Monday, March 30, 2015

Training log - Week ending 3/29/2015

This week was 35 miles of running, 10 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Well...that's my lowest mileage week in quite some time.  With good reason, though.  The first half of the week was recovery from Sunday's Shamrock Half-Marathon; the second half was tapering for the Monument Avenue 10K on Saturday.   Plus two post-race non-running days on Monday and Sunday to bookend the week.

I pulled out every trick I knew to recover as fast from Shamrock as possible, including drinking water non-stop, sleeping as much as I could, keeping the running and cross-training minimal, and getting a sports massage on Wednesday that really helped a lot.  I don't think I was completely recovered from Shamrock by Saturday, but I was good enough to run a good race, so yay.

I've raced the past three weekends, and raced 4 out of the 5 weeks in March.  Next week will be a return to normal training, which I'm looking forward to.

No race next week also meant I _finally_ got to update my hair color.  Why is my racing related to my hair color?  (and why am I discussing my hair color in my running blog?)

Well, because my hair color is tangentially related to my running.  To explain, I suffer from seasonal allergies in both the fall and the spring (though the fall is much worse) - these allergies sometimes affect my running.

I also dye my hair, and am moderately allergic to my hair dye - I get breakouts and very itchy skin for a few days after coloring my hair, and my seasonal allergies also worsen for those few days (allergens on top of allergens - bigger histamine response).

Thus, I try not to color my hair the week of a race.  Which is generally easy to do.  Except when you're racing every single weekend.

I naturally have medium brown hair (and naturally black eyebrows, which means that my natural hair color looks faker than my CVS color job).  So when my hair grows out, the medium brown roots create an effect that looks suspiciously like the beginning stages of male pattern baldness.  Lovely.

For the past few weeks, I've been wearing headbands everywhere, and filled with gratitude that I don't have any conferences or formal meetings to go to.  I need to take a week off of racing for a lot of reasons, but the hair is near the top of the list.


Monday:   3 "miles" pool-running plus yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  6 miles very easy (9:04), followed with 1500 yards swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 7 miles very easy (9:17 pace) followed by drills+strides and some upper body weights and injury prevention work.  Massage at night.

Thursday:   6.6 miles, including a 1 mile pick-up at 6:34 pace.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  4 miles very easy (8:45), plus drills+strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   11.5  miles, including a 10K in 39:55.  1500 yards recovery swimming in the afternoon, followed by foam rolling.

Sunday:  7 "miles" pool-running in the morning, followed by foam rolling.  Yoga class in the afternoon.  Returned my hair to its proper color at night.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Race report: Monument Avenue 10K, March 28, 2015

I ran the Monument Avenue 10K in Richmond, Virginia this morning, finishing in a time of 39:55.  I'm pretty happy with this for multiple reasons.

For one thing, I actually finally got to race the darn thing this year, which is my fourth year in a row registering for it.  The saga goes like this:

2012: Realized after registering that it was on the same weekend as Cherry Blossom.
2013: Registered for it very early, then decided to do Shamrock Marathon instead.
2014: Injured.
2015: Finally.

But I very nearly didn't race it this year.  I had originally planned to race the RNR USA Half Harathon, and then do Monument Avenue two weeks later.    When I shifted to doing Shamrock Half Marathon instead, a scant 6 days before, I thought that Monument Avenue was out of the question.  It generally takes me about a week to 10 days to feel totally recovered and zoomy after a half marathon.

But, after Shamrock, my coach raised the issue again, as we stood cheering the marathoners.  He thought that I should take a shot at it if nothing was hurting and I didn't feel too sluggish come Thursday.  I was a bit skittish about the idea, but I really didn't want to miss the race for a fourth year in a row.  And if my coach was on board with the idea....

Additionally, after reviewing the website, I realized that the race didn't start until 8:30 am, making it feasible to drive down the morning of the race and save the hotel bill.  (I had paid to have my bib mailed to me when I registered, so I didn't need to hit the expo the day before).  This was good, because I hadn't planned on paying for a hotel 2 weeks in a row.  Additionally, if it turned out I was too tired to run a good race, I'd feel a lot better about it if I hadn't paid well over $200 for a room.

So what the hell, I'd give it a shot.


The Monday to Friday stretch between the two races was dedicated exclusively to recovery.  I ran a bit, but it was all short and very easy, with the exception of a mile pick-up on Thursday to see how I felt.  I didn't feel great and I was a bit slow (a mile at "10K effort" ended up being 6:34) but my coach pointed out I had been running slightly uphill.    And I didn't feel so sluggish that I didn't want to take a shot.  Heck, if nothing else, at least I'd finally get to run it.

The mathematics of an 8:30 am start plus a 1:45 minute drive and a need for a lengthy warm-up dictated that I leave home between 5 and 5:15 am.  Early, but doable - sometimes that's the start time for my morning run.  I hoped to get to Richmond a bit before 7, which would give me enough time to find parking and shift my gear over to the local Golds Gym, where I could stash my stuff and do my pre-run hip stretching and mobilization.  I normally do this before I drive to my run or race, but an over 90 minute drive was going to lock my hips up again anyway.

It also gave me some fudge time in case I hit traffic.   I didn't think it was too likely that I'd hit traffic, given that it was early Saturday morning.  But this is Northern Virginia - you never know.

Good thing I had the fudge time.

Somewhere north of Richmond on I 95.

I finally got to Richmond around 7:20.  Still plenty of time to stretch and get warmed up, but I was worried about finding parking.  Luckily, 7:20 was still early enough that there was plenty of parking in the reserved lots.  Parked, relocated to Golds for stretching, and then off I jogged, as a combination warm-up and "where the heck is the start."  I did have a brief moment as I approached a start line where the announcer was eagerly rallying participants for an 8:00 am start.  Oops?  But it turned out that was the childrens' one mile run, and I still had time.

Found the start and my teammates Susanna, Karina, and Ann, and we all wished each other luck.  Then we lined up in the corrals.  I seeded myself in the very back of the corral since I knew that the cut off for the corral was 41 minutes (verified by a recent race time, so no dreamers allowed), and I didn't want to get dragged out too fast.   I knew I was taking a bit of a risk here, as I didn't know whether age group awards were done by gun or chip time.  But I decided I'd rather lose an award to gun time then lose it by crashing and burning after getting dragged out by the sub 35 minute crew.

The gun went off, and after what seemed like a very long pause (weird being in the back of the corral) Ann and I walked to the front and then started running.  One of my missions for this race was to correct the sins of last week and go out slow.  To this extent, I had looked at a map of the course, and told myself that I would keep stuff very restrained until we turned onto Monument Avenue, before hitting 10K effort.  It took some doing, but I did it.

From there, I basically just went to race mode -  trying to hold right at 10K effort while staying relaxed and loose, and NOT THINKING TOO MUCH.  Running like that doesn't make for interesting blog posts, but I do seem to run my best....

It was decently windy on the course, with a head wind on the way out.  Luckily, this is a pretty big race, so I had plenty of people to draft off of.  A nice change, that.

The course for Monument 10K reminds me a lot of Cherry Blossom.  It's not perfectly flat, but has slight undulations that I think make it faster than a perfectly flat course, since it lets you shift gears slightly.

By Mile 5 I was feeling pretty tired, both mentally and physically.  I hung on without much of a fade, but it was a bit of a struggle (made a bit tougher by being passed by a teammate with a lot of leg speed :)).  No doubt part of it was residual fatigue from last week's half and the morning's drive, and a lot of it was that I was at mile 5 of a 10K race!  But I think also that a bit might have been blood sugar - I had slurped a gel right before the start of the race, and that's about when the sugar burst would have been wearing off. 

In times past, I used to pop something sugary about halfway into a 8K or 10K race.  I don't think it makes a physical difference, but the sugar burst does seem to help with the late race doubts and mental fog.  I may try that again.

Finally, I saw the finish line ahead.  As I approached, I saw the timer ticking down to 40.  I knew I had started the race late, so I could break 40 if I just gunned it like hell.  I gave it everything I had (this is why I ALWAYS kick in a race, so I have that skill when I really need it).  Crossed the line, checked the watch, and yup, I had broken 40.  Cue big grin.

I've broken 40 before, but only on net downhill courses.  This is my first time breaking it on a legitimate course.  I'm counting this as a PR.

I'm feeling pretty damn spiffy.  And really happy with my coach for encouraging me to run this.

Two PRs in 6 days.  Not bad.

I've cut and pasted my splits because they amuse the heck out of me.
Those are manual splits, not autolapping.  Says something about the accuracy of the mile markers and the accuracy of my Garmin on this course.  (ignore the last 5 seconds - I hit lap instead of stop when I crossed the finish).

Other notes:

  • For asthma, did one puff Foradil before driving down, and one puff Albuterol 20 minutes before the start.  Breathing was great - a bit of congestion and watery eyes from allergies, but nothing horrid.
  • For my warm-up, I did extended strides - instead of 20 seconds or so, I held the "stride" for about 60 seconds - until I saw my HR hit 170.  I've done that both for this race and for Shamrock, and it seems to warm me up much better than shorter strides.
  • Race temps was 33 degrees.  Cold for many, but ideal for me.  Felt awesome.  
  • The drive back took 2 and a half hours.  I-95 is a pox upon the beautiful meadows of Virginia.  So that's 4.5 hours of driving today.  And I don't like driving.  However, I like hotel bills (and packing) even less.  And I heard it took 3-3.5 hours to drive down yesterday.  So I think I'll keep this race as a day trip.
  • My friend Cathy (speedy Cathy) also ran this race.  And her husband, a excellent photographer (check out his work) took this picture of us after.  I love this shot (Cathy on the left in green, me on the right in red).
  • Wore my Adidas Takumi Sens today - my first time racing in them (they're like the Adios, but fit the foot slightly differently - a bit wider in the toebox and narrower in the heel).  I liked them. 
  • Next race is Cherry Blossom in 2 weeks (I'll probably wear the Takumi Sens for that).  I've now raced three races in 14 days, with one overall win, two age group wins (the one for today is pending - because I'm 99% sure the current "winner" of the 40-44 women AG is a male), and two PRs.  Tomorrow is a recovery day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Training log - Week ending 3/23/15

This week was 46 miles of running, 7 "miles" of pool-running and 500 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

Tapered for the Shamrock half, and raced it. And...I may be racing again this Saturday in Richmond at the Monument Avenue 10K.  So the upcoming week will be very heavily focused on recovery.  Short and easy stuff, plus plenty of sleep, water, and foam rolling.  And then a test mile at 10K pace this coming Thursday to see how I feel and decide whether I'm racing.

After I ran the half on Sunday, I hung around for a few hours to cheer on the full marathoners.  In retrospect, this was really beneficial for me.  I covered another 2-3 miles on foot, between cheering and getting between various locations and my hotel, and I think that the slow paced walking was much better for me than hopping straight in a car and driving 3+ hours immediately post race would have been.


Monday:   Yoga and then 4 "miles"of easy pool-running; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  9 miles, including a workout of 6x800 (3:06, 2:58, 2:59, 2:57, 2:54, 2:56), followed by some light injury prevention work and 3 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy (9:21 pace) followed by upper body weights. Foam rolling in afternoon.

Thursday:   6 miles very easy (8:35), with some drills and strides, and some upperbody strengthwork and injury prevention work,.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  6.5 miles, including a "mile pick-up" (actually around 1 and 1/3 miles) under the Whitehurst.    Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   A half-mile very easy as a shakeout, plus foam rolling.

Sunday:  2 mile warm-up and then half marathon in 1:28:28.  Swam 500 yards for recovery in the afternoon, followed by some foam rolling.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Race report: Shamrock Half Marathon, March 22, 2015

I ran the Shamrock Half Marathon yesterday, finishing in 1:28:29.  That's a half-marathon PR, and one that's been a long time coming, so I'm happy.  But still unsatisfied, as I still think I don't think I've run this distance to my potential.

Running this race was a late decision.  I had originally planned to run RNR USA half the previous week, but decided to do Shamrock instead a few days before RNR USA.  Shamrock was the better course, and the weather for RNR USA didn't look great.  So, Virginia Beach it was.

(an added benefit was that this gave me another week to get past the bad head cold I picked up after the St. Patricks Day 10K)

The drive to Virginia Beach from DC was wonderfully uneventful.  I left DC around 8:30 am (had been shooting for 8 am, but oh well) - that was early enough to keep the traffic issues to a minimum.  The drive from DC to Virginia Beach normally takes a bit over 3 hours, but traffic on I 95 or elsewhere can easily expand that to 4 or even 5 hours.

The timing worked great - I hit the expo around 11:30, then got lunch, and then managed to get early check-in at the hotel.  I stayed at the Holiday Inn North Beach, which was great.  Right on the start line for the half marathon, and right across the street from a 7-11.

(Amusingly enough, the 7-11 was selling Cliff Shot Bloks at the register, along with bananas.  The marathon is a big deal in Virginia Beach.)

The rest of the afternoon, I just hung out in my hotel room, watching streaming Grand Prix show jumping and foam rolling.  I've found that I race my best when I have a very chill and low key afternoon/evening before. 


Race morning was convenient as one could hope.  Walked out of my hotel room a bit after 6 am to drop my stuff off at bag check (half a block from the hotel), then did my warm-up jog before stopping back at my room to hit the bathroom (the true luxury of having a hotel near the start line).  Then went back out, did some drills and three strides, chatted with my coach, and lined up.

My instructions were to hang back and go very easy for the first three miles - leaving myself plenty of people in front of me to chase down.  And then spend the rest of the race chasing them.


We lined up and the gun went off.  And we started running into a mild headwind, as we had expected.  I started looking for people to duck behind.  After a few minutes, a friend of mine, Dan, offered to block the wind for me in exchange for a mention in the blog.  (No, seriously...).  I took him up on it.  His plan also was to start conservatively, and then pick it up.

Unfortunately, Dan's conservative start was a bit faster than what would have been a conservative start for myself.  Part of this is that I run best with a hard negative split, while most people prefer to pace a bit more evenly, and part is that Dan is in monstrously good shape right now. 

So, the upshot is that we went out at a pace that was slightly uncomfortable for me, and I was never able to relax into a rhythm.    I race best when I warm up extensively beforehand, then go out slowly and ease into the effort - trying never to be uncomfortable early in the race.  Once I'm totally relaxed and in my groove, I can rachet the pace down, and close very hard.  But the key point is staying relaxed and not getting uncomfortable early on.  

Which I didn't do here.  I hadn't dug myself into a huge hole, but I was still uncomfortable enough to be running tensely, not loosely.  I saw my friend Rich on course twice, and each time he yelled at me to stay relaxed, which was just about the best and most helpful thing he could have said to me.


I usually have wordy descriptions of races, but the rest of this one was essentially a blur.  By mile 5 I was distinctly uncomfortable and not at all happy.  And of course, racing through my mind were all sorts of recriminations for not easing into the first few miles.  But I could either focus on the reasons that my race wasn't going as well as I would have liked, or  I could work with what I had, which was one foot in front of the other.  I chose the latter.  I noted the mile markers from then on, but tried not to count them - I was way too far from the finish, and I didn't want to know.

It honestly felt more like a marathon than a half marathon - it didn't feel like I was tempoing, but rather like my form was falling apart, and I was just grinding the miles away, slowly.  I never felt good during the race.  But I'm good at being stubborn, and that's what I did today.  With the unlikely result that, for possibly the first time ever in my racing career, I ran just about even splits for a race.

Even when we finally turned onto the boardwalk, I had no kick to give.  I gave everything I had, and even tried to hang onto a teammate who sprinted by me towards this finish looking like a rock star, but I had no juice. 

Splits were:

Miles 1-2: 13:28 (6:44)
Mile 3: 6:41
Mile 4: 6:44
Mile 5: 6:42
Mile 6: 6:46
Mile 7: 6:42
Mile 8: 6:55
Mile 9: 6:46
Mile 10: 6:42
Mile 11: 6:47
Mile 12: 6:47
Mile 13: 6:45
Last bit: 41 seconds.

So, truly mixed feelings.  On the one hand, it was a 30 second PR for me, and I also won my age group, which was nice.  It's really hard to be upset.

And many of my teammates had fantastic races, which was great to see.  I had been somewhat considering pacing a friend through part of the Shamrock marathon, but I dropped that plan when I decided to race the half (and I felt a twinge of guilt over it).  It was great to watch her destroy her first marathon - she didn't need no help from anyone!

On the other hand, I don't think I ran the best race I had in me today, and that's disappointing.  But there's always another race.   And I can also now conclusively say that I've run a race in even splits and it doesn't work for me.  Back to a hard negative split for the next one. 

Other notes:

  • For asthma meds, took a puff of Foradil in the morning.  I've been suffering from allergies the past few weeks, but anti-histamines just make me sluggish.  I skipped the antihistamines for this race, and I was glad I did.  With spring allergies, I can feel like crap but once I'm running, I'm fine.
  • As always, Shamrock runs a great race.  What was really nice was that they were giving away towels as a finisher's gift.  Why was this so perfect? Because I had brought my swimsuit with me, and I wanted to stop by the pool on my way home from the race, but had forgotten a towel.  Serendipity.
  • My one recommendation to Shamrock for next time.  PLEASE do not organize the gear trucks by corral.  The end result is that you get bottle necks at each truck post race, since people in the same corral will likely be finishing around the same time.
  • Coming back from Shamrock this year was oddly reminiscent of my life 20 years ago when I was horse showing - to save time, I bought lunch to go and ate whenever I had the chance in stop-and-go traffic.  And I once again drove the back roads of Spotsylvania and Stafford counties to circumvent nasty back-ups on I-95.  Only differences were the compression tights, the Sirius radio, the Android phone that I could use to check traffic, and the Chipotle (over 7-11).
  • I'm debating whether to run Monument Avenue 10K this coming Saturday.  I had ruled it out when I decided to do Shamrock, but my coach raised it as a possibility after this race.  I'm already entered, so I'll just see how I feel and decide later this week.  Since I'm not marathon training, there's no urgent need to get miles in.  I can just keep stuff very easy and low key, and see how quickly I can recover.
  • Still haven't executed a half marathon well. I keep saying that I don't have the feel for the distance, but that's because I have yet to execute it the way I should - use the first 5K to get in the flow, and then fly from there.  So...I need to run another.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Training log - week ending 3/15/15

This week was 53 miles of running, 3 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Tapering down for my half marathon, which is next Sunday.    I did win a race this week, but strangely that wasn't the highlight.  The best part of the week was Tuesday's workout.  Not because there was anything special about it, but because it was routine.  We were back on the track again (not the Whitehurst Freeway) and I was able to hang with "my group" on the track without struggling or feeling like I was going to the well. 

This spring I've been running my workouts based on feel, making sure to keep the effort controlled and restrained, even though it meant I was being continually dropped.  And... the pay off is that the last few weeks I've been running controlled while NOT getting dropped.  It's good to be home again.

Now if I could just get the plants and trees to stop fornicating, life would be all sorts of awesome.


Monday:   3 "miles" pool-running plus upper body strengthwork and yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  10.5 miles, including 2x1200, 800, 400 (splits were 4:39, 3:01, 89, 4:27, 2:57, 82), followed with injury prevention/strengthwork and 1500 yards swimming.  Foam rolling at night.
Wednesday: 9.5 miles very easy (9:18 pace) followed by drills+strides and then a yoga class.  Massage at night.
Thursday:   8 miles, including a 1 mile pick-up at 6:07 pace (way too fast - I won't make that mistake again this week).  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  3 very easy (8:40) miles, plus drills+strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   9  miles, including a 5K in 20:26.  1000 yards recovery swimming in the afternoon, followed by foam rolling.

Sunday:  13 miles easy (8:19), done mostly downhill with a tailwind - fun.  Followed with a yoga class, and later 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Race Report: Rock and Roll USA 5K, March 14, 2015

I ran the Rock and Roll USA 5K yesterday, winning the race on the female side.  So that was nice.

Running the 5K was a fairly late decision.  Several months back I had registered for both the Shamrock and RnrR USA half marathons, since I couldn't decide which of the two to do (they're a week apart).  Shamrock is the faster course, but it's a few hours away, and also the week before the Monument Avenue 10K, which means I can't race both.  RnR USA was local, and also a week earlier, so I could do it and the 10K.   Tough decisions.  But I decided to go with Shamrock in the end.

But... the nice thing about RnR USA was that it also had a 5K, and I was allowed to swap from the half to the 5K with no extra effort or charge - just grab my bib and show up at the 5K start line.  So I decided to do the 5K for the heck of it, rather than waste my registration entirely.  And it'd be fun, right?

Fun, in this case, involved leaving home at 5:50 am to grab a metro train that dropped me off at Stadium-Armory around 6:30 - an hour before race start.  Probably slightly early to get there, but I'd rather be early than late, and I also was worried about trains getting snafued due to the high ridership for the races (the half and full marathons had a separate starting line in downtown DC, though they shared a finish line with the 5K).

As it turned out, 6:30 am was not too early to get there at all.  I had naively assumed that once I exited the metro station, it would be clear where the start/finish/bag check, etc was.  I had done this half a few years ago, and I remember every thing being clear then.

It wasn't now.  Though there were signs guiding us as to where to go, they were black with small white lettering that was about impossible to read from afar in the darkness and the rain.  I wandered with others around the parking lots of RFK stadium, until finally (about 25 minutes) locating the promised land.

And what I could see of it in the dark and the rain was glorious.  Bag check, portajohns stretching as far as the eye could see, food vendors starting to warm their trucks, a big empty stage and a big arch that said "5K start".  Plus cones scattered across the lot (this is relevant later).  So that was nice.  I just wished I had found it sooner.  (I think Moses said that too).  I also wish it had been lit a bit better. (Not sure if Moses said that).

Of course, all this stuff in the parking lot, plus the puddles, made it a bit difficult to warm-up.  But I'm a veteran of the Whitehurst freeway workout - if the only running I can do is loops in a relatively small area, I can roll with that.    So I jogged around.  Rather than doing formal strides, I'd just pick up my pace whenever I saw a patch of pavement that was relatively clear of obstacles (again, vendors, pedestrians, puddles) and then slow up when I ran out of room.  After 20 minutes,they called us to the start.  I wasn't completely warmed up, but I decided I'd just take it out slow - tempo-ish effort, and then do a hard negative split.

The line up at the start was interesting.  You can never be totally sure from appearance - there were a few guys who looked like they would be faster than me, 2-3 women who looked like they might be about my pace (or faster or slower), and the "Ethiopian dreamer".  He wore a green "Ethiopia" singlet like those worn by Bekele and Gebreselassie in their Olympic moments, along with a bright red headband, Newton shoes, and body language that proclaimed his readiness to do battle upon the roads.

And his timing "D-Tag" shoe chip still on his bib, secured there by an extra safety pin.

I didn't want to presume to give him any advice on how to wear his bib and tag, so I just smiled softly and stepped back as he pressed his way ahead of me in the start area.

We paused to sing the National Anthem.  Rather than have a professional singer perform it, or play a recorded version, the announcer sang it - hilariously offkey, and encouraging all of us to join in.  Oddly enough, I think this was my favorite version of the National Anthem, and I wish more races would do it like this.

Then we were off.  I hadn't really reviewed the course that much - a quick glance had shown it as a flat out and back on East Capitol Street.  But, of course, we had to get to East Capitol Street from the parking lot.  And apparently we did that by following a path through the parking lot marked by cones.

Imagine the normal crowding and jostling chaos that is part of the first 1-2 minutes of a 5k.  Now imagine that while trying to follow a path marked by cones.  In a dark unlit parking lot.  In the rain.  While also trying (unsuccessfully) to dodge puddles.    Again, I was doing this 5k for the "fun" of it.  Runner logic.

Another female runner who looked potentially fast took the lead pretty quickly.  I just followed her for a minute or so, noting that my tempo-ish effort was keeping me fairly near her.  Then she dropped back a bit, and I pulled ahead slightly

This was a conundrum - if she was going to be my competition, I wanted to let her do the work.  On the other hand, I was running very controlled, at a tempo-ish effort, and I really didn't want to back off any more.  So I just decided to ignore what she was doing, and stick to my plan of holding a relaxed tempo-ish effort for the first mile or so.  As we merged onto East Capitol Street and ran towards a sun that I could barely see, I could hear her behind me.  Or rather, her keys jangling.

We ran this way for a while - I was a bit annoyed that she was so close behind me that I could hear her keys like that.

And then I remembered that I had my house keys in the rear pocket of my shorts.  Reached back, and yup - that was what was jangling.   Cue self-directed eye roll.  And I resumed tempo effort.  I knew we'd hit a turn around point in another few minutes - at that point I'd see how much of a lead I had and decide when to drop the hammer.

I hit the turn-around, and started counting.  About 20 seconds later, I passed her, meaning I had a 40 second lead a bit more than a mile into the race.   And the third placed woman was way behind her.

I looked ahead, and there really wasn't anyone ahead of me - one guy about 20 seconds ahead that I could chase down (and did, later).

At that point, honestly, I just put the hammer back in the shed.  5K pace really hurts when held for that distance, and I just couldn't find any motivation to up my effort to that level, given the circumstances.   I had a big lead, it was dark, it was rainy, and I was congested as all hell.  So I just cruised at a hard tempo-ish effort (which was still plenty of work).

This is my bike.  There are many like it,but this one is mine. 
Except I guess it technically belongs to the owner.
Or rather, I and "my bike" cruised.  When she showed up I had first been briefly annoyed that someone was actually riding a bike on a closed race course.  And then I realized that they were doing a separate bike lead for the leading female.  Who was me.  Neat.

The next mile or so was pretty fun.  Since it was out and back, I was basically running past a crowd of people cheering for me, while being led by my very own cyclist.  Kinda a "rock star for a day" moment.  I did listen to the cheers pretty closely - if I started hearing "go ladies" or "go get her" then I'd have to pick up the effort.

Some point past the 2 mile mark I passed the only guy I could see.  It was me and my bike again.  And hopefully the finish line, somewhere.  Visibility was still pretty poor in the rain and the dark, but I could see what I thought was the finish line in the parking lot - only to realize that it said "start" and we were NOT turning towards it.    Once again I lamented my failure to review the course ahead of time, and appreciated the fact that at least I had a bike to follow.

Then I saw a big inflated arch in the distance - OK - so that had to be it, right?

Nope - Rock and Roll likes to have a big inflated arch about a quarter mile from the finish.  As I got closer and then ran past it (weird course), I realized that there was no mat and no big crowds there.  So it wasn't the finish.  It was just mean.
Me, just behind my cyclist.  Huge thanks to Cheryl Young
for the great photos.  Also note my brand new snazzy singlet.

Then we circled back, passing underneath the arch of meanness.  Soon after, I saw the 3 mile marker and the finish line behind it.  I kicked hard both for the practice and also in case someone had been sneaking up (and also to show off, honestly).  And then I ran through the biggest freakin finishing tape I've ever had the opportunity to break.  You better believe I'm buying that photo.

It was fun.  Since the 5K finish line was also the half and full marathon finishing line, it had the same set up.  Rows of finishing medals (yes, for a 5K), space blankets, chocolate milk, and all sorts of other goodies.

Yep, bought the photo.
Made my way through the gauntlet, thanked "my" cyclist for the lead (honestly I would have gotten very lost without her).   Than started my "cooldown" jog by basically running the 5K course again.  It was arguably a bit obnoxious, but it was either do that or run 3 miles of laps in the parking lot, and I was done with that.

Mile 1: 6:39
Mile 2: 6:40
Mile 3: 6:31
last bit - 39 seconds (~5:55 pace)

Other notes:
  • Interestingly, though the course looked flat when mapped out, it actually seemed slightly hilly when running it - there are several overpasses/underpasses on course.  Still seemed like potentially a very fast course.
  • When doing this race, factor in an additional 10-15 minutes walking time from the metro to the start.
  • I finally got to wear my new singlet, which I had sent to the screener last fall in hopes of getting it done for Army 10 Miler.   Really long wait to finally get it back (and yes, they did waive the charge).  It was worth the wait though.  And this was a fun way to break it in.
  • Tried Zyrtec for my congestion.  Didn't seem to help, and had me dozing off on the metro on my way to the race (I woke up once I started my warm-up jog).  Mental note not to take it next week at Shamrock.
  • Yes - I did just run a 5K at a pace slower than the pace of my 10K two weeks ago.  Which was in an ice storm while I was suffering from a head cold.  Oops? 
  • I brought dry clothes to change into post-race (rather than heading home, I ran a bunch of errands in the city).  Of course, the Armory wasn't open.  So I had to change in a porta-potty.  That was hilarious.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Training log - Week ending 3/8/15

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

I was sick for the first part of this week.   And so I was able to confirm that running a 10K in an ice storm when you're not feeling well will probably make you feel worse.  I know some people were wondering about that, so I'm glad I had the opportunity to test it out. 

That being said, I was glad I raced the 10K.  I think I was going to be sick one way or the other, so at least I got a good hard run in before having to take a few easy days. 

Runner logic is strange.

The balance of Sunday and all of Monday were spent with blankets and fluids and furry kitty and Whole Foods chili and a computer.  Really, what else do you need for happiness?

I still felt horrible on Tuesday when I woke up, with a sore throat and sinus pain that made my teeth hurt.  After debating (and Facebooking) I went out for an easy test run to see how I felt.  As sometimes happens, I felt better as I ran, and so ended up doing an easy 8 miler, followed by another easy 3.

And that was how the next few days went.  I quarantined myself from yoga/gym/pool etc until I had kicked the worst of it/was hopefully no longer contagious, and then added those back in.  One of my biggest pet peeves is people that go to the gym or yoga when they're sick, so I really try not to be that person.  (I don't worry that much about running outside - I just try to give other people a bit of space).

By Friday, though I wasn't completely recovered, I was ready for a workout.  Which was cancelled due to a snowstorm.  Sigh.  We were told to try to do what we could, where we could.  For me, since I had to be in the city Friday morning anyways, storm or not, "what I could" ended up being the Whitehurst freeway.  Again.

Just give me the extra .02, OK?
This time, I mixed it up by running back and forth between Jack's boathouse and 31st St (we normally turn at Wisconsin).  Going the extra block to 31st St meant that my "track" was a half mile each way - like any runner, I'm all about the exact distance.  And the extra block between Wisconsin and 31st also had heavier car traffic, which added spice to the workout.

To mix stuff up, I did 4 miles at "relaxed tempo effort" as four out and backs, followed by a ~1200m jog and then 2x a half mile with 400m recovery (guesstimated the recovery by time).

Solid workout, right?  I thought so.  And I was psyched to hit the showers in town and head to my conference.  And then I realized I was running late.  Which was no problem - my head really hadn't sweated at all, so I really didn't need to wash my hair.  A bit of headband hair, to be sure, but I could fix that.

And then I realized that I hadn't even broken a sweat during this workout (that's happened a few other times when doing workouts with temps in the teens).  And also that due to the snow emergency, it was going to be really hard to find parking at the gym at which I had planned to shower.

And that's how I ended up sneaking into the Marriott Marquis in downtown DC in my workout gear, and changing directly into my business wear in the handicapped stall of a bathroom.  I washed the Vaseline off my face with some handsoap, and used a moist towelette for everything else.  Then fixed my hair up with a french braid (wasn't anything else I could do with it), crammed my running clothes into the bag that held my conference materials, and stepped (only slightly late) into the 8:15 panel on the privacy implications of employee background checks.

No shame here.


Monday:   Relocated between bed and couch a few times.  Did some foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  Slept in, then 8 very easy miles (felt better as I went).  Did another very easy 3 (9:06) a bit later plus some injury prevention work at home gym.  Foam rolling at night.
Wednesday: 9 miles very easy (8:59 pace) followed by a yoga class. Later, another 4 miles easy (9:03), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.
Thursday:   7 very miles to yoga in nice weather (8:54), yoga, and then a bit over a mile back home in a snowstorm (9:34).  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  11 miles under the Whitehurst, including a restrained 4 mile tempo in 27:23, followed by 2x800m in 3:01 and 3:06 (had to dodge a car on the second).    Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   12  miles easy (8:10) plus drills and strides, and then injury prevention/upper body strength work.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday:  14.5 miles, done progressive style - first 5 miles at 8:25 pace, next 5 at 7:36 pace, and last 4.5 at 6:49 pace.  Followed with yoga, some injury prevention exercises, and 30 minutes recovery pool-running (sinuses still not up to swimming).  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Training log - Week ending 3/1/2015

This week was 60 miles of running, 4 "miles" of pool-running and 2200 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

Things got jumbled a bit this week.  Last week I did my long run on Saturday (instead of Sunday), so I pool-ran on Sunday (instead of Monday).  Thus, I ran on Monday when I don't normally.

The weather continued to throw wrenches into our schedule.  Both Tuesday's workout and Friday's one mile pick-up were done under the Whitehurst freeway once again, and my normal Thursday double was done partially in the pool, due to a snow storm.  As for Sunday's race, the weather affected that one also.

It's all a bit annoying, especially for someone like myself - I like to have a schedule and stick to it, gosh darn it.  But I feel like I'm running better and better, and a lot of that is probably due to the fact that the frequent weather interruptions keep me from overtraining, and the repeated relocation of workouts to under the Whitehurst forces me to run all workouts by effort, since I have no idea what distance I'm running.

In non-running news, I adopted a new cat, whom I named Isabella. 
This is the good place on the shelf.
Affectionate to the point of being doglike, she's quickly worked her way into my heart.    She's a three year old kitty who has special needs due to significant allergies. 

The short version of her story is that she was turned over to the Humane Society of Wicomico County, MD by her owners, who couldn't afford her veterinary needs.  The Humane Society is regularly put into the horrible position of deciding which kitties are adoptable, and which ones are not.

With her needs, and the condition that she was in (overweight, missing large patches of fur, and with lesions from scratching herself), she was determined not adoptable.  And brought to my sister for euthanasia.  As sometimes happens, my sister couldn't bring herself to put "Dianna" to sleep due to her young age, her very friendly nature, and the fact that her health issues were all manageable (if expensive and requiring some expertise).  So she became a "clinic cat" at my sister's practice, where she was brought back to health.

It was a good life, but she really deserved a full time home and family, rather than being shuttled between the veterinary clinic during the week and various employees' homes on weekends.  And now she has one.

Her needs are numerous.  They include:
  • Special prescription food (z/d)
  • Oral doses of Atopica twice a week
  • An allergy shot once every two weeks
  • Fish oil supplements (Wellactin) with breakfast
  • Application of Revolution once a month
  • A bath once a month.
  • Wearing "soft paws" on her claws to keep her from scratching herself (I WILL NOT DECLAW)
  • Wearing a cone when her allergies flare
Luckily, I'm comfortable with all of this (well...maybe not the bath...).  And though it's a similar list to what I had to do for Mina, it's actually much less burdensome.  Oral medication twice a week beats pilling them 2-3 times a day.  And a shot every two weeks beats one every other day.

She's worth it.

Making friends with Brian.
Having a new cat triggers emotions related to my loss of Mina.  That loss still hurts, and it stings  when Isabella tears apart Mina's old toys with gusto, or playfully knocks a framed picture of Mina off the shelf (I mean, seriously?  You can't knock another picture off?).  And it's a bit sad to realize in the middle of the night that I'm trying to relocate a 9 pound kitty across the bed, not a 5 pound one.  Or that I'm inhaling brown kitty fur instead of black.  But overall, the happiness wins out.  I'm very happy to have her with me.


Monday:   5.5 miles very easy (8:56) to yoga, and then another 6.5 miles after (8:50 pace), followed by drills and strides; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  11 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 3 minute recovery, followed by some injury prevention work and 1050 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Wednesday: 7 miles very easy (9:07 pace) followed by a yoga class. Later, another 6 miles easy (8:38).  Sports massage in afternoon.

Thursday:   Yoga and "4 miles" pool-running in the morning.   Later, another 4 miles very easy (8:42), with some drills and strides, and some upperbody strengthwork and injury prevention work,.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  7 miles, including a "mile pick-up" (actually around 1 and 1/3 miles) under the Whitehurst, followed by 1150 yards easy swimming.    Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   3.5  miles very easy (8:41) plus drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday:  9.5 miles, including a ~3 mile warm-up, a 10K race in 40:26, and a half mile cooldown.  Felt horrible, so skipped my usual yoga and recovery swimming in favor of chili and bad television.   Foam rolling at night.

Race Report: St. Patricks Day 10K, March 1, 2015

I ran the St. Patricks Day 10K today, finishing in 40:26.

I had high hopes for this race when I registered.  I've been feeling pretty good about my fitness, and this course is wonderfully fast.  It's essentially the 10K version of the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, which is my favorite race of the year.

And then, consistent with the rest of this winter, nature decided to play hard ball.  All week, the weather experts had been chatting about a storm to come in Sunday afternoon.  On Saturday, the schedule shifted, with the storm now plotted to come in at race time (9 am for the 10K).  The race management posted an update noting that the 10K might be cancelled, and offered any 10K registrant the opportunity to shift to the 5K, scheduled to start 45 minutes earlier.  They'd announce for sure whether the 10K would be held at 5:15 am race day morning.  Of course, they also (understandably) reserved the option of cancelling or rerouting the 10K last minute if they absolutely had to, due to weather.

A bit chaotic, but it definitely wasn't the race management's fault - they were doing the best they could in a tricky situation (and frankly, handling the weather call and communication better than OPM or most local schools, though perhaps it's unfair to make comparisons).  So I went to bed, reasoning that I'd learn in the morning whether I was racing a 10K (my preference), a 5K, or doing yet another workout under the Whitehurst freeway (my back-up plan if everything was cancelled).   I set my alarm a bit earlier than I normally would for a 9:00 am race, so I could swap to the 5K if need be.


I woke up at 5:15 to the good news that the 10K was on.  And also the less positive realization that I had a mild sore throat and a headache.  Crap.  The sore throat and headache weren't horrible, but I definitely didn't feel great.  I was battling an overwhelming urge to sit on the couch and watch crappy talk shows while eating Whole Foods chili - these simultaneous cravings for bad on-demand television and good chili out of a plastic tub only hit when I'm coming down with something.

Ugh.  What to do?  I know that a normal person would do the smart thing - skip the race, stay out of the impending ice storm, and just try to get rid of the cold.  A teammate's past experience with losing an entire season to walking pneumonia also came to mind.  And my newly adopted cat had very strong views on whether I should leave my warm apartment.

On the other hand, this was an awesome course, and I've been feeling good about my fitness.  And I've set PRs in the past on days that I woke up feeling sick - as soon as the gun goes off, it all disappears.

And.. all my symptoms were above the neck - I remembered reading that it was fine to run if that was the case, from a health perspective (note: I later looked that up and realized that was for EASY runs.  Not races.   Ooops).

So, I headed off for the race.  I decided that I'd at least try a warm-up jog, and see how I felt.   The warm-up jog wasn't horrible.  It wasn't great, and my throat and headache weren't improving, but my legs felt normal.  I very rarely feel good warming up, so as long as I wasn't feeling shaky or horrible, there was no reason not to start.  And though sleet was falling and the sidewalks were getting slick, the roads themselves seemed fine.

Stopped by to see my coach, and to give him a chance to pull me if I was doing something really silly by racing.  He told me the call was up to me, so I decided to give it a shot.   "The gun goes off and nothing else matters" right?


We lined up, and they sent us off.  No air horn or gun - apparently those were pulled because of the conditions.  Instead, just a verbal start and we were off.  I believe they actually started us a minute early, but the sleet was coming down harder by the minute, and I think everyone appreciated just getting it started.

The race starts with a mild downhill first mile that can pull you out too fast.  Mindful of that, and the fact that in cold weather I really benefit from a slow first 800, I kept the brakes on for 3-4 minutes before picking it up to 10K effort.  Then I just tried to hold a steady effort, working with some others in a group.

Around mile 3 or so, I started pulling ahead of the group.  I let it happen, but the unfortunate consequence was that I ended up running by myself at just the point where I would have loved to have had someone blocking the sleet from my face.  Sleet was pelting my face, and the footing was starting to get slick, but all I could do was keep chugging.  I did make a point of not running the tangents in some places, but instead running wherever the pavement seemed clearest - reasoning that any additional distance was more than balanced out by the slickness.

I'm not sure how much of it was the mental effort of running by myself into the sleet and wind, and how much was being a bit under the weather, but around 4 miles I started running out of gas, and got passed by two of the women I had been leading.  I hate being passed, but I really didn't have any option except to keep chugging, and to remind myself that there was a very fast female master still behind me.

For the rest of the race, I just focused on my form, staying relaxed while running full blast. The footing was getting progressively slicker by the minute, and I was starting to slip.  I could hear some breathing behind me - I wasn't sure if it was that fast female master, but I decided to assume it was, and keep digging.

When I saw the 6 mile marker, I started to try to kick.  My feet slipped out from under me, but I didn't go down.  Gathered myself back together, then started kicking more gingerly, if that makes sense.  Finally the finish line was there.  I got myself across it (turns out fast female master was a bit behind me) and then caught my breath.   I wasn't crazy about the time, but I had gotten out there and raced, and the post-race high mitigates a lot.

My head and throat still hurt.  So much for my hopes of it just being pre-race nerves.  But on the balance, I'm glad I did this.  I don't feel any worse than I did pre-race, so I don't think I made myself sicker.  And I'm honestly not sure how much being sick affected my race, if any. 

And though I'm bummed I didn't at least break 40, there were other benefits from the race -- I really think it's important not to go too long between races -  I was due to get back out there.  And heck, it was far better conditions than the only other race I've done this year :)

Mile 1: 6:17
Miles 2-4: 19:29 (6:30 pace)
Last 2.21 miles: 14:37 (6:37 pace).

I'm not crazy about the positive split, but I think the fact that the footing went from good to poor as the race progressed explains this, and I really do feel for the people who were running this in the 45-50 minute range - it must have been pretty tough for them.

Shortened my planned cool down jog to the half mile it took me to get back to my car, and then shuttled home for (you guessed it), chili and bad television, plus kitty and Facebook.  Which is not a bad way to spend a Sunday.