EDITOR’S NOTE: Along with Andrew Read and Narisa Wild, Julie Warren will be sharing her training experiences for upcoming endurance challenges. Follow Julie as she prepares for her next adventure – the Great Wall of China Marathon! Julie’s journals will be posted on Saturdays.
Athlete Journal: Julie Warren, Entry 11 – Validation
Well, just two weeks from tomorrow I’ll be putting my training and fitness up against the first big test, the LA Marathon. I’m really just using the race as a way of measuring where I stand in my training exactly two months before the Great Wall marathon in China. It’s also my opportunity to run happily through the streets of one of my favorite cities, with my favorite person on the planet, my sister. Last year we ran the race together and bumped into “The Fonz” at mile 25, cheering runners on. And yes, we stopped and got our picture with him. Anyways, the goal this year is to run a comfortable pace for 26.2 miles while testing out my nutrition plan. I figure that’s the best time to work out the final kinks in the plan, rather than risk gastrointestinal distress while running along one of the 7 Wonders.
After this past week, I’m feeling fairly confident in where I stand in my training. It’s been an unconventional road that I’ve traveled, and if you’ve read any of my last few journals, you know it’s caused me to question myself and the plan on more than one occasion. Finally this past week, I received quantifiable verification that my plan is working.
Last Saturday I ran the final race in a four race series called the Pikes Peak Road Runners Winter Series. The race course was a challenging 20K (or 12.4 miles) across snow and ice packed rolling hills. In fact, I don’t think there was any point on the course where I thought to myself “oh good, finally some flat terrain”. Due to the icy conditions, I made the last minute decision to run in Yak Trax, a decision that seemed like a good one, until about mile 8. At that point I could feel blisters forming on my feet from the unfamiliar underfoot contraptions and my knee was starting to hurt, likely from the altered footfall I was experiencing, so I opted to risk slipping on the ice and ripped them off in total defiance and carried them in-hand for the final miles. Just another reminder that there should never EVER be anything new on race day. Such a rookie mistake.
Other than the bad Yak Trax decision, the race went very well. As I mentioned in last week’s journal, I left the watch at home and ran with zero awareness of time elapsed. It was initially strange to be racing with no real understanding of my pace, but it really did allow me to concentrate on how I was feeling from moment to moment, take in the surroundings, and enjoy being able to partake in one of my favorite pastimes. I crossed the line at 1:50:12, and more importantly, I had a great time and felt really strong. That finish time was good enough for 5th in my age group, not bad!
The great thing about this series is that while the terrain in each race varied from single-track mountain trails to casual walking paths and the distances varied from 7 – 12.4 miles, the competition in my age group was essentially the same in each race. So after all the data was compiled and posted for the final series results, I took a look at how I stacked up against the competition in my age group race after race. The results were very validating. Over the course of the four races, I progressed from 9th in my age group in the first race, to 7th in the second race, to 6th in the third race, and then 5th in the final race. In order to determine the overall series winner, the times for all 4 races were added together for each racer, and then racked and stacked by age group. I ended up placing 5th for the age group in the series. Considering the top two women in my age group were the top two females overall, I will absolutely take a 5th place finish! More importantly, I could see actual progress in the form of quantifiable data. This validation couldn’t have come at a better time!
This coming weekend I’m planning to do one final long run and then begin my taper into the LA Marathon weekend. I’m really thrilled so far with my progress, both in the CrossFit gym and on the running trails. And most importantly, I’m managing to keep the injuries at bay and still enjoy my time running. It hasn’t been easy, but I think I’m starting to find the right balance.