Monday, January 13, 2020

Training log - week ending 1/12/2020

This week was 54 miles of running, 12 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards swimming -- training log is here.

This week took an unpleasant early turn when my left hamstring spasmed in the first rep of the Tuesday track workout.  I gave it a lap to see if it was something I could work out of, and then stepped off the track.  It wasn't a hard decision - this is the same hamstring that I tore several years ago, resulting in a lost year+ and multiple PRP injections.  I don't mess with hamstrings.

[looking back on it, I think the broader cause was pushing the envelope just a bit too much last Sunday - I ran 11 miles total the day after my marathon pace workout - significantly more than I've done after that workout in the past.  Granted, I ran it as a double, and slowly, but it was still a bit too much.  So that set me up for something to pop.

[And then, the immediate trigger was running in a big group for the Tuesday workout.  There's always a bit of swerving and such at the start of a workout if people are tightly packed.  When someone shifted in front of me, I hit the brakes to avoid stepping on their heels, and that pushed the hammy over the edge.  One of the risks of training with a large group, I guess.]

The good news was that the spasm and subsequent sore spot was in the belly of the hamstring.  The end points of the hamstring, where tendon attaches to bone, get very poor blood supply and take a long time to heal.  But the center of the muscle gets good blood flow and can heal fairly quickly, if you give it a chance.  Plus, since I had pulled up almost immediately, I had hopefully limited the damage to something that could clear in a few days with some focused effort.

So...I went Defcon on my hamstring.  

The initial stage of Defcon was to do nothing except ice it.  I initially considered heading directly to the pool to do a hard swimming workout to make up for the aborted track workout.  But, after consideration, I decided not to.  Hard workouts generate cortisol, and cortisol is catabolic - it pauses healing.  If I wanted this to clear quickly, the best thing was to rest for the first 24 hours and get my body to calm down.  Assisted, of course, by an ice pack on the hammie and a sports massage that same afternoon to get all the muscles around the hammie to let go.

Once it felt a bit more settled (the next day), I played around with some running.  My personal belief is that when something pops up, you need to reduce your workload to the point where the tissue can recover and heal, but you don't want to reduce more than you have to.    It's not about maintaining fitness (you won't lose much, if any, in a few days).  Rather, the more you cut back, the further you have to travel to get back to where you were - it's more stress to build back up from 0 miles to 50 than it is from 25 to 50.  And there are also benefits to keeping the tissue moving and the blood flowing.

[of course, there are some injuries - tears and broken bones, where you have to reduce to 0, since the tissue can't tolerate any load and heal at first.]

I have a test for whether it's OK to run on something (based on Jay Dicharry's book Anatomy for Runners):

  1. is the pain/soreness a 3 or less on a 1-10 scale (and be honest - sometimes I find myself ranking everything as a 2 or less if it's not a 9 or 10)?
  2. am I able to run normally without altering my gait or compensating?  (Running slower is not considered compensation; altering my footstrike is).  If I can't, then I need to stop, so that I don't end up with a compensation injury worse than the original.
  3. short term trend: Is the discomfort holding steady or even easing during the run?  If it gets worse, I stop.
  4. long term trend: is the injury improving each day (or alternately, holding steady if I increase workload)?  If I'm seeing improvement, then I'm on the right path, and probably won't see faster improvement if I rest more.  But...if progress is stalled or the issue is getting worse, then I need to cut back more.

[for this last point, I keep a log each day of how the injury feels, so that I can review over time and track the trend.]

Here, the hammy was passing all the tests, so I ran on it, carefully and slowly.

I also did everything I could to encourage healing.  More sleep, more water, more protein.  I slept with a gentle compression wrap and a heating pad set on low to encourage more bloodflow while I slept.  I did some nerve flossing, because my hamstring problems sometimes have a sciatic component, and nerve flossing is one of those things that won't make an injury worse.  I also did some voodoo flossing to further increase circulation and keep the tissue mobile.  Voodoo flossing doesn't work for everyone, but I've found that I respond really well to it, in the same way others respond to Graston or A.R.T.

I also got in to see my PT.  Seeing him reminded me: runners (like myself) tend to assess the severity of an issue based on pain.  However, pain is not a good metric - things can really hurt while everything's fine (i.e. stubbed toes or sports massages).  And things can not hurt at all but be quite serious (an example being someone who is shot but does not feel it due to adrenaline).  

By contrast, PTs assess severity based on function - is it working correctly?  And that's a much better metric.  

In my case, my PT sussed out that when I lay on my stomach and eccentrically lowered my left leg with weight on the leg, I couldn't lower it smoothly.  Rather, the motion was jerky.  So that became my homework - get to the point where I could lower it fluidly.

By this weekend, I was there.  When I did strides fluidly and without discomfort on Saturday, followed by solid and SMOOTH eccentric hamstring work at the gym, I knew I was ready to test some faster running.  And sure enough, the hamstring held up well for Sunday's run that finished at marathon effort.

So hopefully that's done with.  I'm a bit annoyed that I missed two workouts.  On the other hand, neither was a key workout, and missing two track workouts plus some yoga and pool-running is really getting off light when it comes to hamstring issues.


Monday:  Yoga and 8 "miles" pool-running. Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: In the morning, 4 mile warm-up, and then an incomplete 1600 before the walk of shame home.  Sports massage in afternoon.

Wednesday: 6 miles very easy (9:11), DIY yoga, 3 miles very easy (9:32).  PT appointment in afternoon.

Thursday: 10 miles very easy (9:12) plus drills, 4 "miles" pool-running, and then full body lifting, core, rehab exercises. Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  8 miles very easy (8:54) plus drills and four uphill strides, 2000 yards swimming, including a workout of 2x5x100 yards hard on 2:00 interval, with 1:00 recovery between sets (splits ranged between 1:37 and 1:39).  Followed with leg strengthwork and rehab exercises.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles very easy (8:36), followed by drills, four strides, and then rehab work and core.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday: 12 miles progressive, split as first 3 averaging 8:53, next 5 averaging 7:27, last 4 averaging 6:54.  Followed with leg strengthwork and rehab, and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.  

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Training log - Week ending 1/5/2020

This week was 60 miles of running, 27 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards swimming -- training log is here.

No track workouts this week.  Just a race on Tuesday night, and then a marathon pace workout on Saturday.  I was really happy with the race on Tuesday night.  It may seem a bit odd to be happy about running my 10 mile PR pace in a 4 mile race, but that's often how this race goes.  It's just a slow one, due to hills, turns, and low visibility.  I can't really come to any absolute conclusions about my fitness from this race; but I can conclude that I am relatively fitter than I thought I was.

The morning after the race, I went with a hybrid day - splitting my mileage between land and pool - it felt like that was the best choice for getting some volume in while also recovering from the race.  It apparently worked, since I was recovered in time to do a marathon pace workout on Saturday morning (I had been unsure whether I'd be doing that workout on Saturday, Sunday, or even Monday - I find it hard to recover from evening races, especially those followed by staying out late being social).

I was really happy with Saturday's workout - 6:45 pace felt very realistic and controlled.  I'm still not quite where I was this fall, but I've got 8 more weeks to get there before One City, so I'm right on schedule.

I have the Houston Half Marathon in two weeks, so I'll get some decent volume in this coming week, and then do a shorter long run next Sunday as part of my taper for that race, before cutting back the volume the week after.


Monday:  Yoga and 10 "miles" pool-running. Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: In the morning, 3 miles very easy (9:07).  In the evening, 4 mile warm-up, 4 mile race in 24:55, 3 mile cooldown.

Wednesday: 3 miles very easy to yoga (9:07), yoga, 3 miles very easy home (8:58) and then 6 "miles" pool-running.

Thursday: Full body lifting and core, followed by 11 "miles" of pool-running.  Sports massage in the afternoon.

Friday:  5.5 miles very easy (9:31), yoga, and then 6.5 miles very easy (8:56) plus drills and four strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 17 miles, including a marathon effort workout of 2x5 miles at marathon effort with 1 mile float in between.  Split as 33:42 (6:49/6:47/6:44/6:43/6:39 - 6:44 pace) and 33:45 (6:42/6:48/6:49/6:45/6:41 - 6:45 pace).  Recovery in between was 7:42.  Followed with leg injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday: 7 miles very easy (9:18), drills and two strides, upper body weights and core, and then 4 miles very easy (8:57).  Foam rolling in afternoon.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Race Report: Fairfax Four Miler, December 31, 2019

I ran the Fairfax Four Miler last night, finishing in a time of 24:55, which was good enough for 3rd overall and a new four mile PR.

So yes, this race was a very pleasant surprise - I was not expecting to run or place anywhere near that well.


I haven't raced since the Richmond Marathon back in November, and I need to race regularly in order to perform my best in my goal races.  Thus, with the Houston Half-Marathon coming up in a couple weeks, I needed to race something.  And this race fit the bill.  It's not generally a fast race for multiple reasons, but it is a well organized and fun race.  So perfect for a rust buster.

I knew from the last time I ran this race that it was easy to let time get away from you, and get rushed before the start.  A 6 pm start seems late, but it comes earlier than you think.  So this year I planned ahead - picking up my bib ahead of time and tucking it into the glove compartment of my car (one less thing to do on race day) and also planning to leave early.

Good thing I did.  Consistent with my experience with rust busters, I was disorganized and a bit frazzled.  I missed my exit on the interstate, and then navigated the back roads of Fairfax County Virginia with something short of finesse.  When I finally got close to the race, I parked in the first open lot I saw, rather than try for something closer to the start/finish.  Which turned out to be the right decision, since all the closer lots were full or congested with traffic. 

[if anyone has any illusions that I'm someone who has everything under control, let me assure you that such is not the case.  Rather, I'm someone who continually plans around my failings, so that things hopefully work out even when I screw up]

I parked around 5:10, which was just enough time to put my shoes and bib on, and start warming up.  For my warm-up, I went with my standard - 15 minutes jogging, 3 minutes at half-marathon effort, 4 bouts of 30 seconds at 5K effort, and 4 bouts of 10 seconds at mile effort.  Then a bit more jogging, some drills and strides and last minute clothing adjustments, and we lined up.


As noted above, I didn't have terribly high expectations for this race.   I'm still working my way back into fitness post-marathon, for one thing.  Additionally - this race is generally a slow one.  The course is hilly, with two 180 degree turns. 
The race is also held after sunset, under street lights.  In my experience people of all levels generally run slower in the dark unless the path is extremely well lit - something about the interaction between visibility and perceived effort.  When you can't see well, the same pace seems harder.  Times are generally slow on this course, with many people running something not too far from their half-marathon pace for these four miles.  (of course, the fact that very few people are at peak fitness on December 31 could also have something to do with this).

So...time goals were pretty much out of the question.  I just wanted to run a smart race, and also re-acclimate to that distinct feeling of race suck.  

I knew from previous races that the second half of this race was harder than the first.  The race basically ran as:
  • first mile - some uphill, a bit of flat, a bit down
  • second mile - a hairpin turn and a nice long down hill
  • third mile - sucky climbing and another hairpin turn
  • fourth mile - more or less the inverse of the first mile
I also remembered that the finish line could be hard to see in the dark, so I memorized landmarks for 400m and 800m to go, to help me nurse myself to the finish.

Based on all this, my game plan was to go out conservatively, find a controlled rhythm, stay strong when others started to fall apart during the hard third mile, and then hammer home.


So when the gun went off, that's what I did.  Like always, many many people surged ahead of me, but after the first few minutes, most faded.  Fortunately, a few did not, and I found myself in a nice pack of about 10 guys.  

As we approached the first hair pin turn, I was able to count women as they doubled back.  I only noted two ahead of me - neat!  Unfortunately, counting women distracted me from the footing, and I stepped on a rock and rolled my right ankle.  Which is my bad one.  Whoops.

I checked out of race mode for a few seconds, and confirmed that the ankle and my gait felt fine - nothing unstable or off.  So I turned race mode back on and continued my work.

I rolled down the long descent, and then began the long climb that matched it.  Sure enough, my pack broke apart as some people faded while others attacked the hill hard.  I did neither  - I just held a steady rhythm with the intent of saving the heroics for the last half mile.

As we climbed, I noted a woman up ahead.  Surprising, since I thought there were only two, and she wasn't either of the women I had spotted before.  So the bad news was that I wasn't in third.  The good news was that this woman was fading, and I managed to reel her in with my steady effort.

Another hair pin turn, and then we were in the final mile.  I waited until my 800m to go sign (the retirement home on the left) and started to open the throttle.  Race suck was in full effect and I was hating life, but I also remembered that race suck was exactly what I wanted from this race.

I was hurting as I approached the finish.  And then my coach yelled at me that I was about to break 25, which was not on the radar.  I dug to see if I could find just a bit more, but I think I dug a bit too deep, and I started to tie up as I approached the finish.

It's a downhill finish, and a bit steep right at the finish line, which just made things worse.  My legs locked up, and my arms started to windmill as I approached the mats.    I got over the mats without falling, but (embarrasingly) didn't have enough control of my legs to stop without falling forward.  

Fortunately, a race volunteer was right there and caught me as I was about to fall.  Saving me from yet another finish line faceplant (though at least this one would have been after the mats).

After I managed to regain my balance, I stopped my Garmin.  It read 25:00 flat.  Which meant I had broken 25.  Wow.  Was not expecting that at all.  My previous 4 miler PR of 25:16 was from this spring in Central Park.  And while the Central Park 4 Miler course has its own hills, it's less hilly than this course, and also lacks sharp turns.  I did not expect to beat that time on this course.  


My final official time was 24:55, which was good enough for third female overall.  Manual splits on the Garmin were:
Mile 1: 6:15
Mile 2: 6:12 
Mile 3: 6:24
Mile 4: 6:04 (reads 6:09, but after subtracting the 5 second discrepancy between my official chip time and my Garmin time, I get 6:04).

Other notes:

  • Really really good weather for this race - 48 degrees with a dew point of 33.  That's got to get some of the credit here.
  • I wore Vaporflies for this race, as I did for my previous 4 Miler in February (Nexts for this race, OGs for February).  So..the improvement between the two can't be attributed to Vaporfly versus non Vaporfly.
  • I ate my pre-race "breakfast" at just before 3 pm, which was perfect timing for it to digest before the race.
  • My right ankle is a bit sore today, but not too bad and I'm not terribly worried about it.  I iced it last night after the race and also slept with a compression sock, and I think those things both helped.
  • This tying up at the end of races is frustrating.  It didn't cost me a good race here, but it could again in the future.  I need to work on fixing that.
  • After the race, I was able to meet the female winner.  I remembered her from about a decade ago. I was a new runner, and about to win a very small 3K race when a 10 year old girl darted around me and outkicked me to the finish.  The picture of her breaking the tape, with me looking on from behind in shock, made the local running magazine.  Fast forward 10 years, and she's now a top collegiate runner and was a two time Footlocker finalist in high school.  And she's also just a great person to boot.  That was really cool to run into her again.  Of course, this also means I'm now 0-2 against her....

Monday, December 30, 2019

Training log - Week ending 12/29/2019

This week was 46 miles of running, 21 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards swimming -- training log is here.

I'm racing a 4 miler on New Years Eve, so everything this week was working back from that.  I skipped a long run this weekend in favor of a few 200s to sharpen up on Sunday.  And Friday's tempo workout was converted to 2x3200m since it fell 5 days before the race.

I balanced things out by slowing down Tuesday's workout and extending the volume.  I find I get good results from this sort of modification to a traditional track workout - I'm still working hard, but not going anaerobic at all, and the extra volume helps with strength.

Even after accounting for the fact that I was holding back, Tuesday's workout was a bit slower than I expected (I'd assumed I'd be hitting low 3:0x for the given effort and weather). At the time, I assumed it was because I was still tired from last week's marathon pace workout, but a check of my peak flow meter (handheld device that measures my breathing volume) confirmed that my asthma was starting to flare.  

[in restrospect, this wasn't surprising - we had a bout of cold and very dry air last week, followed by a few days of Code Orange air quality earlier this week.  This made for a nice one-two punch to my lungs.]

Normal for me on the peak flow meter is around 500 - when I drop under 475 I start to get worried.  Tuesday's reading was just over 450.  By Wednesday, I was down to 400, so back on the prednisone for me.  Fortunately, it doesn't take a particularly large dose or too long to turn stuff around - two days of pred this time reversed the trend.  

Which is good, because though running on prednisone is amazing - you just don't get tired - everything else about being on it is miserable.  Insomnia, concentration difficulties, non-stop sugar cravings, bloating.   Plus the more permanent concern of reduced bone density if I'm on it too long.

But, I was able to go on it for Thursday and Friday, and by Friday things were improved enough that I could stop taking it.  So yay.  Hopefully I don't have to deal with it again for a while.

[obligatory note as always - oral pred is banned in competition, but allowed out of competition.  Want to know if your medication is allowed?  Check Global DRO.  It's easy.  And the ethical thing to do.]

In other news, I hopefully had my final session of shoulder PT this week.  Everything seems to be working.  So yay.  I need another week or two to confirm no relapse of shoulder issues, and then I'm done with that chapter.  Yay.


Monday:  Upper body weights, core, and 10 "miles" pool-running. Shoulder PT in the afternoon; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 12 miles, including a track workout of 8x800, 4x200 in 3:09, 3:08, 3:08, 3:10, 3:09, 3:08, 3:06, 3:06, 44, 44, 44, 43 (recoveries between 2:28 and 2:35 for the 800s; full recovery between the 200s).  Followed with leg strengthwork and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday:  5 miles very easy (9:02).  Shoulder work and foam rolling at night.

Thursday: Yoga and 11 "miles" of pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  12 miles, including a track workout of 2x3200 in 12:52 (6:28/6:24) and 12:46 (6:25/6:21) with 6 minutes recovery in between.  Followed with leg strengthwork and shoulderwork, plus 750 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles very easy (8:42), drills and four strides, upper body work, core and shoulder work.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday: 7 miles, including a quick sharpening workout of 4x200m in 43, 43, 39, 38, followed by four short hill sprints with full recovery.  Followed with 750 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.