Monday, May 12, 2008

T-minus Two Weeks

This past weekend left me feeling pretty ambivalent about where I stand in my training, and how to handle the remaining two weeks before the Keybank Vermont City Marathon.

Saturday's Race - Slow but Beautiful

I left my house at around 6:15 on Saturday morning, bought a bagel, banana and coffee, and hit the road for the almost 90-minute drive to Woodstock, Vermont for The Road to the Pogue trail race. Having decided at the last minute to make Friday a rest day (skipping the 4-5 mile recovery/easy run), I thought my hips might allow me to run the 10K at tempo or near-tempo pace.

The weather was perfect, mid-40's and sunny, with no apparent threat of the predicted rain showers anywhere in the clear blue sky. The location for the race was the nicest I've seen, and the energy of this small event was very positive. I actually ran into a few people I know from "around", and thought I'd run with one woman whom I suspect to be a thoughtful, disciplined runner, in terms of finding and holding steady pace.

I warmed up for about a mile, then stretched, then ran another half-mile with a couple of fast strides thrown in. My hips felt okay, but once I remembered to put my chest strap on, I was worried that my heart rate was higher than it should have been. I lined up for the start still worried about how things would go, and still undecided about how to run this race.

The first mile seemed to almost all uphill, and I passed the 1-mile marker in just over 8 minutes. My mouth felt dry, not a good sign that early in a race. The was 30 seconds slower than I had hoped, and the worst part was that my heart rate was sky high, already around 180 bpm. The second mile had some downhill, and I ran that in about 7:35, better, but my HR was still too high.
At about mile 2.5, in the middle of a long and steady climb, my hips started to bother me. I had to stop to stretch twice during the next half-mile or so, but I plugged on, deciding to enjoy the gorgeous scenery and just take the course one twisty-turny-hilly stretch at a time. I crossed the 3-mile mark in a bit over 24 minutes, unwittingly settled into what I could feel was a pretty slow pace. I ran behind a couple of young women who chatted with each other the whole time. Let's just say that they added to the natural beauty of the scenery. One of them took a sudden fall at about the 4-mile mark, but she gathered herself and kept going. I stopped to see if she was okay, something I wouldn't have done if I had been thinking about my time. I could feel what little momentum I had just dissipate in that moment.
The middle of mile 4 included the most gorgeous panoramic view I've ever experienced during a race, with the Vermont countryside exposed in all its spring grandeur. The palette included more vibrant shades of new-growth green than I could have imagined. The strategic placement of a water stop at the turnaround spot at the peak convinced me to walk for a few seconds and take in the view.
The view and the water seemed to energize me, though my hips - especially the right one - still bothered me, and I started to speed up a little bit. Interestingly, according to my Garmin mile 4 was almost 1.2 miles long, but mile 5 was about .9 mile long. When I saw that Mile 5 sign arrive sooner than I expected, and having concluded from the course's elevation map that it was mostly downhill to the finish.
After the two slowest race miles (4 & 5) in recent memory, I decided to see what my hips were willing to let me do. I picked up the pace little-by-little, until I was running at about 6:30 pace. I felt okay, if a bit like I was on the edge. When one of the leaders told us that we were within 300 meters of the finish line, I tried to kick into the last gear, but that's when my right hip said "No", rather emphatically. The familiar dull ache ripened into a sharp pain, so I back off, and finished in a disappointing 48 minutes. The total course length (acknowledged by the organizers) was 6.1 miles, so I guess I can call in a marathon goal pace training run, but it's not like I locked that pace with any intention.

Sunday's Long Run - Unimpressively Steady
Mr. Pfitzinger called for 16 miles on Sunday, and I was willing to see how far I could go on my sore hips. The run started out a bit labored, then got better, then got worse, but I wanted to run right around a 9:30 pace - no faster, no slower, with the possibility of speeding up during the last few miles.
It was a glorious morning, and I ran in short-sleeves with some gloves at the beginning, enjoying the 50+-degree weather and the ever-thickening woods. I did have to stop to stretch a couple of times, and had to make one pit stop, but overall I did not expect the run to go as well as it did.
My heart rate stayed very low on Sunday's run, rarely going above 150 bpm, a good sign from a cardio fitness standpoint. The feeling in my hips is best described as that of riding one of those bikes in a spinning class, where you manually adjust the tension. It feels like I have the tension set on medium-high, so that the ratio between my effort and the speed output is out of whack.
The big question now is how to go through the rest of my taper. I think I may replace one or two runs here and there with elliptical or cycling, visit my PT, massage therapist and chiro and try to ice and stretch as much as I can. I know I have a solid endurance base, and my real hope is that running at an 8:00/mile pace won't aggravate my hips too much, even in that intimidating zone from 20 to 26.2 miles. I guess we'll have to wait and see.
One other resolution I'm making is to try to work yoga into my training. From everything I have read, it really sounds like just the thing to help me address some of these hip issues once and for all.

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