Sunday, February 22, 2015

Training log - Week ending 2/22/15

This week was 62 miles of running, 12 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

Most wintry weather this week.  Again :).    Snow delayed my Tuesday track workout to Wednesday, and also caused me to move Sunday's planned 4-3-2-1 workout to Saturday.  As a consequence, I skipped Friday's tempo as too many workouts in too few days.  Honestly, I would have skipped it anyway, given the weather on Friday morning.  My muscles have been a bit crampy and tight when running in the teens; doing speedwork in sub-zero temps struck me as unjustifiably risky.  Better one workout too few than one too many.

I also ended up running only 5 days this week, due to all the workout rescheduling.  I usually do my long run on Sunday, and then recover with yoga and pool-running on Monday.  Since I did my long run on Saturday this week, I ended up pool-running Sunday morning, so I ended up with two non-running days this week.  

I will fess up that I was going to run on Sunday anyway, Saturday long run be damned.  Then I realized that the only reason I would be running was to put a nice number on my weekly mileage total - a fairly dumb reason to run.  So I sucked it up and pool-ran, saving my next "real run" for Monday.

In other news, I can declare that I think I've figured out how to dress for these temps.  I'm happy down to single digits in the following:
- Insulated CWX  tights on the bottom plus homemade "ankle warmers" (cut the foot off of tube socks, and then wear the tube around my ankle as extra insulation)

-My much loved Pearl Izumi running jacket over a tanktop on top, plus ski mittens with handwarmers, a big fuzzy headband, and tons of vaseline on my face and neck.

For workouts, I cut down to a longsleeve t-shirt on top of a sports bra, and my thinner 2XU tights (keeping the ankle warmers, mittens, headband, and vaseline).  

Wearing this gear, I'm generally a bit cold for the first 2-3 miles, and then very comfortable for the balance.  I'm a bit chilly wearing just a longsleeve T-shirt for the workouts, but I prefer that to too warm - I sweat heavily and quickly, and I'm very concerned about getting damp in this weather.  Better to be slightly chilly at first, as compared to comfortable -> too hot -> damp and very cold.

Frankly, it also helps to have a job that allows some flexibility in my workday.  Though I generally prefer to run early in the morning and get it done, I took advantage of this flexibility this week to schedule "meetings" for later in the morning, when temperatures were slightly warmer and the sun was shining brightly.    On Friday, I delayed my run until 10:30 am (had planned on 9:30, but I decided to procrastinate by turning around a few quick work things instead), which meant I ran in a toasty 14 (as opposed to the 0 degrees of earlier that morning).


Monday:   Yoga, and 6 "miles" easy pool-running; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  Workout was cancelled due to snow, so ran 12 miles very easy (8:45 pace) a bit later in the morning.  In the afternoon I was going to do upper body strengthwork and core stuff, but decided to help my coach clear our track via push broom instead.  Fun stuff.  Until I broke my broom.  Which was actually my significant other's broom.  Oops.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: Track didn't melt all the way, so we relocated for another workout under the Whitehurst freeway of 4 repeats of a loop around 1300-1350 in distance (each rep was bit over 5 minutes) with 2 minute recovery.  Followed with some injury prevention work and 1000 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Thursday:   Yoga and 10.5 miles very easy (8:38), plus some drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  9.5 miles very easy (8:25) plus some drills and strides, and some upper body strengthwork and core stuff.  Foam rolling in late afternoon.

Saturday:   18 miles, including a "4-3-2-1" workout (segments of 4, 3, 2,  and 1 miles at marathon pace or slightly faster, with 1 mile easy jog between each. Splits were:

4 mile: 27:35 (6:54/6:55/6:54/6:52 - average pace 6:54)
3 mile: 20:30 (6:46/7:00/6:44 - average pace 6:50)
2 mile: 13:34 (6:53/6:41 - average pace 6:47)
1 mile: 6:30

Followed with injury prevention work and strengthwork in the gym, and 1000 yards easy shakeout swimming.

Sunday:  In the morning, some DIY yoga, some weight training, and 6 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Injury prevention work- the 2015 edition - part 2.

Continuing on with my series, I'll focus on my daily routine.  This is my OCD stuff - the stuff that I try to do EVERY single day, regardless of sickness, travel, fatigue, etc.  They're not draining exercises, so they don't take much out of me exertion wise, though they do take time.

As with my pre-run routine, they focus on my specific issues, including ankle instability, tight hip flexors, and weak feet.

The daily stuff:

Ankle strengthening: Developing my ankle strength and proprioception is a continuing battle.  My biggest exercise for this is my wobble board, which sits in my kitchen.  I have a workout of "4x1:00" programmed into my Garmin (named "balance board"), with the Garmin helpfully buzzing me at the
conclusion of each minute.  I stand atop my balance board with both feet equally spaced, and rock the board back and forth for one minute.  Then side to side for one minute.  Then round the world, tapping at 12, 3, 6, and 9 on the imaginary clock face for a minute before reversing the direction and going round the world the other way for the final minute.

That's my default exercise - done at least once and hopefully twice each day.  I will supplement or substitute sometimes by using a stretchy elastic band to work my ankle.  I loop the band around my mid foot and a solid structure, and then perform inversion and eversion exercises with each foot - I do 4 sets of 10 reps each foot, split as 10 reps each of eversion with foot pointed, eversion with foot flexed, inversion with foot pointed, and inversion with foot flexed.  Then repeat on the other foot.  I try to do this one once or twice a week in addition to the wobble board, but will also use this to substitute for the wobble board when I travel - the stretchy band travels much better than a wobble board.

Another exercise I do from time to time for my ankles as a sub or adjunct to the wobble board is closing my eyes and balancing on one foot - I'll cover that more in part 3 of this series.

Foot strength:  Here, I'm focusing on both my general foot strength and my big toe strength.  Each day, I try to spend 2 minutes each foot either a) scrunching up a washcloth with my toes or alternating pressing my big toe and my four other toes into the floor ("toe yoga").  Either exercise travels well, and the towel exercise works very well for multitasking - do it in the kitchen while cooking something in the microwave. 

Toe yoga can also be done during boring meetings, preserving foot fitness and sanity via muscle contraction.  Eyes closed balance also works well for general foot strength (though perhaps not the best choice for entertaining oneself during a meeting).

Hip Flexors:  I try to dedicate about 10 minutes a day to a combination of two stretches, each of which was also described in part one of this series.  One is the couch stretch, the other is the kneeling hip flexor stretch.   Each day, I'll do one exercise for 3 minutes each side (timed on my Garmin), and the other for about 90 seconds each side.  Why so long?  Because that's supposedly how long it takes to cause an actual long term lengthening of the tissue (if repeated consistently).

Foam rolling:  Yup.  Though not specifically an exercise, it's something I do everyday.   The amount I do varies from day to day, depending on how much time I have, what else I've done that day, and how I'm feeling.  I have a wide variety of tools - including a range of rollers from very soft to hard and spiky, plus sticks, balls, and oddly shaped devices - which ones I use depend on what I'm doing that day.

I view foam rolling as an exercise that benefits me in the long term, but does place additional stress on my muscles in the short term.  For that reason, I keep the rolling gentle and brief on my hard workout days - using my softer rollers.  On those days, my muscles have already done a lot - I foam roll gently to improve circulation and encourage recovery.

Most of my collection.
Someday I'm going to start a companion Tumblr account,
entitled "Recovery Tool or Marital Aid?"
On other days, I'll go a bit harder - digging into my tight spots.  I start with my softer roller to warm up, and then move to the firmer rollers before shifting to the individual devices - a tennis ball for my glutes/piriformis, the R8 Roll Recovery for my quads, adductors, and hamstrings, the TP footballer for my calves, and the Stick for my shins.  And a golf ball, Footrubz, or foot roller for my feet.  I'll also use the Triggerwheel (my absolute favorite device) for targeting muscle knots, especially in my posterior tibialis or peroneal.

Obviously, I can't take this all with me when I travel.  If I'm traveling very light, I make do with a softball (can sub as a foamroller in a pinch), the Footrubz, and the Triggerwheel.  If I have a bit more space, I'll also take the Stick, a short foam roller, and/or the Roll Recovery.

Next week, I'll go into my strength building exercises.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Training log - Week ending 2/15/15

This week was 70 miles of running, 3 "miles" of pool-running and 4000 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

And....winter keeps trying to screw with our training.  Of course, the weather we're dealing with in the mid-Atlantic is NOTHING like what people in the upper midwest and northeast are suffering through, but it's still somewhat challenging.

Despite the weather, I managed to have a decent week.  Tuesday morning's track workout was in a balmy 30 degrees - relatively warm, but still cold enough for the track to be slightly slick.  I wore my Mizuno Hitogamis for the workout, which turned out to be a poor choice - I never was able to get a good grip on the track.  (right now I'm running in both Adidas and Mizuno shoes, and the Adidas shoes consistently seem to have MUCH better traction in slick conditions).

This was actually a good thing, though - concerns about slipping kept me from running the workout too fast - instead I hit the right effort level and left feeling really good about it.  Of course, my hamstrings were also pretty tight that afternoon and the next day, but a massage and some careful running helped those.

By Friday, temps had dropped back down into the mid-teens - perfect for tempo (or not).  Gusty winds that pushed us all over the place added a bit of challenge.  I still had a pretty good workout - after a careful start I hit a steady rhythm and just cruised, swapping off the lead every 3 laps with a friend.  I did note that in these super cold temps, I need to be extra careful to start the tempo off slow (I did the first two laps at marathon pace before dropping the pace down) and also to get an adequate warm-up (at least 30 minutes jogging for me when it's this cold).  It's challenging, though - when it's really cold is both when I most need a lengthy warm-up and when I most procrastinate actually getting out there.

This looks so fun.
I wish I could have done it.

Since she hadn't won yet, Mother Nature threw a mean Sunday at us.  Temperatures were forecast to be in the single digits, with winds from the northwest at 30-40mph sustained, with gusts to 50 or more.  Of course, the DC area also has a very long trail - the W&OD - that runs slightly downhill from northwest to southeast.  And the newly opened Metro Silver Line had a station very close to the W&OD, and about 16 miles from another metro station near my home.  So I hatched a brilliant plan to ride the Silver Line up to Reston and then enjoy 16 miles downhill with a 30-40 mph tailwind.

But Mother Nature wasn't to be denied - a Saturday night snow squall resulted in icy unsafe trails, so I abandoned this plan in favor of an easy double under the Whitehurst freeway.  *Sigh*.  It was neither as fun or as productive as a 16 mile progression, but at least it was something.  And that's part of winter training, I guess - taking advantage of the good days and being flexible about the bad.

Supposedly more tough weather is on the way for this week.  I'm stocking up on my sense of humor right now.


Monday:   3 "miles" easy pool-running, some upperbody strengthwork and injury prevention work, and yoga; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  11 miles, including a descending stair workout of 2000, 1600, 1200, 800, 400 (8:03, 6:16, 4:39, 3:01, 1:25), followed by some injury prevention work and 1800 yards easy swimming.  Sport massage at night.

Wednesday: 12 miles very easy (8:51), followed by a yoga class.   Foam rolling at night

Thursday:   4 miles very easy (8:42), followed by a yoga class and then 5 miles very easy (8:30) home, plus some drills and strides, and some upperbody strengthwork and injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  11 miles, including a tempo workout of 6400m (~4 miles) in 26:39 (6:48/6:39/6:37/6:35) followed by injury prevention work and 1500 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   11 miles easy (8:32), followed by drills and strides, and upper body strengthwork/injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday:  9.5 miles very easy (8:46) mostly under the Whitehurst.  Followed with a yoga class and then headed back out for another 6.5 under the Whitehurst (9:02 pace).  Followed with some injury prevention work and then 700 yards quick shakeout swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Injury prevention work- the 2015 edition - part 1.

As the astute reader may have noticed, (I'll confess, I had to Google "astute"), I frequently reference "injury prevention work" in my weekly log?  So....what exactly is that?

(several people have asked me just that question - hence this series of posts).'s a lot of things.  As an injury prone runner, I probably spend nearly as much time on injury prevention work as I do running.  "Injury prevention - it's a lifestyle choice."  Or something like that. 

It probably works best to break this discussion into categories - mainly pre-run prep, daily maintenance, and regular strengthening (done 1-3 times a week).  In describing them, I'll hit one per post, starting with today's post on pre-run prep.

Pre-run Prep:

These are the exercises I do before every run, to get me ready to run.  I'm a bit hesitant to publish them, not because they're secret or proprietary, but since they are what I need in order to be ready to run.  They are focused on my weaknesses and imbalances.  I strongly doubt any other runner has exactly my imbalances; we all have our own little issues.  So take this as an example of what one person does, rather than a specific model to emulate.

My specific issues are: hip flexors that get very tight and pull stuff out of alignment; glutes that like to turn off (especially right); a pelvis that likes to get slightly twisted; and a right ankle that likes to "lock up."  If I run with these issues acting up, at best it's a lousy run where I feel like I'm driving a car with a flat tire; at worst I get injured.  So they need to get fixed.  Again, and again, and again.  These exercises are not optional - if I oversleep, I just run less so I can fit them in before.

Hip Flexors: My prep starts with stretching out my psoas and quads - ideally stretching each for a minute (so total of 4 minutes and change here).   For the quads, I use a shortened version of the "couch stretch" (again, just a minute).  For the psoas, I use the "kneeling hip flexor stretch" shown here.  (note - sometimes if my knees are a bit tender I do a standing quad stretch in lieu of the couch stretch - not bearing weight on my knee makes the stretch a bit gentler on the tendons in that area).

Ankle: After that, a pre-flight check.  As I noted, my right ankle likes to lock up - lax ligaments (much tightened by prp/prolo, but still not perfect) allow bones to shift slightly, especially my tibia and fibula.  The shifted bone/s then block my ankle joint, somewhat akin to a rock getting stuck in a hinge.  This has the expected result - my ankle can't dorsiflex the way it should, which throws my whole gait off.  Imagine running with a pebble stuck in the front of your ankle - that's almost exactly what it feels like.

So, pre-run, I need to make sure the ankle's working.  I start by performing a lunge with my right foot forward.  Is my ankle moving freely forward in a full range of motion, or is it blocked, causing my shin to collapse to one side or the other if I try to force it?  If the latter, then I need to fix it, which I do via this exercise and a looped yoga strap I keep tied to a piece of heavy furniture.  Essentially I step into the loop of the strap so that the strap lies against the front of my ankle, and then gently flex my ankle by squatting/lunging.  I repeat the "talo-crural" mobilization and the test lunges until the ankle's behaving itself.  Credit to Sport and Spinal PT of DC and Robert Gillanders for teaching me this one.

(occasionally my ankle also locks up mid run - if that happens I can also do a bastardized version of the mobilization by using my hand to replicate the band across the front of the ankle.)

Hip/pelvis alignment:  My next step is to check my hips and make sure everything's straight there.  I do this by performing this "running man" exercise that I learned at Capitol Rehab in Arlington.  If everything's good (about half the time), then I perform the exercise equally well on both sides.  If I'm out of whack, then I balance very well on my left, and struggle on my right.

I fix this by realigning - I lay on my back, with my hip and knees both flexed at 90 degrees, and run a stick in front of my left quad and behind my right hamstring, holding each of the stick ends with my hands.  Then I simultaneously pull my left quad in towards me while contracting the right glute to drive the right leg out, with each leg pressing against the stick.   Hold for 3-5 seconds, and then repeat a few times.  Follow this up by letting my feet fall to the floor as if I was going to do a bridge, and sticking a yoga block between my knees.  Squeeze the block hard for a few reps of 3-5 seconds - at some point I usually feel a satisfying "pop".

Then get up and repeat the running man exercise.  If I'm balanced, then yay.  If not, back to the floor for another round.

Glutes:  Finally, after hips and ankle are good, I activate my glutes.  I do this by returning to the floor in prep for bridge pose - back and feet on floor, knees flexed.  I then pull one knee into my chest, which forces me to hold my back in a neutral position so that I have to use my glute (otherwise I end up using my back).  Then I perform a one legged bridge, making sure that I feel the glute firing, and repeating until the glute is working without me needing to think too hard about it.

After all this, I'm ready to run.  Of course, if I have a long car ride between now and my run, I may have to repeat some of this once I'm on site, but it's much abbreviated.


How much time does it all take?  Well, I generally allow about 25 minutes in the morning for it.  I generally don't need all that - it really depends on how I am.  If I'm training really heavily, or (ironically) have slept really soundly, then it takes more time to get going - everything's just so stiff.  The good thing about occasional insomnia is that when I do get out of bed, it doesn't take too much prep to get stuff working.

Murphy's law does dictate that if I don't allow for the full 25 minutes in my morning pre-run, then I will need that time.  And that means that I end up late for (or skipping) the run.  I hate missing runs, but it's better to skip a run than to run with my body out of whack and get injured.  One unplanned day off is better than several.

Coming next week: my daily routine.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Training log - Week ending 2/8/2015

This week was 74 miles of running and 2000 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

Another week that was disrupted by travel.  After running a half marathon in 18 degrees and strong headwinds (and ice underfoot) last weekend, I caught a flight to Tampa.  Tuesday morning was perfect running weather - mid-40s - I laughed at the native Tampons (yes, I know they prefer "Tampanians" but it's my blog) as they bundled in puffy parkas and head scarves.  I thought they were crazy for their choice of attire, I'm sure they thought the same of me in my light long sleeve t-shirt and shorts.
View from my hotel room showing
part of the trail I ran on.  Not bad.

By Thursday morning, it was in the mid-60s and humid for my easy run.  And I was starting to get acclimated.  Just in time to fly back to DC for Friday morning's track workout in (you guessed it) 18 degrees.  At least this time there was no wind and no ice.

My workouts this week were surprisingly fast.  Friday's track workout felt sluggish and slow, but in comparing it to others this year, it was one of my quickest.  And Sunday's 4-3-2-1 workout was shockingly fast.  Part of it is because I had a good group to work with; part is because I'm getting fitter, and part is because I ran it too fast - much closer to half marathon pace than full.  Mea culpa.  (in fairness, I didn't feel like I was straining or struggling during the workout, though I was working hard.)

While I'm a bit annoyed at myself for running the workout too fast, I'm also thrilled with it, simply because I couldn't have run those paces in this workout two weeks ago. It's evidence that my fitness is really on the right track, rather than stalling as it did last fall.  And I think a lot of that is the result of keeping my workouts under control (today obviously excluded) and my easy days easy.

Now I just need to continue to keep stuff under control.  Which gets hard when you sense things are starting to bloom.


Monday:   3.5 miles very easy to yoga (9:12 pace), followed by yoga, another 5 miles easy home (8:35 pace), and then a bit of upper body strengthwork and injury prevention work plus foam rolling, before catching a plane to Tampa.
Tampa's version of a hill.
The bridge part of
the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

Tuesday:  12.5 miles out and back on the Courtney Campbell Causeway.  Most of this run was easy, but did open up a bit on the bridge/hill each way to add some quality in.  Also did a bit of progression, with the last 2.5 miles back at 6:42 pace.  Followed with some drills/strides.  In the afternoon, faked some foam rolling using a barbell and a tennis ball in the hotel gym.

Wednesday: 7 miles very easy (9:01), followed by some upperbody strengthwork and injury prevention work.

Thursday:   8.5 miles very easy (9:02), along with some drills/strides.  Weather was mid-60s and light rain.  Flew back to DC in afternoon and foam rolled at home.

Friday:  10 miles, including a workout of 3200 tempo +1600 hard (~5 minutes jogging rest between each).  Splits were 12:54 (6:24/6:30) and 6:13.   Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   10 miles very easy (8:39), followed by drills and strides, and upper body strengthwork/injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday:  17 miles as a "4-3-2-1" workout - segments of 4, 3, 2, and 1 mile at marathon pace, each separated by one mile easy.  Splits were:

4 mile: 27:39 (6:58/6:59/6:58/6:44 - average pace 6:55)
3 mile: 20:32 (6:57/6:48/6:47- average pace 6:51)
2 mile: 13:31 (6:44/6:37 - average pace 6:41)
1 mile: 6:21
Followed with a yoga class and then 1000 yards quick shakeout swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Training log - Week ending 2/01/2015

This week was 44 miles of running, 3 "miles" of pool-running and 4000 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

Most wintry weather this week.    But that’s OK – it honestly pales next to what people up north are dealing with.  Tuesday was supposed to be a pyramid workout on the track, which was cancelled due to a poorly timed overnight snowstorm.  Fortunately, my coach agreed to do a make-up workout on Wednesday under the Whitehurst Freeway (once again). 

The weather was better on Friday morning, but I skipped tempo in favor of a half-marathon on Saturday as a rustbuster.  I didn’t care about the time as much as I cared about getting a race-level effort in – I haven’t raced since Philly in November, so this was much needed.   

As for why I picked a half?  Well, there were several reasons.  I find that racing halves and 10 milers does wonderful things for me fitness-wise; more so than any other distance.   Additionally, I want to focus on this distance this spring, so I liked doing one to get more of a feel for the pacing of this distance (which is something I still struggle with, despite having run quite a few of them).  Finally, I’m in Tampa for work most of this coming week, and will have to cut back on the training due to other commitments.  Since I'd skip the Tuesday workout anyway after running a half, it made sense to time the race with a business trip.

I was fairly happy with the half.  On paper, it’s one of my slowest times ever, but despite that it was a good race – the conditions made the time irrelevant.  I was pretty happy with the effort I put in, and I feel good about the direction my fitness is going.

I also did some “continuing education” work this week.  I took Wednesday afternoon off from work and indulged in a personal training session focused on identifying issues with my squat.  Why is this relevant to running?  Because the flaws in my squat are essentially the same flaws in my running gait.   After doing an eval, Julie showed me several moves I’ll be incorporating, including the "RKC plank,"squatting with a band around my knees to promote proper form, and more lateral work (side steps, side lunges, etc). 

(and yes, the astute reader will note that on the Wednesday before a Saturday half-marathon I did a hard running workout followed by a personal trainer session focused on squatting.  Absolutely, I would have never done either so close to the race if the half had been a goal race.  But since it wasn’t, and I cared more about the act of racing than the end result, I went ahead.  I don’t think it affected my performance that much anyway)

Similarly, on Saturday (post race and defrosting) I attended a “yoga therapeutics” seminar focused on foot and ankles.   The first part was just a quick walkthrough the basic structures of the foot/ankle – given my history of injury, I’m very familiar with this stuff, to the point where it was a bit disconcerting to realize that not everyone knows that the post tib is on the medial side and the peroneal is on the lateral side, or that there is more than one calf muscle (heck, there were people who didn't know what the metatarsals were - which is kinda mindboggling to me - but then again, these weren't runners).  The latter half of the seminar focused on therapeutic exercises for the ankle, including some yoga poses with a tennis ball under the heel that were pretty cool (basically, that’s it – do warrior one and two with a tennis ball under your heel and note how it changes your stability).

As I noted, I’m in Tampa for much of this week.  I’ll fit in what I can, and hopefully be back on the track in Northern Virginia on Friday.


Monday:   Yoga, some upperbody strengthwork and injury prevention work, and 3 "miles" easy pool-running; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  Workout was cancelled, so ran 12 miles very easy (8:35 pace) a bit later in the morning (huge thanks to Arlington Country for clearing the trails so quickly). Foam rolling in afternoon.

Wednesday: 9.5 miles, including a workout under the Whitehurst freeway of 4 repeats of a loop around 1300-1350 in distance (each rep was bit over 5 minutes) with 2 minute recovery.  Followed with some injury prevention work and 1100 yards easy swimming.  Personal training session and sports massage in afternoon.

Thursday:   7.5 miles very easy (9:03), plus some drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  Off, except for some injury prevention work and foam rolling.

Saturday:   2 mile warm-up and then a half-marathon in 1:32:07.  Yoga therapeutics seminar in the afternoon; foam rolling at night.

Sunday:  In the morning, 2900 yards of swimming, including a lot of drills.  Yoga and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Race Report: High Cloud-Snapple Half Marathon, January 31, 2015

I ran the High Cloud-Snapple Half Marathon on the C&O canal towpath this morning, finishing in a time of 1:32:07 by my watch - good enough for third female overall.  I'll take it.

It seems like most real bloggers include lots of pictures in their posts, so I'll start with one:
Does it get more cliched than the winter car temperature photo?

18 degrees and a steady wind from the northwest of 20 MPH was what was forecast for the race.  The temperature forecast was right on the money, though fortunately the wind was milder.

This presented a bit of a conundrum, since I've never raced in temperatures this cold, being a delicate flower child of the mid-Atlantic (I know people in New England do it all the time).  I was pretty sure I'd be wearing tights instead of shorts - 30 is my cut-off there.  But I really wasn't sure how much to bundle up on top - too little and I'd obviously freeze; too much and I'd first sweat and then freeze.

After discussing with my coach, I opted to go with a long sleeve t-shirt over sports bra on top and tights on the bottom.  (spoiler - it was the right choice).  And mittens.  My big honking mittens that look like boxing gloves, with handwarmers inside.  I also carried a water bottle with me.  I usually do this anyway, but it was especially important this time - when I try to drink from water stations I usually end up wearing most of it.  I REALLY didn't want to deal with that today.

So, dressed thusly, plus a big sweatshirt on top and my big fuzzy headband, I arrived, picked up my number, and sat in my car for as long as I could before going out for my warm-up jog.

I wasn't sure how much to jog - it usually takes me about 3 miles to warm-up, but I also didn't want to run up too much before the half.  In warmer weather, I usually do about 2 miles pre-race and then use the first few miles of the half to get up to speed.   I stuck with that plan here,  jogging a slow two miles plus a few drills before lining up. 

I was pretty happy to note that a) the wind wasn't horrible and b) the towpath seemed pretty clear of ice.  The C&O canal towpath, though technically a trail, is a smooth flat crushed stone surface that can be as fast as a road course.  IF it's not frozen into ruts or covered with ice.  Based on my warm-up, neither seemed to be the case here.

The race start was delayed a few minutes (understandable, everyone was moving slowly) and then a few minutes more as they played what has to be the LONGEST version of the National Anthem I've ever heard.  I like my country as much as the next person, but they really do need a PDQ version for certain situations.  Something like:

"Oh say can you see, the home of the brave!" 


Finally, we were off.  And I (stupidly) sprinted.  I think part of it was that I was really cold and just trying to get moving; part of it was that I haven't raced in forever, and when I'm rusty, I tend to get insecure, not trust my own sense of pacing, and go out too fast.  Mea frosty culpa.

So...went out too fast, but came to my senses and backed off after about half a mile.  My breathing was a bit ragged between the cold and the hard surge, but all I could do was relax and work with it (and remember that that's why you don't sprint off of the line, Cris)  Two other women passed me as soon as I eased off, but I just let them go - I'd either catch them later, or not - it'd be stupid to hang with them now.

My attempt to take a picture of the icy trail post race.
It ended up being evidence not of the ice but of the fact
that my hands were too cold to use my cell.
About that time we hit the first major ice patch.  I had been happy to see a clear towpath during my warm-up, but apparently that was misleading - there were significant patches of ice spread throughout the course.  Some were fairly short - 6-7 steps; others were as long as 50 meters.  Particularly troublesome were the areas near the locks on the canal - those tended to be spans of ice and hard ruts.  Oh well - we all ran on the same course, so wasn't like I was any more disadvantaged than anyone else.

It did change the dynamic of the race, though - rather than being a steady hard effort, it became segments of hard running interupted by "quick feet" drills as I tried to traverse the icy patch quickly while not wiping out hard.  Similarly, there were patches of hard ruts where I had to slow and pick my footing carefully, lest I roll an ankle (which happened once anyway).

(Two things I noted post race were a) that I wasn't as exhausted as I normally am post half, though I did race it all out; and b) that my shoulders were the sorest part of my body.   I think both are due to the conditions - the footing meant that I had multiple "rest breaks" aerobically during the race; and my bad habit of tensing up my shoulders hit full force everytime I tried to maintain my balance on an icy patch.)

So I continued on, keeping the two females ahead of me in sight (though far ahead - they had opened a gap).  The race had gotten fairly spread out, so we were running in a long single file - which worked well, given the terrain issues.  Around the time we hit the half way point and the turn around I started feeling a bit better - less cold and stiff - and I was starting to close the gap on the second place woman.  However, my right shoe was also getting loose.  Argh - I wasn't making it another 6 miles on this shoe, so I pulled off to the side at the next icy patch.  I reasoned that since I had to slow there anyways, it was the best place to stop.

Unfortunately, what I thought would be a 10 second stop ended up being closer to 50 - once I got my mittens off, I couldn't get my hands to work to tie my shoe.  And then I couldn't get my mittens back on at all - the liner had gotten pulled out and wadded up, and my hands were too cold to get the liner back in.  Finally, I got them on somehow, using my fists and teeth.  They were backwards with my hands balled up in fists, but they were on, and I was off (less my water bottle).

The bad news was that the other two women were out of sight now; the good news was that at least I had been passed by a few men, which gave me someone to chase down and focus on for the next few miles.  The tailwind that we had was now a headwind, but I knew I only had to deal with it for a few miles.  It did gust pretty hard at times, almost stopping me in my tracks (or so it seemed), but then it would ease.  It was good practice in working through a bad patch in a race.

With two miles to go, I had passed all the guys who had passed me, and couldn't see anyone ahead.  Basically, I was running completely solo.  Normally it would be hard to maintain motivation here - I doubted I'd catch the women ahead in the next two miles, and I was sure there was no one behind me.  And this was not going to be a PR at all.  But....I just wanted this to be over, so I kept pushing, easing off the gas only when I had to tapdance over yet another patch of ice.

Finally, I saw the marker for mile 13, and the finish behind it.  I debated whether to try to kick for a second, since it really served no purpose.  But...the purpose of doing this race was to RACE, and part of racing is finding that extra gear when you really don't want to.  So I sucked it up and kicked for the practice, and then it was over.

Congratulated the second place girl (couldn't find the first) and hightailed it to my car.   After defrosting for about ten minutes, I headed to the the little finisher's festival and enjoyed some frozen bananas.  (I'm not sure that was the intent, but they were delicious - bananas are always best when frozen).  Then I headed home, with a brief detour at one of the locks to retrieve my lost water bottle and attempt to take pictures of the ice.

When I checked my splits on my Garmin, they were all over the place.  After downloading them, I realized that that was in part because the mile markers were all over the place.  Rather than attempt to make sense of them, I've just cut and pasted the actual splits here.  The effect of the wind really shows here in the second half.  I've also included my cadence so number geeks can note my high cadence.  180 is supposed to be "ideal"; I have no idea whether mid-to high 190s is "good" or "too high."


Other notes:

  • Got to the race around 7:45 am - early, but I knew parking was limited.  This was just about the perfect time, as it seemed like most other people started showing around 8 or 8:15.
  • I was wondering how I would handle the cold - I think I actually handled it pretty well.  It slowed me, but probably not to the extent it slowed others.  And wearing a long sleeve t-shirt over tights was the perfect attire for this weather.
  • If I had to do it again, I'd try screw shoes for this race.  I've never run in them before, because even in bad weather a fair amount of my running is on bare pavement.  But here, on a crushed stone path with stretches of ice, they would have been perfect.  Though my Adidas Boston Boosts weren't too bad on the ice.
  • I wish I had warmed up for longer pre-race.
  • I need better mittens - ones with a liner that doesn't pull out and wad up.
  • This race had some of the best volunteers ever.  In conditions like this, running is far easier than standing there handing out cups of water.  I can't believe how good they were, and how positive they were in their cheering.
  • One puff of foradil (asthma meds) in the morning pre-race.  One gel half-way through.