Sunday, July 31, 2016

Race report: Anchor Run 5K, July 31, 2016

I ran the "Anchor Run 5K" in Odenton Md today, finishing in a time of 20:22, which was good enough for the female win.  And also top master, male or female (just had to get that in there).

The obvious question for all of my local friends was: why Odenton?  (And also, where the heck is Odenton?).

Answer: Odenton is near Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County in Maryland, and not too far from Annapolis.  Like anyone who lives in Northern Virginia, I have a unconscious bias where anything in Virginia is "close," while anything in DC or Maryland is "far." (excepting Georgetown.)  Odenton was actually only a 40 minute drive for me, slightly closer than Leesburg, Virginia (where I sometimes drive to race).  It just seems further since it's closer to Baltimore than to DC.

The other reason is that I wanted to race, I wanted to race on Sunday, July 31 for multiple scheduling reasons, and I wanted to race no further than 5K, since it's been pretty hot and humid recently.  That left me with one option - the Anchor Run.

I had naive hopes when I registered that the course  might be fairly fast - Annapolis is flat, right?  But those hopes were shot down (a nod to the Naval theme of this race) when I played with Map My Run and confirmed that no, this race was not flat (Annapolis ain't flat either).  But what the heck, I really wanted a race, not a time trial, so hills were fine.


I showed up at the race start at 6:30 am - perfect timing to grab my bib and head out for my warm-up jog.  For 5K races, I usually just jog the course once - I need a three mile warm-up anyway, and I like having some idea of where the course goes.  The first mile of the course was fairly easy to follow, and well signed, but then the race turned right, into a park with a nice collection of bike trails.  I very quickly got confused as to where I was, and rather than muddle my way through and risk missing the start of the race, I just turned around and retraced my steps to the start area.

Per my normal warm-up practice, I inserted 90 seconds of hard running into the end of my warm-up, with the goal of elevating my heart rate up to something close to what I'd be holding during the 5K race.  I've found that I race short distances much better when I do this, finishing up about 10 minutes before the start.  I'm a runner who always struggles with the first rep or lap of a workout, and so I like to get that first lap out of the way before the start of the race.  Since there was a big hill heading towards the start area, I did my hard run up that.  It got my heart pumping fairly nicely.


A few drills and strides, and then we were off.  The first few seconds of the race were a mad sprint through the parking lot, before a sharp pair of turns that routed up onto a narrow paved trail, and then a sidewalk.  As is normal (and expected) I was dropped massively during this first mad dash.  I reminded myself that 5Ks could be lost in the first minute, but never won, and hung back, letting the chaos burn itself out ahead of me.  This resulted in me going out a bit more conservatively than I would have liked, but the alternative was to try to elbow my way through people on a narrow path, which would have done nothing but burn energy.  So I waited.

Eventually the sidewalk got a little more spacious, and there was room to do some passing.  So I started patiently working my way through as I was able.  Another woman had sprinted past me at the very start of the race, but I was able to pass her here, along with a few others.  A bit later (about 1200m into the race) the course routed us around a traffic circle in front of a school.  By that point, I had already put about 30 seconds on her, with no other woman in sight.  And I was still holding a fairly conservative effort.  It sounds obnoxious, but at that point I realized that I had the overall female win in hand unless I did something monumentally stupid.

The problem with a racing strategy of "don't do something really stupid" is that it's not conducive to fast running.  If I know I have the female win in hand, I tend to shut down and just cruise.  I need competition in order to race well.   Especially when it's hot, and I'm racing a 5K, because I despise hot 5K races.

So I mentally flipped a switch and decided I'd target the overall masters win, male or female (a category I just made up on the spot.)  Fortunately, I had two older men running near me, with another a little further down the road.  Game on.

As we continued past mile 1, downhill, I patiently stalked my potential victims.  One of them surged ahead, and I let him go, but kept him in my sights.  Shortly after the first mile marker, the course took a hard right turn into the park and the bike paths.  It was nice, in that it was a flowing downhill and shaded from the bright sun.  It was also not so nice, in that the bike path was fairly twisty, curving around trees and other stuff.

I'm a very good downhill runner, and so normally I can milk long downhill stretches for a nice speed boost, before defending my turf on the uphill return.  However, the winding nature of the bike path made it hard to really get rolling.  The path was also a bit slick in places from the previous evening's heavy rain storms, meaning I had to slow down to negotiate each twist carefully, bleeding momentum.   But we all run the same course (hopefully), and so I just kept at it, managing to edge my way past male masters buddies/foes 1 and 2.

(I'll take a brief pause here, to allow all of my technical trail running friends roll their eyes at my kvetching about a bit of mud and some turns on a downhill asphalt path)

A bit after mile 2, we exited the park, rejoining the roads for the climb back to the finish. The good was that I now had a nice straight, fairly open path to run.  The bad was that it was uphill, and fairly steep.  But I could see my good buddy, male master number 3 (collect them all!), and so I got to work on him.

By the time I hit the top of the hill, I had passed him, and now it was just me and the finish line.  I mad the right turn into the parking lot, only to realize that the course required me to run PAST the finish arch to a set of cones, before doing a 180 and running back to the finish.  Not nice.  But many courses do this or some variant, so good to get the practice.

For the record, this is reaalllly mean.

As always, I ran this one watchless, so I didn't know my time until I saw the finish clock.  I was slightly disappointed to see it ticking past 20, but not terribly surprised.  I think I'm actually in really good shape right now, but between the hills, the difficulty of the course, and today's hot and humid conditions, it wasn't realistic to expect a fast time.  I thought I ran pretty well for the course and the weather, and it's hard to get too upset about a win.  Plus the race was managed very well, with enthusiastic volunteers manning the course to keep us all on track through the park.   Not all races are well managed or affordable, so it's nice to run one that is.


Splits per my Garmin were:

Mile 1: 6:32
Mile 2: 7:46 (1.17 miles according to Garmin - pace of 6:39)
Mile 3 plus last bit: 6:05  (.91 miles according to Garmin, pace of 6:39)

What's interesting here is that the second split is where most of the elevation loss was, and should have been my fastest split by far.  And yet I didn't run it any faster than the final split, which had a significant uphill in it.  I think this reflects all the speed lost on the bike path through the park, which was most of that split.

Other notes:
Dorky photo of me
after the finish.
Cuz why not.

  • I ended up 7th overall (out of about 250), top female, and top masters male or female.  So yay.
  • For the female win, I received a gift card to a local running store.   Normally this would be problematic, since I don't live in the area, and the running store didn't open until noon today. But fortunately, Brian and I are headed back that way next Saturday, so hopefully I can sweet talk him into a quick visit to the running store.
  • According to the emailed results I received, the air temp for the race was 82, with a "feels like" of 89.  I honestly don't think it was that bad.  But hey, never reject any excuse that has an appearance of legitimacy.  [Wunderground says temp 76, DP 74, which sounds more reasonable]
  • Breathing was great.  Never an issue.  No hanging over the side of the fence when I finished the race.  Awesome.
  • Caramel Machiatto GU in the morning pre-race.  Lotsa water before and after.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Training log - Week ending 7/24/16

This week was 56 miles of running, 20 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Training continues to go very well - temperatures are warm, but I'm handling the warmth and humidity very well this year.  And I feel like I'm recovering far better than I was before going on Advair - probably because I'm breathing and sleeping so much better.

I was particularly happy with Sunday's long run - though the temperature was not as apocalyptic as forecast, it did get quite warm - 86 degrees by the end of the run.  But the relative humidity wasn't awful, and a combination of plenty of water, a shady route, and conservative pacing yielded a confidence boost.

The final third of a progressive long run is supposed to be at marathon pace, and I generally try not to stop for any reason during that part.  That's because 5-6 miles continuous at marathon pace is very different, both mentally and physically, from 2x3 miles with a two or three minute water/bathroom/stretch break.

I broke that rule this weekend by stopping quickly during the marathon pace segment of my long run to refill my water bottle (which was the right choice - trust me).  However, this time I kept my watch running during the water break, which encouraged me to keep the stop very short (21 seconds, if you care).  

I don't think the quick stop affected the overall training stimulus from the run (my heart rate didn't drop at all).  It did give me a chance to practice quickly filling my bottle and resuming race pace, which is exactly what I do during my longer races.  I'm guessing that I'll be doing this (very short water stops, with the Garmin timer running) during my Chicago training runs this summer, rather than trying to tough it out for a continuous MP segment.  Staying on top of my hydration during my long runs will be essential to making it through August marathon training, and practicing the very quick water stop will help on race day.


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

Tuesday: 10 miles, including a track workout of 6x800 (3:02, 3:00, 3:02, 3:00, 2:58, 2:50), and 1000 yards recovery swimming.

Wednesday: 10 miles very easy (8:39) followed by upper body weights and foam rolling.

Thursday: 10 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night

Friday: 10 miles, including 6 hill repeats (~500m up, then 200m jog, 100m stride, and 100m jog down to base of hill). Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards easy swimming. Foam rolling at night.

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

Sunday: 16 miles progressive, split as 9:08 for first 5 miles; 7:57 for next 6, 7:16 for last 5.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in evening.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Training log - Week ending 7/17/16

This week was 55 miles of running, 21 "miles" of pool-running and 4000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Busy.  Running good.  Busy.  Weather hot.  Busy.  Breathing good.  Busy.  Bloviation will return in near future.  Hopefully next week.


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

Tuesday: 9 miles, including a track workout of 3x1600 (6:17, 6:09, 6:01), and 1500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 6.5 miles easy to yoga (9:14), yoga, and then 4.5 miles very easy (8:53)  plus drills and strides.  3 "miles" pool-running in afternoon; foam rolling at night.

Thursday: 9 "miles" pool-running plus upper body weights and core. Foam rolling at night

Friday: 11 miles, including 6 hill repeats (~500m up, then 200m jog, 100m stride, and 100m jog down to base of hill). Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards easy swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles easy (8:55), plus upper body weights and core. 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 14 miles progressive, mile splits were 9:36, 9:06, 8:44, 8:32, 8:09, 7:42, 7:53, 7:46, 7:31, 7:15, 7:03, 7:02, 7:05, 7:04.  Followed with injury prevention work.  1500 yards of recovery swimming and sports massage in afternoon.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Training log - Week ending 7/10/16

This week was 63 miles of running, 12 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This week's mileage is a bit overstated.  While I normally do my long run on Sunday and use Monday as a pool-running recovery day, a Monday race threw my schedule off.  Next week should be closer to normal, with lower mileage.'s looking like lower mileage is going to be my theme for the upcoming cycle.  Which is a bit counter intuitive, given that that the common wisdom is that more miles is better for marathon training.  But in the past, more miles hasn't worked so well for me - my marathon PR was run off of my lowest mileage cycle.   So, we're going with 5 days a week of running this cycle, and land mileage that will max out at lower than my recent half marathon training cycles.  I'll be supplementing some with pool-running, but not to an extreme.

It's different from what I've done in the past, but you can't succeed if you're not willing to take risks and step out of your comfort zone.  And my comfort zone is cranking out lots of easy miles.

Cutting the mileage also makes sense since I'm on Advair now - an asthma medication with a significant side effect of reducing bone density.  I've handled higher mileage in the past without injury, but things may be different now, and best to be careful.

As for the Advair, my doctor and I decided on Tuesday to reduce the dosage  It's a bit of a balancing act - the Advair helps my lungs, but also aggravates my vocal cord issues.  So the lungs work better, but my throat feels uncomfortably narrow, making breathing difficult in a different way.  The other side effects weren't much fun either, though they would have been manageable if they were the only complaints.

So we dropped from 500/50 (the highest dose) to 250/50 (medium dose), and things seemed better by the end of the week.

Particularly notable was Friday's hill workout - I'm used to that workout hurting by the last few reps, with my upper body feeling heavy and my arms and shoulders burning when I hit the steepest section of the hill.  It hadn't occurred to me that those sensations could be asthma related - I thought it was just part of the workout.  But there was no burning heaviness this Friday - it was eerie.  It was still a hard workout, and my legs were tired - 6 reps were enough for me.  But there's a difference between tired legs and the way my upper body usually feels during that workout.

The next two weeks are going to be crowded on the personal front - demolition of our kitchen starts on Monday morning - the first stage of a (hopefully) 6 week renovation.  At the same time, a big deal work project is approaching release next week.  Ideally, these two things wouldn't overlap with each other (or with marathon training).  But sometimes the schedule gods don't play nice.


Monday: 3 mile warm-up, 4 mile-ish race in 27:19, and then 1 mile-ish cooldown.  A bit later did 6 miles easy (8:32) (arguably too much, but wanted to chat with a friend).  1000 yards recovery swimming and foam rolling later.

Tuesday: Upper body weights and core, and then 6.5 miles very easy (9:30).   Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 4.5 miles easy to yoga (9:07), yoga, and then 4.5 miles very easy (8:44). Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: 9 "miles" pool-running plus upper body weights and core. Foam rolling at night

Friday: 10 miles, including 6 hill repeats (~500m up, then 200m jog, 100m stride, and 100m jog down to base of hill). Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards easy swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 9.5 miles easy (9:04), plus upper body weights and core. 3 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 14 miles progressive, split as first 2.5 at 9:07, next 6.5 at 8:06, final 5 at 7:09.  Followed with yoga.  1000 yards of recovery swimming and foam rolling in afternoon.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Race Report: DC Road Runners Age Handicapped 4 miler, July 4, 2016

I ran the DC Road Runners Age Handicapped 4 Miler today, finishing with a gun time of 31:23, and a net time of 27:19.  This was good enough for eighth overall, based on gun time in this fairly unusual race.

This race is run a bit differently from most.  It uses a wave start, but the waves are ordered not by fastest to slowest, but rather by age and gender, with each five year age/gender group having a different start.  The youngest and oldest runners start first, and then the others are sent off, with the men in their 20s starting last.  The gap of time between when the race starts, and when your wave goes, is your "handicap."  Got it?  If not, the picture to the right explains it better.

It's a very casual, inexpensive, fun race.  There's neither chip timing nor bibs - one signs a index card marked with one's place after finishing. The prizes are donated by the runners and placed on a table, with each runner choosing their prize off the table during the awards - similar to a gift swap.   And the race course is approximately 4 miles - relying on the mile posts on the C&O Towpath, which are notoriously inaccurate.  The race was very clear about this up front, humorously noting that any world records set during today's race would be invalid.

To horribly misquote Animal Farm, all races are fun.  (Right?  That's why we do this.)  But some races are more fun than others.  And this is one.


The start of the race was a bit disconcerting.  Way back when, in my horse show days, I was used to being sent off into the ring one at a time; when I switched to running, I found it unsettling to be starting with all these people AT THE SAME TIME.  Over time, I've become used to it, and now I plan my race morning around the race's announced start time.  The staggered start time of this race was a flashback to my past, and also seemed odd in the same way a mass start once did.

[and in another flashback to my riding days, I lost track of time and was caught slightly off guard when it was time for my cohort to start.  Unlike riding, I couldn't ask the guy at the gate to let someone else go in front of me, so I just skipped my final set of strides.]

and...they're off
As I noted before, each age/gender group had its own start, resulting in a distinct second race, where you were racing against your direct peers.  It was pretty cool - in most races, I'm usually guessing who's in my age group - here it was pretty clear.  At 14:03 after the gun officially went off for the race, the 40-44 women were unleashed upon the sands of the C&O Towpath.

Two friends had given me advice about how to pace this race. The first noted that you really had to be careful about how you started - it was easy to get too competitive early on, chasing down those who started ahead of you, only to run out of gas later.  The second friend noted that the trick to winning this race was to start chasing down people from the very beginning - if you were too patient, you'd just be run down by the fast guys behind you.

I decided I'd just pace according to feel, and try to also stay conservative until the end.  Part of that is that running my own race generally works best for me anyway.  The other part was that I was test driving yet another new asthma med, and this was my first try at running hard while on Advair. Given that fact, the high humidity, and my crash and burn the last time I tried a new asthma med, it was better to be cautious.

Even with this resolve, I might have been a bit too aggressive in the first few minutes.  Due to the nature of the race, it's easy to pick off people at first, and that sings a siren song.  But I managed to reel myself in, and just held a relaxed, conservative rhythm.

The Towpath is a mild but steady climb going from east to west.  The race started just about halfway between mile posts 10 and 11, so we ran up to 11, then down past 10 to 9, before heading back past 10 to the start/finish arch (which was pretty impressive for such a bargain race).  My plan was to hold a careful effort until I had the finish line in my sight, at which point I'd pick up the pace if my breathing seemed OK.  Until I could see the finish line, I didn't want to take any risks.

Throughout the race, my lungs felt great, even despite the humidity.  Awesome.  However, my throat
Me doing fish face, with my two competitors.
was tightening up throughout, which is something I've noted the last few days  I think the Advair is irritating my throat and causing some vocal cord dysfunction - that's a known side effect of the drug.  Fortunately, though the vocal cord stuff is annoying, it's not dangerous, and I know how to deal with it.  

There are ways to breathe that encourage the vocal cords to relax.  I'm sure they have some technical medical name (and that name is on the handout that I'm too lazy to retrieve).  I just call it fish face.  So I fish faced my way through the race.  To the amusement of others, I'm sure.

The interesting thing about the race, because of the stagger start, is that it's very likely that most of the runners who started ahead of you are slower than you.   And many of the runners who start behind you are faster than you.  Which means that you do nearly all of your passing at the beginning of the race.  And any person who makes up the time gap and passes you is likely much faster than you. Towards the end of the race, I was passed by several of my teammates who had started behind me.  I knew that I didn't have a hope in hell of keeping up with them, so I let them go.

I did end up with two guys near me when the finish line first came into sight,  Since I was about 3.5 miles in, with no asthma, I decided to pick up the pace.   As it turned out, I had a lot left in the tank, running the last half mile at a pace significantly (20+ seconds per mile) faster than the rest of the race.  So now I know I don't need to be so careful next time.

And then I crossed the finish, in eighth place overall.  Looking at the results, I think I passed everyone ahead of me except two (both women in the 60-64 age group, who finished 1-2 in the race), and was passed by five men who started behind me.  Not that that matters at all.  But sometimes I think we race so we can stare at the results after.

Of course, one question that comes to mind is - how do they come up with the time gaps for the staggered start.  And is it really fair?  Decyphering what is fair seems challenging at first glance.  But in the end, it's actually pretty simple.   You review the overall results, and draw a line across the sheet at the eighth place finisher.  Anyone who finished below that line was handicapped appropriately. However, the handicap of anyone who finished above that line is suspect and should be subject to review.

Splits (per Garmin, and based on mile posts)

  • From start to mile post 11 - .48 of a mile in 3:14 (6:46 pace)
  • From mile post 11 to 10 - 1.01 mile in 6:51 (6:47 pace)
  • From mile post 10 to 9 - 1.02 mile in 7:01 (6:52 pace - includes me getting a bit stuck behind someone due to traffic on the trail)
  • From mile post 9 to 10 - 1.01 mile in 6:49 (6:46 pace)
  • From mile post 10 to finish - .53 of a mile in 3:23 (6:23 pace)

Other notes:
  • Temp 69, DP 68 (and no asthma - WOOO)
  • Took a salted watermelon GU in the morning for a slight bit of caffeine.
  • Brian and I have been cleaning out our kitchen, living room, and dining room in preparation for a major renovation that starts next week.  As a result, we had a lot of stuff to get rid of, and so I brought a cute decorative clay jug that we would otherwise donate to Goodwill (don't judge - that's exactly the sort of thing you were supposed to bring).
    I wasn't supposed to bring anything back, but I felt bad rejecting the prize table (plus, who says no to race schwag?) so I grabbed a CD of the Capitol Steps.  It's really small, so I didn't get in too much trouble.
  • My taper for this race was really a non-taper. I did my first hill workout on Friday, then ran 10 miles too hard on Saturday, and then lugged boxes and stuff up and down stairs on Saturday and Sunday.  Part of this lack of care was that this was such a low key race, and part was that I seem to be recovering much better now that I'm on asthma meds, and wanted to see how I'd race if I wasn't well rested.  Plus, I think Brian would have (justifiably) killed me if I had told him I couldn't move furniture this weekend because I was running a $5 race on Monday.
    My legs didn't feel fresh today, but they certainly didn't feel horrible, so that's good news.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Training log - Week ending 7/3/16

This week was 51 miles of running, 7 "miles" of pool-running and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was my second week post-Grandmas - by the end of the week, both my legs and mind were ready to go, so I showed up for my team's hill workout on Friday.

I love these workouts - since they're off of the track, we get to run them by feel, which is my preferred way to train. Additionally, since the focus here is on biomechanics and strength (you do build fitness, but that's a secondary goal), they're a great way to reintroduce hard efforts. Plus they're bizarrely fun - we run up a hill for about 2 minutes, take a jog break and chat, run fast down the hill for about 30 seconds, and then more chatting.

They really are my favorite workouts each year. Besides the marathon pace work.

This week was also my designated "focus on allergy/asthma issues and try to get stuff straightened out before my fall racing" time. So I got tested for both allergies and asthma again. I'll do a detailed write-up in a separate post later this week, including how the tests were conducted. But the very short version is:

a) I reacted to nearly everything I was tested for at the allergist, and I'm starting allergy shots in a few weeks,

b) my asthma is only partially controlled by my current regime, so I'm switching to Advair, Singulair, and a nasal spray, and

c) in addition to the asthma, I have vocal cord dysfunction, which means that my vocal cords block my air flow sometimes, especially if I try to breathe too quickly. [Asthma is an issue with exhaling due to issues deep in the lungs, VCD is an issue with inhaling due to issues in your throat.].

There is no medication directly treating VCD, though treating the asthma and allergies should indirectly help, since each can trigger VCD.  The main treatment for VCD is slowing down your breathing, opening up your shoulders, and pursing your lips.  I do all of those anyway - I figured that one out on my own a few years ago.

I swapped to the Advair starting Friday night.  I had a pretty rough "test run" on Saturday morning - while I felt fine for most of the run, I felt lousy the last few miles, and a check of my heart rate monitor indicated that my heart rate was bouncing all over the place.  My throat also felt really tight and dry.  This combination of stuff worried me, since one of the side effects of Advair can be heart palpitations, arrhythmia, and the like.

However, I went for another test jog this morning, and when my Garmin started spitting out high HR numbers again, I stopped and took my pulse.   My pulse was fine - apparently the heart rate monitor's just being quirky.   I think Saturday's issues were actually several unrelated things that happened to coincide - I felt lousy at the end of the run because I was overheated and a bit dehydrated; the heart rate issue was unrelated - technology, not physiology.  As for the dry throat?  That can happen with Advair - I just need to drink more water.   A swig of Pepto glazed my throat nicely and seemed to help as well.


Monday: 5.5 easy (8:49) to yoga, yoga and then 3.5 miles easy (8:46). Foam rolling in the evening. 

Tuesday: 10 miles very easy (10:08), followed by drills and two hill sprints, and core work. Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 5 miles very easy to yoga (8:50), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy home (8:32) plus drills and two strides. Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: 7 "miles" pool-running plus upper body weights and core. Foam rolling at night

Friday: 8 miles, including 6 hill repeats (~500m up, then 200m jog, 100m stride, and 100m jog down to base of hill). Followed with 1000 yards easy swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles aerobic (8:34) (meant to be easy, but struggled a bit), plus upper body weights and core. Foam rolling at night.

Sunday: 4.5 miles very easy (8:53) plus drills. Foam rolling in afternoon.