Sunday, September 27, 2015

Training log - Week ending 9/27/15

This week was 73 miles of running, 14 "miles" of pool-running and 1000 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

Race recovery/digging myself out of a hole week.  I was pretty trashed from Sunday's race on Monday, and only slightly better on Tuesday.  By Wednesday my running felt a bit better, and Thursday felt great, running-wise.  I just felt horrible the rest of the time.

To explain in more detail, I sometimes get into an insomniac "funk" for lack of a better word.  When I get into this funk, I have a lot of difficulty falling asleep, and nothing OTC or prescription in my medicine cabinet helps (no, I haven't tried Ambien).  I also get tense and simply CAN'T relax, I struggle with concentration, and my resting HR gets elevated.  And the more sleep-deprived I get, the harder it is for me to fall asleep - it's a really frustrating cycle.  At the beginning of this cycle, I can run OK, but the further I get into it, the more I struggle.

What causes this funk?  Well, a lot of things.  I've learned that running in the evening, or any other moderate to hard exertion after about 2 pm, can trigger a bout of insomnia that is very hard to end.  Training too hard also causes this, as does a lot of life stress.

And....looking at my past few days, I had:
a) a half-marathon that was very hard on my body, combined with
b) the stress of preparing to move next week (and oh yes, that's a LOT of work), combined with
c) some evening pool-running that probably wasn't the best choice, given a) and b).

Once I get into this funk, it's a downward spiral, since the less I sleep, the harder it is for me to sleep.  Since I'm not sleeping well, I don't recover, and so I can't absorb my workouts - all I gain is more fatigue and possible injury.

And when I get into this funk, there's only one way to fix it.  Rest.  For as long as it takes.  Which is the last thing I want to do in marathon training.

By Friday morning, I was deep into my funk, with several days of lousy or non-existent sleep.  After discussing with my coach on Friday morning, I decided to skip that morning's workout.  I also reviewed my work calendar, noted that there was nothing urgent scheduled, and took off work as well.   Instead, I spent my day either watching DVDs on the couch or packing boxes, followed by a nice dinner out with my boyfriend.  And sure enough, I actually fell asleep like a normal person on Friday night and felt like I had been rebooted on Saturday morning.

This was just in time for Sunday, and the  "4-3-2-1 workout" - a long run with segments of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles at marathon pace, with an easy mile inserted between each.  In the past, I've used my Garmin to check pace as I ran this workout.   This time I decided to run it with my watch face blanked - I programmed my Garmin with the workout, so I'd know when each segment ended and also could review the splits post-workout.

I did this for a few reasons:
1) I race with my watch face blanked, so why not do the MP workout that way?
2) I've been worried that I have been running this workout too hard in the past, chasing paces rather than effort - running "blind" would help me with that;
3) if I was still fried/in a funk then running by effort would hopefully keep me from digging a deeper hole.

As it turned out, I averaged the paces I've been targeting all along.  Quite a confidence booster, that.

Two lessons for the week: running by effort can be a huge confidence booster.  And sometimes an unscheduled rest day is absolutely the best thing you can do for your training.


Monday:   Yoga and 6.5 "miles" easy pool-running in the morning; sports massage at night.

Tuesday:  5 miles very easy to yoga (9:37) and yoga.  Later, another 9 miles very easy (9:03).  2 "miles" of pool-running and foam rolling in evening.

Wednesday: 7 miles very easy (9:21) to yoga, followed by yoga.  Later did another 8 miles very easy (9:07), followed by drills, and two strides.   3.5 "miles" easy pool-running and foam rolling in the evening.

Thursday:   4 miles very easy to yoga (9:12), followed by yoga.  Later did another 6 miles (8:38 pace), followed by drills and two strides, and then some upper body weights work.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  3.5 miles very easy (10:11) plus drills and strides, then decided to bail on the workout due to sleep deprivation; foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  12 miles very easy in the morning (9:44).  Later did 2 "miles" recovery pool-running, some upperbody weights, and foam rolling.

Sunday:  18.5 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 (ran this by effort on a slightly rolling route). Splits were:

4 mile: 28:25 (7:12/7:08/7:07/6:55) ~ 7:06 pace
3 mile: 20:45 (6:54/6:55/6:56) ~ 6:55 pace
2 mile: 13:58 (6:59 pace - 6:58/7:00) ~6:59 pace
1 mile: 6:54 

Followed with some injury prevention work.  1000 yards recovery swimming and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Training log - Week ending September 20, 2015

This week was 60 miles of running, 9 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

Tapered for and raced a half-marathon as a tune-up, which meant that this week was a major cutback.  For my taper, I stayed with my normal routine for Monday and Tuesday, and then cut back the miles gently on Wednesday and Thursday, and significantly on Friday and Saturday.  I also cut out the cross-training after Wednesday (except for a quick recovery swim on Friday) and kept Wednesday's yoga class on the gentle side.

As for the race itself?  Went very poorly.  Ah well.  I have a whole litany of stuff that I tell other people when it comes to bad races - everybody has them, and they're not a reflection on your fitness or ability.  And I truly believe that.  But it's harder to listen to when it's your own bad race.

Oh well.  Recover, and move on.


Monday:   In the morning, some upper body strengthwork, yoga, and 6.5 "miles" easy pool-running.  2.5 "miles" easy pool-running and foam-rolling in the evening.

Tuesday:  13.5 miles, including a workout of 8x800 (split 3:06, 3:05, 3:05, 3:01, 2:59, 2:58, 2:58, 2:52)  followed by some injury prevention work and 1500 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling in evening.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy (8:58), followed by a yoga class and then another 4.5 miles very easy (8:22 - not sure why so fast), followed by drills and two strides.   Sports massage at night.

Thursday:   9 miles very easy (9:21), followed by drills, two strides and two hill sprints.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  5.5 miles, including a mile up-tempo at 6:17, followed by 800 yards recovery swimming and foam rolling.

Saturday:  3.5 miles very easy (9:15) plus drills and four strides, followed by foam rolling. 

Sunday:  2.5 miles warming up, half-marathon in 1:31:37.  Followed with a very easy yoga class (mostly stretching) and 700 yards recovery swimming in the afternoon.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Race Report: Navy-Air Force Half-Marathon, September 20, 2015

I ran the Navy-Airforce Half-Marathon today, finishing in 1:31.37.  Not quite the time I wanted, but oh well.

I had pretty high hopes for this race going in - I've been feeling really good about my fitness these last few weeks.  So I rested up for this race, hydrated and ate up, and hoped the weather would cooperate.

The forecast for this race had been coy all week - it had become warm and humid towards the end of the week, but a front would blow through sometime Sunday morning, with cooler and drier air behind it.  The question of the day - when would the front come through?

As it turned out, not in time for the start of the race.  Oh well.  I had raced a half-marathon in warm conditions before, so I knew how to do it - carry a water bottle and start very conservatively.  My coach's advice to me was "keep it very careful the first 5K" and I was absolutely going to comply.

The race started, and I went out gently, letting the crowds surge around me, before settling into a very controlled pace.  What felt very easy for the first mile started feeling a bit harder after the second mile, so I backed off slightly, letting a teammate pull ahead of me.  We still had 11 miles to go, and I knew I didn't want to push it early on.  "Keep it very careful."  Though it was still warm and slightly sticky, the front was starting to come in with a brisk wind, and I suspected we'd be dealing with a headwind for several miles to come, so I wanted to stay conservative now.

Things continued to toughen, though, and my chest started to tighten some.  Not a full-blown asthma attack, but I definitely wasn't getting the air I needed, with the "breathing through a straw" feeling.

Ugh.  I didn't want to, but with 8 miles to go, I needed to take care of this.  So I stepped to the side for a second, puffed my rescue inhaler, and then picked up where I left off.  Soon after, the breathing eased a bit, and I was able to focus on the group I had been running with - now a bit ahead.

My breathing still wasn't great, though, even after controlling for the weather (which honestly wasn't THAT bad).  It's hard to explain, but there is a difference between simply dealing with humid air, and asthma.  Humid air just feels like...moist air.  It still goes in and out of the lungs.  Asthma feels like my lungs are clenching up into fists, and the air gets stuck and doesn't go where it should.  I'd go through periods where it felt a bit better and my lungs would loosen up and I could talk, and then it would grab up again - never to the point of making me wheeze, but not good.  But all I could do was work through it.

The thought of dropping out did cross my mind.  But I nixed it for a lot of reasons:
a) I was running on a team, and I didn't want to have my drop out affect the team if they needed my score;
b) I didn't know how many masters females were ahead of me - there was still the possibility of an award there, even though I was having an awful day;
c) half-marathons, even if they go horribly, are still a great tempo workout, and one that I sorely needed;
d) I think dropping out of a race can really linger in one's mind, more so than a bad race.    I definitely would have dropped if the breathing became too much of a struggle.  But it was somewhat under control, so I just kept on.

(this long list all went through my head as I convinced myself).

That was pretty much how the rest of the race went - running fast when I could, backing off (sometimes way off) when needed.  There was a sharp hill climbing to a hair pin turn about mile 9 - my lungs grabbed up as we climbed, so I pulled off just after the turn to take another puff - I was struggling enough that another puff was a good idea to get me through to the end, and a sharp turn with a downhill was the best place to do it - I could use the downhill to get me back up to speed.

More slogging, and I finally made it to the finish.  This race ends with a steep downhill for the last tenth of a mile.  Amusingly, I ended up "out-kicking" a few people - not because I had anything left, but because I am a very good downhill runner (speedwise; not in terms of handling the pounding), especially when the downhill is fairly steep.    And then it was over, and I was glad.

Splits were:
Mile 1: 6:56
Mile 2: 7:27 (long)
Mile 3: 6:06 (short)
Mile 4: 6:55
Mile 5: 6:56
Mile 6-7: 14:17 (7:09) -inhaler
Mile 8: 7:06
Mile 9: 7:21 -inhaler
Mile 10: 7:05
Mile 11: 6:57
Mile 12: 7:08
Mile 13: 6:50
Last bit: 36 seconds

My frustration with racing at this time of year continues.  I have a habit of being massively disappointed in September half-marathons - I've never raced one where I felt good, even when the weather was fantastic.  I know why it is - this is a rough time for me, allergy-wise, and the bad breathing days battle with the good.  In fact, I have just enough good days to convince me it's going to be different this year.  Effectively I have an abusive and toxic relationship with my own breathing.   Heh.

Every year, I swear I won't do another September half-marathon.

What do you want to bet I'll run this race next year, and be optimistic (as I was this year) that I'm primed for a great race?

Other notes:

  • Arrived around 6 am, which was perfect timing to park, do bag check, and warm up.  I did warm-up fairly early, ending around 6:45.  I was OK with having the extra time pre-race, since I wanted to make sure I was cool at the start, and I didn't care if I went out a bit slow.
  • Ended up second Masters Female, which was nice, and shows why you don't drop out of races just because you're having a shitty day - you never know what's going on ahead of you (well...unless you're in the lead pack).
  • Temperature was supposedly 70, with a DP of 60 at the start.  Which is weird, because it felt stickier than that.  *shrug*
  • This race is in its fourth or fifth year now, and it's really nice to note the work the race management is putting into it.  The expo this year was well-run, and an easy trip.  And the course was redesigned this year to avoid any intersection between the half and the five-mile races.  Well done.
  • One puff of my Foradil long acting inhaler at 5:30 this morning plus two puffs of the rescue inhaler pre-race; two more puffs of the inhaler during the race at 40 and 60 minutes into the race.  For you Alberto Salazar fans - no, neither of my inhalers have steroids - they're both broncho-dilators.  One takes longer to kick in but lasts longer; the other kicks in very quickly but doesn't last that long.
  • Tossed my water bottle at Thompson's boathouse - worked perfectly for retrieving it after.
  • Took two gels - one was a Strawberry Kiwi rocktane at Mile 4, the other was a Maple Bacon (actually quite yummy) around mile 9.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Training log - week ending 9/13/15

This week was 81 miles of running, 18 "miles" of pool-running and 5000 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

The week didn't start out great - as I noted last week, I thought I was either getting sick or fighting off allergies.  I felt lousy on Monday night and Tuesday morning, so I started off the Tuesday workout (1200s) very easy - about tempo pace.  I felt better as I went along, so I dropped the pace some with each rep, and ended up with 5x1200 paced very "progressively."  Each rep was about 7 seconds faster than the previous.  That's not how I normally pace my workouts - I'm usually a lot more even.  On the other hand, better that way than the reverse.

My symptoms continued on and off all week - sinus pain and fatigue.  I felt better mid-week, but then I felt horrible on Thursday night.  I debated whether to show on Friday morning for tempo, but decided to make an appearance.  While many people talk themselves out of workouts, I talk myself into them: "well....I'll just warm-up and see how I feel.....well, I'll just run the first mile and see how I feel..."

As it turns out, after a (characteristically) slow start, the tempo went very well.  I've decided that whatever bug I have is actually just allergies manifesting in a different way - no stuffy nose, just sinus pain and fatigue.  This view is supported by the fact that a max dose of Benadryl makes the sinus pain vanish (but also puts me to sleep).  This coming week I'm going to play with taking the Benadryl mid-day, in hopes that the sedative effect will wear off by morning, while the antihistamine effect remains.

(in answer to your questions - other OTC antihistamines don't seem to be helping here.  Benadryl or bust, baby.)

Sunday we got lucky and the heat broke - resulting in a very nice confidence boosting 16 mile long run.  7:00 pace actually felt like marathon pace, rather than something harder, and I was very tempted to extend my long run another mile or two for the ego boost and validation.  After all, my schedule said 16-18 on Sunday, and most of the others training for Philly Marathon were doing 20+ miles.  But, for whatever reason my coach had ordered me (twice) to limit my long run to 16, so I (reluctantly) complied.  Coaching only works if you listen to the coach.

( does make a lot of sense.  I really don't need to work on my endurance - the ability to run for a long time.  That's my strength.  What I do need is more stamina - my ability to sustain fast running over a distance.  So it makes sense to restrict the long runs, so that I'm fresh enough to max out the distance covered during my weekday intervals and tempos, and get a higher volume of quality running).

This upcoming week is a cutback.  I'm running a half-marathon on Sunday, and so I'll start tapering after Tuesday's workout.


Monday:   9 "miles" easy pool-running in the morning plus 600 yards easy swimming; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  12 miles, including 5x1200 with half distance recovery (4:59, 4:50, 4:43, 4:36, 4:29).  Then did some injury prevention work and 1400 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling in evening.

Wednesday: 9 miles very easy (9:23),  followed by a yoga class.  Later did 7.5 miles very easy (8:45) plus drills and two hill sprints.   2.5 "miles" easy pool-running and foam rolling in the evening.

Thursday:   8 miles very easy (9:11) followed by a yoga class and then some upper body strengthwork, before 2.5 miles very easy home (8:49) plus drills and two strides.  3 "miles" easy pool-running and foam rolling in the evening.

Friday:  14 miles, including an 8K tempo in 6:48/6:37/6:35/6:27/6:25, followed with injury prevention work and 1250 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  12 miles very easy (9:27) with drills and two strides inserted in the middle.  Later did 3.5 "miles" recovery pool-running, some upperbody weights, and foam rolling.

Sunday:  16 miles progressive, split as first 3.5 miles at 9:29 pace; next 4.5 at 7:59 pace, next 3 at 7:34 pace, last 5 at 6:59 pace.  Followed with some injury prevention work and a yoga class.  1750 yards of easy swimming and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Training log - Week ending 9/6/15

This week was 63 miles of running, 17 "miles" of pool-running and 1500 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

This was a combination cut-back and race week for me.  I had a 5K on Saturday, so I eased off on the mileage and crosstraining on Wednesday-Friday, both to rest up for the race, and to give myself an opportunity to recover from and consolidate the gains from my last two weeks of training.

Though I blew up in Saturday's race, I'm still pretty happy with it.  Both the race and my Tuesday workout indicate that my fitness is improving and I'm on the right track.  So woo.

The negative to this week is that either I'm getting sick, or my allergies are in full force.  It is that time of year, so I suspect it's the latter.  Either way, my sinuses and throat were in pretty bad shape on Sunday, to the point that I decided to skip my recovery swim.  It's not recovery if it makes you feel worse, and swimming was going to be awfully painful on Sunday.

As of Monday, the sinuses and throat are a bit better, but still achy.  I'll have to make a judgment call on Tuesday morning as to whether to do the workout.


Monday:   Yoga, some upperbody strengthwork and injury prevention work, and 6 "miles" easy pool-running in the morning; 3 "miles" easy pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  12.5 miles, including 8x800 with half distance recovery (3:06, 3:04, 3:00, 2:58, 2:59, 2:57, 2:58, 2:52).  Then did some injury prevention work and 1500 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling in evening.

Wednesday: 10 miles very easy (9:46),  followed by drills, two strides, and some upper body weights work.   2.5 "miles" easy pool-running and a massage in the evening.

Thursday:   7 miles, mostly very easy but with a one mile pick-up in 6:27 (down hill).  Also some drills and two strides. Later, 2.5 "miles" of easy pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  4.5 miles very easy (9: 24) plus drills and six strides, followed by foam rolling.
Saturday:  4 mile warm-up and 5K race in 19:51; 6 mile cooldown.  Later did 3 "miles" recovery pool-running, some upperbody weights, and foam rolling.

Sunday:  16 miles progressive, split as first 7 miles at 9:15 pace, next 4 miles at 8:21 pace, last 5 miles at 7:33 pace (didn't finish at marathon pace because I had raced yesterday).  Followed with some injury prevention work and a yoga class.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Race report: Kentlands 5K, September 5, 2015

I ran the Kentlands 5K today, finishing in a time of 19:51.  Fourth (and missing out on the podium) for the second race in a row.  Oh well. 

19:51 is still a fair bit off of my PR (19:10, which I set at this race in 2012), but it's the fastest I've run a 5K in the past 2 years, so it indicates that my fitness is moving the right direction.  Which I knew anyway, but it's nice to have some validation.

The Kentlands 5K is held on a "gently rolling" course in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  It's a bit far from where I live now, but pretty close to where I grew up, which makes it a fun race for me.  And, despite the hills, it can be a very fast course (see, e.g., my PR). 

And so I schelpped up to Gaithersburg, registered, did some stretching, and then started my 3 mile plus strides warm-up, aiming to finish by 7:45 for the 8:00 am start.  Which I did beautifully.  Only to learn that I had misread the website, and it was the kid's race that started at 8, while the 5K that started at 8:30.  Oops.  

So I hung out for a while, waited until 8:10, and then jogged another mile plus some strides, bringing me up to a 4 mile warm-up.   Good thing I'm a marathoner - the extra long warm-up was a non-issue for my race.

The race start was split into corrals starting in 1 minute waves, with the first corral being 6:30 pace and faster.  I wasn't thrilled about this, since I knew there was a big risk of being pulled out too fast (increased by the fact that a lot of high school kids were running this race).  But it was what it was.  Fortunately, they modified the corrals to 7:30 pace and faster, which was better.

The gun went off, and just as I had expected, it was a sprint, accentuated by the fact that much of the first mile of this race is downhill.  There were the fast guys, going out at a pace that was appropriate for them.  There was the high school kids, doing what high school kids always do in a race.  And... there was a third group.  This race was apparently also the "Senior Olympics Championships for Maryland", which meant that there was a large contingent of 50+ runners going for glory.  And they all sprinted also. 

I was getting massively dropped by people old enough to be my parents (and I'm a masters runner).  It was a quarter mile into the race, and I was in something like 200th place.  And I wasn't running slow.  It was a bit disconcerting, but I just reminded myself that everyone ahead of me fell into two groups - those who were faster than me (and I shouldn't try to hang with), and those who were going to blow up at the end of this downhill first mile.

As it turned out, most of the 200+ ahead of me fell into the second category, and I got to spend the next mile and a half chasing down people - trying to hold steady on the uphills as they faded, and then building speed on the downhills and blowing past others.

By the time we passed the second mile, another woman and I were alternately leading each other.  I'll pull ahead on the downhills, she'd get me on the uphills.   The third mile of this 5K includes the longest climb of the course - it's followed by a long downhill almost to the finish.  For the last hill, I decided to hang with her rather than letting her pull ahead - I knew the downhill was coming, and I could regroup.

In retrospect, this was a bad decision.  For one thing, I had forgotten just how long this hill was - it weaves a bit, and so you think you're approaching the top only to realize you have a way to go. 

I pushed pretty hard up the hill, but lost her anyway.  And then, when we turned to the downhill, I was so deep into oxygen debt that I couldn't regroup and work the downhill the way I had planned.  Instead, I blew up, including having to drastically slow up for few seconds just to get my breathing pattern restablished.  In the end, the splits don't look that bad, but I think I could have run a bit faster had I been more patient on the uphill.  I'll remember that next year.

But it was satisfying to come around the final turn, and see that despite the blow up I was still going to break 20.  In the past years, I've broken 40 for 10K more than I've broken 20 for 5K, which has to be right up there with silly running statistics. 


Mile 1: 6:19
Mile 2: 6:23
Mile 3+last bit: 7:10 (6:28 pace)

Other notes:

  • Pretty sticky morning - temperature of 72 and dewpoint of 69 at race time.  A cold front came through today, but a bit too late for my race, sigh.
  • For the past 15+ years, I've avoided caffeine - in my teens and 20s I consumed a lot of caffeine and had problems with migraines from caffeine withdrawal.  However, recently I've been experimenting with caffeinated gels, to see if a small dose of caffeine will help me in my races (and if so, what the right amount and timing is).  For this race, I took a gel with caffeine (I tried the salted watermelon GU) about 45 minutes before race start. 

    Results?  a) I was really jumpy at the start (and also post race).  b) I did run my fastest 5K in a few years.  c) I got too aggressive near the end and blew up.   

    a) is probably the result of the caffeine, but it's hard to be certain about b) and c).   I do run my races off of perceived effort, and I think the caffeine changed my perception - so mental note to be extra careful to stay relaxed when I try this again.

    (and yes, I'm actually feeling a bit guilty about using a substance - caffeine - for performance enhancing purposes.  Which is admittedly ridiculous, and perhaps indicates that my moral compass is a bit too tightly wound.)

  • The whole day was a big flashback for me.  First...I saw two friends from my clubbing days at the race, including one I haven't seen in nearly a decade.  One, Brian (AKA Zooom - it's a club thing), I expected to see - it's
    It's not a MD race without
    seeing Zoooom!
    been wonderful running into him at various races over the past few years.  The other, Nick, was a complete surprise - I saw someone very familiar looking at the start line, so thought I'd ask.  Yup - it was him.  The last time I saw him was the last night that Alchemy was held at Nation.

    I haven't seen Nick since a dance floor in 2006. race I swung by the house where I grew up (my parents owned it from 1979-1999, which means I lived there on and off from age 5 until my last year of law school).  It's been many years since I've been there, though I've checked it out on Zillow and Google Maps.
    Some things have changed; some things are the same

    Afterwards, I headed into the city to get a contract signed for some property I own and rent out in DC.  Which gave me the opportunity to do my cooldown jog on the same route I used to run when I lived in Dupont Circle.  All in all, a very fun flashback day.