Sunday, January 25, 2015

Training log - Week ending 1/25/2015

This week was 68 miles of running, 5 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

This week was fun, in that it illustrated just how much of a difference weather conditions can make.

For much of the week I was in chilly DC, which was just about perfect temperature for running.  But I flew down to Tampa on Wednesday for a two day conference, returning on Friday afternoon.  Which meant that I did Friday's scheduled workout of two miles at tempo/half-mile jog/one mile hard in Florida, on a bike trail abutting Old Tampa Bay.

It was tough getting out there,
but I dug deep.
Tampa in the morning was in the high 60s temperature-wise, with noticeable though not oppressive humidity.  Nothing horrible, but still a shock to my January-in-DC prepped system.  Of course, this was no reason not to run the workout, since I was doing it by effort anyway, rather than targeting a pace.  So I donned my big girl panties and started.

(I appreciate your thoughts and well wishes, BTW.  Few things are more emotionally draining then having to travel to Florida in January, and then having to run your workout along a beach while you're there.  *insert inspiring twitter-esque statement followed by #HTFU*)

I ended up running the two mile in about the same pace I had run the previous week, and with the same perceived effort.  That was a pleasant surprise, given the summer-like weather, and I started to feel really positive about my fitness. 

I continued on, jogging the half mile recovery, then turned around to start the hard mile and realized I had been benefitting from a roughly 20 MPH tailwind....  And that was how I ended up doing my "hard" mile at a pace 10 seconds slower than I had just held for my tempo two miler...

Returned to DC, and did my coach's "4-3-2-1" marathon pace workout on Sunday in absolutely perfect weather.  Let's do some geeky number crunching.

  • Friday: temp of 67, dew point low 60s, strong headwind.  Ran the mile in 6:44 as the second part of what should have been a fairly easy workout, with a heart rate that maxed out at 182.  Perceived exertion: "this sucks."
  • Sunday: temp of 40, dew point in the 20s, no wind.  Ran a mile in 6:35 (after having already put 15 miles in for the day), with a HR that maxed out at 170.  Perceived exertion: "this is kinda fun - I love this workout."
Lesson: paces never tell the whole story.


Monday:   5 "miles" easy pool-running, some upperbody strengthwork and injury prevention work, and yoga; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  10.5 miles, including 7x800 (3:05, 3:02, 3:00, 2:59, 2:59, 2:57, 3:00, followed by some injury prevention work and 2000 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 3.5 miles very easy (9:08), followed by a yoga class and then 10 miles very easy (8:40), followed by 4 hill sprints. Foam rolling right after, then caught plane to Tampa.

Thursday:   6 miles very easy (9:08), followed by some drills, some upperbody strengthwork and injury prevention work, and foam rolling.

Friday:  11 miles, including a workout of 3200 tempo +1600 hard (~5 minutes jogging rest between each).  Splits were 13:09 (6:38/6:31) and 6:44.   Flew back to DC in afternoon, and foam-rolled when I got home.

Saturday:   10 miles easy (8:18), followed by drills and strides, and upper body strengthwork/injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday:  17 miles as a "4-3-2-1" workout - segments of 4, 3, 2, and 1 mile at marathon pace, each separated by one mile easy.  Splits were:

4 mile: 28:04 (7:06/7:00/6:58/7:00) ~7:01 pace
3 mile: 20:55 (7:03/6:57/6:55) ~ 6:58 pace
2 mile: 13:34 (6:49/6:45) ~ 6:47 pace
1 mile: 6:35

This was much faster then I was planning, but the perceived effort and heart rate were right where they should have been, and I was able to speak in complete sentences, so I went with it.  Followed with a yoga class and then 1000 yards quick shakeout swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Training log - Week ending 1/18/15

This week was 66 miles of running, 4 "miles" of pool-running and 4000 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

Another week in the books.  I'm starting to feel a lot stronger and fitter, which is nice.

I think this improved sense of fitness relates to how I've been approaching this spring.  More specifically, one of my big goals right now is to keep the pace of my workouts under control to the point where I feel like I'm slacking off.  It's a leap of faith, but it seems to be working well for me - I'm seeing gains from week to week.

As background for why I'm "blowing off" my workouts - I've kept my training log since I first started running back in 2007.  With a record that long, I can browse back through it and identify trends.  There are a few things that seem to be correlated with my best fitness at the 5K-half distance: 

1) consistent weekly mileage in the low to mid 60s;
2) regular long runs of 16-17 miles (just slightly over 2 hours), run as a progression;
3) focusing more on the volume of my workouts than the speed - eight to ten 800m repeats at a controlled pace do more for me then six repeats at lung searing effort.
4) running my workouts at about 75% effort - trying to stay relaxed and resisting the temptation to dig deep or try to hang onto a pack.
5) racing at 95% effort, rather than giving it my all.

[what's correlated with failure/injury? Short hard running (mile races, 200s), slacking off on yoga/crosstraining, lack of a weekly long run, balls to wall track workouts, low weekly mileage, back to back days of hard running, aggressive plyometrics, stress at work, lack of sleep, not eating protein post workout]

The first two are easy; the third is a bit harder, in part because the final two points are very challenging for me.  I tend to be a "give it everything you got every single time" type person, which makes it very hard to keep the brakes on.  Especially when my teammates are digging deep - I feel like I'm abandoning them.  But running my workouts hard seems to fry me - it's too much stress for me to recover from before the next workout, and so I dig myself into a hole, and don't improve.

I can see how other runners who are more explosive or younger can see greater gains from working hard in their training and being willing to hurt a bit.  But for me, the optimal workout effort is where I feel sheepish because I'm not working anywhere near as hard as I could, or as others are.  And that's the effort I'm really trying to target the next few weeks.


Monday:   Yoga, some upperbody strengthwork and injury prevention work, and 4 "miles" easy pool-running; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  11.5 miles, including 8 hill repeats, followed by some injury prevention work and 1200 yards easy swimming.  Sports massage in afternoon.
Wednesday: 10.5 miles very easy (9:09), followed by a yoga class. Foam rolling in afternoon.

Thursday:   4 miles very easy (9:03), followed by a yoga class.  Later, another 4 miles very easy (8:39), and some upperbody strengthwork and injury prevention work,.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  10 miles, including a cruise interval workout of 2x3200+1600 (~5 minutes jogging rest between each).  Splits were 13:16 (6:40/6:36); 13:06 (6:37/6:29); and 6:17.   Followed with some injury prevention work and 1700 yards easy swimming.    Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   10 miles easy (8:27), followed by  upper body strengthwork/injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday:  16 miles mostly easy, but with the last 4.5 at 7:32 pace.  Then bolted home for hot shower (it was 35 degrees and steady rain, and I stupidly ran in a long sleeve t-shirt and shorts under the assumption that the rain would be clearing soon - it didn't).  In the afternoon did some injury prevention work, a yoga class, and 1100 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Training log - Week ending 1/11/2015

This week was 66 miles of running and 3000 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

Surprisingly, this ended up being a solid week of training.  Surprising because of the weather we had - a snowstorm on Tuesday morning was responsible for cancelling my team's hill workout on Tuesday, and also messing up many of the local running routes through the rest of the week.  A blast of abnormally cold weather (single digits aren't normal for DC, even in January) added some more complexity.

Fear not, though, intrepid reader.  In DC, we have a great resource - the Whitehurst Freeway. 
We don't run on the freeway itself, but this elevated highway has another road directly under it - Water Street - which is always free of snow and ice.  So that's where we run when nowhere else is open. 

Runs under the Whitehurst are always time/effort based, because there's no good way to assess distance/pace.  Garmins don't get good signal under it, and you have to vary your route enough with each lap (dodging cars, other runners, pot holes) that you can't just treat it like a trail or track.  For myself, when doing easy runs I just assume that every 8:30 minutes is a mile; workouts are done by running between certain landmarks, but focusing on effort and feel.

I spent a lot of time under the Whitehurst this week.  On Tuesday morning I ran there because it was literally the only outside option (I can mentally handle treadmills, but they often seem to aggravate my ankle issues - I think it's the softness of the belt, among other things).  I had initially planned on just running easy on Tuesday, but about 20 minutes into the run I was a) cold, b) lonely and bored, and c) thinking way too much about my recently departed kitty.  So I ended up doing intervals not out of dedication, but rather because intervals would be a warming diversion.

Wednesday we ran some under the Whitehurst as well, though we also explored the sidewalks of DC
What the track looked like
post snow-storm.
(still treacherous in parts).  Thursday I ran on the beautifully cleared trails of Arlington County, but Friday I went back to Georgetown and a cleared waterfront trail for a tempo workout with my team.  I have to admit, I'd much rather do a tempo on the Georgetown waterfront than the track - it was much more visually interesting, and lacked the constant turning of the track. 

By the weekend, the trails of DC were mostly passable (with some bad sections), so we did our long runs "normally," though I ended up having to split my marathon effort section on my Sunday long run into sections, due to the occasional lengthy patch of ice.


Monday:   Yoga and some injury prevention/strengthwork; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  an estimated 11 miles, including a workout under the Whitehurst of 10x~660m (about 2:30-2:50 in time) with 2:00 recoveries. (splits were 2:48, 2:42, 2:41, 2:41, 2:39, 2:35, 2:36, 2:35, 2:36, 2:29).  Followed with lower body strengthwork and injury prevention work, plus 800 yards swimming.  Foam rolling at night
Wednesday: 11 miles very easy (9:11 pace), followed by a yoga class. Sports massage at night.

Thursday:   A yoga class followed by 8 miles very easy (9:08).  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  An estimated 11.5 miles, including a tempo effort workout of a bit over 5 miles (4 laps, with each lap ~1.33 miles).  Splits for the four laps were 9:25, 9:10, 9:05, and 9:08 (but added a bit on to the last lap, so most likely my last lap was actually the fastest).  Followed with lower body strengthwork and injury prevention work, plus 1200 yards swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   In the morning, 10 miles very easy run (8:37) followed by a quick upper body strength/injury prevention workout and some foam rolling.
Sunday:  14.5 miles, mostly easy/moderate, but with segments towards the end of ~2.5 miles at 6:59 pace and ~1.5 miles at 7:04 pace, split by about a half mile jogging carefully over ice).  Followed with yoga.  In the afternoon did 1000 yards easy swimming, plus some foam rolling.   

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Training log - Week ending 1/4/2015

This week was 58 miles of running, 5 "miles" of pool-running, 3 "miles" on the arc-trainer, and 4000 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

I lost Mina this week.  That's pretty much it. 


Monday:   Yoga, some injury prevention/strengthwork, and 3 "miles" on the arc-trainer for the "fun" of it; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  5 miles very easy (8:43 pace), a yoga class, and some injury prevention work/lower body strength work.  Later did another 6 miles easy (8:38).  Foam rolling at night
Wednesday: 12 miles very easy (8:34 pace), followed by 2000 yards of swimming. Foam rolling in afternoon.

Thursday:   6 miles very easy (8:32) followed by a yoga class and some upper body strengthwork/injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  10 miles, including 5K at tempo effort (21:25 - 6:59/6:53/6:47/0:46) followed by a mile hard (6:12).  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   In the morning, 5 "miles" pool-running (elected to stick to the pool since I wasn't really focused enough mentally to be safe running outside) plus a yoga class.  In the afternoon did a 4 mile very easy run (8:32) followed by foam rolling.
Sunday:  14 miles, mostly easy, but with the last 3 at marathon effort (averaging 7:09).  Followed with yoga and 750 yards easy swimming.   Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


Mom gave me this framed cartoon back in 2001.

My weakness is that I want to save them all.

Which made that visit to Washington Animal Rescue League such a challenge.  This was back in 2000, when WARL still let you roam a room where different cats were in individual cages, their names and a brief personality description on front.

But I could only take one, and so I had a choice to make.  I struggled.  Until I decided that I'd just pick the cat least likely to be adopted otherwise.  That was one "Socks" - a black adult female, 18 months old, who glowered and hissed from the back of her cage. 

Socks' description was less than enticing - "not appropriate for families with children," "not appropriate for homes with other pets."  There were other words too - I don't remember the exact phrasing, but it was essentially a diplomatic statement that those looking for lap kitties and close companions should choose elsewhere.

So I chose Socks.   I had just started my first "real job" as a first year associate at a large law firm, and I really couldn't offer attention.  What I could provide was shelter, food, water, and vet care, and that was apparently all Socks wanted.

So, I signed some forms and took Socks home in a borrowed carrier.  On the way, I decided to rename her "Aramina" - a tribute to my beloved childhood cat Arabella, who had also been very standoffish.

(I later found out that "Aramina" is also the name of a Filipino starlet, a town in Brazil, a town in Nigeria, and a Barbie doll.  Who knew?)


When I got home, I opened up the front door of the carrier.  The newly monikered Aramina made no attempt to exit, even when coaxed by food and water.  I gave her an hour or so, leaving the room, but when I returned, she hadn't moved. 

This was a problem, as the carrier had to be returned.  And I didn't want to kick off our relationship by forcibly dragging her from the one place she felt safe. 

After a few moments, I realized that the top of the carrier could be removed if I undid some screws.  So I took the carrier apart, prompting a black streak to exit stage right.

And that was the last I saw of Aramina for some time.  I knew she was there - the water and food bowls needed regular attention, and she had discovered the litter box on her own.  But other than the biological evidence, there was no sign of a cat.  Which was fine - I would have liked to have seen her once in a while, but I was also working pretty hard, and I hadn't expected anything more than a pet food bill and a litter box commitment. 

It was amusing - I would travel for work, and ask a friend to check the food/water/box while I was gone.  Invariably I'd get a call:

"I'm a bit worried - I haven't seen her once?  I think she's still there because the food's getting eaten, but I thought you should know...."

I'd laugh and reassure them that that was just Aramina, and everything was fine.


I can't quite remember when it happened, but at some point I started seeing a black object in the hallway, which would scamper off if I turned my head in her direction.  Then more baby steps.  She'd return my gaze.  She'd sit in the same room as me.  She'd watch as I topped off her food.

Then one day, she hopped on my couch.  It was awesome.  The cat I thought I'd never see had come so far.  Me and the shy little black kitty, sitting on opposite ends of the same couch.

She outdid herself again, soon after, tentatively crawling up on my lap.  After a shocked minute of silence, I held my finger out and she rubbed her head on it, and we were best friends.

Selfie - bedside reading mode enabled.
In fact, we were inseparable.  When I came home, she was in my lap.  When I showered, she'd hop up on the tub edge, between the shower curtain and the shower liner - as close as she could be without getting wet.  When I went to bed, she'd curl up on top of me as I read.  When I turned the light off, she'd hop off and do an inspection lap of the condo before hopping back onto my pillow and kneading the back of my neck with her claws (I learned to wrap my head and neck in a towel when sleeping).


And so we went on, best of friends.  I couldn't believe my luck.  So many emotionally rough moments in those first years - all the stresses of law firm life, 9/11, the sniper attacks.  And when I'd get teary in those horrible terrible times, she'd jump in my lap and purr with all her might while rubbing my face until I settled.

She'd still vanish for strangers.  Every time someone came over, be it repairman, friend, romantic visitor, and/or catsitter, they'd ask the same question.

"Are you sure there's a cat here?"

"Yes.  She's just a bit shy around strangers."


In early 2003, I took her in for a routine vet exam, and the vet noticed a murmur.  That led to an ultrasound appointment, and a diagnosis of an enlarged heart and tachycardia - hypertrophic cardiomyopathy ("HCM").  I asked the vet what the prognosis was - he evaded the question and told me we'd try betablockers to see if they made a difference.

And then I went home and looked up HCM on line.  And didn't like what I saw in terms of prognosis.   It was horrible - about two months earlier my horse Tony had been euthanized after he broke his leg in the field - I couldn't handle this again, so soon. 

I wasn't ready.  I was only in my 20s, and she was still so young.

But all I could do was faithfully pill her - a half pill in the morning and a quarter pill at night.  And so I did.  And when we came back for our follow-up ultrasound, her heart was much reduced in size and the heart rate notably slower.  The vet and I both beamed. 


And so time passed. Each year was borrowed time, treasured dearly. 

Brian and Mina, sacked out together.
Brian and I started dating and she fell in love with him too - running up to greet him when he entered, playing games with him, climbing over him like furniture when he sat down. 

When we went to bed, she'd cheerily clamber back and forth between the two of us before settling down for the night - either between us as a furry chaperone, or on my head like a fuzzy chapeau, purring with the utmost certainty that nothing else in the world mattered but her family and a warm bed.


In late 2012, I noticed that she was acting oddly.  Hiding under furniture and walking like she was hung over.  It was Sunday, so I ran her over to the emergency vet clinic, where she was hospitalized for days with a diagnosis that finally resolved as chronic kidney disease.  It was scary and horrible -  her values kept falling and she refused to eat. 

I wasn't ready for this.  It was too soon.  I was only in my 30s, and she was still so young.

But all I could do was tearfully ask if I was allowed to visit her in the ICU before she passed.  Apparently, there was no restriction on owners in the ICU (I was confused) and so I came immediately.  And when I showed up, she raised her head weakly, then lumbered over to rub my face, before turning to start nibbling at her food dish, to the great excitement of the vet on duty.
Mina in the ICU

Her values started improving immediately, and a day later she was released to my care, along with instructions to give her a 1/4 tab of Pepsid twice a day, as well as subcutaneous injections of fluids to keep her adequately hydrated. 

I was a bit nervous about giving her shots, especially by myself with no one to restrain her, but there was nothing else to do but try.  And amazingly enough, it quickly became easy and routine.  Just draw the fluids, scruff her, inject her, and toss her a treat while disposing of the needle in the sharps box.

It was a game to her sometimes though - she knew when it was that time, and she'd trot off with her tail high like a flag, making me chase her from room to room until I'd finally trap her.  That was only when I was healthy, though.  If I was injured and hobbling, or very stiff and sore from a race, she'd walk up to me when it was time for medication or shot, and let me pick her up, no fuss.


And so we continued on, pills in the morning and at night, shots every other day, borrowed time so very precious.  I'd get upset at something, and she'd purr until I settled.  She'd puke up stomach acid (not unusual for a kidney disease cat) or a hairball and I'd clean it.

And then the Monday before Christmas, I noticed a bit of blood in her stomach acid.  It was bright red (less concerning than dark), and I figured it was likely from a cut in her mouth.  But still worth calling the vet about.  The vet asked that I drop her off so they could check her out.

An x-ray and an ultrasound later, the news was grim.  She had significantly inflamed intestines and a tumor on her liver.  In a 16 year old cat, the most likely diagnosis was cancer, with palliative care the kindest choice.

And I wasn't ready.  I was only in my 40s, and she was still so young.

But all I could do was choose palliative care, order the pills, and go on.  And for the first days she thrived.  We had no prognosis for her, since we had no confirmed diagnosis.  But I grew hopeful as she acted younger and younger, more energetic, happier.

This is what you would have seen
if you were a webcam on
Friday afternoon, 2 pm.
And then, late on Friday afternoon, after a wonderful day spent with me working under her close supervision, she crashed.    She was gone quickly, saving me from the hard choice I was prepared for but dreading.  One final kindness from a shelter kitty who gave me so much more than I gave to her.

I wasn't ready. 

And I would never be ready, no matter how old I was. 

In the end, we're all imposters when it comes to handling loss.  And that's a good thing, I guess.

But it hurts like hell.


I wish there was some way I could have kept just a tiny bit of her forever.  I wish I was good with a camera.  I wish I could paint.  I wish I was better with words. 

I wish that "happily ever after" wasn't followed by "the end."

After all these years, I still can't believe how lucky I was.

Aramina - ?, 1999 to January 2, 2015