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? 

On Fitness and Failure

I’m somewhat surprised at the response I received to my post about dropping down to the Carmel Half Marathon a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t surprised at the positive comments I received, though the amount of people reaching out on here, Instagram, and Twitter did blow my mind a bit. I was, however, surprised at the amount of people who felt it was “brave” to share my feelings. 

I didn’t feel or find it “brave” to be honest, particularly in a forum that I made specifically for talking about running. But it made me realize just what social media has done to fitness culture.  If you’re not running 70+ miles a week, how dedicated are you? If you’re not posting your runs every day, you must be slacking. Don’t forget, you have to be aiming to PR at every race, otherwise what’s the point? I openly mention a struggle and that’s considered brave because of everything we see on instagram and twitter: sunshine and rainbows, or a crappy run but a motivational quote for the next time. 

I appreciate the time everyone took to respond to me, or even just read what I had to say. The comments and stories made me feel more at ease about my decision and also glad that I’m not alone in having a strong preference to racing… even if I am sort of alone on the whole “I’d rather run a 5k or half marathon than a long run or marathon” thought. 

I took a complete week off after making my decision. It was partially to rehab the twinge in my knee (which may or may not have been mostly mental; I didn’t test it to find out) but moreso to rehab my mind and refocus on future goals. This past week was my first one back and I ran 10 miles over 5 days with Dunkin. I just wanted to have fun this week. I did set out on Sunday for a solid 11 mile workout, but I was running at 4pm after having a large brunch at 2pm. I thought I could digest in time but the dry heaving for 2.5 miles told me otherwise. I ended up partially walking home and then calling J to pick me up as a result of a sketchy person slowing their car down by me not once, not twice, but THREE times in my own residential neighborhood. PSA – stay alert, always. 

I’m going to focus on fun between now and Carmel, with little to no taper. I might go to a 9-10 day training schedule now that it’s light out until 7:30-8pm, so running 2+ hours on a weeknight isn’t the end of the world. While I don’t know that I can get into sub 1:45 shape before Buffalo at the end of May, let alone sub 1:40, I intend to give it a solid run. I haven’t seeing 7:xx steadily on my watch in over a year and the pain I associate with that is making me hesitate to train, but I did something to get over it fast. I signed up for a series of races every Wednesday in April (3 miles at Chestnut Ridge weekly). I think I just need to rip the bandaid off and race something other than a long run again. 

Ultimately, I want to feel the fun in training again without having to take six months off and then rebuild. I’m just happy I recognized I wasn’t completely happy before getting to that point, unlike last time.   

Carmel. 

I feel my posts are a little more “real” when I have a glass of wine, couple bottles of beer, or a Manhattan before typing something up. As I write this, the choice is a glass (okay, two) of wine after a bath with lavender and tea tree essential oils. The bath lately has been less about sore muscles and more about relaxation and stress relief. 

I don’t know why I’m nervous to publicly post this… post. (The two semesters of being an English major in college are totally cringing at this, my goodness.) Okay, it’s a lie, I do know why I’m nervous but I also think I’m being totally ridiculous for feeling this way. 

So, let me just come out and say it – I’m dropping from the Carmel marathon to the Carmel half marathon. 

Ugh. 

I feel like I quit, I failed, I gave up, and the most important feeling to me, like I’m letting down a lot of people. I have many friends who love the marathon, like, really, really love.  And truthfully, I feel like I’m letting down those people because I’m dropping the ball here, just a couple months short of my goal race. 

This decision hasn’t come lightly. The thought first crept into my mind after I had to take some time off because of Cranky Groin. It wasn’t a lot of time but I missed 3 stress workouts in that span and it kept me from increasing to the mileage I wanted. I pushed it out of my head when I compared my mileage and training to that of Chicago. I was a week or two ahead of what I was running in preparation for Chicago and I finished Chicago, so I’d be fine for Carmel. 

I had a decent 16 miler during Lake Effect Half Marathon as well. During the workout I kept thinking how much better this was than anything I did during Chicago. I’ve had struggles but what marathon cycle doesn’t? My knee bothered me but that kind of shit happens. Twinges come up, marathon training isn’t perfect, you adapt and move on. 

But then I really thought about what I’ve been doing. My plan has me well above 30 miles per week and I’m hovering at 30 per week.  This is better than Chicago where I peaked at 31 and then had ankle issues and my taper was like 10 miles over three weeks – no joke. But, ultimately I’m not doing my plan justice. Could I finish Carmel? Absolutely! Could I finish faster than 4:20:05? Pretty certain. Is/was my goal to “just finish”? That’s a hard NOPE. 

Besides that, truthfully I haven’t enjoyed marathon training. I didn’t love it when I trained for Chicago either but I figured it’s because it was hard. It was also summer and I was trying to balance coming back from my nasty bout of tendinitis, vacations, and running. I didn’t love running forever on weekends, but I enjoyed hitting new distances and knowing one of my best friends would be running by my side. This time around, things felt less hard and mentally, I’ve been much better prepared but… I still don’t love it. I have plenty of friends who love the long run and especially love ultramarathons. The thought of that makes me cringe. 

Some people love running slow and forever, but hate faster efforts. Some people love both types of runs. Then there’s me – I would rather run a hard, fast, gut-wrenching half marathon or 5k that burns my lungs to the core than be out there running a conversational pace for 3 hours (or more).  

I don’t know if, or when, I’ll tackle a second marathon. I thought a half marathon was my one time bucket list item, but maybe it’s a marathon after all. I’m finally starting to feel “okay” that I’m not in love with 26.2. Sometimes I get caught up in what everyone else in this world is doing. So many are drawn to the BQ, or running sub 3 or sub 4, or whatever the goal is. It’s everywhere. But I realized that desire is not mine and that’s okay.

So what are my goals? I’m still going after that sub 1:40 half marathon. I’ve taken a handful of days of this past week because of my knee, but also, work has been super stressful and instead of wanting to run to feel better, I need to lay down with some Candy Crush and Investigation Discovery. I have some work to do because marathon pace has been my jam the past two months and speed has been on the back burner. I’m going to run Carmel as a hard workout, maybe even race it to get an idea of fitness. Then I’m going to run Buffalo Half as my goal. It holds my PR and I’m ready to see what I can do. I may be way off sub 1:40, but I’m excited to see what comes of the next 12 weeks.