Sunday, November 12, 2017

Training log - Week ending 11/12/2017

This week was 41 miles of running, 13 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

First full week of training, punctuated by fast intervals on Tuesday and a race on Saturday.  I'm definitely in good shape for where I am.  Which doesn't mean I'm in great shape right now.   I raced a 5 mile race at what was my 10 mile race pace this weekend.  Which looks awful until one considers that I usually come back from a break by racing 5K to 4 miles at what was previously my half-marathon race pace (and it hurts like heck).  From that perspective, this was a pretty good start.

Tuesday's interval workout looks impressive. Primarily because I ran it way too hard and dug a hole.  Mea culpa - I run my workouts and races off of feel, but when coming off of a break, my feel needs to be recalibrated.  And restraint re-instilled.

I'll back off on the effort some next week, though doing so will mean dropping behind the pack I normally run with.  I've learned over the years that I accomplish nothing when I chase the fitness level I wish I had or used to have, rather than training where I am currently.  Put another way - just because I can run that fast during a workout doesn't mean I should.  And on Tuesday, I shouldn't have run that fast.

(I've also gotten a bit lazy about my easy runs, and let them start rolling a bit.  I need to be riding the brakes more on those as well, now that I'm back in the grind)

I toasted my legs nicely on Tuesday morning, and then compounded the damage Tuesday night by first bouncing around at an industrial show way too much, and then getting too little sleep of poor quality.  Sadly, I don't bounce back from nights like that the way I used to (possibly because I'm 10-20 years older; possibly because I didn't do hard track workouts in the mornings before concerts in the old days), and I felt it for several days after. 

Not that I regret it - I loved catching up with my DC Industrial Scene family (aka "the scene"), and that's what the off season is for.  But now it's time to buckle down and start prioritizing training (and recovery) again.

I entered the Alexandria Turkey Trot (a five miler) on Thanksgiving Day.  It's a fast course, albeit slower than the Richmond 8K (and obviously also 45 meters longer than Richmond).  But I'm still thinking that I may be able to take some more time off of my 5 miler/8K PR.  I'll have a few more workouts under my belt by then, will have better feel for race effort and fast running in general, and also hopefully will be a bit fresher, since I don't plan on frying myself with workout+industrial show+sleep deprivation before that race.

Dailies

Monday: Foam rolling, yoga, and 7.5 "miles" of pool-running.

Tuesday: 10 miles, including a track workout of 1600, 1200, 2x800, 400 in 5:59, 4:25, 2:53, 2:53, 83.  Also injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Front Line Assembly/Cubanate/Vampyre Anvil show at night.  (really, a second workout, so deserves note)

Wednesday: 9 miles very easy (8:50) plus drills and strides.  Upper body weights, core, and foam rolling in afternoon.

Thursday
 DIY yoga and 5.5 "miles" of pool-running; foam rolling at night. 

Friday: 3 mile shakeout (8:45).  Foam rolling in the evening.

Saturday: 3 mile warm-up, and then 8K race in 31:48.  1 mile jog back to hotel. Foam rolling in evening.

Sunday:  10 miles easy (8:58).  Foam rolling in the evening.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Race Report: Richmond 8k, November 11, 2017

I ran the Richmond 8K today, finishing in 31:48 - nicely a PR (with an asterisk) by a few seconds, and also good enough for third master female.

I've wanted to run this race for a while now, but the timing has never seemed to work out.  This year, it fit in nicely as a post-marathon rust-buster.  Admittedly an expensive rust-buster, since I'd have to drive down a day before and get a hotel (I prefer my rust-busters cheap and local).  But what the heck - it would be fun to finally get to race it and then stay to cheer my teammates on as they ran the half and full marathons.  And the Richmond 8K is a very fast course.

I ran the Richmond half-marathon several years ago, and one of my takeaways from that year was to leave early on Friday, lest I be caught in traffic.  So I left DC around 9:30 am, which meant that I only hit two stop-and-go patches on I-95.  I ended up in Richmond about 11:45.  Longer than it should have taken in a perfect non-existent world, but not bad for the Friday of a long weekend.

I stayed at the Richmond Marriott downtown, right by the start line.  I had reserved this hotel back in March of this year, when I had been considering running the Richmond Half.  The Marriott was expensive, and so I debated switching to a cheaper hotel further out - the shorter the race, the less I care about being very close to the start.  But I decided to stay with my hotel - the forecast was for frigid temperatures, and having the option of running back into my room to adjust clothing choices on race day would be nice.

***

Race morning dawned in the mid-20s, about 40 degrees colder than the finish of my last race.  And it had been long enough since I had been faced with cold weather that I wasn't quite sure what to wear.  After reading through my race reports from this past March, I decided to go with a long-sleeved t-shirt and tights, plus my running mittens with hand-warmers.

Though my race didn't start until 7 am, I stepped out at 6 am to start warming up - this would give me a chance to run back to my room and change my clothes if necessary.  Which I did - about a mile into my warm-up I started feeling a little too comfortable in my longsleeve.  So up I went to change into my singlet plus arm-warmers (being very careful to transfer my number, lest I leave it in my room).   Then I placed my longsleeve in a bag for bag check, and also quickly customized a trash bag into a temporary throw-away shirt.  Then back down to finish my warm-up.

After "warm"-ing up, I lined up in my corral.  My trashbag was accomplishing very little, but another woman generously handed me the jacket she had been about to toss away.  I gratefully took it, hanging onto it until 2 minutes before the start.

***

The Richmond 8K is a out-and back course, heading west for the first 2+ miles, and then rounding a block before heading back, with a major drop in the last half-mile.  I knew that we'd be running into a slight headwind on the way out, and then a tailwind on the way back, so my plan was to stay controlled until the turnaround, and then chase people down.  I also wanted to push as if the finish was at 4.5 miles, because with that steep a drop, there was no point saving anything for the end.

When the gun went off, I eased into my pace and then started building into what felt like a controlled effort, while looking for people to use as windblocks.  Unfortunately, I picked the wrong group, because after a mile they started fading, and I had to duck out and run on my own.  Fortunately, I only had another mile or so before the turnaround, so not a huge deal.

We hit the turnaround, and I started chasing.  The road here was a bit odd - bricks with the occasional gap instead of asphalt.  We were running east, facing the sun, and so I pulled my sunglasses down only to push them right back up.  I couldn't see the road well with my glasses down, and I was fearful I'd trip on one of the gaps in the bricks.  Squinting beats tripping and falling.

I kept pushing, and then my legs crapped out on me just after the 3 mile marker.  This was not unexpected - the same thing had happened in my workout on Tuesday, and is normal for me when coming back (my leg-speed/bounce always comes back first, with my stamina following).

And the good news was that I could still run pretty fast on crapped-out-legs (especially with a tailwind assist).  I just didn't have the next gear I had been saving.

So I hung on, reminding myself it was only two miles (actually a bit less).

Somewhere after the 4th mile marker, I passed another woman who looked like she might be my age.  I used that thought as strength to keep going, even as I really wanted to back off.   We took a few turns and then we were at the glorious downhill to the finish.

The downhill was really steep - had I had a kick left in me, I wouldn't have been able to use it.  I found myself braking a bit, and then I put a stop to that.  The other woman was possibly right behind me.  If I kept pushing, I might trip and fall.  But tripping and falling beats being passed.

I was pretty trashed when I crossed the finish line.  Definitely not an easy race for me.  But that's the point of getting out there - getting familiar again with race discomfort.  It's like pulling a band-aid off.

***

Splits were:
Mile 1: 6:33
Mile 2: 6:39
Mile 3: 6:31
Mile 4: 6:15
last bit: 5:50 for .97 miles

So it looks like a hard negative split, but I think that speaks more to the course than to good pacing on my part.  This is a course that rewards someone who likes to go out hard and hang on (not my preferred way of pacing).  It's also a course that can save you if you're falling apart.

***

I ended up as third master overall and with a very small PR (my previous 8K PR was 31:51).  (PR is asterisky since this course has so much drop - my blog, my rules.)  Of course, I also split the second half of the Broad Street 10 Miler in this exact same time - 31:48 - this spring, so I should be able to lop more time off when I'm in better shape.  But I'm pretty happy with this for where I am in my training right now.    And I got that whole first-race-back monkey off my back.

Other notes:


  • Staying at the Marriott was definitely the right call - it was so very nice to be able to run back to my room after for a hot shower.
  • Checking my shirt for post-race was a mistake.  In the time it took me to find bag check and get my bag, I could have been back in my hotel.  Note for next time.
  • I'm still not sure the arm-warmers were the right call - in these temps I think the longsleeve would have been better.  (had I run in the longsleeve, I'd be commenting right now that I thought it was too hot.)
  • After seeing the forecast, I debated swapping into the half-marathon.  I'm glad I didn't.  The way I fatigued in the 8K tells me I would have imploded in the half, perfect weather or not.  
  • No cool-down post race, except for shuffling back to my hotel.  I just didn't see the point - I was trashed, and there's no need to be piling on mileage right now.
  • I definitely need to get a few more races in between now and Houston.  It always seems to take me a few races to find my groove, and then I start racing well (see this past spring for an example). Fortunately, there are plenty of races between now and then.
  • Weather at race start: Temp 26, DP 15.  The air was pretty dry, and a few people noted it, including me.  I don't think it affected my time very much, though.  I'll take that weather over 60s and humid any day.
  • Debated whether to wear my flats (Takumi Sen) or the Adios 2 Boost for this race.  I wear the Takumi Sens for 5K and under, and the Adios for 10K and longer.  I went with the Adios partially because of the distance, and partially because of the cold.  When it's this cold, I worry about the additional strain on my tendons from racing in a low drop shoe.  If this had been an end of season goal race, I would have gone with the Takumi Sen.  But better to play it safe here.




Sunday, November 5, 2017

Training log - Week ending 11/5/17

This week was 57 miles of running, 15 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Back in training again.  My coach's rule is no track workouts for 3 weeks after a marathon.  I fudged that slightly by returning to the track on Friday, a mere 20 days after my marathon.  I don't think the extra day makes that much difference, and since I'm racing the Richmond 8K next weekend, I wanted to have more than one track workout under my belt before that race.


Earlier in the week, I carefully introduced some upbeat running (fast is an overstatement) with some short hill repeats.  This wasn't a workout, but a set of uphill strides.  
I ran a loop in Georgetown (30th -> M -> 29th -> Water), picking up the pace on the uphill 30th Street segment, and then jogging around and back down to the bottom of 30th.  The result was that I ran moderately hard uphill for about 60-70 seconds and then jogged easy for around 2 and a half minutes.  

Since the effort was moderate, the duration short, and the recovery long, these weren't terribly taxing.  And the combination of the uphill and the short duration/moderate effort meant that these were also a very safe way to re-introduce a bit of faster running.  The uphill forced me to keep good form and reduced the impact (running is slightly lower-impact when uphill and higher-impact when downhill).  The short duration with long recovery also made this run very easy mentally - it was a comfortable way to reintroduce faster running.

So that was fun.  Though not hard.  On the other hand, my first track workout back on Friday, a set of 3200, 1600, was a bit tougher.  I find tempos and long intervals harder than intervals as a first workout back.  I'm guessing this is largely because tempos require more focus and concentration.

But I got through it, and it wasn't all that bad.  Surprisingly good in fact.  I felt very rusty and stuck in a low gear for the 3200, but then surprised myself with a fast 1600.  And both runs over the weekend went well too.  I also felt rusty during the marathon pace part of Sunday's run, but that's really no shock, given that I'm just coming back.

So it was nice to see that I lost far less fitness than I had expected (or usually do, post-marathon).  I'm not quite sure why that is, but I'll just appreciate it for what it is.

Next week I'll race the RIchmond 8K.  I have no idea what I'll run there, which is a liberating way to race.   I'd like to think I have a chance of setting an 8K PR, since my 8K PR is weak (31:51 officially, though I ran a faster 8K tempo a few months ago), and the Richmond 8K is a very fast race.  OTOH, I'm not in peak fitness right now.  So we shall see.  Either way, it will be fun to get out there again and race, and then to cheer on my friends in the half and full marathons that day.



Dailies


Monday: Foam rolling, yoga, and 7 "miles" of pool-running.

Tuesday: 10 miles, mostly easy, but with 8x60 second hill repeats with 2:30 recovery.  Also injury prevention work and 800 yards recovery swimming.

Wednesday: 6 miles very easy to yoga (9:11), yoga, and then 6 miles easy home (8:47), plus drills and 4 strides.  Sports massage at night.

Thursday
 Upper body weights/core and 8 "miles" of pool-running; foam rolling at night. 

Friday: 10 miles, including 3 mile warm-up (9:13), then a track workout of 3200, 1600 in 12:44 (6:25/6:19) and 5:55.  4.5 mile cool-down (9:49), plus injury prevention work and 1500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Saturday: 10 miles very easy (8:43), drills and four strides, and then upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday:  14 miles progressive, split as first 5 miles at 8:50, next 5 at 7:37, last 4 at 6:58.  Followed with injury prevention work and 700 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Training log - Week ending 10/29/2017

This week was 37 miles of running and 11 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

This week was imbalanced - very light at the beginning, and then more activity on the weekend.  That's because I did another round of prolotherapy injections in my left SI joint on Tuesday, necessitating a few light days.


The background is that I have an issue with lax ligaments in several key places - my lumbar vertebrae, my SI joints (left more than right), and my ankles (right more than left).  Ligaments that are too loose result in unstable joints.  Tendons and muscles take up the slack (literally) and are overstressed as a result.  I went through a long period of injury until we figured this out.

So I get my stretched out ligaments tightened up periodically with prolotherapy injections to keep me healthy.   I only get injections when I need them - generally that's ended up being around 18 months to 2 years between injections.

During the latter part of this past training cycle I noted that I was having to pop my left SI joint into place with increasing frequency.  I started having to do it daily, and then more than once a day.  At the same time, my left hip was getting stiff and sticky in all directions, and my left side sciatica was flaring (and it had been almost 2 years since the last injection in that joint).   All indications were that I needed to get that SI joint injected again to tighten up stuff and stop a chain reaction.  

(the chain reaction is: - stretched out SI joint ligaments -> unstable SI joint - > muscles on left side, including hip rotators, overworking -> tight rotator muscles press on sciatic nerve->sciatica and uneven gait->eventual injury).

So, having gotten through my marathon, now was the time to get that fixed.  

In the past, my doctor has allowed me to run the day after the injections - the instructions have been to avoid hard running for a day or two, and to avoid the pool for 48 hours post-injection.  This time, he asked me to hold off on all running for a day or two.  The reasoning was that he had injected a lot into the joint this time, and was worried the ligaments would be "soft" for a bit - better safe than sorry.

I wasn't happy with the prospect of not being allowed to run, pool-run, or swim, even for a day.  I've been working through some post-marathon depression, and being deprived of my outlet was honestly challenging.  But, avoiding injury was the whole point of the prolo to begin with, so I complied and went for a walk instead.

(Side observation - 40 minutes of walking is far more tiring than 40 minutes of running.  Very odd.) 

By the weekend, I was good to go, and jumped back into moderate mileage, including some not-easy-but-not-hard running on Saturday (aka moderate).  I'm still feeling a slight bit of marathon fatigue, but it's lifting, as is my post-race depression.  And my left side feels amazingly better.


Dailies


Monday: Foam rolling, yoga, and 6 "miles" of pool-running.

Tuesday: 4.5 miles very easy (9:45 pace) plus some light injury prevention work, and then prolotherapy in my left SI joint.

Wednesday: Walking, yoga, and foam-rolling.

Thursday
 Upper body weights/core and 5 "miles" of pool-running; foam rolling at night. (injections were at 6:30 am on Tuesday, so 7:30 am on Thursday was technically 48 hours post-injection)

Friday: 5 miles very easy (9:22) to yoga, yoga, and then another 5.5 miles very easy (8:58), plus drills and 2 strides.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Saturday: 12 miles aerobic (7:50), and then upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday:  10 miles easy (8:39) 
plus drills and two strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Training log - Week ending 10/22/17

This week was 14 miles of running, 28 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Recovery week.  For me, this wasn't just marathon recovery, but also an end-of-season recovery from the past 10 months of training.  


Being a "rules" type of person, I set a few for the first week: no running, nothing intense that elevated the HR, and only things that I really wanted to do.   I ended up doing a lot of social pool-running, supplemented with some yoga and a bit of swimming.

As of Saturday, I was 7 days post-marathon, so I went for a run, followed by some light weights at the gym.   That first run back was awkward and uncomfortable.  Not surprising - in my experience the first run after a marathon always sucks, regardless of whether it's 4 days or 2 weeks post-race (I've done both).

I was pretty stiff, but it wasn't the quad and calf soreness I've noted with previous marathons.  Just an overall "peanut brittle" feeling.  My thought is that the moderately rolling nature of the Hartford course was actually easier on my body than the flat or downhill marathons I've run in the past, since I was shifting among different muscles during the race.  I also suspect that the more marathons one runs, the less destruction each does (assuming you don't blow up).

I am pretty tired, though - definitely more than after Chicago last year.  That's not surprising either.   For one thing, I didn't dig anywhere near as deep at Chicago last year.  I'm sure racing in high humidity this time depleted me as well.  Plus the physical stress from running Hartford was compounded by heavy emotional stress in the final two weeks leading up to the marathon.   I've got a lot of mental fatigue to work through right now.

Getting that all out of my system and recharging is key if I want to race well in 2018.  I'm still sleeping and eating a lot, and will continue to do so until I feel back to normal.  


Dailies


Monday: Foam rolling, yoga, and 5.5 "miles" of pool-running with the belt.

Tuesday: 4 "miles" pool-running and a sports massage.

Wednesday: 7 "miles" pool-running and injury prevention work, plus foam rolling.

Thursday
 Foam rolling, yoga, and 5.5 "miles" of pool-running

Friday: 6 "miles" pool-running and 1000 yards easy swimming.  Followed with foam rolling

Saturday: 5 miles easy/aerobic (8:43) plus light upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday:  9 miles of intermittent running/cheering at Marine Corps Marathon (9:02 pace).  Foam rolling at night.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Training log - Week ending 10/15/17

This week was 42 miles of running and 13 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

This was an admittedly disheveled final taper and race week, since I didn't know until midday on Thursday which marathon I was racing (and more importantly, whether I was racing on Saturday or Sunday).

In retrospect, I wish I had committed early in the week to one marathon and stuck with it, instead of going back and forth.  I wasted a lot of energy reviewing (and reviewing) weather forecasts, race reports, city maps, and flight schedules during days that I should have been conserving energy.   Plus the nearly last minute swap from a Sunday marathon to a Saturday race meant that I spent far more time on my feet in the last 48 hours than I would have liked.

I like my last three days pre-marathon to look something like this:

Day M-3: 3-4 miles - most easy but with the last mile on the conservative side of MP.  Also some very light upper body weights to keep things primed
Day M-2: Nothing except travel and grabbing bib at expo.  And Chipotle.
Day M-1: Hide in hotel room, emerging only for a 1 mile solo shake-out jog, plus Chipotle.

Moving my marathon up from Sunday to Saturday meant that I skipped "Day M-1."  Instead of topping off my tank both mentally and physically in the last 24 hours, I was driving from DC to Baltimore, then flying to Hartford, then renting a car, then driving to my hotel, then checking in, then hitting the expo.  (and hitting the expo twice because I forgot to buy gels and a hat the first time)

It was more time on my feet than I like for the last day pre-marathon.  And far too much human interaction for introvert me.

[If I don't want to hang out with you pre-marathon, please understand that it's really not about you.  It's about me doing what I need to do for me.]

I don't think I lost a lot because of this, but I lost something.  I wasn't sharp in the way I would have been had I had that final day.  And running a race on an unexpected course in an unintended city cost me something as well.  It wasn't a huge detriment, but I was missing my normal pre-race enthusiasm.

However, all the chaos of the last two weeks was valuable, in that it forced me to experiment with my taper in a way I wouldn't normally dare.  Lessons learned about tapering:

1) A 5 week taper from the last 20 miler is totally fine for me.  Heck, I think I could get away with a 6 week taper, if needed.

I think that this is individual to me - I rarely have trouble covering long distances - it's just a question of maintaining pace while doing so.  And thus, I don't need to worry about maintaining pure endurance in the same way someone else might.  As long as I keep the intensity up during the longer taper, I'm good to go.  Others with different strengths and weaknesses might have different results.

Related to this, I've now raced marathons after 3, 4, and 5 week tapers.  I can honestly say that I prefer 4 weeks, then 5, and then 3.  Again, that's for me personally.  I recover very slowly from 20-milers, and so I think that 3 weeks is almost too little for me.  At the same time, I don't lose my ability to cover the distance with the extra time, and so the longer taper gains me far more than I lose.

I obviously need to discuss with my coach, but I'd happily never ever do a 3 week taper again.  I'd rather do the last 20 at least 4 weeks out, then a marathon pace workout 3 weeks out.

2) Because of the last minute change in plans, I really only carb-loaded for 36 hours.  And my focus was more on salt-loading than carb-loading.  And that was fine.  (I know this because if poor carb-loading had been a problem, the wheels would have fallen off somewhere near mile 20).

This matches my own personal experience that too much carb-loading pre-race makes me run like a stuffed turkey, while eating less carbs pre-race (and more fat, protein, and salt) and then relying on many gels on course results in a far smoother and more enjoyable race.

Again, this is very individual to me.  Other people can eat tons of carbs without feeling bloated and sluggish and lightheaded.  And many people have difficulties carrying or consuming as many gels as I do on course (8 this time).  It's all very individual - do what works for you.  This is what works for me.

[aside - I suspect that my race-fueling idiosyncrasies are related to the fact that I have a strong diabetes history on both sides of my family, and am mildly insulin-resistant myself.  I just don't handle carbs, especially sugars, very well unless I'm burning them off immediately.  Heavy carb consumption at rest sends my energy levels on a roller-coaster ride into a wall.  Thus I do far better when I a) don't go too overboard on the eating pre-race; b) make sure to combine the carbs with adequate fat and protein to balance stuff out, and c) then supplement heavily with simple sugars on course, so I'm burning the carbs as I ingest them. 

Again,  this is what works for me and is very different from what works for the majority.  Please don't mimic me here unless nothing else has ever worked for you in multiple marathons.]

3) I really do need to travel at least 2 days pre-marathon, and to spend the last 24 hours in a solitary, monk-like state - no big pre-race dinners or brunches or other social engagements.  No flying the day before, even if it's a short flight.   I can run decently if I break this rule - it's not like Hartford was a bad race.  But that last 24 hours of mental and physical rest gives me a physical and mental bounce - each mile takes a few less seconds.  And those seconds add up.


Dailies
Monday: In the morning, 5 "miles" pool-running; in the evening, 2 "miles" of pool-running, DIY yoga, and foam rolling.

Tuesday: In the morning, 7 miles, including 3x800 in 2:55, 2:51, 2:47.  Also a sports massage.

Wednesday: In the morning, 6 miles very easy (8:52) plus drills and two strides.  1 "mile" pool-running, DIY yoga, and foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning,  3 miles, with the last 1200 yards uptempo at 7:07 pace.  Followed with very minimal upper body weights and core, DIY yoga, and foam-rolling.

Friday: Nothing except travel and hitting race expo.

Saturday: Hartford Marathon in 3:10:43 (7:17 pace, split as 1:37/1:33).  Fly back to Baltimore and drive to DC post-race.

Sunday:  5 "miles" gentle pool-running with the belt in the afternoon.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Race Report - Hartford Marathon, October 14, 2017

I ran the Hartford Marathon yesterday, finishing in a time of 3:10:43.

I'm a planner.  I pick my marathon 6 months to a year in advance, structure my work and personal life so that there are no great stressors in the last few weeks pre-race, book my plane tickets and hotel several months in advance, and ship all my stuff to my hotel about a week before so I can travel light two days in advance of the race.

Not this time. 

Heck, I didn't even enter this race until 36 hours before.

As previously noted, I had originally planned to run the Mohawk-Hudson Marathon on October 8.  But life, more specifically a sick cat, got in the way.  So I tentatively redirected to race the next weekend, contingent on Izzy being stable enough for me to feel comfortable going out of town.

I picked the Columbus Marathon on Sunday, October 15 as my replacement race.  Nice flat course, easy trip from DC, usually very cool weather.  The weekend of Mohawk-Hudson had ended up very hot and humid on the east coast, but there was no way we could have bad marathoning weather two weeks in a row, right?

(insert ominous foreshadowing music here).

The running gods were cruel.  As of early this week, Columbus was predicted to have a warm-up over the coming weekend, with high heat and humidity followed by a cold front on Sunday evening and perfect racing conditions on Monday.

I watched newscasts and refreshed websites and studied meteorology.   Perhaps the weather wouldn't warm up after all.  Or the cold front would move through faster.

I also checked out other marathons, identifying two alternatives to my already alternative marathon.  One was Grand Rapids on Sunday.  Small race, fast course, could be good weather (or not).  But hard to get to - there were very few flights into Grand Rapids, and flights to Detroit (a 2:30 drive) were filling up as well.

The other was Hartford on Saturday.  The forecast didn't look great for that one either, and the course was a bit more rolling than I would like.  Not a slow course, but not superfast like Shamrock, CIM, Chicago, Grandmas.   But it was easy to get to and would also allow me to enter last minute.

I went back and forth.  None of them were looking great, and I kept hoping that the Columbus forecast would shift.  But it didn't.  On Thursday morning, after checking the weather forecasts and flight options for all three races, I swapped to Hartford, on Saturday morning. Since my flights to Columbus were on Southwest, it was trivial to swap flights from DCA-CMH  to BWI-BDL.  And fortunately a hotel was still available - the Homewood Suites just a block from both the start-finish area and the expo.  Score!

I normally like to fly in two days before a marathon.  Doing so gives me fudge time if my flight is delayed or cancelled.  I also find that traveling takes something out of me - all the standing and walking and lugging of stuff.  I like to get all of that done, plus the expo visit, two days before the race, and then spend the last 24 hours lying on the couch, stretching, and eating Chipotle.

However, my late decision meant that I'd be flying in on Friday, the day before, and hitting the expo that afternoon.  Not ideal, but that was basically the story of the last two weeks, so I went with it.  At least it was a short flight.

I also planned to fly back the same evening as the race.  This broke my normal rule of not flying the same day as the marathon, but again, short flight.  And only staying for one night, combined with not needing to bring much throw-away clothing (because of the forecast) meant that I could travel very light, with just a backpack.

***

So, I had a plan.  Though it came into question again Friday morning, right before I left for the airport.  My coach was concerned about the Hartford weather (I was too).  Though temperatures wouldn't be too bad - high 50s into low-to mid-60s - the humidity would be high.  It was frustrating for both of us, because we both knew that 1) I'm in fantastic shape and 2) I really struggle in humidity (I blame the asthma).

Running Hartford this weekend meant it was unlikely I would run the time I was capable of and had trained for.   And I'd be risking another of my trademark humidity implosions, which could interfere with my race plans for late fall and winter if I needed an extended recovery time post-marathon.

We discussed starting the race, and pulling the plug if things were tough and redirecting to Philly.  However, that option really didn't work for me.  I have personal and professional commitments that I've delayed to focus on an October marathon.  I need to catch up on those in November.  I also don't like to drop out of races just because things are getting tough - that's a hard pattern to break, once birthed.  (it's obviously a different story if an injury is flaring or I'm having a bad asthma day)

So, I had to do Hartford, or no marathon at all.   I promised my coach that I'd start conservatively and really prioritize the hydration.  Hydration is always important, but it was essential for this race.  I spent Friday evening guzzling plain and coconut water, and eating salty tortilla chips, plus pinches of straight salt from a plastic container of extra rock salt I had picked up at Chipotle.  Ditto on Saturday morning.

As always, I carried a lot of gels with me - 12.  Nearly all of them were highly salted - either GU Rocktane, GU Salted Caramel, or GU Lemonade.  I'm a very salty sweater, and I knew that this race would come down to discipline on three fronts: hydration, salt, and pace.  I also carried a handheld water bottle.

***

At 7:15 I left my hotel for the 8 am start.  Since this was a small race, there was no pre-race security, which made things considerably less stressful.  There were also plenty of porta-johns.

Because it was warm and my hotel was close, I didn't check a bag.  There was no need and I would be tight on time after the finish anyway as I would have to rush back to my hotel post-race. Checkout was at 12 pm and they were not allowing late checkout.

(the clerk seemed surprised that I would need late checkout given the 8 am race start - I presumed this was because of her confidence in my obvious running talent, rather than utter ignorance of the sport.)

Rain was possible either before or during the race - it was one of those mornings where the air was heavy and it was just a question of whether and when it would coalesce into droplets.  In a burst of optimism, I wore a throw-away shirt to the start; pessimism meant that I added in a disposable poncho and a cheap white hat I snagged at the expo.

As it turned out, the throwaway and poncho were unnecessary and ridiculous - accomplishing nothing except making me feel slightly cooler when I tossed them.  It was a sports bra morning.  I did keep the cap on in case it started raining on course.

With about 10 minutes to go, I hopped into my corral.  As a late registrant, I had originally been placed in a back corral.  At the expo I was able to talk my way into the "seeded corral" (for runners with a 1:45 half-time or faster).  I couldn't get into the elite corral and start at the front - a bit concerning since I had hopes of masters prize money and that was awarded on gun time.  But starting in the seeded corral would only cost me about 5-10 seconds - that differential was unlikely to matter in a marathon.

***

Then the gun went off and we started.  Per my plan, I hung way back, reminding myself to be patient as the 3:15 and then 3:30 pace groups passed me.  Listening to the corral chatter, I knew that many people were planning on banking time due to the weather.  I disagreed strongly with that strategy, but to each their own.

At this point, it's probably helpful if I revisit how I pace my races.  As I've previously discussed, I run off of feel, and don't look at splits or paces while I run.  That doesn't mean that I don't have a pacing plan.  It's just that my plan is based off of perceived effort, rather than numbers.  I always intend to empty the metaphorical toothpaste tube of my own effort during a race.  My pacing plan comes down to where, when, and how hard I squeeze the tube.

Here, my plan was to go out very easy for the first few miles, and then stay very conservative for a long time past the half-way point.  All throughout, I'd focus on energy management - gels and water.  Then at some point I'd start chasing.  Where exactly I'd flip the switch would hinge on how I felt and what the weather was like.

The first miles of Hartford are rolling and twisty through the city.  None of the hills were particularly challenging - there are no major elevation changes and the course looks pretty flat when mapped - but a lot of up, down, turn, repeat.  In shorter races I would have used the downhills to build speed and pick up time, but I was reluctant to do so here - any seconds saved here would be paid back with interest if my quads failed later.  So instead I kept my cadence quick and my pace restrained.  I also resisted the urge to work too hard on the uphills.  Just maintain a constant effort and stay patient.

And keep drinking.  I had started the race needing to pee slightly (TMI, but whatever).  I decided that this was a good metric.  Thirst isn't all that reliable during a marathon, but as long as you need to pee you can't be too dehydrated.

So I used that as a reminder - any time I stopped needing to pee I took another big gulp.  Ditto for every time I passed a water station (they were every 2 miles).  When my bottle was empty I walked a station and refilled my water bottle, emptying 3 cups into it.  5-10 seconds lost that would pay dividends later.

I relaxed into a groove that felt more "moderate" than marathon pace, and just rode that.  The 3:30 and then 3:15 pace groups came back to me, and by 10 miles I was in front of both.

And alone.  The 3:15 group was the fastest pace group, so there was just an archipelago of single runners ahead of me, stringing one by one into the distance.  I looked for someone to work with - important since the wind was picking up and I would have liked to have had a wind block.  But no luck.  People were already starting to fade, and so I just kept passing.

At 10 miles, we started a long section out to Windsor and back.  This section was only slightly rolling - for DC runners it was reminiscent of Rt. 110.  We were running into the wind and would be for the next 7 miles.  I wanted to pick up the pace slightly since I had a ton of energy in the tank and was getting impatient.  But I bided my time.  It was still early in the race, and I didn't want to waste energy on the wind.  Better to save for later and try to stay as efficient as possible. And keep drinking and eating.

The turn-around was at mile 17, and so as I approached I started counting women that looked older - I had hopes of masters cash.  I counted 5 - all significantly ahead of me. But several of them didn't look good at all - with 9 miles to go I could probably reel them in.  And after the turn-around, I'd have a tailwind.  The perfect time to shift gears.

So around the cone, and then I started to build.  Not a sudden pace change, but a progressive increase, just like all my long runs.  I could tell that despite my conservative early pace I was fatigued.  My left calf was threatening to cramp and my gait was failing slightly  (when I get tired, I twist and overstride with my left leg).  But that was what all the yoga and core work was for.  I started planking (so-to-speak), disciplined my rebellious left leg so that it planted under me, and continued to build and chase.

And they all started coming back to me.  Some running, some jogging, some wobbling, some walking.  It made things easy - I didn't feel great, but I was in control, and I just kept running from person to person to person.   So many people to pass (triple points when that person was an older woman).  These miles weren't easy, but counting down people rather than mile markers made them easier.

At mile 23, we turned right and returned to Hartford, and its small hills and turns.  At this point, I felt a bit more comfortable using the downhills to build speed.  Twist and turn and up and down and pass another person.  And then we hit mile 25 and the ramp up to the final hill - a bridge back into downtown.  The hill was not as bad as I expected - excellent.

Around this point, a young woman passed me (checking later, she ran a harder negative split than I did, and was the only person to pass me during the race after mile 17).  I surged and went with her (no reason not to take a risk so close to the finish) as we rolled down the back of the bridge.

Only to be greeted with another unexpected hill, steeper than the bridge that preceded it.  Oops?

[it's worth noting that the course appears to have changed a bit in the last two years, and so the older race reports I had reviewed for the course weren't all that reliable.]

I fought my way up that one, but that was pretty much the end for me.  My legs grabbed up, and it was a rough final half-mile to the finish.  Fortunately, it was downhill to the finish, so I was able to control the damage.  And falling apart that close to the finish is also comforting in a sense - it tells me that I really did leave it all out there.

Seeing 3:10 on the clock as I finished was disappointing, given my hopes during the training cycle.   But to paraphrase a friend of mine - any day you can finish a marathon is a good day.

I wobbled my way through the finish area (thankfully my legs waited 30 seconds post finish to cramp up) and then back to my hotel to shower and check out - my second race of the morning.  (I just barely made it - checking out at 11:59 am).

***

It's frustrating to have had such a great training cycle and to be in the shape of my life, and then run a time that was far from my fitness and my goals.  But it's less frustrating to miss a goal due to weather and life circumstances than to poor race execution. 

I continue to be annoyed that after 7 marathons, my PR is still my first.  But at least I know what works for me in terms of training, taper, and race execution.  Luck just wasn't on my side these last few weeks.  But at some point in the future, I will get a great day to run fast in a marathon.  And I'm ready to take advantage when it happens.

Splits were:

Miles 1-2: 15:23 (7:42 pace)
Mile 3: 7:26
Mile 4: 7:13
Mile 5: 7:26
Mile 6-7: 14:25 (7:13 pace)
Mile 8: 7:13
Mile 9: 7:56 (refill bottle)
Mile 10: 7:09
Mile 11: 7:21
Mile 12: 7:22
Mile 13: 7:31 (refill bottle)
Mile 14: 7:15
Mile 15: 7:13
Mile 16: 7:18
Mile 17: 7:31
Mile 18: 6:55
Mile 19: 7:16 (refill bottle)
Mile 20: 6:51
Mile 21: 7:02
Mile 22: 7:12
Mile 23: 7:00
Mile 24: 7:08
Mile 25: 7:05
Mile 26: 7:06
last bit: 1:27

I negative split the race as 1:37:06/1:33:37.   So 7:24/7:08 pace   But I think the more revealing split is my pace through 17 (7:24) versus the last 9.21 miles (7:02 pace).  It was a fun way to race, and the best way to execute, given the weather.  Though probably not the most optimal pacing if the weather was better (negative splitting is the way to go, but this was a bit extreme).   I was slightly surprised that I wasn't faster between 17 and the finish, but I suspect that was the humidity taking its toll.

You can also see how I paced the race by looking at my HR chart - the steady increase in HR starting around 2 hours is when I picked things up.  You can also identify the rolling parts of the course by noting the HR peaks and valleys.

Placingwise, I worked my way up from 160th place overall at 13.1, to 149th at 17, and 97th by the finish.  That was fun.

The results for female masters are suspect right now - several who placed above me may have been bib-swaps.  But there were enough legit runners ahead of me that I'm sure I wasn't top 3 masters.  Oh well, the cash would have been nice.  I believe I did win my age group since the race didn't allow double dipping (the two faster 40-44 women got masters awards).  But I won't know for sure until the results get cleaned up.

[as an aside - letting someone else run with your bib is NOT a victimless crime.  Please don't do it.]

Other notes:

  • This was really a well run race.  The expo was well managed, as was the start-finish area.  The race reminded me a lot of Shamrock in terms of organization, and I'd recommend it for that.  The race also takes very good care of its local elites - "New England's Finest."  That was nice to see, and is probably why it was so competitive, despite its small size.
  • If I've given the impression that this was a slow course, I want to correct that now. I don't think this is a terribly slow course.  I do think that this course is not as fast as Shamrock, CIM, Chicago, etc, and so I wouldn't recommend it for someone who was right on the edge of a BQ or an OTQ.  It is a nice race though, and a good choice in general for a fall marathon.  Well organized, easy logistics, and most years one should have good weather.  I think my perception of the small hills was compounded by the humidity - on a better weather day I might have a different impression of the course.
  • I stayed at the Homewood Suites on Asylum Street.  It was a great location - a block from the expo and a block from the start/finish area.  It also overlooked numerous bars and clubs.  Fortunately I brought my earplugs with me, and thus had no issue sleeping.  Anyone else staying there pre-race should do the same.
  • The Expo was in Hartford's XL Center.  I belatedly realized that the XL Center used to be the Hartford Civic Center, where I saw Nine Inch Nails play live 17 years ago when I was in law school in the middle of final exams.  That concert was followed by several hours trying desperately to find the missing rental car so we could get back to finish our exams.  We didn't realize that there were two identical parking garages on opposite sides of the Civic Center, and we had parked the car in one, thinking that we had parked in the other.  I will never forget that night.  And it's also funny where life takes you.
  • 8 gels were consumed on course.  In case you were wondering.
  • As discussed in my training log, I ended up with a gap of 5 weeks between my last 20 miler and this race.  I don't think that affected my performance at all, though - covering the marathon distance was not a concern today.  That's good to know in case I ever have to postpone a marathon again.
  • I do think that my time was affected not just by the weather and the course, but also by the stress of the last few weeks, and the travel the day before.  How much is hard to say - the weather was by far the biggest factor.  But I do feel that I wasn't as well rested for this race (despite the 5 week taper) as I have been for previous marathons - I just spent too much time on my feet the day before, and had too much stress between the cat and the changing of plans.  For future races, I need to travel 48 hours before whenever possible.  Minimizing stress is always good as well, though that's not always in my control.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Training log - Week ending October 8, 2017

This week was 47 miles of running and 16 "miles" of pool-running  -- training log is here.

(this entry also reposted as blogger apparently ate my entry.  Again)

This was my second try at my second-to-last week of taper.  Very similar to the week before, save that a lot of the "extras" (pool-running, recovery swimming) got minimized or nixed in favor of taking care of my cat, Isabella.

As I noted in the previous entry, I made the decision early in the week to skip Mohawk-Hudson due to my cat Isabella being ill.  I was stressed and tired early in the week, which was not good prep for a marathon.  Additionally, making the decision to DNS early in the week meant that I could adjust my taper, and also let me run enough to cope with the stress.

(I also developed a mild head cold last week - another reason I was glad I skipped).

As the week wore on, it was clear I had made the right decision, as Isabella ended up undergoing surgery Friday afternoon.   The back story to that is:

On Sunday afternoon, after my last "long run," I took Izzy into the emergency vet - she had vomited and wasn't interested in food - concerning.  She seemed fine during examination, and her vitals were normal, so they suggested I take her home and keep an eye on her. 

However, I had a sense something wasn't quite right with her, so I asked for an ultrasound.  I reasoned that it would probably come back clean, giving me peace of mind and letting me focus on the marathon.

But just the opposite happened.  The ultrasound revealed a gallstone (rare in cats) that had not yet completely blocked the gall bladder duct.  While it is theoretically possible to remove the gallstone surgically, the operation is very risky, from both a short and long term perspective.  And doubly so in her case since bloodwork revealed that she also had "triaditis" - inflammation of the liver, pancreas, gall bladder, and intestines (all related to the gall stone).  The triaditis further reduced her chances of surviving the surgery.

So, we needed to get the stone to pass on its own (via medication) if at all possible to avoid surgery.  We gave the medication a few days, but by Thursday she was declining and back in the ER, and an ultrasound indicated that the stone had shifted and was closer to the duct.  Thursday evening I was told that I had the choice of either putting her to sleep or attempting the surgery. 

After consulting with my sister (a vet) and our regular vet, I decided to go ahead with the surgery.  I was worried about Izzy's long-term quality of life if they had to reroute her bile duct (one possible outcome of the surgery).  Many times it's kinder to put to sleep than to make them endure.   But my sister and Dr. Wooton both reassured me that I wasn't being cruel as long as I was committed to euthanasia if Izzy was suffering after.

The surgery happened Friday night, with a surprisingly good result.  They opened her up, and discovered that the stone was no longer there.  It had passed sometime between the last ultrasound and the operation.  No need to remove or reroute organs.    So a very difficult surgery ended up being exploratory, and  easier on her.  Though still tough - it was surgery, after all.

As of Monday evening, Izzy's home and resting comfortably, and getting closer to being her old self.  And I'm feeling a bit less stressed and more able to focus on other stuff.  Like running a marathon this weekend.



Dailies 

Monday: 5 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights in the morning; 1 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 8 miles, including a track workout of 6x800 (2:57, 2:57, 2:55, 2:54, 2:52, 2:47).  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 9 miles very easy (9:04) plus drills, strides. 1 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the evening.

Thursday: 6.5 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights/core in the morning; foam rolling at night.

Friday: 10 miles, including a 5K tempo on the track in 19:34 (6:29/6:15/6:08/0:42),  followed by injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 8 miles very easy (9:07), plus drills and strides, followed by upper body weights/core and DIY yoga.  2.5 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 12 miles aerobic (7:54).  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Just a quick update on marathon racing plans

Since I know that there are people who follow my training here that I don't regularly interact with outside of the internet, I wanted to quickly note that I will not be racing Mohawk-Hudson Marathon this Sunday.

This past Sunday (2 days ago), I took our cat Isabella into the emergency vet after she threw up twice and had no interest in eating.  As it turns out, she has a gall bladder stone, accompanied by inflammation in the organs surrounding it.  It's not currently blocking a duct, but is floating around and causing discomfort and nausea from time to time.  And if it does block a duct, then it's a true veterinary emergency.

Gall bladder stones are not common in cats.  They can be removed surgically, but the surgery is risky.  So, after 24 hours in the ICU, I brought her home Monday afternoon, along with several different medications.  We're trying (via medication) to shrink the stone so that it will pass through and we can avoid surgery.

After giving it some thought, on Monday night I decided to DNS Mohawk-Hudson.  I don't know how Izzy's health is going to progress over the next few days - it's possible that she won't be stable enough for me to feel comfortable leaving her this weekend.    Additionally, I've been very stressed the last two days with poor sleep.  That's not how to approach the final week of tapering - I'm not well rested.  And even if I was comfortable with traveling to Albany, my mind is not where I need it  to be to race well.

Tuesday (today) was the last day that I could cancel my hotel without penalty, so I made the call last night.  Pulling out this early in the week also meant that we could modify this week's training plan (including this morning's track workout), so that we could extend my taper in hopes of racing a marathon the following week.

The weather for Mohawk-Hudson is looking challenging at this point, which made the decision easier (though it's arguably still too far off to be certain).   But I'm still bummed - I've wanted to run this race for a long time.  Some other year.

Right now, I'm targeting a marathon on October 15th - either Columbus or Hartford (I prefer Columbus, but which one will depend on weather).   Of course, this is all still very Izzy dependent.  Depending on her status, there may be no fall marathon for me - waiting until November is not a good choice because of my plans for racing in Spring 2018.

It is what it is.  And I'm still very fortunate - I'm sure there are many who are injured and would prefer to be in my shoes.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Training log - week ending 10/1/2017

This week was 48 miles of running, 19 "miles" of pool-running and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

The week that things turned around (which is awfully dramatic, but also a fun way to lead things off).  As noted previously, I felt pretty lousy all of last week.  This wasn't unexpected or necessarily concerning - I had all the accumulated fatigue of the marathon cycle to shake off, compounded by the half-marathon.    And a reprise of this summer's heat and humidity didn't help.

I usually try not to cut back too sharply too early in the taper - I've learned that doing so leaves me flat on race day.  But I ended up putting the belt on for Monday morning's pool-run anyway and keeping that to 40 minutes in an attempt to freshen up.  In the broader scheme of my training week, this was a very small change.  But either it helped, or the timing was right to feel better anyway.  Each day this week, I felt a little sharper and a little better.  Perfect timing.  As of Sunday my energy levels were way up.  (and I also developed acne and sinus pain - two things that always happen when I taper, for some reason).  Cooler weather didn't hurt.

So now I just need to cruise through this last week and get to the marathon ready to run. I'll follow the same taper I did before - easy pool on Monday, very short track workout on Tuesday, 6 easy on Wednesday, 4 on Thursday with a mile at "early part of marathon pace."  Then nothing but travel on Friday, and 1 mile easy on Saturday.

So now we see what happens.  I think I'm in really good shape, so if the running gods smile, I should have a good day.  If the running gods frown, then I'll likely have a good story to tell.


Dailies 

Monday: 4 "miles" pool-running (with the belt) and upper body weights in the morning; 3 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 11 miles, including a track workout of 2x1600, 2x800 (5:58, 6:04, 2:51, 2:50), followed by light injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy (9:09) plus drills, strides, and DIY yoga. 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Thursday: 6 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights/core in the morning; 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Friday: 9 miles, including a 5K tempo on the track in 19:26 (6:21/6:10/6:12/0:43),  followed by injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 8 miles very easy (9:10), plus drills and strides, followed by upper body weights/core and DIY yoga.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 12 miles aerobic (7:46).  Foam rolling in afternoon.