Sunday, July 17, 2016

Training log - Week ending 7/17/16

This week was 55 miles of running, 21 "miles" of pool-running and 4000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Busy.  Running good.  Busy.  Weather hot.  Busy.  Breathing good.  Busy.  Bloviation will return in near future.  Hopefully next week.


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

Tuesday: 9 miles, including a track workout of 3x1600 (6:17, 6:09, 6:01), and 1500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 6.5 miles easy to yoga (9:14), yoga, and then 4.5 miles very easy (8:53)  plus drills and strides.  3 "miles" pool-running in afternoon; foam rolling at night.

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

Friday: 11 miles, including 6 hill repeats (~500m up, then 200m jog, 100m stride, and 100m jog down to base of hill). Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards easy swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles easy (8:55), plus upper body weights and core. 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 14 miles progressive, mile splits were 9:36, 9:06, 8:44, 8:32, 8:09, 7:42, 7:53, 7:46, 7:31, 7:15, 7:03, 7:02, 7:05, 7:04.  Followed with injury prevention work.  1500 yards of recovery swimming and sports massage in afternoon.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Training log - Week ending 7/10/16

This week was 63 miles of running, 12 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This week's mileage is a bit overstated.  While I normally do my long run on Sunday and use Monday as a pool-running recovery day, a Monday race threw my schedule off.  Next week should be closer to normal, with lower mileage.'s looking like lower mileage is going to be my theme for the upcoming cycle.  Which is a bit counter intuitive, given that that the common wisdom is that more miles is better for marathon training.  But in the past, more miles hasn't worked so well for me - my marathon PR was run off of my lowest mileage cycle.   So, we're going with 5 days a week of running this cycle, and land mileage that will max out at lower than my recent half marathon training cycles.  I'll be supplementing some with pool-running, but not to an extreme.

It's different from what I've done in the past, but you can't succeed if you're not willing to take risks and step out of your comfort zone.  And my comfort zone is cranking out lots of easy miles.

Cutting the mileage also makes sense since I'm on Advair now - an asthma medication with a significant side effect of reducing bone density.  I've handled higher mileage in the past without injury, but things may be different now, and best to be careful.

As for the Advair, my doctor and I decided on Tuesday to reduce the dosage  It's a bit of a balancing act - the Advair helps my lungs, but also aggravates my vocal cord issues.  So the lungs work better, but my throat feels uncomfortably narrow, making breathing difficult in a different way.  The other side effects weren't much fun either, though they would have been manageable if they were the only complaints.

So we dropped from 500/50 (the highest dose) to 250/50 (medium dose), and things seemed better by the end of the week.

Particularly notable was Friday's hill workout - I'm used to that workout hurting by the last few reps, with my upper body feeling heavy and my arms and shoulders burning when I hit the steepest section of the hill.  It hadn't occurred to me that those sensations could be asthma related - I thought it was just part of the workout.  But there was no burning heaviness this Friday - it was eerie.  It was still a hard workout, and my legs were tired - 6 reps were enough for me.  But there's a difference between tired legs and the way my upper body usually feels during that workout.

The next two weeks are going to be crowded on the personal front - demolition of our kitchen starts on Monday morning - the first stage of a (hopefully) 6 week renovation.  At the same time, a big deal work project is approaching release next week.  Ideally, these two things wouldn't overlap with each other (or with marathon training).  But sometimes the schedule gods don't play nice.


Monday: 3 mile warm-up, 4 mile-ish race in 27:19, and then 1 mile-ish cooldown.  A bit later did 6 miles easy (8:32) (arguably too much, but wanted to chat with a friend).  1000 yards recovery swimming and foam rolling later.

Tuesday: Upper body weights and core, and then 6.5 miles very easy (9:30).   Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 4.5 miles easy to yoga (9:07), yoga, and then 4.5 miles very easy (8:44). Foam rolling at night.

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

Friday: 10 miles, including 6 hill repeats (~500m up, then 200m jog, 100m stride, and 100m jog down to base of hill). Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards easy swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 9.5 miles easy (9:04), plus upper body weights and core. 3 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 14 miles progressive, split as first 2.5 at 9:07, next 6.5 at 8:06, final 5 at 7:09.  Followed with yoga.  1000 yards of recovery swimming and foam rolling in afternoon.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Race Report: DC Road Runners Age Handicapped 4 miler, July 4, 2016

I ran the DC Road Runners Age Handicapped 4 Miler today, finishing with a gun time of 31:23, and a net time of 27:19.  This was good enough for eighth overall, based on gun time in this fairly unusual race.

This race is run a bit differently from most.  It uses a wave start, but the waves are ordered not by fastest to slowest, but rather by age and gender, with each five year age/gender group having a different start.  The youngest and oldest runners start first, and then the others are sent off, with the men in their 20s starting last.  The gap of time between when the race starts, and when your wave goes, is your "handicap."  Got it?  If not, the picture to the right explains it better.

It's a very casual, inexpensive, fun race.  There's neither chip timing nor bibs - one signs a index card marked with one's place after finishing. The prizes are donated by the runners and placed on a table, with each runner choosing their prize off the table during the awards - similar to a gift swap.   And the race course is approximately 4 miles - relying on the mile posts on the C&O Towpath, which are notoriously inaccurate.  The race was very clear about this up front, humorously noting that any world records set during today's race would be invalid.

To horribly misquote Animal Farm, all races are fun.  (Right?  That's why we do this.)  But some races are more fun than others.  And this is one.


The start of the race was a bit disconcerting.  Way back when, in my horse show days, I was used to being sent off into the ring one at a time; when I switched to running, I found it unsettling to be starting with all these people AT THE SAME TIME.  Over time, I've become used to it, and now I plan my race morning around the race's announced start time.  The staggered start time of this race was a flashback to my past, and also seemed odd in the same way a mass start once did.

[and in another flashback to my riding days, I lost track of time and was caught slightly off guard when it was time for my cohort to start.  Unlike riding, I couldn't ask the guy at the gate to let someone else go in front of me, so I just skipped my final set of strides.]

and...they're off
As I noted before, each age/gender group had its own start, resulting in a distinct second race, where you were racing against your direct peers.  It was pretty cool - in most races, I'm usually guessing who's in my age group - here it was pretty clear.  At 14:03 after the gun officially went off for the race, the 40-44 women were unleashed upon the sands of the C&O Towpath.

Two friends had given me advice about how to pace this race. The first noted that you really had to be careful about how you started - it was easy to get too competitive early on, chasing down those who started ahead of you, only to run out of gas later.  The second friend noted that the trick to winning this race was to start chasing down people from the very beginning - if you were too patient, you'd just be run down by the fast guys behind you.

I decided I'd just pace according to feel, and try to also stay conservative until the end.  Part of that is that running my own race generally works best for me anyway.  The other part was that I was test driving yet another new asthma med, and this was my first try at running hard while on Advair. Given that fact, the high humidity, and my crash and burn the last time I tried a new asthma med, it was better to be cautious.

Even with this resolve, I might have been a bit too aggressive in the first few minutes.  Due to the nature of the race, it's easy to pick off people at first, and that sings a siren song.  But I managed to reel myself in, and just held a relaxed, conservative rhythm.

The Towpath is a mild but steady climb going from east to west.  The race started just about halfway between mile posts 10 and 11, so we ran up to 11, then down past 10 to 9, before heading back past 10 to the start/finish arch (which was pretty impressive for such a bargain race).  My plan was to hold a careful effort until I had the finish line in my sight, at which point I'd pick up the pace if my breathing seemed OK.  Until I could see the finish line, I didn't want to take any risks.

Throughout the race, my lungs felt great, even despite the humidity.  Awesome.  However, my throat
Me doing fish face, with my two competitors.
was tightening up throughout, which is something I've noted the last few days  I think the Advair is irritating my throat and causing some vocal cord dysfunction - that's a known side effect of the drug.  Fortunately, though the vocal cord stuff is annoying, it's not dangerous, and I know how to deal with it.  

There are ways to breathe that encourage the vocal cords to relax.  I'm sure they have some technical medical name (and that name is on the handout that I'm too lazy to retrieve).  I just call it fish face.  So I fish faced my way through the race.  To the amusement of others, I'm sure.

The interesting thing about the race, because of the stagger start, is that it's very likely that most of the runners who started ahead of you are slower than you.   And many of the runners who start behind you are faster than you.  Which means that you do nearly all of your passing at the beginning of the race.  And any person who makes up the time gap and passes you is likely much faster than you. Towards the end of the race, I was passed by several of my teammates who had started behind me.  I knew that I didn't have a hope in hell of keeping up with them, so I let them go.

I did end up with two guys near me when the finish line first came into sight,  Since I was about 3.5 miles in, with no asthma, I decided to pick up the pace.   As it turned out, I had a lot left in the tank, running the last half mile at a pace significantly (20+ seconds per mile) faster than the rest of the race.  So now I know I don't need to be so careful next time.

And then I crossed the finish, in eighth place overall.  Looking at the results, I think I passed everyone ahead of me except two (both women in the 60-64 age group, who finished 1-2 in the race), and was passed by five men who started behind me.  Not that that matters at all.  But sometimes I think we race so we can stare at the results after.

Of course, one question that comes to mind is - how do they come up with the time gaps for the staggered start.  And is it really fair?  Decyphering what is fair seems challenging at first glance.  But in the end, it's actually pretty simple.   You review the overall results, and draw a line across the sheet at the eighth place finisher.  Anyone who finished below that line was handicapped appropriately. However, the handicap of anyone who finished above that line is suspect and should be subject to review.

Splits (per Garmin, and based on mile posts)

  • From start to mile post 11 - .48 of a mile in 3:14 (6:46 pace)
  • From mile post 11 to 10 - 1.01 mile in 6:51 (6:47 pace)
  • From mile post 10 to 9 - 1.02 mile in 7:01 (6:52 pace - includes me getting a bit stuck behind someone due to traffic on the trail)
  • From mile post 9 to 10 - 1.01 mile in 6:49 (6:46 pace)
  • From mile post 10 to finish - .53 of a mile in 3:23 (6:23 pace)

Other notes:
  • Temp 69, DP 68 (and no asthma - WOOO)
  • Took a salted watermelon GU in the morning for a slight bit of caffeine.
  • Brian and I have been cleaning out our kitchen, living room, and dining room in preparation for a major renovation that starts next week.  As a result, we had a lot of stuff to get rid of, and so I brought a cute decorative clay jug that we would otherwise donate to Goodwill (don't judge - that's exactly the sort of thing you were supposed to bring).
    I wasn't supposed to bring anything back, but I felt bad rejecting the prize table (plus, who says no to race schwag?) so I grabbed a CD of the Capitol Steps.  It's really small, so I didn't get in too much trouble.
  • My taper for this race was really a non-taper. I did my first hill workout on Friday, then ran 10 miles too hard on Saturday, and then lugged boxes and stuff up and down stairs on Saturday and Sunday.  Part of this lack of care was that this was such a low key race, and part was that I seem to be recovering much better now that I'm on asthma meds, and wanted to see how I'd race if I wasn't well rested.  Plus, I think Brian would have (justifiably) killed me if I had told him I couldn't move furniture this weekend because I was running a $5 race on Monday.
    My legs didn't feel fresh today, but they certainly didn't feel horrible, so that's good news.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Training log - Week ending 7/3/16

This week was 51 miles of running, 7 "miles" of pool-running and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was my second week post-Grandmas - by the end of the week, both my legs and mind were ready to go, so I showed up for my team's hill workout on Friday.

I love these workouts - since they're off of the track, we get to run them by feel, which is my preferred way to train. Additionally, since the focus here is on biomechanics and strength (you do build fitness, but that's a secondary goal), they're a great way to reintroduce hard efforts. Plus they're bizarrely fun - we run up a hill for about 2 minutes, take a jog break and chat, run fast down the hill for about 30 seconds, and then more chatting.

They really are my favorite workouts each year. Besides the marathon pace work.

This week was also my designated "focus on allergy/asthma issues and try to get stuff straightened out before my fall racing" time. So I got tested for both allergies and asthma again. I'll do a detailed write-up in a separate post later this week, including how the tests were conducted. But the very short version is:

a) I reacted to nearly everything I was tested for at the allergist, and I'm starting allergy shots in a few weeks,

b) my asthma is only partially controlled by my current regime, so I'm switching to Advair, Singulair, and a nasal spray, and

c) in addition to the asthma, I have vocal cord dysfunction, which means that my vocal cords block my air flow sometimes, especially if I try to breathe too quickly. [Asthma is an issue with exhaling due to issues deep in the lungs, VCD is an issue with inhaling due to issues in your throat.].

There is no medication directly treating VCD, though treating the asthma and allergies should indirectly help, since each can trigger VCD.  The main treatment for VCD is slowing down your breathing, opening up your shoulders, and pursing your lips.  I do all of those anyway - I figured that one out on my own a few years ago.

I swapped to the Advair starting Friday night.  I had a pretty rough "test run" on Saturday morning - while I felt fine for most of the run, I felt lousy the last few miles, and a check of my heart rate monitor indicated that my heart rate was bouncing all over the place.  My throat also felt really tight and dry.  This combination of stuff worried me, since one of the side effects of Advair can be heart palpitations, arrhythmia, and the like.

However, I went for another test jog this morning, and when my Garmin started spitting out high HR numbers again, I stopped and took my pulse.   My pulse was fine - apparently the heart rate monitor's just being quirky.   I think Saturday's issues were actually several unrelated things that happened to coincide - I felt lousy at the end of the run because I was overheated and a bit dehydrated; the heart rate issue was unrelated - technology, not physiology.  As for the dry throat?  That can happen with Advair - I just need to drink more water.   A swig of Pepto glazed my throat nicely and seemed to help as well.


Monday: 5.5 easy (8:49) to yoga, yoga and then 3.5 miles easy (8:46). Foam rolling in the evening. 

Tuesday: 10 miles very easy (10:08), followed by drills and two hill sprints, and core work. Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 5 miles very easy to yoga (8:50), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy home (8:32) plus drills and two strides. Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: 7 "miles" pool-running plus upper body weights and core. Foam rolling at night

Friday: 8 miles, including 6 hill repeats (~500m up, then 200m jog, 100m stride, and 100m jog down to base of hill). Followed with 1000 yards easy swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles aerobic (8:34) (meant to be easy, but struggled a bit), plus upper body weights and core. Foam rolling at night.

Sunday: 4.5 miles very easy (8:53) plus drills. Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Training log - Week ending 6/26/16

This week was 16 miles of running, 27 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was a recovery week, and I really needed it.  I was really beaten up after my half-marathon last weekend - I suspect that's due to the rough conditions. Additionally, since I've got a marathon in four months, I really need to reset myself now, so that I don't end up fried come fall.

For the first several days, I kept things in the pool - I've found that gentle water exercise (pool-running or swimming) works better for my recovery than either short easy runs or full rest.  Towards the end of the week, I switched to land running again, but kept stuff pretty slow, with the duration of the run roughly matching that of my pool-runs earlier in the week.

On Saturday, I went to a not-so-close amusement park (Kings Dominion - about 80 miles away) to meet up with a group of friends from my old night clubbing days.  I haven't been on a roller coaster in many years, and it was neat to remember just how much I loved them.  I got to ride the Intimidator 305 - categorized as a "giga-coaster" due to its height of over 300 feet - and also relived my teenage years by riding the Rebel Yell and the Grizzly.  We used Anaconda as an appetizer and Avalanche as a palate cleanser, with a moment of silence for the dearly departed Shockwave.   I wore my Garmin with heart rate monitor for each, and the Garmin records for each are linked below (under Saturday) in case anyone is curious.

Sadly, no Woodstock Express (formerly known as the Scooby Doo)  - I would have had to pay a special entry for that.  And the lines for Dominator and Volcano were simply too long.  But it was a good day, and I honestly think that six rides (I rode the Grizzly twice) was probably about my limit.  I don't remember feeling that achy and sore after rollercoasters before.  I like to think it's because I'm no longer jumping horses, so I'm no longer used to bumpy rides and sudden moves in random directions.   It's probably also that I'm a bit older than the last time I made it down to Kings Dominion....

I had planned to run on Sunday, but was tired and my back ached when I woke, so I decided to skip running in favor of some relaxed swimming.  That's the whole point of a recovery week - you don't run unless you want to and it feels good.


Monday:   6 "miles" easy pool-running with belt.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Tuesday: Yoga and 6 "miles" easy pool-running. Massage at night.

Wednesday: Upper body weights and 7 "miles" easy pool-running plus foam rolling.

Thursday:   Yoga and 8 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling in the evening.
Friday:  8.5 very easy (9:41) plus upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling at night

Saturday:  7.5 miles easy (9:30).  Also rode the Anaconda, the Intimidator 305, the Avalanche, the Rebel Yell, and the Grizzly.   Foam rolling at night.

Sunday:  2000 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Training log - week ending 6/19/16

This week was 38 miles of running, 8 "miles" of pool-running and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I'm admittedly a bit behind this week - my work snowballed last week while I was out, and so I've been playing catch-up with real life.  Which relegates the blog to a lower priority.  Which is fine, since the race reports are probably more interesting than the weekly reports anyway.

Last week was a taper week.  I was actually really really happy with how my legs felt on Saturday, so making note of that for the future.  This time, for my pre-race massage, we tried something different.  We didn't touch the legs at all, but instead focused on my shoulders, back, and hip flexors - all of which tend to get tight and interfere with my ease of motion when running.  I think this worked really well - I felt relaxed and loose at the start, AND my legs felt snappy.   So we'll be repeating that in the future.

The Garry Bjorklund Half was my goal race, and I was estatic about every aspect of my race except the time.  Which seems like an odd thing to say, since running is about time.   But I showed up at the race well rested and in good fitness, and I ran the best race I had in me, given the challenging conditions.  There's satisfaction in that.

I was also pretty happy with my placement - the race paid very good money for Masters ($1000/$500/$250 to the top three), and so brought out some strong competition.  I finished sixth overall masters and fourth in my age group, and was the top masters female that wasn't also an elite with a fancy two digit bib. #proudtorepresentthefivedigitbibcrew.

The time was a bummer, since this was my goal race, and I don't have a fast time to show for it.   But....such is running.  And every time I start feeling a bit sorry for myself, I think of the guy that we saw having a seizure in the finishers' area - presumably due to the conditions.  It really puts things in perspective.  I ran the best I could, I left it all out there, and I finished safely and in good health, as did my friends.   And it was a great weekend overall - hanging out with my teammates post-race was really fun.

I don't think I mentioned this in my race report, so I wanted to be sure to note it here - the race management was phenomenal.  Race conditions like this could have been a disaster, as they have been at other races.  But Grandma's was well prepared.  There were sprinklers spraying onto the course throughout, cold sponges being handed out all over the place, and tons of excellent volunteers at the water stops (which were every mile for the last half of my race).  The finish area was very well staffed with medical personnel and a slew of wheelchairs at the ready.

I can't wait to do this race again next year.

The next few weeks are going to be pretty light for me.  I was REALLY beaten up after the race - the heat and humidity took its toll.  I'm four months out from the Chicago Marathon, and my coach's standard 14 week training plan, plus two inserted weeks for tune-up races, means that I "should" have started training for it this week.... But I think the best thing I can do right now is take some solid downtime and recover.  I'm fit, and a few weeks off won't take away from that, and will also pay off later in the fall.

I've been hitting the gluten-free Oreos pretty hard the last few days (earning me a side-eye from Brian....), and have limited my exercise to some conversational pool-running and gentle yoga.  I'll stick with that plan through Friday, and then start up again with some easy running for another week or so, before upping the intensity and cutting the cookies.


Monday:   Yoga and 5.5 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Tuesday: 8.5 miles, including a track workout of 1600, 4x800 - splits were 6:14, 3:07, 3:05, 3:03, 2:56.   Followed with 1000 yards recovery swimming. Massage at night.

Wednesday: 6.5 miles very easy (9:16) plus foam rolling.

Thursday:   7 miles very easy (8:58) plus drills and two hill sprints, and then traveled to Duluth.
Friday:  Nothing except foam rolling and stretching.

Saturday:  2.5 miles warm-up, and then 13.1 mile race in 1:32:10.

Sunday:  Traveled from Duluth back to DC.  Later did 2.5 "miles" of very easy pool-running, 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Race report: Gary Bjorklund Half-Marathon, June 18, 2016

I ran the Gary Bjorklund Half-Marathon (more often known as Grandma's Half-marathon) yesterday, finishing in a time of 1:32:10. It's pretty far from the time I had hoped to run, but I'm still pretty proud of the race - the weather simply wasn't my ally this weekend.

 For most of the week prior to the forecast, the weather predictions had been conflicting. Some forecasts were dire, but Weather Underground looked decent - temps starting in the low 50s, and rising to around 60 by the end. Not optimal, but not horrible. Weather Underground has never lied to me before (foreshadowing....), so I went with them. I wasn’t too worried when I left DC on Thursday.

 Last year, when I traveled to Grandma's, I flew directly into Duluth, connecting through Chicago. That trip was somewhat stressful, due to a missed connection in Chicago. So this year I played it safe and fly directly into Minneapolis, and then drive up to Duluth. I dislike long drives, but I also dislike having to make connections, as well as regional airlines.

 Of course, flying to Minneapolis didn't absolve me of headaches entirely. I hit the Avis counter at exactly the wrong time, and it took well over an hour to actually rent a car. Add that to the 2 hour flight and the 2.5 hour drive, and I was very grateful that I had chosen to travel two days before the race – I was tired when I arrived in my dorm room. (I note this because I sometimes get tempted to save money and vacation days by traveling the day before a race. Nope.)

 The drive itself to Duluth was…a drive. If it had been 90 minutes or less, I would have classified it scenic. But the extra hour on the road transformed “scenic” to “tedious.”

Kinda like this.
In light of the long drive, I had splurged on Sirius radio. The radio interface was fairly difficult to understand, and for the first half of the drive, it looked like my choices were limited to “80s on 8,” “Classic Vinyl,” gospel, and country. In desperation I starting hitting buttons all over the place, eventually fumbling my way to “BPM.” Once I locked on that station, the trip was much more fun.


 Saturday was pretty chill - I hit the expo quickly, marveling at all the people that would experiment with different dietary products and pain relief products the day before their race. The forecast was looking worse by the hour, but still not horrible. And I was running it regardless, so all I could do was hydrate up and rest.

 Even with the forecasts, I was still optimistic when I woke at 3:45 am on race morning. When I last checked my computer before heading out the door, it was 60 degrees, but I reasoned that it’d likely be slightly cooler right by the lake. Plus I’m from DC, and I’ve trained in worse than what was forecast. And I seem to be handling humidity a lot better than I used to, with the recent change in asthma med regime.

 I boarded a bus that left at 4:50 am for the half-marathon start – unfortunately the bus didn’t get there until 5:25, cutting into my meticulously calculated bag check/pee/poop/warm-up routine. Fortunately, my legs felt ridiculously good when I warmed up. Like little rockets. I usually do three miles to warm-up, but I felt good to go with two, so I just called it there and entered my corral. A plethora of portapotties also saved time.

 The weather had been slightly warm and humid as I warmed up, but still felt OK. However, the temperature started to rise dramatically in the last 10 minutes as we stood in the corral. By the time the race kicked off it felt to me like it was about 65 degrees, with matching dewpoint. And my gut told me it would get worse. It reminded me of the start of some of our recent workouts, with my coach cautioning us that the heat and humidity would catch up to us quickly (I could almost hear him). Not what I had hoped for.

 But…I’m from DC, and I know how to race in this weather. There’s three core principles. A) SLOW DOWN. B) DO NOT GET DEHYDRATED. C) GO OUT SLOW. I always pace by perceived effort, rather than a clock, but I suspected that even if I started in my normal, conservative gear, it’d catch up to me. Better to start out REALLY slow – I could always run a very hard negative split on the second half if I had miscalculated.

 So the gun went off, and I jogged, pretending like the first mile was the first (very slow) mile of a marathon. I wanted to keep the first mile effortless. I felt a bit silly, but stuck to my guns. After that, I started to pick it up slightly, but still kept it close to marathon feel. Normally my plan is to pace the first three miles as a “prelude” and then start working. But I had decided that I’d keep it very controlled for the first half, and then re-evaluate. 

By mile 5 or so, I knew I had made the right choice. The air was thick, and the periodic headwind wasn’t as refreshing as I had hoped. Occasionally, we’d get a breeze of cooler and drier air from the lake – I treasured those. But they were not as frequent as I would have liked.

 In the first few miles, I had drained the water bottle that normally lasts me 10 miles. I took a few seconds just before mile marker 6 to refill it to the top. I’ve got the routine nailed down: unscrew cap and stick in my sports bra as I approach the station; stop, grab water cup, pinch it, and pour into water bottle (repeat a second time as needed); and then extract cap from sportsbra and screw back on as I jog off. It only takes about 5 seconds to do this, when executed efficiently. Looking at my split for mile 6, I don’t think I lost much time at all. Certainly less than I gained.


 By that time, some people were already starting to fall apart. I weaved through them, and started picking up the effort slightly. I felt like I was still running slowly, based on my gait, but it was definitely half-marathon effort. I was starting to really feel the heat, and I still had the second half of the race to go, so I stayed careful, nursing my water bottle and slurping a gel.

 Then we came out of the woods and things got real hot – low to mid 70s, according to the weather reports I checked later. The sun was blazing, and runners to each side of me started wilting. I felt lousy also, but managed to selfishly pull some strength from those I passed. The next few miles were a blur – much more like a full marathon than a half.

By mile 10, I had drained my water bottle again. I debated refilling it, and maybe I should have. OTOH, I didn’t think I’d be able to run again if I stopped. From then on, it was one foot in front of the other, and just trying to hold it together through the carnage.

 Miles 11 and 12 take you through downtown Duluth, which felt like a furnace. Then we turned for the last mile, to weave our way through the waterfront towards the finish. I was barely hanging on, just focusing on the rhythm of my legs and breathing. The fact that I was passing people was the main thing that kept me going. I didn’t think about miles or how long I had left – I just mentally checked off one person after another.

 Even in that last mile, people were falling apart. And when they slowed to a shuffle or a walk, they were in enough trouble that they lacked the wherewithal to pull over to the side. People in front of me kept stopping to walk; but I was using all my strength just to keep going – I barely had the energy to dodge them. It was exactly like finishing your race by running through the walkers from the end of a previous race. The only difference was, all of these walkers were in the same race I was.

 And then finally I came around the last turn, and saw the finish line. Or…I saw balloons that I thought were the finish line – they have three arches of balloons and THEN the finish line. Personally, I think that’s really mean.  I gave it everything I had left, and did something mimicking a kick, though there wasn't much there. And then I was done. Like a meal left in the oven an hour too long.

 Right after I finished, as I was grabbing my finisher’s t-shirt, my legs cramped up horribly. Calves, shins, and feet on both side clenched and released in a cruel and painful pattern. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I started yipping and yelping (note that I'm not so embarrassed that I'm not blogging about it).  I felt like a big baby, but I couldn't help it. I eased myself to bag check, where my checked bag had a banana and a pack of margarita shot blocks. I sat down and ate those while draining a bottle of water, and a few minutes later I was able to walk again. I was REALLY REALLY grateful those held off until I finished. 


 Splits were:
 Mile 1: 7:17
Mile 2: 7:07
Mile 3: 7:07
Mile 4: 7:06
Mile 5: 7:12
Mile 6: 6:55
Mile 7: 7:08
Mile 8: 7:03
Mile 9: 6:57
Mile 10: 7:00
Mile 11: 6:57
Mile 12: 6:53
Mile 13 plus last .1 - 7:29 for 1.11 miles - 6:45 pace

So 7:07 pace for the first 7 miles, and then 6:55 pace for the last 6.11. I managed to pull off a negative split, though not the hard negative split I had hoped for. I'm pretty sure that, had I gone out any faster, the second half of this race would have looked very very different.

 The passing stats from this race also tell the story: Again, I'm really glad I started as carefully as I did. It ended up being a very well executed race. Just 20+ seconds per mile slower than I had hoped to run on a cool day....


Once I was able to walk again, I made my way back to my dorm room. A quick shower and a quick Facebook post (not necessarily in that order) and then I drove back down to the finish line to cheer on my friends running the full marathon.  Distressingly, though the humidity had dropped some, the temps continued to rise, and there was no cloud cover.

 It was a long hot morning of worrying and tracking, but finally we were all safely in. None of us had the races that we had hoped for when we registered, but I honestly think all of us can be proud of how we ran and the decisions we made yesterday.


Other notes:

  •  The race results were a bit screwed up yesterday (see above, where the number of competitors increased over the course of the race). I got differing reports on where I finished in my age group. Currently I'm 6th, according to the results, but I suspect that a few of those finishing above me were actually men. The finish photos will confirm one way or the other.   Either way, I'm pretty happy about the finishing placement - though the times were pretty slow this year, this is historically a very competitive half marathon.
  • I stayed at the University of Minnesota dorms again. It's a much better deal that the local hotels. However, it is a spartan living space (it's a dorm, after all), with thin walls, a shared bathroom, and window shades that don't block the late setting sun. A few notes, to myself as well as others, on what to pack or ship to oneself when staying in the dorms: 
  • Jonathan, myself,
    and "Grandma"
    • Extension cord 
    • Sleeping face mask 
    • Ear plugs 
    • Small portable fan 
    • Sandals and bathrobe (for shower) 
    • Blanket (to cover window) 
    • Plasticware and bowl 
  • Once again, I also shipped myself a "care package" of my throwaway clothing (which wasn't needed), gels, handheld water bottle, snack bars, and some other stuff a few days before. At $19 each way, it's cheaper than checking a bag, and more likely that your stuff will arrive at your destination. And it's wonderful to be able to travel to a race with just a backpack carrying your essentials (race shoes and clothes, plus technology and meds). 
  • Got to catch up with my former coworker Jonathan post-race (he ran the marathon).  It's been over 10 years since we last saw each other, and neither of us were runners then.  It was really cool to see him again.
  • Took one gel halfway through the race (root beer). Took a maple bacon before, plus a shot blok with a small bit of caffeine. I was pretty careful with the caffeinated stuff - I'm prone to overheating, and I find that caffeine can make that worse.
  • Took Dulera in the morning, and then a puff of the rescue inhaler right before the race to be safe, given the forecast.   Breathing wasn't spectacular, but no major asthma issues.
  • Allergies really flared at points in this race - I guess there were patches of trees that didn't agree with me.  My eyes watered like crazy, but I don't think it affected my race.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Training log - Week ending 6/12/16

This week was 55 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was my last week of training before Grandma's Half (officially known as the Gary Bjorklund half, but nobody knows what you're talking about if you call it that....).  Not too much new to report - workouts went well and the weather is warm.  I might have pushed the workouts slightly too hard, with a very hard 400 at the end of Tuesday's workout and going slightly anaerobic at the end of Friday's workout.  But I am peaking now, and I didn't really crush either one, so I'm not going to worry too much.

I reduced my volume slightly after Wednesday of this past week; the upcoming week will be a full taper, though I'm not going to cut the volume too low.  Based on recent experiences, I think I'll do fine with a moderate taper.  I'll probably do about 8 miles on Tuesday, including a very restrained workout, and then a very easy 6-7 on Weds/Thurs.  I may or may not take Friday off - will depend on how I feel.

I'm pretty excited to return to Duluth.  After I run the half, I can cheer the full.  I have several friends running the full, including some that I haven't seen in close to a decade.  It will be great to catch up post-race.

In completely unrunning-related news, today is my parents' 50th anniversary.   I'm sure they don't read this blog, but seems remiss to post today without recognizing their special day.  Love you, mom and dad.


Monday:   Yoga and 7.5 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Tuesday: 11 miles, including a track workout of 1600, 1200, 800, 3x400 - splits were 6:15, 4:34, 2:58, 87, 84, 79.   Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 4.5 miles easy to yoga (9:16), followed by yoga.  Later did 7.5 miles very easy (9:12) plus drills and 2 strides. Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   Upper body weights and core, and 8.5 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.
Friday:  10.5 miles, including 2x3200 on the track in 13:18 (6:43/6:35) and 12:54 (6:32/6:23).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  5.5 miles very easy (8:58), and then stopped to cheer at a race for about an hour.  Then did another 3.5 very easy (9:00)  followed by drills and two strides and then upper body and core strengthwork.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday:  12.5 miles, mostly easy (8:38), but with 2 miles at marathon pace-ish (7:29/7:24).  Followed with light injury prevention work and foam rolling.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Training log - Week ending 6/5/16

This week was 63 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This week started off with a good race, which is always nice.  I learned a few lessons from that race (including the value of starting slow, even in a short race).  The biggest takeaway for me was the demonstration that one does not need to train superfast in order to run fast.

To give more detail, I essentially ran four 84 second quarters back to back with no rest on Monday.   In my workouts, by contrast, I've run very few quarters, with most of them at 88 seconds or slower. Much of my speedwork the last few weeks has been at 6:00 pace or slower, since I've been sharply limiting the amount of anaerobic running that I do (basically I try to only go into oxygen debt on the very last repeat of each Tuesday workout).

I've had two assumptions in the past: one is that it's best to train at a specific pace if you want to race at that pace; the other is that it's best to train at paces both faster and slower than your race pace.  I don't think these points were completely disproven by Monday's race - one could argue that I might have run faster with a few more hard 400s.

But it also possible I wouldn't have run any faster (especially since anaerobic stuff seems to really fry me).  It's certainly support for me sticking to the aerobic stuff that I thrive on, plus a very small dose of speed.  In any event, running slowly in practice isn't hurting me on race day.  And it's fun to show up for workouts when the goal is NOT to hurt.


Mile races really beat me up, so I kept the land running mileage low on Monday and Tuesday.  I did add a second pool-run on Tuesday morning to balance things out.  A massage on Wednesday confirmed that I was much more beaten up than I would be after a 5K or 10K.  As much as I enjoy racing miles, I need to limit them.

Though we had great weather for the beginning of the week, by the end we were back to the standard DC heat/humidity - temps in the low 70s with dewpoints to match.  I had another "4-3-2-1" workout on Sunday (intervals of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles at marathon pace, with one mile easy in between), so this weather was poor timing.  But, I just slowed everything down and made sure to refill my water bottle between each repeat, and it was fine.  Yes, the air was thick and it sucked.  But no asthma issues. Neat.  


Monday:   3.5 mile warm-up, mile race in 5:36, 1.5 mile cooldown.  Later did a yoga class and 2.5 "miles" of easy pool-running.  Foam rolled in the evening.

Tuesday: 5 miles easy (9:07) and then upper body weights, followed by 4.5 "miles" of pool-running, Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 7.5 miles very easy to yoga (9:16), followed by yoga.  Later did 4.5 miles very easy (8:55) plus drills and 6 hill sprints. Sports massage at night.

Thursday:   Upper body weights and core, and 9 "miles" easy poolrunning.  Foam rolling at night.
Friday:  11.5 miles, including 3200, 1600 on the track in 13:17 (6:45/6:32) and 6:31.  Followed with injury prevention work and 950 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  12 miles easy (8:47) followed by drills and two strides and then upper body and core strengthwork.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday:  16 miles including a workout of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles at marathon pace effort with one mile recovery.
Splits were:
4 mile: 29:43 (7:34/7:25/7:23/7:21) - average pace of 7:24
3 mile: 22:00 (7:22/7:20/7:18) - ave. pace of 7:20
2 mile: 14:52 (7:15/7:37) - ave. pace of 7:26 (*I think the second mile was GPS error due to an overpass, I'm pretty sure I didn't slow down)
1 mile: 7:09
Followed with gentle injury prevention work and 1050 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Race Report: Loudoun Street Mile, May 30, 2016

I ran the Loudoun Street Mile today, in Winchester Virginia, finishing in 5:36.7.  And I'm pretty stoked.

I came into this race with limited expectations.  I've run this race twice before, in 2012 (5:31) and 2013 (5:30), but a lot has happened since then.  Including tearing my hamstring and turning 40.  I haven't raced a mile in any form since 2013.  And while three years may not seem like a lot, my body definitely feels different from how it did back then.

Additionally, all of my training has been focused on longer distances, including my goal half-marathon, which is now 3 weeks away.  While my teammates have been doing fast 400m repeats regularly the past few weeks, we've been modifying most of my workouts by skipping the anaerobic hard 400s and subbing 800s done at a slower, aerobic pace.  Which makes sense - I'm focused on longer stuff, and anaerobic stuff fries me pretty quickly.  But when you don't run at near mile pace in practice, it's hard to know what to expect when you race a mile.

Looking back at my training log, when I ran 5:30 for the mile, I was also regularly doing 800s in the high 2:40s, low 2:50s.  Now I do them at around 3:00 flat, sometimes 2:55ish or just under for the last one.   Based on that, and the fact that I've done very little anaerobic work recently, I thought that anything faster than 5:50 would be a very good run for me.   It's not that I'm horribly out of shape, but I'm not in "mile" shape.

So why did I even run the darn thing?  My original plan had been to race either a 4 miler or this race on Memorial Day (I wanted to race something, because I get stale if I don't race every few weeks.)  I would have preferred the 4 miler - it works more to my strengths, and my 4 mile PR is still pretty weak.  But the weather forecast was looking pretty steamy for the weekend, and I could also do the tempo workout on Friday if I was only racing a mile on Monday.  So after finally doing a set of 400s on Tuesday (mostly aerobic - I only ran the last one hard), I decided/let myself be convinced to do this race.   What the heck.  Even if it totally sucked, it'd only suck for a few minutes.


I did a semi-taper this week - doing a tempo workout on Friday and 12 easy miles on Saturday, but keeping Sunday light.  I'd normally rest more for a race, but I just didn't see the point here - my legs were only going to move so fast, rested or not.  Then I woke up early this morning, ate breakfast and did some stretching, before hitting the road.   My legs actually felt pretty good - I think the speed at which I recover has improved a lot since I started the daily asthma meds.  Which makes sense, since it's a lot easier to recover when you're getting a normal amount of oxygen.

Winchester is about 80 minutes from my home, and the route takes me through a very horsey area of Virginia that I spent a lot of time in 20-25 years ago.  As I drove down Route 7, I had continual flashbacks to when my friend KT and I would drive down those same roads as teenagers, blasting Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine.   So I cranked that one up again and let the waves of nostalgia roll.  I rebelliously whined to the blue ridge about how the world was stacked against me, as I cruised in my Mercedes SUV, carefully heeding all posted traffic signs.

And then I got to Winchester and had to return to reality, adulthood, and running.  I picked up my bib, stretched out my hips again, changed into my racing shoes (went with the Takumi Sens for this one), and started jogging.


I'm one of those people that NEVER feels good in a workout until the 3rd or 4th repeat.  For that reason, I've learned that I need an extended warm-up, with a fair bit of fast running, before a short race.  This morning, I ran about 3.5 miles for a warm-up, including one very hard extended sprint (about 50 seconds) up hill about 20 minutes before the race started, and another very hard quarter mile about 5 minutes before the race started.  In essence, the mile race would be my third interval of the morning, with plenty of recovery between each.

This worked well, as I felt ready to run when I lined up at the start.  I still had no idea how fast I'd go, but I'd find out in a few minutes (hopefully less than 6...).


Having run this race twice before, I know how to run it.  The race is a straight ahead run, with no turns.  But it does have uphills and downhills.  The first quarter is downhill and then flat, while the second is up.  Most of the third quarter is a fairly fast downhill, while the final quarter is flat and then slightly climbing, with the final 300m running through a brick town square.

So... you run this one by going out slow (though everyone else goes out like an idiot).  Start to build slightly as you go up hill - by then, people are already starting to fade.  Start hauling ass when you near the crest of the hill.  Ride your top gear until you hit the brick and then try to find an even higher gear for the last 300.

And that's pretty much what I did.

It wasn't very hard to hold back the first quarter - since I wasn't expecting to run fast, I wasn't particularly shocked or surprised when pretty much everyone surged far in front of me, making it easier to stay patient.  During the second quarter uphill I pulled close to my friend Margaret, and then I managed to pass her when I hit my top gear after the halfway part.

She managed to hang on close to me, though, and when we hit the final 300m, we each reached for another gear. She had one, and I didn't, and so she surged past me and towed me to the finish.   Though I never like being passed, I have to admit that her passing me towed me to a faster time than I would have run on my own.  

There were no volunteers calling quarter mile splits this year (there have been in the past), so I ran the race just off of perceived effort.  Thus I was totally shocked to see 5:3x on the clock as I approached the finish.  I think it was actually a good thing that there were no splits announced - had I known that I was splitting consecutive 400s at a faster pace than I've been running them as single reps in workouts, I might have frozen up a bit.  Instead, I just ran and raced and that was good.

And as I ran up under that 5:3x timer, I thought to myself: "George (my coach) is right - I really can run pretty fast in short races with little to no anaerobic work in training."  (well, it wasn't phrased quite that clearly...).   I intellectually understood it before, but running is believing.


I ended up second place master female, behind Alisa Harvey - a local legend who has her own Wikipedia page and a Pan-American Games gold medal to her credit.    Though I never like being second, being second to her is pretty cool.  As a result, I got a nice backpack for less than 6 minutes of work  - not a bad day.

So after all this, you'd think I'd be racing more miles, right?  Nope - I'm one and done for this year, unless there's another road mile late in the year.  While I'm thrilled with how well it went, I find that these short superfast races really take a toll on me.  The road races, with their hard surfaces and straight lines, are easier on my ankles and hips than bouncy curvy tracks, but both are hard.  Racing miles regularly has always been correlated with injury for me, so I need to quit while I'm ahead.


Other notes:

  • Weather was surprisingly good: temp of 65, dewpoint of 62, and a slight tailwind.
  • It only took me about 20-30 seconds to catch my breath after the race.  This is as compared to the 5 minutes or more it used to take before the new asthma meds regime.  Yay.  I also noted (again) that I was much stronger uphill than I have been in the past - I think this is because I'm not going quite as deep into oxygen debt as I used to on hills, and I can also recover my breath on the backside, whereas I couldn't before.  
  • Didn't need to use the rescue inhaler at all, before or after the race.  WOO.
  • Once again - my heart rate stayed pretty low for this race - peaking at 176, which is lower than I see in a lot of workouts and longer races.   Diesel, not turbo.
  • Caramel Machiato GU as part of breakfast really hit the spot.  Between those and the Maple Bacon GUs, GU is hitting it out of the park recently.