Let’s get this started.

Active.com and several running sites have announced that this week marks the beginning of spring marathon training season.

Um, excuse me, I’ve been kicking trails and asphalt (and a bit of treadmill) since Jan 1, thank you very much.

Obviously the start of the season depends on what marathon one is training for and how long one wants to train for it. Me? My race is April 22nd and my training plan, after two years of shaky training success, is a more safe 16 week plan designed by Runner’s World for those looking to break 3:30. It has two rest days a week with speedwork, tempo runs, long runs and two test races throughout. I met the basic requirements of having run 25-30 mile weeks and being able to run 1:30 without stopping and decided it was worth a try.

Three weeks so far

I record one of my intervals each week as a race, in order to be able to use the PR algorithm and see how my speeds increase for those distances. Don’t pay the red too much mind.

Wish me luck!

I don’t think I was imprudent in signing up. I thought carefully about how the marathon and, more importantly, the training would fit into my work- and family- life. The semester ends in mid-February, which is where the first 20-miler happens, and I’m relieved of most meeting obligations after that, so I will have enough opportunity to recover during the most intense part of the training.

I do have an international trip planned, which of course messes up training a bit, but I’ll just have to rework the plan those weeks to accommodate the travel time and jet-lag.

I also spit in the face of fate and even rented a car (that I can still cancel the day before- I’m not that much of a risk taker! ;-) ) that I can use for that weekend. So, yes, once could say I’ve committed.


Isn’t FL running great?! At least in winter, it is pretty awesome that it’s warmer here than most other places in the US .

My goal of sub-3:30 is not major, considering that my last marathon was 3:33. However, that marathon was 2 years ago, so I am going to have to consider my base of running from the 45-minute 10k on New Year’s Eve and see how I do at my next 10k test next weekend to determine if 8 mpm for 26 miles is within reach and if I have to work harder in my speed-work sessions. On the other hand, my nutrition is much more on point than two years ago, and I’m starting my training at an ideal training weight, so I don’t have to worry about reaching racing weight. I just have to cut out alcohol again in a few weeks. ;-) It would be great to BQ again. I have another goal for this race, but I’m keeping that private for now.

Most of all, I felt like it was time. I’ve spent enough time now taking it easy and putting running on the side-burner, and now I feel the desire again to go outside my comfort zone. I also spent enough time exploring other aspects of my identity, and I just keeping coming back to running as one thing in my life that consistently makes me proud and gives me positive feedback. While I am grateful to say that it’s not the only thing in my life that I feel pride in, it is unique in the way that I can push my limits and feel confident about my strength and my body. So heck yes, let’s do this!

Finally, I’m coming back to blogging about running, since this has, for the past five years, been the space where I reflect more on the process of training and running than I do in my actual log. These posts are what I scanned through for my last (successful) marathon and I’d like to share my process again. Your comments and advice are what I looked for when I was positive or negative, so I hope you want to follow me in this process, and I look forward to the interaction!

Happy running,


Running Log: October 16-22, in which I run a race

This was a good week as far as running goes.

Remember how I mentioned that the races I signed up for got cancelled? Well, only one of them did. The other race was re-imagined by the Berliner running club who were putting it on and I decided to do it, despite it not being at all what I had signed up for. Rather than setting up the course in the forest as they originally were going to, they set up on a track. A dirt track. And rather than having hills and roots to watch out for, they set up mini-hurdles.

I considered the boredom of running in a loop, as well as the small participation, a challenge. There were about 35 people doing the 30-minute and the 60-minute together, but only 12 of us were doing the full hour. But they did have music and the timer on the track meant I’d get to know how fast I was running each lap.

It was an hour long race, the first of its kind I’ve ever done. I’ve had my own hour-long attempts- trying to see how much I can get done in the hour I had allotted, for example, but never a race where the time was measured and it was up to me to see how much I could get done in that time.

Turns out, it’s a tad above 13 kilometers: 97 meters more. This comes out to a 7:21 mpm average pace. At least, that’s my ability with my current fitness.

I went in with a goal of 8 miles, which is a 7:30 pace and I felt it was doable, since I’ve been running pretty consistently at 8:15 to 8:30 as an easy pace and the 800s in 3:20, so 7:30 was modest. This meant I was actually hoping (and going for) over 8 miles.

I managed to be a newbie and start off too fast: 1:36 for the first lap. But I settled down a bit and got 3:22 for the first 800 and 22:15 for the first 5k. But I also made the mistake of paying attention to the pace my GPS watch was showing and not the actual time, and of course the pace was based on distance and my GPS overcalculated distance (as it is wont to do on a track), so I thought I was going 7 minute pace the whole time, when really it was the 7:20 I ended up with.

When I first saw my splits (seeing each 0.25 mile is a novelty!) I was proud of the consistency with which I ran. Other than the first lap where I went too fast and the 17th lap where I took a fueling break, I was really consistent. But maybe it just looks that way since I did laps and not miles. Calculating the 5 second spread in miles, it’s a 20 second difference in pace, so perhaps my paces were a bit more spread out than I think now. I’ll find out on Monday. (edited to add: according to my TomTom, my paces per mile were  6:51, 6:55, 6:56, 6:57, 7:20, 7:02, 7:05, and 7:02- so, consistent enough!)

My longest lap was lap 17 where I took a fueling break to down some water and eat a third of a banana. It was 30 seconds off my average, and in retrospect, not having it would have allowed me to be first woman- but did the fuel help? Probably. I won’t blame it on that.

Which brings me to the fact that I also could have gotten 1st woman if I had a stronger mental game. Around lap 28, a girl came up from behind me, and while I was sure there was only one other guy in front of me, I couldn’t figure out the logic of racing on a track (despite having done 5 years of track and cross country but hey, it’s been a while!) and thought the girl had lapped me (I call her a girl, she is a 23-year old woman). I still tried to stick with her, for sports sake, but as she pulled away, I figured she had 0.25+ on me anyway, so catching up wouldn’t mean much. After the race, however, I realized she was on the same lap as me and only finished about 100 meters in front of me. Darn! Add in the doubt about the 30 seconds of fueling and I manage to sour what was otherwise a positive racing experience; kudos to the SC Tegeler-Forst running team for organizing a great event!

But that’s peanuts. I finished healthy (I think- going to evaluate after post-run fatigue is gone tomorrow) and had a good time. I also have an hour-race PR, so there’s that.

As for the week, one can see I took it easier. Part of that was to prep for the race, but I was also  sticking to what I wrote last week! I did want to take it easy. Got a bit of biking in too, so my activity points for the week are earned. Now, as for personal, academics? If only they were so easy as running in circles, sometimes.


Berlin Marathon 2017: Reporting live from the Berlin Studio (apartment)

Just got back from my run in time to watch the last hour of the BMW Berlin Marathon as Kipchoge, Berkeley, and Kipsang (as the advertised world record strivers) fight for first place and hopefully the world record on this dreary Berliner day.

Opting for a more comfortable spectator position than last year (in my defense, I’ve also got wicked jetlag), I’m taking advantage of Berlin’s major TV station, RBB where the whole race is reported live. These are my thoughts while watching (disclaimer: I’m not a sports reporter, nor get paid to be one on TV 😉):

  • Right now (1:08), they’re talking about Anna Hahner, one of Germany’s top marathon runners and also the hopeful for the top German result. She is about 20 meters away from the top women. (Spoiler alert: she only gets mentioned two more times and finishes alright)
  • Kind of interesting this year are the thousands of election campaign posters lining the course and constantly caught by the camera
  • Berkeley is off course (1:10:48) for the record. He could still make it up but eh…
  • Guye Adola missed his water bottle at km 25…he’s a debut runner doing pretty well. Go underdog! No one shared his bottle with him, though. Competition is tough
  • My bet is on Kipchoge, because he has that sub 2-Hour attempt to draw meantal strength from
  • I think I’m glad I’m not volunteering today. The weather is kind of miserable
  • I also hope no one forgot their glide… chafing=ew
  • 1:24:29 Kimputo is kind of bouncing around in the back, my bet is he’s next to fall off the pace
  • The water (light rain and sweat) is flying off their feet
  • Pacer 60 Kimpare is doing a great job
  • Oh! They’re at km aid station 30, and before I could finish writing about how I was there last year and didn’t even realize I could end up in the footage…
  • WHAT Kipsang is out?! WHAT!?
  • Now it’s just Kipchoge and Adola! I guess I may win my bet after all
  • Kimpare is gone now too
  • It’s not long now
  • The bicycle leaders are are having a hard time not working as pacers for the two
  • Marathon running televised is a bit like watching sloths play soccer.
  • 1:43:11 Adola still there, slightly irritating Kipchoge it looks like. Hang on for 7 more km, Adola! Wouldn’t it be wild if he won?
  • And how lucky is Kipchoge, after the other two fell off, to have this competition? Someone who keeps him on pace?
  • Bekele is now also completely out. :-(
  • Kipchoge is running the blue line (the adidas three stripes to be seen throughout the city weeks after the race) Adola is running long curves. What is going on? Is a Adola letting Kipchoge keep his own pace?
  • 1:50:40 Okay, yeah, it’s getting a little more interesting  now
  • 4 more km
  • Less than 10 more minutes
  • 1:54:55 Kipchoge looks like he’s losing a bit of form :/
  • What the heck, Adola looks like a running god. He can have the win. I’m a fan
  • Okay Kipchoge, you still got this after all. He closed the gap
  • Adola doesn’t take any fuel? What? He may also have surged too early
  • Max 5 more minutes. I’m actually on the end of my seat. I take back my sloth comment
  • C’mon Adola! Hang on!
  • Kipchoge is claiming the last km for himself
  • Okay, experience wins. Aber Adola, aller Respeckt!
  • Damn. Kipchoge, look at that smile. 1km left and he knows he has this
  • Stride, smile, finish.
  • 2:03:34
  • AND ADOLA, fastest debut in history, 2:03:47 :-)
  • First woman, Gladys Cherono, doing a really nice job, on her own these last km.
  • Wish I had that kind of stride
  • Wins in 2:20:21 (and still gets a 15,000€ time bonus). Wooh!

In summary: what a race. Had I bet, I’d have won. Still proven: there are some fast runners out there. Athletes have a tough fight; it takes a lot to know when to step out of a race. Love the Berlin Marathon and hope to maybe run it one day!

Now, I return to my regularly scheduled Sunday. Hope you also have a nice day! -Dorothea

Look! I caught a fish. Or, Ft. Lauderdale Marathon recap

Run strong. Run fast. Do not settle.

These were the words I wrote on my hand right before leaving the house at 4:20 this morning. I meant to leave at 4:00, but I got carried away with mental prep. Still, I was lucky and traffic was so glorious that I made the distance in 45 minutes anyway. This meant I had 55 minutes to pee and get to the starting line.

I woke up at 3:18 when the alarm rang. I woke up surprised that I had actually slept last night. The last thing I remember was thinking “well, if I can’t sleep, at least I’m resting.” In fact, it was such an unusual situation for me that I forgot to turn off my alarm, and had to run to my room when I was already in the kitchen ten minutes later so that the alarm wouldn’t wake up the rest of the house. Then I went back to the kitchen, toasted my two waffles, boiled my water for coffee, and took it to my desk to look up again how I would get to the race.

My morning was a bunch of pluses and minuses: woke up on time, but left later than intended; made it to the finish line (near where I wanted to park) in record time, but had to park somewhere unplanned, because I didn’t think I’d get a parking spot in time. I thought the rate for the garage that I found was 10$ for the day, but later I was to find out that it was 10$ per hour, and I’m really glad I had my debit card on me to pay it. That was maybe the only thing I regret about this run. The line for the shuttle from finish to start line was super long, but I made friends with the runners in front of me, and they saved my spot so that I could head into the nice resort bathroom next to where we were all standing. Porcelain bathrooms with toilet paper and soap on race morning? A luxury. It was a relief to not have to wait in line at the porta-potty at the start line (though by the time the bus made it over, I could have gone again- just didn’t have the time, which came to nip me in the bud later). I found gear check and dropped my bag with three minutes to spare, but couldn’t find the 3:30 pacer, and lost the pace-band I had made for myself. My iPod shuffle wasn’t following the playlist I had made for it, but my starting song was still “Fanfare for the Common Man.“The best way to start a race, if I may say so. It kept my pace at around the 8:19 I was planning for (though I did go out at 8:17).

That was  the beginning. It was a pretty good race from there. I met all my none-time goals: I reveled in the beginnings of the sunrise on the ocean- it was so beautiful. I had a flash-back to running my marathon in Hamburg when I saw the Port-of-Everglades (reminded me of the docks on the Elbe river). I connected with the two runners while waiting at the shuttle, found another runner at mile 8 who was also aiming for 3:30 (we rooted each other on throughout the race whenever we saw each other again… she went on to make her goal, I think! Even with a potty break). I was throwing good karma all around, waving to the good souls who clapped for me, nodding at all the policemen and women who were along the course, thanked all the volunteers. I cheered on anyone coming at me in the opposite direction. I like to think I made their run a little more pleasant… I know I appreciate it! One of the lead runners that I clapped for recognized me again at the finish line and congratulated me on a fine race. So that’s all good.

But I’m sure you want to hear about the time goals, and so let me just say that I’m so glad I set myself a “B” goal within a few minutes of my “A” goal… because without that, or say I had next gone for the 3:50 PR, I would have quit trying. I knew about mile 21 that I would no longer make sub-3:30. But after that, I kept trying, and when I knew I wouldn’t get it for sure, I still kept trying for the 3:33. And I made it!


You may be interested to know that this is a BQ time for girls ages 18-34, so there’s that. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be asked to run next year, because I missed that “extra” time cushion of 2:28 by 18 seconds. I’m okay with that, though, since Boston is not my goal…yet. I’m thrilled enough with the sub-3:35, sub-3:33 even, and I can’t wait to see what I can do with my next race!

See, this is my fourth marathon, but the first one I ran like a legitimate race. Last April, I ran a PR, and ran a marathon for the first time without stopping to walk, but I was having way too much fun taking in the experience of the Hamburg Marathon. I didn’t really understand fueling, starting off slower, but not too slow so that you’re catching up for the rest of the race, etc.

I still don’t think I figured out that part quite perfectly yet. I started off slower, but my 2nd and 3rd miles were sub-8mpm when they should have been in the 8:00-8:10 range. Then, as I feared all during the taper, I didn’t know how to keep myself at the pace I should have kept, a more conservative 7:56-7:58 versus the 7:45/8:00 flips I was doing. Overall, my pace was already at 7:56 through mile 10, when it really should have been 8:00-8:02. The other mistake I made was to get too confident at mile 14. Maybe it was the Gu kicking in, maybe I was glad to be at the halfway mark,  but miles 14-19 were 7:46, 7:51, 7:44, 7:44, 7:43 (fastest mile of the race) and 7:48. I totally did not have the consistent pace I think I needed to meet my “A” goal for today. It’s a weakness I knew about beforehand though, so I’m not terribly mad at myself. At mile 20, when they say the race really starts (something I was chastising myself all through those middle miles when I was feeling high on air), I started to slow down. Minimally at first, so that the 7:56 became a 7:57, then 7:58, then 7:59 overall pace… which I held for a while, but at mile 22 I was barely holding it together, counting down each quarter mile, and then, after two 8:21 splits for 23 and 24, I could barely keep myself running.


101 Dalmatians, anyone?

Here is where I pulled all the tricks for the last miles that I could remember out of my bag (I forgot that counting trick from Deena Kastor, though). It didn’t help that I had bladder issues, and I was struggling to just keep running, especially after my pace got into the 8:03 overall pace. I got lucky when “Hall of Fame” came on from The Script; it really got me going, and a few scenes from Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil came to mind (I kid you not). Maybe those words on my hand were what did it… maybe seeing the girl from mile 8 pick it up and look damn amazing at mile 24. But I kept thinking to myself, “stay strong; don’t settle.” So I listened to myself the best I could. When I could see the clock with 150 meters left to go, I picked it up for a “sprint” through the finish. Can’t wait to see what that looks like. Definitely not like this puppy, the mascot for my overall place this race.

Somehow, I also managed an age group win, and I scored all the swag post race. I’m glad I parked by the finish line, and getting myself cleaned up and ready to go with a very short, mini cool-down run so that I wouldn’t cramp up in the car was alleviated by the fact that I could dump everything in the car. I didn’t get to stay for awards, so I’m sorry I can’t show you what I would have gotten for the age group win. From experience at this race though, I think it was “just” a plaque. I don’t really need those, and maybe they gave it to the next finisher.

So, did I miss anything? A detail I left out that you really wanted to know about? Let me know! I can say that I had a few knee and feet issues, but nothing that warranted dropping out of the race and the knee things went away over the course of the run. Also, this is a really good race, touted as a “fast” race because it’s so damn flat (most of it is at or below sea level, with one incline near the start to go over the Intercostal). The wind can be a problem, since most of the course is exposed by the ocean. There’s a fair amount of spectators, but not the cheering, loud, clapping kind that will carry you like in major city races. Still, I found the support enough. There were people giving out Gu along the way, so I actually didn’t need all my Gus, but still had them when I struggled in the later miles. There was also a group giving out beer, which sounds like so much fun, but awful consequences when running at the end of one’s limits in a marathon… I actually don’t get that trend. Post-race beer? Sure… but during? The finish area is really well organized- many sponsors giving out all kinds of free-samples: drinks, Muscle Milk, coffee, burgers, enchiladas… . The Ft. Lauderdale marathon and half is also known for its sweet medal and a sand sculpture at the finish to take a photo with. I opted out, but got another photo in all my nasty post-race glory that I’ll share when the pictures are made available.

2015-2016 seasonAs for where I go from here (because it’s always good to have ideas for “after”), I am taking a break from training. I had a very successful season with PRs in all the distances I attempted, and I’m mighty content with where I am at this point in my fitness. I will say I could have worked better on my nutrition… something to work on for next season. But I’m ready to not take my logging so seriously, and to run when I feel like it and skip it when I don’t. My GPS is going to hide for a little while, too. I may do a race in  early April if I feel like it, and a race or two during the summer in Germany. I have a soft goal of building my mileage off-season to steady 45 mile weeks, but right now, I just want to relax.

And in south Florida, even with all the work I have to do, relaxing is made so easy.

IMG_0002 (2)

Check out my medal: see, a fish! Two fish, actually.

Cheers, all.

p.s. Thank you for all your support, both the silent and the extremely open. It means a lot to me! I did want to say though, after thinking about what I wrote yesterday, that my parents do support me in everything I do (including running)… they just don’t understand much about running. Still they are mighty proud of me, and I felt the love today. Happy Valentine’s Day, all around!


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.



Rotary Run for Tomorrow Half-Marathon Recap

I haven’t updated this site of my blog in a while, other than to gleefully post my confirmation of my registration for the 2015 Haspa Hamburger Marathon. A lot of this is because of the pick-up in course work, some traveling within Germany, and my trip back home to the States for the holiday season. But I’ve been running consistently and using the events in my life to set up a decent taper for the last week.

December running update

Due to my race this morning, I didn’t worry about running a lot while in Nuernberg last weekend and I didn’t worry about running the day of my arrival in MIA nor on Friday, allowing for a short easy run yesterday. I arrived a bit later than I would have liked this morning at the race, meaning I could not warm-up for more than half a mile, but that was probably a good thing.

Basically, I arrived fairly well rested at the starting line. However, my biggest concern before waking up at o’dark thirty this morning was the exacerbated plantar fasciitis in my right foot, and it proved to be an issue through this morning. Thankfully, two days of almost rest and a lot of tennis ball rolling helped relieve the drastic symptoms my feet were displaying from playing indoor soccer on Monday and Wednesday… but soccer is my first love, so I don’t regret deciding to play. At any rate, I taped my foot up this morning, and even though 13.1 miles of pounding pavement resulted in a nasty blister when I removed the tape, I was free of the worst of the plantar pain during the entirety of the race.

It was a good race. I would say it was perfect, but my competitive self would have liked to have gotten top 10 in the women section. I ended up being the 11th female to cross the line.

But, the weather was great (55 degrees Fahrenheit were ideal, and coming from the cold north German climate, it was more comfortable than my Floridian counterparts), I felt strong, gave it 105%, and have a new personal best:


When I say that I gave it 105%, I acknowledge to myself that I ran a race to feel proud of. Not 110% proud (I wasn’t dying by the end), but proud none-the-less (and not just because I PR’ed).

The first five miles of the race flew by. I actually ran mile one in 7:12, so I knew I had started off too fast. But I was feeling good, so I decided to only slow down a little and see what would happen as the race continued. It wasn’t a bad choice, considering that I stuck at a pretty steady 7:25 mpm pace for most of the race, but my last miles were closer to the 7:35 mpm, with the same effort of the first miles, so I know that I probably could have conserved my energy more wisely. However, seeing as this is the first real half-marathon I’ve run since winter 2012, I’m okay with having made a mistake or two.

I went into this race without a concrete plan. Similar to what I stated in  my intuitive running post, I wasn’t looking for a PR as much as a solid gauge of my fitness. Therefore, I also didn’t really plan a time or pace. I knew at the back of my mind that I wanted to get sub-1:40 and PR, but that was only because I felt like I was fit for it, not that I thought I had trained for it and therefore should get that particular time. I like this approach to racing, and may actually chose to use this approach in the future. The pressure of reaching the time one imagines for oneself during training, or having a training plan designed around a certain time, can actually be counter-productive. At least, for me, it has always lead to injury and disappointment. Today, I started the run thinking to do what felt good until the half-way point, and then after 6.55 miles, I would try to push myself.

Pushing myself came unexpectedly early, because around mile 5, I was overtaken by another woman who was running faster, but at a pace that was still comfortable for me. I decided to try and keep up with her, and having her beside me, telling me a few times that I was doing well or to take deep breaths, was nice. I appreciated her companionship for about a mile, until I decided I would rather slow down a bit before speeding up again. I guess she was also a reminder of why it’s nice to not run with music during a race (I had actually planned on running with my MP3, only to find out that it had no battery). While running with her, I also found out from a spectator that we were the 9th and 10th women on the course. Of course, after hearing that, all I could think of was staying at least as top ten.

So I pushed myself earlier than I expected, and therefore, after backing off again, took it easy longer than originally planned: until about mile 8. I crossed mile 8 at 59:30ish, so I just thought to myself that I only had five miles to go, and I could definitely finish those quicker than 40 minutes. Then, I thought, I could also do faster than 8 mpm, and I could maybe keep 7:30 mpm, and if I did that… I was also holding my number 10 place, so I was okay with just trying to keep the pace. That was my next goal and for the rest of the race, I just tried to keep 7:30 mpm. That is, until another woman caught up to me and I couldn’t stay with her since keeping 7:30 was barely happening and I just ran to finish without giving up.

(here’s the part I’m proud of), I didn’t give up pushing. I even put forth more effort to combat my slowly cramping thighs and weakening muscles (even though it was still only around 7:32 pace, I was pushing hard). A few of the thoughts that ran through my head were things like “people talk about the pain of the end of a race all the time,” “this pain is normal, I’m supposed to be feeling this” and “damn, even if I don’t get top ten, those other women aren’t that far ahead, maybe, if I don’t give up now, I can still catch up.”

By mile 12 and a half, I realized I wouldn’t be able to beat the other women, but I also realized that if I wanted to PR I would have to kick that in stone. I couldn’t run any faster than I already was (no end sprint for me, for the first time in a long time of racing), but I could hold on… and that I did–all the way until I saw the finish line and that I was at 1:38:30 and I just thought, man, I should try to get it under 1:39. Success. It’s not a spectacular time by many people’s standards, but as long as I am able to get faster as I get older, I’m happy. I don’t expect to be running some exceptional times for another seven years at least.

The course was good and fast. Florida is flat, but the race had one minor incline (a bridge over the turnpike). It was all pavement with a few different out and backs (three U-turns). I’m really happy with this race, since it confirmed the way I’ve been feeling in shape for a while now. The longer miles during the week as well as increased mileage have heightened my endurance, and soccer and bike riding have greatly improved my fitness. I’ve also lost about five pounds since my last race, and I think not having to carry around that extra weight helped in beating my previous PR by more than a minute and a half.

So, yup. I’m happy. I hope all of you had a good weekend and are happy as well.

Since I gave myself a glorious foot blister that has lost its protective skin covering, I am going to take it easy until it heals, perhaps biking more than anything else. For the rest of December I am also going to take it easy, running-wise, to give my fasciitis a chance to settle (I’m thinking of getting a boot or some orthotics or so) and to give my body some recovery from the 2.5 months of daily heavy activity. That way, once I’m back in Germany at the beginning of January, I can safely get started on marathon training. I’m excited!

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.