Sunday, February 24, 2019

Training log - Week ending 2/24/2019

This week was 44 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I pulled back some this week, partially because of weather (a significant snow storm shut down DC on Wednesday) and mostly because I was racing on Saturday and wanted to give myself every opportunity to run a fast time.

As noted in my report, I was a bit disappointed in my performance on Saturday.  An 8K PR that matched my other PRs was one of my goals for this spring.  My 8K PR was very weak, and it remains weak, I think, so that's annoying.  Additionally, I felt that I just didn't race my best, which is as or more frustrating than the time itself.    

There's not that many 8K races that fit into my schedule (doing the 8K at Shamrock would mean missing the Shamrock Half-Marathon), so I don't know when I'll get a chance to race the distance again.  Of course, it's not like the 8K/5 mile distance is a major distance, so I'm honestly not sure why I care that much anyway.


I've noted that when I have a race I'm not happy with, I get strongly tempted to have a harder-than-appropriate run the next day.  It's the "punish myself" theory of training, and I'm not immune.  For that reason, I showed up at the team run on Sunday and asked my coach what I should do.  (On my own, I probably would have done 12-14 moderate).   

He held me to 8-10 easy (which meant 10, of course), so I trotted off with my teammates, both mildly annoyed and very grateful that I let him make the call, if that makes sense.  I like to think of myself as disciplined and controlled in my training, but every once in a while, even after all these years, I still need someone to protect me from myself.

And of course, running with my teammates improved my mood substantially.  Funny how that works.


Monday: yoga and 8.5 "miles" pool-running; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 12 miles, including 7x800 in 3:09, 3:03, 3:02, 3:01, 3:00, 2:54, 2:55.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 6 miles very easy (9:36), then DIY yoga at home and foam rolling

Thursday:  Light upper body weights and core and 7.5 "miles" pool-running in the morning.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: 4 miles very easy (9:27) and DIY yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  3 mile warm-up, then 8K race in 31:27 (manual splits 6:19/6:26/6:27/6:14/6:02).  3 mile cool-down.  1000 yards recovery swimming and foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday: 10 miles easy (8:32), followed by drills/strides and yoga.   Foam rolling in afternoon.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Race report: Gloucester 8K, February 23, 2019

I ran the Gloucester 8K in Gloucester, Virginia this morning, finishing in 31:27, which was good enough for the female win and a PR, so I guess this morning could be categorized as a success.

I had originally planned on racing the Gasparilla 8K in Tampa, Florida this weekend - it's a very fast 8K course, and every time I've been to Tampa in February, it's been perfect running weather in the morning.

However, not this weekend.  The forecast looked awful - 70 degrees with a dew point of 68 at race start.  Tough weather for racing in general, and really challenging for someone who has been training in sub-freezing temperatures.  Since my hotel could be cancelled and my flight was on Southwest (and so reusable), it was an easy decision to cancel the trip and eat the race registration.

(not to mention that I had a concert to go to on Sunday night, and it was going to be a hard turn around to race in Tampa Sunday morning, go to a concert in DC Sunday night, and then hop on a train to NYC Monday morning for work...)

But, I still wanted to race, and I wanted to do an 8K-5 miler if possible.  Both because my PR was ridiculously weak at that distance (my former 8K and current 10 miler PRs were at the same pace....) and because I'm trying to focus on the 5k-10K distances right now because I'm weakest there.  So....some digging revealed the Gloucester 8K on the same weekend in Southeastern Virginia, about 2.5 hours drive away.    A teammate who had run the race previously confirmed that the course was flat and fast, and my coach was on board with the idea, so I registered.

The race started at 9:30 am on Saturday, and so I debated driving down the morning of the race.  After giving some thought, I drove down Friday morning instead.  Hotels near Colonial Williamsburg were very very cheap since it's the off season, and since I telecommute, it was easy to check in early, and then just get a late start on an otherwise normal work day.    An additional consideration was that the forecast was for a steady rain - the type of weather that results in early morning accidents that snarl interstates - I didn't want to risk getting stuck in that on race morning.

So I drove down, checked in, grabbed Chipotle, and worked.  Then enjoyed a leisurely sleep-in (no cats to wake me) before driving to the race.


I had been crossing my fingers for the last few days, hoping that the forecast rain would hold off until after the race, but no such luck.  I woke to a cold steady rain.  Oh well.  After the gifts of weather that we had at Richmond and CIM last year, I had a balance due to the weather gods.

After parking and picking up my number, I went for a jog to warm-up and check out the start/finish area.  I noted that immediately after the start, we'd be running through a school parking lot with raised speed bumps.  Fortunately, one could avoid those by staying to the right - I made a mental note.  We'd return the same way (stay all the way to the left) and then would run through a narrow opening across a short grass section and up on to the high school track to finish at the 50 yard line.  

I wouldn't have been crazy about running on a short grass section (it was only about 10-15 meters) in dry weather, so I really wasn't happy about it given the current conditions - it was already soggy and muddy.  Additionally, I was sure it was going to be in much worse shape by the time the race was over, and I felt a preliminary twinge of guilt at contributing to the damage of school property.  Oh well, it was what it was - I wasn't going to skip the race over it.


I did two longer surges (about 50 seconds each), 4 short strides, and then lined up.  Some final instructions, including the location of the water stop that absolutely nobody was going to use today, and then we were off.

I knew no one in this race, and so I had no idea how the first few minutes would play out.    At the start, a few small kids surged past me (they came back within about 100m) and a pack of "looks like they're fast guys" in their teens and 20s pulled ahead with an authority that confirmed they were in another league.  I could hear one person steadily running and breathing behind me, but other than that I was alone.

Somewhere within the first mile, other-person caught up to me and then took the lead.  Cool.  I'd have someone to race.   We ran more or less together through the first turnaround.  After that 180, I looked for the second place woman, but saw none for at least 60 seconds, at which point I realized that I had the female win unless something disastrous happened.

A bit after that, I eased ahead of other-guy.  I hoped he'd come with me and fight, but 
he didn't follow.  I listened for his breathing and his footfalls, but eventually they faded away, and I felt alone again.  

The third mile of this race was a long straightway (nearly the full mile) into a slight headwind.  I would have loved to have had someone to chase, but I didn't, so I just focused on my steady hard effort.  And trying not to think about how soaked I was and how I felt like I was slipping a bit with each step.    

For shorter races - 10K and under, I find that I really need someone to chase or fight with to give my best effort.  This is for the very same reason that I prefer to do tempo workouts independent of others.  Having others with me tends to push/pull me to a harder effort - that's bad for tempo or marathon pace workouts, where too hard is counter-productive, but good for races, where it gives me that bit of extra oomph.  Without that benefit of someone to pull me, it was hard work to keep reaching beyond tempo effort.

The fourth mile brought the second turnaround - somewhere around there, other-guy caught back up.  The racer in me was disappointed, but another part of me was thrilled.  He pulled ahead, and I gave chase.  About this time, we were both passed by another guy who appeared to have started the race late and was now playing catch-up - ooops.

Back and forth we went, and then we made the final turn into the school parking lot.  He and I went back and forth, and then I pulled ahead (making sure to stay to the far left to avoid the speedbumps).  

Then I hit the grass patch.  I told myself not to worry about slipping, and just kept hammering.  And....I slipped and slid for the entire 15 meters of grass, my legs turning over like Fred Flintstone in his car.

I made it up onto the track and KEPT slipping - I'm guessing my shoe soles were still greased up from the mud - but got myself to the 50 yard line and the finish.  I was disappointed to see the clock counting 31:2x as I approached, but oh well - it was still a PR.  I had just hoped to be closer to 31:00 flat.

Splits were:
Mile 1: 6:19
Mile 2: 6:26 (Garmin says this was long, and my pace was 6:12)
Mile 3: 6:27 (Garmin says this was long, and my pace was 6:17)
Mile 4: 6:14 (Garmin says this was short, and my pace was 6:18)
last .97: 6:02 (Garmin says pace of 6:12)

I put the Garmin paces because I suspect that some of the middle mile markers were a bit off - I don't think I paced this race as unevenly as my manual splits indicate. Of course, my Garmin also claims the race was 5.03 miles instead of 4.97, and I'm sure that's wrong, so who knows.  The real answer is somewhere in the middle.

Oh well.  I can't say I'm totally happy with this morning's performance.   Part of my disappointment is the time, but more is that I feel like I could have run faster, but just didn't go as deep into the well as I have in other races.  I feel a bit unfulfilled.   But, a win is a win, and a PR is a PR, so I'll just have to run better and faster next time.  They can't all be great performances.

Other notes:

  • The weather ended up being 41 degrees and steady rain, with gusts of wind.  And yes, I'm much happier I did this race than the one in Tampa - much better weather.  Runners will understand; others will not.
  • I wore a longsleeve and shorts, plus a running hat and mittens over latex gloves with handwarmers.  This worked pretty well - I can't say I was truly comfortable, but it wasn't too bad.
  • I wore my "second life" Vaporflies for this - the ones that have lost their bounce and so work much better at shorter distances.  They handled the two 180 degree turns on course just fine, but were definitely slick.  I felt like I was hydroplaning at times with the lack of traction on the wet roads and puddles.  I wish I had brought my Adios 2s - I think that shoe might have worked better for today.
  • Traffic of course was awful on I-95 coming back.  However, I decided to experiment and take Route 17 to 301 in MD before picking up the Beltway.  That worked extremely well, and is probably going to be my default route for driving home from the Virginia Beach area from now on.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

DIY handheld water bottle

I like to run all races 10 miles or longer with a handheld water bottle.   I struggle with drinking water out of cups while running, and I also like to drink continuously with small regular sips, rather than take a massive chug every two miles.  Thus, for me, a handheld is the way to go.  Sometimes I'll carry the bottle all the way to the finish line; other times I'll toss it with a few miles to go.

You can buy a handheld water bottle at any running store or race expo, but they do get (relatively) pricey - $25 or up.  While that's not going to break the bank, it is a fair amount of money to pay for something I may toss at some point during the race (or alternately, forget somewhere).  Additionally, I've found that the fabric handles on most retailer handhelds are too large for my hands, and also don't last terribly long before fraying or stretching.

So...a few years ago, I started making my own handhelds.  (To be clear, I make the handle, not the bottle itself - I'm not that crafty.)  Here's how I do it.

You need three things: a roll of 2 inch wide duct tape, a pair of scissors, and a water bottle.  For the last, I like to buy packs of 10 oz refill bottles for hydration belts - a pack of two bottles costs $7, so $3.50 a bottle - not bad.  If you want to go even cheaper (or alternately, be more environmentally friendly) you could just recycle any plastic water bottle.  I prefer the hydration belt bottles because I like the way they fit my hand.

Start by measuring out a length of duct tape about 4 times the height of the water bottle.  Double this back on itself, sticky side to sticky side.  This will be the handle of your water bottle.  (Of course, you can customize the length of this to fit the size of your own hand.)

Fold back the end of your doubled-back duct tape (try saying that three times fast) and cut a slit.  By doing this, you are creating a slot in your handle for the neck of your water bottle.  Make sure not to cut so far that the slit extends past the edge of the doubled-back tape - you want a hole at the top of your handle, not a "Y" shape.
Insert the neck of the bottle into the hole you just created, then loop the rest of the duct tape around the bottle.  If you've measured the length of your doubled-back tape just right, it will form a nice loop for your hand, with the doubled-back section of the tape ending at the bottom of the water bottle.  Continue wrapping the duct tape around the bottom of the bottle and up the other side, with the sticky side of the duct tape adhering to the water bottle.  

Cut the tape near the top, and then affix that sticky end of duct tape over the bit of tape that extends from the neck of the water bottle.

And....that's it.  You can either fill up the bottle, screw the cap on, and go on your way, or alternately peel the tape off and redo it if you're not happy with your initial result.  Once you've got a bit of practice, this takes all of 60 seconds to do.  (Of course, it often takes me a bit longer than that to track down the scissors and tape...).

As for how I use my water bottles when racing?

(well, besides the obvious, which is that I drink from them....)
Me carrying a hand-held at both Richmond Half and CIM;
I think carrying the water bottle helped immensely in both,
despite cool temperatures.  Photo on the left by Cheryl Young
photo on the right purchased from FlashFrame photography.

As I noted above, I like to start any race that is 10 miles or longer with one of them, unless I'm fortunate enough to be running a race where they'll let me set out water bottles in advance.  I'll carry a bottle even if it's cold - I train with one all the time, so I'm very comfortable carrying it, and I don't think it slows me down at all.  

Plus, my coach has emphasized that staying hydrated can be important even in cool conditions.  While you're unlikely to collapse from dehydration in 40 degrees, you do still sweat a bit, and staying hydrated throughout the race puts me in a better place to close hard in the last miles.  Better hydration -> higher blood volume - > better energy delivery.

I'll sip continuously from the bottle as I run (using water stops as a reminder to sip, if I haven't done so in a while).  When my bottle is empty, I'll unscrew the cap and tuck it into my sports bra.  Then, at the next water stop, I'll slow to a jog, grab a cup, and pinch that cup to make a spout.  Then I'll pour the cup into my water bottle.  (if there's little water in the cup, I'll grab a second and repeat this process).  Then screw the cap back on (still jogging), gently re-accelerate, and merge back into the race.

I lose only 2-3 seconds doing it this way, less than I would lose if I stopped or walked at the water station.  I don't try to make up the few seconds I've lost by surging - doing so would just waste valuable energy (think of it this way: when you're trying to make it home on a single tank of gas, you don't floor the gas after a stop light).  Instead, I consider the few seconds spent at the water stop a valuable investment in the final miles.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Training log - Week ending 2/17/19

This week was 60 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

The week started off with one of the tougher workouts for me - mile repeats with short recovery.    We normally do 1600s with 800m jogged recovery, but due to some tough weather conditions (33 degrees and rain) my coach shortened the workout to minimize the duration of the workout.

VO2Max-ish work is my weakness.  Marathon pace workouts are relatively easy, and I can go anaerobic and lay down a decent 800m repeat at the end of a workout.  But that high middle ground - repeats between 1200m and 2000m in length -  is very hard for me.  I think of it as my unsweet spot.  And shorter recoveries increase the difficulty.

(I'm certain that this is related to how I prefer to race either miles or 10 miles and up - "short long distance" races of between 5K-10K in distance are the most challenging and painful distances for me).

But that's why this workout was really good for me.  I really want to improve my weaknesses this Spring, and this workout was excellent for that.    I wouldn't want to do a workout like this every week - workouts like this also tend to fry me if overdone.  But it's definitely good for me to get one in every few weeks. 

I was pretty tired after, but bounced back well with a decent tempo on Friday, and a good long run on Sunday (back in my comfort zone of marathon pace). 

I can see my fitness trending upwards, which is both nice for the obvious reasons and also makes it easier to patiently continue to train at my current fitness, rather than goal fitness (because current fitness is getting closer to goal fitness).


Monday: yoga and 8 "miles" pool-running; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 12 miles, including 3x1600, 2x200 in 6:20, 6:14, 6:10, 41, 42.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 6 miles very easy to yoga (9:21), yoga, and then 6 miles very easy (8:50), followed by drills and strides.  Massage in afternoon.

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

Friday: 12 miles, including a 4 mile tempo in 25:48 (6:39/6:29/6:23/6:17).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.   Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  10 miles very easy (8:33), followed by drills, strides, upper body weights and core and DIY yoga.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday: 14 miles progressive - split as first 4 miles averaging 8:33, next 4 miles averaging 7:23, last 6 miles averaging 6:49.  Followed with light injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Training log - week ending 2/10/2019

This week was 62 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Not all that much to report here, just getting the work in.  I'm at that point where I'm a bit impatient with where I am - there's that urge to hammer and run stuff too hard - to try to crash load my training.  Luckily, I've got umpteen years of training logs/blog posts to look back at and see that doing that never works out well - I either peak too early, get hurt, or never race well at all.

However, it's hard not to fall into that comparison trap - looking at what paces I'm running now, versus what I was running a few months ago and getting annoyed.  But, the logical part of me knows that I need to train at my current level of fitness today, not where I was back in November/December, or where I hope to be in the spring.  And I'm working pretty hard to listen to my logical side and ignore my emotional side like the petulant unreasonable child it can be.

Following that philosophy meant some relatively slow runs at the beginning of my CIM training cycle, but also meant that my fitness continuously improved and I peaked at the right time, hitting my goal (and running during the race the same marathon pace I had hit in my training runs).  So I need to do the cliche'd thing and trust in the process and know that the same will happen this year.

This week was the highest mileage week I've had since early November.  And...(not surprisingly) also featured the longest tempo workout I've done since early November, and my longest run since CIM.  So I'm not surprised that the legs are a bit tired right now.  Today's long run felt solid in pacing - I ignored my watch and just focused on a pace that felt realistically sustainable for 26 miles.  Aerobically it felt fine; the legs were definitely tired at the end, though.    

Next week I'm going to back off some on the distance of my long run, and will probably also stick to a 4 mile tempo.  The week after will be my next race - an 8K in Florida, where I have hopes of running decently fast if we get good weather.


Monday: yoga and 8 "miles" pool-running; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 12 miles, including 2x1600, 2x800, 2x400 in 6:19, 6:09, 2:57, 2:54, 83, 81.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy to yoga (9:08), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy (8:59), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

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

Friday: 12 miles, including an 8K tempo in 33:04 (6:44/6:36/6:37/6:36/6:30).  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.   Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  10 miles very easy (8:36), followed by drills, strides, upper body weights and core and DIY yoga.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday: 16 miles progressive - split as first 5 miles averaging 8:39, next 5 miles averaging 7:36, last 6 miles averaging 6:55.  Followed with light injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Training log - Week ending 2/3/2019

This week was 47 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Decent week.  As indicated by both my recent workouts and Sunday's race, I'm reasonably strong, but not at all sharp.  Which is actually a good thing.  

My goal is to have a spring similar to two years ago - where my first really good race was in  mid-March at Shamrock, and I then peaked in April and May, carefully sustaining that peak through June and the Garry Bjorklund (Grandma's) Half.  

If I was sharp and racing really well right now, that would be a warning sign that I wasn't going to be at my best for the races I care the most about.  I generally can hold a peak for about 6 weeks, so it's important to try to time it to match my goal races. 

So, I have a good base to work with over the next few weeks.  And I also seem to have gotten the-first-few-races-post-break-suck thing over and done with.  All good.  A few more weeks of training, and then I'll race again.

Monday: yoga and 8 "miles" pool-running; foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 11.5 miles, including 2000, 4x800, 2x200 in 7:59, 2:59, 3:02, 3;00, 3:01, 41, 41.  Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards of swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: Yoga and then 10.5 miles very easy (8:42), followed by drills and strides.  Massage in afternoon.

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

Friday: 7 miles, including one mile up-tempo in 6:36.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  4 miles very easy (9:21) and DIY yoga.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday: 3.5 warm-up, and then 4 mile race in 25:16 (6:33/6:16/6:24/6:05), jogged a mile after.  Later, did another 5.5 miles very easy (9:06) plus light injury prevention work and foam rolling.