The Carlsbad 5000 – World’s Fastest 5k

*warning: long recap… I guess I needed to make up for my lack of posts lately*

Those of you who keep up with my blog know that I am running the Ragnar So Cal on Friday April 4. After I confirmed that this worked in my schedule and joined the team, I learned that was the same week as my spring break and I would be lucky enough to spend the whole week in So Cal visiting my parents and seeing a couple close, old friends. So then I decided to look and see if my favorite 5k (this was also my first race ever) might fit into my schedule and lucky me, the Carlsbad 5000 was scheduled for Sunday, March 30. So yep, I had to sign up.

Days away from Ragnar!

Days away from Ragnar!

I originally planned on running this just for fun. It’s a fast course (I mean it’s not called the World’s Fastest 5k for nothing, the men’s and women’s world records were made there), but I hadn’t considered training for a 5k. The beginning of 2014 I was still reeling from some slower races and didn’t have speed goals in mind (see my posts about running goals here, here, and here). But then I had a great couple of races and PR’ed at the Super Bowl 10k. So I emailed my coach and asked him what he thought about training for the race and trying to PR (granted I gave him 5 weeks…). He said this was a short time and it would be hard training but it was possible. So I decided, why not? I didn’t tell anyone that my goal was a PR at this race and only let a few people know that I was throwing in some speed work for this race. I didn’t want to race for anyone else, I wanted my goals to be my goals alone. And I think this worked out well.

March training schedule

March training schedule

Five weeks later and I was ready to race. My mom and I did a quick trip to the expo on Saturday. It was way less crowded then 2012. And I was stoked to see Graced by Grit there! The hubs, my parents, and the coach all told me not to stress about this race and to keep as relaxed as possible. (All my best races have been ones I have not thought of as “A” races and so I’m usually pretty chill about them.) I told myself my only goal was to beat my most recent Carlsbad 5k time (2012: 23:35). Of course, my real goal was a PR and ideally a sub 21. But by focusing on my 2012 time, I took the stress off myself.  I woke up about 30 minutes before we were leaving and tried to keep calm. My stomach had other plans. Boo.

Fleet Feet Racing Kit ready to go (plus my awesome sports bra from Graced by Grit)

Fleet Feet Racing Kit ready to go (plus my awesome sports bra from Graced by Grit)

We got to Carlsbad and I did an easy warm up with a little bit of speed. Nothing fancy. After tracking down the port a potties, I left my long sleeve and sweats with my parents and headed to the start. Right before the race started, I saw Haute Running Mama (HRM). It was great chatting with her a few minutes for the race and this also kept me from freaking out. She was doing the all-day run (Carlsbad 5k has 6 waves: Men’s Masters, Women’s Masters, Men & Women 30-39, Men & Women 29 & Under, Women’s Elite, & Men’s Elite and they have an event that allows runners to run in all waves except the elites) and used this as part of her last long run before Boston (so exciting!). Before I knew it, it was go time!

My first mile felt good. Of course I started too fast, but it’s hard when you are surrounded by so many fasties. I saw my pace in the high 5 minute range and pulled way back – I was looking for 6:45-6:50 for that first mile (actual 6:44). After the turn around, there is a slight climb and we were running into the headwind. I tried to keep my pace right on but slowed down a hair (6:48). The last half mile or so is a nice little decline and now I also had a tailwind. Throughout the race my mouth was dry and my stomach didn’t feel great. I kept telling myself it’s supposed to hurt so just go.

carlsbad 5000

Rounding the corner about to finish.

Just about half a mile from the finish, HRM saw me across the way and yelled for me to keep going. This totally helped and I picked it up. I passed a few women (had Jenn in mind here saying “you can catch her!”) and came into the finish (6:42 pace, not sure of actual time as I messed up my watch at the end). As I came down toward the finish I saw the clock said 20:5X and I thought maybe if I really push it I can pull into under 21 (not knowing exactly how far off from the gun start I was – it ended up being a 5 second difference). After I crossed the finish like, I hit lap but not stop on my watch and didn’t realize it right away. Once I stopped it, I had a time of 21:17, which was definitely a PR but I wasn’t sure what my real finish time was. I later found out it was 21:05 (in the top 250 for the unique medal, 27th in my age group of 266, and 53rd woman of our wave of 755 – pretty good!).

Post race

Post race

After my race and a little cool down run, my parents and I hung around to see the elites race. This was really fun and they are so FAST! We also got to see the Men’s American 5k record broken! Bernard Lagat ran a 13:18 race, breaking the whole record of 13:24 (from 1996!). Then a little brunch and mimosas at Swami’s to finish up the morning.

Women's Elite

Women’s Elite

Men's Elite

Men’s Elite

Brunch

Brunch

It was really great to run this race and have my parents there. They have been to several of my races but never one where I felt I did my best, so I was happy to share that with them. I felt like I raced strong and smart. And I know that I can definitely train for a sub-21 :D

Pretty sweet medal and shirt this year :)

Pretty sweet medal and shirt this year :)

Anyone else run the Carlsbad 5000? Any new PRs?

Super Bowl 10k – Way Better than Actual Super Bowl

Well, I guess I jinxed myself with my Fit Friday post on running in the rain. Because oh, yeah, I ran in the rain on Sunday. The cold, windy, rain. (This also explains why I have no race photos… my fingers were numb, no photos taken!)

For the fifth year in a row, I ran in the local Santa Cruz Track Club Super Bowl 10k. I really like this race. It’s super low key (they don’t even close the roads down or recreation path, which can be a pain, but no problem when no body wants to head out in the cold), it’s a course I know really well, and it’s a fun way to burn some calories before eating a whole lot of food during the game! While I went into this race with few expectations (it was my third race weekend in a row, I had some hard workouts during the week, I hadn’t trained for it), I had a goal. I wanted to PR. My last 10k PR is from this event last year (45:28, a 7:19 pace). So this year, I aimed to run a 44:59 (yes I wanted to just eek into that sub 45 result). And my plan was to try to just run a 7:15 pace. (Truth be told, when I signed up for the race this was not my goal, but after strong runs at the Tinker Bell Half and Jenny’s Light 5k I decided to aim for a PR.) I didn’t know if I could do it, but I thought I was in good enough shape to try. I enlisted the help of Jenn who was running but not racing Sunday.

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 7.56.47 AM

I woke up to cold, rain. Look I know the rest of the county is cold, but 40* rain with wind is not fun to run in no matter where you live. Jenn and I did a quick 2 mile warm up, followed by some strides, and said hi to friends who were also racing. It was impressive how many of my running friends made it out in this crummy weather.

brr

brr

The race went pretty close to what I wanted. I started out conservative. I told Jenn I wanted to stay closer to 7:20 for my first mile(s) and if I felt good, pick up the pace in the second half. I averaged around a 7:15 pace for the first 3 miles (7:18, 7:16, 7:13). There was a pretty strong headwind that helped me from running too fast. Poor Jenn tried to shield me from it, but it was pretty impossible to do.

After we turned around the wind was still strong (mile 4 – 7:20). Jenn asked me if I wanted to pick it up. A little part of me thought “no way!” but instead I said I did (this is the benefit of having a pacer.) I tried to tell myself, if I could run 7:05 in the final mile of the Tinker Bell half I could pick up my pace here. We picked it up for a sub-7 mile (6:57). Up until mile 5, Jenn had been calling out my splits. As we came up to that mile, a woman was catching up to me. Jenn let me know but when came up to the 5th mile marker I told Jenn I didn’t want to know (about either the woman behind me or my mile time). I’m glad she didn’t tell me, hearing a sub-7 mile would have freaked me out. I finished the final 1.2 in 8:27 (7:02 average pace).

As I came up to the finish, Aaron and Julian (teammates on SCE) and Michelle (coach of the Fleet Feet team) cheered us on. It really helped me to finish strong. I could see the clock. I knew the first two numbers were 44 but I could not read the final two and was worried that it was going to flip to 45. But I finished at 44:32 (a 7:10 pace!): good enough for 1st in my age group, 4th or 5th woman overall, and nearly a minute PR!

PR & 1st place AG medal

PR & 1st place AG medal

The race went as I hoped – I stayed within the parameters I wanted and finished with negative splits. I was definitely tired at the end but pushed through (this is something I definitely need to work on more). Jenn did a great job of acting as my stop watch, giving me some motivation, but ultimately letting me run my race (thanks Jenn!).

After the race, the hubs and I hosted a Super Bowl party. Twenty or so friends came. And while the game was boring, we had lots of good food, good drink, and good conversation. A pretty awesome day in the end.

Ingredients for the Blue Moon cupcakes for Super Bowl party

Ingredients for the Blue Moon cupcakes for Super Bowl party

Did you race on Super Bowl Sunday? How did it go?

Pacing a Friend to a PR

Way back in June when I ran the SFM half, I decided to sign up for the Berkeley Half Marathon (put on by the same awesome folks from SFM!!). I knew that I wouldn’t be racing it since I would have just raced Big Sur the previous weekend (and well now we know that didn’t go so great), but I still thought it would be really fun to be a part of the first ever Berkeley Half. I thought it would be great if I could find someone looking to PR in the high 1:40s or 1:50s range since I knew that would an easy pace for me to keep. Well, a few months back I convinced my new running pal, Ashley, that she needed to get rid of her old half PR (about 2:00) and that I would help her do that at this race. And then this past week, I also convinced Hillary to join us in the fun.

Saturday afternoon I drove up to Berkeley to pick up the race packets for Hillary and I (Ashley opted to have her mailed to her house) and spend the rest of the day with friends who live in the city. (Ok, so I also totally signed up for this race knowing that I could get to hang out with them too!) We had a great time eating food, drinking wine, and shopping (Wendy came with me to get some new lights for the new house). They are great hosts and I’m excited to have them come visit this weekend!

Pre race

Pre race

Luckily, my friends live just about a mile and a half from the finish so I decided to drive to the finish to meet Ashley and Hillary (who drove up from Santa Cruz that morning). We left my car at the finish and then headed to the start. I love point-to-point courses but it does make it a little difficult to figure out parking/driving (they did have a shuttle to alleviate this problem). After parking fairly close to the start and visiting our friend Port-a-potty, we headed over to the corrals. We were in the 2nd wave and it was PACKED! We couldn’t see the entry gate for the waves and ended up hopping the fence as the race started. So exciting to see such a big turn out for inaugural event! The first 3-4 miles wind through the city portion of Berkeley – I love running the streets much more than driving them! Then we headed out to a run/bike path that parallels the bay and the I-80. Our plan was to keep Ashley at an 8:45 pace for the first 5 miles and then evaluate from there. Like all runners, Ashely felt great in those first few miles (not to mention it was mostly downhill), so we had some speedier paces.

Mile 1 – 8:42
Mile 2 – 8:39
Mile 3 – 7:58 (whoops! bad pacer!)
Mile 4 – 8:12
Mile 5 – 8:39

The stretch between miles 5 and 8 are pretty nice. While the course is next to the freeway, there is a great view of the bay and SF. Thankfully the fog was clearing and we could even see the Golden Gate Bridge. Around this time I also saw some of my favorite running friends/fellow SFM ambassadors: Chris, Alisyn, and Paulette! Then we entered Cesar Chavez park. At times we were on some gravel and dirt trails, but the race did tell runners to expect this. We also took our fuel at this point (unlike when I skipped that part at Big Sur). It was pretty but the course was pretty flat at this point, so there was some leg fatigue. Ashley was feeling good at the pace we had kept in the first 5 miles, so we tried to keep around that same pace for these five as well.

Mile 6 – 8:37
Mile 7 – 8:40
Mile 8 – 8:47
Mile 9 – 8:52
Mile 10 – 8:58

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 10.29.54 AM      Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 10.28.03 AM

(I had WAY too  much fun cheering for Ashley as we ran!)

As we ran out of the park we did a couple of U-turns and hairpin turns. I think Ashley just wanted to be headed toward the finish, but hey we had to get in all 3 miles. Unfortunately, we also saw that a man had collapsed and was being given CPR (I looked it up Sunday night and it said his condition was improving in the hospital). Hillary and I encouraged Ashley not to look his way and to keep her focus on her race. At this point she was definitely tired, she had been rocking a great pace and was in the last 5k (the hardest part). I tried to keep her spirits up and even welcomed her to pull my hair if that would help – she did not take me up on the offer. I knew that at this point she would PR no matter what, but both Hillary and I wanted her to finish strong too. Right before the 13 mile marker, the course climbs up a hill. Not exactly what you want to see as you are nearing the finish. But Ashley rocked it and was able to sprint down the hill to the finish chute. She finished with a brand new PR of 1:53:42!!!

Mile 11 – 8:55
Mile 12 – 8:55
Mile 13 – 9:01
.10 – :44

Hillary was so excited she couldn't keep her eyes open ;)

Hillary was so excited she couldn’t keep her eyes open ;)

I am so glad I got to be a part of Ashley’s awesome race! I would recommend pacing a runner at some point – to see them accomplish their goal is an amazing feeling. It reminded me of all the great parts of racing (something I definitely needed after last week). We celebrated with brunch and mimosas. The Berkeley Half was also a great race. The course is pretty flat overall and has nice views. There are a decent amount of turns and turn-arounds but my guess is that will get worked out as the race grows. The shirts were really nice (sorry no photo – I immediately wore mine and now it’s in the laundry) and of course they had great bling – I had two medals one for the race and one for finish the SF/Berkeley Challenge.

 

Working with a Running Coach

I have mentioned a couple times on my blog that this year I started working with a running coach to help me reach my running goals. And since mentioning that, I have received some questions about what that’s like and how to find a coach.

The first thing I would say about having a running coach does not mean you now suddenly have some magical power to PR or BQ. That being said, since working with a coach I think I have become a stronger and smarter runner (and at times a faster one too!). For example, while I didn’t reach my time goal at my last marathon, I did run a strong race that I’m really proud of and before that I PR’ed at a local race (shaving 3 minutes off a 6 mile distance).

Happy & with friends after a big PR at Wharf to Wharf this year
Happy & with friends after a big PR at Wharf to Wharf this year

There are several reasons why I would recommend working with a coach. The first (and most important for me) is you have someone who will tell you no. I personally have the problem of doing too much. I will run fast everyday or run long distances everyday. My coach tells me no, don’t do that (so does my husband but I apparently don’t listen to him about running, sorry babe!).

Another reason a coach can be a benefit is that you will have training personalized to you. I let my coach know weekly how much workouts went, when I felt good, when I didn’t. He can then modify the next week’s workouts to reflect my current fitness levels. The online training plans you can download give you great plans and workouts. I used them for years and likely will again sometime in the future. But they cannot know exactly where you are as a runner and you might not know how to modify them to help you reach your goals.

October Workouts (so far)
October Workouts (so far)

Of course, having a coach costs money. So you have to decide if these benefits are worth that cost. If you decide to go this route, the next step is finding a coach.
Finding my coach was easy – he’s the coach of our running team. But I did talk to friends who had worked with him as individual coach to see what they thought of working with him. I also met with him to discuss my goals, how we would communicate, etc. For example, we both agreed that weekly emails where I give him a kind of report of my runs worked best for us. But others contact him more often. So other than cost, one thing you want to think about is how & when you will communicate with your coach.

Convinced that it’s time to start training with a coach? Remember you have lots of options and you don’t have to work with someone in your community. My training is pretty much all through email communication and long-distance training can work. But also if you need face-to-face training, take that into consideration. Make a list of what you want from a coach (goals, cost, communication). Then I recommend touching base with your local running community, who uses a coach and who do they work with will help you find the right person. But don’t be afraid to stop working with someone. If you don’t click, you don’t click and that could end up harming your running and reaching your goals.

Do you work with a running coach? What do you like about it? What do you not like about it?

Wharf to Wharf 2013

This past weekend I ran my third Wharf to Wharf (W2W). For those of you who don’t know about “the best little road race in California,” it’s a 6 mile race along the Santa Cruz coast, starting just past the Santa Cruz Wharf and ending right before the Capitola Wharf. 15,000 registered participants race, run, jog, and walk the course along with an estimated 5,000 bandits who jump in on the fun along the way. The course also includes tons of bands, awesome spectators, and even the house or two who is friendly enough to hose down the runners. Not only was this my third year running, it was also my fastest Wharf to Wharf!

2011 – 52:52
2012 – 45:10
2013 – 42:39

My goal this year was to run the race in 42-43 minutes and clearly, I did it! I’m not going to lie, it was not easy – it was HARD! This was the longest distance I’ve ran a 7:06 pace. And after weeks of travel with little running on real hills, those W2W rollers really felt tough.

The plan was to start out conservative, my goal was a 7:15 first mile. The first mile of W2W is notoriously fast, especially if you are in the elite corral. You have to make sure you don’t blow out in the first half of the course (which by the way is NOT flat, lots of rollers!). Then I wanted to stay in the 7:05-10 range for the next 2-3 miles. Finally, in the last 2 miles, I wanted to see if I could really push myself and maybe even finish with a sub 7 minute mile.

The day before the race, Elise and I did a little shakeout run and confirmed we had similar goals. We decided we’d stick together but in the end, still run our own races. Then later in the day, I learned another good running friend (who is super speedy), Jenn, had gotten the ok after an injury to run (but not race) W2W. She was generous enough to agree to pace Elise and I would reap the benefits!

SCE ladies pre-start

SCE ladies pre-start

Race day, I headed out to the start. I live practically right in the middle of the course, so I ran an easy warm up run from home to the start. I was supposed to run the last 3 minutes at tempo pace, but as I got closer to the start it was getting pretty packed with people so that didn’t really happen. Then I bumped into some of the SCE ladies about to head out on their warm up runs.  We took a quick photo and they were off jogging while I headed over to the start line and found my other running ladies as well as a few of the guys. Before we knew it, the gun was shot and we were off!

Elise, me, Jenn, Emmy, & Hillary hanging out after the race.

Elise, me, Jenn, Emmy, & Hillary hanging out after the race.

We started off well, slightly faster than I had planned though (my Garmin had 7:07 for the first mile and I think Elise’s watch had 7:13). I felt the hills after having little access to hill running for the past few weeks. I knew Jenn was keeping an eye on the pace, so I turned my watch to the clock function so I wouldn’t keep checking my pace. Before I knew it we had finished mile 2 (7:01) and were running down by the harbor and Twin Lakes Beach. I tried to enjoy the bands (I had my iPod with me but didn’t use it) but we were cruising past them. We climbed up to East Cliff and 17th, passing the mile 3 marker (7:03). Kevin, the pups, and a few of our neighbors were out cheering. I was stoked to see Kevin, it’s always nice to have support and hear that “Go Meg!” And then we were back hugging the coast and running those hills that I run so often. As we cleared the second downhill, Elise dropped back to use the bathroom right before the mile 4 marker (7:07, hills!).

Then it was just Jenn and me. I was tired and hurting, I really felt I was pushing my hardest. Jenn kept me going those last two miles. I might have accused her of yelling at me, but really she kept me motivated and focused on my goal – thanks so much Jenn!!!! I could not have run this race without you! Mile 5 is a hard one, while it doesn’t really have the hills like the previous two miles, it starts uphill and then has tiny elevation changes as you race through Pleasure Point and come into Opal Cliffs. I finished mile 5 in a speedy 7:01 minutes. Jenn had started pointing out runners for me to pick off. At the time I thought, “I can barely keep this pace and you expect me to pass people!?” but I pushed through. In hindsight, this was actually really helpful and did give me little goals in the last mile.

yep... this photo shows exactly how I felt coming out of Opal Cliffs!

yep… this photo shows exactly how I felt coming out of Opal Cliffs!

Opal Cliffs is a hard part of the race, you have a nice downhill to look forward to at the end of it but its a hard little road and can mentally really beat you up. Thankfully there are tons of spectators in this section and they cheer on all the runners. In this stretch, we saw a team member having a tough time and looking like she might drop off. Jenn peeled off to help her out and then I was on my own. I had a hard time keeping the push in this section and was passed by a woman or two. I caught at least one of them on the last downhill, heading to the finish. While the last mile is hard, it does have a sweet downhill as a reward. I pushed as hard as I could down that hill! Last mile was 7:07 (so much for that sub 7 final mile!). When I finished I really felt like I gave it my all (a feeling I always want to have at the end of the race but I have to admit I often don’t have).

Coming up to the finish

Coming up to the finish

SCTC and Fleet Feet Racing team member Michelle saw me and gave me a big hug! That was awesome! I also heard Laura cheering me on. These ladies knew this was a big PR for me and it was great to have their support. Then I found more and more of my team, including Leslie who also secured an amazing PR (39:20!!). I saw my coach and was so excited to be able to tell him I actually hit my goal! My official finishing time was 42:39, 135th overall (not top 100 but I’ll take it!).

Jenn, me, and Trinity post race

Jenn, me, and Trinity post race

This year was a great Wharf to Wharf! They really improved the race by adding corrals to the start (elite plus 4 waves) and having a staggered start. I think their corral system will only get better year after year. I’d love to see less people jumping in along the course as that just makes it feel crowded in the middle, which is no fun! But I think as the race continues to improve like the corral system and accurate timing, more people will take it a little more seriously and actually start at the start! (Ok probably not, but a girl can dream!)

 After the race, Julie, Hillary, and I jogged back toward my house as a cool down. Kevin and I hosted a post party. Many of the SCE runners and other friends came by to celebrate their strong races and also send a farewell to Elise before she moves far, far away from us. It was a perfect way to end the morning.

Any of my readers run Wharf to Wharf this year? How did it go for you?