Archive for September, 2012

Tower of Terror 10 Miler

So much has happened in the last few days but I’m going to focus on last night’s race. This was the inaugural Tower of Terror 10 mile race. Several years ago runDisney (or, technically, runDisney’s predecessor) held a Tower of Terror 13K race which disappeared from the calendar despite its popularity. The announcement of the new race was greeted with enthusiasm and the race sold out pretty quickly. There were 10,000 registered runners with 2/3 women and 1/3 men. A very high percentage of runners were starting their first endurance event.
I was toward the front of the pack with bib #2611 and starting in Corral B. My goal was to maintain a training pace – around 13:30 min/mile – and have fun! The race was starting at 10pm but buses to the start were running from 7-8pm. I hopped on an earlier bus and had plenty of time for meet and greets in the starting area. A DJ pumped out tunes. The bag check was quick and easy (interestingly it included a security bag check since the bag pick-up post-race was in a theme park). There were plenty of port-a-potties both in the general waiting area and within the corrals. I enjoyed some socializing before being sent to the corrals at 9pm. As luck would have it, we found a groups of friends to hang out with while we waited. My friend Susan and I planned to run together using run 30 sec/walk 30 sec. Another friend, Sarah, who was running her first endurance event decided to join us. I am usually an early to bed, early to rise person so I worried about a late night race but I felt energized and excited!
Congestion was a major issue at various points in the race, including at the start. Although a runDisney race has a higher percentage of run/walkers, this was still difficult early on. Sarah and Susan and I made a serious effort to not stay three abreast since this creates a road block. According to my Garmin our first mile was around 13:48 but we managed the first 5in with a 13:23 pace per mile. The first 4 miles or so took us along the road to Animal Kingdom and then U-turn back. I was surprised that they used such a boring stretch of roadway for the start and even more surprised that there wasn’t a bit more entertainment at this point. Heat and humidity were a major factor with starting temperatures close to 80F. We were drinking PowerAde at the water stations and then dumping water over our heads.
The water stop after mile 4 was congested and slow and we lost at least a minute or so. Our pace had been around 13:30 and the mile between 4 and 5 was about 14:30. Around mile 5 we took a sharp turn onto to a gravel path. This section was themed very, very well but had 2 problems: 1. the lighting was low and the footing tricky and 2. it was very narrow which led to extreme congestion. I managed to weave myself through the crowds on the run segments but, unfortunately, lost Susan in the process. We made our way through Wide World of Sports, including a really fun run around the warning track of the baseball diamond and a run around the track. Our time for the 2nd 5K was much slower – partly due to the slow water stop, partly due to crowding, and partly due to running on uneven surfaces. We left Wide World of Sports around mile 7.
I was guessing that Sarah was feeling antsy and thought she could go faster and I was feeling good so I offered to pick up the pace. We both agreed and our next mile was in the 12:20 range. The heat was getting me a bit as there was a water stop right after mile 7 and the next (and last) one was almost mile 9. We were able to keep the pace but I was happy to dump some more water on my head! I told Sarah she could run it in at mile 9, although I planned run/walk to the finish. I was feeling the heat and humidity and didn’t want to push. She took off but never got out of my sight. About 1/4 mike later I saw her walking and caught up. I got her to run/walk to the finish although she was quickly losing steam. I finished 2:11:57 (13:12 min/mile) and she was just a bit behind me.
We got our medals and grabbed the post-race food and drink. Neither of us felt the need to take a picture that we wouldn’t buy and we found some seats at one of the counter-service restaurants. We re-hydrated and decompressed before finding our friends. What was alarming to me is how many people required medical care during and after the race. The heat and humidity are no joke and, as a runner, one has to make adjustments for that. Given how many new runners there were, many of whom were likely struggling with the 16min/mile pace limit anyway, it’s not surprising that the challenging conditions wreaked havoc on people. I don’t know that runDisney could have done anything differently. It’s easy to under-estimate the challenge of running 10 miles, especially when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
This race taught me so much about myself and about running. I still think of myself as a new runner but at this event I was the coach helping a truly new runner. There is only one word for that experience: Amazing! Jeff Galloway always talks about the slow-down factor for heat: 30 sec/mile for every 5 degrees over 60F. For this race the slow down was, therefore, 2 min/mile. That approximately means that we ran the equivalent of 11:12 min/mile – which is more or less where I should be able to achieve for a 10 mile race. I’m not saying that I could have run that fast in better conditions but more that I ran at an appropriate pace given the conditions. This may be my slowest pace per mile yet but it may have also been my most successful race ever. Success isn’t always based on finish time.
I’ve always been a start fast and burn out kind of runner. Just look at my Magic Mile splits! But I ran this race with good negative splits and juice left in the tank. I’m no more sore today than is typical after a long run. Certainly not how I feel after a hard race. I’m learning pacing and hope to carry that with me next weekend.
My final thought (for now at least) is how important it is to train, train, train. Endurance events require, well, endurance. And that only comes from sweat. I finished strong because I trained well. Nothing more and nothing less. It proves to me again how critical it is for me to continue on my path. And how successful e-coaching has been for me. And I also remembered how much I love to run races!
Thank you to all the fabulous people who cheer for me! I carry that with me on every run!

The Big Book…

I am an avid reader. This may be surprising given how busy my life is but I have a life-long love of books. An overly enthusiastic elementary school librarian instilled in me an awe of books to the point that I cannot write in books. Crazy, right? My usual repertoire of reading ranges from epic fantasy to chick lite to Young Adult friction with a smattering of literature and best sellers in the mix. Recently, though, I’ve become an avid reader of running books.
Besides reading and re-reading Jeff Galloway’s Training book and my obsession with Born to Run, I recently started reading Runner’s World Big Book of Marathon and Half Marathon Training. I’m on the Runner’s World email list so I’ve received countless emails trying to sell me this book. I held off until I noticed a Twitter sale – a discount code for Twitter followers. I wasn’t ready to read it – yet – but it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
This week I found time to start reading. Although I still have several chapters to go, I’m really enjoying it. I was worried that the book’s philosophy would run counter to Jeff Galloway’s training philosophy (pun intended) but I haven’t found is to be an issue. While I certainly know I can finish a half marathon without being able to run 7 continuous miles (I probably could but have no reason to try), I’m still learning a lot of useful tidbits. And I enjoy reading the little snapshots about other runners.
I’m not going to change my training program based on this book. After all Jeff Galloway has quickly become my running hero! And I’m obsessed with The Extra Mile Podcast (I was even in Episode 103!) with so many other Galloway devotees. But I’m learning some basic concepts in training which are helping me understand the why even if it doesn’t change the how.
One of the most fascinating topics has been the Yasso 800’s. In his training Mr. Yasso started doing 800m repeats (1/2 mile repeats). He would run a set of 10 half mile repeats with a 400m break in between. Averaging the time of these repeats predicted marathon finish time. For example, if my average 1/2 mile repeat is 5 minutes I can expect a 5 hour marathon. I found this whole thing intriguing! On Tuesdays I do 1/2 mile repeats. I had been doing 3 but now that I’m getting faster I did 4 today. My times were 4:59, 5:07, 5:11, 5:09. I’m not up to doing 10 yet (or maybe ever!) but I’m curious if the marathon time holds true. My super secret time goal is 5:30 but my 1/2 mile repeats (and Magic Mile) predict a faster time. Only time will tell and Marathon Day is still over 3 months away.
And, of course, none of the models take into account the Half Marathon one day prior….

For those who are following my saga closely, or if you’re a runDisney fanatic like me, you realize that my next race is rapidly approaching. A week from tomorrow night I will be starting my 7th race ever (or 8th if you count the untimed – but fun – Castaway Cay 5k. This will be the inaugural Tower of Terror 10 mile race.
This race poses a few challenges for me.
1st, the race starts at 10pm. I am a surgeon. Which almost guarantees that I am a morning person (my husband is somehow a rare exception to this rule). The Operating Room at my hospital begins at 7:30am. Which means the 1st patient should be in the OR before 7:30am. Which means I need to be in the holding area signing paperwork by 7am. On my OR days I’m up by 5:30 and out the door by 6:30. I’m often in bed by 10pm, not starting some crazy 10 mile run.
2nd, I’m signed up to run a half marathon on Sunday, October 7th. Or the Sunday after this race. I’d I push myself on the ToT race, I’ll be toast for the following weekend. So what should my strategy be?
Early in my e-coaching Jeff Galloway suggested that I treat the ToT race as a training run instead of trying to race. During this week’s email I asked him about race strategy. His response, ” When running 2 half marathons in a row, it’s best to run the first one more slowly — as close to training run pace as you can. Even if neither are race efforts, running two moderate efforts can interfere with recovery. Let me know your thoughts about how you’d like to do in each race.”
What are my thoughts? Hmmm.
Although it’s not popular to admit these types of things, I’m a bit of a competitive person by nature. I can’t help it! I started competing in gymnastics by age 7 and was a top student in school. Part of me feels that if I’m running a race, I should – well – RACE.
Despite the fact that Tower of Terror is the bigger race (10,000 runners vs. 700), I think I care more about the half marathon. First of all it’ll likely be hotter for ToT and heat is not my strength. And second I’m less likely to perform well at a night race due to my inherent morning person inner nature. Also, the ToT race has many 1st time distance runners while the half marathon is a more serious field of runners. My 2:42 finish time last year put me firmly in the rear of the field while it would be closer to mid-pack at a Disney race.
I’ve also never run a 10 mile race so, whatever my finish time, I will PR this race. I’ve been trying for a PR half marathon this year and fell short in April. Assuming I’m not foolish enough to get injured at ToT, I’m the best trained I’ve ever been and could likely break my PR. It’s not an easy race but I run the path next to the Parkway for most of my long runs so I know the rolling hills.
Here’s what I’m going to email Jeff Galloway on Tuesday:
I’d like to run ToT as a fun race. Maybe a 13 min/mile pace, which is only slightly faster than my 13:30 min/mile long run pace. My 14 miler from last weekend was at 13:12 pace and I felt recovered in a few days. I’d like to try for a 2:30 half, even if it means taking an easy week to recover. I’m thinking I should do the first half around 12:30 pace and then speed up the second half?
I’ll have to wait to hear his answer….

The definition of insanity…

The definition of insanity is NOT, in fact, waking up in the still-dark pre-dawn 2 weekend days in a row to train for the Goofy. Although that would describe my weekend so far.
Saturday started early with a 3.63 mile walk. I needed to be home by 8am so I needed an early start. This was my 2nd attempt at the back-to-back weekend. The first “long walk” was slow due to my ankle injury so I followed Jeff Galloway’s suggestion and did a walk 2 min/run 15 sec ratio. I may not need quite as much running as my pace was 14:28 min/mile – well within the 16 min/mile time limit at Disney. My pace today translates to a 3:09:30 half marathon which is fine for the first day of the Goofy. I’ve heard from more experienced Goofy veterans that the Half Marathon is a delicate balance between going slow enough that your legs are fresh for Sunday’s 26.2 and fast enough that you’re not out on the course forever – which is tiring in its own way. I’m guessing that my “ideal” pace for the half will be around 14 min/mile but I’m sure I’ll get instructions as the race gets closer.
This morning began with a 5:45am alarm. I had 14 miles on the schedule and instructions to try to be home around 9-ish so we could get to the apple farm for the 10am opening. This morning was ideal running weather. 52F at the start with the sun just starting its ascent so it was still a bit dark. The temperature rose to 59F by the end with a perfect blue sky and cottony white clouds overhead. The Bronx River Pathway was peaceful and the Kensico Dam turn-around was stunningly beautiful. My pace was too fast – 13:12 per mile – but who wouldn’t revel in such a glorious day! Jeff Galloway has increased my run/walk to run 30 sec/walk 30 sec and allowed me a max pace of 13:30 min/mile. So I was close. As I approached the Kensico Dam park, I briefly chose the “road less traveled” until I realized it was unrelentingly uphill and brutal. I turned around and settled for a few laps around the park to add the extra mileage before taking the 6 mile trek back home.
A few thoughts from this morning. First, it’s only a matter of time before one of the rude bicyclists runs me over on the pathway. To be clear many of the bicyclist are thoughtful and let you know they’re passing. But many seem perfectly content to run you down, sometimes while trying to ride the narrow path 3 across. I keep my music low and pay attention but they come so fast! Second, the number of path users increases as the morning ticks on but I saw 2 men running together from my early miles. They passed me and then I saw them again after they had made the turn-around at Kensico. I was around mile 5 at the time and clearly much slower but one of them took the time to comment on a job well-done. That was very nice and made me smile. Third, I can’t believe I made it through last year’s marathon training with 5 mile loops around my house when I have access to this fabulous path. Then again I didn’t have my Garmin until right before the race…
Which leads me to the question of sanity. Or insanity. Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I think this very much applies to my running. Running every training run at the same speed and under similar conditions doesn’t drastically change the results. If you want to get faster, you need to commit to training. Not just when it’s convenient. And not always at whatever time you’d like. It’s why I’ve been a mediocre runner and now I’m becoming a better runner. When I started I swore I’d never wake up at 4am for a run. Now I’m guessing it’ll be necessary in the upcoming months. By changing my approach and my commitment, I’m changing the results.

The fruits of labor

Perhaps not surprisingly, less than a week after complaining about lost Mojo, I’m back to talk about triumph. Or at least improvement. While Monday’s and Wednesday’s runs we’re blah at best, Friday morning’s was better. I got up around 6am to a comfortable temperature and set off on a “junk run.” Not looking to do hill repeats or speed repeats. Just a nice run. Imagine my surprise when my “junk run” ended up at 11:04 pace. A fast tempo run? And, happily, no ankle pain.
This weekend I was schedule for a 3 mile run with a Magic Mile (MM). I wasn’t sure, at least earlier in the week, if I should take it easy or try a MM. After Friday’s stellar run I figured I should give it a go. It’s been a few weeks since my last MM and I was curious – and a bit anxious – to try again. My last one started too fast and I was toast by the end. Jeff Galloway suggested aiming for a 1:10 eighth mile to keep my speed in check.
I figured I’d use that 1:10 number for my run/walk interval. Run 1 min/walk 10 sec. My goal was to hit the 1/8 around 1 min and then walk. My first 1/8 was a little fast so I tried to slow up. I knew I was ahead of pace but felt good. I didn’t keep good splits this time. I was too focused on just going (note to self: need better splits next time). I did increase my walking time to about 15 sec as the laps went on. Mostly to catch my breath and prevent cramping. I was hoping to match the 9:22 and maybe improve a little. I was shocked when I finished at 8:52! A sub-9 minute mile!
What does this all mean? I’m explained before that Galloway uses the MM to predict race pace (with disclaimers: if race day conditions are ideal AND you’ve done all or most of your training). Half marathon pace is MM x 1.2 and marathon pace is MM x 1.3. Using his handy-dandy calculator that means…wait for it….a 2:19:23 half marathon and a 5:01:60 full marathon. And that’s assuming no improvement in the next 18 weeks until the marathon. (He takes your 4 most recent MMs leading up to the race and discards the slowest and averages the remaining 3. So using only my best MM isn’t, strictly speaking, accurate.)
So wait a second, I should be capable of my 2:30 half? And definitely capable of my 5:30 full? Um, wow!
A few caveats. 1st, I ran today’s MM in 63F with low humidity. The track was still damp from yesterday’s storms but otherwise this was beautiful running conditions. Disney may be 80F or 30F and sleeting. Both have occurred during prior Marathon Weekends. 2nd, and maybe more importantly, I’ve been great about training. But my longest run has been 3 hours not 7 hours. School and related activities are just beginning. The time constraints of fall have impacted my training…yet. And while I’m certainly dedicated to my training, I have also been fortunate. I hope my ability to complete ALL of my runs remains as good as its been. But life has a way of happening that isn’t always within our control. As I look ahead to mid-October I will likely be in New Orleans for a medical conference on a weekend where I’m schedule for a 7 mile walk on Saturday and an 18 mile run on Sunday. That will be tricky at best. I can only try.
Are there lessons from today’s run? For me the lesson is BELIEVE in the system. Many of the other runners who are training for the Marathon are doing much higher mileage than I am. It’s hard to not get intimated and have doubts. Not that I think I have time for many more miles nor am I competed against these nebulous “other” runners. But it makes me doubt. Seeing such improvement helps to ease the worry and the questions. Not eliminate the doubts but quiet them. I will continue to have faith in the training plan and hope to see the fruits of my labor come to harvest.

I started e-coaching in mid-June. I can truly say that my stretch of training from June to now has been almost Magical. In a Disney-fied “pauper to princess” kind of way. I didn’t miss a single training run. I felt strong. I got faster. I was excited and motivated. I set new aspirations for potential time goals. Glorious.
Until this week. My husband swears that a week at Disney saps our energy. It’s a vacation but one that involves miles of walking while pushing heavy strollers in 90F heat. Not to mention Florida humidity. The hotel beds are never quite right. Bedtime is always tricky on vacation (although better is trip). Traveling with 3 young children is somewhat stressful and certainly exhausting. (But fun. Very, very fun.) My husband thinks that I just need to recover from vacation, returning to work, and the first week of school and all will be well. I hope he’s right!
I still haven’t missed a run. Although yesterday’s run was more walk than run. Partly because I’m on call for work and received multiple work calls during my run. It’s easier to talk and walk! And partly because I had nothing in me yesterday. I don’t mean food, although I did run before dinner. My legs were sore. I had no energy. And I had no motivation. The energy and motivation usually improve once I get going. But not yesterday. The more I tried, the more my legs felt sore and tired. Maybe I expected too much after my 1st day back to work. I had just spent from 7:30am until 5:30pm on my feet in the operating room. Even Monday’s 12.5 mile run felt blah. My pace was fine but I never got that great feeling. The whole thing felt like work.
I’m set for another short run tomorrow. No tempo run. No hills. Just an easy 30 minutes or so. This weekend is a 3 mile run, supposedly with a Magic Mile (timed speed mile). I may skip the Magic Mile if my Mojo hasn’t returned. I don’t want to feel discouraged if it doesn’t go well.
In the meantime I’m a little worried. The big mileage runs are coming up soon. And I have 2 races soon. I leave for the Tower of Terror 10 miler in 3 weeks. One week later is my next half marathon. I was even thinking about trying for a PR. Or maybe not.
In the meantime if you find my Mojo wandering around, please return it!

I want to start with an aside. Today was the Disneyland Half Marathon out in Anaheim, CA. Several of my runDisney friends finished today and many of them earned the bonus Coast-to-Coast medal. Congrats to all the finishers!!! If you finish at least a Half Marathon in both Florida and California, you earn an additional medal. Sadly for me the Disneyland Half Marathon takes place over Labor Day weekend. Since my kids start school the day after Labor Day, it’s hard to drag them across time zones and expect them to be ready to start school while jet-lagged. Perhaps some day…
We did just return from our family vacation to Disney World. We had a wonderful trip which included 3 runs and one walk. I stayed true to my training schedule despite vacation. It did mean setting my alarm for 6am several mornings (maybe that’s why I’m exhausted today?). And wow! That Florida humidity is no joke!!! But what a difference from last year. I’ve figured out how to maintain my training on vacation which is a huge victory for me.
So what went wrong? This weekend was supposed to be my first weekend of true Goofy training. A 2 mile walk on Saturday followed by a 12.5 mile run on Sunday. Except that I somehow managed to get injured.
Jeff Galloway believes that using his plan can minimize the risk of injury. Of course that only applies to running injuries. One downside to a Disney vacation is that there’s an awful lot of walking. And in our case, a lot of pushing around children in strollers. Somehow this led to a mild ankle sprain. And I’m not sure how.
Thursday was a 2.75 mile tempo run. There were no hills for hill repeats so I chose speed. Everything felt good. Friday morning we headed to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. And at some point my ankle started hurting. It’s weird because that’s the day we left the double stroller at home. I don’t know if I twisted it or if it was just an overuse injury but ouch! I tried icing it Friday night and stupidly walked my 2 miles on Saturday morning. Luckily Saturday was a scheduled pool day/travel day so I was able to ice and elevate it. That definitely helped.
My husband talked me out of my long run today. I know I lose the training benefit of the walk on the day before the long run but I have many more back to back walk/runs planned. I’m also willing to miss the mid-week short runs if it bothers me after tomorrow’s long run.
I’m very frustrated because my training’s been so good until now. I know life was going to eventually get in the way but I wasn’t ready for this. Hopefully I’ll be out running again soon!