Friday, June 29, 2012

Your research dollars at work

So....according to RunnersWorld, consumption of beets can improve one's finishing kick substantially.

Runner's haven
According to the article, "[s]peeds were consistent for the first portions of both time trials, but subjects tended to speed up during the last 1.1 miles of the workout after eating beets, resulting in a faster overall time—five percent faster, on average."

Interesting.  But I note: beets are also supposedly one of the "top 5 natural laxatives."

I can't be the only one seeing a connection here.

Was it really necessary to research this?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Safety Dance

So, I've read a lot recently about safety while running, especially for women.  It's a topic that re-emerges with each news of an assault.   Everyone agrees that women should be cautious and use "common sense" when running.  And there's a ton of standard recommendations that get trotted out.

I think a lot of those recommendations are wrong.  For one thing, I think that exactly what comprises "common sense" depends on the environment that you're running in.  Additionally, many recommendations are focused on responding to a bad situation once you're in it; while your focus really should be avoidance.

Below are some of the "common sense" recommendations, followed by my thoughts.

  • Carrying a phone.  Everyone spits this recommendation out reflexively.  But, depending on your running environment, it may be a poor one.  If you're running in a more rural environment, where your greatest risks come from getting lost, getting injured far from home, or a disastrous wildlife encounter, then yes, this may make sense.

    However, for those of us in an urban environment, a phone or PDA isn't such a hot idea.  The risks we face are different.  It's very unlikely that we'll get truly lost (i.e. without being able to ask someone how to get back), and if you get injured, simply hail a cab (carry a bit of concealed cash for this option).  In the city, you can always duck into a nearby 24 hour market if you need. 

    And in the city, carrying an expensive bit of electronics in your hand just marks you as a target, IMHO.  Some people would suggest wearing a small running backpack, fanny pack, or similar, but that also places you at risk, as someone carrying something potentially of value.

    I occasionally (very rarely) run around my urban neighborhood in the evening, after dusk.  I believe I am much safer running unencumbered around my neighborhood than I am walking around my neighborhood with a purse at that same time.  It's safer to appear to be carrying nothing of value, and so that's how I prefer to run.

  • Pepper Spray/Weapons.  There's a big industry based on sales of pepper spray, and obviously an even bigger one dedicated to firearms. you really know how to use the weapon in an actual fight or flight situation?  And are you truly capable of doing so without hesitation?  I honestly think that most people who answer yes to the above are deluding themselves.
    So very intimidating.

    Furthermore, if you're going to carry it, you need to be able to use it instantly.  It's not like your assailant will walk up to you and give you 10 seconds notice to get prepared.  So, no carrying it in a holster, fannypack, backpack, or pocket.  It needs to be immediately at hand.  And that's not really practical.

    I think that, for the vast majority of people, any weapon that they carry is far more likely to be used against them.  It increases the risk.  Additionally, people let the fact that they're packing something color their judgment about where and when to run.  Again, the priority needs to be situation avoidance, not response.

    That being said, I do carry one "weapon" with me.  My keys.  I have a loop that attaches the keys to my wrist, and then I hold them in my hand.  Shift the keys so they stick out between your knuckles, and congratulations, you've got a weapon.  To be used only if you get into the situation that you're going to do anything to avoid.

  • Self-defense.  People crow about how great it is to have taken a self-defense class. And sure, in some ways it is.  But only if it doesn't color your judgment about which situations to get into.  And thing is, I think self-defense training, like weapons, give a false sense of confidence. 
    Self-defense guru.

    Self-defense classes do NOT make you an effective fighter.  At best, they maybe give you some slight hope if you are trapped.  But best not to be trapped.  If you wouldn't run somewhere or at some time but for the fact that you've taken a self-defense class, don't run there or then after you've taken a self-defense class.

    I'm not opposed to self-defense classes, just to the bad judgment calls that may result.  And, IMHO the best self-defense training is 200m sprint repeats.  Something to think about.

  • Go with your gut.  And also beyond your gut.  The first part of this is pretty simple -- if you've got a hunch that something's a bit sketchy, heed that hunch.  Don't go down the alley that gives you that funny feeling.  Give an extra berth to the guy that gives you the creeps.

    You should be uncomfortable
    running alone here.
    But also, ignore your instincts sometimes.  The most dangerous people are those that set you at ease.  If you see a person hurt on the bike path and you're by yourself, don't give into your sympathies and approach him to help.  Ask him from a safe distance if he's OK.  If he needs help, run to your nearest coffee shop/gas station and call for help from there.

    On this same note, while our instincts are to avoid the dangers that we see (the sketchy looking guy), we need to focus on the dangers we may not see -- the person lurking in the bushes on the side of the trail or in the shadowy doorway.  A large part of my focus when running is on areas just ahead of me, and potential hiding places.

  • Your reaction.  So many times, I've heard someone say that the best way to react to someone that does give you a bad feeling is to ignore.  I disagree.   Ignore someone and stiffen, and you remain an anonymous "it" to that person.  Make eye contact and smile or say something, and you're a person. A sister, mother, daughter, friend.  You're safer in the latter category.

  • Headphones.  OK.  On this one, I agree with the majority.  Running with headphones is a bad idea, and puts you at risk.  And yes, I understand the standard retort - "I keep the music turned low" or "I only wear one bud."  But, neither of those address the underlying risks.

    First of all, if you wear headphones, you appear to be less aware of your surroundings.  Maybe you're not.  But you look like you are, and that makes you an appealing target.

    Secondly, it's not just that you can't hear dangers with your headphones, but that you're not focused on avoiding bad situations. Runners who run with headphones do it to disassociate - it distracts them from discomfort and tedium.  But, it also distracts you from your surroundings, by diverting your attention.  Making it more likely to get into the bad situations that you need to avoid.

  • Others' knowledge of your route.  There are certain people that you want to know of your route:  loved ones, friends, etc.  For this reason, in the past I would email my boyfriend when I was going running and returning -- a habit I've gotten out of, but want to restart.  To that point, I've also invested in the Garmin GTU 10.  It's the same size as my asthma inhaler, and so fits easily in a pocket.  I carry it with me, and my boyfriend can access my account on the Garmin website.

    There are also people who you DON'T want to know your route.  And that includes both people you know and people you don't.  It's a really bad idea to give too much detail about your normal running routes on line.  Some stuff is pretty safe -- for example, I sometimes run on the C&O Towpath in DC.  Just like 20 million other people.  I have no concerns about posting that.  But you don't want to give enough information that people can track you down.
    My GTU - ain't it cute?

    To this same point, if you do get a Garmin GTU or similar, it should go without saying that your account on the tracker's website needs to be secure.  That means no password of "password" or "changeme" or "garmin."  Also, no password of "password1" or "changeme1234" or "3gar5min."  It's truly amazing how many people think that a password is secure if they take a word and append a number or two to the end.  Or the number of people who are sure no one knows their mother's maiden name.  If someone gets your password to a tracking site, then they can track you with ease.   Here's some basic info about secure passwords.
There's probably a lot of people who think I'm paranoid.  And a lot of them are probably guys.  That's OK with me - I prefer to err on the side of caution and common sense.  Ultimately, the balance between safety and convenience is individual to each of us, but I'm hoping this post is food for thought for others.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Training log -- Week ending 6/24/2012

This week was 51 miles of “real running” and 15 “miles” pool running, plus 2500 yards of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

This week was a bit of a cutback, as I raced on Sunday. Since I was planning on not running on Saturday, I went ahead and tried a short recovery run on Thursday, with the goal of truly doing a recovery run, meaning uncomfortably slow.

It’s my belief that there’s value in training at a variety of paces, including very slow runs, which work a system that doesn’t get worked at any other time. And, though I do easy conversational running, I don’t do any recovery paced running (by my definition, recovery runs are not just conversational, but miserably crawling slow).

[note: maybe I’m right about the superslow running working a different system. Or maybe I’m overthinking.   Again. But either way, I’m not doing any harm by committing to doing some of my easy runs at the slow side of easy pace – it’s not like there’s some benefit to running easy runs on the faster side]

So, took a shot at a recovery run on Thursday – 3 miles, done on feel, aiming for pace between 8:30 and 9:00, and a heart rate in the 140s. Just barely made it on HR, missed the boat by holding 8:28 pace. I’ll probably take another shot next week.

Mile race was kinda meh. Oh well. We all have good and bad races, and I’ve had some really good ones.


Monday: In the morning, 70 minutes of easy poolrunning for “7 miles,” followed by some strength training and injury prevention exercises. Foam rolling and stretching in the evening.  

Tuesday: In the morning, 14 miles including a workout of 6 hill repeats – nonstop circuit of up a hill for about 2 minutes, a 90 second easy jog, a stride, and then some more easy jogging to the bottom (whole circuit takes ~5 minutes). Followed with injury prevention work and 20 minutes of easy pool-running. Floor barre and foam rolling at night.  

Wednesday: In the morning, 12 miles easy (8:09 pace) and then a yoga class. Later, did another 4 miles easy (7:48 pace). Foam rolling and stretching at night.  

Thursday: In the morning, 3 miles very easy (8:28 pace) and then strength training and injury prevention exercises, followed by 1000 yards of swimming and 20 minutes of easy poolrunning for “2 miles.” Foam rolling and stretching at night.  

Friday: In the morning, 11 miles including a very moderate workout of 2x1600m with full recovery, followed by 4x200m (also with full recovery). I ran the 1600s in 6:30 and 6:20 – significantly slower than what I normally run 3200m repeats in, but absolutely fine in light of the heat and humidity and the fact I was racing on Sunday (I wanted to make sure I didn’t deplete myself at all). Also did 4x200m in 38, 37, 38, 37. Followed with very light injury prevention work (skipped squats, deadlifts, other heavy stuff) and 20 minutes of easy pool running. Foam-rolling in the afternoon (no pilates, since racing on Sunday).  

Saturday: In the morning, 1500 yards of swimming breathing drills. Stretching and foam rolling in the afternoon.  

Sunday: 7.5 miles, including a mile track race in 5:40. Followed with 20 minutes of recovery pool-running. Some foamrolling in the afternoon.

Race report: PVTC track mile, June 24, 2012

I ran a track mile today at the PVTC Track meet, finishing in 5:40.  The time's a bit disappointing, as I previously ran a road mile significantly faster -- the road mile was NOT net downhill and had some hills, so I was expecting a faster time here.  But, didn't happen.

No clear reason why, either.  The weather was perfect for a track race, and I was better rested and felt fresher for this race than I did for the road mile.  In the end, I think it was just an off day. We all have them.  And better for it to happen during a summer race at a distance that's not my focus.

Warmed up with 3 miles easy jog, plus some drills and strides - same as I do before all my workouts.  Only thing different between this race and my previous mile was that I didn't do a "first interval." (in track workouts, the first interval is always the hardest for me, while the second feels better, and the third even better - so sometimes I like to do a "first interval" before the race per Jack Daniels, to get the slow one out of the way).  But I really can't say that that made the difference.

I didn't do anything stupid in the race --I went out at a controlled but honest pace - I wasn't running slow, but I felt well in control.  Then, I just flowed forward a bit more each lap.

For the first lap, I was running in a group, and even got boxed in for 100m or so.  I just waited patiently, as I figured the pack would fall apart very soon.  And it did.  In fact, after the first lap, everyone fell apart and I was on my own, holding my own pace.  I guess it would have bothered others to be running solo - I actually didn't mind that much, as I don't mind leading or running on my own.  So I just flowed and focused on running my own race, which was easier without distractions from others.

My plan was simply to run hard but relaxed, flowing forward a bit more, and then really starting to push at the last 200m.  Stuck to plan, but when I tried to really sprint for home, I just didn't have an extra gear.  I heard people cheering the kids that were sneaking up to me, but all I could do was hang on as the kids passed me in the home stretch.  It wasn't a matter of not wanting it enough - if I could have stuck my hand in an open flame to keep those kids from passing me, I would have.  But that wasn't an option for me.

Oh well. 

Obligatory overanalytical bit:  I wore my HR monitor for this race, as I do for all my races.  And, HR peaked at 179, which is the middle of my tempo heart range.  Same thing happened during my last mile race.  I cannot figure out for the life of me why my HR doesn't go higher in these short races - 5.5 minutes is certainly long enough for it to rise.  I see the same thing in workouts - for some reason my HR always goes much higher in tempos than in interval workouts, and my HR never gets high at all during the first repeat (even though that's the toughest one).  Weird.  And it's not like I'm not tired at the end of these races -- there's no doubt in my mind that I gave what I had to give in the race, HR notwithstanding.

I'm not going to worry about it too much - in the end, I care about my race times, not my race heart rates.  But it is a bit odd.

Other notes:
  • Used a puff of the inhaler an hour before, and another about 20 minutes before
  • Wow, my lungs really hurt after this one.  I may not be able to get my HR up in these shorter races, but the lungs make up for it by getting scalded.
  • Despite my disappointment at today, these races are still a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to the next.
  • Trying to figure out if I'm getting sick or something.  My throat is scratchy, but there's two logical explanations for this - a) it took me a while to catch my breath after the race, and that may have irritated my throat; b) someone else mentioned that a sore throat was going around, and that may have been enough to trigger my latent hypochondria.  So, I'll just toss back some Zinc, rest, and let it pass.  I don't think it was a factor in the race, though.  I just didn't run fast.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Training log - Week ending 6/17/12

This week was 71 miles of “real running” and 14 “miles” pool running, plus 2500 yards of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

Got a running gait analysis done this week, which I try to get done on a somewhat annual basis. Takeaways were that I’m not horrible, and in particular have a very good cadence. But, I’m still struggling with lordosis in my back (aka "swayback", aka “ghetto bootie”). My lower back arches too much, which means that I end up overstriding slightly, and also hit the ground pretty hard. My back arching also places a lot of stress/compression on my L4-L5 vertebrae and the nerves in that area, which results in periodic sciatica (nothing new about the sciatica – I’ve had it for decades).

fun random fact:
For DC locals who run the "Rock Creek Loop"
- this picture was taken at the stables just north
of Rock Creek Park that we run by.
The lordosis isn’t a strength issue – years of horseback riding have given me a ridiculously strong core. But years of horseback riding also mean years of constantly striving for “Shouders BACK! And stick that butt out behind you!” And that ingrained muscle memory is REALLY hard to overcome. All I can do is keep working at it.

So, my cues to work on are a) POSTURE!, b) leaning ever so slightly forward from the ankles (not hips) to avoid overstriding, and c) trying to land as softly and quietly as I can. These cues make a lot of sense, especially since I know how I get into trouble when I’m running.

When I get tired or want to really pick up the pace, I start to arch my back more . As a result, I start overstriding some, and also hitting the ground harder and harder. So I lose efficiency, and start slowing. And then I get pissed off, and I start trying even harder, which means that I arch my back even more and pound at the ground even harder,’s a vicious cycle. It’s part of why trying NOT to run my hardest works so well for me – because then I’m not working against myself. So, when I start to get a bit fatigued, I’m just using it as a chance to NOT try to work harder, but instead to invoke the cues, and see how they work.

And I’ll be darned if they don’t work pretty well. I focused on them during the second of my cruise interval 3200m repeats on Friday, and….12:21 for 3200m – faster than I normally run those. Played with them again on Sunday for the long run, and ended up running the last 2 miles at about 6:40-ish, while the perceived effort was much less. So, I know what I’m working on this summer.


Monday: In the morning, 50 minutes of easy poolrunning for “5 miles,” followed by 1000 yards of swimming breathing drills and then some light strength training and injury prevention exercises. Foam rolling and stretching in the evening.  

Tuesday: In the morning, 13 miles including a workout of 6 hill repeats – nonstop circuit of up a hill for about 2 minutes, a 90 second easy jog, a stride, and then some more easy jogging to the bottom (whole circuit takes ~5 minutes). Pretty humid, and I didn’t take slow enough recovery on the first, so I ended up with my heart rate peaking into the 200s during each fast part, and “recovering” in the 170s (which is my normal tempo HR). Yup. It hurt a bit. But will make me stronger. Followed with injury prevention work and 20 minutes of easy pool-running. Floor barre and foam rolling at night.  

Wednesday: In the morning, 12 miles easy (8:06 pace) and then a yoga class. Later, did another 4 miles easy (7:39 pace). Got a running gait analysis done in the afternoon (which we’ll count as one more mile). Foam rolling and stretching at night.  

Thursday: In the morning, strength training and injury prevention exercises followed by 1500 yards of swimming and 35 minutes of easy poolrunning for “3.5 miles.” Foam rolling and stretching at night.

Friday: In the morning, 13 miles including a cruise intervals workout of 2x3200m with 800m jog recovery. Splits were 12:48 (6:32/6:16 – very sluggish first 800m, since I ran out of time to do drills) and 12:21 (6:18/6:03). Followed with injury prevention work and 15 minutes of easy pool running. Foam-rolling and gentle pilates in the afternoon.  

Saturday: In the morning, 11.5 miles very easy (8:18 pace) plus some drills. Upper body strengthwork and foam rolling in the afternoon.  

Sunday: 16 miles progression (7:40 pace, split as 8:23 pace for first 7 miles, next 3.5 at 7:30, next 3.5 at 7:05 pace, and last 2 averaging 6:37 pace) followed by injury prevention work, foam rolling, and 20 minutes of recovery pool-running. Flow/restorative yoga tonight.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"You've got mail"

So, somewhere along the line, I ended up on the mailing list for "Active Schwaggle."  As far as I can tell, it's a social buying site similar to Living Social or Groupon, but targeted at runners and triathletes, and run by (a website that handles registration and results for some of the races that I run).

I got an interesting email the other day. 

Social buying sites are usually used when the seller wants either to promote something or to unload something.  Neither criteria seemingly applies to a very well known marathon that's been sold out for months (and that sold out in a matter of hours).

I was intrigued.  So I clicked to see the deal.


So... you get a "44% discount" off your purchase of a commitment to raise $900 for the "Lazarex Cancer Foundation" by October 19....

I am amused.  First of all, the entire concept of a "Groupon" - a classic example of the modern consumer mindset - for a charity cracks me up.  And then the sucker punch of "Hey!  Save $40 (but only if you raise $900)" is truly awesome.

None of this, BTW, is meant to be an attack against the Lazarex Cancer Foundation, which from a very preliminary glance appears to do good stuff. (note that I have not researched them deeply.  For all I know, they're as deceptive as Komen in terms of how they manage their funds).  And the fact that Lazarex apparently makes its runners pay their own entry fees elevates it above groups like Team in Training, where runners get their entry fees and travel expenses funded.  In essence, TnT runners get their fun marathon trip paid for by their friends.

I can't blame Lasarex for jumping on the social buying bandwagon.  They're just using all the techniques available to them to promote their cause.  And hey, even if only a few people actually sign up, it still is probably worth it to Lasarex.

But still.  I can't help but wonder what comes next...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Training log - Week ending 6/10/12

This week was 70 miles of “real running” and 14 “miles” pool running, plus 1500 yards of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

Just a basic training week, highlighted by blissfully awesome running weather for June. We had a spate of relatively cool temperatures and low humidity, which was fantastic. With the combination of a) no humidity and b) no pollen my lungs felt awesome for the first time in forever. Like winter all over again. I know it’s not going to last, but sure was nice.

I was a bit tempted to hop into a local 10K this weekend – “Lawyers Have Heart” but decided to skip. Lawyers Have Heart was my first race ever, so there’s the obvious appeal of returning “home” to it. On the other hand, my last few weekends have been semi-packed with races and social obligations; it was nice to have a relaxed week. And I got to get some good workouts in, which makes me feel positive about the future (the fall).


Monday: In the morning, 50 minutes of easy poolrunning for “5 miles,” followed by strength training and injury prevention exercises. Foam rolling and stretching in the afternoon.  

Tuesday: In the morning, 13 miles including a track workout – a pyramid of 400, 800, 2x1200, 800, 400, plus two bonus 200’s. Ran 89, 2:55, 4:19, 4:22, 2:49, 79, and then 38 and 38. Followed with injury prevention work and 15 minutes of easy pool-running. Floor barre and foam rolling at night.  

Wednesday: In the morning, 10.5 miles easy (7:50 pace) and then a yoga class. Later, did another 5 miles easy (7:36 pace). Foam rolling and stretching at night.  

Thursday: In the morning, strength training and injury prevention exercises followed by 1500 yards of swimming and 40 minutes of easy poolrunning for “4 miles.” Foam rolling and stretching at night.  

Friday: In the morning, 13 miles including a cruise intervals workout of 2x3200m with 800m jog recovery. Splits were 12:36 (6:25/6:11 - 6:20 pace)) and 12:31 (6:20/6:11 - 6:18 pace). So, nicely consistent. Followed with injury prevention work and 15 minutes of easy pool running. Foam-rolling and gentle pilates in the afternoon.  

Saturday: In the morning, 11.5 miles easy (7:56 pace); upper body strengthwork and foam rolling in the afternoon.  

Sunday: 17 miles progression (7:55 pace, split as 8:54 for first 3 miles, 8:08 for next 7.5, and last 6.5 at 7:15 –  pretty happy with this) followed by injury prevention work, foam rolling, and 20 minutes of recovery pool-running. Flow/restorative yoga tonight.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Oh, the irony of it all (plus potassium, too)

This is a plushy red blood cell.
You can buy him here.
We all hear it to some extent - iron levels are critically important to the competitive runner.  To be more specific, red blood cells are critical -- they're our mechanism of oxygen transfer.  And iron is used by the body to create the hemoglobin that the red blood cells use to carry the oxygen. 

I had understood this importance for some time, and I've regularly pestered my primary care doctor for iron testing during my annual physical (to be more specific -- serum ferritin testing, as I understand that's the key metric).  My primary care doctor (a non-runner) thinks I'm a bit crazy for pushing this issue.  In her experience, it's quite rare for well-nourished non-vegetarian adults to have an iron deficiency and more common for them to over-supplement.  Plus, anyone capable of running multiple miles in a row can't possibly be anemic.

As you can probably guess, she doesn't have much experience with competitive runners and the effect iron can have on their running.

So, I've advocated for this test annually, and sometimes gotten it, sometimes not (to explain, my bad circulation makes me a difficult blood draw, and sometimes we have a very limited quantity of blood to analyze, and she'd rather run another test.  Because again, I shouldn't be concerned about iron.)

My perspective has always been that I am a female long distance runner, and so I need to worry about this.  As a dedicated red meat eater - specifically bison, which I eat at least 4 times a week, if not close to daily -  I'm not a huge risk.

I'm also decently educated about nutrition.  I know not to combine iron and calcium, and I know that animal-based sources of iron ("heme") are superior to vegetarian sources ("non-heme") in terms of uptake.  It's not just what you consume, but what your body actually takes in, that matters.  But still, I should be watching this.

The issue was brought to my focus again recently when a) I reread a great entry from Camille Herron's blog and b) my teammate Alison determined that she was significantly deficient.  Hmmm.  A really good idea to stay on top of this -- and to get tested more than once a year.  And, since I just ran a mile PR, why not get it checked now, to see how things look when I'm doing well?

And so, I got my iron tested last week.  I followed Herron's example, and used Healthcheck USA to do it. Easy and cheap (except for the 12 hour fast, which was miserable).'s the results, plus my results from previous years (note how I fearlessly post my medical information on the internetz).  Pretty interesting.  This basically covers the testing I've done for the past 8 years, plus where I was, running-wise, at the time.  A few things stand out to me.

a) my current serum ferritin (my understanding is that this is what you want to check) of 63.  My understanding is that 60 or above is optimal  (also see here, at page 7 - this is a great article that Camille Herron is hosting).  Right now, I'm at 63 and running well, though in the past I've been much higher.

b) there was one point in my life where I was feeling overtrained and sluggish (October 2010).  I *really* wish that I had gotten my serum ferritin tested at that time.  Instead, I only got iron, which is different.  Still, it's striking how low my iron level was at that time - 43, as opposed to other times where it's been 71 or above. 

Soon after that test was taken, I broke my foot and had to abandon all land running.  I had another test done after 5 weeks of non-impact exercise only (meaning no footstrike hemolysis), and...look at that iron level (jumped from 43 to 145).  And also look at how high my serum ferritin is (163!!!).

My hunch (with no documentation, other than this chart) is that iron levels and serum ferritin levels are positively correlated, and so my serum ferritin was also in the basement at that time.  But oh, how I wish I had gotten it checked.

And, lesson learned.  My plan from now on is to check my iron 2-3 times a year.


The potassium addendum.

So my, coach had a nutrition counselor in to speak with us on Monday night at Road Runner Sports (just one of the many perks of training with Capital Area Runners).  She covered stuff like iron, which I already had some familiarity with, but also potassium.

Now, I know that potassium is an electrolyte, has an RDA, and is fat soluble (correction -- apparently potassium is excretable through the kidneys) -- this last point means it's possible to OD on it with supplements.  What I didn't realize is that it's apparently also possible to consume too much potassium based on diet alone.

It's not that much coconut water.
Yup, it is.  Especially if you drink a lot of coconut water.  And I might just have a slight coconut water addiction. Add to that the fact that my dietary staples include potatoes, bananas, and guacamole, all of which are potent sources of potassium, and..I decided it was worth checking my potassium.

As it turns out, last week's serum ferritin test also included a CBC (complete blood count) that included a value for potassium.  And...mine was 5.3, with a recommended range of 3.5-5.2.  So slightly high.


But then I went back and parsed through my old tests, and my potassium level has generally been at or over 5 for the last several years, and I've seen 5.3 a few times before.  And the blood work that my doctor does lists a recommended range that tops out at 5.5, not 5.2.  And my doctor has NEVER raised any concerns about my potassium.  False alarm.  Put away the life boats and peel another banana.

So, two lessons here.  1) give a little thought as to whether you might be ODing on certain things just from your natural diet (and maybe cut back on the coconut water slightly); 2) don't go too crazy jumping to conclusions from these tests.  It's good to be a skilled amateur, but remember that your primary care doctor is a pro.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Training log -- Week ending 6/3/2012

This week was 33.5 miles of “real running” and 13 “miles” pool running, plus 3000 yards of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

Physical rest week. Whew. Glad that’s over.

Raced a mile on Monday, setting a major PR (report).  I then took 4 days off from running before doing the Race for the Cure 5K for the heck of it on Saturday. Race for the Cure was hilarious (make sure you read race report here).  So glad I did it.

So, what did I do during my days of rest?
  • Took two hot yoga classes (I enjoy them, but I find that they aren’t a good combination with running training – they interfere with recovery too much.  Normal vinyasa flow or restorative yoga is much better when training).
  • Played around with my swimming some. 
  • Got rid of a ton of clutter – like a pile 10 feet x 3 feet x 1.5 feet high.  It was mostly old text books, old power cords for devices I no longer have, and pots and pans I’ve never ever used. I now own one pot, to be used for hard boiling eggs. And that the only one I need. 
  • Got my iron tested, not because I’m worried I have an issue right now (heck, I just PR’d my mile), but because it makes sense to get a base line now. More on this in a post later. 

Monday: In the morning, a 3 mile warm-up plus drills and strides, and then a mile race in 5:31, followed by 4 mile cooldown. 40 minutes of easy poolrunning for “4 miles” in the afternoon.  

Tuesday: In the morning, injury prevention work plus 1750 yards of swimming breathing drills. Floor barre and foam rolling at night.  

Wednesday: In the morning, nothing (except major home decluttering and getting my iron checked). Later, foam rolling and stretching; hot yoga class at night.  

Thursday: In the morning, 45 minutes of easy poolrunning for “4.5 miles,” followed by strength training and injury prevention exercises. Also some foam rolling and stretching.  

Friday: In the morning, 1250 yards of swimming breathing drills plus 15 minutes of easy pool-running. Followed with injury prevention work. Foam-rolling and stretching in the afternoon.  

Saturday: In the morning, 11.5 miles, including a 5K "race" in 19:42. Later, did 15 minutes recovery pool-running.

Sunday: 14 miles progression (7:42 pace, split as 8:19 for first 3 miles, 7:50 for next 4, 7:23 for next 5, and final 2 at 6:53) followed by injury prevention work, foam rolling, and 15 minutes of recovery pool-running. Hot yoga in the afternoon.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Race Report: Race for the Cure 5K, June 2, 2012

I ran the Race for the Cure 5K in downtown DC this morning, finishing the "course" in 19:42.  It is hopefully the closest in my running career I'll ever get to being in a zombie uprising.

But more on that later.


I've always been a bit conflicted about running this race.  On the one hand, I really don't like the Komen foundation.  On the other hand, it's not like this is the "Race to End Emancipation" or similar -- I don't have deep down fundamental objections to the underlying cause that would force me to skip (well, other than the fact that I hate the color pink).  And opportunities to race on the National Mall of DC are few -- other than this race, it's limited to Army 10 Miler, Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, RnR National Marathon, and Marine Corps Marathon.

So I registered, and decided that I'd run only if the weather was remarkably good for DC in early June.  And as it turned out, it was.  62 degrees, low dewpoint, and bright sunshine.  Not optimal conditions for a 5K, but as good as we were going to get.  Game on.

From the start, I wasn't planning on running this as an all out goal race.  I raced on Monday, and haven't run since  -- I took a few days of non-running as a "sabbatical" to top off my "recovery month" of May.  But a reasonably hard run through downtown DC on a nice morning was sounding like a lot of fun and the opportunity to practice running my races relaxed and focused, without any expectations or pressures.


And that was how I found myself jogging the two miles from my home to the race start (another reason I love races on the Mall - so convenient).  Jogged another mile to the race finish to use the blissfully pristine portapotties there (rather than fight the crowds at the start), and then a mile back to the start.

I did a few drills and strides in the very limited space available, and then lined up.  After a moment's debate, I opted to line myself up in the immense "5 minute" section of the starting area.  No, I had no illusions about running this race at 5:xx pace this morning.  But the alternative was to place myself way back in the field, while the 5 minute section packed up with walkers, cross-fitters, and a surprisingly large number of people with their bibs attached to their backsides.

A few promotional statements, and then the race started (5 minutes late).  I started pretty slowly, both to dodge traffic and because that was what felt right.  I was feeling a bit sluggish and slow at first (I'm guessing because I hadn't run since Monday), and so it took me a while to find my rhythm.  So I stayed easy, even though that meant running behind the girl wearing a pink tutu and the guy in black compression tights (seriously?  black compression tights in June?  This is the second year I've seen this at this race).

I wasn't too worried, as I wasn't really racing this, but just using as an opportunity to practice staying focused and relaxed for the entire race, which I could do at even a slower than normal pace.  But still, it felt good when my legs finally woke up and I felt like myself again.  I started to flow, and passed black compression tights guy and tutu girl.

And then the fun really started.


Though I didn't have the course memorized, I had some basic familiarity.  I knew it took a right turn to cut south across the Mall soon after we ran back past the start area, and then a left at one of the "inside" Mall streets to head east.  Then later, another right to go south a bit more, before a final left to finish on Independence.

So it was the most natural thing to make the right turn onto 14th street when I thought I saw someone waving us that way.  I was running in my standard way - focusing on the road ahead about 20-50 meters ahead of me, while looking more forward from time to time.

And the next time I looked forward, there was NO ONE ahead of me.  Huh?

Took another glance forward.  Nope.  No one.

I paused a second and looked back.  (Yes, I know you never look back in a race, but this was a special circumstance).  A group of people behind me, and nobody screaming at me that I'm off course.  Not knowing what to do, I just kept running.

And then I looked forward and saw that the course ahead of me was NOT closed.  More specifically, a large group of pedestrians (hordes of tourists) were crossing 14th.  A continuous river of them, about 5 people deep, with no breaks to dodge through.  Oh FFS... 

Not knowing what to do, I went to my default -- when in doubt, go FORWARD.  And I plunged through the tourist wall, arms instinctively shifting to mosh pit position (hands in by upper chest, elbows down and slightly out).

And on the back side I realized what the combination of no lead pack and a tourist crossing meant.  "Shit - I'm off course."  Took another look back and other racers were behind me, following me in my errant ways (and widening the hole I had started).

I had single-handedly taken a large group of runners onto the wrong course.  In the largest and most visible 5K in DC.  Not only had I eliminated myself, I had just ruined a lot of other people's races too.  This was Hot Chocolate all over again.  Except this time, it was all my fault.  What to do?

I kept running.

My whole goal was to run something a bit over 3 miles in distance at a decently hard effort while maintaining race focus and staying relaxed.  So, I might be DQ'd, but I could still achieve my goal for the morning.  As for those behind me, no way I could turn them around even if I stopped.  So I kept on.

Up the incline of 14th Street, debating where to turn.  Jefferson Street?  That had a cone.  Might as well turn there.  So I did.

And faced the surreal -- an utterly empty downtown DC street.   This road WAS closed.  No cars, no lead pack of runners, no runners at all.  Just a long stretch of pavement.

I took another look back - the rest of the "race" was behind me, but I was building a decent lead.  I was all alone.    I've always found it easier to run when I'm NOT in a pack and have some space, but this was ridiculous.

Yeah.  Like this.  Except I was moving a bit faster.
(scene from 28 days later)

And no mile markers to be seen either.

Again, a brief flicker of a question - what to do?  And then my instincts and my analytic side agreed - keep running!    I was no longer participating in the race in any sense of the word, but you're always supposed to "run your own race" anyway, and this was just the reductio ad absurdum of that basic tenet.

And so I ran onward, focusing on my own effort just as I would have normally.   Some tourists were walking on the sidewalk, and they started cheering madly for the woman leading the entire race (I looked back and saw a large mass of runners trailing into the distance).  Um no, not really.

But at least I was in the lead. One thing common to real races, faux races, and the zombie apocalypse -- it's always best to be running faster than everyone else.

From the upcoming Brad Pitt movie World War Z

But then, another question.  Where to turn to get to Independence and the finish line?  I debated turning right on 9th, but that looked very narrow.  Nope, not a good choice.  There was another cross street a bit further.

7th Street?  Sure, that sounded good.  I knew the finish line was by the Air and Space Museum, and that was at the corner of 7th, so I probably needed to turn there to make sure I didn't pass the finish.

So, right turn onto 7th, and suddenly there were other runners again.  I rejoined the race flow, and just focused on finishing the race strong but relaxed.  Crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, and immediately started commiserating with other runners, who confirmed that they had run a different course, taking a later turn.  I found a few of the people closest behind me, apologized for leading them down the wrong course, and then went to locate a race official to let them know that I ran the wrong course and needed to be DQ'd.  Then I jogged home.


So, I got home, and pulled up the race course.  And then I downloaded my Garmin record of my run for comparison purposes.  And...I had actually run the correct course; it was everyone ahead of me who had run the wrong course.

I emailed race management, correcting my early statement that I had been off course.  I noted that it looked like everyone ahead of me had been off course, but also that I really didn't want everyone ahead of me disqualified.  I suggested that perhaps it would be fairest to treat as two separate races (in truth, I think my "pack" ran a slightly longer course, plus we didn't get to run head to head against each other for most of the course.).  But the verdict was that that wasn't really doable as there was no way to determine who ran which course.  Fair enough.  I didn't really care that much.

I got a good workout on a beautiful day in a beautiful city, which was what I really came for. The great story was just a fantastic bonus.

Other notes:

  • Left house at 7:15, which was just about perfect timing.
  • There was no real room to do drills and strides (they had a small area, but not really long enough).  I think this, combined with the fact that I hadn't run since Monday, explained why it took me so long to hit my pace groove.  If I ever do this as a "race race," I'll allow more time so I can jog off somewhere and get properly warmed up.
  • Two puffs of inhaler at 7:00 am; two more at 7:40.
  • Splits were 6:32 for the first mile (10M race pace - yup, started slow) and then 13:10 for next 2.11 (6:15 pace).
  • Ended up "4th female" overall and the "age group winner" (quotations because, again, we didn't all run the same race and weren't competing against each other).
  • Yes, I own pink compression socks.  No, I didn't wear them.