Sunday, March 25, 2012

Training log - Week ending 3/25/12

This week was 66 miles of “real running” and 15 “miles” pool running, plus 1500 yards of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

This week I focused both on recovery from the half-marathon and making sure not to overdo things in my eagerness for Cherry Blossom. I’m racing a lot over the next month, so I’m making a real effort to keep my workouts toned down. Save the hard efforts for race day; the workouts are just maintenance. Good practice for me – I tend to get too eager and greedy in my workouts, instead of saving the deep efforts for race day.

Pretty much everything from the knee down on both legs hurt after my half on Saturday, which was comforting. I worry about injury when one specific thing hurts; when it’s consistent all over, I’m more confident that it’s just basic soreness that will work out. My feet were the worst, and pretty painful and crampy through Monday morning. But, easy jogging has a way of clearing stuff up for me, so I did a baby run on Monday instead of just pool-running. Within about half a mile, everything felt great, so I continued on for 5 miles. Nothing’s hurt since, though I did get a sports massage on Tuesday – 50 minutes focused exclusively on lower legs and feet – to be sure.

It’s hard to know how much my really-truly-taper worked for my half-marathon. Though I didn’t run the time I wanted for a half, I do think I ran the best race I could have that day, and I’m pretty happy with the time I ran, given the weather and the course. I did feel a lot more sluggish during the first few miles of my half than I normally do, but that might just be due to only jogging less than a mile for my warm-up. So, I’m going to try the really-truly-taper thing again for Cherry Blossom this weekend, but just tweak things slightly by doing easy swimming on Friday, and jogging 2-3 miles on Saturday.


Monday: In the morning, 5 miles of easy running (7:58 pace) followed by 40 minutes of easy poolrunning for “4 miles” and then light upper body and core strengthwork plus injury prevention exercises. Foam-rolling and stretching at night.

Tuesday: In the morning, 11 miles very easy (8:17 pace). Followed with injury prevention work and 10 minutes of shakeout pool-running. Floor barre and a sports massage at night.

Wednesday: 9 miles easy (7:52 pace) followed by a yoga class. Later 5 miles easy (7:45 pace). Also did foam-rolling/stretching at night.

Thursday: Upper body and core strengthwork, followed by 1500 yards of swimming breathing drills and 40 minutes of easy pool-running (“4 miles”). Foam-rolling and stretching at night.

Friday: In the morning, 9.5 miles on the track, including a 5K tempo in 19:53 (split 6:29, 6:21, 6:18, 0:45), followed by injury prevention work and 30 minutes of shakeout pool-running.

Saturday: In the morning, 10.5 miles outside easy (7:50 pace). Later upper body and core strengthwork plus injury prevention exercises, as well as foam-rolling and stretching at night.

Sunday: 16 miles progression run outside averaging 7:45 pace, split as first 2.5 miles at 8:59 pace, next 4.5 at 8:08 pace, next 5.5 at 7:28 pace, and last 3.5 at 6:50 pace. Followed up with injury prevention work, and then 30 minutes of shakeout pool-running. Yoga and foam-rolling are the plan for tonight. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Power songs

It's a fitness cliche -- the power song.  Aerobics and spin classes feature so-called "high energy" music, while many runners feel naked without their ipod shuffles and "running mixes" complete with special songs for the big hill or mile 20 of the marathon.

And the internet is full of discussions of "OMG what are your favorite songs to workout/run to"?    These discussions always amuse me, as I don't believe anyone ever really is interested in what music other people listen to.  Rather, people post these discussions so that they can post a list of what they're listening to -- the equivalent of blasting a track in your cars with the windows down,  And others respond in turn by doing the same. 

You hope that by listing out your music you're somehow creating an impression of yourself as a cool person with great taste in music; but in actuality, it's just noise.  I really don't care what you listen to (and I probably don't like it); I'm just hoping that you care about what I listen to (though you won't like it).

But, I digress.  Back to "the power song."  The theory behind it is that certain music can motivate us to greater effort, and bring out our best performances.  You hear your song, and your heart rate rises, the adrenaline pumps.

And for the longest time, I bought into the concept of the power song.  Of course, after nearly causing an accident with my oblivious running (cut off a bike -- totally my fault), I swore off the iPod for running outside, but still relied on it for treadmill runs, especially hard workouts.  I had "go to" tracks - like the track I share below, though I'm certain few readers of this blog will have the cultured musical palate that is a prerequisite for appreciation of the sonic majesty that is Taktical Sekt.

Tactical Sekt - "Bring Me Violence"  
Tempo run power song par excellence
And yes, industrial music is an acquired taste, kinda like turpentine.
Self-indulgence finis.  Anyhoo....I've met quite a few excellent/elite level endurance athletes, and one thing that has always fascinated and confused me was the very sedateness of their preferred music genres.  As a general rule, the fastest people I know enjoy the mellowest music.  Nothing high energy or "power," just chill.  And this in contrast to the multitudes of slower and beginner racers/runners who rely heavily on "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "Born to Run."

I was confused.  And then I figured it out.

As I've worked on my own improvement in my running, I've learned that improved performance in an endurance sport comes NOT from expending more effort, but rather from expending less effort for the same pace, so that you can then hold an increased pace for the same effort. You can't give more than 100%, and so improvement comes not from increased exertion, but increased efficiency.

The power song is a lie.  Or at least massively counterproductive if you're trying for improved competitive performance.  I'm sure it works just fine if your goal is to burn as many calories as possible by flailing on your aerobic exercise machine of choice.

And so, I've revised my running mental jukebox (I don't listen to music while running, but I almost ALWAYS have a song stuck in my head, whether I'm running, at work, showering, etc).  And I've discovered a new "power song" -- the earworm that I mentally groove to during my best workouts and races.  And I relax and channel the superchill of the track, and I flow to faster times. 

Orbital: "Halcyon + On + On"
A classic.  And my "powerchill" track.

(posted another one - self-indulgence squared.  But it is my blog, so self-centered by definition anyway)

Is it working?  So far yes.  And that's good enough for me.  I keep the energetic music in my back pocket for hard cross-training workouts (bike or pool) when I'm injured -- I don't care if I'm biking or pool-running well -- I just want to work as hard as I can, so I can maintain my fitness. 

But when I'm running, the priority is performance, not effort.  And so I channel the groove, and relax to my best times.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Training log - Week ending 3/18/12

This week was 30 miles of “real running” and 20 “miles” pool running, plus 3000 yards of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

Tapered and raced.  And had a very good race.  The time is not what I’d like to run for a half, but the race was in many ways a BIGGER confidence booster than a massive PR would have been.   I ran in challenging conditions on a tough course, and kept my mental cool and focus all the way to the end.

But that wasn’t the best part of the week.  


My sig other and I celebrated 5 years together on Saturday (we’ve declared St. Patties day to be our anniversary, since we have no idea what date our anniversary actually should be, and we first bonded over our dislike of “amateur night.”)

5 years ago, I had a hellish Saturday at the office.  I had been there until 11:30 the night before, and returned at 6:30 am, to work feverishly.  Once the urgent thing was done, I hit the gym to vent, and then returned to work.  About 8:30 pm that night, I was DONE with work, but too stressed to sleep.  So I went to a club.  Still in my gym clothes.  I really didn’t care.  REALLY didn’t care.

Us - the early years
And sat down at a random table and had a random conversation punctuated by the backdrop of angry industrial music.  I had absolutely no intention of getting into a relationship – I was pretty happy as a single person, and not looking for a change in status.

And 5 years later, here we are.    Some people describe relationships as great because the parties never fight; I think ours is great because we debate/discuss/argue/call each other on our mutual BS about 20 times a day.  And we never take it personally.  And we take each other as we are, without trying to “fix” each other.

And he's been amazingly tolerant as I've gradually evolved from someone who spends her late nights dancing to someone who spends her early mornings running. When you're a nightclub regular, and you start dating a nightclub regular, you don't really expect that she's going to eventually be falling asleep at 10pm on Friday night....

Brian and Basil
Bliss is getting to a place where you’re totally happy and comfortable as a party of one, and then finding someone whose company makes you even happier.  Bonus points if they’ll meet you at race finish lines carrying your lavender backpack and groom your horse for you and take you out for steak dinners.


Next race is Cherry Blossom in 2 weeks.  This week is recovering from my half-marathon for a few days, followed by tempo on Friday and long run on Sunday.


Monday:   In the morning, 70 minutes of poolrunning for “7 miles”, plus injury prevention exercises.  Foam-rolling and stretching at night.

Tuesday:  In the morning, 10miles including a track workout of 2x 1600, 800.  Splits were 6:09, 2:55, 6:08, 2:56, 2:55 (added an extra 800).  Followed with injury prevention work and 25 minutes of shakeout pool-running.    Floor barre and foam-rolling at night.

Wednesday:   In the morning 40 minutes of easy pool running for “4 miles” and then 2000 yards of swimming breathing drills.   Pilates and foam-rolling/stretching at night.

Thursday:   In the morning, 6.5 very easy miles (8:46 pace), plus injury prevention exercises. Foam-rolling and stretching at night.

Friday:  1000 yards of swimming breathing drills plus injury prevention work in the morning.

Saturday:   1 mile very easy jog warm-up, drills and strides, then half-marathon in 1:28:57.  Later did a “modified to gentle” version of a yoga class, plus gentle foam-rolling and stretching.

Sunday:   65 minutes of recovery pool-running for “6.5 miles.  Also foam-rolling and restorative yoga.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Race report: Rock and Roll USA Half-Marathon, March 17, 2012

I ran the “Rock and Roll USA Half Marathon” today, finishing in 1:28:57.  And I couldn’t be happier.  The time is not what I had originally hoped to run for a half, but I know that I ran the best race I had in me today, and performed my best.  And that’s satisfying.  Especially after the epic fail that was last week’s 8K.

The Rock and Roll USA Half and Full Marathons have been run in DC for about 5 years now, though this was the first year it has been run by  The course remained the same, but the organization was MUCH improved.  Even though the race now had about 25,000 participants total (as opposed to about 10,000 or so in past years, if I remember correctly), this was without a doubt the best this race has ever been run.  Water stops fully stocked (with paper cups), mile markers, super-efficient bag check, accurate and timely online runner tracking – they did it all, and did it well.  I have no problem paying a higher entry fee in exchange for competence.

Not that there weren’t  a few snafus (none that were the fault of Competitor).  Most notable was the fact that the cab that I had reserved to pick me up at 6:20 am (I wasn’t sure if Metro could handle all the runners) failed to show.  At 6:22, I called the cab company and went on hold.  At 6:25 I decided to start walking to the metro.  At 6:35 (still on hold) , I found another cab.  The driver was napping (I didn’t realize until after I tapped his window), but very eager to give me a ride and pick up a fare.  And so, I got the race start at 6:55, and gave him a solid tip in thanks.

(Yellow cab of DC did finally call me at 7:10 am to tell me my cab was on its way…)

Another issue was the weather.  Mid-March in DC is usually about 35-45 degrees in the morning, which is ideal for a half-marathon.   But we’ve had a variant of a heat wave on the east coast this week.  Starting temps were 55 degrees – if you’re coming off of a summer training block, that feels relatively great.  But that's not at all ideal weather for a race longer than 10K, and it’s a bit tougher still when you’ve been training in 40 degrees or below.  Especially if you’re the crazy chick that wears shorts until it’s 25 degrees or so.

But, as my coach noted, we couldn’t control the weather, and needed to focus on what we could control.  And I knew that I could control my race and my attitude.   And so I did.


The RNR half-marathon course is a hilly course.  And though it’s not a slow course, it’s not a super fast one, and it’s not all that forgiving.  It starts with a gentle uphill climb for the first mile, then is flat or downhill for the next four miles.  And then you start to climb, first slowly (and with some breaks), and then steeper, peaking at mile 7.  Then some rolling hills (net downhill), before a nice drop from miles 9-11.  But then you face another uphill mile – it’s not horrible, but certainly seems awful that late in the course.  Then another downhill mile (if you still have the legs to benefit from it) before the uphill climb to the finish.

It can be fairly fast, but only if you A) don’t go out too fast (especially that first mile), B) do NOT get too aggressive on the hard climb from 4-7, and C) stay focused and resolute during the climb to mile 12.   Super overanalytical course evaluation finis.  But biggest takeaway – do NOT get impatient on this course.
And of course, my patience is my biggest obstacle in my racing.  Instead of staying relaxed, I want to push.  And the closer I get to the finish, the harder I want to push like hell and get the race over with.  I don’t run faster, I just run tenser.  And I rush.  And  in doing so I snatch defeat from the hands of victory, and carelessly toss good races and massive PRs into the trash.

I did that last week.  And I was going to be damned if I did it again.


So, I refocused my efforts on returning to the mental patterns that had me racing well this winter.  I have a habit, whenever I race, of asking myself continually “can you push just a bit harder?  Well, if you can, then do so.  And if you don’t think you can, go for it anyway.”  Prefontaine mythos and all that.   It sounds great, but it gets me into trouble each time.  So, I replaced that dialogue with “can you chill out and relax just a bit more?  Just loosen your arms a bit more;  breathe calmly and deeply.”  As many times as I could during the race, I checked with myself to see if I could relax just a bit more. 


Relaxing was a bit challenging during the first 3 miles.  My legs had felt stiff and dead during my honest-really-truly-taper (which I understand is normal) but continued to feel that way during the first few miles.   I could have let that and the thickness of the air (it was pretty humid) bug me.  But, if nothing else, I was going to run this race calm and patient – reminding myself continually (as EVERYONE passed me) that my coach had told us to treat the first 5K of the race as a warm-up.

We hit a turn-around at 4.5 miles, which was my chance to cheer on my teammates.  I noted that the normal pack of teammates that I run with during workouts were all about a minute ahead of me, and felt a moment’s panic.  But nope, not gonna go there.  This race was all about staying patient and running my own race, and if my own race had me that far behind a third of the way into the race, well that was that.


And after the turnaround, we hit the climb.  From Constitution Avenue all the way up to Adams Morgan, first gently, and then quite steeply.  I’m pretty familiar with the hardest part of this climb from Dupont Circle to Adams Morgan – that’s my neighborhood.  And the climb has a bit of sentimental meaning to me.

When I first started running recreationally about 8 years ago (and I mean VERY recreationally –up to 3 miles at a time, 5 if I had time to sleep on the couch the rest of the day), I struggled and struggled up this hill, with frequent walk breaks.    One day, I finally made it up the hill without walking, and I felt like a real runner.   At the time, I never dreamed I’d eventually be running 13 miles non-stop, INCLUDING THAT HILL.

Additionally, last year (when I sat out of this race due to recovery from my broken foot) I hopped in at Dupont Circle to run with my friend Katie up the hill and encourage her.  So this year, I mentally borrowed Katie, and imagined her running with me up the hill.  (Thanks for the help, Katie).


At the top of the hill in Adams Morgan, I was a bit into oxygen debt, and the urge to PANIC AND RUN FAST hit.  But, I stopped the mental train in its tracks.  Relaxed, shook out my arms, breathed, continued.

From there I just flowed, continually asking myself NOT if I could give a little more effort, but if I could relax a bit more.  I wanted to push to the finish line, but continually reminded myself that it wasn’t going anywhere.  Just chill out.    And play my weird visualization games.

[said weird visualization games – I reimagine every uphill as an opportunity to take a break, while balloons tied to my shoulders lift me up.  And at the top of each downhill is all sorts of magic pixie dust that eliminates any fatigue or tenseness.  Yes.  These are embarrassing.  But considerably less embarrassing than blowing up, missing a massive PR, and falling on your face in front of your parents and teammates.]

And so, I kept flowing.  Each uphill was a chance to relax, as was each downhill.   I could feel the humidity in the air, but each time I felt my breathing becoming a bit short, I shook out my shoulders, relaxed, and took a deep breath. 

The elevation gain from mile 11 to 12 challenged me mentally, but I once again resisted the urge to panic and attack.  Just chill and relax….and I was passing people up the hill.
And then I could see the finish in the distance.  And wanted to start driving and tensing and chasing the finish line down.  Nope.  Stay patient and relaxed.    Don’t tense up the last hill, just flow and flow and let your natural impatience do the work for you (apparently it did, judging by how fast I kicked while trying to relax as much as I could).

And I crossed, stopped my Garmin, and flipped screens to check the time.  1:28:57 (6:47 pace).  New PR by 40 seconds, in conditions that have historically been both a physical and mental barrier to me (Richmond was ideal for me, at 35 degrees).    And though I felt great crossing the finish line, it hit me about 90 seconds afterwards just how utterly tired and sore I was.  I gave it my best both mentally and physcially, and that was more satisfying than any PR.


Splits were:
Mile 1: 7:01
Mile 2: 6:41
Mile 3: 6:41
Mile 4: 6:46
Mile 5: 6:53
Mile 6: 6:55
Mile 7: 7:11 (Dupont to Adams Morgan climb)
Mile 8: 6:49
Mile 9-10: 13:13 (6:36 pace)
Mile 11: 6:42
Mile 12: 6:54
Mile 13: 6:30
Last .11: 41 (6:06 pace – uphill)


Other notes for future reference:
  • Carried a hand-held water bottle with me until I drained it at mile 8 (tossed it then), which meant that I drank water as often as I needed to, and got more of it in me than I would at a water station.  Did that at Richmond as well, where I also PRed.  10 dollars at the expo in exchange for good hydration on course is a great deal. After mile 8, I hit EVERY water station, including mile 11.
  • Took gels intermittently – snacked on one rocktane through out the first half of the course, and took about half of another one at about mile 9 or 10.  Worked really well.
  • 2 puffs of inhaler an hour before, and another with 30 minutes to go.
  • It was a 20 minute cab ride to the race start, ONCE I GOT A CAB.  And getting there at 6:55 was just about perfect for hitting portapotty, checking bag, chilling out, warming up, and getting to start.
  • Warm-up was about a mile very easy jogging, drills, and then only 3 strides.
  • Corral  1 was a VERY long jog from the Armory and bag check.
  • I did an “experimental taper” – essentially cutting back much more that I usually do pre-race.  On the one hand, I didn’t feel any fresher the morning of the race.  On the other hand, I had a great race and PRed.  So, I think I’ll try it again next race.
  • Temps started at 55, ended at 58, with dewpoint in the low 50s.  Overcast for the first hour or so, and then the sun came out (got a bit of sunburn).  It felt deceptively cool and clammy first, but the longer one ran, the more apparent just how hot it was.
  • Every time I run this race, about 5 minutes after it's done, my feet cramp insanely.  No idea why.  I was walking VERY SLOWLY.
  • I tried to get to mile 15.5 (L'Enfant Plaza) to cheer people on, but took me way too long to get there and I missed everyone.  Next year, I won't try to mix racing the half and cheering the full - just not feasible here. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Taper

So, I decided to try really-truly-uber tapering this week.  As an experiment.  And I have been adhering.  Swear on deity-of-choice, I have.

And thus, a day before my race, I find myself
  1. bloated, 
  2. irritable, 
  3. stiff, 
  4. achy, 
  5. craving sweets and salt,
  6. unable to sleep, and
  7. unable to focus.

So.... tapering is pretty much just self-induced PMS, isn't it?

Wow, and all this time I had no idea what I was missing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Getting to the core of it all

In a nutshell, I've been asked a couple times recently about what core exercises I do.  So, why not list them out here.

My routine admittedly varies from the "standard" core routine, in that I don't do crunches.  They're certainly not at all necessary for strength -- when I rode horses I had a ridiculously strong core despite never doing a crunch ever.  [Many people don't realize that much of controlling a horse at the higher levels is done via using your core to manage the distribution of your own weight in the saddle -- it's like planksx100.  Anyone who rides and shows horses regularly has an extremely strong core, plus inner thigh muscles].
Nor do I think that crunches are running specific -- the motion doesn't mimic anything we do while running.  Since the ultimate purpose of core work (for runners) is the maintenance of body stability even when you're extremely fatigued, I focus on exercises where I stabilize my core against different forces, be they rotational pull against my torso or movement of arms and legs in different ways.

So, here's my favorites:

  • Planks.  
    • These are a classic, but I like to do them with a special variation -- I place my toes on top of a medicine ball rather than on the ground, so that I have to stabilize my torso against my legs trying to fall to one side or another.  The smaller the ball, the harder this is.
  • Headstand leg lift 
    • I picked this one up when I was playing Capoeira a few years back.  This gets your lower back, and also your glutes and abs.  To do this one, get into headstand position, then lower your feet to the floor, keeping your legs straight, and raise them back into full headstand.   Better explanation here.  It's a similar exercise to back extensions, but targets the back and abs more and the glutes less, doesn't require access to a gym, and is much more fun.  I do these at least once a week.
  • Balance on ball 
    • This is a fun one.   Find an exercise ball (bigger is better here, and an under-inflated ball will make this significantly harder).  Then climb on top of the ball, first balancing on your hands and knees, then on just your knees.  
    • Once you've got that down, practice balancing on the ball on your knees while swinging your arms in a motion that simulates running.
    • When you've got that down, then add in light weights in your hands (5 pounds or less).  This isn't so much a strengthening exercise as a balance and coordination exercise.  Thus you want to keep the weights fairly light: just heavy enough that they disrupt your balance slightly when you swing them, and you have to focus to avoid falling.
    • I like this one because it forces the glutes and abs to work together to stabilize you in the same way they do when running.
    • You can actually integrate this into a solid routine with the following sequence: a) balance on balls and swing weights; b) put the weights down and walk your upper body out, so that you're now in plank position with your feet on the ball; c) do a set of push ups; d) walk your body back in. 
  • Palloff Press
    • Essentially, you use a cable machine with the cable pulley set at the level of your sternum.   The video linked here from Competitor magazine does a great job of explaining it, so I'll just send you there.
  • Side Planks with Leg Lift and Marching Leg Bridge.
    • My PT turned me on to both of these glute activation/core exercises, and I do them daily.  He explains them better than I could, so I'll refer you to his guide (go to pages 10 and 12).
  • Single Leg Deadlifts
    • Basically, you balance on one nearly straight leg, holding a weight in one hand, then lean forward (keeping torso square) while simultaneously lowering the hand with the weight to the floor in front of you and raising your other leg behind you.  Forces your core and glutes to work together, and also makes your feet and lower legs work some to stabilize you. 
    • Here's a good description.  I like to modify by holding a dumbbell in only one hand, which makes me work a little harder to keep balance, since the single weight pulls me to the side.  I'll do this both with the weight in the same hand as the leg I'm balancing on (right hand, right leg) and opposite hand and leg.
  • Classes.  
    • Yup.  Those yoga/pilates/floor barre classes are great for core work/stability, with the added bonus of an instructor to correct those imbalances that you don't notice.  I try to fit in several classes per week.
  • Everything.
    • Seems like a truism, but really ALL exercises are (or should be) core exercises.  When I do my strides and drills, or pull-ups and squats in the gym, I try (as much as I can) to keep my torso properly engaged and active.  Even if that means that I have to lower the weights a bit to ensure that I don't lose form from fatigue.  It's not just about strength, but about the habit of USING that strength.  And every time you're not practicing something correctly, you're practicing it incorrectly.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Training log - Week ending 3/11/12

This week was 41 miles of “real running” and 12 “miles” pool running, plus 2500 yards of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

Ugh.  Good week, but then crappy crappy race.  I need to retrench, regroup, and just relax about it.

And of course, I have the National Half-Marathon next weekend.  Even before the crappy race, I had decided I’d be doing an “experimental taper” – essentially tapering much more than I normally would.
In a nutshell, I really don’t care that much about this race.  It’s a half-marathon, and it will be fun to run through DC, but it’s not the world’s fastest course (though not a slow one).

That’s point a.  Point b is that I’ve always felt that I run my best races when I DON’T cut my mileage too much in the days before.  Just skip the workouts for 2-3 days before, and take the day before off except for a slight bit of swimming, and I feel fresh and eager.   All of my best races in the past 6 months have been where I ran about 12 miles easy 2 days before, plus drills and strides, then took a very light non-running day the day before the race.  And the races I’ve struggled most in were those after low mileage weeks.

But, I keep hearing again and again that the fact that I don’t cut back my mileage more holds me back in my races.  So, why not give a massive taper another chance?  If it works and I run fantastically, then I’ve been proven wrong in the best possible way.  That’s a chance I’m willing to take.

So, the “experimental taper” schedule for this coming week (complete with my traditional abuse of parentheses).

M: recovery: combination of very easy pool-running and light swimming breathing drills (pull buoy), plus light weight training and injury prevention work)– this is the same as my normal Monday, which is always very very easy.  Cut back the weight training from my norm.  Edit:  I was feeling ridiculously tired this morning even after nearly 9 hours of sleep, so I canned both the swimming and the weight training altogether.

T: track workout (whatever is prescribed by my coach – doubtless a light workout), skip the most draining of my injury prevention work, but keep floor barre at night.NB: may skip, depending on how I feel

W: recovery:  gentle pool-running and light swimming (pull buoy), plus gentle pilates class (zilch weights, just alignment and stretching) at night (skipping my normal run and yoga).

Th: 4-6 miles, very easy (no faster than 8:30 pace; open to much slower).  No weights.  

F: Standard 15-20 minutes light swimming breathing exercises (pull buoy).  

This brings me to about 15 miles of running pre-race – about 25% of my normal weekly mileage.  Let’s see how this works.


Monday:   In the morning, 60 minutes of poolrunning for “6 miles”, and then some upper body and core strength work, plus injury prevention exercises.  Foam-rolling and stretching at night.

Tuesday:  In the morning, 10.5 miles including a track workout of 1600, 1200, 2x800, 400.  Splits were 5:58, 4:19, 2:49, 2:48, 79.  Followed with injury prevention work and 20 minutes of shakeout pool-running.    Floor barre and foam-rolling at night.

Wednesday:   In the morning 7.5 miles easy (7:44 pace) followed by yoga.  Later, 6.5 miles easy (7:28 pace).   Foam-rolling/stretching at night.

Thursday:   In the morning, light upper body and core strength work, plus injury prevention exercises, followed by 40 minutes very easy pool-running (4 “miles”), and 1250 yards of swimming breathing drills.  Foam-rolling and stretching at night.

Friday:  8.5  miles easy (8:07 pace) in the morning, plus drills and strides.  Foam-rolling and stretching, plus pilates, at night.

Saturday:   In the morning, 1250 yards of swimming breathing drills.  Foam-rolling and stretching at night.

Sunday:   3 mile easy warm-up, drills and strides, then 8K crash and burn race in 31:57.  Skipped recovery pool-running and yoga in favor of couch, though I did actually do some foam rolling.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Race report: St, Patricks Day 8K, March 11, 2012

I ran the “St Patricks Day 8K” today, finishing in a time of 31:57.  Ugh.  Crappy race, and one that I could overanalyze in detail.  But I’m going to try not to do that (well, not TOO much).

Essentially, I felt good during the warm-up, but once the race started, I just couldn’t hit a rhythm, and felt more and more tired and fatigued.  By about mile 3, I was starting to struggle. I stayed relaxed and didn’t panic, but then at a bit after the 4 mile mark, I started working to finish strong.  And then my legs just started failing on me, eventually giving out.

[Thanks to Mollie for checking on me post-race]

There’s two things I could point to here. 

A is an absolutely lousy night’s sleep last night – per Murphy’s law, I had a work emergency pop up last night starting about 8:30 pm.  Not something that I had to stay on the phone all night for, but I did end up going to bed significantly later than I had planned, and also had to wake a few times during the night to check and respond to email.  But, I had pretty good sleep the week before, and I understand that the last night’s sleep doesn’t really affect a race that much anyway.  I really didn’t feel run down or especially tired at race start, and I don’t think this was a factor.

B is the fact that I forgot my asthma inhaler this morning – I swapped bags and failed to move it from old to new.  It’s not something that I have to use before all runs – I usually do my easy runs and long runs without it.  But I do use it before interval workouts, hill workouts, and races.  And when I‘ve skipped it in the past for those workouts, I’ve struggled.

I was a bit worried. But on the other hand, my exercise induced asthma seems to be the worst in humid and warm conditions, or high pollen.  And while the pollen count wasn’t low today, it also wasn’t outrageous, and race weather was near perfect.  And my lungs felt absolutely fine during my warm-up.  I was expecting a good race.

I also think I was pretty good about putting my lack of inhaler out of my mind during the race – I definitely didn’t run the race thinking “OMG NO INHALER HOW WILL I FINISH.”    I knew that I have completed tons of solid long runs without using it, and felt pretty confident that I’d be fine as long as I was careful to start out conservatively.  I was expecting a good race.

Nor did I ever have any period where I started hyperventilating.  I had a few points where I choked up a bit, but I just backed off and thought I’d be fine.  It was really just massive fatigue and increasing dizziness that kept growing and growing despite my efforts to relax and run within myself until I couldn’t lift my legs anymore.  

I thought I was pretty good about not panicking and just trying to work within myself, but apparently not good enough.
So, who knows.    All I can really do is rest, recover, put it out of my mind, and not forget my inhaler again.

I kept missing mile markers, so only have two splits:
Miles 1-2 – 12:30 (6:15 pace)
Miles 3-4.97 – 19:27 (6:33 pace) – I actually am pretty sure I negative split this for the most part; my pace just slowed miserably at the end.

Warm-up was 3 miles (kept easy, rather than progressive) plus drills and strides.

Got the age group win, but it was sour.  I was capable of running this race a lot faster.  And I’m frustrated with myself for consistently performing better in workouts than in races.  I don’t try to race my workouts, and feel like I am running them at the correct effort level, never straining. But there’s a disconnect there, and the keys are most likely even a) backing off of my workouts even more, b) resting even more, and/or c) getting better at racing.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Training log - Week ending 3/04/12

This week was 65 miles of “real running” and 17 “miles” pool running, plus 1050 yards of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

Judging by this week, I’m in pretty good shape. I honestly tried to slow down my 800s on Tuesday, per my previous weekly training report (I intentionally kept myself behind the back of the group I normally run with), but ended up still running faster 800s then previous workouts . Friday’s tempo was a confidence booster, and then Sunday I ended up running a solid progression run even though the second half was into a miserable headwind (I could have sworn I was running about 15 seconds slower than I apparently was).

So, in good shape. And so the temptation to try to top it off with one or two great workouts and pull out a bit more improvement. Nope. Not gonna do it this time. I’ve got a whole series of races I want to do starting next week through early May (racing basically 2 out of every 4 weekends), and I’m not going to risk any tweaks or overtraining.

I’m on cruise control. I’m not skipping workouts, but I have no intentions of digging deep or running them especially hard. And I’m also going to try to discipline myself to reduce my mileage some and prioritize rest and recovery. I’m in a really good place with my racing season about to start, and at this point my priority is NOT SCREWING IT UP rather than increasing fitness. Missing Houston really sucked, and I don’t want to do that again (especially since my whole reason for missing Houston was to have a great racing spring). Just stay healthy, race, recover, repeat, enjoy.

As part of my focus on recovery, I’ve decided to put my (possibly overdriven) nature to work for me and start logging my nightly sleep. I’m pretty good about my foam-rolling and stretching simply because I do log it. And in the few days I’ve been logging my sleep already, I’ve noted that I’ve been a bit better about prioritizing it.

There’s no question that sleep is something that a) affects me and b) I don’t always get enough of. 8+ hours of sleep every night is simply NOT realistic for someone like me who often has conference calls after 9 pm or before 6 am (I work a lot with people in the Pacific Rim and/or Europe, as well as the Middle East). But by logging my sleep, I’m a bit more focused on making sure that I control any sleep deficits, and remedy them.

To this point, I’ve also blocked off my work calendar for sleep. I actually did this about two months ago, after getting the third Outlook invite in a row for a call at 1 or 2 am, with the message “we see your calendar’s free at this time.” I find this amusing, but I think it’s just a sign of the 24 hour business culture that so many of us function in. And it’s really up to me to make sure that I get the rest that I need to function optimally, both in my running and in my work.


Monday: In the morning, 70 minutes of poolrunning for “7 miles”, and then some upper body and core strength work, plus injury prevention exercises. Foam-rolling and stretching at night.

Tuesday: In the morning, 11 miles including a track workout of 8x800 (scheduled was 6-10x800). Ran 2:59, 2:55, 2:53, 2:53, 2:54, 2:53, 2:53, 2:51. Tried to run slower, but failed to do so. Followed with injury prevention work and 20 minutes of shakeout pool-running. Floor barre and a massage at night.

Wednesday: In the morning 9.5 miles easy (8:03 pace) followed by yoga. Later, 4.5 miles easy (8:03 pace). Foam-rolling/stretching at night.

Thursday: In the morning, light upper body and core strength work, plus injury prevention exercises, followed by 45 minutes very easy pool-running (4.5 “miles”), and 1050 yards of swimming breathing drills. Foam-rolling and stretching at night.

Friday: In the morning, 12.5 miles, including a track tempo of 4 miles in 25:40 - (6:28 pace, splits of 6:32/6:25/6:26/6:17), then 90 second break, then a mile in 6:11.
[Explanation: I had been debating whether to tempo for 4 or 5 miles, but ended up doing 4 because the pack I was running with all stopped at 4 (I was just behind them, so couldn’t really push through them anyway). Then I realized a teammate was doing another mile, so I hopped back in when she came around to pace her through her final 1200m, and tacked on a bonus 400m to make it a full mile] Followed by some injury prevention work. Foam-rolling and stretching, plus pilates, at night.

Saturday: In the morning, 10.5 miles easy (8:00 pace). Upper body and core strength work, plus injury prevention exercises, foam rolling, and stretching in the afternoon.

Sunday: Long run of 17 miles (first 16 progressive, then last mile aerobic to avoid running hard and tired through some risky intersections in Rosslyn and on the Key Bridge) – overall pace was 7:25, split as 9:05 pace for first 1.5 miles, 7:49 pace for next 2 miles, 7:22 for next 7 miles, 6:52 pace for 5.5 miles (all into headwind), and then last mile at 7:29 pace. Strong tailwind for first 8.5 miles, then headwind back. I'm pretty tickled with the pace of the final 5.5 -- I could have sworn this was more like 7:15 pace, and was not at all expecting to see that I actually had negative split the run (I was shooting for progressive effort, not progressive pace).

Followed with injury prevention work at gym, and then 15 minutes of easy pool-running for “1.5 miles”. Foam rolling and yoga are the plan for tonight.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Precious

So, a large part of my annual compensation is not salary, but my annual bonus.  Which gets paid the last week in February.

I'm pretty good about socking it into savings, but I usually allow myself an indulgence, a splurge.

And, as it turns out, this is the same week that my Garmin 310xt took a turn for the worse.

To give some background, the Garmin 310xt is a watch/GPS/heart rate monitor aimed at triathletes (not me) but which also works well for runners that spend a lot of time pool-running (me).  It's waterproof, and lets one program in workouts with vibrating alerts -- meaning that I can do my classic pool-running "track workout" of 3:00 on/1:00 off by simply programing it to vibrate at the end of each 3 minute and 1 minute segment.

I loved my Garmin 310xt.  At least the first one.  It was my faithful companion through last winter's pool-running extravaganza, and never did me wrong.  So much did I love it that I overlooked the truly ugly grey and orange color scheme, as well as the bulkiness of it on my wrist.

And then the screen cracked, and some water got in, and it was gone.  Garmin sent me a replacement under warranty, but 310xt v.2.0 never lived up to the record of its predecessor.  It forgot to vibrate, froze for no reason, failed to charge, and regularly decided that my latest workout was actually performed back in early 2007 - consigning the data to the far recesses of the watch's memory.
The 910xt is a bit smaller and cheaper than this car

And then I noted fogging under the screen, a sure sign that it was on its last legs.  And then I got my bonus.

And I splurged.  On the new Bugatti Veyron of Garmins. 

The 910xt.

You can read DC Rainmaker's review here if you want to know the full details about it, but basically it's jampacked with features I'll never ever need or use.   I have absolutely no idea what a biking power meter is; and I really don't care/don't wanna know what my SWOLF (swimming efficiency score) is.

So why get it?  I am emphatically NOT a triathlete.  There is no allure to me in taking one fairly cheap sport that I have some ability in and combining it with two other sports that are more expensive and that I have no ability in.  Plus I can't imagine doing a transition in less than 20 minutes, given how much time it takes me just to get ready to run now.

And yet I shelled out for the triathlete superwatch, with a list price of $400 (I paid a bit less, due to running store discounts, etc). 

Easy.  It has all the same features that I relied upon in the 310xt - 20 hours battery life, vibrating alerts, totally waterproof.   It also appears to be designed to be slightly more durable than the 310xt - stronger strap (mine broke 3 times on the old) and a recessed screen that hopefully will be less likely to crack.  And it's a bit smaller, so a better fit on my tiny wrist.

The one addition that I do use is the swim autolap function -- though the GPS doesn't work inside, Garmin's figured out a way to calculate when you complete a length of the pool.  As I understand it, there's an accelerometer in the watch that figures out when you stop moving your arms for a minute, and concludes that you've hit one end of the pool and are turning.   Tried it this morning, and wow it worked well.  At least in counting laps automatically (it confused my freestyle from breast stroke, but that's probably more me than it).
Yes - I swim 25 yards in between 31-33 seconds. 
I don't swim for fitness, but for relaxation and recovery (plus lung conditioning).
And I'm also a LOUSY swimmer.  This is all with the pull buoy, so I'm even slower normally.
The lap counter DOESN'T work when pool-running, but that's fine - there's no real point to counting laps when pool-running anyway.

And... the final point in its favor?  What finally pushed me over the edge?  Easy.


Sometimes, when no one's bothering me, I just look at it.  Alone, in my basement. 

And no. I will not share.