era of Dorothea running is beginning. I don’t even know what to do with myself today.

That’s all I have to say about that, really (and if I had more to say, I don’t have the time [and you probably don’t have the patience]).

Thanks for the support during the training leading up to this! This past week after the last log consisted of a rest-day, another rest day, a short, hard workout of 4x400s at race pace, an easy 4.2 miles, another rest day, an easy 21 minutes, and today’s race. I won’t have time for a separate post for my log this week, but I know some of you were rooting for me, and so I wanted to let you know that the support was well-placed; I appreciate it, and I have you to partially thank for this PR. Part of my motivation was “what would Paula, James, Harold, Chelsea and everyone else reading WordPress this weekend say?”

Official Results (if you’re interested in that sort of thing… or just don’t believe me ;) ): here  Sorry, but I have no splits or mid-race information… just the time. But that’s okay, too… once in a while. When I had my 21:15 PR, most running technology that we have today was not around.

Hope everyone having a run today had a great run, race, or anything in-between. Good luck to racers tomorrow and those who have Turkey Trots on actual turkey day. ;)


That’s it. I’m signed up!

Dear D,

We have received your online registration.
Subject to the successful receipt of payment in the amount of 64.50 euros, you are registered as follows:

Event:                      Haspa Marathon Hamburg 2015
Participating as:           Marathon Participant
Date of event:              26. April 2015

Total amount:               64.50  EUR

The total amount will be debited from your bank account/credit card within the next few days.
The transaction can be identified by the following reason for payment: Mika Timing  HH0000493081.

You will receive your official entry confirmation for the Haspa Marathon Hamburg 2015 via email around end of March 2015. You will only be able to receive your race pack by presenting your official entry confirmation (NOT THIS EMAIL) and your valid photo ID/passport at the accreditation.

Thank you and best regards,

The Haspa Marathon Hamburg Team

Race Recap- Much ado about nothing?

After waiting until almost the last minute to sign-up for this race and building it and its preparation up for two days, I won’t say I wasn’t disappointed with the result.

22:33 for 3.16 miles (yeah, the course was a tiny-bit over)

Official results aren’t up yet, so I don’t know how I placed for the females. I just know that I got second in my age group and 28th overall. (edited to update that I actually had 31st overall, [out of 495] but 4th place for the females)

The morning started well. I woke up one minute before my alarm rang at 3:40 AM, albeit with sweat running down my back because it’s just so darn warm here, had a good carb-rich breakfast (the banana-date-nut bread tasted good cold too!) and some coffee, made it to the race in time for a comfortable warm-up at 9 mpm pace, and generally was feeling good and positive. So, when the run didn’t go the way I wanted, I had to think about what may have gone wrong.

There are a few things to say about this result, starting with the fact that it’s a minute off the time I wanted to run. Thinking about it though, while I made a few mistakes, I figure that I ultimately don’t need to be disappointed in myself. I ran hard. I can’t remember how I finished, whether I beat the girl I was hunting down for most of the last mile or not, so I know that I never made the conscious decision to let her go. I pushed myself as hard as I could, and if the result is what it is on the clock, it means that I could have run better but I also could have run a lot worse. The weather likely had a lot to do with my performance. It was more humid than I remember running during training and it wasn’t just me whining. I had trained sufficiently in hot weather, and my body has become very conditioned to keeping itself cool. I sweat a good liter each time I run, so I know that my blood volume decreases substantially on a regular basis and my body has learned to function in it (see last week’s run updates). However, today I was even more soaked through, which indicates to me that the humidity was more the problem. I knew I’d have some trouble after my damp warm-up, but so much else went right this morning that I didn’t think the humidity and heat would be an issue. Maybe there’s just only so much that mental mindset can do to overcome physiological discomfort and limits. Maybe I could have pushed the limits more to the point of passing out, but I was pretty far gone after the race. The cool-down run was tough, and my perceived effort was higher than the time I ended up with.

To make this point more valid (and perhaps make myself feel better), let me point out this chart put together and depicted in the Running Times.

50–54 Very comfortable PR conditions
55–59 Comfortable Hard efforts likely not affected
60–64 Uncomfortable for some people Expect race times to be slower than in optimal conditions
65–69 Uncomfortable for most people Easy training runs might feel OK but difficult to race well or do hard efforts
70–74 Very humid and uncomfortable Expect pace to suffer greatly
75 or greater Extremely oppressive Skip it or dramatically alter goal

Now, when I write that the dew point was 78 degrees, I guess it’s easier to understand that there was a lot I was up against. It was that bad, and I guess not PR conditions. At least I didn’t skip it!

That being said, I made a few mistakes during this race. The first mistake was relying on my watch for pacing. This was the first time I raced with my TomTom Runner, and I relied on it for my first mile to let me know whether I was keeping myself in the goal pace of 7:00-7:05 for the first mile. What I didn’t account for is the lag in response to a change in pace. I started off fairly fast in the first 50 meters with a 6:20 pace. However, I quickly let off when I realized that and settled into a comfortable pace…too comfortable, it turns out. I ended up 7:20 for my first mile. This meant that if I wanted to break 21:30, I’d have to do a lot of catching up. I think I should have known that I wouldn’t be able to catch-up, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t try.

My second mistake was having music on my MP3 player that was not all positive and upbeat. I never realized how music could have a negative effect on running until today; usually, music makes me feel upbeat and willing to put in extra effort into my workouts. However, some of my songs on the MP3 that didn’t bother me in training were really negative when pushing hard during the run. For example, Linkin Park’s “Pts. of Athrty”:

Forfeit the game
Before somebody else
Takes you out of the frame (frame)
Puts your name to shame
Cover up your face
(You) You can’t run the race
The pace is too fast
You just won’t last

You like to think you’re never wrong…

I don’t even think I need to explain why those lyrics just ruined mile 2 for me. I ended up skipping the song after spending a while trying to see something motivational, determined in the lyrics, but it was too late. I can be wrong sometimes I couldn’t help think that I was wrong about thinking I could get close to my PR today. However, thankfully Incubus’ “Dig” was good. It spoke to me in a way that I needed during the last mile.

So when weakness turns my ego up
I know you’ll count on the me from yesterday
If I turn into another
Dig me up from under what is covering
The better part of me

I knew the last mile would be hard going into this, and so hearing these words made the struggle to keep going worth it. If anything, thinking about the lyrics and what they meant to me distracted me from thoughts of quitting. The verse “count on the me from yesterday” struck a humming running chord inside of me, since the “me from yesterday” was the me I was trying to be today. The “me from yesterday” was a cross country star (albeit for a really mediocre team) and I’ve been eyeing my 21:15 PR for a very long time since I ran it in 2006. I still think it’s in me to run that time or faster… I wasn’t impossibly far off last year in two races with 21:37 and 21:42. So while running today, when I thought of “dig me up from under what is covering the better part of me,” I considered it a cue to me to call on my better self, the one that wasn’t going to give up on this run even though I knew I wasn’t going to break 21:30. I didn’t know until I crossed the finish line that I wouldn’t even break 22 minutes (I ceased to look at my watch after it buzzed for the last 2 minutes…it wouldn’t have mattered anyway since all I would have been able to do at that point was to give my best), but I am glad that I saw it within me to keep fighting. It really was uncomfortable running, and I was breathing hard, and I probably looked as unattractive as … but I was going to finish this race with effort and pride because that’s what I had set out to do.

Interestingly enough, I saw the “me from yesterday” in the eyes of an old cross country teammate that I randomly ran into after the race. It was a most pleasantly bizarre experiences. We exchanged a few words, then she went off to find her sister and I went off to do my cool-down run, but it was a sort of ray of sunshine, though I’m not entirely sure why. I could have tried to find her again after my cool-down, but I was still overcoming my disappointment about my race and though I like her and could have, for old times sake, gone to accept my second-place age group award while she accepted her third place, I just wanted to leave and get home. But now if I ever see her again, I can explain to her what was up and we have this memory of high school cross country in revival together.

Finally, to close this post (and I hope it doesn’t seem like an awkward shift, since I did just spend a lot of time talking about myself), I wanted to remind (myself and) the reader what this run actually was about and what it means, when it comes down to it. The other runners and I ran in honor, today, of the victims of September 11th. I’m sure there were at least a few family members there of those who died or were injured in the attacks. There were members of my city’s fire department at this run, decked out in full fire-battle gear, sweating it out much worse than any of us were. When I imagine how the fire fighters and rescue and response personnel ran to the towers on 9/11/2001, well… I can’t. They were incredible in their response and in their sacrifice. So when I look at my run today and my disappointment, I feel slightly ashamed.

This memorial consists of the beautiful relief showing PA, the Pentagon, and of course the World Trade Center towers. There’s also a piece of steel from one of the towers.

I will say, however, that I took a moment to stand in front of the memorial that the starting line was at, and I thought about what this run would mean to any of the people in those building on that engraving, if it even meant anything. I realized for the first time (please don’t judge me) that there were people in those buildings who were probably training for 5Ks, half-marathons, and marathons, hoping for PRs, and that they never got to run those races and get those PRs. In many ways it’s similar to the Boston Marathon attack, except people don’t normally associate 9/11 with runners. So I ran in honor of a runner today, to honor their memory not just as a victim of 9/11, but someone who maybe would have liked to run this race. I want to think, we gave him/her a race worth running.

Race: The last 24 hours beforehand

Today was the day before my race. Likely, I’ll forget about this day a few weeks from now because it will be overshadowed by tomorrow, which is race day. But for now, today is the important day. I did a few things to prepare and hopefully I’ll have a good run tomorrow so that next time I have a race, I can look back at what I did right.

I started off the day slowly after a good night’s sleep of 7.5 hours. I probably could have slept longer, but I also was limited in what I can do. Since I am getting up at 4-ish tomorrow, I know that I won’t get more than 6 hours of sleep, but I can work with that.

I ate my usual breakfast of berries and yogurt, but I didn’t eat oatmeal as I normally would have done. Rather, I opted to bake a banana-date-walnut bread and noshed on that instead. I baked the bread for several reasons. The most important reason was because I had a friend come in from out of town and I wanted something special to serve him that I could also eat myself, since I’m sugar-free. I also wanted a good carb-source to get some tasty carbs in for today (also hard to do when I’m sugar free), but also have something easy to prepare for a pre-race meal in the morning. I could make oatmeal tomorrow morning, but bread seems so much easier at 4 AM. I think if there’s anything I regret tomorrow, it will be putting dates in the bread, but who knows? Maybe I’ll appreciate the extra propulsion forward. The recipe I used can be found here

So, since my friend was over, I spent a good part of the day hanging around, off my feet. When I was on my feet, I certainly wasn’t doing anything strenuous. I made sure to drink my regular amount of water, which is about four liters. I think most of it was in tea today, but I’ll drink a bit more this evening before I head to bed. 

Finally, one of the things I did to prepare was a shake-up run. Back in the day, I thought that one was supposed to rest the day before a race. However, since I’ve been around the running forums and talked to more and more coaches, I’ve learned to make the second day before a race the day off, and do a light run the day before the race. 

That’s what I did. After corralling up my brother to join me, I put on my running shoes that I am not going to race in tomorrow (my Mizuno Wave Creations. I’ll race in my Sauconys that I feel slightly more comfortable in, even though neither shoe is really idea for racing) and went out. I set my TomTom GPS runner for 21 minutes because my goal for tomorrow is 21:something (preferably sub 30 sec) and I wanted to envision the run in my head. So when my brother wasn’t filling my head with his plans for the weekend, I thought about how I would feel at certain moments in the race. At minute 12 I was thinking “okay, you’ll be beyond halfway there here. Things will start to look tough and you’ll start to want to slow down, but you’re only halfway there. On the plus side, you’ve only 1.5 miles to go, which is easy-peasy!” Three-quarters of the way through I was thinking, “alright, you’re into your last mile. Things are going to go down now. You’re going to want to compromise, you’re going want to make arguments with yourself about why reaching your goal time isn’t possible. But it will be possible. You’re prepared. You’re well-rested. You will be able to do it if you’re willing to go through a bit of pain.” When my watch buzzes for the 90% done, I know that I’ll have about two minutes left to give it all I’ve got. At that point, I know I’ll want to push myself. 

To round-out this live-race vision, I did some pick-me-ups to just feel some speed. The first one felt awkward, as it should after an easy 9:30+ mpm run, but the next few felt good. I didn’t push myself too hard, but made sure to extend my legs and get a real stride going. 

Now that I’ve done everything physically that I need to do for preparation, it’s all mental. I’ve got my socks chosen, I know what shoes, shirt and shorts I’m going to wear. I’ll bring my wallet for gas in the morning and my ID for packet pick-up. I am thinking of bringing a towel and a change of clothes, as well as filling up all my water-bottles to have in the car. 

I’m eating some sushi tonight (something I do every Friday and have done several times before races), playing cards and watching some tele with the family, and going to be around 2215. 

The only thing I haven’t really decided is whether to run with music. Most of my interval and tempo runs have been with music, so I’m afraid I’ve come to rely on it. On the other hand, I don’t want to be anti-social at the race or during the run. I want to be among fellow runners running for the good cause that is memorializing the heroes of 9/11 and funding ceremonies in the future. I believe in the cause this run is hosted for, because I believe it’s important not to forget what happened 13 years ago. I’m afraid to dishonor the memory of those this run is held for, because I won’t be participating actively with the participants and the volunteers while I run. I guess I can just try to do my best before and after the race. 

Race time is 6:30. It’s going to be about 84 degrees Fahrenheit with 90% humidity (ew). 

I’m going to be up at 4, out of the house by 5:30, and warming-up by 6. 

Wish me luck!!