Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Who watches the watchless?

So, I've become a fan of running watchless, in a sense.  I still wear my Garmin, and transcribe the collected data onto my neurotically detailed training log.  But I no longer check time, pace, or distance during any run, including both easy runs and workouts; in fact, I go so far as to try to block out the splits my coach calls out during track.

[and yes, I believe I just fessed up to ignoring statements from my coach during workouts.  I may have doomed myself to a 12x1000m workout]

It's worked very well for me, though I do fear that I risk becoming the Garmin version of the obnoxious Vibrams 5 Fingers convert.  I'm trying not to go there.  Really, I'm trying not to go there.  But, I am hoping I can spell out why I think it's worked for me, and may work for some others, without descending into the trap of insisting that it will work for all.


First of all, here's how my Garmin used to be set.

Total distance and time on left, lap distance and time on right. 
Used this for all runs and races.
(I have NEVER used the pace function -- I don't trust it)

And, since my "rebirth," my new screens:
Easy runs and workouts.
How I race - a totally useless screen - shows cadence. 
Since I have no foot pod, there's no data here.
It's the closest I can get to a perfectly blank screen.
For all runs except races, I display time of day, so as to ensure I'm not late for other commitments.  For races, I go one step further and "blank the screen."  I don't use time of day for races because it would be tempting to start staring at the Garmin and trying to extrapolate pace..."if the race started at 8:00 and it's now 8:26, then my pace is..."

Running with my watch this way was tough at first -- the lack of constant feedback from my Garmin felt very much like riding a horse without a helmet, which indicates just how distorted my dependence on knowing time and distance had become.   It still takes a leap of faith each time, but now the leap is more of a bunny hop.

It's become easier because it works.  At least for me.


And I think that running watchless might work for others as well (again conceding that different people have different motivational profiles).  Here's a few reasons why:
  1. I've noted a weird phenomena when racing watchless.  Every time I'd pass a mile marker, most people to each side of me would glance at their watches, and then make a pace change.  Often a sharp one, And changes in pace, be they surges to make up the 5 seconds lost on the last mile, or hitting the brakes to correct, are inefficient and waste energy. And distance running is all about conservation of energy.
  2. To a similar point, every time you look down at your watch, you distort your stride.  The more you stare at it, the more you interrupt the flow of your gait, and again waste precious energy.
  3. Splits talk people OUT of good races.  As an example, the Richmond Half-Marathon has a hilly section, and so several miles in the middle of the course had pretty uneven splits.  I've read report after report for that race where people checked their splits at "mile 8", saw that they had slowed, and started to wonder whether they were falling apart.  Some of them managed to pull out of their funk, while others gave in.  But either way, they made things much harder on themselves mentally.    In contrast, I happily bounced along through miles 7, 8, and 9, with no self-doubt -- I felt good and in control, and that was what mattered.
  4. Finally, when you focus on times, you shift focus away from what's really important -- how you feel at that moment.  You're undoubtedly also focusing on how you feel, but your primary assessment of your performance at that point is what you see on the watch.  This makes no sense.  Ultimately, it's your body that's running, not your watch.

To my fourth point, the classic justification for using a watch during races is to prevent one from going out too fast.  But the thing is, the watch does NOT know what is too fast or too slow for you on that specific day -- only what your time is.  Your body is the ultimate judge of whether the pace is right.  So when you focus on the watch at the expense of your body, you're running by the wrong metric.  Perhaps a 6:48 first mile ISN'T too fast for you today?  Or perhaps that 7:20, which seems conservative and appropriate, is in fact the wrong pace for you to be starting your race at, on that day. 

When you run by feel, and simply focus on getting the best effort that you are capable of that day, you will always perform the best you can on that day.  If you're not capable of making your target time that day, staring at your watch won't help.  And if you're capable of running much faster than your goal on that day, then your watch may talk you out of doing what you're capable of.

[Another reason I hear for paying close attention to splits is that it can be motivating -- i.e. "I saw that I could PR if I really pushed the last mile, and so I did."  And perhaps that is an effective spur for some. We all have different motivational profiles.  For myself, I know that I'm impatient enough that if I'm racing a race, I'm going to try to get to the finish line as fast as possible, regardless of what the watch says.  Races are uncomfortable towards the end, and the faster I finish, the sooner the discomfort ends and I get to eat my egg and banana.]


So, after all this, why do I still wear my watch? Well...
  1. I have a real issue with timing chips failing -- I think it's been three races this year where the finish line didn't catch me. I like having the Garmin data so that I can provide it to race staff as proof that I did indeed run the race and finish in the time I'm claiming.
  2. It's nice to run in the moment, but I do have a job and obligations, and so I need to know the time of day.  And I don't own a watch that can sustain the abuse that a Garmin can.
  3. One of my big foci this fall is learning how to run relaxed, and NOT to rush like crazy to the finish line.  By using the Garmin, and checking my splits later, I continually see that I pace my races and workouts optimally by staying relaxed and ignoring times, and that my last miles are the fastest when I try NOT to rush.  It's self-reinforcement.
  4. Simply put, I can't quit it.  If you don't have the data of the run, then the run didn't count, and no benefit was received.  It's a rule.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Training log - Week ending 11/27/11

This week was 55 miles of "real running" and 17 "miles" pool running plus 2700m of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

Slight cutback week, due to Thanksgiving holiday, plus 5K Turkey Trot that I tapered for. 5K was a PR, so that was nice. I race the next two weekends, first the Hot Chocolate 15K and then the Jingle All the Way 8K, and then start focusing on the Houston Half-Marathon in mid-January.


Monday: In the morning, 70 minutes of easy pool-running for "7 miles". Yoga plus foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: In the morning, 12 miles easy (7:56 pace) plus drills and strides, preceded by some light weight training. Floor Barre class plus foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 1200m of swimming breathing drills. Foam rolling in the evening.

Thursday: In the morning a 5K race in 19:30 (6:17 pace), preceded by a 3.5 mile warm-up and drills and strides; followed by an extended cool-down of 8.5 miles at easy pace (8:15). Also ate turkey. Neglected to foam roll or pool run, in a glorious example of race recovery fail.

Friday: In the morning, 1500m of swimming breathing drills and then 50 minutes of easy pool-running for "5 miles." Pilates class plus foam rolling at night.

Saturday: In the morning, 11 miles easy on the Custis (7:59 pace) plus drills and strides. Upper body and core strength work and injury prevention exercises at night, plus foam rolling.

Sunday: A progression long run of 17 miles averaging 7:30 pace overall (divided as 3 miles at 8:23, next 6 at 7:37, next 6 at 7:14, then final 2 at 6:57 and 6:32. Followed with 50 minutes of easy pool-running for "5 miles." Foam rolling and stretching tonight.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Race report: So Others Might Eat 5K Turkey Trot, November 24, 2011

I ran the "So Others Might Eat" 5K Turkey Trot yesterday morning, finishing in a time of 19:30 -- good enough for a new PR.  It was a good race.

I went into the race with a bit of uncertainty about how I’d perform.  On the one hand, the fact that the last mile of a) my last 10 mile race; b) my last half-marathon; and c) the four mile tempo I ran last Friday were all faster than my current 5K PR pace indicated that a 5K PR was a strong possibility.

On the other hand, I don’t think I’m as strong at 5Ks as at the longer distances.  I tend to build momentum the longer I run, and I’m much more comfortable racing distances where I have a while to get into a groove.  It’s hard to explain to non-runners, but 5Ks intimidate the hell out of me, much more than any other distance.    In 10 milers and half-marathons, I can go out pretty easy and work my way into a rhythm, and then make up the time at the end.  In a 10K, I have less room for error, and in a 5K, I have almost none.  Go out a hair too fast - I blow up.  But go out too slow, and I don’t have the same space to make up the time.

Given a choice of 10 miles or 5K, I consider 10 miles the easier race.  

But my coach really encourages us to do races shorter than our goal distance, so that we get used to the faster speed, which makes the pace of the goal distance feel easier by comparison.  He’s got a point.  And I also believe that the workouts you most dislike are the ones you most need to do.  And so I sucked it up and did the 5K, as opposed to the more alluring 5 mile or 10K turkey trot options.

Doing the 5K was also a good chance to experiment some more with the racing mentality I’ve been playing with this fall, which basically boils down to "stay relaxed, don’t strain, have fun, don’t work too hard, never look at your watch, don’t worry about passing others."  When you think about it, it makes sense that this mentality works well for longer distances, where you are running below your lactate threshold, and your concern is avoiding premature fatigue.  But...a 5K is run way above lactate threshold -- pain is part of it.  How would a mentality of "avoid hurting too much" play with a 5K?

[notes for those who aren’t competitive runners -- "lactate threshold" is a fancy term for a certain physiological state, related to how quickly you can clear lactate from your bloodstream.   Essentially, it’s the dividing line between anaerobic effort (which burns) and aerobic effort (which simply tires), and is approximated by the pace you could sustain for an hour long race.  Yes, that’s the simple version.  Google it if you want the complex.]

[Here’s the really simple version.  When you’re running at or just below your lactate threshold, you’re working hard and getting tired, but not really hurting.  Above the LT, and you’re digging yourself into oxygen debt, and things are on fire.  That’s why many competitive runners prefer longer distances over 5Ks -- yes, you’re running further, but it hurts a hell of a lot less unless you blow up].


So, back to the question: how to refocus a race mentality centered on avoiding discomfort when racing a distance where discomfort is the definitive aspect of the race?
Easy -- just refocus slightly.  From prioritizing pain avoidance to prioritizing fun.  After all, there is something bizarrely fun about the burn of the 5K (we runners are weird).  I had a plan.


The race started at the jarring hour of 9 am (I actually would have loved to have started earlier, but oh well).  I jogged around with my teammates, and then some more by myself, doing the same warm-up that’s been working well for me in my workouts.  I’ve found that (especially as the weather gets cooler), I run best when I run at least 2.5-3 miles, starting very slow and gradually building pace until the last few minutes are at something like tempo effort.  I know that other people run well with a mile or so or slow running plus strides, but I never feel limber or ready to go with that little.  What can I say -- I’m creaky and take a while to get all the systems primed.

Then lined up in the start area, gently ignoring the angry older guy wearing the race t-shirt over a sweatshirt who informed me forcefully that he had lined up before me, and that I couldn’t cut in line to start the race.

The race started, and I diverged just enough from my "ignore everything and zen" plan to remind myself to keep the first mile very easy.  In this course, it’s a very slight downhill and we also had a tailwind -- making it very easy to go out too fast (this tendency is compounded by the fact that Turkey Trots are always packed with new racers who shoot off like rockets in the first 400m of this race, and suck everyone out with them).  I knew that the third mile would be that same very slight uphill, plus a headwind.  I wanted to have plenty in the tank at that point.

So I held the brakes really hard for the first minute or two, and then relaxed and coasted.  I let myself run as fast as I wanted, but never to the point where the discomfort of running fast outweighed the joy of running fast.  And sure enough, by the 1 mile mark I was passing people left and right.  The passing continued from that point onwards.  I’d see another runner, and want to chase, but hold off and just relax and smile a bit.  And then the runner would be by my side, and then behind me.


After the second mile marker, we came around the last corner and turned for the run towards home, up Pennsylvania Avenue, with the finish line visible in the distance.  Once again I felt the old urge to start staring at the finish line and pushing like crazy towards it.  The wind and the slight incline made this urge even more tantalizing - the more obstacles you put in my way, the more I like to attack aggressively.  Sounds like a good competitive mentality, but in practice it’s remarkably unproductive.

However, this tendency gets slightly easier to overcome every time.  I refocused on myself, and just gave myself permission to relax even more and have more fun.  No need to rush to the finish line - it’d still be there when I got there.  And there’d probably still be bananas, even.

And once again, the more I focused on patience and relaxing, the more the runners fell aside to either side of me.

With about 1200m to go, I noticed another woman in my age group ahead of me.  The urge to chase her down hit very strong, but I redirected it slightly.  Instead of staring at her and gunning like crazy, I focused inwardly, and simply asked if I had any more relaxing forward I could do.  Sure I did.  So I kept doing that.  Every few moments or so, I’d take a glance, and note that she was closer.  With a bit over a quarter mile to go, I passed her, relaxing all the way.

Then, the finish line was finally close enough, and I gave myself permission to gun it (FINALLY).  The kick was a relief -- I’d been patient so damn long.  Crossed the line, with my legs starting to stiffen up from about 50 feet away (a satisfying sign that I really did give a hard effort).  Stopped my watch, and flipped screens so I could take a look - I figured I’d probably broken 20.

19:30 - a new PR by 15 seconds.


Splits were:
Mile 1: 6:21 (very slight downhill+tailwind)
Mile 2: 6:31 (some turns, including a 180 degree one)
Mile 3: 6:01 (! Very slight uphill, and into the wind)
Final .11: 0:37 (5:36 pace)

I’m pretty happy with this, especially since it seems to establish that I pace myself best when I ignore my watch completely.  Though the splits look like I went out a bit fast and then corrected in the second mile, I think the discrepancy can be explained by the tailwind of the first mile and the turns of the second.  No way that I could have closed the race the way I did had I gone out too fast. 

Looking at the race results, it appears that both I and another woman in our expanded age group (30-39) ran 19:30.  However, they placed her above me for both overall and age group -- I’m guessing when it came down to fractions of a second, she beat me.  *sigh*.  So I was 6th overall and 2nd age group to a woman with the same time. *mourn*.    But since she was 30 and I’m 37, I guess I can still take some satisfaction in being the top female 35-39 (normally age groups are in 5 year brackets, not 10).  And the PR sweetens the pot.


Other notes:  Used my inhaler 50 minutes before race, and had no issue, but did have some breathing problems show up during the cool down jog, which was really surprising (exercise induced asthma don’t normally work that way).  But that’s why I carry the inhaler.

Occupy DC had tents set up in part of Freedom Plaza,  but were very well behaved for the most part (actually, there were tons of tents, but not very many people at all -- I’m not sure whether they’re overtented, or were just off elsewhere doing an activity).  Once of the race managers told us that they did have a slight issue with Occupy DC refusing to remove tents from the area of the Plaza that the race had the permit for, but they were able to work around it.  My guess is that maybe the tents’ owners were elsewhere, and so unable to relocate the tents.

[programming note: yes, I've finally decided to move my race reports to this blog.  I had originally planned on this blog being almost entirely about pool-running, and so kept my race reports elsewhere.  But, as things do, the blog has evolved a bit to become all of my mental brain droppings about running -- I might as well keep the race reports here.  Older reports are going to get copied here as I have time.]

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Training log - Week ending 11/20/11

This week was 66 miles of "real running" and 17 "miles" pool running plus 2000m of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

Another week full of personal stresses, but with good running (kept it very easy early in the week). Of course, I have a nasty habit of using running as mental therapy, and thus end up going farther than I should (the watchless thing doesn’t help me avoid this). I may need to program a mileage limit on my Garmin.   I had one of my best tempos ever on Friday morning -- I really thrive in the 35 degree weather that hit us on Friday.

Next week will be a cut back week, both due to the fact that I’ve got a lot of other things going on, and that I’m planning on racing on Thursday morning (most likely a 5k).


Monday: In the afternoon, some upper body strength work, 1000m of swimming breathing drills, and 55 minutes of easy pool-running for "5.5 miles".

Tuesday: In the morning, 12 miles easy (7:59 pace) and then 20 minutes of easy pool running for "2 miles". Injury prevention work, floor barre class, and foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 12 miles very easy (8:34 pace) and then 1000m of swimming breathing drills. Foam rolling in the evening.

Thursday: In the morning, some upper body strength work and 55 minutes of easy pool-running for "5.5 miles". Injury prevention work at night.

Friday: In the morning, 13.5 miles (oops) including a 4 mile track tempo in 25:45 (6:30/6:30/6:27/6:18 - 6:29 pace). Followed with 15 minutes of easy pool-running, for "1.5" miles. Pilates class plus foam rolling at night.

Saturday: In the morning, 10.5 miles easy on the towpath (7:52 pace) plus upper body and core strength work and injury prevention exercises.

Sunday: A progression long run of 18 miles averaging 7:37 pace overall (divided as 8:29 pace for first 3.5 miles, 7:53 for next 3.5, 7:35 for next four, 7:14 for next five, then final two at 6:46 and 6:25). Followed with 25 minutes of easy pool-running for "2.5 miles," plus some foam rolling.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Training log - Week ending 11/13/11

This week was 47 miles of "real running" and 18 "miles" pool running; no swimming this week -- training log is here.

Hah! Theoretically I tapered for the Richmond half-marathon, but I’m not sure I was that well rested. I had the week from hell, including ridiculous amounts of stress and sleep deprival. My workout schedule was cut back pretty drastically, including skipping my normal yoga and pilates classes, swimming drills, and weight training (as well as injury prevention exercises), but I spent the time working feverishly instead. And earned myself some sort of nasty headache/sinus pain/head spinning/achy body thing in the process.

Pretty much the only thing that did go well this week was my running. But that went really well.  And since this is a running blog, I guess that makes the week win. Despite the lack of taper and sickness, I scored a significant half-marathon PR and age group win on Saturday morning, and was thrilled.  Race report.

Post-race, my body feels like hell - I’m not sure how much of it is from the rolling hills and fast downhill finish of my half, and how much is just general achiness from whatever bug I have (I’m reasonably certain I didn’t use my triceps that much during the race, but they’re killing me).

Regardless of the cause, the response is the same - I’m going to stick to pool-running and swimming until the aches and dizziness subside. Earlier this year, I had several friends run a hilly half-marathon, and then develop injuries in the following week that sidelined them. I want to avoid that path.


Monday: In the morning, 60 minutes of easy pool-running for “6 miles”, plus very easy upper body/core strength training. Foam-rolling and stretching at night.

Tuesday: In the morning, 11.5 miles, including an abbreviated track workout of 1600, 1200, 800, 400, each with 1/2 distance recovery. Splits were 5:57, 4:25, 2:50, and 80. Followed by a shakeout 20 minutes of pool-running (“2 miles”).

Wednesday: 13 miles, split as 5.5 very easy miles (9:47 pace) and then 7.5 easy miles (8:04 pace). Foam rolling in the evening.

Thursday: Very easy 8.5 miles (8:56 pace), plus drills and strides. Foam rolling in the evening.

Friday: Light core work plus injury prevention exercises plus foam rolling.

Saturday: In the morning, a 1 mile warm-up plus a half-marathon in 1:29:36 (6:50 pace). 40 minutes of recovery pool-running for "4 miles" in the afternoon, plus foam-rolling.

Sunday: 60 minutes of easy pool-running for "6 miles", plus foam-rolling and injury prevention exercises. Thought briefly about doing upper body weight work, but it wasn’t happening.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Race report: Richmond Half-Marathon, November 12, 2011

I ran the Richmond Half-Marathon today, finishing in a time of 1:29:36. I finally broke 90 minutes for the half-marathon, and scored an age group win in the process.  It was a great race, and one a long time in the making.

I originally registered for the Richmond Half last year, only to break my foot and be unable to run it.  So when I registered this year, there was a sense of “settling the score”.  I was going to run this race, and run it well. And I was feeling optimistic about that goal – my workouts have been going well.

And then my world went to hell this week.  I could write a completely different report about all the stuff that went wrong this week, but I’ll save the pixels.  Suffice to say, this was possibly one of the most stressful weeks of my life (don’t worry too much – still employed, still have home, no loved ones have died – but it has been pretty bad).  Enough things were in crisis mode that it was looking very doubtful that I’d be able to drive down to Richmond on Friday to pick up my bib.


Things were a bit more settled by Thursday evening – enough that I felt that I could safely go on an 18 hour trip out of town.  And then (wouldn’t you know it), I developed a headache, aches, and a general feeling of misery.  I’d been fighting a bug last week, and had it under control, but then the sleep deprivation and massive stress of the last week apparently caused a reoccurrence.

On Thursday night, I debated whether to run the race.  Checked my resting HR, and it was slightly elevated, but still close to normal.  So, OK then.  Race still on.  I’m not giving up this easy.

Fought my way through some nasty traffic, arriving in just enough time to hit expo, check into hotel, and get to dinner.  Had a nice relaxed dinner, and then headed back to the hotel.  And the headache, which had been in the background the whole day, exploded.  With the addition of chills.  No way I was sleeping

At about 10 pm, I requisitioned the hotel shuttle to ferry me to buy aspirin.  Took aspirin.  Not much good.   And still freezing cold.  At 2:00 am, I became consumed with the certainty that I had meningitis, and was going to die if I ran my half.  I googled meningitis, confirmed to my satisfaction that I did not have it, or any other thing that was going to kill me if I ran the race, took a double dose of aspirin, and returned to bed for a few more hours.  I didn’t check my resting HR.  I didn’t want to know.  I was running the race, dammit. 

(One nice side effect of this – I came to the realization that one of the nicest things about trying to run relaxed is that you can usually accomplish it even when sick – you just have to slow up a bit more.  No matter whether you’re having an on day or an off day, you can always run within yourself and have a good race that way.  And that’s liberating.)


At about 4:30 am, I gave up on sleeping, and shifted to playing on the internet.  Ate my breakfast, and then jogged down to the bag check to meet my friend Amy to give her some extra safety pins.  Only to be unable to find Amy and company.  I waited about 10 minutes, and then realized that I had forgotten a) my gels and b) my Garmin.  I’ve weaned myself from LOOKING at my Garmin, but I couldn’t quite handle running the race without it (and no gels wasn’t appealing either).  So I commenced my warm-up by dashing back to my hotel.

On the way there, I passed my coach.  He grinned and asked me how I felt. 

“Lousy.”  Probably not what he wanted to hear, but I couldn’t lie.


Got back to my room, grabbed my stuff, and headed back out, where I had just enough time to do a decent warm-up plus 2-3 slow strides.  (I didn’t want to be too warmed up – it’s just a temptation to go out too fast).  Then lined up, and the race started.

The race started with a long slight uphill, that I did my best NOT to attack.  I did grow a bit concerned when I missed the first mile marker – it simply seemed like I had been running about 10 minutes, with no mile marker.  Turned to a neighbor and asked him if we had passed it – he confirmed that we had, and that he could tell me our pace in a second.  I asked him not to, and explained that I was not really focusing on any time, just having fun.  He gave me an amused look and picked up his pace, leaving me behind (I passed him later in the race).

For the rest of the race, I just focused on enjoying the scenic tour of Richmond.  We started by running through some urban rundown areas with a fair amount of appeal (I have a bit of love for urban decay, for some reason), then through neighborhoods and a nice park.  The course had rolling hills, some of which were steep, but nothing too hard or too long.  Just enough to add interest and variety.  I was cruising, and around mile 9 or so I fell in love with running all over again.  I was probably going to run 1:35 or so, and I didn’t care.  I was getting to run on a beautiful day on a really fun course.  I was a lucky girl.


Eventually, we turned back towards town.  As I saw the buildings looming far in the distance, I felt that old familiar drive kick in – to start pushing hard towards that finish.  People started gasping on each side of me and breathing harder, and I wanted to join and beat them at their own game.

But I broke the habit, and backed off, again trying NOT to push and fight, but just to relax and cruise in.  And, just like always, the more I backed off, the more I flowed past the other runners on each side.

Somewhere past the 12 mile mark, my coach suddenly appeared and yelled at me to gun it so I could break 1:30.  I was a bit shocked, as I’d assumed that time was completely off the table.  For a second, I lurched back into my old ways and started sprinting.  Then I got ahold of myself.  There’s a right way to gun it, at least for me, and that’s NOT to sprint until I’m about 200m from the finish.  So, instead I focused on flowing even more forward, down the long hill towards the finish.  I didn’t focus on the finish line, but just on my own body in that instant, and gave myself permission to have fun by releasing all the stops.  And then the finish line was there, and I was shocked at how close it was.


Splits were:
First two miles - 14:13 (7:07 pace)
Mile 3: 6:56
Mile 4: 6:50
Mile 5: 7:05
Mile 6: 6:50
Mile 7: 6:45
Mile 8: 7:02
Mile 9: 6:54
Mile 10: 6:53
Mile 11-12: 13:22 (6:41 pace)
Mile 13: 6:10 (me “gunning it”)
Final bit: 36 seconds - 5:28 pace

1:29:36 - 6:51 pace. 

So, a very good race.  Part of me wonders how much faster I could have run, had I not been sick.  But then the other part reasons that maybe I just need to get sick more often.

Clothing and other notes:  It was supposedly 33 degrees, but felt warmer (maybe I’m feverish)?  I wore my team shimmel, a wide headband to protect my ears, and my comical-but-effective combination of  gloves+handwarmers+socks over hands.  I tossed the socks at about the 5 mile mark, and the handwarmers at the 8 mile mark.    I also wore a sweatshirt until two minutes before race start.  In retrospect, I think I would have been slightly more comfortable in sports-bra , but I don’t think the shimmel heated me too much.

I also carried a hand-held water bottle with me for the first 9 miles (until I’d drained it), and it worked beautifully.    I hated to buy a $20 bottle at the expo only to toss, but if I can get a 2 minute PR and an age group win for $20, I’ll do that every time.

I also took only one gel during the race, a Rocktane, at the 7 mile mark.  It was slightly challenging to open and consume a GU while a) wearing gloves, b) holding handwarmers, and c) carrying a handheld.  Made life interesting.

I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, and it was fantastic.  3 blocks from the start line, breakfast buffet on race morning starting at 6:00 am, swimming pool for post-race pool-run, had I chosen to do so.  I’ve decided it’s worth a fair amount of money to stay in a hotel that’s right at the start; being able to run back to your hotel room, rather than wait in a porta-pottie line, is priceless.

Final note:  allow 3 hours to get to Richmond.  Even if it’s mid-day on a Federal Holiday.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Training log - Week ending 11/06/11

This week was 62 miles of "real running" and 18 "miles" pool running, plus 2000m of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

Decent week overall, nothing too notable. I was fighting off something mild at the end of this week that made me feel a bit off on both Friday and Saturday. Not enough to cut out all activity, but I erred on the side of keeping stuff easier, and cut stuff like weight training and yoga. By Sunday I was feeling better, but still kept my long run a bit shorter, and was careful not to push. This week is also going to be easy, due to tapering for the Richmond Half-Marathon, which I run on Saturday.


Monday: In the morning, 60 minutes of easy pool-running for "6 miles", plus 1000m of swimming breathing drills and upper body/core strength training. Foam-rolling and stretching at night.

Tuesday: In the morning, 10 miles, including a track workout of 2x1200, 2x800, 2x400, 2x200, each with 1/2 distance recovery. Did 4:29, 4:29, then 2:52, 2:49, then 83, 83, and then 37, 37 (consistency FTW - apparently I should have slowed a bit on the 2nd 800). Followed by a shakeout 20 minutes of pool-running ("2 miles"). Injury prevention work, floor barre class, and foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 9 easy miles (7:56 pace) followed by yoga and then 6 more easy miles (7:51 pace). The chill plus flat trails makes for a faster easy . Foam rolling and stretching at night.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body strength work, 55 minutes of easy pool-running for "5.5 miles" plus 1000m of swimming breathing drills. Foam rolling in the evening.

Friday: In the morning, 12.5 miles, including a 4 mile tempo ("slow and short") in 26:48 (6:52, 6:49, 6:40, 6:27 - average 6:45 pace), followed by 15 minutes of easy pool-running for "1.5" miles. A very easy pilates class in the evening, plus foam rolling.

Saturday: 8.5 very easy miles (8:12 pace) in the morning; injury prevention exercises and foam-rolling in the afternoon (cut the weight training).

Sunday: 16 miles. My Garmin ate the data, apparently due to a DST adjustment issue (as of Sunday 3 pm, it seems to believe that it’s Saturday at 4pm, which may mean I get my data in a day). Luckily, I recall the exact duration of my run, and also had a few friends with me for the first 14 miles. Based on some simple math, I averaged 7:28 pace, with the first 14 at 7:33 pace, and the final 2 at 7:00 pace. Followed with 30 minutes of easy pool-running for "3 miles". Skipping yoga tonight, both to get some extra rest and because I have a conference call that conflicts. Just foam-rolling and stretching.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

One year ago...

A doctor told me that I had broken my foot the day before, while running on a treadmill.   The workout log entry for the previous day's run (revised post-hoc) is darkly amusing in retrospect.

The broken foot pushed me headfirst over the edge into the deep end -- a "journey" of pool-running.  Just moving my legs in place for hours on end, and then blogging about it. 

It was a long trip back. With good days, special days, and tough days.  But in the end, it was worth it.

I'm not a positive person by nature.  "Inspiration" gives me acne and "hope" a headache; I prefer my daily mug of cynicism, with a seasoning of black humor. [to that point, I'm highly amused by the fact that my hot water heater is once again broken, just as it was a year ago]

But one thing I've always believed is that when bad things happen, it's an opportunity to self-assess and make positive changes.

And in this case, I did, and it's worked out pretty darn well, if I do say so myself.

Thanks for a fun year, guys.