Sunday, June 26, 2016

Training log - Week ending 6/26/16

This week was 16 miles of running, 27 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was a recovery week, and I really needed it.  I was really beaten up after my half-marathon last weekend - I suspect that's due to the rough conditions. Additionally, since I've got a marathon in four months, I really need to reset myself now, so that I don't end up fried come fall.

For the first several days, I kept things in the pool - I've found that gentle water exercise (pool-running or swimming) works better for my recovery than either short easy runs or full rest.  Towards the end of the week, I switched to land running again, but kept stuff pretty slow, with the duration of the run roughly matching that of my pool-runs earlier in the week.

On Saturday, I went to a not-so-close amusement park (Kings Dominion - about 80 miles away) to meet up with a group of friends from my old night clubbing days.  I haven't been on a roller coaster in many years, and it was neat to remember just how much I loved them.  I got to ride the Intimidator 305 - categorized as a "giga-coaster" due to its height of over 300 feet - and also relived my teenage years by riding the Rebel Yell and the Grizzly.  We used Anaconda as an appetizer and Avalanche as a palate cleanser, with a moment of silence for the dearly departed Shockwave.   I wore my Garmin with heart rate monitor for each, and the Garmin records for each are linked below (under Saturday) in case anyone is curious.

Sadly, no Woodstock Express (formerly known as the Scooby Doo)  - I would have had to pay a special entry for that.  And the lines for Dominator and Volcano were simply too long.  But it was a good day, and I honestly think that six rides (I rode the Grizzly twice) was probably about my limit.  I don't remember feeling that achy and sore after rollercoasters before.  I like to think it's because I'm no longer jumping horses, so I'm no longer used to bumpy rides and sudden moves in random directions.   It's probably also that I'm a bit older than the last time I made it down to Kings Dominion....

I had planned to run on Sunday, but was tired and my back ached when I woke, so I decided to skip running in favor of some relaxed swimming.  That's the whole point of a recovery week - you don't run unless you want to and it feels good.


Monday:   6 "miles" easy pool-running with belt.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Tuesday: Yoga and 6 "miles" easy pool-running. Massage at night.

Wednesday: Upper body weights and 7 "miles" easy pool-running plus foam rolling.

Thursday:   Yoga and 8 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling in the evening.
Friday:  8.5 very easy (9:41) plus upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling at night

Saturday:  7.5 miles easy (9:30).  Also rode the Anaconda, the Intimidator 305, the Avalanche, the Rebel Yell, and the Grizzly.   Foam rolling at night.

Sunday:  2000 yards easy swimming.  Foam rolling at night. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Training log - week ending 6/19/16

This week was 38 miles of running, 8 "miles" of pool-running and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I'm admittedly a bit behind this week - my work snowballed last week while I was out, and so I've been playing catch-up with real life.  Which relegates the blog to a lower priority.  Which is fine, since the race reports are probably more interesting than the weekly reports anyway.

Last week was a taper week.  I was actually really really happy with how my legs felt on Saturday, so making note of that for the future.  This time, for my pre-race massage, we tried something different.  We didn't touch the legs at all, but instead focused on my shoulders, back, and hip flexors - all of which tend to get tight and interfere with my ease of motion when running.  I think this worked really well - I felt relaxed and loose at the start, AND my legs felt snappy.   So we'll be repeating that in the future.

The Garry Bjorklund Half was my goal race, and I was estatic about every aspect of my race except the time.  Which seems like an odd thing to say, since running is about time.   But I showed up at the race well rested and in good fitness, and I ran the best race I had in me, given the challenging conditions.  There's satisfaction in that.

I was also pretty happy with my placement - the race paid very good money for Masters ($1000/$500/$250 to the top three), and so brought out some strong competition.  I finished sixth overall masters and fourth in my age group, and was the top masters female that wasn't also an elite with a fancy two digit bib. #proudtorepresentthefivedigitbibcrew.

The time was a bummer, since this was my goal race, and I don't have a fast time to show for it.   But....such is running.  And every time I start feeling a bit sorry for myself, I think of the guy that we saw having a seizure in the finishers' area - presumably due to the conditions.  It really puts things in perspective.  I ran the best I could, I left it all out there, and I finished safely and in good health, as did my friends.   And it was a great weekend overall - hanging out with my teammates post-race was really fun.

I don't think I mentioned this in my race report, so I wanted to be sure to note it here - the race management was phenomenal.  Race conditions like this could have been a disaster, as they have been at other races.  But Grandma's was well prepared.  There were sprinklers spraying onto the course throughout, cold sponges being handed out all over the place, and tons of excellent volunteers at the water stops (which were every mile for the last half of my race).  The finish area was very well staffed with medical personnel and a slew of wheelchairs at the ready.

I can't wait to do this race again next year.

The next few weeks are going to be pretty light for me.  I was REALLY beaten up after the race - the heat and humidity took its toll.  I'm four months out from the Chicago Marathon, and my coach's standard 14 week training plan, plus two inserted weeks for tune-up races, means that I "should" have started training for it this week.... But I think the best thing I can do right now is take some solid downtime and recover.  I'm fit, and a few weeks off won't take away from that, and will also pay off later in the fall.

I've been hitting the gluten-free Oreos pretty hard the last few days (earning me a side-eye from Brian....), and have limited my exercise to some conversational pool-running and gentle yoga.  I'll stick with that plan through Friday, and then start up again with some easy running for another week or so, before upping the intensity and cutting the cookies.


Monday:   Yoga and 5.5 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Tuesday: 8.5 miles, including a track workout of 1600, 4x800 - splits were 6:14, 3:07, 3:05, 3:03, 2:56.   Followed with 1000 yards recovery swimming. Massage at night.

Wednesday: 6.5 miles very easy (9:16) plus foam rolling.

Thursday:   7 miles very easy (8:58) plus drills and two hill sprints, and then traveled to Duluth.
Friday:  Nothing except foam rolling and stretching.

Saturday:  2.5 miles warm-up, and then 13.1 mile race in 1:32:10.

Sunday:  Traveled from Duluth back to DC.  Later did 2.5 "miles" of very easy pool-running, 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Race report: Gary Bjorklund Half-Marathon, June 18, 2016

I ran the Gary Bjorklund Half-Marathon (more often known as Grandma's Half-marathon) yesterday, finishing in a time of 1:32:10. It's pretty far from the time I had hoped to run, but I'm still pretty proud of the race - the weather simply wasn't my ally this weekend.

 For most of the week prior to the forecast, the weather predictions had been conflicting. Some forecasts were dire, but Weather Underground looked decent - temps starting in the low 50s, and rising to around 60 by the end. Not optimal, but not horrible. Weather Underground has never lied to me before (foreshadowing....), so I went with them. I wasn’t too worried when I left DC on Thursday.

 Last year, when I traveled to Grandma's, I flew directly into Duluth, connecting through Chicago. That trip was somewhat stressful, due to a missed connection in Chicago. So this year I played it safe and fly directly into Minneapolis, and then drive up to Duluth. I dislike long drives, but I also dislike having to make connections, as well as regional airlines.

 Of course, flying to Minneapolis didn't absolve me of headaches entirely. I hit the Avis counter at exactly the wrong time, and it took well over an hour to actually rent a car. Add that to the 2 hour flight and the 2.5 hour drive, and I was very grateful that I had chosen to travel two days before the race – I was tired when I arrived in my dorm room. (I note this because I sometimes get tempted to save money and vacation days by traveling the day before a race. Nope.)

 The drive itself to Duluth was…a drive. If it had been 90 minutes or less, I would have classified it scenic. But the extra hour on the road transformed “scenic” to “tedious.”

Kinda like this.
In light of the long drive, I had splurged on Sirius radio. The radio interface was fairly difficult to understand, and for the first half of the drive, it looked like my choices were limited to “80s on 8,” “Classic Vinyl,” gospel, and country. In desperation I starting hitting buttons all over the place, eventually fumbling my way to “BPM.” Once I locked on that station, the trip was much more fun.


 Saturday was pretty chill - I hit the expo quickly, marveling at all the people that would experiment with different dietary products and pain relief products the day before their race. The forecast was looking worse by the hour, but still not horrible. And I was running it regardless, so all I could do was hydrate up and rest.

 Even with the forecasts, I was still optimistic when I woke at 3:45 am on race morning. When I last checked my computer before heading out the door, it was 60 degrees, but I reasoned that it’d likely be slightly cooler right by the lake. Plus I’m from DC, and I’ve trained in worse than what was forecast. And I seem to be handling humidity a lot better than I used to, with the recent change in asthma med regime.

 I boarded a bus that left at 4:50 am for the half-marathon start – unfortunately the bus didn’t get there until 5:25, cutting into my meticulously calculated bag check/pee/poop/warm-up routine. Fortunately, my legs felt ridiculously good when I warmed up. Like little rockets. I usually do three miles to warm-up, but I felt good to go with two, so I just called it there and entered my corral. A plethora of portapotties also saved time.

 The weather had been slightly warm and humid as I warmed up, but still felt OK. However, the temperature started to rise dramatically in the last 10 minutes as we stood in the corral. By the time the race kicked off it felt to me like it was about 65 degrees, with matching dewpoint. And my gut told me it would get worse. It reminded me of the start of some of our recent workouts, with my coach cautioning us that the heat and humidity would catch up to us quickly (I could almost hear him). Not what I had hoped for.

 But…I’m from DC, and I know how to race in this weather. There’s three core principles. A) SLOW DOWN. B) DO NOT GET DEHYDRATED. C) GO OUT SLOW. I always pace by perceived effort, rather than a clock, but I suspected that even if I started in my normal, conservative gear, it’d catch up to me. Better to start out REALLY slow – I could always run a very hard negative split on the second half if I had miscalculated.

 So the gun went off, and I jogged, pretending like the first mile was the first (very slow) mile of a marathon. I wanted to keep the first mile effortless. I felt a bit silly, but stuck to my guns. After that, I started to pick it up slightly, but still kept it close to marathon feel. Normally my plan is to pace the first three miles as a “prelude” and then start working. But I had decided that I’d keep it very controlled for the first half, and then re-evaluate. 

By mile 5 or so, I knew I had made the right choice. The air was thick, and the periodic headwind wasn’t as refreshing as I had hoped. Occasionally, we’d get a breeze of cooler and drier air from the lake – I treasured those. But they were not as frequent as I would have liked.

 In the first few miles, I had drained the water bottle that normally lasts me 10 miles. I took a few seconds just before mile marker 6 to refill it to the top. I’ve got the routine nailed down: unscrew cap and stick in my sports bra as I approach the station; stop, grab water cup, pinch it, and pour into water bottle (repeat a second time as needed); and then extract cap from sportsbra and screw back on as I jog off. It only takes about 5 seconds to do this, when executed efficiently. Looking at my split for mile 6, I don’t think I lost much time at all. Certainly less than I gained.


 By that time, some people were already starting to fall apart. I weaved through them, and started picking up the effort slightly. I felt like I was still running slowly, based on my gait, but it was definitely half-marathon effort. I was starting to really feel the heat, and I still had the second half of the race to go, so I stayed careful, nursing my water bottle and slurping a gel.

 Then we came out of the woods and things got real hot – low to mid 70s, according to the weather reports I checked later. The sun was blazing, and runners to each side of me started wilting. I felt lousy also, but managed to selfishly pull some strength from those I passed. The next few miles were a blur – much more like a full marathon than a half.

By mile 10, I had drained my water bottle again. I debated refilling it, and maybe I should have. OTOH, I didn’t think I’d be able to run again if I stopped. From then on, it was one foot in front of the other, and just trying to hold it together through the carnage.

 Miles 11 and 12 take you through downtown Duluth, which felt like a furnace. Then we turned for the last mile, to weave our way through the waterfront towards the finish. I was barely hanging on, just focusing on the rhythm of my legs and breathing. The fact that I was passing people was the main thing that kept me going. I didn’t think about miles or how long I had left – I just mentally checked off one person after another.

 Even in that last mile, people were falling apart. And when they slowed to a shuffle or a walk, they were in enough trouble that they lacked the wherewithal to pull over to the side. People in front of me kept stopping to walk; but I was using all my strength just to keep going – I barely had the energy to dodge them. It was exactly like finishing your race by running through the walkers from the end of a previous race. The only difference was, all of these walkers were in the same race I was.

 And then finally I came around the last turn, and saw the finish line. Or…I saw balloons that I thought were the finish line – they have three arches of balloons and THEN the finish line. Personally, I think that’s really mean.  I gave it everything I had left, and did something mimicking a kick, though there wasn't much there. And then I was done. Like a meal left in the oven an hour too long.

 Right after I finished, as I was grabbing my finisher’s t-shirt, my legs cramped up horribly. Calves, shins, and feet on both side clenched and released in a cruel and painful pattern. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I started yipping and yelping (note that I'm not so embarrassed that I'm not blogging about it).  I felt like a big baby, but I couldn't help it. I eased myself to bag check, where my checked bag had a banana and a pack of margarita shot blocks. I sat down and ate those while draining a bottle of water, and a few minutes later I was able to walk again. I was REALLY REALLY grateful those held off until I finished. 


 Splits were:
 Mile 1: 7:17
Mile 2: 7:07
Mile 3: 7:07
Mile 4: 7:06
Mile 5: 7:12
Mile 6: 6:55
Mile 7: 7:08
Mile 8: 7:03
Mile 9: 6:57
Mile 10: 7:00
Mile 11: 6:57
Mile 12: 6:53
Mile 13 plus last .1 - 7:29 for 1.11 miles - 6:45 pace

So 7:07 pace for the first 7 miles, and then 6:55 pace for the last 6.11. I managed to pull off a negative split, though not the hard negative split I had hoped for. I'm pretty sure that, had I gone out any faster, the second half of this race would have looked very very different.

 The passing stats from this race also tell the story: Again, I'm really glad I started as carefully as I did. It ended up being a very well executed race. Just 20+ seconds per mile slower than I had hoped to run on a cool day....


Once I was able to walk again, I made my way back to my dorm room. A quick shower and a quick Facebook post (not necessarily in that order) and then I drove back down to the finish line to cheer on my friends running the full marathon.  Distressingly, though the humidity had dropped some, the temps continued to rise, and there was no cloud cover.

 It was a long hot morning of worrying and tracking, but finally we were all safely in. None of us had the races that we had hoped for when we registered, but I honestly think all of us can be proud of how we ran and the decisions we made yesterday.


Other notes:

  •  The race results were a bit screwed up yesterday (see above, where the number of competitors increased over the course of the race). I got differing reports on where I finished in my age group. Currently I'm 6th, according to the results, but I suspect that a few of those finishing above me were actually men. The finish photos will confirm one way or the other.   Either way, I'm pretty happy about the finishing placement - though the times were pretty slow this year, this is historically a very competitive half marathon.
  • I stayed at the University of Minnesota dorms again. It's a much better deal that the local hotels. However, it is a spartan living space (it's a dorm, after all), with thin walls, a shared bathroom, and window shades that don't block the late setting sun. A few notes, to myself as well as others, on what to pack or ship to oneself when staying in the dorms: 
  • Jonathan, myself,
    and "Grandma"
    • Extension cord 
    • Sleeping face mask 
    • Ear plugs 
    • Small portable fan 
    • Sandals and bathrobe (for shower) 
    • Blanket (to cover window) 
    • Plasticware and bowl 
  • Once again, I also shipped myself a "care package" of my throwaway clothing (which wasn't needed), gels, handheld water bottle, snack bars, and some other stuff a few days before. At $19 each way, it's cheaper than checking a bag, and more likely that your stuff will arrive at your destination. And it's wonderful to be able to travel to a race with just a backpack carrying your essentials (race shoes and clothes, plus technology and meds). 
  • Got to catch up with my former coworker Jonathan post-race (he ran the marathon).  It's been over 10 years since we last saw each other, and neither of us were runners then.  It was really cool to see him again.
  • Took one gel halfway through the race (root beer). Took a maple bacon before, plus a shot blok with a small bit of caffeine. I was pretty careful with the caffeinated stuff - I'm prone to overheating, and I find that caffeine can make that worse.
  • Took Dulera in the morning, and then a puff of the rescue inhaler right before the race to be safe, given the forecast.   Breathing wasn't spectacular, but no major asthma issues.
  • Allergies really flared at points in this race - I guess there were patches of trees that didn't agree with me.  My eyes watered like crazy, but I don't think it affected my race.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Training log - Week ending 6/12/16

This week was 55 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was my last week of training before Grandma's Half (officially known as the Gary Bjorklund half, but nobody knows what you're talking about if you call it that....).  Not too much new to report - workouts went well and the weather is warm.  I might have pushed the workouts slightly too hard, with a very hard 400 at the end of Tuesday's workout and going slightly anaerobic at the end of Friday's workout.  But I am peaking now, and I didn't really crush either one, so I'm not going to worry too much.

I reduced my volume slightly after Wednesday of this past week; the upcoming week will be a full taper, though I'm not going to cut the volume too low.  Based on recent experiences, I think I'll do fine with a moderate taper.  I'll probably do about 8 miles on Tuesday, including a very restrained workout, and then a very easy 6-7 on Weds/Thurs.  I may or may not take Friday off - will depend on how I feel.

I'm pretty excited to return to Duluth.  After I run the half, I can cheer the full.  I have several friends running the full, including some that I haven't seen in close to a decade.  It will be great to catch up post-race.

In completely unrunning-related news, today is my parents' 50th anniversary.   I'm sure they don't read this blog, but seems remiss to post today without recognizing their special day.  Love you, mom and dad.


Monday:   Yoga and 7.5 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Tuesday: 11 miles, including a track workout of 1600, 1200, 800, 3x400 - splits were 6:15, 4:34, 2:58, 87, 84, 79.   Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 4.5 miles easy to yoga (9:16), followed by yoga.  Later did 7.5 miles very easy (9:12) plus drills and 2 strides. Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:   Upper body weights and core, and 8.5 "miles" easy pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.
Friday:  10.5 miles, including 2x3200 on the track in 13:18 (6:43/6:35) and 12:54 (6:32/6:23).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  5.5 miles very easy (8:58), and then stopped to cheer at a race for about an hour.  Then did another 3.5 very easy (9:00)  followed by drills and two strides and then upper body and core strengthwork.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday:  12.5 miles, mostly easy (8:38), but with 2 miles at marathon pace-ish (7:29/7:24).  Followed with light injury prevention work and foam rolling.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Training log - Week ending 6/5/16

This week was 63 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This week started off with a good race, which is always nice.  I learned a few lessons from that race (including the value of starting slow, even in a short race).  The biggest takeaway for me was the demonstration that one does not need to train superfast in order to run fast.

To give more detail, I essentially ran four 84 second quarters back to back with no rest on Monday.   In my workouts, by contrast, I've run very few quarters, with most of them at 88 seconds or slower. Much of my speedwork the last few weeks has been at 6:00 pace or slower, since I've been sharply limiting the amount of anaerobic running that I do (basically I try to only go into oxygen debt on the very last repeat of each Tuesday workout).

I've had two assumptions in the past: one is that it's best to train at a specific pace if you want to race at that pace; the other is that it's best to train at paces both faster and slower than your race pace.  I don't think these points were completely disproven by Monday's race - one could argue that I might have run faster with a few more hard 400s.

But it also possible I wouldn't have run any faster (especially since anaerobic stuff seems to really fry me).  It's certainly support for me sticking to the aerobic stuff that I thrive on, plus a very small dose of speed.  In any event, running slowly in practice isn't hurting me on race day.  And it's fun to show up for workouts when the goal is NOT to hurt.


Mile races really beat me up, so I kept the land running mileage low on Monday and Tuesday.  I did add a second pool-run on Tuesday morning to balance things out.  A massage on Wednesday confirmed that I was much more beaten up than I would be after a 5K or 10K.  As much as I enjoy racing miles, I need to limit them.

Though we had great weather for the beginning of the week, by the end we were back to the standard DC heat/humidity - temps in the low 70s with dewpoints to match.  I had another "4-3-2-1" workout on Sunday (intervals of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles at marathon pace, with one mile easy in between), so this weather was poor timing.  But, I just slowed everything down and made sure to refill my water bottle between each repeat, and it was fine.  Yes, the air was thick and it sucked.  But no asthma issues. Neat.  


Monday:   3.5 mile warm-up, mile race in 5:36, 1.5 mile cooldown.  Later did a yoga class and 2.5 "miles" of easy pool-running.  Foam rolled in the evening.

Tuesday: 5 miles easy (9:07) and then upper body weights, followed by 4.5 "miles" of pool-running, Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 7.5 miles very easy to yoga (9:16), followed by yoga.  Later did 4.5 miles very easy (8:55) plus drills and 6 hill sprints. Sports massage at night.

Thursday:   Upper body weights and core, and 9 "miles" easy poolrunning.  Foam rolling at night.
Friday:  11.5 miles, including 3200, 1600 on the track in 13:17 (6:45/6:32) and 6:31.  Followed with injury prevention work and 950 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  12 miles easy (8:47) followed by drills and two strides and then upper body and core strengthwork.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday:  16 miles including a workout of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles at marathon pace effort with one mile recovery.
Splits were:
4 mile: 29:43 (7:34/7:25/7:23/7:21) - average pace of 7:24
3 mile: 22:00 (7:22/7:20/7:18) - ave. pace of 7:20
2 mile: 14:52 (7:15/7:37) - ave. pace of 7:26 (*I think the second mile was GPS error due to an overpass, I'm pretty sure I didn't slow down)
1 mile: 7:09
Followed with gentle injury prevention work and 1050 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.