Tag Archives: half marathon

2019 Skunk Cabbage

It is always nice to be able to check one of your running goals of the list for the year. I was able to check off one of my running goals for 2019 at my first race of the year. So that is obviously a great way to start of the racing season. I ran the 2019 Skunk Cabbage Classic hosted by the Finger Lakes Running Club . My goal was to improve on my half marathon PR that I set at this raced last year. The race went well for me and I was able to knock 5 minutes of my previous PR and that could be the end of the story but it’s not.

Achieving a new PR at this race while something I wanted to accomplish this year it was not on the top of my list as I wrote about my running goals earlier this year. What lead to my success at this goal was the focus I placed on other goals this year; Enjoy running more, Run with my friends, and Enjoy the process. This year while I have been training and have a training plan I have not been a slave to my training plan. I have been flexible and done what I can when I can that fits in with other things I want to do even if it means doing different workouts or different distances. I have been fortunate enough to be able to run more frequently with my friends this year than last year during my training. A big help in achieving that came when I was able to change my work schedule. But prioritizing running with my friends once again meant being flexible and doing what makes it work so that we can run together so I can enjoy running more and share more miles with my friends.

My wife captured this video and I edited it in Quik

Race day was a great day. The race takes place right around my birthday and what better way to celebrate ones birthday than with a race. The weather was nice perhaps too nice, but better than the previous year’s winter wonderland. My wife, who is amazingly supportive of all my running shenanigans was there to support me and cheer me on. The plan for the race was for me to run the entire race with my friend while I achieved a PR. I was looking forward to sharing miles together because we have never actually run a race together before. She’s a roadie and I’m a trail junky so our preferences and skill sets do not often align. 3 miles in she knew it wasn’t going to be a good day for her at this race. She knew that I had a goal to PR at this race and she told me to go ahead and leave her and run the pace I wanted to because she knew it wasn’t going to work out the way I had planned. I am thankful that she did that because if she hadn’t I would have stayed with her and I wouldn’t have had the race I ended up having. I would have enjoyed running with her but I would not have been able to see what I was capable of. I am thankful that she was willing to run on alone knowing full well that the day for her was going to entail some suffering and I would have stayed with her and she could have had company and support to help make the race more enjoyable for her but she wasn’t going to ask me to give up my goal to stay with her.

Through three miles I knew I was still relatively close to what my goal pace of 8:40 minutes/miles would need to be in order to achieve the PR that I was after, and you can see that looking back at my mile split times. I figured I would just need to speed up just a little bit in order to achieve a new PR. I made a conscious effort to pick up my pace a little bit. I was running at what left like a good relatively comfortable pace. I was working a little but I wasn’t exerting myself too hard. When I look back at what my pace ended up being it seems hard to even think that because I never expected to run this pace. I run with a Garmin Forerunner 230 watch to track my runs. Prior to the race I set up pace alerts on my watch to notify me when I was going too fast or too slow. The too slow pace alert was set with the purpose of making sure I stayed close enough to my goal pace to achieve a PR and I had set that at an 8:50 pace. The too fast alert was set to make sure I did not run too hard and burn myself out so that I would crash later on in the race resulting in a different way of not achieving my goal. This is a relatively hilly course with approximately 600 ft. of elevation gain over the course of the half marathon distance. I fully expected that there would be times when my too slow alert would be chiming me. I expected that most of those alerts would be chiming off on some of the steeper or longer sections of climbing the uphills. I also fully expected that there would be times when I would have the too fast alert chiming at me. What I expected was to have the too fast alert chiming at me during the steeper downhill sections after completing the climb up a hill. And those two occurrences did come to pass.

What I did not expect to happen is to have my too fast time alert chime at me pretty consistently for probably 9 miles of the race. As my watch began to beep and buzz pretty regularly alerting me that I was going too fast I really wasn’t sure what to make of it. I am not an experienced runner at trying to run races with a goal time and pace in mind. This is only the second time I have gone into a race with the specific goal of setting a PR at a specific time goal. So as my watch continued to alert me I began to think more and more about my run. Once I got to the half-way point I really wasn’t sure what to do. Each time my watch sounded an alert that I was going to fast I began to actively think maybe I should slow down. I thought about my experiences and how I have felt training. I thought about how my body felt. I knew from my training that I was capable of running as fast or faster than I was currently running, but that was for shorter distances. I knew from my training that I was capable of running more miles than was required for this race, but that was typically at a slower pace. I was pretty confident that I could run my goal pace for the entire race and PR just as planned. What I did not know is if I could keep this pace up for the rest of the race and finish without blowing up and destroying my shot at a PR.

I listened to my body. I felt pretty good. I did not feel like I was working too hard. I did not feel like I was getting tired to the point I would need to slow down. I listened to my heart and I listened to my soul. I run because I want to find out what I am capable of. I run because I like the feeling of challenging myself and succeeding. I like to push myself to do new things. I was feeling good and I was running better than I ever expected to. My heart and soul was telling me not to waste that. There are many days when a run feels bad and you have to grind. Enjoy the day when everything is clicking. Let your body ride this wave as long as you can. See what you are truly capable of on this day. I could slow down and try to ensure a PR, but who knows what effect that would actually have. But if I slowed down and was cautious I would never know what I could do I pushed myself on this day. Would I PR? Probably. Would I be happy with a PR? Sure. Would I be satisfied? Would I feel like I did my best? No. I would always know I left something on the table that day. I decided I would continue at the faster than anticipated pace and listen to my body and if my body told m,e I actually needed to slow down not as a precaution but because my body just couldn’t go that pace anymore then and only then would I slow down. If this lead to me not getting that PR it would be a disappointment but at least I would know that I left it all out on the course.

Around mile 8 my right hip got a little tight. This made me a little nervous. I reconsidered slowing down. Was the tightness in my hip a sign that I was pushing too hard and I should slow down? After just feeling the sensation in my hip out a little to get a better sense of it while I was running it seemed like even though I could feel tightness it wasn’t necessarily pain, it was more like a slight discomfort. More importantly the tightness did not seem to be affecting my running. My gait seemed to remain essentially the same gait I normally have, which by any standard is not pretty but gets the job done. I decided I would proceed as before. Continue running the pace I was running comfortably until it became necessary to slow down. If the discomfort in my hip progressed to something more like pain then I would slow down. Fortunately that did not happen and I was able to run without any increasing pain the rest of the race. That was such a relief.

It’s funny how you can be essentially be running the race of your life and then still find yet another goal to strive for in the midst of it. When I got to within a couple miles of the finish I looked at my watch and I thought maybe I would have a chance if I pushed myself a little faster I would be able to run this half marathon in under 1 hour and 50 minutes a time that previously I had not thought possible for this race. It is hard for me to reconcile how my training, the race day, and my body all coincided to let me have this great day of running where I could be running at a pace I really did not expect to be running and then still have enough left in the tank to try to surge for the last couple of miles to strive for an even faster time. I ran the fastest splits of the entire day on those last two miles, which to be fair are a bit of a downhill. I don’t know how that would have went if they weren’t. When I got within sight of the clock and could finally read the official time I saw it closing in on 1:50. I ran as hard as I could, but I was just short of going sub 1:50. I couldn’t quite get there in time. I finished with a time of 1:50:11.

My wife captured this video and I edited it in Quik

It’s funny how you can have the best run of your life and then still be just a bit disappointed because you didn’t quite get this goal that you just made up on the fly mid run because you were having such a good race. I was super excited to have run a half marathon in the time I did. I was even more excited that I did so without any significant pain by the end. The first 3 half marathons I ever ran I remember the end of them feeling excruciating getting through the finish and then post-race. Training is really paying off in terms of result times I run and in how I feel during and after a race.

I said repeatedly after the race that I was happy with my time and I don’t think it is a time I will improve on any time soon since it was much faster than I had even planned to run for this race. I ran about 20 seconds faster per mile than I planned on running. I took 5 minutes off my previous PR. It wasn’t long before my mind started to shift and think differently about this though. I achieved this outcome for a half marathon while I have been in the midst of training for a succession of trail ultra marathons. The training has not necessarily been geared towards running my fastest half marathon specifically. My results are just the product of my improving level of fitness due to overall improved and consistent training. I like the half marathon distance on the roads so I like to run at least 1 each year even if it is not my main goal. So what would I be able to do if I actually trained specifically for a half marathon and trained specifically to improve on my new PR in the half marathon distance? Maybe this is something to think about for next year.

Another unusual aspect of this race for me was that I was completely focused on my time so I took zero photos. Something I almost never do. So all the videos and photos we taken by my wife.

Ultra Training: Speed

Training for my first 50 mile race continues. I have several races built in as more serious training runs essentially prior to my 50 mile race. I “planned” other races into my training before I reach my date with a 50 miler, but I will admit most of them were not particularly strategic. They are more that I just want to run that race. 

I am a little under a month away from the first race of my race season. My first race is a road half marathon. It will probably be my only half marathon and possibly my only road race. This will be the third time I run this particular half marathon, Skunk Cabbage Half. I have enjoyed this race in the past and I ran a PR there last year and achieved my goal of my first sub 2 hr half marathon. This year I would like to PR again. PR’s at half marathons have really been my only time goals at races these days. To that end I have been trying to be much more consistent and attentive to doing speed work during my training plan. I had speed wok on my training plan last year but I would not say I took a very good approach to it. Most of my gains in speed have simply come due to consistent running not by any specific strategy.

So far during this year’s training I have seen significant improvements in my speed at the 10k distance. I never really thought of this distance as on I could show much improvement in as I did not feel I had the stamina to run hard that long. I have generally focused on running longer and farther not necessarily faster over the last several years. My runs have been long but relatively slow. Earlier in the year on a cold wintry day I found myself running hard for my entire run because I was simply freezing cold and running hard was the easiest way to stay warm and also get done faster and get home and get warmed up. On that run I ended up running a 10k PR. Then I started incorporating speed work into my training plan. I decided to use fartlek’s as my speed work because I am not well versed in speed work, as in I basically no nothing about speed work, and fartlek’s seemed easiest to understand and easiest to implement. I decided to run 1 minute fast 1 minute rest fartlek’s for 4 of my miles on either 6 or 7 mile runs with a warm up mile in the beginning and at least 1 mile cool down at the end. Since I started that routine I have achieved multiple PRs at the 10k distance. Also depending on which running app you subscribe to Garmin or Strava I either PR’d or ran my second fastest time at the 5k distance on my most recent speed work, with the difference in times between the two apps being only 1 second.

To be clear I am not a particularly fast runner. I am very much a middle of the pack runner if not back middle of the pack depending on the race.  But it is very nice to see these added benefits of speed work really showing up in measurable visible ways on my training apps. It really helps me to stay motivated and keeps my drive up to stick with these hard speed workouts. I have never really done much speed work and these are definitely some of the hardest workouts I have ever done. It is really easy to stop doing something hard if you don’t feel like you are getting results. I am glad to be seeing these results or I would be very tempted to give up on the speed work.

I am looking forward to seeing how this new emphasis on speed work translates to my first race of my season at my only race with a time goal at this point. Hopefully it results in another half marathon PR.

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Trying to Run a Better Race

 

Running the 2016 Wineglass Half Marathon:

I’ve known for about 52 weeks that I would run this race again. I ran my first half marathon here in 2015 and I knew I wanted to do it again and do it better. This was the one race I knew early on I would run this year.

Last year I was nervous if I would even be able to do it, but I did. This year I did something I had never done for any other race and I set for myself a pace/time goal. As the race began to loom on the horizon, I began to get nervous that I would not run well and what felt for me like a terrible race over basically a half marathon distance for a relay did not help the nerves.

I am not good at prep and planning for events like racing. I am more of a just go and do type person. So I was relieved when several of my friends running Wineglass asked if I wanted to car pool with them. Perfect, several fewer things to have to worry about on my end. Meet at the specified time and ride up with them. No decision making or planning by me needed.

The night before I felt like I was all prepped and ready to go before going to bed. All my clothes were laid out, racing and pre/post clothing. Gear laid out: hat, gloves, belt pouch (for chews etc.), compression sleeves, and headphones. I had everything in the same room in close proximity to make it almost impossible to forget. My wireless headphones were plugged into my computer to ensure a full charge so they would last the whole race. I had my camera out and battery plugged in to charge so it would last the whole race. Yes, I said camera. I’m a photographer and try to take a camera with me wherever possible.

We got to the starting location for the half marathon nice and early. Plenty of time to relax, stretch, eat, prep, and do all the pre-race things that only other runners are privy to. As I was getting ready I realized I forgot band aids to prevent chaffing (guys you probably know what this is about and maybe the girls too).  Strike one. The always-prepared Eric Williams thankfully had some extras that mostly worked. (I don’t want to talk about what happened when they stopped working. LOL.) As I was getting ready to run I realized I my headphones were definitely fully charged, because they were still at home plugged into my computer. This is after spending hours trying to put together a decent running playlist to pump me up throughout this half marathon. Strike 2.  As I am getting to the starting line I get my camera out to take a few photographs of the crowd of runners and the scenery only to discover that this battery too was still at home safe and sound fully charged. Strike 3. I was really hoping this was not a 3 strikes and you are out type of situation.

I was really starting to get down on myself for being unprepared right before the race. Not good. Fortunately for me Joette Foster was with me. She of the always-positive attitude gave me a quick attitude adjustment and got me back in a positive frame of mind.

As I waited alone for the race to start, if one can be alone in a group of thousands, out of the crowd materializes friend and fellow runner Georgia Tucker. We talked about the pace we were each planning to run and settled in the area where we figured we should be in the crowd, no pacer running the pace we were targeting. Unfortunately for Gorgia, but fortunately for me, she could not get her music service to connect so she too had no music to run with either. We ran and talked for 10 miles. In addition, we stayed pretty much at the pace I wanted for the entire 10 miles. I actually could not believe I could run and chat for 10 miles at basically my goal pace. Running and talking with Georgia helped me to not think about the running or the miles I’ve run or the miles still to go. It was so enjoyable to run with someone I knew and could talk to. I had my Garmin watch set to notify me if I was going too fast or too slow for the pace I wanted. That allowed me to just glance quickly and see if I needed to speed up a little or could slow down some then just keep talking and keep on keeping on running with Georgia.

A mile 10 the wheels started to come off a little bit for me and I could not keep up my pace and Georgia and the pacer I really wanted to stay in front of pulled away off into the distance. I was still running ok but could feel the strength leaving my legs. I just didn’t have much left in the tank. I was excited to see my friends at STRC and the SOAR kids cheering runners on and that gave me a quick boost of energy but it didn’t last. I was able to finish the race at a good time for me 2:15:32. This was a significantly faster PR for me. I felt good almost the entire race. I was happy with the results.

The race was great and I enjoyed it and felt accomplished by my run. However, by far the best part for me was the post-race. Over the past year being involved with running groups and clubs like STRC I have gotten to know so many runners, where in previous years I had known none. If anyone was there to cheer me on at previous races it was my amazing wife, Debby and one of my dogs. I’ve gone to several races where I showed up alone, run the race, and then immediately gone home because I didn’t know anyone.

This year was totally different. This year I knew at least a dozen people who were running in either the full or half marathon. This year I had friends, support, and comradery from the running community. This is something I would never had and I would have even known was possible without joining great running groups like STRC and No Meat Athlete, Corning. They welcomed me into their group and made me one of them. They supported me throughout this journey and encouraged me to work hard when I didn’t think I could do it.

When I crossed the finish line I first looked for my wife. She’s been there supporting me through all my craziness. She pointed Joette out to me in the crowd and we congratulated each other on a well-run race. We found, Lindsay Barrile, the person who has been the captain of this running crew I have been fortunate enough to fall in with. Lindsay planned great workouts and training for us and I did more structured running thanks to her than I ever would have. Let’s face it I would have done no structured running workouts without her. We found the speedster of our group Eric and the four of us got our picture taken together, which I had never done before at a race. We sat and recovered together. We talked about our races, where it went well for us and where it came off the rails. We shared our successes.

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Me and Kira after the race. (Photo by Debby Reynolds)

We all went to change into some dry cloths so we could enjoy the rest of race day together. I was able to find Debby in the crowd with one of our dogs who was very excited to see me. It is always great to have the support of my loving wife and one of our great dogs after a race. It always helps to ease the post-race discomfort when you can be snuggled by a dog.

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Me and Kira after the race. (Photo by Debby Reynolds)

Our group of runners was able to reconnect after changing and watch more of the runners finish there races. We were joined by another friend Sarah Wellington who was able to return after spending some time with her family. We were able to hang out, socialize, and enjoy some great food and a few beers on the always-fabulous Market Street in Corning, NY.

While we ate we were able to monitor another friends progress in the full marathon thanks to the Race Joy app. Brande Flaitz was running the full marathon and we wanted to cheer her on. I was in communication without other STRC members out on the course cheering and they were wondering about her progress. I was able to relay her position using the Race Joy app. We were growing concerned that she had become injured as it seemed she had fallen off her expected pace for the race. Brett Shelton who had been cheering with other STRC members and the SOAR kids ran out to meet her at mile 24 and see how she was doing. As we tracked her progress it was suggested that we go out to the course and meet up with Brande to support her in this effort. Thanks again to the Race Joy app we were able to find her exact location and drive over and meet up with her around a mile or so out form the finish. Sarah who was still recovering from her race and her own injury broke into a sprint upon seeing her and ran out to support her. Lindsay, Joette, Eric, and I all joined them.

Brande was clearly in pain. She was gutting it out through the pain of her injury. We were able to walk and ran with her towards the finish line where she successfully finished her race. Despite being injured, she was still moving at a decent pace. I couldn’t keep up without running.  I had never been a part of something like this. A group of people supporting each other and encouraging one another to push our limits. This is what running is. This is the community of runners I have been lucky enough to become a part of is all about.

Brande didn’t get to run the race she had envisioned but she ran the race she could given the circumstances she was dealt. She gutted it out through sheer force of will and determination when many others would have given up. She ran a race many others including me could not have run. I am proud of her for her toughness and her ability to dig down deep and see that race through to the end. This was a day I will never forget for so many reasons and I am so glad I was there to be a part of it. I am so glad I became a runner.

Photographing Myself Running

We all have our own little idiosyncrasies. Sometimes we don’t really know why we do the things we do. Other times it’s pretty obvious why we do them. I know exactly why I do some of the things I do.

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The things that really move us, the things that are important a to us, the things we love. This is what causes us to do some of the strange things we do as humans. As a photographer, something I love, I carry around enough gear that my car tells me the passenger needs to put on their seatbelt when I set my bag on the passenger seat. I often have these multiple heavy cameras dangling from my neck while I look ridiculous. I can be found laying on the ground or just staring at something just waiting for the perfect moment to take the photograph. Most non photographers would think these behaviors are a bit odd but to me they are the things that allow me to do what I love.

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Over the past several years I have also become a fairly avid runner as improving my health has become important. Avid, not good or fast just avid. I get up at 5:00 am on my day off to make sure I get my run in before it gets too hot. I run for over an hour at one time. I run in the rain. I plan my days around trying to make sure I can get a run in. These are not things that very many non runners would typically do.

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Over the years both my photography and running have grown in importance to me. Each becoming an increasingly significant part of my life.

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When you live for photography and live for a healthy lifestyle you do increasing odd things. On Sunday 10/4/2015 I ran my fist ever half marathon. And my enthusiasm for running crashed headlong into my passion for photography and they merged. I decided the best way to make the most out of this situation would be to find a way to photograph the half marathon as I ran it. In years past I never though this would be possible because A. I could never have run a half marathon and B. I would have had no idea how to go running with a Nikon D300 around my neck.  But thanks to my relatively recent decision to begin experimenting with a Nikon 1 system in my photography I was able to find a way to make it happen. I was able to find a small snug fitting elastic belt pouch that stretched and was marketed to be used to carry ones phone and keys while running. As luck would have it the pouch would also fit a Nikon 1. I was able to tuck the Nikon 1 into the pouch and wear it to the starting line with my regular running gear no problem. It was hardly noticeable. I got it out  and took a few pre-race photos.

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I considered getting the camera out at different times during the race. But in the first six miles I was maintaining a pretty good pace for myself and I didn’t want to risk getting off my pace and slowing down to monkey with the pouch and get the camera out and then try to put it away again. I hadn’t had time to practice with it before the race. That was a big mistake.

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In the last four miles I was too tired and spent to consider using any energy work a camera. All my mental energy was going to focusing on running and making sure I finished the race. I was getting very tired and very sore. It was all I could do to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

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Then as I neared the finish line probably inside of a mile I knew I was definitely going to finish. I had slowed considerably so my pace wasn’t an issue. I wouldn’t have to worry about putting the camera away I would just carry it to the end. So I decided now was the time to see what I could do with this little camera I carried all the way for 13 miles.

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I was able to unzip my pouch and get the camera out without impacting my running or dropping the camera. Now that’s a small victory in itself. I kept the camera strap on the camera even though it could make it more difficult to put away on the run, which I ended up not doing, and in glad I did. This freed me from worrying about dropping the camera while trying to looks round for something interesting to photograph and running. I could just simply throw the strap around my neck and that was that.

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Now it was time to try to figure out how to actually take some photos while running. I decided to try to experiment and try a few different things. Having the camera strap on allowed me to try something similar to having a GoPro strapped to my chest. I allowed the camera to essentially dangle from my neck and just tried to keep it straight. I thought I’d be able to get a photo as if directly from the runners perspective this way. I think it was difficult to make sure the camera was oriented properly to capture a decent image of what was in front of me. I am not sure any of these images turned any good. I think I often ended up with too much road in the photo and not enough subjects due to how low the camera strap hung and a wide-angle lens and not angling the camera up at all.

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I tried glancing over my shoulder to see what was going on behind me. I was able to get quick looks at my fellow runners as they usually approached and passed me. I then tried to position the camera over my shoulder facing the runners behind me so I could get a view of runners approaching me. It was a challenge to get the camera aligned right to be pointing straight and at the runners while also running however slowly I may have been going.

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I also attempted two other ways of taking photos of what I was seeing as I ran. I experimented with alternatingly holding the camera up in front of my face in a more traditional position to view the image and at other times just holding the camera out in front of me arms fully extended towards my intended subjects.

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This is where having the live view LCD screen of the Nikon 1 was invaluable. I don’t think I could have gotten decent photos of I had to try to look through a viewfinder. I was able to quickly select a subject and compose the image using the LCD and click the shutter all without compromising my safety by blocking most of my vision with a bulky camera that I had to hold up to my face to see through the viewfinder.

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I was even able to take a selfie style photo one-handed and I crossed the finish line, which was announced to the crowd as I crossed. I certainly couldn’t have done that with my Nikon D300.

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Overall this was a fun experience on all fronts. I challenged myself in many ways physically, mentally, and technically in both my running and photography. Trying something new is always an opportunity to learn and grow and I think I did.

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I also think I captured some nice images if I do say so myself. I think I will try this photography experiment in other running events and other experiences.

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