Sunday, June 25, 2017

Training log - Week ending 6/25/17

This week was 4 miles of running,  34 "miles" of pool-running, and 6000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Rest week, and quite necessary.  During the past few months, I squeezed pretty much everything out of the metaphorical toothpaste tube of my fitness - quite an achievement.  Especially since I usually toss the literal tube early so I can start a new one.

So, it was break time.  There's differing definitions of "break" of course.  I know that many world class elite runners take several weeks of absolutely nothing.  That's a nice option if you're a world class elite runner and have the free time post season to go somewhere and hike and hang out for a week or more.

For the rest of us, a period of doing absolutely nothing physical equates to a period of dealing with the frustrations and stresses of our day jobs while abstaining from our coping mechanisms.  Not terribly restorative.

 Since the ultimate point of a break is to come back refreshed and rejuvenated, I follow two rules: 1) nothing intense and 2) only activities that I really really want to do.  This time around, that ended up being a lot of yoga, social pool-running, and swimming,   And junk food - gluten-free/nut-free/organic/free-range/humanely-raised/handcrafted chocolate cake for breakfast, anyone?

In case you thought I was kidding.

By Thursday morning I was starting to miss running, which told me I was about halfway ready to run again.  I held off until Sunday, and then I scratched the itch.  4 miles felt way too short, an indication that it was just right.

Over the next week, I'll continue with the easy running.  Depending on how I feel, I may show up for my team's hill workout on Friday - the hill workouts are my preferred way of reintroducing hard running, since they're untimed, and each interval is relatively short in duration with a long recovery.


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

Tuesday: In the morning, 5 "miles" pool-running with the belt and 2000 yards swimming.  Sports massage in afternoon.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 5 "miles" of pool-running and yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning, injury prevention work and core followed by 9 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, yoga and 2000 yards swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  In the morning, 9 "miles" of pool-running followed by upper body/core work.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday: In the morning, 4 miles very easy (9:20), followed by 2000 yards of swimming and a yoga class.  Foam rolling at night.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Training log - Week ending 6/18/17

This week was 34 miles of running,  6 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was the last week of my "season" which extended from mid-February all the way through mid-June.  Despite the length of the season, we managed to prolong my peak and run my fastest near the end.  Not an easy accomplishment, and one that required excellent coaching and a lot of patience and restraint.

But now, I'm done.  And just in time, as the Garry Bjorklund half felt almost like one race too many. I'm really mentally and physically tired.  So it's break time.  Not a complete avoidance of activity, but I'm sticking to low-key fun stuff (yoga, social pool-running, swimming) until I feel recharged.  Which will likely be 2-3 weeks.


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

: In the morning, 9 miles, including a track workout of 5x800 in 2:57, 2:53, 2:51, 2:52, 2:47, followed by light injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 7 miles very easy (9:15 pace) plus upper body weights and core, and DIY yoga.  Sports massage midday.

Thursday: Nothing but travel to Duluth and DIY yoga plus tennis ball self-massage.

Friday: 3 mile shake out (9:30 pace).  Later did DIY yoga and tennis ball self-massage.

Saturday: 2 mile warm-up and then a half-marathon in 1:26:58.

Sunday: Traveled back to DC in the morning; foam rolling at night.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Race report: Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon, June 17, 2017

I ran the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon (associated with Grandma's Marathon) yesterday, finishing in a time of 1:26:58.  It wasn't the PR or sub-86 that I had hoped for, but my time was good enough for third female master, which was a thrill.  Grandma's Marathon and the Garry Bjorklund Half are generally very competitive in the masters category, since they pay very well.

This is the third year in a row that I've headed up to Duluth, so I know the drill and many of the tricks by now.

Point 1: Flying into MSP and driving to Duluth is far better than flying into Duluth.  This is because there's a limited number of commuter flights to Duluth each day, resulting in a real headache if you miss your connection (been there, done that).  Plus, MSP-Duluth can be driven in just over 2 hours if you avoid traffic, meaning that the total travel time nets out the same.

Point 2: Staying in the local university dorms is vastly preferable to any hotel in the area.  Usually, I'm all for splurging on a hotel near the start/finish line of a goal race.  But the dorms are a fantastic value - three nights in a dorm costs the same as one night in a Motel 6 that is no closer to the start/finish area.  Plus the added convenience of easy transit via bus to and from the race.

The dorms do lack televisions, phones, and air conditioning.  However, streaming video on a laptop and cell phones eliminate the need for the first two.  And if Duluth is warm enough on race weekend that I need air conditioning in my room, then I'm probably not going to run to my full potential anyway.  In that case, it's better to have spent as little money as possible on the trip.

I prefer to travel two days before a race if it's a marathon or if the travel involves flying.  So I flew into MSP on Thursday morning, and then drove up, arriving in Duluth around 2 pm.  Then I checked into U. Minnesota-Duluth, the same place I stayed in 2015 and 2016.

The last two years, I was assigned a room on one of the top floors.  This year, they placed me on the ground floor instead.  I was annoyed at first - my hall ended up being the one used for prospective student tours, resulting in enthusiastic (and noisy) chatter right outside my door at a time that I craved quiet and solitude.  On the other hand, my room was also considerably less stuffy than my previous rooms - I'm fairly certain that's due to being on the first floor.


On Friday morning, I woke, stretched, played on the internet, and then met two other masters runners - Brenda and Alice - for a brief shakeout run near the finish line.  Then I ducked into the expo to grab my bib.  From there, it was on to the elite room to plead my case.

Why the need to beg?  Well...I had registered for this race through the lottery some time ago, when my PRs and recent race times were significantly slower.  At that time, I wasn't a contender for a masters award at this race, so I just entered the regular way, through the lottery.  Fast forward a few months, and things were very different.  But, since I had already paid the entry fee for this race, it never occurred to me that there would be other reasons to request elite status.

Well... that was until I was speaking with Brenda and Alice (both entered as elites), and remembered that if I wanted a shot at masters prize money, I needed to be able to start near the line, not 20-30 seconds back at the 6:30 pace area, since masters awards were based on gun time.  Additionally, access to the shelter of the start line elite tent would sure be nice if it was raining on race morning.

So I (apologetically and nicely) crashed the elite room at the convention center, looking for the right people to plead my case.  (Several of my past performances loaded up on my cell phone as evidence in case needed.).  As it turned out, it was no issue at all - the staff at this race are really wonderful, and were happy to help.  The start line was self-seeding anyway, so no need for a special bib to line up near the front.  As for entry to the elite tent, that was easy - they knew me now, and would let me in on sight.  Access to the bus in the morning and private bag check would be harder to coordinate this late in the game, but I didn't care about either of those, so it was a non-issue.

I have to admit that I was hoping for an elite badge like those that Alice and Brenda had.  Getting one would allow me to live out my newly uncovered lifelong dream of wearing an elite athlete lanyard while chowing down in the front window of a Chipotle in Duluth, Minnesota.  But no badge for me.

Dreams die hard, but I continued forward.  Lanyard-less, my next stop was indeed Chipotle, where I plowed my way through 1.5 rice bowls per pre-race ritual.  And then back to my dorm room for DIY yoga, tennis ball massaging, and reading (finished my book on Jeffrey Bezos and Amazon; started one about the founding and early days of Uber).  Talked some with Brian, chatted some on Facebook, drank a lot of water and my UCan,  and then hit bed in prep for a very early wake up.


My alarm went off at 3:15 am local.  Which was 4:15 am east coast time, which is when I normally wake for track workouts anyway.  So no big deal, once I emotionally moved on from the insult of the glaring "3" on my Garmin screen.  I did my morning routine, including my pre-race stretching, and then headed down to hop on one of the first buses to the start (4:45 am departure).

Even leaving on the first bus, I arrived at the start a bit later than I would like. I barely had enough time to hit the portapottie, check my bag, and warm-up.  For my warm-up, I stuck with 2 miles, including about 90 seconds at half-marathon feel, plus drills and strides.  Then into the start area, lining myself up about 2 rows back from the start.  I also placed myself at the very side edge of the field, so that all the faster people behind me could easily stream around me.

Though it wasn't yet super warm, the air was very thick and I was sweating while standing at the start - not a good sign.  It was an absolutely beautiful morning.  Unless you were hoping to run fast.

The start itself surprised me slightly.  I had glanced at my watch and noted that it was 6:14.  But I had heard nothing in terms of "one minute to start."  I wondered if the start was delayed and debated reaching down to readjust my shoe.  And then my watch turned to 6:15 and the gun went off and I was very glad I had left my shoe as is.


Since I had placed myself so close to the line, I knew that I was going to be constantly passed for the first few miles.  Even so, I had to work hard to keep my focus and not get drawn out too fast as I was passed by women and men.   Looking back at my splits, I think I still went out slightly fast, though some of the unevenness of my splits might be due to the rolling nature of the course.

It's hard to maintain your own pace and run your own race when being passed from behind, and the longer that period lasts, the more difficult it is to focus.  Here, for the first four miles I was being constantly passed, which challenged my confidence.  Was I holding back too much?  No, it didn't feel like it.  Plus I knew the humidity would make anyone who went out too aggressively pay a high price. So I focused on holding the effort that felt "just right," rather than chasing others.  And nursing my hand held water bottle.

Around mile four or five, the tide of people passing me finally slowed, paused, and then reversed.  Slowly, but surely runners started coming back to me, faster and faster.  It was tempting to get aggressive, but I still had a way to go.  So I held my effort at a hard cruise, remembering to nurse my water bottle.

Usually when I carry a water bottle in a half-marathon, I toss it at or just after the half-way point.  However, I've found that in humid races, I prefer to carry (and drink from it) much further into the race.  That held true on Saturday - at mile 7, tossing my bottle seemed like a bad idea.  So I kept it, continuing to sip from it.

By mile 8, as we approached town, the trickle of those I was passing became a flow, including several women who had passed me previously.  I was working hard, but in control, as I chugged up Lemon Drop Hill and then the unnamed-but-I-hate-it hill that hits between miles 10 and 11 when the course transitions from London Road to Superior Street.

I was feeling fine.  And then I wasn't.  In what seemed like moments, I went from controlled to struggling.  In retrospect, I think that the humidity finally caught up with me, compounded by dehydration despite my best efforts.  But at the time, I wasn't coherent enough to think about that. My world withered to a singular focus - relax and flow forward.   Don't think, just do.  Go.

Based on the splits, I managed to hold it together fairly well.  Part of this was no doubt the slight downhill of the late miles of the course.  Additionally, I normally close pretty hard in races, with my final miles substantially faster than the previous.  Here, I was closing-while-cratering, and the two factors balanced out to a consistent pace.

At mile 12, we turned down into the water-front area, and commenced the maze-like route to the finish line.  I was slogging, just trying to hold it together.  And then another woman passed me.  I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I glanced at her, concluded that there was no way she was over 40 (in retrospect a risky chance to take - but I lucked out, since she was 23) and let her pass me.  I then let her tow me in.

That's not like me - normally I have a lot of fight in me.  But not then.  In the immediate aftermath of the race, I was fairly upset at myself for not digging a bit deeper to pass her back.  I'm not upset that she beat me to the line; I'm upset that I didn't fight more.

 But as I reconsider, I think I just had nothing left.  Physically, I was gassed.  Mentally?  I think one can only scrape the bottom of the well so many times in a season, and I had done it twice in quick succession at the Loudoun Street Mile and then last week's Purple Stride 5K.

I was done.  And then I mercifully crossed the finish line, and I was truly done.  I noted the finishing time of just under 87 minutes, but I didn't have much time to think about it.  As they had done last year, my calves and feet spasmed painfully within about 30 seconds of finishing,and walking required my full focus.  I had planned ahead, at least, and carried a heavily salted lemonade rocktane with me.  I tossed the salty gel down, followed by a bottle of water, and then commenced the painful hobble out of the finishing area toward the bus back to my dorm.  I was finished with the race, and finished for the season.


Splits were:
Mile 1: 6:36
Mile 2: 6:39
Mile 3: 6:37
Mile 4: 6:45
Mile 5. 6:49 (I think I clicked this one slightly late)
Mile 6: 6:29
Mile 7: 6:45
Mile 8: 6:40
Mile 9: 6:36
Mile 10: 6:39
Mile 11: 6:38
Mile 12: 6:39
Mile 13 plus last bit: 7:09 (6:26 pace)

Interesting how the splits don't reflect how the race felt.  The splits look fairly even, with a solid finish.  As described above, the race felt like a solid negative split, albeit with some struggling at the end.

My final time was 1:26:58 - just under 87. which didn't make much difference to me at the time.  I had hoped to run sub-86 or better when I left for Duluth (I think a reasonable goal, based on my fitness), so I was bummed.  Intellectually, I understood that the weather was a factor.  But I think I've gotten really spoiled by all the recent PRs.


Post race, I returned to my dorm, showered, and then drove back down to the finish area to see the marathoners finish.  The nice thing about running the half marathon is that I finish shortly before the marathoners start, which gives me a solid 2.5 to 3 hours to get "home," shower, and head back down. After catching up with several friends (Brenda, former DC resident Madeline, my teammate Jamie, and my "one-step-up-from-imaginary" online friend Kevin - sadly I couldn't find my other online friend Steve), I ended up at a Tex-Mex place with Brenda and Kevin for awesome nachos.  Nothing satisfies the post-race munchies like salty chips and frozen fruity drinks.

Around that time, Brenda pointed out to me that it appeared I had won a masters award in the half.  At the same time, texts and messages began to roll in from friends asking if I had won a masters award.  I didn't dare respond - at the moment it looked like I was third master, but I also knew there had been some bib-reading problems, and the results were being reviewed and corrected.  It was quite possible that another master had finished in front of me, but had a chip issue.  I didn't want to get my hopes too high.

So we headed over to the awards ceremony.  Where sure enough, I was third masters (and also third overall in the women's 40-44 age group).  For my efforts, I got a glass tray, some flowers, and an envelope that purported to hold a check for $500 but actually held the forms I needed to complete and return to get the $500.  Brenda was second master in the marathon, so it was a good day for us both.
My schwag.  Clockwise from bottom left, the race medal, the pre-payout-paperwork,
the stuffed animal I bought at the expo (I am 12), the awards ceremony program,
my glass trophy tray, and the flowers they gave to all female award-winners.
Kitten was supplied separately -
sadly that's one of the few perks Grandma's doesn't currently offer.

Other notes:

  • Weather was low to mid 60s, with very high humidity.  We did get some respite, in that we had overcast skies and a slight headwind - enough to cool, but not enough to slow.  The marathoners ended up with warmer temps and bright sunshine, but significantly less humidity as it warmed up.  
  • For those of you who were wondering, I can confirm that the 2016 weather was much tougher than this year.  2016 conditions were dangerous; this year's conditions were just pace-impeding. The one thing that both years had in common: the forecast weather for the day AFTER the race was superior to race morning.  Sigh.
  • At most races on the east coast, if there's an issue with your bib, you go to the "solutions" desk at the expo.  At Grandma's, you go to the "problems" desk.  I find this both illustrative of the honesty and charm of the race organization, and completely hilarious.
  • Took one gel on course - a blueberry-pomegranate roctane around mile 7 - I knew Lemondrop hill was coming up at mile 9, and this gave just enough time for the sugar and caffeine of the gel to kick in.
  • Booked a 12:50 pm flight home on Sunday, but ended up swapping to the 9 am.  Note to future self - always book the early morning flight.  You'll just end up swapping to it anyway if you don't.
  • Major kudos to the race organization for taking masters and age groups awards seriously .  Though the race starts quite early in the morning, the awards are not until late afternoon.  That's so the organizers can review all the finish line photos, videos, and mid-race splits to confirm the validity of the results.  Having lost results many times to bib-swappers, I really appreciate this.
  • Despite the high humidity, my asthma was a complete non-issue.  I can't forget just how awesome and amazing that is.
  • And yes, in case you're wondering, once I realized I'd placed in the Masters division and won money, I felt much better about the race. Funny how that works. 
  • No Grandma's race report is complete without a picture with Grandma.
    Brenda, Grandma, and myself at the awards ceremony.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Training log - Week ending 6/11/17

This week was 44 miles of running,  15 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

The highlight was clearly Saturday's 5K, where I broke 19, running 18:51.  In less than two weeks, I've checked off two major lifetime running goals - breaking 5:30 for the mile and 19:00 for 5K.

These times are significant to me - when I was in my late 30s, I ran 19:10 and 5:30, making those goals tantalizingly close.  But then I tore my hamstring and had to take much time off, followed by entering my 40s.  And the long slow hard climb back to fitness.

It's not that I thought those times were completely unachievable for me in my 40s, IF I specifically chased them to the exclusion of other goals.  However, I knew that I couldn't train for all distances at once, and I reasoned that it was better to focus on the longer stuff, where I had more opportunity for improvement.

I didn't think I'd ever be able to break 5:30 or 19 without specifically targeting those distances to the exclusion of all others.  I'm glad to be proven wrong.


In other news, I received my third Xolair shot this week (refresher: Xolair is a drug injected once a month that effectively turns off the body's ability to generate histamines, meaning no more allergies or allergic asthma).

Since I know several people are reading my blog to track my experience with Xolair, I'm going to do an entry focused solely on it at some point.  What I will note here is that the side effects that I noted with the first shot (fatigue, concentration difficulties, flu-like symptoms) were much reduced the second time around, and non-existent for the third shot.  So that's good news, and hopefully encouraging to others considering Xolair.  It's honestly been life altering for me.

Since going on Xolair I've been able to transition off the majority of my asthma and allergy medications, and I'm hoping to reduce or eliminate the rest in the next few months.  Notably, I've been running better and better after stopping those meds.  Which supports my belief that those meds hurt running as much as they help.  If you truly need to be on asthma and allergy meds, then you'll obviously run better with them than without - I know I did.  But if you don't need them, you're much better off without them, from both a health and a running performance perspective.

[obligatory note #1: Prednisone is the exception to the above - prednisone is like rocket fuel, and rightfully banned in competition.]

[obligatory note #2: I'm very careful that everything I take complies with WADA/USADA anti-doping regs, including the Xolair. Wondering how to check whether something is legal? Go here.]


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

Tuesday: In the morning, 10 miles, including a track workout of 2x800, 1600, 2x800 in 2:53, 2:50, 5:50, 2:50, 2:46.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night

Wednesday:  In the morning, 8 miles very easy (9:02), followed by drills, strides, DIY yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

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

Friday: In the morning, 4 miles very easy (8:48) plus DIY yoga and foam rolling.

Saturday:  In the morning, 4 mile fartlek warm-up, then 5K race in 18:51 (6:04 pace).  Followed with 5 miles very easy (9:34).  Later did light injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday: In the morning, 10 miles very easy (9:20), followed by upper body strengthwork and core.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Race Report: Purple Stride 5K, June 10, 2017

I ran the Purple Stride 5K today, finishing in a time of 18:51, which was good enough for the female win (and thus the female master win as well).  It was also a substantial PR, so I'm happy on multiple levels.

When I race, I mentally categorize races as "target" or "other." To be clear, whenever I race, I cut back on my training a few days before, and toe the line with the intent of giving my best.  I hate "training through the race" or "tempoing the race."  For me, I think that it creates bad mental habits.

But I can't treat every race as a target race with a full taper - I'd never be able to train. Thus, for a non-marathon season, I pick 2-3 "target races" - this year, they were NYC Half (which ended up being Shamrock Half....), Broad Street 10, and next week's Garry Bjorklund Half (aka Grandma's). The other races are secondary.  It's not that I don't care about them - they just don't get top billing.

[For a marathon training cycle, the marathon is the target - there are no others.]

For a target race, I'll take vacation days to ensure I'm well rested, and carefully scrutinize courses, often registering for back-up races to maximize my chances of good weather. Other races I treat like workouts in one sense - if it's a slow course or a bad weather day, oh well.  It is what it is, and we all race under the same conditions.

With all of that said, Purple Stride ended up being both a target and a non-target race.  My intent when registering was to use it as a final tune-up for my half.  For myself, a 5K a week or two before a longer race primes the engine.   However, I knew that, based on my recent PRs at both shorter (the mile) and longer (10K, 10M, and half) distances, I was in shape to finally break 19 minutes for the 5K distance.  And that elevated the priority to kinda-sorta-a-target-race.

Why am I discussing the above?  Because it explains why I was obsessively reviewing 5K course maps and emailing race directors earlier this week.


To provide more detail: there are several 5K races each year that start and finish at Freedom Plaza in downtown DC, running a fast and flat course with minimal turns.  That course is USATF certified - a PR there is legit.

But, the course posted on the race website didn't quite match the USATF course.
USATF Certified on left, race website on right. 
The website course showed a different turn back onto Pennsylvania Avenue and the finish, a turn that would cut a slight bit of distance off.   And I remembered seeing some surprisingly fast times from this race in previous years.

I really didn't want to run a sub-19 that wasn't really a sub-19.

On the theory that it couldn't hurt, I emailed the race director, asking (very nicely) to confirm what course they were using, and was it certified.  At the same time, I started reviewing other 5K options.

There was a Pride Run 5K on Friday night (not good - I had a social thing that I wanted to make an appearance at (which I ended up missing anyway due to last minute work, but oh well)).   There was a 5K in Fairfax on Sunday, but the forecast was warm and humid.  There was a 5K on Saturday in Alexandria but it looked very small, and I wasn't sure I'd have anyone to run with - I'm not in shape to break 19 in a solo time trial.

Additionally, the Lawyers Have Heart 10K (also on Saturday) had added a timed, competitive 5K option.   I hadn't been aware of that when registering for Purple Stride.  (The 10K was out of the question as too close to my target half marathon.)

 I debated swapping to the Lawyers 5K - the 5K course was fast and there'd be plenty of people at my pace to chase.  Plus Lawyers started at 7:00 am - 90 minutes earlier than Purple Stride, which could be a significant advantage given the forecast rise in temperatures today.

But in the end, I decided to stay with Purple Stride.  The race director had very nicely emailed me back and confirmed that they would be using the USATF certified course.  And when I looked at the Lawyers 5K course, I noted three hair pin turns.  Hair pin turns are not an issue for most, but I struggle with them - because I need to be careful about putting too much lateral stress on my weak ankles I have to take extra care and slow way down for those turns.  Purple Stride had one hair pin turn that actually isn't that tight in practice, since it goes around a median.

So Purple Stride it was.  A decision that took more time than the race itself.


An 8:30 am start meant that I could sleep in (relatively speaking) before stretching and heading over to the race.  Once there, I warmed up - about 3 miles easy jogging (I'm creaky) and then 2 segments of about 2 minutes each at tempo pace, followed by some more jogging.  

The temperatures were definitely heating up - what had felt like good racing weather (well...for June) at 7 am was now feeling a bit warm, with the sun beating down.   For a moment, I wondered if I should have gone with Lawyers instead.  But the air was still dry, my breathing felt great, and the race was a short one, so hopefully the heat wouldn't be much of a factor. Plus, too late to change now - I was committed.

Drills, strides, and I lined up.  I was surprised to see I was the only woman at the start (not counting the obligatory collection of children of both genders).  I had to look several rows back to see any women.  Of course, this didn't mean that I wouldn't have female competition once the race started, but it was interesting.

Then ready, set, go, and we were off.  Interestingly, there was no gun or tone - just a guy saying "go" (arguably a bit too softly).   There was a moment, a delayed reaction, and then everyone realized the race had started and we took off.


This course is very very slightly downhill on the way out, and very very slightly uphill on the way back.  As a slow starter and a strong closer, I prefer that to the inverse.  But it does mean that I have to be careful to pull back on the first mile.  Fortunately, I found myself in a pack of several guys who were following a similar strategy - very convenient.  I didn't see any women around me, and I resisted the urge to look.  I knew that at about 1.5 miles, the course would turn back on itself, and I'd be able to see if any other women were in striking distance.

For the next minutes, I focused on holding an even, strong effort.  Like all my other races, I was running with my watch face blanked, so that I couldn't see splits.    That may surprise some - you would think that since I was using this race to chase a time, I'd want splits, even if I normally race without.  

I gently disagree. I knew from my other races that I had the fitness to break 19, I just needed to execute.  And the best way for me to execute is to expend my effort as evenly as I can - something that I do best when running off of perceived effort.  Checking splits just distracts me and sucks mental energy.  I was going to give whatever I had today - checking my Garmin wouldn't help me there.


When I hit the turn around, there were no other women to be seen behind me.  The gap was so long that I stopped looking and returned to focusing on myself.  This was good.  I'm competitive by nature, and whenever given the choice between a fast time or a win, I'll go for the win.  And, as paradoxical as it sounds, I find that it's hardest to run my best race when I'm contending for a win.  I end up focusing on my competition and reacting to what they do, or saving something in reserve in case I need to surge later.

Today, I was fairly sure I had the win unless I either dropped out or was surprised by an elite who started the race 30 seconds late (which happens in DC).  So I could put winning completely out of my mind and just focus on emptying the tank, using the men ahead or with me.


Up we ran on 3rd Street, towards the final turn onto Pennsylvania.  I noted with a weird combination of satisfaction and chagrin that we were taking the USATF certified route, rather than cutting the turn short.   Satisfaction because whatever I ran would be legit.  Chagrin because mis-marked too-short courses are downright appealing when you're a bit over 2 miles into a 5K race.

The long stretch home on Pennsylvania Avenue is always mentally challenging.  It's very slightly uphill (really, a deceptive false flat), and you can see the finish line in the far distance, but it's not getting closer.  I've learned to stop looking at the finish line, and take this stretch block by block.  The Newseum, then 6th street, then 7th, then 9th, then 10th.  

As I approached the 3 mile marker, I heard the male winner being announced as coming in at 18 minutes.  This meant that I was in striking distance of distance of breaking 19 (I'd have felt more comfortable if I had been AT the 3 mile marker when I heard that).

Now was the time to hammer.  I was fairly uncomfortable - deep into 5K suck, which I personally think is the worst kind of race suck.  But I told myself that I'd regret it deeply if I failed to break 19 and hadn't given it everything I had.  So I dug in.  After a moment, I realized that this situation really wasn't that different from the Loudoun Street Mile.  Sure, now I was racing a clock rather than a really fantastic runner.  But the situation was the same - now is my opportunity to gain something I've always wanted, and I've got to give it everything I have.

And that was how I kicked to the finish line, pretending that Alisa Harvey was right behind me.  As I approached the clock (and swerved to break the tape) I noted the clock at 18:4x.  Safely under 19.

And then I was done, and much like Loudoun Street Mile, I really wanted to sit down.


I did take manual splits for later review, though I didn't check them at the time.  Good thing.  I suspect the mile markers were a bit off - my Garmin claims that some were long and some were short.  Below are my splits, and then what Garmin claims was the average pace for the split.

Mile 1: 6:04 (Garmin says 5:56 pace)
Mile 2: 5:52 (Garmin says 6:04 pace)
Mile 3: 6:18 (Garmin says 6:04 pace)
last bit: 35 seconds (Garmin says 5:11 pace)

[Garmin report here]

The race felt like even pace for 3 miles, and then a hard kick at the end.  It certainly didn't feel like I surged in mile 2 and then slowed dramatically in mile 3.

My hunch is that the first mile marker was accurate - the Garmin signal was just a bit screwy.  And then the second mile marker was short and the third was long.  I think I ran something close to 6:04 pace for three miles and then closed at something faster than 6:04 and slower than 5:11.

But heck, in the end it doesn't matter - what matters is the overall time and the accuracy of the overall course. The inaccurate mile markers do support my preference to ignore splits and pace off of feel. If I had been checking splits during the race, the second mile would unquestionably have been a distraction.

Other notes:

  • It did end up being a bit warm for the race - 72 degrees, with a dewpoint of 61, and bright sunshine (I can hear my friends in the Deep South laughing now).  But since it wasn't traditional oppressive DC humidity, it wasn't all that bad.   I guess I might have run a bit faster if it was 45 degrees.  Or maybe not - running's funny that way.  I don't really care.  I got the sub-19.
  • I wore my Adidas Takumi Sens for this race.  I usually race in either the Takumi Sen Boost (short stuff) or the Adidas Adios Boost 2 (longer stuff, including marathons).  They're very similar shoes - the main difference is that the Takumi Sen has a much lower heel drop, with most of the Boost being in the forefoot.  The Adios has most of the Boost in the midfoot and heel.  

    After experimenting with both, I think I prefer the Takumi Sen for 5K and under, while the Adios is better for 10K and up.  My foot strike varies slightly with each distance.  For the faster shorter stuff, I'm up on my forefoot, and the Takumi Sen feels like rockets on my feet.  It is an AMAZING shoe to kick in.  But it's a miserable slappy stiff shoe to run more slowly in, while the Adios feels great at a range of paces.

    (It's worth noting at this point that the Adios is a fantastic shoe for the end of a marathon.  I've run two marathons in them, and for both, my feet felt wonderful at the end.  That's a real achievement for a marathon shoe.  Of course, your mileage may vary, both figuratively and literally.)

    At some point, I'm going to race a 5 miler or 8K, and that's when shoe choices are going to get hard.
  • I left pretty early to get to the race 90 minutes before, and was glad I did.  I forgot that the Lawyers Have Heart 10K course was now routed down Rock Creek Parkway and near E St.  Meaning that getting to the start of the race I was running required navigating around the traffic jam created by the race I wasn't running.  In the end, it was only a 15 minute delay.  And since I had built in fudge time, it was a non issue.
  • My Garmin read 18:49 for the race, while my official gun and chip time were both 18:51.  I was surprised at the time, as I didn't stop my Garmin until I was well over the line.  In retrospect, I think I (and everyone else) lost two seconds at the start of the race due to the less than obvious start, and resulting delayed reaction.  Since I was at the line, when the race started, the mat caught me, even though I didn't actually start for another few moments.  Oh well, not a big deal.  I would have been considerably more upset if it had been 18:59 versus 19:01...
  • No pre-race inhaler use, no post-race inhaler use.  Awesome.  I will never get tired of being able to breathe deeply and well.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Training log - Week ending 6/4/17

This week was 51 miles of running,  23 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This week was all over the place, with highs and lows.  One big high was Monday's mile race - I was really happy with my placing, and it was great to finally break 5:30.  When I turned 40, I thought that my lifetime mile PR would be stuck at 5:30 - I'd run that same time on three separate occasions, on both track and the roads.  It's nice to break that.

I followed the mile up with, of all things, prolotherapy injections in my ankle on Tuesday.  In the past, my ankles have been the source of many injuries - a result of instability in the ankle joint from loose ligaments.  My PRP and prolotherapy injections a few years ago tightened everything up nicely, but the doctor had warned me that I'd need follow-up injections every few years.

At a follow-up appointment earlier this spring, he noted that my right ankle was starting to feel sloppy again.  I didn't need to get it injected yet, but I should come back in when things started to get sore.  And then, a few weeks ago, I noted that I was starting to struggle with my balance on my right leg in yoga.  Over the next few weeks, the trend continued - left side good/right side wobbly-and-getting-worse in single leg exercises.  I could see where this was going - right into a compensation injury - so I scheduled an injection appointment.

Prolotherapy is much easier than PRP - it's cheaper, far less pain, and you can drive home after.  The only catch was that I couldn't go in the pool for 48 hours after because of the risk of infection at the injection sites.   But running was fine, so there was really no interruption in training.  And I noted near-immediate improvement - my single leg exercises on Saturday were perfect on both sides.  Woo.


For this weekend, my coach had scheduled a workout of 2x4 miles at marathon pace-ish (anywhere within a range of 6:45-7:00 pace).  The original plan would have been to do this workout on Sunday, after a cruise intervals workout on Friday.  So three hard days - the mile race, the cruise intervals, and the 2x4.

Since the mile race and the 2x4 were both demanding efforts, my coach agreed with my request that I skip the cruise intervals, so that I'd only have two hard days this week.  I don't recover as quickly as some, and thus I like to err on the side of more recovery.  I don't do myself any favors by doing more hard training than I can absorb.

So...I raced the mile on Monday, took three easy days, and then did the 2x4 on Friday.  I had originally thought I'd do the 2x4 on Saturday, but I felt recovered enough by Friday to do it, and Friday's weather was absolutely perfect - too good to pass up.  Plus, doing it on Friday gave me another 3 days recovery before Tuesday track.  The workout went very well, so that was nice.


However, all the good things about the week were counterbalanced by the unexpected loss of a beloved coworker.  Elise was both brilliant and one of the kindest, gentlest souls I've ever known.  She was generous and caring and genuine in a way that was hard to comprehend, let alone convey via words.  Her passing is a huge loss to the privacy community, to our mutual employer, and to the world as a whole.  I can't believe she's gone.


Monday: In the morning 3 miles warm-up and then a mile race in 5:25.4.  In the afternoon, 10 "miles" pool-running and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: In the morning, a yoga class and 4 "miles" pool-running.  Prolotherapy shots in my ankle midday. Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday:  In the morning, 6.5 miles very easy (8:50) to yoga, yoga, and then another 5.5 miles (9:09), followed by drills.  Massage at night.

Thursday: In the morning, 10 miles very easy (9:09) followed by drills and strides and upper body weights/core.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 13 miles including a workout on the roads of 2x4 miles at marathon pace, with one mile recovery in between.  Ran 27:30 (6:53/6:54/6:51/6:52 - average pace of 6:53) and 27:24 (6:55/6:50/6:49/6:50 - average pace of 6:51)   Followed with 1500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday:  In the morning, 9 "miles" pool-running, followed by upper body weights plus core and injury prevention work and foam rolling.

Sunday: In the morning, train ride to NYC, followed by 12 easy in Central Park (8:43) and injury prevention work.  Later took the train back to DC.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The pre-run routine

In a recent race report, I referred to my 15 minute pre-run routine to get everything stretched out.  In response, I fielded several requests to post my routine.  Sure.  It's below.

But first, a disclaimer (because I'm an attorney, and such things are second nature).

This is MY routine that addresses MY specific weaknesses.  I'm not recommending this as a general routine for others.  I think that most runners could benefit from a pre-run routine, especially those who are older or injury-prone.  But the structure of that pre-run routine should be individually tailored to that runner's needs.


So... what are my issues?  Currently the big ones are:

  • a wonky left SI joint that likes to pop out of place when I'm asleep (and yes, I've tried different sleeping positions).
  • very tight psoas and quad muscles
  • a right abdominal muscle that likes to fall asleep
  • glutes that like to fall asleep
  • shoulders that are usually tense and tight.

The routine to address my issues, in chronological order:

  1.  A yoga supine spinal twist: I lay on my back and then pull one knee into my chest while the other leg remains extended.  Then I twist across my torso - pulling the left knee across to the right, or vice versa.  Most mornings, I get a nice pop in my left hip when I do this (and I walk much straighter after).  Occasionally I get a pop in the right hip, though that's the exception, not the rule
  2. Several gentle lunges, alternating right and left leg forward.  I start with low lunges on each side (hands on floor) and build to a high crescent lunge on each side (torso erect, arms extended above).  Between each lunge, I return to a down dog pose, often including a down dog split pose where the leg that was just forward is now extended and curved behind me.
  3. A warrior two sequence.  I assume warrior two pose from yoga, holding for 5 breaths.  Then into extended side-angle pose, with one forearm gently resting on my knee while the other arm extends overhead.  I prefer the variant where the forearm rests on my knee over the version where one's hand touches the floor because I find the first to be a better stretch for the psoas.

    While holding side angle pose, I do five slow large circles with the extended arm - basically a backstroke-type motion.  Then I return to warrior two.

    Next, while still in warrior two foot pattern, I clasp my hands behind my back and perform a version of humble warrior two, but with my torso folded down halfway between my two legs (traditional humble warrior two has the torso fold much closer to the front leg).  When done this way, it's a nice groin stretch.

    Then I return to warrior two, and stretch backwards into reverse warrior.  Hold for 5 breathes.  Then return back to extended side angle pose for a second time, this time holding the pose stable for 5 breaths, feeling the nice psoas stretch.

    Once I've done that all on one side, I repeat on the other.
  4. Quad stretching.  I hold the couch stretch as defined by Kelly Starrett for 3 minutes on each side.  For the first minute, I lean fairly forward, for the second minute my torso is at roughly a 45 degree angle from the floor (and the wall).  For the third minute, I'm limber enough for my torso to be roughly perpendicular to the floor (as shown in the picture).
  5. Turning on the abs - I lie down on my back again, and perform 10 eagle crunches on each side.
  6. Turning on the glutes - I perform single-leg deadlifts on each side, holding a old closet rod in both hands as a balancing aid (I find it easier to do single-leg deadlifts with a light bar than with nothing at all.  I suspect this is for reasons similar to why tight-rope walkers use a bar for balance).  I don't have a prescribed number of repetitions here - I do the deadlift motion until it feels easy and I'm not wobbling - at that point, my glutes are awake.
  7. Tight shoulders - I place a tennis ball against a wall and self-massage my shoulders, back, and pectorals, working out all the knots (there are always knots).
Then, I'm done.  That's the 15 minute routine (longer if the cats try to help).  


The abbreviated version includes steps 1 and 2, plus extended side angle (from step 3) on each side for 5 breathes.  Then I hold the first minute of the couch stretch (step 4) before skipping step 5.  I do a few quick deadlifts on each side (step 6), and then skip step 7, heading out the door.

I do the "full routine" before any key run - i.e. a race or a workout.  For other runs, I prefer to do the full routine as well, but often I'm crunched for time and do the abbreviated version.  

I never run without doing at least the abbreviated routine.  It's simple - if I don't warm-up before I run, I have a lousy awful run and feel sore after, with my traditional injury areas flaring.  If doing the routine means that I'm late for my run, then so be it.

I'll also do parts of this routine (especially the couch stretch) at other times in the day as well.  The more open my hips are, the better.


One obvious question is whether the order I do these exercises in matters.  The answer is yes, if I'm doing these in the morning, pre-run.

I always start with getting my SI joint in whack. (Why do we say "out of whack" but never "in whack"?)  I need to have my hips level before doing anything else to stretch or activate.  

Steps 2-4 are all hip/groin stretches increasing in intensity.  Were I to do the couch stretch first, I'm afraid I'd pull something.

Once my hips are open, then I get the abs engaged with step 5.  I've found that if my hip flexors are tight, then they do some of the work that my abs should be doing, so I prefer to loosen the hip flexors with steps 2-4 before targeting the abs.

The glutes (step 6) come after that - in order for my glutes to fire correctly, I need to have my hips open, and having my abs engaged helps.

The final step, tennis balling my shoulders, is the one exception - that one can be done at any time.  Or shortchanged, if I've got limited time.  I put it last simply because it's the lowest priority.

The other obvious question: where do I get the time?  

Honestly, I just make it happen.  Like brushing my teeth or cleaning the litter box - two other things that must get done before I leave the house in the morning.  I get up earlier in the morning to fit it in.  And if I have to start my run later and run less miles, then oh well.  

Avoiding injury is much more important than any individual run.