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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bar Harbor Half Marathon race review

Race website:

Pre-race info, registration, and logistics:
You can register online up until Tuesday of the race week. Website is unclear and hard to read; information was hard to find. There is no race day registration. Packet pick up was the night before (where? Who knows? It wasn't listed. The website just said, "packet pickup on Friday at x:xx". I finally found it under the FAQ's); however, you could request race morning pick-up, which I did. Cost at any time was $100 for the half, which is...steep. Just like the hills. But it supports the YMCA, so I guess that's ok. Speaking of the YMCA, if you bring your own soap and towel, you can shower at the Y after the race, which is exactly what I did since we continued on from the race straight to the airport to fly home.

Lodging and transportation:
This is a race far away in the corner of the world on an island, so I assume you'd only run it if you were staying on Mount Desert Island! No roads are closed, so you can get to the race easily. 
That is hideous.

Swag: The worst race shirt I have ever received in my life and a bottle of vinegar from a local store, plus lots of coupons and fliers. The shirt is advertised as "long sleeved tech T" and instead it is a terrible shapeless short sleeved nightmare with a neckline so tight that I can't actually get it over my head. The medal is unique and lovely, one of my favorites, and I will certainly be turning this into a Christmas tree ornament.
Non-metal medal in the shape of Mt. Desert Island

The course is a "challenging" (as the website describes it) loop course comprising streets of Bar Harbor and 9 miles of carriage roads in Acadia National Park. I found the course to be quite hilly, but take it with a grain of salt, since I run only flats usually. But for comparison, the week before I ran my regular long run of 12.5 miles at the same pace as the race! The park is incredibly beautiful, especially as you circle Eagle Lake, but it is lots of ups and downs and it's on gravel paths. They are generally fine for running, but you have to run where the path is more packed down - the gravel is looser and deeper on the sides, and it's a waste of energy to try to run through it. 
Entering the gravel carriage roads (and grabbing water)

Not much is actually on the roads, and Bar Harbor at this time of year doesn't have crazy traffic, but I still didn't love that the roads were not closed. The race course wasn't even coned off or anything. It was just me and the highway traffic. 
Plus side to the hilly course: it ends with a steeply downhill mile. Odd part of the course: you head into a playing field to finish and have to make a sharp left turn at like, 13.05. Weird and poorly planned IMO.
Interestingly, Joan Benoit Samuelson holds the women's course record in 1:17:06!

Aid stations:
There are six; two have Gatorade in addition to water. 

 Gun-timed. First three overall and first three in age groups. The director was nice enough to let me get my AG award early, and allow me to swap a restaurant gift certificate (we were leaving ASAP) for a box of locally-made blueberry tea. Plus the ubiquitous Road ID coupon, which I sold on Ebay.

- The race is capped at 400 runners, and I think we got close to that number, so sign up early. 
- Remember the gravel when choosing shoes (I was fine in Kinvaras, but for you racing flat types, that might hurt).
- There are few, if any, spectators, so if spectators are your thing, I wouldn't do this race. 
- There are no cars on the carriage roads, but there are bicyclists and regular runners and walkers to watch out for.

Monday, October 5, 2015

No wonder that hurt.

I am seriously questioning this Hal Higdon half-marathon plan I have been loosely following. I actually have a more detailed post about that half-written, but what really jumped out to me as I nursed my sore hamstring this week was the week following my half marathon. Here's what the plan looks like:

(Instead of a 10k race, I ran a half-marathon)
So you see, the plan calls for some tapering prior to the race, which I was happy to do since I was on vacation that week anyway. That makes sense, but the week following the race - not only is there no recovery period at all, the intensity increases!
- The speed work intervals jump from 400m to 800m for the first time
- The tempo goes back to 45 minutes, which it's only hit once before in the entire training cycle
- The long run extends to an hour and 45 minutes from 90 minutes
- AND it's a 3/1 run, which means the final quarter of the run is run at fast finish
- The day before the long run is switched from "easy" to "pace" - which means race pace miles, usually reserved for weeks when the long run is not fast finish
- AND the "pace" miles jump from 3 miles to 4 miles.

So let's see - the week after a race I'm increasing speed workouts, intensity, and distance? No wonder my hamstring hurt.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Hamstring is so much better

This week went like this:
Sunday: ran 3 miles (day after long run; realized my hamstring hurt)
Monday: took off to rest hamstring
Tuesday: Felt great and ran 5.5 including 1 mile repeats at race pace (which I estimated around 7:00 to 7:10?). But by end of the run, hamstring hurt; I was limping by that evening. So...
Wed and Thurs: off. Gradual improvement.
I didn't want to skip my long run, but I won't be able to run this Saturday because we're doing a volunteer activity that morning (7 am to 10 am - and any time later than that, and my run will automatically suck).So I got up a little earlier this morning. I checked my hamstring out, and it was just a little sore. I put on some KT tape and headed out. It was nice out! Cool weather! I was a little slow at first because it was still dark and our sidewalks are very uneven. And then I was a little slow even after the sun came up, because I'm determined to make hills a habit. So this time, I worked in 4x5 hill repeats.I don't run the hills fast, just same effort up and down. These are short hills: a tenth of a mile or shorter. I can't believe how hard this is for me: definitely a weakness! My hamstring most certainly bothered me on the uphills, but it was much, much better. I should be back to normal in no time.
Friday: 12.5 miles in gorgeous weather with 20 short hill repeats.
Saturday will be off (again!)

Hopefully I'll be 100% by sometime next week.
Anyone with any hamstring strain success stories have any advice for me? I'd appreciate it!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A struggle to finish

My long-run distance hasn't changed much since I started half-marathon training a month or so ago. It started at an hour and thirty minutes, and only just increased to an hour and 45 minutes (which only adds a mile and a half, about). So I haven't really had any runs I wanted to quit - even though it's been hot, it's usually just 11 or 12 miles.
Saturday, though, was a different story altogether. This ended up being one of the hardest runs I've EVER completed! It was just a series of circumstances together that added up to a very tough morning.
I was exhausted on Friday after my hard week at work and my challenging flu clinic. Spending two and a half hours bent awkwardly over a too-short table to do paperwork and give shots, while standing on a cement floor, actually left me physically tired - and sore. I didn't wake up until 7:30, yet wasn't refreshed, since we were up very late Friday (having started a conversation with a friend that just didn't end...I was nodding off while he was talking, but anyway, we got to bed around 1 am!).
I started getting dressed for my run, and already felt tired and sore. I grabbed an open pack of sports beans with 4 beans left in it (yes, I'm cheap! I know! I'm not about to throw away four perfectly good beans!) and started off on my usual route.
The fronts of my calves were sore. My hamstrings were sore. My arms were sore. I was hungry. It was getting hot.
My route takes me up on to the levee, and climbing that "hill" reminded me of how bad I was at the hills during last week's race. The levee creates three additional hills along the route, so I decided that since I already felt like crap, I would do some hill repeats. They SUCKED. The first hill was ok - it was on the pedestrian path on the levee, so all I had to watch out for was fast bikers. I did ten reps up and down, nice and easy. But the next hill was at the entrance to the Fly, the riverside park where all the kids play soccer on the weekends. My hill reps were in heavy traffic of cars, bikers, runners, SUVs, trucks...I just tried to stay out of everyone's way. I only did five reps. The last hill was at the exit of the Fly, and it wasn't as busy, since the traffic had all parked for the game by that point. But I still only did 5 reps, because I was beat by then.
The rest of the run was in Audubon Park, and there was more shade than the exposed levee. I was looking forward to the shade, because the levee had been baking in the sun. I had a fast final 25 minutes on schedule, but I sort of forgot, until I realized I was maybe three miles from home. It must have been the magic four sports beans, because I eked out the last three miles in 7:31, 7:17, 7:14. Then I ran around the neighborhood a little to make my exact 1:45! That gave me 13.2 miles - not fast, but I finished.

The only problem, of course, is that my hamstring started bugging me after that - so I think perhaps the hills were more than I could handle. But thank goodness that run's over and done. It was one of the very worst!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Poor hammie

Work wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be yesterday... at least the computers worked. That's a plus. And I did buy my employees lunch, which hardly made up for the part where some lady shouted at us for a full ten minutes because we dared to call her doctor about a serious drug interaction. Some patients think they get to be their own doctors, and it's so worrisome. They start and stop drugs with reckless abandon. And when their doctors take our phone call and change or discontinue a drug, they're furious instead of thankful. It's very odd.

I ended up skipping my run Monday. After my run Saturday, my hamstrings felt tight, and after Sunday's easy 3 miles, my leg was really sore. I think I strained it mildly, so I took off a day (and will take off more if it keeps feeling tight). See what hills do to this poor flatlander's body?
But actually, it's not the hills' fault... after surgery, nothing is quite ever the same. You have new weaknesses and new imbalances. It's all a puzzle I just keep working on.
I'm sure that pre-injury hills would still have bothered my hamstrings, but the fact that it's left-sided only makes me think of the balancing act that my running is post-surgery!
For now my hamstring is still mildly sore when I stretch it (which I am trying hard not to do!) so I put some capsaicin on it and used ice Sunday afternoon. I'll run easy once it no longer feels tight.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Work woes

The first week after returning from vacation is always so miserable that I regret taking the vacation at all. That was especially true this time, because my schedule fell in such a way that not only was that week very busy, I was also doing off-site work almost every day. This left me precious few hours to actually catch up on back-logged work. Oh, and Walgreens nationwide crashed on Monday and the system stayed down or sporadically faulty through Friday. The worst scenario to come back to!
On both Monday and Friday, I had off-site flu clinics that were exhausting. They were at a college campus downtown, a little less than half a mile away, and since there is no parking nearby, I walked from my store - lugging a cooler full of ice and vaccines, a giant sharps container, my multiple boxes of syringes, alcohol pads, bandaids, pens, cotton balls, immunization cards, epinephrine pens, and of course - hundreds of pages of paperwork. On Monday, I pretty much had to leave for the clinic the minute I got to the store, which was a stressful way to return from vacation; then the clinic itself was incredibly busy. In less than two and a half hours, I gave 104 shots - that's about a minute and twenty-something seconds per shot. That's the entire encounter: the paperwork, the screening, the shot, the immunization record. It was ridiculous. I was hoping it wouldn't repeat on Friday, but when I arrived about 15 minutes early to set up, there were already 48 students waiting. I know it was 48, because they had organized and implemented their own numbering system! It was like the dmv in there!
I don't have the final count for Friday, because of course, our computers went down, but it felt as busy as Monday, or more so.
What else was going on this week?
- A 6-hour certification test on Wednesday
- An off-site training on Tuesday (in the middle of the day - I had to return to work for one stupid hour after the training, much to my annoyance)
- Volunteering for an HIV community event on Saturday.
- Fielding a billion complaints from while I was gone: my pharmacist who covered my vacation shifts opened the store late THREE TIMES.
- A frantic hour during my test hunting down the teacher for a class I coordinate at a local AIDS service organization; she is usually dependable yet totally forgot this time.
- Talking to one of my big bosses about 18 times about a 340B agreement I'm trying to finagle. And a number of other projects he won't leave me alone about.

Now I'm heading back into work Monday morning absolutely not caught up from vacation a full week later! And the schedule only gets worse! I'm thinking my poor staff deserve lunch on Monday after their rough week, too.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bar harbor half marathon

The morning we left Mount Desert Island, David and I stopped in Bar Harbor so I could run the Bar Harbor half marathon literately on our way out of town. It was kind of a bad idea to plan it this way, because my legs were sore the whole week from up-and-down hiking. I am not used to hills at all, and even light hiking makes me sore. A better plan would have been a race the first day of the trip, but such is life!
I had some trepidation registering for this race. It would be the longest distance I've run in...I don't know. I think at least a year and a half. My recent training has indicated that I haven't yet built stamina back, and I was pretty sure I would be disappointed in my time.
Then, of course, there were the environmental factors; the timing, the hilly course, the four hour drive and two flights right after. Not ideal: but then, what race is ever run in ideal conditions?

Add this to the list of races that isn't, because we had unseasonably warm weather all week, and - like every single other race I have ever traveled for - the temperatures were much higher than expected. We had high 70's - low 80's for the race, with high humidity (I didn't check it right before the race - it was 100% that morning, but I know my humidity levels, and it was nowhere near that for the race - maybe 70% or 75%).

Prior to the race, I'd plugged in my 5.5 mile portion of Hood to Coast and my recent 4 mile race times to the McMillan calculator, and it predicted 1:38 for the half.
One thirty-eight! But after last week's cool and pleasant 12 miler on totally flat ground, I realized that if I duplicated that pace on race day - on a much harder course - sure enough, I'd be running 1:38. This was a little humbling, because that is not at all what I'd like my half-marathon time to be. But the numbers don't lie!

David and I arrived at the race start with plenty of time to spare, so I went to the bathroom and picked up my packet before trying to find the start. Oddly, no one was milling by the start and it wasn't until 5 minutes to gun that the announcer came out and told us to make our way to a line on the street but stay on the sides - the roads were not closed. We rapidly assembled. Knowing my predicted time, I settled in the middle, even though it was not a chip-timed race.
The gun went off, and we ran straight up a hill for a long time. Right away the fronts of my calves hurt. They'd started hurting after my first run in Maine, since I never use those muscles unless going uphill (which of course, I never do). No chance of going out too fast for this one! Eventually we turned a sharp corner as we went back downhill, then back up, then back part of this race was on flat ground except the couple of yards on the grass at the finish. Mile 1, mostly downhill, was 7:11.
The race was described as "challenging" with nine miles on the carriage roads (packed dirt and small gravel) in Acadia National Park. We entered the park...uphill...and I realized that it is really hard to run up or down on gravel - you can't get traction going up, and you slide going down. It also took me until mid-race to realize that I should be running in the middle, most-packed area of the road - the gravel was thicker and harder to run on at the edges.

The part of the race in the park was beautiful! We circled Eagle Lake and had some stunning views - and parts were nicely shaded, which gave us a break from the heat. Early in the park I was running alongside another girl, and a couple of guys were talking to us. I sped up to pass the girl because I could tell she was already tired, and one of the guys came with me; he was a Godsend. He was a local runner and described the course elevation in detail so I knew what to expect. That meant that I wasn't shocked to face a steep two-mile climb at the half-way point! Luckily, it was a loop course, and I knew that what goes up must come down - but man, that was tough. Actually, the whole thing was tough. I really struggle on hills, especially knowing how to pace, and I think if I had access to hills I'd be a much, much stronger runner. As it was, I just toiled away, then charged down the downhills. Mile 2: 8:02 (all uphill), miles 3, 4, 5: 7:25, 7:34, 7:20 (up and downhill; gradually climbing). The gradual climbing was rewarded with a sharp downhill half-mile, followed by the start of the two-mile climb (7:01).
That two-mile uphill, though...mile 7: 8:22; mile 8, in which we crested the hill and suddenly basically fell back down was 6:53 (I went from running 9:30's to 6:00's in the same mile! The downhill was really steep!).
Things went back to up-and-down for awhile after that: mile 9, 7:16; mile 10:7:23. Then we left the park and started climbing again, but finally we weren't running on gravel, so that was nice. As you leave the park, you have more hills along a highway, and again, the roads were not closed, so that was a tad nerve-wracking.
Mile 11: 7:27. Mile 12 returned to ups and downs; 7:23, then finally I hit mile 13, a downhill mile. Between being downhill and being paved, I ran my fastest mile at 6:48, with the last bits at 6:20 pace. I regret that another girl was running near me at this point, and she pulled away in the last two miles and I didn't even try to chase her.  The last mile is mostly downhill,  but by then my legs were so sore it was hard to sprint! I finished on the grass as 5th female, 2nd in my AG, at...ugh, this is so embarrassing...1:37:12. My average pace was pretty close to the 7:30's I expected, but on the uphills I could be in the 8's, and downhill in the low 6's.

That, then is my benchmark: I'm a 1:37 halfer for now, and I know what to work on. At least now I know!