Monday, July 29, 2019

Training log - Week ending 7/28/2019

This week was 61 miles of running, 18 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Back on the track.   This week was really about getting a sit rep on where my fitness is.  And I'm happy with where I am - while I'm not in my top shape right now, I'm not bad at all.   The long run was by far the easiest workout of the week, which makes sense since I'm generally best at long runs anyway, and my work over the last month has been very strength-focused.

I'm especially happy with how my running feels - a month of trying to make my butt strong with hill work, lots of running drills, and gym time has resulted in what feels like a lot more power, and my gait also just feels smoother and more "on."  

So that's nice.  My plan is to spend the next few weeks layering some shorter distance speed onto this base fitness, and then to try to transition that speed into a marathon training cycle, peaking in late October/early November for the Columbus Half-Marathon and the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.

I also used this week to test out my new warm-up routine - the same routine I tried at the Harrisburg mile.  It's about 15-20 minutes of easy jogging, and then 
1) 3 minutes at half-marathon effort (followed with 90 seconds jog);
2) 4x30 seconds at 5K effort with 30 second recovery (followed with 90 seconds jog);
3) 4x10 seconds at mile effort with 20 second recovery.

I tried this for both my track workouts this week, and it worked very well.  It's probably worth noting that half-marathon effort does not yield anything near half-marathon pace when I do this warm-up - this isn't surprising since I'm not yet warmed up when I start that 3 minutes.  But... the point of the warm-up is to be ready to run well in the workout or race, so I'm not too concerned with that.

I think this warm-up is a keeper.  I just need to figure out whether there's any point to doing strides after it, though, since the 4x10 seconds at mile effort fill the same need.

[also worth noting that the original version of this warm-up, as told to me, is 3 minutes at 15K effort (not HM) and 4x30 seconds at 3200m effort (not 5K).  But I feel that easing up slightly on the efforts works better for me.]


Monday: Yoga and 8.5 "miles" pool-running in the morning.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 12 miles, including a track workout of 2x1600, 2x800, 2x200 in 6:15, 6:07, 2:58, 2:50, 37, 38.  Followed with leg strengthwork and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy to yoga (9:02), plus drills and strides, and then yoga.  Followed with another 4 miles very easy (8:53).  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:  9.5 "miles" pool-running and upper body strengthwork/core in the morning.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: 12 miles, including a 4 mile (6400m) tempo on the track in 25:47 (6:35/6:24/6:27/6:21).  Followed with 6 short steep hill sprints, leg strengthwork and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday:  10 miles very easy (8:45), plus drills, 4 hill strides, upper body weights/core.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday: 14 miles progressive, split as first 4 averaging 8:33; next 6 averaging 7:26; last 4 averaging 6:51. Followed with leg strengthwork and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Training log - Week ending 7/21/2019

This week was 53 miles of running, 17 "miles" of pool-running and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

This was my last week of strengthwork - I'll return to the track next Tuesday.  My last track workout was on June 18th, so I'll have been gone for about 5 weeks.  In that 5 weeks, I raced a half-marathon, then spent nearly a week in the pool to reboot, followed by a lot of hill work interspersed with some aerobic running.  I'm feeling really solid and strong right now, as well as fresh and eager - a good place to be starting a new training cycle.

I jumped into a road mile on Wednesday for fun -- I was happy with how I raced and competed, though the time was a bit slower than my low expectations.    I knew I wouldn't run fast - training at 6:20-30 pace (even if it's uphill) with a few fast downhill strides isn't optimal training for racing at sub-6 minute pace.  But I was expecting to be below 5:40, rather than the 5:48 I ran. On the other hand, it was hot and humid, with a notable headwind, and I think the temps might have affected the times slightly, and the headwind a bit more.

Either way, it was a fun evening, and got me fired up to return to the track.

The other news of the week was the hot weather that hit DC this weekend.  And....this is the part of the weekly post where I get up on my virtual soap box.

People of DC (and Arlington too):  you are NOT going to vaporize or spontaneously combust if you walk outside in this weather while wearing running shoes.

Yes, it's hot.  Yes, you will run slower and need to drink more water and modify your workouts and it's probably not a bad idea to try to get out a bit earlier in the morning or do your run on the treadmill or split your run in two.  Y'know, like everyone in the REAL south (Florida, Carolinas, Louisiana, Texas) does every summer. And if you start feeling dizzy or shaky, you should probably end your run early.

But...these are not the end times.  Heck, as of the time I'm writing this blog post we didn't set any records.  This is the hottest weather we've had in three years....which means that it was hotter than this three years ago, and we survived and ran our fall races just fine.

I'm not saying don't respect the weather - absolutely do respect it and modify.   And I also think it's helpful to note the weather for each run, and to acknowledge the effect it may have on your run (like y'know, I did right above).  The same effort is going to yield different paces in 20 degrees, 50 degrees, and 80 degrees - that's just data.  Like wind or pollen levels or air quality or elevation change or shoe choice or what you ate beforehand (all stuff I also track in my log).

But you don't need to overreact.  The weather is a data point, not a barely surmountable obstacle demanding every bit of our heroism.  When you make the weather that much of an issue, you just make running that much harder for yourself.

Acknowledge, adjust, move on, and maybe laugh a bit.


Monday: Yoga and 8 "miles" pool-running in the morning, foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 8 miles very easy (9:12) followed by light upper body strengthwork and core.  Ice bath to freshen up a bit; also foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 2 mile shakeout (9:15) plus DIY yoga; 4 mile warm-up, mile race in 5:48, and 1 mile cooldown in the evening.

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

Friday: 4 miles very easy (8:57), yoga, and then 7 miles very easy (8:44) plus drills/strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 12 miles, including 8 hill repeats (about 2 minutes up, then ~1:30 jog, then ~30 second stride, and ~60 second jog down to base of hill); 30 second water break after every 2 repeats. Followed with leg strengthwork and 1000 yards easy swimming. Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday: 11 miles very easy (9:15) plus drills and four hill sprints, then upper body weights/core, followed by 3 miles very easy (8:56). Foam rolling at night.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Race report: Harrisburg Mile, 40-49 mixed heat; July 17, 2019

I ran the mixed 40-49 heat of the Harrisburg Mile on Wednesday, running 5:48, which was good enough for top female in the heat, and the female 45-49 age group win.

The logistics for this race are actually fairly easy.  I take a mid-day "work break" and drive up to Harrisburg (thus hopefully missing most traffic).  Once there, I buy a day pass to the YMCA, which is located very close to the finish line.

The day pass lets me take advantage of the YMCA's rock star parking for the race.  It also means that I have access to a locker, a shower, a stretching area, and a lounge with wi-fi.  So...I just set up shop there for the afternoon - doing some work before grabbing my bib (registration/packet pick-up are also at the Y), eating my pre-race "breakfast" and stretching, and then heading out to race.

It's very convenient.  And the Y is also just a really cool building.
It's so pretty.


While I stretched in the cavernous Y gym, I noted heavy rain rolling through.  Hopefully that would be done by the time I headed outside, and perhaps it would cool things off as well.

The answer ended up being yes and no - the rain passed quickly, but did little to lower the heat or ease the humidity. Oh well - this was a mile, so the weather wouldn't be the same factor it would be in a longer race.

As I warmed up, I noted that the wind was coming from the south - meaning a moderate headwind for this point-to-point race.  That was unfortunate.   Since the race runs from north to south, I would expect a tailwind coming off of the Susquehanna River, as we had last year.  But this year, the tatters of Tropical Storm/Hurricane/whatever Barry were screwing things up.

It's also worth noting that, since it runs north to south, this road mile is a bit unusual in that it's a slight net elevation climb, gaining 20 feet over the course of the race from the start to the finish.   I suspect they run it this way, instead of the reverse, because this way they have ample space at the finish for a mini-festival, including a beer garden, moon bounce, funnel cakes, etc.  Additionally, if the wind is usually from the north, then you get a tailwind most years that balances out the elevation gain.

The elevation gain itself isn't much of a factor.  The first 1400m or so are basically flat; the elevation gain comes primarily in the last 200m, and isn't that much.  The final slight uphill does hurt a bit, but when does the last 200m of a mile race not hurt?  Despite the net uphill, this is a fast course.


For this race, I decided to try something new for my warm-up, based on something I had read on Letsrun.

Usually, I warm-up for a mile with a few miles of easy jogging, followed by two very hard 400s with long recovery.  Since I never feel good during the early reps of a workout, I like to get those bad sluggish reps out of the way before the rep that counts - the mile race itself.

This time, I went with:
1) 2 miles easy jog;
2) 3 minutes at tempo effort, followed by 90 seconds jogging;
3) 4x30 seconds at 5K effort with 30 seconds jogging between each, then 90 seconds jogging after the set;
4) 4x10 seconds at mile effort with 20 seconds jogging between each.

I finished this about 10 minutes before the race start.  Then jogging and some strides.   I felt fresh and ready to run - indicating that the warm-up did its job.

Of course, with all of this focus on the new warm-up I forgot to do any drills.  I belatedly did a few drills right before the start (a bit sheepishly), and then lined up for the start.


This race runs its heats like clockwork - counting each minute down to the start until one minute to go, when they give warnings down to "10 seconds to go."  There is no "ready set go" - just the 10 second warning and then the horn.

When the horn sounded, I tried to conservatively explode (if there is such a thing), letting a pack of men pull ahead.  Despite my conservative start, no women went with me - it looked like I would be racing men this time.

I noted the moderate headwind, but having about 15 men ahead of me gave me plenty of people to use.  For the first two quarters, I tucked behind one runner and then another, as those who had started too aggressively fizzled out like shooting stars.  Then I was on my own, just chasing those ahead, and reminding myself that the wind was slowing others more than me.

Things started getting very uncomfortable at the halfway mark, which told me I was doing this right.  As I started hurting more and more, I found myself mentally shifting from racing to surviving - if that makes sense.  Trying to hang on, rather than chasing down.

I've raced the mile enough to know that's not a productive thought pattern, so I gritted my teeth (metaphorically) and refocused.  There was a man not too far ahead of me as I approached the 3/4 marker, so I dug deep to reel him in, and then even deeper to pass him.

Of course, as soon as I passed him, he found another gear and passed me back.  I fought to stay with him, but just didn't have the leg speed.  By this time, we had only 200m to go, up the very-slight-but-seemed-much-worse-than-it-actually-is incline to the finish.    I focused on squeezing every last bit of power out of my legs, and then I was across the finish and done.  And satisfied with what felt like a solid, competitive race.


My official time ended up being 5:48, with quarter mile splits of 86/88/89/86  (taken via Garmin Autolap, so not necessarily perfect).

This was significantly slower than my Loudoun Street Mile time from earlier this year (5:37), way off of my PR (5:25), and even slower than what I ran at this race last year.  Being so much slower than my Loudoun Street time was a bit surprising, since I didn't think I ran very well there, and I felt lousy during that one, and much better here.  And I think the two courses are equivalently fast.  But I think a lot of the difference can be attributed to different weather and different fitness.

Despite the slower time, I feel like this was a pretty good race - much better than Loudoun Street.  I competed well, and placed in the top 10 runners of the heat (7 men ahead of me), which was better than last year.  I do think the weather slowed times some - the humidity might have had some effect, and this year's 9 mph headwind (as compared to last year's 7 mph tailwind) had to have affected times.  When I look at it that way, I think my 5:48 this year was probably a better performance than my 5:44 from last year in the 40-49 heat.

Additionally, as much as I hate to admit it, hill workouts aren't the best training for racing.  They're wonderful - they build a foundation of strength and power, and are good for long term development - that's why I've been focusing on them now. I've seen before, to run fast (not just strong, but fast) one needs track work.  Which is fine - I'll be turning back to that in the next week or so.

Other notes:

  •  I have two options for getting to Harrisburg from Arlington, VA, neither of which is a direct line.  The easterly route is to take the BW Parkway up to Baltimore, and then take I-83 to Harrisburg; the westerly route is to take I-270 up to Frederick, and then take US 15 to Harrisburg.  I made the mistake of taking the easterly route up this time (listening to my car's navigation suggestion, which I usually ignore).  Nope - bad idea.  Too much traffic.  Next time I'll stick to the westerly route.
  • Last year I did two heats of this race, with 20 minutes in between.  It was too tight a turnaround.  So this year I stuck to the first heat I was eligible for - the mixed 40-49.  I feel slightly bad that I didn't support their masters elite heat, but running the 40-49 heat gave me people my speed to compete against, and also meant that I was done earlier - important, since I had a 2 hour drive home.  It was the right choice.
  • The weather for this race ended up being less than perfect - temp of 81, dew point of 75, and the aforementioned headwind (which was at least cooling).  But...when you run a race in mid-July, that's to be expected.  At least I missed the storms that apparently pummeled the DC area while I was in Pennsylvania.
  • They didn't have an awards ceremony for the age group awards this year - if you won something, you just swung by the table and picked it up.  Which I didn't object to at all - I just wish I had known so I could have left a bit earlier.
  • As mentioned before, the finish line had beer, funnel cakes, and a moon bounce.  I don't do beer or funnel cakes, but I would have loved to have done the moon bounce.  Unfortunately, I think it was kids only.
  • I really liked how I felt after my experimental warm-up before this race.  I'm going to test it a few more times, but I'm thinking it's a keeper.
  • This is a really fun race, and one I think I'll make an annual tradition.
  • When you run a race on a weekday night, it's awfully hard to turn around the race report promptly.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Training log - Week ending 7/14/19

This week was 57 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

More hills and more aerobic running. If the metaphoric goal of a training cycle is to mold a sculpture, then I'm in the clay gathering stage. Which is kinda fun since I enjoy strengthwork and dislike track workouts.

I'm feeling pretty darn strong right now, and also finally starting to miss the track, so I think I'm ready to transition out of this phase into regular training again.

This coming week I'm planning on hopping into at least one road mile, possibly two. One race is on Wednesday night, the other on Saturday night. I don't have terribly high expectations for either, since I'm not really racing sharp right now. But it will be fun to get back out there.

The week after, I'll get back on the track. Which I'm looking forward to as well.

In other news, about two weeks ago I started tapering off of the drug I'd been taking since mid-May to manage my mild ulcerative colitis (Rowasa). My symptoms are cleared up, and the drug gave me continual light nausea and also some insomnia, so it made sense to try to stop it.

The taper schedule has me taking the medication every other evening. And I've noted that when I lift in the morning after taking the Rowasa, I am notably less strong than the mornings after not taking it. It's the difference between pressing 30 or 35 pound dumbbells. And in how hard it is to hold my planks. Which makes me wonder if my not-so-stellar late spring performances can be attributed at least partially to the Rowasa.

There's no way to know for sure, and I'm told that this is not a known side effect. But I'm hoping I'll be able to stay off of the Rowasa in the future and avoid this issue, if it is an issue.


Monday: Yoga and 5 "miles" pool-running in the morning, another 3 "miles" pool-running in the afternoon, foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 12 miles, including 2x2.5 miles in 13:09 (6:28 pace) and 13:33 (6:37 pace) with half mile jog between the two. Full recovery and then did 2 hill repeats of 60-70 seconds with 2:30 jogging recovery between the two. Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards easy swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy (8:56), drills and strides, yoga, and then another 4 miles very easy (8:49). Sports massage in afternoon.

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

Friday: 12 miles, including 8 hill repeats (about 2 minutes up, then ~1:30 jog, then ~30 second stride, and ~60 second jog down to base of hill). Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards easy swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles very easy (8:54), drills and strides, followed by upper body weights, core, and DIY yoga. Foam rolling at night.

Sunday: 12 miles, including an alternating workout of 2 hill repeats of 60-70 seconds, then 10 minutes at tempo (6:26); then 2 hill repeats of 60-70 seconds, then 10 minutes at tempo (6:25), then 2 hill repeats of 60-70 seconds. [2:30 recovery between hill repeats; 3:00 recovery between hills and tempo and 1:30 recovery between tempo and hills]. Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards easy swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Training log - Week ending 7/7/2019

This week was 56 miles of running, 18 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here

This week I focused on hills and some aerobic running. Nothing anaerobic, no long runs, and no track workouts. Just fun stuff that promotes power and good form. It's a nice break from the intensity of track workouts and racing, and it's also nice to be able to sleep in and do a workout on my own schedule, rather than show up at the track at the appointed time. 

I've found that spending a period like this once or twice a year really rejuvenates me mentally. I do lose something in that I don't race as well off of this type of training as I do off of the standard mix of track work and long runs. also can't race your best year round, and taking a few weeks of playing around now will hopefully set me up for a good fall, just like it did last year. I'm going to spend 1-3 more weeks like this, with the possible exception of a road mile race for fun, and then go back into more serious training. 


In other news, recently I decided to go ahead and spend some money on one of those sports-related genetic test services. You know the deal: you spit in a tube and send it to them (or alternately provide them with your data from another service) and then they give you a report. 

Those who know me and my opposition to facial recognition technology are probably surprised that I spat into a tube and mailed it off. But...the risks of genetic profiling are different from those of facial recognition technology. 

I object to the use of facial recognition or fingerprints as authentication methods - if your text password gets exposed you can always change it, but you are stuck with your face and fingerprints for life. 

In contrast, I'm not using my genetic information as an authentication method, and don't anticipate ever being placed in a situation where I would do so. Rather, the risks from this sort of genetic testing are a) later being discriminated against due to a pre-existing genetic condition or b) having a family member identified as a potential criminal after my genetic profile is reviewed. Since I've already got umpteen pre-existing health conditions and I also want anyone in my family who commits a crime prosecuted to the full extent of the law, I'm fine with these risks. 

Which doesn't mean I wasn't picky about which service I went with. My DNA is sensitive stuff. 

My suggestion to anyone considering playing with one or more of these services is that they first look for a company that is operating in Europe as well as the US - Europe is far more robust in terms of privacy regulation. 

Second - review the company's privacy statement and also any statements on data protection/data security that they have (these documents will usually be found at the bottom of the web-page - if the company doesn't have a privacy statement, that is a gigantic smoking red flag). 

Ideally, you want to see a reference to either ISO 27001 certification or HIPAA compliance when they describe how they protect your data. Those qualifications are neither essential nor perfect guarantees of safety, but they do make me sleep better. 

So....after going through all that, I picked a site, paid the fee, did the deed, got my results. 

At this point I should note that I've got really mixed feelings about the value of consumer DNA profiling. On the one hand, I really do believe that DNA analysis is the future of modern medicine. Not all humans respond to the same medications/treatments the same way, and treating the individual patient requires trial and error to work out the ideal combo. The hope is that cautious and correct use of DNA profiles can eliminate some of that initial guesswork, and spare certain patients from awful side effects. 

Just as not all patients respond to a specific medication the same way, not all athletes respond to a certain training structure the same way. And I keep thinking that 20-30 years from now, we may know enough to be able to individually structure training based not just on how the athlete responds in the past, but on their genetic profile. 

That being said, we're not there yet. And I'm sure that the technology being used to process my saliva is not the same technology used at NIH. And even the most advanced DNA technology is still in its infancy. 

Personally I place contemporary consumer DNA testing/analysis in the same bucket as the daily horoscope (maybe a bit better, but not much). When you read the text you will ALWAYS find something that makes sense and validates the report. And you'll see other things that don't make sense and you'll find a way to rationalize them away. 

But...horoscopes are fun, and so was this. And perhaps it will be more reliable in the future. 

As for me, my results did make a lot of sense to me (just like my Taurus horoscope that always says that I am stubborn). 

According to my results, I'm more of an endurance athlete than a power athlete (agreed), I need more recovery time than others (agreed) and I'm more likely than others to have soft-tissue injuries (definitely agreed). I can also strength train a lot without building any muscle mass (yup). 

Interestingly, I supposedly also have a genetic variant that is common to top sprinters - so either that's wrong, I've wasted it, or I've converted that fasttwitch to slowtwitch with the long runs that I love. 

Diet-wise, I do better on a lower carb diet than other athletes (that's a heck yeah), and I'm very sensitive to both caffeine and alcohol (yup). However, supposedly I'm genetically unlikely to be lactose intolerant - my real life experience directly conflicts with that report. 

Overall, it was fun to read the results, and I got my money's worth in entertainment value. Will this affect my training? Honestly no. But who knows, in another generation genetic testing may be as ubiquitous as GPS watches are now. 


Monday: Yoga and 8.5 "miles" pool-running in the morning, foam rolling at night. 

Tuesday: 10 miles, including 6 hill repeats (about 2 minutes up, then ~1:30 jog, then ~30 second stride, and ~60 second jog down to base of hill). Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards easy swimming. Foam rolling at night. 

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy (9:00), drills and strides, yoga, and then another 4 miles very easy (8:58). Foam rolling at night. 

Thursday: Upper body weights, core, and 9.5 "miles" of pool-running. Foam rolling at night. 

Friday: 12 miles, including an alternating workout of 2 hill repeats of 60-70 seconds, then 10 minutes at tempo (6:44); then 2 hill repeats of 60-70 seconds, then 10 minutes at tempo (6:42), then 2 hill repeats of 60-70 seconds. [2:30 recovery between hill repeats; 3:00 recovery between hills and tempo and 1:30 recovery between tempo and hills]. Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards easy swimming. Foam rolling at night. 

Saturday: 10 miles very easy (9:08), drills and strides, followed by upper body weights, core, and DIY yoga. Foam rolling at night. 

Sunday: 12 miles, including 7 hill repeats (about 2 minutes up, then ~1:30 jog, then ~30 second stride, and ~60 second jog down to base of hill). Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards easy swimming. Foam rolling at night.