Sunday, November 25, 2018

Training log - Week ending 11/25/18

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

Middle taper week.  For me, tapering feels a lot like landing an airplane.  You know where you are, and where you want to be, but you have to cut back just the right amount to get there satisfactorily.  And be willing to make adjustments along the way, in response to how you feel.

I have two guidelines for my own taper - things that work for me.  One is that I need to cut back on the volume but maintain the intensity.  If I skip workouts, I feel flat on race day.  The second is that my fast running needs to be hard but not TOO hard.  Rather than focus on "tempo effort" or "interval effort", I go with "fast but fun effort" - hard is fine, but absolutely no straining or anaerobic work.

[again, this is what I find works for me - I know others who can essentially take the last two weeks off, and show up sharp and ready to go on race day.  And conversely, there are those who can race within 2 weeks of their marathon without compromising the marathon performance.  We're all individuals, and taper in particular seems to vary widely among runners.  Just like landing different types of aircraft.]

At the beginning of the week, for Tuesday's workout, I was still feeling the Richmond Half-Marathon in my legs.  This wasn't terribly surprising - it usually takes me longer than a week to recover from a half.  The fact that I just barely hung on in the final miles of that race didn't help either - if I had paced it a bit more patiently, I would have recovered better, I think.

Because of the lingering fatigue, I pulled back on my mileage some in the middle of the week, and that seemed to do the trick.  Or maybe it was just the cranberry sauce.  But either way, by the end of the week I was feeling a lot fresher.  Aerobically, I felt very good, and the legs were starting to get some bounce.  All right on schedule.

I have one more "workout" (4x800 at who-the-heck cares effort) and a few short easy runs, and then it's showtime in Sacramento.


The big question for CIM-ers last week and the beginning of this week was the air quality issues in Northern California, and whether those air quality concerns would interfere with the race.  I was fairly confident that the air would clear by December 2, but I chatted with my coach and mapped out a back-up plan anyway - choosing Rock and Roll Arizona on January 20th.  

Why R'n'R AZ?  (and more specifically, why wait that long?)  Well... since I had done my last 20 miler on November 3, I needed to either run a marathon no later than December 9 (5 weeks after that 20) or start training again to extend the cycle.  And there weren't any appealing options on the weekends of December 1-2 or 8-9.  

Rock and Roll San Antonio didn't have great reviews, Rehoboth is not always well managed and features an 8-mile stretch on crushed stone (a surface that aggravates injuries that I work to keep at bay), and both Kiawah and Rocket City would be challenging to reroute to last minute from DC.  Plus the difficulties of taking MORE time off of work with very little notice when I had just taken a vacation for CIM.

Additionally, one thing I learned from my Mohawk-Hudson->Columbus->Hartford Marathon saga last fall was that switching marathons with a few days' notice is emotionally draining and costs me.   I get focused on my goal race - I research it, plan things out, and just get excited about it.  And I get energy from that.  Running a different race that I haven't planned on and don't really care about can affect my race just as much as poor weather can.  If I don't want to be there, I probably won't run my best.

So...picking another race in mid-January, especially a fast race on a course that I like in an area of the country that I really like made much more sense.  If the opportunity presented, I could get emotionally invested in RNR AZ.  I could look forward to it just as I'm looking forward to CIM now, in a way that I wouldn't for the other options.

Plus, the advantage of my shortened training cycle for CIM was that I could stretch out the cycle without too much trouble.  I really only started training specifically for CIM in early October, which is when many people would start training for a January marathon.  So extending the cycle was an option for me in a way it wouldn't be for those who had been training since August.

Fortunately, as of the writing of this post, the air is clear in Sacramento, and the forecast looks good through next Sunday.  Hopefully it will stay that way.


Monday: DIY yoga and 8 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 11 miles, including a track workout of 1600, 2x1200, 800 in 6:16, 4:39, 4:32, 2:58.  Also injury prevention work and 750 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

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

Thursday: Upper body weights/core and 8 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday 11 miles, including a three mile tempo in 19:09 (6:28/6:22/6:19).  Also injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 8 miles very easy (8:48) and then drills and strides, followed by DIY yoga and upper body weights/core.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday:  12 miles, split as 3 miles easy (8:58) and then 9 miles moderate (7:43).  Also light injury prevention work and 750 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Training log - Week ending 11/18/18

This week was 58 miles of running, 9 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This week was jumbled.  No Tuesday workout because I raced the Richmond Half-Marathon on the previous Saturday.   Wednesday I fully intended to run, but had a last minute change of plans.  

To explain, I had a very early (6:30 am) follow-up appointment with my prolotherapy doctor that morning.  I metroed out to his office in Tysons with the intention of running home after the appointment (about 10 miles).

[The background for why I was seeing this doctor: I have loose ligaments in my back (SI joint) and ankles that stretch out over time.  As those ligaments loosen, I get more unstable/hypermobile, and start to develop compensation injuries. 

So...when those ligaments get too lax, I get a prolotherapy injection to tighten them up.  The injection itself is just sugar water ("dextrose" if you want to sound fancy) plus a bit of lidocaine to numb out the pain of the injection.  The sugar water irritates the tissues and stimulates growth, and the ligaments tighten up and I'm good for another 18 months or so.]

At my appointment, the doctor agreed with my assessment that I needed another round of injections in my right SI, which was getting wobbly.  The good news was that he had time that morning to do the injections if I wanted, so I didn't have to come back.   So I changed into a hospital gown and had my SI joint and inner groin injected (I'd been developing a bit of tendonitis in my right adductor as a result of the floppy SI joint, so we decided to jab that spot also to be complete).

The downside of being injected was that I couldn't run for the rest of the day, so that was an unscheduled day off.  The next day I was cleared to run, and to do my normal mileage. 

With prolotherapy, I'm allowed and even strongly encouraged to return to my regular routine after the first 24 hours, with one exception - I can't go in the pool for 48 hours post-injection.  Which meant that I had to run outside in lieu of my normal pool-running day on Thursday.

That was unfortunate, because I would have much preferred to have been in the pool on Thursday.  The forecast was for sleet and wind - not terribly fun to run in.
As it turned out, the weatherpeople got it wrong.  My run started in rain that turned to sleet, and then, surprisingly, to snow.  And then the snow started sticking.  By the end of the run, the sidewalks were covered in over an inch of unforecast snow.  Hilarious in retrospect, but annoying at the time.

The snow meant that the track was unsafe on Friday - just a bit too much ice.  So I relocated to the Whitehurst freeway for my first winter workout of the season there.  GPS is unreliable there, so I used my Stryd foot pod to measure distance - identifying a nice loop of about .8 of a mile.  I did 2 segments of 2.5 loops each, with 3:30 jogging recovery in between, and called it 2x2 miles.

By the weekend, everything was back to normal.  Or heck, improved from normal, since the prolo was working its magic and everything was much improved.

Sunday was my last long run of the cycle - 16 with 6 at marathon pace.  I ran it on a route that had some winding/rolling hills - the Mount Vernon trail between Alexandria and Roosevelt Island.  I'm a rhythm runner, and so I find rolling hills to be challenging - they make it hard to lock into an effort.  All of my marathon pace work this cycle has been on either the pancake that is Hains Point or on a steady downhill to cauterize the quads.  CIM is rolling hills, and so it was good to get in a marathon pace workout on similar terrain. 

As for how the workout went?  Fairly well.  I'm definitely still feeling Richmond in my legs, and I think I overcompensated by pushing the effort slightly too hard, to ambitious marathon effort (as opposed to realistic marathon effort).   But I wasn't ever straining, and I don't think I dug a hole, so no harm no foul.  Just a recognition that 6:43 is probably not my marathon pace in 2 weeks unless we get a tailwind.

In other news, I finally broke down and set up an Instagram.  There are way too many (carefully posed, filtered, and even edited) pictures of runners on the internet, but there's no such thing as too many pictures of cats.  Thus, I give you "wellImtryingtocat" - the running Instagram where all the workout log pictures are cats.

We'll see how long this lasts.


Monday: Yoga and 9 "miles" pool-running.  Massage in afternoon.

Tuesday: 8 miles easy (8:45), then upper body weights/core.  Later did another 3 miles easy (8:21).  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: Prolotherapy injections in the morning, foam rolling and yoga in the evening.

Thursday: 8 miles very easy (9:19), upper body weights/core, and then another 3 miles very easy (9:18).  Foam rolling at night.

Friday 10 miles, including approximately 2x2 miles in 13:01 and 12:24.  Also injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles very easy (8:54) and then drills and strides, followed by upper body weights/core.

Sunday:  16 miles, split as first 5 averaging 8:50, next 5 averaging 7:32, final 6 averaging 6:43.  Also injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Training log - Week ending 11/11/18

This week was 42 miles of running, 15 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was the first week of what I consider my four week marathon taper (which started after my last 20+ miler).   The first week of the taper is resting for a tune-up half, and then the next three weeks are recovering from the half and resting for the full.

I like racing a half-marathon three weeks before the marathon - it's not just a race, but also the final big workout before my marathon.  Basically, the ultimate in tempo workouts. 

I usually don't race these half-marathons that well - their value is in the preparation for the marathon.  Richmond was apparently the exception - this may be the first time I've PR'd at a shorter distance during a marathon training cycle.  

Usually, during my tune-up races, I feel stuck in a lower gear - like I could have run further at the same pace, but not any faster.  That wasn't the case at Richmond - I had that higher gear, and when I finished, I was done.  

I'm not sure what that means for my marathon.  I guess I could get concerned about it, but I also think there's a logical explanation in that this cycle has been pretty short, so I haven't accumulated much fatigue.  I could get concerned about that also, but I've got a solid base from my previous marathons this year - that should carry me through.  I just needed to get sharp for CIM, and I appear to be there.  And it's really nice to know I already have a PR from this cycle.

As for the coming week?  My immediate future plan is just to recover from Richmond - resting up and absorbing the gains from that hard run is far more important than trying to rack up some late cycle miles.


Monday: Upper body weights/core, DIY yoga and 8 miles very easy (8:45) plus drills.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 9.5 miles, including 5x800 (3:00, 2:59, 2:55, 2:55, 2:54).  Also 500 yards of recovery swimming (skipped the leg strengthwork).   Massage in afternoon.

Wednesday: DIY yoga and 7 miles very easy (8:57) plus drills.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: Light upper body weights/core, DIY yoga and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam-rolling at night.

Friday 2 miles very easy (9:33).  Drive to Richmond.  DIY yoga in hotel room.

Saturday: 2 mile warm-up, and then Richmond Half-Marathon in 1:24:22.  Drive back to DC.

Sunday:  9 "miles" pool-running.  Foam-rolling in evening.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Race Report: Richmond Half-Marathon, November 10, 2018

I ran the Richmond Half-Marathon yesterday, finishing in 1:24:22, which was good enough for the PR and a masters female win.  So it was a good day.

I've done the Richmond Half once before, as well as the Richmond 8K last year.  From those experiences, I've learned the importance of leaving early for the drive down - the duration can vary between a bit over 90 minutes and 3 hours or more, depending on when you leave.

So, I left my house at 8:30 on Friday morning, which worked beautifully.  I arrived in Richmond a bit after 10 am, stopped by a local branch of my bank to make a deposit (why run errands up here when I could do them there), and then hit Chipotle (opened at 10:45 am) and the Expo (opened at 11 am) before finagling an early check-in at my hotel.    There had been a hiccup with my entry - for some reason I was placed in the 2:01-2:10 corral, rather than the 1:44 and faster - but it was very easy to fix at the expo.

That afternoon, the skies opened up over Richmond, and I'm sure I-95 south of DC wasn't much fun.  But I was already happily ensconced in my room, free to spend the rest of the day stretching, reading, and playing Geoguessr.


Per my norm, I woke very early on race morning (4:20 am) to take my asthma meds (they take a long time to fully kick in).  Then more stretching and breakfast and listening to music by Underworld and Orbital (my preferred pre-race music) before I headed out.  I also looked at the course map once more to rehash my race plan.

The forecast was for low 40s and sunshine, with gusty winds primarily from the northwest.  This meant a headwind for the first part of the course, and a tailwind for the final miles.

This course is built for a negative split anyways - the first 2 miles are on a false flat running to the northwest, with the last 2 miles being a gentle downhill, and then a very steep downhill after about 12.5 miles.  In between the two we'd have some flat or gently rolling sections, and then some rollers in Bryan Park between 5.5 and 8.  At 8, we'd hopefully get a tailwind that would then combine with the downhill last miles for a very fast finish.
Map copied from the Richmond Marathon
website, with their permission.

Mindful of the above, my plan was to start out at somewhere between marathon effort and "early part of 5 mile tempo effort"- the exact effort would depend on what I could find in terms of a pack to draft off of.  Then I'd start building, but still ducking behind packs whenever I could until we hit Bryan Park, which would be shielded.  Then, I'd try to stay patient and not waste too much energy on the hills before turning on the turbo once we hit mile 8.

The last half mile of this course is ridiculously downhill.   Pace on this last section is dictated not by how much one has left in the tank, but by one's ability to turn the legs over and will to NOT hit the brakes.  So there's no point in saving anything for a kick - best to run as if the final turn was the finish line, and then hang on and try not to trip and fall.


With my plan set, I headed over to the start line, leaving my hotel (about 2 blocks away) at 6:45 am for the 7:30 start.  In retrospect, this wasn't quite enough time.  My hotel was close, but with my room on one of the top floors, it would take too much time to get  back to my room to use the bathroom, so I ended up waiting for a portapottie.  This cut into my warm-up, and I ended up with slightly less than 2 miles, plus one 45 second up-tempo run and some strides.  I would have liked a bit more, but it was what it was.  And since I was planning to go out slowly anyways, I wasn't too worried.

The gun went off at 7:30 sharp, and it wasn't too hard to get into a rhythm.    I found a nice pack to tuck into, only to note with some amusement that it was the "1:30 pace group" that I was using.    Hm....either this was going to be a long day or they were going out way too fast.  I felt good and comfortable, so I decided it was probably the latter.  And if it was the former, speeding up was only going to make things worse.

Running with the pack was a bit annoying, both because I don't like to be packed in with others and because it was hard to see ahead.  From time to time we'd come upon a handcyclist that had started a bit before us, resulting in a traffic jam.   For that reason, once we had passed the first turn, I pulled to the side and eased ahead, hitting my own rhythm.

For the next few miles, I focused on my tempo effort - not too hard, not too easy.  Just under that redline.  Bryan Park was a bit more challenging than I remembered - none of the hills were terribly long, but some were steeper than I expected, and there were more hills than I remembered.  And the road was also fairly torn up.  I got a bit impatient here and ran too hard up a few of the hills, unfortunately.

It was also in Bryan Park that I noted my breathing getting a bit tight - my guess is that the gusty winds were stirring up mold and leaf dust.  Through the park and for about a mile after, my breathing was not great (though not awful), and I felt myself slipping into a negative place, but I just tried to put that aside.  My breathing wasn't that bad, and worrying about it wasn't going to help me while relaxing would.

We hit mile 8 and turned, and I was a bit perturbed to realize that my hoped for tailwind sure didn't feel like one.   More like a strong cross-wind.  But again, there was nothing I could do about that at that point, so I just kept rolling.  It was at this point that I started feeling pretty rough - I think a combination of my tight breathing and having not been patient enough in Bryan Park.   And of course, it could also be just that I was at mile 8 of a half marathon.  I just forged forward, trying to hold my rhythm and relax into it.

The last few miles felt awful.   My plan had been to blow up at 12.5, but I had misjudged and blew up a bit too soon.   However, as bad as I felt, I could tell that many ahead of me were struggling more, which gave me some people to reel in and pass.  With about a mile to go, my coach yelled at me to go for it and I dug a bit more.  But I had already gone to and emptied the well, and now I was just scraping the floor of it with a rusty butter knife.

But I managed to hang on somehow, and then we made the series of right turns and I had the ski slope finish in front of me.  This was no longer about fitness or running prowess but about one's comfort level with being completely out of control.  Fortunately, I have some experience with that from my horse riding days, so I just let 'er rip.

As I crossed the finish, I saw it ticking 1:24:3x, and I knew that I had just run a major PR - a great feeling.


Splits were:  (note that I missed some mile markers)
Miles 1-2: 13:26 (6:43 pace)
Mile 3: 6:34
Miles 4-5: 12:48 (6:24 pace)
Mile 6: 6:26
Mile 7: 6:26
Mile 8: 6:30
Miles 9-10: 12:46 (6:23 pace)
Mile 11: 6:25
Mile 12: 6:22
Mile 13 plus the last .11: 6:38 (5:59 pace)

Other notes:
  • I checked on Strava later, and noted that the "1:30" pacer (the same one I tucked behind for the first miles) finished in just over 89 minutes.  After going out in the low 6:40s for the first 2 miles.  That's not a good pacing job.   In fact, I'd say that is an abysmal pacing job.  If someone is targeting 90 minutes for a half, then it's almost certain that going out in the low 6:40s (especially on a slight uphill and into the wind) is going to wreck their race.

    I think there's an assumption that if you're pacing 1:30, then you must beat that time, and beating it by a lot is much better than coming a few seconds over.  It's similar to the mindset that results in some runners always straining to beat the target times in their workouts.   I'd suggest just the opposite - I think most runners will benefit from a pacer that holds them slightly back and first, and whom they can surge past at the end. But going out even 5 seconds too fast, if your target time is on the edge of your current ability, can destroy your race.
  • Wore my Vaporflies for this race, and earned myself a nice 80+ second PR.  (85:43 to 84:22).  But...before you give the credit to the shoe, it's important to note that I set my previous PR in the exact same shoes in Houston in January.  So yeah, I think this PR goes to improved fitness, good weather, and a fast course, not magic shoes with springs in them.  And since Houston was also a fast course in good weather, maybe this is all improved fitness.
  • Speaking of the Vaporflies, they now have 150 miles on them, and still feel great.  I actually like them a bit more now, because they're a bit less bouncy.
  • Carried a handheld water bottle until mile 12, just because I always do.   I'm so used to running with it that it doesn't slow me down.  I only sipped from it once, and probably didn't even need to do so then.  Also took an expresso GU on course, half at mile 5 and half at mile 8.  I wonder if I might have fared better in the second half of the course with another GU.  But I also think that the challenges in the second half of the race weren't about lack of fuel but about burning the candle a bit too much in Bryan Park.
  • Speaking of overdoing the hills - this race was a good refresher for me as I look towards CIM - I was slightly too aggressive on the uphills here, and got away with it because a) this was a half marathon and b) we had the downhill finish.  Neither of those will hold true at CIM, so I need to be much more patient there.    I know, based on this race, that I'm in shape to break 3 hours.  I just need to run patient and smart.