Monday, May 29, 2017

Race report: Loudoun Street Mile, May 29, 2017

I ran the Loudoun Street Mile in Winchester, Virginia today, finishing in a official time of 5:25.4 - this is a mile PR for me, as my previous PRs on both the road and the track were 5:30 (the 5:08 at the Main Street Mile last month doesn't count).

This is my fourth time running this race.  (Previously I ran 5:31.5 in 2012, 5:30.0 in 2013, and 5:36.7 in 2016. 2014 was missed due to injury, and I skipped 2015 because I was tapering for a marathon.)  So I'm familiar with the race, the course, and the logistics.

Getting there is pretty easy - it's an 80 minute drive on a fairly scenic route, and it's pretty cool to fly down Route 7 through the morning mists, blasting Underworld on the stereo.

(until you remember that stretch of Route 7 is where you got your first speeding ticket back in the early 90s, and you back off the gas.  Fortunate timing, as I hit a speed trap soon after)

Once there, I parked in my standard spot (Cameron Street at Boscawen - very close to the finish line and packet pick-up), and then grabbed my bib.  Then I returned to my car and extracted my yoga mat, laying it on the sidewalk next to my car.
Over the past 18 months, I've refined a brief 15 minute routine that gets my hips stretched out, my glutes firing, and my abs engaged.  So I do this routine before any key run, and a shortened 5 minute version before easy runs.  Problem is that a long car ride undoes most of what I've accomplished with the routine - my glutes go back to sleep and my hip flexors shorten.   So, this morning I did my pre-race routine before driving out to Winchester, and then reprising part of the routine on the sidewalk. Yoga in front of an antiques store, essentially.

Did I look odd? Yes.  But running and racing are full of odd behaviors - what's one more at this point?


Then I was off to warm-up.  I jogged two miles easy, followed by 75 seconds VERY HARD, another few minutes jogging, and then another 30 seconds VERY HARD.  I've found that in order to race a mile well, I need to run one, maybe two segments of 150-400m long at a very hard effort - harder than I intend to run during the first part of the race.  I plan to finish up these segments about 10-15 minutes before the race starts, which gives me plenty of time to recover and recharge before the race. Then just jogging, drills, and relaxed strides in the remaining time before the race.  3 miles total.

This routine obviously doesn't work for everyone, and might be detrimental to some.  But for me, I feel that it primes the engine - I've tried racing a mile off of just easy jogging and strides, and I never feel quite as good.  I'm sure this is all related to the fact that I always feel better at the end of a track workout than the beginning.

I was feeling very slightly crunched for time.  I had left my house about 10 minutes later than planned - 6:10 instead of 6:00 am, which meant I arrived at 7:20 am for the 8:30 am race.  Bib pick-up and stretching had taken some time, and thus my time for warming up was tighter than I would like.  But as it turned out, the race was delayed 15 minutes.  It wasn't the race's fault - apparently the police (responsible for managing the road closures) had shown up late.  It was serendipitous for me, as the extra 15 minutes gave me enough time to use the bathrom (twice) and get some extra strides in.

Then we lined up.  As a contender for a masters placing at most races, I should be starting at the front of the race; as a very slow starter off the line, I despise being there.  So I compromised by lining up very slightly behind my teammate Susanna.  That way I wasn't a road block to the women toeing the line, but I also knew that Susanna, being much faster than I, would start much faster, so there was no chance of me being blocked in.

Thus arranged, tasting that tenseness that's unique to the mile race, I awaited the start.  The starter announced "on your mark" and then pulled the trigger.  And....nothing.  No bang, nothing.  All the runners twitched, and then shrugged and nervously glanced at each other.

The starter apologized and fiddled with the gun.  Then we gave it another try.  "Ready..."  No shot, nothing.

Cue a delay of about 15 seconds while the starter extracted a second pistol from his +5 backpack of wonders.    He fiddled with it some, and then cued us again. "On your mark.." and this time the gun fired.  It was hard to believe, but we were finally starting the race.


As I noted, I've run this course several times before, and so I know how to run it.  The first quarter is downhill, the second is uphill.  About 50m after the halfway mark, you crest the up hill and then hit a nice downhill.  The final quarter is more or less flat, with the final 300m run through the town square.

So, to run this race well, one needs to start out controlled, and let everyone drop you.  After the first quarter, start to build effort, while still saving some in the tank.  In the second quarter, many many many will fade and fall back on each side of you.  After the halfway point, start building as you crest the hill and then slingshot down the back side.  Keep building pace, but don't kick too early - the finish line of this race always looks deceptively closer than it is, and I've seen many people start kicking when they enter the town square, only to mis-judge and tie up before the finish.

That was my plan.  Of course, I did go out slightly too quick anyways, but I realized that within about 5 seconds and pulled back.   Then, as runners slowed, I began to build, with restraint.

I noted a top masters runner, Alisa Harvey, in front of me as I worked my way up the hill.  I focused on her, using her to pull me up, but as I got close, she pulled away again.  As we crested the hill, I began to build momentum, reeling her in.  I pulled close, and then she pulled ahead again.

I don't do sudden surges or radical changes in pace well, so I knew it wasn't a good idea to trade surges with her.  Instead, I stuck with my steady slow burn (well...relatively slow- this was a mile), and reeled her in yet again.

And then I was beside her.  And then, as I continued to build, I was in front.  With 500m to go, I just barely had the lead in this road mile. In front of a woman who has broken 2 minutes in the 800 (albeit a few years back).

There was no way I was going to win this if it came down to a kick with 200m to go.  She unquestionably, even at the age of 51, had me beat on leg speed.  My only chance to win it was to keep building momentum and use my strength to burn the kick out of her with a very hard last 500m.
So that's what I did.  Not a sudden surge, but each second was just a bit harder than the previous.  I poured everything I had into that last 500m, as I heard the crowds cheering her behind me by name (she's well known in this area).  Every single step, I tried to give just a little bit more. And a little more after that.   All the way through the finish line.

And then I was through the line, and I had somehow pulled it off - finishing ahead of a multiple Pan-American Games medalist and winning the masters award.  I couldn't even process it at first - I was too trashed.  I just really needed to sit down.

I set my Garmin to autolap each quarter for this race.  It vibrated exactly at each quarter mile line, giving me accurate splits.  My splits were:

.25 mile - 1:19.24
.5 mile  - 1:25:43 (2:45.07)
.75 mile - 1:22.49 (4:07.56)
last quarter - 1:17.80 (5:25.74)

So, I ran a negative split of 2:45.07/2:40.67, with my last quarter the fastest.    Woo.   Pretty happy with how I paced this one.

For my work, I ended up being 9th female overall and top masters female.  Since this race was also the "RRCA Virginia State Mile Championship" that means that I am the RRCA Female Masters Mile Virginia Champion for 2017.  Which is a mouthful to say, a lot of typing to write, and also amusing, as I don't consider myself a miler.  Yay.  For 5 and a half minutes of work (plus some other stuff, of course), I got a medal, a check for $75, and a nice backpack.  Not bad.

Other notes:

  • As I noted above, I left my house at 6:10 am, arriving there at 7:20 am for the 8:30 am race.  This left me feeling slightly rushed - I need to leave a bit earlier next time.
  • While I'm psyched about the PR and the performance, I had thought I might be able to run a few seconds faster today.   It seemed like all of the women ran slightly (by few seconds) slower than anticipated.  I'm wondering if the multiple delays of the start - both the 15 minute delay and the gun mis-cues - sucked away from our collective adrenaline, resulting in very slightly slower times.  (I want to be clear though, I don't blame the race - I think it was just a Murphy's law type day).
  • My team ended up having a really good day, with wins in the women's overall, women's masters, and men's masters awards.  I think we also won the women's grand master awards (there was a bit of confusion there).  So yay Capital Area Runners.  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Training log - Week ending 5/28/17

This week was 49 miles of running,  16 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Another week of training, though I skipped the Sunday long run in favor of resting up for my mile race on Monday.

Tuesday's workout was interesting, in that we mixed up the recoveries slightly.  My team normally does a half-distance jog after each interval, but for Tuesday's workout we shortened the recovery after the 1200 (to just 400m, instead of 600m), and lengthened the recovery to about 250m after the 400.

That fact, combined with the jumping back and forth in interval lengths - we usually do pyramids, descending ladders, or intervals all of the same length - made the workout a bit tricky to figure out how to execute.

My group ended up running the 400s fairly conservatively so that we didn't fry ourselves for the 1200s.  I think that was the way to do it - we practiced restraint on the 400s, and also got to practice switching gears.  The latter is my weakness, so this was a good workout for me.

I also started cranking my way through the leaked USADA report on Albreto Salazar and the Nike Oregon Project.  I'm only about halfway through, but what I've read leaves me uncomfortable on multiple levels.

One level is the obvious - the allegations about the NOP's L-Carnitine infusions in violation of the WADA limits on IV delivery of any fluid.  Along with descriptions of how Alberto Salazar allegedly became the go-between for his athletes and an endocrinologist - concerning both from a medical ethics standpoint and from the treatment of the athletes like unquestioning tools, rather than adults.

But I'm also concerned about inaccuracies that I noted in the report.  For one thing, the report characterizes Dathan Ritzenheim as injury-free until he started training with Salazar.  Any fan of the sport knows that Ritz has been injury prone and fragile his entire career.  The report also refers to "Advair 250/250" and "Advair 500/500" - drugs that don't exist.  (The formulations are 250/50 and 500/50 - a subtle difference, but an important one).

If I noted those inaccuracies, then just how many more errors are there that are not obvious to me, because I don't have direct knowledge of the facts?

It was reported that this document was a "draft" so perhaps the errors would have been corrected in the final.  But if it was a draft, why wasn't "draft" watermarked on each page, as is standard when drafting investigative reports?

(I spent the early years of my legal career at a law firm doing corporate internal investigations and contributing to reports just like this one, so I have some experience here.)

The report also reads as aggressive advocacy, rather than measured review.  Which raises the question of just what role USADA plays - independent investigator, prosecutor, or adjudicatory body.    The answer may be all three, which leaves me uneasy.  Which role dominates?  Determining the truth?  Or winning their case?

I'm no fan of the NOP, or doping.  But I'm less confident in USADA now than I was before I began to read this report.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 7 "miles" of pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 11 miles including a workout of 3x(1200, 400) in 4:29, 83, 4:27, 86, 4:24 81.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 7.5 miles easy (8:51) to yoga, yoga, and then another 4.5 miles (8:42), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights/core and 9 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 10.5 miles including a track workout of 3200m, 1600m in 12:24 (6:18/6:06) and 5:54.  Followed with 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday:  In the morning, 9.5 miles very easy (9:00) with drills and strides, followed by light upper body weights plus core and injury prevention work.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday: In the morning, 6 miles very easy (9:11), followed by DIY yoga to open hips.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Training log - Week ending 5/21/2017

This week was 61 miles of running,  15 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

It's been a while since I've posted a "normal week."  I've been racing a lot, and so it seems that most weeks I've been skipping one or both of the workouts due to pre-race rest or post-race recovery.   The racing's been great, but it's the right time to switch back and spend a few weeks training consistently.

Since I'm not writing about racing, I get to write about other stuff.  Including the new running power meter I started playing with a few weeks ago.  It's a footpod that clips to the laces of one of my shoes. It syncs up with my watch and captures a ton of metrics about my running that I can later view.

What metrics?  Well...stuff like "power" and "form power" and "leg spring stiffness" and "vertical oscillation" and several other fields.  Power is how much work I am doing while running; the other metrics are various ways to assess the efficiency of my running form.

[for an example of the metrics, here's my report from Broad Street a few weeks back.  The power meter metrics are towards the bottom of the page]

Of course, there's no consensus on what the optimal values are for the metrics, or even if there are optimal valies.   I'm honestly not sure how useful the metrics and graphs are, other than being pretty to look at and fun to compare.

From what I can tell, my running is very efficient but not very powerful.  I already knew that. And that knowledge doesn't change anything for me, other than giving me running efficiency bragging rights on an extremely obscure corner of the internet.

[Aside: my hunch is that any success I've had as a masters runner is because my speed comes from efficiency, rather than the ability to generate force.  My reasoning is that efficiency declines at a much slower rate than power as one ages, and so I'm not losing speed as fast as others.  My high efficiency is also probably why I can run passably even when my asthma is flaring.  I can "fake it" much better than someone whose running ability stems from power.  It's also probably why I feel my running benefits greatly from time spent in the gym - because stuff like barbell lunges and step-ups develop power, which is my weakness.]

I've spent a fair amount of my free time on various fora reading about power meters and power and various applications. There is a group of runners who have found religion about training and racing "with power."  And they are working to spread the gospel to the masses.  Via the internet, of course.

These runners assert that power is a better metric for pacing one's run than either heart rate or pace.  Why?  Because heart rate changes can lag several seconds behind effort changes or be affected by heat or hydration.  And pace can be affected by inclines or wind - 6:40 pace uphill into the wind is more work than 6:40 on a clear morning on the track.  In contrast, power changes instantly to match effort and the measurement of power is not affected by heat or hydration.  Power also changes to show that you are doing more work when running uphill than down.

Proper pacing is about expending your effort most effectively. Thus, since power is the best and most accurate measure of effort, it's the best metric to use for pacing a workout or race.

That's the argument.  And it makes sense.  But then everyone gets buried in the details.  They spend hours conducting power tests and then calculating power targets based on the tests, and then debating how the power target for a race should be modified if it's a warm day or one is not fully recovered.

Which makes me realize (again) how few people rely on the true best metric for pacing - perceived effort.

Admittedly, it's tough initially to shed the numbers and just rely on how you feel when you race. Because it's really hard to trust how you feel, and to distinguish between the bullshit that your body will tell you and the truth of your own effort.  But once you learn to pace by feel, it's unquestionably the best measure.  Perceived effort is instantaneous, accurate, and accounts for weather, incline, nutrition, etc.

Additionally, perceived effort avoids the potential self-limitation that comes with other metrics.  What if you've improved very recently?  So that your target pace or power level for a race is no longer the limit of what you are capable of on race day?  Fixating on a goal number on your watch, be it pace or power, can keep you from reaching your potential.  If you run off of feel, you'll run the best race you're capable of that day, rather than talking yourself into a slower time because the numbers didn't look right.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 6 "miles" of pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 12 miles including a workout of 2x800, 1600, 2x800, 2x400 in 2:53, 2:50, 5:50, 2:50, 2:51, 84, 82.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 8 miles easy (8:53) to yoga, yoga, and then another 4 miles (8:53), followed by drills and strides.  Massage at night.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights/core and 9 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 11 miles including a track workout of 3200m, 1600m in 12:33 (6:17/6:16) and 5:55.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday:  In the morning, 10 miles very easy (8:44) with drills and strides, followed by upper body weights plus core and injury prevention work.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday: In the morning, 16 miles progressive, split as first 5 at 8:59, next 5 at 7:44, last 6 at 6:56.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Training log - Week ending 5/14/17

This week was 35 miles of running,  28 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was an "intermission" week - no track workouts, just four days of pool-running, fun stuff like swimming and yoga, and junk food.  This was followed by easy running at the end of the week before returning to "work" on Sunday.

Why? the past 10 weeks, I've raced 7 times (one road mile, two 5ks, two 10Ks, a 10 miler, and a half-marathon).  That's a lot.  I've got another 6 weeks to go before the conclusion of my self-defined spring season with another half-marathon, So I eased off  this week to ensure I'm fresh in mid-June.

I could tell I was due for some extra recovery because I didn't hate the idea of downtime.  In fact, this was actually my idea, though my coach signed off on it.   As soon as the idea of a break isn't annoying, I know I need one.  And I also know it worked, because by the fourth day of pool-running and junk food, I was really resisting the urge to go running.  And it took extra willpower not to show up for the Friday workout (in my defense, the weather was perfect).

Another reason to back off this week?  I've been running very well.  As I've learned from both observation and direct experience, those magic periods of PR after PR are also extremely high risk. That's when you get greedy, and try to build just a little bit more.    And that's when you break.  By pulling way back this week, I'm trying to control that temptation, and the near-inevitable result.

As the careful reader will note, I wasn't sedentary.  Rather, I used this week to enjoy stuff that I skip or limit during training.  For example, I did a fairly long swim focusing on different drills - something that I can't fit in during a running training cycle.  I also took yoga classes on the days that I'm normally at the track so that I could experience different instructors.  The result that I was mentally refreshed, more than I would have been had I sat on the couch.


Monday: In the morning, 7 "miles" pool-running. Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, gentle yoga and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 6 "miles" pool-running and 2000 yards swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights and core and 9 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 7 miles easy to yoga (8:42), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy (8:42) home  followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  10 miles very easy (9:02) plus upper body strengthwork and core.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: In the morning, 14 miles progressive, split as first 4 at 9:03; next 5 at 7:34 (too fast - should have been no faster than 7:45); last 5 at 6:57.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Training log - Week ending 5/7/17

This week was 38 miles of running,  12 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Broad Street race week.  Which of course was also the week that the buckle on my Garmin 920xt wrist strap broke.  Thursday evening, to be exact.

This resulted in a high level of stress utterly disproportionate to the significance of the issue - I don't check splits when I race (I just use the watch to have the data later), and I have an old 910xt that is still serviceable.  It would be tough running without the ability to upload the workout to Garmin Connect, or to digitally confirm my recovery.  But still, like Gloria Gaynor, I would survive.  Because, like Patty Smith, I am a warrior.

Or maybe not.  Reluctant to rely on musically inspired fortitude, I turned instead to crude commerce.  I ordered a replacement 920XT strap to be delivered Friday night.  Then, I had a better idea.  There's a jeweler two blocks from my house, and sure enough they had a watch repair guy on site.  He repaired my Garmin strap buckle for $3 - significantly cheaper than the replacement strap (which arrived a day late anyway, after I left for Philly). So that's a lesson learned for the future.


I normally do a pick-up mile two days before I race - my coach counsels 10K pace, though I've been modifying that to 10 mile/half marathon pace (I'm sure he doesn't mind).  So...I headed out to do my mile pick-up on Friday morning, using a downhill route (the W&OD trail) into a headwind.  Cuz that would mimic the predicted weather for Broad Street.   There was a downpour as well, which fortunately was not predicted for Broad Street.

I ended up running the pick-up mile way too fast, at 6:04, which is not half-marathon pace or 10 mile pace or even 10K pace for me, even if downhill  (it didn't feel like it took too much out of me either).  Whoops.

So clearly one of two things was true.  Either I had just irretrievably effed up my race, or I was set up for a PR.  (because there is no middle ground to race jitters.)

Since there was nothing to be gained from assuming the first option, I chose to believe in the second.  And fortunately, I was right.  I need to not do that again, though.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 6 "miles" pool-running. Foam rolling at night.

: In the morning, 11 miles, including a 3 mile warm-up (8:41); 2x400; 4x800; 2x400 in 90, 91, 2:56, 2:57, 2:56, 2:54, 81, 78; 3 mile cooldown (9:19).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Massage at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 7 miles very easy (8:58) plus drills and strides and DIY yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights and core and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 7 miles, most easy (9:02) but with a mile at 6:04 pace.  Foam rolling and an ice bath at night.

Saturday:  Nothing aerobic.  Just travel to Philly, DIY yoga to open hips, and foam rolling.

Sunday: In the morning, 3 mile warm-up, and then a 10 mile race in 63:55.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Race Report: Broad Street 10 Miler, May 7, 2017

I ran the Broad Street 10 Miler today, finishing in a time of 1:03:55, which was good enough for 4th Masters Female, and also a significant PR.  I'm pretty happy.

I had high hopes for a PR going into this race - in March I had run a half-marathon at my 10 mile PR pace - a sure indication that I could PR the ten miler on a good day and course.  And many of my training partners had run 63-64 minutes at Cherry Blossom a few weeks back, making me think that a time in that range was possible for me as well.

I think Broad Street (point-to-point, net downhill, and yes, I'm counting it as a PR) is a faster course than Cherry Blossom if all other things (i.e. weather) are equal.  However, historically Broad Street has been a significantly warmer race than Cherry Blossom (last year being a notable exception), limiting any benefit from the course.

The good news was that we were getting Cherry Blossom-like temperatures for Broad Street this year (51 at the start and dry).  The bad news was that the wind was from the south, meaning a headwind for 10 miles.

I was particularly worried about the wind, as I was planning to start in the first "elite/seeded" corral. I had "seeded" status for this race, meaning that I had a choice between starting in the very front or starting with the corral associated with my projected finishing time.  Last year I had started at the front, and it had been a miserable experience.  Basically 10 miles of being passed by faster people, while running into a headwind.  I wasn't anxious to repeat that experience.

On the other hand, I knew I was in far better shape this year then last, and that I had a shot at a masters award, including prize money.  However, masters awards were awarded based on gun time, meaning that I had to start at the front if I wanted to contend.  What to do?  Start at the front to target the masters award?  Or start further back where I'd have others to block the headwind, to maximize my chances of PRing?

Fortunately, as it turned out, I didn't have to make that choice.  Instead of giving the elite/seeded corral a head start, this year the first corral behind the elite/seeded corral started with us.  This was huge, as two of my teammates/training partners were in that corral, giving me the option of running with them.  So woo.


Race day dawned, and I left my hotel room at 6:05 to get to the subway stop at 6:15 to get to the start for the 8:00 am race.  This wasn't overkill - Broad Street is huge, and though it doesn't take long to get from Center City to the race start area, if you wait too long, it's impossible to board the subway due to the packed cars.  As it turned out, 6:15 am was perfect.

Once there, I did my standard warm-up of ~3 miles including some uptempo running, plus drills, strides, and multiple bathroom breaks.   Then into my corral at 7:40, which was when the corrals were supposed to close.  Though this race isn't quite as strict as Chicago, it's still not a race that you can count on ducking into your corral at the last minute.

I noted two good things - 1) the headwind was not as awful as forecast, and was also intermittent rather than constant; 2) the corrals were't being enforced this year.  While this would normally annoy me, this year I was grateful - it meant that I had plenty of people to work with/potentially use as windblocks.  Rachel and Catherine ended up right next to me, which was awesome.  Well, until Rachel helpfully reminded me that I needed to be starting at the line, not a few rows back.

The gun went off, and everyone went out super fast, as they always do in this race (once again - fast courses are not freebies - you can't do stupid stuff and not pay for it).  Rachel, Catherine and I quickly grouped together, and ran the first mile patiently, letting the masses stream around us.

I hung on to the two of them for the first mile, but then they began to pick up a bit of speed.  It felt a bit too hard for me this early in the race, so I reluctantly dropped back.  About this time, the wind started gusting.  Fortunately, there was a pack of large guys just to my right, so I pulled up slightly and ducked in behind them.

Over the next few miles, the headwind gusted and then subsided.  I remembered the lesson I had learned at Shamrock about being patient and biding my time during a headwind, and I applied it here - when the wind calmed, I'd move out to the side and build pace, an when it picked up again, I'd find a pack of tall guys and tuck in, even if I had to slow down slightly to do so.  Better to bank energy now that I could use at the end.

Amusingly, the pack that I spent the most time with featured a big guy in a "November Project" t-shirt.  I'm not a huge fan of any training program that encourages people to go hard everyday.  But my practicality outweighs my pride, so I tucked in behind him and an even bigger buddy, grateful that the November Project apparently appeals to former football players who can run a decently fast 10 miler.

I also focused on my form.  We've had quite a few windy workouts this spring, giving me a chance to practice dealing with it.  When there's a headwind, I have a habit of hunching and ducking, trying to minumize the wind surface.  But I've noted that I run much faster when I resist this tendency and instead try to run tall.   It's counter-intuitive in much the same way that starting slow is.  But it works.

So, running tall and "hopscotching" (my term for jumping from wind block to wind block).  I made my way down Broad Street.  I like to take a gel during 10 mile races, so I took part of a cherry lime rocktane at around mile 6.  It disagreed with me for some reason, and for a few minutes I worried that I might have to take a quick pit stop.  Fortunately, my stomach settled.

I know Broad Street, and so once I finished the slight uphill just after mile 8, I started to build, abandoning my windblocks.  Around mile 9.5, there's a downhill, and I used that to pick up even more pace.  Then I saw the Navy Yard gate that indicated a quarter-mile to go, and I half-closed my eyes and pretended I was back on the track, hammering a 400.  As I approached the finish line I was estatic to see it counting down 1:03:4x.  A major PR, and I was hopeful that would be good enough for a masters award also.

Splits were
Mile 1: 6:28
Mile 2: 6:26
Mile 3: 6:22
Mile 4: 6:27
Mile 5: 6:24
Mile 6: 6:24
Mile 7: 6:24
Mile 8-9: 12:49 (6:24-6:25 pace)
Mile 10: 6:11

Amusingly, despite my hopscotching, my splits were shockingly even.  I also ran a slight negative split, passing a lot of people in the last 2 miles.  Several of the people that I passed late in the race were people I remember pulling ahead earlier, when I was tucked in one of "my" packs.  I think a lot of people expended way too much effort running solo and trying to hit splits, and paid for it in the last few miles.

Other notes:

  • Stuck with the pre-race food routine that has worked for me: rice-heavy Chipotle for lunch, very light dinner with some unsweetened UCAN as a drink.  I'm not sure you need to carb-load for a 10 miler, but I don't think it hurt to go carb-heavy the day before.  Breakfast was my normal pre-run.  I also brought a berry stroopwafel with me to the start, to nibble on to bridge the gap between breakfast and race start.
  • Carried a handheld water bottle for the first two miles before tossing it.  I'm sure this also gets some eyerolls, but I don't care.  It works for me.
  • As I noted above, I ended up 4th masters female.  Which meant I got to hangout in the elite tent, participate in the awards ceremony, and also fill out "paperwork" for the cash award (name, address, citizenship, USATF #, Social Security number).  I'm a dork, and I was ridiculously happy to be filling out paperwork.
  • Temperature 52, DP 40 for the race.  Really great weather.  Probably the best it's ever been in all the time I've run this race.
  • I've had a hilarious history at races outside of DC - until this year, I had PR'd every race that I had run in Richmond or Virginia Beach, and had never had a good race in Philadelphia.  This year, I upended the cycle - horrible race in Richmond, and then finally a good race in Philly.  Woo.
  • Pollen seemed notably high, but again (as it has been since starting on the Xolair), I had little issue with it.  I did puff my rescue inhaler pre-race just to be careful, but I might have been able to get away with out it.  Yay Xolair.
  • Mom and Dad really like these pictures, so I'm posting them here.  My blog, my rules.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Is Pike's Peek legit?

The Pike's Peek 10K in Rockville Maryland has been historically mocked on, that bastion of intellectual exchange (full disclosure - I participate on that forum).  Why?  Because of the net downhill.

In the past, I agreed.  Several years ago, I ran this race and bested by a full minute my then 10K PR, which I had set a month earlier in good weather on a fast course (39:16 versus 40:18).  And that was despite blowing up badly in the final stretch and even tripping right before the finish.  A year later, I returned to run Pike's Peek as my rustbuster, right after a break.  And I ran 39:15.  A time utterly inconsistent with any other time I had ever run at any distance.

Yup - the course was definitely assisted.  I noted the time for kicks, with an asterisk, but didn't claim it as a PR.

But then, a few years ago, the course was rerouted slightly.  While most of the course stayed the same, the start and finish were each moved back a quarter mile, adding a solid hill to the start and removing the sharp drop at the end.

This changed the total drop of the course, but it still had a drop.  And so, I reasoned, it still wasn't a course one could count as a PR.  (of course, all personal records are personal, so technically anyone can count anything they want....)

But now, I'm engaging in the pixel equivalent of eating my words.

In my opinion, the new Pike's Peek 10K course - the course that's been used since 2015 - is legit. This conclusion is based on both my own experience running the race this year, and some number crunching I've done below.

That analysis is below.  But first, I want to acknowledge the obvious.  This entire blog post is ridiculous.  Utterly ridiculous.

That being said, I'm probably not the only person interested in this topic, as over-analytical as it is.   So keep reading if you want - it's a guilty pleasure type thing.  Nobody has to know.  Promise.


In evaluating the legitimacy of the current Pikes' Peek course for PR purposes, I considered two points: how the net elevation drop compares to other races, and how runners performed at Pike's Peek this year, as compared to what their recent performances would predict for 10K.

Elevation drop

USATF maintains a database of certified courses on its website, searchable by location, distance, name, and other variables.  Each course certification includes a statement as to the net drop of the course, if any, calculated in meters per kilometer.
All information taken from
the USATF website, except for
the Main Street Mile,
which I calculated myself

How do various races measure up?  I've posted a selection to the right.

To be record eligible for USATF purposes, a course must have a net drop of less than 1.0 m/km and a separation between start and finish lines of 50% or less of the total distance of the course.'re not setting a US record on point-to-point courses like Grandma's Marathon or Boston, regardless of net drop.

However, it is possible to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials on a course that is point-to-point, as long at the net drop is no more than 3.25 meters per kilometer.    My hunch is that the 3.25 is not random, but was chosen specifically to include the Boston Marathon (3.23 m/km drop) as a qualifier.

Looking at my chart to the right, it's interesting to see how the net drops of the old and new Pike's Peek courses compare to Boston, as well as some other popular courses.  The old Pike's Peek is well above the 3.25 line, while the new course is well below.    Heck, the new Pike's Peek has less than half the net drop of the previous version.

It's also worth noting that the new Pike's Peek course has the same net drop as the Big Sur International Marathon.  Big Sur is a notoriously slow and difficult course - evidence that a net drop doesn't necessarily imply an assisted course.

So...based on net drop alone, there's some basis for considering a Pike's Peek PR (try saying that 5 times fast) legit.  Put another way, there's a solid argument against ruling it out from PR contention based on net drop.  But that's only part of the analysis.

Performance Comparison

I've found the McMillan Guide to be pretty good at predicting equivalent performances for me.  So when I ran 1:26:34 at Shamrock (a legitimate, USATF record eligible course), I entered the time into McMillan, and got a predicted 10K time of 38:50.  I was pretty close, but ever so slightly slower, with my Pike's Peek time (38:56).

So...I got curious, and decided to run a similar comparison for a few other runners.   I selected a group of runners who had run both Cherry Blossom 10 Miler 2017 and Pike's Peek, so I could compare performances between the two races.  Why did I pick Cherry Blossom as my baseline?  It's a USATF record eligible course with no net drop and no separation - very fast, but undeniably fair.  This year, Cherry Blossom also had nearly identical weather to Pike's Peek, and the two races were also separated by less than a month, reducing the possibility of profound fitness gains between the two.

 I limited my sample to people I knew, whom I understood to have had tapered and run both races all out, with no confounding factors (illness, running Boston in the gap between Cherry Blossom and Pike's Peek, etc).

With those criteria, I ended up with a sample of 8 runners.  Certainly not a large sample that would yield statistically sound conclusions, but still interesting.  Below are my results.

A comparison of 10K times, as predicted by performance at Cherry Blossom 2017,
versus performance at Pike's Peek 2017.
I also noted myself, based on my predicted time from Shamrock,
though I didn't include myself in the analysis.
What is striking is that a slight majority - 5 of 8 - ran slower at Pike's Peek than predicted by their Cherry Blossom performance.  Some ran significantly slower.  Of course, others ran significantly faster than predicted.

On average, these 8 runners ran 4.25 seconds SLOWER at Pike's Peek than one would have predicted, based on their Cherry Blossom times.

Of course, this is (again) a small sample size.  And I'll note for the statistics geeks that the standard deviation here is 26 seconds and change, making that "slower-by-4.25 seconds" claim essentially meaningless, from a statistical POV.  I haven't proven that Pike's Peek is equal to or slower than the legit Cherry Blossom course (and thus legit-by-insinuation).

But, it is interesting to look at.  And it's frankly stronger evidence than my previous dismissal of the old course based on the single data point of my own experience.


So based on the two points above (plus the fact that I broke 39 and really want to call it a PR), I'm inclined to claim the current Pike's Peek course as legit.    No eyerolling here, no asterisk.

Again, all PRs are by definition personal.  But, personally, I'm a numbers geek.  And what I've written above is what has convinced me, personally.