Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Confidence Booster

For most of the past 3 years I have been fortunate enough to have a perfect training partner. My husband Sean is a Mill Valley native, the love of my life and just fast enough to challenge me. We have logged thousands of miles together on trails and roads. As any runner knows, the biggest challenge can be the boredom of logging miles alone. Being married to your training partner is the perfect situation: you eat the same things, go to the same events and can prevent each other from hitting the bars until 2 am the night before a big race. Alas for the past couple months Sean has been side lined by a stubborn achilles injury that is healing ever so slowly. This might be a bit selfish, but I want him to heal quickly so I can have my training partner back! Aside from keeping each other in great shape, a good run together is over an hour of quality time spent talking about everything and nothing, bouncing ideas off each other and seeing gorgeous vistas.

Sean and I after the 2010 Napa Marathon
Luckily I have quite a few fast and friendly running buddies who are always ready to hit the trails with me. When my training hits 80-90 miles a week it's wonderful to have talkative company for as many miles as possible. My great coach Mark has also been a tremendous help for many long hard tempo runs and interval workouts. When we're on mile 9 of a tempo run at 6 minute pace and I am huffing and puffing, he's giving me pointers on my form and telling me to draft behind him because we're about to turn into a headwind. And did I mention the detailed splits every quarter mile? I know we've done a big workout when he finally admits to being just a little bit tired at the end.
A fun group run to the top of Big Rock Ridge
However some times schedules don't align, events intervene, the stars aren't crossed and I just have to hit the run alone. Yesterday, I had a long workout on the schedule and no training partners lined up. I was nervous about it because I some times have a hard time keeping a good pace when I'm running by myself. I spent the whole night before worrying about the weather, the light, the wind, the rain... I was almost wishing I would wake up to a hurricane so I could have some sort of excuse. When the day dawned bright and clear I knew there was nothing to do except get out the door and bang out the run. I took my running buddy for the day, my Garmin 410 and hit the bike path. The Garmin and I have a love/hate relationship. Some times he refuses to work and freezes just as I am getting out of the car at the trailhead. Some times all he wants to do is display my pace when I want to see what mile I am on. And some times he's just plain out of batteries. Talk about high maintenance! But when he's working perfectly, he's almost as good as a real life training partner.

During my 2 mile warmup I kept sneaking glances at the Garmin. I always get nervous during the warmup; when I'm all stiff and feel heavy and the adrenalin hasn't hit my muscles yet and the pace reads something closer to 8 minutes than 6 minutes. But after a couple of miles and a couple of strides things shake into place and I know I'm ready to go. I love to run mile repeats, tempos and long intervals on the Mill Valley - Sausalito bike path. It's a couple of miles long with no cars, great views and you can see pretty far ahead and get a nice gauge on how far you have to go. The wind can be challenging and yesterday morning it was swirling around in all directions. During my first 3 mile segment I was supposed to run it at 5:45 pace but the headwind kept changing and while it was not unbearable it threw my pacing off a little and I could see that my Garmin was all over the place: anywhere from 5:35 to 6:00 pace. But once I finished the three miles my average pace turned out to be 5:50. Close enough.

I then did my classic Cascade Park loop through Downtown Mill Valley for the next 6 miles. I love to run through the downtown area just to see what is going on, who's out and about and whether any cute new stores have opened. I don't think I've actually ever shopped at those little boutiques downtown but it's always nice to dream. Once I got back to the bike path, I'd already put 11 miles under my belt and felt ready to tackle the last part of the workout: three mile repeats with 1 minute rest. I downed a Gu Roctane and turned out 3 miles at 5:35 pace with nary a sore muscle. Hmm it turns out tapering and recovering actually works! I feel so ready for Napa, ready to run faster and harder than I've ever run before.

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