Monday, May 22, 2017

Training log - Week ending 5/21/2017

This week was 61 miles of running,  15 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

It's been a while since I've posted a "normal week."  I've been racing a lot, and so it seems that most weeks I've been skipping one or both of the workouts due to pre-race rest or post-race recovery.   The racing's been great, but it's the right time to switch back and spend a few weeks training consistently.

Since I'm not writing about racing, I get to write about other stuff.  Including the new running power meter I started playing with a few weeks ago.  It's a footpod that clips to the laces of one of my shoes. It syncs up with my watch and captures a ton of metrics about my running that I can later view.

What metrics?  Well...stuff like "power" and "form power" and "leg spring stiffness" and "vertical oscillation" and several other fields.  Power is how much work I am doing while running; the other metrics are various ways to assess the efficiency of my running form.

[for an example of the metrics, here's my report from Broad Street a few weeks back.  The power meter metrics are towards the bottom of the page]

Of course, there's no consensus on what the optimal values are for the metrics, or even if there are optimal valies.   I'm honestly not sure how useful the metrics and graphs are, other than being pretty to look at and fun to compare.

From what I can tell, my running is very efficient but not very powerful.  I already knew that. And that knowledge doesn't change anything for me, other than giving me running efficiency bragging rights on an extremely obscure corner of the internet.

[Aside: my hunch is that any success I've had as a masters runner is because my speed comes from efficiency, rather than the ability to generate force.  My reasoning is that efficiency declines at a much slower rate than power as one ages, and so I'm not losing speed as fast as others.  My high efficiency is also probably why I can run passably even when my asthma is flaring.  I can "fake it" much better than someone whose running ability stems from power.  It's also probably why I feel my running benefits greatly from time spent in the gym - because stuff like barbell lunges and step-ups develop power, which is my weakness.]

I've spent a fair amount of my free time on various fora reading about power meters and power and various applications. There is a group of runners who have found religion about training and racing "with power."  And they are working to spread the gospel to the masses.  Via the internet, of course.

These runners assert that power is a better metric for pacing one's run than either heart rate or pace.  Why?  Because heart rate changes can lag several seconds behind effort changes or be affected by heat or hydration.  And pace can be affected by inclines or wind - 6:40 pace uphill into the wind is more work than 6:40 on a clear morning on the track.  In contrast, power changes instantly to match effort and the measurement of power is not affected by heat or hydration.  Power also changes to show that you are doing more work when running uphill than down.

Proper pacing is about expending your effort most effectively. Thus, since power is the best and most accurate measure of effort, it's the best metric to use for pacing a workout or race.

That's the argument.  And it makes sense.  But then everyone gets buried in the details.  They spend hours conducting power tests and then calculating power targets based on the tests, and then debating how the power target for a race should be modified if it's a warm day or one is not fully recovered.

Which makes me realize (again) how few people rely on the true best metric for pacing - perceived effort.

Admittedly, it's tough initially to shed the numbers and just rely on how you feel when you race. Because it's really hard to trust how you feel, and to distinguish between the bullshit that your body will tell you and the truth of your own effort.  But once you learn to pace by feel, it's unquestionably the best measure.  Perceived effort is instantaneous, accurate, and accounts for weather, incline, nutrition, etc.

Additionally, perceived effort avoids the potential self-limitation that comes with other metrics.  What if you've improved very recently?  So that your target pace or power level for a race is no longer the limit of what you are capable of on race day?  Fixating on a goal number on your watch, be it pace or power, can keep you from reaching your potential.  If you run off of feel, you'll run the best race you're capable of that day, rather than talking yourself into a slower time because the numbers didn't look right.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 6 "miles" of pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 12 miles including a workout of 2x800, 1600, 2x800, 2x400 in 2:53, 2:50, 5:50, 2:50, 2:51, 84, 82.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 8 miles easy (8:53) to yoga, yoga, and then another 4 miles (8:53), followed by drills and strides.  Massage at night.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights/core and 9 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 11 miles including a track workout of 3200m, 1600m in 12:33 (6:17/6:16) and 5:55.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday:  In the morning, 10 miles very easy (8:44) with drills and strides, followed by upper body weights plus core and injury prevention work.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday: In the morning, 16 miles progressive, split as first 5 at 8:59, next 5 at 7:44, last 6 at 6:56.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Training log - Week ending 5/14/17

This week was 35 miles of running,  28 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was an "intermission" week - no track workouts, just four days of pool-running, fun stuff like swimming and yoga, and junk food.  This was followed by easy running at the end of the week before returning to "work" on Sunday.

Why? the past 10 weeks, I've raced 7 times (one road mile, two 5ks, two 10Ks, a 10 miler, and a half-marathon).  That's a lot.  I've got another 6 weeks to go before the conclusion of my self-defined spring season with another half-marathon, So I eased off  this week to ensure I'm fresh in mid-June.

I could tell I was due for some extra recovery because I didn't hate the idea of downtime.  In fact, this was actually my idea, though my coach signed off on it.   As soon as the idea of a break isn't annoying, I know I need one.  And I also know it worked, because by the fourth day of pool-running and junk food, I was really resisting the urge to go running.  And it took extra willpower not to show up for the Friday workout (in my defense, the weather was perfect).

Another reason to back off this week?  I've been running very well.  As I've learned from both observation and direct experience, those magic periods of PR after PR are also extremely high risk. That's when you get greedy, and try to build just a little bit more.    And that's when you break.  By pulling way back this week, I'm trying to control that temptation, and the near-inevitable result.

As the careful reader will note, I wasn't sedentary.  Rather, I used this week to enjoy stuff that I skip or limit during training.  For example, I did a fairly long swim focusing on different drills - something that I can't fit in during a running training cycle.  I also took yoga classes on the days that I'm normally at the track so that I could experience different instructors.  The result that I was mentally refreshed, more than I would have been had I sat on the couch.


Monday: In the morning, 7 "miles" pool-running. Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, gentle yoga and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 6 "miles" pool-running and 2000 yards swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights and core and 9 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 7 miles easy to yoga (8:42), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy (8:42) home  followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  10 miles very easy (9:02) plus upper body strengthwork and core.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: In the morning, 14 miles progressive, split as first 4 at 9:03; next 5 at 7:34 (too fast - should have been no faster than 7:45); last 5 at 6:57.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Training log - Week ending 5/7/17

This week was 38 miles of running,  12 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Broad Street race week.  Which of course was also the week that the buckle on my Garmin 920xt wrist strap broke.  Thursday evening, to be exact.

This resulted in a high level of stress utterly disproportionate to the significance of the issue - I don't check splits when I race (I just use the watch to have the data later), and I have an old 910xt that is still serviceable.  It would be tough running without the ability to upload the workout to Garmin Connect, or to digitally confirm my recovery.  But still, like Gloria Gaynor, I would survive.  Because, like Patty Smith, I am a warrior.

Or maybe not.  Reluctant to rely on musically inspired fortitude, I turned instead to crude commerce.  I ordered a replacement 920XT strap to be delivered Friday night.  Then, I had a better idea.  There's a jeweler two blocks from my house, and sure enough they had a watch repair guy on site.  He repaired my Garmin strap buckle for $3 - significantly cheaper than the replacement strap (which arrived a day late anyway, after I left for Philly). So that's a lesson learned for the future.


I normally do a pick-up mile two days before I race - my coach counsels 10K pace, though I've been modifying that to 10 mile/half marathon pace (I'm sure he doesn't mind).  So...I headed out to do my mile pick-up on Friday morning, using a downhill route (the W&OD trail) into a headwind.  Cuz that would mimic the predicted weather for Broad Street.   There was a downpour as well, which fortunately was not predicted for Broad Street.

I ended up running the pick-up mile way too fast, at 6:04, which is not half-marathon pace or 10 mile pace or even 10K pace for me, even if downhill  (it didn't feel like it took too much out of me either).  Whoops.

So clearly one of two things was true.  Either I had just irretrievably effed up my race, or I was set up for a PR.  (because there is no middle ground to race jitters.)

Since there was nothing to be gained from assuming the first option, I chose to believe in the second.  And fortunately, I was right.  I need to not do that again, though.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 6 "miles" pool-running. Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 11 miles, including a 3 mile warm-up (8:41); 2x400; 4x800; 2x400 in 90, 91, 2:56, 2:57, 2:56, 2:54, 81, 78; 3 mile cooldown (9:19).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Massage at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 7 miles very easy (8:58) plus drills and strides and DIY yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights and core and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 7 miles, most easy (9:02) but with a mile at 6:04 pace.  Foam rolling and an ice bath at night.

Saturday:  Nothing aerobic.  Just travel to Philly, DIY yoga to open hips, and foam rolling.

Sunday: In the morning, 3 mile warm-up, and then a 10 mile race in 63:55.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Race Report: Broad Street 10 Miler, May 7, 2017

I ran the Broad Street 10 Miler today, finishing in a time of 1:03:55, which was good enough for 4th Masters Female, and also a significant PR.  I'm pretty happy.

I had high hopes for a PR going into this race - in March I had run a half-marathon at my 10 mile PR pace - a sure indication that I could PR the ten miler on a good day and course.  And many of my training partners had run 63-64 minutes at Cherry Blossom a few weeks back, making me think that a time in that range was possible for me as well.

I think Broad Street (point-to-point, net downhill, and yes, I'm counting it as a PR) is a faster course than Cherry Blossom if all other things (i.e. weather) are equal.  However, historically Broad Street has been a significantly warmer race than Cherry Blossom (last year being a notable exception), limiting any benefit from the course.

The good news was that we were getting Cherry Blossom-like temperatures for Broad Street this year (51 at the start and dry).  The bad news was that the wind was from the south, meaning a headwind for 10 miles.

I was particularly worried about the wind, as I was planning to start in the first "elite/seeded" corral. I had "seeded" status for this race, meaning that I had a choice between starting in the very front or starting with the corral associated with my projected finishing time.  Last year I had started at the front, and it had been a miserable experience.  Basically 10 miles of being passed by faster people, while running into a headwind.  I wasn't anxious to repeat that experience.

On the other hand, I knew I was in far better shape this year then last, and that I had a shot at a masters award, including prize money.  However, masters awards were awarded based on gun time, meaning that I had to start at the front if I wanted to contend.  What to do?  Start at the front to target the masters award?  Or start further back where I'd have others to block the headwind, to maximize my chances of PRing?

Fortunately, as it turned out, I didn't have to make that choice.  Instead of giving the elite/seeded corral a head start, this year the first corral behind the elite/seeded corral started with us.  This was huge, as two of my teammates/training partners were in that corral, giving me the option of running with them.  So woo.


Race day dawned, and I left my hotel room at 6:05 to get to the subway stop at 6:15 to get to the start for the 8:00 am race.  This wasn't overkill - Broad Street is huge, and though it doesn't take long to get from Center City to the race start area, if you wait too long, it's impossible to board the subway due to the packed cars.  As it turned out, 6:15 am was perfect.

Once there, I did my standard warm-up of ~3 miles including some uptempo running, plus drills, strides, and multiple bathroom breaks.   Then into my corral at 7:40, which was when the corrals were supposed to close.  Though this race isn't quite as strict as Chicago, it's still not a race that you can count on ducking into your corral at the last minute.

I noted two good things - 1) the headwind was not as awful as forecast, and was also intermittent rather than constant; 2) the corrals were't being enforced this year.  While this would normally annoy me, this year I was grateful - it meant that I had plenty of people to work with/potentially use as windblocks.  Rachel and Catherine ended up right next to me, which was awesome.  Well, until Rachel helpfully reminded me that I needed to be starting at the line, not a few rows back.

The gun went off, and everyone went out super fast, as they always do in this race (once again - fast courses are not freebies - you can't do stupid stuff and not pay for it).  Rachel, Catherine and I quickly grouped together, and ran the first mile patiently, letting the masses stream around us.

I hung on to the two of them for the first mile, but then they began to pick up a bit of speed.  It felt a bit too hard for me this early in the race, so I reluctantly dropped back.  About this time, the wind started gusting.  Fortunately, there was a pack of large guys just to my right, so I pulled up slightly and ducked in behind them.

Over the next few miles, the headwind gusted and then subsided.  I remembered the lesson I had learned at Shamrock about being patient and biding my time during a headwind, and I applied it here - when the wind calmed, I'd move out to the side and build pace, an when it picked up again, I'd find a pack of tall guys and tuck in, even if I had to slow down slightly to do so.  Better to bank energy now that I could use at the end.

Amusingly, the pack that I spent the most time with featured a big guy in a "November Project" t-shirt.  I'm not a huge fan of any training program that encourages people to go hard everyday.  But my practicality outweighs my pride, so I tucked in behind him and an even bigger buddy, grateful that the November Project apparently appeals to former football players who can run a decently fast 10 miler.

I also focused on my form.  We've had quite a few windy workouts this spring, giving me a chance to practice dealing with it.  When there's a headwind, I have a habit of hunching and ducking, trying to minumize the wind surface.  But I've noted that I run much faster when I resist this tendency and instead try to run tall.   It's counter-intuitive in much the same way that starting slow is.  But it works.

So, running tall and "hopscotching" (my term for jumping from wind block to wind block).  I made my way down Broad Street.  I like to take a gel during 10 mile races, so I took part of a cherry lime rocktane at around mile 6.  It disagreed with me for some reason, and for a few minutes I worried that I might have to take a quick pit stop.  Fortunately, my stomach settled.

I know Broad Street, and so once I finished the slight uphill just after mile 8, I started to build, abandoning my windblocks.  Around mile 9.5, there's a downhill, and I used that to pick up even more pace.  Then I saw the Navy Yard gate that indicated a quarter-mile to go, and I half-closed my eyes and pretended I was back on the track, hammering a 400.  As I approached the finish line I was estatic to see it counting down 1:03:4x.  A major PR, and I was hopeful that would be good enough for a masters award also.

Splits were
Mile 1: 6:28
Mile 2: 6:26
Mile 3: 6:22
Mile 4: 6:27
Mile 5: 6:24
Mile 6: 6:24
Mile 7: 6:24
Mile 8-9: 12:49 (6:24-6:25 pace)
Mile 10: 6:11

Amusingly, despite my hopscotching, my splits were shockingly even.  I also ran a slight negative split, passing a lot of people in the last 2 miles.  Several of the people that I passed late in the race were people I remember pulling ahead earlier, when I was tucked in one of "my" packs.  I think a lot of people expended way too much effort running solo and trying to hit splits, and paid for it in the last few miles.

Other notes:

  • Stuck with the pre-race food routine that has worked for me: rice-heavy Chipotle for lunch, very light dinner with some unsweetened UCAN as a drink.  I'm not sure you need to carb-load for a 10 miler, but I don't think it hurt to go carb-heavy the day before.  Breakfast was my normal pre-run.  I also brought a berry stroopwafel with me to the start, to nibble on to bridge the gap between breakfast and race start.
  • Carried a handheld water bottle for the first two miles before tossing it.  I'm sure this also gets some eyerolls, but I don't care.  It works for me.
  • As I noted above, I ended up 4th masters female.  Which meant I got to hangout in the elite tent, participate in the awards ceremony, and also fill out "paperwork" for the cash award (name, address, citizenship, USATF #, Social Security number).  I'm a dork, and I was ridiculously happy to be filling out paperwork.
  • Temperature 52, DP 40 for the race.  Really great weather.  Probably the best it's ever been in all the time I've run this race.
  • I've had a hilarious history at races outside of DC - until this year, I had PR'd every race that I had run in Richmond or Virginia Beach, and had never had a good race in Philadelphia.  This year, I upended the cycle - horrible race in Richmond, and then finally a good race in Philly.  Woo.
  • Pollen seemed notably high, but again (as it has been since starting on the Xolair), I had little issue with it.  I did puff my rescue inhaler pre-race just to be careful, but I might have been able to get away with out it.  Yay Xolair.
  • Mom and Dad really like these pictures, so I'm posting them here.  My blog, my rules.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Is Pike's Peek legit?

The Pike's Peek 10K in Rockville Maryland has been historically mocked on, that bastion of intellectual exchange (full disclosure - I participate on that forum).  Why?  Because of the net downhill.

In the past, I agreed.  Several years ago, I ran this race and bested by a full minute my then 10K PR, which I had set a month earlier in good weather on a fast course (39:16 versus 40:18).  And that was despite blowing up badly in the final stretch and even tripping right before the finish.  A year later, I returned to run Pike's Peek as my rustbuster, right after a break.  And I ran 39:15.  A time utterly inconsistent with any other time I had ever run at any distance.

Yup - the course was definitely assisted.  I noted the time for kicks, with an asterisk, but didn't claim it as a PR.

But then, a few years ago, the course was rerouted slightly.  While most of the course stayed the same, the start and finish were each moved back a quarter mile, adding a solid hill to the start and removing the sharp drop at the end.

This changed the total drop of the course, but it still had a drop.  And so, I reasoned, it still wasn't a course one could count as a PR.  (of course, all personal records are personal, so technically anyone can count anything they want....)

But now, I'm engaging in the pixel equivalent of eating my words.

In my opinion, the new Pike's Peek 10K course - the course that's been used since 2015 - is legit. This conclusion is based on both my own experience running the race this year, and some number crunching I've done below.

That analysis is below.  But first, I want to acknowledge the obvious.  This entire blog post is ridiculous.  Utterly ridiculous.

That being said, I'm probably not the only person interested in this topic, as over-analytical as it is.   So keep reading if you want - it's a guilty pleasure type thing.  Nobody has to know.  Promise.


In evaluating the legitimacy of the current Pikes' Peek course for PR purposes, I considered two points: how the net elevation drop compares to other races, and how runners performed at Pike's Peek this year, as compared to what their recent performances would predict for 10K.

Elevation drop

USATF maintains a database of certified courses on its website, searchable by location, distance, name, and other variables.  Each course certification includes a statement as to the net drop of the course, if any, calculated in meters per kilometer.
All information taken from
the USATF website, except for
the Main Street Mile,
which I calculated myself

How do various races measure up?  I've posted a selection to the right.

To be record eligible for USATF purposes, a course must have a net drop of less than 1.0 m/km and a separation between start and finish lines of 50% or less of the total distance of the course.'re not setting a US record on point-to-point courses like Grandma's Marathon or Boston, regardless of net drop.

However, it is possible to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials on a course that is point-to-point, as long at the net drop is no more than 3.25 meters per kilometer.    My hunch is that the 3.25 is not random, but was chosen specifically to include the Boston Marathon (3.23 m/km drop) as a qualifier.

Looking at my chart to the right, it's interesting to see how the net drops of the old and new Pike's Peek courses compare to Boston, as well as some other popular courses.  The old Pike's Peek is well above the 3.25 line, while the new course is well below.    Heck, the new Pike's Peek has less than half the net drop of the previous version.

It's also worth noting that the new Pike's Peek course has the same net drop as the Big Sur International Marathon.  Big Sur is a notoriously slow and difficult course - evidence that a net drop doesn't necessarily imply an assisted course.

So...based on net drop alone, there's some basis for considering a Pike's Peek PR (try saying that 5 times fast) legit.  Put another way, there's a solid argument against ruling it out from PR contention based on net drop.  But that's only part of the analysis.

Performance Comparison

I've found the McMillan Guide to be pretty good at predicting equivalent performances for me.  So when I ran 1:26:34 at Shamrock (a legitimate, USATF record eligible course), I entered the time into McMillan, and got a predicted 10K time of 38:50.  I was pretty close, but ever so slightly slower, with my Pike's Peek time (38:56).

So...I got curious, and decided to run a similar comparison for a few other runners.   I selected a group of runners who had run both Cherry Blossom 10 Miler 2017 and Pike's Peek, so I could compare performances between the two races.  Why did I pick Cherry Blossom as my baseline?  It's a USATF record eligible course with no net drop and no separation - very fast, but undeniably fair.  This year, Cherry Blossom also had nearly identical weather to Pike's Peek, and the two races were also separated by less than a month, reducing the possibility of profound fitness gains between the two.

 I limited my sample to people I knew, whom I understood to have had tapered and run both races all out, with no confounding factors (illness, running Boston in the gap between Cherry Blossom and Pike's Peek, etc).

With those criteria, I ended up with a sample of 8 runners.  Certainly not a large sample that would yield statistically sound conclusions, but still interesting.  Below are my results.

A comparison of 10K times, as predicted by performance at Cherry Blossom 2017,
versus performance at Pike's Peek 2017.
I also noted myself, based on my predicted time from Shamrock,
though I didn't include myself in the analysis.
What is striking is that a slight majority - 5 of 8 - ran slower at Pike's Peek than predicted by their Cherry Blossom performance.  Some ran significantly slower.  Of course, others ran significantly faster than predicted.

On average, these 8 runners ran 4.25 seconds SLOWER at Pike's Peek than one would have predicted, based on their Cherry Blossom times.

Of course, this is (again) a small sample size.  And I'll note for the statistics geeks that the standard deviation here is 26 seconds and change, making that "slower-by-4.25 seconds" claim essentially meaningless, from a statistical POV.  I haven't proven that Pike's Peek is equal to or slower than the legit Cherry Blossom course (and thus legit-by-insinuation).

But, it is interesting to look at.  And it's frankly stronger evidence than my previous dismissal of the old course based on the single data point of my own experience.


So based on the two points above (plus the fact that I broke 39 and really want to call it a PR), I'm inclined to claim the current Pike's Peek course as legit.    No eyerolling here, no asterisk.

Again, all PRs are by definition personal.  But, personally, I'm a numbers geek.  And what I've written above is what has convinced me, personally.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Training log - Week ending 4/30/17

This week was 54 miles of running,  15 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I ended up skipping the Tuesday workout in favor of easy running with a friend.  My coach had designated the workout optional for anyone who had raced Pike's Peek on Sunday (to be fair, we're all adults who do this for fun - so all workouts are technically optional).  I might have been fine to do the workout in other circumstances, but I was slightly tired from non-running-life-stuff going into the 10K, and then compounded the fatigue by helping a friend move on Sunday afternoon.  As of Monday afternoon I was wiped, and a Tuesday morning workout would have done more harm then good.  First rule of training - if you're sliding into a hole, reach for a ladder, not a shovel.

By Friday I was feeling recovered, so I headed out for tempo.  The air was a bit thick and humid, so I started out conservatively.  My coach was absent (he had gone with some of my teammates to the US Half-Marathon Championships) so I didn't have him calling out splits each lap.  After the first four laps, I checked the split and was pleasantly surprised that what felt like a super cautious 6:4x was actually 6:28.  And that held true for the rest of the tempo.  All of which is a good sign for the Broad Street 10 Miler this coming Sunday, where I hope to break 65 minutes.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 10 miles easy (9:12) with drills and strides, followed by upper body weights and core.  Foam roller at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 7 miles (9:11) to yoga, yoga, and then another 5 miles (9:13), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights/core and 9 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 10 miles including a 4 mile tempo in 25:32 (6:28/6:28/6:24/6:12).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday:  In the morning, 10 miles very easy (8:52) with drills and strides.  Later that morning I did upper body weights plus core and injury prevention work.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday: In the morning, 12 miles progressive, split as first 4 at 8:43, next 4 at 7:50, last 4 at 6:56.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.   Foam rolling in the evening.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Training log - Week ending 4/23/17

This week was 34 miles of running,  32 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Another oddly structured week.    After Tuesday's workout, which was great (but too fast), I received an email from my coach confirming that the morning's workout had been great.  But too fast.  And it would be a good idea to pool-run on Wednesday and Thursday to be safe.

My coach doesn't send emails like that for kicks, so I took it seriously.  Pool-running it was (I grumbled).  Better two days voluntarily than a week or more involuntarily.

I suspect my coach was also trying to rest me up for this weekend's 10K.  Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to him, this was not a particularly restful week.  I had a conference in downtown DC on Wednesday and Thursday that resulted in a LOT of walking up and down stairs and from building to building.  

And then Friday and Saturday were my 25th high school reunion.  (yes, I know that I graduated from high school around the same time some of my teammates were born).  More walking.  More standing.  More socializing in large groups, which drains introvert me.  So...not ideal from a recovery/race prep standpoint.  But not every race is a goal race mandating obsessive rest.  Life is important too, and the reunion was awesome and more than worth any detriment to my Sunday race performance.

I did take an ice bath on Saturday to try to pep my legs up a little.  Life got exciting when one of our kittens decided to check out the bar of soap on the opposite side of the tub and slipped partially into the ice bath (back end).  What was hilarious was that Quartz was so focused on the elusive and alluring soap bar that she paid the ice water no heed.  So there we both sat - me shivering and her pawing at the soap bar.  She didn't start squawking until I extricated her from ice bath (and bar of soap).

My recovery tricks didn't work completely - I was still a bit tired on Sunday morning.  But I ran well, so I can't really argue with the result.  I think I got away with it because of the relatively short distance and my marathon background, which enabled me to grind it out.  But I definitely need to prioritize relative rest the next few days to make sure I'm fresh for Broad Street in two weeks, and don't burn out before Grandma's Half in June.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 7 "miles" pool-running. Foam rolling at night.  (also took the day off from work to track the Boston Marathon)

: In the morning, 12 miles, including a 3.5 mile warm-up (8:58); 2x(1600, 800) in 5:55, 2:49, 5:51, 2:47; 4 mile cooldown (9:08).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Massage at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 12 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night. (also walked around a conference all day.)

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights and core and 7 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night. (also walked around a conference all day.)

Friday: In the morning, 7 miles, most easy (9:05) but with a mile at 6:23 pace.  Followed with drills, strides, and foam rolling.  Touring my old high school at night.

Saturday:  In the morning, 3 miles very easy (9:27) plus DIY yoga to open up my hips.  Foam rolling and an ice bath midday.

Sunday: In the morning, 3 mile warm-up, 10K race in 38:56, 3 mile cooldown.  Around noon, did 6 "miles" pool-running and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Helped a friend move in the afternoon.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Race report: Pikes Peek 10K, April 23, 2017

I ran the Pike's Peek 10K this morning, finishing in an official time of 38:56, which was good enough for second masters female.  I'm also debating whether to call this a 10K PR (more on that below).

First of all - an aside - it really is "Peek" and not "Peak."  It's a play on words, referring both to the famous Pikes Peak in Colorado and the fact that nearly all of this race is run on the Rockville Pike in suburban Maryland.

Also, unlike the "Pikes Peak" marathon (which is uphill), this race has traditionally been quite downhill.  And that was one of the reasons I'd avoided it.  I've run this race twice before, and run a time ridiculously faster than anything I was capable of on a flat course - which then set me up for frustration when I couldn't come close to my Pike's Peek time on a flat course.  And I'd feel utterly trashed after the race to boot.  Thus the downhill course was also a mental and physical downer.

So why did I run it this year? all goes back to several months ago, when some of my high school classmates noted that our 25th reunion was coming up, and wouldn't it be fun to run a race on Sunday morning.  I was up for it, so I researched options, and concluded that Pike's Peek was probably the best choice, due to distance, location, and start time.  So...what the heck.    Plus I had heard that the course was changed and was now significantly slower - it would be fun to check it out.


Fast forward to this week, which ended up being fairly draining.  Wednesday and Thursday were the annual meeting for a professional organization I'm fairly involved in (The "International Association of Privacy Professionals" - and yes, it's hilarious that this "privacy professional" maintains a blog in which she covers all sorts of personal stuff, some of which is TMI).  And then Friday and Saturday were my high school reunion, with cocktail parties both nights.  So... lots of walking,..lots of socializing.

By Saturday, I was pretty tired and tempted to skip the 10K.  And I was honestly enjoying the reunion far more than I ever dreamed I would (seriously, it was so much fun).  But I kept looking at the forecast, which just kept looking better and better.  Cool, not much wind, with the potential for showers.

So...I reluctantly left the Saturday night reunion party early, to ensure an early bed time to match my early wake-up (4:40 am).  It was really hard to leave - I don't think I would have if the Sunday morning forecast hadn't been so perfect.  

(I will note that, as hard as it was to depart the party early, it was easier than trying to explain to my coach why I decided at the last minute to party and sleep in instead of running a very fast 10K course on a perfect weather day).


Sunday dawned, and it was (as expected) nearly perfect.  My only quibble was that I would have preferred light rain - both because it tamps down the pollen and because I think I run relatively faster in rain than other people - literally a competitive advantage.  But the lack of rain was a very small negative.  Still a near perfect day.

As I did my warm-up jog, I noted the change in the course - while 90% of the course is the same, the start line had been moved, so that we ran through the old start line a quarter mile after starting.  This was significant because the previous start was at the top of a hill; the new start was at the bottom of that same hill.

During my warm-up, I made a point of running up the hill, and measuring the distance on my Garmin.  Just a bit less than a quarter-mile.  Then I did some quick math - a quarter mile at 6:20 pace is 1:35; a quarter at 7:00 pace is 1:45.  Thus, even if I went out super slow on the uphill, I'd only lose 10 seconds, which I could easily make up during the next 6 miles.

Armed with that knowledge, I reaffirmed my intention (that's yoga-speak) to go out very carefully.  A quick chat with my coach altered that strategy slightly - I'd stay conservative all the way until the left turn onto Rockville Pike (about a half mile into the course).  Then I'd start racing.

With my race strategy set and my warm-up+strides completed, I lined up.  There was masters prize money on the line (determined by gun time) so I lined myself up close to the front of the race, but off to one side so that I wasn't an impediment.  I had noted a very fast local masters runner warming up, and I knew that if she ran a decent race I wouldn't be near her.  But, anything can happen in a race, so best to preserve my chances for the masters win, even if it was only an outside possibility.

Then we started.  Per my plan, I went out carefully.  I was actually surprised by how few people passed me.  This race usually goes out quite hard, with people paying the price later in the race.  Not this time - everyone was working off of the same memo I was apparently.  Fine with me - it was nice not being over-run from behind.

Then we turned onto the Pike, and I flipped into race mode, scanning where I was versus other people, where the packs were forming, and where the tangents were (the race has some very slight curves).  And also how I felt.  My legs didn't feel great - not awful, but not as bouncy as I'd like for a half mile into a 10K.  Not great - but not surprising - I had been on my feet a LOT this week.

I was also mentally in a bit of a funk - I think it was just mental fatigue from all the events of the past week.  I always have to work during races to stay in a positive place, and I was straining today to do that, due to the mental fatigue.

Somewhere pretty early in the course, my coach had parked on the side of the course, to observe us as we came through.  When he saw me, I was running by myself.  He barked a command at me to catch the pack ahead - which had the desired effect - I snapped out of it.  In short order I caught the pack, and then passed them (they were slowing).  So I was by myself again.  But I was also in a different mental place now - more focused - and that made all the difference.

The next few miles were the Pike's Peek I remembered - rolling hills, with the uphills being surprisingly significant.  For out-of-towners - this race has a similar feel to CIM, and the hills are similar in the steepness and length.

There was a pack ahead with two of my teammates, and so I spent the next few miles reeling them in - I had hopes of catching their pack, but wasn't quite able to do it.  But just having them creep back towards me helped.

By Mile 5 I was running on fumes.  Somebody announced "the winner has just crossed the line," and I thought "fuck you."  (Apparently everyone else thought the same thing - what a demoralizing thing to announce.)  But I reminded myself that I was a marathoner, and one more mile was a very short distance.  And I grinded on.

This course ends with another left turn onto Marinelli Road, and then a downhill sprint to the finish.  I kicked with what I had, which didn't seem like much.  But I got myself across the line respectably, and noted with satisfaction that I had broken 39.  Woo.

Splits were:
Miles 1-2: 12:35 (6:18)
Mile 3: 6:12
Mile 4: 6:16
Mile 5: 6:19
Mile 6: 6:24
last bit: 69 seconds (5:30 pace)

So...a positive split, but I think that's in part the course - the first half is unquestionably faster than the second, and the last mile appears to be uphill, according to the elevation profile.

As for the fastness of the course - that's definitely changed as well.   While most of the course is the same, the changes to the start (now uphill) and the finish (no longer as downhill as it was) really have changed the nature of the course.

Looking at USATF course documetation (because I'm a numbers girl) - the old course had a drop of 5.8 meters per kilometer.  This course? 2.2 m/km.  By comparison, the Boston Marathon has a drop of 3.23 m/km, CIM has a drop of 2.45 m/km.  The Broad Street 10 Miler has a drop of 2.59 m/km.  All more than this race.  And that doesn't mention the crazy-fast-eyerolly courses like Clarendon Day 5K (12.2 m/km)

Plus... my 10K time today is close to but not quite as good as my half-marathon performance at Shamrock.  Similarly, my teammates who ran Cherry Blossom a few weeks back had equivalent performances today.

All of this points towards calling this a legit PR.   I just need to (over)analyze it (to death) a bit more before I electronically etch the new number onto the eternal granite of the ephemeral internet.

Other notes:

  • Weather was awesome - temperature of 45, DP of 42, not much wind.  What a great day.
  • Warm-up was 3 miles, including a quarter mile at hard tempo effort about 20 minutes before, plus drills and four strides.  Cooled down for 3 after to give me 12 for the day.
  • The pollen was notable, but not a huge issue.  Watery eyes and I was snotty, but that doesn't affect my running much.   I can't say my breathing was perfect today, as I did feel slightly tight.  But nothing like the issues I had a few weeks ago.  Yay for Xolair.  (I did puff my inhaler pre-race just to be safe).
  • I left my house at 6:15, which was perfect for getting me to the race start by 6:45 (race started at 7:50).   I made a point of not parking in the first lot available, but the very last,  Which was also the closest to the start line.  So woo.
  • I did nearly forget to run with my metro farecard - that would have been an issue, since we park at the start for this race, and metro back to the start from the finish after.  I guess worst case scenario I could have run back to the start.
  • I am tired, but nowhere near as sore as I've been in the past after this race.  I think less drop also means less abuse on the body.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Training log - Week ending 4/16/17

This week was 46 miles of running,  12 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

My running week generally has a routine - intervals on Tuesday, tempo on Friday, long run on Sunday.  This week I wanted to race a mile on Wednesday night, which threw everything into flux.   A Wednesday evening race meant that I couldn't do a workout on either Tuesday or Friday.  Tuesday was too close to the race, while Friday morning was too soon after.  Yes - there are others who can race a mile on Wednesday night and tempo 36 hours later, but experience has taught me (painfully), that I personally need more recovery time.

So, that meant that I could only do one of the three prescribed workouts this week.  I felt that since I'm not marathon training right now, I was better served by a 4 mile tempo than a progressive long run.  My coach agreed, so I ended up tempoing on Saturday morning, followed by an easy 12 miles on Sunday.

The tempo was a pleasant surprise.  After Wednesday's race, I was trashed.  For whatever reason, mile races always beat me up more than 5K races, and this one was no exception.  The fact that I "recovered" from the race by first driving for 80 minutes and then taking a hot shower before having a sleepless night didn't help either.  My post-race/workout recovery routine of a swim in cold water really does make a difference, and I missed it here.

So, even by Saturday I was still a bit sore and sluggish.  But the workout was a tempo, which is not supposed to be a really hard workout, so I thought I'd give it a try anyway.  Because I suspected I'd be running slower than my norm, I set my Garmin to autolap each mile and resolved to run the tempo off of effort, not checking splits until I finished.  That way I'd run the workout at the correct effort, rather than getting frustrated if my splits were slower than usual.

So, I did the workout on Hains Point - a flat and fast circular road with perfect GPS reception.  I checked my Garmin when I finished, and....I had just run my fastest 4 mile tempos in several years- notably faster than anything I've run on the track this year.  So that was a very nice surprise.  Especially since I felt sluggish for much of the workout.

Even better yet was that the pollen on Hains Point was a total non-issue.  I credit my Xolair shot - the "hail mary" of allergy/asthma treatment - for this.

I got the Xolair shot (my first) on Monday at noon.  [reminder - this is an "IGE inhibitor" drug given to people who have allergies/asthma that is not completely responsive to other drugs.  Xolair is totally legal under WADA/USADA both in and out of competition]

The Xolair injection is a structured procedure.  First, I have to call the doctor's office 30 minutes in advance to confirm that I'm coming in, so that they can mix up the medication.  This is because it's extremely expensive (about $1K a shot, and I get two shots each session) and is only usable for four hours after being mixed - they don't want to mix it up and then have me no-show.

Once I get the injections, I have to sit in the waiting room for 2 hours, because of a very small risk of going into shock.  After the two hours is up, then I'm free to go, but I have to carry an epi-pen with me for the next 24 hours, just in case.

[BTW, epi-pens are huge and hard to run with.   About the size of a baton used in a high school relay.  So no tucking in a sports-bra - I had to run with a spi-belt to carry it the next morning.]

In case anyone's wondering, I did NOT go into anaphylactic shock and force a reenactment of Pulp Fiction.  So that was nice.  I did suffer from silent hypochondria while I sat in the waiting room, but I think that's normal.

There were some side-effects over the first few days after the shot.  Basically, mild flu-like symptoms - my resting heart rate was elevated, I was more tired than normal, with a lot of trouble concentrating and a headache.  Also achy muscles, hot flashes, and nausea.  Not fun.  I felt lousy enough on Wednesday morning that I debated skipping the mile race.  But, it was only a mile and I'd always wanted to do it, so I gave it a try anyway.  And was glad I did.

By Friday (four days post shot) the side-effects had subsided, with the exception of the injection sites on each arm.  Those are still sore and apparently will be for some time to come - just the nature of the shot.  Wonderfully, I noted that the pollen was bothering me much less.  Almost like tree pollen season had passed, though according to we're still peaking.

So that was great news. If it continues to work, I should be able to reduce or even eliminate all my other asthma/allergy medications, which would be awesome.  Even better was the call I got from my insurance on Saturday confirming that they would cover my future injections (you have to submit an application to be covered, with evidence demonstrating that you have "moderate to severe allergic asthma" and that you have tried literally everything else first).  So woo-hoo.

It was a good end to a good week.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 6 "miles" pool-running. Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 7 miles easy (9:02) plus drills and strides, and then upper body weights and core.  Foam roller at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 3 miles easy (9:17)).  In the evening, foam rolling and stretching, then a 3 mile fartlek warm-up (most at 9:00 pace, but with a minute nearly all out), followed by a 1 mile race in 5:08.  1 mile cool-down after (9:28 pace).

Thursday: In the morning, 1000 yards swimming and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 9 very easy miles (9:23) plus drills and then upper body weights and core. Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday:  In the morning, 10 miles, including a 3 mile warm-up (8:43), a four mile tempo in 25:28 (6:31/6:23/6:18/6:16), and then a 3 mile cool-down (8:32). Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming, plus foam rolling.

Sunday: In the morning, 12 miles very easy (8:45), followed by drills and two strides, and then foam rolling.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Race report: Main Street Mile April 12, 2017

I ran the Main Street Mile in Westminster Maryland last night, officially finishing in 5:08.87 - good enough for third overall female.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll kick this report off with a image of the course profile, via my friend PJ's Strava.

Yes, we ran it from left to right
I've wanted to run this race for years.  I really enjoy road miles - they're low pressure and usually don't hurt until they're almost over.  And they exclude all the things I dislike about the track - pack-running, soft surfaces, and turns.  However, there aren't that many road miles within driving distance, and many of those that do exist conflict with other spring races.  To that point, this race conflicts with a) recovery from the Cherry Blossom 10 miler, and b) tapering for the Boston Marathon.  Fortunately, this year I did neither Cherry Blossom nor Boston, which left me open to run this mile.

Getting to Westminster was a bit of  headache - while only 70 miles from my home, it's still a tough drive. The first half of the drive involves the Potomac River crossing on the Beltway, followed by Interstate 270 - both are major clog points during rush hour.  The second half traverses MD Route 27 - a two lane state highway that can be fast if you're not stuck behind a truck or school bus.

As it turned out, I wasn't able to leave until just  after 2:30 pm, which meant that I caught the beginning of DC rush hour (in DC, evening rush hour lasts from 2:30 to 8:00 pm...) .  And then once I hit Route 27, I was one of the lucky ones to be caught behind (yup) first a truck and then a school bus that was apparently also going to Westminster.  And that's how it took me 2 hours to drive 70 miles.

Fortunately, the race didn't start until 7 pm, so arriving at 4:30-ish still gave me plenty of time to grab my bib, head over to the local Golds Gym to stretch out my hips, and then park at the race finish before starting my warm-up at 6:15.


I knew that my friend PJ from Baltimore was planning on running this, and fortunately I ran into him and a friend at the very start of my warm-up.  Our warm-up consisted of running up the course, grateful that the race itself would go the other way.  Once at the top, there were some side roads to jog back and forth on to complete warming up.  Consistent with my plan for mile races, I did 60 seconds hard about 15 minutes before race start (my first interval in track workouts always sucks, so I like to get that one out of the way before I race).  Then I just did a mix of jogging, standing, and strides to keep my blood up while not wasting too much energy.

The city did not close the road until right before the race was to start, so there was no clear indication of where the start line was.  I wasn't quite sure where the finish line was either - it wasn't marked when we jogged up to the start.  So I programmed my Garmin to auto-lap and vibrate every quarter-mile.  I wasn't planning on checking splits during the race, but I wanted some sort of cue to let me know where I was on the course (and more importantly, how far I was from the finish).

At around 6:59, the police closed the road down and we entered the street.  Still no formal indication of a start line and no timing mat, just a race official pointing at a place on the road.  And then we were off.

PJ had run this race several times before, and had advised that the first quarter mile was very fast, and that it was best to try to cruise it.  OK - I could do that - fit very well with my usual (and coach-driven) strategy of "start slow/finish fast."

I didn't follow my plan very well.  I think part of it was that I was impatient to get the race over with (I had spent way too much time driving up to and hanging out in Westminster at this point).  Part of it was that everyone went out fast.  And lot of it was the screaming downhill start (see graph above).

I realized fairly quickly that I had gone out too fast, and started to pull back some - I already felt the first bits of lactic acid.  It's a downhill course, and so I still had a shot of saving it.

And then my watch pulsed for the first time, and I realized I still had most of the race to go.  While already feeling the burn I normally associate with the third quarter.  Ooops.

Nothing to do but try to hold it together.  It was a downhill race, which would help.  But this one was going to hurt.

The next four minutes were some of the longest of my life.  When people call the mile a "middle distance" I think that should be caveated - it's only a middle distance if you pace it well.  If you go out too fast, it's a very long distance.

I held it together by ignoring how far I had to go, instead concentrating on holding my form together. Stretching tall, keeping my core engaged and shoulders relaxed, and not overstriding - the downhill could do the work for me if I could just keep from tying up.

At one point I started to lose focus - on the "uphill" part of the course in the third quarter (which was actually a nearly flat section that felt uphill because it wasn't downhill).  Fortunately, PJ and I were running close together at that point, and he said something encouraging  - I can't remember what it was, but I refocused.

Then my Garmin buzzed wonderfully for the third time, and I knew I had less than 90 seconds left.  I just closed my eyes and focused on form even more, if possible.  I was tying up, but if I could just keep loose, the downhill finish would save my race for me.  And it did.

I did open my eyes enough to a) steer into the finishing chute and b) note the clock.  It was still reading 4:xx when I first saw it, which was surreal.  But I was hurting so much that I didn't really process it.  I just wanted to be done.  And then I was.


Official time: 5:08.87.  (it was 5:10.84 on my Garmin, but I didn't hit stop until I crossed the second timing mat, and I also had to fumble at my watch some).

Splits (per autolapped Garmin) were 71/80/83/76.  So, I flagrantly violated the "start slow/finish fast" rule, instead kicking off the race with a 71 second quarter.  To put this in perspective, I don't believe I'm capable of running a stand-alone 400m on the track in 71 seconds.

(I could probably do 76 seconds from a flying start.  Or 90 seconds if I used sprinter blocks.)

But that's the power of race adrenaline and a steep downhill, combined with a momentary lapse of judgment.  It's also worth noting that I don't necessarily know if I would have run any faster if I had gone out more conservatively.  Start slow/finish fast is my mantra, and it's always worked well for me.  But in a super-short downhill course - perhaps that's the one time that it works best to go out hard and hang on.

The time and the "PR" is all sorts of asterisky - the downhill nature of the course definitely helps one's time.  Especially if you're a really fast downhill runner, as I am.  (I know some others would disagree with me on this - and that's why they call them "personal" records.)  Additionally, I suspect the course may have been slightly short of a mile - it's not a certified course, and the informal nature of the start reduces my confidence of the accuracy of the distance.

But that asterisk doesn't detract from the fact that this was a really fun race, and I'm glad I finally got to do it.


Other notes:

  • I had shown up at the race with hopes of earning the cash prize ($25) for top masters female.  As it turns out, I finished third female overall, and won $30 instead.  The race did not allow "double-dipping" in awards, so another woman got the $25 for masters.  Too bad - it would have been nice to leave with $55.  On the other hand, I've benefited many times from the no double-dipping rule, so I can't get too upset about its application now.
  • Wore my Takumi Sens for this race and loved them - those shoes are awesome for mile races, where I'm running on my forefoot
  • A friend of PJ's was handing out Halls cough drops after the race - absolutely inspired.
  • Eating for evening races is always a challenge, and is one of the reasons I hate racing at night.  I ended up going with my normal pre-run "breakfast" at 1:30 pm, complete with caffeinated gels (Maple Bacon and half a Triberry).  It worked well - I had plenty of energy and a clear gut for the race.  The only downside was the insomnia on Wednesday night.  Which would have most likely happened anyway - evening running screws up my sleep. Another reason I hate running at night.
  • The drive home only took 80 minutes since there was no traffic.  So much better.
  • Despite the very high pollen, no asthma issues (I did take my inhaler before just to be safe).  I was coughing after, but so was everyone else.
  • This course is definitely faster than the other road mile I've run - the Loudoun Street Mile.  How fast exactly?  I don't know.  Hopefully it's not 22 seconds faster, as I'd like to break 5:30 at the Loudoun Street mile next month.