Monday, October 16, 2017

Training log - Week ending 10/15/17

This week was 42 miles of running and 13 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

This was an admittedly disheveled final taper and race week, since I didn't know until midday on Thursday which marathon I was racing (and more importantly, whether I was racing on Saturday or Sunday).

In retrospect, I wish I had committed early in the week to one marathon and stuck with it, instead of going back and forth.  I wasted a lot of energy reviewing (and reviewing) weather forecasts, race reports, city maps, and flight schedules during days that I should have been conserving energy.   Plus the nearly last minute swap from a Sunday marathon to a Saturday race meant that I spent far more time on my feet in the last 48 hours than I would have liked.

I like my last three days pre-marathon to look something like this:

Day M-3: 3-4 miles - most easy but with the last mile on the conservative side of MP.  Also some very light upper body weights to keep things primed
Day M-2: Nothing except travel and grabbing bib at expo.  And Chipotle.
Day M-1: Hide in hotel room, emerging only for a 1 mile solo shake-out jog, plus Chipotle.

Moving my marathon up from Sunday to Saturday meant that I skipped "Day M-1."  Instead of topping off my tank both mentally and physically in the last 24 hours, I was driving from DC to Baltimore, then flying to Hartford, then renting a car, then driving to my hotel, then checking in, then hitting the expo.  (and hitting the expo twice because I forgot to buy gels and a hat the first time)

It was more time on my feet than I like for the last day pre-marathon.  And far too much human interaction for introvert me.

[If I don't want to hang out with you pre-marathon, please understand that it's really not about you.  It's about me doing what I need to do for me.]

I don't think I lost a lot because of this, but I lost something.  I wasn't sharp in the way I would have been had I had that final day.  And running a race on an unexpected course in an unintended city cost me something as well.  It wasn't a huge detriment, but I was missing my normal pre-race enthusiasm.

However, all the chaos of the last two weeks was valuable, in that it forced me to experiment with my taper in a way I wouldn't normally dare.  Lessons learned about tapering:

1) A 5 week taper from the last 20 miler is totally fine for me.  Heck, I think I could get away with a 6 week taper, if needed.

I think that this is individual to me - I rarely have trouble covering long distances - it's just a question of maintaining pace while doing so.  And thus, I don't need to worry about maintaining pure endurance in the same way someone else might.  As long as I keep the intensity up during the longer taper, I'm good to go.  Others with different strengths and weaknesses might have different results.

Related to this, I've now raced marathons after 3, 4, and 5 week tapers.  I can honestly say that I prefer 4 weeks, then 5, and then 3.  Again, that's for me personally.  I recover very slowly from 20-milers, and so I think that 3 weeks is almost too little for me.  At the same time, I don't lose my ability to cover the distance with the extra time, and so the longer taper gains me far more than I lose.

I obviously need to discuss with my coach, but I'd happily never ever do a 3 week taper again.  I'd rather do the last 20 at least 4 weeks out, then a marathon pace workout 3 weeks out.

2) Because of the last minute change in plans, I really only carb-loaded for 36 hours.  And my focus was more on salt-loading than carb-loading.  And that was fine.  (I know this because if poor carb-loading had been a problem, the wheels would have fallen off somewhere near mile 20).

This matches my own personal experience that too much carb-loading pre-race makes me run like a stuffed turkey, while eating less carbs pre-race (and more fat, protein, and salt) and then relying on many gels on course results in a far smoother and more enjoyable race.

Again, this is very individual to me.  Other people can eat tons of carbs without feeling bloated and sluggish and lightheaded.  And many people have difficulties carrying or consuming as many gels as I do on course (8 this time).  It's all very individual - do what works for you.  This is what works for me.

[aside - I suspect that my race-fueling idiosyncrasies are related to the fact that I have a strong diabetes history on both sides of my family, and am mildly insulin-resistant myself.  I just don't handle carbs, especially sugars, very well unless I'm burning them off immediately.  Heavy carb consumption at rest sends my energy levels on a roller-coaster ride into a wall.  Thus I do far better when I a) don't go too overboard on the eating pre-race; b) make sure to combine the carbs with adequate fat and protein to balance stuff out, and c) then supplement heavily with simple sugars on course, so I'm burning the carbs as I ingest them. 

Again,  this is what works for me and is very different from what works for the majority.  Please don't mimic me here unless nothing else has ever worked for you in multiple marathons.]

3) I really do need to travel at least 2 days pre-marathon, and to spend the last 24 hours in a solitary, monk-like state - no big pre-race dinners or brunches or other social engagements.  No flying the day before, even if it's a short flight.   I can run decently if I break this rule - it's not like Hartford was a bad race.  But that last 24 hours of mental and physical rest gives me a physical and mental bounce - each mile takes a few less seconds.  And those seconds add up.

Monday: In the morning, 5 "miles" pool-running; in the evening, 2 "miles" of pool-running, DIY yoga, and foam rolling.

Tuesday: In the morning, 7 miles, including 3x800 in 2:55, 2:51, 2:47.  Also a sports massage.

Wednesday: In the morning, 6 miles very easy (8:52) plus drills and two strides.  1 "mile" pool-running, DIY yoga, and foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning,  3 miles, with the last 1200 yards uptempo at 7:07 pace.  Followed with very minimal upper body weights and core, DIY yoga, and foam-rolling.

Friday: Nothing except travel and hitting race expo.

Saturday: Hartford Marathon in 3:10:43 (7:17 pace, split as 1:37/1:33).  Fly back to Baltimore and drive to DC post-race.

Sunday:  5 "miles" gentle pool-running with the belt in the afternoon.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Race Report - Hartford Marathon, October 14, 2017

I ran the Hartford Marathon yesterday, finishing in a time of 3:10:43.

I'm a planner.  I pick my marathon 6 months to a year in advance, structure my work and personal life so that there are no great stressors in the last few weeks pre-race, book my plane tickets and hotel several months in advance, and ship all my stuff to my hotel about a week before so I can travel light two days in advance of the race.

Not this time. 

Heck, I didn't even enter this race until 36 hours before.

As previously noted, I had originally planned to run the Mohawk-Hudson Marathon on October 8.  But life, more specifically a sick cat, got in the way.  So I tentatively redirected to race the next weekend, contingent on Izzy being stable enough for me to feel comfortable going out of town.

I picked the Columbus Marathon on Sunday, October 15 as my replacement race.  Nice flat course, easy trip from DC, usually very cool weather.  The weekend of Mohawk-Hudson had ended up very hot and humid on the east coast, but there was no way we could have bad marathoning weather two weeks in a row, right?

(insert ominous foreshadowing music here).

The running gods were cruel.  As of early this week, Columbus was predicted to have a warm-up over the coming weekend, with high heat and humidity followed by a cold front on Sunday evening and perfect racing conditions on Monday.

I watched newscasts and refreshed websites and studied meteorology.   Perhaps the weather wouldn't warm up after all.  Or the cold front would move through faster.

I also checked out other marathons, identifying two alternatives to my already alternative marathon.  One was Grand Rapids on Sunday.  Small race, fast course, could be good weather (or not).  But hard to get to - there were very few flights into Grand Rapids, and flights to Detroit (a 2:30 drive) were filling up as well.

The other was Hartford on Saturday.  The forecast didn't look great for that one either, and the course was a bit more rolling than I would like.  Not a slow course, but not superfast like Shamrock, CIM, Chicago, Grandmas.   But it was easy to get to and would also allow me to enter last minute.

I went back and forth.  None of them were looking great, and I kept hoping that the Columbus forecast would shift.  But it didn't.  On Thursday morning, after checking the weather forecasts and flight options for all three races, I swapped to Hartford, on Saturday morning. Since my flights to Columbus were on Southwest, it was trivial to swap flights from DCA-CMH  to BWI-BDL.  And fortunately a hotel was still available - the Homewood Suites just a block from both the start-finish area and the expo.  Score!

I normally like to fly in two days before a marathon.  Doing so gives me fudge time if my flight is delayed or cancelled.  I also find that traveling takes something out of me - all the standing and walking and lugging of stuff.  I like to get all of that done, plus the expo visit, two days before the race, and then spend the last 24 hours lying on the couch, stretching, and eating Chipotle.

However, my late decision meant that I'd be flying in on Friday, the day before, and hitting the expo that afternoon.  Not ideal, but that was basically the story of the last two weeks, so I went with it.  At least it was a short flight.

I also planned to fly back the same evening as the race.  This broke my normal rule of not flying the same day as the marathon, but again, short flight.  And only staying for one night, combined with not needing to bring much throw-away clothing (because of the forecast) meant that I could travel very light, with just a backpack.


So, I had a plan.  Though it came into question again Friday morning, right before I left for the airport.  My coach was concerned about the Hartford weather (I was too).  Though temperatures wouldn't be too bad - high 50s into low-to mid-60s - the humidity would be high.  It was frustrating for both of us, because we both knew that 1) I'm in fantastic shape and 2) I really struggle in humidity (I blame the asthma).

Running Hartford this weekend meant it was unlikely I would run the time I was capable of and had trained for.   And I'd be risking another of my trademark humidity implosions, which could interfere with my race plans for late fall and winter if I needed an extended recovery time post-marathon.

We discussed starting the race, and pulling the plug if things were tough and redirecting to Philly.  However, that option really didn't work for me.  I have personal and professional commitments that I've delayed to focus on an October marathon.  I need to catch up on those in November.  I also don't like to drop out of races just because things are getting tough - that's a hard pattern to break, once birthed.  (it's obviously a different story if an injury is flaring or I'm having a bad asthma day)

So, I had to do Hartford, or no marathon at all.   I promised my coach that I'd start conservatively and really prioritize the hydration.  Hydration is always important, but it was essential for this race.  I spent Friday evening guzzling plain and coconut water, and eating salty tortilla chips, plus pinches of straight salt from a plastic container of extra rock salt I had picked up at Chipotle.  Ditto on Saturday morning.

As always, I carried a lot of gels with me - 12.  Nearly all of them were highly salted - either GU Rocktane, GU Salted Caramel, or GU Lemonade.  I'm a very salty sweater, and I knew that this race would come down to discipline on three fronts: hydration, salt, and pace.  I also carried a handheld water bottle.


At 7:15 I left my hotel for the 8 am start.  Since this was a small race, there was no pre-race security, which made things considerably less stressful.  There were also plenty of porta-johns.

Because it was warm and my hotel was close, I didn't check a bag.  There was no need and I would be tight on time after the finish anyway as I would have to rush back to my hotel post-race. Checkout was at 12 pm and they were not allowing late checkout.

(the clerk seemed surprised that I would need late checkout given the 8 am race start - I presumed this was because of her confidence in my obvious running talent, rather than utter ignorance of the sport.)

Rain was possible either before or during the race - it was one of those mornings where the air was heavy and it was just a question of whether and when it would coalesce into droplets.  In a burst of optimism, I wore a throw-away shirt to the start; pessimism meant that I added in a disposable poncho and a cheap white hat I snagged at the expo.

As it turned out, the throwaway and poncho were unnecessary and ridiculous - accomplishing nothing except making me feel slightly cooler when I tossed them.  It was a sports bra morning.  I did keep the cap on in case it started raining on course.

With about 10 minutes to go, I hopped into my corral.  As a late registrant, I had originally been placed in a back corral.  At the expo I was able to talk my way into the "seeded corral" (for runners with a 1:45 half-time or faster).  I couldn't get into the elite corral and start at the front - a bit concerning since I had hopes of masters prize money and that was awarded on gun time.  But starting in the seeded corral would only cost me about 5-10 seconds - that differential was unlikely to matter in a marathon.


Then the gun went off and we started.  Per my plan, I hung way back, reminding myself to be patient as the 3:15 and then 3:30 pace groups passed me.  Listening to the corral chatter, I knew that many people were planning on banking time due to the weather.  I disagreed strongly with that strategy, but to each their own.

At this point, it's probably helpful if I revisit how I pace my races.  As I've previously discussed, I run off of feel, and don't look at splits or paces while I run.  That doesn't mean that I don't have a pacing plan.  It's just that my plan is based off of perceived effort, rather than numbers.  I always intend to empty the metaphorical toothpaste tube of my own effort during a race.  My pacing plan comes down to where, when, and how hard I squeeze the tube.

Here, my plan was to go out very easy for the first few miles, and then stay very conservative for a long time past the half-way point.  All throughout, I'd focus on energy management - gels and water.  Then at some point I'd start chasing.  Where exactly I'd flip the switch would hinge on how I felt and what the weather was like.

The first miles of Hartford are rolling and twisty through the city.  None of the hills were particularly challenging - there are no major elevation changes and the course looks pretty flat when mapped - but a lot of up, down, turn, repeat.  In shorter races I would have used the downhills to build speed and pick up time, but I was reluctant to do so here - any seconds saved here would be paid back with interest if my quads failed later.  So instead I kept my cadence quick and my pace restrained.  I also resisted the urge to work too hard on the uphills.  Just maintain a constant effort and stay patient.

And keep drinking.  I had started the race needing to pee slightly (TMI, but whatever).  I decided that this was a good metric.  Thirst isn't all that reliable during a marathon, but as long as you need to pee you can't be too dehydrated.

So I used that as a reminder - any time I stopped needing to pee I took another big gulp.  Ditto for every time I passed a water station (they were every 2 miles).  When my bottle was empty I walked a station and refilled my water bottle, emptying 3 cups into it.  5-10 seconds lost that would pay dividends later.

I relaxed into a groove that felt more "moderate" than marathon pace, and just rode that.  The 3:30 and then 3:15 pace groups came back to me, and by 10 miles I was in front of both.

And alone.  The 3:15 group was the fastest pace group, so there was just an archipelago of single runners ahead of me, stringing one by one into the distance.  I looked for someone to work with - important since the wind was picking up and I would have liked to have had a wind block.  But no luck.  People were already starting to fade, and so I just kept passing.

At 10 miles, we started a long section out to Windsor and back.  This section was only slightly rolling - for DC runners it was reminiscent of Rt. 110.  We were running into the wind and would be for the next 7 miles.  I wanted to pick up the pace slightly since I had a ton of energy in the tank and was getting impatient.  But I bided my time.  It was still early in the race, and I didn't want to waste energy on the wind.  Better to save for later and try to stay as efficient as possible. And keep drinking and eating.

The turn-around was at mile 17, and so as I approached I started counting women that looked older - I had hopes of masters cash.  I counted 5 - all significantly ahead of me. But several of them didn't look good at all - with 9 miles to go I could probably reel them in.  And after the turn-around, I'd have a tailwind.  The perfect time to shift gears.

So around the cone, and then I started to build.  Not a sudden pace change, but a progressive increase, just like all my long runs.  I could tell that despite my conservative early pace I was fatigued.  My left calf was threatening to cramp and my gait was failing slightly  (when I get tired, I twist and overstride with my left leg).  But that was what all the yoga and core work was for.  I started planking (so-to-speak), disciplined my rebellious left leg so that it planted under me, and continued to build and chase.

And they all started coming back to me.  Some running, some jogging, some wobbling, some walking.  It made things easy - I didn't feel great, but I was in control, and I just kept running from person to person to person.   So many people to pass (triple points when that person was an older woman).  These miles weren't easy, but counting down people rather than mile markers made them easier.

At mile 23, we turned right and returned to Hartford, and its small hills and turns.  At this point, I felt a bit more comfortable using the downhills to build speed.  Twist and turn and up and down and pass another person.  And then we hit mile 25 and the ramp up to the final hill - a bridge back into downtown.  The hill was not as bad as I expected - excellent.

Around this point, a young woman passed me (checking later, she ran a harder negative split than I did, and was the only person to pass me during the race after mile 17).  I surged and went with her (no reason not to take a risk so close to the finish) as we rolled down the back of the bridge.

Only to be greeted with another unexpected hill, steeper than the bridge that preceded it.  Oops?

[it's worth noting that the course appears to have changed a bit in the last two years, and so the older race reports I had reviewed for the course weren't all that reliable.]

I fought my way up that one, but that was pretty much the end for me.  My legs grabbed up, and it was a rough final half-mile to the finish.  Fortunately, it was downhill to the finish, so I was able to control the damage.  And falling apart that close to the finish is also comforting in a sense - it tells me that I really did leave it all out there.

Seeing 3:10 on the clock as I finished was disappointing, given my hopes during the training cycle.   But to paraphrase a friend of mine - any day you can finish a marathon is a good day.

I wobbled my way through the finish area (thankfully my legs waited 30 seconds post finish to cramp up) and then back to my hotel to shower and check out - my second race of the morning.  (I just barely made it - checking out at 11:59 am).


It's frustrating to have had such a great training cycle and to be in the shape of my life, and then run a time that was far from my fitness and my goals.  But it's less frustrating to miss a goal due to weather and life circumstances than to poor race execution. 

I continue to be annoyed that after 7 marathons, my PR is still my first.  But at least I know what works for me in terms of training, taper, and race execution.  Luck just wasn't on my side these last few weeks.  But at some point in the future, I will get a great day to run fast in a marathon.  And I'm ready to take advantage when it happens.

Splits were:

Miles 1-2: 15:23 (7:42 pace)
Mile 3: 7:26
Mile 4: 7:13
Mile 5: 7:26
Mile 6-7: 14:25 (7:13 pace)
Mile 8: 7:13
Mile 9: 7:56 (refill bottle)
Mile 10: 7:09
Mile 11: 7:21
Mile 12: 7:22
Mile 13: 7:31 (refill bottle)
Mile 14: 7:15
Mile 15: 7:13
Mile 16: 7:18
Mile 17: 7:31
Mile 18: 6:55
Mile 19: 7:16 (refill bottle)
Mile 20: 6:51
Mile 21: 7:02
Mile 22: 7:12
Mile 23: 7:00
Mile 24: 7:08
Mile 25: 7:05
Mile 26: 7:06
last bit: 1:27

I negative split the race as 1:37:06/1:33:37.   So 7:24/7:08 pace   But I think the more revealing split is my pace through 17 (7:24) versus the last 9.21 miles (7:02 pace).  It was a fun way to race, and the best way to execute, given the weather.  Though probably not the most optimal pacing if the weather was better (negative splitting is the way to go, but this was a bit extreme).   I was slightly surprised that I wasn't faster between 17 and the finish, but I suspect that was the humidity taking its toll.

You can also see how I paced the race by looking at my HR chart - the steady increase in HR starting around 2 hours is when I picked things up.  You can also identify the rolling parts of the course by noting the HR peaks and valleys.

Placingwise, I worked my way up from 160th place overall at 13.1, to 149th at 17, and 97th by the finish.  That was fun.

The results for female masters are suspect right now - several who placed above me may have been bib-swaps.  But there were enough legit runners ahead of me that I'm sure I wasn't top 3 masters.  Oh well, the cash would have been nice.  I believe I did win my age group since the race didn't allow double dipping (the two faster 40-44 women got masters awards).  But I won't know for sure until the results get cleaned up.

[as an aside - letting someone else run with your bib is NOT a victimless crime.  Please don't do it.]

Other notes:

  • This was really a well run race.  The expo was well managed, as was the start-finish area.  The race reminded me a lot of Shamrock in terms of organization, and I'd recommend it for that.  The race also takes very good care of its local elites - "New England's Finest."  That was nice to see, and is probably why it was so competitive, despite its small size.
  • If I've given the impression that this was a slow course, I want to correct that now. I don't think this is a terribly slow course.  I do think that this course is not as fast as Shamrock, CIM, Chicago, etc, and so I wouldn't recommend it for someone who was right on the edge of a BQ or an OTQ.  It is a nice race though, and a good choice in general for a fall marathon.  Well organized, easy logistics, and most years one should have good weather.  I think my perception of the small hills was compounded by the humidity - on a better weather day I might have a different impression of the course.
  • I stayed at the Homewood Suites on Asylum Street.  It was a great location - a block from the expo and a block from the start/finish area.  It also overlooked numerous bars and clubs.  Fortunately I brought my earplugs with me, and thus had no issue sleeping.  Anyone else staying there pre-race should do the same.
  • The Expo was in Hartford's XL Center.  I belatedly realized that the XL Center used to be the Hartford Civic Center, where I saw Nine Inch Nails play live 17 years ago when I was in law school in the middle of final exams.  That concert was followed by several hours trying desperately to find the missing rental car so we could get back to finish our exams.  We didn't realize that there were two identical parking garages on opposite sides of the Civic Center, and we had parked the car in one, thinking that we had parked in the other.  I will never forget that night.  And it's also funny where life takes you.
  • 8 gels were consumed on course.  In case you were wondering.
  • As discussed in my training log, I ended up with a gap of 5 weeks between my last 20 miler and this race.  I don't think that affected my performance at all, though - covering the marathon distance was not a concern today.  That's good to know in case I ever have to postpone a marathon again.
  • I do think that my time was affected not just by the weather and the course, but also by the stress of the last few weeks, and the travel the day before.  How much is hard to say - the weather was by far the biggest factor.  But I do feel that I wasn't as well rested for this race (despite the 5 week taper) as I have been for previous marathons - I just spent too much time on my feet the day before, and had too much stress between the cat and the changing of plans.  For future races, I need to travel 48 hours before whenever possible.  Minimizing stress is always good as well, though that's not always in my control.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Training log - Week ending October 8, 2017

This week was 47 miles of running and 16 "miles" of pool-running  -- training log is here.

(this entry also reposted as blogger apparently ate my entry.  Again)

This was my second try at my second-to-last week of taper.  Very similar to the week before, save that a lot of the "extras" (pool-running, recovery swimming) got minimized or nixed in favor of taking care of my cat, Isabella.

As I noted in the previous entry, I made the decision early in the week to skip Mohawk-Hudson due to my cat Isabella being ill.  I was stressed and tired early in the week, which was not good prep for a marathon.  Additionally, making the decision to DNS early in the week meant that I could adjust my taper, and also let me run enough to cope with the stress.

(I also developed a mild head cold last week - another reason I was glad I skipped).

As the week wore on, it was clear I had made the right decision, as Isabella ended up undergoing surgery Friday afternoon.   The back story to that is:

On Sunday afternoon, after my last "long run," I took Izzy into the emergency vet - she had vomited and wasn't interested in food - concerning.  She seemed fine during examination, and her vitals were normal, so they suggested I take her home and keep an eye on her. 

However, I had a sense something wasn't quite right with her, so I asked for an ultrasound.  I reasoned that it would probably come back clean, giving me peace of mind and letting me focus on the marathon.

But just the opposite happened.  The ultrasound revealed a gallstone (rare in cats) that had not yet completely blocked the gall bladder duct.  While it is theoretically possible to remove the gallstone surgically, the operation is very risky, from both a short and long term perspective.  And doubly so in her case since bloodwork revealed that she also had "triaditis" - inflammation of the liver, pancreas, gall bladder, and intestines (all related to the gall stone).  The triaditis further reduced her chances of surviving the surgery.

So, we needed to get the stone to pass on its own (via medication) if at all possible to avoid surgery.  We gave the medication a few days, but by Thursday she was declining and back in the ER, and an ultrasound indicated that the stone had shifted and was closer to the duct.  Thursday evening I was told that I had the choice of either putting her to sleep or attempting the surgery. 

After consulting with my sister (a vet) and our regular vet, I decided to go ahead with the surgery.  I was worried about Izzy's long-term quality of life if they had to reroute her bile duct (one possible outcome of the surgery).  Many times it's kinder to put to sleep than to make them endure.   But my sister and Dr. Wooton both reassured me that I wasn't being cruel as long as I was committed to euthanasia if Izzy was suffering after.

The surgery happened Friday night, with a surprisingly good result.  They opened her up, and discovered that the stone was no longer there.  It had passed sometime between the last ultrasound and the operation.  No need to remove or reroute organs.    So a very difficult surgery ended up being exploratory, and  easier on her.  Though still tough - it was surgery, after all.

As of Monday evening, Izzy's home and resting comfortably, and getting closer to being her old self.  And I'm feeling a bit less stressed and more able to focus on other stuff.  Like running a marathon this weekend.


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

Tuesday: 8 miles, including a track workout of 6x800 (2:57, 2:57, 2:55, 2:54, 2:52, 2:47).  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 9 miles very easy (9:04) plus drills, strides. 1 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the evening.

Thursday: 6.5 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights/core in the morning; foam rolling at night.

Friday: 10 miles, including a 5K tempo on the track in 19:34 (6:29/6:15/6:08/0:42),  followed by injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 8 miles very easy (9:07), plus drills and strides, followed by upper body weights/core and DIY yoga.  2.5 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 12 miles aerobic (7:54).  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Just a quick update on marathon racing plans

Since I know that there are people who follow my training here that I don't regularly interact with outside of the internet, I wanted to quickly note that I will not be racing Mohawk-Hudson Marathon this Sunday.

This past Sunday (2 days ago), I took our cat Isabella into the emergency vet after she threw up twice and had no interest in eating.  As it turns out, she has a gall bladder stone, accompanied by inflammation in the organs surrounding it.  It's not currently blocking a duct, but is floating around and causing discomfort and nausea from time to time.  And if it does block a duct, then it's a true veterinary emergency.

Gall bladder stones are not common in cats.  They can be removed surgically, but the surgery is risky.  So, after 24 hours in the ICU, I brought her home Monday afternoon, along with several different medications.  We're trying (via medication) to shrink the stone so that it will pass through and we can avoid surgery.

After giving it some thought, on Monday night I decided to DNS Mohawk-Hudson.  I don't know how Izzy's health is going to progress over the next few days - it's possible that she won't be stable enough for me to feel comfortable leaving her this weekend.    Additionally, I've been very stressed the last two days with poor sleep.  That's not how to approach the final week of tapering - I'm not well rested.  And even if I was comfortable with traveling to Albany, my mind is not where I need it  to be to race well.

Tuesday (today) was the last day that I could cancel my hotel without penalty, so I made the call last night.  Pulling out this early in the week also meant that we could modify this week's training plan (including this morning's track workout), so that we could extend my taper in hopes of racing a marathon the following week.

The weather for Mohawk-Hudson is looking challenging at this point, which made the decision easier (though it's arguably still too far off to be certain).   But I'm still bummed - I've wanted to run this race for a long time.  Some other year.

Right now, I'm targeting a marathon on October 15th - either Columbus or Hartford (I prefer Columbus, but which one will depend on weather).   Of course, this is all still very Izzy dependent.  Depending on her status, there may be no fall marathon for me - waiting until November is not a good choice because of my plans for racing in Spring 2018.

It is what it is.  And I'm still very fortunate - I'm sure there are many who are injured and would prefer to be in my shoes.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Training log - week ending 10/1/2017

This week was 48 miles of running, 19 "miles" of pool-running and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

The week that things turned around (which is awfully dramatic, but also a fun way to lead things off).  As noted previously, I felt pretty lousy all of last week.  This wasn't unexpected or necessarily concerning - I had all the accumulated fatigue of the marathon cycle to shake off, compounded by the half-marathon.    And a reprise of this summer's heat and humidity didn't help.

I usually try not to cut back too sharply too early in the taper - I've learned that doing so leaves me flat on race day.  But I ended up putting the belt on for Monday morning's pool-run anyway and keeping that to 40 minutes in an attempt to freshen up.  In the broader scheme of my training week, this was a very small change.  But either it helped, or the timing was right to feel better anyway.  Each day this week, I felt a little sharper and a little better.  Perfect timing.  As of Sunday my energy levels were way up.  (and I also developed acne and sinus pain - two things that always happen when I taper, for some reason).  Cooler weather didn't hurt.

So now I just need to cruise through this last week and get to the marathon ready to run. I'll follow the same taper I did before - easy pool on Monday, very short track workout on Tuesday, 6 easy on Wednesday, 4 on Thursday with a mile at "early part of marathon pace."  Then nothing but travel on Friday, and 1 mile easy on Saturday.

So now we see what happens.  I think I'm in really good shape, so if the running gods smile, I should have a good day.  If the running gods frown, then I'll likely have a good story to tell.


Monday: 4 "miles" pool-running (with the belt) and upper body weights in the morning; 3 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 11 miles, including a track workout of 2x1600, 2x800 (5:58, 6:04, 2:51, 2:50), followed by light injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy (9:09) plus drills, strides, and DIY yoga. 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Thursday: 6 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights/core in the morning; 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Friday: 9 miles, including a 5K tempo on the track in 19:26 (6:21/6:10/6:12/0:43),  followed by injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 8 miles very easy (9:10), plus drills and strides, followed by upper body weights/core and DIY yoga.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 12 miles aerobic (7:46).  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Training log - Week ending 9/24/2017

This week was 46 miles of running, 32 "miles" of pool-running and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This week was race recovery and taper.    For the first two days, I kept things in the pool.  Then I returned to land running, but started reducing the mileage, cutting it ever so slightly.

For my taper, I'm just echoing my taper for Chicago last year.  It worked before, so I'll stick with it as a general map, with some variation depending on how I feel from day to day.

Over the next two weeks I'll be reducing my volume while maintaining both the rhythm of my workouts and maintaining (or even slightly increasing) the intensity of my track workouts.  I've found that if I eliminate runs or pool-runs altogether, I get stale.  Far better to keep the doubles, but reduce the time - near the end of my taper, my evening pool-runs will be 10 minutes - a single mile.  Similarly, if I pull back too much on the speedwork, I get very dull.  Turning my legs over helps me peak, and it's time to peak.

[note: this is what works for me.   On the off chance that anyone reads my blog for guidance, please understand that this is not a blanket recommendation.   Tapering is extremely individual, and some people fare better with a larger cutback in work.  Or conversely, a very minimal taper.]

I am eliminating yoga classes for the next two weeks.  Part of it is a general "reducing the workload" - but I'm also paranoid about being exposed to those whom think it's appropriate to attend a class while sick.  Instead, I'll sub in more "DIY yoga" - a short 10 minute routine I do that includes all the poses that I like and none that I don't.  Again, keeping the rhythm but reducing the volume.

My weight lifting will follow a similar path to my running - I'll keep going to the gym to lift, and I'll lift the same weights, but I'll cut back the numbers of reps and sets.  In the last week, it will get ridiculous, as I stop by the gym for 5 minutes to do two sets of pull-ups and push-ups, and then leave. But this is what works for me.


As I noted above, I took the first part of the week easy, before returning to hard running with Friday's track workout.  I felt lousy during the workout, but that wasn't surprising.  After both of my previous halves this year, I took at least one full week off from fast running - a reflection of my personal ability to recover.

I chose to do Friday's workout anyways because I knew it would be minimal and restrained, and getting my legs turning over would be a good first step towards peaking.  I don't need to feel good now.  In fact, I'd be moderately concerned if I did feel good that I had peaked too soon.  I just need to feel good in two weeks.

Sunday was my last long run, which I ran solo.  My plan going in was to run the last 6 miles on the conservative side of marathon pace, to really lock in that feeling of holding back.  Before I started the run, I thought that 6:55 - 7:00 would be good and conservative.  But it ended up being a surprisingly hot and humid morning, and the headwind for the last 6 miles didn't help either.  I ended up dialing the pace back to between 7:05-7:10 to accommodate the weather.  But that was OK - what I really cared about was practicing the skill of staying relaxed, focused, and positive during the run (as opposed to how I lost focus at the end of my tune-up race).  And I accomplished that, which was more of confidence booster than faster miles would have been.

Two weeks to go.


Monday: In the morning, foam-rolling, yoga, and 4 "miles" pool-running;

Tuesday: In the morning, 9 "miles" of pool-running and injury prevention work.  4 "miles" pool-running and a sports massage at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 6.5 miles very easy to yoga (9:42), yoga, and then another 3.5 miles very easy (9:13) plus drills and two hill sprints.  4 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning,  upper body weights and core, and 7 "miles" pool-running.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 10 miles, including a track workout of 3200, 1600 in 12:36 (6:21/6:15) and 6:05.  Followed with injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: In the morning, 10 miles very easy (8:56) followed by drills, strides, foam rolling, and upper body strengthwork and core.  2 "miles" pool-running in the afternoon.

Sunday:  16 miles, split as the first 5 miles averaging 8:54 pace, next 5 averaging 7:44 pace, last 6 miles averaging 7:08 pace.  Followed with injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming, plus foam rolling.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Training log - Week ending 9/17/17

This week was 43.5 miles of running, 20 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This is just a quick entry for the formality of it.  This was the first week of my marathon taper, with a race inserted as a bonus.

Every time I've run a half-marathon as a tune-up during a marathon, it's gone poorly.  In fact, when I think about it, my marathon tune-ups of all distances are almost always disappointing - the only time they've gone well is when I've ended up under-prepared for the marathon.

I know this.  And I know that the smack-in-the-face of a frustrating race sets me up perfectly to approach my marathon with both resolve and respect.

That's the logic.  But there's emotion also.  And the emotion is that tough races are never fun, and it takes time for the sting to ease.  That's just how it is.

I've gone through this process enough to know that as much as the half sucked to experience at the time, it set me up very well for a great marathon.  So now I just need to relax and trust in the process.  And resist that urge that we all feel to try to somehow compensate for the race in my training over the next few weeks, either to subconsciously self-flagellate or to prove my own fitness or to crash-train some extra fitness. 

It's time for the plane to start its safe descent.


Monday: In the morning, foam-rolling, yoga, and 7 "miles" pool-running; 2 "miles" pool-running  at night.

Tuesday: 9 miles very easy (8:56) plus drills and strides, and then upper body weights and core.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 9 miles, including a workout of 6x800 in 3:02, 3:00, 2:59, 2:56, 2:59, 2:52  Followed with injury prevention work and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning,  7 "miles" pool-running, DIY yoga, and foam rolling.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 7 miles very easy (9:04), followed by some light strengthwork and DIY yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: In the morning, 3 miles very easy (8:46) plus DIY yoga and foam rolling.  Ice bath in the afternoon.

Sunday:  2.5 mile warm-up, and then a half-marathon in 89:03.  750 yards recovery swimming later in the morning.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Race Report: Navy-Air Force Half-Marathon, September 17, 2017

I ran the Navy-Air Force Half-Marathon this morning, finishing in a time of 89:03.  Which was good enough for second masters female.  For the fourth year in a row.  Each time to a different person.

Oh well, better than 3rd master, right?

I have to admit, I didn't go into this race with the best attitude, and I think it showed in my performance.  I've just finished my peak 6 weeks of marathon training, and I'm tired.  Mentally as much as physically.  I find it hard to shift into a racing mindset when I haven't raced in a while - it takes some work to rekindle that fire.

But that's exactly why it was a good idea for me to race this morning.  I knew that the race itself would likely not be my best performance for several reasons: accumulated fatigue, lack of focus on this race, and weather (today was pretty muggy).   But physically it would be a good hard lactate threshold workout, and mentally it'd be a solid kick in the rear.  And three weeks out from the marathon was the perfect slot for both.

Before I get into the race itself, I have to take a moment to praise the race organization.  I've run this race four years in a row now, and each year I've noted changes that were made in response to the feedback from previous years.   There used to be a problem with the 5 miler and the half-marathon runners interfering with each other - the courses were rerouted to fix that issue.   This year, the expo was moved to the DC Armory area - much easier to access than the previous location at Nationals Park.  I also noted that the race shirt this year came in a true women's XS - in previous years the womens' shirts, even the smalls and extra-smalls, were tents.  It seems like many races have a "my way or the highway" attitude towards their runners, so it's nice to run a race that really does value and respond to feedback.  The race isn't perfect. (which race is?)   But they really do try, and they improve each year, and that's worth a lot in my book.


Race morning dawned muggy - this type of weather has become a near tradition for this race, so I wasn't too upset.  It was what it was, and we just had to do our best.  Because of the weather, I kept my warm-up on the short side - 2.5 miles with one hard segment of about 90 seconds - and also finished my warm-up with enough time to let my body temperature settle back down.

Then I hopped in my corral, handheld water bottle in hand, to join my teammates.

The gun went off (actually a bell, as I remember) and I went out riding the brakes.  This race and Cherry Blossom have similar first miles and people make the same mistakes at both - hammering up the initial hill and then letting the subsequent downhill lure them out too fast.  Mindful of that, I proceeded carefully.

Somewhere during that first mile, I synced up with teammates Brent and Jason.  I'd run with them for the next 8-9 miles, before getting separated at a water stop.
Thanks to Elizabeth Clor for this photo.
Jason is to my left, and Brent is to
my right (hidden by me).
Other teammate Jamey is behind me,
as is the woman in blue who would
finish first master female.

For the first few miles, I tried to hold a steady rhythm, with the exception of one surge to get behind a taller person as a windblock (we had a very modest headwind for the first 2-3 miles).  I had noted another masters female at the start, so I was also keeping an eye on her - ideally keeping her in sight so that I could chase her.  Around mile 4 or 5 she came back to me and we passed her, so that was good.  Of course, soon after another woman who looked like she might be my age passed us.  I debated going with her, or at least keeping her in my sight, but opted not to.  She was going too fast for me this early in the race.  Either she'd come back to me later or she wouldn't, but blowing myself up now wouldn't accomplish anything.

I held my pace up to the turnaround in Rock Creek Park, but things were getting rocky.  My breathing honestly hadn't been great the whole race (not full-blown asthma, but slightly tight), and I was also starting to feel shaky.  I had drained my water bottle, so I slowed up to refill it, and lost contact with Brent and Jason.  That was just as well, as I sensed that they were in shape to hammer the race home, while this was evolving into survival for myself.

The last four miles were not fun.  I had originally hoped to hammer these, but I was in no shape to do so - my balloon had no helium.  So I struggled home, mentally and physically.   I'm annoyed that I didn't fight harder in the final miles - if nothing else, I could have at least broken 89 (though honestly that doesn't matter much at all - it would have still been way off of my fitness).  But I think the fact that I have a marathon in 3 weeks weighed heavy here - as horrible as it sounds, when I have a goal marathon on my mind, I just don't care that much about the tune-ups, and it shows.

Splits were:
Mile 1: 6:55
Mile 2: 6:44
Mile 3: 6:46
Mile 4: 6:41
Mile 5: 6:41
Mile 6: 6:45
Mile 7 6:44
Mile 8: 6:47
Mile 9: 6:54 (hill+ refill water bottle)
Mile 10: 6:46
Mile 11: 6:52
Mile 12: 7:00
Mile 13+last bit: 7:27 (6:39 pace)

So basically, I just raced a half-marathon not too far off the pace I've been training at as "marathon pace."   Normally this would be concerning, but I'm not too worried.  Between the weather (high 60s and 100% humidity), accumulated fatigue, and my lack of focus, I don't take too much from the time.  It is what it is, I'm done, and now I get to taper for the marathon.

Other notes:

  • Took one gel on course, a Blueberry Roctane.  I felt nauseous afterwards, but I think that was due to deydration, not the gel.
  • Speaking of dehydration, it was definitely a factor here.  I felt nauseous and shaky in the last miles of this race and for a while afterwards.  And despite tossing down many many bottles of water post-race, I'm still unable to pee.  (TMI, but it's a running blog).

    I'm not sure what I can do about that - I was definitely well hydrated going into this race, and I drank as much water as I could have tolerated during the race.  In 100% humidity, it's impossible not to get somewhat dehydrated when racing this long.  And the fact I had to go back on my antihistamines a few weeks ago for ragweed season didn't help - Clarinex is a great drug for allergies, but very drying.  Oh well, it is what it is.
  • Amusingly, though this time was far off of what I would normally hope to run for a half-marathon, it's still by far my my best performance at this distance while preparing for a full.  So that's nice.  And it's also just more evidence that I don't race half-marathons well off of full marathon training.

    Over the years, I've noted that some people can race great half-marathons approaching them from the endurance/marathon side - they do most of the marathon workouts, but just avoid the 20 milers.  Those are also the people that generally run better half-marathons as tune-ups for a full.   For myself, I do best at the half-marathon distance when I approach it from the 10K/speed/stamina side - focusing on the track workouts,  avoiding the marathoner workouts, and really limiting the long runs.  That's what I did this spring for Shamrock and Grandma's, and I'll use that strategy again when I next target a half as my goal race.  Marathon pace work is my strength, but the more I do it, the more I get locked into that marathon pace range, and the harder it is for me to find and hold a pace that's just a bit faster.
  • Arrived at the race at 6:00 am for the 7:08 start, which was just about perfect.  I did have some trouble finding parking at first - there were many many open spots along Constitution Avenue and the surrounding streets, but they were all marked with temporary "No Parking" signs.  It was frustrating.  Until I realized that all the No Parking signs were for Saturday (when we had umpteen marches and gatherings, including one for President Trump supporters and another for Insane Clown Posse fans).  And that was how I scored near-rock star parking.   Reading isn't just fundamental, it's also parking-tastic.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Training log - Week ending 9/10/17

This week was 74 miles of running, 24 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

And...that's the last hard week done - 6 of 6.  Now I have what's essentially a four week taper.  I'll taper this week for a half-marathon this coming weekend, and then recover from that before continuing my taper for the marathon on October 8.

I've done it both ways - last 20+ three weeks before, and last 20+ four weeks out, with a half-marathon raced all out three weeks out.  I prefer the second.  The half-marathon itself is hit-or-miss (and usually a miss, in my case).  But I really benefit from lactate threshold work in general, and so the half-marathon ends up being a great final hard workout before the marathon.

I'm feeling really good about my fitness.  I deliberately held way back on Tuesday's interval workout (with my coach's concurrence).  I've decided that when I'm marathon training, I prefer running the Tuesday interval workouts as a very controlled descending set - starting at somewhere between tempo and 10K effort, and then increasing the pace each interval to end at my normal pace.

Doing the workouts this way, I still reap the leg turnover benefits of the workout, without the stress and injury risk of the "normal" workout.  It's not the best way to train for the 5k-10K distance.  But for the few toughest weeks of marathon training, it's totally fine.

Friday's tempo was the last hard workout before the half-marathon.  Because of the great weather, we were able to extend the distance to 8K - I was really happy about that, since I think the longer track tempos are the single best workout for me in terms of building fitness.  I ended up setting a modest 8K PR during the tempo - my official 8K PR is 31:51 from a few years back.  Of course, I also ran faster than that during my 10K and 10 Mile PRs this spring, so that 8K PR had already fallen anyway.

Sunday's progressive 20 miler was almost an afterthought.  The priority was on getting it done safely and without digging too deep - in a sense, I'm already resting up for the half.  Incidentally, that's why the run was 20 instead of 21 - our usual 21 mile long run loop is closed due to construction, and so we did the run as an out-and-back.  Because of the out-and-back, we could fine-tune the distance, and so we limited the run to 20 miles.  There was no reason to do more, and every reason to be conservative.


Several people have commented on my paces this season, and wondered if I was targeting sub-3.  The answer is not really.  I'm honestly training at paces determined by my current fitness and recent race performances.  It just happens that those paces also generally happen to be in the low 6:50s.  Which matches a 3 hour marathon.

If pressed, I'd admit that I suspect I'm in sub-3 shape now, based on objective evidence.  But sub-3 wasn't my goal at the beginning of this training cycle, and I'm loathe to shift goals late in the cycle.  Getting ambitious with marathon goals late in a cycle usually leads to lousy races.  And it would be a shame to be disappointed with a sub-3:05 when that's what I wanted when I started training.

In any event, it's a non-issue.  I always race with my watch face blanked, so I'm ignorant of paces.  Thus, there's really no need to think about target paces or times before the race.  I'll just do what I do every time - target a well-paced race based on perceived effort.  If' I'm in shape to break three hours and the weather and the running gods comply,  it will happen.  If if doesn't, I'll still run the best I could that day.  And that's all I can really ask for.


Monday: In the morning, 8 miles very easy (8:41) to yoga, yoga, and then 2 miles very easy home (8:59) plus drills and strides. 4 "miles" pool-running in the evening.

Tuesday: 10.5 miles, including a track workout of 4x1200+800 in 4:50, 4:40, 4:36, 4:30, 2:52.  Also did injury prevention work at the gym and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 8 miles very easy to yoga (9:19), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy (9:19) plus drills and strides.  4 "miles" pool-running and a massage in the evening.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights and core plus 10 "miles" pool-running.  Another 2 "miles" of pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Friday: 11.5 miles, including an 8K tempo on the track in 31:48 (6:27/6:25/6:24/6:22/6:11).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1250 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles easy (9:07) followed by drills and four strides, and upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling and 4 "miles" pool-running in afternoon.

Sunday: 20 miles progressive, split as first 7 averaging 9:02 pace, next 6 averaging 7:37, last 7 averaging 6:43 (downhill assist on way back).  Followed with injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.   Foam rolling in afternoon.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Training log - Week ending 9/3/17

This week was 50 miles of running, 38 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

And that's week 5 of the hard 6.  Only two hard workouts this week: the 25x400m on the track, and the 4-3-2-1 on Saturday.  I was very happy with how both went.

The 25x400 was a dig-deep type morning, but it's supposed to be - that workout is intended to be a mental test.  The 4-3-2-1 felt good - controlled and not terribly challenging.   Well...the last mile at 10K-pace-instead-of-a-bit-faster-than-marathon-pace was arguably not quite as "controlled" but it didn't feel like a massive effort.  More of an "oops."  And my coach was fine with us hitting that pace for the last mile, so no harm no foul, I guess.

As my hard runs got faster, my easy runs got even slower.  I rode the brakes hard on those days to balance out the workouts and ensure I didn't dig into a hole.


I do a lot of thinking on my easy runs, and two of the things I was thinking about this week were a) how my workouts felt, both during and after, and b) why I like running my easy runs relatively slow compared to my workouts and races.

If you want to get analytical (and that's the fun of this blog), you can assign three metrics to any run or workout:

-how challenging it was to execute at the time,
-how much it took out of you in the days after, and
-how much of a stimulus it gave to your fitness.

There's a real tendency among runners to view the three as perfectly correlated.  I.e. if a workout felt really hard while you were doing it, or if you were trashed for days after, then it must have done great things for your fitness.

[incidentally, I think that assumption is what underlies the success of stuff like SolidCore and some of the worse Cross-Fit studios.  Due to how the workouts are structured, people leave the studios or boxes feeling really sore, and assume that because they are sore, their workout was effective.]

In my experience, the three qualities (how challenging it felt at the time, how tired/sore you were after, and how much you gained from it) are only loosely correlated.

For example, the 25x400 workout is a fairly tough workout to execute at the time - there's always a point where it's tempting to drop out.  Not so with a 21 mile progressive long run - unless I'm struggling with my training generally, the long runs usually seem easy at the time.  But I feel the 21 mile run much more in the days after - I bounce back fairly quickly from the 25x400.

Thus, how hard the workout felt while you did it may not match how much it takes out of you after.   And similarly, the workout that leaves you curled on a ball on the track may not have benefited you any more than one run a few seconds slower per lap. Sometimes (like the 25x400), you need to go to the well.  Other times (like the 4-3-2-1), if you dig deep you're just accruing more fatigue without a corresponding benefit.  Wasteful and inefficient.

Likewise, for easy runs, there's an assumption that the more tired one is from a run, the more one benefited from it.  I disagree.  At least for myself, I feel that I get a nearly identical training stimulus from 10 miles at 8:00 pace versus 9:30 pace.  But the 9:30 pace run requires much less recovery.   Thus the slower easy run is a better value - same training stress (or maybe greater, since I'm out there longer), at a lower physical cost.

[note here: I don't believe all people are equal.  There may be some who get a significant enough benefit from a faster easy run to outweigh the physical cost.  My hunch is that this depends on physiology and age.]

And that's one of the tricks of training - realizing that those three metrics can all differ, and that we need to be striving to maximize our fitness, rather than simply chasing exhaustion.


Monday: In the morning, foam-rolling, yoga, and 8.5 "miles" pool-running; 3 "miles" pool-running  at night.

Tuesday: 10.5 miles very easy (9:13) plus drills and strides, and then upper body weights and core.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 13.5 miles, including a workout of 25x400m - first 24 repeats averaged 1:32, with 100m recoveries averaging 32 seconds; last repeat in 85.  Ran the "10K" (less the recoveries) in 38:21.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.
(since people geek about the 25x400, here's the Garmin report and the Stryd report.)

Thursday: In the morning, foam-rolling, yoga, and 8 "miles" pool-running.  4 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 10 miles very easy (9:21), followed by upper body weights and core.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 17 miles, including a workout of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles at marathon pace, with ~1 mile easy in between (we took a bit longer after the 4 mile segment for a quick restroom break). Splits were:
4 Mile: 27:27 (6:53/6:49/6:52/6:53 - average pace 6:52)
3 Mile: 20:28 (6:48/6:51/6:49 - average pace 6:49)
2 Mile: 13:35 (6:50/6:45 - average pace 6:48)
Mile: 6:19
Followed with injury prevention work and 750 yards of recovery swimming. Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday:  8 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling mid-day.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Training log - Week ending 8/27/17

This week was 76 miles of running, 23 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

My mileage is deceptively high this week, because I ran more days than normal.  Usually I run five days a week on land, while the other two days are pool-only.  But for this period of Monday-Sunday, I ran six days, and only had one pool-only day.  Why?

Well....when I'm in the depths of marathon training, I think in terms of 14 day fortnights rather than 7 day weeks (though this blog doggedly adheres to the 7 day format).   I structure my fortnight like this:

  • Monday1: Pool-only
  • Tuesday1: Easy mileage
  • Wednesday1: 25x400m
  • Thursday1: Pool-only
  • Friday1: Easy mileage
  • Saturday1: 4-3-2-1 long run
  • Sunday1: Pool-only
  • Monday2: Easy mileage
  • Tuesday2: Track intervals
  • Wednesday2: Easy mileage
  • Thursday2: Pool-only
  • Friday2: Track tempo
  • Saturday2: Easy mileage
  • Sunday2: 21 mile long run.
(pool-running days in italics, key workouts in bold)

Structured this way, I never run on land more than three days in a row, and I take a pool-only day (aka a "POD") after each of the key workouts - the 21 miler, the 25x400m, and the 4-3-2-1 marathon pace workout/long run.   I consider those three workouts to be particularly demanding and high risk, and so I emphasize recovery after each.

So the first 7 day period ends up having three PODs and low land mileage while the subsequent 7 day period has only one POD, and thus higher land mileage.

Per this schedule,  I did last week's long run on Saturday, and then took my normal post-long run pool day on Sunday.  Because of this, Monday of this week ended up being land, not pool.  So only one POD this week, resulting in a high land mileage tally.

If you just looked at the weekly numbers, you might be very concerned at the injury risks inherent in these land mileage fluctuations - bouncing from 50 to 76 and back again.  But I think this is an example of where weekly mileage totals aren't the best metric for assessing workload/stress.

I could have forced a land run of 10-11 miles last Sunday after the 4-3-2-1, delaying my POD until Monday.  Doing so would have looked more balanced on pixels/paper - with weeks of 61 and 65 miles, respectively.  But, in the real world, I'm certain that taking my POD the day after the 4-3-2-1 is the best choice for me in terms of recovering from and absorbing the workout, and is far easier on my body - even if the weekly Monday-Sunday total argues otherwise.

Reviewing my training over the fortnight period - I ran 126 miles plus 61 miles in the pool.  Averaged over 2 weeks, that comes to 63 miles on land and 30 miles in the pool each week - exactly what I'm targeting, and a perfect workload for me.

It's a nice reminder to myself to let the training drive the numbers, rather than the other way around.

[And now, an aside that oozes hypocrisy.  While training absolutely drives the numbers, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the numbers when they work out well..]

[As you can see, for one brief moment, I led the weekly mileage chart for my team on Strava.  This was an unexpected perk of running early on Monday morning.   I couldn't resist screencapping it for posterity (this may never happen again).  If you're on Strava, you're not allowed to judge me for this.  If you've resisted Strava, judge away.]

[and yes, I am on Strava.  However, I am being pretty conservative in whom I'm allowing to follow me.  Please don't be hurt if I don't accept your follow request, especially if I don't know you personally.]


Monday: In the morning, 4.5 miles very easy (9:03) to yoga, yoga, and then 6.5 miles very easy home (8:50) plus drills and strides. 3 "miles" pool-running in the evening.

Tuesday: 11 miles, including a track workout of 6x800 in 3:05, 3:01, 2:57, 2:59, 2:58, 2:51.  Also did injury prevention work at the gym and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.  Massage at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 8 miles very easy to yoga (9:25), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy (9:02) plus drills and strides.  4 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the evening.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights and core plus 10 "miles" pool-running with the belt.  Another 2 "miles" of pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Friday: 11 miles, including a 4 mile tempo on the track in 25:15 (6:25/6:20/6:24/6:06).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1250 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles easy (9:07) followed by drills and four strides, and upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling and 4 "miles" pool-running in afternoon.

Sunday: 21 miles progressive, split as first 7 averaging 8:52 pace, next 7 averaging 7:38, last 7 averaging 6:49.  Followed with injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.   Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Training log - Week ending 8/20/2017

This week was 50 miles of running, 38 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

(note: this is a repaste - at some point this week this entry vanished from my blog.  I'm not sure why.  Fortunately it was in my browser cache, so I was able to fix the issue fairly easily, by cutting, pasting, and re-posting.  I'm pretty annoyed, through.)

Week 3 of the hard 6 is done.  The star this week was my first "25x400" workout - it's 25 repeats of 400m each at 10K pace with a "floating recovery" (not a jog) of 100m between each (targeting around 30 seconds for the 100m recovery). 

Physically, it's an extended lactate threshold workout - you alternate 400m above LT and 100m below it.  Mentally, it's a head game - since you never truly take a break - you just downshift/upshift again and again and again.  While trying not to think about how far you still have to go (just like the marathon).

I was fairly happy with how the workout went.  It was quite humid, with the track wrapped in a warm fog, when we started the workout  I started the workout cautiously, willing to pull the plug if I ever felt like I was in a hole.  But I didn't start struggling until the last few repeats, and by then I was close to done.

Anyone who wants to geek about the workout can check my Garmin entry or training log report, and note how the recoveries got a bit longer as the workout progressed, and dipped at the end, when things got hard.  Having done this workout several times, I feel that the recoveries might just be the hardest part of the workout - it's just so easy to ease off the gas a bit too much.

It is absolutely hilarious where the mind goes during that workout.  Towards the end, when I had just a few 400s left, I struggled with the fact that I had two more 400s left in 94 seconds each (plus a final 400 hammered).  Having that much left was unbearable.   However, an 800 in 3:08, followed by a hard 400, sounded much more reasonable.  So I reframed the workout that way.

As we all know - tough runs often result in lousy, emotional math.


It was still quite humid for Saturday's second go at the 4-3-2-1 workout, though not as thick as Wednesday.  Respecting the conditions, we backed off the pace for the workout, though we ended up holding a faster pace than I had first predicted- only slightly slower than what we held two weeks ago.  Despite the humidity, this edition of the 4-3-2-1 took much less out of me than the previous did.  A good sign.

When doing MP work, I usually pay attention to a) my perceived effort, b) my pace, and c) my heart race.  I like to use all three as limiters to make sure I'm not overcooking the workout. 
During Saturday's run I was a bit concerned at how high my heart rate got at times - completely out of sync with my perceived effort. 

I worried, and then I shelved my concerns.  While I often like to use heart rate as a limiter for MP workouts, my coach has told me before that in extreme humidity or cold, heart rate can be distorted, and isn't the best metric (this view is shared by Jack Daniels, among others).  I've definitely noted this in extreme cold, when my heart rate barely budges during intervals and tempos.

Here, my perceived effort was definitely not matching my heart rate - the effort felt much easier than the heart rate indicated, and my pace seemed objectively reasonable.  I wouldn't have had the same concern I was overdoing things if I wasn't wearing a heart rate monitor.  So I decided that, in these conditions (humidity, heat, caffeinated gel that wasn't agreeing with me), heart rate was a flawed metric.  How good I felt post-workout and the day after seems to support that view.

(tl;dr version - for the n'th time, don't get hung up in the metrics and the overthinking.)


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

Tuesday: 10.5 miles very easy (9:16) plus drills and strides, and then upper body weights and core.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 12.5 miles, including a workout of 25x400m - first 24 repeats averaged 1:34, with 100m recoveries averaging 32 seconds; last repeat in 85.     Followed with injury prevention work and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.  Sports massage at night.

Thursday: In the morning, foam-rolling, yoga, and 8 "miles" pool-running.  4 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 10.5 miles very easy (9:26), followed by upper body weights and core.  3 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 17 miles, including a workout of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles at marathon pace, with ~1 mile easy in between (we took a bit longer after the 4 and 3 mile splits to top off our water bottles). Splits were:
4 mile in 27:54 (7:02/7:01/6:55/6:56 - average pace 6:58)
3 mile in 20:49 (6:56/6:58/6:55 - average pace 6:56)
2 mile in 13:52 (6:59/6:53 - average pace 6:56)
1 mile in 6:43
Followed with injury prevention work and 750 yards of recovery swimming. Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday:  10 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling mid-day.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Training log - Week ending 8/13/17

This week was 65 miles of running, 30 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

The week started out cautiously.  Though it never seems that hard when I'm doing it, the "4-3-2-1" workout that I did last Sunday always takes a lot out of me the first time I run it.  My guess is that it's the combination of a) 10 miles of marathon pace work (a hard effort in itself) with b) the distance - 17 miles won't feel long by the end of the cycle, but at that time it was the longest I've run since last December.  (that record has since been eclipsed by this Sunday's long run)

So, I was tired on Sunday.  And, frustratingly, I dealt with some insomnia Sunday night - a feeling that my body just could NOT turn off.

I've learned through hard experience that this insomnia is my early warning sign that I'm overreaching.  I've also learned (again, the hard way) that when I'm starting to dig a hole, the proper response to to back off, not to fight through it.  The quicker I get out of the hole, the better.

So, Monday became even easier than normal.  I wore a belt for pool-running, and kept the effort very easy - just wiggling my legs in the water.   Thus, what would normally the equivalent of an easy run instead became an extended ice bath.

[why didn't I just take the day off?  Because I truly believe that gentle pool-running with the belt works far better for recovery than pure rest.  At least for me.]

[and I'll also note here that one benefit of pool-running with the belt is that I can take the off day that I need and still log the "mileage" that my type A personality demands.  Ugly, but the truth.  Know your weaknesses and work with them.]

I slept far better Monday night, which was a good sign, and felt much better on Tuesday morning, though still a bit tired.  To be stay on the safe side, my coach and I agreed that I'd back off of the pace for Tuesday's workout.  The prescribed workout was 4-5x1200m.  I'd normally run each in 4:2x, but instead I bumped myself back a "group" and let them set the pace - that ended up being a range from 4:40 down to 4:31 for the fourth repeat.

By the fourth repeat, I was feeling pretty darn good, and ready to go for a fifth.  However, my coach split that into an 800 and 400 instead, which I ran at my normal effort.  End result was that I felt great physically and positive mentally after the workout - unquestionably a far better result than if I had gutted out four repeats at my normal pace.

And the rest of the week went very well, with a solid tempo on Friday, and a good long run on Sunday.  All very positive.

I'm clearly in good shape.  The trick now, for the next several weeks, is not to get greedy and try to build even more fitness by hammering workouts, but instead to refine and carefully reinforce the fitness I currently have.


Monday: In the morning, foam rolling, yoga and 8 "miles" pool-running with the belt. 2 "miles" pool-running in the evening.

Tuesday: 11.5 miles, including a track workout of 4x1200 plus 800, 400 in 4:40, 4:36, 4:36, 4:32, 2:54, 82.  Also did injury prevention work at the gym and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam-rolling at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 8.5 miles very easy to yoga (8:55), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy (8:40) plus drills and strides.  4 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the evening.

Thursday: In the morning, 9 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights and core.  Another 3 "miles" of pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Friday: 11 miles, including a 4 mile tempo on the track in 25:16 (6:25/6:22/6:21/6:08).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1250 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles easy (8:58) followed by drills and four strides, and upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling and 4 "miles" pool-running in afternoon.

Sunday: 21 miles progressive, split as first 7 averaging 8:51 pace, next 6.5 averaging 7:43, last 7.5 averaging 6:52.  Followed with injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.   Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Training log - Week ending 8/6/17

This week was 62 miles of running, 28 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.  (edited to correct the long run - I accidentally left in the long run from two weeks ago...)

I generally think of the 14 week cycle as a few weeks ramping up, then 6 "serious" weeks, followed by taper.  This is week 1 of the serious 6.

It went fairly well.  If you measure workouts by how I felt and how fast I ran, then I had three good workouts this week.  Which is both good and paranoia inducing.

I've done enough marathon training to know that there's a very easy trap to fall into - where you run your workouts just a hair too fast, and get just a bit overconfident.  You accumulate just a bit too much fatigue, and race day fails to live up to the expectations set during your cycle.  And the worst part is - you can't know for sure if this is happening until race day.

The only protection is to be cautious, perpetually mindful of how hard you are working during the cycle.  Asking "do I need to be working this hard?  Can I work a little less and get the same benefit?"
That mindset is completely opposite from the ethos bandied around running sites that whomever works the hardest or cranks out the most mileage runs the fastest on race day.  But it's the best way for the type A personality to marathon train.  Marathoning is about being very patient and cautious for both the cycle and the first 20 miles of the race.

I don't feel like I pushed stuff too hard this week.  But I need to be very careful to ensure that I don't get too enthusiastic (especially given how positive I felt after my workouts this week), and continue to train with what will feel at times like excessive restraint.


Monday: In the morning, foam rolling, yoga and 8 "miles" pool-running. 2 "miles" pool-running in the evening.

Tuesday: 12 miles, including a track ladder workout of 400, 800, 1200, 1600, 1200, 800, 400 in 90, 3:01, 4:29, 5:57, 4:25, 2:49, 83.  Also did injury prevention work at the gym and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam-rolling at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 8 miles very easy to yoga (9:07), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy (8:50) plus drills and four strides.  A massage at lunchtime; 4 "miles" pool-running at night..

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights and core and 9 "miles" pool-running.  Another 1.5 "miles" of pool-running (lightning shut down pool) and foam rolling at night.

Friday: 11 miles, including a long intervals workout of 3200, 1600 in 12:24 (6:18/6:06) and 5:56. Followed with injury prevention work and 1250 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles easy (9:05) followed by drills and four strides, and upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling and 3.5 "miles" pool-running in afternoon.

Sunday: 17 miles 17 miles, including segments of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles at MP with one mile easy recovery between each. Splits were:
4 miles - 27:30 (6:52/6:54/6:53/6:51 - average pace 6:53)
3 miles - 20:36 (6:55/6:54/6:47 - average pace 6:52)
2 miles - 13:43 (6:53/6:50 - average pace 6:52)
1 mile - 6:37 (allowed to go faster on the last mile if we wanted)..  Followed with injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.   Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Training log - Week ending 7/30/17

This week was 38 miles of running, 34 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Week 4 of marathon training.  I cut back the mileage significantly after Tuesday to rest up for my mile race Friday.  The race went well, so I was happy with that.

The downside of racing the mile was that I couldn't do my scheduled long run on Sunday.

I know myself, and though I adore racing road miles, they take a lot out of me.  I wouldn't think twice about running 16 miles easy the day after racing a 5K.   But miles are harder on my body, and paradoxically require more recovery.

I actually didn't feel quite as sore after this race as I have after previous ones - perhaps it's because this one was flat, perhaps it's because I didn't have that extra gear that I had earlier when I was focused on shorter distances.  Either way, I was tempted to do 16 on Sunday when I woke up and felt mostly fine.  But I resisted.

I've learned that there are several situations that predispose me for injury.  One is a mile race, another is long distance driving, and a third is sleep deprivation.  I checked all three boxes on Friday night, which meant no long run on Sunday, no matter how good I felt.  Just not worth the risk - especially when the most important weeks of the cycle are coming up.

So instead I did 12 on the road, and then doubled with 8 "miles" in the pool (and yes - I know this sums to 20 miles, but pool-running miles are far easier to recover and absorb than land).  My original plan had been to run 12 on land and then jump immediately in the pool to finish the run.  However, I ended up starting my land run a bit later than planned, and decided to make it into a double (with lunch between) instead.  I honestly don't think the break between the two runs made that much difference.

What was most important was that I did the land run first, and then the pool run.  When doing "combo" runs, I always like to do land, then pool.  This is because the greatest risk of injury is when I'm tired, at the end of my run.  IMHO, it makes much more sense to do the riskiest period of the run in the pool, where it's considerably harder to injure myself.  I worry that tiring my legs out in the pool and then finishing the run on land is playing with fire.

Next week I have my first "4-3-2-1" workout in about a year (segments of 4, 3, 2, 1 miles at marathon pace with one mile recovery).  I love this workout because it plays to my strengths (which is also why I prefer not to do it too often).  So I'm really looking forward to indulging in it again.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 7.5 "miles" of pool-running.  2.5 "miles" of pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 9.5 miles, including 3 mile warm-up, and then 6x800 in 2:59, 2:56, 2:58, 2:55, 2:55, 2:53. Followed with 2.5 mile cooldown and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8.5 miles very easy to yoga (9:12) followed by drills, 4 hill sprints, and upper body/core strengthwork.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning, DIY yoga to stretch hips and 7 "miles" pool-running.  Another 3 "miles" of pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: In the morning, a 3 mile shakeout (9:18).  Then drive to Pittsburgh.  DIY yoga to stretch hips followed by 4 mile fartlek warm-up and a mile race in 5:34.  Then drive home.

Saturday: In the afternoon, 1000 yards recovery swimming and 6 "miles" pool-running, followed by foam rolling.

Sunday: 12 miles very easy (8:47) followed by drills.  8 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in afternoon.