Monday, February 27, 2017

Training log - Week ending 2/26/17

This week was 61 miles of running,  15 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

The week started with a reversal in fortunes.  No....literally.

When my team does our track workouts, we generally do the hard running in lane 1 counterclockwise (like nearly everyone else), and then do our recoveries in lanes 5-7 clockwise.  It's been that way for years, and just become part of the rhythm of the track.

However, my coach decided to reverse our recoveries, so that we jog those in the same direction as the hard stuff - counter clockwise (still in lanes 5-7, though).  It's a switch that shouldn't make that much of a difference, but actually changes things dramatically.

For one thing, the recovery time between each repeat is much reduced, even though we're still covering the same distance.  That's because, when we recover by jogging the opposite direction, there's a pause after the recovery as we wait for a gap to clear in lane 1 before starting the next repeat (our track is pretty crowded in the mornings).  When jogging in the same direction, we can note gaps in lane 1 and "merge" into the traffic before starting the next repeat with a running start.    So no pause.

It's a substantial difference - a 400m recovery takes about 3:0x when done counter-clockwise, due to the pause before starting the next lap.  When we jog clockwise, the 400m recovery takes about 2:3x. So...about 30 seconds difference.

As I noted above, we also end up starting each rep with a "running start", rather than gathering at the line and starting from a standstill.  I actually much prefer the running start - I find it's much easier on my body.  And, since I'm often slow off of the line, a traditional standing start usually has me dropped by my group in the first 50 meters, before catching up over the rest of the rep.  When we do a rolling start, I'm able to stick with the group easily.

I was concerned that doing so much running in one direction would be hard on my body, but that doesn't seem to be the case - I think any additional stress from turning in one direction is outweighed by the reduction from not having to sprint off of the line.

The one downside of this same-direction-recovery?  It actually affects our team dynamic slightly.  I train with a large group of runners of diverse paces who do the same workout at different speeds.  One of my favorite things about my team (among many) is the connection and dynamic and support that we have between runners of different paces - we're not just a collection of pace cliques, where the 2:50 marathoners and the 3:40 marathoners never mix.  And part of that is that we regularly cheer each on during the workouts.

It's easy to support each other when we're recovering in a different direction from the workout - the recovering runners face those in lane 1, so we see our teammates coming and cheer them as they go. When we're all running in the same direction, with the interval runners passing the recovering runners from behind, there's not that same chance to cheer.  And something is lost, I think.

But, with everything, there is no perfect solution.  And apparently same direction recoveries work better for sharing the track.  As well as feeling so much easier on my body, due to the rolling start.


My workouts went well for the most part.  The one slight disappointment was Friday's tempo, when I went out slightly aggressively for a 5 mile tempo.  My error was compounded by temperatures 30 degrees warmer than what we've been training in, and I reluctantly pulled the plug at 4 miles rather than dig myself into a hole. Ah well.  I was due for a meh workout.  And the fact remains that my "dropped out early at four miles" tempo was a workout I would have been very happy with as a standalone 4 mile tempo just a few weeks back.  So that's nice.  And better to make the "go out too aggressive" mistake in a tempo than a race.


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

: In the morning, 11.5 miles including a workout of 1600, 5x800 in 6:11, 2:57, 2:57, 2:57, 2:56, 2:54.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam roller at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 7 miles (9:14) to yoga, yoga, and then another 5.5 miles (8:54), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights/core and 9 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 11 miles including a 4 mile tempo in 26:04 (6:31/6:29/6:32/6:32).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday:  In the morning, 10 miles very easy (8:39) 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, 16 miles progressive, split as first 5 at 9:07, next 5 at 7:58, last 6 at 7:00.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.   Foam rolling in the evening.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Why we cheat (and how to stop it)

This is a photo of the woman who cut the course at a recent race,
robbing my friend of her rightful second place finish.
For more details, read here.  Or expand this picture and look
at her watch to see she only ran 11.5 miles
during her "half-marathon."
I'm a huge fan of the Marathon Investigations blog, and of the cheating investigative work done on Letsrun.

Sports are awesome because they enable individuals (at ALL levels of ability) to discover their own potential and limits, and accurately measure those qualities against others. Cheating siphons out all that is good about sports, leaving just a husk.  And so I'm grateful to those who keep a watchful eye.

Cheating happens at all levels, from world class elites to the back of the pack.  Successful masters runners and those who just want to BQ.

But when slower runners cheat, others sometimes ask why? Why cheat by doping or cutting the course if a world title or medal or money is not at stake?  Why cheat if you're not a professional runner?


As it turns out, the why has an answer.  Heck, it even has a model.   In the 1970s, criminology researchers Edwin Sutherland and Donald Cressy described the Business Fraud Triangle.  About 10 years ago, that model was extended to academia - more specifically, to student cheating at business school.

Under this model, academic cheating occurs when three components are present:

  • Opportunity: is it possible to cheat?
  • Incentive: is there a reason to cheat?
  • Rationalization: does one perceive cheating as "not wrong" in some way - can you cheat, but still see yourself as a good person?
This model works for running also.


Opportunity is obvious.  Road races, especially longer races, are often on unsecured routes with routes that double back, or pass conveniently close to subway stops.  Performance enhancing drugs can be acquired by anyone with the right friends at the gym, or the right doctors.  Timing chips and bibs are easily shared.

The second prong, incentive, confounds some when applied to non-elite runners.  Why go to all that trouble to cut the course or spend all that money to dope if you're not a professional?  If money or fame is not on the line?  

Easy.  We live in a culture where success is praised and prioritized.  And in running, success is generally defined by race times.  Some care about qualifying for Boston, or hitting some other non-elite time standard.  Those who blog or "live" on Instagram have followers tracking their times.  Others still have friends and acquaintances and teammates that they want to impress, whether by time, placing, or completion.  

Anyone who enters a race has something they want to accomplish.  And that something is their incentive.

More fundamentally, racing is about discovering your personal mental and physical limits.  And that's why we get so nervous.   We're not scared of pain; we're scared we'll falter when we hurt.

Cheating allows you to dodge the moment of truth.  To control the answer.  To be safe.   And that's a tempting incentive.

Rationalization is the third prong, and easier than ever.  

To explain: we live in a culture where it's OK to have your photos airbrushed or filtered.   Business professionals join committees that they never participate in for the resume value, or pay "dues" to be named to an "honorary society," or accept nominations for "top women under 45 in IOT cybersecurity" (said award contingent on the purchase of an $150 acrylic trophy for the display case).

"Spontaneous" announcements and photos are edited and filtered for Facebook; "surprise" engagements take weeks to plan and are covered by a professional photographer and hashtagged into incomprehensibility.   And then, there's Spanx.

[completely off topic, but necessary as full disclosure - I dye my hair.]

Thus, presenting the best image of yourself to others is our zeitgeist, and it's socially acceptable to contort and distort and filter and manipulate and do what you need to do in order to do just that.  

It's an easy hop, once that mentality is in place, to justifying cutting the course on a hot day so that you run the time you think you would have in cooler conditions, so that you can get that goal time you believe you deserve.  Or to take stuff that lets you be the runner you always thought you were anyway, so you can prove it to others.

And the more others do it, where "it" is cheating in some form, the easier rationalization is.  If others are "doing it," then it's frighteningly easy to believe that you're not cheating - you're just competing.
Here's three trophies from major races in the last 18 months that
were shipped to me after the fact, rather than being awarded to me
on the podium.  Why?  Cheating.


So how do we stop this? 

(by "we" - I mean the running community)

Taking each prong in turn - we can control opportunity to cheat, with more and better drug testing, with timing mats and cameras.  But we can never eliminate opportunity entirely - heck, one can cheat in indoor track.

Incentive is a simple fact of the racing life.  We race because we care about our performances, whether it be winning, qualifying for Boston, breaking 30 minutes in a 5K, or just crossing that darn finish line. Remove the desire, and you remove the very point of racing, at all levels.  Incentive will remain as long as racing does.

So, to rid ourselves of cheating, we need to reduce rationalization - the ability to justify or excuse cheating.  

We're not going to be able to change pop culture as a whole - photo filters, ghost writers, and paid listings in "best professionals in DC" will endure.  But we can change the culture in running and racing.

There tends to be a view that some cheating is OK.  If it doesn't affect the top of the leaderboard.  Or if it's something that "everyone does."  Or if "they never test."  It's acceptable to take menopause drugs with testosterone if you're not going to win the race anyway.  Or to give your bib to someone else if the race won't let you transfer.  It's the tolerance of some cheating that enables others to push the envelope.

And thus, that attitude needs to end, to be replaced with a zero tolerance stance towards any cheating, no matter how "minor."   So that we can eliminate the opportunities to justify or excuse cheating in all its forms.

That means no bib-swapping, even if nobody's in contention for an award.  That means no racing while taking banned substances because you're older or you're not fast anyway or everyone else does it or you're just taking it once.  That means no cutting the course because you're having a bad day or because you saw someone else do it or because you're not going to place anyway.   

Marathon Investigation does fantastic work (please donate to support if you agree).  But the responsibility for ending cheating lies with ALL of us.  Through cultural change from within.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Training log - Week ending 2/19/17

This week was 61 miles of running,  16 "miles" of pool-running, and 2500 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I'm pretty happy with where my fitness appears to be, based on my workouts this week - Tuesday's workout felt very restrained (well, until the last 800, when I let myself have fun).  And Friday's tempo showed that last week's tempo wasn't a fluke.

As I noted a few weeks ago, I had asked my coach if we could downplay the marathon pace work this cycle in favor of more 4 and 5 mile tempos (done at 10 mile or half marathon pace, respectively).  My thinking here was that:
a) I've done an immense amount of marathon pace work in the recent past, so it was good to take a break from that and
b) I've historically responded best to work between 10 mile and half-marathon pace - the tempo work that gets reduced or eliminated during half and full marathon training cycles in favor of marathon pace work combined with very short and fast tempos and cruise intervals.

Based on how I'm feeling, I'm really happy we tried this.  Of course, the ultimate proof will be in how my races go this spring, but all indications are that I'm running really well right now.  I'm responding to the 4 mile tempos at 10 mile race pace pretty much how I'd hoped I would.  I haven't gotten to do any 5+ mile tempos at half marathon pace yet, but hopefully those will come soon - the best I ever ran was when I was consistently alternating between slightly faster four mile and slightly slower five mile tempos.

It's also worth noting that I've mixed up my strength-training some this year.  Specifically, I've added heavy weight split squats into my 2-3 day-a-week leg strength routine, as a substitution for traditional barbell squats.    I do the split squats in a power cage with a barbell loaded at between 60 and 80% of my body weight.    I do them in three different ways - as lunges forward, lunges backwards, and Bulgarian style (with the rear foot on a bench)

I swapped to split squats back at the beginning of the year because I wanted to work on single leg stability more.   (Single leg stability has historically been my weakness, and the source of nearly all my running injuries.)  I already regularly do weighted step-ups and single leg deadlifts, plus daily balance board work, but split squats require the core and glutes to work together in a way that's very similar to running, so there's a good deal of transfer.  Additionally, I find that split squats target the glutes more and the quads less, as opposed to traditional squats.  Good news for me, since I tend to be quad dominant.

In the past few weeks, I've noted a great deal of oomph in my stride, and I think it's the direct product of the split squats.  Stronger, more powerful glutes yield a stronger, more powerful stride.

Of course, as is the case for all runner-focused strength-training, the trick is to find the balance where you're doing enough to improve your running, but not so much that you compromise your running or your recovery.  For me, that's 2-3 sets of 6-8 squats, done right after a track workout, so I have as much time to recover as possible.

It's also worth noting here that, though I feel I'm getting a lot of benefit from my work in the gym, it's not for every runner.  My personal philosophy is that if you are a young, male, historically injury-free runner, your time is best spent running more.  But the further you get from that point, the more important supplemental strength training (with heavy weights for power - not the light weight/high rep stuff that bodybuilders do to gain mass) becomes.  For myself, as a female masters runner with a long injury history, this gym stuff is essential.


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

: In the morning, 11.5 miles including a workout of 2x(1600, 800) in 6:09, 2:58, 6:04, 2:48.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam roller at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 7.5 miles (8:51) to yoga, yoga, and then another 4.5 miles (8:43), followed by drills.  Sports massage at night.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights/core and 8.5 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 11.5 miles including a 4 mile tempo in 25:50 (6:36/6:31/6:26/6:18).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday:  In the morning, 10 miles very easy (8:56) 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, 16 miles progressive, split as first 5 at 9:02, next 5 at 7:46, last 6 at 7:03.  Followed with 1.5 "miles" pool-running and 500 yards recovery swimming.   Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Training log - Week ending 2/12/17

This week was 58 miles of running,  15 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was a good week - my fitness is coming along nicely, with Friday's tempo in particular being a nice surprise - I ran it completely off of perceived effort (stay relaxed...not too hard...not too easy...), and was shocked when my final time ended up being about 30 seconds faster than the previous tempo two weeks ago.  Of course, part of that could be that we finally had tempo on a relatively non-windy day.

I believe this is also a masters
record for the 5K, male or female.
I also think part of it was that I pulled my act together and got a solid warm-up in before Friday's tempo.  I always have good intentions, but I find it hard to get going on workout mornings, and so my warm-up gets cut a bit short.  On Friday, I did a thorough hip-stretching before leaving the house (I've been half-assing this), and then left early enough to fit in a three mile warm-up, plus drills, plus a full four strides.  (I've been cutting short the drills and strides).   I can't help but think that had a lot to do with the good workout.

My Garmin was impressed by my tempo also.  So impressed, in fact, that it declared me the first woman ever to break 13 minutes in the 5K.

More amusingly was the fact (echoing last week's theme) that my Garmin also updated my predicted race performances.  Based on my execution of a 5K in 12:52, my Garmin now believes that I'm capable of racing a 5K in....18:48.

In other, non-running news, I want to give a shout-out to the ASPCA.  They do a lot of good things - one of those is maintaining a 24/7/365 animal poison control hotline (888-426-4435).

As background to this story, I use disposable handwarmers when I run in the winter.  They're good for 12 hours, and if I seal them in a plastic airtight bag, I can use them for several runs.  

Our kittens have always found these handwarmers fascinating, and so I securely store them in a plastic baggie, in my zipped backpack, in a closed closet.  Unfortunately, on Saturday night I forgot to put my backpack in the closet.  And so, while we watched TV downstairs, the kittens managed to open my backpack upstairs, chew through the plastic baggie, and mangle the handwarmers, spreading iron/charcoal dust through multiple rooms in the process.

It was a mess.  But what was most concerning was the possibility that the kittens (who will eat just about anything) had ingested some of the handwarmer components.  Hence a call to the hotline, where I described the cats (age, weight, health history) and the handwarmers to a staffer who then relayed the information to the vet on call.  After a few minutes they confirmed - the contents were non-toxic.  Add some canned pumpkin to each cat's meal for the next few days, but don't worry otherwise, so yay.

It was great to get that peace of mind, and I'm really grateful to the ASPCA for providing that service. There's normally a $65 dollar fee for using the service (understandable, since it can't be cheap for them to provide).  However, I also learned that the service was included as part of the benefits for microchipping our kittens, so no fee for us.  So double win.  And a great argument for micro-chipping.  As well as supporting the ASPCA.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 5 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 11 miles including a workout of 4x1200 in 4:40, 4:32, 4:29, 4:26.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam roller at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 8 miles (9:01) to yoga, yoga, and then another 4 miles (8:31), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning, 8.5 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights/core.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 12 miles including a 4 mile tempo in 25:54 (6:38/6:33/6:25/6:18).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday:  In the morning, 10 miles very easy (8:42) with drills and strides, followed by wpper body weights, core, and foam rolling.

Sunday: In the morning, 14 miles progressive, split as first 4 at 9:08, next 5 at 7:44, last 5 at 7:08.  Followed with injury prevention work, 1.5 "miles" pool-running and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Training log - Week ending 2/5/17

This week was 44 miles of running,  17 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This week was punctuated by a 5K on Sunday - my first race since CIM (and my post-CIM break).   I ran the 5K in 19:34, which I took as a good sign that my fitness is going in the right direction. Though Sunday's race wasn't well-executed, it was still faster than I could have run, even 2 weeks ago.

What's amusing is that my watch disagrees with me.

My watch, like many others, has a fitness predictor - it assesses the distance, pace and heart rate of each of my runs against my maximum heart rate, and from that delivers an estimate of potential race performances at that point in time for different distances.

On Saturday afternoon, I did a hard reset of my watch, which erased all previous values and reset estimates to zero.  Sunday's 5K race was my first effort with the newly reset watch.

As noted above, I raced the 5K in 19:34.  Based on that performance, my watch estimated that I was capable of racing....a 5K in a little over 22 minutes.

I'm scratching my head over this one.

Of course, as Brian noted, this prediction is technically not wrong. If I'm capable of racing a 5K in 19:34, then I'm certainly capable of racing a 5K in 22:11.

But that argument just shows that Brian and I have utterly different definitions of what a "race" is, and I'm the only one who equates "race" to "the fastest I am capable of running for a set distance."

And apparently, my watch agrees with Brian.


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

: In the morning, 11 miles including a workout of 400, 800, 1200, 1600, 1200, 800, 400 in 1:31, 3:03, 4:34, 6:06, 4:28, 2:56, 81.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam roller at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 8 miles very easy (9:04) to yoga, yoga, and then another 3 miles very easy (8:58), followed by drills and strides.  Sports massage at night.

Thursday: In the morning, 8 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights/core.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 7.5 miles, mostly very easy (9:29), but with a mile pick-up in 6:26.  Followed with foam rolling.

Saturday:  In the morning, 3.5 miles very easy (8:52).   Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday: 3.5 miles warm-up, and then a 5K race in 19:34 (6:25/6:23/6:09/37).  Followed with 4.5 miles very easy (8:59 pace).  Also 1000 yards recovery swimming plus 1.5 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling to get everything cooled down and stretched out.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Race Report: First Down 5K, February 5, 2017

I ran the First Down 5K this morning, finishing in a time of 19:34.

This 5K is held on DC's Hains Point, a pancake flat peninsula (with the exception of one "hump" - not really a hill, just a hump).  It's a simple out and back that can be extremely fast unless you get a bad wind day.  Bad wind days happen frequently on Hains Point, but we lucked out today.  The wind was noticeable, but not horrible.  The wind was also from the south, which meant that it was conveniently a headwind on the way out (when you have crowds to block it) and a tailwind on the way home.

I ran this race both as a rustbuster and as a baseline fitness test.   I haven't raced since CIM in December (9 weeks ago), and it showed today in my splits:

Mile 1: 6:25
Mile 2: 6:23
Mile 3: 6:09
Last bit: 37 seconds (5:40 pace)

So....a bit uneven.   And the splits match how the race felt. I started conservatively, wary of going out too fast.  I felt like I was working fairly hard, but when I started chasing down others in the third mile, there were several extra gears that I didn't realize I had.  It was fun to run down quite a few people in the third mile, but it's also an indication that I had a bit too much in the tank.

But that's what rustbusters are for.  I race by effort, rather than pace, which usually works very well for me.  However, when I haven't raced in a while, I lose my feel for race effort, and need to rediscover it.  Like I did today in the last part of this race.  So that's a nice reminder not to go too long between races.

[and in answer to the obvious question - I don't think it would have helped any to have raced by my watch this morning.  For one thing, since I wasn't sure what shape I was in, I wouldn't have known what splits to target.  Additionally, I doubt I would have run as fast in the third mile if I had been staring at my watch - I would have just settled at 6:2x pace.]

As a fitness test, I'm satisfied.  I'm not in peak shape, but I'm in a good place for this point in the season.  Of course, there's part of me that wants to go out and race another 5K next weekend.  But I think that's not the best idea - when I race too often my progress tends to stagnate.  So back to the trails and the track for a few more weeks.

Other notes:

  • Since my normal parking spots on Rock Creek Parkway are still blocked, I parked at the Tidal Basin, which worked pretty well.  I arrived at around 7:00 for the 8:00 am start, and had no trouble finding parking.  (mental note to reduce my blog readership so that I can talk openly about the best paces to park pre-race).
  • Temps were slightly above freezing, but the "feels-like" was in the mid-20s.  I debated what to wear and ended up going with a tank top and tights, which felt very comfortable.  I've worn shorts in the past in these temperatures, but have found that my legs tend to get too cold and tight in the start area.  My legs also don't overheat the way my upper body does, and my favorite tights are lightweight, slightly loose, and very comfortable when running fast, so it was the logical choice,  And it worked well.
  • This race features a "combine" - immediately after the 5K you walk/hobble/crawl/whatever over to an area where you do a set of push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, and air squats.  The race then gives a second set of awards for one's combined performance - the total time between when you start the 5K and when you finish the combine.  As I've done every year, I skipped the combine.  Competitively, I always find it tempting.  But I'm usually shaky immediately post-race, and doing walking lunges while in that state just worries me too much.  I'm injury prone, and I know when not to push it.

    I really wish they'd offer the combine with a 10 minute break post-race.  But I guess that would be much harder to manage.  And also miss the point of the whole combined fitness test.  Oh well - some year I'll just tempo this race and then do the combine.
  • I debated which shoes to wear, and ultimately went with my Adios Boost 2s - the same shoes I wear for workouts, half-marathons, and marathons.  I often run shorter stuff (10 miles or less) in my Takumi Sens, but I haven't worn those in nearly a year, and I didn't feel comfortable racing in them without doing a trial run to make sure I still liked them.  Mental note to test them out in the next few weeks.