This winter, if you can call it winter, went back and forth between 40s, 50s, with the occasional cold days, and some days in the 70s! It wasn't much of a ski season, but the weather for running was quite excellent. I think I wore my yak traks two or 3 times all season, and had really no trouble keeping up with running. I did struggle a bit with motivation, mostly because I was so bummed that ski season was so bad. Usually we have so much fun skiing that after the kids' training we have to kick ourselves out the door to run. It feels like an accomplishment after skiing all day to run as well. This year it was just the running most of the time. I did know I was going to run the Skunk Cabbage Half, so that kept me mostly in focus.
Brooks discontinued my favorite shoe, the Pure Connect, so that added a dimension to late fall/winter training. I knew it was coming, so I bought a couple of pairs on clearance to give me time to figure out a new shoe. Late in summer, I bought a pair of shoes that I not only disliked, but they seemed to mess with my running mechanics. They were incredibly light, but large underfoot and it changed the way I was running. I ended up with some achilles issues for a bit.
Luckily, after that snafu, I talked with my friend Brenda. She also wears the Connect and she switched to Topo Athletic shoes. She wears the same size as I do, and she let me take hers out for a spin. After one 10 mile run, I wasn't sure I loved them, but I could tell that they were promising. I ordered a pair and spent all winter running in them. In the early weeks I missed my Connects, but it didn't take long for them to become my new favorite shoe.
About the training
I knew from the start that I would run the Skunk Half for fun with friends, instead of racing it. I will probably race the Flower City Half next month (if I can handle the pre-race stress of racing!) and then participate in another local half, the Gorges Half in June. In the weeks before the Skunk, Christina and I have had several conversations what racing. I was trying to explain the difference between "racing" and running with a friend.
If I'm racing a half I won't be running at a conversational pace. It will feel like I am on the edge of comfort for most of the race. Running the race with a friend will not be at a long slow training run pace, but it will be something where we can chat and enjoy the day.
I made a training plan. Really I repurposed one from last year, writing in what I planned to do. It was a winter maintenance plan with a target of about 30 miles a week in running miles. I mostly did what I planned to do, but I didn't stress about doing everything I planned. For awhile I crossed things off if I didn't do them, but ultimately just filled in what I actually did to prepare.
Last longish training runs
Longish because after marathon training a run of 9 or 11 miles doesn't really feel that long. It is a distance that we may not even bother with water (though we should). However, they were my "long" runs of this cycle. Despite my plan to keep 10 miles as my minimum long run, I didn't hit that this winter. I almost always hit the 30 miles per week, but not always with a long run involved.
Two weeks out, Christina and I went for a 9 mile run on a cold rainy Saturday. It was 37 degrees and misting for most of the run, turning to full blown rain toward the end. It was a good run, but when I got home my hands were SO cold I was in tears as everything thawed. Christina was in a similar "freeze mode" from her clothing choices.
The week before the race, I met up with Christina and my friend Katie to do an 11 mile run. This race would be Katie's first half marathon!! We planned on a slow run up the newly completed Black Diamond trail after a short warm-up in Cass park. As we started, I saw my friend Emily pushing her brand new baby in a stroller and some friends from Tburg walking in the park. I love about the start of spring; everyone is out and about!! I felt energetic as we headed up and onto the trail. The trail is a light uphill for the 4.5 miles that we'd be on it, and then we'd enjoy a gentle downhill to finish as we turned back toward the park. We chatted along about this and that, and enjoyed the day. After this run, I knew Christina and I were going to stick together for the race, but I wasn't sure how Katie felt. The coming week turned out to be pretty crazy and neither of us checked in with the other, so I still didn't know what she was thinking by race morning.
Xander and Elizabeth had plans for the 10K like they did the year prior. However, two nights out we learned that Xander's call time for his school play was at noon. Even if I snagged a ride home with Christina and the kids and Scott bolted home as soon as Scott finished the half, Xander would be late for his call time. He decided to pull from the race. He would stay home and walk to school when it was time for him to be there. We were sad because this race is a family tradition, but it was important to him that he be on time and ready to act and sing.
I got up early to bake for a few hours and then we all gathered for breakfast around 8. Everyone had something different to eat; Xander enjoyed Ramen to help him keep his voice, Scott had his standard pre-race fare of a bagel with peanut butter and a banana, Elizabeth had scrambled eggs and toast and I had an omelet. Scott needs to eat 2 hours out, but I like to wait until an hour and a half out so we staggered things just a bit. After breakfast it was time to gear up, put sunscreen on and head to the race.
Selfie with Elizabeth before the race
We got there around 9:30 and headed to the bathroom lines right away. Being a local race, we saw so many people we know!! I bumped into my swim coach Shane Eversfield and proudly told him that I was swimming. I bragged that I thought I had figured out the shoulder motion, showing him where I was feeling things when I swam. Nope. One conversation and I realized I am still using the wrong muscles. I spent the next few minutes modeling what he did with my arm. Poor Elizabeth was mortified!! I saw my friend Ofer Leshed, and then ran into our friends Laura and Scott. My husband Scott went his own way, warming up on the track and stretching. He's currently training for the Cayuga Trails 50 Miler, and this race fit well into his plan.
Soon we found Christina and got a pre-race picture, and looked for Katie. In what seemed like moments, it was time to wish Elizabeth luck on the 10K and head outside to our start. We joined the sea of people lined up and started chatting with a crew! Katie found us right away and we talked as a group with several friends.
Elizabeth with Christina. I had to get this one! Christina has known Elizabeth since she was a baby, and now years later here they are!
And this start is where I realized how laid back I've become about races that I'm running vs racing. I forgot to get my watch ready to start, and I hadn't even asked Katie yet if she planned to stay with us by the time the announcer started talking. He didn't have a megaphone so we really couldn't hear him, so suddenly the start happened! My watch wasn't ready and I shouted to Katie, "What's your plan? Do you want to stay with us?" Katie had already asked us our goal. Based on last year's splits we shared that we were thinking we'd be around 9:20 min miles for most of it. Our goal was to come in near 2 hours. She said she'd do her own thing and if she was with us she'd be with us. If she wasn't, continue on.
The Skunk Cabbage Half
We split off from Katie early in the race and settled into a probably too fast starting first few miles. We kept speeding up for a bit. When I mentioned this to Christina she said, "I'm just trying to stay up with you. Maybe I should slow down so you have to slow down." I laughed and spent the next few minutes thinking about pacing with another person. You often really can't tell who is setting the pace or how it is being set. It just kind of happens. Somehow things settled as we just concentrated on keeping things conversational.
The miles ticked off and soon we had hit the part of the race where we had to run along the side of a main road. This is my 2nd time doing this race, and I remember feeling the same way last year; it is a LONG time on this main road. It isn't terrible, but it isn't the best part of the run. We ended up behind two girls that were just slightly slower than we had been going. One of the girls kept spitting. I told Christina, "let's speed up and go around these two." I didn't tell her why, we just bolted around. When we got settled again I explained.
Shortly after the 3rd water stop there were chalk drawings in the road saying "beer in 1.5 miles" followed by many inspirational phrases. It was fun to read them all! Christina and I head up a local race called the May Day 5&5. She said, "we should totally get someone to make chalk signs for our race!" I concurred. Inspiration while running is awesome!
After what felt like an eternity we reached the "beer near" sign which meant it was literally coming up. This unofficial stop was so much fun. Many of our friends were working it, dressed in Star Wars attire. They had beer, mimosas and water. Last year we had hung at this stop awhile waiting for our friends Jenny and Chantelle to catch up to us. This year we didn't stay long. Christina grabbed her favorite - a mimosa - and I opted for water. The short, steep hill followed soon after this stop and then it was all downhill into the finish.
I might get quiet
Christina warned me that she was hitting the point in the race where she may stop being chatty. She was feeling tired. I told her not to worry and suggested she tuck in behind me and just stay with me. It was windy and I could block the headwind for her too.
We caught up to a friend of mine and we were chatting as a group for a bit. Then, with just over 2 miles left to go (I think), I said to Christina,
Ok you've got this. We are going to pass 10 people between now and the finish.
I'm not sure if that would be an incentive for her but it gave me something to focus on to help us speed up our pace. I counted each person we passed. Our 10th mile was one of our slower miles, but we quickly dialed things up as we neared campus. We ended up passing 18 people in that last little bit, and came into the finish line with a nice pace! I was a lot bummed that I waited to look at elapsed time on my watch until we were less than a mile from the finish. When I looked it was 1:59; too late to make it in under 2 hours. Like last year, we didn't actually have a goal to break 2 hours. However, when you are that close to an even time suddenly you want to hit it!
We joined a bunch of our friends hanging out and talking about race moments. Katie wasn't far behind us and we ran out to cheer for her. We saw our friend Joe finish and cheered him on. The best part about this first race of the year is that you get to see everyone again!! Over the winter it is just you (and training partners if you are running with others). The Skunk Cabbage Half rejuvenates, reminding me that so many of us are out there running all the time!
Scott won 2nd Masters so we waited for awards. Elizabeth was 2nd in her age group for the 10K. After awards we had to bolt home. Elizabeth had a golf lesson in Victor, so we had about 20 minutes to quickly wash off, get changed and hop in the car to head for the lesson.