Recap: Flatliner Series

After canceling my marathon plans, I signed up for a series of 3 mile races at a local park which were taking place every Wednesday night. I just wanted to do something fun. Something that I didn’t have to train to be good at. Essentially, something completely different than I’ve done, well, ever since my post-high school return to running. I needed to get myself comfortable with being uncomfortable and this was the best way I could see to achieve that. 

The series completed this past Wednesday and for its inaugural year, I’m totally happy/surprised at how well it was run. It was low key, no frills, and everyone that showed up was friendly. I think the race was $45 for four races or $15 to sign up the day of each race. For Buffalo races, that’s prettt cheap. 

The fun part was that it was the same 3 mile course each week, so you got to know it well. For me, a little too well. At the finish, you tore off your bib end and handed it to somebody collecting the order for the stats. Like I said — no frills, no chip time. Finish came with a bottle of water handed to you and an informal invitation to a local bar after (Regretfully, I didn’t take part in those because I’m a grandma and I like to be in bed by 9pm on a Wednesday!) 


Week 1 – 23:30

I had no idea what I could run a 5k in, let alone a three mile race through the hills of Chestnut Ridge. Honestly, the runs around my house are lucky to have 100ft gain over 10 miles, so almost 300 feet of gain (and loss) over 3 is rough

I went out without any strategy. I found myself in the first female spot for about a mile, so it obviously wasn’t the most stacked race. It was upper 50s with the lightest breeze so weather felt perfect. I remember trying to stay light on my feet during the down hills and using my power on the uphills. I definitely passed some people on the uphills but they always caught me on the way down. 

The girl who finished first had passed me after the first mile and I tried hard to hang with her but she was just a hair too fast. I ended up finishing second female and while running that fast sucked, I was elated that I pushed myself harder than I have recently and knocked out sub 8 minute miles on that course. 

Pushing to the finish in race 2

Week 2 – 23:11

Going into this race, I had no idea if I could keep pace with what I did the week prior. It was in the 40s and cold AF. I also noticed some of the speedy women (sub 19 for a 5k) locally had shown up. I was a little disappointed because I was looking forward to finishing high overall — it’s not often I have a chance at age group awards! 

So I watched the fast girls take lead and tried to focus on my own race. This guy was pacing a girl who looked a little younger, he spent the entire race talking to her, describing the course and how to approach each hill. They were slightly ahead of me and I tried to hang on for as long as I could because his advice was so good. He wasn’t out of breath either, so it was all calm. If I could put him in my pocket for every race, I would. 

I fell out of hearing range with about .75 to go, but had heard enough to use it to my advantage. The girl who beat me the week before was still beating me and I was trying hard to play catch up. It didn’t happen. I was elated to finish with a faster time, all of which I took off in the final mile. 

Week 3 – 24:26

My calves were sore for this race so I wore compression socks. I hoped I wouldn’t run into the issues I had while wearing them on the treadmill, but guess what? I did. My legs cramped up pretty fast and stayed sluggish and tired.  The weather was crappy too, low 60s but a steady rain. 

A couple fast people showed up this week but not as many as the week prior.  In fact, probably half as many people showed up. I saw the girl who finished ahead of me twice walking, as I passed I tried to say something motivational but truth was, I was dying. She said she had a bad cramp. As I started to suck wind from chatting while running up the final hill, a giant bug flew directly into my uvula. It wasn’t that bad at first until I could still feel it back there, which triggered my gag reflex and I had to pull to the side for about ten seconds to either vomit or calm myself. I ended up calming down but after that brief stop halfway up the hill, it was hard to get going again. 

The hill that killed me.

Week 4 – 24:34

I felt good! Despite running a half marathon four days before this race, I felt calm, cool and collected. My calves were recovered, I was hydrated, and it was the final week — I wanted sub 23 here. 

HA. 

So, it was also 80° and sunny. The first extraordinarly warm day we’ve had in the middle of spring, when my body has yet to adjust to anything. I was sweating before I started. 

My first mile was by far the fastest of the series for me (7:26) and then I powered hard up one hill because duh, there was a camera there. I tried to keep pace on the downhill by letting myself go a little more than I normally would; my feet were hitting the pavement hard. Balls to the wall, I told myself. But then my calves and quads were on fire and mentally I just didn’t want to push through. I slowed to a jog and thought about how I’ve been doing this for fun, I’m having fun, and whatever.  The gap between myself with the front group and the people behind me must have been rather large because it took a solid :10 of walking (I know, I know) on two separate occassions before a couple people passed me. 

I was passed by the girl who has finished just in front of me in every race in the last 400m or so. I tried to catch her (plus there were people on my tail, I could hear!) but I didn’t. Between the heat and my apparently dead legs from Saturday, it wasn’t the ideal conditions for me. 

The series was based on your best 3 times and I finished 2nd (by only about :20!) in the 20-29 age group. Had I not walked in the final race, there’s a chance I would have had the first place… but that wasn’t why I signed up for the race anyways. I wanted to have fun and I did. 

There’s a few more series races coming up this summer I intend to compete in. This will be by far, my most active year of running in my life. Racing yourself into shape isn’t really the best thing to do, but for me, it’s what I need mentally. Considering I’m not going to be doing much speed work outside races, I’m not super concerned about an injury possibility. The next series is a bunch of mile races between this upcoming Saturday and September (7 or 8 races), and a weekly Tuesday trail series (I know! Me? Trail?) at the same park in August for 3.2 miles each week. 

Basically, I’m planning to spend a fuckton on races that aren’t goals because… why not? 

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Lake Effect Half Marathon (16 mile workout)

For the first time ever, I used a race as a workout and not a “just get to the finish” race or PR attempt. It was challenging to hold back when all I wanted to do was race, especially considering I haven’t truly raced in almost a year. 

This is the first year we’ve (Laura, Heather, and I) have done it all as a girls night and spent the overnight together. It’s nice to have the guys around, but sometimes it’s much better to just do our thing, at our pace, and talk about whateverthefuck we want. Plus, lets face it, one boozy brunch is NOT cutting it for catch up time!

We definitely got hit on after this.
We rotated our food situation a little by hitting up Empire for dinner Saturday and a diner for breakfast on Sunday. Truthfully, I appreciated the low key Sunday because I wasn’t as tired leaving Syracuse as I am after a couple post race stouts and it meant I got food in my belly much quicker than normal. As per usual, I stopped at the store to grab this year’s nail color (anyone else need a fresh coat for the race?) and I’m in love with the color I picked. Sally Hansen’s Miracle gel line is amazing and so is the color Tidal Wave. Anyways, onto the running…

After a great week of weather, Sunday came with typical Lake Effect race weather. It was cold, like below freezing cold, with a dumb wind that gusted somewhere in the 20-25mph range. Perk? Headwind also means tailwind. I seriously struggled with what to wear for the run, opted for a pair of capris and a couple layers under my Chicago Saucony jacket. Thankfully, Laura is already Momming it up hardcore and was completely packed for somebody to forget gloves and hand warmers (or maybe that was accidental, but credit where credit is due!) and my hands were nice and toasty. 

I did about a 3 mile warmup (average 9:22 pace) and the “out” portion made me realize what a disaster the run potentially could be. I was moving, but I felt like I could lean into the wind and it’d hold me up. But, alternatively, on the way back things felt good. I’d like an order of 100% tail wind for every run, if possible. No? Damn. 
My plans for the race were to run comfortable and easy, under 9:30s and then cruise in the final 6 closer to 8:30s or under. I felt that with the atmosphere of a race, this was totally doable. I have felt that I struggled to maintain sub 8:40 pace in training, but largely due to getting in way of myself mentally. I’ve practiced running slow so often and not even speed that my legs have it, but tapping into it is another thing. Proving myself wrong in this workout was going to be welcomed. 

So this course is a double loops of basically 3 miles out and 3 miles back (a little over) and then the end has a small loop to get in the last .75. It’s all along lake Onondaga and I’d be bored as hell if I trained on it. There’s something completely not boring about it when I’m racing though, and it might be just that I’m there with friends. 

The first three miles I tried to keep as easy as possible. I had plenty of bodies to block the wind and ran a comfortable 9:07, 9:06, and 8:55. That 3rd mile, the course turns a little away from the lake and the wind definitely subsided for a good portion. I figured if I could keep my pace between 9:00 and 9:10 for my first loop, that’d be solid. 

Somewhere around mile 5
As soon as we turned around, I tried to hold back still even though I had the tailwind. Then I realized that going into the wind trying to hit 8:30s might be laughable and I picked it up just a smudge. My next 3 miles were 9:03, 8:56, and 8:51. I didn’t want to hit the gas too early but I wanted to get a small push while I had the wind at my back. 

We turned around and headed back out, I still was planning to go for the tempo miles. If it wasn’t going to happen, it wasn’t going to happen, at least I knew the effort would be there. Unfortunately, at this point the pack had thinned out and I was SOL for finding people to draft behind (also, I sucked at that). My first mile was 8:59, but my effort was telling me that if I kept it up, I would finish the race. The entire time, I felt like my body was at an angle with my hips and legs more to the right and my upper body more to the left. I assumed it was all in my head but, well, more on that later. I pushed forward and the last part of this loop was in 9:16, and 8:45 (there’s that nice back end of the course again!)

I was so excited to head back towards the finish. Just a 5k to go and I was going to be cruising in with the wind helping me hit great paces. This run was going to be MUCH better than my first 16 when training for Chicago! Not so fast… I started to pick it up, ready to count bodies I passed. I picked off a couple and thought about how I wouldn’t see them again.  But then my knee had a stabbing pain right under the knee cap. Huh. I’m knock kneed but it’s never given me knee issues. In fact, other than one random run during one of my last marathon training runs for Chicago, I’ve never had knee pain. I let up just a little and it didn’t really go away but it wasn’t as painful. I pushed harder and it got worse. “Oh, so that’s how this is going to go,” I thought. 

DONE.
It was so dumb. I was nailing my easy part and ready to kick some ass on the final miles! After a half mile of realizing my stride had officially altered based on the new pain, I decided to cool down. I did get some tempo effort miles in and whatever, I’d just run it to the end. Truthfully, I wanted to stop and check out my knee to see if it looked swollen or anything alarming but I knew if I stopped, I wasn’t starting again. I ran 2 miles (9:22, 9:33) before Heather saw me during her cool down. It was nice to talk and take my mind off the cranky knee, and then I just pushed it to the finish because, well, breakfast. My final mile was 9:11 with a 7:56 final .2 (oops tangents.) I finished without even breathing hard, eek. 

Overall, I finished my 16 miles around 9:10 average pace (9:04 for the half marathon portion).  That’s much better than the 10:30 I did for the 16 during Chicago, that’s for sure. 

My knee didn’t hurt when I walked around or even after I got home, after 4 hours in the car driving. It wasn’t swollen. It was a super weird thing that happened. I did two runs afterwards and both felt fine, but during my next long run, things felt less than stellar. 

[insert shrug here] 

We’ll see what my body decides to do this week. 

Seven weeks til Carmel Marathon!

Turkey Trot 8k – 41:00

This is my fourth year in a row running the Turkey Trot, seventh overall. It remains one of my favorite traditions on my favorite holiday, even though when I wake up at 6am, I wonder why I do this every year. This year was no different when I woke up and heard rain hitting my window.

I typically head to the race on my own because there will be 13,999 other people there and I always run into people I know. I park at the finish (point to point course) and take the buses to the start, where I spend about an hour killing time. 

I wore a rain jacket and capris for this year’s race, but was certainly over dressed, which is usual for me at this race. I hate sitting around freezing, so I layer a bit too much. It didn’t end up raining so the jacket just held in all my body heat… Oof. But, really glad I picked up that steal at the packet pickup ($30 for Saucony Exo jacket).

I line up at the “elite” pace banners because nobody pays attention to whether they should go. It still took me 45 seconds to cross the start and I had to dodge walkers. My goal for the race was put forth a good effort to get a baseline for marathon training, I hoped that I could finish in under 45 minutes… Maybe 44:xx.

I somehow hit a perfectly executed negative split run, with more to give. Don’t get me wrong, it was a run in which I pushed myself but I could have gone under 40:30, I believe. 

The first mile I ran perfect tangents, based on my watch lining up with course markers.  My watch beeped at 8:40, which made me a little nervous. I felt good but tried to remain focused and relaxed.  Miles 2 and 3 were both net uphill, but my pace kept lowering – 8:32 and 8:23, respectively.  

At this point, I can see the downhill, so even though I know I have two miles to go, I can ultimately see the finish (except the final quarter mile or so, since it turns).  My legs always pick it up here instinctively, so I just start rolling with it. The road always feels so wide open and I love to start passing people rapid fire. I finish mile 4 in 7:56 and hit Niagara Circle.

I end up getting passed by a girl slightly younger than I, with fancy leggings. She turned around and looked at me, and then I realized — it’s on. You know how you see one person and you make it your goal to beat them? I must have been that girl to her, so I made it mine to beat her. I sped up. I passed her. I tried to hold on, I felt the familiar lurch in my stomach. She passed me. I picked it up again. I knew I had only a quarter mile to go, I kept trying to catch her but my stomach was threatening to ruin my morning. So I let her go. She finished about 5 seconds ahead of me and I was fine with that. I closed out my final mile in 7:16. What?

It’s been a while since over had a race I’ve been proud of, without it being a PR, so I’m pretty excited to have this as a starting point to marathon training. Fitness is a funny thing; when you think you’ve lost it all, it’s right there for you, but when you think it’ll come back instantly, it doesn’t.