Frosty's Frozen Ten Miler: race report

I've been trying to find a way to talk about the running I've been doing over the past month, what's been going on as I've eased back into training after healing from pneumonia, and I just feel stuck.  Calling this a race report seems like cheating, but there was a bib on my shorts and a chip on my shoes, so here we go.

I planned to run a marathon this spring, but that isn't in the plan for me anymore.  By the time we were done moving and I was done coughing my brains out, there just wasn't enough time to build to it, and half-assing a marathon for a medal and a pair of extremely sore and unprepared legs isn't on my list of things that seem either fun or smart.  So I'll drop to the half, I'll run a marathon later this year, and I won't lose even a blink of sleep over it.  

Rebuilding my fitness from what I thought was zero has been a vaguely interesting process.  I had a couple of good weeks of training at the beginning of December after a long few months of inconsistency, but then ended up taking almost two more weeks off to let my lungs knit back together.  So when I strapped my heart rate monitor on just under a month ago to head out for a run, it felt like I was starting from scratch again.  My first run - one that had me thrilled at how good it felt until I turned around to come home and realized I had been running downhill - was certainly one of the slowest I've done.  And I remember last year at this time, when I was starting to train by MAF for the very first time.  This run would have made me grumpy and frustrated.  I distinctly remember coming in my front door and whipping my heart rate strap off and across the floor.  This year, it just doesn't bother me anymore.

Part of the reason is because I've been through this.  I've learned the hard way that holding myself accountable to keeping my heart rate low is what will help me build my fitness the fastest.  Cheating and running over my cap - even by 2 or 3 or 4 beats - is only pushing back the day when I have to hurt myself, just a little, to get my heart rate high enough to hit MAF.  That's a pretty spectacular feeling, and I went hunting for it.  This time around, it didn't take quite as long.  A couple of runs filled with walking turned into a couple of runs trotting in the 12s, which dropped into the 11s and then I could finally chat with my friends without shoving my heart rate up and over.  Finally, I think it was about a week ago where I warmed up, lapped my watch, and had to haul what I consider some pretty serious ass to get my heart rate up to where I wanted it for four miles at MAF.  It's dark magic.
So I'm making my way back.  A few weeks ago, my Boulder pony training buddies went out and looked for a race to prep for the marathon that they are still running (suckers) and stumbled onto this ten miler.  As it turned out, they both got approved for the five miler/ten miler race day double, but I only got the stamp of approval for the ten miler, and I had to run the vast majority of it as a MAF test.
I've done this before, actually last spring, when I ran the Cherry Blossom ten miler as a MAF test.  I "tapered" for that race by doing a four hour ride and an hour swim the day before, and this time was no different.  On Friday, I headed out with these guys:
For an "easy ride" that ended up looking like this:
Which isn't always a bad thing, but I was not-so-secretly relieved to only have to run ten miles at MAF on Saturday morning and not race my ass off.
Amy was in town visiting for the weekend and didn't want to race, but took the opportunity of me racing to run in the other direction on the trail to get her long run done while I MAF'd.  I warmed up a little, mostly by walking back and forth to the car to change clothes a dozen times, but since I was using the first two miles of the race as an additional warm-up, I didn't really stress about it.  As we were standing around chatting in the minutes before the start, I accidentally ate an entire pack of those PowerBar squishy gel things without really noticing, so my stomach was a little grumbly for the first few miles but at least I didn't have to worry about fuel.

Mo and I started together, and we spent the first two miles being chatty and getting loose, nice and easy.  When we saw the second mile marker, I put my headphones in and started working my way up to MAF.  She's got a ton more fitness than me (rude), so she slowly pulled ahead while I picked up the pace from behind.  The race course itself was pretty excellent - it was mostly on a concrete trail next to a little stream (river?), and the day was gorgeous and sunny.  

MAF tests, in general, are pretty unremarkable.  My heart rate stayed steady except for the 180º turn-around of the out-and-back, where it dropped three beats for about ten seconds.  It also dropped a bit at the aid station at mile 7.5 where I slowed to suck down four cups of water because I felt ridiculously hot and thirsty (Colorado in January, people, it's a fabulous thing).  But other than that, it held smooth and steady for six solid miles.  At mile eight, I was supposed to ditch MAF and haul ass.  I dug in a little bit and prayed for my gel to give me a kick in the ass, but as it turns out, 3-4 weeks of rebuilding doesn't produce a whole lot of speed after eight miles.  So I held it as far above MAF as I could (about four beats, sigh) straight into the finish, and then I was done.  (Stolen shot of my form, which is both constantly improving and endlessly fascinating only to me).
Last spring's ten-miler-done-as-a-MAF-test produced a PR, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised when this one did as well, but in all honesty, it's only a PR because I've never really raced the distance.  One of these days I'll get around to it, I suppose, or maybe I'll just keep paying to wear a bib for MAF tests.  
Either way, it was a gorgeous day, I ran ten miles that didn't suck and then I ate brunch with lots of old and new friends.  Running is going well.  Training is going well.  It's not particularly exciting.  It's getting up every day and getting the work done, to the best of my ability.  Some days it's fun with training buddies or co-workers, some days it feels a little bit like work, some days it's in the gorgeous outdoor pool or on the trail with a cow chewing grass in my ear, and some days it's on the trainer in a boring room by myself.  
But a lot of the time, especially in the winter, that's what endurance training is.  It's not a CRUSH BALLS RAWR, it's not sparkly highs and lows, it's not thrashing yourself until you puke.  And I think that's why I'm not really interested in talking about it right now.  I'm more interested in getting out there, enjoying it in the moment, being happy, and then moving right along.


  1. Awesome! Sounds like you're on exactly the right track! :)

  2. Love this. It helps to watch others progressing ay MAF and knowing it truly is a dark magic. I'm learning... slowly bit surely.

  3. I'm glad you decided to hold off on the marathon. Part of the reason I don't want to run a marathon right now is I'm not ready and I could half ass it...sure...but it wouldn't be what I would want.

    I'm glad you did this and are progressing in the right direction of what you want.

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  5. Sounds like a pretty good race/weekend. Good call on holding off on the marathon, you def want to go in to your first (stand alone) marathon feeling prepared.

    We still need to have a phone date!

  6. I just love to hear all the Happy coming through!

  7. Hooray for Dark Magic! I love keeping up with your latest, be it racing, MAFing or dicking around. I bought a spaghetti squash this weekend and missed you a lot.

  8. All this MAF stuff is interesting to me. I've still yet to use my HR monitor or run a in a 10-miler. Congrats on your dark magic PR!

  9. Is this a good time then to put in my bid for doing the Tucson Marathon with me in December? :)

    Sounds like your fitness is coming back nicely - it IS only January, though we sometimes forget that!

  10. What happened to the pink shoes?!? On to neon already? :)

    Sounds like you are in a very good place with running now. Yay!

  11. short sleeves and shorts in January +++

  12. I'm loving the warm weekends right now too. Getting a 10 mile race or test done is still not in the cards! Good job.

  13. I feel like a complete idiot. I don't know anything about MAF - it sounds like a very unique training style. Guess I will hit up google in a sec.
    Good job on the running!

  14. Around here it is pretty hard to race a race that is called frozen and frosty with shorts!

  15. Awesome day to race!! Congrats on the "accidental" PR! Just keep building!!!!

  16. I'm starting this year with a ton of zone 1/2 work and in the pool and on the bike, it's fine. But the run... torture. I spent 2.5 week WHINING about how awful it was but this week I saw some improvements. My husband is LOVING it because apparently I was running him ragged at my pace last year but it's frustrating for me. Anyhoo... looking forward to seeing the dark magic at work.

    Also, adorable pics. Looks like you're having a lot of fun!

  17. Um...MAF means...?

    Shorts in Boulder one day, snow-capped mountains/trail the next. CO is its own (awesome) world.

    Also, sweet f-ing shoes.

  18. I had the best time out in CO with you! Trying to figure out how to come back, maybe permanently. We'll see... :)

  19. Because I'm practically a triathlon newbie who just hired her first coach, I have no idea what MAF means… going to ask google…

    Nice running, and glad to hear training is going well in Colorado!


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