Channeling my Inner Giraffe

My sister in law came this summer and told me the story of one of the per-schooler she teaches. That little kid had decided to give her a silly band, and every time she comes to class the kid makes sure she still wears it. So my silly SIL decided I needed one too, to bring me luck for the race. She searched through her purse and found this little fellow:

So  yes ever since then, I ran my long run with a giraffe silly band on my arm. I guess it did bring me luck on the race since I ran way under my 2 hours goal.

Do you have lucky charms you take with you on race days?

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Racing the Planes


While I was still training for the Half-Marathon, practicing on speed work, I realized how much I have improved since May. This made me really curious on how fast I could run a 5K. Which meant I needed to find one to sign up to, preferably close enough to the Half-Marathon that I would benefit from the training.

I heard about the Runway 5k before we went to Alaska but forgot to register and the fees went up. Well it turns out that the 12th Citizen-Times’ runners were getting a $5 off coupon. So I took that as a sign and registered.

This race will have 1/3 of its course on the runway. Yes, the very one where planes take off every day. And sure it’s a small regional airport, but really, getting to run on a runway, how cool is that? It will then go by the hangars and around the parking area. Scenic? Not too much, but I doubt one can find a flattest course in our area.

This race will likely only happen this year as they are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the airport. And did I say that I just love their logo and that the proceeds will be donated be to Ladies Night Out, a regional organization that provides free breast cancer screening, a cause dear to my heart.

12th Asheville Citizen-Times Half Marathon

I woke up bright and early at 5am. Lucky me to be running where I live. I wanted to make sure I had my breakfast early enough to have no problem during the run. I wasn’t exactly hungry, but I still ate.
A cup of green tea, half a toasted bagel with almond butter and half a banana.
Then I started getting ready and putting on my outfit, got my water bottle ready. The temperature was cool, in the low 50’s so I put on a long sleeve shirt to keep until warm up time.
I woke up my husband aka. my support team at 5:45am and we headed out to the race by 6:30am. Luckily his brother lives right down town and lets us use a prime parking space from which we just had a quick walk to the race start.
I was surprised that it didn’t seem that busy at that point, I guess most people were warming up and running around downtown.

Pre-race

At 6:45 I left my husband to go warmup. I ran just under 10mns. Enough to be hot and ditch the long sleeves. I was glad I had used the bathroom at home several times because the line at the port-potty was not inviting.
I did meet a few people from my Wednesday running group and hanged out with them first as we started lining up, until I saw some people from work. We never did a group picture, which I figured would happen, we were not organized.

I blew a kiss to my husband and then focused on the start. The gun went and… nothing happened. It took several minutes before people started moving forward. Walking on top of each other at first, light jogging passed the start line and then at last running once around the corner.
I loved that feeling, the silence of the morning only broken by the pounding of the shoes on the ground. The pounding of 1200 pairs of shoes at the same time is something powerful and that I love to be a part of.
We went down Patton Ave and I could see a sea or runners ahead of me.

Runners on Patton Ave by Colby Rabon

We went down, then up on the first uphill. The mile markers threw me off at first as the 5K and HM started in the same place. I saw the 1 Mile followed quickly by 2Mile as my watch read 10mns. There is no way I’m running a 5 minute mile I told myself, this has go to be wrong. Indeed, as we got to the next hard hill I saw an other 2 Mile sign, this time I was at 15mns which seemed far more accurate.
As expected I passed people on the hills, running on the trails in Bent Creek has definitely given me the stamina I needed for that.

Miles went by, several hills went by, some easier than other. We went by two Golf courses: the Grove Park Inn, and then the Asheville Country Club in North Asheville. At MM 7 we hit my favorite section, a little bit of trail along Beaverdam Lake. The dust was flying from all the runners.
I tried eating some of my Gu gel, but either the taste wasn’t working that day or I simply didn’t need it because I didn’t have more than a squirt or it.

At mile 8 a guy said behind me: “Ok, I’ve got to ask, is this a running skirt?” ” Well of course it is.” What did he think? That I was running a Half-Marthon with a regular mini-skirt?
Around Mile 9 and went by another girl with a skirt, I couldn’t help but say “go skirts” with a smile. She looked at me and smiled. Asked where I got mine and we chatted a bit on the downhill. She later said hi again at the finish line.
I didn’t see the mile markers until MM10. At that point we were going on the long but steady uphill of Lookout Road.

As we neared UNC-A we saw more and more signs. My absolute favorite, the one that I will take back with me from this race said “You should know that you are an inspiration”. It felt so good to read that and I gave the thumb-ups to its holder. Bet sign ever! Right after that I also saw a colleague from work cheering us. It’s so nice to see people you know.

Going by UNC-A I knew we had some downhill and then a bit of a straight line before getting back downtown to the tough finish. I started looking around me, passing and being passed by the same people. I felt like I was slowing down and I had to motivate myself to keep up the pace. There was only a little over a mile to go.

We went under I-240, we were now downtown. I knew there was one last hill to beat: Walnut St. A brutal uphill a few 10th of a mile before the finish. I powered run that one. I knew the end was near and I put all of my energy into it. I frankly thought I was going to throw up before I reached the top. But at last, it was Haywood Rd again, I only had to make it around the corner to be on the finish line. My husband was right there, he said he called me. I was too focused on the finish at that point to hear anything.

Nearing the finish line

At that point I decided to aim for the girl you see all the way to the right with pink writing on a black shirt. My sister-in-law taught me to set yourself on someone at the end and aim to pass them. So that’s what I did. I sprinted. I sprinted to the end and met with her at the finish line, we actually crossed at the exact same time, but it was enough to get me moving a little faster.

As I crossed the line, I realized thrilled, that the clock said 1h52… I was way, way under two hours. I cooled off a little, walking and jogging than gulped down two glasses of Gatorade. I hadn’t even used all my water during the course.  My husband joined me and we went by the finish line to greet fellow runners. Runner’s high much? Oh yeah, it was my people and I go to cheer them as they arrived and after that race. What a good moment.

A few minutes after the race

I cracked up when I saw my pictures later. I don’t really look like I just ran a Half Marathon. I just look happy.  What a difference it made to have temperatures in the 50’s. I had no muscle pain, no cramps, I just felt good. The only thing later that day would be a bit of knee soreness going up the stairs. Can’t complain.

My fake Tatoo to honor the Diamond Brand running group

While I ran the race with my work’s shirt as they paid for half the entry fee, I got one of those fake tatoo at the expo and told my Wednesday running group leader I would wear it for the race, and I did. I really wanted to honor the fact that I’ve training with them every Wednesday since the spring. That and the free gear I got thanks to the program too.

Post Run Stretch.

My husband had thankfully brought with him my long sleeves and fleece. It had rained a little at the end, just enough to cool me down very quickly once the race ended. I went to get some snacks on Runner’s Alley and quickly found myself shivering and my plate shaking. It was time to go get a shower and warm clean clothes at my brother-in-laws place. Meanwhile a colleague of mine had put our names down at a local restaurant. Timing was perfect, as I walked in warmed up from my shower into the restaurant, our table was opening up, what a perfect way to celebrate the race.

Well and now how about my time. Well… I finished in 1:52:09!!! Beating my goal of finishing under 2h by almost 8 minutes. I was thrilled. What a great way to finish my first Half Marathon. And what a good time considering all the hills too. I wonder what I would do on a flat course…

ACT 2011 Half Marathon Course

ACT 2011 Elevation

Asheville Citizen-Times Half Marathon Pre-Race

Tomorrow I’m running my first Half-Marathon.
Yesterday I made us of the local’s night to go pick up my shirt and bib at UNC-A.
The expo was frankly disappointing. Not that much going on. I signed up for a few raffles and bought the 13.1 sticker I’ve wanted to put on my car.
No treats nothing. I was more impressed with the Dupont State Forest 12K which while they didn’t have an expo had a goody bag with gourmet salt and a few good coupons.

The T-shirt however is really cool. I like the design. The XS women size fits me. At last a race shirt that really works with my petite size, and the sponsors are not that big in the back.

As far as my goals tomorrow.
My C goal: 2h10mns and under
My B goal: 2h05mns and under (my 13 mile training run was in 2h04)
My A goal: under 2h.

Running skirt and work’s running shirt are ready along with a post run outfit (I’m lucky to have my brother in law and therefore a shower at his appartement available super close to the race). Temperature is going to be in the high 40’s to low 50’s so I’ll warm up with a long sleeve shirt and probably hand it to the husband before lining up.
Breakfast tomorrow should be half of a bagel with almond butter, half a banana and some coconut water.

Hald Marathon Training Week 3-1

I’m still behind on my training so here is a quick version of the last weeks.

  • Week 3

Speedwork
Goal 2x3200m @ 8-34-8:39?

3200m sounded like a lot, but thankfully it was only two repeats.

1.65m warmup @9:10 pace in 15’09
3200m repeats @7:51 and 8:02 pace (in 15’37” and 15’59”)
1.17 @9:16 pace 10’51”

Tempo Run
Goal 5 miles @9:34 pace

I was not feeling that one. I felt crabby the first half of the course. So I turned around sooner than we were supposed to and I’m glad I did. On the way back there was a nasty uphill that I simply decided to walk. I was just happy to be done with that one.

Easy Run

It was going  to be a hot day, too hot for the long run in my opinion but good enough for a short easy run behind my husband. I have to admit, my legs wanted to run faster. In many ways I found it harder to stay at his rythm, but it forced me to have an easy run.

3.98 miles in 40 minutes @10:03 pace

5.44 miles @ 9:49 pace, in 53’25”

Long Run
Goal: 12 miles @9:59 pace

This was to be the last long run before the beginning of taper. I had made plans to go run on the trails but work got in the way. By the time I was home I realized I didn’t want to be in the forest when night falls. So as a back up I quickly planned a run in my neighborhood. It ended up being very pleasant with wonderful temperatures. I was crabby again at first, got some knee pain at some point. Stopped stretched out and then found my rythm and really enjoyed it.

12.08 miles @9:22 pace in 1h53’21”

  • Week 2

Speedwork at the park
Goal 5x1K @8:22-8:27 pace

1.57 miles @ 9:35 pace in 15’03
1K repeats @ 7:53, 7:43, 7:40, 7:35 & b7:37  in 4’54”, 4’48”, 4’46”, 4:43, 4:44
1.07 miles @9:57 pace in 10’39

Tempo Run
Goal: 2 miles easy, 3 miles @ Short Tempo pace,  1 mile easy

Fun run with the group. I forgot to take a left so I ran less than planned. Time goes by so fast when you’re chating with an other runner.

4.9 miles @08:58 pace in 43’57

Long Run
Goal: 8 miles @9:59 pace

Last long run. I put two loops  on the trails back to back so my husband could join me. I had a little side stich but managed to get it to go away. Part of it may be due that I started a little too fast.

8.39 miles @9:33 pace in 1h20’13”

  • Week 1

Speedwork
6x400m @8:19-8:24 pace

1.38 @ 8:27 in 11’40”
400m @ 6:42, 6:42, 6:42, 6:42, 6:22, 6:30 in 1’40” (x4), 1’35”, 1’37”
1.3 miles @8:07 in 10’34”

Tempo Run
Goal: 3 miles easy

I was going to try to run 3 miles, but then the group had several options and most of the people at my level (who are running the half too) went for the 4 mileish option. So I went for it. I got into my own rythm and ended up being up ahead. However I forgot to turn on my watch so my time is an estimate from when I started it as I finished and then someone else finished. It’s not very accurate because the first two people didn’t have a watch but I had still stopped my timer. Oh well doesn’t matter, the effort felt good.

4.58 miles @9:03 pace in 41’30”

Just a Few More Days

It’s hard to believe that in a few days only I’ll be running my first Half-Marathon. I know what I’ll wear and what I’ll have for breakfast although I still need to figure out dinner.

I do not look forward to waking up at 5am (race starts at 7:15am). Yes I know some people will have to wake up even earlier than that, but for me it’s still early.

I’m now tapering off, I did my last speedwork on Monday and tomorrow I’ll be doing an easy 3 miles run. I haven’t felt at my best in my last runs. I think the break from Alaska had more consequences than I thought, but in any case I’ll do my best and we’ll see.

I do look forward to Thursday’s locals night to pick up the packets and check out the expo. I want to get a 13.1 sticker to put on my car.

Half Marathon Training Week 4

Hubbard Glacier, Alaska

Running while on a cruise is not an easy thing. There are so many things to do, excursions, time to spend with family and I frankly don’t care for treadmills. The result was that I barely followed my training plan, but it didn’t stop me from having a blast.

Speedwork
Goal: 3x2000m

Simply put did not happen. I had plans on doing it on the cruise ship, but the last day the weather was crappy. We were to be at Hubbard Glacier that morning and while my goal had been to wake up early and go run, I was just too tired. Jet Lag and lack of sleep were catching up with me. So I slept in, chilled and had breakfast on our balcony while watching the Glacier with my husband. No regret there.

I ran 2 miles at 6:53 and 6:49 pace on the boat that afternoon. I attempted about .5 miles on the dreadmill because it was cold and rainy outside. But between my lack of treadmill understanding and the rocking of the boat it was not working. So I went outside. Sure the deck was slippery, sure it was wet and cold but I enjoyed it way more than the stuffy workout room. I don’t think I’ll ever bother with a gym membership at that point.

Tempo Run
Goal: 7 miles fartlek.

We picked the town of Hoonah, Ak for our outside run. A good choice because there was little to do but the cruise organized excursions there. I asked the guy at the docks how long it was to town, he said 1 mile. I asked again about a recommendation to go farther. He said continue until the road ends, but don’t go farther because there are bears and they see them in town sometimes.
So that’s what we did, my Husband joined me, we ran along the shore, saw several beautiful bald eagles along the way (the only wildlife I failed to photograph as I didn’t have my camera during my run). We ran through the small town, along the forest, and right passed the airport the road turned into gravel, which I took to be “the end of the road”, so I turned around and ran back. I took a break to pick up some maps at the National Forest center, passed a bald eagle nest and then caught up with my husband and back to the ship.

6.48 miles in 50’18” @7:45 Pace

Long run
Goal: 10mi @ 9:59 pace

Again did not happen. I was too tired from jet lag and simply lacked the time as we literally landed and I had to be at work 3 hours later. I did run 1.5 miles that day to stretch the legs but I had no energy on Sunday and just skipped it. We did hike 6 miles with 3000ft of positive elevation during the cruise to a beautiful glacier lake in Skagway, plus an other small hike in Juneau by Mendenhall Glacier, so didn’t feel bad about skipping.

Upper Dewey Lake in Skagway, AK

Alaska travel is told on my other blog.

Half Marathon Training Week 5

Sea Kayaking in Ketchikan's Orcas Cove

I had to reorganize the whole week as we were flying out to Alaska Thursday night and I had a 15 mile run planned that week. Had I run it on the week-end at usual I would have had to do it on the cruise ship (which meant the dreadmill), no thanks, or on a stop Sunday but I couldn’t because we had sea-kayaking planned in Ketchikan. So instead I did my long run at the beginning of the week and the speedwork on the boat. It was a good decision.

Long Run: Half Marathon Course +2 miles
Goal: 15 miles @10:09 pace

Being that it would be my last run of 13mi or above I decided to run the course for the HM. I made the mistake to print the directions too small which resulted in having to stop at intersection to check where I was going (and stop the watch) and taking a few wrong turns. I added an extra lap around Beaverdam Lake to get me to 15mi.
The course was a little harder than I expected, partly because of all the turns, but also because it’s a bit of a roller coaster. I made it through though and with temperatures in the 70’s it wasn’t the hardest run I did this summer.
I felt like I was going slow to be honest, but surprisingly I was going at a much faster pace than needed. I guess it’s all about the perceived effort isn’t it?
I do look forward to see if I can improve my pace with an early morning run or not.

15.24 miles in 2h20’42” @9:13 pace

Group Tempo
Goal: 5 miles @9:34 pace

We met in Bent Creek. The goal was to go up North Boundary Rd for 30mns and turnaround. I have no clue how far we went exactly because starting a certain point it all looked the same. But my guess is about 3 miles up? On the way down I ran with a long legged fast guy, we were chatting and I had fun attempting to keep up. To be honest he adjusted his pace so I could because he could have gone a lot faster. We hoped off the forest rd after that for a blissful stretch on a dirt trail before heading back to the parking lot. There everyone turned to me and said “you’re still alive?”. I guess they expected me to be beat after following him but I actually really enjoyed the challenge.
I only talked with him for so long though, once we were done with the downhill and on the trail I had to focus on my running and save my breath.
Rice Pinacle->North Boundary-> turned back around-> Ledford trail ->Wold Branch->Deer Lake Lodge

7.37 miles (give or take) in 1h01’18” @8:19 pace

Speedwork on a Cruise Ship
Goal 10-20mns warm-up, 10x400m @8:35-8:30 pace 10mn cool-off.

I woke up right before 6am thanks to jet lag. All I could think about was to go on a run on the deck, enjoy the scenery and feel the coolness.
I was told it was 6 laps to a mile so I based my run on that. I knew I wouldn’t be able to be accurate to 400m. I wore my running skirt and didn’t need any water. I did get quite a few comments from other runners which was kind of fun. Later that week I met a mom and her son in our hallway and she too commented how was I was going. It wasn’t until I computed the times that I realized how fast. Alaska is really good for me.

1mi @9:24 pace in 9’24
510m repeats @6:15,6:18, 6:40, 6:40, 6:28, 6:34, 6:31, 6:31, 6:37, 6:21
in 1’59”, 2:00″, 2’07”, 2’07”, 2’03”, 2’05”, 2’04”, 2’04”, 2’06”, 2’01”
1mi @ 11:50 pace in 11’50

I’ve never run under 7:00 pace that I can recall. Totally shocked, impressed and happy with that. I just felt like it.

Cross training included sea kayaking in Katchikan with the wonderful Southeast Sea Kayakwhere we saw a whale bubble feeding. Amazing!

Humpback Whale at Orcas Cove, Katchikan, AK

Half Marathon Training Week 6

French Broad River seen from the AT in Hot Springs, NC

I am way behind on my training updates. Preparing

for our trip to Alaska, the trip itself and coming back to a new job (got a promotion) would be some good excuses, but now it means I have to did in my memory to find details to share about the runs. I’m actually starting week 2 tomorrow which means tapering. Only two weeks until my first half-marathon.

Monday Speedwork
Goal: 10-20mns warm-up, 3x1600m @8:39-8:44 pace, 10mns cool-down

A lovely thunderstorm brought down the temperature from 92 to 73 degrees. What a relief. Temperature really affects the way I run.
It was my first time in a running skirt and I had a blast. I’m definitely going to be running the race with it.

1.48 miles @10.:10 pace in 15’04”
1600m repeats @7:32, 7:27 and 7:21 pace in 7’30”, 7’25” and 7’19”. Much easier than I thought.
1.12 miles @9:10 pace in 10’16”

Wednesday Group Tempo
Goal: 6 miles easy

Ran on the Mountain to Sea Trail from Hwy 74 toward the South. I ran a little past the rhododendron corridor, mileage is only an estimate because it’s a trail. Still a warm day but the shade of the forest did help.

6.2 miles 1h01’39” @9:56 pace

Long Run
Goal: 10 miles @9:59 pace

The temperatures dropped that day and I was able to run in the morning. So much easier. Still working out the breakfast/previous evening food though. My body wasn’t entirely happy with me. I made it back to the car ok but it didn’t feel comfortable. Not a trail where I felt I could run off in the woods if needed so I had to make it do.
I did get a nice comment from another runner about having a nice stride though.
The run was easy overall, little up and downs. I ran from the French Broad River to HWy 25 and back. Didn’t even feel the need for a gu/cliff and drank only half of my water.

10.28 miles in 1h37’39” @9:29pace

I hiked a few miles with a fellow French girl visiting the area where the picture was taken.

How Is Your Half-K Going?

I remember reading on Runner’s World about the comments that non runners tend to tell runners. Their understanding of the distance of a race is always amusing, sometimes even annoying.

We talked about it with a colleague at work who had just done her first 5k. Not five minutes later, an other colleague came in and asked her how she did “running that marathon”. We just cracked up laughing, she had just proven the point of what we had been reading.

I had another one this week-end, a friend of my husband started running recently and we all went on a run together. He then proceeds to ask me “How is your mini-marathon training going?”. I didn’t say anything the first time, but then after two more “mini-marathons” I gently corrected him that it’s a half-marathon and that I don’t think you can call any run a “mini” when it has 13.1 miles.

Did friends or colleagues ever give funny names to your races?