Sunday, April 24, 2016

Training log - week ending 4/24/2016

This week was 51 miles of running, 7 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Well, this week was full of ups and downs.  I swapped my asthma long-acting medication this week with mixed results - a great workout on Tuesday, but a lousy race on Saturday.

I should give some background here first.


Asthma 101 is that there are short-acting drugs (albuterol inhalers - aka rescues) and then longer acting drugs.  You first try to treat exercise-induced asthma with a rescue inhaler, puffing it as needed, or right before a workout.  If one starts using the rescue a lot, then one's asthma "is not well-controlled."

The next step is to try a longer acting drug.  The longer acting inhaled drugs come in two categories - a "LABA", which relaxes bronchial muscles that are spasming, or a LABA plus a corticosteroid that should reduce lung inflammation.  [there's also other drugs that are taken orally].


In the past I've used either Dulera or Foradil for my longer acting inhaler.  Foradil, which is just a LABA, seems to work very well on non-pollen days, but doesn't cut it when my allergies are flaring. Dulera, which contains roughly half the amount of the LABA in Foradil but adds a corticosteroid, seems to handle allergy-influenced asthma better -probably by reducing the inflammation of my lungs resulting from allergies.

However, there are a few downsides to the Dulera.  Some of these are common to all inhaled corticosteroids - risk of an oral thrush infection if you don't rinse your mouth after inhaling, slight suppression of the immune system, and potentially reduced bone density.  The bone density issue is particularly worrisome to me because of my past history of osteoporosis.

For these reasons, I've generally tried to limit my use of Dulera - only in allergy season, and only for races (and a workout every once in a while to make sure I still tolerate it).  For any other hard runs, I use Foradil.  However, Foradil has now been discontinued.  So I'm going to have to use something with a corticosteroid regularly (or go without, but that's not really an option at this point).

Dulera has an additional side effect specific to it - it makes me very tense and tight and anxious.  I get irritable and snap at people (and then feel horrid afterwards).  I often get a mild panic attack about 90 seconds after inhaling (nothing too crazy - just a very strong urge to crawl back into bed under the covers - it takes a bit of willpower to walk out the front door instead).

Because of that last side effect, plus the fact that I felt like the Dulera wasn't working as well as it could for my spring allergy-provoked asthma, I tried Symbicort instead.  Symbicort is also a combo drug - the same LABA that Foradil and Dulera have, but a different corticosteroid.  The hope was that Symbicort would 1) work better for the spring allergy-related asthma than Dulera did, and 2) would avoid the tenseness side effect, which I feel works against me in races and workouts.


I tried the Symbicort on last Sunday's long run, and then on Tuesday, for an interval workout.  Both runs went well.  Heck, I ran my first 80 second 400 in a long time.  The only negative that I noted was that I felt mentally sluggish and more mellow on it - swapping out my type A personality for a type B.  And honestly, that wasn't all negative - being less type A is a good thing for me.

So I tried the Symbicort in Saturday's race, as a test before using it for Broad Street (race effort challenges my breathing much more than short intervals or progression runs).  And that didn't go well at all.  It might be that Symbicort is not the right drug for me after all.  Or alternately that I just didn't get a good puff on Saturday.  Or that I would have had a bad day no matter what I puffed.

I'm probably going to try the Symbicort once more in a race I don't care too much about before giving up on it altogether.  But for Broad Street I need to go with the drug I know.

I'm also going to start using the Dulera for all of my hard workouts, rather than saving it for races and using the Foradil for workouts.  I honestly don't have a choice here, once I'm done with my last pack of Foradil.  But additionally, I also think I've been shooting myself in the foot by trying to run most of my allergy season workouts with reduced lung function - it just makes it harder for me to recover from workouts, encouraging a plateau.


On that same note, I'm also going to be slowing my workout paces down, and dropping back a workout group.  I think I'm in much better shape than my recent race times suggest.  Which also means that I haven't run a race recently that comes close to equating with my workout paces.  Which is a red flag, regardless of the excuses one may have for each race, indicating that one needs to slow down (plus it's always better to work out too slow than too fast).

My coach also noted that I really need to be careful not to push my workouts too hard (and also to feel free to skip one now and then).  I'm in my 40s and I don't recover as fast as my younger teammates, so I need to shift things a bit to be sure to hit the right balance.   I noted that I was worried about losing my leg speed if I did the intervals too slow - I'm slowtwitch and a shuffler by nature.  He noted that I could always just crank down the pace for the last 1-2 reps, while keeping the others much more controlled.  So that's the plan for the next few weeks of workouts.

(and yes, you've read some version of the above paragraph in the past on this blog - about once every 6 months or so...  I remember, and then I forget and need to be's the cycle of running life)


Monday:   Yoga and 7 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolled in the evening.

Tuesday: 11.5 miles, including a track workout of 2x400, 4x800, 2x200 - split  88, 88, 3:00, 2:58, 2:56, 2:54, 85, 80.   Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 2.5 miles very easy to weights (9:14), followed by some upper body work and core.  Later did 9 miles very easy (9:01) plus drills and 4 hill sprints. Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   6 miles, mostly easy, but with a downhill 800 at 5K effort (3:08).  Foam rolling at night. 

Friday:  4 miles very easy (9:03) plus drills and hill sprints.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  4 mile warm-up, 5K race in 21:04, and ~mile cooldown.

Sunday:  10 miles very easy (8:49)  Followed with some injury prevention work and 2000 yards swimming. Foam rolling on tap for the afternoon. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Race report: Best Kids 5K, April 23, 2016

I ran the Best Kids 5K today, finishing in 21:05.

The splits tell most of the story here:

Mile 1: 6:28
Mile 2: 6:16
Mile 3 (actually .93)- 6:07 which breaks down to 6:38 pace
Last .21 miles in 2:12 (not a typo - 10:27 pace)

I ran this race to test drive a new asthma drug  - Symbicort.   I'd tried it on some easy runs, as well as a workout on Tuesday.  Though I didn't like some aspects of the drug (I feel slightly sedated on it - just kinda bleh), I had a great workout on Tuesday with it, and so I decided to test drive it in today's race.  If today went well, I'd use it in next week's Broad Street 10 Miler.  (I've used two other drugs in the past, but each has its own drawbacks.)

The forecast for this race when I signed up was for light rain, and I had actually been hoping for such - the rain does a great job of tamping down the pollen.  But no such luck - the rain that had been forecast for overnight hadn't arrived yet.  This also meant that the air was pretty sticky, and warmer than I had expected (temps in the mid-60s, with matching dew point).  These are the weather conditions that challenge my breathing, which made it a perfect test drive for the Symbicort.  I didn't feel great during my warm-up, but I've learned that there's really no correlation between how I feel when warming up and when racing.

After my normal warm-up, we lined up and were off.  This was a pretty small race, so I was in the lead pack almost immediately.  This pack included my friend Vanessa, my friend and teammate Patrick, and another guy (wearing a cape - superhero costumes were big here).  Plus another guy slightly ahead.

The race had us starting on the east side of Hains Point, running to the south, and then coming around the turn to run north on the western side.  The turn cone/halfway point was just shy of Buckeye Drive - from there we reversed the course.  The wind was from the north, and was noticeable - thus we had a decent headwind as we ran up the west side.  I hung with the pack, trying to bide my time and use them as a slight wind block.  I was slightly uncomfortable, and had to really focus to keep my breathing rhythmical, but stuck with the pace because I'd rather not be fighting the wind myself. Additionally, I had felt on Tuesday that the Symbicort was changing my perception of effort - if I just hung on or pushed when I felt uncomfortable, I was actually fine.

When we came around the turn to head back home (and gained a tailwind), I started to open up my stride.  The wind was now at my back, and though I was still uncomfortable, I felt in control.  This was a 5K, after all, not a tempo workout.  I built up some speed and pulled ahead of Vanessa, while Patrick pulled ahead of me.  In retrospect, I pushed too hard here.

Somewhere after the 2 mile mark, my breathing started to get short and my field of vision a bit narrower.  I know how to deal with this. Heck, I've dealt with tough breathing issues in several workouts recently because of the high pollen count, which has given me a lot of good practice at working through it.   It's simple (but hard) - relax the shoulders, make sure to exhale out all the CO2, slow up on the pace, let the others go ahead, and re-establish a solid breathing pattern.   If I do that, I can usually nurse myself through to the end of the workout or race.

However, playing against that was the fact that I was in a race, and leading the race.  I think if I had just adopted a workout mentality, and backed off the pace to a point where I could reestablish my breathing, things would have turned out better.   But I was leading, and close to the finish, and slowing down to feel more in control was the last thing I wanted to do.  So I tried to just dig in and hold my pace, until I was gasping and HAD to stop.  You can't run when you aren't getting air in (as much as I'd like to pretend otherwise).   And so my running fell apart. And I was pissed.  Vanessa passed me on the way to her well deserved win as I shuffled in.  I really did try to do more than shuffle - if only to ensure the time wasn't too embarrassing - but the shuffle was all I could muster.

My friend Dan told me a long time ago to "always try to leave something in the tank" when I raced - it sounds counterintuitive, but it's been fantastic advice for me.  I didn't do that here.


Of course I now have Broad Street in 7 days (hopefully I'll stop coughing before then...).  The good news is that some of my best races have been preceded by lousy ones.  The bad news is that I don't feel like I have my allergy/asthma issues under control.  At this point, I'm thinking I'll end up going back to Dulera, rather than Symbicort, for Broad Street.  The Dulera hasn't been doing a perfect job for me this spring, but given today's result, I think it's the wiser choice.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Training log - week ending 4/17/16

This week was 65 miles of running, 6 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Allergies continued to annoy me this week.  Tuesday's workout was in light rain, which tamped down the pollen.  I myself again.  It was nice to have the reassurance that I'm not out of shape or struggling or over-trained (which is exactly how I feel on the deadlegged exhausting high pollen days).

Friday's tempo was another story - just a lousy day for breathing.  5 kilometers of tempo felt like 10. On days like that, I've learned just to focus on the proper effort level - tough days are also a good chance to practice staying relaxed when experiencing a rough patch.  But that doesn't mean I enjoy them, or wish to experience them often

Friday morning's workout was followed by a visit to the allergist.  It's been a few years since I was last in, and I was hopeful that perhaps there had been some major breakthrough in allergy medicine recently.

No such luck.  But the appointment was still full of good takeaways that may be of use to others:
  • Apparently the bipolar weather that the east coast has had this spring (up into the 70s, and then down into the 20s) is very bad for allergies.  The back and forth puts additional strain on one's immune system, resulting in a stronger overreaction to allergens.
  • I've had hopes that we're at the worst of spring allergy season now, and things would get better soon.  No such luck - my doctor expects a prolonged allergy season, and expects things to get worse before they get better.
  • My allergies this spring have generally been dry sinuses and fatigue, rather than congestion.  In those cases, he recommends a sinus spray with xylitol in it, rather than Flonase or similar, which just dry one's sinuses out and worsen the issue.  Another recommendation is to turn off the overhead fan in the bedroom, or at least reverse it so that it doesn't blow air directly down on me.
  • When allergies result in dry sinuses, the cause can be a mild chronic staph bacterial sinus infection.  The staph lies dormant, and then revitalizes when one inhales pollen.  He didn't see any indications of a sinus infection when he examined me, but gave me a prescription for antibiotics anyway, in case I wanted to try them.
  • As I noted last week, I've cut out eggs, apples, and some other stuff, since they are supposedly concomitant with spring oak tree pollen.  He recommended that I continue to do so.  Since I'm sensitive to mold, I should also avoid aged cheeses and wine.  When I told him that I never touched either, since both were very bad migraine triggers for me, he responded "well that makes perfect sense now, doesn't it..."
  • I've been taking Claritin in the morning, pre-run.  He nixed this - all antihistamines need 6-8 hours to take full effect, meaning that they should be taken the night before.  He recommended Allegra 24 hour, taken at bedtime.  He also recommended the heartburn OTC medication Zantac, at twice the OTC dosage.  Zantac is also an antihistamine, targeting a different type of histamines from the OTC antihistamines.  The best option in my case would be to combine the Zantac and Allegra with a daily dose of Prednisone.  But that's not an acceptable option.  So we're sticking with Allegra/Zantac plus my normal asthma meds.
  • About five years ago, I had done the "skin prick" test for allergies, at a different doctor's office. This is a test where they prick you with 30 different things, then watch you for an hour or two to see if you react.  I had virtually no reactions (just a very small one to mold), which was surprising.  And frustrating, since it meant I couldn't get allergy shots.  When I discussed this with him on Friday, he noted that the test is only for the 30 most common allergens - there can be many more out there.
    Additionally, there are many variants of mold, each with their own allergic profile, and people can respond more to some than to others.  Some molds correspond closely with the pollen habits of some trees.  As a result, if one experiences bad allergies when a birch tree is blooming, but doesn't test positive for a birch pollen allergy, it may be that one is actually allergic to a mold that thrives on birch pollen, rather than the pollen itself.
  • We're going to repeat my skin prick testing this summer.  Last time I did it, I only skipped antihistamines for one day, which could also explain my lack of reaction to the test.  This time, I'm supposed to stay off of them for 7-10 days.  For that reason, we're not doing the test until late June, after I've run Grandma's half.  At that point, I'll be taking some downtime anyway, and it will also be the perfect time to take an extended break from all allergy and asthma meds. It's too late for allergy shots to help my spring season anyway, so no reason to rush the testing.
So... we'll try the Allegra/Zantac combo, and see how that works.  I'm also swapping my pre-workout asthma med from Foradil to Symbicort (yes, both are totally legal in the dosages I take them at), since Symbicort is a better choice for allergy-influenced asthma.  I'm not a fan of the Symbicort, since I find it makes me feel a bit dull, for lack of a better description.  But my breathing was certainly better on Sunday than it was on Friday.

/info dump fin.   Good luck to everyone marathoning tomorrow (I've got about 30 friends running it, it seems).


Monday:   Yoga and 6 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolled in the evening.

Tuesday: 10.5 miles, including a track workout of 2x800, 1600, 2x800 - split  3:02, 2:58, 6:09, 2:55, 2:53.   Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 3.5 miles very easy to yoga (9:32), followed by yoga.  Later did 8 miles very easy (8:52) plus drills and 4 hill sprints. Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   5 miles easy (9:06 pace) to weights, and then upper body weights and core.  Followed with 2.5 miles easy (8:53) plus drills and two strides.  Foam rolling at night.  

Friday:  10.5 miles, including a 5K tempo on the track in 20:23 (split 6:33, 6:35, 6:30, 45 seconds).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  11 miles easy (8:19) followed by drills and two strides, and then upper body and core strengthwork.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday:  14 miles progressive, split as first 1.5 miles at 9:27 pace, next 3.5 at 8:28, next 4 at 7:46, last 5 at 6:59.  Followed with yoga.  1000 yards recovery swimming and foam rolling on tap for the afternoon. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Training log - Week ending 4/10/16

This week was 57 miles of running, 7 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

The first part of this week was dedicated to recovery from Cherry Blossom and tapering for the Monument Avenue 10K, which I was planning to race this past Saturday.  However, on Thursday morning I checked the forecast, and noted that the rain I had been counting on for Saturday morning likely wasn't going to happen.  And the pollen forecast for Saturday morning in Richmond was looking very high as a result.

At that point, I decided to pull the plug on Monument Avenue.  It's sad, because I love that race.  But there was a long list of solid reasons to skip it anyway - I'm borderline over-racing, I'm not in PR shape, and Richmond is over 2 hours away.    Add in the pollen forecast, and it made DNSing a relatively easy call.

I am pretty frustrated that my allergies are starting to drive my spring racing decisions.  It's one thing to have ONE period of about 6 weeks in the fall when I know my running will be sub-par, and to plan around it.  It's another thing to have a similar period in the spring.

I've scheduled an appointment with my allergist for this Friday, to see if we can redo some allergy testing, and possibly start allergy shots, based on the results.  (we'd have to do them for the fall - it's too late for this spring).   I was last tested for allergies 5 years ago - at that point I was one of those unfortunate people who clearly had seasonal allergies, but didn't respond to the skin prick test.  Since the skin prick test was clear, I couldn't get shots (since the results of the skin prick test determine the components of the allergy shots.  But maybe things have changed.

In the meantime, I'm going to extreme measures.  I reviewed a list of "concomitant foods" that my allergist gave me a few years ago.  These are foods that supposedly have something in common with the specified allergy, and so can make one's allergy symptoms worst when consumed at the wrong time of year.  Oak pollen is the dominant pollen in the DC area in the spring.  And...what foods are concomitant with oak?  Chestnut, apple, and eggs.  I snack on chestnuts and apples occasionally; eggs are a staple of my daily diet.

Uh oh.

After reading that, I decided that, as much as it would suck, I'd have to try cutting eggs out for a few days, to see if that eased stuff any.

Eggs are honestly pretty hard to eliminate.  I need to eat a fair amount of protein and fat in order to feel good - a high carb diet (even when it's almost exclusively complex carbs, or something like UCAN) leaves me shaky and sluggish if not combined with protein and fat.

Eggs are really the perfect food for me.  They have the right balance of protein and fat, and are a complete protein to boot.  Plus they're easily portable.  Usually I have at least one egg plus some additional egg whites as part of my pre-run breakfast, and another hard-boiled egg post workout. Plus the occasional omelet for dinner.  And now I'm trying to cut that out, while still getting enough protein and fat in.

For post-run recovery, I can simply eat a bison bar.  Expensive, but easy.   It's my pre-run breakfast that is tricky.  Nuts would be one obvious candidate, but those are migraine triggers for me.  As are peanut butter, soy, tofu, and whey protein.  And my lactose intolerance knocks out milk/yogurt/etc (not that those would be good pre-run choices anyway).

Basically, it's dietary princess and the pea syndrome.  Except that pea protein irritates my stomach massively.

(And yes, this is ridiculous, bordering on diva-esque.  There are times when I've debated getting a tiara tattooed on my stomach.)

Fortunately for both myself and WFM shareholders, there is no shortage of pricey powders at the local Whole Foods.  I've invested in a tub of "rice protein" and a tub of "hemp protein."   The rice stuff is low fat and an incomplete protein (missing lysine); the hemp stuff has fat (good) but is also incomplete (missing lysine and leucine).

But I figure I can worry about complete proteins the rest of the day; for pre-run, I just need something that sits well and doesn't leave me feeling shaky.  And isn't eggs.  And the rice and hemp powders seem to be doing the trick, albeit expensively.

As for whether cutting out eggs helps?  I felt a bit better this weekend, but that could also be attributed to slightly lower pollen. I'm going to give it a few more days, and see how things progress.


Monday:   Yoga and 7 "miles" easy pool-running; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday:  7 miles very easy (9:29).  Sports massage in afternoon.

Wednesday: 4.5 miles easy (9:20 pace) to the gym.  Did upper body weights, and then jogged a mile to the track for drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   9.5 miles very easy (9:00) followed by drills and 4 hill sprints.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  10 miles, including a long intervals workout of 3200, 1600 in 12:43 (6:24/6:19) and 6:11.  Followed with injury prevention work and leg strength in the gym, plus 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  11.5 miles very easy in 8:36, drills and strides after.  Followed with some upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday:  14.5 miles progressive, split as first 2.5 at 8:56, next 4.5 at 8:25, next 2 at 7:56; last 5.5 at 7:03.  Followed with yoga.  1000 yards recovery swimming and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The right and the wrong of it.

I feel like morality comes in 52 flavors these days.

Nearly everyone (except Kip Litton, Mike Rossi, Julie Miller, and a few others) agrees that course cutting is wrong, whether one is an elite or back of the pack (though Jean's Marines would disagree with that last point).  But there seems to be a sliding scale in other places.

It's generally agreed to be BAD for an elite athlete to be taking EPO or meldonium (both banned). But arguably OK for an runner to take DHEA, or testosterone, or human growth hormone, or hormone replacement therapy, or any other banned substance prescribed to combat "low T" or hot flashes or menopause or inflammation or fatigue or osteoporosis or lack of sex drive or just-not-feeling-like-a-20-year-old-anymore.

After all, those medications just return us to a normal place, right?  If asthma and thyroid medications are allowed, then these drugs, which are also prescribed to make someone "normal" again should be fine too, right?  Especially for slower people.  Or older people.   It's not like we're elites?  And it's not like these medications make us superhuman?  And it's really unfair to expect someone to have to choose between treating her osteoporosis and competing, right?  There's gotta be a line somewhere.

It's generally agreed to be BAD for someone to give their bib to someone else to run Boston.  But somehow OK to sell a bib for another race that prohibits transfers.  And if you're worried about the results being screwed up, just remove the chip from the bib right?  Or give it to someone who is very slow.  That should be fine, right?   If you didn't have to qualify for the race, and if you're not affecting the results, then what's the big deal?  There's got to be a line somewhere.

So, in each of these cases, where should the runner draw "the line"?

Easy.  It is not our place as competitors to draw the line.  The line is drawn by others.  By the person who lays out the course.  By the race management, which determines when and how bibs can be transferred.  By WADA, which determines what medications are allowed, and which are not.  

The definition of competition is that we measure ourselves against each other on the same field. Under the same rules.  And those rules apply evenly to all, regardless of one's chance of winning the competition.

We're certainly entitled to our opinions on the rules - to think that a course should be routed differently, or that bib transfers should be allowed, or that a small dose of something prescribed by our doctor that makes us feel better and really doesn't help us run faster should be allowed.  But, as runners, it's not our job to decide what rules do or don't apply to us.  It IS our job to know and follow those rules.

  • To run the prescribed course, no matter how long it takes us.  No matter how much we want to impress our friends.
  • To know that it's not OK to let someone else run unofficially with your bib, even if it won't affect any awards, or even show in the results.  
  • To look up any medication that you are prescribed, to see whether it's permitted, and to refuse to race while on it if it is banned.  Even if you don't consider yourself "fast."  Even if it was prescribed for a specific medical condition.  Even if it's a very small dose.  Even if it just helps you feel like "your old self" again.
As runners of all levels, we contribute to the corruption of our sport if we refuse to adhere to the rules that we expect the elites to follow.  Ethics shouldn't be top heavy.  Or hinge on whether a win is at stake. 

It's our job to compete.  And that should be enough.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Training log - Week ending 4/3/16

This week was 44 miles of running, 6 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming  -- training log is here.

This week was most notable for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, which I will hereinafter refer to as the Cherry Blast.    That's already been discussed in the separate race report, so I don't need to dedicate pixels here.

Other than the race, the week was pretty low key.  Since I'm out of shape and have been low mileage for the past several weeks, my taper looked slightly different than normal.  Tuesday-Thursday were normal mileage (though what is currently "normal" for me is equivalent to what "taper" used to be), and then I did a sharp cut-off on Friday and Saturday.

My allergies were also notable this week.  I didn't feel great on Tuesday - not horrible, but not stellar. Part of that could be that I'm just getting back into shape, but part of it also had to be the pollen count, which was very high.  Though I don't generally run very well on antihistamines, I decided to try some Claritin during my pre-race "mile pick-up" on Friday.  That run went very well, and I gave credit to the Claritin.  However, the meh feeling returned for Sunday's run.  Looking at the chart below, I think the relatively low pollen count on Friday was why I felt so much more energetic on that day, as compared to Tuesday or Sunday.

I am annoyed, though.  Historically my spring allergies have involved congestion, watery eyes, and sneezing, but I can actually run fairly well through them. It's the fall allergies that clog my fuel injector.  But this spring it's the reverse.  Maybe I'll get lucky and fall allergies won't be as bad?

In the meantime, I'll stay on the Claritin - it does seem to help a bit, in that I felt slightly better on Sunday, as compared to Tuesday.  Depending on my recovery from Cherry Blast, I may (which means probably) race Monument Avenue 10K this coming Saturday.  I'm a bit wistful, as I had registered for both Monument Avenue and Cherry Blossom as PR attempts, rather than racing-myself-into-shape runs.  But so it goes.  And at least the 7 day forecast predicts lower pollen this coming weekend (as well as less wind).


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

Tuesday:  10.5 miles, including a workout of 2x1600, 2x800 (6:17, 6:13, 3:02, 3:00, followed by  1000 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Wednesday: 6 miles very easy (9:05 pace) followed by drills, two hill sprints, and a yoga class.   Sports massage in afternoon.

Thursday:   8 miles easy (8:50) followed by drills and two strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday:  4.5 miles, including a "mile pick-up" in 6:14.    Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  Off - nothing but foam rolling.

Sunday:  14 miles, including a ~3 mile warm-up, a 10 mile race in 68:32, and a mile-ish cooldown.  1000 yards of recovery swimming and foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Race report: Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, April 3, 2016

I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler today, finishing in a time of 68:32.

Getting to race morning wasn't without incident.  There was a glitch apparently in my registration, and I wasn't issued a bib number at first (I'm still not quite sure what happened).  Fortunately Cherry Blossom, being a very well managed race, had a great team at the solutions desk that fixed the issue.

The race day forecast wasn't looking great, though.

Heh - the instructions to runners remind me of how
the local club DJs used to close things down at the end of the night:
"you don't have to go home, but you CAN'T STAY HERE."
The clothing debate was real.  In an online discussion, when I wondered what I should wear, my coach advised trying a parasail.  Which had some appeal, but would only probably help about half the time.  I decided to postpone the decision until morning.


Around 10 pm Saturday night, the winds kicked in, and they were impressive.  I was awakened by a loud shearing noise that ended up being a downspout extension shfted by the wind.  And trees were swaying madly.

When morning came, I dressed in shorts and singlet, did my normal pre-race breakfast/stretching, and then left the house a bit earlier than normal.  I had packed my tights and longsleeve with me - based on how I felt on the way to the race, I'd preserve the option of switching.

Heavily encumbered with everything I *might* possibly need I stepped outside.  And our cat, Izzy, took this opportunity to escape as well.  She wears a collar with a bell on it to prevent this, but she's pretty smart, and has gotten better at figuring out how to move silently with the bell.

Lovely, huh?
This was the absolute last thing I wanted to deal with on race morning, but I didn't have a choice.  Cat  trumps running.  So I spent the next five minutes wrangling Izzy through thorny bushes. This resulted in Barkley Marathon-esque legs for me, but no cat.

Finally, even though she had just had breakfast, I grabbed another can of cat food and opened it up outside, and then placed her bowl just inside the house, propping the door open.  That did the job, freeing me to leave.

(and yes, Brian slept through the whole thing)


Izzy's face when I lectured her later.
When I got to the race, I jogged around some in my singlet and shorts, with my heavy throwaways on top.  I felt absolutely comfortable jogging in a heavy sweatshirt and pants, which led me to conclude that singlet and shorts might be too little.  It's a hard choice - on the one hand, I hate overheating, and I also find that tights and a longsleeve take me out of my racing mindset, if that makes sense.  On the other hand, the heavy gusting winds were resulting in a wind chill in the 20s, and I've also noticed in the past year that I no longer handle being cold as well as I previously did.

Finally, I went with tights and longsleeve.  I pinned my bib to my tights, and wore my singlet under the longsleeve.  That way, if I really overheated, I could just take off my longsleeve and toss it to a friend or tie around my waist.


I did my normal warm-up (3 miles, including a bit of uptempo running) and then loaded into my corral.  Due to the high winds, nearly all of the signs had been taken down, and so I misjudged the corrals and seeded myself far back from where I should have been.  I always like to seed myself back a bit (unless gun time is important) since I like to go out slow.  But this was too far back.

As it turned out, though, it was a blessing in disguise.  I really believe that, in large races like this, the further back you are, pace-wise, the more protected you are from the wind and the less it affects you. The first mile was into the wind, but being seeded so far back meant that I could hopscotch from runner to runner, and the wind was nearly a non-issue.  Actually I ran much of the race like that - finding a windblock whenever the wind hit hard, and then moving off to my own when we had a tailwind.


Due to the winds, the race had no mile markers.  Fortunately, since I run with my watchface blanked and ignore mile splits, this wasn't an issue.  I could see how it could be disconcerting for others, though.    I just tried to run my normal race, with a steadily building effort, knowing that the conditions would make some miles faster, and some slower.

Around the halfway point, I did start feeling a bit warmer than I would like.  I wasn't so uncomfortable that it was necessary to take the longsleeve off, though.  And in retrospect, I'm not sure that I would have done any better with a singlet and shorts.

After around the 10K mark (I think) we turned onto Hains Point and had a lovely tailwind.  It was tempting to really start driving here, but I decided to save energy for the return trip into the headwind.  This was a good idea, as the headwind was really tough for the last 2 miles.  Normally I close pretty well in ten mile races, but this time there was no real opportunity to do so.  I found myself repeatedly tucking in behind people who felt like they were running a bit slow for me.  But at the same time, if I shifted to the side to pass, I got pounded by the wind and worked harder just to run the same pace.  So I settled in.

Finally, we came to the one hill on course.  I like to attack this hill, and then let the downhill carry me to the finish line.   But this year that hill, and the following downhill, were directly into the wind.  I attacked and went into heavy oxygen debt, but I'm not sure I gained any time doing so, and the downhill to the finish line was survival, rather than a banana slide.

I ended up running 68:32.  3 minutes off of my PR from a few years back, but I'll take it.  That PR was set in perfect weather when I was in really good shape.  Given today's weather, and where I am fitness-wise, this was a decent race.  Plus ten mile races do good things for me, so I should be reaping the benefits from today in about a week.

Splits per my autolapped Garmin were:
Mile 1: 7:00
Mile 2: 6:51
Mile 3: 6:46
Mile 4: 6:32
Mile 5: 6:45
Mile 6: 6:49
Mile 7: 6:47
Mile 8: 6:39
Mile 9: 6:56
Mile 10: 7:00
extra .09 - 0:29 seconds

The Garmin measured long of course - part because the signal gets screwed up under the Kennedy center (I don't think I ran the fourth mile in 6:32 today) and part because there was a lot of moving around to find windcover.

My official splits from the website:
5 mile: 34:17
10K: 42:38
9 mile: 1:01:39
last mile: 6:53

Other points:

  • Official weather report from Weather Underground: temp 36, DP 17.  I heard the wind reported as sustained 15-20 with gusts to 40-50.
  • The pollen count was ridiculously high today - 10.7.  I took a low dose of Claritin, which helped some, but the pollen was still a factor.  I didn't feel terribly sharp this morning. As for my breathing, it was OK but never great, and it was pretty hard to catch my breath post-race.  (Used Dulera pre-race and albuterol rescue inhaler right before race).
  • I decided to break my own rule and not carry a water bottle - in this type of wind, it was just one more thing to catch the wind.  Plus it was so cool and dry that a water bottle wasn't essential.
  • Took half of a strawberry kiwi rocktane halfway through.  One Caramel Machiatto GU pre-race (yum)
  • Last night's wind storms resulted in tree branches strewn at various places along the race course that had to be dodged (or tripped over - did that too) - an unusual risk for a major road race.
  • The race management and volunteers should get a big thumbs up for working very hard in difficult conditions.
  • Got to meet up with some friends from the Runners World Online Forum post-race for breakfast.  Scrambled eggs, bacon, and potatoes were just perfect post race.