Sunday, April 26, 2015

Training log - Week ending 4/26/15

This week was 78 miles of running, 5 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

And another week of training - I'm now 8 weeks out from Grandma's (marathon, not cookies.  Though maybe they have post-race gluten free cookies up there).  Same theme as before - keeping the track workouts under control and the easy stuff very easy - focusing on high mileage, lactate threshold, and recovery.

I did have a blip though.  On Saturday, I met my team for an easy run.  Everything felt fine during, but about three hours later, while walking in the city, I suddenly felt a really sharp intense pain in my left knee.  The pain hit for about 15 seconds, and then subsided, leaving my knee really sore around all sides of the knee cap.

(and yes, I was wearing running shoes when this happened, not heels)

I had a hunch I knew what it was, since I've felt similar before.  My left kneecap is a bit misaligned, and doesn't always sit in its groove correctly (my right kneecap is also askew, but less so).  And when the kneecap gets out of its groove, it rubs on stuff it shouldn't and hurts like hell.

When I first started running, I had chronic knee pain in that knee.  However, a bit of research pointed me to a simple solution - strengthen the VMO - the inner quad muscle that holds that kneecap in place - and the problem goes away.  And that's been the status quo ever since.  As long as I faithfully hit the gym 2-3 times a week, my knees are good.

But, for whatever reason, it broke our negotiated truce to flare on Saturday.

I reached to a PT friend on Saturday evening, to get her input.  She agreed with me that the most likely cause was just that it had popped out of the groove for an instant, and now all the soft tissue was inflamed.  Best thing to do was to ice it (to bring down the inflammation), foam roll the quad on that side, tape it (to keep the kneecap in place), and then see how I felt in the morning.

In the morning, it felt better, though still slightly tender.  I had my coach's 4-3-2-1 workout on tap (segments of 4, 3, 2, and 1 mile at marathon pace, each separated by one mile easy), but obviously I was only going to do it if the knee held up.  Better one workout too few than one too many.

With some trepidation, I drove on Sunday morning to Fletchers Boathouse (normal long run start location) and started my warm-up jog.  The knee felt fine, so I decided to take a stab at the workout.

My big concern was that I normally do this workout as an out and back - 8 miles one way (3 mile warm-up, 4 mile interval, one mile recovery) and then 8 miles back (the rest of the workout).  But with a knee I didn't trust, I didn't want to get too far from my car.  Especially to a location where it would be hard to flag down a cab.

And that was how I ended up running 18 miles almost entirely back and forth on a two mile stretch of the Capital Crescent trail.

It sounds dreadful, but it actually wasn't that bad.  The intervals broke up the run nicely, and the Capital Crescent had the added benefit of accurate mile markers each half mile, which helped confirm pacing.

On the left is what I ran back and forth this morning;
on the right is my normal route for this workout
But when I completed the final interval of the workout, you best believe I hopped up on the parallel towpath for my cooldown jog back to my car.   The towpath was disgustingly sludgy from the previous evening's rain, but I couldn't bear to run the Capital Crescent any more.

(knee was fine for the workout, BTW.  Totally forgot about it.  Though I'll probably keep it taped up for another few days to be safe)


Monday:   Yoga and some upperbody strengthwork and injury prevention work, followed by 5 "miles" easy pool-running; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  13 miles, including 2x1600, 800 (6:17, 2:57, 6:09, 2:53), followed by some injury prevention work and 1500 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 13 miles very easy (9:14), followed by a yoga class and drills+strides. Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:  5 miles very easy (9:25), followed by a yoga class and then another 5 easy (9:06) plus drills and strides and 4 hillsprints.  Followed with some upperbody strengthwork and injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  12 miles, including a windy workout of 3200 +1600 hard (~6 minutes jogging rest between the two).  Splits were 13:02 (6:33/6:29) and 6:17.   Followed by some injury prevention work and 1500 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   12 miles easy (8:25), followed by drills and strides, and upper body strengthwork/injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.  This run was about 30-60 seconds faster than my normal very easy pace, so maybe that triggered the knee?  Who knows?

Sunday:  18 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: 27:52 (7:03/6:56/6:56/6:57) ~ 6:58 pace
3 mile: 20:42 (6:56/6:54/6:52)  ~6:54 pace
2 mile: 13:45 (6:56/6:49) ~ 6:53 pace
1 mile: 6:40

Slightly fast (was shooting for 7:00 pace for the first three intervals), but acceptably in the ballpark (i.e. coach wasn't mad)

Followed with injury prevention work and foam rolling.  Later did 1000 yards easy swimming and a yoga class.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Training log - Week ending 4/19/2015

This week was 74 miles of running, 4000 yards of swimming and 4 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

Just another week of training.  Hopefully the next few weeks will look similar, as I load up on the easy mileage and the controlled workouts.  I'm registered for a race this coming weekend, but have decided to skip it - I've raced a LOT in the past 2 months, and I'd rather just focus on consistent training the next few weeks, with one tune-up race in mid-May.

Other than that, not much to blather on about - I'm just tracking the Boston Marathon results like everyone else. :)


Monday:   4 "miles" pool-running, yoga, and then some upper body strengthwork.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  12 miles very easy (9:06) plus drills and strides, followed with lower body injury prevention work and 1500 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 12 miles very easy (9:09 pace), followed by drills and strides, and then a yoga class.  Massage at night.

Thursday:   6 very easy miles to yoga (9:23), yoga, and then another 3 very easy (8:51), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  12.5 miles, including a cruise intervals workout of 2x3200m in 12:53 (6:32/6:21) and 12:51 (6:27/6:24), followed by lower body injury prevention work and 1500 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   12 miles very easy (9:05) plus drills and strides.   Injury prevention/upper body strength work and foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday:  16.5 mile progression run - first 5 miles averaging 8:42 pace, next 6 averaging 7:54 pace, and last 5 at 6:55 pace (with an extra cool-down jog at end).  Followed by lower body injury prevention work.  1000 yards easy swimming, yoga, and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Training log - Week ending 4/12/15

This week was 50 miles of running, 3 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was Cherry Blossom week.  Which for most people was a goal race and maybe the peak of their spring, but for me was the kick off of the first week of marathon training.   I tapered for it, and raced it, but it felt more like a beginning than an end.

Which makes me even happier with my race.

It's been a long road.  In 2012-early 2013, I was as fit as I've even been.  Then came the long cycle of injury, followed by trying too hard to climb back up too quickly this past fall.

I had two goals for this spring.  One was to regain some of my speed at shorter distances, the other was to discipline myself to keeping my workouts very restrained - 80% effort.  My belief was that adhering to the second goal of very controlled workouts was the best way to achieve the first goal.  This was because, in the past, I had noted that I always improved the fastest when my workouts were slower and more controlled.  "Going to the well" and "giving my all" in workouts always seemed to result in stagnation.

But it's been hard.  When you have a group of friends running just ahead of you, it takes a lot of restraint not to chase the pack, and to instead run your own pace.  Especially when you finish workouts with plenty in the tank, and feel a bit sheepish that you didn't work harder while everyone else was digging deep.  But I forced myself to do so, telling myself I needed to do this consistently for several months, and then assess where I was.

And...I'm pretty happy with where I am.  Judging from yesterday's performance at Cherry Blossom, as well as my performance at Monument Avenue 10K, I'm close to the same shape I was in early 2012.  There were times I doubted I could get there again, and yet I'm here.  At age 40 (almost 41) no less.

What's even cooler to note is that my workout paces on the track are consistently slower than they were both in 2012 and this past fall (by about 5-10 seconds a mile).  Back in 2012 I was running 800s in the low 2:50s, with the occasional 2:4x.  Now?  They're generally just under 3 minutes.  Maybe low 2:5x for the last one or two.  Similarly, I'm tempoing about 10 seconds per mile slower than I was 3 years ago.

So...not only have I improved a TON over the past few months, but my differential between my workouts and my race performances has exploded.  I'm tempoing 4 miles on the track SLOWER than I'm racing 15K, which is awesome.

Apparently I've managed to hit that balance of training to race, rather than racing my training.  Yay me.

There's a trap that most runners fall into, when doing workouts.  We see a chart where paces on the chart for different intervals correspond to race times, and we think that if we can just gut it out and hit those intervals in practice, we'll achieve the corresponding times on race day.

In actuality, it's the reverse, at least for me.  It's not your goals that should determine your training paces (with the exception of practicing specific race pace); rather, your current fitness and how you feel that day should determine how you train.  Exhibit A, of course, is that fact that I'm now running race times faster, and my workouts slower.

It makes sense, when I see it mapped out here.  But I have to keep reminding myself of this, as I go into marathon training.  The fastest way to achieve my goals is, ironically enough, to continue to keep my workouts very controlled.

Likewise, I've also slowed my easy runs way down.  I used to run them in the mid-low 8:xx pace.  Now I shoot for 9-9:30+ pace.   Heck, 10:00 is fine.

There were a few reasons I used to get sucked into running my easy days at the faster speed - one was simply keeping pace with others (I'm now more careful about whom I do my easy days with), another was picking up pace because I had to be done by a certain time (I now start earlier or just run less miles).  The third was that I was afraid that if I ran too slowly, I'd fall into bad form habits and become a shuffler.  I address the last concern by doing drills and a few gentle (5-10K pace) strides after each run.  It definitely seems to be working.

The test over the next two months will be whether I can adhere to these easy and yet so tough principles (controlled workouts, very slow easy runs) while marathon training.  Only one way to find out.


Monday:   3 "miles" pool-running plus yoga and some upper body strengthwork/injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  11.5 miles, including a workout of 6x800 in 3:03, 3:00, 2:58, 2:58, 2:56, 2:54; followed by 1250 yards swimming and some light injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 10.5 miles very easy (9:12 pace).  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   5.5 miles very easy (9:11 pace), plus drills and strides, and some light injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  6.5 miles, plus drills+strides, and a 1 mile pick up on the track in 6:16.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   3 miles very easy (9:05) plus drills and strides.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday:  3.5 mile warm-up and then a ~9.5 mile race in 62:01.  Yoga and 750 yards recovery swimming in the afternoon.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Race report: Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, April 12, 2015

I ran the Cherry Blossom not quite 10 Miler this morning, finishing in a time of 62:01.

As you can probably tell, the course was short, due to a last minute rerouting.  Supposedly around 9.5 miles (9.48 on my Garmin).  But even with the issues with the course, I was pretty happy with this race.

Cherry Blossom is always one of my favorite races.  Not because I love flowering trees.

In fact, I hate flowering trees.

And the fact that these particular trees are baby pink and surrounded by swarms of tourons does nothing to endear them to me.

(I mean seriously - why do people get so freakin excited about pink trees?

But I still love the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  It's a fantastically managed race on a fast course that normally has good weather.  And that more than compensates for the stupid trees.

And the weather for today was forecast to be absolutely perfect for racing.  Low to mid-40s, with no wind and low (but not too low) humidity.  Great weather plus fast course means high PR potential for most people.

But not for me.  My 10 mile PR is 65:31, from this same course in similarly fantastic weather.  And though I'm getting into good shape, I didn't think I had quite the fitness I needed to challenge that PR.  But that was OK.  It was still great just to be racing this race, especially after how last year went. I've noted below, I benefit most in my training from lactate threshold work.  And any race between 15K and the half-marathon distance is a fantastic lactate threshold workout, regardless of how the race goes.  I couldn't think of a better way to kick off the first official week of my training for Grandma's Marathon.


Race morning was pretty much the same as always.  Woke up, ate breakfast, puffed my asthma meds and mobilized my hips and ankle, plus some glute firing for the heck of it.  Then donned my throwaway shirt and set off.

You can't tell from the photo, but this top is very sparkly.
My throwaway shirt, btw, was awesome.  A few weeks ago, at a friend's 80s themed birthday party, another friend had worn a sparkly pink Little Mermaid shirt.  It was the subject of some discussion - she explained that the shirts had been on sale at Target for about $3, so she grabbed one.

The next day I was at Target, stocking up on $3 throwaway shirts.  If you know me at all personally, then you know that my personal tastes tend towards dark nail polish and skulls, with the occasional infusion of dayglo.  A pink sparkly shirt featuring a Disney Princess is pretty close to a costume for me.  Which is what made this so hilarious.

So... accompanied by Ariel, I made my way to the race, checked my post race bag, and started jogging. I did a 3 mile warm-up very easy, and then some drills and an extended stride around the Washington Monument - running hard until my heart rate got into the 70s. I've tried this extended stride for several races now, and I feel it really warms me up and gets me prepped in a way that shorter strides don't.

Then some more drills, and two shorter strides, and into the corral.

While I was warming up, the race director came onto the loudspeaker and announced that due to a police investigation on course, we'd be rerouted.  He continued on to explain that the rerouting would occur between miles 4 and 6, and that the mile markers from 1-4 and 6-the finish would be accurate.  The total race distance would be confirmed later, but was between 9.5 and 9.75 miles.

I have to stop here and praise the Cherry Blossom race management here.  They were presented with a very difficult situation - for a major race with over 10,000 runners, they had learned less than 90 minutes pre-race start that the course was blocked.  They couldn't use the course as posted, and they couldn't delay the race (they had a strict time limit for reopening the roads).

So they had to modify the course.  Which they did in a way that flowed seamlessly.  And they clearly communicated to us exactly what was happening.  This is how you do it, folks.


With 5 minutes to go, I ducked in my corral and tossed Ariel aside like last century's VHS tape.  I had a chance to briefly greet my podiatrist, which was fun -- it was great to see him under better circumstances than last year's race :).

The race manager made another announcement, reminding us of the course change that would occur between miles 4 and 6, and also describing where we would be turning.  Again, it was a great example of how to handle a last minute rerouting.  Then we were off.


My plan was to go out conservatively for the first and second miles, and then pick up my pace on a downhill section after we crossed the Memorial Bridge - about the 2.5 mark.

Cherry Blossom does tend to go out fast - both because people are amped, and because the first mile is moderately down hill.  And despite my best efforts, I did get sucked out.  I didn't go out monstrously fast, but it was not the conservative start I had planned.  When we hit the first mile marker, I didn't feel out of control, but it wasn't the easy feeling I had been shooting for.

I debated for a moment, and then decided to pull back on the throttle.  As we crossed over the bridge I slowed up just slightly, and held that easier feeling for the next two miles, establishing the relaxed feel I had hoped to start the race with.   Once I had that down, then I opened up again.

During this time, I was also looking for a place to toss my water bottle and gloves.  I always start races longer than 10K with a water bottle that I toss.  Around the 2-3 mile marks I was ready to heave it, and on the watch for cheering friends, but I didn't see any of them on the course.  So finally I tossed it when we crossed under the Roosevelt Bridge - if I had a chance, I'd come find it later.

I wasn't willing to toss my gloves, though.  I love those things.  So into the bra shelf of my top they went - the pictures from this race will be lovely.


From then on, it was just game on, trying to keep my stride relaxed but powerful, and at the proper effort level.  I can't quite describe where we went on course or how we were rerouted, but I can tell you that it was done seamlessly.  The only indications from my perspective were the missing 5 mile marker and the fact that everyone's Garmins kept squawking where we were nowhere near mile markers.

As I noted in my last race report, I sometimes like to use a gel during races shorter than a half, even if I don't need it - the sugar rush seems to help.  To that point, I took one slurp (about 1/3rd) of a root beer GU at the 4 mile mark and a second slurp at the tip of Hains Point (around 7.5).  It's hard to know how much for sure it helped, but I did feel sharper and more focused during the race.


The latter part of this race is on Hains Point in DC.  Hains Point is very straight, flat and fast, but also a bit soul killing, as it seems like you're just running in a straight line forever.

Hains Point also has an added challenge for allergy sufferers - the damn trees.  I've learned from years of running and racing on Hains Point that if you have allergies, they will hit there very hard.  To the extent that it feels like you're running up hill.  Luckily, I've known this and I now always pace my races as if Hains Point will be a slight uphill climb.

Also, I had some solid memories of Hains Point to pull me through.  Way back in February, some teammates and I met on Hains Point to do a long broken tempo workout in horrible conditions - temperatures in the mid-teens, high winds, and snow starting to fall towards the end.    It sucked, but we rocked it and felt like stars after.

From Alien (1979), of course.
No matter how much Hains Point sucks, it will never suck anywhere close to that ever again.    And it wasn't sucking that much right now - relatively speaking.
So I just kept trucking.   At one point, I saw a group of friends cheering, and I (finally) tossed my gloves to them.  Better late than never - at least some of my photos wouldn't look like an alien was trying to erupt from my chest.

Finally we hit Mile 9 and the end of Hains Point.  From here on out things were easy mentally, if not physically.  The race has markers every 400m for the last mile, which makes it easier to hang on.  The largest hill (and really, the only big hill) of the course hits with about 600m to go.  It sucks, but it never sucks as much as I fear it will - it's almost a relief to use different muscles after running on flat terrain for so long.  Then over and downhill to the finish.


My final official time was 62:01.  Again, for a distance of about 9.5 miles.  My Garmin says 9.48 miles at a pace of 6:33.  This actually makes me pretty happy, as that's my PR pace for 10 miles.

And no, I'm NOT going to claim that I went out and PR'd a 10 miler today.  Or even that I would have PRd had it been 10 miles.  Right now, sitting in this chair, it's easy to talk about holding that pace for another 800m.  But I assure you, when I crossed that line, I was damn ready to be done.

(side question - should I write "PR'd" or "PRed" or "PRd"?  These are the questions that cause me to lose sleep).

But... holding that pace for something close to 10 miles does indicate that I'm in better shape than I thought.  I didn't think I was anywhere near 10 miler PR shape, when apparently I was close.

And upon due reflection, as long as the course (which race management is measuring now) was at least 15K (9.32 miles), I've decided I'll count this as a 15K PR. I'm not going to adjust the time down to count for the extra distance - I'll just take the time as is.

My reasoning is that if I happened to run faster than my 5K PR on a 3.2 mile course, I would definitely count that time as my 5K PR (and then go looking for another 5K that had an accurate course).  So no reason not to do the same here, though I can't really go looking for another 15K - they're very rare here.


Splits were (manual splits - Garmin was giving me 1.01 for most miles)
Mile 1: 6:36
Mile 2: 6:44
Mile 3: 6:37
Mile 4: 6:32
Miles 5-6 ish: 9:13 for 1.40 (6:34-sh pace, according to Garmin)
Mile 7: 6:36
Mile 8: 6:39
Mile 9: 6:38
Mile 10: 6:28

Other notes:
  • Left home at 6:00, and drove to race, arriving at 6:15 - plenty of time to find good parking.
  • One puff Foradil in the morning, 4 puffs albuterol before race.  And I needed it.  Damn pink trees.
  • Found my tossed water bottle post race - yay.  At about $12 each, it's not a huge loss if they're gone.  But always nice to save a little money.
  • So we ran a totally random distance this morning, where the actual time means very little.  And yet I'm annoyed that I couldn't have run two seconds faster to dip under 1:02.  Runner logic.
  • Wore my Adidas Takumi Sens for this race, and was really happy with them.  I haven't worn them for longer than 8 miles before, but after they performed so well in the 10K in Richmond, I thought I'd try them for 10.  Now I'm wondering if they'd work for a half.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Training log - Week ending 4/5/2015

This week was 73 miles of running, 4000 yards of swimming and 3 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

The mileage is a bit deceiving this week, as I ran 7 days instead of 6 this week, due to shifting my normal rest day from Monday to Sunday last weekend.  So, though it was technically over 70 miles, it didn't feel that way.

Which was good, because this was supposed to be a moderate week. Despite the fact that I'm 12 weeks out from a marathon.

Yup - I'm marathon training.  I entered Grandma's Marathon on Tuesday, after getting my coach's approval.  12 weeks out is generally not enough time to prepare for a marathon.  Unless (like me) you've been training solidly since January, with a focus on 10 milers and halves.  The training for 10-13 miles and for a marathon is not that different - training for halves just meant a greater focus on stamina and no 20s.  But my overall mileage has been decently high, and I've had several long runs in the 17-18 mile range.

Upon getting my coach's agreement (and after formally entering), I drew up an abbreviated training schedule that looked like his normal one, including the same overall weekly mileage, with a few slight differences.   He normally schedules three or four 20 milers, and three marathon pick-up workouts (4-3-2-1 mile intervals with one mile recovery between each).  My proposed schedule had only two 20 mile runs, and only two of the pick-up workouts.

Why did I cut out the 20s?  Because I honestly don't think they're the best use of my training time.

I think they're essential for someone with speed who is working on sustaining that speed over a longer distance; however endurance is not my limiting factor - stamina/lactate threshold is.  So I think my time is better spent working on my lactate threshold and turnover - less 20 milers mean that I'll be recovering a bit better, and have more energy to dedicate to longer tempos and to maxing out the volume (though not the speed) on the track workouts.  I'm not terribly worried about my ability to cover 26 miles - my natural endurance plus my generally high weekly mileage will get me through that, with the two 20s on my schedule being as much for my mental confidence as my physical preparation.

Happily, my coach agreed with my training schedule, with two slight corrections.   I had scheduled 16 miles for this weekend, and 18 for two weekends from now.  He nixed both of those in favor of no more than 14 this weekend, and a max of 16 on April 19th - he noted that I had been training fairly hard since January, and so it was better to ease off on the distance of the long runs for a few more weeks, so that I wasn't fried come June.    So we made that change.

And the end result is, having made a fairly late decision to jump into marathon training, we're starting off the condensed training cycle by....backing off on the distance of the long runs.  It amuses me, but I think it's the right decision.  I've found that I don't need to build up to the 20 milers the way some others may, so it makes more sense to take the next 2-3 weeks to refresh (and race Cherry Blossom), and then build up steeply before tapering and hopefully peaking in mid-June in Duluth.


Monday:   4 miles very easy to yoga (9:06 pace), yoga, and then 5 miles easy back home (8:38), followed by drills, strides, and some upper body strengthwork.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  11 miles, including a workout of 4x1200 (4:43, 4:38, 4:38, and 4:31). Followed with lower body injury prevention work and 1500 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 11 miles very easy (9:24 pace), followed by drills and strides, and then a yoga class.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   4 very easy miles to yoga (9:20), yoga, and then another 2.5 very easy (8:58), followed by drills and strides.  Later did 3 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  11 miles, including a fairly windy 4800m tempo in 26:29 (6:38/6:38/6:42/6:33), followed by lower body injury prevention work and 1500 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   10.5 miles very easy (8:58) plus drills and strides.   Injury prevention/upper body strength work and foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday:  14 mile progression run - first 3 miles at 9:03 pace, next 4 at 8:47 pace, next 2 at 7:38 pace, and last 5 at 6:53 pace.  Followed by lower body injury prevention work and 1000 yards easy swimming.  Yoga and foam rolling in the afternoon.