Sunday, March 10, 2019

Training log - Week ending 3/10/19

This week was 60 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was my last week of focused training for a while, as I'm going to be shifting into goal race mode for the next few months.  The first of those goal races, Shamrock Half-Marathon, is next weekend. 

Of course, this doesn't really change that much - I'll still be training between races, and it's not like I haven't been racing the last few weeks.  It really just means that I'll be focusing a bit more on the pre-race pullback/sharpening and post-race recovery than I have in the previous weeks.

To that point, I really considered my 8K tempo on Friday to be my last real workout before Shamrock.  After that I started pulling back some by reducing the mileage of my Sunday run.  I also conveniently started chatting in the last few miles of the Sunday run, and ended up running a bit easier than marathon effort for those miles.  Normally I'd be annoyed at myself for the lack of focus, but I don't think it was a bad thing to be a bit too easy this weekend.  (and also, it's a good sign that 6:5x pace was "a bit easier than marathon" effort - that wouldn't have been the case a few weeks ago.)

Next week will be pretty chill, doing just enough in my workouts to keep my legs sharp.  As for how I think things will go?  I had entered Shamrock with hopes of breaking 84 minutes, but I don't think I'm quite there yet.  (hopefully, I'll be there in June for the Garry Bjorklund half)  If I had to guess, I'd put my fitness at 84-85 minutes right now.  I'm definitely not in the shape I was before the Richmond half-marathon (where I ran 84:22).  

On the other hand, I'll be fresher for Shamrock than I was for Richmond since I won't have a marathon cycle on my legs, and Shamrock is also a faster course.  Additionally, I've historically run very well at Shamrock, so maybe some of that magic will happen again this year.  I'll know by this time next week.


Monday: Upper body weights/core and 8 "miles" pool-running in the morning.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 12 miles, including a track workout of 2x800, 1600, 2x800, 2x200 in 3:06, 3:02, 6:09, 3:00, 2:52, 41, 40.  Followed with leg strengthwork and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy to yoga (9:06), plus drills and strides, and then yoga.  Followed with another 4 miles very easy (9:04).  Foam rolling at night.

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

Friday: 14 miles, including an 8K tempo on the track in 32:36 (6:38/6:32/6:31/6:30/6:25).  Followed with leg strengthwork and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  10 miles very easy (8:49), plus drills, 4 hill sprints, upper body weights/core.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday: 12 miles progressive, split as first 4 averaging 8:46, next 4 averaging 7:21, last 4 averaging 6:51.   Followed with light leg strengthwork and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Training log - Week ending 3/3/2019

This week was 60 miles of running, 8 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I started the week off with a good rock concert on Sunday night (Cruxshadows w/ opener Korine) and a day trip up to NYC on Monday for work.

[Video somebody took from Sunday's show.  One of the things I love about
this group: while other bands zealously police filming and photos
at their shows, the Cruxshadows embrace it, including regularly
collecting cellphones from audience members, taking selfies on stage, 
and then returning the phones, all while continuing to perform.]

If I had really wanted to, I could have squeezed in a pool-run on Monday - the pool opens at 5:30 am and my train left at 8:10.  But I just didn't see the point - I'd have to wake up early after a late night to fit it in, and I've discovered that whenever I need to choose between working out or adequate sleep, sleep needs to win. 

If I force myself to run/pool-run/whatever while sleep-deprived, I don't reap any benefits from the workout, since my body doesn't absorb it.  At the same time, I increase my fatigue and my injury risk.  Double whammy and pointless - better to take the day off.

[Of course, my type A instincts were screaming at me, but they always do.  It's funny how we runners are so terrified of undertraining, when it's overtraining that we should truly fear.]

My coach and I reworked stuff this week so that I would do 16x400m (at 10K pace with 100m floats), and then a marathon pace workout on Saturday.  Unfortunately, I ate something that disagreed with me on Monday (not hard to do, given my problematic GI system), and the lingering effects interrupted the Wednesday workout 11 reps in.  

After taking care of business, I jumped back in, thinking I'd extend the workout to another 10 reps to balance out the break (the whole point of this workout is very limited recovery).  But my large intestine had other ideas and spoke up again after another 6 reps, at which point I just called it a day.  Frustrating, but it was what it was.

I hoped that stuff was cleared out by Saturday, but unfortunately it was still an issue (albeit a lesser one).  I was able (with some discomfort) to make it through each 3 mile segment at marathon effort, but had to duck in and take a quick bio break during each recovery.  I kept my watch running, and was able to keep the bio break very quick (Shalane has nothing on me) but it still changed the workout, which was frustrating.  

When doing a workout, the duration of the recovery is just as important as the duration of the interval, and the nature of the recovery also matters - standing (*ahem sitting*) recovery is fundamentally different from jogging recovery.  So, my GI troubles forced me to modify the workout in ways that didn't totally ruin it, but did reduce the value slightly, and that was annoying.  Which is probably why I ran the final mile (ideally at half-marathon effort) too fast.

Nothing to do about it of course.  Except to make sure to avoid a recurrence and to hope this bout soon passes.  At least the workouts went well other than for these transient issues.

If anyone wonders why I eat nothing but food from home or tried-and-true Chipotle the last few days before a goal race, this week was a nice illustration of why.


Monday: Off.  Nothing but a bit of foam rolling

Tuesday: 8 very easy (9:11) plus drills/hill sprints, and then upper body weights/core, before another 2 very easy home (9:02)

Wednesday: 11.5 miles, including a workout of 11x400m and 7x400m averaging 94 seconds with 100m float recovery averaging 29 seconds.  Involuntary 2:30 break between sets.  Followed with leg strengthwork and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Massage in the afternoon

Thursday:  Yoga and 8 "miles" pool-running in the morning.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: 10 miles very easy (8:55) plus drills and 6 hill sprints, followed by upper body weights/core.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  16.5 miles, including 3x3 miles at marathon pace plus 1 mile faster, split as: 

Set 1: 20:35 (6:53/6:48/6:54 - 6:52 pace) (9:03 recovery including bio-break)
Set 2: 20:41 (6:51/6:55/6:55 - 6:54 pace) (8:32 recovery including bio-break)
Set 3: 20:18 (6:45/6:54/6:39 - 6:46 pace) (10:08 recovery including bio-break)
Faster mile: 6:21

Followed with leg strengthwork and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday: 12 miles easy (8:31), followed by yoga.   Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Training log - Week ending 2/24/2019

This week was 44 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I pulled back some this week, partially because of weather (a significant snow storm shut down DC on Wednesday) and mostly because I was racing on Saturday and wanted to give myself every opportunity to run a fast time.

As noted in my report, I was a bit disappointed in my performance on Saturday.  An 8K PR that matched my other PRs was one of my goals for this spring.  My 8K PR was very weak, and it remains weak, I think, so that's annoying.  Additionally, I felt that I just didn't race my best, which is as or more frustrating than the time itself.    

There's not that many 8K races that fit into my schedule (doing the 8K at Shamrock would mean missing the Shamrock Half-Marathon), so I don't know when I'll get a chance to race the distance again.  Of course, it's not like the 8K/5 mile distance is a major distance, so I'm honestly not sure why I care that much anyway.


I've noted that when I have a race I'm not happy with, I get strongly tempted to have a harder-than-appropriate run the next day.  It's the "punish myself" theory of training, and I'm not immune.  For that reason, I showed up at the team run on Sunday and asked my coach what I should do.  (On my own, I probably would have done 12-14 moderate).   

He held me to 8-10 easy (which meant 10, of course), so I trotted off with my teammates, both mildly annoyed and very grateful that I let him make the call, if that makes sense.  I like to think of myself as disciplined and controlled in my training, but every once in a while, even after all these years, I still need someone to protect me from myself.

And of course, running with my teammates improved my mood substantially.  Funny how that works.


Monday: yoga and 8.5 "miles" pool-running; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 12 miles, including 7x800 in 3:09, 3:03, 3:02, 3:01, 3:00, 2:54, 2:55.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 6 miles very easy (9:36), then DIY yoga at home and foam rolling

Thursday:  Light upper body weights and core and 7.5 "miles" pool-running in the morning.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: 4 miles very easy (9:27) and DIY yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  3 mile warm-up, then 8K race in 31:27 (manual splits 6:19/6:26/6:27/6:14/6:02).  3 mile cool-down.  1000 yards recovery swimming and foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday: 10 miles easy (8:32), followed by drills/strides and yoga.   Foam rolling in afternoon.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Race report: Gloucester 8K, February 23, 2019

I ran the Gloucester 8K in Gloucester, Virginia this morning, finishing in 31:27, which was good enough for the female win and a PR, so I guess this morning could be categorized as a success.

I had originally planned on racing the Gasparilla 8K in Tampa, Florida this weekend - it's a very fast 8K course, and every time I've been to Tampa in February, it's been perfect running weather in the morning.

However, not this weekend.  The forecast looked awful - 70 degrees with a dew point of 68 at race start.  Tough weather for racing in general, and really challenging for someone who has been training in sub-freezing temperatures.  Since my hotel could be cancelled and my flight was on Southwest (and so reusable), it was an easy decision to cancel the trip and eat the race registration.

(not to mention that I had a concert to go to on Sunday night, and it was going to be a hard turn around to race in Tampa Sunday morning, go to a concert in DC Sunday night, and then hop on a train to NYC Monday morning for work...)

But, I still wanted to race, and I wanted to do an 8K-5 miler if possible.  Both because my PR was ridiculously weak at that distance (my former 8K and current 10 miler PRs were at the same pace....) and because I'm trying to focus on the 5k-10K distances right now because I'm weakest there.  So....some digging revealed the Gloucester 8K on the same weekend in Southeastern Virginia, about 2.5 hours drive away.    A teammate who had run the race previously confirmed that the course was flat and fast, and my coach was on board with the idea, so I registered.

The race started at 9:30 am on Saturday, and so I debated driving down the morning of the race.  After giving some thought, I drove down Friday morning instead.  Hotels near Colonial Williamsburg were very very cheap since it's the off season, and since I telecommute, it was easy to check in early, and then just get a late start on an otherwise normal work day.    An additional consideration was that the forecast was for a steady rain - the type of weather that results in early morning accidents that snarl interstates - I didn't want to risk getting stuck in that on race morning.

So I drove down, checked in, grabbed Chipotle, and worked.  Then enjoyed a leisurely sleep-in (no cats to wake me) before driving to the race.


I had been crossing my fingers for the last few days, hoping that the forecast rain would hold off until after the race, but no such luck.  I woke to a cold steady rain.  Oh well.  After the gifts of weather that we had at Richmond and CIM last year, I had a balance due to the weather gods.

After parking and picking up my number, I went for a jog to warm-up and check out the start/finish area.  I noted that immediately after the start, we'd be running through a school parking lot with raised speed bumps.  Fortunately, one could avoid those by staying to the right - I made a mental note.  We'd return the same way (stay all the way to the left) and then would run through a narrow opening across a short grass section and up on to the high school track to finish at the 50 yard line.  

I wouldn't have been crazy about running on a short grass section (it was only about 10-15 meters) in dry weather, so I really wasn't happy about it given the current conditions - it was already soggy and muddy.  Additionally, I was sure it was going to be in much worse shape by the time the race was over, and I felt a preliminary twinge of guilt at contributing to the damage of school property.  Oh well, it was what it was - I wasn't going to skip the race over it.


I did two longer surges (about 50 seconds each), 4 short strides, and then lined up.  Some final instructions, including the location of the water stop that absolutely nobody was going to use today, and then we were off.

I knew no one in this race, and so I had no idea how the first few minutes would play out.    At the start, a few small kids surged past me (they came back within about 100m) and a pack of "looks like they're fast guys" in their teens and 20s pulled ahead with an authority that confirmed they were in another league.  I could hear one person steadily running and breathing behind me, but other than that I was alone.

Somewhere within the first mile, other-person caught up to me and then took the lead.  Cool.  I'd have someone to race.   We ran more or less together through the first turnaround.  After that 180, I looked for the second place woman, but saw none for at least 60 seconds, at which point I realized that I had the female win unless something disastrous happened.

A bit after that, I eased ahead of other-guy.  I hoped he'd come with me and fight, but 
he didn't follow.  I listened for his breathing and his footfalls, but eventually they faded away, and I felt alone again.  

The third mile of this race was a long straightway (nearly the full mile) into a slight headwind.  I would have loved to have had someone to chase, but I didn't, so I just focused on my steady hard effort.  And trying not to think about how soaked I was and how I felt like I was slipping a bit with each step.    

For shorter races - 10K and under, I find that I really need someone to chase or fight with to give my best effort.  This is for the very same reason that I prefer to do tempo workouts independent of others.  Having others with me tends to push/pull me to a harder effort - that's bad for tempo or marathon pace workouts, where too hard is counter-productive, but good for races, where it gives me that bit of extra oomph.  Without that benefit of someone to pull me, it was hard work to keep reaching beyond tempo effort.

The fourth mile brought the second turnaround - somewhere around there, other-guy caught back up.  The racer in me was disappointed, but another part of me was thrilled.  He pulled ahead, and I gave chase.  About this time, we were both passed by another guy who appeared to have started the race late and was now playing catch-up - ooops.

Back and forth we went, and then we made the final turn into the school parking lot.  He and I went back and forth, and then I pulled ahead (making sure to stay to the far left to avoid the speedbumps).  

Then I hit the grass patch.  I told myself not to worry about slipping, and just kept hammering.  And....I slipped and slid for the entire 15 meters of grass, my legs turning over like Fred Flintstone in his car.

I made it up onto the track and KEPT slipping - I'm guessing my shoe soles were still greased up from the mud - but got myself to the 50 yard line and the finish.  I was disappointed to see the clock counting 31:2x as I approached, but oh well - it was still a PR.  I had just hoped to be closer to 31:00 flat.

Splits were:
Mile 1: 6:19
Mile 2: 6:26 (Garmin says this was long, and my pace was 6:12)
Mile 3: 6:27 (Garmin says this was long, and my pace was 6:17)
Mile 4: 6:14 (Garmin says this was short, and my pace was 6:18)
last .97: 6:02 (Garmin says pace of 6:12)

I put the Garmin paces because I suspect that some of the middle mile markers were a bit off - I don't think I paced this race as unevenly as my manual splits indicate. Of course, my Garmin also claims the race was 5.03 miles instead of 4.97, and I'm sure that's wrong, so who knows.  The real answer is somewhere in the middle.

Oh well.  I can't say I'm totally happy with this morning's performance.   Part of my disappointment is the time, but more is that I feel like I could have run faster, but just didn't go as deep into the well as I have in other races.  I feel a bit unfulfilled.   But, a win is a win, and a PR is a PR, so I'll just have to run better and faster next time.  They can't all be great performances.

Other notes:

  • The weather ended up being 41 degrees and steady rain, with gusts of wind.  And yes, I'm much happier I did this race than the one in Tampa - much better weather.  Runners will understand; others will not.
  • I wore a longsleeve and shorts, plus a running hat and mittens over latex gloves with handwarmers.  This worked pretty well - I can't say I was truly comfortable, but it wasn't too bad.
  • I wore my "second life" Vaporflies for this - the ones that have lost their bounce and so work much better at shorter distances.  They handled the two 180 degree turns on course just fine, but were definitely slick.  I felt like I was hydroplaning at times with the lack of traction on the wet roads and puddles.  I wish I had brought my Adios 2s - I think that shoe might have worked better for today.
  • Traffic of course was awful on I-95 coming back.  However, I decided to experiment and take Route 17 to 301 in MD before picking up the Beltway.  That worked extremely well, and is probably going to be my default route for driving home from the Virginia Beach area from now on.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

DIY handheld water bottle

I like to run all races 10 miles or longer with a handheld water bottle.   I struggle with drinking water out of cups while running, and I also like to drink continuously with small regular sips, rather than take a massive chug every two miles.  Thus, for me, a handheld is the way to go.  Sometimes I'll carry the bottle all the way to the finish line; other times I'll toss it with a few miles to go.

You can buy a handheld water bottle at any running store or race expo, but they do get (relatively) pricey - $25 or up.  While that's not going to break the bank, it is a fair amount of money to pay for something I may toss at some point during the race (or alternately, forget somewhere).  Additionally, I've found that the fabric handles on most retailer handhelds are too large for my hands, and also don't last terribly long before fraying or stretching.

So...a few years ago, I started making my own handhelds.  (To be clear, I make the handle, not the bottle itself - I'm not that crafty.)  Here's how I do it.

You need three things: a roll of 2 inch wide duct tape, a pair of scissors, and a water bottle.  For the last, I like to buy packs of 10 oz refill bottles for hydration belts - a pack of two bottles costs $7, so $3.50 a bottle - not bad.  If you want to go even cheaper (or alternately, be more environmentally friendly) you could just recycle any plastic water bottle.  I prefer the hydration belt bottles because I like the way they fit my hand.

Start by measuring out a length of duct tape about 4 times the height of the water bottle.  Double this back on itself, sticky side to sticky side.  This will be the handle of your water bottle.  (Of course, you can customize the length of this to fit the size of your own hand.)

Fold back the end of your doubled-back duct tape (try saying that three times fast) and cut a slit.  By doing this, you are creating a slot in your handle for the neck of your water bottle.  Make sure not to cut so far that the slit extends past the edge of the doubled-back tape - you want a hole at the top of your handle, not a "Y" shape.
Insert the neck of the bottle into the hole you just created, then loop the rest of the duct tape around the bottle.  If you've measured the length of your doubled-back tape just right, it will form a nice loop for your hand, with the doubled-back section of the tape ending at the bottom of the water bottle.  Continue wrapping the duct tape around the bottom of the bottle and up the other side, with the sticky side of the duct tape adhering to the water bottle.  

Cut the tape near the top, and then affix that sticky end of duct tape over the bit of tape that extends from the neck of the water bottle.

And....that's it.  You can either fill up the bottle, screw the cap on, and go on your way, or alternately peel the tape off and redo it if you're not happy with your initial result.  Once you've got a bit of practice, this takes all of 60 seconds to do.  (Of course, it often takes me a bit longer than that to track down the scissors and tape...).

As for how I use my water bottles when racing?

(well, besides the obvious, which is that I drink from them....)
Me carrying a hand-held at both Richmond Half and CIM;
I think carrying the water bottle helped immensely in both,
despite cool temperatures.  Photo on the left by Cheryl Young
photo on the right purchased from FlashFrame photography.

As I noted above, I like to start any race that is 10 miles or longer with one of them, unless I'm fortunate enough to be running a race where they'll let me set out water bottles in advance.  I'll carry a bottle even if it's cold - I train with one all the time, so I'm very comfortable carrying it, and I don't think it slows me down at all.  

Plus, my coach has emphasized that staying hydrated can be important even in cool conditions.  While you're unlikely to collapse from dehydration in 40 degrees, you do still sweat a bit, and staying hydrated throughout the race puts me in a better place to close hard in the last miles.  Better hydration -> higher blood volume - > better energy delivery.

I'll sip continuously from the bottle as I run (using water stops as a reminder to sip, if I haven't done so in a while).  When my bottle is empty, I'll unscrew the cap and tuck it into my sports bra.  Then, at the next water stop, I'll slow to a jog, grab a cup, and pinch that cup to make a spout.  Then I'll pour the cup into my water bottle.  (if there's little water in the cup, I'll grab a second and repeat this process).  Then screw the cap back on (still jogging), gently re-accelerate, and merge back into the race.

I lose only 2-3 seconds doing it this way, less than I would lose if I stopped or walked at the water station.  I don't try to make up the few seconds I've lost by surging - doing so would just waste valuable energy (think of it this way: when you're trying to make it home on a single tank of gas, you don't floor the gas after a stop light).  Instead, I consider the few seconds spent at the water stop a valuable investment in the final miles.