Monday, June 29, 2015

Training log - Week ending June 28, 2015

This week was 21.5 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running, and 3500 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was my first full marathon recovery week.  It looks like a lot, but it was really more about socializing than fitness.  

I like doing yoga and pool-running the first few days after a marathon.   Gentle pool-running (just moving my legs back and forth in cool water) feels wonderful and really seems to help with circulation.  

As for the yoga, I start off doing a very gentle version of the class - holding childs pose for anything that seems too strenuous.  As days go by and I recover, I'm able to do more and more of the class.  When I'm able to complete a yoga class without straining, struggling, or soreness (including balancing on one foot), then I'm ready to start back with some easy running.

I'm a real fan of doing yoga daily during the first parts of marathon recovery, because it's a good way to confirm that I don't have any lingering imbalances that will contribute to injury when I start running again.  To use a metaphor, I'm making sure that my chassis is strong and functional before I drive off.

By Thursday, I was feeling good enough to start running again. It's always funny just how much of a struggle that first run back is.  The legs feel stiff and like lead, and you wonder how the heck it was just a few days ago that you managed to cover over 26 miles while running nearly 2 minutes per mile faster.

But every day felt just a bit better.  By Sunday, though my legs were still a bit tired, they felt close to normal.  I'm really eager to get back out there and start training, but I know that's not a good idea.  For one thing, you feel recovered from a marathon long before you are actually recovered.  For another, if I'm thinking about a late fall marathon, then I need to take it easy now.  To start training hard now will just result in me peaking too soon.

Patience is hard, though.

In other news, I got my annual bone density scan this week, and received very good news - my bone density has improved substantially over the past year.  So yay.  

The back story is that two years ago, my bone density, which had been dropping for several years despite regular calcium supplementation, finally fell into the osteoporosis range.  Not good.  Last year it  slightly improved for the first time, back into the osteopenia zone, but just barely (the dividing line is a "t-score" of -2.5).  So better, though not good.   

My doctor's response last year was "keep doing whatever you're doing" - when I thought about that, there were two changes that year that coincided with the increase.  One was that I had been hurt and hadn't been running (I didn't like the logical conclusion of that fact, so I opted to disregard it).  The other was that I had stopped taking my calcium supplements that year.

I had stopped taking them because I had discussed calcium supplements with a dietician.  She noted that nearly all calcium supplements come with phosphorus in them.  Phosphorus and calcium have a close relationship and like to bind with each other.  Because of that relationship, you need some phosphorus in order for your body to absorb and use calcium.   This is the rationale for calcium supplements containing phosphorus.

However, there is already a great deal of  phosphorus in most foods.  And it's thought that too much phosphorus can have just the opposite effect, and leach calcium from your bones.  High amounts of phosphorus in a calcium supplement, combined with dietary phosphorus, can actually have the opposite of the intended effect

So...I stopped taking my calcium supplements, which were heavy on the phosphorus, two years ago.  I looked for another supplement that had the right type of calcium (there's several types) without phosphorus and also had good reviews for containing what is actually on the label.  But I was never able to find one.

After a while, I gave up.  And just didn't take calcium supplements (though I felt guilty).  So imagine my happy surprise last year when my bone density had improved slightly.

So....I doubled down this year.  No calcium supplements, but a substantial increase in vitamin D (also on the dietician's recommendation).  I knew I was taking a risk, especially since I'm lactose intolerant, and so I don't get that much dietary calcium.  But what the heck. test results this year indicated that I now have "moderate osteopenia."  Still not good. But so much improved from where I was.    And the better news is that my bone density apparently wasn't hurt by training for the two marathons I've run in the past year.  

I like that conclusion a lot.

Monday:   Yoga and 6 "miles" easy pool-running; massage at night.

Tuesday:  Yoga and 6 "miles" of pool-running..  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: yoga, 4 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   3 miles very slow, though not easy (9:12 pace), yoga and some injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  5 miles slow (9:28) plus 1000 yards easy swimming.  Yoga midday.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   5 miles slow (9:08 pace) followed by yoga and upper body strengthwork. Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday:  8.5 miles easy (8:51 pace), followed with yoga and 1500 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Training log - Week ending 6/21/15

This week was 46 miles of running and 4 miles pool-running  -- training log is here.

Tapered, and then ran Grandma's marathon on Saturday.  My immediate plans for recovery include 3 days junk food (now sadly near expiration), and half-assed yoga and pool-running.  Plus a massage on Monday afternoon.

I find that the yoga/pool-running combination works really well for recovery.  I show up at yoga, explain that I've just run a marathon and am just going to "listen to my body."  Then I sit or lie down on my mat for most of the class, drinking from my water bottle and occasionally rising to do the poses that I can do easily and without discomfort.   Once I'm up to getting through a whole routine comfortably, and can balance on one foot, I know I'm ready for some gentle jogging.  I start with 1-2 miles very slow and build from there as if I was coming back from injury.

The pool-running isn't so much active work as it is wearing a pool-running belt and gently waving my legs in the water.

Surprisingly, my legs aren't horribly sore.  They're stiff and tight and the quads hurt when I go down stairs, but they hurt a lot less than they did after either Shamrock or Philly.  And I was able to walk around semi-normally on Saturday afternoon, just a few hours post race.  Perhaps marathon recovery gets easier with more marathons.  I also ate an egg right after the race, perhaps that was the difference.

(I also had to walk for about an hour post race trying to find the shuttle back to my dorm - I'm guessing that gets the credit too).

The next few weeks are going to be about recovery and building back with easy jogging.   I miss running and training, but if I'm not careful and restrained for the next few weeks, I won't be any good in the fall.


Monday:   6 miles very easy (10:15 pace) followed by drills; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  6.5 miles, including a very restrained interval workout of 4x800, split as 3:15, 3:07, 3:11, 3:05.  Followed with 2 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 4.5 miles very easy (9:04 pace), followed by drills.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:  Off.  Just travel, plus foam rolling at night.

Friday:  2.5 miles (9:11 pace) plus drills.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  Marathon in 3:13:36, plus a bit of gentle rolling with the stick.

Sunday: Travel in the morning.  Very gentle yoga, 2 "miles" easy pool-running, and some gentle foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Race Report: Grandma's Marathon, June 20, 2015.

I ran Grandma’s Marathon yesterday, finishing in a time of 3:13:36.  Not horrible, though not what I was hoping to run.

[writer's note - upon rereading this, I realize it has at least 5 typos.  I wrote this on the plane after a night of insomnia - I'll go through it and correct all the typos after I get a good night's sleep.]

The weekend was not without misadventure.  It all started with my trip to Duluth on Thursday morning.  I had booked myself on the 7:10 am flight from National Airport to O’Hare in Chicago, where I’d have an hour to grab my connecting flight to Duluth.  A little tight on time, since I’d have to swap terminals in Chicago, but doable.  And since these were morning flights, I wasn’t too worried about delays from thunderstorms or other issues that tend to snowball through the day.  I had also pre-shipped most of my stuff via UPS, so I was just traveling with a backpack, which would make everything easier.

Everything was going smoothly as we pulled away from the gate and waited in line for take off.  And then the Captain came onto the intercom and sighed.  (never a good sign).  O’Hare was under a ground stop, and so we couldn’t take off until the stop was lifted.  But no worries – the ground hold would delay our connections as well.  Feel free to use your cell phones.   And here’s some free Direct TV and snacks.

I did some quick checking on my cell phone app, and noted that my departing flight to Duluth was already on the ground at O’Hare, meaning that it could leave as soon as the ground hold was lifted – it would very likely depart while I was in the air from DC.

So, I needed to change flights.  I could see that there was also a 12:30 pm, a 4:30 pm, and a 10:30 pm flight, each with seats available.  But my app wouldn’t book them for me, since it was under the impression that my Chicago flight was on time.  So I called the United phone line.

I waited for approximately 30 minutes (my seatmate timed it) before an agent picked up.  He didn’t seem like the brightest bulb, but he was what I had to work with.  I explained my situation and asked him to put me on the next flight to Duluth, since I was going to miss the 9:14 am.  

There was what seemed like an endless amount of clicking, and then he chirped proudly that I was now on the 10:30 pm flight.  In a bit of shock, I noted that I could see seats free on earlier flights – could he please place me on one of those.   He expressed some surprise that I wanted an earlier flight (really?  Who wants to spend over 12 hours in O’Hare), but when I was insistent, he agreed, and grudgingly placed me on the 4:30.  It wasn’t the 12:30 that I wanted, but at least I’d get in at a reasonable time.

Finally, after about 90 minutes on the tarmac, O’Hare was reopened, and we took off.  When we landed, I proceeded directly to the gate, spoke with a considerably brighter bulb, and got swapped onto the 12:30 pm flight.  This means that I managed, within the space of 3 hours, to have been booked on all four flights between O’Hare and Duluth that day (though not simultaneously). 


The delays meant that I’d also have to eat lunch at O’Hare airport.  Normally not an issue, but I was carb-loading.  It’s pretty easy to carb-load at O’Hare, and pretty easy to eat gluten-free at O’Hare (I’ve spent WAY TOO much time in that airport over the year), but doing both is tricky.  If you want to go gluten-free at O’Hare, you’re getting a salad of some sort.

The answer?  I hit the Chinese place at the food court and ordered side orders of white rice.  Perfect.


My 12:30 flight to Duluth (which in reality was a 1:30 – I adore O’Hare) finally landed in Duluth around 3 pm local time.  4 hours later than planned, but I was here.  (these travel adventures, BTW, are why I try NEVER to travel the day before a marathon, and also never check luggage).  I was rewarded for my trials with an unexpected upgrade to a black Jeep Grand Cherokee by Avis.  As I noted on Facebook, Avis has their customer profiling down.  I stopped by the UPS store to pick up my “pre-shipped luggage,” and the grocery store to grab food, and then checked in to my accommodations – a dormitory room at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

From then, the pre-race weekend went smoothly.  Bib pick-up, and lunch and dinner with friends.  The one concern was the weather.  For most of the week, the weather had been great, but a front was supposed to come through on Saturday.   The front included potential thunderstorms, with the concern that lightning on the course would cancel the race.  Not great, but all we could do was wait and see.
Accuweather as of 5 am race morning.

The race didn’t start until 7:45 am, but as a point to point race, the runners had to be transported to the start.  Shuttles were running from the dorms to the start of the race between 5:45 and 6:15, and so I hopped on the first one.  I knew I’d be there early, but I prefer early to rushed, and I figured there’d be some sort of sheltered area to stretch, finish breakfast, etc.

The trip to the start was entirely consistent with my other transit difficulties.  The bus driver didn’t understand that there were two races – a half and a full, with two different starting points.  She was driving a bus backed with full marathoners, but took the turn towards the half-marathon starting point.  Some of us (including myself) were completely oblivious to this, but fortunately others were familiar with the course and started correcting her.  Cue an argument back and forth between the bus driver and passengers about where the bus was supposed to go.  Fortunately, the passengers won, and we got to the start without further incident.


I had assumed there’d be some sort of runner’s village when I arrived, but there really wasn’t much except for a medical tent, bag check, an elite tent, and porta-potties.  And it was also a bit colder than forecast.  That was good for the race, but my cheap “Little Mermaid” sweater wasn’t cutting the low fifties/high forties temperature.  I had brought tights to wear after the race, socks for my hands, and two trash bags, so I donned them all and huddled on the ground.  And deeply regretted my choice to get to the race start 90 minutes early.

And then it started to rain.  And then it started to POUR.  The trash bags were doing no good.  I did note that some smart runners had purchased cheap umbrellas – mental note to do that next time.  Huddling on the ground wasn’t keeping me warm, so I stood up and jumped into a long portajohn line, moving back and forth from one foot to another, and trying not to shiver too much.


Strangely (but again, consistent with one of the themes of the weekend), my portajohn line was moving very slowly – far more slowly than the others, it seemed.  After about 20 minutes, when I was closer to the front, I began to watch the johns intently (I really had nothing better to do).  Of the two johns assigned to our line, only one seemed to be consistently opening and closing.  I asked the person ahead of me to hold my place, and I walked up and rapped on the door of the second portajohn.

Almost instantly, a man jumped out.  He was completely dry, despite the fact that it was still pouring.  He had been using the john as his own personal storm shelter the entire time.  Redfaced, he exited the area as quickly as he could to a loud chorus of boos.


After emptying my excess hydration, I made my way to the start.  I was completely waterlogged and shivering, with water squishing and seeping from my running shoes with each step.  Lovely.  But at least I had used bodyglide everywhere, and triple knotted my shoelaces.  With a few minutes until the start, I dumped all my throwaway clothes.  I had planned to wear the sweater and the handsocks for the first few miles before tossing, but they were so waterlogged that they would do more harm than good.


Then finally, the rain eased up, and the horn went off.  I shuffled up to the start and punched start.  And deliberately held a VERY controlled pace for the first mile.  It wasn’t just that I was trying to start conservatively, but also that I was really stiff and cold, and I really needed to get blood moving before I could even think about picking it up.  After about a mile, I felt a bit better, and upped my effort to what felt like a very controlled pace.  It definitely felt like I was running too slow and too easy, which was exactly what I wanted for the first half of the race.  My plan was to come through the halfway point feeling very good and a bit too slow, and then start working my way down.


The course itself was a fun one – gently rolling up and downhills, which added a nice bit of variety for the legs.  The road did have a bit of a camber to it, as well as some curves.  Running the exact tangents meant a lot of running on slanted pavement, which was killing my hips.  So I decided that level pavement was the lesser of two evils, and ran a wider path.


And so I ran on, eating and drinking.  I hit the half feeling very good, and picked up the effort to something that felt a bit harder, but still controlled.  And grinned about how good I felt and what a great race this was going to be.

That lasted for a few miles, and then my quads started to get sore.  Uh-oh.  On the other hand, I had made it 10 miles at Philly before my quads completely failed on me, and I only had 10.21 miles to go here.  So not that worrisome.  I just started focusing more on staying relaxed, and really using my glutes rather than my quads.

Things just got tougher, though.  To me, for the first 20-22 miles, marathon pace should feel like you could go faster if someone held a gun to your head – you're working, but not giving everything you have, not yet. But I was maxed out and my legs were locked.  It was what it was – I just focused on moving forward.

In retrospect, I think I got so focused on my form and holding things together that I neglected my nutrition and drinking for the last several miles.  My gel strategy is not based around a particular schedule, but rather about always having one in my hand, and slurping from it regularly.  Post race, when people were talking about their gel consumption, I realized I had only consumed 3 – far too few (and I was carrying many more with me).  It wasn’t from intentionally holding off, but just that I was too distracted by other things once I started hurting.  I was so focused on just holding my form together that I completely ignored everything else.  But it unquestionably made things worse, and is a lesson to learn for next time.  Whatever happens, stay on top of the eating and drinking.

From there on it was the story that so many other know so well – one leg in front of the other – get to the finish.  It wasn’t fun, and I know from previous experience that marathons don’t need to feel that way.  But I got it done, albeit not in the time I had hoped for.  And I learned a bit more about the marathon.


I’m an overanalyzer by nature, and so I want to (mostly) resist that urge to do that now.  I need to give myself a week or two of mental and physical down time before working with my coach to figure out what could be improved.   

But... (watch me do it anyway) my initial sense is that my shortened training cycle really wasn’t enough to prep me.  As background, I only really started training for this in April, with a ten week training cycle with two twenty milers.   It was an experiment - to see how I'd do with fairly high mileage but a minimal number of long runs and more recovery.  And....I felt great during most of the training cycle, but didn't have the necessary strength to go 26 on race day (though neglecting my nutrition in the last part of the race didn't help either).

So now I know.  And I'm actually fine with it.  Part of trying different things is accepting that you may not get the answer you expected or hoped for.

And in case you haven't guessed, I now really want to do a fall marathon.


Splits are here - I took manual, so they show both my actual split at the mile marker, and the distance my Garmin thinks I ran at that point (I trust the mile markers more, plus I wasn't running the tangents):

Some of the early splits are a bit faster than they felt, but I think that's because those miles were net downhills.  I also had a downhill assist late in the race, which made some of the post 18 mile splits look better than they were.

These splits also make me pretty happy I go out conservatively, targeting a negative split by feel, and pace by feel, rather than a watch.  Though it wasn't my day, I think I would have had a much worse day if I had either gone out harder or been chasing specific numbers on the watch.  Pacing the race the way I did enabled me to salvage a decent race.

Other stuff:
  • Though the pre-race conditions were nasty, it wasn't bad at all during the race.  Weather underground says that it was mid-40s at the start, and 60 degrees when we finished.  Not bad at all.  We lucked out.
  • My teammates both had AWESOME races.  That's Susanna on the left, who hit the US Olympic Trials A Standard in her first marathon!  And Marjorie in the center, who set a massive 7+ minute PR! (clearly, some great coaching).  It was really cool to be a part of that.
  • As I mentioned above, I stayed in the dorms, which were nice, if spartan.  They do have some limitations - shared showers, no A/C, no television, and only an overhead light.  But for $100 a night, they were a great alternative to a hotel.
  • However, if I had to do it again, I would NOT have relied on the dormitory shuttles to and from the race. I would rather drive to the finish, leave my car there, and take a train to the start.  For one thing, it's my understand that those who took the train were allowed to stay in it for some time, rather than waiting outside in the cold.  Also, it was about impossible to find the bus back to the dorms post-race.  They were very far from the finish, and not clearly marked.  When I finally found the buses, I had to hobble to each one to ask where it was going - they lacked the external signs that had been promised.
  • One benefit of walking for at least a mile and a half post-race, my legs are much better after this marathon than the previous two.  They're sore, but I'm not crippled.  While spending an hour trying to find the bus post-race was really miserable at the time, it had a silver lining.
  • Despite starting the race completely soaked, I finished with no blisters and only one minor bit of chafing.  That was a victory in itself.
  • Carried a water bottle with me, and stopped at water stations as needed to refill it.  I can't drink from cups while running, but this seems to work well.
  • As I mentioned above, I pre-shipped myself a care package (had it delivered to a local UPS store in Duluth, where they held it for me).  Shipping myself a care package cost less than checking luggage with United, and saved me the trouble of dealing with luggage at the airport (or luggage that didn't switch flights with me).

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Training log - week ending 6/14/15

This week was 50 miles of running, 6 miles pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

And...just 6 days left (5, actually, if you don't count today). 

I averaged 79.33 MPW for the peak 6 weeks of my training (and yes, I wish it was 80 MPW also, or at least 79.5, so I could round up), with one cut-back inserted in the middle when I raced a half.  This week, I cut back my mileage a bit more than a third.  I also cut out all of my yoga and lower body strengthwork, and pared back the swimming and upper body stuff.

This upcoming week, I'll cut back even more - running only about 20 miles between now and the race.  No swimming.  No upper body weights.

The last week of taper is really weird.  It's just just waiting, and I HATE waiting.  For me, it's not the distance of the marathon that is the test, it's the patience.    There's nothing I can do except wait and TRY NOT TO DO TOO MUCH.  Which is hard.

The hardest part about marathon training is not the mileage but the discipline.


Monday:   6 "miles" pool-running in the morning; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  10 miles, including an interval workout of 2x1600, 2x800.  Scheduled workout was 3-4x1600, but I felt a bit off, so modified slightly.  Split as 6:08, 6:08, 2:56, 2:53.  Followed with 1000 yards easy swimming.  Massage at night.

Wednesday: 10 miles easy (8:50), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:  6 miles very easy (9:19), followed by some upperbody strengthwork and injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  8.5 miles, including an 5k tempo of 21:40 - 6:37/6:40/6:38/0:45 (temp in mid 70s, DP 72).   Followed by 1250 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   3 miles very easy while cheering for a race (9:05), followed by foam rolling.

Sunday:  12.5 miles - most very easy (9:18), and then last 2.5 miles at "marathon pace feel" (7:13 pace - temp was high 70s, with DP of 72).  Followed with 750 yards easy swimming to loosen up.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Training log - Week ending 6/7/15

This week was 81 miles of running, 6 "miles" of pool-running, and 4000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Though it doesn't look like it on paper, this was my first week of taper.  My weekly mileage is distorted by the fact that I ran my last 20+ miler on Monday, rather than Sunday.  My original plan was to do 20-22 on Sunday, rest on Monday, and then do 12 miles including track on Tuesday.  But due to my head cold, we swapped to an easy 12 on Sunday, the 20-22 on Monday, and rest on Tuesday.

Had I done my long run on Sunday, the last two weeks would have been 80 and then 72, which looks more reasonable.  This is all an example of how weekly mileage doesn't always tell the full story, since I don't believe shifting a long run by one day makes that much of a difference in the actual stress placed on my body.  Despite the official numbers, this week did feel like a slight cutback

Since we shifted stuff, my key workouts ended up being two long runs, plus a tempo.  All three went really well.  My last 21 miler was run in pretty rough conditions, so I was thrilled with the pace I was able to hold.  I was also pretty happy with how short 21 miles felt - that was the biggest confidence boost of all - when you're only doing two 20+ mile runs during your training cycle, it's nice to have the reassurance that the distance itself is not an issue.

We had a temperature cooldown midweek, which meant that I got to tempo in relatively cool conditions, though hopefully it will be even cooler in Duluth.   For both tempo and my second long run on Sunday, I had the very cool experience of my splits being significantly faster than the effort felt.  On Sunday's long run, I closed the last 2 miles at 6:50, though the effort felt much less.

All of this is an indication that I've got a good race in me.  All I need to do is to stay healthy and cross my fingers for good weather.

Part of that is making sure that I taper well the next two weeks.  There's always the temptation to chase "good" workouts in the last few weeks, to validate one's fitness (while actually leaving the best part of one's race in the workout) - I recognize that and can resist.  But there's also the issue that I feel really good right now and want to run ALL THE MILES, which makes tapering less appealing -- taper is just much easier to do when you're exhausted.

There's also a interesting confidence issue.  I think there's a mythos about marathon training - that you're supposed to feel beaten up and exhausted at points, and if you didn't, you undertrained.  So when you come into taper feeling so good, you wonder if you worked hard enough.  Maybe you should have trained harder - maybe you're not ready.

But what if what we think is "normal marathon training" is actually overtraining?  What if the routine that feels like "undertraining" and slacking off is actually hitting it on the nail?

One way to find out :)

My plan for the next two weeks is to cut back my mileage to about 45-50 this coming week.  I'm also cutting yoga out of my schedule, except for a bit of DIY yoga at home.  For the final week, I'll also eliminate swimming and upper body strengthwork completely, while running about 20 miles over the 5 days pre-race.


Monday:   21 miles progressive, split as first 6 at 9:38; next 9 at 7:59; last 6 at 7:17 pace (worth noting that temp of 75, dew point of 70 for this run).  Followed with a "mile" (10 minutes) of easy pool-running for recovery (all I could do before the pool closed).  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  Yoga, upper body strengthwork, and 5 "miles" of pool-running..  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 10 miles very easy to yoga (9:29) plus drills and strides, and yoga.  Followed with 2000 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   6 miles very easy to yoga (9:11 pace), yoga and upper body strengthwork.  Later did another 4 miles very easy (8:51) plus drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  12.5 miles, including a long intervals workout of 2x3200 - splits were 12:48 (6:30/6:18) and 12:37 (6:23, 6:14).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1500 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   12 miles very easy (8:46 pace) followed by drills and strides, and upper body strengthwork. Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday:  15.5 miles, split as first 5 (uphill) at 8:54; second 5 at 8:07 (downhill); last 5 at 7:00, plus a final jog.  Followed with 500 yards easy swimming and yoga.  Later did some foam rolling.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Training log - Week ending 5/31/15

This week was 71 miles of running and 8 "miles" of pool-running-- training log is here.

Last week, I suspected I might be sick.  This week confirmed it.  Unfortunately, I went to a barbeque, yoga, and a movie (Mad Max in 3D) before figuring out Monday night that I had actually been sick, and thus contagious, the past day or two.  Oops.  I'm really sorry to anyone I exposed - I honestly thought it was allergies at first.

So...much of the week was a slog.  There's always the question of whether to run hard, run easy, or just rest when sick.  Since my symptoms didn't include any chest congestion or fever, I decided that I could run at very easy pace to keep my mileage up, while skipping the hard running and also the swimming, which kills my sinuses.

So that's what I did.  It was a real slog at times, and I worried that I was setting myself back when I felt like death after running.   But then, I noticed marked improvement each day in how I felt - sore throat receding, headache subsiding, and resting heart rate dropping back to normal.

By Friday, I was feeling sufficiently improved to try a tempo workout.  I still felt pretty lethargic, but we've had dewpoints in the low 70s recently.  Everyone feels lethargic in those conditions.  So, why not take a shot.

As it turned out - I wasn't as recovered as I thought I was - 3 miles at tempo effort yielded a pace slower than my goal marathon pace.  It was comic, actually - I felt like I was running with a backpack full of bricks in some variant of an Alberto Salazar workout.

It was so slow that it actually didn't rock my confidence at all.  It's funny how that works.  The workouts where you are straining but can't quite hit your splits - those are the ones that shred your confidence.  The workouts that are a full 30 seconds per mile slower than you expect to run...those ones are pretty easy to dismiss as outliers.

Plus I had just had a great marathon pace workout on Sunday - you don't lose that much fitness in 5 days.

But still, it was obvious that I was still really off.  After that workout, my coach and I decided to push back my last 20 miler, planned for Sunday, to Monday or Tuesday.  This would make sure I had enough time to kick the bug out of my system, with the added benefit of cooler weather than was predicted for this weekend.

[I have the flexibility at work to do this since I don't have any major meetings scheduled for Monday or Tuesday morning.  I'm pretty fortunate.]

Thus, my weekend was a holding pattern, with an easy 12 each day.  I'm ready to taper - in fact I feel like I already am tapering - but I need to get the last 20+ miler done first.  

Of course, knowing that I was moving my 20 miler to some other day took me to a whole new level of weather watching.  It's one thing to obsess over what the weather is going to be for the specific day you'll be running 26.2.  It's another to obsess over which of 2-3 days you should choose for a 20+ mile run. 

After spending way too much time on internet weather sites, I decided to take a shot at the 20 miler on Monday morning.  It's a tough call, because Monday morning is still supposed to be pretty hot and muggy, while Tuesday may be cooler.  But some sites are also pointing towards thunderstorms on Tuesday morning as a front passes through.  Though I'm usually game for running in all sorts of weather, I draw the line at lightning.  And I simply need to get this 20 miler done, and done on either Monday or Tuesday early morning (have an immovable conflict on Wednesday, and Thursday is getting too close to the marathon). 

At least I'm feeling a lot better, so that bodes well.

And, as for the obvious question from above - Would I have kicked this headcold bug thing sooner if I had just taken days off?  There's no way to know for sure.  My belief is that this is one of those bugs that takes about a week to clear anyways, and just lying in bed wouldn't moved it any faster.


Monday:   5 "miles" of easy pool-running plus yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  10.5 miles very easy (9:23).  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 3 miles very easy to yoga (9:56) and then a yoga class.  Did an easy 11.5 later (9:20).  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   4 miles very easy to yoga (9:03 pace), yoga and upper body strengthwork.  Later did another 6 miles very easy (9:02) plus drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  12 miles, including a 3 mile tempo in 21:06 (7:08/7:06/6:52).  Followed with injury prevention work and 3 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   12 miles very easy (9:17 pace) followed by drills and strides, and yoga.  Upper body strengthwork in the afternoon.

Sunday:  12 miles very easy (8:49) followed by drills and strides, and then some yoga.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Training log - Week ending 5/24/2015

This week was 84 miles of running and 4000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

My mileage is a bit artificially inflated this week - since I raced last Saturday, I took Sunday as my non-running day, and so ran on Monday.  I also skipped Tuesday track and just ran easy miles.

Just one more hard week of training for Grandmas, and then I taper.  I'm feeling pretty good right now.  Well...except for what is either a bad case of allergies or a head cold that blew up on Sunday afternoon.  I had assumed it was allergies since I noticed it after spending a lot of time outside.  On the other hand, antihistamines aren't doing squat.

Whatever it is, I'm hoping it's a 24 hour thing.



Monday:   3 miles very easy to yoga (8:56), yoga and some upper body strengthwork, and then 4.5 very easy miles home (8:49 pace).  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  12 miles very easy (8:52), followed by injury prevention work and 1500 yards swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 12 miles very easy to yoga (8:54) plus drills and strides, and then another 2.5 miles very easy to the grocery store (9:07).  Massage at night.

Thursday:   6 miles very easy to yoga (9:16 pace), yoga and upper body strengthwork.  Later did another 3 miles very easy (9:15) plus drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  12.5 miles very easy, including a long intervals workout of 3200, 1600 - splits were 12:48 (6:25/6:22) and 6:16.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1500 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   12 miles very easy (9:33 pace) followed by drills and strides, and upper body strengthwork. Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday:  17.5 miles, including a "4-3-2-1" workout - segments of 4, 3, 2, and 1 mile at marathon pace, each separated by one mile easy.  Splits were:

4 mile: 28:01 (7:03/6:59/6:58/7:01) ~ 7:00 pace
3 mile: 20:50 (7:03/6:54/6:53)  ~ /6:57 pace
2 mile: 13:52 (6:56/6:56) ~ 6:56 pace
1 mile: 6:55

Followed with some injury prevention work and yoga.  Later did 1000 yards easy swimming and foam rolling.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Training log - Week ending 5/17/15

This week was 45 miles of running, 6 "miles" of pool-running, and 4000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was a cut back week, as I raced a tune-up half marathon.  It was also a week of fail, as first my beloved fairly new Garmin 920 (yes, that one) and then my back-up Garmin 910 decided to crash.  Followed by the news that my much-loved car had finally reached the point where maintenance/repairs exceeded the value of the car.  All within the space of 36 hours.

My back-up Garmin failed during the first rep of my track workout, raising the runner's ultimate existential question - did a workout actually happen if it wasn't documented?  Fortunately for those who hang upon every detail of my track workouts, my coach was calling out the splits, so I just remembered what those were, and used google maps to guess the distance of my cooldown. 

[*obvious question: why is someone who normally runs with her watch face blanked so dependant on her Garmin?  Many reasons.  I like to have the information for after the fact, especially for racing, so I can prove that I ran the full course if the timing mats miss me (which has happened).   I like to use the heart-rate limit to keep a ceiling on my easy runs.  I like to have a good idea of how far I've run.  And I like covering the tan line on my wrist.

[Plus, once you've swum with a Garmin counting your laps, you'll never go back.  Especially if you never were a real swimmer.  Digression finis.]

By Friday, Garmin had shipped me a free replacement 920, which I christened in Saturday's race (worked beautifully).  The car was a bit harder and more costly to replace.  I ended up visiting three different dealerships to test drive four different cars, all of which were similar - "pre-owned" Mercedes GLK350s dating between 2011 and 2013.  I finally settled on this beauty. It matches both my Garmin and my Takumi Sen racing flats.  So that's nice.

Two more weeks hard training, and then I start tapering.


Monday:   4 "miles" pool-running plus yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  12 miles, including a workout of 2x1200, 800 with an extra 800 at the end in 4:33, 3:00, 4:30, 2:58, 2:56; followed by 1500 yards swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 7.5 miles very easy (9:04 pace) plus drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   6 miles mostly easy, but with a fartlek of 4x90 seconds on, 60 seconds off.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  3.5 miles very easy (8:51), plus drills+strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   ~3 miles warm-up and then a half-marathon in 1:32:06.  2 "miles" recovery pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday:  Yoga and 2500 yards easy swimming in the morning.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Race report: St. Michaels Half-marathon May 16, 2015

I ran the St. Michaels Half-marathon yesterday, finishing in 1:32:06.  It was one of my slowest half-marathons ever, but despite that, I'm pretty happy with it.

But before I discuss the race, I'm going to first bitch about Hertz - the rental car company.

(and yes, this is related to the race).

I've written and then deleted an extended discussion - this is a running blog, not Yelp, and so I'm not sure anyone wants to read me ranting to that extent (if you do, I will gladly do a second post).  The hyper short version is that I needed to rent a car to get to the race this weekend, and arrived at Hertz's counter at National Airport at 1 pm on Friday.  (my parents live about 40 minutes from the race, and about 2 hours from DC - my plan was to stay with them the night before).

It wasn't until 2:15 pm that I actually was able to drive away from the airport. This was not due to computer problems or car issues or anything other than some of the most abysmally slow and unmotivated customer service I've ever experienced.

This 75 minute delay cost me more than just that chunk of time, because at 2:00 pm the highway I was planning on driving through DC was shut down for a procession.  So I had to take an alternate route, which added more time, which then put me into the very rush hour I had hoped to avoid. 

And that was how, having left my house at 12:30 pm, I ended up rolling into my parents' place at about 6:15 - nearly 6 hours of transit.  I wasn't happy.


Fortunately the drive to the race in the morning went much more smoothly.  Though the half didn't start until 7:40 am, they had requested that runners be in the race by 6:30 am (this is because there's really only one road into St. Michaels, which is the same road that part of the race would be run on.

No problem - left mom and dad's around 5:15 am, and rolled in at around 6:00 am - enough to get a good parking spot right at the start (parking was well managed - they really had it down to a science).  I had over 90 minutes until race start, but I had stretching and warming-up and bag check to do, so it really wasn't that much extra time.

Except, there was no bag check. (To be fair, they had never promised it - I had just assumed).

The keys looked almost exactly
like this photo.
This was a problem, as I had been counting on bag check to hold my car keys.  I normally don't check car keys, but the rental car keys were both keys to the car chained with metal twine to a big plastic tag - far too big for any pockets.  And I've never felt comfortable leaving my keys on a wheel well (and these were likely too big to hide).

With no other options, I stuffed them in my sports bra.  I'll leave the chafing to your imagination; the official race photos featuring my large spiky left breast will be available on Tuesday.


I "warmed up" by jogging about 2.5 miles and then doing an extended stride to get my HR up.  I finished around 7:05 - very early, but the race management stated that we were supposed to be in the start area by 7:15 for the 7:40 start.  I didn't know if I'd be able to warm-up any more once there (as it turned out, we were able to jog).

I use quotations for "warm-up" because I was already pretty warm - this was one of the first really warm weekends in this area, and it felt more like June or July than mid-May.  Not ideal.  On the other hand, I was doing this race as a mid-training tune-up for a June marathon, so having to deal with this weather was good prep.

I got in the area at 7:15, and hung out waiting.  As it turned out, our race start was delayed until just about 8 am.  This was unfortunate, as the temperature and dew point kept rising, but nothing to do about it but keep drinking water.


Finally we started.  My plan had been to go out at about marathon pace feel for the first 3 miles, and then start dropping the pace and chasing people.   I was also carrying my handheld water bottle, which I'd run with until about mile 8 when I'd toss, per my normal practice.

It took some effort, but I successfully reined myself for the first few miles, holding back as I watched everyone pull ahead.  I have a much harder time holding back at the start of a half than for any other race.  I think it's because I tend to think of the 5K as the longer version of a mile, the 10K as a longer 5K, and the 10 miler as a longer 10K.  In contrast, I think of the half-marathon as the short version of a marathon, which leads me to all sorts of impetuous pacing decisions.  Which really suck once I belatedly remember that a half-marathon is indeed a long race.

I had planned to pick it up, but even 3 miles in, I was starting to notice the heat.  With 10 miles left to go, I decided it wasn't such a bad idea to procrastinate picking it up.  Plus, I was already starting to reel people in.  So I kept it conservative, and drank from my handheld water bottle like it was my best friend.

As the miles passed, I continued to modify my race plan.  At mile 5, I was still running in control, and felt like I could pick it up.  But I could also tell I was starting to bake a bit - though I hadn't really picked up the pace, I was working harder than marathon effort.  And I honestly didn't know where my line was, heat-wise.  So I decided to stay conservative a bit longer.

I did note one advantage of my handheld - I was passing a lot of people at water stations.  Almost every runner I saw was slowing dramatically at the water stations to make sure they got a full drink (smart).  But this also meant that I did a lot of passing at water stations as I held my pace and sipped from my bottle.


Mile 8 would have been a convenient point to drop my bottle (near the finish, so I could grab it after).  But by mile 8, that water bottle was my best friend.  Not only did I not want to toss it, I wanted it full.

So, for the first time in my running career, I came to a full stop at the next water station, and took some time to fill my handheld from some of the water cups.  Then capped it and started up running again.  I lost about 15 seconds by doing that, I'm guessing.  But I think I gained more than I lost.


I also modified my race plan again at mile 8, and decided to stay conservative a bit longer.  With 5 miles to go, though I wasn't in trouble and could pick it up slightly, I was feeling pretty darn hot and working pretty hard.  And I was passing down people consistently - I don't think a single person passed me after the 10K mark, while I passed quite a few.  So I decided to play it safe and wait to pick it up until the last hairpin turn, which was about 2 miles out.  Racing this long in weather this hot was pretty new to me, and 5 miles was still fairly far from home.

You can argue either that it was smart, or that I wimped out.  It was probably a bit of both.  But either way, I think it was the right decision.  There are times when one should dig deep and take risks, but 5 weeks out from your goal race on a very hot day probably isn't that time.  And that logic was ridiculously appealing at that point in the race.


By the turn-around at 11.5 my trusty water bottle and I had chased down all the women within reach.  I saw three ahead of me, including my friend and teammate Jillian who won the race (GO CAR)!  The was one guy who was slowly coming back to me, so I reeled him in and just kept running to the finish.  Per my usual, when I got to mile 13 I started kicking like heck, even though there was no one to beat - again, practice kicking every race, so you have it when you need it.

Then I was done, and I was very glad. 


Miles 1-2: 13:48
Mile 3: 7:01
Mile 4: 6:53
Mile 5: 7:00
Mile 6: 6:53
Mile 7: 7:15
Mile 8: 7:13
Mile 9: 7:21 (water stop)
Mile 10: 7:05
Mile 11: 6:59
Mile 12: 7:08
Mile 13: 6:53
last bit: 37 seconds.

Other notes:

  • This was a tough one, heat-wise.  Conditions at the start were temp of 70, dew point of 64; by the time I finished, the temp was 77, dew point 66.  Plus bright sunshine on a course that mostly lacked shade.
  • The race was also surprisingly windy, with a pretty tough headwind at times, especially during the middle miles.  Fortunately, the course had enough turns that you were never fighting the wind for too long. my friend PJ later noted, when it's as warm as this race was, you develop a new appreciation for the cooling effects of a headwind.
  • First sunburn of the season!
  • The course had three hairpin turns - for each of these, I made a point of taking 5 quick steps as I came out of the turn to get back into my groove - it worked well.
  • This was a really well managed and fun race.  Yes, I wish they had bag check, and I wish they had better weather.  But on the whole, I really enjoyed the race and would recommend it to others.  And the course could be a fast one, if they ever get good weather.
  • One weird thing was that I was pretty certain I finished the race in 4th place - I had counted women ahead of me at the last turnaround, and I wasn't passed after that.  So I was a bit surprised to learn that I was actually 5th, and second in my age group.  I suspected at first that it was a bib swapping issue (men running with women's bibs), but I looked up the woman who apparently beat me, and she's run comparable times to me in the past.  So I guess I must have just missed her while guzzling from my water bottle.
  • Don't judge - you would have looked her up too.
  • This race offers morning bib pick-up and the start, and it's very well run.  So no need to worry about doing pick-up the night before.
  • Net consensus from everyone who ran the race was that they were several minutes off of the time they had expected to run.  While the time on paper does bug me slightly, considering that 7 minute miles are my goal pace for a distance twice as long (that's just how I'm wired, folks), I'm still pretty happy with the race.  And my coach thought it was a great race for me too, given the conditions, so yay.
  • My time is just about an exact match to the half-marathon I ran in January in 18 degrees with high winds and large patches of ice.  The compare and contrast amuses me.
  • Hertz sucks.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Training log - Week ending 5/10/15

This week was 80 miles of running and 4000 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

I had to travel to Kansas early this week to attend a memorial gathering for a family member.  I flew out early Monday morning, and though I could have possibly flown back the same evening, it would have made for a VERY long day (and a lousy Tuesday run).  So I stayed overnight and used the opportunity to explore Sedgwick County Park on Tuesday morning.
It had covered bridges!  Neat!

Sedwick County Park was a bit like Central Park.  Except smaller and lacking in tall buildings and people.  And hills.   It did have covered bridges, which Central Park lacks.  And also some nice "bike trails" which would be running trails for my purposes - a lap around the park was a bit more than 4 miles.

My plan was to drive to the park and start running around 5:30 am local time, which would give me plenty of time to finish, drive back to my grandfather's house, shower, and get to the airport.  It was a good plan, but not without hiccups.

For one thing, it turns out that Sedwick County Park doesn't open until 6:00 am.   In DC, a park being closed means that the bathrooms may be locked, or a single bar may block the entrance.

In Wichita, the park being closed means that a large gate (too high for me to climb) blocks the entire entrance, sitting flush with the fence on either side.


Fortunately, there was a neighborhood nearby.  I cruised for a few minutes, trying to figure out what the parking regulations were.  Then I realized that there were none - this was Wichita.  So I stashed the rental and jogged to the park entrance.  As noted before, the gate was too high to climb, but it did have a clearance of roughly a foot from the ground.  After a quick scan in the dark to see if there were any obvious "trespassers will be prosecuted/shot/waterboarded" signs, I dropped to the asphalt and wriggled my way under the gate.

I was in.

From there I started my run.  I had a fartlek workout planned - it's easier just to do stuff by time when in a strange place.  My plan was to do an extended warm-up - running easy until it got light enough to run fast in a strange place.

In case you were wondering
about the differences.
After about 15 minutes of jogging by myself in the dark, a group of lights approached.  It was a group of local runners with headlamps - the "Dillons run" (named after the grocery store they meet at).  They were gracious enough to let me tag along, and so I ran for a few easy miles, chatting about Kansas and DC and the differences between the Pikes Peak in Colorado and the Pikes Peek in Maryland.

Then they turned off, and it was light enough to start the workout - 16 times 90 seconds on/60 seconds off. 

Check out the elevation chart too :)
I didn't shoot for a specific pace for the fast parts, but rather tried to run fast-but-relaxed for the on parts, and easy-but-not -shuffling for the off parts.  There's really no points to reporting splits for the workout, but the sharks teeth pattern on the Garmin report is pretty cool.

The workout ended up being fairly fun.  Part of it was the novelty of running in a new location, and part of it was that 90 seconds is just short enough that running fast is a blast.  Though I will confess that by the last four reps I was more than ready to be done.

The rest of the week was back in DC, where some of our humidity has returned.  Interestingly, though I'm generally the type that REALLY suffers in the humidity and heat, it hasn't bothered me.  During both Friday's tempo and Sunday's long run I kept waiting for the humidity to start bugging me, but it never did.  I'm not quite sure why this is - my leading theory right now is that I'm still defrosting from this winter. I'm certainly not complaining, though.


Monday:   Nothing.  Traveled to Kansas and did family stuff.

Tuesday:  14 miles, including a fartlek of 16x90 seconds on, 60 seconds off - workout was 40 minutes total. Averaged 6:20ish for the on, 9:00ish for the off.  Then flew home to DC and foam rolled.

Wednesday: 5.5 miles very easy (9:33), followed by a yoga class.  Later another 7.5 miles very easy (9:05) and drills+strides, followed by 1500 yards of easy swimming to stretch out. Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:  6.5 miles very easy (9:02), followed by a yoga class and then another 4 easy (8:43) plus drills and strides.  Followed with some upperbody strengthwork and injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  13.5 miles, including an 8k tempo of 33:00 - 6:45/6:35/6:38/6:36/6:26.   Followed by some injury prevention work and 1500 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   13 miles easy (8:42), followed by drills and strides.  Upper body strengthwork/injury prevention work, plus foam rolling, in the afternoon.

Sunday:  16 miles progressive, split as first 3 at 8:45, next 8.5 at 8:04, last 4.5 at 6:56.  Followed with yoga and 1000 yards easy swimming to loosen up.  Foam rolling at night.