Monday, April 24, 2017

Training log - Week ending 4/23/17

This week was 34 miles of running,  32 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Another oddly structured week.    After Tuesday's workout, which was great (but too fast), I received an email from my coach confirming that the morning's workout had been great.  But too fast.  And it would be a good idea to pool-run on Wednesday and Thursday to be safe.

My coach doesn't send emails like that for kicks, so I took it seriously.  Pool-running it was (I grumbled).  Better two days voluntarily than a week or more involuntarily.

I suspect my coach was also trying to rest me up for this weekend's 10K.  Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to him, this was not a particularly restful week.  I had a conference in downtown DC on Wednesday and Thursday that resulted in a LOT of walking up and down stairs and from building to building.  

And then Friday and Saturday were my 25th high school reunion.  (yes, I know that I graduated from high school around the same time some of my teammates were born).  More walking.  More standing.  More socializing in large groups, which drains introvert me.  So...not ideal from a recovery/race prep standpoint.  But not every race is a goal race mandating obsessive rest.  Life is important too, and the reunion was awesome and more than worth any detriment to my Sunday race performance.

I did take an ice bath on Saturday to try to pep my legs up a little.  Life got exciting when one of our kittens decided to check out the bar of soap on the opposite side of the tub and slipped partially into the ice bath (back end).  What was hilarious was that Quartz was so focused on the elusive and alluring soap bar that she paid the ice water no heed.  So there we both sat - me shivering and her pawing at the soap bar.  She didn't start squawking until I extricated her from ice bath (and bar of soap).

My recovery tricks didn't work completely - I was still a bit tired on Sunday morning.  But I ran well, so I can't really argue with the result.  I think I got away with it because of the relatively short distance and my marathon background, which enabled me to grind it out.  But I definitely need to prioritize relative rest the next few days to make sure I'm fresh for Broad Street in two weeks, and don't burn out before Grandma's Half in June.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 7 "miles" pool-running. Foam rolling at night.  (also took the day off from work to track the Boston Marathon)

: In the morning, 12 miles, including a 3.5 mile warm-up (8:58); 2x(1600, 800) in 5:55, 2:49, 5:51, 2:47; 4 mile cooldown (9:08).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Massage at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 12 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night. (also walked around a conference all day.)

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights and core and 7 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night. (also walked around a conference all day.)

Friday: In the morning, 7 miles, most easy (9:05) but with a mile at 6:23 pace.  Followed with drills, strides, and foam rolling.  Touring my old high school at night.

Saturday:  In the morning, 3 miles very easy (9:27) plus DIY yoga to open up my hips.  Foam rolling and an ice bath midday.

Sunday: In the morning, 3 mile warm-up, 10K race in 38:56, 3 mile cooldown.  Around noon, did 6 "miles" pool-running and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Helped a friend move in the afternoon.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Race report: Pikes Peek 10K, April 23, 2017

I ran the Pike's Peek 10K this morning, finishing in an official time of 38:56, which was good enough for second masters female.  I'm also debating whether to call this a 10K PR (more on that below).

First of all - an aside - it really is "Peek" and not "Peak."  It's a play on words, referring both to the famous Pikes Peak in Colorado and the fact that nearly all of this race is run on the Rockville Pike in suburban Maryland.

Also, unlike the "Pikes Peak" marathon (which is uphill), this race has traditionally been quite downhill.  And that was one of the reasons I'd avoided it.  I've run this race twice before, and run a time ridiculously faster than anything I was capable of on a flat course - which then set me up for frustration when I couldn't come close to my Pike's Peek time on a flat course.  And I'd feel utterly trashed after the race to boot.  Thus the downhill course was also a mental and physical downer.

So why did I run it this year? all goes back to several months ago, when some of my high school classmates noted that our 25th reunion was coming up, and wouldn't it be fun to run a race on Sunday morning.  I was up for it, so I researched options, and concluded that Pike's Peek was probably the best choice, due to distance, location, and start time.  So...what the heck.    Plus I had heard that the course was changed and was now significantly slower - it would be fun to check it out.


Fast forward to this week, which ended up being fairly draining.  Wednesday and Thursday were the annual meeting for a professional organization I'm fairly involved in (The "International Association of Privacy Professionals" - and yes, it's hilarious that this "privacy professional" maintains a blog in which she covers all sorts of personal stuff, some of which is TMI).  And then Friday and Saturday were my high school reunion, with cocktail parties both nights.  So... lots of walking,..lots of socializing.

By Saturday, I was pretty tired and tempted to skip the 10K.  And I was honestly enjoying the reunion far more than I ever dreamed I would (seriously, it was so much fun).  But I kept looking at the forecast, which just kept looking better and better.  Cool, not much wind, with the potential for showers.

So...I reluctantly left the Saturday night reunion party early, to ensure an early bed time to match my early wake-up (4:40 am).  It was really hard to leave - I don't think I would have if the Sunday morning forecast hadn't been so perfect.  

(I will note that, as hard as it was to depart the party early, it was easier than trying to explain to my coach why I decided at the last minute to party and sleep in instead of running a very fast 10K course on a perfect weather day).


Sunday dawned, and it was (as expected) nearly perfect.  My only quibble was that I would have preferred light rain - both because it tamps down the pollen and because I think I run relatively faster in rain than other people - literally a competitive advantage.  But the lack of rain was a very small negative.  Still a near perfect day.

As I did my warm-up jog, I noted the change in the course - while 90% of the course is the same, the start line had been moved, so that we ran through the old start line a quarter mile after starting.  This was significant because the previous start was at the top of a hill; the new start was at the bottom of that same hill.

During my warm-up, I made a point of running up the hill, and measuring the distance on my Garmin.  Just a bit less than a quarter-mile.  Then I did some quick math - a quarter mile at 6:20 pace is 1:35; a quarter at 7:00 pace is 1:45.  Thus, even if I went out super slow on the uphill, I'd only lose 10 seconds, which I could easily make up during the next 6 miles.

Armed with that knowledge, I reaffirmed my intention (that's yoga-speak) to go out very carefully.  A quick chat with my coach altered that strategy slightly - I'd stay conservative all the way until the left turn onto Rockville Pike (about a half mile into the course).  Then I'd start racing.

With my race strategy set and my warm-up+strides completed, I lined up.  There was masters prize money on the line (determined by gun time) so I lined myself up close to the front of the race, but off to one side so that I wasn't an impediment.  I had noted a very fast local masters runner warming up, and I knew that if she ran a decent race I wouldn't be near her.  But, anything can happen in a race, so best to preserve my chances for the masters win, even if it was only an outside possibility.

Then we started.  Per my plan, I went out carefully.  I was actually surprised by how few people passed me.  This race usually goes out quite hard, with people paying the price later in the race.  Not this time - everyone was working off of the same memo I was apparently.  Fine with me - it was nice not being over-run from behind.

Then we turned onto the Pike, and I flipped into race mode, scanning where I was versus other people, where the packs were forming, and where the tangents were (the race has some very slight curves).  And also how I felt.  My legs didn't feel great - not awful, but not as bouncy as I'd like for a half mile into a 10K.  Not great - but not surprising - I had been on my feet a LOT this week.

I was also mentally in a bit of a funk - I think it was just mental fatigue from all the events of the past week.  I always have to work during races to stay in a positive place, and I was straining today to do that, due to the mental fatigue.

Somewhere pretty early in the course, my coach had parked on the side of the course, to observe us as we came through.  When he saw me, I was running by myself.  He barked a command at me to catch the pack ahead - which had the desired effect - I snapped out of it.  In short order I caught the pack, and then passed them (they were slowing).  So I was by myself again.  But I was also in a different mental place now - more focused - and that made all the difference.

The next few miles were the Pike's Peek I remembered - rolling hills, with the uphills being surprisingly significant.  For out-of-towners - this race has a similar feel to CIM, and the hills are similar in the steepness and length.

There was a pack ahead with two of my teammates, and so I spent the next few miles reeling them in - I had hopes of catching their pack, but wasn't quite able to do it.  But just having them creep back towards me helped.

By Mile 5 I was running on fumes.  Somebody announced "the winner has just crossed the line," and I thought "fuck you."  (Apparently everyone else thought the same thing - what a demoralizing thing to announce.)  But I reminded myself that I was a marathoner, and one more mile was a very short distance.  And I grinded on.

This course ends with another left turn onto Marinelli Road, and then a downhill sprint to the finish.  I kicked with what I had, which didn't seem like much.  But I got myself across the line respectably, and noted with satisfaction that I had broken 39.  Woo.

Splits were:
Miles 1-2: 12:35 (6:18)
Mile 3: 6:12
Mile 4: 6:16
Mile 5: 6:19
Mile 6: 6:24
last bit: 69 seconds (5:30 pace)

So...a positive split, but I think that's in part the course - the first half is unquestionably faster than the second, and the last mile appears to be uphill, according to the elevation profile.

As for the fastness of the course - that's definitely changed as well.   While most of the course is the same, the changes to the start (now uphill) and the finish (no longer as downhill as it was) really have changed the nature of the course.

Looking at USATF course documetation (because I'm a numbers girl) - the old course had a drop of 5.8 meters per kilometer.  This course? 2.2 m/km.  By comparison, the Boston Marathon has a drop of 3.23 m/km, CIM has a drop of 2.45 m/km.  The Broad Street 10 Miler has a drop of 2.59 m/km.  All more than this race.  And that doesn't mention the crazy-fast-eyerolly courses like Clarendon Day 5K (12.2 m/km)

Plus... my 10K time today is close to but not quite as good as my half-marathon performance at Shamrock.  Similarly, my teammates who ran Cherry Blossom a few weeks back had equivalent performances today.

All of this points towards calling this a legit PR.   I just need to (over)analyze it (to death) a bit more before I electronically etch the new number onto the eternal granite of the ephemeral internet.

Other notes:

  • Weather was awesome - temperature of 45, DP of 42, not much wind.  What a great day.
  • Warm-up was 3 miles, including a quarter mile at hard tempo effort about 20 minutes before, plus drills and four strides.  Cooled down for 3 after to give me 12 for the day.
  • The pollen was notable, but not a huge issue.  Watery eyes and I was snotty, but that doesn't affect my running much.   I can't say my breathing was perfect today, as I did feel slightly tight.  But nothing like the issues I had a few weeks ago.  Yay for Xolair.  (I did puff my inhaler pre-race just to be safe).
  • I left my house at 6:15, which was perfect for getting me to the race start by 6:45 (race started at 7:50).   I made a point of not parking in the first lot available, but the very last,  Which was also the closest to the start line.  So woo.
  • I did nearly forget to run with my metro farecard - that would have been an issue, since we park at the start for this race, and metro back to the start from the finish after.  I guess worst case scenario I could have run back to the start.
  • I am tired, but nowhere near as sore as I've been in the past after this race.  I think less drop also means less abuse on the body.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Training log - Week ending 4/16/17

This week was 46 miles of running,  12 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

My running week generally has a routine - intervals on Tuesday, tempo on Friday, long run on Sunday.  This week I wanted to race a mile on Wednesday night, which threw everything into flux.   A Wednesday evening race meant that I couldn't do a workout on either Tuesday or Friday.  Tuesday was too close to the race, while Friday morning was too soon after.  Yes - there are others who can race a mile on Wednesday night and tempo 36 hours later, but experience has taught me (painfully), that I personally need more recovery time.

So, that meant that I could only do one of the three prescribed workouts this week.  I felt that since I'm not marathon training right now, I was better served by a 4 mile tempo than a progressive long run.  My coach agreed, so I ended up tempoing on Saturday morning, followed by an easy 12 miles on Sunday.

The tempo was a pleasant surprise.  After Wednesday's race, I was trashed.  For whatever reason, mile races always beat me up more than 5K races, and this one was no exception.  The fact that I "recovered" from the race by first driving for 80 minutes and then taking a hot shower before having a sleepless night didn't help either.  My post-race/workout recovery routine of a swim in cold water really does make a difference, and I missed it here.

So, even by Saturday I was still a bit sore and sluggish.  But the workout was a tempo, which is not supposed to be a really hard workout, so I thought I'd give it a try anyway.  Because I suspected I'd be running slower than my norm, I set my Garmin to autolap each mile and resolved to run the tempo off of effort, not checking splits until I finished.  That way I'd run the workout at the correct effort, rather than getting frustrated if my splits were slower than usual.

So, I did the workout on Hains Point - a flat and fast circular road with perfect GPS reception.  I checked my Garmin when I finished, and....I had just run my fastest 4 mile tempos in several years- notably faster than anything I've run on the track this year.  So that was a very nice surprise.  Especially since I felt sluggish for much of the workout.

Even better yet was that the pollen on Hains Point was a total non-issue.  I credit my Xolair shot - the "hail mary" of allergy/asthma treatment - for this.

I got the Xolair shot (my first) on Monday at noon.  [reminder - this is an "IGE inhibitor" drug given to people who have allergies/asthma that is not completely responsive to other drugs.  Xolair is totally legal under WADA/USADA both in and out of competition]

The Xolair injection is a structured procedure.  First, I have to call the doctor's office 30 minutes in advance to confirm that I'm coming in, so that they can mix up the medication.  This is because it's extremely expensive (about $1K a shot, and I get two shots each session) and is only usable for four hours after being mixed - they don't want to mix it up and then have me no-show.

Once I get the injections, I have to sit in the waiting room for 2 hours, because of a very small risk of going into shock.  After the two hours is up, then I'm free to go, but I have to carry an epi-pen with me for the next 24 hours, just in case.

[BTW, epi-pens are huge and hard to run with.   About the size of a baton used in a high school relay.  So no tucking in a sports-bra - I had to run with a spi-belt to carry it the next morning.]

In case anyone's wondering, I did NOT go into anaphylactic shock and force a reenactment of Pulp Fiction.  So that was nice.  I did suffer from silent hypochondria while I sat in the waiting room, but I think that's normal.

There were some side-effects over the first few days after the shot.  Basically, mild flu-like symptoms - my resting heart rate was elevated, I was more tired than normal, with a lot of trouble concentrating and a headache.  Also achy muscles, hot flashes, and nausea.  Not fun.  I felt lousy enough on Wednesday morning that I debated skipping the mile race.  But, it was only a mile and I'd always wanted to do it, so I gave it a try anyway.  And was glad I did.

By Friday (four days post shot) the side-effects had subsided, with the exception of the injection sites on each arm.  Those are still sore and apparently will be for some time to come - just the nature of the shot.  Wonderfully, I noted that the pollen was bothering me much less.  Almost like tree pollen season had passed, though according to we're still peaking.

So that was great news. If it continues to work, I should be able to reduce or even eliminate all my other asthma/allergy medications, which would be awesome.  Even better was the call I got from my insurance on Saturday confirming that they would cover my future injections (you have to submit an application to be covered, with evidence demonstrating that you have "moderate to severe allergic asthma" and that you have tried literally everything else first).  So woo-hoo.

It was a good end to a good week.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 6 "miles" pool-running. Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 7 miles easy (9:02) plus drills and strides, and then upper body weights and core.  Foam roller at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 3 miles easy (9:17)).  In the evening, foam rolling and stretching, then a 3 mile fartlek warm-up (most at 9:00 pace, but with a minute nearly all out), followed by a 1 mile race in 5:08.  1 mile cool-down after (9:28 pace).

Thursday: In the morning, 1000 yards swimming and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 9 very easy miles (9:23) plus drills and then upper body weights and core. Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday:  In the morning, 10 miles, including a 3 mile warm-up (8:43), a four mile tempo in 25:28 (6:31/6:23/6:18/6:16), and then a 3 mile cool-down (8:32). Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming, plus foam rolling.

Sunday: In the morning, 12 miles very easy (8:45), followed by drills and two strides, and then foam rolling.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Race report: Main Street Mile April 12, 2017

I ran the Main Street Mile in Westminster Maryland last night, officially finishing in 5:08.87 - good enough for third overall female.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll kick this report off with a image of the course profile, via my friend PJ's Strava.

Yes, we ran it from left to right
I've wanted to run this race for years.  I really enjoy road miles - they're low pressure and usually don't hurt until they're almost over.  And they exclude all the things I dislike about the track - pack-running, soft surfaces, and turns.  However, there aren't that many road miles within driving distance, and many of those that do exist conflict with other spring races.  To that point, this race conflicts with a) recovery from the Cherry Blossom 10 miler, and b) tapering for the Boston Marathon.  Fortunately, this year I did neither Cherry Blossom nor Boston, which left me open to run this mile.

Getting to Westminster was a bit of  headache - while only 70 miles from my home, it's still a tough drive. The first half of the drive involves the Potomac River crossing on the Beltway, followed by Interstate 270 - both are major clog points during rush hour.  The second half traverses MD Route 27 - a two lane state highway that can be fast if you're not stuck behind a truck or school bus.

As it turned out, I wasn't able to leave until just  after 2:30 pm, which meant that I caught the beginning of DC rush hour (in DC, evening rush hour lasts from 2:30 to 8:00 pm...) .  And then once I hit Route 27, I was one of the lucky ones to be caught behind (yup) first a truck and then a school bus that was apparently also going to Westminster.  And that's how it took me 2 hours to drive 70 miles.

Fortunately, the race didn't start until 7 pm, so arriving at 4:30-ish still gave me plenty of time to grab my bib, head over to the local Golds Gym to stretch out my hips, and then park at the race finish before starting my warm-up at 6:15.


I knew that my friend PJ from Baltimore was planning on running this, and fortunately I ran into him and a friend at the very start of my warm-up.  Our warm-up consisted of running up the course, grateful that the race itself would go the other way.  Once at the top, there were some side roads to jog back and forth on to complete warming up.  Consistent with my plan for mile races, I did 60 seconds hard about 15 minutes before race start (my first interval in track workouts always sucks, so I like to get that one out of the way before I race).  Then I just did a mix of jogging, standing, and strides to keep my blood up while not wasting too much energy.

The city did not close the road until right before the race was to start, so there was no clear indication of where the start line was.  I wasn't quite sure where the finish line was either - it wasn't marked when we jogged up to the start.  So I programmed my Garmin to auto-lap and vibrate every quarter-mile.  I wasn't planning on checking splits during the race, but I wanted some sort of cue to let me know where I was on the course (and more importantly, how far I was from the finish).

At around 6:59, the police closed the road down and we entered the street.  Still no formal indication of a start line and no timing mat, just a race official pointing at a place on the road.  And then we were off.

PJ had run this race several times before, and had advised that the first quarter mile was very fast, and that it was best to try to cruise it.  OK - I could do that - fit very well with my usual (and coach-driven) strategy of "start slow/finish fast."

I didn't follow my plan very well.  I think part of it was that I was impatient to get the race over with (I had spent way too much time driving up to and hanging out in Westminster at this point).  Part of it was that everyone went out fast.  And lot of it was the screaming downhill start (see graph above).

I realized fairly quickly that I had gone out too fast, and started to pull back some - I already felt the first bits of lactic acid.  It's a downhill course, and so I still had a shot of saving it.

And then my watch pulsed for the first time, and I realized I still had most of the race to go.  While already feeling the burn I normally associate with the third quarter.  Ooops.

Nothing to do but try to hold it together.  It was a downhill race, which would help.  But this one was going to hurt.

The next four minutes were some of the longest of my life.  When people call the mile a "middle distance" I think that should be caveated - it's only a middle distance if you pace it well.  If you go out too fast, it's a very long distance.

I held it together by ignoring how far I had to go, instead concentrating on holding my form together. Stretching tall, keeping my core engaged and shoulders relaxed, and not overstriding - the downhill could do the work for me if I could just keep from tying up.

At one point I started to lose focus - on the "uphill" part of the course in the third quarter (which was actually a nearly flat section that felt uphill because it wasn't downhill).  Fortunately, PJ and I were running close together at that point, and he said something encouraging  - I can't remember what it was, but I refocused.

Then my Garmin buzzed wonderfully for the third time, and I knew I had less than 90 seconds left.  I just closed my eyes and focused on form even more, if possible.  I was tying up, but if I could just keep loose, the downhill finish would save my race for me.  And it did.

I did open my eyes enough to a) steer into the finishing chute and b) note the clock.  It was still reading 4:xx when I first saw it, which was surreal.  But I was hurting so much that I didn't really process it.  I just wanted to be done.  And then I was.


Official time: 5:08.87.  (it was 5:10.84 on my Garmin, but I didn't hit stop until I crossed the second timing mat, and I also had to fumble at my watch some).

Splits (per autolapped Garmin) were 71/80/83/76.  So, I flagrantly violated the "start slow/finish fast" rule, instead kicking off the race with a 71 second quarter.  To put this in perspective, I don't believe I'm capable of running a stand-alone 400m on the track in 71 seconds.

(I could probably do 76 seconds from a flying start.  Or 90 seconds if I used sprinter blocks.)

But that's the power of race adrenaline and a steep downhill, combined with a momentary lapse of judgment.  It's also worth noting that I don't necessarily know if I would have run any faster if I had gone out more conservatively.  Start slow/finish fast is my mantra, and it's always worked well for me.  But in a super-short downhill course - perhaps that's the one time that it works best to go out hard and hang on.

The time and the "PR" is all sorts of asterisky - the downhill nature of the course definitely helps one's time.  Especially if you're a really fast downhill runner, as I am.  (I know some others would disagree with me on this - and that's why they call them "personal" records.)  Additionally, I suspect the course may have been slightly short of a mile - it's not a certified course, and the informal nature of the start reduces my confidence of the accuracy of the distance.

But that asterisk doesn't detract from the fact that this was a really fun race, and I'm glad I finally got to do it.


Other notes:

  • I had shown up at the race with hopes of earning the cash prize ($25) for top masters female.  As it turns out, I finished third female overall, and won $30 instead.  The race did not allow "double-dipping" in awards, so another woman got the $25 for masters.  Too bad - it would have been nice to leave with $55.  On the other hand, I've benefited many times from the no double-dipping rule, so I can't get too upset about its application now.
  • Wore my Takumi Sens for this race and loved them - those shoes are awesome for mile races, where I'm running on my forefoot
  • A friend of PJ's was handing out Halls cough drops after the race - absolutely inspired.
  • Eating for evening races is always a challenge, and is one of the reasons I hate racing at night.  I ended up going with my normal pre-run "breakfast" at 1:30 pm, complete with caffeinated gels (Maple Bacon and half a Triberry).  It worked well - I had plenty of energy and a clear gut for the race.  The only downside was the insomnia on Wednesday night.  Which would have most likely happened anyway - evening running screws up my sleep. Another reason I hate running at night.
  • The drive home only took 80 minutes since there was no traffic.  So much better.
  • Despite the very high pollen, no asthma issues (I did take my inhaler before just to be safe).  I was coughing after, but so was everyone else.
  • This course is definitely faster than the other road mile I've run - the Loudoun Street Mile.  How fast exactly?  I don't know.  Hopefully it's not 22 seconds faster, as I'd like to break 5:30 at the Loudoun Street mile next month.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Training log - Week ending 4/9/17

This week was 66 miles of running,  14 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

The land mileage is slightly inflated this week, since I ran six days instead of five.  This was because my gashed knee was still technically an "open wound" on Monday, so I couldn't go in the pool.  By Thursday my knee had healed enough that I could go back in the water, so yay.

In other regrouping news, I did a five day course of prednisone this week (Monday through Friday) to try to get last week's asthma flare under control.  By the end of the week my lungs were better - not 100%, but much improved.  And, of course, the prednisone had my legs feeling awesome, so the result was a great workout on Friday despite the remaining tightness in my chest.  I think the math is 80% lungs x 125% legs equals good workout.

As I've noted before, prednisone is allowed outside of competition, but banned in competition.  And there's a very good reason why you can't compete while on it - in my experience, prednisone combines the best parts of a caffeine buzz, the runner's high, and being 20 again.  No aches, no pains, bounce out of bed in the morning.  Uber-woman.

Which doesn't mean that you aren't working hard when you hit the track while on prednisone.  I assure you that both Tuesday and Friday's workouts were hard work.  They were just hard work with a near-guaranteed good result.    Which highlighted to me just how easy it can be to rationalize PED use.

To explain: there's an implicit myth that PEDs like prednisone are a substitute for doing the work - that the cheaters who use them are putting less effort into their training, or not giving their all in races.  It's the PED that does the work, not the runner - hence the cheating.  Or so the thought process goes.

In actuality, I don't doubt that dopers (at least the successful ones) are working very very hard. Doping isn't a substitute for hard work and effort; it's a supplement that enables you to work even harder without breaking.  Taking PEDs means that you can race and then do a hard workout without breaking or overtraining.  It means that if you run your heart out, you're assured of having a great day.

I suspect this myth makes it easier for people to rationalize their own doping.  After all, if "cheaters" use PEDs to make gains without putting in the work, then....if you're putting in the work, then you're not cheating, even though you're using PEDs.

It's elementary level mental gymnastics.  But it's still wrong.


Back to the allergies/asthma: on Monday, I'm trying a new (to me) drug - "Xolair" - to get my allergies/asthma under control (per discussion above, it is allowed in and outside of competition).  It's a once a month shot that stops the "inflammatory cascade" that results in allergies and asthma.

To explain in more-but-still-oversimplified detail for the geekily-inclined... there are people (like myself) who react to pretty much everything, due to having too much "immunoglobulin E" (aka "IGE") floating around in our bodies.  This excessive IGE bonds to "mast cells" and then waits for pretty much anything odd (the "allergen") to show up.

Once an allergen appears, the IGE-mast cell thing does stuff that releases histamines. The histamine release causes the classic allergy symptoms. And then, if you have asthma, the asthma gets triggered by the allergy response.

So....IGE -> IGE+Mast Cell -> histamine release -> allergies -> asthma.

(more technical discussion here)

I'm currently on a combination of asthma drugs and antihistamines, both of which attack a late part of this chain reaction.   In contrast, Xolair addresses the very first link in the chain, blocking production IGE. histamine release, no allergies, no allergic asthma.   Brilliant.

It really is a cool wonder drug (if it works...), without the side effects associated with antihistamines and asthma meds. And yet, it's not in wide use - the obvious question is: why not?

Simple - it's pretty expensive.  On average, about $1000 a shot.  And it's also a bit inconvenient to get the shot - due to a very-very-small-but-not-nonexistent risk of anaphylactic shock, one has to hang out at the doctor's office for a few hours after each shot.  (but at least there's wi-fi).  And it doesn't always work.

But it does work often, eliminating the need for all the other drugs.  It's worth a shot (literally).  What else are health savings accounts for?


Monday: In the morning, 6.5 easy to the gym (8:55), upper body strengthwork and core, and then 1.5 easy home (8:54) plus drills.  Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 11 miles including a workout of 6x800 in 3:01, 3:00, 2:58, 2:58, 2:56, 2:52.  Followed with injury prevention work.  Foam roller at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 8 miles easy (8:48) to yoga, yoga, and then another 4 miles (8:54), followed by drills and strides.  Massage at night.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights/core and 10 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 11 miles including a track workout of 2x3200m in 12:46 (6:26/6:20) and 12:35 (6:20/6:15).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday:  In the morning, 10 miles very easy (9:07) with drills and strides.  Late that morning I did upper body weights plus core and injury prevention work.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday: In the morning, 14 miles progressive, split as first 3 at 9:17, next 6 at 7:53, last 5 at 6:57.  Later did 4 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Training log - Week ending 4/2/2017

This week was 36 miles of running, 6 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Heh.  Not the greatest week.  It started to go downhill on Tuesday, with a workout that felt far harder than it should have.  My breathing wasn't great, which I attributed to the slightly warm and humid weather.  A puff of my rescue inhaler got me through it, and I decided to put it out of my mind, except for making an effort to really rest up over the next few days before my weekend race.

On Wednesday, my plan was to run short and easy, followed by drills and strides.  The "drills and strides" part was cut after I tripped and fell during the run.  My left knee took the full brunt of the fall.  Fortunately, no serious injury - just blood.

[at this point, I'll note that the world can be divided into people that do NOT want to see bloody knees, and those that can't resist the runner's version of a car crash.  For the first group, I omitted any pictures from this post.  For the second group - you can go here to see it in all its glory.]

So...I skipped my drills and strides and went directly home to clean it up.  Only to realize that what I thought was road rash was in fact a deep gash.  So off to the local urgent care center to get it checked out, cleaned up, and bandaged by professionals.  The good news was that no stitches were needed (because there was nothing left to stitch).  The better news was that the knee was a complete non-issue when running - no pain, no distortion of gait, nothing.

The bad news was (and is) that I can't go into the pool until the gash is no longer an "open wound."  No pool-running, no swimming.  As of Sunday it's still not ready for prime-time, so I suspect I'll be out of the water a few more days.

My breathing continued to be a concern for the rest of the week - which I attributed to the high pollen.  Not horrid, but not great.   I went ahead and targeted the Monument Avenue 10K anyway - rain was in the forecast for the day before, and my hope was that it would tamp down the pollen. Plus, between the fact that I'm in really good shape and the relatively short distance of a 10K, perhaps some race magic would happen.  It has before, after all.

But not this weekend.  Oh well.  Without the bad races, the good races wouldn't be so sweet.

After the race, I didn't feel great, so I skipped a cooldown.  No reason to pound my body more.  I decided to skip running on Sunday as well, save for a bit of jogging around at Cherry Blossom (where the weather was fantastic, though the pollen continued to be horrid - I HATE BLOOMING TREES).  Better to take a day off to recover, especially since I can't pool-run on Monday.

I have a prescription for a five day burst of prednisone to take when my asthma flares, so I'm starting that to get things under control again.  Under WADA/USADA rules, prednisone is legal out of competition, but not in competition.  So if I had started it this week, I would have had to skip racing this weekend.  But I have no races planned for the near future, so no reason not to take it now.  I'm also going to see the asthma/allergy doctor to see if there's anything else we can try.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 10 miles, including a track workout of 4x1200 in 4:24, 4:25, 4:27 and 4:25.  Followed with light injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam roller at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 7 miles very easy (9:22), followed by a visit to urgent care.  Later did  DIY yoga and foam rolling.

Thursday: In the morning, light upper body weights and core plus 5  miles very easy (9:07), plus drills, strides, foam rolling.

Friday: In the morning, 3 miles very easy (9:34), followed by foam rolling.

Saturday:  3 mile warm-up and then 10K race in 41:23.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday: 2 miles as intermittent jogging at Cherry Blossom, followed by yoga.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Race report: Monument Avenue 10K, April 1, 2017

I ran the Monument Avenue 10K this morning, finishing in a time of 41:23.


For those of you carefully tracking my exact paces (which is only me), you'll note that I just ran a 10K race SLOWER than I raced a half-marathon two weeks previously.  And on the 10K course that was the site of my current PR.

Like I said, ouch.  :)

The splits tell part of the story, but not the whole story.  They were: 6:20, 6:23, 6:45, 6:48, 6:56, 6:57, and then 1.18 for the last bit (downhill to the finish).

A graph does provide a nice visual of the morning:

This graphic does exaggerate the elevation changes.
But the walk breaks?  They're real.  And they're SPECTACULAR.  

Essentially, I had a bad breathing day, and there were a whole lotta walking breaks, starting after mile 2.

I'm disappointed, but not completely surprised.  My breathing hasn't been good all week, which I attribute to the pollen.  I was hopeful that with enough rest and hydration I might be able to pull off a solid 10K.  Monument Avenue is a great race and a fast course, and the forecast was for rain through Friday evening.  My hope was that the rain and dampness would linger and tamp down the pollen nicely.

As it turned out, the rain didn't linger, and Saturday morning was dry.  The pollen was noticeable and my breathing wasn't 100%, but I didn't feel ridiculously tight during my warm-up jog, and my legs felt pretty perky.  And past experience has shown that I can feel sub-par during warm-up and still have a good race.   For those reasons and since Monument Avenue is a fast course, I was confident as I lined up (near the back of my corral, to ensure a careful start).  To be proactive, I took two puffs of my inhaler to ensure no issues during the race.

The gun went off, and per my plan, I stayed very conservative until we hit the first of two early turns on course.

(The course has two turns in the first mile - one 90 degrees to the left, and a second 90 degrees to the right a few blocks later.  From there, you just run straight out three miles, and then run another 3 miles back home).

After that turn, I started building.  By the end of the first mile, I felt like I was working hard, but not excessively so.  But over the next half mile, the fatigue started to build and my chest tightened.  Just after mile 2, I reluctantly stepped off course to use my inhaler.  My hope was that I could quickly get stuff back on track.  However, the inhaler only helped a little.  And things quickly tightened up.

When I'm having a bad race, I've learned that I can either stew on the fact that I'm having a shitty race, or I can try to find something positive from it.  Here, I decided to focus on just staying as relaxed and even as possible - something that always helps my races.

Even doing that, I still found myself taking walk breaks - my breathing kept getting completely out of control, and I just couldn't relax my way through it.  Just a shitty shitty day.  So bad as to be comical.

Some days you're the windshield.  Today I was the bug.

Oh well.  I'm a bit bummed, since I drove down to Richmond specifically to set a 10K PR - something that I think is well within my reach.  And I'm not sure when I'll have another chance to run a 10K PR before late fall.  On the other hand, the bad races are what make the good ones so wonderful.  If in some way this race was the karmic payoff for Shamrock, then I'll happily take that trade.

But hopefully, next race the karmic/pollenic balance will swing back the other way.

Other notes:

  • Left home at 5:10 am and arrived in Richmond at 7 am.  Once there, I used the local Golds Gym as my personal staging area - storing my bag and car keys in a locker there, and using their gym for stretching.  I prepaid (using Parkmobile) for a spot in a city garage, but there was no need - there were plenty of spots right outside the gym. Next time, I'll plan on street parking.
  • Wore my Takumi Sens (racing flats)  However, I wasn't too happy with how they felt during the race. I think the Adios just feel a bit faster for anything longer than 5K.
  • Ended up second master - the top masters woman ran 41 minutes...Ugh.  Of course, perhaps she had an awful day too.
  • It was a slightly warm day - 55 degrees at the start, and 60 when I finished.  Not horrible, just a little warmer than most of my training.  I don't think that was much of a factor in my race, though.
  • In my rush to get out the door this morning, I forgot to hide the toilet paper on the top shelf.  Oops...

Monday, March 27, 2017

Training log - Week ending 3/26/17

This week was 42 miles of running, 17 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was a pretty boring week - just recovery from Shamrock and a mini break.  My coach mandates that we skip the Tuesday workout after any race longer than 10K in distance.  By the end of the work week, I was still a bit tired and stiff, so I skipped the Friday tempo as well, keeping stuff easy.

I have to admit I was pretty surprised how much Shamrock took out of me.  Two years ago, I ran it and then was able to race a good 10K 6 days later.  Not this time.   I was surprised to have some difficulty with stairs for the first few days post race, combined with a lot of fatigue.  Not quite as bad as the day after a marathon, but definitely not the normal post-half doldrums either.

I suspect that part of the reason was that I didn't prioritize recovery after the race this time.  Instead of eating quality food, drinking lots of water, gently foam rolling, and then hitting the pool before an early bed time, I went out for (a good but not necessarily healthy) dinner plus drinks.  No foam rolling, no swimming.

It was the right choice (it was our anniversary) and I don't regret it.  But it did have consequences.

However, I wasn't the only member of my team who was really beaten up after Shamrock - quite a few of us skipped Friday tempo.  I suspect that the harsh weather conditions - in particular the powerful winds - made the race far more stressful than a pancake flat half-normally would be.

Bu Sunday I felt good enough to do a normal progression run, though I kept it to 12 miles.  I really love long runs, but I just couldn't justify doing one, given that I had raced Shamrock last weekend, am racing this coming weekend, and don't have another half until June.  My legs felt surprisingly peppy - perhaps due to all the rest.  It was a good sign that I'm ready to race well again this weekend, despite having raced so much the past few weeks.


Monday: In the morning, half-assed yoga and 6.5 "miles" pool-running with the belt.  Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 4.5 "miles" of pool-running and 1500 yards of swimming.  Foam roller at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 5.5 miles very easy (9:22) to yoga, yoga, and then 2.5 miles very easy home (8:42).  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning, 6 "miles" pool-running and some upper body strengthwork+core.  Sports massage in afternoon.

Friday: In the morning, 6 miles very easy to yoga (9:30), yoga, and then 6 miles easy home (8:52) plus drills and strides  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  10 miles very easy (9:00) plus drills and strides, followed by upper body strengthwork+core.

Sunday: 12 miles progressive, split as first 4 at 9:27, next 4 at 7:37, last 4 at 6:57.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1500 yards recovery swimming.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Training Log - Week ending 3/19/17

This week was 40 miles of running and 12 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

The weather was a big story this week - a snowstorm hit DC on Monday night, forcing the cancellation of Tuesday's workout.  The track was unusable, and roads were too poor early Tuesday morning to safely drive to our back-up location, in the sheltered area under the Whitehurst Freeway.

You'd think that this would be a non-issue for me, since I was done training and in full taper for my goal half-marathon.  This workout really didn't matter.

Except that it did matter.  I've discovered that my best taper is to sharply cut back on my volume, while maintaining moderately high intensity until very close to the race.  Basically the opposite of my natural inclination to do lots of volume while skipping the intensity.  This optimal taper structure is why I do counter-intuitive things like lifting at the gym three days before my goal race (albeit very minimal - just enough to fool my body into thinking it did something).

So I wanted to get some sort of fast running on Tuesday - I didn't necessarily care about the exact format, and I didn't want anything TOO intense - but I needed SOMETHING.

Fortunately, I have both a flexible work schedule and an SUV (is it "an" SUV or "a SUV"?).  Around 8 am the roads were clear enough to be passable with all wheel drive, so I scheduled a "meeting" with the Whitehurst Freeway and ventured forth for 6 repeats of approximately 800m in distance at "fast-but-relaxed-and-don't-kill-it" effort.

The rest of the week was full taper, punctuated by a mile at half-marathon pace (this is usually prescribed as 10K pace, but I decided that I liked slowing it down, both so I could get a feel for half-marathon pace and because it'd be less effort.)

As I noted in my race report, I ultimately decided to redirect to the Shamrock Half-Marathon, rather than the New York City Half-Marathon.    On Sunday morning, my coach and I joked about how I had clearly made the right choice, as my team huddled in the steady rain and gale force winds.  The irony is not lost on me, as I write this weekly report while watching the replay of NYC, featuring clear roads and fast weather (I'm on vacation today, in case you're wondering).

But, I think I did make the right choice.  NYC is a PR course, and had PR weather that day.  But apparently that was true for Shamrock also.  I wanted a PR, and a 1:27.  I got or surpassed both, while also getting to experience one of those races that may be commiserated about for years to come.  And that's worth something.

The next few days are recovery - not a full break (that will come in June).


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 10 miles under the Whitehurst including a workout of 6x"800" in 2:53, 2:59, 2:55, 2:57, 2:50, 2:54 with 2 minutes recovery.  Followed with light injury prevention work.  Foam roller at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 7 miles very easy (9:08), followed by gentle DIY yoga and foam rolling.

Thursday: In the morning, 6 "miles" pool-running and some upper body strengthwork+core.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 7 miles - most very easy (9:39), but with a mile at goal half-marathon pace (6:39) plus drills and strides  Followed with foam rolling .

Saturday:  Drove down to Virginia Beach, then did foam rolling and gentle DIY yoga.

Sunday: 2.5 mile warm-up, half-marathon in 1:26:34, and then a half mile jog back to my hotel.  Skipped my traditional post-race recovery routine (foam-rolling, swimming) in favor of celebrating our 9th anniversary on Sunday night.  It was the right choice, but I'm feeling it as of Monday.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Race report: Shamrock Half-Marathon, March 19, 2017

I ran the Shamrock Half-Marathon today, finishing in a time of 1:26:34 - this is a nearly 2 minute PR over my previous "fair" PR of 1:28:28 from Shamrock two years ago, and also eclipses my "asterisked" PR of 1:26:52 from the 3M Half last year.  And was good enough for top masters female and 7th female overall.  I'm stoked.

Shamrock wasn't my original plan for this weekend.  I had registered for the NYC Half many months ago as my goal race for this spring.  But, (per Murphy's law as executed by the weather gods)  as of Thursday morning a snowstorm was forecast for New York City on Saturday evening.  Not a huge amount of snow, just 1-3 inches.   But possibly enough to disrupt the race, making it either a slushy/icy mess that would hamper my PR goals, or a fun run.  I messaged several runner friends in NYC, and they recommended against coming up to run NYC if I had another option.

Which fortunately, I did.  When I register for goal races, I like to register for a back-up race - one that is either the same weekend in a different part of the country, or the following weekend.  It just seems logical - I invest a lot of time and money and sweat in a training cycle - why not invest a little more money upfront to improve my chances of having good weather on race day.  And it's really not that much money if you register for the back-up race early (far cheaper than panicking 7 days out when the weather looks iffy and registering late). I also book hotels for each location, carefully noting the cancellation date.

In this case, I had registered for a) New York, plus DC-NY train tickets and a Wall Street hotel room, and b) Shamrock (drivable from DC, plus a hotel room in the general Virginia Beach vicinity).  So, once I made my decision to do Shamrock instead, I cancelled my train tickets (refunded) and my hotel (no charge), and was only out the NYC registration fee.   Which was fine - the registration was a sunk cost, and a icy race or a fun run was of little value to me, even if it did feature Times Square.

An added bonus was that I managed to score that most elusive of quarries - a one night hotel stay on the beach right by the Shamrock half marathon start line.   This was excellent, because the weather wasn't looking great for Shamrock either - high winds and some rain.  But the thing about the Shamrock half is that it can be very windy and one can still run fast.  Given the forecasts, I liked my chances at Shamrock a lot better than those at NYC.

Well...that was until I checked the forecasts again around 6 am on Saturday morning, as I prepped for the drive to Virginia Beach.  Things had changed.  Now New York was showing rain on Saturday night and a clear Sunday morning, while Virginia Beach was under a gale advisory for Saturday night into Sunday afternoon.

Ugh.  I considered changing plans again - my New York hotel had availability, and there were still seats on the train.  And though I'd eat the cost of the Virginia Beach hotel, that wasn't a crippling amount of money.  But in the end (after messaging various friends and a tolerant coach), I decided to stick with Shamrock.  I had already switched mental gears to Shamrock, and I also didn't want to deal with the scramble of rebooking my New York accommodations and madly dashing to the train station.  Additionally, the forecast might change again, and I liked my chances at Shamrock during a gale much better than those at New York in an snowstorm or with icy roads.

You see, in someways, Shamrock is a magic race.  It seems like the worse the weather is there, the better people run (my marathon PR is still from Shamrock, on a ridiculously windy day).  I think that's in part because it's a super flat and fast course and in part because many people run their best when they let go of expectations - as we usually do when the weather is awful.  Additionally, at Shamrock, if it's really windy in just the right way, the course can work for you.  More on that below.


So, I was committed.  I left the house just before 8 am, which ensured that the three hour drive to Virginia Beach was in fact a three hour drive, as opposed to the four to five hour (or more) monstrosity it can be.  I arrived at the expo just before 11, where I grabbed my bib and then headed over to a nearby Chipotle for race prep.  (I don't intend to ever race in a location where there is no Chipotle.  Just so we're clear).

The Chipotle was disappointing.  It's the first time I've had to coach the server to fill up my bowl - usually the bowls are overflowing with ricey-meaty-guacamole goodness.  Not this time.  My two bowls (yes, I get two bowls pre-long race - eat 1.5 for lunch plus a bag of chips, and then save the remainder for apres-race) were barely 2/3ds full, despite my pleading.  There was only one solution - purchase a third bowl.  I debated pretending I was ordering for a friend, but I've never been good at lying, so I didn't bother.

Post Chipotle, I checked into my nice beachfront hotel, where I proceeded to email my partner instructions on how to take care of the cats (including litterbox tips). I also thoughtfully included a picture of the ocean from my window, thus cementing my frontrunner status for partner of the year. (BTW, this was our anniversary weekend).

Did a bunch of gentle yoga and foam rolling to get everything mobile, and checked the weather again.  The time of arrival for the apocalyptic weather kept getting pushed back.  Just a few hours more, and it'd miss my race entirely.


In fact, when I awoke this morning very early (I needed to take my Advair at 4 am to ensure it was fully working for the 7 am race), it was still dry and just moderately breezy.  Woo.  But around 5:15 am, the front came in, with moderate rain and a strong wind.

This was bad and good.  I actually didn't mind the rain - I knew it's be miserable while waiting to start, but 40 degrees and rain is also the absolute BEST my lungs ever function.  When I'm on the right asthma drugs, I get to about 90% on a normal day.  But give me a dank dreary drizzle, and my breathing is AWESOME.  No asthma at all.  It's a phenomenal feeling that more than makes up for the chafing and the cold hands and the waterlogged shoes.  If' I'm racing, I'll take 40s and light rain over 50s and dry any day.

The wind was also arguably a positive.  Though it was very very strong (my Garmin says 15 MPH, but news reports pointed towards 20-25 MPH), it was coming from the North, which was very very good, as long as I paced the race correctly.

The proper execution of this race on a windy day is best explained with a picture:

The course is run clockwise - starting and ending at the bottom right. run this course well, you need to go out very conservatively, finding a pack to use as a windblock.   Once you turn off of Atlantic Avenue onto Shore Drive (just before mile 3) you can pick it up as the wind lessens.  But start hunting for another pack after you pass mile 5, so you can use them as wind blocks after the right turn into Fort Story.  Hang with them until the wind turns into a crosswind, then hold a steady effort until the tailwind takes over, and ride that baby home.

If you follow this strategy, then (within reason) the windier the course is, the faster it is.  As long as the wind is from the north. If the wind is from the south, then you should probably start drinking before the race, rather than waiting until after.


The above is what I did, and it worked beautifully.  After a two mile warm-up with a few strides and drills (I deliberately UNDERwarmed up to make sure I stayed conservative), I targeted marathon-pace feel for the first three miles - basically a slight exaggeration of my coach's "start slow/finish fast" philosophy.  I found a nice crew that was holding that pace, and just followed right behind the tallest and widest member of the pack.

(I chose the widest and tallest person both because they were the biggest windblock, and also because it was near certain they wouldn't ask me to split the work, given my small stature).

[During this part, I focused a lot on running tall and relaxed.  I believe that some of the effect from a strong wind is a result of how the runner reacts to it.  It's very natural to want to curl up and hunch over so as to present less of a surface to the wind.  But, in doing so, it can make one's gait much less efficient and lose you even more time.  For myself, I've found that if I avoid the temptation to hunch into the wind, and instead stretch up tall, I actually run much faster.]

Once we turned into the park, I swung wide of the pack and started to gently open my stride.  Not a sudden change of pace, but just a gradual build from marathon effort to tempo.  Around mile 5, I took half of my gel (Blueberry Pomegranate Rocktane) and finished off my water bottle and tossed it (along with my handwarmers). Then I targeted a pack to tail for the first part of Fort Story.

Only to discover it wasn't necessary.  For whatever reason, the wind was no longer as bad there.  I think there are some new buildings that blocked it.

There were other humorous obstacles, though.  The second half of this race is never far from the beach and its sand, and at one point on the course, a large amount of sand had blown across the road, creating a minor sand dune that had to be traversed.  Fortunately the sand wasn't that deep, and this section was only about 20 feet long, but still an unwelcome surprise.

Shortly after mile 7, I felt the full effect of the tailwind.  (it says something about a tailwind if you actually feel it while you're running).  I had been wearing a longsleeve over my singlet, but was finally warm enough to toss it, so I removed it while running.  Not without some difficulty - I was wearing a hat because of the rain, and ended up having to take my hat off so that I could remove and toss the shirt (all while running about 6:30 pace). Luckily, I often do clothing changes during my long runs for just this reason, and so I managed to do it all without losing too much pace.

From then, it was game on.  Just staying relaxed and continuing to reel in person after person.  Not chasing as much as flowing and letting them come back to me.  And a lot of them did, including several women.  I was 11th woman, then 10th, then 9th, then 8th, then 7th.

This part of the race was not without comic relief.  Around mile 9.5, the course makes a slight left turn back onto Atlantic Avenue. There was a large puddle at that point that the runners around me were dodging.  I didn't see any reason to deviate from my "shortest distance to the finish" track, especially since I was already soaked.  So I ran directly through the large but shallow puddle.  Only to discover it was a large but deep puddle - above my ankles.  Whoops.  But I managed to a) stay on my feet, b) not lose much speed, and c) not bark out TOO much profanity in front of the group of children cheering.

The last few miles were some of the most fun I've ever raced.  I was running hard, but completely under control, with the mile markers passing surprisingly quickly.  I thought 1:27:xx was a good goal for today, and so it was wonderful to see the clock ticking down 1:26.  And then I was done and hugging friends and collecting my finisher's prize (a towel - how appropriate).


I took manual splits at mile markers, which was made a bit more difficult by the wind.  More than half the mile markers were on their sides, and thus hard to see until you were close.  It seems like quite few were slightly off as well - my guess is that they were moved some distance by the wind.  So... my rough mile splits.

Mile 1: 7:02
Mile 2: 7:10
Mile 3: 7:00  (so averaged 7:04 for first three miles - marathon pace)
Mile 4: 6:45
Mile 5: 6:31
Mile 6: 6:48
Mile 7: 6:32
Mile 8: 6:20
Mile 9: 6:24
Mile 10: 6:20
Mile 11: 8:19 for 1.3 miles - 6:25 pace
Mile 12: 4:26 for .7 miles - 6:20 pace
Mile 13+last bit: 6:58 for 1.11 miles - 6:16 pace

Other notes:

  • Warmed up wearing a cheap CVS poncho over a disposable long sleeve T-Shirt over my singlet.  Also wore gloves with handwarmers, a running hat for the rain, and carried a water bottle.  And bodyglided EVERYTHING.  I tossed the poncho right before the start, and the handwarmers+water bottle at around mile 5.    The longsleeve shirt was tossed around the halfway point.
  • The weather got even worse for the marathoners.  The precipitation let up briefly, only to return as sleet.  Tough day.
  • The drive once again took 4.5 hours to get back to DC, thanks to the misery that is I-95 between Richmond and DC on a Sunday afternoon.
  • As it turned out, New York had better weather than Shamrock.  Oh the irony. On the other hand, my goal in signing up for New York was to run a fast time - I actually think (never having run it) that New York can be faster than Shamrock if the weather's equal.  I wanted a PR today, and I got one.  So mission accomplished, and no regrets about my choice.
  • Just so everyone can mock me, I carried four gels for this race, though I only intended to eat one.  Why?  Because then I'd have extras if I dropped one (or two) and could also share if a teammate dropped theirs.  Plus my stomach can sometimes get quite iffy during races, and so I like to carry several different flavors to be sure I have something I can tolerate.
  • This race was awesome for several reasons, but one of the sweetest was the reassurance I got from it.  My coach has us train in groups, and for the last few weeks, the group that's felt like the best fit, pace-wise, has also been finishing far ahead of me at races.  Triggering some questioning about whether I shouldn't back off the training - if you're running with people in workouts, but lag behind in races, it's usually a sign of overcooking the training.  But today, I managed to finish right in the midst of those I train with.  That felt good.  Both for the performance itself, and for the confirmation that I haven't been overdoing my workouts.
  • Because this was my goal race for the first half of the spring, I tapered for this similar to how I would for a marathon - 3 weeks of reduced volume while preserving the intensity until the last few days.  I think it worked.
  • They didn't have an awards ceremony - instead mailing out the awards, including overall.  Fine with me.
  • As always, I got nauseous when I took my Ucan the night before my races, and my sinuses hurt like crazy during the last few days of taper.  Same note to self as always - don't worry about this - the nausea will ease by morning.  And you're not getting sick, it's just taper.  Take Tylenol and you'll be fine.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Training log - Week ending 3/12/17

This week was 46 miles of running,  13 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Quick place holder for the past week of training.  Last weekend was tightly scheduled: race->concert->afterparty  on Saturday, and then run->visit by the "in-laws" (quotes because we're not married)->work.  Fit the race report in there somewhere, but didn't get around to the weekly until now.

This week was similar to last week - workout on Tuesday, 5K on Saturday.  Since the 5K was on Saturday, I just kept stuff easy between the two hard days.  I did wear more clothes for the 5K, and I thought it was the better choice.

Next week is my goal half.  I'm targeting the NYC half, but I may reroute to Shamrock (held on the same day in Virginia Beach) depending on how the weather forecast plays out.  I don't need to make a final decision until Friday.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 10.5 miles including a workout of  6x800 in 3:03, 3:00, 2:57, 2:55, 2:54, 2:51.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam roller at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 9.5 miles (9:18), followed by drills and strides and upper body weights/core.  Sports massage at night.

Thursday: In the morning, 7 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 5 miles very easy (8:40)  Followed with foam rolling .

Saturday:  In the morning, 3 miles warm-up, 5K race in 19:52, and then 3 mile cool-down, followed by 1000 yards recovery swimming and foam rolling.

Sunday: 12 miles very easy (8:43) followed by injury prevention work+upper body and core, plus foam rolling.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Race report: Rock 'n' Roll DC 5K, March 11, 2017

I ran the Rock 'n' Roll DC 5K in 19:52 today, which was good enough for the female win, so that was nice.

(wow, that 'n' just looks weird)

Running this race was sort of a late decision.  But in other ways not...  To explain in more detail, I hadn't planned on running this race until I received an email confirming my registration.  For a race I had completely forgotten I had signed up for a year ago.

So, I emailed my coach, and confirmed that he was OK with me racing it as a substitute for my scheduled Friday 5K tempo.  Running this race meant that I'd be racing three weeks in a row - 5K, 5K, and then half, but he thought (and I agree) that the recovery from a 5K is quick enough that I could get away with it.

So, I was in.  IF I could work out logistics.  The 5K race starts and finishes at RFK Stadium in DC (also the finish line for the half and full marathons - the second half of the 5K course is the last mile and a half of the marathon course).  RFK Stadium is very nicely on the DC Metro system, and I've just metroed to and from in years past.  However, due to "Safetrack" Metro no longer opens early on race morning, eliminating that transportation option.

Rock 'n' Roll had opened up a few of the parking lots at RFK for runners.  If you prepaid $30 in advance.  Which was a ridiculous amount to pay for a 5K I didn't really care about anyway.  Especially to park in a lot with a high likelihood of a) traffic backup getting into the lot and b) my windows getting smashed once I was in the lot.  (as friends of mine have learned in the past - that high parking fee doesn't cover any sort of security).

After looking at road closures and the race course, I decided to drive into Capitol Hill (using 395 to Massachusetts Avenue, which would route me underneath the closed roads) and then park somewhere in the residential area of the Hill before jogging the mile to the start as part of my warm-up.

This worked beautifully - I left home at 6:40 and found parking around 7:05.  Then jogged to the start for the 8 am race, using my running backpack to carry my stuff to check for post-race.  An additional perk were the portapotties strewn all over the area for the other races.

Longsleeve attire.  Yes, the team logo
needs to be rescreened on this one.
Photo by Cheryl Hendry Young.
I got to the start area with plenty of time to check my bag and finish my warm-up.  The temperatures were actually mid-20s, so slightly warmer than last weekend, but the wind was brisk from the west.  Since I had felt way too cold in last week's 5K, I decided to go with a longsleeve shirt this week.
Drills, strides, lined up, and we were off.

I had gone out too fast in my race last week, and wanted to improve that this week.  So I held back for the first half mile, watching a pack pull ahead of me, including two other women.  The race starts with a very nice downhill - steep enough that you can run fast, but not so steep that you are braking.  I let that hill bring me up to speed, and then after a few minutes I started to build, catching one woman fairly easily.  The other took a bit more work to chase down, but I passed her, plus a few guys, just before the first mile marker (which was facing the wrong way).

I was still running fairly easily here, which was part of my plan - come through the first mile very controlled, then build in mile 2 before pushing mile 3.  After the first mile marker, we rose out of an underpass and continued to climb (moderately, but annoyingly) to the turnaround point.

It was a relief to hit the turnaround point, and go back downhill.  At that point, I noted that I had put at least 8 seconds on the second place woman in the last half mile.  Not as much of a lead as I wanted, but my hunch was that she had gone out too fast and would fade more.

Until I realized just how much help the hitherto tailwind had been.  It was a tailwind no more, and it was annoying.  The good news was that I had plenty of energy in the tank.  The bad news was that I had no one near me to work with.  Whatever, nothing to do but to dig in.

To be honest, I didn't work anywhere near as hard here as I would have if I had someone close to chase, or if I had been second place woman.  All of that is obviously psychological - part of it was subconscious, while part of it was a conscious decision to keep something in reserve in case I needed to kick later.  (which is another way of saying that I knew I was winning and that made me lazy).

The second half of the race sucked - I was basically running solo into a substantial headwind which would persevere for the rest of the race.  And the downhill assist after the turnaround went away too fast, to be replaced by a gentle climb (and the second mile marker, also backwards), before we rounded the turn at the Stadium and doubled back to climb the final hill (no marker for the third mile) to the finish line.  But then the finish line was blissfully there, and I got to break the tape, which is always fun.

Splits were:

Mile 1: 6:13
Mile 2: 6:31
Mile 3 plus last bit: 7:08 (6:26 pace)

The splits look very uneven, but I think that's in part a reflection of the course, with the downhill start, and the strong tailwind for the first half that became a headwind in the second.  I also suspect that the turnaround point may have been misplaced, making the course slightly long.  My Garmin reads long for the second mile, which is not probative in itself, since Garmins are not perfect (and my signal did get screwed a bit by the underpass).  But the very slow split is also odd and doesn't match how the race felt, and the entire course felt a bit long.  Plus, misplaced turnaround cones would be consistent with the screwed up or missing mile markers.

But not like it mattered anyway.  I ran the race to get another 5K under my belt and to practice going out a bit more patiently.  Which I did as measured by effort, though the splits don't show it.  And it was fun to break the tape.


Other points:

  • Temperature was 27, DP of 5.  15 MPH steady wind from the west supposedly.  I think the half-marathoners had that as a tailwind for nearly all of the second half of their race, which had to be nice (of course, they also had to fight it for the first half, plus run up my least favorite hill in DC).  The marathoners had to fight it for the last miles of their race, which had to suck for them.
  • The second and third place women ended up running well over 21 minutes.  So apparently I really had nothing to worry about in terms of preserving the win - in the second half of the course, my lead went from 8 seconds to over 90.  
  • Parking on Capitol Hill worked great for getting home post-race also.  Just cruise over to the exit ramp for 395, and then drive back under all the road closures to exit the city.
  • I debated which shoes to wear for this race - my flats (Takumi Sen) or my longer race shoes (Adios).  I decided to go with the Adios again.  My goal half-marathon is next weekend, and I decided I'd feel REALLY dumb if I tweaked something racing a frigid and slow 5K that I didn't really care about in flats.
  • As I noted above, I also wore a longsleeve this week, to test how I liked it versus a singlet for short races in the 20s.  The longsleeve was the better choice.  I felt comfortable, and not too hot until the third mile of the race.  I have few different longsleeves with the team logo, and I wore the one that was most form-fitting, to minimize wind.  Yes, I think about these things. Feel free to judge.
    My heart rate reading for the 5K.
    Note the big jump in HR that correlates with
    when I started to feel like I was overheating.
  • Normally, I'd be a bit worried about a 5K this slow as a tune-up for my half.  But I've run this race before (albeit on a slightly different course) and was slow then also.  I think it's just not a fast course.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Training log - Week ending 3/5/17

This week was 43 miles of running,  16 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This week was bookended by a great workout in great weather and a decent race in somewhat less good weather.    I asked my coach afterwards if he thought I should back off of the workout paces some -- I have a bad habit of running my workouts a bit too hard that I'm always trying to resist.  And when a race time doesn't quite match up to workouts, it's a warning sign.  But my coach seems to think that I'm fine, and I trust his judgement more than mine on these things.

I did play around with my pre-race schedule a bit this week.  Traditionally, my coach recommends a mile at 10K pace two days before a race if there's a gap of several days between the previous workout and a race.  I like this as well - I feel that I get stale if I don't have something to turn my legs over.   The trick is to do something that perks me up but doesn't take anything out of me, and the mile at 10K pace is a good mix of intensity and limited duration.

However, though the mile at 10K pace seems to work well as prep for races of 10K or longer, I don't like it so much for shorter races - it's just too long and not fast enough for the shorter distance.  So I tried an 800 at 5K pace this time.  Which I ran too fast.  Which was a precursor to my going out too fast on Sunday.  So either I need to be sure to slow that 800m down to true 5K pace, or experiment with something else.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 11 miles including a workout of  4x1200 in 4:29, 4:23, 4:21, 4:18.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam roller at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 8 miles (9:14) to yoga, yoga, and then another 3 miles (8:47), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights/core and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 7 miles, most at very easy pace (9:29) but with a fast 800 (2:59) to get legs turning over.    Followed with, drills, strides, and light injury prevention work, plus foam rolling .

Saturday:  In the morning, 3 miles very easy (8:48).  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday: In the morning, 3 mile warm-up,  5K race in 19:27, and then 5 miles of cooldown+cheering.  Later did 1000 yards recovery swimming and 4 "miles" of pool-running.   Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Race report: St. Patrick's Day 5K, March 5, 2017

I ran the St. Patricks 5K today, finishing in a time of 19:27, which was good enough for top masters and 6th female overall.

I'm a bit meh about the performance - I thought I was in better shape, and this is a very fast course.  But it wasn't a poor performance by any means, just slightly slower than I had expected to run.

The St. Patricks 10K and 5K are both held on a portion of the lightning fast Cherry Blossom 10 Miler course.  The 5K starts at 8:15 am, while the 10K starts at 9 am - meaning that it's possible to do both races if you can finish the 5K in less than 45 minutes.  And quite a few people do complete the "double."  It's not for me though.  I know myself, and there's no way I could give 100% in the 5K if I had another race lurking.   One and done.

I was originally entered in the 10K but opted to drop down to the 5K for a few reasons.  The first was that I've run the 10K the last two years, and wanted to try a different course.  Additionally, I had a pet theory that the 5K was actually a slightly faster course than the 10K - this was based on my observation that many friends had been slightly disappointed in their 10K performances last year.   Finally, I'm trying to work on my speed this spring, and racing 5Ks plays right into that.  Even if the race doesn't go as I wanted, I'm getting something out of racing the distance.

When I saw the weather forecast, I debated sticking with the 10K instead.  Frigid temperatures (low 20s) were predicted for the morning, and the 10K would be slightly warmer than the 5K because of the later start time.  Additionally, the longer distance of the 10K meant more time to warm-up and ease into the race - very helpful when it's sub-freezing.  But I decided to stick with the 5K.  I often run very well when it's really cold, so no reason to shy away.


The morning was as cold as predicted (24 degrees, DP of -8), but with bright sunshine and a fair amount of wind.  I had debated whether to race in a longsleeve shirt or a singlet, and started my warm-up in my longsleeve with a jacket on top.   (tights were a given).   But, as I thought more about it, I remembered tempo workouts in similar conditions where I felt too hot in a longsleeve, so I switched into my singlet before donning my jacket again for the rest of my warm-up.   The fact that I find it difficult to get into a racing mindset when wearing a longsleeve also factored in.

(since I was wearing a sportsbra underneath, I just changed from longsleeve to singlet on the lawn by the start area - wearing nothing but a sportsbra for a few comic moments.  This earned me a few stares unrelated to how well or poorly endowed I am, bra size-wise.)

With about 10 minutes to go, I gave my coach my jacket and longsleeve,   And I started to question my choices (sartorial and otherwise).  Oh well, I was committed.  Fortunately there was a metallic space blanket lying on the ground, so I "rescued" it to get me through the remaining minutes in the corral.

With 40 seconds to go before race start, I tossed the blanket.  Then the horn went off and the race started.

The course starts with an uphill for about 60 seconds, while the balance of the first mile is flat to downhill.  I went out cautiously on the uphill, but then picked up the pace as soon as I crested it.  During my last 5K, I had gone out too cautiously for too long, and I wanted to avoid that this time around.    Soon, I ended up running with a pack of masters runners (and friends) from another running club, and so I hung with them for a the first mile.  I could tell we were running a strong pace, but I also felt tight and stiff, with my stride restricted, so that my speed was coming from leg turnover, rather than stride length.  A stiff wind was blowing directly at us, and I was freezing.  I felt tense and locked up - not good.
A bit after the first mile, there is a hairpin turn (the only one on course), and then a long straightaway. After the hairpin turn, I backed off the effort slightly to try to get myself to relax a bit, and to lengthen my stride.  Despite this, I was still passing people regularly, which was reassuring.   I saw a woman in green up ahead slowly coming back to me, so I reeled her in while staying relaxed.  My stride still didn't feel great, but it felt better than it had previously.  Once we passed mile 2, I started chasing in earnest.
I'm a failure as a blogger, because I never include pictures
of myself.  So here you go.  I refuse to do that instagram thing
with the pace and time and distance on the bottom, though.
(photo by Cheryl Hendry Young)

In the third mile, the course has some slight elevation changes.  Only one of them, near the end, is a hill, the others are best described as "undulations."  I worked these very slight rollers, using each "descent" to build a bit more speed as I continued to reel others in.

The course ends just like the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler - up a moderate hill, and then a nice downhill to the finish line.  I know how to run this finish - attack the hill, and then let the downhill carry you to the finish.  So that's what I did, surging authoritatively past woman in green.

Only to learn that this strategy works better for the 10 miler - probably because of the lower oxygen debt involved in that distance.   This time, when I crested the top, I started tying up.  The last 200m was run on fumes, with woman in green passing me back - adding insult to my already injured ego.  I still finished respectably, but without the strong downhill kick I'd envisioned.


My manual  race splits were:

Mile 1: 6:03
Mile 2: 6:29
Mile 3: 6:18
last bit: 0:37 (downhill assist)

It's worth noting that the first mile marker was off a fair bit, so these splits aren't as uneven as they first appear.  My Garmin claims that the first mile was run at 6:11 pace, and the second at 6:17.  So not bad by any means, though still a fade from start to end.  Especially since the 6:11 was into a headwind and the 6:17 had mostly a tailwind.

The heart rate data from this race is interesting.

 It's pretty clear that my effort eased up some in the second mile.  Part of this could be explained by the course - there was a substantial wind that was a tailwind for most of the second mile, but a headwind for the rest of the course.  The direction of the wind matches exactly with the dip in heart rate here.  But  I also lost focus and gave up time here, and it shows in both the heart rate and the split  So that's something to work on for next time - go out slightly more conservatively in the first mile, and then stay focused and build in the second mile.

(BTW, anyone who follows my heart rate geeking will note that these are pretty low heart rate values for me - my maximum heart rate is in the low 190s.  However, I've noted that when temps get very cold and I'm chilled, my running heart rate values stay very low for even the hardest of efforts.  I think that's what happened here.)

My other takeaway is that I should make more of an effort to stay warm before and during these very cold short races.   As a friend noted, 5K is so short that if you overheat slightly in the last mile, it won't make too much difference.   My stride, which felt fluid and long during a great workout on Tuesday, felt tight, stiff, short today, and I think that's because I was too cold from being underdressed.  

(Of course, if I'd dressed warmer, I might be writing right now about how I just don't run my best when I'm overdressed...)


Ah well, though not the time I wanted, this race was still faster than last month's 5K, which was on a faster course in better weather.  So there is definitely progress.  And it wasn't too long ago that I wasn't consistently breaking 20, so it's nice to be over that hump again.

Other notes:

  • Got to the race at 7:15 for an 8:15 start, which was the perfect time to find parking.  An added bonus to racing the 5K is the earlier start means better parking and better availability of restrooms.
  • Wore singlet, heavy mittens with handwarmers, headband, and thin running tights.  Right after the race, I thought this was the right choice, since I was comfortable in the last mile.  Problem is - that was only 1/3rd the distance.  As I've already alluded to above, I think next time in these temperatures for this distance, I'll go with the long sleeve shirt.
  • I think I finished my warm-up too early for this race too, and stood in the corral for too long (10+ minutes).  Normally, this isn't an issue.  But I think that when it is this cold, if I'm going to dress lightly, I need to take care to stay moving and warm as long as possible,  Or alternately, I can just wear more clothes.
  • Having now raced the 5K and the 10K, I prefer the 5K course.  Which is unusual, because I almost always prefer longer races over shorter.    But I think the 5K course has a better flow.  And it's nice to be done first, before cheering your teammates on.
  • Breathing was pretty good for this race.  Not great, but then again, the air was very very dry, so challenging for many people, including those without asthma.
  • Got to run next to my podiatrist for part of this race.  It's always nice to be running with him, rather than sitting in an office with him, pointing at my foot.
  • I debated whether to wear my Adios 2s (my shoe for longer races and track workouts) or my Takumi Sens (what I use for mile races - they've also done me well for up to 10 miles).  I finally went with the Adios.  This was partially because I wasn't crazy about the Takumi Sens when I wore them on Friday, but mostly because with the cold temperatures, I wanted the extra protection and structure of the Adios (slightly heavier, with a higher heel).  
  • Nearly all of my teammates in the 10K had great performances, with many PRs.  Which completely disproves my theory that the 10K isn't a great course.  In the best possible way.