Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Training log - Week ending 12/25/16

This week was 42 miles of running and 12 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

This was a rebuilding week, as I shifted from pool to land-running again.  While my normal schedule is to take Monday and Thursday as my pool-running days, I moved things around this week so that a) I had a pool-running day after each two day set of running on land and b) (more importantly) I could meet my friends for the traditional White House Christmas Tree run.

That meant that Tuesday and Friday were planned to be my non-running days this week.  Which was convenient, because I woke up on Tuesday with a bad head cold, and spent much of it in bed.  By Wednesday, I was feeling slightly better - enough to "go" back to work (I telecommute, so I don't generally take sick days unless I'm really non-functional) and to try an easy run.  I felt better after the run, so it was apparently the right choice.

By the end of the week I was past the point of being contagious, and ready to reintroduce myself to society.  Which was fortunate, since that was my designated day to try out "Solidcore."

[It's worth noting that during my training cycles, I'm conservative in my fitness routine - sticking to the cross-training and workout structures that I know work for me (and more importantly, won't get me hurt).  Times like now, when I'm in between cycles, are when I get to experiment with other stuff, be it side-crow pose in yoga, or hard swimming workouts, or Solidcore.  Or maybe spin class, some day.]

The class relies heavily on Solidcore's version of a Pilates reformer - like a reformer, it has a padded platform (a "carriage") that moves back and forth on rails, with different springs that can be hooked or unhooked to add or reduce resistance.  Unlike a reformer, it also has a padded stable platform on each end, marked lines on the carriage, and two sets of cables with handles at one end of the reformer (a Pilates reformer only has one set of cables).

The routine itself (at least for the class I took) could be broken down into four stages - we opened with what I'd call "active planks" - holding the plank position and then doing various pikes or crawling on one's elbows.  From there we transitioned to a sequence of squats, with one leg on the floor and the other on the reformer.  We were encouraged to squat very deep, and to use bars on the reformer to balance, so the exercise emphasized strength, not balance.

Then we moved on to the core section - more planks, side planks, pikes, and crunches using the reformer, before finishing with some arm strengthwork - using the cables that were attached to the reformer while kneeling on the reformer.  Then you're done, and you immediately leave the room.  (well...after high-fiving your neighbor and wiping down the reformer). It's a short and aggressive workout that is performed at full intensity throughout.

There's not really any mobility work or stretching - it's just pure strengthwork, using your own body weight plus a bit extra resistance from the cables or small handheld weights.  You work one body part at a time, with no rest breaks, before moving on to the next.  The work itself consists of controlled slow movements, interrupted with the occasional pulsing movement.  Thus, a great deal of the workout involves eccentric work- the controlled lengthening of the muscle, as opposed to concentric or isometric work.

[to explain the difference between the three types - when you perform a biceps curl using a dumbbell, the curl itself is an example of concentric work - the biceps contracts/shortens.  When you slowly lower the dumbbell after, in a controlled lengthening of the biceps, that's eccentric work. If you were to perform the biceps curl partially and then hold the weight still, that would be isometric work.]

Solidcore's focus on slow eccentric work here is notable - while concentric, isometric, and eccentric work all build muscle, it's generally eccentric work that makes you sore and shaky.  For a real life example, you can just remember your last marathon.  Or rather, the sore quads after.  While the soreness and stiffness in other leg muscles fades fairly quickly, quad soreness can persist long after the race.  That's not because you use the quads more than other leg muscles when running (at least, hopefully you don't), but because the quads work eccentrically, especially when running downhill, while the glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves are working concentrically.

So...do a workout grounded in eccentric work, and you're sure to be sore after.  Combine that fact with the aggressive start to the workout (no "easing into it" here), the exclusive focus on one muscle or area at a time, and the warmth of the room, and the workout is designed to seem intense and to leave you sore and stiff after.  Loud music and an encouraging instructor add to the sense of achievement.

I left the workout with mixed feelings about it.  I think Solidcore appeals to people who like feeling sore and shaky and accomplished after a workout.  But, there are other ways to earn the same level of fitness and strength without that manufactured soreness and discomfort, it just takes more time and a well-structured gym routine.

As an analogy, consider two track workouts, each being 6x800 with the same goal paces and the same recovery.  The only difference is that one is preceded by 20 minutes of easy jogging plus some drills, while the other workout is performed cold - you go from standing still right into the first 800.  The workout performed without a proper warm-up will unquestionably feel harder and most likely leave you more sore after, and you'll also get it done in less time.  But was it really a "better" workout?  Again, it depends on whether your goal is to improve your running while minimizing risk of injury, or to feel accomplished based on how tough the workout felt and how sore you felt after.

Solidcore is very good for people who have very limited time and need to be in and out.  The workout lasts 50 minutes, and it is a very timely, orchestrated 50 minutes - no running late here.  The facility itself was also very nice - impressively clean, with tons of "extras" like hair ties, mouthwash, and hand towels.  The instruction quality was very good - very clear cuing and no missed movements or spending less time on one side versus the other.  (full disclosure - the instructor is a friend).  Overall, it's a high quality experience.

Despite that, I don't think Solidcore is for me.  At least not as a regular thing - I may go from time to time to be social.   As I had suspected when I signed up, the workout focused on what I've already got: core strength, and upper body/quad strength.  In fact, it honestly wasn't too different from the workout one gets riding a strong horse (which I had suspected, based on others' descriptions).  But, in order to avoid running injury, I obsessively and continually work on my personal weaknesses - hip mobility and flexibility, ankle strength, and one-legged balance.  And my current mix of yoga and heavy weightlifting addresses those areas well, while Solidcore barely touches them.

But, that's me.  I would recommend Solidcore to anyone who wants a fitness routine that leaves them feeling accomplished and stronger, while not requiring a major investment in time.  It would also work for a runner who has a very weak core, and often "forgets" to do their prescribed core work (though it'd be more efficient and cheaper to just remember to do your core work...)

I would strongly recommend Solidcore to anyone trying to stay in shape for equestrian sports who doesn't have enough time to get out to the barn during the week - about 90% of the movements in the class I took translate to that sport.  In fact, Solidcore is just about the best way I've ever experienced to replicate the physical demands of a hard riding lesson without actually, y'know, riding a horse. Just make sure to warm-up and cool-down on your own before and after.


Monday: In the morning, 6 easy miles (9:07) - Christmas Tree Run I -  plus yoga.  Foam rolling at night.
Christmas Tree Run I

: Bed and foam rolling and Tylenol.

Wednesday:  8 miles (9:21) and foam rolling

Thursday: 10 miles (9:08) and some upper body weights and core, plus foam rolling.

Friday: In the morning, 12 "miles" of pool-running. Solidcore and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday: 10 miles (9:20) and yoga in the morning.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday: 8 miles (8:51) - Christmas Tree Run II - followed by upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling at night.
Christmas Tree Run II

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Training log - Week ending 12/18/16

This week was 4 miles of running, 38 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Second week of returning, and I'm ramping back up.  My original plan was to wait until Monday of next week to start running, but unseasonably warm weather tempted me back a day early, on Sunday. And that first run back wasn't all that tough, though it didn't feel easy either.

The next two weeks will be a gentle ramping up of my running volume, but keeping things easy.  Then back to workouts after the new year.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 7 "miles" of pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: In the morning, yoga and 1500 yards of swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday:  8 "miles" of pool-running and upper body weights in the morning.  Massage at night.

Thursday: In the morning, yoga, 3 "miles" of pool-running, and 1500 yards of swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, yoga and 6.5 "miles" of pool-running with the belt in the morning.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: Iced in in the morning.  Upper body weights and core, 7.5 "miles" of pool-running, and  foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 4 miles (9:11) and then another 6 "miles" of pool-running, followed by a yoga class.  Foam rolling at night.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Training log - Week ending 12/11/16

This week was 17 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

Race recovery week 2 (Electric Boogaloo).  Basically I short sold my recovery after Chicago, and now I have to complete the transaction.  With compounded interest.  (and yes, I mangled the metaphor).

The order from my coach was to keep things in the pool for a while, and so that's what I'm doing, as an investment in my spring cycle.  I started back with belted pool-running and very gentle yoga for the first week, plus some swimming at the end.  This coming week, I'm moving back to beltless pool-running plus more intense yoga classes and maybe some strenthwork at the gym.  

Then maybe I'll start back up with some easy running next week, depending on how I feel.  Maybe. I'm starting to miss running, and I'll unquestionably miss it more next week.  On the other hand I still feel fried, both in my legs and overall, and I want to err on the side of more rest rather than less.  A bit of fitness loss now will actually do me good down the road.


Monday: Fly back to east coast in the morning; 4 "miles" pool-running with the belt in the evening (just gently waving my legs in the water and chatting - no real effort here)

Tuesday: Very gentle yoga in the morning; 3 "miles" pool-running with the belt on the evening, plus foam rolling.

Wednesday:  Very gentle yoga in the morning; foam rolling at night.

Thursday: 5 "miles" of pool-running with the belt in the morning.   Foam rolling at night

Friday: Easy yoga and 6 "miles" of pool-running with the belt in the morning.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 1000 yards swimming plus yoga in the morning.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 8 "miles" of pool-running plus 1000 yards swimming and some injury prevention work at the gym.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Training log - Week ending 12/4/16

This week was 45.5 miles of running, 9 "miles" of pool-running and 500 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Placeholder for race week.


Monday: 5 "miles" pool-running in the morning; 1 "mile" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 7 miles, including a track workout of 4x800 (3:01, 3:00, 2:59, 3:03, followed by 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 6 miles very easy (9:32). 2 "miles" pool-running  and a massafe in the afternoon.

Thursday: Very minimal upper body weights and 4 "miles" - mostly easy, but with one mile slightly uptempo, at goal "first-10K-of-marathon pace" (7:17).

Friday: Off.  Travel.  .

Saturday: 2.5 miles very easy (9:36).

Sunday: 26.2 miles in 3:11:11 (7:18).

Monday, December 5, 2016

Race Report: California International Marathon, December 4, 2016

I ran the California International Marathon yesterday, finishing in a time of 3:11:11.

This race has always been a bucket list item for me - I've heard great things about it, and I've never run a net downhill course before.  Nor have I raced in California.  So when I realized a few days after Chicago that a) I was entered in CIM (I entered it much earlier this year) and b) that several online friends from the RunnersWorld Online Forum were entered, attempting a marathon double sounded appealing.

But also risky, both in terms of burnout and potential injury.  For that reason,  this race was a "maybe" for me all the way until I hit the taper.  I knew that I was taking a risk by running a second marathon so close to Chicago, and so resolved to pull the plug if I ever felt burnt out, or if any injuries started flaring.  But neither happened, fortunately.  In fact, I ran some surprisingly good workouts in the shortened training cycle between the two - good enough to make me fantasize that maybe this could be a really good race for me.

Because the race was tentative for me, I booked my flight tickets on Southwest. Because Southwest has no change fees,  if I decided during this cycle that doing CIM was a very bad idea (instead of "not a great idea") then I could just reuse the tickets later.  Flying Southwest meant that I had to fly out of Baltimore's BWI airport, rather than one of the DC airports, but it was a worthy trade off.

The flight was uneventful, except for the strange stares I received when I wore my flu mask once again.  Whatever - better stares than illness.  Since Southwest lets you pick your own seats, I sat myself next to a thin guy in a Boston Marathon hat who was (as I surmised) going to Sacramento for the same reason I was).  My thought was that he would be more tolerant than others of a) my flu mask and b) my constant water drinking and associated bathroom use.  I was right on both counts.

When I landed at Sacramento, I headed directly to my hotel, and hit bed not too long after.  Since I had a very early wake-up time on Sunday, I decided it made sense just to stay on east coast time as best I could, hitting bed between 7 and 8 pm (10 and 11 pm) and waking between 3 and 4 am (6 and 7 am).


Saturday was a lot of resting, HBO watching, and Chipotle eating, plus a slightly longer than planned shake out run, and a slightly longer than planned walk to the expo.

By way of explanation, Sacramento's streets are laid in in a grid, with lettered streets running horizontally and numbered streets running vertically.  So addresses like "13th and K" are very very familiar to me.  At the same time, I'm used to Northwest DC (I lived in Dupont Circle for over a decade), where the numbers and letters increase as one heads north and west.  In Sacramento, it's the reverse, with the letters and numbers increasing as you head south and east.   This small detail left me directionally challenged, and every time I left my hotel, I headed in the wrong direction for several blocks before turning around.


Sunday morning dawned early but not early, per the east coast/west coast differential.  Per the race literature, the buses departed the convention center at 5:00 am for the start line.  However, it wasn't clear if that meant that ALL the buses left at 5:00 am, or if they started leaving at 5:00 am and departed in waves for some time afterwards.  

I had planned to meet my online friends (a step up from imaginary friends) Scott and Mark at the convention center at 4:55 am, but we revised to 4:45.  Which ended up being the right choice, as that's when the queues began to flower.    We boarded a bus a bit after 5 am, and arrived at the start area around 5:40 or so (if I recall).  With a 7:00 am start, this was plenty of time to chill in the bus (we were allowed to stay on board), listen to music, drink water, and eat more breakfast.

Around 6:10 am, I decided it was time to get to business, so I stepped off the bus for my first pass through the portapotties (which were amazingly plentiful - this race gets it right).   It was fairly chilly.

I had been planning to race in my sportsbra, but decided that the tank top was a better choice, so I changed in one of the portajohns in the dark.  (there were minimal  lines at the time).  I somehow managed to accomplish this without a) letting anything touch the floor, b) having anything fall into the void, or c) pulling a muscle.  I credit yoga.  Then I did some stretching, checked my bag, and did some more stretching.  Plus a few short jogs of 50 feet or so.  I don't like to warm-up for a marathon, other than stretching out my hips - why add any more distance to the 26.2?  But I do like to include a few short test jogs to make sure my shoes are tied just right, my gels aren't rubbing too much, etc.

This period was also punctuated by a meeting with my previously online friend Jim, a 61 year old running wunderkind.  It was good to chat with him and finally meet in person.

The start area was all self-seeding, no mandatory corrals, but it worked well here.  This is a race that caters to serious runners - the anti-Rock and Roll -  and my sense was that everyone lined up honestly based on what they intended to run - no first timers with delusions of grandeur.    Since I always like to start conservatively, this was a small race, and I had no real chance at a masters award here (so gun time didn't matter), I lined myself up with the 3:23 pace group.  My thought was that over 26 miles, I could just work my way through group after group - from 3:23 through 3:13 to hopefully 3:08 or faster.


The gun went off and we started.  I had felt pretty energetic the day before, but actually felt a bit off in the first few miles - very sluggish (and the first split ended up being very slow).  It was slightly concerning, but I've also felt that way at the beginning of some of my long runs, so I didn't worry about it too much.  Perhaps it was because of the long wait pre-race, perhaps it was just because.  Either way, I took my first gel a bit early, at the 3 mile mark, and perked up a bit after that.

This race is a rolling downhill course, and I can't help repeat what everyone told me before.  None of the hills are particularly challenging or hard - in fact, towards the middle of the course I found them to be a nice reprieve from the downhills.  But they did keep coming, and each one took back some of the time gained on the previous drop.  In retrospect, I also wonder if I was too cautious on the early downhills - I deliberately held back to save my legs for the second half, but I'm not sure that I accomplished that much by doing so.  My hunch is that I could have flowed down them a bit more (as long as I didn't push them) without additional damage to my quads.

My plan for the race was to stay conservative through around mile 12-13, where the biggest of the uphills ended, and then start opening up.  Carefully.  I still didn't feel great (not horrible, but not sharp), so I just kept slurping gels and drinking water (for those of you who care, i.e. Julia, the total was 9 gels plus three bottles of water).   Around mile 8 or 9, there was a big sign "Dianetics" and a few wide-eyed happy people handing out oranges.  I declined, fearful that I'd end up dropping out and marrying Tom Cruise.

[Of course, 20 years ago, if you had given me the choice between running a marathon and marrying Tom Cruise, I would have chosen door B.  Weird how preferences evolve over a lifetime.]

The second half of the race had a few negligible uphills and a lot of nice gentle downhills, and I tried to pick up the pace some, but my legs were dying.  The soreness had popped up a while ago - this was more of "losing air in the tires" feeling.  So more gels, more water, and careful metering of my effort to the finish line.    I also recalled conversations with several marathoning friends, where we agreed that one of the interesting things is that your legs can feel horrible and wobbly and shaky, but you can still actually be running decently.  I decided I was in that category.

Having seeded myself so far back, I was still passing people even as as I was fading, which helped a lot.  And every time I saw a large group pulling close, I hoped it was the 3:08 pace group.  It never was, though.

I made it through mile 20 without issue, and a few minutes later ran under a "wall" that towered over the course - amusing.  Not as funny as the guy in the Grim Reaper costume that used to hang out at mile 20 of the Marine Corps Marathon, but a nice touch nonetheless.

Then it was over the bridge that was the last "hill" and we were into Sacramento.  I could tell that I was maxing out my legs, but that's part of finishing a marathon.  And since I run watchless, and had no idea what my actual splits were, I was able to fully believe that I was on track for a major PR.

A few weeks back, I had paced a friend through the final miles of the Marine Corps Marathon, as other runners fell apart, cramped, and started to walk.  I encouraged them "relax and flow forward" - when you're tightening up and agonizing about the finish, trying to fight doesn't help - it just makes it worse.  So I coached myself onward, repeating "relax and flow forward, relax and flow forward."

It worked, to an extent.  I got what I could out of my legs, but it wasn't much.  I was running on my heels, in my own variant of the "mile 22 shuffle stride" - not fun, but it was what I had to work with, so I went with it.  At least I was moving forward.   My quads also shifted from painful to numb at this point - which was concerning but also convenient.  On the whole, a plus (marathoner logic).

Somewhere past mile 25, Jim passed me - on his way to a 3:10 (PR!) at the age of 61. (!!!!)  It was both massively inspiring and slightly depressing, as I realized that I probably wasn't running quite as fast as I had hoped.  (On the other hand, I apparently now have a 19 year window to set marathon PRs, so yay!).  But nothing to do except keep motoring with what I had - Jim encouraged me to come with him, but that just wasn't happening.

The course ends with two 90 degree turns - one onto 8th street, and the second into the finish chute.  I counted down the streets...11th, 10th, 9th, and turn on 8th.

This was the point where I was supposed to start kicking.  But just the opposite happened.

 Apparently the bargain I had struck with my legs was contingent on running in a straight line.  A turn was deviation from these terms, and so my legs pulled out of the deal.  They went into full rigor mortification, and I hobbled gamely, if lamely, across the finish line.

As I did, I noted the finish clock at 3:11.  Not what I had hoped to run, but I don't think I could have gotten much more out of my body today, and there is a great deal of satisfaction and pride in that.


Splits were:
Mile 1: 8:11
MIles 2-3: 14:47
Mile 4: 6:59
Mile 5: 7:06
Mile 6-7: 14:10
Mile 8: 7:14
Mile 9: 7:24
Mile 10: 7:09
Mile 11: 7:19
Mile 12: 7:16
Mile 13: 7:15
Mile 14: 7:05
Mile 15: 7:18
Mile 16: 7:14
Mile 17: 7:01
Mile 18: 7:11
Mile 19: 7:10
Mile 20: 7:17
Mile 21: 7:14
Mile 22: 7:20
Mile 23: 7:28
Mile 24: 7:24
Mile 25: 7:24
Mile 26: 7:31
last .21: 1:41 (8:14 pace - just nothing left)


The aftermath of the race was a lot of fun - I got to see Jim yet again, and congratulate him on his major PR. It was really cool to witness that (albeit, from behind...).  Scott and Mark also ran significant PRs, and Katie (the other member of our running group)  had a great race only a few months post-partum.   Katie, Scott, Mark and I (plus sig others and friends) went out for lunch after, where I had too much food and too many drinks, including the watermelon drink I had been anticipating since I made the reservation a few days prior.
Myself, Mark (Seattle Max), Scott (Brewing Runner), and Katie (KK Runner).
Not Pictured  Jim (Jim E 1955) and Robin (RLK117)
This was really good.


As for whether I'm happy I did this race, the answer is a resounding yes.  Though I had hopes based on my post-Chicago training that I might be able to PR at this race (and maybe even get close to 3:05), that was never the primary goal in running it.  I've always wanted to run CIM, and to do it and also meet Jim, Scott, Katie, Mark (and have forum-mate Robin cheering for me at various locations) was the primary purpose.  Mission accomplished, and a total success.

CIM was a great race, and I definitely recommend it to others - it's as good a place as any to take a shot at a PR.  And I'll probably run it again at some point, with a training cycle dedicated to it.

As for why I didn't run faster?   I can't think of anything I would have changed between the two races or on race day.  I tapered well, and I clearly paced it in a way that eked every last bit out of my body.  Perhaps I could have been less careful on the downhills.  On the other hand, perhaps I would have imploded worse at the end, had I not been cautious early on.

I did two things that some other marathoners find slightly odd - one was running this race with my watch blanked; the other was seeding myself fairly far behind the pace I was intending to run.  I don't think changing either of these things would have resulted in a faster race, though.  Chasing goal paces early on would probably worsened the late race fade, and seeing my splits in the last few miles (or even in the early miles) would have been demoralizing.   Running off of feel, I got everything out of myself that I could.

At the end of the day, I think that Chicago just 8 weeks prior caught up to me at CIM.   Some people recover very quickly - I tend to have lingering fatigue that can hide until least convenient, like race day.  I also think that the weird cycle of 3 weeks recovery, 2 weeks training, 3 weeks taper left me a bit short on endurance.  Which isn't to say that I wish we'd done things differently - had I tried to cram more training into that time frame at the expense of recovery, I would have just gotten injured or fried.

So, having tried the two marathons in one training cycle, I now know that it's not for me.  Live and learn, and I'm glad I tried it, rather than wondering.   If you don't experiment, you never reach your potential.   But, for ME, all indications are that it's far better for me to try to parlay post-marathon fitness into shorter distance races, and so that's what I'll do from now on.

Of course, it's not over yet.  Executing the two marathons in one training cycle is analogous to climbing a mountain in one sense - it's not a successful attempt until you've returned to base camp intact and alive.  Or in my case, until I've recovered successfully.  And based on the obscene gestures delivered by my legs yesterday, that's going to take a few weeks of nothing but pool-running, swimming, yoga, and eating.  There will be no January half-marathon for me, and no full marathon in the spring of 2017.  Just plenty of rest and recovery, followed by working on my 5K and 10K PRs.

Other notes:

  • Weather was perfect - started at 42, ended at 45, really no wind.
  • I had originally planned to stay in the Cal Expo area, a few miles from Sacramento, and rent a car.  However, I opted to relocate to a hotel in downtown Sacramento right by the finish line and the start shuttles - it was my first time in Sacramento, and I didn't want to make things too complicated.  However, if/when I do this race again, I'll definitely stay in the Cal Expo area (saving a good chunk of money) and rent a car - Sacramento is not a difficult place to drive around or park.
  • If you're on the east coast and you fly out west to run this race, just stay on east coast time. The sun sets around 5:00 pm local time, so it's easy to go to bed at 7 or 8 pm local time (10-11 pm east coast time). Which in turn makes the 5 am buses on Sunday easier, AND minimizes jet lag.
  • For a moment during the latter stages of the race, I thought I was hallucinating when I saw signs for US 50.  Only to realize that it was indeed true.  US 50 is also a major road that runs through DC (I sometimes run along it) and runs east to Ocean City Maryland. I spend a LOT of time on that road on the east coast, and so it was surreal to see it on the opposite side of the continent.
  • It was really good to see/meet/hang out with the RWOL 3:20 group.  
  • Had a slight asthma attack post race, which also happened after my Turkey Trot 5K.  Neither was very bad, but still concerning.  Since I'm on Advair, they shouldn't be happening at all.  After allergy season ended, we decided to bump down the strength of my Advair to the lowest possible, but I'm (sadly) thinking I need to bump it back up.  Annoying.
  • To DC natives worrying about the hills at CIM - seriously, they're like Rock Creek Park (and not the bad ones).  If you train in Rock Creek Park, you'll be fine.
  • Wanna know how you carry 5-6 gels on each side?  Here you go.  Apply bodyglide to sides, then safety pin gels to shorts.  Then fold gels over edge of shorts so they're tucked in between shorts and skin, where they sit securely until you need them.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Training log - Week ending 11/27/16

This week was 43 miles of running and 22"miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

This was the second week of my second taper.  My normal schedule was thrown off a bit by a) a trip to Connecticut for work (including a stay at the world's most depressing Hilton Garden Inn) and b) a 5K Turkey Trot.

Honestly, I mainly ran the Turkey Trot because of the work trip - I would have preferred to stick with a Tuesday/Friday workout schedule, rather than race that close to CIM.  But...there was really no place to safely do a workout where I was staying in Connecticut- my running route was back and forth on the shoulder of a state highway, with the occasional diversion into a) a small residential development and b) an elevated parking lot.

The Connecticut run was honestly one of the most depressing runs I've done.  It was sub-freezing, with high winds, and I found nothing enjoyable about jogging back and forth on a mix of broken sidewalk and grass adjacent to laundromats and takeout pizza.  I almost never lose motivation, but it was really really hard not to pull the plug on this run two miles in.  Especially when I was two days out from a 5K and less than two weeks out from a marathon.

But I reminded myself that I get stale when I overtaper, and I needed to get the eight miles in, and trudged on through my first world struggles.   The run was made much easier when I ended up running with another hotel guest who, oddly enough, was also tapering for CIM.  What are the chances?

On the other hand, Thursday's 5K was a pleasant surprise.  I've known that I'm in good shape - I'm finally breaking 20 in 5K tempos again.  However, I don't generally race well at shorter distances when I'm in a marathon cycle - it's just hard to get into the 5K mentality.  So to get within 10 seconds of my PR, given those factors, was a huge confidence boost.  And it gives me hope that perhaps I can nudge my PR a bit lower in the next year or two.

But that's the hopeful future.  Next up, California.


Monday: Core and injury prevention work plus 10 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling.

Tuesday: 8 miles easy (8:51) followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 4 miles very easy (9:28). Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Thursday: 3.5 mile warm-up, 5K race in 19:20, and 4.5 mile cooldown.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Friday: 8 "miles" of pool-running in the morning; another 2 "miles" of pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 8 miles very easy (9:22), plus drills and strides, followed by upper body weights.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 12 miles moderate (7:52), followed by light injury prevention work.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Race Report: SOME 5K, November 24, 2016

I ran the So Others Might Eat (SOME) Turkey Trot 5K today, finishing in 19:20.

I really had no idea what I was going to run today - my workouts have been going really well in the last two weeks, but I'm training (well....tapering now) for a marathon, not a 5K, and I've never been one to race well at shorter distances when I'm in marathon shape.  Plus, I'm not really a 5K specialist - I hate them, and it shows in how I perform in them.  I much prefer either road miles (too short to think/hurt) or 10K and longer (the longer distance gives me more time to find a rhythm).  5Ks are awkwardly painful, like shoes that are both too wide and too short.

So why did I run this race?  Especially 10 days out from my marathon?  Well....I'm one of those people that tapers best by cutting the volume but keeping the intensity during taper.  So I really had to get some fast running in this week.  And due to various scheduling issues, I wouldn't be able to make any of my team's workouts this week.  I could either do fast running on my own at some point on Thursday or Friday, or race a Turkey Trot.  I chose the latter.  And I went with a 5K simply because I wanted to keep the race distance short this close to the marathon - no 5 milers or 10Ks.

So I went with SOME, which was a 5K, a fast course, and conveniently located partway between my own home and my parents' place.  As I noted before, I had no idea what I'd run.  If you had asked me on the starting line, I would have told you somewhere between 19:30 and 19:45.  Any of which would have been a good 5K time for me - though my PR is 19:10, that was set several years ago.  Since turning 40 and returning from the torn hamstring (I'm not sure which was the bigger setback), my 5K times have been:

2014 - 20:24, 20:24, 20:16
2015 - 20:29, 20:16, 19:51 (but also managed to break 40 for 10K)
2016 - 19:48, 21:05 (asthma), 20:22

I've had plenty of decent and some great performances at other distances, but my 5K races have been relatively mediocre.  Hence my modest expectations.   And my delight at running 19:20.


The SOME 5K is a very fast course in downtown DC.  It's pancake flat, and though it has two hair pin turns, they come early enough in the course that you don't lose too much speed.  When you get great weather (like we did today), it's a great race to shoot for a PR on.

SOME did start at 9:00 am, lending itself to a casual morning.  I left the house around 7:40 am, which was more than enough time to find parking, chill out, warm-up, and hit the bathrooms a few times (5Kolitis).  I noted that the (mild) wind was coming from the east this year; usually it's from the west.  Since the race starts heading east and ends heading west, this was good news - I'd have the headwind for the first part, when there would be others to draft off of, and then the tailwind would help me home.

As always in shorter races, I timed my warm-up to include two hard running segments of 60-90 seconds about 15 minutes before the race start.  Yes, I've tried racing shorter stuff off of just easy jogging and strides, and it doesn't work well for me.  The first few minutes of hard running are always really tough for me, so I prefer to get them out of the way before the race.

Then I lined up.  Holiday races are always packed with people who go out like idiots, so I seeded myself a bit further back than I normally would, so that I'd start the race with people who (in going out too fast) would be running my pace).

The race start was a bit odd - at 8:59 the airhorn sounded.  No advance warning or announcement, it just went off.  Everyone flinched, then looked at each other and shrugged.  Nobody actually crossed the starting line (that I could see).   At 9:00 am the airhorn went off again, and this time we started.  I'm still not sure what was going on - whether the first airhorn was a mistake, or whether we were supposed to start but nobody did.

But anyways, we were off.  I ran this race with my watch blanked like always, so my pacing strategy was based on feel - be patient for the first half mile, then start moving up, but try to stay relaxed throughout.  Patience was necessary in the first half mile, as people surged and faltered and surged and swerved.  All part of the Turkey Trot experience, I guess.  I dodged runners carefully - the last thing I wanted to do was to twist my ankle before CIM.

After a few hundred meters, the worst of the logjam cleared, and it was smooth sailing.  Too smooth, in fact - I had a distinct feeling of a) not working that hard but b) not being able to find the next gear.  That's normal for me when I'm in marathon training -and while some of it may be physiological, I think more of it is mental - I'm just not used to the 5K flavor of hurt, and so I can't go there.  And it's compounded by the fact that my goal marathon is so close that it's hard to care about a 5K.  And if I don't care about the 5K, then I have no appetite for 5K effort.


This course has been changed slightly from the last time I ran it, and so it was difficult during the middle section to know how far I was from the finish.  Especially since mile marker two was missing.  Fortunately, almost all of the last mile of the race is on Pennsylvania Avenue, and so once we turned there, I could see the finish and measure my energy.   Additionally, I know the route well enough to know that:

  • 12th Street - the finish
  • 11th Street - 3 mile mark
  • 9th Street - 400m to go
  • 6th Street - 800m to go
  • 3rd Street - 1200m to go.  
So, really the last mile of this course is like a track race.

I ran this race with my watchface blanked as always, and so I didn't know my time until I approached the finish.  I was pleasantly surprised to see it counting up from 19:1x.  I kicked and kicked, and when I finished and hit "stop" my watch read 19:19. Unfortunately the official race time is 19:20 - a slight bummer, but the difference between 19:19 and 19:20 is nowhere near as painful as the difference between 19:59 and 20:00.  Especially when neither would have been a PR, and both are significantly faster than I expected to run.  Appreciate what you have.

Splits were:
Mile 1: 6:20
Miles 2-3: 12:21
last bit: 0:38 (5:48 pace).

Other notes:

  • I ended up second masters female, to a local woman I wasn't familiar with who ran just over 19:00.  For a bit I thought this might be another case of bib-swapping - a good news/bad news thing.  Then I confirmed that she was legit - she just mainly does triathlons, not road races.  No cheating here, and I was second.  So that was good news/bad news too.
  • Weather was high 40s and overcast, perfect!
  • Debated on whether to wear my marathon shoes (Adios Boost) or my preferred short distance shoe (Takumi Sen).  Decided to play it safe and race with the Adios - it's still a very fast shoe that many people use for 5Ks.  And racing a 5K 10 days before a marathon is risky enough without compounding it by wearing flats you haven't worn since May.
  • Ended up a bit tight chested in the morning, so had to use my rescue inhaler pre-race.  My guess is that this is because I didn't get a good puff of my Advair this morning (I was interrupted mid-puff this morning by a cat litter box altercation, and that's all you need to know).
  • Had an expresso GU in the morning pre-race, plus some shot blocks (Tropical Punch).  Yummy in that runner way.  GU really does have the coffee flavors down.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Training log - Week ending 11/20/16

This week was 58 miles of running, 28 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This is another abbreviated entry, since life's still pretty busy, and will remain so through this week. The good news is that my workouts have been going great - hopefully an indication we've hit just the right balance of stress and recovery here.

Of course, I still have two more weeks of trying to hit that balance of doing not too little but not too much.  It's an art as much as a science - listening to your body while also keeping it chained.

This coming week is a bit of a departure from my norm for taper.  I'll be out of town for my normal Tuesday workout, in a location where I'm really not going to be able to do any type of fast running.  And the Friday tempo is cancelled due to the holiday.  So I'll be racing a 5K Turkey Trot to get my legs turning over.

(and no, I'm not "tempoing it" - I know that there's no way I can show up for a 5K and then hold myself back enough to honestly call it a tempo.  And I hate it when people show up for a 5K, race-it-but-don't-really-race-it, and then declare it a "tempo" afterwards.)

Racing a 5K 11 days before a marathon is not the greatest decision.  But it's not a horrible decision either, if done thoughtfully and with enough recovery.  Which is the theme of this multiple-marathon experiment anyway.  So what the heck.

(I really should get a tattoo of "this wasn't a good idea, but wasn't a bad idea either" - it would work on multiple levels.)


Monday: Foam rolling and 7.5 "miles" pool-running in the morning; 4 "miles" pool-running at night.

Tuesday: 10.5 miles, including 6x800 in 3:07, 3:03, 2:57, 3:00, 3:00, 2:52.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.

Wednesday: 4 miles easy (9:14) to yoga, then yoga.  Later did 7.5 miles easy (8:48).  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Thursday: 8.5 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights/core in the morning.  3 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 10 miles, including a 4 mile tempo on the track in 25:57 (6:40/6:33/6:29/6:15); followed by injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles easy (9:22), plus upper body weights. 3 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 16 miles, split as progression of first 5 miles at 9:21; next 5 at 7:45; last 6 at 7:02.  Followed with 500 yards of recovery swimming.  Sports massage in afternoon.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Training log - Week ending 11/13/16

This week was 63.5 miles of running, 29 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Work is busy the next few days, so not much time to make an entry here.  Except to note that I am now in taper (again).  And that the symmetric splits for Friday's tempo crack me up (6:36/6:26/6:16).

(and yes, I did do the math and kick very hard in the last 200m to come under 20.  Unquestionably that was a questionable decision.  But fun.)


Monday: yoga and 7 "miles" pool-running; 4 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 11 miles, including 6x800 in 3:01, 2:59, 2:56, 2:55, 2:54, 2:52.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 5.5 miles very easy (9:25) to yoga, yoga, and then another 5.5 very easy (9:01).  3 "miles" pool-running and a sports massage at night.

Thursday:  Upper body weights and core and 10 "miles" pool-running  in the morning.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 10 miles, including a 5K tempo in 19:59 (6:36/6:26/6:16/0:41).  Followed with injury prevention work and 700 yards of swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles very easy (9:52) plus drills and strides and upper body weights and core.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Sunday: 21 miles, split as first 7 averaging 9:00, next 7 at 7:38, last 7 at 6:54.  Followed with 1 "mile" of pool-running (chatting with friends) and 300 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Training log - Week ending 11/6/16

This week was 59 miles of running, 24 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I'm back of the swing of things this week.  And it's very familiar but also strange.

The "4-3-2-1" workout I did on Sunday was simultaneously easy and challenging.  Since I ran marathon pace for a bit over 26 miles not too long ago, I subconsciously have this naive expectation that any shorter distance I run at marathon pace - for example, 4 miles - should feel as effortless as the first few miles did at Chicago.  So when I started the workout, and realized that I was actually having to work a bit, it was a bit of a surprise.  It shouldn't have been a surprise, but it was.

But once I accepted the fact that marathon training requires one to buckle down and do work, it was fine.  Almost easy, in fact.  It wasn't terribly hard, it just wasn't effortless.   The paces I ran were slightly faster than what I held for this workout during the Chicago cycle, but my heart rate was exactly where it should be for marathon pace - I think the faster pace can be attributed to the 25 degree drop in temperature between then and now.

The other challenge of the past week was trying not to do too much.  It's the same battle I think most marathoners face when tapering - you're trying to do just enough to maintain your fitness, without overdoing it from a fear of losing fitness and sabotaging your race.

It's hard to ride that fine line for a 3 week taper.  It's harder to ride that fine line for 8 weeks between marathons, when the temptation is to pile everything on and rack up as many miles and hard workouts as you can in that short time between races.  So far, I think I'm hitting the right balance of doing enough but not too much.  But it's tricky, to say the least.


Monday: yoga and 7 "miles" pool-running; 3 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 11 miles, including 4x1200 in 4:43, 4:39, 4:40, 4:38.  Followed with injury prevention work and 750 yards of swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 10 miles very easy (8:56) plus upper body weights.  4 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Thursday: 9 "miles" pool-running  in the morning.  Foam rolling at night

Friday: 11 miles, including a workout of 3200, 1600 in 12:37 (6:28/6:09) and 6:07.  Followed with injury prevention work and 850 yards of swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles very easy (9:15) plus drills and strides and upper body weights.  3 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Sunday: 17 miles, including a workout of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles at marathon pace, with 1 mile easy in between. Splits were:
4 mile in 28:08 (7:06/7:01/7:02/6:59 - average pace 7:02)
3 mile in 20:57 (7:01/6:58/6:58 - average pace 6:59)
2 mile in 13:59 (6:59/7:00- average pace 7:00)
1 mile in 6:41
450 yards of recovery swimming and foam rolling in afternoon.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Training log - Week ending 10/30/16

This week was 55.5 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running,and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I'm not sure whether this was a recovery week or a training week.  Basically a hybrid.  My very short training cycle for CIM officially started with a 14 mile progressive run on Saturday.  However, my coach and I decided that I could do an abbreviated workout on Tuesday to ease back into things.  So I showed up for 4x800 - which is also traditionally the final pre-marathon workout for my team.  Lovely symmetry there.

The 4x800 was a nice surprise - the first rep was the toughest and also by far the slowest, as I shed cardio cobwebs.  But then each one felt a bit better, and the fourth felt the easiest and best.  I was tempted for a second to ask if I could finish the workout with two more.  And then I reminded myself that we're walking a training tightrope right now, and too much is worse than too little.

As part of easing back into things, I skipped tempo on Friday, and then did my "long run" of 14 miles on Saturday, so I could cheer on Sunday at the Marine Corps Marathon.  The 14 miler went well also - the 5 miles at marathon pace were mentally hard, but not physically challenging.  I did run them slightly faster than what I targeted during my marathon pace work for Chicago.  But, it's also about 20 degrees cooler than it was when I trained for Chicago this summer, and so the effort was less, and my heart rate stayed in the lower end of my "marathon heart rate" range.

Two weeks of marathon training starts this week, with a 17 miler "4-3-2-1" workout on Sunday, and then my first (and last) 21-miler next Sunday.  Then I taper (again).


Monday: Upper body weights and 8.5 "miles" pool-running in the morning.  3 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 10.5 miles, including an abbreviated track workout of 4x800 in 3:09, 2:59, 2:57, 2:56.  Followed with injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 4.5 miles easy to yoga (9:23), yoga, and then 5.5 miles very easy (8:54), followed by drills and strides.  Sports massage at night.

Thursday: Yoga and 7.5 "miles" pool-running in the morning.  3 "miles" pool-running in the afternoon.

Friday: 10 miles very easy (8:51) plus drills and 2 hill sprints, followed by upper body weights and core.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 14 miles progressive split as the first 5 at 9:26, next 4 at 7:45, final 5 at 7:01.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1500 yards recovery swimming, plus foam rolling.

Sunday: 11 miles very easy (9:29) plus lotsa standing and walking.  Foam rolling at night.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Training log - Week ending 10/23/16

This week was 48 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running,and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Race recovery week #2, and I'm happy to say that everything feels pretty good.

The only day that I felt a bit run down was Thursday, though that might have been due to insomnia that I've been dealing with - the result of stopping my prescription antihistamines.  I decided to take Thursday very easy as a precaution anyway, just doing some very easy conversational pool-running with the belt.  My reasoning was that especially in the first two weeks post-marathon, one should err on the side of more rest.  Especially since I'm trying for a quick turn-around and a second marathon, which won't be successful unless I'm fully recovered and fresh from the first.

Maybe an overreaction, maybe not, but I felt really good the rest of the week, so I think it was the right choice.  A very easy day at the right time can make all the difference.   I had a "long run" of 12 scheduled for this weekend, which I ended up spontaneously running on Saturday, since that's the distance my friends/teammates were running that day.  I was surprised at how good my energy levels felt.

 (I'm normally a Sunday-long-run type.  The Saturday/Sunday long run divide is similar to the toilet roll on top/underneath split -  there's not that much practical difference between the two positions, but each has strong and heartfelt advocates.  For me, the Sunday long run just makes sense.  Like toilet paper rolling from underneath.)

This coming week, I'll ease my way back into training, with a shortened track workout and a long run of 14 (on Saturday, again, so I can cheer at the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday)  Then the world's shortest training cycle (one 17 miler, one 21 miler) before tapering again.


Monday: Upper body weights and 7.5 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 4.5 miles easy (9:14) to yoga, yoga, and then 3.5 miles easy home (9:01).  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 5 miles easy to yoga (9:38), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy home (8:57), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: 7 "miles" of very gentle pool-running with a belt. Foam rolling at night

Friday: Yoga and then 9 miles very easy (8:59) plus drills and strides.  1000 yards of very easy swimming and foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 12 miles aerobic (7:57) followed by upper body weights.  1.5 miles pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 10 miles very easy (9:29) plus drills and strides and a yoga class.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Training log - Week ending 10/16/16

This week was 21 miles of running and 17 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

Race recovery week.  I followed what's become my normal post-marathon week plan.  Start with very easy pool-running with the belt, then add in yoga.  When I'm able to hold all the yoga poses, especially the one-legged balance poses, without being especially shaky, then I'm ready to introduce easy running again.

The first run was a bit achy and sore, and that seems to be the case whether I wait three days post-marathon or ten (I've done both).  But my legs improved rapidly, and Sunday's 10 miles felt surprisingly good - I could have gone further, though it would have made no sense to do so.

So, recovery's in progress and I'm already thinking to the next race.  In this case, it's actually fairly soon.   I may be running the California International Marathon in early December.

Why would I do such a uncharacteristic thing?  Because I'm entered (entered way back in March), because I've always wanted to run this race, because I'm curious to see how my quads handle the net downhill course, and because I know quite a few people on the west coast who are running it this year.  

I have no delusions about this being a great idea that will advance and improve my running.  But it's not a horribly stupid idea, if executed carefully and correctly.  And it will be fun.  Which is why I do this, after all.

There is some risk, of course - there are good reasons - injury and overtraining - why people space their marathons well apart.  But to my mind the risk comes not from running two marathons in eight weeks, but from training too much between the two, and short-changing recovery from the first.   That's not my plan.  Though I will be racing CIM (not just jogging or pacing a friend), I'm not running this marathon in hopes of bettering my Chicago time, and am not going to crash-train with the intent of improving fitness between now and then.

I'm not saying it would be impossible for me to run faster than Chicago - CIM is a very fast course, and I should be off of my allergy meds by then - meaning more energy and hopefully less water stops.  But if the best prep for running a fast marathon was racing another marathon all out two months before, everyone would do it.  Additionally, Chicago was a great weather day on a very fast course and I felt really good during taper and I paced my race well. It's greedy to hope that the stars will align twice, and there's really no errors that I made during Chicago that I could fix for round 2.   So running faster might happen, but most likely won't, and isn't the goal here. 

My plan is to first recover fully from Chicago with several weeks of easy mileage - the same as always.  The same as if CIM wasn't in the forecast.  If I'm still feeling good mentally and physically then we'll do just enough training to preserve what fitness I may carry over.  Most likely one 18-20 miler, a tune-up race, and go.  And if any injuries pop up or if I feel fried or if the weather forecast looks abysmal 5 days out, I'll DNS.  No big deal - I already got to enjoy a great marathon this fall.  The hotel can be cancelled until noon the day before and my flights are on Southwest, so the tickets can be used for another trip without penalty.

We shall see.


Monday: 5 "miles" pool-running with the belt (just gently waving my legs in the water and chatting - no real effort here)

Tuesday: Yoga.

Wednesday: 4 "miles" pool-running and some very light injury prevention work in the gym.  Massage (much needed and appreciated) at night.

Thursday: 8 "miles" of pool-running plus yoga. Foam rolling at night

Friday: 5 miles (9:28) - basically warmed up with my teammates for 3 miles, watched the workout, and then cooled down for another 2 miles.  Also some light upper body weights and foam rolling.

Saturday: 6 miles easy (8:51) plus foam rolling..

Sunday: 10 miles very easy (8:41) plus a yoga class.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Training log - Week ending 10/9/16

This week was 45 miles of running, 8 "miles" of pool-running and 500 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Placeholder for race week.  Blogging bloviation will return next week.


Monday: 5 "miles" pool-running in the morning; 1 "mile" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 7 miles, including a track workout of 4x800 (3:01, 2:55, 2:52, 2:50, followed by 500 yards recovery swimming.  Massage at night.

Wednesday: 6 miles very easy (8:45). 2 "miles" pool-running with the belt and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Thursday: Very minimal upper body weights and 4 "miles" - mostly easy, but with one mile slightly uptempo, at goal "first-10K-of-marathon pace" (7:19 - was shooting for 7:25).

Friday: Off.  Travel.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 1 mile-ish very easy (9:50).  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday: 26.2 miles in 3:09:21 (7:14).  And then chick drinks (no umbrella, alas) and nachos.

Race report: Chicago Marathon, October 9, 2016

I ran the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, finishing in a time of 3:09:21.  

I just barely missed a PR, but that's OK - that's just slightly less icing on the cake.  My last few marathons have all been miserable experiences - I wanted to have one that wasn't. Ideally, I also wanted to crack 3:10.  (While my first marathon was a 3:08, that was back when I was in my late 30s, and I can vouch that there's a significant difference once your warranty runs out at age 40.)  On Sunday, I broke 3:10 again, and I also ran a strong, controlled race.  Though this wasn't a PR, in many ways it feels like one.


If I was cheesy, I'd write that "every marathon is a journey." (and since I did write that, I guess I am cheesy).  The literal journey began with a flight to Chicago on Friday morning, in keeping with my rule of never traveling the day before a marathon.  (two reasons for this - one is that traveling by plane really drains me, the other is that I like having a day of fudge time in case there are flight delays, cancellations, etc).  

Since it would be just my luck to catch a cold on the flight over, I invested in a flu mask for the flight. Anxious?  Absolutely.  But I'd invested too much in this race to screw it up over something that could be prevented with $14 at the local CVS.  So (somewhat sheepishly) I donned the mask as soon as I was seated.

As it turned out, as soon as we hit 10,000 feet, a passenger two rows behind me started coughing and sneezing in an epic fit that persisted until we reached the gate in Chicago.

And that was how I ended up protectively cupping my beloved flu mask to my nose and mouth with one hand for the next two hours.  Before ripping it off in the Midway bathroom, followed by a biohazardesque cleansing of hands and face.


My flight was also interesting for another reason.

(I've decided that a modern version of the old Chinese curse is "may your plane flights be interesting.")

As we were boarding, a flight attendant reached into the overhead compartment to rearrange some bags.  This prompted a rather strong reaction from my seatmates, a pair of older women who were way too animated for a 8:40 am flight.  Their elevated voices resulted in an appearance by the head flight attendant.  I had hopes that he would defuse the situation, but he raised his voice also, and lectured my seatmates on their use of profanity.  They responded (truthfully, but loudly) that they hadn't cursed (yet), and things continued to escalate until another flight attendant intervened and calmed things down.

During the flight, every time the head flight attendant walked past our row, snarky comments were exchanged on both sides.  I wondered idly if I was going to end up on the news - "flight diverted to Ohio after onboard altercation."  But, it's a short flight to Chicago, and luckily things stayed under control until we were at the gate and I had escaped.


Once I landed at Midway, I proceeded directly to the expo (motto: walking 2.62 miles is excellent prep for running 26.2), then on to Chipotle for lunch/carbloading, and from there to my hotel.

With every marathon, you learn something.  When I ran Philly for the first time, I learned that cutting out the salty junk food (in my case, tortilla chips) during taper was a very bad idea.  So this time, my diet for the two days before the race was almost entirely Chipotle.   Chipotle is easy to find, inexpensive, quick, and reliably allergen free.   Plus tasty.  And their rice bowls have that optimal mix of protein, salt, fat, and carbs.  Add in an order of chips for extra carbs plus extra salt, and it was awesome.

As it happened, my race goodie bag included a Chipotle coupon - two bowls for the price of one.  So of course I used it on Saturday for lunch.  I idly debated whether to pretend that one of the bowls was for a friend.  However, it's awfully late in life to develop either shame or decorum.  So I ordered both for myself.  Plus more chips.

All of this was balanced out by a LOT of water.  Hydration's always important, but I've really been struggling with it this fall, due to my prescription antihistamines.  Even though race conditions were predicted to be relatively cool and quite dry, I decided to prep as though it would be humid, to balance out the effect of the meds.

One of the gimmicks of the Club Quarters chain of hotels (where I stayed) is unlimited purified bottled water. Each floor has a dispenser and a rack of empty plastic bottles - you just fill up as many as you want.  I unquestionably got my money's worth, and then some.

Dinner was very light (per my norm) plus some Generation UCAN (unsweetened) mixed with coconut water and some water with Osmo pre-load hydration.    I like how my energy levels feel after UCAN, but it also makes me really nauseous.  Which is ironic, since UCAN is marketed as a race-day breakfast replacement for people who can't handle solid food pre-race.  For myself, I have to reverse it - dinner is UCAN, followed by lousy sleep due to indigestion (which is fine - sleep the night before a marathon is relatively unimportant).  Breakfast is brown rice, a Gel, protein powder, and a GU Stroopwafel.


"ABS" - "Always Be Slurping"
I woke at 4:15 am race morning, so I could take my asthma meds, eat, digest, poop, and stretch.   And also get dressed.

To the amusement of friends, I carry a LOT of gels when I race a marathon - ten, with five safety-pinned to each side of my shorts (caffeinated on my left hip, caffeine-free on the right; rocktanes in the front, and normal gels in the back).  Crazy?  Perhaps, but so is pretty much every other aspect of marathoning.  The fueling strategy that has worked best for me in marathons is "always be slurping" and so I'd rather carry too many than too few.  Plus, there's always the risk of dropping one or more, or finding that you only have lemonade roctane left, when root beer would sit much better.

(I'd also like to note that I'm not that big - if I can carry 10 gels safety-pinned to my shorts, anyone can.)


Thus equipped, at 6:10 I left my hotel for the starting area.  Since I was staying in "the loop", my walk to the security checkpoint was less than 10 minutes.

Security was fairly stringent, with two rounds.  First each runner was wanded with a metal detector. As I approached the checkpoint, the officials were requesting that everyone remove their gels before being wanded.  The woman wanding me, however, took one look at my meticulously organized GU-hips, and told me not to bother.

The second round was a bag check, and then I was in.  Getting through security only took 10 minutes, still giving me a solid 50 minutes to check my bag and get in my corral.

Just past security, I had a very pleasant surprise.

Back about 18 months ago, when I ran Grandma's Marathon, I struck up a conversation with the woman next to me in the bus to the start.  After Grandmas, Justine and I managed to sync up on Facebook, and we've kept in touch.  As it turned out, both of us were registered for Chicago, but somehow a pre-race meet-up didn't happen (honestly, I like to stay in hermit mode until after the race).  

So guess who I ran into as soon as I cleared Security.  At a 40,000 runner race.  It was awesome.

 We hung out and chatted for the next 30 minutes while going through bag check and poop check (otherwise known as the portajohn line) before splitting for our respective corrals.  I knew that the corrals closed at 7:20 am with no exceptions, and I saw no reason to push my luck, so I entered mine at 7:05.


With about 10 minutes to go before race start, I tossed my extra clothes.  My lungs felt slightly tight, so I decided to take a preventative puff of my asthma inhaler, just in case.  Only to find out it was clogged.  Ooops.  (and mental note to check these things in advance next time).  Oh well.  Not great, but I haven't needed to use my rescue inhaler while running in quite some time, so I went ahead and started the race in my corral.  (I guess my other option would have been to step out of my corral, go find the med tent, and start in the second wave)

[and yes, I would have looked really stupid if I had had an issue during the race, but fortunately that wasn't the case.]

And then the gun went off.  Per my habit, I wanted the first mile to feel "8:00"-ish, though I wasn't targeting the number on the clock as much as I was that feeling. ( I ran with my watchface blanked, as always).   As it turns out, I ran 7:51, so not too far off.  Then I started to inch the pace down gently, trying to keep a conservative, easy feel - "Slightly slacking."

It's hard to give a mile by mile description of a race where every mile was flat and surrounded by crowds.  Much of the first half of the race was spent practicing energy conservation and retention - was I drinking/eating enough, was I breathing easy?  Was I tracking the blue painted line that marked how the course was measured (and was the shortest path)?  Fortunately, the bit of tight breathing that I had noted at the start eased after we got out of Lincoln Park, never to return.  The wind was gusting, and so when I caught up to the 3:10 pace group, I opted to run with them for a while to conserve energy.

As always, I ran with my handheld water bottle, which I was draining surprisingly quickly (thank you, allergy meds).  By mile 6, I needed to refill it, which involved stopping at a water station and pouring 2-3 cups worth of water into my bottle, before capping it and continuing.  Whenever I did this, I lost time and also the shelter of my wind blocks, but I considered it a wise investment in the last few miles of my race.

I was both frustrated and concerned that I was draining my water bottle so quickly, and needing to refill so often (I ended up having to stop to refill 5 times during the race, losing at least 10 seconds each time), but there was nothing that could be done - I knew that getting thirsty, especially before mile 20, would kill my marathon.


A bit past the half-marathon point, my quads started to feel sore and tight. Soon after that I felt a worrisome pulling behind my left knee, and my right hamstring started to tighten.  Obviously, stuff pops up during a marathon, but this was awfully early.  I panicked for about 10 seconds, and then negotiated myself off the ledge. Nothing was limiting my running yet.  And if I REALLY focused on perfect running form (core engaged, no overstriding, relaxed shoulders) and kept eating and drinking, I might be able to keep the ship together.  Nothing to do but try.

So that's what I did.  And it helped the miles fly, to be honest.  I could either focus on my core, or focus on the mile markers.  I chose the former.  The pulling in my left leg did make it significantly harder to get back into a rhythm after each water stop, as I'd have to hobble a bit before I could get up to full speed and hit a rhythm - resulting in more lost time.

I also had an amusing blooper at one water stop in the second half of the course - around mile 17-18 I refilled my water bottle, only to realize I couldn't find the cap.  I had tucked the cap temporarily in my sportsbra, where it got lost beneath my used gels (I store them there so I don't litter) and my useless inhaler.

With 8 miles to go, I couldn't just toss the water bottle and run, so I had to take an extended stop to locate and extricate the cap from my rather chafed bosom.  (Next time, I'll just litter, and compensate by cleaning up my local trail later.)  I don't know exactly how much time I lost, but it was a good bit. I just barely missed running a negative split for the course - something I almost always do if I don't blow-up - and I think it's due to the lost time there.


I was pleasantly surprised at mile 20 to discover that I was hanging in there.  Breathing was great, energy levels were great.  Others were walking but I wasn't.  I debated taking a risk and picking it up a bit, but my legs still felt very iffy.   They weren't REALLY cramping, but they were right on the edge, and had been so for some time.  So, I decided to play it safe a bit longer.  Perhaps that cost me a better time (and a PR) but I'm OK with the decision.  I can live with just missing a PR - there's always another marathon.  Another blow-up would have been the end for me and this distance.

Around mile 23, I decided I was close enough to the finish to take a bit of risk, and so I departed the shelter of the pace group.  Only to discover a strong headwind.  Looking at the Garmin report later, it's striking to note how my heart rate rose late in the race, while my pace didn't change significantly.  I felt like I was surging away from the pace group, only to hear them behind me as we approached mile 26.    I decided to see if I could kick, and somehow I did - evidence that I probably didn't leave it all on the course, and that maybe I could have been a bit more aggressive.  Oh well.  Again, given my recent history at the distance, I'm at peace with not leaving it all out there today.

Splits were:

Mile 1: 7:51
Mile 2: 7:27
Mile 3: 7:12
Mile 4: 7:03
Mile 5: 7:01
Mile 6: 7:09
Mile 7: 6:59
Mile 8-9: 14:18
Mile 10: 7:08
Mile 11: 7:17
Mile 12: 7:11
Mile 13: 7:11
Mile 14: 7:16
Mile 15: 7:05
Mile 16: 7:14
Mile 17: 7:17
Mile 18: 7:23
Mile 19:  7:08
Mile 20: 7:17
Mile 21-22: 14:38
Mile 23: 7:12
Mile 24: 7:12
Mile 25: 7:10
Mile 26: 7:13
last .21: 7:23  (huh - I thought I was kicking - perhaps not)

Final result: 3:09:21.  And a smile.


Epilogue:  As I noted at the beginning (of this long report) I discovered right before the race that my rescue inhaler was useless.  This wasn't a problem during the race, but I was worried about post-race as well.  After my last 3 marathons, I've had an asthma attack about 5-10 minutes after the race was done (no, I don't know why).  Reasoning that it was better to go to the med tent before any attack, I waived a medical official over in the finish area, explained my situation, and she escorted me to the tent.  I hung out there for about 20 minutes waiting for the attack that never came (yay Advair), and then signed some forms and was dismissed.  The upside was that I ended up with a free new rescue inhaler; the downside was that I completely missed getting to see all of my teammates in the finish area.  But better safe than sorry.

Other notes:

  • Temps started in the low 50s and ended in the high 50s, with a low dewpoint.  There was no cloudcover, but that was really a non-issue, given how cool and dry the weather was, and how much of the course was shaded.  The wind was a slight issue, but it seems sad to complain about that, given the horrid weather that's plagued nearly every other marathon this year.
  • Consumed 7 gels during the race.  That probably seems like overkill to some, but I'll take it over crashing at mile 18.  About half the gels, plus the one I took pre-race, were caffeinated.
  • My abs are really sore.  I basically ran the second half with my core holding things together.
  • Fall ragweed season should be over in a few weeks, and then I can go off of the Clarinex (the prescription anti-histamine that's so dehydrating).
    I'm a little bummed that I had to spend so much time at water stations on such a great day, but I still ran far better than I would have with my allergies flaring (or if I had skipped the water).  In fact, I suspect that the chest tightness pre-race and during the first part was due to all the green stuff in Millennium Park (the staging area) and in the early miles of the course.
  • Though I sadly never saw any of my teammates pre-race or in the finish area, a group of us did get together that evening where I had awesome nachos and doubled my net alcohol consumption for the year (I am such a lightweight).  So much fun.
  • Things that worked really well for this race: 
    • Staying close to the start/finish
    • Running with my garmin face blanked (I pace my races so much better when I do this)
    • Flu masks
    • So.much.Chipotle
    • So.many.gels 
    • So much salt
    • Getting my bib on Friday
    • Taking a week of vacation that bookended the race
    • Training very conservatively (more on that in another post)
    • Maintaining the intensity during taper (just cutting the volume)
    • Carb-loading, but not to the point where I felt stuffed
  • Things that I need to change for next time:
    • Check the inhaler BEFORE you leave for the race
    • Don't go to the expo straight from the airport.  Go get food.  Then expo.  Then more food.
    • Don't use your sportsbra as a trashcan.
  • My sinuses hurt like hell during this taper, and I was really worried I was getting sick.  Just like they have during the previous four marathon tapers.  Note to future self: your sinuses will hurt during taper, and you'll have a recurring headache.  And you'll get acne.  It happens every taper. Just take Tylenol and don't worry about it.
  • My PR is 3:08:51 (run at age 38), and so I missed it by 30 seconds.   For a day or two, I thought I had the masters female marathon record for my team (which was fun), but as it turns out, I missed that as well, as another teammate has run 3:07 and 3:08 after turning 40.  So she gets to keep the record.  For now :)
  • I got my marathon mojo back.  Yay.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Training log - Week ending 10/2/16

This week was 48 miles of running, 20 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

And, this is the best week of taper - the week where you're relaxing and have extra time, but aren't close enough to the race to be nervous.  It's the calm before the storm.  Very peaceful.

(unless you happen to have recently adopted kittens.  Then you're just grateful for the extra free time, since all of your extra time is spent feeding, litterbox cleaning, and kitten wrangling.  But I digress)

In my past few training cycles, I've felt great on my long runs during the heavy training, only to show up flat on race day and mis-fire.   To me, that indicates an issue with my taper - there's something that shifts between the training cycle and race day that leaves me stale on the day I most need to be sharp.

So, I've made two changes to my taper this cycle, each of which is essentially to change things less during taper.

The first change is dietary. The diet I prefer and feel best on is higher protein/fat than most runners - I'd train on that diet, and then carb-up very heavily in the last few days.  In retrospect, it's not at all surprising that I'd feel sluggish and slow - food coma-esque - on race morning.  And race how I felt.

Since running a marathon without carb-loading is a bit high risk for my taste, I decided to shift the other way by gradually increasing my carb consumption during the entire cycle, to a point where my daily diet was fairly high carb.  My hope is that by doing so, the carb loading in the last few days won't be as much of a shock to my system, since it won't be as great a change.

The second change is to how I structured my taper.  It's obviously very important to cut back on your physical workload during taper - you're not going to build any fitness, and you're trying to rest. At the same time, there's a reason that we don't stop speedwork completely for the final weeks before a marathon - the body needs some stimulus to keep it sharp.  So we keep the intensity but just cut back on the volume of the fast running, so that one stays ready to run hard while also resting.  Makes sense, right?

However, in training cycles past, while I've kept the speed work in until the last few days pre-race, I've gone cold turkey on other aspects of my training during taper, cutting out both yoga and strengthwork in the gym. In retrospect, not the best idea.  The yoga keeps me balanced and flexible, while lifting weights naturally (and legally) promotes the body's production of testosterone and growth hormone.  Both of these things are beneficial to my running, and so eliminating them for the last few weeks pre-race probably has hurt me in the same way that an extended period of no fast running would.  I suspect this is part of why I feel so lousy after taper.

So this cycle, I'm tapering down the yoga and weights, rather than cutting them entirely  I've stopped going to yoga class, mostly due to some justified paranoia about getting sick (it's amazing how many people think it's reasonable to go to a yoga class when they're fighting off a cold or flu).  However, I've been doing a simplified 10 minute routine several times a week to keep my hips open and my glutes firing. I'll stick with that routine all the way to the day before the marathon.

As for weights, I'm cutting back the volume, but not the intensity. In the last few days, my weights routine will be all of 5 minutes.  I'll do some planks, then two sets of bicep curls and some push-ups, and call it there. Not enough to build strength or fitness, but just enough that I haven't changed my routine too much.  I think of it as equivalent to the last set of 800s that we do a few days before a marathon.

T-6 days until Chicago.


Monday: Upper body weights and 6.5 "miles" pool-running; 1.5 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 11 miles, including a track workout of 400, 800, 1200, 1600, 1200, 800, 400 (1:35, 3:06, 4:36, 6:09, 4:26, 2:51, 79), followed by light injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy (9:39). 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Thursday: Upper body weights and 6.5 "miles" pool-running; 1.5 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Friday: 9 miles, including a 5K tempo on the track in 19:51 (6:31/6:19/6:17/0:44),  followed by injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 8 miles very easy (9:39), plus drills and strides, followed by upper body weights.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 12 miles easy/aerobic (8:34), followed by light injury prevention work.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Training log - Week ending 9/25/16

This week was 44 miles of running, 34 "miles" of pool-running and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I kept things very easy for the first few days post-half marathon - I'm tapering anyway, and so the priority this week was recovery from that race.  Much of my "easy mileage" was done in the pool, resulting in a lower land mileage total, though my "total total" matched the mileage target for the week.

By Friday, my legs still felt a bit tired, and so I set out for the scheduled 2x3200 with some trepidation.  Only to run my fastest times for that workout in several years.   Sunday's run was another confidence boost - I was targeting 7:10 pace for the last 6 miles, but had to keep an eagle eye on my Garmin to keep the pace slow (and even then, I still ran a bit too fast).

So essentially, I've had umpteen great runs over the past two weeks, and one no-good/very-bad/try-to-forget run.  It's a shame that the one outlier was my tune-up race.  But maybe we'll just chalk that one up as "bad rehearsal/good show."

In other news, we had two new additions this week.

That's Topaz on the left (dark) and Quartz on the right.

As I noted last week, Brian and I had been preparing for the arrival of a blind kitten, but she passed away last Saturday.  Since we had the opening, I started looking for another special needs cat that needed a home. 

(people ask me why I adopt special needs. Easy - they all need homes, and since I've got the resources and knowledge to take on a special needs cat, why not.)

As part of my search, I stopped by our local cat clinic, where I saw the posting now displayed on the right.  Two kittens, survivors of a major hoarding bust from this past summer.  By my math, these two were a week old when they were rescued.  Of a total of 27 kittens rescued from disease and neglect, only 6 survived, including these two.  Sadly, their eyes could only be partially saved.

Since these were nearly-blind kittens in need of a home, and I had a home prepared for (but lacking) a blind kitten, it made sense to apply.  Two visually impaired kittens=one totally blind one, right?  And then things moved very fast and they came home with me the next morning.

The last few days have been an adjustment, and an emotional roller coaster.  I went from the low of losing one kitten to the tentative joy of adopting others.  I write "tentative" because the adoption was much more emotionally challenging than I had expected. 

When you bring a new pet home, you expect it to be a happy, wonderful time.  But about 2 hours after you get home, the weight of the responsibility that you've committed to (and the self-doubt) set in.  Even as your friends on Facebook congratulate you.

For the first 48 hours, I wondered if I had made a huge mistake. Our current cat, Isabella has a long history of getting along well with any car or dog she encountered, and so I had assumed that she'd either be neutral, affectionate, or possibly slightly aggressive to the kittens.  I wasn't expecting fear.  Or depression. 

(as it turns out, adult cats are sometimes terrified of young kittens, under the assumption that an overprotective mother is hiding nearby, unseen.)

Combine Izzy's surprising reaction with my internal questioning of whether there were others better qualified to adopt these guys, and a side helping of guilt over not adopting other special needs cats(repeat after me: you cannot save them all), and it was rough.  I'd wake at 2 am, awash in the certainty that I was the ruiner of multiple cat lives.

(2 am brain is its own beast).

But I hadn't ruined any lives (though Isabella still might debate that), and we're working our way towards being one happy family.   The newly named Topaz and Quartz are slowly feeling their way around the house, one room at a time, chasing noisy toys as they go.   And though Izzy's still adjusting, we're making progress each day, and she's considerably happier now.   The key to Izzy has been making a point of spending a lot of time with her each day, so that she doesn't feel like she's been upstaged.

Topaz and Quartz are unquestionably a lot of work right now - I need to feed them 3-4 times a day, plus medications.  But that will all ease in the next few weeks, as they mature.  They're not a lot of work because they're blind; they're a lot of work because they're kittens.   And one thing that's become very clear to me over the last few days: two kittens are much LESS work than one.  A kitten needs a lot of social interaction and activity and play time - more than we can possibly provide while also working (and trying not to neglect Izzy).  Two kittens can entertain each other for hours, freeing me up to do other things.  Like checking marathon weather forecasts.

As for the visual impairment, it's surprising how little it limits them.  Quartz has one relatively well functioning eye, and is essentially no different, functionally, from a normal cat.  Topaz lost most of her sight in both eyes, but can see light and shadow, plus some movement.  Despite that, she runs around like any other kitten - the only distinction is that she occasionally pauses and bobs her head as she maps out her surroundings by combining her limited sight with sound, smell, and air flow.

With that, some pictures.

Topaz at about 5-6 weeks. 
Our friend Ellen fostered her and Quartz after they were rescued.
Photo courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/thecatlvt/
Quartz at about 5-6 weeks.
Picture courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/thecatlvt/
Fans of kittens (and anyone with a heart) should follow Ellen's Instagram.
Topaz now.
Quartz now.  Her right eye is the bad one.

Cat blogging finis.  Running blogging should return next week.


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

Tuesday: 12 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 1.5 miles easy (9:35) to yoga, then yoga.  Later did 6.5 miles easy (8:39).  4 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Thursday: 8 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights/core in the morning.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 10 miles, including a 2x3200 on the track in 12:38 (6:26/6:11) and 12:30 (6:17/6:13); followed by injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles easy (8:36), plus upper body weights. 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 16 miles, split as progression of first 9 miles at 9:14; next 2 at 7:4; last 6 at 7:03.  Followed with 500 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.