Monday, March 26, 2018

Training Log - Week ending 3/25/18

This week was 40 miles of running, 11 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This week was messy in multiple weather induced ways.  Tuesday's workout was one of the most miserable I can recall - very windy, rain, 38 degrees, dark.  I was tempted to skip this one, but I get stale if I pull back too much on the intensity.  So I sucked it up and did the workout, trying to avoid straining since a) I had the Sunday 20 on my legs; b) I had a race coming up; and c) I'm tapering for my marathon anyway.

[plus straining in workouts is just a bad idea in general]

I was supposed to fly down to Florida for a work off-site on Wednesday morning, but a late season snowstorm screwed with that plan.  I ended up staying in DC after my flight was cancelled and I couldn't book a replacement that wouldn't both cost a fortune and get me there after most of the off-site was concluded.  Due to both weather conditions in DC and remote attendance of the off-site (I had to dial in at 7:50 each morning), I didn't end up running any more than I would have if I had attended the off-site.

Despite all the turmoil, Sunday's tune-up marathon went shockingly well.  I felt like I usually do in tune-ups - dull and stuck in a low gear - so to come so close to my PR was stunning.

Of course, this raises the question: should I have done a different race?  Many of my teammates did the Shamrock Half-Marathon a week before.  Shamrock is (in my opinion) the fastest legal half marathon course in the US, and the weather was perfect at Shamrock this year - resulting in a lot of great times and major PRs.    I didn't regret skipping it because I knew I wasn't going to PR anyway.

Only, apparently I might have, given how close I came to PRing on a slower course with not-quite-as-perfect weather.

On reflection, I'm still happy that I chose Philly Love Run over Shamrock.  I'll have plenty of other opportunities to PR at the half distance.  And there's no guarantee that I would have PRed at Shamrock - I might have had an off day or stepped in a pothole.

Plus, I much preferred the timing of Philly Love Run in terms of marathon training - important, since my ultimate goal for this cycle is a good marathon, not a fast half. 

Everyone's different, but for myself I like my training cycle to be:

1) 6 weeks of uninterrupted emphasis on marathon pace work and mileage, with just enough lactate threshold work to preserve that aspect of my fitness.

2) a half-marathon, raced all out, to serve as both a dress rehearsal for the marathon and a final very hard lactate threshold boost.

3) 3 weeks of reduced mileage while maintaining or slightly emphasizing the track speedwork, to peak.

When I do this right, I feel fresh on race day, with all the different aspects of my fitness peaking together.  Running a half-marathon earlier in the cycle just doesn't mesh in quite the same way for me (though it might for others).


Monday: Yoga and 7 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 9.5 miles, including a track workout of 2000, 4x800 (8:03, 3:05, 3:06, 3:07, 3:04), followed by a long hot shower and then 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 6.5 miles very easy (8:59) plus drills (didn't want to risk strides in snow).  DIY yoga and foam rolling in afternoon..

 "miles" pool-running.  Later snuck in light upper body weights/core and DIY yoga.   Foam rolling at night.

Friday7 miles, including a mile pick-up in 6:22.   Followed with DIY yoga and foam rolling.

Saturday:  Drove to Philly.  DIY yoga and foam rolling in afternoon.

 2.5 mile warm-up, then half-marathon in 1:25:56.  1.5 cooldown and drive back to DC.  1000 yards recovery swimming and foam rolling in evening.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Race Report: Philadelphia Love Half, March 25, 2018

I ran the Philadelphia Love Run today, finishing in a time of 85:56 - good enough for 7th female, 2nd master female, and the age group win.  I'm really happy with this performance and what it means for my marathon (now 3 weeks away).

My original plan for this weekend was to fly to Tampa on Wednesday, then Tampa to Philly on Friday, before hitching a ride back to DC with a teammate post-race on Sunday.  Due to a late season snowstorm, I never made it to Tampa, and so I cancelled my Tampa/Philly flight and just drove up to Philly Saturday morning.  This turned out to be unfortunately fortunate, as my teammate got sick and had to skip the race.

I arrived in Philly around 10:30 am, and did my rounds: expo, Chipotle, hotel.  Chipotle's been skimping on the portion sizes recently, meaning that I have to order three bowls to get what used to be included in two.  I did a fairly good job of pretending like I was trying to remember other people's orders, and also made a show of counting out three forks, so I think my secret was safe until I blogged about it.

My hotel nicely let me check in at noon, so I was able to enjoy my bowls of Chipotle in the quiet of my hotel room while streaming the half-marathon world championships.  Then some DIY yoga, hip stretching, and tennis balling, Ucan+coconut water for dinner, call with sig other, and an early bedtime.

The big question on my mind had been "tights or shorts" for this race.  Starting temps were forecast to be 29 degrees, with wind and overcast skies.  29 degrees, no wind, and sunshine was unquestionably shorts weather, but the wind made this a tough choice.  I decided that I'd just check the weather in the morning before heading out, and pack whatever I didn't wear in my gear bag in case I wanted to swap.


When I woke up, it was 34 degrees, so that settled that question.  Still windy, but warmer-than-freezing meant shorts.  I wore a singlet and arm-warmers on top, plus a throwaway shirt and a old heat sheet from a past race.

My warm-up was about 2.5 miles - mostly easy, but spiced with two minutes hard and two bathroom breaks (not simultaneously).    When warming up, I like to run hard enough to get my heart rate a bit over 170 before going to the line (that's the lower level of tempo effort for me).  I feel much better and less sluggish in the early miles of the race when I do this.  This time, I ran hard for two minutes but could only get my HR up to the mid 160s.  I decided not to worry too much about it, since it was pretty cold.  And the last thing I wanted to do was fry my legs before the race.  It's a warm-up, not a last shot for self-sabotage.

Did some drills and two strides at half-marathon pace before ducking into the corral at 7:25 for the 7:30 start.  Unfortunately, the start of the race was delayed 10 minutes - enough time to say hi to friends, and also enough time to get really cold.  Oh well.

Finally, at 7:40 they started the special needs athletes, followed by the rest of us two minutes later.

This race had both a 5K and half-marathon option and both races started and ran together for most of the first 3 miles.  This, combined with the slightly downhill start, meant that the race exploded from the start.  Even if I had wanted to go that fast, I wouldn't have been able to - my legs were absolutely frozen.    So I lumbered forward, reassuring myself that I'd be feeling much less stiff in a few miles.

The course started and ended near the Philadelphia Art Museum (yes, the Rocky Steps), with the first three miles through flat and fast downtown Philly ("Center City") before passing the Museum to run out and back on Martin Luther King Drive.  This mostly flat course would be interrupted by one significant hill combo - about 7.5 miles in, we'd climb up an exit ramp before crossing a bridge over to Strawberry Mansion, where we'd climb another significant hill before looping in front of the Mansion. Then back down the hill, across the bridge and down another exit ramp, before finishing the race with more fast MLK Drive.

Given the course, my plan was to ease my way into the race over the first three miles, then try to hit a rhythm up the MLK.  When we hit the hills, I'd try to hold an even effort and not waste myself on the hills, before re-establishing a rhythm post-Strawberry Mansion.  Once I hit mile 10, I'd try to empty the tank as best I could over the last three miles.

(As always, I was running by feel/effort, and ignoring my watch.)

Of course, the wind could and did throw a wrench into this plan.  Supposedly the wind was sustained from the north at 15 miles per hour, but it seemed like it was gusting all over the place during the first few miles through Center City.

Well aware that I would be fighting this wind for the next four miles up the MLK, I looked for a pack.   I saw one ahead of me, but despite the fact that I was breathing very easily and felt like I wasn't working hard at all, I couldn't get my legs to turn over to catch them.

Not surprising - when I run races during or immediately after a marathon cycle, I often feel like I'm stuck in a medium gear - I'm not working very hard, but at the same time, I just can't upshift.  I think much of this is physical - I'm a rhythm runner, and when I do a lot of marathon pace work, I get stuck in that MP rhythm (and also tired).  Some of it is also unquestionably mental - I simply don't care about tune-ups the way I do about goal races, and so I lack fire.  I think I also subconsciously/consciously ride the brakes a bit in tune-ups, saving myself for the real deal.

I wouldn't have been concerned about my lack of mojo, except that I really really wanted to catch that pack.  And it wasn't happening.  Oh well, such was life.  I glanced behind to see if there was a pack I could join there, but no such luck.  I was on my own.


However, once we hit the MLK, the pack I had been chasing splintered, and I was able to start hopscotching.  I never had a block for very long, and I had to abandon several of them when they insisted on running in the center of the road, rather than run the tangents.  On the winding MLK, that could cost one significantly.

So I ended up by myself a fair bit of the time.  Except for "my buddy" - a much taller guy who was attempting to use me.  Totally fine - I can't use others as blocks and them complain when it's done to me.  However, I'm pretty sure I didn't help him that much.

Running into the wind, I focused on just holding a rhythm (not hard, since I was pretty much locked into that annoying "halfway between half-marathon and marathon effort" place).  And relaxing and stretching up.  For myself, trying to hunch up and shrink against the wind slows me down much more than the wind does.  Far better to ignore my instincts and stretch tall.

I took half a gel at mile 6 and tossed my water bottle.  I'd hit the hills a bit after 7 - about the time the sugar and caffeine from the gel would kick in.

The first hill itself was pretty impressive looking - a bit less than a quarter mile, but about a 6% grade.  The second hill seemed like the same incline, but slightly longer and a bit curvy.  Neither was as tough as they looked (a big confidence booster for Boston), and then we were looping around the mansion.  I was surprised how broken up the road was here - I never got a chance to look at the mansion - I was staring at the ground the whole time trying not to trip.

Then down the hill, across the bridge, and down another exit ramp back onto the MLK.  The downhill was almost steep enough to force one to brake, but not quite.  Some people went flying down it, but I decided not to. I still had about 4 miles to run and I really didn't want to risk injury in a tune-up race.  Plus, this was a good opportunity to practice going down a hill with as little damage to the quads as possible (more Boston prep).

And my legs were still in that annoying medium gear, so I really didn't have much choice.

Back on to the MLK, do a 180, and then we were heading towards home.  The wind was now mostly a tailwind or crosswind, which helped me pick up the pace some.  (I finished my gel, and that helped also.)  People were starting to fall apart, so I passed quite a few.

Once I passed 12 I started pushing (but not very well), and when we hit the final uphill to the museum, I emptied the tank as best I could (also not very well).  I wasn't breathing very hard, but just couldn't turn over.  I'd be frustrated, except I know this is how it goes.

And then I approached the finish line, saw the clock, and realized I was going to break 86.  I was utterly shocked.  I had run 85:43 in Houston 9 weeks ago - an all-out, fully tapered, peaking effort on a very fast course in good weather (with significantly less wind).  This race felt much more like a tempo, and while this is a decently fast course (could be really fast without the hill) and the weather was not bad, it was not the same set up for a great day that Houston was.

And unlike Houston, where I was utterly spent at the end of the race, and just hanging on the last 2-3 miles, I was fine.  Breathing normally, no issue jogging back to my hotel post-race, and I felt like could have gone out for a few more miles afterwards, maybe even doing some MP work.

(Of course, I didn't actually try this, since it would have been phenomenally stupid, so maybe I'm just kidding myself.)

Splits were:
Mile 1: 6:43
Mile 2: 6:36
Mile 3: 6:48 (a good part of this mile had a very bad headwind)
Mile 4: 6:32
Mile 5: 6:36
Mile 6: 6:37
Mile 7: 6:40
Mile 8: 6:58 (uphill)
Mile 9: 6:19 (downhill)
Mile 10: 6:26
Mile 11: 6:26
Mile 12: 6:21
Mile 13: 6:19
last .11: 0:37

Split another way, I ran the first 5 at 6:38, the next 5 at 6:35, and then split 19:40 for the last 5K (6:20 pace, tailwind-assisted)

Final time 85:56.

I still can't believe I ran that fast today on somewhat tired and dull legs. I fully expected to see 87 on the clock, maybe high 86.

(and no, I don't believe the course was short)

Other notes:

  • The majority of the runners in this race were from Philly - I can't figure out why so few of them could run the tangents on the Parkway.
  • Wore my Vaporflys for this race.  I don't wear them very often - I wore them for Houston, and then for the second half of my first 20 miler.  They felt good today, especially up and down the hill, so I'll definitely go with them for Boston.
  • I'm still really shocked to come so close to my PR, on a day that felt like I wasn't running very well or very hard.  I don't think this is because I'm peaking too early - if I was peaking, I'd feel much less tired and much sharper, and I would have been able to leave it all out there.  But I'm feeling really good about Boston (and the hills there - a friend told me that the Newton hills are similar to what I ran today, just slightly longer.  And 16 miles in, rather than 7.5).  
  • The snow held off for the race, but started to fall on the drive home, which took a good deal longer than it should have.
  • I really recommend this race as a Boston tune-up.  It's well managed, at the right time of year, and fairly fast.  The hills are just right, in terms of timing on the course and size, to both prep and build confidence for Boston. (caveat cursor - I've never run Boston)
  • I ended up second masters female to Abby Dean - a very accomplished Philadelphia runner.  I don't like being second in general, but if I have to be second, I'll happily be second to her.
  • (I've edited this post to correct a previous error: what I thought was the Ben Franklin Parkway was actually Martin Luther King Drive.)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Training log - Week ending 3/18/18

This week was 75 miles of running, 10 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

And that's the final "real" week of marathon training for this cycle, completed 4 weeks out from the race.  This coming week is resting up for a tune-up half, and then going from there into a full taper for the marathon.  

I have a business trip scheduled for the second half of this coming week, and it's going to be very hard for me to fit in much running while there, due to a tight schedule.  Hence I scheduled my last high mileage week for this week, so that the business trip can coincide with the mini-taper for my tune-up half.

(Additionally, I've gotten sick about half the times I've attended this meeting in the past, since there's always a few people who feel compelled to show when they should be in bed - another reason to get my last 20 in this weekend.  If I get sick, I'd rather miss my tune-up race than my last 20.)

I'm curious to see how my tune-up half will go.  In the past, I've never run tune-up races particularly fast while in marathon training.  Some see improvements at all paces from training at marathon pace; I see just the opposite - the more I train at marathon pace, the more I get locked into it.  I get very good at marathon pace, and find it hard to race at any other pace.  (I didn't start running half-marathons well until I wised up and changed my training for that distance - cutting most of the marathon pace running in favor of tempos at 10 mile to half-marathon pace.)  Additionally, I need at least 2 weeks of reduced mileage to get my legs fresh - a 3 day mini taper doesn't accomplish much.

OTOH, this will almost certainly be the first non-hot tune-up half I've run in quite some time.  And I'm coming off of a solid half-marathon performance at the start of this cycle, and feeling fairly good right now.  We shall see. 


Monday: 3 very easy to yoga (9:31), yoga, and then 7 very easy home (8:54) plus drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 12 miles, including a track workout of 6x800 (3:08, 3:04, 3:02, 3:04, 3:01, 3:00), followed by injury prevention work and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy to yoga (9:01), yoga, and then another 4 miles (9:01) plus drills and strides.  Foam rolling in afternoon..

Upper body weights/core and 10 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday11 miles, including a track tempo workout of 6400m in 25:38.  Followed by injury prevention/leg strengthwork and 1250 yards recovery swimming.  Massage in afternoon.

Saturday:  10 miles easy (9:10), followed by drills, strides, upper body strengthwork and core, and DIY yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

20 miles progressive, split as first 7 at 9:18, next 7 at 7:42, last 7 at 6:50 (downhill assist on last 7 miles, to simulate the quad pounding of Boston).  Followed with light injury prevention work and then 500 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling in evening.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Training log - Week ending 3/11/2018

This week was 52 miles of running, 30 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was my penultimate week of spring marathon training.  Only two workouts this week - a 25x400m and 2x5 miles at marathon pace.

Doing the 25x400 this week was unexpected.  My (mis-)understanding was that we weren't going to do this workout this cycle, since I was also doing 2x5 miles at marathon pace and was trying to extend my Houston cycle all the way to Boston.   Unfortunately, since I thought I was doing a different, far easier workout on Wednesday morning, I did too many miles on Tuesday (I would have stuck to 7 miles or so, had I known).  

Due to the extra mileage and more general worries about overreaching, I limited the pace on this workout.  It's supposed to be run as twenty-five 400m repeats at 10K pace (6:16, so around 1:33-34 per 400m) with a 100m float in 30 seconds (8:00 pace).  But instead I started more slowly, around 1:38-39 seconds, and then brought it down to 1:35s for a while before getting closer to my 10K pace near the end.  I ended up averaging 6:22 pace for the fast parts - 39:36 for the "10K."  So much closer to my 10 miler pace (6:24) than my 10K pace.

It was interesting how pulling back just a few seconds per lap made a world of difference in the workout.  What is generally a very tough "dig deep" type workout instead became long but not extremely draining.  The overall effort felt much more like a marathon pace workout than a tempo - I could have kept going for a good while longer.

Since I didn't push the workout hard enough to go to the well or stay at my lactate threshold, one could argue that I missed the point of the workout.  I agree, however I thought it was more important not to dig a hole, which I believe I would have done had I tried to force this one.  First rule of training - better too little than too much, especially when you're riding that fine line where you're feeling really good and really fit after a long stretch of training with your goal race still 5 weeks away.

Saturday was another edition of the 2x5 at marathon pace.  Since the Rock N Roll Marathon had much of DC shut down, I did loops of Hains Point, which meant a tailwind for part of the workout and a headwind for other miles.  Despite the shifting wind, I mostly held pretty even splits of 6:45-8 - near the bottom of my prescribed range of 6:45-7:00 (the last mile was a bit too fast due to overcompensating for a headwind).

The nice thing was that high 6:4x pace felt very doable and rhythmic.  My legs got a bit tired at the end, but I could have continued on after the second repeat.  And while doing 26 miles at that pace didn't feel doable yesterday, I think I could have done 10 straight without much issue.  26 miles is why we taper.

High 6:4x pace translates to a 2:58 marathon, which I think I'm in shape to run IF I 1) had a perfect Chicago-type course with 2) perfect weather and 3) executed well.  

Of course, I'm running Boston, so the first point is a miss, and the second point has a low probability.  But, I think that if the weather's not awful there and I pace the race well, I have a good shot of something between 3:00 and 3:05.  We shall see, I guess.

One more week of training, including my last 20+ miler, and then I taper for my tune-up half-marathon and the Boston full.


Monday: 9 "miles" of pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday7.5 miles very easy to the gym (8:54), upper body weights, core, and DIY yoga, and then 3.5 miles very easy home (8:36) plus drills and four strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 13 miles, including a workout of 25x400m with 100m recovery - averaged 95 seconds for the 400s and 30 seconds for the recovery jogs; the "10K" less the recovery jogs was 39:36.  Followed with light injury prevention work and 1400 yards recovery swimming  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:  Yoga and then 9 "miles" of pool-running in the morning; f
oam rolling at night.

Friday: 7.5 miles very easy to the gym (8:53), light upper body weights, core, and DIY yoga, and then 3.5 miles very easy home (8:42) plus drills and four strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  17 miles, including 2x5 miles at marathon pace with one mile easy in between  Splits were 
33:56 (6:51/6:47/6:45/6:47/6:46 - average pace 6:47) and 33:34 (6:44/6:45/6:46/6:44/6:35 - average pace 6:43).  Followed with light injury prevention work, 600 yards recovery swimming, and 2 "miles" pool-running. Foam rolling in evening.

Sunday:  10 "miles" pool-running, followed by foam rolling.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Training log - Week ending 3/4/18

This week was 76 miles of running, 10 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

My land mileage was artificially inflated this week since I only took one day in the pool during this 7 day period.  So a mileage bump on paper, but not in reality - I'm still averaging around 60 miles +20 in the pool each week.

This week, I felt like I had finally adjusted to the bump up in mileage.  I felt good and energetic, and had to work hard to try not to run too hard (I didn't always succeed - note the last 800 on Tuesday, and I also let Saturday's easy run get a little too fast - mea culpa).

We did have some freakish weather come through late in the week - high winds akin to what one would see with a blizzard or tropical storm (60-70 mph gusts), less the precipitation.  The area ended up shutting down, which I think was the right choice, based on the destruction I saw.  If nothing else, shutting down schools and the federal government meant less people getting into accidents and clogging roads, making it easier for emergency personnel and utility workers to do their thing.  

My coach cancelled our Friday morning workout as well, advising us to try to do it on Thursday night instead.  That wasn't an option, so I relocated to my old friend, under the Whitehurst freeway, on Friday morning.  (and yes, this means that I was one of the idiots on the road on Friday morning.)
Under the Whitehurst, facing west.  Image from Google.

This route has buildings and hills to the north (on your right in the image), and thus is very sheltered from wind in that direction.  It's somewhat sheltered from the west and east, and totally exposed from the south.  Since the windstorm was howling from the northwest, I thought this might work.  If nothing else, it was worth a try - the buildings/elevated highways/lack of trees made this the only safe option for running outside that day.  

[my backup options were a) to tempo in the pool, if it wasn't shut down or b) take a rest day.  I have no objections in general to running on a treadmill, but I haven't run on one myself in years, and jumping on one for a workout seemed like an unnecessary injury risk.]

I arrived (parking my car very mindfully in a sheltered location), and confirmed during my warm-up that this was safe and doable.  No blowing debris, and much of the wind was blocked.  An occasional gust would sneak between buildings and lift me off my feet, which was kinda fun.  But in general it was slightly less windy than some epic races I've done on Hains Point or at Virginia Beach.

So I tempoed there, ping-ponging between a boathouse on one end and the intersection with Wisconsin Avenue on the other.  

There's no way to be sure exactly how far I ran - GPS doesn't work there and mapping is also not helpful, since you take a different path each loop (dodging cars, pedestrians, etc).  I know that each back-and-forth loop is around .8 of a mile, so 5 loops equaled approximately 4 miles by my math.  My footpod (I used this opportunity to test it) claimed 4.07 miles in 26:11 - 6:26 pace - which seems about right.  

Not that the exact distance or pace matters anyway.  I got in about 4 miles at the right effort level and felt good and didn't get hit by a tree branch or a flying trash can, so I called it good.

By Sunday most of the wind was gone.  It was still windy, but seemed calm in comparison to Friday.  Despite the gusty conditions, my long run (21 progressive) was a near carbon copy of that from two weeks ago, especially in the splits for the second and third portions.  Two key differences - an extra bathroom break, and lots of good company.  Good people make everything better, including long runs.  I can't think of any group of people I'd rather spend three hours running with than my teammates, and that's awesome.


Monday: 5.5 very easy to yoga (9:21), yoga, and then 4.5 very easy home (8:54) plus drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 11 miles, including a track workout of 1600, 2x1200, 2x800 (6:12; 4:35, 4:30, 2:54, 2:49), followed by injury prevention work and 1500 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy to yoga (9:00), yoga, and then another 4 miles (8:59) plus drills and strides.  Massage in afternoon..

Upper body weights/core and 10 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: 12 miles, including a Whitehurst tempo workout of ~4 miles in 26:12.  Followed by injury prevention/leg strengthwork and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  10 miles easy (8:36), followed by drills, strides, upper body strengthwork and core, and DIY yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

21 miles progressive, split as first 7 at 8:41, next 7 at 7:37, last 7 at 6:46.  Followed with light injury prevention work and then 500 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling in evening.