Monday, September 26, 2016

Training log - Week ending 9/25/16

This week was 44 miles of running, 34 "miles" of pool-running and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I kept things very easy for the first few days post-half marathon - I'm tapering anyway, and so the priority this week was recovery from that race.  Much of my "easy mileage" was done in the pool, resulting in a lower land mileage total, though my "total total" matched the mileage target for the week.

By Friday, my legs still felt a bit tired, and so I set out for the scheduled 2x3200 with some trepidation.  Only to run my fastest times for that workout in several years.   Sunday's run was another confidence boost - I was targeting 7:10 pace for the last 6 miles, but had to keep an eagle eye on my Garmin to keep the pace slow (and even then, I still ran a bit too fast).

So essentially, I've had umpteen great runs over the past two weeks, and one no-good/very-bad/try-to-forget run.  It's a shame that the one outlier was my tune-up race.  But maybe we'll just chalk that one up as "bad rehearsal/good show."

In other news, we had two new additions this week.

That's Topaz on the left (dark) and Quartz on the right.

As I noted last week, Brian and I had been preparing for the arrival of a blind kitten, but she passed away last Saturday.  Since we had the opening, I started looking for another special needs cat that needed a home. 

(people ask me why I adopt special needs. Easy - they all need homes, and since I've got the resources and knowledge to take on a special needs cat, why not.)

As part of my search, I stopped by our local cat clinic, where I saw the posting now displayed on the right.  Two kittens, survivors of a major hoarding bust from this past summer.  By my math, these two were a week old when they were rescued.  Of a total of 27 kittens rescued from disease and neglect, only 6 survived, including these two.  Sadly, their eyes could only be partially saved.

Since these were nearly-blind kittens in need of a home, and I had a home prepared for (but lacking) a blind kitten, it made sense to apply.  Two visually impaired kittens=one totally blind one, right?  And then things moved very fast and they came home with me the next morning.

The last few days have been an adjustment, and an emotional roller coaster.  I went from the low of losing one kitten to the tentative joy of adopting others.  I write "tentative" because the adoption was much more emotionally challenging than I had expected. 

When you bring a new pet home, you expect it to be a happy, wonderful time.  But about 2 hours after you get home, the weight of the responsibility that you've committed to (and the self-doubt) set in.  Even as your friends on Facebook congratulate you.

For the first 48 hours, I wondered if I had made a huge mistake. Our current cat, Isabella has a long history of getting along well with any car or dog she encountered, and so I had assumed that she'd either be neutral, affectionate, or possibly slightly aggressive to the kittens.  I wasn't expecting fear.  Or depression. 

(as it turns out, adult cats are sometimes terrified of young kittens, under the assumption that an overprotective mother is hiding nearby, unseen.)

Combine Izzy's surprising reaction with my internal questioning of whether there were others better qualified to adopt these guys, and a side helping of guilt over not adopting other special needs cats(repeat after me: you cannot save them all), and it was rough.  I'd wake at 2 am, awash in the certainty that I was the ruiner of multiple cat lives.

(2 am brain is its own beast).

But I hadn't ruined any lives (though Isabella still might debate that), and we're working our way towards being one happy family.   The newly named Topaz and Quartz are slowly feeling their way around the house, one room at a time, chasing noisy toys as they go.   And though Izzy's still adjusting, we're making progress each day, and she's considerably happier now.   The key to Izzy has been making a point of spending a lot of time with her each day, so that she doesn't feel like she's been upstaged.

Topaz and Quartz are unquestionably a lot of work right now - I need to feed them 3-4 times a day, plus medications.  But that will all ease in the next few weeks, as they mature.  They're not a lot of work because they're blind; they're a lot of work because they're kittens.   And one thing that's become very clear to me over the last few days: two kittens are much LESS work than one.  A kitten needs a lot of social interaction and activity and play time - more than we can possibly provide while also working (and trying not to neglect Izzy).  Two kittens can entertain each other for hours, freeing me up to do other things.  Like checking marathon weather forecasts.

As for the visual impairment, it's surprising how little it limits them.  Quartz has one relatively well functioning eye, and is essentially no different, functionally, from a normal cat.  Topaz lost most of her sight in both eyes, but can see light and shadow, plus some movement.  Despite that, she runs around like any other kitten - the only distinction is that she occasionally pauses and bobs her head as she maps out her surroundings by combining her limited sight with sound, smell, and air flow.

With that, some pictures.

Topaz at about 5-6 weeks. 
Our friend Ellen fostered her and Quartz after they were rescued.
Photo courtesy of
Quartz at about 5-6 weeks.
Picture courtesy of
Fans of kittens (and anyone with a heart) should follow Ellen's Instagram.
Topaz now.
Quartz now.  Her right eye is the bad one.

Cat blogging finis.  Running blogging should return next week.


Monday: 6 "miles" pool-running; massage at night.

Tuesday: 12 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 1.5 miles easy (9:35) to yoga, then yoga.  Later did 6.5 miles easy (8:39).  4 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Thursday: 8 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights/core in the morning.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 10 miles, including a 2x3200 on the track in 12:38 (6:26/6:11) and 12:30 (6:17/6:13); followed by injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles easy (8:36), plus upper body weights. 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 16 miles, split as progression of first 9 miles at 9:14; next 2 at 7:4; last 6 at 7:03.  Followed with 500 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Training log - Week ending 9/18/16

This week was 53 miles of running, 17 "miles" of pool-running and 1200 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This week had plenty of highs and lows.  On Tuesday, I had a ridiculously good workout - I was expecting to be slow, due to my hard 20 miler a few days before, but the splits were surprisingly fast.  And I felt good for most of the rest of the week.  The one exception was Sunday's half-marathon.  Of course.

But all of that was balanced out by some heartbreak on Saturday.  I hadn't mentioned it on the blog before, but Brian and I were in the process of adopting a new kitten.  We hadn't been looking for an addition to the family, but my sister had contacted me a few weeks ago with a sympathy case.  There was a blind kitten in a feral cat community that my sister was helping treat.  The kitten, 12 weeks old, had been handled a good deal since her eyes needed to be medicated, and so was semi-feral - timid, but affectionate.   Due to her blindness, she wasn't doing well in her current situation - she was being bullied by the other cats, and outdoors is no place for a blind cat.

After some discussion, Brian and I decided to give her a home.  Since she was over two hours away by car, we'd wait a few weeks until she was spayed (and I was back from a scheduled business trip) and then I'd drive over and bring her home.  In the meantime, my sister sent me photos and described her to me, and I kitten-prepped the house.  And researched blind cats.

It's actually fairly interesting - blind cats are able to adapt to their condition in a way that humans can't.  Their senses of sound and smell are stronger and more finely tuned then ours, and their whiskers help them navigate, both by touching objects and walls, and by reading the air currents that move around objects, believe it or not.  And their very sensitive sense of smell means that it's very rare to have an accident outside of the litter box.

In the hierarchy of special needs cats, blind kitties are VERY easy to manage.  Just a few simple rules - don't move the litter box, food, or water around; don't pick them up one place and drop them another (it disorients them), and toys that make a sound are best.

Thus prepared, with oh so many toys with bells, I was ready for her.  But it wasn't to be.

On Saturday afternoon, she passed away while being spayed.  This is NOT at all a common thing - nobody should read this and consider NOT spaying or neutering their pets.  In her case, it indicated that there was probably some other undiscovered serious health issue that would have resulted in future pain and suffering - dying while under anaesthesia was likely a kindness.    But the fact that she wasn't hurting didn't stop me from hurting.    There's a reason that I never went into veterinary medicine or animal rescue.  Or human medicine, for that matter.   I get attached very easily, especially to tough luck cases, and those jobs are way too hard for me.

Next week's blog was going to be off-topic, all about Ms. Kit-Kat   Obviously, that's no longer the plan.  So I'll just indulge myself with one photo here.
I have a cuter photo, but it's unfortunately where
she's being held by a child, so I don't want to share it.

If you ever have the opportunity and the resources to adopt a special needs cat - one of those sweet, loving, but "unadoptable" kitties, like our Isabella, and like Ms. Kit-Kat, please do.  You won't regret it.


Monday: 3.5 miles very easy to yoga (9:04), yoga and 5 miles very easy (8:35) home plus drills and two strides. 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 10.5 miles, including a track workout of 1600, 1200, 2x800, 400 (6:09, 4:27, 2:53, 2:51, 77), followed by injury prevention work and 1200 yards recovery swimming.

Wednesday: 7 miles very easy (9:03) to the gym, then upper body weights.  Later did 2 miles very easy (8:53) plus drills and strides. Massage in the evening.

Thursday: 8 "miles" pool-running in the morning; 3 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 6 miles, mostly easy, but with a mile pick-up in 6:31. Followed with drills and two hill sprints.  Foam rolling later.

Saturday: 3 miles easy (8:46), plus drills and strides.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 3 mile warm-up and then a half-marathon in 1:33:13.  4 "miles" pool-running with the belt and foam rolling in afternoon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Race report; Navy-Air Force Half-Marathon, September 18, 2016

I ran the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon yesterday, finishing in a time of 1:33:13.   Not the time I'd normally want to run, but I'm not upset.  Just neutral.

This is a great race course, and when I'd signed up, I'd hoped that I'd finally beat my habit of racing poorly in September.  Allergies have historically been an issue for me in September, but I feel like I finally have them under control, and so I'd give it another shot.  What the heck.  Plus, the timing of the race worked well as a final tune-up before Chicago - do the last 20 miler 4 weeks before, then race this 3 weeks out, before a full-on taper.

Of course, the weather gods didn't play nice this week.  When I checked the weather forecast earlier this week, Weather Underground forecast a dewpoint of 70 - far from optimal for a longer race.  I hoped for once that Weather Underground was lying to me.  But, as I discovered on race morning, they were right once again.  Sigh.

Oh well, I was committed to the race anyway.  And since swapping up asthma meds I've been breathing significantly better in the humidity - almost like it's a non-issue.  Plus, I'm good at going out conservatively, which was what was needed for today.    I had run in similar conditions at Grandma's Marathon in June - while it was slightly cooler and less humid then, I also hadn't had the benefit of several months of acclimation.  I decided I'd just pace it the same way - go out very conservatively for the first half, and treat my handheld water bottle like my best friend.

Because of the conditions, I started my warm-up a bit earlier than normal, to give me time to cool off a bit and drink some water before the start.  Then hopped in my corral.

Because of the explosive devices discovered in New York City and New Jersey the day before the race, the final announcements for the race included a caution "if you see something, say something."  I idly wondered just how many people would actually notice if there was anything unusual on the course.  A few years ago, when I ran Army 10 Miler, there was a weird routing issue where a group of us were routed THROUGH a construction area on Virginia Avenue - at the time I didn't think anything of it - I just kept going...


The race started, and I went out conservatively, per my plan, holding way back in the first mile.  Which was not difficult, as the road was fairly congested and I had started back in the field.  Then we turned onto Hains Point, and I was able to find a rhythm.  For the first few miles, the pace felt stupidly easy, and that was good.  I had two goals at this point, and neither involved time - just stay relaxed and keep drinking.  Even so, I was a bit surprised at how quickly I drained my water bottle - by the first stop it was nearly empty.  Good thing I had it.

I can't really give a mile by mile split of the race, since it was more or less the same - an increasing sense of respect for the heat and humidity, an increasing reluctant to pick up the pace, and an increasing appreciation for my water bottle.  By the time I hit mile 9 or so, I was thirsty.  Not good.  But I'm sure I wasn't alone in feeling that way.  Nothing to do but keep drinking and keep running.  There was another woman running near me who looked like she was my age, so I kept her in my sights.  I wasn't focused on passing her at this point - working to pass her at this point would probably haunt me later.  Better to run my own race, and chase her down at the end.

By Mile 11 I was starting to struggle - pretty much like everyone else.  At this point, the course climbs up a hill to Memorial Bridge, and that was when it got really tough.  Not asthma - my lungs never grabbed up during the race.  More of a falling back into old bad habits, where instead of staying relaxed and letting the finish line come to me, I push and tense and try too hard.  When I do that, I fry energy and I lose control of my breathing - not an asthma thing but a tension thing.  I paused my running (but not my watch) for a moment to shake out my shoulders and reestablish my breathing before continuing - not proud of that, but it happened.  The interesting thing is that I think I ran the last mile faster as a result of taking that pause - once I had reset, I was able to run much faster and chase down the other masters runner I had kept in my sights all along.  But it would have been far better not to tense up at all.

Thankfully, we hit the turn and the final downhill to the finish.  If I have one running skill, it's running fast downhill.  The other masters runner was still right next to me, and I managed to outkick her to the finish by a second.  Immediately after, she graciously congratulated me as I caught my breath - very nice sportmanship on her part.


Since I race with my watch face blanked, and the clock when I finished was set for the 5 mile race, I had no idea what I had run until I checked my watch.   I was surprised but not surprised to see the time - 1:33:13 is just one second off of my slowest half marathon ever.  On the other hand, I knew the conditions weren't great, and that times were just going to be what they would be today.   Going into this, I had hoped that I'd handle humidity better than I have in the past.  And I guess I did, but still not as well as I wish I could.  Or maybe it just wasn't my day.  Oh well.

Splits were:
Mile 1: 7:09
Mile 2: 6:59
Mile 3: 7:11
Mile 4: 7:05
Mile 5: 7:27 (extended water stop due to coordination issues with cups)
Mile 6-7: 14:09
Mile 8: 7:08
Mile 9: 6:49 (I think this one was short)
Mile 10: 7:05
Mile 11: 7:13
Mile 12: 7:18
Mile 13: 7:04
last bit: 37 seconds.

Other notes:
  • Temp at the start was 72, with a dew point of 70.  By the end it was 76 with a dewpoint of 71.
  • Took a blackberry GU before the start of the race, and a lemonade one during.
  • Parked my car at 6:00 am (race start was at 7:08) which was just about perfect.
  • This whole weekend was a tough one for me - Brian and I were adopting a kitten, but she died suddenly on Saturday afternoon.  I didn't handle the loss well, to be honest.  I debated whether to race on Sunday, but decided to go ahead.  Not racing wouldn't change anything, and some of my best races have been when I've been under a lot of stress and very worried about something non-running related.

    In retrospect, I think that there's a difference between stress and sadness, and I was dealing with the latter.  I didn't feel focused on Sunday morning - my head wasn't in the game.  I wonder if that played into some of the tenseness/straining issues I had in the last mile.
  • At the awards ceremony, I received a trophy as the third place masters female.  However,  the second place masters female was a bib-swap (the results are being corrected).  Please, people - bib-swapping hurts others.  Don't do it.
  • I'm a very heavy sweater, and by the time I was 5 miles in, my shorts started slipping down.  I'm really glad that I'm coordinated enough to re-tie a drawstring while running, and appreciative that this episode wasn't caught on film.
  • As I've noted in previous posts, I've been on Clarinex the last few weeks for my allergies.  It's helped those tremendously, but it's also very drying, and I've struggled to stay hydrated - taking many many short water breaks while running.  I suspect that didn't help me on Sunday.  My heart rate was ridiculously high in the last few miles, indicating that I was dehydrated.  If Chicago is even borderline weather, I've decided I'll probably skip it and redirect to a later marathon.  My reasoning is that if I struggled to stay hydrated over 13 miles while carrying a water bottle and stopping at every station, then it's just a waste of time to try to run 26 miles in warm weather.  Going off the Clarinex isn't an option, since ragweed levels may still be quite high.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Training log - Week ending 9/11/16

This week was 64 miles of running, 24 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was the last hard week of my marathon training cycle.  Chicago is still 4 weeks away, but we opted to do my last 21 mile long run this weekend.  In the coming week, I'll taper for and then race a half-marathon.

I know that the traditional rule is for the last run of 20 miles or more to be three weeks before the marathon, but I'm happy we're adding in the extra week.  In the past few years, I've seen quite a few examples of people running their goal races four or even five weeks after their last 20 miler, and having outstanding races.  Emotionally, I can sympathize with the erosion of confidence that can come from an extended period between one's last long run and the marathon,  But physically it's much better to err on the side of too much recovery.  Especially for me, since I recover slower than some others.

Plus, I know that endurance (the sheer ability to cover miles) is my strength, while stamina (the ability to sustain a hard pace for an extended period of time) is where I'm sometimes challenged. Racing a half-marathon three weeks before the marathon will give me a nice lactate threshold boost, and also be enough of a stimulus to ensure that I don't lose my marathon-specific endurance.  Add in some shorter workouts to keep my legs turning over during the last two weeks while cutting the mileage, and I should peak nicely.

Workout-wise, this week had both ups and downs.  On Tuesday, we did 800s - I kept most of them conservative, but let myself open up on the last repetition (I'm allowed to do this if I feel good).  I ended up running 2:48, which was a nice confidence boost - it's been literally been years since I've broken 2:50 for 800 on the track in a workout, though I've done it in mile races.

Of course, as I noted to friends later, there are probably better marathon fitness indicators than a speedy 800m repeat run a month before the race....

While I normally tempo on Friday and do my long run on Sunday, I shifted things around this week so I could do my long run on Saturday.  This was because most of the good long run routes in the DC area were occupied by either road races or triathlons on Sunday, dramatically limiting my options.  Additionally, since I have the half marathon this coming Sunday, doing my long run a day earlier would give me bit extra recovery time.

This meant that I had to tempo on Thursday morning, solo.  Though I love my teammates, I actually really like running tempos and marathon pace workouts alone - both workouts involve locking into a rhythm, and I find that easier to do by myself, since I can just focus internally without distraction.  (Intervals are a different story.  For intervals, I like having people to chase.)

But this Thursday went ass-up.  In retrospect, I set myself up to fail.  I didn't eat and drink enough in the 24 hours before the workout, and I also went for a four mile tempo when the nasty conditions (73 degrees with 100% humidity) meant that I should have shortened it to 5K.   To make sure I dug a hole, I went out aggressively, starting with a 6:36 mile (I usually go out much slower and then drop down the pace).

The four mile tempo ended up being ~3.5 miles, as I split 6:36/6:36/6:40, and then 6:45 pace-ish for the next half mile before throwing in the towel.  At the time, I was frustrated with myself for dropping - I surely could have hung on for another few minutes.  But after a few minutes' reflection/sulking, I let it go - if I'm going to have a mental hiccup, better to have it in a workout than a race.

I put the lessons learned from Thursday to good use on Saturday for my 21 miler.  I made sure to fuel and hydrate on Friday the exact way I do before my marathons.  And this time, I respected the conditions (temp 76, DP 75 at the start; mid-80s by the end).   I carried my largest water bottle, and completely drained it six times over the course of the 21 mile long run.

(I did the math later - I drank nearly a gallon of water over the run.  I also ate my saltiest gels to keep a balance).

The result was a confidence booster.  My goal marathon pace is 7:10-7:15 (3:08-3:10 pace), and I was able to average 7:15 for the last 7 miles of the run.  Now granted, the first half of those last 7 miles were downhill, and I also took a 60 second break halfway through to refill my water bottle (there was a line at the water fountain).  On the other hand, I hope not to be racing my marathon in conditions that hot and humid.

Additionally, the route I chose for my long run gave me a nice mental challenge.  My training group normally does our 21 mile long runs on "the loop" - we start on flat terrain for the first 4 miles, and then climb for the next 12 miles or so, before descending for the last 5 miles to the start point.  But since the normal start/finish point was blocked off, I started and finished my run at a different point on the loop.  As a result, instead of finishing my long run by running downhill at marathon pace, I had to run PAST the normal stopping point, and continue to hold my marathon pace for several more miles.  While also losing the nice downhill assist as the terrain flattened.

It was a nice chance to practice the same skills you need in the final miles of the marathon, and a real confidence booster when it went very well, as I held my pace and even accelerated slightly in the final miles.  It wasn't easy, mentally, but neither is mile 22 of a marathon.  And though I was very grateful to be done with the long run, it didn't feel like I had trashed myself.

And now, I taper.


Monday: 11 miles very easy (8:45),  followed by yoga.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 11.5 miles, including a track workout of  6x800 (3:09, 3:02, 2:59, 2:58, 2:58, 2:48); followed by injury prevention work and 1500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 10 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights/core in the morning.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Thursday: 10.5 miles, including a 3.5 mile tempo on the roads.  Split 6:36/6:36/6:40, and then the next half at 6:45 pace before bailing.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: 10 miles very easy (9:45), plus upper body weights. 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday: 21 miles, split as progression of first 7 miles at 9:20; next 7 at 8:12; last 7 at 7:15. Followed with 500 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday:  8 "miles" of pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Training log - Week ending 9/4/16

This week was 50 miles of running, 36 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

One more hard week to go in my Chicago training cycle, and then taper.  This cycle seems like it's gone by pretty quickly.  I think a lot of that is that I've always run my fall marathons in late November, so tapering in September just feels weird.  Shifting back to 5 days on land/2 days in the pool has also helped a lot - shifting between pool and land seems to keep me mentally fresher.

My breathing continued to improve this week, showing that the shift in asthma meds was the right choice.  I was taking my antihistamines in the morning, but I noted some sluggishness, so I decided to shift to taking them at night, which seems to help.  

I only had two hard workouts this week - the 25x400m on Wednesday morning, and then my final "4-3-2-1" on Saturday.    The 25x400m workout (25 reps of 400m with 100m "floating" recovery) is supposed to be executed at 10K pace, but I ended up running slightly slower due to the warm conditions.  (Summer marathon training does suck sometimes.)  My coach and I were both pretty happy with how the workout went.

The 4-3-2-1 went wonderfully.  We were gifted with slightly cooler air, albeit accompanied by a fair bit of wind as tropical storm Hermine grazed the east coast.  This workout (intervals of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles at marathon pace with one mile easy between) is the only workout I use my watch for.  While I normally prefer to target an effort level and let paces fall where they will, I've found that what feels like "marathon pace effort" is generally too optimistic for me, and has no relationship to the pace I actually hold on race day.  So for these workouts, I set my Garmin to show average pace and watch it.

I've been targeting 7:10-7:15 pace as my marathon pace, and that pace felt like cake on Saturday. Almost too easy.   It was tempting to pick up the pace, but I kept the brakes on - I want to have one training cycle where I run all of the long runs very conservatively, pace-wise, to see how that works for me.   The reward was a nice confidence booster - I don't think I've ever felt so good at the end of a 4-3-2-1 workout.  Let's hope that's a good sign.

During Saturday's long run, I experimented with wearing a white running hat.  I'm usually not a running hat person unless it rains - I much prefer sunglasses to a visor or hat bill for blocking sunshine.  But I have no experience with warm sunshiny marathons, and Chicago could be my first (knock on wood that it's not).  Since I have long black hair that loves to absorb sunshine, my thought was that wearing a light colored hat to cover my dark hair might be helpful.

Even though Saturday was overcast, I wore a white ventilated running hat anyway, to see how I liked it in dry and warm conditions.  The result?  I hated it.  It felt like I was running with a woolen ski cap on - I just have too much hair.   So that's a definite no go for the race, unless it's raining.  I'm glad I tried that now.


In non-running news, we went to see Kraftwerk on Saturday night.  I'm guessing that not many people reading this blog know who Kraftwerk is, but trust me, every single one of you knows their music.  If you're a fan of mainstream artists like (takes a deep breath) Depeche Mode, New Order, Madonna, Jay-Z, Coldplay, Franz Ferdinand, the Chemical Brothers, R.E.M., Daft Punk, Missy Elliot, or Kanye West for starters, then you've heard Kraftwerk  - they're literally one of the most influential and most sampled bands in history.

Since the show is basically 4 guys from Germany in their 60s and 70s standing behind computers for two hours, they include a 3D video projection as part of the show.  One band member mixes and programs the video live, while the other three cue up samples, mess with keyboards, and occasionally sing or speak.  The result is one of the best shows I've ever been to.  Definitely in my top ten concerts of all time (and I have to have seen at least 300 shows at this point).

They're only doing 9 cities in the US this tour, and all the shows may be sold out at this point.  And, given the age of the band members, who knows how many more tours there will be.    If you're a modern music fan, and you get the chance to see them - jump on it.  You won't regret it.


Monday: 8 "miles" pool-running; 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 7.5 miles very easy (8:48) then upper body weights, followed by 2.5 miles very easy home (8:52) plus drills and strides.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 12.5 miles, including a workout of 25x400m averaging 1:38 with 100m recovery averaging 31 seconds.  Followed with 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Sports massage at night.

Thursday: 8.5 "miles" pool-running and yoga in the morning.  4.5 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 10.5 miles very easy (9:30), followed by upper body weights and core.  2 "miles pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 17 miles, including a workout of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles at marathon pace, with 1 mile easy in between. Splits were:
4 mile in 28:41 (7:11/7:11/7:10/7:09 - average pace 7:10)
3 mile in 21:28 (7:07/7:11/7:10 - average pace 7:09)
2 mile in 14:23 (7:13/7:10 - average pace 7:11)
1 mile in 7:05
Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming. Foam rolling in afternoon.  Kraftwerk at night.

Sunday:  8 "miles" of pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Training log - Week ending 8/28/16

This week was 65 miles of running, 30 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Only 6 weeks to go until Chicago.  Two more weeks of hard training, a half-marathon, and then a three week taper.

This week was frustrating.  As I noted last week, ragweed levels have exploded in the DC area.  I was really suffering last week, so my asthma doctor upped the strength of my asthma meds.

As I learned this week, it didn't help much.  Tuesday's interval workout looks good on paper, but was much too tough in reality, as I strained to run paces that had been far easier a week or two ago, even though the weather was remarkably cool for August.

And then Friday's tempo was miserable.  I was optimistic at the start, only to quickly feel the load of bricks pile on as I struggled to hit paces that were ~15 seconds per mile slower than what I had run just two weeks ago, in equally hot and humid weather.  I had planned to do four miles; at three miles I ended up taking a minute break to calm down my breathing before grinding out a fourth mile.  And I felt like shit afterwards.

 Absolutely, I should have pulled the plug on the workout at 3 miles instead of digging my hole deeper - tempo workouts are NOT exercises in methodical self-destruction.  But I was frustrated and pissed off that the breathing issues were back, and frankly not thinking too clearly.

Luckily, I have an awesome asthma doctor who really really cares, and I was able to speak with her on Friday.  She suggested that we change my asthma meds again, and add in a prescription anti-histamine.

Essentially, the issue is that I have two separate, but related breathing problems.  Asthma (lungs constrict when triggered) and vocal cord dysfunction ("VCD" - larynx gets irritated and constricts at the wrong time, making it harder to inhale).   Most long-acting asthma meds tend to irritate the larynx and worsen the VCD, even as they improve the asthma, which is why managing both conditions is a balancing act.

My allergies have been irritating both my lungs and my vocal cords, and thus worsening both conditions.  When we increased my Advair dose, though it may have helped the asthma a bit, it also worsened the VCD.  So, we decided to drop my Advair back down to the previous dose that had worked so well for me pre-ragweed (the 250) and to add in another inhaled corticosteroid - QVAR.

She also prescribed the anti-histamine Clarinex - a stronger prescription-only version of Claritin.   Since the underlying cause of all this is the allergies, it makes sense to target that (I've been using Claritin and/or Allegra, but neither has helped terribly much the last week or two.  Zyrtek and Benadryl both make me drowsy and my running sluggish).

[disclaimer #1 - because I care - all of the above drugs are legal under WADA - no TUE required]

[disclaimer #2 - I know the above detailed talk about meds may be a bit much for some people, and I sometimes debate whether to put all that in.  I get that it's TMI for some.  At the same time, I've found that detail like this is helpful for me to refer back to in the future.  I also know of other people dealing with the same issues who read my blog and find the detail helpful.  So I've decided to err on the side of inclusion - my feelings won't be hurt if some people aren't interested and want to skip.]

[disclaimer 3: yes, I've been getting allergy shots for the past 5 weeks.  But I started them too late to help with this year's ragweed season, though they should help next spring and fall.]

So I made the switch on Friday night, and felt a bit better on Saturday and notably better on Sunday. I'm still not back to where I was a few weeks ago, but Sunday's long run felt much better than either Tuesday or Friday, despite fairly humid conditions and high pollen.

The one hitch is that I find the Clarinex very dehydrating.  In the two days I've been on it, I've dropped 3 pounds, despite loading up on food in prep for my Sunday 21 mile run.  It sounds like a nice problem to have, but I assure you it's not - all the lost weight was water weight, at a time of year when I really need to stay hydrated.  I'm drinking water nonstop, but it doesn't seem to want to stick. However, the Clarinex is working really well for the allergies, so I'll just hang tough for a few days, pounding fluids.  My hunch is that the dehydration issue will get better as my body adjusts.


Monday: yoga and 7 "miles" pool-running; 3 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 12.5 miles, including a track workout of 2x1600, 800 (6:21, 3:03, 6:11, 2:53); followed by injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles easy (8:19) to yoga, then yoga.  Later did 4 miles very easy (8:38).  4 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Thursday: 10 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights/core in the morning.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 10 miles, including a ~ 4 mile tempo on the track in 27:23 (6:50/6:47/6:54, one minute break and then 6:52), followed by 1250 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles very easy (9:27), plus upper body weights. 4 "miles" pool-running with the belt and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 21 miles, split as progression of first 7 miles at 9:12; next 6.5 at 8:02; last 7.5 at 7:17.  Followed with 500 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Training log - Week ending 8/21/16

This week was 50 miles of running, 31 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

And....I'm halfway through the hardest part of the training cycle.  During what's the most challenging part of the year to run in, to boot.

The weather for the first part of the week was fairly tough - Wednesday's workout was in temperatures in the high 70s with a dew point to match.  On paper, the workout was supposed to be 25x400m at 10K pace with 100m active recovery (i.e. around 8:00 pace, not the normal shuffle jog).

 Because of the weather conditions, I slowed down my pace on the intervals (1:38s instead of 1:33s). However, in retrospect, I should have slowed down the recovery jogs as well.  The point of keeping the recovery jog so short and upbeat is to keep one's heart rate from dropping too much, but in hot and humid weather, one's heart rate isn't going to drop anyway.

As I got further and further into the workout, I could tell that I was overreaching and overheating, so I stopped the workout at 20 repeats to limit the damage.  It's always hard to do so - like any type A personality, I equate "harder" workouts with "better."  And forcing the last few laps would have been good mental toughness training.  But gutting out the workout would have also dug me into a big hole.  Y'know, the same one I always dig myself into if I'm not careful.

It's funny how good decisions make one feel sheepish at the time.  Workouts are stimuli, not validations of one's fitness and toughness.  But it's hard to remember that in the heat of the (hot and humid) moment.

The other news is that, sadly, my asthma has started acting up again.  And the uptick coincides very nicely with the onset of ragweed season.  Of course.

I had noticed my chest getting tight again, so I headed back to the asthma doctor on Friday.  There, some tests confirmed that my breathing had backtracked a bit, so we bumped up the strength of my Advair (from 250 to 500, for those who care).

I was annoyed for several reasons.  For one, I hate the side effects of the stronger dose of Advair.  I find it very dehydrating, and it also gives me hot flashes - both of which are not fun when trying to train in a DC summer.  It also makes me irritable - I get annoyed at really minor things, and then feel awful about it later.

I've also gotten really hooked on having 100% functioning lungs.  It was just an amazing feeling, and I'm depressed to have regressed.  It's like I'm in some pulmonary retelling of Flowers for Algernon - my breathing peaked, and is now slowly ebbing away.  I know that I'm still breathing much better than my norm for this time of year, and I'm pretty sure that this will pass in another 4-5 weeks (which is also when my training cycle concludes).  But 4-5 weeks seems a long time right now.


Monday: 9 "miles" pool-running; 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 7.5 miles very easy (9:17) then upper body weights, followed by 2.5 miles very easy home (8:59) plus drills and strides.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 12 miles, including a workout of 20x400m averaging 1:38 pace with 100m recovery at easy run pace.  Followed with 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Sports massage at night.

Thursday: 8 "miles" pool-running and yoga in the morning.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 10.5 miles very easy (9:26), followed by upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 17 miles, including a workout of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles at marathon pace, with 1 mile easy in between. Splits were:
4 mile in 28:57 (7:23/7:15/7:06/7:13 - average pace 7:14)
3 mile in 21:33 (7:14/7:13/7:06 - average pace 7:11)
2 mile in 14:22 (7:15/7:07 - average pace 7:11)
1 mile in 6:55
Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming. Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday: Took the morning off to clean and unpack (our brand new kitchen was finished on Friday).  6 "miles" of pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Training log - Week ending 8/14/16

This week was 65 miles of running, 24 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Another week in the books, with two topics of interest.

The first was the weather.  Summer in the DC area is always challenging (fun fact - DC is generally hotter/more humid than Tampa during the summer) but the past few days been out of the norm.  "It's not the heat but the humidity" is a cliche, but it's also true.  Very high dewpoints have made running at any pace tough.

Despite the weather, Friday's tempo went surprisingly well, with my conservative effort yielding a surprisingly fast pace for the conditions (temperature 79/dew point 76).  This was a good thing.

However, this created a false sense of confidence, and so I was a bit too relaxed about Saturday's easy 10 (temperature 80, dew point 78).  I carried a water bottle and planned to hit water stops along the way, but I didn't chug water before the run, and I also took Benadryl for my flaring allergies the night before, which often times dehydrates me.

The result was a run that was epic in its shittiness.  I've felt better during my bad marathons than I did on Saturday - by the last mile, anything that wasn't downhill felt uphill, and I was alternating running and standing breaks in an attempt at damage control.

It wasn't a great confidence booster for Sunday's long run, but it was helpful all the same. Determined to avoid a similar experience on Sunday, I spent Saturday night and Sunday morning chugging fluids like my training cycle depended on it.  Because it did.

I also paced the long run extremely cautiously, stopping at just about every single water fountain I saw, and draining my overlarge handheld between each.   I also kept a close eye on my heart rate, pulling back any time I saw the number getting a bit high, and supplemented my normal gel consumption with salty Margarita Shot Bloks.

The result was a solid long run.  Nothing spectacular (and I lost my discipline and got rolling a bit too fast the last two miles), but I survived, and I didn't bury myself in the process.  So woo.


The other topic was the Olympics.  Like a lot of other people I love watching as much of the sports as I can.  And like any good distance runner, I watched the 10,000 track races, women's and men's.

The women's 10,000 was one of the most frustrating things I've watched in some time.  If you're cynical/realistic/cynical/realistic/pick-the-adjective-of-your-choice, then you're aware that part of the game of competing at that level is doping.   And that robs the sport of a lot of its beauty.

There's two things that make competition really exciting. One is close competition.  The men's 10,000, though I'm sure that's also doped, at least came down to the last lap.

In contrast, there was no suspense in the women's 10,000.  Just a ludicrous performance as the eventual winner, Almaz Ayana, lapped most of her competitors, many more than once.  Spectacular performances and dominance can be thrilling, because they show us what the human body can achieve.   But they need to be credible,  And Ayana's performance wasn't.   As a friend of mine noted, it looked effortless, like she wasn't even working.  As she demolished a 20+ year old world record that was the result of "Chinese turtle blood."

It's frustrating to watch such an implausible performance, and to hear the announcers laud it as if it was credible.  I'm not a fan of the WWF, or of reality TV, because I don't like scripted reality.  But that's what that race was.

And performances like that just increase the doping. Not just because "you need to dope to compete," but because it plays into the rationalization that appeals to each one of us, elite or not.

If you're an elite on EPO, it's OK because all your competitors are also.
If you're an elite on something other than EPO, it's OK because at least it's not EPO.
If you're not an elite, you can take anything you want because you're not an elite.  And conversely, there's elites that argue that it's OK to take anything that a non-elite athlete does.

It's fascinating psychology, and one that plays out in pretty much every sport.  But also depressing.


Monday: yoga and 7.5 "miles" pool-running; 2.5 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 12 miles, including a track workout of 400, 800, 1200, 1600, 1200, 800, 400 (95, 3:05, 4:35, 6:09, 4:34, 2:55, 78), followed by injury prevention work and 1250 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 7.5 miles very easy (9:02) to yoga, then yoga.  Later did 4 miles very easy (8:43). 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Thursday: 8 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights/core in the morning.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 10.5 miles, including a 5K tempo on the track in 20:32 (6:42/6:34/6:31/0:45), followed by 1150 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 9.5 miles aerobic (9:05), plus upper body weights. 2 "miles" pool-running with the belt and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 21 miles, done ultrarunner style (EIGHT water stops).  Ended up doing a very slight progression of first 9.5 miles at 9:12; next 7 at 8:33; last 4.5 at 7:40 (because the route is downhill for the last part).  Followed with 600 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Yes, it is a sport...

Every four years, the Summer Olympics come around, and the public is exposed to sports outside the American canon of basketball, baseball, football (not soccer), and hockey (plus golf and Nascar). Every four years, we're impressed by the athletes in some of these niche sports.  And every four years, we mock other sports.

Equestrian sports fall into the second category.  I've heard it all: "horse dancing"; "the horse does all the work"; etc.  NBC's coverage of the sport doesn't do it any favors either.  Instead of explaining the nuances and technicalities and physical demands of the sport, they recite cliches like "the beauty of the partnership between horse and rider."

(if I hear or read that one more time, I will scream.  No one ever talks about "the beauty of the partnership" in volleyball or crew).

Equestrian sports can be really interesting and exciting to watch - as evidence, I present my significant other, who knew very little about either riding or running before dating me.  He now finds the horse sports exciting, while a televised marathon remains of little interest.

However, you can't enjoy watching the sport unless you understand the sport.  So here's a primer.

First of all, a disclaimer: there are three types of horse sports in the Olympic games (well actually four, but Pentathlon is its own beast).   They are dressage, three day eventing, and showjumping. Showjumping, which is being televised next week, is what I did as a teenager.  And since I did "the jumpers" to a fairly high level, I feel qualified to explain it.

I did NOT compete in three day eventing or dressage, both of which are being shown this week.  And so I understand the general demands and structures of those sports in the same way that I understand 800m running or triathlons - enough to enjoy watching, but not enough to discuss in great detail.

Thus, I'll stick to what I know.  Showjumping.


There's two assumptions that underlie most people's dismissal of equestrian sports.  The first is that the primary concern in jumping a horse is not falling off.  I've come to the conclusion that many people think that successfully jumping horses is about a) getting the horse pointed the right direction and b) staying on while the horse jumps.  Steering and not falling off are indeed essential to competing in showjumping, in the same way that the ability to run a bit further than 6 miles is essential to racing a 10K well.  But there's much more than that to the sport.

The second assumption is that horse sports are not physically demanding.    I think this stems out of each person's tendency to define fitness in terms of the physical qualities needed to excel in their chosen sport.  If you run or swim or bike, you define fitness as aerobic endurance.  If you lift, you define fitness as pure strength.

Riding is a sport of skill, but also of strength.  You need to be quite strong to be a successful rider, though nowhere near the level of a elite weightlifter.  While most strength sports focus on concentric work - lifting something, moving something, etc; riding is an isometric strength workout.  Riders work very hard to keep stuff stable, and to engage in controlled, fairly small movements.  This is why the physical work that a rider is doing isn't apparent to the casual observer - because the rider isn't making large motions (hopefully).  But as anyone that's held chair pose in yoga or done planks can testify, isometric strengthwork can be very tough.

[when I watch dressage, my abs and biceps ache in sympathy with the rider.  I'm guessing the majority of NBC's viewership doesn't experience similar]

There's also a belief that riding is not an aerobic sport at all - that "you just sit there" while the horse does the work.  This belief is perpetuated by the many people every year who go on an organized trail ride, where a horse carries them around some scenic locale while they clutch the mane with both hands.

That's not riding.  That's sitting on a horse.  Riding (not sitting) is aerobic work. Yes, the horse is working and breathing hard, but so is the rider.  Trail riding is to equestrian sports like tubing is to kayaking, or sledding is to slalom skiing.

When riding a horse at the canter, my perceived aerobic effort matches that of running at marathon pace, and my heart rate does as well (mid 160s for both).  I can still speak in phrases or the occasional sentence, with a few breaths in between, but I am WORKING.  The key difference, of course, is that I'm probably not going to be working at the canter for more than 5 minutes at a time, while I'll be running my marathon for a bit over three hours.  Running is far MORE aerobically demanding than riding.  But riding does involve some aerobic effort, combined with far more strength than one needs to run.


So, what does a showjumping rider actually do?

Short answer: many different and difficult things that enable the horse to jump the course of obstacles.  In the end, it's the horse that takes off and lands.  But it's the rider's job to ensure that the horse is able to jump the jump well, with most of that work being done before the horse and rider arrive at the jump.  That's the skill part, which in turn requires significant strength to pull off.

I stole this picture from someone
who stole it from
Horsejunkies is a very good site, BTW.
You should all visit it.
To understand this, we'll start with a very simple jump - imagine a hurdle similar to what a runner would encounter in a steeplechase race on the track.  Now visualize a horse jumping over the hurdle.

Or, alternately, just look at the picture on the right.

As you can see, the horse arcs over the jump, from take-off to landing.   In order to jump a fence well, the horse's arc should be centered over the highest part of the jump.   

(This jumping arc is generally referred to as a bascule, which is a pretentious sounding word that I despise, and so won't use again.)

The rider's job (in part) is to shape that arc.  Part of that ensuring that the horse takes off from the optimal place in front of the fence.  Not too close, or the front legs may hit the fence.  And not too far, or the back legs may not clear the fence.   And if you totally screw up, getting to a spot from which it is very hard or impossible to clear the fence, the horse will likely refuse to jump (and often times, you're grateful, as they've just saved your neck).

The rider also controls the shape of the jumping arc, generally by shaping the horse's stride before the jump.  If you have your horse cantering with short, bouncy strides before the jump, you'll get an arc that is narrow but quite high - perfect for high jumps that aren't very wide.  If your horse is jumping out of a more extended stride, then you'll achieve an wider, flatter arc - much better for jumping very
Most of these are verticals, but there's also an oxer,
a triple bar, and an open water.
wide jumps with little height.  Of course, there's many different shapes of jumps, and so a need for many different types of arcs.   Some jumps aren't very wide (they're called verticals), some jumps are wider but still high (oxers and triple bars) and there's occasionally a shallow but wide pit full of water.


So, that's how to handle a single jump.  But of course, it's not that simple.  While you occasionally have jumps sitting out in the middle of nowhere, most jumps are placed at measured distances from each other. And this fact makes shaping the arc for each jump harder.

A horse's normal stride is assumed to be 12 feet long, and the horse generally needs 6 feet in front of the jump to take off, and lands 6 feet away from the jump on the other side (that's a vast simplification, but just go with it - if you know this sport, then this post isn't aimed at you anyway).

So...if you have two jumps with 60 feet between them, then your horse will take 4 strides between the two.  60 feet less 6 feet for landing and less 6 feet for takeoff  is 48 feet, and 48 feet equals four 12 foot strides.

[incidentally, this 12 foot stride is why, if you ever watch a showjumping competition, you may see riders "walk the course" - striding between two jumps with a slightly military step.   They're actually measuring the distance between the two jumps, with each step that they take being exactly 3 feet long.]

But suppose that the second jump is fairly wide, and so you need a more extended stride to clear it. That more extended stride is 13 feet long.  If you do 4 strides, each 13 feet long, then you've covered 52 feet (plus the 6 for landing for the first jump), and you are way too close to the second jump.

How do you fix that?  One way is to land and then take two strides that are 11 feet long and two strides that are 13 feet long.  If the jumps are set on a curving path, another option is to take the turn wider, so that you can fit in four longer strides.


Course designers get mean sometimes.   And they get meaner as the level of competition get higher.   In my example above, they could set the jumps to be 56 feet apart, rather than 60.  So how do you fit in the 13 foot stride that you need to jump the second wide jump?

There's at least three options:
1) take two REALLY REALLY short strides and then two longer ones, and hope it works out.
2) try to leave out a stride, taking three REALLY REALLY long strides. And hope it works out.
3) take four slightly short strides and hope it works out.

If it doesn't work out, you may get lucky and get over it anyway.  Or you may get over it but knock a rail down.  Or your horse may stop.  Or you may crash.   Trust me, it's an awful feeling to realize two or three strides away out from a fence that you've made the wrong choice.


And of course, it gets even harder, since horses are individuals.  Some horses lengthen their strides easily, but don't shorten well.  Some horses like to have extra space in front of the jump - preferring to take off from 7 feet away, instead of 6.  Some horses are capable of jumping very big jumps, and so you have a wider margin for error.  This is called "scope."  Some horses are more limited, and you can't stray very far from perfection without knocking down the fence or worse.

One horse I showed regularly in the jumpers as a teenager, named Bar Brat, was limited in how wide she could jump (though not how high).  She also pulled in her front legs very quickly when jumping, meaning we could take off much closer to the jump.  When I rode her, I had to ensure that we a) carried a fast pace and a longer stride, to maximize her ability to get across the width, and b) took off very close to the jump, to minimize the total width she had to clear.

There's also other details for the rider to control, like where the horse's center of gravity is - more towards the front?  More to the rear?  And whether the horse's body is straight, bent to the right, bent to the left, etc.  Going into all of that would make this entry even longer, so just suffice to say - it's hard.   People write books on this stuff.  And people buy books on this stuff.


As described above, this all sounds very mathematical.  Measure the course, do some calculations, and you're set.  But horses aren't like planes - you don't program in your flight path ahead of time. Rather, you have a general game plan when you go in the ring.  Something like "5 short strides between one and two, then turn right and open up my stride for fence three..."  But you have to adjust on the fly, relying on your feel for how the horse is moving, and your visual depth perception to measure where you are relative to each jump.

And, there are no buttons to push.  Instead you manage the horse's stride and balance physically.    It's another oversimplification, but basically you lengthen the stride by squeezing with your legs more (or kicking, if necessary), and shorten the stride by pulling with your arms.  Sometimes this is a fairly subtle thing.  And sometimes you have to apply force.  A LOT of force.  Bar Brat would pull fairly hard, and 90 seconds in the ring was enough to bring me to muscle failure at times.

Of course, your core is working very hard as well - stabilizing you on a moving animal, and giving you something to brace against when you (oversimplified) kick and pull.    Though it's too complicated to explain here in detail, your core also steers and balances the horse - the placement of your body on the horse affects how the horse carries its weight.

Think pilates on a reformer machine with heavy weights, but with the risk of getting seriously hurt.

Riders don't always have the low body fat of other sports (unless they're competing in equitation, which is a variant of show jumping judged on the rider's performance and appearance).  And that extra body fat sometimes creates a misleading impression of a lack of fitness.  However, any rider competing at a high level has fantastic core strength, and can also perform some impressive weight work in the gym.


So that, in a nutshell, is what the rider is doing on the horse.  Of course, they're doing this with a purpose, and the purpose is to place well in competition. So how is the competition scored?

In show-jumping, the objective is to jump a clear round over the course of jumps.  "Clear" means that you haven't incurred any "faults."  How does one get faults? Well....

  • If you alter the height or width of an obstacle (generally by knocking a pole down), or get a foot in a water jump - 4 faults.
  • If the horse refuses to jump a jump, it's called a refusal, which is a type of "disobedience."  It's 4 faults for the first disobedience.  The second disobedience is elimination.  If you circle while on course, or come to a complete stop anywhere on course, it's also considered a diobedience, and 4 faults are assessed.
  • If the rider falls (defined as touching the ground) - elimination.
  • If the horse falls (defined as both the shoulders and the rear end of the horse touching the ground) - elimination.
  • If you jump the fences out of order, it's called "off course" - elimination.
Each course has a start and finish line clearly marked - you only incur faults while you are between the start and finish.  Fall off after the finish line, and you're still in the game - this has occasionally led to some hilarious scenes as riders who have been jumped loose struggle to hang on until they cross the finish.

You're timed from when you cross the start to when you cross the finish, and each course has a "time allowed."  At the Olympic level, riders are expected to maintain a pace of 400 meters per minute (essentially a four minute mile).  The time allowed is calculated by combining that pace with the measured distance of the course - thus the time allowed for a 500 meter course would be 75 seconds.

If you exceed the time allowed, you incur 1 fault for every 4 seconds, or portion thereof, that you are over the time.  So, if the time allowed is 75 seconds, and you take 76 seconds, you get 1 fault.    If you take 79 seconds, it's still 1 fault.  If you take 80 seconds, it's 2 faults.

If you really go crazy, and are out there for twice the time allowed, then you've exceeded the time limit - that's elimination.


That's how each round is scored.  In a "normal" horse show, there are multiple classes for individual horse/rider combinations, each treated as a separate mini-competition, with awards given for that class.  In each class, there's a first round, and then all competitors who are tied for first after that first round (usually, this is all the clear rounds), return for a "jump-off" where they compete over a shortened course with their time in that second round being the tie breaker.

The Olympics differ slightly, in that they are a team competition.   At Rio this year, the competition will be spread over multiple days.  The first day is a "qualifier" with relatively simple course.  Placements on this day affect the starting order for future days - there's usually an advantage to going later in the order, so that one can see how the course rides.  

Two days later, the riders return for a two round "Nations Cup" that determines the team medals. Two rounds  over the same course.  Each country fields a team of four riders, with the scores from the best three counting for each round.  At the end of the two rounds, the lowest team score (after cutting the drop score) wins.

Two days later, the top 35 riders from the team competition plus the qualifier return for the individual competition.  Their scores are reset to 0, and they compete over another two rounds, with the lowest score winning gold.  If there's a tie for any medal after the two rounds, the tied competitors jump off for the medal.


If you've made it through this all, then you're ready to watch Olympic Show Jumping.  Congratulations.  The qualifying round is on Sunday, August 14 from 9:00 am -12:45 pm EST.  The Team competition is on Tuesday, August 16 and Wednesday, August 17 starting at 9:00 am EST each day.  And the individual competition is on Friday, August 19 starting at 9:00 am EST.  

See you there!  (virtually)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Training log - Week ending 8/7/16

This week was 59 miles of running, 21 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

The first half of this week was a bit tough.  Though the splits from Tuesday's workout aren't bad on paper, it wasn't a great workout.  The first reps felt great, but then I started hurting halfway through the workout, and had to work to finish it.  Workouts are for training, not straining, but I did the latter on Tuesday.    I think this was partially due to residual fatigue from Sunday's race, and partially due to slacking off on my water consumption during the workout.

I was tired on Wednesday as well, and I struggled to fall asleep on Wednesday night.  And just felt all around lousy and heavy.   Being tired is part of marathon training.  But...problems falling asleep, combined with a bloated feeling, are often a warning sign that I've overreached in my training.  So I reduced my workload substantially on Thursday - skipping the gym and my evening pool-running double.  I also donned a flotation belt for the morning pool-run, to reduce the intensity and make it a true recovery activity.

This seems to have done the trick, as I felt better on Friday (with a much easier workout) and even better yet on the weekend.   So yay.  But it was a good reminder that I need to be mindful of not pushing stuff too hard.  It's a fine line - push hard enough to improve, but not so hard that you can't absorb the training.  Harder is not better.


In other news, I signed up for "23andMe" some time ago.  (unofficial motto: when you can't justify buying any more running stuff, spend your disposable income here instead!)   It's a service where you pay some money, spit into a tube (it requires a LOT of spit), and then ship tube+spit off for analysis. They do some analytic stuff, and send you a report a month listing all sorts of genetic information about you.

Having now purchased (and spat), I'm a bit meh about the whole thing.  The report wasn't that interesting, though I guess that's a good thing, since much of the results were confirmation that I didn't carry genes for horrible rare diseases.

Some of the results were pretty funny, though.

 Some results were just....incorrect.

 And some were both incorrect AND hilarious.

Next week, I get to run my first 20+ mile long run since November of last year.   Oddly, given my latent sprinting capabilities, I'm looking forward to it.


Monday: yoga and 7 "miles" pool-running; 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 10 miles, including a track workout of 2x800, 1600, 2x800 (3:03, 2:59, 6:03, 2:57, 2:53), followed by injury prevention work and 1250 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 7.5 miles very easy (8:53) to yoga, then yoga.  Later did 3.5 miles very easy (8:41). 2 "miles" pool-running and a sports massage in the afternoon.

Thursday: 8 "miles" pool-running with the belt.  Foam rolling at night

Friday: 11 miles, including a track workout of 3200, 1600 in 12:45 (6:29/6:16) and 6:03.  followed by injury prevention work and 1250 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles very easy (8:57), plus drills and strides.  Upper body weights, 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 17 miles, including a workout of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles at marathon pace, with 1 mile easy in between.  Splits were:
4 mile in 28:27 (7:08/7:09/7:07/7:03 - average pace 7:07)
3 mile in 21:34 (7:11/7:12/7:11 - average pace 7:11)
2 mile in 14:18 (7:11/7:07 - average pace 7:09)
1 mile in 6:52
 Followed with injury prevention work and 750 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.