Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Week That Was

850+ miles driven.
50 miles run.
25 miles biked.
63 amazing hours spent sleeping.
Approximately 40 hours spent floating in the pool (possibly fingers and toes are still slightly pruned).
A few bottles of white wine, a couple of beers, and many margaritas consumed.
At least 2 dozen Oreos dipped in chocolate icing and an unmentionable amount of ice cream devoured.
7 glorious days devoted to laughing with 15 friends.

Really, that's what summer vacation is all about. Needless to say, Beach Week once again lived up to the hype, and far exceeded the amount of fun that should be legal. My abdominal muscles are still recovering from the belly laughing that was induced multiple times a day. Yay for Beach Week! This is what life is all about: good times, amazing friends, and pure relaxation (plus I discovered the most delicious ice cream flavor I've ever tasted: "Graham Central Station"at Handel's -- all I can say is DO IT).

I haven't been so unplugged, de-stressed, or downright lazy in far too long. The most difficult decisions I had to make were whether to lounge by the pool or go to the beach...drink a beer or have a glass of outside or go to the gym (Mother Nature actually answered that one for me with the 110-degree weather)?

Why can't life always be so simple and enjoyable? Maybe it can. Maybe we can all take a cue from how we function on summer vacation and apply it to the daily grind. The key, I believe, is to surround yourself with good people who treat each other well. If you can do that, the rest will fall naturally into place.

When it became clear that the heat warnings in the area weren't going to subside any time soon, and I had an 18-mile training run on the schedule for the weekend, I made the spur-of-the-moment decision to take off early on Friday morning for cooler temperatures and some needed pace-group support in New York.

Side note: Has anybody ever driven the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel? Holy mother of God. What is that all about? A $12 toll and a 24-mile combination of bridges and tunnels leading to the Eastern Shore. Good grief!

Ok, so anyway, I left the southern tip of the Virginia Coast around 7:45 a.m. and it was already 90 degrees. I arrived at the George Washington Bridge in New York around 3:30 p.m., rolled down the window to pay the toll, and discovered that it was 59 degrees in the city. Sweet! Still wearing a tank top and shorts, however, I quickly realized my packing could've probably included some, um, fleece.

The 18-mile training run was well worth the trip (and the $50 in tolls along the way). The weather was perfect in Central Park: a slight breeze, nice sun, and it couldn't have reached much beyond 70 degrees.

The plan was for Alan Lopez (one of my pace group members) and I to run our usual 8:45 minute-per-mile pace. I had tried unsuccessfully through a texting ambush the day before to persuade him to try 8:30s instead. Being the more rational one in our group, he said no. And when I arrived, our Coach Danielle agreed. I was outnumbered and thought maybe I wasn't ready to push the pace anyway, though with the encouragement and participation of Coach Eugene, Alan, Sharon (another teammate), and I started out with the 8:30 pace group anyway with the intention of dropping back to keep our slower pace.

They say that you're never judged by your intentions, but your actions. If suffices to say that we never dropped back from the 8:30 pace group and in fact dropped them while they indulged in a pit stop after mile 11. But that wasn't even the best part of the day -- the run was actually significantly easier for me than any run of that length that I've ever done (and I've been doing this marathon training thing for nearly 8 years now). My heart rate was incredibly low, even while keeping a constant pace on the hills (according to my monitor, it never got higher than 172, which is extremely low for me and was at 160 or lower for the majority of the run). The only time I dropped back and felt somewhat fatigued was during the last 2 miles on the hills at the northern end of the park, which I can directly attribute to not eating anything during the run and only consuming one cup of Gatorade.

So, bear with me while I record some thoughts about what went well here. It'll be helpful for future reference:

1. I was more than well rested and clearly hadn't spent the week prior to the 18-miler being stressed or crazed, like I normally am.

2. I had excellent pace-group support, something that I didn't discover was so helpful until last year. I love my pace group (Moffat - come back to us soon!)!!!!

3. I am simply in better condition than I truly thought I was. I had trained in the off-season to complete the Tinman half ironman triathlon race and had started regretting that decision as this marathon-training season seemed to be very challenging to transition into, coming off of tri training. Now I realize that it was just taking a few weeks for that conditioning to translate into running faster.

4. The weather helped. To do a long run on a sub-90-degree morning was delicious.

5. My hip/pelvis/ITB remained pain-free throughout the run and I woke up this morning without any residual soreness in my legs from the run (none. zero. this is WEIRD.). Hooray for core work, stretching, and the foam roller!

So, now the question is if I can push that base 8:30 pace (what we Race with Purpose runners call our "Commute" pace) even more, given that my exertion level remained pretty low. I will use the next long run to figure that out, but I am thrilled to have had my confidence boosted a bit by this first long run. Any doubts I had harboring about my goals in Chicago are starting to subside -- I think the biggest lesson learned here is to be a little more patient with myself.

That, and to pretend that I'm at Beach Week every week...


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