Friday, February 25, 2011

FASTless FASTing

Allow me to introduce Team FAST:

(photo by official unofficial FAST photographer, Steven Blanchard)

Aren't we cute? Oh wait. I'm not in this picture. Yes, as it turns out, I was traveling for work this past Wednesday and missed out on the FAST photo session. Well this simply won't do. Let me use my excellent Photoshop skillz to rectify this situation...

*tinker tinker tinker* Voila!

There, much better. And you may be wondering why I appear to be running away from Coach Brad. Believe me, I have my reasons. Not the least of which is the maintenance mile he made us all do this week.

Now, I could've taken the easy way out and decided to skip the maintenance mile, since I wouldn't have my coaches' and team's support to get me through it. But I am a tough little FASTie. I love a good challenge. What could be more challenging than doing a maintenance mile by myself?

Truth be known, I did NOT want to do it. I was having a hard time motivating myself to just get through the workout (1 mile warm-up, then repeats of 800m, 1 mi, 800m, 1 mi, and 800m). Hard workouts are just not fun without without my FASTies. I was basically FASTing FASTlessly, and I didn't like it one bit.

But I survived the workout. And I didn't slack off knowing I would be doing a maintenance mile afterward. I gave the workout my all, running my repeats in the 8:00-8:30 pace range. And after a brief recovery and a self-pep-talk, I began my maintenance mile.

I was fully expecting this mile to be slow. Or at least slower than my last maintenance mile, which was 7:37. I would've been happy with anything under 8:00, really, given my lack of motivation and the absence of expert coaching. I knew after I started that I had gone out a little too fast. But I hung on as long as I could.

And then, like an angel from heaven, there was fellow FASTie Nikki. She was working with some clients off to the side of the track, and as I flew around the turn, I managed to convey to her that I was doing a maintenance mile by using a series of grunts and pained facial expressions. She understood immediately, which was good because I was not able to form sentences or even words at that point. And every time I ran by her, she cheered me on and gave me that mental boost I so desperately needed.

With two laps to go, I felt my energy draining rapidly. Where were my wonderful coaches to tell me to suck it up? I had no idea what my pace was or whether I was slowing down or speeding up; all I knew was that I was working very hard and I wanted to be done. The nice thing about the maintenance mile (not that anything about it is really "nice") is that it's over so quickly. The pain is temporary. And before I knew it, it was over and I was hitting the Stop button on my Garmin.

After I regained consciousness, I looked down at my Garmin and had to do a double-take because it read 7:24. 7:24? That's a 13-second improvement over my last maintenance mile! I sure wasn't expecting that.

I think I would've been pretty bummed if nobody was around to celebrate with me. Fortunately, Nikki was there to give me a FASTie high five and act impressed with my mile time.

Upon reviewing my lap splits from my mile, I found that I really died off in the last 1/4 mile. So as I suspected, I started off a wee bit fast. Or maybe that's the best way to run a maintenance mile? I guess I'm not really sure. I like to run negative splits for long distances, but maybe that's not the best approach for short distances. Clearly, in this case, going out fast worked well for me overall.

There is just one more session of FAST left for the 2010-2011 Winter season, and I can't imagine how the coaches are going to top the last two crazy workouts we've had. I'm not sure they can. But I've been wrong about that before. And frankly, I'm scared.

*runs away from Coach Brad even faster than depicted above*

Peace. Love. Train.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Challenges of outdoor running

Last week was a lovely week for running outside in Central Illinois. And by lovely, I mean "not blizzard-like". In fact, I managed to do three of my five runs outdoors and I enjoyed every one of them. At the same time, each outdoor run presented me with a unique challenge, turning my runs into sort of mini-adventures. Allow me to share...

Challenge #1 - Cold Feet

For a short mid-week run, I decided to run on the local bike path since it was rush hour and I wanted to avoid the highly-trafficked roads. But about 1/2 mile into my bike path journey, I encountered an obstacle. A stream of water running across the path - runoff from all the melting snow. The water was about 10 feet wide and 6 inches deep. I couldn't jump that far. There was no avoiding it; I had to run through it. The water was every bit as cold as you would expect for melting snow runoff. I muttered a choice expletive as I ran through the water. My feet were completely soaked to the bone, and every step I ran thereafter made a wet, squishy sound.

*run squish run squash run squish* Just like that.

But aside from having cold feet, it was a very nice run. And my shoes have since dried out.

Challenge #2 - Angry Pickup Truck Man

On Saturday morning, I decided to take advantage of another beautiful running day and I set out for an easy 4 or 5 miles. It was shaping up to be a really great run - there was hardly any wind, the sun was shining, and my legs felt great. But then in the last mile, a jerk in a shiny black pickup truck ruined it all. Apparently, I was a serious threat to him, running on the correct side of the road, staying as far to the side as I could, and being generally unobtrusive. I guess he was offended by my law-abiding nature. Or maybe he just didn't like my brightly-colored running shoes. For whatever reason, he felt the need to drive up behind me at top speed (in a 30mph zone, mind you) and lay on his horn as he passed me. Twice. He was clearly being aggressive, and frankly, it was making me pretty nervous. Especially since he made a point to come back and scare me a second time. So although I was feeling good enough to get in a full 5 miles, I ended up cutting my run short to 4.7 miles to escape Angry Pickup Truck Man.

I hope to never run into him again, mostly for his own sake, since I will be carrying large rocks in my pockets which I can and will use to damage his truck's shiny paint job.

Challenge #3 - Kristi

Sunday morning wasn't as nice, weather-wise, as Saturday. It was cloudy, colder, and extremely windy. Oh and there was a chance for rain. But it was tolerable enough for me to venture outside to run with my beloved Stashies, who I haven't seen in months. They were going to run one of my favorite routes, which is a little over 10 miles long.

So I started the run off slow, running well behind the rest of the group, like I always do. I was running into the wind, and I saw no need to push hard on this run since I had just done an insanely difficult 10-mile run four days earlier. I was just aiming for some easy miles.

When I reached the first water stop, about 3 miles in, the rest of the group was already there, rehydrating and chatting. I grabbed a quick cup of water and Kristi mentioned that the rest of the group was turning around soon for a shorter run, so maybe she and I should run together for the rest of the 10 miles since it would just be the two of us. That sounded like a good plan to me, and I wasn't worried since I have done many long runs with Kristi before. It would be nice to have someone to chat with along the way.

But there would be no chatting. Kristi took off at breakneck speed and I spent the remaining 7 miles gasping for air, trying to hang onto her for dear life. Oh sure, I could've just let her go ahead and run my own pace. But she was issuing an unspoken challenge. And I would not be defeated.

I wanted to say something. Something along the lines of "OMG why are you doing this to me???" But I didn't want to appear weak. So I struggled silently as we attacked the multitude of hills. During this portion of the run, she remained about 30 feet ahead of me. I wasn't going to let her out of my sight. Once we got to the Tower (our second water stop), I knew the rest of the route would be mostly flat. If she kept the same pace, I should have no problem keeping up.

She didn't keep the same pace.

Every mile that ticked by on my Garmin, my pace was getting faster and faster. I was impressed when we finished up mile 7 at a 10:24 pace. I was even more impressed when we zipped through mile 8 at a 10:06 pace. I was right on her heels and I felt strong. I mentioned this to Kristi and she told me I was doing great. Little did I know she was secretly plotting my demise.

When we finished up mile 9 at a 9:42 pace, I grew alarmed. With an evil glint in her eye, Kristi turned turned her head around and asked every-so-sweetly, "How ya feelin'?"

At this point I realized she was going to try to kill me in the final mile.

We actually had about a mile and a half left at that point. She dropped the hammer. I wanted to tell her to slow down, but the only sounds I was capable of making were "Gah! BAH! Puh!" My Garmin beeped again. Mile 10 - 9:30 pace. And Kristi just kept getting faster and faster. Yes, she was definitely trying to kill me.

We had about a half mile to go and I could no longer hang on to her. I held the fastest pace I could manage and she surged ahead, making it look all too easy. I knew I wouldn't catch her, but I sure as hell wasn't going to slow down. I always finish strong.

Final 0.6 mile - 8:48 pace.

And you know what? I didn't die! Oh, I was a little winded. Okay, a LOT winded. But overall, I felt pretty good.

And as soon as we hopped in our cars and started driving away, the rain started pouring. So Kristi's little plot to exterminate me actually ended up benefiting me because if not for her, I would have gotten soaked in the downpour.

So nice try, Kristi! *sticks tongue out at Kristi and runs away*

Peace. Love. Train.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Uncle! UNCLE!!!

Remember how I told you all that Coach Brad likes to come up with crazy workouts just to see what I'll write about them? Well, he's at it again. And this time he's achieved a whole new level of crazy. And I'm crying uncle!!!

If you click on that link above, you'll see that that particular crazy workout was about 7 miles, and consisted of 6 miles of pyramid intervals and a maintenance mile (7:37 pace, baby!). It was easily one of my longest FAST workouts ever.

Until now.

Thanks to Coach Brad's poor math skills (or deceptive trickery, I can't decide which), I ended up running 10 miles of pyramid intervals last night. You read that right, folks. Ten miles. And I didn't even realize it until I was done.

I know what you're thinking.

How stupid do you have to be to run 10 miles without knowing it?

Okay, I didn't know you were thinking that! But if you must know, it was Coach Brad's fault. He LIED to me! Here's our exchange. I'll let you, the readers, decide who is at fault here:

Coach: "We're doing pyramid intervals. 1 easy, 1 hard, 2 easy, 2 hard, 3 easy, 3 hard, etc..." (the numbers refer to number of laps around the track) "You can go up to 4/4, or up to 5/5 if you want. Then do some core work with Maggie, and then reverse the pyramid."

Me: "So what's the difference in mileage if I go to 5/5 versus 4/4?"

Coach: *counting on fingers* "Well, I think the 4/4 workout is about 5 1/2 miles. And the 5/5 workout is about 7 miles or so."

Me: "Okay, I can probably manage the 7 mile one." *runs off, blissfully ignorant of the truth*

Maybe I shouldn't have so blindly accepted Coach Brad's finger math. The first half of my workout was no big deal. It was hard, yes, but I felt strong and I really enjoy doing shorter "sprintier" type workouts like this. The longest hard interval was 5 laps, which is about 3/4 mile. For me, this is a lot more fun than, say, a 3-mile time trial.

But after the mid-workout core work (which was only 1 minute total and hardly constituted a proper recovery), I was starting to feel the fatigue of this workout. I was about to set off for the down-pyramid portion of my run when I had this discussion with Coach Brad:

Coach: "So, you gonna do the 5/5 workout?"

Me: "I don't think so. I did the first 5/5 and I'm getting pretty tired so I think I'm just going to skip the second 5/5 and go right into 4/4 this time."

Coach: "Why? You did one 5/5, why not do another?"

Me: "Because it adds like another mile! I'll be here all night!"

Coach: "So? Then I'll be here all night too. I don't care. You're a stud. You can do it." (Yes, he called me a stud. I'm not sure if this is a compliment or an insult.)

Me: *sighing deeply* "Fine. Fine, I'll do it."

And off I went, thinking I was going to be running about "7 miles or so". I knew I could handle that - I've done a few 7-ish mile workouts in FAST before.

As the laps ticked away, I came to the realization that most of the other FASTies had long since left the track. I was tracking my lap count in order to know when to run hard laps and when to run easy laps, but I wasn't really paying that close attention to the total number of laps I had run. I was just... running. But when my lap count hit 60 laps, something clicked in my brain. I knew from the many long runs I have done on that track that 30 laps was 4 miles. Which meant 60 laps was 8 miles. I had hit 8 miles and I was nowhere close to being finished with my pyramids. I became mildly alarmed.

Eventually, it was just me and fellow FASTie, Brian, out on the track. Brian, who is a much faster runner than I am, zipped past me while asking "Why are we the only two people left out here???" I was wondering the same thing.

As it turns out, we were the only two people who tackled the complete 5/5 pyramid. We were either very brave, or very foolish. Probably some combination of the two. When I finally finished my workout (and cooldown), I got out my iPhone calculator and did the math for myself. I had run 75 laps.

(1/7.5) x 75 = 10 (duh)

Of course, after doing that math I realized I didn't need a calculator to figure that out. But my brain was pretty fried from having just run 10 miles, so cut me some slack, okay? We all know I don't do math while in an oxygen-deprived state.

For the record, I have never in my life done a mid-week run longer than about 7 miles. So to do a 10 mile very tough run on a Wednesday night was achieving a whole new level of running for me. I don't know if I'm ready to make the 10-miler a regular mid-week thing. But at least now I know I'm capable of going longer distances between weekend long runs.

I suspect this was Brad's intent when he told us that bald-faced lie about the workout being "7 miles or so". When I called him out on his "mistake", he admitted that he hadn't included the warm-up and cool-down in his calculation (although he failed to mention that to us beforehand). But even so, the workout itself was 8 miles, not 7. Sneaky, Brad. Very sneaky.

There's a lesson in this whole story: Never trust your coach's math. Of course, this lesson doesn't apply to the people I coach, so those of you reading this can relax. I'm not going to lie to you about your distances.

And how did I actually do on my crazy pyramid run last night? Not too shabby. I finished in 1:37:40, which is an average pace of 9:45. That's a lot faster than any other 10 mile run I've ever done. Of course, it wasn't a continuous run, so it hardly counts as a PR. But I'm still happy with it. And my final interval was a single lap at a 6:52 pace. Zoom zoom!

(click to see it bigger!)

And how about the aftermath of this monster workout? I have to admit, I'm feeling it today. Although it's not nearly as bad as I expected (maybe it's going to get worse). I'm a little stiff, and the hamstrings and calves are a bit sore. But all things considered, I feel pretty good, and I'm planning to tackle a short, easy run this evening to get things loosened up a bit.

Coach Brad says he wants to come up with some "doozie" workouts to close out the Winter FAST season. I'm not sure how he can possibly out-doozie the 10-mile pyramid workout. And honestly, I fear for my life. So Coach Brad (and Coach Maggie too, because I know she likes to plot evil things as well), please, for the love of Pete, show us some mercy!!!

Peace. Love. Train. UNCLE!!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Return to the Great Outdoors - Frosty 5 Mile

I don't know about you all, but I am getting mighty tired of this long, cold, snowy, grey winter. I have run more indoor miles this winter than any human being should ever have to run: over 300 indoor miles between Thanksgiving and now, if you must know. And so when the weather forecast called for temperatures in the low-mid 40's this past weekend, I had to jump on it.

Sure, I could've gone for an easy long run around Peoria Heights. But I craved something a little grander for this first decent running day of 2011. And what could be grander than a road race?

Whenever I feel like running a last-minute race, I can always count on fellow FASTie Kristi to join me. So when I learned about the Frosty 5 Mile race in Channahon, I sent Kristi a message the night before and asked if she might be interested. Not surprisingly, she was immediately on board. This race had a lot going for it: a 1 pm start time (ahhh, the joy of sleeping in on a Sunday!), a Frosty 5 Mile stocking cap for all entrants (an nice departure from the usual t-shirt), and post-race pizza and hot chocolate. Add to that the predicted sunny and nice weather, and it was a no-brainer.

I wanted to get in 10 miles of running on Sunday, so I hit the treadmill in the morning to get 5 miles out of the way. Then Kristi and I left for Channahon (about a 2-hour drive). I could tell while driving that it was pretty windy out. I hoped it wouldn't be too big of a factor in the race. Neither of us were planning to race this event all-out, but rather to make it more of a tempo-effort workout.

We arrived at Pioneer Path School to register about an hour before race start. Fortunately, we were able to mill around in the the school gym and stay warm before the race. Unfortunately, I got zero cell phone reception inside this building (apparently it was made of lead), so I couldn't even do any productive texting or Facebooking to pass the time. But there were a lot of interesting people to observe (Kristi can attest to that). Before we knew it, it was time to head out to the starting line.

My goal for the run was to maintain about a 9:30 pace. And then we walked outside to the race start and felt how windy it was. Fortunately, I wasn't married to this pace. All I wanted was a good workout.

And that's exactly what I got. When the race started (which was ceremoniously marked by Ronald McDonald yelling "START!" - I kid you not), I started off slow. I wanted to get warmed up over the first 1/2 mile or so. The course seemed flat, and the wind was not a factor at this point. I gradually accelerated into a comfortable pace of about 9:40. I only know this in hindsight, as I did not look at my Garmin during the race to see what my pace was. I was only running by feel.

The course was more-or-less and out-and-back course. There were a few extra turns at the beginning and the finish was one block over from the start, but for the most part, it was out-and-back. The first part of the course (and consequently, the last part) was flat. But the middle 3 miles were on a rather hilly stretch of road that really put my flat-lander legs to the test. I'm sure it wasn't actually all that hilly, but seeing as I have not run an actual hill in over 3 months, some of these hills felt rather mountainous. They didn't really slow me down much, but I definitely felt my breathing become more labored on the uphills. There were also a few stretches of road with an intense and nasty headwind. I was thankful that the entire race was not like that.

The sunshine was warmer than I expected, even with the wind, and I actually took my outer layer off before I got to Mile 2. I was happy to see that I was passing a lot of people in the last 3 miles. I've still got it, I thought to myself. I wasn't sure what, exactly, I had, but I knew I still had it.

When I hit the 4-mile mark, I decided to kick it up a notch, just for fun. I passed a lot more people in this mile. I rounded the final turn and made a dash for the finish line, finishing in 47:16. That's an average pace of 9:28, which is exactly where I hoped to be. One of the wonderful finish line volunteers handed me a pretty red carnation (that was a very nice touch!), and Kristi and I made our way to the post-race feast because we were both starving.

When you're really hungry, anything tastes good. And we demonstrated this concept as we gobbled up the post-race Little Caesar's pizza like it was the best thing we'd ever eaten. The hot chocolate was also delicious, and I think that, unlike the pizza, it may have actually been delicious, rather than a figment of our hungry imaginations.

So to sum up, this was a fun little race, well-organized and with good post-race refreshments. Most importantly, it was great to run outside and soak up some Vitamin D for a change. Oh, and since I had never run a 5-mile race before, it was also an instant PR. Double bonus!

Peace. Love. Train.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Yes, Coach Brad, I AM going to cry!

In my five short years as a runner, I've had some very emotional running experiences. There was the time I finished my first 5k, and the time I finished my first half-marathon, and probably the most emotional one - the time I finished my first marathon. Yes, the firsts are always emotional. But so too are setting new PR's and meeting huge goals. There was the time I achieved (rather unexpectedly, I might add) my super-stretch marathon goal at the Flying Pig - I cried wee wee wee all the way to the finish line. And I got a little misty-eyed at the Icebreaker when I finally broke 5 hours.

But never before have I had an emotional training run.

Until now.

One of the things I love most about FAST is the element of surprise. We never know what the workout is going to be until we get there. So there isn't any chance for us to get anxious or nervous or calculate target splits or anything like that. The coaches tell us what to do and then we have to go right out and do it. And last night they gave us a doozy of a workout that I am especially glad we didn't know about in advance.

*cue dramatic music* The three-mile time trial.

It's not the first time we've done this workout. You may recall that this was actually the very first workout of this Winter FAST season. And you may also recall that I ran that time trial in 25:37. Not bad. Not a record by any means, but not terrible. That time trial allowed the coaches to establish a baseline for each FASTie. So it's not surprising that they would have us do it again, near the end of the winter season, in order to measure improvements.

Let's take a moment to review terminology, shall we? The time trial is basically a race (against yourself). An as-fast-as-you-can-go, balls-to-the-wall, run-til-you-puke timed distance. No two ways about it - it is painful. If I had known about it in advance, I may have been tempted to skip it.

But I was not forewarned. So I had no choice but to run it.

I figured since I still only a couple weeks off my marathon, and I haven't done any sort of speedwork in 4 weeks, and I'm still getting back up to my normal weekly mileage, that there was no way I would improve over my baseline time from December. I decided I'd just run the best I could and try not to be disappointed if my time was significantly slower.

And so after a 1 mile warm-up, I began my 3 mile journey. I didn't even bother to reset my Garmin after my warm-up, because I just didn't think it was that important - I wasn't going to be tracking my time during the run, and it's too complicated to figure out how lap splits correlate to pace anyway. The track is 7 1/3 laps per mile - that kind of math is way too advanced for an oxygen-starved brain, and I have demonstrated many times in the past that I am not good at math while running. Fellow FASTie, Kristi, can attest to this.

And so I simply ran. And every lap, I clicked my lap button - I knew I needed to get through 22 laps to make exactly 3 miles. But I only looked down at my Garmin occasionally to check my lap count. I had no idea what kind of lap splits I was running, or what my time was. It got really intense really fast, but I expected that. I tried not to back down in my effort.

Before I knew it, I was coming into the last lap. I dropped the hammer and gave it everything I had left (which wasn't much). Fortunately for everyone involved, I didn't puke. They really do frown upon people puking on the indoor track.

After I caught my breath, I looked at my Garmin time. 35:03. I thought my warm-up time had been 11:33 (but I wasn't positive), so I just needed to do some quick math to figure out my three-mile time. At first glance, it looked like maybe I did improve over my December time, but my brain was still oxygen-deprived and I needed to do the math on paper.


Huh. That didn't seem right. I rubbed my eyes and put pencil to paper again and came up with the same result. I still didn't believe it. I found Coach Brad and showed him my math and asked him to please check my work because I didn't trust it. He verified my math was correct.

"But that's a 7:50 pace!!!!", I yelled, incredulous.

"So? Why do you seem so surprised?" he asked.

I just stared back at him, mouth agape, still not believing my time.

"Hey Maggie, I think she's gonna cry!" he joked. We all got a laugh out of that, but I really did feel emotional about the whole thing. I had never run at a sub-8:00 pace for more than a mile. To run three miles at a sub-8:00 pace was a huge accomplishment for me.

Still, I doubted myself. I thought "Well, maybe I accidentally ran 1 lap short. Or maybe I didn't remember my warm-up time correctly." I was anxious to get home and analyze my Garmin data so I could uncover the truth!

Well, as it turns out, the truth is I didn't run a 7:50 pace for three miles. I ran a 7:46 pace. *jaw drop* *faint*

Yep, my time trial time was actually 23:19, not 23:30. I ran the numbers over and over again in Excel and got the same result each time. I ran the correct number of laps, and that was really how fast I ran them. And that is more than a two minute improvement over my December time trial.

Not only that, I ran negative splits. My mile splits were 7:49, 7:47 and 7:42. And my final lap was my fastest, at a blazing (for me) 7:20 pace. It truly boggles my mind.

And as if we needed further proof of how hard I was actually working, my heart rate graph is really a sight to behold.

The middle part is the time trial. The rest is warm-up and cooldown.

My actual maximum heart rate is 194. It takes a lot for me to actually hit it. Even in most races, I rarely get that high. But I hit it last night. And then I died.

But I got better!

And as you all know, there's really only one way to celebrate a victory like this: with cookies. And so I enjoyed some very tasty home-baked chocolate chip cookies - one for every mile I ran under 8:00.

*munch munch munch... burp*

Peace. Love. Train.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

So, what's next?

Alright, so I achieved my sub-5-hour marathon goal, I'm pretty much recovered from the marathon, and more importantly, from the Post-Marathon Syndrome. I had a wonderful 10 mile run this morning, even though my training plan only called for 8 miles (shhhh, don't tell my coaches!), so I think I'm ready to get back to my regular running routine.

So now what? *scratching head*

That is an excellent question, my friends. An excellent question indeed.

Well, in a nutshell, I figured I would just keep on running, maybe run some races, maybe run some new PR's, and pretty much try to have a good time doing it. But, and I know this will come as a shock to many of you, I am not doing anymore marathons in 2011. *gasp* I know, I know. Now, I didn't say I wasn't doing anymore marathons EVER. Just not this year. I want to focus my efforts on the shorter distances (half-marathon and shorter) and work on improving my speed, because I do think I have a little more speed in me. Then next year I will revisit the marathon. I have run 3 marathons (and over a dozen other shorter races) in the last 9 months and I think the ol' legs need a little break from the 20+ mile runs.

First up on the agenda are some fun races. I'm not going to worry about my time or my pace. I'm just going to run and have fun. First, there will be the triple-race weekend of the Flying Pig on April 30 - May 1. I will be running the 5k, 10k, and half-marathon events with some good friends. We are going to take our time, enjoy the awesome spectators of Cincinnati, maybe dance with Elvis, take some pictures at the top of the Big Hill (aka, Eden Park), eat a lot of bananas, and have a generally good time. Then, the following weekend (May 7), I will be heading to Indianapolis to run the Festival 500 Mini-Marathon. This race, which is the largest half-marathon in the country, has already been sold out for over a month. But I planned ahead and got spots for myself and my hubby. Several of our FAST friends will also be joining us at that event.

The Mini-Marathon allows runners to apply for entry into seeded start corrals if they meet certain requirements (based on performance in past races). Well, for the first time ever in any race, I actually qualified for a Preferred corral. I am not sure whether it's because I'm fast, or because their standards are pretty low (I would guess the latter), but after spending 45 minutes waiting to get to the starting line of this race from Corral S two years ago, I ain't complaining. Maybe this year I'll only have to wait 20 minutes to get to the start once the gun fires.

I think I will find other fun races to run in the spring months too. Last year's Lincoln Memorial Half-Marathon was really scenic and I loved the giant penny medal - I may run that one again. And I'm sure I'll find some local 5k's to run for speedwork.

But what about racing races? Yes, I plan to do that too. But not until summertime. I will race my usual summertime event - the Steamboat Classic 4-Mile - with a goal to run it under 35:00. God willing, it will be my 6th consecutive Steamboat race. And my main event for the year (besides last month's Icebreaker Marathon, that is) will be the Fox Valley Half-Marathon. I just signed up for this fabulous-sounding event last week and am planning to make this my A-race for the half-marathon distance. I feel fairly confident that I can run it under 2:10. But depending on how my training goes, I may attempt a more challenging goal. Time will tell.

So there you have it - that's what's next for this little piggy. No more marathons in 2011. And that's final. So please, I beg you, do not forward me links to really awesome-sounding marathons, because I don't need the temptation. M'kay?

Peace. Love. Train.