Sunday, March 27, 2016

Training log - Week ending 3/27/2016

This week was 60 miles of running, 6 "miles" of pool-running and 5000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Cross my fingers, I think I've kicked this viral thing.  I ran 60 miles this week - a considerable increase from the 6 miles I ran last week.  (I just took the "10% weekly increase" rule and inverted it....).   I started the week off tentatively, with a careful track workout on Tuesday (and a non-running day after, to be super careful).  But by the weekend, I was fine.

Which doesn't mean I feel great, of course.  I've unfortunately lost some fitness, which is a shame, since the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler is coming up next weekend.  But there's nothing that I can do or could have done about that - you can't play catch-up with fitness, and I'm sure that if I hadn't taken the down time, I'd feel a lot worse now.  I've got the Broad Street 10 Miler in a month - hopefully I'll be in better shape for that.

In other news, I registered for the Chicago Marathon this fall.  Yes, I still hate marathons.  But apparently I don't know when to say when.

Why Chicago?  Well...


  • Flat and fast course
  • Very well organized race
  • Easy logistics (direct, relatively short flight and hotels near the start/finish)
  • Several friends are running it
  • Chicago normally allocates entry via lottery, but they are allowing guaranteed entry to "time qualifiers" this year (they're ending guaranteed entry after this year).
  • I have to run a marathon
  • I have to train for a marathon, in August, in DC
  • Race day could be hot
  • Early fall is very bad for me, allergy-wise (though hopefully Chicago will be better than DC)
  • I have to miss the Army 10 Miler, since it's on the same day
  • I probably have to miss the Richmond Half-marathon in November, since it's 6 weeks post-Chicago, which is a quick turnaround
  • We're redoing our kitchen, with the construction happening in July and August.  It's gonna be hard to train for a marathon (and to fuel marathon training) if I don't have a kitchen when the hard training starts.
  • I have to run a marathon

After considering all this, I decided to register and get a hotel.  Which doesn't mean I have to run the race.  But let's face it, I probably will.

And the whole training cycle, I'm gonna have this scene stuck in my head.

(The Untouchables - Connery, Costner, De Niro.  Fantastic movie - I can't believe it's nearly 30 years old)


Monday:   7.5 miles very easy (9:17) plus drills, followed by upper body weights.  Foam rolled in the evening.

Tuesday: 9 miles, including a track workout of 2x(1200,800,400) - split 4:48, 3:02, 1:30, 4:42, 3:03, 1:25.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: a yoga class followed by 6 "miles" pool-running.  Sports massage at night.

Thursday:   5 miles easy (9:19 pace) to yoga, and then a yoga class.  Followed with 3.5 miles easy (8:35) plus drills and two strides.  Foam rolling at night.  

Friday:  10 miles, including a 5K tempo on the track in 20:51 (split 13:20, 6:45, 46 seconds - hot, humid, windy, sucked).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  11 miles easy (8:13) followed by drills and two strides, and then upper body and core strengthwork.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday:  14 miles progressive, split as the first 2 miles at 9:24 pace, next 5 at 8:31, next 2 at 7:49; last 5 at 6:57.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1500 yards recovery swimming in the afternoon. Foam rolling at night.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Training log - Week ending 3/20/16

This week was 6 miles of running, 19 "miles" of pool-running, and 4000 yards of swimming;  -- training log is here.

This week looks a whole lot like a normal first week post-marathon.  Which is appropriate, since last week's half-marathon felt a whole lot like a marathon.

After that race, my coach had asked me to take some time off.  The fact that I didn't want to argue with him for even a second over this was a pretty strong indication that I really needed the rest.   For much of this week, I was really tired, and didn't mind the lack of activity at all.  I just slept a lot, ate a lot, tried to minimize the work stress, and pool-ran a little bit.

I did manage to get into the doctor for a physical exam and bloodwork - the physical exam found a white patch on the back of my throat, but fortunately all the tests came back negative for mono, strep, etc.   The conclusion was that I have some random persistent virus, just like umpteen other people each year.  And the remedy is traditional (if unfulfilling) - fluids and rest until I feel better. 

As for that whole yellow skin after last week's race thing?  There's no indication of either any liver issues (very good news) or that oh-so-cool Gilbert's syndrome.  The explanation is simple - I raced a half-marathon when I was still recovering from this virus, and my body's response was to wave a yellow flag of "hey dummy - this was not a good idea."

[in my defense, I honestly thought I had kicked the bug pre-race.  Plus I was pretty sick right before the 3M half, and that still went well.  Being sick before a race doesn't always mean that you'll run a bad one.  Some of my best races, including 3M, have been preceded by a bad headcold a few days before.  But I guess that's also the difference between a head cold and a virus.]

Friday morning was the first day I started missing running/physical activity.  I ramped things up slightly by adding some yoga/easy swimming to the mix, and then tried an easy run on Saturday.  I didn't feel great on Saturday, but I don't know how much of that is an indication of still being weak, versus being stale and stiff from doing almost nothing for a week.  I didn't feel any worse on Sunday morning, though, which is a good sign.  If I'd overdone it, I'd expect to feel lousy the next day.

I kept Sunday in the pool just to give the legs a bit more rest - they felt very stiff and heavy on Saturday.  But I was very cranky and annoyed about not running (trust me - this is a good sign).  Tomorrow (Monday) I'm going to run again - depending on how that goes, I may show up for the Tuesday morning workout and do something careful and restrained.


Monday:   Off, except for some foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  5 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 6 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   5 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  Yoga, 1500 yards of easy swimming, and 3 "miles" easy pool-running, plus some foam rolling.

Saturday:  6 miles aerobic (easy pace of 8:33, but didn't feel easy).  Followed with injury prevention work, yoga, and foam rolling.

Sunday:  2500 yards of swimming, including drills and some up tempo stuff. (500 yards of 75 easy/25 hard).  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Training log - Week ending 3/13/16

This week was 35.5 miles of running and 7 "miles" of pool-running  -- training log is here.

The headache I reported last week after my 10K blew up into a full fledged ick - I slept nine hours on Sunday night, and woke up exhausted.  Unfortunately, taking the day off from work wasn't an option, but I did skip my normal pool-running/yoga routine.  I felt lousy the next day also, and then a bit better each day after.  (sleeping a lot helped).

Since the week was bookended by a Sunday 10K and a Saturday half-marathon, I had already planned to skip both track workouts, and just do a mile pick-up a few days before the half.  But I ended up skipping that mile also, instead doing some strides and short hill sprints.  Feeling better and getting rid of the ick was more important than leg turnover.

By Friday morning, I felt OK, and Saturday morning pre-race I felt ready to run.  However, that good feeling didn't last, and I ran out of gas again during the race, struggling in the last few miles. Not only was I slogging in those last miles, I'm told that my skin was also very yellow during the last mile of the half and immediately post-race.  I often get pale and light-headed in the finishing corral, but yellow is a new one.

My hunch is that this is nothing too serious.  It's just that I was still recovering from my bug when I ran the half, and my performance reflected this. 

As for the yellow skin color, I spoke to my doctor dad after, and learned something new.  Dad apparently has a harmless condition called Gilbert's Syndrome (pronounced Zhil-bear, not Gilbert) with a single symptom - when his body is under too much stress, he develops jaundice.  Gilbert's Syndrome is genetic and hereditary, so it wouldn't be terribly surprising to learn I have it also (though it is surprising I wouldn't have discovered it earlier).

But I know enough not to self-diagnose via Google or Web MD or doctor dad, so I'm going to try to see my primary care doctor this week.  As for feeling crappy, my coach told me to take several days of very low activity - a bit of easy pool-running is OK, but no running or hard exertion (which to me includes lifting, swimming, and power yoga).  I wasn't at all upset by this instruction, and had absolutely no urge to argue.  And that's a strong indication that I'm likely still a bit sick :).


Monday:   Felt crappy. Off, except for some foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  3 miles easy to yoga (8:56), yoga (childs-posed half of it), 3 miles easy (8:45) home.  Foam rolling in afternoon.
Brian and myself,
9 years ago

Wednesday: 7 miles easy (8:59 pace) and drills.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   7 miles easy (9:05) followed by drills, strides, hill sprints.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  3.5 "miles" very easy pool-running, plus some foam rolling.

Saturday:  2.5 mile warm-up, and then half-marathon in 1:30:52.  9 year anniversary dinner at night. :)

Sunday:  3.5 "miles" very easy pool-running, plus a massage.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Race Report: RNR DC Half Marathon, March 12, 2016

I ran the Rock N Roll DC Half Marathon this morning, finishing in a time of 1:30:52.

This is slower than I had expected to run (I had guestimated 1:27 ish on a good day, 1:29 ish on a bad day), but I'm at peace with it.  I gave everything I had to give today; I just didn't have a faster race in me. 


Rock and Roll DC used to be known as the "National Marathon/Half" about 10 years ago.  In fact, I ran it as my first and second half-marathon.  The National Half was a race with a lot of potential, and also a lot of mismanagement (misplaced mile markers, water cups that shattered when you grabbed them, etc).  When Competitor purchased it a few years back, the quality of the race dramatically increased (as did the price).

The last time I ran this race, 4 years ago, they still ran the former course, which included a decent climb over about a mile and a half, running up Connecticut Avenue.  In the time since then, they revised the course, shifting that part to nearby Rock Creek Parkway and Calvert Street.  This meant that the same elevation gain that occurred over 1.5 miles before was now condensed into a bit more than a quarter mile in the middle of the race  A very painful quarter mile at a 6.5% incline.  So I knew that would suck.  But otherwise, I thought the course might be a good one for me, given the rolling downhill nature of the second half, reminiscent of the 3M half.

So my race plan was to run the first 6 miles of the half like a normal half, then turn race mode OFF for the hill.  I'd try to get up the hill with as little energy expenditure as possible, including power walking if appropriate, and then turn race mode back ON at the top.  From there, I'd let the rolling downhills work for me, making up any time I had lost going up the hill.


The race starts in downtown DC, at 14th and Constitution Avenue.  We were encouraged to use Metro and get off at the Federal Triangle station.  I partially followed that advice.   I've learned that when metroing to DC races, it's always best to get off a station early and walk the rest of the way - it's faster than spending 20+ minutes with the masses exiting at the specified station.  So I got off one stop early at Metro Center, and walked the quarter mile downhill, stopping at a 24 hour CVS on the way to buy a banana (I was still a bit hungry after breakfast).  As it turned out, when I got to the race start, they had a tent with free bananas, so that was 99 cents wasted.  At least it was a damn good banana.

Bag check, then 2.5 miles of mostly easy running, plus some drills and 2 minutes of running at half-marathon effort, and I got into my corral.  Nicely, the corrals didn't close until right before race start.  The weather was close to ideal - overcast and in the 50s.  Maybe ever so slightly warm for my tastes, but that's just nit-picking.  Said hi to some friends, listened to the National Anthem, and we were off.


Per my plan, I kept the first mile very conservative, and then slowly started building.  While I rarely feel great at the start of a race, I didn't feel too bad here.  I just worked on finding a rhythm and then holding that rhythm while gently increasing pace, but also staying relaxed.  And yes, that's a mouthful.

For the first 6 miles I felt good.  And then we hit the hill.  Pursuant to my plan, I did a combination of jogging and power walking to get up it, channeling my inner ultrarunner  (based on the reading I've done, most ultrarunners believe that steep hills are best tackled by power walking, rather than running).  My reasoning was that attacking this hill would only run up oxygen debt and fry my legs - I was better off conserving energy to spend later on downhill sections. When I got to the top, I picked up the pace again, trying to pick off those who had passed me on the hill.

I think this is the one mistake I made - getting too aggressive right after the hill, especially since we still had some rolling hills ahead of us, with decent climbs.  It would have been much smarter to ease my way back, and chase down people over a few miles.

At this point, I also tried to take a gel, but for some reason I wasn't tolerating it well.  Since I don't consider gels absolutely necessary for a half, I decided not to worry about it too much.

Around mile 9 or so, the course has a long downhill stretch.  The last time I ran this race, I was able to fly and really make up time.  This year, however, my legs weren't responding as well.  And when the descent ended, so did my battery.  I was out of gas.  This was unfortunate, as I still had 2+ miles to go, including another decent climb in mile 11.

Determined not to mentally give in like I did last week, I kept one foot in front of the other.  It felt exactly like the last miles of a marathon (which wasn't what I intended on experiencing when I signed up for a half-marathon).  But I kept plugging.  Then down another hill (which didn't feel much easier) and then the final painful climb to the finish.   And I felt horrible after I finished.


Splits were:
Mile 1: 7:08
Mile 2: 6:41
Mile 3: 6:48
Mile 4: 6:41
Mile 5: 6:53
Mile 6: 6:53
Mile 7: 7:47 (power walking)
Mile 8: 6:53
Mile 9: 6:54
Mile 10: 6:35 (nice downhill stretch)
Mile 11: 6:54
Mile 12: 7:15 (uphill, sucked)
Mile 13: 6:45
last bit: 44 seconds.


As for why I ran out of gas?  I was sick earlier this week, with fatigue and an elevated heart rate.  I felt better by Friday, and my resting heart rate was back to normal, but my hunch is that I might not have completely kicked it.  Or alternately I might just still be a bit short on reserves from being sick.  I don't think it's a overtraining issue, simply because I've been pretty restrained the last few weeks.  I also don't think it's an undertraining issue, simply because my training was still adequate.

Or maybe it was just a bad day.    They happen too.  For whatever reason, I just didn't have my A Game today.

Regardless of the reason for the lack of A Game, my coach and I agreed to stop the running for a few days - I'll do some easy pool-running, but no real exertion.  Then we'll see where we are.  Something's clearly going on, and shutting things down can't hurt.

Other notes:
  • Left my house at 5:55 am to get on the metro.  This got me to the race around 6:30, which was the perfect amount of time to buy a banana (and eat it), check my bag, pee (twice), warm-up, and get in the corral.
  • Asthma meds were Dulera in the morning, and a pre-race puff of albuterol.  Breathing was fine.
  • Temps were in the low to mid 50s, with overcast skies.  Pretty good weather.
  • Ran with a handheld water bottle, which I tossed at 10.5.  
  • Took a Vanilla Bean GU pre-start.  This only has half the caffeine of my preferred pre-race GU, but since my heart rate's been elevated recently, I thought it made sense to back off.  Tried to take a Maple Bacon GU halfway through, but it wouldn't go down.
  • My heart rate was really jacked up for this race.  A few weeks back, I was commenting about how couldn't get it out of tempo range during a 5K.  Opposite issue today - my heart rate today for the last two miles matched what I normally see during mile repeats on the track (which explains why the last two miles sucked so much).  My best guess is, again, that I'm still fighting off whatever bug I had or have.
  • I saw the weirdest thing at the race expo this week.  A booth where people could have blood drawn to be tested for various things.  And people with gear bags and numbers (implying that they were racing this weekend) were sitting down and having blood drawn.  W.T.F. point 1: why the heck would you let a random stranger in a non-lab setting jab a needle into your arm?  It just screams sketchy.  W.T.F. point 2: why would you let someone take blood from you right before your half or full marathon?
    One of the booth people tried to recruit me; it took a lot of self-restraint not to pronounce in a way too loud voice "you have got to be f-ing kidding me.  Hell no!"

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Training log - Week ending 3/6/2016

This week was 45 miles of running, 5 "miles" of pool-running and 1200 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

This is going to be a short weekly write-up, as I have work to do and a bad headache to nurse.  I cut back my mileage pretty heavily this week, and will for the next few.   I didn't have a great race, but I don't think that points to any issue with the taper (and I suspect the bad headache is more the result of the bad race than the cause). Sometimes shit just happens.

The cutback week did lead to this entertaining exchange on Saturday morning.

  • Me: "honey, I'm going running.  Back in about 30 minutes"
  • Brian: "Wait a minute - you're going running, but only for 30 minutes?  What's the point?  Why bother, if you're only running 30 minutes?"

Clearly, I've trained him well.

In other news, I'm registered to run the RNR USA Half next weekend.  After today's sucky experience, I briefly considered skipping it.  But I don't think that makes sense for me.  I really need to get back on the horse, so to speak.  Plus I have an established history of just racing better and better when I race quite a bit, and do little in between.

I made mistakes in this race, including overreaching slightly, and also just  I can use RNR USA as a chance to work on running fast but relaxed, and having fun, rather than worrying about the final time.

I don't mean for the above to come across as "well, I'm not really racing RNR USA".  I dislike it when people sandbag before races: " know I'm not really going to race this one" (unless you are truly planning on running it as a marathon pace workout or something similar, or jogging it in a costume).  Statements like that are self-sabotaging - they protect your ego in the short term, but also prevent you from reaching your potential, and harm you in the long term.

But for me, "running fast but relaxed, and having fun" is a racing strategy, and usually leads to my best times.   Heck, it worked well at 3M, where I was so happy just to make it to the starting line that I had no worries about how fast I ran.  So, I need to revisit that skill.


Monday:   5 "miles" of pool-runnng, followed by yoga; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  11 miles, including a workout of 1600, 4x800 (6:14, 2:59, 2:58, 2:57, 2:55), followed by  1200 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Wednesday: 3 miles very easy (9:27 pace) followed by a yoga class. Later, another 5 miles easy (9:04).  Sports massage in afternoon.

Thursday:   6 miles easy (8:52) followed by drills and two strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  7 miles, including a "mile pick-up" in 6:17, plus six hill sprints.    Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  3 miles easy (8:47) plus drills.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday:  10 miles, including a ~3 mile warm-up, a 10K race in 41:00, and a half mile cooldown.  Felt horrible, with a bad headache, so skipped recovery swimming for a hot shower.   Foam rolling at night.

Race report: St. Patricks Day 10K, March 6, 2016

I ran the St. Patricks Day 10K today, finishing in a time of 41:00 flat.  That's about a minute slower than I had hoped to run, so oh well.

I'm been absolutely slammed with work this week (and very stressful work to boot), which is a blessing in that it deprives me of the time needed to analyze this race to death :).

Do I think the crazy workweek contributed?  It's hard to tell.  On the one hand, life stress mimics training stress, and so a race taper can be undone by outside circumstances.  On the other hand, I've run plenty of great races and PRs after horrible stressful weeks, enough to establish that a bad week is not a sure sign of doom.

As for what happened?  Not sure.  We had great weather and a fast course, and I started conservatively.  But I just ran out of gas physically, and then faltered mentally.  Including a brief patch of walking around mile 5.  I'm not proud of that, but I'm not going to hide it.

Though I run watchless, by feel, I do think I still "cheated" a bit here, in that I didn't stick to my "90-95%" effort rule early on.  Instead I was a bit too impatient early in the race, and overreached some around miles 2-3, which set me up for a bad patch later.

So, I live and I learn.  And hope to catch up on sleep this week.

Mile 1: 6:29
Mile 2: 6:31
Mile 3: 6:30
Mile 4: 6:29
Mile 5: 7:00
Mile 6: 6:42
Last bit : 1:18 (downhill kick)

Other notes:
  • My team won both the male and female overall team titles, which was nice.  And I was one of the scorers for my team, which means I get a check for this race.  Yay.
  • Also got the age group win and top masters, so (as Brian noted) the day really wasn't as horrible as I make it sound.  There are times when I'm just a teenager with a quarter-century's experience.
  • Used Dulera for my asthma med in the morning - breathing was fantastic.  
  • Also took my pre-race caramel Machiato GU - delicious plus a caffeine burst. Racing is the only time I use caffeine, and I think I need to learn to be careful, since it affects my perception of how easy the first miles of a race are. 
  • I'd posted previously about my frustrations in not being able to get my heart rate up - it was basically stuck at the same max HR, in the low 170s, for both intervals and tempos, for both 5Ks and half marathons?  Well...that wasn't the issue today, as it peaked at 185 today, with a fair amount of time over 180.  Of course, that may also explain some of the mental issue today - I'm just not used to that level of aerobic effort, since I haven't hit it in so long.