Monday, November 12, 2018

Training log - Week ending 11/11/18

This week was 42 miles of running, 15 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was the first week of what I consider my four week marathon taper (which started after my last 20+ miler).   The first week of the taper is resting for a tune-up half, and then the next three weeks are recovering from the half and resting for the full.

I like racing a half-marathon three weeks before the marathon - it's not just a race, but also the final big workout before my marathon.  Basically, the ultimate in tempo workouts. 

I usually don't race these half-marathons that well - their value is in the preparation for the marathon.  Richmond was apparently the exception - this may be the first time I've PR'd at a shorter distance during a marathon training cycle.  

Usually, during my tune-up races, I feel stuck in a lower gear - like I could have run further at the same pace, but not any faster.  That wasn't the case at Richmond - I had that higher gear, and when I finished, I was done.  

I'm not sure what that means for my marathon.  I guess I could get concerned about it, but I also think there's a logical explanation in that this cycle has been pretty short, so I haven't accumulated much fatigue.  I could get concerned about that also, but I've got a solid base from my previous marathons this year - that should carry me through.  I just needed to get sharp for CIM, and I appear to be there.  And it's really nice to know I already have a PR from this cycle.

As for the coming week?  My immediate future plan is just to recover from Richmond - resting up and absorbing the gains from that hard run is far more important than trying to rack up some late cycle miles.


Monday: Upper body weights/core, DIY yoga and 8 miles very easy (8:45) plus drills.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 9.5 miles, including 5x800 (3:00, 2:59, 2:55, 2:55, 2:54).  Also 500 yards of recovery swimming (skipped the leg strengthwork).   Massage in afternoon.

Wednesday: DIY yoga and 7 miles very easy (8:57) plus drills.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: Light upper body weights/core, DIY yoga and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam-rolling at night.

Friday 2 miles very easy (9:33).  Drive to Richmond.  DIY yoga in hotel room.

Saturday: 2 mile warm-up, and then Richmond Half-Marathon in 1:24:22.  Drive back to DC.

Sunday:  9 "miles" pool-running.  Foam-rolling in evening.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Race Report: Richmond Half-Marathon, November 10, 2018

I ran the Richmond Half-Marathon yesterday, finishing in 1:24:22, which was good enough for the PR and a masters female win.  So it was a good day.

I've done the Richmond Half once before, as well as the Richmond 8K last year.  From those experiences, I've learned the importance of leaving early for the drive down - the duration can vary between a bit over 90 minutes and 3 hours or more, depending on when you leave.

So, I left my house at 8:30 on Friday morning, which worked beautifully.  I arrived in Richmond a bit after 10 am, stopped by a local branch of my bank to make a deposit (why run errands up here when I could do them there), and then hit Chipotle (opened at 10:45 am) and the Expo (opened at 11 am) before finagling an early check-in at my hotel.    There had been a hiccup with my entry - for some reason I was placed in the 2:01-2:10 corral, rather than the 1:44 and faster - but it was very easy to fix at the expo.

That afternoon, the skies opened up over Richmond, and I'm sure I-95 south of DC wasn't much fun.  But I was already happily ensconced in my room, free to spend the rest of the day stretching, reading, and playing Geoguessr.


Per my norm, I woke very early on race morning (4:20 am) to take my asthma meds (they take a long time to fully kick in).  Then more stretching and breakfast and listening to music by Underworld and Orbital (my preferred pre-race music) before I headed out.  I also looked at the course map once more to rehash my race plan.

The forecast was for low 40s and sunshine, with gusty winds primarily from the northwest.  This meant a headwind for the first part of the course, and a tailwind for the final miles.

This course is built for a negative split anyways - the first 2 miles are on a false flat running to the northwest, with the last 2 miles being a gentle downhill, and then a very steep downhill after about 12.5 miles.  In between the two we'd have some flat or gently rolling sections, and then some rollers in Bryan Park between 5.5 and 8.  At 8, we'd hopefully get a tailwind that would then combine with the downhill last miles for a very fast finish.
Map copied from the Richmond Marathon
website, with their permission.

Mindful of the above, my plan was to start out at somewhere between marathon effort and "early part of 5 mile tempo effort"- the exact effort would depend on what I could find in terms of a pack to draft off of.  Then I'd start building, but still ducking behind packs whenever I could until we hit Bryan Park, which would be shielded.  Then, I'd try to stay patient and not waste too much energy on the hills before turning on the turbo once we hit mile 8.

The last half mile of this course is ridiculously downhill.   Pace on this last section is dictated not by how much one has left in the tank, but by one's ability to turn the legs over and will to NOT hit the brakes.  So there's no point in saving anything for a kick - best to run as if the final turn was the finish line, and then hang on and try not to trip and fall.


With my plan set, I headed over to the start line, leaving my hotel (about 2 blocks away) at 6:45 am for the 7:30 start.  In retrospect, this wasn't quite enough time.  My hotel was close, but with my room on one of the top floors, it would take too much time to get  back to my room to use the bathroom, so I ended up waiting for a portapottie.  This cut into my warm-up, and I ended up with slightly less than 2 miles, plus one 45 second up-tempo run and some strides.  I would have liked a bit more, but it was what it was.  And since I was planning to go out slowly anyways, I wasn't too worried.

The gun went off at 7:30 sharp, and it wasn't too hard to get into a rhythm.    I found a nice pack to tuck into, only to note with some amusement that it was the "1:30 pace group" that I was using.    Hm....either this was going to be a long day or they were going out way too fast.  I felt good and comfortable, so I decided it was probably the latter.  And if it was the former, speeding up was only going to make things worse.

Running with the pack was a bit annoying, both because I don't like to be packed in with others and because it was hard to see ahead.  From time to time we'd come upon a handcyclist that had started a bit before us, resulting in a traffic jam.   For that reason, once we had passed the first turn, I pulled to the side and eased ahead, hitting my own rhythm.

For the next few miles, I focused on my tempo effort - not too hard, not too easy.  Just under that redline.  Bryan Park was a bit more challenging than I remembered - none of the hills were terribly long, but some were steeper than I expected, and there were more hills than I remembered.  And the road was also fairly torn up.  I got a bit impatient here and ran too hard up a few of the hills, unfortunately.

It was also in Bryan Park that I noted my breathing getting a bit tight - my guess is that the gusty winds were stirring up mold and leaf dust.  Through the park and for about a mile after, my breathing was not great (though not awful), and I felt myself slipping into a negative place, but I just tried to put that aside.  My breathing wasn't that bad, and worrying about it wasn't going to help me while relaxing would.

We hit mile 8 and turned, and I was a bit perturbed to realize that my hoped for tailwind sure didn't feel like one.   More like a strong cross-wind.  But again, there was nothing I could do about that at that point, so I just kept rolling.  It was at this point that I started feeling pretty rough - I think a combination of my tight breathing and having not been patient enough in Bryan Park.   And of course, it could also be just that I was at mile 8 of a half marathon.  I just forged forward, trying to hold my rhythm and relax into it.

The last few miles felt awful.   My plan had been to blow up at 12.5, but I had misjudged and blew up a bit too soon.   However, as bad as I felt, I could tell that many ahead of me were struggling more, which gave me some people to reel in and pass.  With about a mile to go, my coach yelled at me to go for it and I dug a bit more.  But I had already gone to and emptied the well, and now I was just scraping the floor of it with a rusty butter knife.

But I managed to hang on somehow, and then we made the series of right turns and I had the ski slope finish in front of me.  This was no longer about fitness or running prowess but about one's comfort level with being completely out of control.  Fortunately, I have some experience with that from my horse riding days, so I just let 'er rip.

As I crossed the finish, I saw it ticking 1:24:3x, and I knew that I had just run a major PR - a great feeling.


Splits were:  (note that I missed some mile markers)
Miles 1-2: 13:26 (6:43 pace)
Mile 3: 6:34
Miles 4-5: 12:48 (6:24 pace)
Mile 6: 6:26
Mile 7: 6:26
Mile 8: 6:30
Miles 9-10: 12:46 (6:23 pace)
Mile 11: 6:25
Mile 12: 6:22
Mile 13 plus the last .11: 6:38 (5:59 pace)

Other notes:
  • I checked on Strava later, and noted that the "1:30" pacer (the same one I tucked behind for the first miles) finished in just over 89 minutes.  After going out in the low 6:40s for the first 2 miles.  That's not a good pacing job.   In fact, I'd say that is an abysmal pacing job.  If someone is targeting 90 minutes for a half, then it's almost certain that going out in the low 6:40s (especially on a slight uphill and into the wind) is going to wreck their race.

    I think there's an assumption that if you're pacing 1:30, then you must beat that time, and beating it by a lot is much better than coming a few seconds over.  It's similar to the mindset that results in some runners always straining to beat the target times in their workouts.   I'd suggest just the opposite - I think most runners will benefit from a pacer that holds them slightly back and first, and whom they can surge past at the end. But going out even 5 seconds too fast, if your target time is on the edge of your current ability, can destroy your race.
  • Wore my Vaporflies for this race, and earned myself a nice 80+ second PR.  (85:43 to 84:22).  But...before you give the credit to the shoe, it's important to note that I set my previous PR in the exact same shoes in Houston in January.  So yeah, I think this PR goes to improved fitness, good weather, and a fast course, not magic shoes with springs in them.  And since Houston was also a fast course in good weather, maybe this is all improved fitness.
  • Speaking of the Vaporflies, they now have 150 miles on them, and still feel great.  I actually like them a bit more now, because they're a bit less bouncy.
  • Carried a handheld water bottle until mile 12, just because I always do.   I'm so used to running with it that it doesn't slow me down.  I only sipped from it once, and probably didn't even need to do so then.  Also took an expresso GU on course, half at mile 5 and half at mile 8.  I wonder if I might have fared better in the second half of the course with another GU.  But I also think that the challenges in the second half of the race weren't about lack of fuel but about burning the candle a bit too much in Bryan Park.
  • Speaking of overdoing the hills - this race was a good refresher for me as I look towards CIM - I was slightly too aggressive on the uphills here, and got away with it because a) this was a half marathon and b) we had the downhill finish.  Neither of those will hold true at CIM, so I need to be much more patient there.    I know, based on this race, that I'm in shape to break 3 hours.  I just need to run patient and smart.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Training log - Week ending 11/4/18

This week was 57 miles of running, 33 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

And that's a wrap on this cycle.  This was my last week of marathon training, including my last 21 miler plus a tempo workout.  

I'm actually feeling very fresh, and also like I haven't trained very much or very long.  Which is honestly a bit disconcerting.  I'm trying to remind myself that the myth that we're supposed to feel awful and exhausted when marathon training is just that - a myth.  What we perceive as "training hard" is often times overtraining, while the "just right" feels like it's too little.  

The purpose of marathon training is NOT to pile as much work on as one can handle without breaking; it's to get fit, and then to show up on race day fresh and ready to go.

Fortunately, since I've done two marathons already this year, I'm not TOO freaked out about feeling like my cycle has been too short.  The distance is familiar to me, not mysterious.  So I just keep telling myself that regardless of how much or little I did this cycle, I'm fit, I know how to race the distance, and now I just need to show up on race day ready to give it my best shot.

Of course, showing up ready to go on race day can be challenging for reasons outside of training.  One example: my partner was really sick this entire week (and yes - he and I both got our flu shots).  This was quite concerning to me, as I had my last 21 miler this weekend, and Richmond half next weekend - both of which were key parts of my marathon training.  It's also worth noting that because of my asthma meds, I'm at a greater risk of catching a bug than the rest of the population, and getting sick is almost a certain guarantee of an asthma flare.

 (not to mention that I really really hate seeing him sick - I felt awful for him).

I took some hilarious and arguably extreme measures to avoid catching his bug, including disinfecting _everything_ every morning, washing my hands more than Lady Macbeth, changing our pillow-cases and sheets quite often, and wearing a flu mask to sleep at night.  So far, it seems to have worked - I hope that continues.


Monday: Yoga and 8 "miles" of pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 4.5 miles very easy (9:40), upper body weights/core, and then 3.5 miles very easy (8:33).  Later did another 2 miles (8:42). Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 14 miles, including an 8K tempo on the track in 32:18 (6:40/6:29/6:27/6:24/6:18), plus a few 400s plus long recovery in about 93-94 seconds (jumping into a friend's workout).  Also injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: Yoga, followed by 10 "miles' pool-running; later another 4 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday 12 miles very easy (9:04), drills/strides, and then upper body weights/core.    

Saturday: 21 miles, split as first 7 averaging 8:42; next 7 averaging 7:28; last 7 averaging 6:41 (majority of last 7 was downhill).  Also injury prevention work and 500 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday:   11 "miles" pool-running. 
Foam rolling in evening.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Training log - Week ending 10/28/18

This week was 64 miles of running, 26 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I'm five weeks out from CIM and feeling positive.  I just did two workouts this week - both on the roads (Hains Point) and both run off of feel.  For each workout, I didn't see my splits until after the run.

I was pretty happy with both workouts - the Wednesday workout felt smooth and flowing, and not terribly challenging, and the Saturday MP workout was a nice confidence solidifier (because "confidence boost" is overused).  

We ran Saturday's workout in the remnants of Hurricane Willa.  For those of you keeping track, that means that this is the third "remnants of a tropical storm or hurricane" that I've done a workout in (the other two were Florence and Michael).  Better the remnants than the storm itself.

The winds weren't awful, but were enough that even effort resulted in uneven pacing, depending on the wind direction.  Comically, during the second rep, the route we were running flooded at one point - resulting in a stretch about 50-60 meters long that was ankle deep water.  There's nothing like doing a "high knees" drill in the middle of your marathon pace workout.

Running off of feel, I averaged 6:45 pace for the total 10 miles at marathon pace effort - a workout I would be happy with under any conditions, but even more so here, given the weather.  So that was nice.

One more week of training, including my last 21 miler, and then I taper.


Monday: Yoga and 8 "miles" of pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 8 miles very easy (8:49), upper body weights/core, and then 4 miles very easy (8:38).  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 14 miles, including a workout on the roads of 3x2miles at somewhere between 10K and 10 mile effort - split 12:50 (6:28/6:22), 12:37 (6:18/6:19) and 12:36 (6:17-6:18).  Also injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Sports massage in afternoon.

Thursday: 4 "miles "pool-running, then yoga, followed by another 9 "miles' pool-running; foam rolling at night.

Friday 12 miles very easy (9:01), drills/strides, and then upper body weights/core.    

Saturday: 17 miles, including a workout of 2x5 miles at MP.  Ended up splitting as: 

first 5 miles in 33:32 (6:45/6:40/6:35/6:40/6:51 - average pace of 6:43) (mostly tailwind);
second 5 miles 33:52 (6:45/6:51/6:40/6:50/6:46 - average pace of 6:47) (mostly headwind)

Averaged 6:45 pace for the full 10 miles.  Also injury prevention work and 500 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday:  9 miles very easy (9:01) with lots of stops and starts as I cheered at the Marine Corps Marathon.  Later did another 5 "miles" pool-running. 
Foam rolling in evening.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Training log - Week ending 10/21/18

This week was 70 miles of running, 19 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I guess this was technically my "peak week" of marathon training, because my next two weeks may be lighter due to doing my long runs on Saturday.

It went pretty well.  As I've noted before, I'm prioritizing a high volume of high end aerobic work, which means I'm trying to max out the distance of my quality work, while taking care not to go anaerobic or strain for any of it.  I'm also only doing as much volume as I can handle while still feeling reasonably fresh - some people can do massive volume and then crawl out of a fatigue hole during taper - I can't.

That meant five 1200s on Tuesday at a controlled pace with shorter-than-normal recoveries and a five mile tempo on Friday that felt surprisingly fluid and almost easy.

Sunday's long run was the first 21 miler of this cycle (I'm only doing two 20+ runs before CIM).  It went very well.  Not as "well" as it looks below - 6:36 is not a realistic marathon pace for me.  Unless I'm running a downhill course with a 20 MPH tailwind.   Because that was the set-up for the last 7 miles of this long run.

[Well...more like 5 miles downhill with a hard crosswind and then 2 miles almost-flat with a massive tailwind.  But either way - the run was assisted.]

The downhill running was intentional -  CIM is a net downhill course, and can take a toll on one's quads.  By finishing my 21-milers with a long downhill at marathon pace effort, I intend to prep my legs for CIM.  Of course, this doesn't give me an accurate read on my fitness, but I can get that from my other marathon pace workouts.  And ultimately, I don't do workouts to assess my fitness, but to develop my fitness for race day.

I felt very comfortable during the 21 miler, and my legs were surprisingly unsore the next day.  Both of these are good signs that with two weeks of training to go (before a tune-up half-marathon and then a 3 week taper) I'm rounding into shape nicely.    The key now is to do enough over the next weeks but not to overdo it.


Monday: Yoga and 8.5 "miles" of pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 13 miles, including a track workout of 5x1200 in 4:37, 4:35, 4:32, 4:31, 4:35.  Also injury prevention work and 1250 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy to yoga (9:19), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy (9:13) plus drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: Upper body weights/core and 10.5 "miles' pool-running; foam rolling at night.

Friday 12 miles, including an 8k tempo in 32:18 (6:38/6:29/6:27/6:25/6:20).    Also injury prevention work and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.

Saturday: 12 miles very easy (8:55) plus drills/strides, followed by upper body weights/core.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday:  21 miles progressive, split as first 7 at 8:39, next 7 at 7:32, last 7 at 6:36.
  Also injury prevention work and 500 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in evening.