Sunday, January 31, 2016

Training log - Week ending 1/31/2016

This week was 55 miles of running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Recovery week - both from last week's race and from the blizzard.  I managed to arrive back in DC on Monday afternoon, when they re-opened the local airports (video of landing at DCA below - note the very rarely frozen Potomac River). 
Since my direct flight from Austin had been cancelled, I had to route through Chicago, so the trip took most of my Monday.  I foam-rolled, did laundry, and called it a day.

Home Sweet Whitehurst
Tuesday ended up being a rest day as well.  DC/Northern Virginia was still enough of a mess that there was nowhere to run - sidewalks were covered, trails were a mess, roads resembled a snowy version of Mad Max.  Plus, the pool was still closed, so pool-running wasn't an option.

If I had truly needed to get miles in, I could have excavated my four wheel drive and journeyed to Georgetown and the pastoral charm of the Whitehurst Freeway underbelly.  But...I'm not marathon training, and so there's no pressing need for miles.  Plus I was still sore from the half, and the remnants of my headcold still lingered.  So I skipped running on Tuesday as well.

Inadvertently phallic Thursday run.
The temperature oscillated all week - cycling between 60 degrees (so the snow melts) and 20 degrees (so all the water run-off turns to black ice).  The local trails were plowed by Wednesday, making them a running option.  But an overnight freeze rendered them treacherous on Thursday morning, mandating loops in a local neighborhood instead.

Since the track was covered in ice and snow, Friday's tempo workout was done under the Whitehurst.  Which was fine with me - I had some lingering fatigue, and so it was nice to do an effort-based tempo (splits are meaningless under the Whitehurst, since it's uncertain just how far we're running).  By the weekend, there were a few more options for running routes, through our multiple personality weather meant that my wardrobe kept shifting - multiple layers on Saturday, shorts on Sunday.

It's going to take a few more days for things to get back to normal in the DC area.  I have a 5K next Sunday, and things should be more or less clear by then. 


Monday:   Off.  Travel from Austin to DC via Chicago (about 8.5 hours travel time door-to-door).  Foam rolled in the evening.

Tuesday:  Nowhere to run (to, baby).  Yoga+weights plus hiking through the snow to the grocery store.

Wednesday: 4.5 miles very easy (9:48 pace) to yoga, and then a yoga class.  Followed with 7.5 miles very easy (8:48) back home plus drills+strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   4.5 miles very easy (9:31 pace) to yoga, and then a yoga class plus upper body weights and core.  Followed with 5.5 miles very easy (8:58) back home plus drills+strides.  Foam rolling at night.  

Friday:  9 miles, including a Whitehurst Freeway tempo of approximately 4 miles in 27:00 (split the three loops as 9:18/9:02/8:40).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  10 miles very easy (8:57).  Upper body weights and core+foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday:  14 miles progressive, split as first 5 at 9:07, next 2 at 8:15, next 3 at 7:34, last 4 at 6:44. Followed with injury prevention work and yoga.   1500 yards recovery swimming+foam rolling in the afternoon.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Training log - Week ending 1/24/2016

Rafe and myself, post-easy run.
This week was 47 miles of running, 1500 yards of swimming, and 7 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

Big week.  Work trip to Tampa, then a trip to Austin to race.  The weather I ran in was all over the place - 12 degrees on Tues/Weds; 50s-60s on Thurs/Fri, and upper 30s on Sunday.  It's fun to look at my paces for this week, and realize just how much weather affects pace.

The race went very well, though that's another blog post.  The trip also gave me chances to catch up with my old club friends Rafe (in Tampa) and Sunil and Althea (in Austin).

Althea, myself, and Sunil.
 It's really cool how running has made it easier in some ways to meet up with old friends, be it running meet-ups or traveling to a city to race.

This weekend also gave me a chance to play with the "ground contact time balance" on my Garmin some more.  My half this weekend was the first race I've run since I got the GCT balance function, so I was curious to see the data.

As it turns out, I'm balanced when I run fast.  Look at all that pretty green for 13+ miles.

And then compare that to Friday's easy run with a mile pick-up, and all its red.   And even within Friday's run, you can clearly see the distinction between my slow running and the faster mile.  Neat.
Easy run+ mile pick-up.

I'm still not sure what to do with this data, other than pat myself on the back for apparently being a better runner when I'm trying to run fast (which is preferable to the inverse).  At least it gives me blog content.

This week is going to be dedicated to getting rid of my damn headcold (I relapsed some on Monday morning, post race.  No surprise there). And shoveling a ton of snow.  I suspect these two goals conflict.


Monday:   Yoga plus 7 "miles" easy pool-running and upper body weights.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  10 miles, including a frigid workout of 1600, and 4x800, split as 6:18, 3:11, 3:09, 3:07, 3:05.  Somehow, my 800s ended up being slower than my 1600 - it's not supposed to work that way, but I guess it's just a reflection of how cold I was (temp 12, windchill of -2).  Defrosted and then hit the pool for 1500 yards of recovery swimming.  Sports massage at night.

Wednesday: 3.5 miles very easy (9:21 pace) to yoga, and then a yoga class.  Followed with 3.5 miles very easy (8:53) back home plus drills+strides, followed by foam rolling.  Then flew to Tampa.

Thursday:   7 miles easy (8:56); skipped drills+strides in favor of a random meeting with my boss (he finished his walk just as I finished my run).  Foam rolling in hotel gym. 

Friday:  7 miles, mostly very easy (9:43) but with a mile pick-up at 6:40. Foam rolling in hotel gym.  Flew to Austin at night.

Saturday:  Full rest.  Headcold.  Zicam, Tylenol, OJ.

Sunday:  3 mile warm-up, and then half-marathon in 1:26:53.  Followed with contrast bathing by alternating hotel outdoor pool and hotel hot tub.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Race report: 3M Half-marathon; January 24, 2016.

I ran the 3M Half-Marathon today, finishing in 1:26:53 - good enough for second overall female master, and the women's 40-44 AG win.

First, some full disclosure: the elevation chart.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way.... while the race itself obviously is the focus of this report, how I managed to get myself to the starting line is also worthy of discussion.  As many probably know, my hometown of Washington DC was slammed by a blizzard this weekend - had my departing flight been scheduled for Friday, this race report likely would not exist.

In a nice twist of fortune, however, I ended up having to fly to Tampa, Florida earlier in the week for work.  So...I shipped a care package to myself in Austin (my gels, throwaway clothes, handheld bottle, pre-race food, etc) and then just packed lightly (some business wear, my racing clothes and shoes, etc), with the plan of flying first to Tampa and then direct from there on Friday to Austin.

This worked beautifully transit wise, as I was fortunate enough to entirely miss all the bad winter weather.  However, all was not perfect.  My seatmate on the flight to Tampa was sick, as were about a quarter of the people at the work meeting I attended.  I went into defense mode, with compulsive hand-washing, neti pot use, and Listerine gargling, and hoped that it would somehow be enough.

However, it wasn't.  And the shock to my system of swapping from 12 degrees to 60+, combined with really long and stressful days in Tampa, didn't help either.  By Thursday evening, I was feeling run down, but hoped that I was just tired.  On Friday morning I met my very old club friend Rafe (whom I hadn't seen IRL for a decade+) for an easy four miles, followed by a mile pick-up at 10K effort.  Despite the fact that I ran the pick-up mile downhill with a tailwind, "10K effort" yielded me a 6:40 mile - about 15-20 seconds slower than expected.  Uh-oh.  I told myself that I wasn't used to running in such warm weather.  But a few hours later, I was ravenously hungry, shaky, and had a worsening sore throat.  FML.


The flight from Tampa to Austin Friday evening was miserable, and when I got to my hotel, I had barely enough energy to slog to the adjacent 7-11 for Tylenol PM, Zicam, and massive amounts of OJ (plus more Listerine).  Well...I also had a bit of energy to fume about the fact that I had invested a fair amount of effort and money in getting to Austin, and now I might not be able to race - based on how I felt Friday night, I doubted I could even run 13 miles at any pace.  But all I could do was try to kick this thing ASAP.

So I doped myself on Tylenol PM, and slept for nearly 9 hours, waking occasionally to drink another bottle of water or pop another Zicam.  By Saturday morning, my throat was a bit better, and so I stuck with my plan of rest (no shakeout jog), Tylenol, Zicam, and fluids.  As the day progressed, I felt better (maybe the Tylenol) - I could complete 13 miles, I just wasn't sure I could do it very fast.  But, I was here, so I'd give it a shot.


Look at all this stuff!
 As the day went by, I felt better.  I hit the race expo very briefly, coming away with the "swag bag" that this race is apparently famous for.  No coupons to local gyms here, just different samples from the race sponsor - 3M.  Including a big "clean sand" thing that got Brian excited, so I knew I had to figure out how to get it home.

I also got a chance to meet up with my very old club friends Sunil and Althea (whom I hadn't seen IRL in a decade+ - are you noting a theme here?).  It was pretty important to me to see them on Saturday, as I planned to be leaving for DC right after the race on Sunday.  So we got together for tea, right before Sunil headed off to prep for his radio show (Darkest Before Dawn on KOOP - 91.7 FM locally, or streaming live every Saturday night at 6-7pm CST).

About the time we got our tea, I got a text that my Sunday flight back to DC was cancelled.  Shortly thereafter, a bird shat on me.

You can't make this stuff up, people.

Oh well - another day in Austin meant that I could enjoy the city post-race and catch up with Sunil and Althea more.  And bird shit wipes easily when it's fresh.

After tea, I headed back to my room for a light dinner and some stretching, while enjoying Sunil's show.  He wished me good luck on the air, which could do nothing but improve my odds of a good race.  I then reserved a cab for the morning trip to the start line (I was staying at the finish line), and took another dose of Tylenol (not PM this time) to ensure a good night's sleep.


When I woke on Sunday morning, I didn't feel 100 %, but I felt good enough to give the race a shot.  I did breakfast, asthma meds, and stretching, and then headed down to meet my cab.  The race started at 7 am, but I wanted to be at the start area by 5:45 to give myself plenty of time to check stuff, warm up, and have some fudge time.  Hence a 5:30 cab.

As it turned out, I needed all the fudge time I had included.


To set the stage, the start line for the 3M half is located in an area called the Arboretum, which seems to be Austin's version of the DC area's Tyson's Corner.  Multiple malls next to each other, plus hotels, chain restaurants, etc.  It's an area that any local cabbie should be familiar with.  Plus, in this age of GPS devices, I was pretty sure that if I gave a cab driver a street address and told him it was the Embassy Suites at the Arboretum, he'd be able to get me there.

I assumed poorly.

My first hint of trouble was when he asked me if I had been there before.  I hate being asked this question, as I suspect that an honest answer in a strange town results in me being literally taken for a ride.  But no, I hadn't.  He hadn't been there either in a long time.  Did I mind if we took the Mopac?

The Mopac sounded like it was the right way, based on my borderline non-existent knowledge of Austin, so away we headed.  My next trouble signal was when we exited, and he asked me if we should take a left or right off of the exit ramp.

*sigh*  I saw some cars turning left, so following them seemed to be the best bet.

[in answer to the obvious question, I had left my phone in my hotel, since I didn't want to risk losing it in bag check.]

So that the discussion of this adventure takes less time than the adventure itself, I'll just say that we drove random circles somewhere near the Arboretum for a seeming eternity, before I demanded that he started using the GPS that he had.

Once he did so, it became rapidly apparent why he didn't use the GPS.  For some reason, his brain couldn't process it.  The GPS would indicate that we should turn right and he would turn left.  Or that we should head straight, and he would start turning right.  Finally, I told him to leave the GPS running, but ignore it and listen to me.  I then watched his GPS carefully, and directed him based on that.  And that was how I got reasonably close to the starting line.

For only the second time in my life, I didn't tip a cab driver.  Before you feel too sorry for him, keep in mind that he probably added at least three additional miles onto my trip with his incompetence.


Fortunately, once I got to the start, things progressed seamlessly.  Bag check was a breeze, plenty of toilets for runners, and decent space for some warm-up jogging and strides.  The temperature was just about perfect for me at 38 degrees.  We did have a slight headwind from the south, rather than the northern tailwind that has benefited the race in other years, but that seemed a minor complaint.  I had made it to the starting line, my throat wasn't hurting too much, and the temps were awesome.

I did get several comments from many of the other runners about my choice of shorts and singlet - most, including people who looked very fast, were in tights and long sleeved shirts.  I just told them I was from DC, and that explained it.


At 6:50, I got in my corral; at 6:55 they sang the National Anthem and I tossed my pre-race shirt, and then at 7 we were off.

There are two situations that guarantee a large number of people starting their race like idiots.  One, as previously discussed, is a race held during a holiday.  The other is a race held on a course billed as very fast.

Note to others - a faster course doesn't mean that you can overrun your fitness and survive.  It means that if you pace appropriately for your fitness, you'll run a faster time.

But many don't seem to get this, including many of my fellow runners on the starting line.  I suspected as much, so I seeded myself between the 1:30 and 1:40 pace groups.  A lot slower than I hoped to run, but I knew that the first mile+ of this course would be uphill and I wanted to ease into the race cautiously.  Starting at 7:10 or slower was fine.

Despite my caution, I was nearly trampled by the stampede at the start.  One person pushed me aside, another stepped on my heel really hard just as I crossed the mat.  For a moment, I feared my shoe had been pulled loose.  But it was still there and secure.  Whew.

People sprinted past me up the hill.  Like it was a 5K.  And one that many of them would blow up in.  I repeated my half marathon mantra "the first three miles are a prelude" and moved myself to the side to stay out of the way.  And just tried to find a rhythm.  (the fact that my throat still hurt made it a bit easier to stay conservative at the start - I was worried that the fatigue from my headcold would haunt me if I ran too aggressively).


The elevation chart above is slightly misleading - this course isn't really a straight descent.  It's really more of a very gently rolling course, where the uphills are shallow and not too long, while the downhills are more extended.  Once I felt relaxed and warmed up, I started letting the course work for me - I used the downhills to build some speed that I then carried up the next uphill, while using the change in incline to shift stress to different leg muscles.  By mile 3, I was steadily passing people, which continued for the rest of the race.

The course itself serpentined down towards the center of Austin, winding through different neighbor hoods.  There were water stations every mile, which I skipped - between the cool weather and my handheld bottle, there was no need.

I knew (or thought) from reviewing the course that there would be a steady incline for a while, starting around mile 9 through about 10.5, so I intentionally held back a bit for that.  However, the climb, though not pleasant, was more of a stairstep, with some mild downhills for relief.  I also noted that (unusual for me) I was passing people on the uphills as well.  It was a new experience, and pretty damn fun.  I give part of the credit to my team's Tuesday hill repeats at the Iwo Jima memorial (we just completed a 6 week cycle).  And part of the credit to the fact that so many people ran the first few miles of this race like idiots.

Then once that climb was past, I starting digging deep.  My legs were tiring, and I knew that there would be two more uphills between miles 12 and 13.  But those were close enough to the finish that I could just attack them, using memories of Iwo Jima to fuel me.  I didn't know what time I was running, but I was pretty sure I was having a good race, and I smiled as I pushed.

After the second of the two hills, I turned a corner, and saw mile marker 13 and the finish line beyond.  I started kicking as hard as I could.  As I approached, I saw the clock ticking 1:26:4X.  And I kicked a little harder.  And then it was done and my watch read 1:26:53 and my sinuses started hurting again.  But I was very happy.


Splits were:

Miles 1-2: 13:37 (6:49 pace)
Mile 3: 6:35
Mile 4: 6:39
Mile 5: 6:36
Mile 6: 6:37
Mile 7: 6:34
Mile 8: 6:32
Mile 9: 6:40 (slight uphill)
Mile 10: 6:48 (uphill)
Mile 11-12: 13:04 (6:32 pace)
Mile 13: 6:32 (some hills)
Last bit: 39 seconds (5:55 pace - hauling ass)


This ended up good enough for second masters female and first in the female 40-44 age group.  That actually makes me happier than the time.  It's a downhill course, and that puts an asterisk by the time.  But we all run the same course, and this is also historically a competitive race - making the age group win pretty special.

I also did some online reading (don't lie - we all do that) and the top Masters female, who beat me by just 40 seconds, has gone sub-3 at the NYC marathon in recent years.  Of course, you can't draw any conclusions from one result, but this does make me feel even better about my race today.

Other notes:
  • Used Dulera for my preventative asthma med, plus a puff of albuterol at the start line.  No breathing issues during the race.
  • Took one Caramel Machiatto GU about an hour before race start.  This is my pre-race go-to, and I only do it for races (or the occasional long run, to make sure I can tolerate it).  Also took part of a Strawberry Kiwi Rocktane gel on course.  Carried a hand-held water bottle until Mile 9, and then tossed it.
  • Ran with handwarmers until I tossed them at mile 7.
  • Stayed at the Doubletree near the finish line, because I anticipated having to move pretty quickly post-race to make my flight.  Next year, I'll stay near the start line, and just plan on staying an extra day and enjoying Austin.  The Doubletree was nice, but it's more expensive to stay downtown, and I'd rather not rely on a cab to the start line next year (the race runs buses from the finish back to the start).
  • One issue to note for others who run this race - in Austin, they have little reflective things sticking up in the road dividing lanes (in the DC area you have them on interstates).  They were everywhere on the race course, and I had to stay very aware of where I was relative to road markings to avoid tripping.  I was surprised that I never tripped during the race; nor did I see anyone else trip.
  • I really recommend this race.  Very well managed and fun.
  • My coach has been telling me repeatedly that I really don't need as many long runs and as high mileage as I like to run.  This race pretty much proves that he's right. 
  • Now, I just have to get home.  Which may be its own adventure.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Training log - week ending 1/17/2016

This week was 61 miles of running, 5000 yards of swimming, and 7 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

The most notable thing about this week was the prolotherapy shots I got on Tuesday.  This was a "booster" to my previous PRP and prolotherapy (I did PRP in November and December of 2013 and May of 2014, and my first round of prolotherapy in September 2014).

[As a refresher, I struggled with chronic injuries for a long time, including a bad combo of a high left hamstring tear and recurring tendonitis in pretty much every tendon in my right ankle plus the plantar fascia.  The causes of all these injuries were difficult to unwind; they turned out in part to be an old unhealed tear in my right groin and very loose ligaments in my right ankle, lumbar area, and SI joints that contributed to instability in my running gait and nerve pain, plus an SI joint that would NOT stay in place. For me, the key to being able to stay healthy, running-wise, is prioritizing my stability while running, which means a) making sure all my ligaments stay tight; b) consistent gym/yoga work focused on stability; and c) avoiding soft/unstable running surfaces and cushioned running shoes]

During the previous injections, I was told that I'd probably need to come back at some point in the next year - the injections tighten up and heal stretched out ligaments, but the wear and tear I put on them through running (especially since my gait is still slightly uneven) stretches them back out.

I made it well over a year.  Frankly, I thought I was done with injections.  But then, right before Philly Marathon this past fall, my left leg sciatica/weakness issues started acting up again.  And my left SI joint started popping out of place again.  At the time, I attributed the flare to the reduction in my injury prevention routine (cutting out yoga and weights during taper).  But the issue persisted after Philly, as I rested, recovered, and then started ramping up again.

I gave myself a solid 6 weeks of focused injury prevention work plus two PT visits, and then bit the bullet and went back in to see Doctor Wagner last week.  Yup, though my SI joint and lumbar was much better than they were at the start of my saga, they were looser than they should be.  Time for more shots.  And another credit card bill, since insurance doesn't cover PRP/prolo.

Some have asked me what the difference is between prolotherapy and PRP.  In short:
  • PRP: this is where they draw a few vials of your own blood, spin it down to the super-magical healing platelets, and inject it back in.  It costs more, hurts more, and requires rest and then a careful ramp back to activity post shot.  It also takes at least 10 days to kick in. 
  • Prolo: they inject what is essentially sugar water, with the goal of stimulating inflammation and kick-starting healing.  It's pricy, but cheaper than PRP.  It also hurts significantly less, since they can use a local anaesthetic.  You can resume normal activity right after (I went straight from the doctor's office to the grocery store), though you want to avoid swimming for 48 hours and hard workouts for a day or two.  It starts working right away.
So, given my descriptions of the two, why would anyone opt for PRP over prolo, when the second is cheaper, hurts less, and kicks in quicker?    Because PRP is a lot stronger.  My understanding is that PRP is the right choice for torn tendons, and also for tightening loose ligaments when those ligaments are going to suffer a lot of strain in the future (i.e. athletes).  Prolo works well as the only step for milder soft tissue issues in non-athletes, and as a "booster" (my term) to PRP in athletes.  As my doctor described: the PRP creates a fire, and then periodic shots of prolo add logs to the flame.

Happily, I'm now in the prolotherapy phase, so the shots were pretty much a non-event.  I ran the hill workout in the morning, and then took a "lunch break" midday for a doctor's appointment.  The shots took about 10 minutes, so not a huge time investment.

The shots did hurt some - bee stings is the best analogy I can come up with.  But they weren't horrible.  Dr. Wagner did 6-7 shots in each SI joint, plus 5 in the area near L4-5.  We also did 5-6 in my left hamstring where the old tear was, just to be safe.  I pay for the procedure, not per shot, so there's no reason not to jab everywhere.  

What was also reassuring was that the shots in my lumbar and left SI joint caused my sciatica to flare while I lay face down on the table - confirmation that we were targeting the right area.

[One interesting thing I noted too: my pain tolerance for medical procedures is directly correlated to how desperate I am.  When I got the PRP, I wasn't sure if I'd ever be running again at the level I had before, and I was willing to hurt as much as it took to get better.  Now?  I'm doing pretty well, and so I found myself whining (internally) a lot more about the prolo shots, even though they hurt much less.  Funny, that.]

And then I drove home. That's another nice difference between prolo and PRP, by the way. - I feel totally comfortable driving home after prolo shots; PRP hurts enough after that I don't feel safe driving.

As for how I felt - I was sore right away, but also felt better, in a strange way.  The unstability and sciatica was gone immediately, replaced by significant soreness in my back - like I had done far too many deadlifts in the gym.   A different pain, and a much better one.  What was also interesting is that the areas where I really needed the shots (left SI joint and lumbar) were far more sore than the areas that we treated just to be safe (right SI joint and left hammy).  I obviously don't know why this is - my uneducated guess is that the areas that were damaged inflamed much more in response to the prolo.  Again - just a guess.

I ran carefully the next morning, but everything was fine.  I felt the shots a lot during yoga, and was very careful during practice.  I didn't feel the shots at all when running - I just enjoyed the lack of sciatica.  And by Friday I was totally fine. 

The one other side effect of the prolo was that I swapped asthma inhalers for a few days after the procedure.  Because my allergies have been flaring and my lungs are pretty inflamed, I've been using my Dulera inhaler, which has a steroid in it.  However, you're supposed to be very careful about using anti-inflammatories when you get either prolo or PRP, so I shifted back to my Foradil inhaler (no steroid) for a few days.   As I learned pretty quickly on Friday, the Foradil ain't cutting it right now, asthma-wise.  But not a big issue - I can just swap back, now that I'm a few days out from the prolo.

This upcoming week will be a cutback, as I race my half-marathon on Sunday, and also have a business trip between now and then.


Monday:   Yoga plus 7 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  10 miles, including a hill workout of 7 repeats up Iwo Jima (~500m up, then 200m jog, 100m stride, and 100m jog down to base of hill, followed by injury prevention work and 1500 yards of easy swimming.  Prolotherapy injections into SI joints, lumbar area, and left hamstring at mid-day

Wednesday: 2.5 miles very easy (9:47 pace) to yoga, and then a yoga class.  Followed with 6.5 miles very easy (8:51).  Foam rolling at night

Thursday:   5 miles very easy to yoga (9:19 pace), followed yoga and some upper body weights and core.  Then did another 4 miles very easy (8:33), plus drills and four strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  10 miles, including a 4 mile tempo on the track in 26:38 (6:45/6:41/6:40/6:33). Followed with lower body strengthwork and 1750 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:   7 miles very easy (8:51) to the gym for upper body and core; then 3.5 miles easy home (8:34), plus drills and two strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday:  12 miles progressive, with the first 6 miles averaging 8:55; the next 3 averaging 7:27; and the last 3 averaging 6:44.   Followed with lower body strengthwork and 1750 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Followed with lower body strengthwork and 1250 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Training log - Week ending 1/10/16

This week was 67 miles of running, 4000 yards of swimming, and 6 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

So this was a pretty good week - I'm definitely feeling fitter and fitter.  Friday's tempo was faster than I expected it to be, and Sunday's long run/workout was MUCH faster than I had expected.

To be honest, the Sunday workout of 4, 3, 2, and 1 mile intervals with 1 mile recovery was supposed to be at marathon effort, but my actual effort was a bit harder than what I could sustain for 20+ miles right now (I also kicked during the final  mile repeat, but that's allowed if you're feeling good).

When I saw the splits, I worried that perhaps I had left my race out in a training run.  But it really doesn't feel that way - it was a hard workout (as it should be), but I didn't go to the well, and I've done this workout at a slower pace at other times and felt worse during it.

One conclusion, based on how I felt this week and during the long run, is that perhaps I am better off on lower mileage and less long runs.  I was concerned about Sunday's run going into it - over 16 miles seems like a long way when you've only done one run longer than 12 miles in the past 8 weeks.  And yet the distance was an absolute total non-issue, and my pace just got faster as the workout continued.  I think I just need to recognize that my strength is my strong point and to trust that I don't need to focus on that much, instead prioritizing recovery and speed.  But it's hard to resist the more-mileage-is-always-better mindset, especially when that has worked for so very many others.

Or as I noted to my coach, "perhaps I don't need many long runs or a lot of mileage."  (He gave me a well-earned side-eye and noted he'd been saying that for years).


Charts from Sunday's long run.
This is a big graphic, so I shrunk it. 
You can click on it to see it full size.
I also played with a new data feature on my fancy Garmin 920.  It now measures two additional things - "vertical ratio" (how much you bounce) and "ground contact time balance" (how much time you spend on one foot versus the other).

I've only run with it three times so far, so I'm just starting to get a feel for the data.  It is interesting, though I'm not sure how useful it is.  The thing about running (and life) is that we assume that if we can measure something, we can gain useful knowledge from it, and improvements will be measured in the metric.   I'm not sure that's always the case.

Garmin claims that a more even "ground contact time balance" (GCT balance) is better, and also that a lower "vertical ratio" is better.  Both of these make some sense to me - the first more than the second.   But it also "makes sense" to train for marathons with 26+ mile long runs, so I resist placing all my analytical eggs in the sense basket.  I'm somewhat skeptical of the value of this data.

But it is fun to look at.  And after three runs - a tempo, an easy run, and the 4-3-2-1 long run, a few things do stand out.  First, I'm unbalanced - my right foot generally spends a bit longer on the ground than my left.   This isn't surprising, given my injury history, and the fact that my left leg tends to be nervy and weaker.

More interesting, though, is the fact that I'm apparently "better" at running when I run faster.  Looking at Sunday's long run, my vertical ratio is consistently orange (not good, according to Garmin) when I run slower, and green (good) when I run faster.  My GCT balance also improves slightly at faster speeds, though not as notably.  It's also worth noting that my GCT balance was worst on Saturday's easy run, and much better on Sunday.

(my heart rate, stride length, and cadence also all increased with the hard parts, and dropped with the easy, but that's not surprising at all.)

I don't know what to do with this information, other than waste time staring at it.  But it sure beats what's on television these days.


Monday:   Yoga plus 6 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  10 miles, including a hill workout of 7 repeats up Iwo Jima (~500m up, then 200m jog, 100m stride, and 100m jog down to base of hill, followed by injury prevention work and 1250 yards of easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 3.5 miles very easy (9:08 pace) to yoga, and then a yoga class.  Followed with 8.5 miles very easy (9:03) plus some drills and two strides.  Sports massage at night.

Thursday:   4 miles very easy to yoga (9:20 pace), followed yoga and some upper body weights and core.  Then did another 4.5 miles very easy (8:39), plus drills and four strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  10 miles, including a long intervals workout on the track of 3200, 2 lap jog, 1600.  Splits were 12:55 (6:28/6:27) and 6:07. Followed with lower body strengthwork and 1500 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night

Saturday:   10 miles easy (8:26), plus drills and four strides.  Followed with weights work in the gym and foam rolling.

Sunday:  16.5 miles, including a workout of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles at "marathon pace" with one mile recovery.  Splits were:
4 miles: 27:32 (6:53/6:58/6:53/6:48)
3 miles: 20:40 (6:56/6:54/6:50)
2 miles: 13:26 (6:47/6:39) 
1 mile: 6:34

Followed with lower body strengthwork and 1250 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What I wore

The DC area has been hit by another cold snap this week, resulting in frigid temperatures that rival the north.  Yesterday morning, the air temperature for our workout was 15 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill of -5.

I try not to complain too much about the cold (though I do whine some).  For one thing, I believe that the more you whine about the weather, the worse you perceive it.  And running-wise, I much prefer 15 degrees to 80 degrees and humid - I find it much easier to breathe in the former.

Plus, I have running friends in New Hampshire and Minnesota and other such places, and I really can't complain in any medium that they might be reading (though I do want to note that yesterday it was actually colder in DC than it was in Duluth, Minnesota).

However, without whining, I do want to note that it was cold yesterday.  Colder than it's been for about a year.  Which means it's been a year since I dressed for these conditions.  Which means that I was rummaging through my closet early that morning, trying to remember what I wore last year.

And so, I am now going to document what I wore, and what worked very well for me.  This may help others; I know it will help me in a year's time.

You can click on this to expand it.  As you can see
artfully arranging things for nice blog pictures is not in my skill set.
First, a picture:

A) thick headband
B) snowboarding mittens
C) clear lens sunglasses
D) sportsbra
E) tights
F) thick longsleeve
G) compression shorts
H) running jacket
I) disposable handwarmers
J) petroleum jelly
K) thin socks
L) "anklewarmers"

And next, the description.  I do want to note that my personal thermostat is a bit wonky, due to some autoimmune/circulation issues.  I tend to be very cold when I'm still, but warm up rapidly when I run.  Furthermore, my core tends to overheat, while my extremities stay very cold.  So, the balance I've struck here may not work for all.

For my lower half,

I wear compression shorts (G) underneath a pair of fitted running tights that are not super tight (E).  For workouts, I've found I prefer looser tights that let my legs to move more freely than compression tights allow. 

I layer the compression shorts under the tights to make sure my hamstrings stay warm, given my past history of injury there.

For my feet/ankles,

I wear very thin socks (K), and then homemade "anklewarmers" (L) to cover the gap between my tights and socks.  It may seem surprising that I don't wear thicker socks, but my cold feet stem from lack of circulation, and thick socks crammed into shoes just make things worse.  The pounding from running does a good job of warming up my feet and keeping the blood flowing, so I just deal with numb toes for the first 10 minutes and then I'm fine.

Close-up of the anklewarmers
(my cellphone camera ain't great)
I made the anklewarmers by taking a cheap pair of thick tube socks and cutting off the foot.  (I made a second pair from cutting the toes off of the remaining foot).  I have a history of tendon issues in my ankles, and I've found that keeping the gap between socks and tights covered and warm is essential to avoiding injury.  This is why you will never see me wear capri tights - because they cover my knees (which rarely have any issue with the cold) while exposing my sensitive ankles.  Right fabric, wrong place.

For my upper body,

I wear a sportsbra (D), and then one of my thicker longsleeve t-shirts (F) (white, because we're running on streets in the dark).  While warming up for the first mile or two, I'll layer a running jacket (H) on top - that jacket gets shed before any hard running. 

If I'm just running easy mileage, I'll go with a tanktop instead of sportsbra, plus just the running jacket without longsleeve.  Longsleeve+running jacket works well for the first few miles of a run, but I'll be massively overheated by the end of 8-10 miles.

For my hands,

I wear snowboarding mittens (B).  The snowboarders and skiers really are the experts when it comes to dressing for winter conditions - I really don't understand why most runners limit themselves to running gloves.  In my experience, the cheapest snowboarding mitten is more durable and warmer than the priciest running glove.  Plus, manual dexterity is not important to running, so there's no specialized function inherent to a running glove.

(Seriously, why do we need separated fingers?  Other than to flip off motorists?  Which actually is a pretty good reason, come to think of it.)

Within the mittens, I carry disposable handwarmers (I).  I swear by these - they make a massive difference and really don't cost much in the broader scheme of things.  By my math, seven pairs of handwarmers costs less than one cup of coffee from Starbucks, and keeps my hands a lot warmer over a week.  Plus many types of handwarmers can be "suspended" by sealing them in an airtight bag between runs, so that you get two or three runs out of a pair.

For my head,

This one's easy - thick headband to cover my ears (A), and petroleum jelly (J) glopped on my face. Trust me, don't apply it, glop it.  The thicker the better. 

I religiously use the petroleum jelly any time the temperature drops below 40, or it's windy, or it's raining - it protects my face from the elements.  I've tried balaclavas, but generally am not a fan - I don't like breathing through them.

I prefer the headband over a beanie or similar because it works better with my ponytail.  I know some beanies have ponytail holes cut within them, but the opening never aligns with my ponytail.  Additionally, beanies never stay in place on my head, while headbands generally do.  Factoring into this decision is the fact that my long hair already provides some natural insulation - only my ears need protection, not my scalp.


So, how did it work?  Pretty well. I was cold for the first mile of my warm-up, and then fine.  I shed the jacket after warming up, and was cold for the first repeat, and then fine thereafter.  By the end of the workout, I was barely starting to break a sweat, which tells me I got it right.  I didn't want to be cold, but it would be worse to start sweating and then REALLY get chilled.

The one thing that didn't work was my sunglasses with untinted lenses (C).  I wore these yesterday morning in hopes that they would protect my eyes from the wind.  However, I found that even the clear lenses interfered unacceptably with my night vision - preventing me from seeing the details of the road.  Additionally, they kept fogging up.  They ended up with a free ride on top of my head for the workout.

One thing not in the picture above, but essential nonetheless, was a sense of humor.  If you can manage to laugh, just a bit, at the absurdity of it all, you'll find the air is less biting.  And good running buddies are key also, as they make wonderful wind blocks, both physical and mental.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Training log - Week ending 1/3/16

This week was 46 miles of running, 3000 yards of swimming, and 13 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

And, another week in the books.  After marathon training nearly continually since April, it actually feels nice to be running a bit less mileage, especially since life (including work) is getting pretty busy.  Saturday was my first progressive long run since the marathon - until now, I've had a limit of 12 miles.  And it went pretty well. 15 miles with the last 3rd at marathon pace effort was a non-issue, and not the strain I had partially anticipated.  My race on Thursday, though not a mindblowing performance, was also pretty good for where I am right now in my training.  So two confidence boosters in a week - not bad.

It's nice reminder to me that I don't need to overfocus on my strengths.  I tend to buy into the "more miles always better" mentality, since that's a truism for many.  And I like running lots of miles - it's right in my wheel house.    But, in my case, I fell like I'm thriving from backing off on the miles and increasing the quality of my runs.  I'm stretching out of my comfort zone, and just trusting that my endurance will be there when I need it.  It will be interesting to see how this all works out in a few weeks in my half-marathon.


Monday:   Yoga plus 7 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  8 miles, including a hill workout of 6 repeats up Iwo Jima (~500m up, then 200m jog, 100m stride, and 100m jog down to base of hill.   Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 6 miles very easy (9:35 pace) plus some drills and two strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   In the morning, foam rolling and stretching.  In the evening, 2.5 miles warm-up plus a 4 mile race in 26:35.

Friday:  6 "miles" of pool-running, followed by 1000 yards swimming and a yoga class, plus foam rolling.

Saturday:   10 miles very easy (9:11 pace), plus drills and four strides.  Followed with upper body/core weights work.   Foam rolling at night.

Sunday:  15.5 miles progressive, split as first 5.5 at 8:56, next 4.5 at 7:50; last 5.5 at 7:07 pace.  Followed with lower body strengthwork and 1000 yards easy swimming.  Yoga and foam rolling later.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Race Report: Fairfax Four Miler, December 31, 2015

I ran the Fairfax Four Miler last night, finishing in 26:35.  Despite the fact that this is a fairly slow course and I'm out of shape, I set a PR by over a minute.  Of course, the last time I raced a four miler was in 2008, so a PR was pretty much a certainty - my former PR was at a pace slower than my current half marathon PR pace...

And that's really the entire reason I ran this race.   Four mile races are not that common in this area - there's only four that I'm aware of.  And heck, what better way to end a year than with a near-guaranteed PR.

This was an evening race, starting at 6pm. And I hate evening running/racing.  For many reasons.  For one thing, I find it challenging to manage my digestive system for an evening race.  Morning running is easy.  My stomach is generally empty when I wake in the morning, and so I eat one easy-to-digest meal, drink some water, and I'm good.  For evening races I have to plan out what I'm eating all day, to make sure I hit that optimal balance of enough fuel to run but not so much that I experience a premature exit.

I also hate evening running and races because they screw up my sleep schedule.  Running after about 2-3 pm guarantees insomnia.  But was New Years Eve, and since I had some plans for later that evening, I knew I'd be getting little sleep anyway.

Finally, I hate evening running simply because I can't seem to keep my shit together (to put it in technical terms).  Tell me that I need to start running at 5 or 6 or 7 am, and I'll show up on time, with everything I need.  But when I run later, I get distracted by other things before hand, and stuff gets messy.


Messy pretty much describes my pre-race prep yesterday.  It all started earlier that day - I was enjoying a rather relaxed New Years Eve day at work.  Until I realized in the mid-afternoon that New Years Eve was also the end of Q4 2015.  And all the back burner stuff that was no rush, but just needed to be finalized by the end of the quarter, now had to be finalized TODAY.  Before I left for the race.  Because Q4.

Oops.  But I got it done, and only left about 10 minutes later for the race than I had planned.  And since I always build in some fudge time when getting to races, I was still fine time-wise.  After all, the race start was a quick trip out interstate 66....

And that was my next issue.  In the DC area, certain roads change directions or are limited to HOV (cars with 2 or more people in them) during certain times of the day.  It's one way we cope with having arguably the worst traffic in the nation.    Since I don't commute on I-66 much, I had forgotten that it was limited to HOV-2 from 4-6:30 pm on weekdays.  And just like that, my short drive on the interstate became a longer drive on backroads.  But it was OK, because I had, y'know, fudge time.

Getting to the race a bit later meant that it took longer to park, since more people were there.  And then longer lines at packet pick-up.  Compounded by the fact that they couldn't find my registration, resulting in the erosion of the last of my fudge time.   But it was OK - I now had my number and my race flats on.  Instead of heading back to my car to drop off my race "premium" sweatshirt (which is a fancier way of saying "the stuff we give you so the entry fee looks like a better deal") I left it at bag check and started jogging.  I generally need about 3 miles of easy jogging before I'm ready to do anything faster, and I had just enough time to fit that in, plus some strides.

Of course, that was assuming that nothing else delayed me. I discovered about a mile and a half into my warm-up, I hadn't executed my pre-race fueling plan terribly well.

Annoyed at my innards, I stopped running and joined the porta-pottie party line.  I have a list of race scenarios to avoid, and at the top of that list is trying to find a porta-pottie 15 minutes before race start. Fortunately, this was the rare race where there actually were enough porta-potties, and I dumped my excess fuel without too much delay.

Having made my offering to the gastrointestinal gods, I headed back out to finish my warm-up.  I had less than 10 minutes before race start, so I gave up on easy jogging and swapped to drills and strides.  It wasn't optimal, but at least I had been moving around all day, so I was a bit more limber than I would have been for a morning race.


I lined up, the air horn blew, and we were off.  This race started off with a decent uphill.  It also started with a large group of adults and kids charging off the line.  Any race associated with a Federal holiday, be it Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, or New Years, seems to attract a large population of inexperienced racers whose ambition exceeds their aerobic capacity, and this race held to that pattern.  So I held back and let the wave flow past me.  About a minute or two in, the tide turned, and many of the runners started to flow back.

The course continued on, essentially following a path around the campus of George Mason University.  In the darkness, the campus really looked more like an office park than a campus, but that was fine - I don't race for the scenery.  The course was a loop of rolling hills, plus two little out and backs to add some distance.  I've run races here previously several years ago, so I was somewhat familiar with the terrain.  I knew that at one point there'd be a long downhill; there'd also be a series of smaller rollers that were net uphill.

By the end of the first mile the race had thinned out and I was running in a group with several others.   Trailing right behind me was another female masters runner whom I was somewhat familiar with.  Normally she's a bit faster than me, and so I was pleasantly surprised to realize that she was with me.   I didn't know how long that would last, as I also didn't know where she was fitness-wise.  Perhaps she was just taking the race out easy before killing the second half.  Or perhaps she was just coming off of long break.

Either way, I know that I'm a very good downhill runner, and not so great at uphills.  So when we hit the longest downhill of the course, I figured that it was my best chance to build a gap on her.  So I pushed it a little harder than I normally would like, this early in a race.

As it turned out, she hung with me easily, and then dropped me when the incline changed, demonstrating that she had indeed been biding her time.  Oh well.  It was worth a shot.

For my own part, I spent the rest of the race coping with the oxygen debt I had given myself early on.  It wasn't the most enjoyable two miles I've ever run, but that's racing.  Finally I was on the homestretch, and looking desperately for the finish line.  I knew it was there, somewhere, ahead, but I couldn't see it in the dark.  No arch, no bright lights.

Then suddenly there was a timing mat and a clock, and I was mercifully done.   I was surprised that the line was so hard to see, and I'm not sure why they didn't make it more visible and obvious.  I like to think I could have kicked a bit if I had seen it earlier.  Of course, I was in a lot of pain by that point, so who knows.

I clicked stop, and checked my Garmin.  26:35, which destroyed my old PR of 27:39.  Of course this new PR is still a slower pace than both my 10 mile and 10K PR paces, and also slower than some of my four mile tempos on the track when I'm in shape.  But I think that this just reflects that I'm pretty early in my training cycle, and also that hilly courses in the dark aren't terribly fast.  And heck, if I can just find another four mile race I can PR again.  (easier said than done.)

Splits were:
Mile 1: 6:35
Miles 2-3: 13:17
Mile 4: 6:42

Other notes:
  • 7th female, and 2nd master.
  • Weather was absolutely perfect for this - low 50s.  And obviously no sun.
  • Racing in the dark was interesting - I don't think I've actually raced in the dark before (my previous evening races have been in the summer, or on the track).  This course was mostly well lit by street lights, though there were a few portions where it was hard to see the road.   The darkness definitely added some challenge to this race, since it was hard to be certain where you were on the course, and what was coming next.  And as I noted above, the finish line wasn't visible until you were right on top of it.
  • Basically reversed my normal meals, and had dinner for breakfast, and then my pre-running breakfast for dinner, plus a Maple Bacon GU and half of a Salted Watermelon GU.  As I noted above, this didn't work out great..  However, the issue was easily remedied via toilet, so perhaps the real lesson is to allow plenty of porta-pottie time before evening races.
  • I used my Foradil inhaler 90 minutes before, and my rescue inhaler about 5 minutes before.  Despite both of these, my breathing was in pretty bad shape by the end of the race  What's more concerning is that despite all these preventative meds, I had an asthma attack about five minutes after the race ended (shout out to my friend Andrew for keeping an eye on me until the rescue inhaler kicked in).

    Post-race/workout asthma attacks always throw me for loop, just because I'm not expecting them at all.  Because I've already stopped stressing the lungs, y'know?  This was also the strongest attack I've had in a while.  I suspect part of it may be that the freakishly warm weather around here has triggered my allergies, and so I need to shift from the Foradil back to the allergy season asthma meds, which include steroids.  I'll give that a try and also schedule an appointment with the pulmonologist in a few weeks, in case things don't improve. 
  • I wasn't sure how to taper for this evening race.  For morning races, I usually do 6-8 miles two days before a race and 0-4 plus drills+strides the day before.  This time, my coach didn't want me to skip Tuesday's hill workout, so I did that (making sure not to crush it), and then did 6 miles with drills and strides the day before.  The morning of the race, I just stretched, foam-rolled, and did some easy glute activation exercises.  And used my normal running time to browse kitchen appliances at Home Depot.
  • Left my house at 4:30 pm for this race, which was too late.  Need to leave by 4:15 at the latest.
  • I really need to run another four miler.