Monday, May 22, 2017

Training log - Week ending 5/21/2017

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

It's been a while since I've posted a "normal week."  I've been racing a lot, and so it seems that most weeks I've been skipping one or both of the workouts due to pre-race rest or post-race recovery.   The racing's been great, but it's the right time to switch back and spend a few weeks training consistently.

Since I'm not writing about racing, I get to write about other stuff.  Including the new running power meter I started playing with a few weeks ago.  It's a footpod that clips to the laces of one of my shoes. It syncs up with my watch and captures a ton of metrics about my running that I can later view.

What metrics?  Well...stuff like "power" and "form power" and "leg spring stiffness" and "vertical oscillation" and several other fields.  Power is how much work I am doing while running; the other metrics are various ways to assess the efficiency of my running form.

[for an example of the metrics, here's my report from Broad Street a few weeks back.  The power meter metrics are towards the bottom of the page]

Of course, there's no consensus on what the optimal values are for the metrics, or even if there are optimal valies.   I'm honestly not sure how useful the metrics and graphs are, other than being pretty to look at and fun to compare.

From what I can tell, my running is very efficient but not very powerful.  I already knew that. And that knowledge doesn't change anything for me, other than giving me running efficiency bragging rights on an extremely obscure corner of the internet.

[Aside: my hunch is that any success I've had as a masters runner is because my speed comes from efficiency, rather than the ability to generate force.  My reasoning is that efficiency declines at a much slower rate than power as one ages, and so I'm not losing speed as fast as others.  My high efficiency is also probably why I can run passably even when my asthma is flaring.  I can "fake it" much better than someone whose running ability stems from power.  It's also probably why I feel my running benefits greatly from time spent in the gym - because stuff like barbell lunges and step-ups develop power, which is my weakness.]

I've spent a fair amount of my free time on various fora reading about power meters and power and various applications. There is a group of runners who have found religion about training and racing "with power."  And they are working to spread the gospel to the masses.  Via the internet, of course.

These runners assert that power is a better metric for pacing one's run than either heart rate or pace.  Why?  Because heart rate changes can lag several seconds behind effort changes or be affected by heat or hydration.  And pace can be affected by inclines or wind - 6:40 pace uphill into the wind is more work than 6:40 on a clear morning on the track.  In contrast, power changes instantly to match effort and the measurement of power is not affected by heat or hydration.  Power also changes to show that you are doing more work when running uphill than down.

Proper pacing is about expending your effort most effectively. Thus, since power is the best and most accurate measure of effort, it's the best metric to use for pacing a workout or race.

That's the argument.  And it makes sense.  But then everyone gets buried in the details.  They spend hours conducting power tests and then calculating power targets based on the tests, and then debating how the power target for a race should be modified if it's a warm day or one is not fully recovered.

Which makes me realize (again) how few people rely on the true best metric for pacing - perceived effort.

Admittedly, it's tough initially to shed the numbers and just rely on how you feel when you race. Because it's really hard to trust how you feel, and to distinguish between the bullshit that your body will tell you and the truth of your own effort.  But once you learn to pace by feel, it's unquestionably the best measure.  Perceived effort is instantaneous, accurate, and accounts for weather, incline, nutrition, etc.

Additionally, perceived effort avoids the potential self-limitation that comes with other metrics.  What if you've improved very recently?  So that your target pace or power level for a race is no longer the limit of what you are capable of on race day?  Fixating on a goal number on your watch, be it pace or power, can keep you from reaching your potential.  If you run off of feel, you'll run the best race you're capable of that day, rather than talking yourself into a slower time because the numbers didn't look right.

Dailies 

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

Tuesday
: In the morning, 12 miles including a workout of 2x800, 1600, 2x800, 2x400 in 2:53, 2:50, 5:50, 2:50, 2:51, 84, 82.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 8 miles easy (8:53) to yoga, yoga, and then another 4 miles (8:53), followed by drills and strides.  Massage 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 track workout of 3200m, 1600m in 12:33 (6:17/6:16) and 5:55.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday:  In the morning, 10 miles very easy (8:44) with drills and strides, followed by 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 8:59, next 5 at 7:44, last 6 at 6:56.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Training log - Week ending 5/14/17

This week was 35 miles of running,  28 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was an "intermission" week - no track workouts, just four days of pool-running, fun stuff like swimming and yoga, and junk food.  This was followed by easy running at the end of the week before returning to "work" on Sunday.

Why?  Well...in the past 10 weeks, I've raced 7 times (one road mile, two 5ks, two 10Ks, a 10 miler, and a half-marathon).  That's a lot.  I've got another 6 weeks to go before the conclusion of my self-defined spring season with another half-marathon, So I eased off  this week to ensure I'm fresh in mid-June.

I could tell I was due for some extra recovery because I didn't hate the idea of downtime.  In fact, this was actually my idea, though my coach signed off on it.   As soon as the idea of a break isn't annoying, I know I need one.  And I also know it worked, because by the fourth day of pool-running and junk food, I was really resisting the urge to go running.  And it took extra willpower not to show up for the Friday workout (in my defense, the weather was perfect).

Another reason to back off this week?  I've been running very well.  As I've learned from both observation and direct experience, those magic periods of PR after PR are also extremely high risk. That's when you get greedy, and try to build just a little bit more.    And that's when you break.  By pulling way back this week, I'm trying to control that temptation, and the near-inevitable result.

As the careful reader will note, I wasn't sedentary.  Rather, I used this week to enjoy stuff that I skip or limit during training.  For example, I did a fairly long swim focusing on different drills - something that I can't fit in during a running training cycle.  I also took yoga classes on the days that I'm normally at the track so that I could experience different instructors.  The result that I was mentally refreshed, more than I would have been had I sat on the couch.

Dailies 

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

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

Wednesday:  In the morning, 6 "miles" pool-running and 2000 yards swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

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

Friday: In the morning, 7 miles easy to yoga (8:42), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy (8:42) home  followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  10 miles very easy (9:02) plus upper body strengthwork and core.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: In the morning, 14 miles progressive, split as first 4 at 9:03; next 5 at 7:34 (too fast - should have been no faster than 7:45); last 5 at 6:57.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Training log - Week ending 5/7/17

This week was 38 miles of running,  12 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Broad Street race week.  Which of course was also the week that the buckle on my Garmin 920xt wrist strap broke.  Thursday evening, to be exact.

This resulted in a high level of stress utterly disproportionate to the significance of the issue - I don't check splits when I race (I just use the watch to have the data later), and I have an old 910xt that is still serviceable.  It would be tough running without the ability to upload the workout to Garmin Connect, or to digitally confirm my recovery.  But still, like Gloria Gaynor, I would survive.  Because, like Patty Smith, I am a warrior.

Or maybe not.  Reluctant to rely on musically inspired fortitude, I turned instead to crude commerce.  I ordered a replacement 920XT strap to be delivered Friday night.  Then, I had a better idea.  There's a jeweler two blocks from my house, and sure enough they had a watch repair guy on site.  He repaired my Garmin strap buckle for $3 - significantly cheaper than the replacement strap (which arrived a day late anyway, after I left for Philly). So that's a lesson learned for the future.

***

I normally do a pick-up mile two days before I race - my coach counsels 10K pace, though I've been modifying that to 10 mile/half marathon pace (I'm sure he doesn't mind).  So...I headed out to do my mile pick-up on Friday morning, using a downhill route (the W&OD trail) into a headwind.  Cuz that would mimic the predicted weather for Broad Street.   There was a downpour as well, which fortunately was not predicted for Broad Street.

I ended up running the pick-up mile way too fast, at 6:04, which is not half-marathon pace or 10 mile pace or even 10K pace for me, even if downhill  (it didn't feel like it took too much out of me either).  Whoops.

So clearly one of two things was true.  Either I had just irretrievably effed up my race, or I was set up for a PR.  (because there is no middle ground to race jitters.)

Since there was nothing to be gained from assuming the first option, I chose to believe in the second.  And fortunately, I was right.  I need to not do that again, though.

Dailies 

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

Tuesday
: In the morning, 11 miles, including a 3 mile warm-up (8:41); 2x400; 4x800; 2x400 in 90, 91, 2:56, 2:57, 2:56, 2:54, 81, 78; 3 mile cooldown (9:19).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Massage at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 7 miles very easy (8:58) plus drills and strides and DIY yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

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

Friday: In the morning, 7 miles, most easy (9:02) but with a mile at 6:04 pace.  Foam rolling and an ice bath at night.

Saturday:  Nothing aerobic.  Just travel to Philly, DIY yoga to open hips, and foam rolling.

Sunday: In the morning, 3 mile warm-up, and then a 10 mile race in 63:55.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Race Report: Broad Street 10 Miler, May 7, 2017

I ran the Broad Street 10 Miler today, finishing in a time of 1:03:55, which was good enough for 4th Masters Female, and also a significant PR.  I'm pretty happy.

I had high hopes for a PR going into this race - in March I had run a half-marathon at my 10 mile PR pace - a sure indication that I could PR the ten miler on a good day and course.  And many of my training partners had run 63-64 minutes at Cherry Blossom a few weeks back, making me think that a time in that range was possible for me as well.

I think Broad Street (point-to-point, net downhill, and yes, I'm counting it as a PR) is a faster course than Cherry Blossom if all other things (i.e. weather) are equal.  However, historically Broad Street has been a significantly warmer race than Cherry Blossom (last year being a notable exception), limiting any benefit from the course.

The good news was that we were getting Cherry Blossom-like temperatures for Broad Street this year (51 at the start and dry).  The bad news was that the wind was from the south, meaning a headwind for 10 miles.

I was particularly worried about the wind, as I was planning to start in the first "elite/seeded" corral. I had "seeded" status for this race, meaning that I had a choice between starting in the very front or starting with the corral associated with my projected finishing time.  Last year I had started at the front, and it had been a miserable experience.  Basically 10 miles of being passed by faster people, while running into a headwind.  I wasn't anxious to repeat that experience.

On the other hand, I knew I was in far better shape this year then last, and that I had a shot at a masters award, including prize money.  However, masters awards were awarded based on gun time, meaning that I had to start at the front if I wanted to contend.  What to do?  Start at the front to target the masters award?  Or start further back where I'd have others to block the headwind, to maximize my chances of PRing?

Fortunately, as it turned out, I didn't have to make that choice.  Instead of giving the elite/seeded corral a head start, this year the first corral behind the elite/seeded corral started with us.  This was huge, as two of my teammates/training partners were in that corral, giving me the option of running with them.  So woo.

***

Race day dawned, and I left my hotel room at 6:05 to get to the subway stop at 6:15 to get to the start for the 8:00 am race.  This wasn't overkill - Broad Street is huge, and though it doesn't take long to get from Center City to the race start area, if you wait too long, it's impossible to board the subway due to the packed cars.  As it turned out, 6:15 am was perfect.

Once there, I did my standard warm-up of ~3 miles including some uptempo running, plus drills, strides, and multiple bathroom breaks.   Then into my corral at 7:40, which was when the corrals were supposed to close.  Though this race isn't quite as strict as Chicago, it's still not a race that you can count on ducking into your corral at the last minute.

I noted two good things - 1) the headwind was not as awful as forecast, and was also intermittent rather than constant; 2) the corrals were't being enforced this year.  While this would normally annoy me, this year I was grateful - it meant that I had plenty of people to work with/potentially use as windblocks.  Rachel and Catherine ended up right next to me, which was awesome.  Well, until Rachel helpfully reminded me that I needed to be starting at the line, not a few rows back.

The gun went off, and everyone went out super fast, as they always do in this race (once again - fast courses are not freebies - you can't do stupid stuff and not pay for it).  Rachel, Catherine and I quickly grouped together, and ran the first mile patiently, letting the masses stream around us.

I hung on to the two of them for the first mile, but then they began to pick up a bit of speed.  It felt a bit too hard for me this early in the race, so I reluctantly dropped back.  About this time, the wind started gusting.  Fortunately, there was a pack of large guys just to my right, so I pulled up slightly and ducked in behind them.

Over the next few miles, the headwind gusted and then subsided.  I remembered the lesson I had learned at Shamrock about being patient and biding my time during a headwind, and I applied it here - when the wind calmed, I'd move out to the side and build pace, an when it picked up again, I'd find a pack of tall guys and tuck in, even if I had to slow down slightly to do so.  Better to bank energy now that I could use at the end.

Amusingly, the pack that I spent the most time with featured a big guy in a "November Project" t-shirt.  I'm not a huge fan of any training program that encourages people to go hard everyday.  But my practicality outweighs my pride, so I tucked in behind him and an even bigger buddy, grateful that the November Project apparently appeals to former football players who can run a decently fast 10 miler.

I also focused on my form.  We've had quite a few windy workouts this spring, giving me a chance to practice dealing with it.  When there's a headwind, I have a habit of hunching and ducking, trying to minumize the wind surface.  But I've noted that I run much faster when I resist this tendency and instead try to run tall.   It's counter-intuitive in much the same way that starting slow is.  But it works.

So, running tall and "hopscotching" (my term for jumping from wind block to wind block).  I made my way down Broad Street.  I like to take a gel during 10 mile races, so I took part of a cherry lime rocktane at around mile 6.  It disagreed with me for some reason, and for a few minutes I worried that I might have to take a quick pit stop.  Fortunately, my stomach settled.

I know Broad Street, and so once I finished the slight uphill just after mile 8, I started to build, abandoning my windblocks.  Around mile 9.5, there's a downhill, and I used that to pick up even more pace.  Then I saw the Navy Yard gate that indicated a quarter-mile to go, and I half-closed my eyes and pretended I was back on the track, hammering a 400.  As I approached the finish line I was estatic to see it counting down 1:03:4x.  A major PR, and I was hopeful that would be good enough for a masters award also.

***
Splits were
Mile 1: 6:28
Mile 2: 6:26
Mile 3: 6:22
Mile 4: 6:27
Mile 5: 6:24
Mile 6: 6:24
Mile 7: 6:24
Mile 8-9: 12:49 (6:24-6:25 pace)
Mile 10: 6:11

Amusingly, despite my hopscotching, my splits were shockingly even.  I also ran a slight negative split, passing a lot of people in the last 2 miles.  Several of the people that I passed late in the race were people I remember pulling ahead earlier, when I was tucked in one of "my" packs.  I think a lot of people expended way too much effort running solo and trying to hit splits, and paid for it in the last few miles.

Other notes:


  • Stuck with the pre-race food routine that has worked for me: rice-heavy Chipotle for lunch, very light dinner with some unsweetened UCAN as a drink.  I'm not sure you need to carb-load for a 10 miler, but I don't think it hurt to go carb-heavy the day before.  Breakfast was my normal pre-run.  I also brought a berry stroopwafel with me to the start, to nibble on to bridge the gap between breakfast and race start.
  • Carried a handheld water bottle for the first two miles before tossing it.  I'm sure this also gets some eyerolls, but I don't care.  It works for me.
  • As I noted above, I ended up 4th masters female.  Which meant I got to hangout in the elite tent, participate in the awards ceremony, and also fill out "paperwork" for the cash award (name, address, citizenship, USATF #, Social Security number).  I'm a dork, and I was ridiculously happy to be filling out paperwork.
  • Temperature 52, DP 40 for the race.  Really great weather.  Probably the best it's ever been in all the time I've run this race.
  • I've had a hilarious history at races outside of DC - until this year, I had PR'd every race that I had run in Richmond or Virginia Beach, and had never had a good race in Philadelphia.  This year, I upended the cycle - horrible race in Richmond, and then finally a good race in Philly.  Woo.
  • Pollen seemed notably high, but again (as it has been since starting on the Xolair), I had little issue with it.  I did puff my rescue inhaler pre-race just to be careful, but I might have been able to get away with out it.  Yay Xolair.
  • Mom and Dad really like these pictures, so I'm posting them here.  My blog, my rules.




Thursday, May 4, 2017

Is Pike's Peek legit?

The Pike's Peek 10K in Rockville Maryland has been historically mocked on Letsrun.com, that bastion of intellectual exchange (full disclosure - I participate on that forum).  Why?  Because of the net downhill.

In the past, I agreed.  Several years ago, I ran this race and bested by a full minute my then 10K PR, which I had set a month earlier in good weather on a fast course (39:16 versus 40:18).  And that was despite blowing up badly in the final stretch and even tripping right before the finish.  A year later, I returned to run Pike's Peek as my rustbuster, right after a break.  And I ran 39:15.  A time utterly inconsistent with any other time I had ever run at any distance.

Yup - the course was definitely assisted.  I noted the time for kicks, with an asterisk, but didn't claim it as a PR.

But then, a few years ago, the course was rerouted slightly.  While most of the course stayed the same, the start and finish were each moved back a quarter mile, adding a solid hill to the start and removing the sharp drop at the end.

This changed the total drop of the course, but it still had a drop.  And so, I reasoned, it still wasn't a course one could count as a PR.  (of course, all personal records are personal, so technically anyone can count anything they want....)

But now, I'm engaging in the pixel equivalent of eating my words.

In my opinion, the new Pike's Peek 10K course - the course that's been used since 2015 - is legit. This conclusion is based on both my own experience running the race this year, and some number crunching I've done below.

That analysis is below.  But first, I want to acknowledge the obvious.  This entire blog post is ridiculous.  Utterly ridiculous.

That being said, I'm probably not the only person interested in this topic, as over-analytical as it is.   So keep reading if you want - it's a guilty pleasure type thing.  Nobody has to know.  Promise.

***

In evaluating the legitimacy of the current Pikes' Peek course for PR purposes, I considered two points: how the net elevation drop compares to other races, and how runners performed at Pike's Peek this year, as compared to what their recent performances would predict for 10K.

Elevation drop

USATF maintains a database of certified courses on its website, searchable by location, distance, name, and other variables.  Each course certification includes a statement as to the net drop of the course, if any, calculated in meters per kilometer.
All information taken from
the USATF website, except for
the Main Street Mile,
which I calculated myself


How do various races measure up?  I've posted a selection to the right.

To be record eligible for USATF purposes, a course must have a net drop of less than 1.0 m/km and a separation between start and finish lines of 50% or less of the total distance of the course.   So...you're not setting a US record on point-to-point courses like Grandma's Marathon or Boston, regardless of net drop.

However, it is possible to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials on a course that is point-to-point, as long at the net drop is no more than 3.25 meters per kilometer.    My hunch is that the 3.25 is not random, but was chosen specifically to include the Boston Marathon (3.23 m/km drop) as a qualifier.

Looking at my chart to the right, it's interesting to see how the net drops of the old and new Pike's Peek courses compare to Boston, as well as some other popular courses.  The old Pike's Peek is well above the 3.25 line, while the new course is well below.    Heck, the new Pike's Peek has less than half the net drop of the previous version.

It's also worth noting that the new Pike's Peek course has the same net drop as the Big Sur International Marathon.  Big Sur is a notoriously slow and difficult course - evidence that a net drop doesn't necessarily imply an assisted course.

So...based on net drop alone, there's some basis for considering a Pike's Peek PR (try saying that 5 times fast) legit.  Put another way, there's a solid argument against ruling it out from PR contention based on net drop.  But that's only part of the analysis.

Performance Comparison

I've found the McMillan Guide to be pretty good at predicting equivalent performances for me.  So when I ran 1:26:34 at Shamrock (a legitimate, USATF record eligible course), I entered the time into McMillan, and got a predicted 10K time of 38:50.  I was pretty close, but ever so slightly slower, with my Pike's Peek time (38:56).

So...I got curious, and decided to run a similar comparison for a few other runners.   I selected a group of runners who had run both Cherry Blossom 10 Miler 2017 and Pike's Peek, so I could compare performances between the two races.  Why did I pick Cherry Blossom as my baseline?  It's a USATF record eligible course with no net drop and no separation - very fast, but undeniably fair.  This year, Cherry Blossom also had nearly identical weather to Pike's Peek, and the two races were also separated by less than a month, reducing the possibility of profound fitness gains between the two.

 I limited my sample to people I knew, whom I understood to have had tapered and run both races all out, with no confounding factors (illness, running Boston in the gap between Cherry Blossom and Pike's Peek, etc).

With those criteria, I ended up with a sample of 8 runners.  Certainly not a large sample that would yield statistically sound conclusions, but still interesting.  Below are my results.

A comparison of 10K times, as predicted by performance at Cherry Blossom 2017,
versus performance at Pike's Peek 2017.
I also noted myself, based on my predicted time from Shamrock,
though I didn't include myself in the analysis.
What is striking is that a slight majority - 5 of 8 - ran slower at Pike's Peek than predicted by their Cherry Blossom performance.  Some ran significantly slower.  Of course, others ran significantly faster than predicted.

On average, these 8 runners ran 4.25 seconds SLOWER at Pike's Peek than one would have predicted, based on their Cherry Blossom times.

Of course, this is (again) a small sample size.  And I'll note for the statistics geeks that the standard deviation here is 26 seconds and change, making that "slower-by-4.25 seconds" claim essentially meaningless, from a statistical POV.  I haven't proven that Pike's Peek is equal to or slower than the legit Cherry Blossom course (and thus legit-by-insinuation).

But, it is interesting to look at.  And it's frankly stronger evidence than my previous dismissal of the old course based on the single data point of my own experience.

***

So based on the two points above (plus the fact that I broke 39 and really want to call it a PR), I'm inclined to claim the current Pike's Peek course as legit.    No eyerolling here, no asterisk.

Again, all PRs are by definition personal.  But, personally, I'm a numbers geek.  And what I've written above is what has convinced me, personally.