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.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Training log - Week ending 5/29/16

This week was 46 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was the week that the traditional DC area heat finally hit.  While the first half of the week was reasonably moderate, the heat and humidity kicked in for the second half.  The conditions are nothing unusual for DC in late May - dew point in the upper 60s and temps in the 70s and 80s for the morning.  What is unusual is how long it's taken to get to this point this year.  And thus, how unacclimated most of us are.

Though I was sad to see the cool temps vanish, I was also oddly glad for the humidity and heat.  As I mentioned two weeks ago, I've started using an asthma preventative drug (Dulera) twice daily as a preventative.  Hot and humid mornings, especially ones with significant pollen or poor air quality, have been difficult for me in the past.  So my runs on Friday and the weekend were good tests of how my new asthma regimen is going.

So far, it's going phenomenally well.

First of all, it's probably helpful to explain what it feels like when I'm having breathing trouble. Sometimes as runners, when we're struggling (at least when I am) we clench our hands into tight fists, adding tension and stress.  Whenever I find myself doing that, I take a second to relax, shake out my shoulders, and open my hands.

My lungs like to do something similar: grab up into what feels like tight fists in my chest.  When that happens, I can feel the air going in and out, but I don't feel like I'm getting much sustenance from that air.  And unlike my hands, I can't force myself to open my lungs.  They're just clenched.

[In case it's helpful to others, when my breathing does act up, I work though it by trying to keep my breathing measured, deep, and rhythmic - breathing shallowly and fast just makes it worse.  I also slow down slightly, so that I'm not digging a deeper hole.  I try to run as efficiently as I can, and also try not to think at all about how far I still have to go - just focus on my effort in that moment.  If I start thinking about how many laps or miles I have left, my breathing will quicken involuntarily, and then stuff just gets worse.]

Unless I'm in real trouble, I don't like to drop out of a workout.   I prefer to slow down and work through it if I can, though I'll use a rescue inhaler if there's a rest interval. Working though it during workouts is good practice for races, where slowing down but finishing is often preferable to a DNF. And I also find that dropping out of workouts when my breathing gets bad can create a mental issue - I get worried about potential breathing issues, get more tense, and start a bad cycle. Tension, worry, and asthma like to work together in a swirling feedback loop, and it's really important to keep that storm from forming]

So, I started Friday's tempo run with trepidation.  It was warm and humid, and we were under a code orange air quality warning.  Usually I struggle in these conditions and have to nurse my way through. But not on Friday.  It was a wonderful feeling to be five laps into the 3200 and realize that my lungs were still open.  It wasn't that I didn't notice the humidity - I definitely did.  But my lungs felt great.

I haven't been that happy after a track workout in a long time.

Ditto for Saturday's easy run - in fairly hot and humid weather we ran a route that has a significant uphill climb for the first half.   Usually when I'm having a bad breathing day, any significant uphill is a real challenge, even at a slow pace.  But not on Saturday.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much I was able to chat while running uphill, and how easy the run felt. (And also a bit disappointed by how much LESS easy the downhill return felt in comparison.)

One interesting thing - towards the end of Saturday's run I felt draggy and sluggish.  I couldn't figure out why at first, since my breathing still felt fine.  And then I realized it was from the heat and sunshine - by that point, it was nearly 80 degrees and I had no shade.  I'm so used to any overheating issues being preceded by chest tightness that I couldn't recognize the first if it wasn't accompanied by the second.

So, I'm pretty excited.  There's a been a few other benefits also.  Tight sports bras are not as uncomfortable as they used to be.  In the past, I've had to segregate my bra collection between easy day bras and workout bras - the latter have to be loose around the rib cage.  No more.  And in yoga class I can now hold the "om" at the end as long as my classmates, rather than always cutting out early.  And yes, I know that the fact that I even think about this is amusing.  But there you go....

So woo.  Very happy.

The other news of the week (and next week), is that I'm racing a road mile on Monday.  This is my first mile race in nearly 3 years, and given that I'm coming into it off of half-marathon training, I don't have especially high expectations.  But it will be fun (in that strange runner way), and that's why we do this, right?

I'm not tapering very much for this race.  While I did keep the overall mileage a bit lower this week, much of that was because I was pretty tired after last week's long run, and backed off to recover from that.  The only tapering I've done specific for this race is to take Sunday pretty easy.

Why so little taper?  Well, for one thing, this isn't a goal race, and I'd rather not cut the mileage too low, since I have a half-marathon next month.  Also, I don't feel like I'm in fast mile shape, so I'm not sure I'd have any more leg speed if my legs were fresher.  Plus, it seems that I'm recovering much faster now that I'm on the full time asthma meds (probably in part because I'm getting more oxygen each day), and so I'd like to see how I feel with less taper.


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

Tuesday: 9.5 miles, including a track workout of 2x400, 800, 1600, 800, 2x400 - splits were 93, 92, 3:05, 6:16, 3:00, 86, 81.   Followed with 1000 yards recovery swimming (skipped gym, since legs still feeling weekend long run). Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 4.5 miles easy to yoga (9:17), followed by yoga.  Later did 7 miles very easy (9:01) plus drills and 4 strides. Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   Upper body weights and core, and 7.5 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.
Friday:  8.5 miles, including 3200, 1600 on the track in 13:15 (6:45/6:30) and 6:20.  Followed with light injury prevention work and 1400 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  12 miles easy (8:42) followed by drills and two strides and then upper body and core strengthwork.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday:  5 miles very easy (9:37) followed by drills and two hill sprints.  Also 600 yards recovery swimming and foam rolling.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Training log - Week ending 5/22/16

This week was 63 miles of running, 17 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Project "run slower to run faster" continues.  In retrospect, my splits for the weekday workouts are still a bit faster than they should be, though they felt conservative at the time.

For the weekend long run, I had another "4-3-2-1" on tap.  I've historically blanked my watch and run these off of feel, but this time I used the pace function on my Garmin to make sure I targeted 7:15 pace - a bit slower than I've run these workouts in the past.

I don't have much faith in Garmin's instant pace function - as the GPS receptors jump from one satellite to the next, the pace reading can fluctuate widely.  However, average lap pace seems more reliable - once you're about a 1/4 mile into the rep, there's enough data to smooth out the reading (assuming one doesn't run through tunnels or similar).  So I set my Garmin to display average lap pace, and I was off.

Lessons learned:

1) again, sometimes slower efforts are harder than faster ones.  Though "harder" isn't the best term here - "less comfortable" is more accurate.  My heart rate was slightly lower running 7:1x (as opposed to 6:5x - which is where I naturally gravitate).  However, holding that slightly slower pace felt awkward and I kept wanting to speed it up.  By virtue of continuous monitoring of the Garmin, I managed to stay in control for the most part, but as I got more tired towards the end of the run, it became harder to keep the brakes on.  I ignored the Garmin for the last mile and just ran by feel and...6:56.

2) Since this is supposed to be a MP workout, and 6:55 is NOT a realistic marathon pace for me right now, this tells me I need to do some more work on holding back.  I think each pace works a slightly different system, and I'm slightly weaker in the system that supports MP running, hence the desire to cheat by running faster.

3) At times during the run, I ran into a decent headwind.  When I did, I noted that my pace actually would quicken - a result of me overcompensating for the wind.  That habit obviously doesn't do me any favors when racing on a breezy day.  Mental note to stay relaxed and not fight so much when it's windy.


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

Tuesday: 11 miles, including a track workout of 1600, 4x800 slower - split 6:17, 3:05, 3:01, 3:00, 2:55.   Followed with injury prevention work (no swimming, forgot my bathing suit). Sports massage at night.

Wednesday: 7 miles very easy to yoga (9:11), followed by yoga.  Later did 5 miles very easy (8:49) plus drills and 4 hill sprints. Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   Upper body weights and core, and 9.5 "miles" easy poolrunning.  Foam rolling at night.
Friday:  11.5 miles, including 3200, 1600 on the track in 13:13 (6:39/6:33) and 6:13.  Shame I didn't run those splits last week, on Friday the 13th...  Followed with injury prevention work and 800 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  12 miles very easy (9:26) followed by drills and then upper body and core strengthwork.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday:  16.5 miles including a workout of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles with one mile recovery.
Splits were:
4 mile: 29:05 (7:28/7:16/7:11/7:10) - average pace of 7:16
3 mile: 21:33 (7:10/7:11/7:12) - average pace of 7:11
2 mile: 14:17 (7:12/7:05) - average pace of 7:09
1 mile: 6:56
Followed with gentle injury prevention work and 1200 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Training log - Week ending 5/15/16

This week was 61 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

One of my big goals this week was to slow down all of my fast running.  More specifically, my coach and I agreed that I've been running my track workouts a bit too fast, and going anaerobic too much. This is most problematic on Friday mornings for tempos - tempos by definition should stay aerobic, but I find it hard to resist jumping the line into anaerobic.  And to be honest, running circles on a track with someone calling splits really tempts one to try to make each split just a bit faster.  Even if you're not racing the tempo, you can still be running it too fast.

So...I need to not do that.  Especially since (as I've always known) anaerobic stuff fries me very easily.  So one of my big goals this week (and for the future) was to keep the brakes on.  For both workouts, but especially the tempo.

On that note, Tuesday's interval workout was a fun surprise.  The announced workout was 1600 moderate, and then 2x800 and 4x400 fairly hard, to get some leg turnover.  However, after I ran the first two 800s, my coach threw me a curve ball.  I was to skip the 400s and do two more 800s, but slower.

It was surprisingly challenging - my habit in workouts is always to dial down the pace slightly with each repeat, with my last one the fastest.  I can upshift better than I downshift - once I've gone anaerobic, it's really hard for me to back off that slight bit back to aerobic - essentially slowing slightly while still running fast.  But, I put the brakes on and ran two more 800s, at 3:09 and 3:05.  Though each was 5 seconds slower per lap, they felt harder than the faster ones, since they had been preceded by the faster ones.  But I think they were also a lot better for me.

I also kept the brakes on Friday, running my slowest set of cruise intervals in a while.  And again, they were harder than they would have been at a faster pace, I think.   I sometimes feel like I have several different running "engines", and running the tempo too fast allows me to cheat and use the wrong engine.  I need to work on using the right one.

The other news of the week was that I've modified my use of asthma meds slightly.  I had been using Dulera (long acting inhaled asthma medication that reduces lung inflammation) only for races and the occasional workout.  Why?  Because Dulera has some nasty side effects, including bone density concerns, and I like to use as little meds as possible.  Plus, I thought by skipping it on easy days I was altitude training :)

But I've struggled a lot this spring with my breathing, and also with feeling tired all the time.  So after some tracking of my daily peak flow (a measure of how obstructed my airways are) and consulting with the pulmonologist, I shifted to taking it every 12 hours.  I'm now using it as a full-time preventative drug, which how it's normally prescribed.  And so far, I've been pretty happy with this.

Just in the past few days, I've noted a lot of really cool things.  For one thing, I'm sleeping much more soundly, and feeling more rested in the morning.  I'm also concentrating better at work, and my mood has been a bit perkier.

And all of this makes sense, when you think about it.  If my breathing's been slightly restricted, then I'm getting slightly less oxygen in my daily life - which could lead to stuff like lousy sleep, concentration problems, grouchiness, and slower recovery from workouts.

And the bonus - I haven't been tempted once in the past few days to use my rescue inhaler.  That's noteworthy, since the past few days have been tough breathing conditions.   Friday's tempo was in extremely thick and humid air, while the pollen levels on Saturday and Sunday were fairly high.

Usually, in conditions like this, I'd take a puff of Dulera an hour before the morning workout, and then still have to use the rescue inhaler at sometime before or even during the run.  But not this weekend. While I definitely noticed the humidity on Friday and the weekend pollen, there was no sensation of things closing off or binding in my chest.  Never any fear that I couldn't get enough air.  And it was amazing how quickly I caught my breath after each interval.

It was wonderful.  And also made sense, in retrospect.  By only using the Dulera on certain days, I've allowed my lungs to get irritated, and to stay that way.  When I then puff the drugs before a race or hard workout, they have to undo that broncho-constriction and inflammation.  By using it regularly, I'm preventing the issue in the first place, so there's less to fix, and no need for the rescue inhaler.  Yay.


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

Tuesday: 10 miles, including a track workout of 1600, 2x800 fast, 2x800 slower - split 6:22, 2:59,  2:55, 3:09, 3:05.   Followed with injury prevention work and 1500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 2.5 miles very easy to yoga (9:41), followed by yoga.  Later did 10 miles very easy (9:06) plus drills and 4 hill sprints. Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   Upper body weights and core, and 8.5 "miles" easy poolrunning.  Foam rolling at night.  
Friday:  12.5 miles, including 2x3200 on the track in 13:24 (6:45/6:39) and 13:18 (6:41/6:37).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  12 miles easy (8:48) followed by drills and then upper body and core strengthwork.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday:  14 miles progressive, split as first 7 miles at 8:40 pace, next 2 at 8:13, last 5 at 7:13.  Followed with yoga.  500 yards recovery swimming and foam rolling in the afternoon. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Training log - Week ending 5/8/16

This week was 24.5 miles of running and 4 miles of pool-running-- training log is here.

This was a pretty easy week to log.    I shut things down completely for a few days as a reboot before building back up for my half-marathon in June.

By the middle of the week I was cranky, depressed, and my muscles were ridiculously sore and tight. Wednesday's massage was one of the yelpiest I've had in recent memory.  I blamed the tightness and depression on several days of completely sedentary life, and reasoned that some light yoga/pool-running (with my coach's permission) would help.  They did, but only slightly.

I started running again this weekend, and both runs were rough slogs, despite the fact that they were moderate in distance and pace, with good company for each day.  But by then I was pretty sure what was going on.  

When I saw my allergist/ENT doctor a few weeks back, we discussed how my sinuses were dry and painful this spring, not congested.  He commented that those symptoms possibly indicated a mild chronic staph bacterial sinus infection in addition to the allergies.  The bacteria lies dormant deep in one's sinuses, and then revitalizes when it has pollen or mold to feed on.  He prescribed the antibiotic Clindamycin, so that I could do a week-long course of it (150mg every 8 hours, if anyone cares).  If my sinus problems are bacterial in nature, that should take care of the issue.

Of course, antibiotics are medicine's double-edged blade - very good at what they do, but not without unwanted side effects.  In the past, antibiotics have knocked me for a loop, so an off week was the logical time to take them, since I had the luxury of choosing when I'd start them.

Clindamycin's reported side effects are generally gastro-intestinal, not fatigue or muscle soreness, so I wasn't really expecting to feel quite this lousy.  But on the other hand, this is consistent with my experience with every other antibiotic I've ever taken.  So really not such a surprise after all.

The good news is that I took my last dose this afternoon, so I should be feeling better in the next few days. And the better news is that I haven't had any sinus pain this week, though that could also be due to the anti-inflammatory aspects of Clindamycin.  Or the endless days of rain that we've had cut down on the pollen.  Clindamycin does have the nasty side-effect of killing off all your good intestinal bacteria, so the next few days are going to be heavy on the probiotics.


Monday:  Nada but foam-rolling.

Tuesday: Nada but foam-rolling.

Wednesday: Light upper body weights in the morning, massage at night.

Thursday: Yoga and 4 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night. 

Friday:  Yoga and upper body weights in the morning.   Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  10.5 miles aerobic (8:20), also foam rolling.

Sunday:  14 miles aerobic (8:03) and yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Training log - Week ending 5/1/2016

This week was 40 miles of running, 15 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This is a belated entry for last week.  My coach and I agreed that I'd take a few days off before ramping up for Grandma's half in mid-June; it's funny how when I take a break from running, I tend to forget about everything else related to running: foam rolling, blogs, etc.

Last week was focused on two separate but similar goals - recovering from my crash and burn at the previous week's 5K, and tapering up for Broad Street.  My legs were pretty dead at the beginning of the week, but freshened up a little more each day.  By Saturday they were feeling OK, but apparently weren't totally good to go on Sunday.

I'm a bit bummed, since in some ways that was the best weather I've raced Broad Street in (I'd much rather run in 45 and rain then low-to-mid 60s and Sunday.  But oh well.

As I noted, I'm taking a few days completely off this week to reboot before ramping up for my half.  I suggested this to my coach, and he agreed.  I asked him how many days to take, and he told me to rest until next weekend, which was a lot longer than I had expected.  But that's coaching - don't ask a question unless you're willing to comply with an answer you don't particularly care for

The plus side is that next week's training log won't take long to write up at all.


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

Tuesday: 10.5 miles, including a track workout of 1600 at tempo, 3x800, 2x400 - split  6:37, 3:08, 3:04, 3:00, 86, 83.   Followed with 1250 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy (8:58), followed by some upper body work and core. Sports massage at night.

Thursday:   7.5 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling at night. 

Friday:  5.5 miles, including a mile pick-up in 6;27.   Followed with 750 yards recovery swimming Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  3 miles easy (8:49) and foam rolling.

Sunday:  2.5 mile warm-up and 10 mile race in 67:40.