Race Report: Cedars Frostbite Half Marathon – February 7, 2015

Once I decided to run the Tom King Half, I knew that the Cedars Frostbite would make for a perfect training half. It’s held exactly a month before, which is when I’d be putting in a 13 mile long run anyway. And it’s only $8. Heck yeah, I’ll pay $8 to get water stations and some free food after my long run! I just had to make sure not to run it too fast, especially considering that the Hot Chocolate 15k was the following weekend.

That, perhaps, is easier said than done considering I had been running most of my long runs too fast. I just had to keep repeating to myself, “You’re not allowed to look at your watch. Your time does not matter.”

I did want to use the race to test a new fueling strategy. For the Country Music Half, I fueled twice, around the top of each hour of running. I wanted to try fueling three times: every 30-45 minutes with the last two being caffeinated gels. The Cedars Frostbite has only three water stops (miles 3.5, 7, and 10), so it made choosing when to fuel fairly simple. See a water station coming up? Time to eat.

Race Day

The race wasn’t until 11am, so I got to wake up at a reasonable hour. The weather was amazing for February: mid-50s warming to lower 60s and sunny. I chose to run in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.

There was no packet pickup ahead of time, so I was aiming to get there an hour or so early in order to be able to park, get my bib, and then use the restroom if I needed to. I plugged the address into Apple Maps and was off. Except Apple Maps still isn’t always very correct, as I turned around at a dead end. There was a car behind me doing the same thing, so I figured they were using the same GPS.

Then my GPS told me to turn down a gravel road. Nope. I kept going. I finally ended up in the right spot. When I finally parked, I asked the other car if they had been using Apple Maps. They said they had just been following me. Heh, sorry!

I walked down to the start and went inside to get my bib — I was #1! This, of course, called for a photo.

bib number 1

I’m #1!

I didn’t need to use the restroom, so I just stood inside to stay warm before heading out to the start line about 5-6 minutes till. I didn’t warm up because this was supposed to be a training run.

starting the race

Mile 1: 10:06
Mile 2: 10:01
Mile 3: 10:27
I was very committed to keeping this like a training run. So I did not look at my watch, except to glance at the lapsed mileage so I would know approximately when to take my gels. I also took a walk break for 30 seconds to a minute at the start of each mile (unless I had just passed a water station).

I felt very weak and shaky at the start of the run. I felt like I was running through molasses. My form seemed off. This photo, taken around mile two, shows how unrelaxed I was. Need to lower those shoulders!

cedars frostbite half marathon

Mile 4: 10:20
Mile 5: 9:26
Mile 6: 10:16
I took my first gel, a strawberry one, shortly after the start of the fourth mile. We were soon upon the first water station, so I took a quick break there instead of at the beginning of mile five. Right after the water station, we headed up a gravel path for the next 3-4 miles.

Mile 7: 10:24
Mile 8: 9:38
Mile 9: 10:22
After we got off the gravel path, it was time for another gel and another water station. This time I took a lemonade one, which is caffeinated. It was yummy! Tasted just like lemonade. And when I reached the water station, the flavor in my mouth made the water taste like Gatorade.

Mile 10: 11:04
Mile 10 was my slowest because I took a longer walk break to down my last gel. It was a chocolate one and was thicker than the others, so it was harder to down it while running. It was tasty, though!

It was around this time that I did actually glance at my watch. I only had 5k to go, and realized with some surprise that if I kept my pace steady, I would actually finish in under 2:15.

Mile 11: 9:29
Mile 12: 10:27
Mile 13: 10:12
The last few miles were rough. I knew all I had to do was keep under an 11 min pace, but that felt like a monumental task at the end of a half marathon.

With about a half mile to go, I was passing another girl and we just kept yelling encouragements at each other as we neared the final hill. “We can do anything for three more minutes!”

Final 0.1 (0.14 to my Garmin): 1:17 (9:18 pace)
When I saw 2:13 on the clock as I was nearing the finish line, I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t have enough in me for a finishing sprint, so I just mostly maintained my pace through the finish. I immediately grabbed a water and walked to cool down a bit.

finishing cedars frostbite half marathon

Official Time: 2:13:26

Ridiculous.

I did everything I could think of to keep this like a training run. I didn’t taper. No warm up. Didn’t look at my watch. Walked every mile. Plus the entire course felt uphill! And there were miles of gravel trail! Uphill gravel trail! With muddy potholes! What am I actually capable of running when I try to race a flat course?

Race Review

I actually enjoyed this race more than I thought I would. I normally like urban races with lots of crowd support. Maybe it was because I had the mindset of it being a training run, but it was actually quite peaceful being in the middle of nowhere.

Yes, the course is hilly. It feels like the downhills never make up for the uphills. And, yes, there are about three miles where it’s nothing but a narrow gravel trail and is covered in potholes, so you have to constantly weave to avoid them and other runners.

And there’s no medal. Which didn’t bother me at first, since I wasn’t planning to PR, never mind beat my goal for the year. Now I want one. Maybe I’ll consider my Beat the Blerch Virtual Race medal to be the one for this race. I didn’t even buy the t-shirt.

The food was okay: bagels, bananas, pizza, and cookies. I am not a Papa John’s fan, but even it tasted good after running 13 miles.

post-race food

Race Analysis

I’m not quite sure what there is to analyze, since I never really felt like I was racing. I was stiff most of the race, due to cumulative fatigue from not tapering. Again, it just makes me wonder what I could do in optimal conditions.

Treadmill Speed Work: How can you tell improvement?

I’ve been doing speed work of 12 intervals of 400m (0.25 mile) each every other week during this training cycle. I completed my last 400m speed day last week (still have one more 800m day), so I thought I’d compare and see if I’ve improved.

I’m not including the first one that I did back in December because I timed it different, so it’s not quite apples to apples. However, the other three were all measured and timed in the same way on the same treadmill with same shoes. Here are the results:

speed work comparison

The most recent is on the left and a month ago is on the right. You can see that I did improve on each speed interval each time I did these.

The problem is, I don’t know whether I really improved or did I just push myself faster on the treadmill each time? Is there a difference?

I always start out more cautiously because I don’t want to burn out, having to go through twelve of these things. I didn’t, at any time on any interval, slow down my speed, so I think that has to count for something. Although, my notes for the January 7th run say, “Actually felt like I probably could have either done these faster or with less recovery time.” Because of this I started jogging part of my recoveries on the other runs.

I would be interested in repeating these one more time on an actual track or flat pavement and seeing how they compare. Would I burn out early or would I push myself harder?

Anyone out there do speed work on a treadmill? How can you tell if you’re improving or just pushing yourself harder?

Week of 1/26/15 – 2/1/15: Tom King Half Training, Week 11

Better late than never, right?

week of 1/26/15 to 2/1/15

Monday: 6 miles (11:13 avg pace)
Tuesday: rest day
Wednesday: 10x800m – 7.2 miles total (10:37 avg pace)
Thursday: 3.1 miles (11:08 avg pace)
Friday: rest day
Saturday: 5.5 miles (10:54 avg pace)
Sunday: 8 miles (10:27 avg pace)

This week started out with a lot of muscle soreness. That relatively speedy 11 miler last week really got me. Since I had to move my schedule around this week to accommodate a Preds game on Tuesday, I chose to do an easy run on Monday for recovery.

Wednesday’s speedwork went well, but the soreness lingered. My legs felt so heavy and tired on Saturday that I cut my run a half mile short (okay, the fact that I didn’t have water and the loop I was running was 2.75 miles long both may have played into that as well).

So, I was surprised that my legs felt relatively okay going into Sunday’s long run. I actually felt pretty strong for all eight miles.

“You were supposed to do twelve miles, though!” you might say.

Yes, even though my legs felt fine, I still cut my long run short this week. I had several different reasons for doing so, but the main ones were:
a. I started experiencing some major GI discomfort right at the time I circled back to my car before heading out on the last 4 mile leg of the run.
b. I was concerned with overtraining because of how I had felt all week.
c. I was worried about a time crunch to make queso before the Super Bowl.

I’m no stranger to overtraining, and I knew going into this plan that it was pretty aggressive. (I mean, several 30+ mile weeks in a row when I’ve never run a 30 mile week before?) I decided that it was probably smarter to cut this week a little short so that I could focus more on my training half next weekend (my dress rehearsal).

That said, since I did cut it short, I only got to try one of the new Huma flavors. I went for apples and cinnamon, which was pretty good. I don’t think it was the cause of my GI issues, as I already had some discomfort before even starting the run. Oh well.