Sunday, January 15, 2017

Training log - Week ending 1/15/17

This week was 58 miles of running,  15 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

There are times when one questions one's life choices.  I hit that point on Tuesday morning at about 6:26 am, as I sat in a pitch dark portapottie in 22 degrees Fahrenheit, fumbling with a toilet paper roll that was frozen solid.
I wish.

My first thought was that, if only one of my kittens was present, this problem would be easily solved, with the toilet paper shredded, but more or less available for use.

My second thought was to ponder why I had let my World of Warcraft membership lapse - "running" via an animated character on a screen has the side benefit of consistent availability of a heated bathroom..

Thankfully, at no point did I stop to think about how or why the roll was so damp as to freeze.  And I'm going to restrain from speculation now.

Eventually, I did get things rolling (literally). I departed the we-can't-call-it-Don's-John and sprinted to join the hill workout in progress, which had started 15 seconds earlier.    The hill workout went very well, so Tuesday was a low and a high.  (well, technically about 8 lows and 8 highs)

The rest of the week was good - I'm at the point in coming back where I'm seeing steady gains, though my speed has come back far quicker than my stamina.  That's not surprising, though - I've noted that when returning to fitness after a break, people rarely have trouble running the paces they used to run - they just struggle to sustain them.  Plus I regularly do exercises like weighted step-ups, single leg deadlifts, and split-squats, which I'm sure preserves the muscling I need to run fast, even when I'm not doing speedwork.

Next week we return to the track full time.  No more hills.  Good riddance to the portapotties of Iwo Jima.


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

: In the morning, 11.5 miles including 7.85 Iwo Jima hill repeats (~500m up, then 200m jog, 100m stride, and 100m jog down to base of hill.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam roller at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 5 miles (9:05) to yoga, yoga, and then another 6.5 miles (9:21), followed by drills and four strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning, yoga and 8 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 11 miles including a 5K relaxed tempo in 20:37 (6:43/6:36/6:31/0:46) plus an 800 in 2:49 (1:26/1:23) and two untimed 200s.    Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday:  In the morning, 10 miles very easy (9:32) with drills and four strides and upper body weights plus core and injury prevention work..  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday: In the morning, 14 miles progressive, split as first 5 at 9:03, next 4 at 7:59, last 5 at 7:04, followed by yoga.  1000 yards easy swimming in the afternoon, followed by foam rolling.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Training log - Week ending 1/08/17

This week was 54 miles of running,  20 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

First week back in training.  Hills on Tuesday went fairly well - I felt good enough to do seven repeats instead of the six I had planned (the workout is 6-8, but I usually shoot for the short end of the range when returning to workouts).  Of course, this could have been because I was still finishing up the prednisone burst for last week's asthma flare.  This is the third time in my life I've done a course of prednisone, and every time I do, I feel like I have unlimited endurance.  I don't necessarily run faster on it, but I can go forever.  Were I to race on it, I could certainly see holding my normal 5K pace for 5 miles or longer.

(for those of you who are wondering, prednisone is banned in competition, but allowed out of competition.  So there's nothing wrong with taking it to combat an asthma flare, intractable migraine, or other health issue, as long as you don't race while taking it)

Friday I was back to the track.  And sluggish. Mainly because I'm out of shape, but coming off the prednisone certainly didn't help.

(and of course, this is likely why prednisone is banned in competition, but allowed outside of competition.  There is no benefit to training on this stuff, and then coming off of it to race - the first few days post-prednisone burst are shitty.  Plus prednisone has all sorts of nasty side effects, including significant weight gain and bone density loss).

Friday's workout was a "slower" tempo (fine with me, trust me) followed by 800s and 400s, each to be negative split.  My mechanics felt off during the workout - this is normal for me when I haven't done any fast running in a while - so after the first 800m I swapped to a few 200,s with my back to the wind to practice running fast and relaxed with good form.  It helped some, but I have a LOT of running drills in my near future.

Sunday's run was planned to be progressive, but I decided to keep it easy - conditions were a bit risky for injury (14 degrees and fresh snow for footing).  Plus 14 miles was the longest I've run since CIM, so there was benefit in just getting the miles in.  I followed the run with yoga in a room heated to 95 degrees (which felt wonderful).  So, approximately an 81 difference between the two.  I think they do something similar in Siberia.

Next week should hopefully be warmer.


Monday: In the morning, 11 "miles" pool-running plus yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 10 miles including 7 Iwo Jima hill repeats (~500m up, then 200m jog, 100m stride, and 100m jog down to base of hill.  Followed with injury prevention work and 800 yards recovery swimming.  Sports massage at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 4 miles (9:38) to yoga, yoga, and then another 7 miles (9:07), folloed by drills and two strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning, yoga and 9 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 10 miles including a 5K tempo in 21:21 (6:48/6:55/6:49/0:48) plus an 800 in 2:56 (1:30/1:26) and 3x200 in 43, 42, 41.    Followed with injury prevention work and 700 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday:  In the morning, 10 miles very easy (9:03) with drills and strides and upper body weights plus core and injury prevention work..  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday: In the morning, 14 miles (8:58) in 14 degrees followed by yoga in 95 degrees.  1500 yards easy swimming in the afternoon, followed by foam rolling.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Training log - Week ending 1/1/2017

This week was 55 miles of running and 20 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

I don't have much faith in Garmin's
fitness estimates.  But this is
still amusing and eyecatching.
This was my first week back at "full mileage."  Full mileage is in quotes because it's still a bit lower than I'd hold during a marathon training cycle - if I was marathon training, I'd be doubling in the pool in the evenings to increase my total land+pool mileage.  But I'm going to hold off on that for now so that I have room to increase my mileage during my next marathon cycle come fall.

I've joked that my goal for the last few weeks since CIM has been to shed all that extra fitness, and I think I've accomplished that.  Or at least my Garmin thinks so.

Part of my purported fitness loss resulted from last week's head cold.  Though I had kicked the cold by the end of the week, its after effects lingered in my lungs.  For much of this week I sounded like Fran Drescher with laryngitis. Weight lifting and yoga were fine, but anything requiring aerobic effort was more challenging than I would have liked, and accompanied by coughing fits.

I managed to get in to see my asthma doctor on Friday, and she confirmed this was an asthma flare resulting from the head cold.  The solution was a 5 day blast of prednisone.

The prednisone did a great job with the asthma flare - it's magic stuff.  But (because it's magic stuff), it's not cool to race on while taking it, so I sat out the New Years races this weekend.  I did manage to get some "marathon pace feel" miles in on Saturday at the end of my not-so-long run - my first non-easy running since CIM.   I can't say I'm in great fitness, but it didn't feel too bad (of course, that could be the prednisone too....)

So that's a start.  And I get to start workouts again this week, with hill repeats on Tuesday morning. I'm looking forward to it.


Monday: In the morning, 10 "miles" pool-running plus yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 3.5 miles to yoga (9:47), yoga, and then 6.5 miles (9:43).  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 10 miles (9:42) plus drills and two hill sprints, followed by upper body and core weight training and foam rolling.

Thursday: In the morning, yoga and 10 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, yoga and 10.5 miles (9:10) plus drills.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday:  In the morning 12.5 miles (first 8.5 at 9:10, last 4 at 7:18) and upper body weights plus core and injury prevention work..  Foam rolling in the afternoon.  Smoke machines, sleep deprivation, alcohol, bouncing, obnoxious behavior at night.

Sunday: In the very late morning, 12 miles (9:23) plus drills.  Yoga in the afternoon, followed by foam rolling.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Training log - Week ending 12/25/16

This week was 42 miles of running and 12 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

This was a rebuilding week, as I shifted from pool to land-running again.  While my normal schedule is to take Monday and Thursday as my pool-running days, I moved things around this week so that a) I had a pool-running day after each two day set of running on land and b) (more importantly) I could meet my friends for the traditional White House Christmas Tree run.

That meant that Tuesday and Friday were planned to be my non-running days this week.  Which was convenient, because I woke up on Tuesday with a bad head cold, and spent much of it in bed.  By Wednesday, I was feeling slightly better - enough to "go" back to work (I telecommute, so I don't generally take sick days unless I'm really non-functional) and to try an easy run.  I felt better after the run, so it was apparently the right choice.

By the end of the week I was past the point of being contagious, and ready to reintroduce myself to society.  Which was fortunate, since that was my designated day to try out "Solidcore."

[It's worth noting that during my training cycles, I'm conservative in my fitness routine - sticking to the cross-training and workout structures that I know work for me (and more importantly, won't get me hurt).  Times like now, when I'm in between cycles, are when I get to experiment with other stuff, be it side-crow pose in yoga, or hard swimming workouts, or Solidcore.  Or maybe spin class, some day.]

The class relies heavily on Solidcore's version of a Pilates reformer - like a reformer, it has a padded platform (a "carriage") that moves back and forth on rails, with different springs that can be hooked or unhooked to add or reduce resistance.  Unlike a reformer, it also has a padded stable platform on each end, marked lines on the carriage, and two sets of cables with handles at one end of the reformer (a Pilates reformer only has one set of cables).

The routine itself (at least for the class I took) could be broken down into four stages - we opened with what I'd call "active planks" - holding the plank position and then doing various pikes or crawling on one's elbows.  From there we transitioned to a sequence of squats, with one leg on the floor and the other on the reformer.  We were encouraged to squat very deep, and to use bars on the reformer to balance, so the exercise emphasized strength, not balance.

Then we moved on to the core section - more planks, side planks, pikes, and crunches using the reformer, before finishing with some arm strengthwork - using the cables that were attached to the reformer while kneeling on the reformer.  Then you're done, and you immediately leave the room.  (well...after high-fiving your neighbor and wiping down the reformer). It's a short and aggressive workout that is performed at full intensity throughout.

There's not really any mobility work or stretching - it's just pure strengthwork, using your own body weight plus a bit extra resistance from the cables or small handheld weights.  You work one body part at a time, with no rest breaks, before moving on to the next.  The work itself consists of controlled slow movements, interrupted with the occasional pulsing movement.  Thus, a great deal of the workout involves eccentric work- the controlled lengthening of the muscle, as opposed to concentric or isometric work.

[to explain the difference between the three types - when you perform a biceps curl using a dumbbell, the curl itself is an example of concentric work - the biceps contracts/shortens.  When you slowly lower the dumbbell after, in a controlled lengthening of the biceps, that's eccentric work. If you were to perform the biceps curl partially and then hold the weight still, that would be isometric work.]

Solidcore's focus on slow eccentric work here is notable - while concentric, isometric, and eccentric work all build muscle, it's generally eccentric work that makes you sore and shaky.  For a real life example, you can just remember your last marathon.  Or rather, the sore quads after.  While the soreness and stiffness in other leg muscles fades fairly quickly, quad soreness can persist long after the race.  That's not because you use the quads more than other leg muscles when running (at least, hopefully you don't), but because the quads work eccentrically, especially when running downhill, while the glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves are working concentrically. a workout grounded in eccentric work, and you're sure to be sore after.  Combine that fact with the aggressive start to the workout (no "easing into it" here), the exclusive focus on one muscle or area at a time, and the warmth of the room, and the workout is designed to seem intense and to leave you sore and stiff after.  Loud music and an encouraging instructor add to the sense of achievement.

I left the workout with mixed feelings about it.  I think Solidcore appeals to people who like feeling sore and shaky and accomplished after a workout.  But, there are other ways to earn the same level of fitness and strength without that manufactured soreness and discomfort, it just takes more time and a well-structured gym routine.

As an analogy, consider two track workouts, each being 6x800 with the same goal paces and the same recovery.  The only difference is that one is preceded by 20 minutes of easy jogging plus some drills, while the other workout is performed cold - you go from standing still right into the first 800.  The workout performed without a proper warm-up will unquestionably feel harder and most likely leave you more sore after, and you'll also get it done in less time.  But was it really a "better" workout?  Again, it depends on whether your goal is to improve your running while minimizing risk of injury, or to feel accomplished based on how tough the workout felt and how sore you felt after.

Solidcore is very good for people who have very limited time and need to be in and out.  The workout lasts 50 minutes, and it is a very timely, orchestrated 50 minutes - no running late here.  The facility itself was also very nice - impressively clean, with tons of "extras" like hair ties, mouthwash, and hand towels.  The instruction quality was very good - very clear cuing and no missed movements or spending less time on one side versus the other.  (full disclosure - the instructor is a friend).  Overall, it's a high quality experience.

Despite that, I don't think Solidcore is for me.  At least not as a regular thing - I may go from time to time to be social.   As I had suspected when I signed up, the workout focused on what I've already got: core strength, and upper body/quad strength.  In fact, it honestly wasn't too different from the workout one gets riding a strong horse (which I had suspected, based on others' descriptions).  But, in order to avoid running injury, I obsessively and continually work on my personal weaknesses - hip mobility and flexibility, ankle strength, and one-legged balance.  And my current mix of yoga and heavy weightlifting addresses those areas well, while Solidcore barely touches them.

But, that's me.  I would recommend Solidcore to anyone who wants a fitness routine that leaves them feeling accomplished and stronger, while not requiring a major investment in time.  It would also work for a runner who has a very weak core, and often "forgets" to do their prescribed core work (though it'd be more efficient and cheaper to just remember to do your core work...)

I would strongly recommend Solidcore to anyone trying to stay in shape for equestrian sports who doesn't have enough time to get out to the barn during the week - about 90% of the movements in the class I took translate to that sport.  In fact, Solidcore is just about the best way I've ever experienced to replicate the physical demands of a hard riding lesson without actually, y'know, riding a horse. Just make sure to warm-up and cool-down on your own before and after.


Monday: In the morning, 6 easy miles (9:07) - Christmas Tree Run I -  plus yoga.  Foam rolling at night.
Christmas Tree Run I

: Bed and foam rolling and Tylenol.

Wednesday:  8 miles (9:21) and foam rolling

Thursday: 10 miles (9:08) and some upper body weights and core, plus foam rolling.

Friday: In the morning, 12 "miles" of pool-running. Solidcore and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday: 10 miles (9:20) and yoga in the morning.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday: 8 miles (8:51) - Christmas Tree Run II - followed by upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling at night.
Christmas Tree Run II

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Training log - Week ending 12/18/16

This week was 4 miles of running, 38 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Second week of returning, and I'm ramping back up.  My original plan was to wait until Monday of next week to start running, but unseasonably warm weather tempted me back a day early, on Sunday. And that first run back wasn't all that tough, though it didn't feel easy either.

The next two weeks will be a gentle ramping up of my running volume, but keeping things easy.  Then back to workouts after the new year.


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

Tuesday: In the morning, yoga and 1500 yards of swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday:  8 "miles" of pool-running and upper body weights in the morning.  Massage at night.

Thursday: In the morning, yoga, 3 "miles" of pool-running, and 1500 yards of swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, yoga and 6.5 "miles" of pool-running with the belt in the morning.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: Iced in in the morning.  Upper body weights and core, 7.5 "miles" of pool-running, and  foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 4 miles (9:11) and then another 6 "miles" of pool-running, followed by a yoga class.  Foam rolling at night.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Training log - Week ending 12/11/16

This week was 17 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

Race recovery week 2 (Electric Boogaloo).  Basically I short sold my recovery after Chicago, and now I have to complete the transaction.  With compounded interest.  (and yes, I mangled the metaphor).

The order from my coach was to keep things in the pool for a while, and so that's what I'm doing, as an investment in my spring cycle.  I started back with belted pool-running and very gentle yoga for the first week, plus some swimming at the end.  This coming week, I'm moving back to beltless pool-running plus more intense yoga classes and maybe some strenthwork at the gym.  

Then maybe I'll start back up with some easy running next week, depending on how I feel.  Maybe. I'm starting to miss running, and I'll unquestionably miss it more next week.  On the other hand I still feel fried, both in my legs and overall, and I want to err on the side of more rest rather than less.  A bit of fitness loss now will actually do me good down the road.


Monday: Fly back to east coast in the morning; 4 "miles" pool-running with the belt in the evening (just gently waving my legs in the water and chatting - no real effort here)

Tuesday: Very gentle yoga in the morning; 3 "miles" pool-running with the belt on the evening, plus foam rolling.

Wednesday:  Very gentle yoga in the morning; foam rolling at night.

Thursday: 5 "miles" of pool-running with the belt in the morning.   Foam rolling at night

Friday: Easy yoga and 6 "miles" of pool-running with the belt in the morning.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 1000 yards swimming plus yoga in the morning.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 8 "miles" of pool-running plus 1000 yards swimming and some injury prevention work at the gym.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Training log - Week ending 12/4/16

This week was 45.5 miles of running, 9 "miles" of pool-running and 500 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Placeholder for race week.


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

Tuesday: 7 miles, including a track workout of 4x800 (3:01, 3:00, 2:59, 3:03, followed by 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 6 miles very easy (9:32). 2 "miles" pool-running  and a massafe in the afternoon.

Thursday: Very minimal upper body weights and 4 "miles" - mostly easy, but with one mile slightly uptempo, at goal "first-10K-of-marathon pace" (7:17).

Friday: Off.  Travel.  .

Saturday: 2.5 miles very easy (9:36).

Sunday: 26.2 miles in 3:11:11 (7:18).

Monday, December 5, 2016

Race Report: California International Marathon, December 4, 2016

I ran the California International Marathon yesterday, finishing in a time of 3:11:11.

This race has always been a bucket list item for me - I've heard great things about it, and I've never run a net downhill course before.  Nor have I raced in California.  So when I realized a few days after Chicago that a) I was entered in CIM (I entered it much earlier this year) and b) that several online friends from the RunnersWorld Online Forum were entered, attempting a marathon double sounded appealing.

But also risky, both in terms of burnout and potential injury.  For that reason,  this race was a "maybe" for me all the way until I hit the taper.  I knew that I was taking a risk by running a second marathon so close to Chicago, and so resolved to pull the plug if I ever felt burnt out, or if any injuries started flaring.  But neither happened, fortunately.  In fact, I ran some surprisingly good workouts in the shortened training cycle between the two - good enough to make me fantasize that maybe this could be a really good race for me.

Because the race was tentative for me, I booked my flight tickets on Southwest. Because Southwest has no change fees,  if I decided during this cycle that doing CIM was a very bad idea (instead of "not a great idea") then I could just reuse the tickets later.  Flying Southwest meant that I had to fly out of Baltimore's BWI airport, rather than one of the DC airports, but it was a worthy trade off.

The flight was uneventful, except for the strange stares I received when I wore my flu mask once again.  Whatever - better stares than illness.  Since Southwest lets you pick your own seats, I sat myself next to a thin guy in a Boston Marathon hat who was (as I surmised) going to Sacramento for the same reason I was).  My thought was that he would be more tolerant than others of a) my flu mask and b) my constant water drinking and associated bathroom use.  I was right on both counts.

When I landed at Sacramento, I headed directly to my hotel, and hit bed not too long after.  Since I had a very early wake-up time on Sunday, I decided it made sense just to stay on east coast time as best I could, hitting bed between 7 and 8 pm (10 and 11 pm) and waking between 3 and 4 am (6 and 7 am).


Saturday was a lot of resting, HBO watching, and Chipotle eating, plus a slightly longer than planned shake out run, and a slightly longer than planned walk to the expo.

By way of explanation, Sacramento's streets are laid in in a grid, with lettered streets running horizontally and numbered streets running vertically.  So addresses like "13th and K" are very very familiar to me.  At the same time, I'm used to Northwest DC (I lived in Dupont Circle for over a decade), where the numbers and letters increase as one heads north and west.  In Sacramento, it's the reverse, with the letters and numbers increasing as you head south and east.   This small detail left me directionally challenged, and every time I left my hotel, I headed in the wrong direction for several blocks before turning around.


Sunday morning dawned early but not early, per the east coast/west coast differential.  Per the race literature, the buses departed the convention center at 5:00 am for the start line.  However, it wasn't clear if that meant that ALL the buses left at 5:00 am, or if they started leaving at 5:00 am and departed in waves for some time afterwards.  

I had planned to meet my online friends (a step up from imaginary friends) Scott and Mark at the convention center at 4:55 am, but we revised to 4:45.  Which ended up being the right choice, as that's when the queues began to flower.    We boarded a bus a bit after 5 am, and arrived at the start area around 5:40 or so (if I recall).  With a 7:00 am start, this was plenty of time to chill in the bus (we were allowed to stay on board), listen to music, drink water, and eat more breakfast.

Around 6:10 am, I decided it was time to get to business, so I stepped off the bus for my first pass through the portapotties (which were amazingly plentiful - this race gets it right).   It was fairly chilly.

I had been planning to race in my sportsbra, but decided that the tank top was a better choice, so I changed in one of the portajohns in the dark.  (there were minimal  lines at the time).  I somehow managed to accomplish this without a) letting anything touch the floor, b) having anything fall into the void, or c) pulling a muscle.  I credit yoga.  Then I did some stretching, checked my bag, and did some more stretching.  Plus a few short jogs of 50 feet or so.  I don't like to warm-up for a marathon, other than stretching out my hips - why add any more distance to the 26.2?  But I do like to include a few short test jogs to make sure my shoes are tied just right, my gels aren't rubbing too much, etc.

This period was also punctuated by a meeting with my previously online friend Jim, a 61 year old running wunderkind.  It was good to chat with him and finally meet in person.

The start area was all self-seeding, no mandatory corrals, but it worked well here.  This is a race that caters to serious runners - the anti-Rock and Roll -  and my sense was that everyone lined up honestly based on what they intended to run - no first timers with delusions of grandeur.    Since I always like to start conservatively, this was a small race, and I had no real chance at a masters award here (so gun time didn't matter), I lined myself up with the 3:23 pace group.  My thought was that over 26 miles, I could just work my way through group after group - from 3:23 through 3:13 to hopefully 3:08 or faster.


The gun went off and we started.  I had felt pretty energetic the day before, but actually felt a bit off in the first few miles - very sluggish (and the first split ended up being very slow).  It was slightly concerning, but I've also felt that way at the beginning of some of my long runs, so I didn't worry about it too much.  Perhaps it was because of the long wait pre-race, perhaps it was just because.  Either way, I took my first gel a bit early, at the 3 mile mark, and perked up a bit after that.

This race is a rolling downhill course, and I can't help repeat what everyone told me before.  None of the hills are particularly challenging or hard - in fact, towards the middle of the course I found them to be a nice reprieve from the downhills.  But they did keep coming, and each one took back some of the time gained on the previous drop.  In retrospect, I also wonder if I was too cautious on the early downhills - I deliberately held back to save my legs for the second half, but I'm not sure that I accomplished that much by doing so.  My hunch is that I could have flowed down them a bit more (as long as I didn't push them) without additional damage to my quads.

My plan for the race was to stay conservative through around mile 12-13, where the biggest of the uphills ended, and then start opening up.  Carefully.  I still didn't feel great (not horrible, but not sharp), so I just kept slurping gels and drinking water (for those of you who care, i.e. Julia, the total was 9 gels plus three bottles of water).   Around mile 8 or 9, there was a big sign "Dianetics" and a few wide-eyed happy people handing out oranges.  I declined, fearful that I'd end up dropping out and marrying Tom Cruise.

[Of course, 20 years ago, if you had given me the choice between running a marathon and marrying Tom Cruise, I would have chosen door B.  Weird how preferences evolve over a lifetime.]

The second half of the race had a few negligible uphills and a lot of nice gentle downhills, and I tried to pick up the pace some, but my legs were dying.  The soreness had popped up a while ago - this was more of "losing air in the tires" feeling.  So more gels, more water, and careful metering of my effort to the finish line.    I also recalled conversations with several marathoning friends, where we agreed that one of the interesting things is that your legs can feel horrible and wobbly and shaky, but you can still actually be running decently.  I decided I was in that category.

Having seeded myself so far back, I was still passing people even as as I was fading, which helped a lot.  And every time I saw a large group pulling close, I hoped it was the 3:08 pace group.  It never was, though.

I made it through mile 20 without issue, and a few minutes later ran under a "wall" that towered over the course - amusing.  Not as funny as the guy in the Grim Reaper costume that used to hang out at mile 20 of the Marine Corps Marathon, but a nice touch nonetheless.

Then it was over the bridge that was the last "hill" and we were into Sacramento.  I could tell that I was maxing out my legs, but that's part of finishing a marathon.  And since I run watchless, and had no idea what my actual splits were, I was able to fully believe that I was on track for a major PR.

A few weeks back, I had paced a friend through the final miles of the Marine Corps Marathon, as other runners fell apart, cramped, and started to walk.  I encouraged them "relax and flow forward" - when you're tightening up and agonizing about the finish, trying to fight doesn't help - it just makes it worse.  So I coached myself onward, repeating "relax and flow forward, relax and flow forward."

It worked, to an extent.  I got what I could out of my legs, but it wasn't much.  I was running on my heels, in my own variant of the "mile 22 shuffle stride" - not fun, but it was what I had to work with, so I went with it.  At least I was moving forward.   My quads also shifted from painful to numb at this point - which was concerning but also convenient.  On the whole, a plus (marathoner logic).

Somewhere past mile 25, Jim passed me - on his way to a 3:10 (PR!) at the age of 61. (!!!!)  It was both massively inspiring and slightly depressing, as I realized that I probably wasn't running quite as fast as I had hoped.  (On the other hand, I apparently now have a 19 year window to set marathon PRs, so yay!).  But nothing to do except keep motoring with what I had - Jim encouraged me to come with him, but that just wasn't happening.

The course ends with two 90 degree turns - one onto 8th street, and the second into the finish chute.  I counted down the streets...11th, 10th, 9th, and turn on 8th.

This was the point where I was supposed to start kicking.  But just the opposite happened.

 Apparently the bargain I had struck with my legs was contingent on running in a straight line.  A turn was deviation from these terms, and so my legs pulled out of the deal.  They went into full rigor mortification, and I hobbled gamely, if lamely, across the finish line.

As I did, I noted the finish clock at 3:11.  Not what I had hoped to run, but I don't think I could have gotten much more out of my body today, and there is a great deal of satisfaction and pride in that.


Splits were:
Mile 1: 8:11
MIles 2-3: 14:47
Mile 4: 6:59
Mile 5: 7:06
Mile 6-7: 14:10
Mile 8: 7:14
Mile 9: 7:24
Mile 10: 7:09
Mile 11: 7:19
Mile 12: 7:16
Mile 13: 7:15
Mile 14: 7:05
Mile 15: 7:18
Mile 16: 7:14
Mile 17: 7:01
Mile 18: 7:11
Mile 19: 7:10
Mile 20: 7:17
Mile 21: 7:14
Mile 22: 7:20
Mile 23: 7:28
Mile 24: 7:24
Mile 25: 7:24
Mile 26: 7:31
last .21: 1:41 (8:14 pace - just nothing left)


The aftermath of the race was a lot of fun - I got to see Jim yet again, and congratulate him on his major PR. It was really cool to witness that (albeit, from behind...).  Scott and Mark also ran significant PRs, and Katie (the other member of our running group)  had a great race only a few months post-partum.   Katie, Scott, Mark and I (plus sig others and friends) went out for lunch after, where I had too much food and too many drinks, including the watermelon drink I had been anticipating since I made the reservation a few days prior.
Myself, Mark (Seattle Max), Scott (Brewing Runner), and Katie (KK Runner).
Not Pictured  Jim (Jim E 1955) and Robin (RLK117)
This was really good.


As for whether I'm happy I did this race, the answer is a resounding yes.  Though I had hopes based on my post-Chicago training that I might be able to PR at this race (and maybe even get close to 3:05), that was never the primary goal in running it.  I've always wanted to run CIM, and to do it and also meet Jim, Scott, Katie, Mark (and have forum-mate Robin cheering for me at various locations) was the primary purpose.  Mission accomplished, and a total success.

CIM was a great race, and I definitely recommend it to others - it's as good a place as any to take a shot at a PR.  And I'll probably run it again at some point, with a training cycle dedicated to it.

As for why I didn't run faster?   I can't think of anything I would have changed between the two races or on race day.  I tapered well, and I clearly paced it in a way that eked every last bit out of my body.  Perhaps I could have been less careful on the downhills.  On the other hand, perhaps I would have imploded worse at the end, had I not been cautious early on.

I did two things that some other marathoners find slightly odd - one was running this race with my watch blanked; the other was seeding myself fairly far behind the pace I was intending to run.  I don't think changing either of these things would have resulted in a faster race, though.  Chasing goal paces early on would probably worsened the late race fade, and seeing my splits in the last few miles (or even in the early miles) would have been demoralizing.   Running off of feel, I got everything out of myself that I could.

At the end of the day, I think that Chicago just 8 weeks prior caught up to me at CIM.   Some people recover very quickly - I tend to have lingering fatigue that can hide until least convenient, like race day.  I also think that the weird cycle of 3 weeks recovery, 2 weeks training, 3 weeks taper left me a bit short on endurance.  Which isn't to say that I wish we'd done things differently - had I tried to cram more training into that time frame at the expense of recovery, I would have just gotten injured or fried.

So, having tried the two marathons in one training cycle, I now know that it's not for me.  Live and learn, and I'm glad I tried it, rather than wondering.   If you don't experiment, you never reach your potential.   But, for ME, all indications are that it's far better for me to try to parlay post-marathon fitness into shorter distance races, and so that's what I'll do from now on.

Of course, it's not over yet.  Executing the two marathons in one training cycle is analogous to climbing a mountain in one sense - it's not a successful attempt until you've returned to base camp intact and alive.  Or in my case, until I've recovered successfully.  And based on the obscene gestures delivered by my legs yesterday, that's going to take a few weeks of nothing but pool-running, swimming, yoga, and eating.  There will be no January half-marathon for me, and no full marathon in the spring of 2017.  Just plenty of rest and recovery, followed by working on my 5K and 10K PRs.

Other notes:

  • Weather was perfect - started at 42, ended at 45, really no wind.
  • I had originally planned to stay in the Cal Expo area, a few miles from Sacramento, and rent a car.  However, I opted to relocate to a hotel in downtown Sacramento right by the finish line and the start shuttles - it was my first time in Sacramento, and I didn't want to make things too complicated.  However, if/when I do this race again, I'll definitely stay in the Cal Expo area (saving a good chunk of money) and rent a car - Sacramento is not a difficult place to drive around or park.
  • If you're on the east coast and you fly out west to run this race, just stay on east coast time. The sun sets around 5:00 pm local time, so it's easy to go to bed at 7 or 8 pm local time (10-11 pm east coast time). Which in turn makes the 5 am buses on Sunday easier, AND minimizes jet lag.
  • For a moment during the latter stages of the race, I thought I was hallucinating when I saw signs for US 50.  Only to realize that it was indeed true.  US 50 is also a major road that runs through DC (I sometimes run along it) and runs east to Ocean City Maryland. I spend a LOT of time on that road on the east coast, and so it was surreal to see it on the opposite side of the continent.
  • It was really good to see/meet/hang out with the RWOL 3:20 group.  
  • Had a slight asthma attack post race, which also happened after my Turkey Trot 5K.  Neither was very bad, but still concerning.  Since I'm on Advair, they shouldn't be happening at all.  After allergy season ended, we decided to bump down the strength of my Advair to the lowest possible, but I'm (sadly) thinking I need to bump it back up.  Annoying.
  • To DC natives worrying about the hills at CIM - seriously, they're like Rock Creek Park (and not the bad ones).  If you train in Rock Creek Park, you'll be fine.
  • Wanna know how you carry 5-6 gels on each side?  Here you go.  Apply bodyglide to sides, then safety pin gels to shorts.  Then fold gels over edge of shorts so they're tucked in between shorts and skin, where they sit securely until you need them.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Training log - Week ending 11/27/16

This week was 43 miles of running and 22"miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

This was the second week of my second taper.  My normal schedule was thrown off a bit by a) a trip to Connecticut for work (including a stay at the world's most depressing Hilton Garden Inn) and b) a 5K Turkey Trot.

Honestly, I mainly ran the Turkey Trot because of the work trip - I would have preferred to stick with a Tuesday/Friday workout schedule, rather than race that close to CIM.  But...there was really no place to safely do a workout where I was staying in Connecticut- my running route was back and forth on the shoulder of a state highway, with the occasional diversion into a) a small residential development and b) an elevated parking lot.

The Connecticut run was honestly one of the most depressing runs I've done.  It was sub-freezing, with high winds, and I found nothing enjoyable about jogging back and forth on a mix of broken sidewalk and grass adjacent to laundromats and takeout pizza.  I almost never lose motivation, but it was really really hard not to pull the plug on this run two miles in.  Especially when I was two days out from a 5K and less than two weeks out from a marathon.

But I reminded myself that I get stale when I overtaper, and I needed to get the eight miles in, and trudged on through my first world struggles.   The run was made much easier when I ended up running with another hotel guest who, oddly enough, was also tapering for CIM.  What are the chances?

On the other hand, Thursday's 5K was a pleasant surprise.  I've known that I'm in good shape - I'm finally breaking 20 in 5K tempos again.  However, I don't generally race well at shorter distances when I'm in a marathon cycle - it's just hard to get into the 5K mentality.  So to get within 10 seconds of my PR, given those factors, was a huge confidence boost.  And it gives me hope that perhaps I can nudge my PR a bit lower in the next year or two.

But that's the hopeful future.  Next up, California.


Monday: Core and injury prevention work plus 10 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling.

Tuesday: 8 miles easy (8:51) followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 4 miles very easy (9:28). Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Thursday: 3.5 mile warm-up, 5K race in 19:20, and 4.5 mile cooldown.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Friday: 8 "miles" of pool-running in the morning; another 2 "miles" of pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 8 miles very easy (9:22), plus drills and strides, followed by upper body weights.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 12 miles moderate (7:52), followed by light injury prevention work.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Race Report: SOME 5K, November 24, 2016

I ran the So Others Might Eat (SOME) Turkey Trot 5K today, finishing in 19:20.

I really had no idea what I was going to run today - my workouts have been going really well in the last two weeks, but I'm training (well....tapering now) for a marathon, not a 5K, and I've never been one to race well at shorter distances when I'm in marathon shape.  Plus, I'm not really a 5K specialist - I hate them, and it shows in how I perform in them.  I much prefer either road miles (too short to think/hurt) or 10K and longer (the longer distance gives me more time to find a rhythm).  5Ks are awkwardly painful, like shoes that are both too wide and too short.

So why did I run this race?  Especially 10 days out from my marathon?  Well....I'm one of those people that tapers best by cutting the volume but keeping the intensity during taper.  So I really had to get some fast running in this week.  And due to various scheduling issues, I wouldn't be able to make any of my team's workouts this week.  I could either do fast running on my own at some point on Thursday or Friday, or race a Turkey Trot.  I chose the latter.  And I went with a 5K simply because I wanted to keep the race distance short this close to the marathon - no 5 milers or 10Ks.

So I went with SOME, which was a 5K, a fast course, and conveniently located partway between my own home and my parents' place.  As I noted before, I had no idea what I'd run.  If you had asked me on the starting line, I would have told you somewhere between 19:30 and 19:45.  Any of which would have been a good 5K time for me - though my PR is 19:10, that was set several years ago.  Since turning 40 and returning from the torn hamstring (I'm not sure which was the bigger setback), my 5K times have been:

2014 - 20:24, 20:24, 20:16
2015 - 20:29, 20:16, 19:51 (but also managed to break 40 for 10K)
2016 - 19:48, 21:05 (asthma), 20:22

I've had plenty of decent and some great performances at other distances, but my 5K races have been relatively mediocre.  Hence my modest expectations.   And my delight at running 19:20.


The SOME 5K is a very fast course in downtown DC.  It's pancake flat, and though it has two hair pin turns, they come early enough in the course that you don't lose too much speed.  When you get great weather (like we did today), it's a great race to shoot for a PR on.

SOME did start at 9:00 am, lending itself to a casual morning.  I left the house around 7:40 am, which was more than enough time to find parking, chill out, warm-up, and hit the bathrooms a few times (5Kolitis).  I noted that the (mild) wind was coming from the east this year; usually it's from the west.  Since the race starts heading east and ends heading west, this was good news - I'd have the headwind for the first part, when there would be others to draft off of, and then the tailwind would help me home.

As always in shorter races, I timed my warm-up to include two hard running segments of 60-90 seconds about 15 minutes before the race start.  Yes, I've tried racing shorter stuff off of just easy jogging and strides, and it doesn't work well for me.  The first few minutes of hard running are always really tough for me, so I prefer to get them out of the way before the race.

Then I lined up.  Holiday races are always packed with people who go out like idiots, so I seeded myself a bit further back than I normally would, so that I'd start the race with people who (in going out too fast) would be running my pace).

The race start was a bit odd - at 8:59 the airhorn sounded.  No advance warning or announcement, it just went off.  Everyone flinched, then looked at each other and shrugged.  Nobody actually crossed the starting line (that I could see).   At 9:00 am the airhorn went off again, and this time we started.  I'm still not sure what was going on - whether the first airhorn was a mistake, or whether we were supposed to start but nobody did.

But anyways, we were off.  I ran this race with my watch blanked like always, so my pacing strategy was based on feel - be patient for the first half mile, then start moving up, but try to stay relaxed throughout.  Patience was necessary in the first half mile, as people surged and faltered and surged and swerved.  All part of the Turkey Trot experience, I guess.  I dodged runners carefully - the last thing I wanted to do was to twist my ankle before CIM.

After a few hundred meters, the worst of the logjam cleared, and it was smooth sailing.  Too smooth, in fact - I had a distinct feeling of a) not working that hard but b) not being able to find the next gear.  That's normal for me when I'm in marathon training -and while some of it may be physiological, I think more of it is mental - I'm just not used to the 5K flavor of hurt, and so I can't go there.  And it's compounded by the fact that my goal marathon is so close that it's hard to care about a 5K.  And if I don't care about the 5K, then I have no appetite for 5K effort.


This course has been changed slightly from the last time I ran it, and so it was difficult during the middle section to know how far I was from the finish.  Especially since mile marker two was missing.  Fortunately, almost all of the last mile of the race is on Pennsylvania Avenue, and so once we turned there, I could see the finish and measure my energy.   Additionally, I know the route well enough to know that:

  • 12th Street - the finish
  • 11th Street - 3 mile mark
  • 9th Street - 400m to go
  • 6th Street - 800m to go
  • 3rd Street - 1200m to go.  
So, really the last mile of this course is like a track race.

I ran this race with my watchface blanked as always, and so I didn't know my time until I approached the finish.  I was pleasantly surprised to see it counting up from 19:1x.  I kicked and kicked, and when I finished and hit "stop" my watch read 19:19. Unfortunately the official race time is 19:20 - a slight bummer, but the difference between 19:19 and 19:20 is nowhere near as painful as the difference between 19:59 and 20:00.  Especially when neither would have been a PR, and both are significantly faster than I expected to run.  Appreciate what you have.

Splits were:
Mile 1: 6:20
Miles 2-3: 12:21
last bit: 0:38 (5:48 pace).

Other notes:

  • I ended up second masters female, to a local woman I wasn't familiar with who ran just over 19:00.  For a bit I thought this might be another case of bib-swapping - a good news/bad news thing.  Then I confirmed that she was legit - she just mainly does triathlons, not road races.  No cheating here, and I was second.  So that was good news/bad news too.
  • Weather was high 40s and overcast, perfect!
  • Debated on whether to wear my marathon shoes (Adios Boost) or my preferred short distance shoe (Takumi Sen).  Decided to play it safe and race with the Adios - it's still a very fast shoe that many people use for 5Ks.  And racing a 5K 10 days before a marathon is risky enough without compounding it by wearing flats you haven't worn since May.
  • Ended up a bit tight chested in the morning, so had to use my rescue inhaler pre-race.  My guess is that this is because I didn't get a good puff of my Advair this morning (I was interrupted mid-puff this morning by a cat litter box altercation, and that's all you need to know).
  • Had an expresso GU in the morning pre-race, plus some shot blocks (Tropical Punch).  Yummy in that runner way.  GU really does have the coffee flavors down.