Monday, January 15, 2018

Training log - Week ending 1/14/18

This week was 38 miles of running and 15 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.  

This week was all over the place, literally.  I was supposed to do a track workout on Tuesday morning, but opted out after a two mile warm-up on a track that was a bit too icy for my tastes.  So I waited until the sun came up, and then relocated to my old friend, the Whitehurst Freeway, to do the workout there.  As it turned out, the Whitehurst was very foggy, with poor visibility - I'm not sure it was a better choice.  But got it done.

By Friday, the weather had tilted the other way, in the lower 60s and humid.  Just in time for me to run (too fast) a pick-up mile before flying to Houston, which was colder than DC at that time (though warmer than DC has been recently).

The race went well, which was nice.  I'm now taking a down week before jumping into Boston training.  This break is timed with a work trip to Tampa, so I don't have to worry about fitting in workouts or high mileage while here.  Very convenient.


Monday8 "miles" pool-running and DIY yoga.  Foam rolling at night

Tuesday: 2 mile warm-up part 1, then 2 mile warm-up part 2, and then a variant of 1600, 4x800 under the Whitehurst (splits were 6:06, 2:56, 2:56, 2:51, 2:52 for something close to those distances).  Followed with 2 mile cool-down.  Foam rolling at night

Wednesday: 7 miles very easy (8:51), followed by drills and strides and DIY yoga.  Massage in afternoon.

Thursday:  7 "miles" pool-running, followed by light upper body strengthwork and core, plus DIY yoga.  Foam rolling in evening.

Friday6 miles, including a pick-up mile in 6:08 (too fast, even after allowing for the fact it was downhill).  Then flew to Houston.

Saturday: Nothing save DIY yoga and a bit of tennis balling.

Sunday:  2 mile warm-up and then a half marathon in 85:43.

Race Report: Houston Half-Marathon, January 14, 2018

I ran the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon yesterday, finishing in a time of 1:25:43 - good enough for an age group win as well as a significant half-marathon PR.  So it was a good day.

I have a past history with the Houston Half.  Back in 2012 I had planned on Houston for a PR attempt only to get injured and miss it.  I always meant to give it a second try, but other racing plans and/or injuries always got in the way.  

Finally, this past spring I had some good races at the half-marathon and 10 mile distances.  I checked the website for Houston on a whim, and realized that my times were probably good enough to get me into their Athlete Development Program ("ADP"), especially after adding in the age factor.  (I've learned that if a race has an elite or sub-elite standard, and you're close but not under, they'll sometimes give you a bit of leeway if you're over 40).  

So I applied, and they kindly let me in.   Yay.  I knew that I'd likely be training by myself for this race, since my team doesn't usually send anyone to Houston.  But that was OK - I've done that before.

 As it turned out, though, this year was an anomaly with a total of 11 people from my team doing either the full or the half at Houston.   A very pleasant surprise, and it made the cycle a fun one.


Per my normal practice, I flew into Houston on Friday afternoon for the Sunday race.  I never like to fly the day before a race, both because long flights drain me and because of the risk of delays or cancellations.  As it turns out, Friday was a difficult day for air travel due to storms in the midwest.  Our flight (a teammate and I were on the same flight) ended up delayed for 90 minutes, and we were the lucky ones - many other flights in the same terminal were cancelled.    I was very grateful that I hadn't waited until Saturday to travel.

Once we landed in Houston, I defaulted to my standard pre-race routine - hanging out in my room save for brief excursions out to the race expo and to Chipotle (of course). While there was a Chipotle very close to my hotel, it was closed on weekends, so I took a tour of Houston using their light rail system, to the nearest open Chipotle.  Pre-race rituals are important - especially when they involve excellent corn tortilla  chips.


Race morning started very early for me with an alarm at 3:50 am (4:50 am DC time).  The race started at 7:00 am, and I needed to take my asthma meds three hours pre-race, so 3:50 it was.  Getting up that early had other advantages also - plenty of time to eat, drink, digest, and stretch, before taking a leisurely walk to the GRB center to drop off my bag.  (I left my hotel around 5:40 am)

Houston uses the GRB center as a pre- and post-race staging area, and it works really well.  Bag check was located inside, as were family meet-up areas and port-a-potties (referred to as "port-a-cans" here - somebody really needs to do a linguistics study of the different names for portable toilets by region).  There was also an area dedicated to stretching, with a selection of yoga mats for use - brilliant.


After briefly seeing my teammates at the GRB, and dropping off my bag, I headed out for my warm-up, jogging towards the well marked starting areas.  The ADP corral closed for entry at 6:35 am sharp, so I planned to do much of my warm-up outside the corral and then enter around 6:20, finishing my warm up in the corral - it was my understanding that the ADP corral had enough room to warm-up inside the corral. 

As it turned out though, there was no room to jog in the corral - apparently I had misunderstood.  So back out to do a bit more jogging before re-entering the corral at 6:30.  

Many of my teammates were also in the ADP corral - so we stood and chatted and did drills in place and bounced to House of Pain (actually that was just me) and debated how long we wanted to keep our throwaway clothes on.  It was pretty cold, so I delayed my strip time from 6:45 to 6:50 to 6:55 to 6:56:30, before reluctantly removing my sweatpants and top.  

[As an aside, music by "House of Pain" is an absolutely brilliant pre-race choice that works on multiple levels.  And much better than hearing that darn U2 song one more time.]

At 6:58 they released our corral and the A corral right behind us, and we jogged up to the front to line up behind the elites.  The jogging was not for optimal placement at the start line, but rather a quick attempt to loosen up after 20+ minutes of standing still.  Then, at 7:00 on the dot, we were off, running into a still dark Houston.

My plan was to stay conservative for the first 2-3 miles, and then hit a rhythm which I'd hold until I was close to the finish, when I'd start kicking.  I had looked at the course video and identified a slight decline a bit after the 2 mile mark that would be the perfect opportunity to upshift.  I've always found it easier and more logical to structure my race plan around geographic features of a course, rather than mile markers.  

It was hard to hold back those first two miles.  I was amped up and ready to run (and cold to boot).  And surrounded by those faster than me.  I had to repeatedly tap the metaphorical brakes and let others go past.  Surprisingly soon, I hit "my" decline and shifted into gear.

The Houston Half course is like Chicago in that it's very flat, with scenery that doesn't change much throughout.  Other than a brief tour through a nicely treelined neighborhood, it was a sequence of box stores and concrete.  Which was fine with me - I didn't come to Houston for the scenery.  The race course was marked in both kilometers and miles for the first seven miles, which made time pass quickly as I flowed forward.  

This race was a PR attempt on a fast course on a cold day, and so I ran a bit more aggressively than my norm. Nothing stupid, but definitely the harder side of tempo, rather than the safe side.  I was wearing my Vaporfly 4%s, which very much encourage a rolling stride, and I went with it.

The miles were ticking by, and I felt in control, though I was starting to work.  At mile 7 I took a last sip from my handheld water bottle and then tossed it.  Shortly thereafter, I fumbled with my Rocktane Gu (I had forgotten to pre-tear it).  I got it open and took half a slurp gut started churning.  Nothing horribly urgent, but I decided not to finish the GU - this wasn't a marathon where I had to get nutrition in, and it wasn't worth the risk.  I did have a non-rocktane on me as well, but I decided not to try that one either.  Again, not worth the risk if my stomach was already on edge.

Somewhere after mile 8 things started to get hard.  This wasn't a total shock (I mean, it is a half-marathon race, and 8 miles is nearly 2/3rds in) but I was surprised at just how hard it got.  In retrospect, I think it was a combination of two things - a moderate headwind coming back, and my aggression earlier in the race catching up with me (which probably made the headwind seem a lot worse than it was).  I usually take at least one GU during a half, so not finishing my GU might have played a part as well.

Whatever the cause, I was hurting.  I was also by myself on a long bleak Houston road, with a few runners coming back to me very slowly.   I reminded myself that this was a rhythm course, and just to hold the rhythm.  Don't worry about the pace or what others were doing or what mile marker I had just passed, just lock into that rhythm as if I was dancing, and hold it until the end.

So that's what I did.  The last mile of the race was difficult - a mile-long stretch in downtown Houston with the finish line nowhere in sight.   I kept slipping into a bad mental place and then pulling myself out.  

Wonderfully, the race had posted signs at 800m and 400m to the finish (every race should do this, IMHO).  Once I saw those, things got slightly easier.   Even though I couldn't see the finish, I trusted the signs and visualized my last two laps in a track tempo.  It was time to close strong, and so I stretched up and emptied the tank, kicking as best I could (though the Vaporfly 4% is NOT a good shoe for kicking).  And then, thankfully, I saw the clock ticking down 1:25:4x, and I knew I was going to break 86.  And then I was done.

My final splits were:
Miles 1-2: 13:33 (average of 6:46)
Mile 3: 6:26
Mile 4: 6:30
Mile 5: 6:24
Mile 6: 6:25
Mile 7: 6:29
Mile 8: 6:23 (I think I hit lap a bit early)
Mile 9: 6:39 (see note for mile 8)
Mile 10: 6:31
Mile 11: 6:33
Mile 12: 6:32
Mile 13: 6:32
last bit: 46 seconds

A more or less well paced race, but I think I would have benefited from being a bit more patient in the early part of the race, around miles 3-6.  I'm usually a very strong closer, and I wasn't on Sunday.  

But I'm not too upset about it.  I was able to hang tough when things got hard (blowing up a bit in my tune-up 5K was actually very useful practice), and I broke 86.  Perhaps next time I'll be able to break 85.

Other notes:

  • I stayed at the Club Quarters, which was a great location.  Nice hotel, with a CVS nearby and easy access to Houston's light rail system.
  • On the flight over, both my seat mate and another person in the row were clearly sick.  Thankfully, I was wearing a flu mask, which I pressed to my face with one hand the entire time to ensure no gaps.  Upon landing, like the race induced hypochondriac that I am, I ran immediately to the bathroom, where I washed hands, then face, and then zinc-swabbed my nostrils prophylacticly.
  • For the duration of my stay in Houston, I had issues with my throat and sinuses burning slightly.  At first, I was sure I was getting sick (damn seatmates, damn airplane).  And then, when checking the weather, I realized that Houston was having a bad air quality day.  A trip downstairs to the hotel gym, where the air was heavily filtered, confirmed that it was Houston, not me. 

    I was worried I'd have some breathing issues on race morning, but fortunately that turned out not to be the case, save for one stretch early on where we ran through a bit of smoke or similar.  I tightened up briefly, but then things loosened up as soon as we moved past that block.  Whew!
  • I ended up winning my age group (women 40-44) and was fourth female master, losing to three women in the 45-49 age group.  While I never like losing, it's pretty cool to lose to several women older than myself.
  • I wore the Vaporfly 4% for this race, and thought it worked well.  Of course, I don't know if I would have run faster or slower in the Adios.  But the Vaporfly was an excellent shoe to hit a rhythm in, and the extra cushioning probably didn't hurt on a concrete course.  I'm definitely still very sore and beaten up this morning, but that's what happens when you race a half-marathon all out.  I do think that I would have been able to kick faster in the Adios - my kicking is all about getting up on my toes and increasing my cadence, and I can't really do either in the Vaporfly.
  • A teammate and I, who are of similar abilities and had a similar race schedule this past fall before targeting this half, finished in essentially identical times (she got me by 2 seconds).  This was despite having utterly different pacing strategies and training schedules.  My training for this race was characterized by very slow easy days, limited volume and length of long runs, and an emphasis on track workouts, while her easy runs were more moderately paced, her volume was higher, and she emphasized marathon-like strengthwork.  Similarly, I went out very conservatively and then dropped the pace, while she ran a more even race  (we do the same thing in workouts - I descend in pace in my workouts, while she hits even splits). 

    I'm noting this because I think it's a beautiful illustration of how there is no one perfect way to train, taper, or execute on race day.  I think that if she trained or paced like I do, she wouldn't run anywhere near as well.  And the inverse is true too.  Though there are some absolute rules (hard to run a solid half marathon on 10 miles a week; don't do a track workout if you're limping), there's also a lot of individuality that has to be recognized.  Don't conclude that if someone is training differently from you that it means that one of you is wrong.  There is more than one right way in running.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Training log - Week ending 1/7/18

This week was 53 miles of running and 16 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.  (No recovery swimming this week - the pool was closed a lot.  Also, it was just too darn cold.)

Another oddly structured week.  No Tuesday track workout, since I raced on Monday, and then Friday's tempo was moved to Thursday to accommodate some super chilled weather. 

Generally, I'm a big believer in training in all conditions, since you never know what you'll get on race day.  Additionally, since I train by effort, not pace, I don't perceive a workout run at X pace in perfect weather to be superior or more productive than one run at X pace+10 seconds in sub-par weather.

That being said, I don't believe in being stupid either.  Friday was forecast to be single digit air temperature with sustained winds of 20-30 MPG - a track workout in those conditions was asking for a pulled muscle.  Better to bump things up a day.

As it turned out, we then had snowfall on Thursday morning.  Since the track and all local running trails were covered in snow, I ended up tempoing under the Whitehurst freeway. 
Water Street - view from one endpoint

For those of you not in DC, there is an elevated 
highway in the Georgetown area of DC known as the Whitehurst Freeway with a street that runs underneath it - Water Street.  When it snows, runners will run back and forth on Water Street under the Whitehurst.  

The covered section of Water Street is fairly long - about 1200m end-to-end one way - so running here isn't awful.  

You can do intervals by running one direction, jogging in small circles at that end to recover, before running back. And you can tempo by ping-ponging back and forth- a teammate who was a former swimmer used to love Whitehurst workouts, since they reminded her of pool workouts.

The one downside (depending on your perspective) is that it's impossible to know exact distances run on Water Street.  Garmins are worthless there due to lack of signal, and you can't measure your exact distance on MapMyRun because you never take the same path or turn at quite the same place twice.  So you just do a time and effort based workout and guesstimate distance.  For those who focus on paces and splits, it's disconcerting.  Since I pace off of perceived effort, I don't mind too much.  And I prefer Water Street to the tedium of the track and its never ending circles.

The tempo went well, and between that and Monday's 5K, I'm feeling pretty confident for next weekend.  I don't have any numbers to point to in support of that confidence - my official time for the 5K was meaningless for umpteen weather and course reasons, and I have no numbers at all for Thursday's workout.  But both felt like good performances.  Plus I'm feeling bouncy and fresh and peaking, and that's a very good thing.


Monday: 3.5 mile warm-up and then a 5K race in 19:37.  Later 5.5 easy (8:36); foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 8 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights/core.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 6.5 miles very easy (9:03) to yoga, yoga, and then 3.5 miles easy (8:51), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:  11 miles, including a 20 minute tempo under the Whitehurst freeway, followed by lower body strengthwork and injury prevention work.  Foam rolling in evening.

FridayYoga followed by 8 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 8 miles very easy (8:48), followed by upper body strengthwork and core. Foam rolling in evening.

Sunday:  12 miles moderate (7:51)  followed by light lower body strengthwork and injury prevention work, DIY yoga, and foam rolling.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Race Report: New Day - New Year 5K

I ran the New Day - New Year 5K in Ashburn, VA - finishing in a time of 19:35.

I had my choice of several races to do in the DC area on New Years Eve/New Years day.  And...I went with the one that was furthest from my home.  And also quite possibly the coldest. 

There was a reason behind my seemingly poor decision.  We had a significant snowfall two days ago, accompanied by fairly cold temperatures for the DC region.  I was concerned about the possibility of ice on the race course, and this race - held on well traveled roads in daylight - seemed the least likely to be affected by ice.    Since I just wanted a tune-up for Houston in two weeks, my priority was a hard, safe effort.  And this race was the best choice for that.

Race morning dawned, and it was frigid.  Out of morbid curiousity, I checked the weather report for Ashburn before I left - 9 degrees Fahrenheit.  (It did warm to 15 degrees by the time the race started).  

Fortunately (in a sense) it's been pretty cold all week so I'd had plenty of practice dressing for the conditions  On the bottom I wore compression shorts with tights over top; on the top I layered a sportsbra, a long sleeve shirt, and then my team jacket (the same one I usually put on AFTER the race).  Thick mittens with handwarmers and a thick headband completed the ensemble.

I warmed up with about 3.5 miles, including some hard surges. The course was mostly gently rolling, with one significant climb in the first mile.  I reminded myself of the importance of staying conservative and not throwing away my race on that hill.  No tight turns, which was good since I was wearing the Vaporflies.


The race started, and I was dropped instantly by several other people, including two women.  Part of this was that I'm always slow off the line. But it can also likely be blamed on the Vaporflies -  those are definitely very hard to get moving.

For whatever reason, I was dropped, and I let it flip my "bad judgment" switch.  Instead of patiently making my way up the opening hill and then starting to race, I gritted my teeth and started working.  By the top of the hill I was second woman, only about 5 seconds behind the first.  I'd remain in that ordinal place for the rest of the race, but that would be the closest I'd ever be to the first place woman, who would eventually gap me by 40 seconds or so.

I used the downhill after the first uphill to gain some more speed, but by the end of the second mile I was starting to struggle, and the last mile was just holding on.  I was completely by myself (very small race), which gave me plenty of opportunity to start doubting myself.   Which was good - that's why I do tune-up races - to practice dealing with that BS.   And also to occasionally re-learn that starting out hard and hanging on doesn't work well for me.

Finally, after taking way too long, the finish line was in sight.   As I turned the last corner, a spectator yelled "it's OK, you can slow down - there's nobody behind you."  Had I been able to speak, that would have earned a "WTF, dude?" in response.

I noted the clock ticking 19:3x as I crossed - slower than I had expected but whatever.  I got what I came for - a good hard effort, some mental callousing, and a solid test of how the Vaporflies felt on tired legs (going out too hard and struggling at the end was a very good thing, from this perspective).


Since it was so cold and I was wearing my heavy mittens, and since there were no tall buildings or tight turns to massively screw up the Garmin, I set it to auto-lap each mile.  I don't usually rely on autolap, but I knew that it'd be almost impossible to hit the lap button manually using my mittens-that-double-as-boxing-gloves.  

My splits ended up being: 
Mile 1: 6:19
Mile 2: 6:00
Mile 3: 6:11
last .18 - 1:05 - so supposedly 6:04 pace.

My Garmin read the course as long.  I'm not generally the "but my Garmin said..." type - that argument usually annoys the hell out of me, since Garmins have their own accuracy issues.  However, the course felt a bit long, and the mile markers seemed to be all over the place.  Plus, this wasn't an officially certified course, so it's not surprising that it wouldn't be an exact 5K.  (I don't think it was massively inaccurate).   How long was it actually?  No way to know, and not all that important.  We all ran the same distance, and I got a solid tune-up in, and that's what I cared about.

[Addendum - since I was procrastinating other stuff, I checked out the race Facebook page.  There, I noted that they said they were using "the standard course" but in reverse.  So...I did some digging and found "the standard course."  Yup, they ran it in reverse (which didn't change the distance) but also used the same line for the start and finish, which added some extra distance.  Not a huge amount, but enough to be noticeable.  

I'm assuming they did that because of the cold - it had to be easier to manage one timing mat than two.  If that's the reason, I don't begrudge them that at all - certainly understandable, given the weather.]

Other notes:

  • Weather ended up being 15 degrees with a DP of 8, and some wind (though not too bad).  Wearing a thin jacket over a long sleeve shirt was the right choice for this weather.
  • I wore the Vaporflies here.  Based on today, I can confirm that I don't like the Vaporfly as a 5K shoe - too slow off of the line, too clunky, and even gentle turns were slightly awkward.  Additionally, my cadence gets pretty high in a short race, and I think I run best in the Vaporflies when I use a slightly slower rhythm.  It's a shoe for efficiency, not top end speed.  But I did get to experience how they felt when my gait was starting to fall apart, and I didn't hate them then.  Good.
  • It was 35 minutes from Arlington to Ashburn - not bad.  It would have been 30 minutes, had my EZpass not flaked out.  Rolling down my car window to use my credit card at each toll gate wasn't pleasant.  Additionally - those toll gate credit card slots are clearly not designed for women with short arms.
  • Major kudos to the race staff and volunteers for being out there on a very cold morning.  It's far easier to race in this weather than it is to work bib pick-up.  It would have been understandable if there had been some race day hiccups, due to the conditions (nothing goes right when it's that cold).  But no, the race went smoothly, and the race management gets a lot of praise for that.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Training log - Week ending 12/31/17

This week was 42 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This week was lower mileage, since I'm resting up for a race on New Years Day.  The race is on Monday, so I was able to squeeze in a light cruise intervals workout on Thursday (generally, when I race on Saturday or Sunday, my last workout is on Tuesday or Wednesday).  Since I was tempoing by myself, I moved the workout to the roads - Hains Point, to be exact.  For non-DCites, Hains Point is a flat 3.5 mile asphalt road loop with almost no vehicular traffic.  It's a great, if nauseatingly boring, place to train.

I used this workout as my final test for the Vaporflies (I'm still unsure whether the proper pluralization is Vaporflys or Vaporflies).  My previous easy run with them was soul-sucking, but perhaps they were different at a faster pace.

Confirmed: they are a different shoe at speed (speed for my purposes is defined as marathon pace or faster).  When you generate more force, the shoe feels more stable, though still a bit soft and wobbly for my tastes.   More speed also means the foot spends less time on the ground, and that may help with the perceived stability.  I also wore thicker socks so the shoe fit tighter and taped my ankles for stability (I use the same tape job whenever I race the mile, have a very long track workout planned, or know I'll be running on the towpath).  This likely affected my perception of the shoes as well.

Whatever the reason, the shoes felt better on Thursday.  I did 2x2 miles with a short recovery, keeping the pace under control for the first and opening up for the second.   And the faster I ran, the better the shoe felt. 

As for whether the shoe performed better than another shoe would?  This wasn't a good test for that, from a raw data standpoint.  My heart rate was very low for the speeds I was running, but that's easily explained by the weather - 15 degrees Fahrenheit.  When I run hard in frigid temperatures, my heart rate often gets frozen (haha) at a low value that doesn't match my effort or pace.  I also finished the second two mile repeat with a mile at my 5K pace that didn't feel at all like 5K effort.  However, I had a substantial tailwind at my back for that mile, so who knows. And maybe the Garmin lied about the pace.

So, I'm not totally sold yet, but the shoes felt good.  Which means a lot to me, since I train primarily by feel.  I like them enough to try them in tomorrow's 5K, to see how they feel at a maximal effort.  

Despite the fact that I'm wearing them on Monday, I don't think this is a good 5K shoe for me.  Were this a PR attempt, I'd be going with the Adios or Takumi Sen.  My Takumi Sens and Adioses feel like sportscars, while the Vaporflies feel more like high-speed trains - fast once they get moving, but very slow to start, stop, or turn.  Even the wide turns on Hains Point required me to slow down, carefully navigate the turn, and then pick up speed again.

In a shorter road race with a fast start off the line and most likely a tight turn or two, this would be an awkward shoe.  To that point, I'd be especially nervous wearing the Vaporfly at a Turkey Trot or other race with a lot of inexperienced runners and children sprinting and weaving at the start.  You can't dodge, surge, or brake fast in these shoes.

The Vaporfly is best reserved for a longer race on a concrete or asphalt surface with relatively few turns.  It is NOT a jack of all trades shoe - even if it was cheap and easy to find, I would never want to wear it on the track, on an off-road surface (even packed dirt), or on a city sidewalk.  And it's so unstable and cushy at slower speeds that I would fear using it as a daily trainer, for the same reason I shy away from Hokas and other high cushioned shoes.

As for how much faster the Vaporfly may or may not be, compared to other shoes...there's really no way to be absolutely certain, since I can't do a controlled blind study.  I feel that the shoe is slightly faster than the Adios.  But I also feel that the gap between the Vaporfly and the Adios Boost is far less than the gap between the Adios Boost and my daily trainers, or any non-Boost shoe.


I've read a fair bit of discussion on whether wearing the Vaporfly is "cheating."  After giving this consideration, no - I don't think it is, by any definition.

For one thing, the shoes are allowed.  They've been around for several months, more than enough time for USATF to ban them.  Playing a sport with legal equipment, used in the manner for which it was designed - not cheating, in my book.

Yes, they are expensive - more so than other shoes, and perhaps some aren't able to purchase them.  But if that's our criteria, then we also need to start limiting all the other expensive things that some people can afford and others can't - nice hotels near the start line, inflatable recovery boots, gait analysis, compression tights, regular sports massages.  

The Vaporflies are admittedly hard to find.  When they come available, they sell out in hours - modern day Cabbage Patch shoes.  But if lack of easy availability defines unfair advantage, then many other shoes fit that category.  It was easier to get a pair of Vaporflies than a replacement pair of my beloved and elderly Takumi Sens (still looking for those...).  And there are mass market unisex sized shoes that effectively are unavailable to me, since I have somewhat small feet and the shoe isn't made in my size.

The shoes do promise, and to some extent deliver, "energy return."  But that's not a new promise or achievement.  That was the selling point of the Adidas Boost foam - and having run in Adidas Boost shoes for several years now, I truly believe that that claim.  As I noted above, I find the difference between the Adios Boost and a non-Boost shoe to be far greater than that between the Vaporfly and the Adios Boost.

Nor is the technology of the shoes as revolutionary as it sounds at first.  Mizuno has been using a "wave plate" in its shoes for years and my beloved Adios Boost 2s have an midfoot torsion system that extends into the forefoot, as do many other flats.  Specialized patented energy return foam?  Again, Adidas got there first.  And the rolling action plus the high stack height comes from Hoka.  Nike just took all of these, combined them, and did a good job of it.


In my opinion, the Vaporfly is both a great shoe and vastly over-hyped.  Adidas Boost was much more of a game changer, but received less attention, both positive and negative.  Why?  I can think of three reasons:

  1. Adidas simply made the shoes, gave them to their sponsored athletes (the men's marathon world record was run in the Adios 2 Boost), and released them to the masses.  No big private marathon in Italy with guest appearances from Joan Samuelson and Kevin Hart.  No National Geographic Special.  No Wired Magazine.
  2. Adidas made enough shoes to meet demand.  Nike has not.  Scarcity can trigger irrational behavior (see: Beanie Babies or Cabbage Patch Kids).  The fact that the shoes are so hard to find leads to much discussion on where the shoes can be found - free publicity.
  3. Those who end up with the Vaporfly are not a representative subset of the running population as a whole.  Rather, they care enough about their marathon performance to expend considerable time, effort, and money to buy a shoe that might help their time.
    It's no surprise that those are the same people who are negative splitting marathons and setting significant PRs - if they're willing to work that hard for a shoe, they're likely doing all the other things that running success requires.

    In contrast, since the Adidas Boost material was available in a wide range of shoes easily available to the public, a wide range of runners run and race in the shoe.  Both the dedicated and the dilettantes, with (again) a wide range of performances to match. 
We'll see how tomorrow's 5K run goes.  My opinion of the shoe may change.  Again.


Monday: Yoga and 7 "miles" pool-running (the Jewish Community Center was open); foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 11 miles, including 4x1200 in 4:37, 4:36, 4:34, 4:28.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 6 miles very easy (9:20) to yoga, yoga, and then 4 miles easy (8:52), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:  10 miles, including 2x2 miles in 12:56 (6:28/6:28) and 12:23 (6:21/6:02).  Sports massage in afternoon.

FridayUpper body weights and core plus 9 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 7 miles very easy (8:55), followed by drills and strides, and then DIY yoga. Foam rolling in evening.

Sunday:  4 miles very easy (8:50) followed by DIY yoga and foam rolling.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Training log - week ending 12/24/17

This week was 58 miles of running, 17 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

With about 3 weeks to go until the Houston half-marathon, I'm starting to feel fairly good.  I wish I had more like 4-5 weeks - when I had registered for Houston, I had hoped to run 85 minutes and change there, but I'm not quite in that shape yet.  But I'm not in bad shape, so I should hopefully be able to run something decent there.


In other news, I splurged a few weeks ago on a pair of Vaporfly 4% shoes - yes, those $250 shoes.  (but not really a $250 risk, as I'm sure I can unload them on Ebay, even gently used).

I took them for an easy run on Saturday, and was deflated to realize that I didn't like them very much.  They don't feel like magical rocket shoes; rather they remind me of the boots I used to wear in my clubbing days (before I got smart and realized I was destroying my
Club boot on left; Vaporfly 4% on right
ankles).  Heavy and clunky.  And it was challenging to stop or turn with them - these are not shoes for running on crowded city sidewalks.

I did run slightly faster on Saturday than my norm, but that's not due to energy return from the shoes.  Rather, the shoes felt so awkward at my normal easy pace that I had to pick things up slightly to stay comfortable.   Even then, I still felt unstable in them, and afterwards noted the ankle pain that always pops up when I wear shoes that are too heavy or run on soft surfaces.

After my run, I decided to weigh the shoes on our very sensitive kitchen scale.  I grabbed my other shoes as well, to do a comparison.

Here's how I would rank my shoes, from lightest to heaviest, based on how they feel when I run:
From left to right:
Takumi Sen; Adios 2; Free 4.0; Adios 3; Vaporfly

1) Takumi Sen Boost
(for 5K races and shorter)
2) Adios Boost 2
(for track work and races longer than 5K, including marathon)
2) Flyknit Free 4.0
(tied with Adios 2) (for easy runs)
4) Adios Boost 3
(for long runs)
5) Vaporfly 4%  

And here's how much they actually weigh:

1) Takumi Sen Boost - 5.15 oz (men's 5.5)
2) Flyknit Free 4.0 - 5.7 oz (women's 7)
3) Vaporfly 4% - 5.85 oz (unisex 6)
4) Adios Boost 3 - 6.6 oz (women's 7.5)
5) Adios Boost 2 - 7.3 oz (women's 7.5)

So, my favorite shoe - the one that feels lightest on my feet, is actually significantly heavier than all the other shoes  Very interesting.  Evidence that it's not just about the shoe, but how the shoe works with the runner.   

My hunch is that the Adios Boost 2 and the Takumi Sen are very stiff shoes that work well with my gait (mid foot strike, fast cadence, very little power), while softer shoes like the Adios Boost 3 and the Vaporfly 4% work better for runners who generate more force and pound the ground harder.  (The Flyknit Free 4.0, though soft, is also very thin, which is likely why the softness of it doesn't bother me too much.)

I'm going to give the Vaporfly one more chance with some faster running to see if it feels different at that speed.  If I still don't like it after that, it goes up on ebay.


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

Tuesday: 11 miles, including 6x800 in 3:00, 2:58, 2:55, 2:54, 2:55, 2:46.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy (9:02) to yoga, yoga, and then 4 miles easy (8:57), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

 Upper body weights and core plus 10 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday10 miles, including a 4 mile tempo in 25:32 (6:33/6:25/6:24/6:10).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles easy (8:30), followed by drills and strides, and then upper body weights and core. Foam rolling in evening.

Sunday:  15 miles total. The first 14 miles were progressive, split as first 4 miles averaging 9:00 pace, next 4 averaging 7:37; next 6 averaging 6:47; followed by a 1 mile cooldown.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Training log - Week ending 12/17/17

This week was 61 miles of running, 17 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This week was heavy on the quantity of the quality, if that makes sense.  Tuesday's workout was a full 4.5 miles of fast running, run at a slightly slower pace than normal (with recoveries all taking less time than the intervals).  

It doesn't make sense to do this much interval work every week, or even regularly.  But I do think it's good to mix things up from time to time, and a high volume of 5K paced intervals with limited recovery is good half-marathon prep for me.

My last two weeks have alternated longer/harder and shorter/easier workouts - a 8K tempo (longer) last week was followed by a 14 mile long run (shorter) and then this week's long session of intervals.  I followed the intervals with a 4 mile tempo (shorter) on Friday and then a 16 mile Sunday long run (as long as I'll go this cycle).  I like balancing things this way because it lets me fit in some harder workouts without necessarily burying myself.
Me and my trophy.

So a good week training-wise.  But also a bit of a bummer.

To explain more, back in May I won a trophy at the Broad Street 10 Miler.  Not just an acrylic trophy, but a huge glass one.  Really impressive - possibly the coolest thing I've ever won at a running race.

I managed to get it safely back to DC, where I stored it, carefully padded, in a box under our bed until I could identify a safe place to store it.  This weekend, I extricated it and placed it on the shelf I had cleared, securing it with museum putty.

I then closed the door to that room, keeping the cats away until the putty could set.  

The aftermath.
A few minutes later, I heard a crash.  And I opened the door to see the remnants of my trophy on the floor.  Apparently the museum putty had shifted as it had settled, and the trophy fell off of the shelf, shattering on our porcelain tile floor.  

I'm trying to see the positive side here.  A few years ago, I broke a beloved mug from the evening before the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, and then had a major breakthrough race the next morning.  So this shattered trophy has to mean at least a few PRs this coming year, right?

(In the meantime, I've emailed Broad Street to see if there's anyway I can pay for a replacement.  If not, I guess I'll just load the shards into a shadow box and "display" it that way.)


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

Tuesday: 13 miles, including 3x(1200, 800, 400) in 4:41, 3:06, 1:29, 4:36, 3:00, 1:32, 4:32, 2:59, 83.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy (9:18) to yoga, yoga, and then 4 miles easy (8:51), followed by drills and strides.  Massage in afternoon.

 Upper body weights and core plus 10 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday11 miles, including a 4 mile tempo in 25:51 (6:34/6:30/6:25/6:23).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles very easy (8:49), followed by drills and strides, and then upper body weights and core. Foam rolling in evening.

Sunday:  16 miles progressive, split as first 5 averaging 8:45 pace, next 5 averaging 7:36 pace; last 6 averaging 6:52 pace. Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Training log - Week ending 12/10/17

This week was 61 miles of running, 17 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Much better this week.  Last week's asthma flare calmed down after 3.5 days of prednisone (Friday-Sunday of last week at full dose, and then tapering down with a half dose on Monday).  Tuesday's track workout felt great, and Friday's was even better.  

Every time my asthma flares, I realize (again) just how much it affects my running.  Though this week's workouts were significantly faster than last week's, they also felt far easier and took much less out of me.  

My schedule had a 5K for this weekend, but I changed plans mid-week.  Because of a looming federal government shutdown, it appeared that the race might be cancelled. (It's a quirk of living in the DC area - many of our races are on National Parks Service property that is closed if the government shuts down).

I had scheduled the race because I had assumed that my team's tempo workout would be cancelled this week, due to the team holiday party the night before.  As it turned out, the tempo was not cancelled.  So it was an easy choice to skip the might-or-might-not-happen 5K (especially since I hadn't entered it yet).   At this point in my training cycle for the Houston Half, I needed a solid tempo far more than a short race. 


In other news, Bill Steinkraus passed away this week.  This probably means nothing to anyone reading this running blog - he was an equestrian legend, but relatively unknown outside of those circles.

As part of its tribute to Steinkraus, the Chronicle of the Horse republished an article entitled "Bill Steinkraus' Two Dozen Useful Aphorisms"  (two dozen because riding is complicated sometimes).  These obviously relate to riding, but it seems to me that many apply to running as well.  Namely:

  • "If the horse can’t learn to accept what you’re doing, it isn’t any good.
    Translation to running - if you're not enjoying your training and racing, you're not going to race well.
  • "If you`ve given something a fair trial, and it still doesn’t work, try something else—even the opposite." 
    If you're not seeing the results you want from your training, after training that way consistently for several months, you need to make some changes.
  • "What you can’t accomplish in an hour should usually be put off until tomorrow."
    If you're running yourself into a hole, you need to stop, rather than continue and compound the damage.
  • "Never give up until the rail hits the ground."
    Don't give up on a race if you have a bad patch or are running slower than you had planned.  Keep fighting to run the best you can that day.
  • "In practice, do things as perfectly as you can; in competition, do what you have to do."
    If your running gets ugly during a workout, it's likely best to pull the plug.  If that happens in the later miles of a goal race, keep going and don't back off.
  • "The horse’s engine is in the rear. Thus, you must ride your horse from behind, and not focus on the forehand simply because you can see it."
    Run by using your legs, especially your glutes, rather than flailing with your arms and clenching your fists.   (human and equine biomechanics are more similar than one would think).
  • "Get your tack and equipment just right, and then forget about it and concentrate on the horse."
    Give some thought to what you're going to wear to a race, in terms of clothes and shoes.  But once you're on the starting line, it's too late to change your mind, so don't waste energy worrying whether you're over or underdressed.
  • "You can exaggerate every virtue into a defect."
    This one speaks for itself.
  • "The harder you work, the luckier you get."
    This one as well.


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

Tuesday: 12 miles, including 1600, 800, 1600, 2x800 in 6:06, 2:55, 6:00, 2:52, 2:53.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy (9:12) to yoga, yoga, and then 3 miles easy (8:45), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night

 Upper body weights and core plus 9.5 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday13 miles, including an 8K tempo in 32:28 (6:44/6:31/6:29/6:25/6:19).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10.5 miles very easy (9:22), followed by drills and strides, and then upper body weights and core. Foam rolling in evening.

Sunday:  14.5 miles progressive, split as first 4 miles at 9:12 pace, next 5 at 7:46; last 5.5 at 6:54.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.