Monday, September 25, 2017

Training log - Week ending 9/24/2017

This week was 46 miles of running, 32 "miles" of pool-running and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This week was race recovery and taper.    For the first two days, I kept things in the pool.  Then I returned to land running, but started reducing the mileage, cutting it ever so slightly.

For my taper, I'm just echoing my taper for Chicago last year.  It worked before, so I'll stick with it as a general map, with some variation depending on how I feel from day to day.

Over the next two weeks I'll be reducing my volume while maintaining both the rhythm of my workouts and maintaining (or even slightly increasing) the intensity of my track workouts.  I've found that if I eliminate runs or pool-runs altogether, I get stale.  Far better to keep the doubles, but reduce the time - near the end of my taper, my evening pool-runs will be 10 minutes - a single mile.  Similarly, if I pull back too much on the speedwork, I get very dull.  Turning my legs over helps me peak, and it's time to peak.

[note: this is what works for me.   On the off chance that anyone reads my blog for guidance, please understand that this is not a blanket recommendation.   Tapering is extremely individual, and some people fare better with a larger cutback in work.  Or conversely, a very minimal taper.]

I am eliminating yoga classes for the next two weeks.  Part of it is a general "reducing the workload" - but I'm also paranoid about being exposed to those whom think it's appropriate to attend a class while sick.  Instead, I'll sub in more "DIY yoga" - a short 10 minute routine I do that includes all the poses that I like and none that I don't.  Again, keeping the rhythm but reducing the volume.

My weight lifting will follow a similar path to my running - I'll keep going to the gym to lift, and I'll lift the same weights, but I'll cut back the numbers of reps and sets.  In the last week, it will get ridiculous, as I stop by the gym for 5 minutes to do two sets of pull-ups and push-ups, and then leave. But this is what works for me.


As I noted above, I took the first part of the week easy, before returning to hard running with Friday's track workout.  I felt lousy during the workout, but that wasn't surprising.  After both of my previous halves this year, I took at least one full week off from fast running - a reflection of my personal ability to recover.

I chose to do Friday's workout anyways because I knew it would be minimal and restrained, and getting my legs turning over would be a good first step towards peaking.  I don't need to feel good now.  In fact, I'd be moderately concerned if I did feel good that I had peaked too soon.  I just need to feel good in two weeks.

Sunday was my last long run, which I ran solo.  My plan going in was to run the last 6 miles on the conservative side of marathon pace, to really lock in that feeling of holding back.  Before I started the run, I thought that 6:55 - 7:00 would be good and conservative.  But it ended up being a surprisingly hot and humid morning, and the headwind for the last 6 miles didn't help either.  I ended up dialing the pace back to between 7:05-7:10 to accommodate the weather.  But that was OK - what I really cared about was practicing the skill of staying relaxed, focused, and positive during the run (as opposed to how I lost focus at the end of my tune-up race).  And I accomplished that, which was more of confidence booster than faster miles would have been.

Two weeks to go.


Monday: In the morning, foam-rolling, yoga, and 4 "miles" pool-running;

Tuesday: In the morning, 9 "miles" of pool-running and injury prevention work.  4 "miles" pool-running and a sports massage at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 6.5 miles very easy to yoga (9:42), yoga, and then another 3.5 miles very easy (9:13) plus drills and two hill sprints.  4 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning,  upper body weights and core, and 7 "miles" pool-running.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 10 miles, including a track workout of 3200, 1600 in 12:36 (6:21/6:15) and 6:05.  Followed with injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: In the morning, 10 miles very easy (8:56) followed by drills, strides, foam rolling, and upper body strengthwork and core.  2 "miles" pool-running in the afternoon.

Sunday:  16 miles, split as the first 5 miles averaging 8:54 pace, next 5 averaging 7:44 pace, last 6 miles averaging 7:08 pace.  Followed with injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming, plus foam rolling.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Training log - Week ending 9/17/17

This week was 43.5 miles of running, 20 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This is just a quick entry for the formality of it.  This was the first week of my marathon taper, with a race inserted as a bonus.

Every time I've run a half-marathon as a tune-up during a marathon, it's gone poorly.  In fact, when I think about it, my marathon tune-ups of all distances are almost always disappointing - the only time they've gone well is when I've ended up under-prepared for the marathon.

I know this.  And I know that the smack-in-the-face of a frustrating race sets me up perfectly to approach my marathon with both resolve and respect.

That's the logic.  But there's emotion also.  And the emotion is that tough races are never fun, and it takes time for the sting to ease.  That's just how it is.

I've gone through this process enough to know that as much as the half sucked to experience at the time, it set me up very well for a great marathon.  So now I just need to relax and trust in the process.  And resist that urge that we all feel to try to somehow compensate for the race in my training over the next few weeks, either to subconsciously self-flagellate or to prove my own fitness or to crash-train some extra fitness. 

It's time for the plane to start its safe descent.


Monday: In the morning, foam-rolling, yoga, and 7 "miles" pool-running; 2 "miles" pool-running  at night.

Tuesday: 9 miles very easy (8:56) plus drills and strides, and then upper body weights and core.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 9 miles, including a workout of 6x800 in 3:02, 3:00, 2:59, 2:56, 2:59, 2:52  Followed with injury prevention work and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning,  7 "miles" pool-running, DIY yoga, and foam rolling.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 7 miles very easy (9:04), followed by some light strengthwork and DIY yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: In the morning, 3 miles very easy (8:46) plus DIY yoga and foam rolling.  Ice bath in the afternoon.

Sunday:  2.5 mile warm-up, and then a half-marathon in 89:03.  750 yards recovery swimming later in the morning.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Race Report: Navy-Air Force Half-Marathon, September 17, 2017

I ran the Navy-Air Force Half-Marathon this morning, finishing in a time of 89:03.  Which was good enough for second masters female.  For the fourth year in a row.  Each time to a different person.

Oh well, better than 3rd master, right?

I have to admit, I didn't go into this race with the best attitude, and I think it showed in my performance.  I've just finished my peak 6 weeks of marathon training, and I'm tired.  Mentally as much as physically.  I find it hard to shift into a racing mindset when I haven't raced in a while - it takes some work to rekindle that fire.

But that's exactly why it was a good idea for me to race this morning.  I knew that the race itself would likely not be my best performance for several reasons: accumulated fatigue, lack of focus on this race, and weather (today was pretty muggy).   But physically it would be a good hard lactate threshold workout, and mentally it'd be a solid kick in the rear.  And three weeks out from the marathon was the perfect slot for both.

Before I get into the race itself, I have to take a moment to praise the race organization.  I've run this race four years in a row now, and each year I've noted changes that were made in response to the feedback from previous years.   There used to be a problem with the 5 miler and the half-marathon runners interfering with each other - the courses were rerouted to fix that issue.   This year, the expo was moved to the DC Armory area - much easier to access than the previous location at Nationals Park.  I also noted that the race shirt this year came in a true women's XS - in previous years the womens' shirts, even the smalls and extra-smalls, were tents.  It seems like many races have a "my way or the highway" attitude towards their runners, so it's nice to run a race that really does value and respond to feedback.  The race isn't perfect. (which race is?)   But they really do try, and they improve each year, and that's worth a lot in my book.


Race morning dawned muggy - this type of weather has become a near tradition for this race, so I wasn't too upset.  It was what it was, and we just had to do our best.  Because of the weather, I kept my warm-up on the short side - 2.5 miles with one hard segment of about 90 seconds - and also finished my warm-up with enough time to let my body temperature settle back down.

Then I hopped in my corral, handheld water bottle in hand, to join my teammates.

The gun went off (actually a bell, as I remember) and I went out riding the brakes.  This race and Cherry Blossom have similar first miles and people make the same mistakes at both - hammering up the initial hill and then letting the subsequent downhill lure them out too fast.  Mindful of that, I proceeded carefully.

Somewhere during that first mile, I synced up with teammates Brent and Jason.  I'd run with them for the next 8-9 miles, before getting separated at a water stop.
Thanks to Elizabeth Clor for this photo.
Jason is to my left, and Brent is to
my right (hidden by me).
Other teammate Jamey is behind me,
as is the woman in blue who would
finish first master female.

For the first few miles, I tried to hold a steady rhythm, with the exception of one surge to get behind a taller person as a windblock (we had a very modest headwind for the first 2-3 miles).  I had noted another masters female at the start, so I was also keeping an eye on her - ideally keeping her in sight so that I could chase her.  Around mile 4 or 5 she came back to me and we passed her, so that was good.  Of course, soon after another woman who looked like she might be my age passed us.  I debated going with her, or at least keeping her in my sight, but opted not to.  She was going too fast for me this early in the race.  Either she'd come back to me later or she wouldn't, but blowing myself up now wouldn't accomplish anything.

I held my pace up to the turnaround in Rock Creek Park, but things were getting rocky.  My breathing honestly hadn't been great the whole race (not full-blown asthma, but slightly tight), and I was also starting to feel shaky.  I had drained my water bottle, so I slowed up to refill it, and lost contact with Brent and Jason.  That was just as well, as I sensed that they were in shape to hammer the race home, while this was evolving into survival for myself.

The last four miles were not fun.  I had originally hoped to hammer these, but I was in no shape to do so - my balloon had no helium.  So I struggled home, mentally and physically.   I'm annoyed that I didn't fight harder in the final miles - if nothing else, I could have at least broken 89 (though honestly that doesn't matter much at all - it would have still been way off of my fitness).  But I think the fact that I have a marathon in 3 weeks weighed heavy here - as horrible as it sounds, when I have a goal marathon on my mind, I just don't care that much about the tune-ups, and it shows.

Splits were:
Mile 1: 6:55
Mile 2: 6:44
Mile 3: 6:46
Mile 4: 6:41
Mile 5: 6:41
Mile 6: 6:45
Mile 7 6:44
Mile 8: 6:47
Mile 9: 6:54 (hill+ refill water bottle)
Mile 10: 6:46
Mile 11: 6:52
Mile 12: 7:00
Mile 13+last bit: 7:27 (6:39 pace)

So basically, I just raced a half-marathon not too far off the pace I've been training at as "marathon pace."   Normally this would be concerning, but I'm not too worried.  Between the weather (high 60s and 100% humidity), accumulated fatigue, and my lack of focus, I don't take too much from the time.  It is what it is, I'm done, and now I get to taper for the marathon.

Other notes:

  • Took one gel on course, a Blueberry Roctane.  I felt nauseous afterwards, but I think that was due to deydration, not the gel.
  • Speaking of dehydration, it was definitely a factor here.  I felt nauseous and shaky in the last miles of this race and for a while afterwards.  And despite tossing down many many bottles of water post-race, I'm still unable to pee.  (TMI, but it's a running blog).

    I'm not sure what I can do about that - I was definitely well hydrated going into this race, and I drank as much water as I could have tolerated during the race.  In 100% humidity, it's impossible not to get somewhat dehydrated when racing this long.  And the fact I had to go back on my antihistamines a few weeks ago for ragweed season didn't help - Clarinex is a great drug for allergies, but very drying.  Oh well, it is what it is.
  • Amusingly, though this time was far off of what I would normally hope to run for a half-marathon, it's still by far my my best performance at this distance while preparing for a full.  So that's nice.  And it's also just more evidence that I don't race half-marathons well off of full marathon training.

    Over the years, I've noted that some people can race great half-marathons approaching them from the endurance/marathon side - they do most of the marathon workouts, but just avoid the 20 milers.  Those are also the people that generally run better half-marathons as tune-ups for a full.   For myself, I do best at the half-marathon distance when I approach it from the 10K/speed/stamina side - focusing on the track workouts,  avoiding the marathoner workouts, and really limiting the long runs.  That's what I did this spring for Shamrock and Grandma's, and I'll use that strategy again when I next target a half as my goal race.  Marathon pace work is my strength, but the more I do it, the more I get locked into that marathon pace range, and the harder it is for me to find and hold a pace that's just a bit faster.
  • Arrived at the race at 6:00 am for the 7:08 start, which was just about perfect.  I did have some trouble finding parking at first - there were many many open spots along Constitution Avenue and the surrounding streets, but they were all marked with temporary "No Parking" signs.  It was frustrating.  Until I realized that all the No Parking signs were for Saturday (when we had umpteen marches and gatherings, including one for President Trump supporters and another for Insane Clown Posse fans).  And that was how I scored near-rock star parking.   Reading isn't just fundamental, it's also parking-tastic.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Training log - Week ending 9/10/17

This week was 74 miles of running, 24 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

And...that's the last hard week done - 6 of 6.  Now I have what's essentially a four week taper.  I'll taper this week for a half-marathon this coming weekend, and then recover from that before continuing my taper for the marathon on October 8.

I've done it both ways - last 20+ three weeks before, and last 20+ four weeks out, with a half-marathon raced all out three weeks out.  I prefer the second.  The half-marathon itself is hit-or-miss (and usually a miss, in my case).  But I really benefit from lactate threshold work in general, and so the half-marathon ends up being a great final hard workout before the marathon.

I'm feeling really good about my fitness.  I deliberately held way back on Tuesday's interval workout (with my coach's concurrence).  I've decided that when I'm marathon training, I prefer running the Tuesday interval workouts as a very controlled descending set - starting at somewhere between tempo and 10K effort, and then increasing the pace each interval to end at my normal pace.

Doing the workouts this way, I still reap the leg turnover benefits of the workout, without the stress and injury risk of the "normal" workout.  It's not the best way to train for the 5k-10K distance.  But for the few toughest weeks of marathon training, it's totally fine.

Friday's tempo was the last hard workout before the half-marathon.  Because of the great weather, we were able to extend the distance to 8K - I was really happy about that, since I think the longer track tempos are the single best workout for me in terms of building fitness.  I ended up setting a modest 8K PR during the tempo - my official 8K PR is 31:51 from a few years back.  Of course, I also ran faster than that during my 10K and 10 Mile PRs this spring, so that 8K PR had already fallen anyway.

Sunday's progressive 20 miler was almost an afterthought.  The priority was on getting it done safely and without digging too deep - in a sense, I'm already resting up for the half.  Incidentally, that's why the run was 20 instead of 21 - our usual 21 mile long run loop is closed due to construction, and so we did the run as an out-and-back.  Because of the out-and-back, we could fine-tune the distance, and so we limited the run to 20 miles.  There was no reason to do more, and every reason to be conservative.


Several people have commented on my paces this season, and wondered if I was targeting sub-3.  The answer is not really.  I'm honestly training at paces determined by my current fitness and recent race performances.  It just happens that those paces also generally happen to be in the low 6:50s.  Which matches a 3 hour marathon.

If pressed, I'd admit that I suspect I'm in sub-3 shape now, based on objective evidence.  But sub-3 wasn't my goal at the beginning of this training cycle, and I'm loathe to shift goals late in the cycle.  Getting ambitious with marathon goals late in a cycle usually leads to lousy races.  And it would be a shame to be disappointed with a sub-3:05 when that's what I wanted when I started training.

In any event, it's a non-issue.  I always race with my watch face blanked, so I'm ignorant of paces.  Thus, there's really no need to think about target paces or times before the race.  I'll just do what I do every time - target a well-paced race based on perceived effort.  If' I'm in shape to break three hours and the weather and the running gods comply,  it will happen.  If if doesn't, I'll still run the best I could that day.  And that's all I can really ask for.


Monday: In the morning, 8 miles very easy (8:41) to yoga, yoga, and then 2 miles very easy home (8:59) plus drills and strides. 4 "miles" pool-running in the evening.

Tuesday: 10.5 miles, including a track workout of 4x1200+800 in 4:50, 4:40, 4:36, 4:30, 2:52.  Also did injury prevention work at the gym and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 8 miles very easy to yoga (9:19), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy (9:19) plus drills and strides.  4 "miles" pool-running and a massage in the evening.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights and core plus 10 "miles" pool-running.  Another 2 "miles" of pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Friday: 11.5 miles, including an 8K tempo on the track in 31:48 (6:27/6:25/6:24/6:22/6:11).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1250 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles easy (9:07) followed by drills and four strides, and upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling and 4 "miles" pool-running in afternoon.

Sunday: 20 miles progressive, split as first 7 averaging 9:02 pace, next 6 averaging 7:37, last 7 averaging 6:43 (downhill assist on way back).  Followed with injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.   Foam rolling in afternoon.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Training log - Week ending 9/3/17

This week was 50 miles of running, 38 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

And that's week 5 of the hard 6.  Only two hard workouts this week: the 25x400m on the track, and the 4-3-2-1 on Saturday.  I was very happy with how both went.

The 25x400 was a dig-deep type morning, but it's supposed to be - that workout is intended to be a mental test.  The 4-3-2-1 felt good - controlled and not terribly challenging.   Well...the last mile at 10K-pace-instead-of-a-bit-faster-than-marathon-pace was arguably not quite as "controlled" but it didn't feel like a massive effort.  More of an "oops."  And my coach was fine with us hitting that pace for the last mile, so no harm no foul, I guess.

As my hard runs got faster, my easy runs got even slower.  I rode the brakes hard on those days to balance out the workouts and ensure I didn't dig into a hole.


I do a lot of thinking on my easy runs, and two of the things I was thinking about this week were a) how my workouts felt, both during and after, and b) why I like running my easy runs relatively slow compared to my workouts and races.

If you want to get analytical (and that's the fun of this blog), you can assign three metrics to any run or workout:

-how challenging it was to execute at the time,
-how much it took out of you in the days after, and
-how much of a stimulus it gave to your fitness.

There's a real tendency among runners to view the three as perfectly correlated.  I.e. if a workout felt really hard while you were doing it, or if you were trashed for days after, then it must have done great things for your fitness.

[incidentally, I think that assumption is what underlies the success of stuff like SolidCore and some of the worse Cross-Fit studios.  Due to how the workouts are structured, people leave the studios or boxes feeling really sore, and assume that because they are sore, their workout was effective.]

In my experience, the three qualities (how challenging it felt at the time, how tired/sore you were after, and how much you gained from it) are only loosely correlated.

For example, the 25x400 workout is a fairly tough workout to execute at the time - there's always a point where it's tempting to drop out.  Not so with a 21 mile progressive long run - unless I'm struggling with my training generally, the long runs usually seem easy at the time.  But I feel the 21 mile run much more in the days after - I bounce back fairly quickly from the 25x400.

Thus, how hard the workout felt while you did it may not match how much it takes out of you after.   And similarly, the workout that leaves you curled on a ball on the track may not have benefited you any more than one run a few seconds slower per lap. Sometimes (like the 25x400), you need to go to the well.  Other times (like the 4-3-2-1), if you dig deep you're just accruing more fatigue without a corresponding benefit.  Wasteful and inefficient.

Likewise, for easy runs, there's an assumption that the more tired one is from a run, the more one benefited from it.  I disagree.  At least for myself, I feel that I get a nearly identical training stimulus from 10 miles at 8:00 pace versus 9:30 pace.  But the 9:30 pace run requires much less recovery.   Thus the slower easy run is a better value - same training stress (or maybe greater, since I'm out there longer), at a lower physical cost.

[note here: I don't believe all people are equal.  There may be some who get a significant enough benefit from a faster easy run to outweigh the physical cost.  My hunch is that this depends on physiology and age.]

And that's one of the tricks of training - realizing that those three metrics can all differ, and that we need to be striving to maximize our fitness, rather than simply chasing exhaustion.


Monday: In the morning, foam-rolling, yoga, and 8.5 "miles" pool-running; 3 "miles" pool-running  at night.

Tuesday: 10.5 miles very easy (9:13) plus drills and strides, and then upper body weights and core.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 13.5 miles, including a workout of 25x400m - first 24 repeats averaged 1:32, with 100m recoveries averaging 32 seconds; last repeat in 85.  Ran the "10K" (less the recoveries) in 38:21.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.
(since people geek about the 25x400, here's the Garmin report and the Stryd report.)

Thursday: In the morning, foam-rolling, yoga, and 8 "miles" pool-running.  4 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 10 miles very easy (9:21), followed by upper body weights and core.  2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 17 miles, including a workout of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles at marathon pace, with ~1 mile easy in between (we took a bit longer after the 4 mile segment for a quick restroom break). Splits were:
4 Mile: 27:27 (6:53/6:49/6:52/6:53 - average pace 6:52)
3 Mile: 20:28 (6:48/6:51/6:49 - average pace 6:49)
2 Mile: 13:35 (6:50/6:45 - average pace 6:48)
Mile: 6:19
Followed with injury prevention work and 750 yards of recovery swimming. Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday:  8 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling mid-day.