Sunday, August 30, 2020

Training log - Week ending 8/30/2020

 This week was 41 miles of running and 27 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here

After last Saturday's long run, I was starting to wonder if there was something else going on besides just heat/humidity/outofshape. I know my limits, I know how to modify for heat/humidity, and I'm pretty good about running at my current fitness level.  So it's very strange for me to crash and burn as if I was a new runner.  So I decided it was time to check on my ferritin/vitamin D, plus basic CBC (complete blood count).  

In the past, I've regularly checked that stuff, using one of those "buy the tests on the internet and then go to your local lab" services, since it usually ends up cheaper than going through my doctor.  So, I shopped around and found a decent package that included a CBC, vitamin D, and ferritin, plus some other stuff I didn't care that much about.  I scheduled the lab appointment for Wednesday.

Then Tuesday's workout sucked.  Yes it was bad weather and I haven't been on the track in a while.  But still - I was running 10-15 seconds slower per 400m then I used to and it felt hard.  And I've also had some very mild nausea that has gone from intermittent to near constant over the past few months.  Plus all the recurring injuries.  

So I dropped a note to my primary care doc, and he scheduled some additional bloodwork and set up an appointment (virtual) for next week to discuss the results.

[and yes, one possible if extremely unlikely explanation could be pregnancy, but that is NOT it.]

I got the first round of bloodwork back this week and....vitamin D was fine, ferritin was surprisingly high for a runner (136) but normal.  The CBC showed no issues with white or red blood cells.  

However, the test also included a serum folate test, measuring for B-9 (aka folate).  And that was very low.  1.7 where "normal" is higher than 5.4 and "borderline" is 3.4 to 5.4.

[if you're wondering, those online blood test request services do send you an alert asking you to consult with your doctor about the result.  Good for them.]

Low folate can result in fatigue and weakness and nausea (check).  And even though folate is available in a lot of foods - green veggies, fortified grains, etc, it also is one of the nutrients that inflammatory bowel disease can block the uptake of - if your intestines are screwy, it passes right through you.  And guess who has an inflammatory bowel disease and also a pool-running blog?

And folate deficiency is also frequently matched with B12 deficiency, which can result in nerve issues and pain.  And guess who has been experiencing multiple nerve issues/injuries this spring/summer and has a pool-running blog?

So...once I got this information, I paused stuff until I can see the doctor and map out a plan.  (his bloodwork tests included B12 as well as a complete iron panel).  From my research, folate is involved in muscle repair.  And you don't get fitter from training hard - you get fitter from training hard and then adapting via muscle repair (oversimplification).  

If I'm limited in my ability to benefit from hard workouts, then there's no reason to do them, and an increased injury risk from forcing them.  Better just to stick to shorter slow jogs, plus some pool-running to maintain volume and a bit of careful weights/yoga to preserve things where they are.  Once I get this deficiency fully figured out and addressed, then I can return to focused training.


Monday: 7 miles very easy (9:40), upper body weights/core and 4 miles easy (9:31). Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 10 miles, including a track workout of 2x400, 3x800 in 97, 97, 3:23, 3:17, and 3:17. 75 second recovery after the 400s, 2:50 recovery after the 800s. Followed with leg strengthwork and streaming yoga.  Foam rolling at night.


Wednesday: 5.5 "miles" of pool-running and streaming yoga. Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:  5 miles very easy (10:12) and 5.5 "miles" of pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: 4.5 "miles" of pool-running and some leg strength work. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 6 miles very easy (9:33), upper body weights/core, and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling in evening.

Sunday:  9 miles easy (9:21), drills, four hill strides, and then streaming yoga.  Doubled back with 5.5 "miles" pool-running and some leg strengthwork.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Training log - Week ending 8/23/2020

This week was 48 miles of running, 2000 yards of swimming and 11 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here

This was a frustrating week.  Even though I didn't get an exact read on my fitness due to going off course at the Harrisburg Mile, I did get some sense of my fitness - not good.

And then I crashed and burned badly on my Saturday long run.  It was quite humid, but in the past I've been able to handle those conditions by simply slowing down the pace and running by effort.  Not this time - it was just a slog.

I've lost a lot of fitness dealing with this hamstring issue, even though I didn't lose that much time.  I suspect much of this is the result of a longer term disruption in my routine.  I had a carefully balanced routine of running, pool-running, swimming, yoga, and lifting that worked really well for me, but most of that stuff became out of bounds when the pandemic hit.  And, as I've learned, I am not one of those people that can run well off of just running.  I really did need all that other stuff.

Two things that I am missing right now are the sauna at the gym and heavy leg work.  I haven't mentioned it much, but I had a regular practice of sitting in a 180 degree sauna a few times a week for 10-20 minutes.  And I found that it did wonderful things in terms of improving my heat/humidity tolerance (and there are physiological reasons for this - increased blood volume, etc).

And, of course the gym also had a power cage with a barbell and bumper plates.  I regularly did heavy lifting right after my track workouts (to maximize recovery time between hard efforts).  Stuff like split squats and lunges with the barbell loaded to 100-110 pounds, or bridges with a 200 pound barbell on my hips.  It really strengthened my glutes and gave me some explosive power that has been dwindling ever since.

And yes, I know all about bodyweight exercises and I have a kettlebell at home, etc.  But...bodyweight exercise is not a replacement for heavy lifting in the same way that the elliptical is not a replacement for running.

Oh well - it is what it is.  My gym is actually open right now, but things are not yet at the stage where I am comfortable going there.  Perhaps in a few weeks.  In the mean time, the best answer is to train where my current fitness is, and do the best I can with what I have.

The good news is that my hamstring held up well this week - even on Saturday's mess where my feet and hands were cramping badly by the end, but the hamstring was fine.  I'm going to test it out with a track workout on Tuesday (until now I've been staying on the road to avoid repeated turning).


Monday: 8 miles, including a short tune-up workout of 4x400 conservative with 30 second jog (1:39, 1:37, 1:37, 1:38) and then 4x200 with 80 second recovery (43, 42, 41, 41). 1500 yards swimming after.   Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 8 miles very easy plus strides, followed by some foam rolling.

Wednesday: In the evening, 4 mile warm-up, mile race in 6:55 (went off course), with 1 mile cooldown.  

Thursday:  5.5 "miles" of pool-running and streaming yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: 10 miles very easy (9:42) followed by drills, 4 strides, upper body strengthwork and core.

Saturday: 16 miles struggle bus (9:02).  Intended to make this a progression run, but got dehydrated/electrolyte depleted despite my best efforts.  Followed up with a lot of water/sports drink, leg injury prevention work, and 500 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday: Streaming yoga and 55 minutes of pool-running.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Race report: Harrisburg Mile, August 19, 2020

I ran the Harrisburg Mile on Wednesday, finishing in a new personal worst of 6:55 for the mile, which is slower than my marathon PR pace.

[for anyone who doesn't want to read the whole race report - I'm fine - I just got lost during the race.]

Despite the finishing time, I'm really glad I ran this - it was simply wonderful to be racing again - a bit of normalcy.

The Harrisburg Mile is usually held on a Wednesday in July.  It's a straight point to point mile on Front Street - mostly flat but with a slight climb in the last 200m.  They run the race in multiple waves, with a big finish line festival - snow cones, funnel cakes, beer garden, moon bounces, etc.  (I don't think they let you enjoy both the beer garden and the moon bounce - pick your poison).

But... the pandemic changed things.  The race management pushed back the race by a month to get some additional planning time, and then came up with an alternate route that worked better for social distancing at the start and finish.  The new course looped around City Island, a mile long island in the middle of the Susquehanna River that hosts things like miniature golf, a small sports stadium, a choo choo train, etc.  Kinda an outdoor family fun place.

Things would be different in other ways too.  No moon bounce, no funnel cake, no beer garden, no awards ceremony.  Bib pick-up was moved from the YMCA (indoors) to the parking lot near the finish line, with a mask requirement and plexiglass between the runners and volunteers.

And the race went with a rolling start.  Instead of official start times there were start time windows.  Any time during one of those windows, I could show up, cross the start line, and run my race.  (I was required to wear a mask when approaching the start line and after finishing the race, but did not need to wear it while running as long as I carried it with me).

Since I'm 46, I had my choice of doing the open wave and starting any time between 2 pm and 5:45 pm, or waiting until the 40-49 age window of 6:55-7:15pm.    I technically qualified for the elite race (which would be held at 7:45) but opted out - I'm currently nowhere near the fitness I would need to run in that heat.  

(If anyone wants to read more details about the protocols, they are here.)


I've been nursing a pulled hamstring back to health, so I was a bit iffy on doing this race.  But it felt fine this week - or close enough to fine that I didn't feel I was doing anything too stupid by racing on a flat course.  (of course, I didn't think I was doing anything stupid when I pulled it, so there you go).  So I headed up to Harrisburg on Wednesday a bit before noon.

My usual MO is to buy a day pass to the local YMCA and camp out there for the afternoon pre-race, and then shower there post-race.  But, I opted out this year - I've been avoiding gyms, and I'm not sure they'd let me drop in anyway, even though they're open.  Instead I booked a room at a local hotel for the afternoon (weekday reservations in the time of corona are quite affordable).  Once in Harrisburg, I picked up my bib and then checked into a hotel where I was quite possibly the only guest (no issue with that whatsoever).  In my room, I noted that individual packets of hand sanitizer are now part of the standard hotel toiletry set, along with shampoo and soap.

After giving it some thought, I decided to start during my designated time slot (6:55-7:15) rather than go with the earlier open start.  My hope was that there would be people to chase at that time, even if we didn't start together.  So I worked until around 5:15, then started stretching before leaving the hotel to jog over to City Island.  

Once there, I checked out the territory.  It remained very uncrowded, with plenty of space for everyone.  Hains Point on a weekend morning is more crowded than this was.  There were portapotties for the race, but rather than clustered together they were spaced well apart, with hand sanitizer banks near each.

A pre-race email had noted that the last part of the course in the parking lot had some rough pavement, so I checked it out.   Yup - that was pretty rough.  Torn up enough that I debated whether to pull out of the race and just do a workout near the river instead - with my recent hamstring issues I REALLY didn't want to retweak something.  But...I was here, and I wanted to race and needed the practice of racing, and it wasn't super bad, so I just resolved to be careful here even if it meant backing off a bit.


I warmed up with my now standard 3 minutes at half-marathon effort, 4x30 seconds at 5K effort, and 4x10 seconds at mile effort.   The hamstring felt about 95%, which was good enough to give it a careful shot.   Once I felt ready to go and it was past 6:55, I headed up to the start area.   I hung around just outside, watching and waiting for someone who might be a bit slower than me to start, so that I could give them a lead and then chase them down.  But no such luck.    After waiting a few minutes, I decided it was time to go while I was still warmed up, so I nodded to the starter, and jogged up to the starting line and started.  One of the best things about these rolling starts is that you can get a flying start to your race.


I had looked at the course on paper, and had a general idea of how it went - a big loop to the right and then a loop to the left.  But...not being familiar with the area, I didn't realize how much the course would gently weave and wind.   There were signs, and plenty of them.  But it's surprisingly challenging to try to run at mile effort while also squinting at signs to see where you should go.    Lesson for next time - try to jog the course before.  Or if you can't, at least get a good tour on Google Earth.  (and also wear your contacts or glasses if you have them).

I also came to realize how dependent I've always been on something ahead of me when racing - either another runner or in very rare cases a lead bike or similar.  Something just to indicate where the course is going and to pull me.  Had I been familiar with the area at all, I think it would have been a bit different - I would have had some sense of where I was, and could have focused on landmarks and let them pull me (not as good as someone ahead of you, but something).  But...such is life and racing.


I had set my Garmin to click off splits every quarter mile, both so that I would have them for later and so I would know where I was.  As it turned out, there were quarter mile markers on course, but my Garmin didn't agree with them, so....  (the Garmin buzzed near the 1/4, a bit before the 1/2 marker, and way after the 3/4 marker).

Sometime after the 3/4 marker, I took a wrong turn - best illustrated by this picture.

There were two volunteers standing at the turn with flags, but nobody said a word as I followed the road around to the right.   I pushed up a slight incline, and then saw the starting arch.  Huh?

The only options for me were to run up a hill (that I had walked down to get to the start line, so I knew that wasn't right) or to run through the start line again, so clearly I was off course.  I stopped, asked one of the start line volunteers where the course was, and she pointed back the way I came.  So....back into race effort (or however close I could get to it) and back down to this turn to rejoin the course after confirming with the volunteers there where I should actually go....  

I did make a decent effort to finish the race strongly, but it was by no means an uber-dig deep thing.  I had come here to race, so I wasn't going to jog it in.  But at the same time between the broken up pavement and the course mistake I just couldn't justify hammering all out - I'd be risking injury for very little.

Crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, and realized that I had stopped my watch when I asked for directions. idea what my official time was.  I'd have to wait until morning, when the results would be posted.


I'm actually not that upset about how the race worked out.  I'm not in great shape and was pretty sure I wasn't going to run a blazing time.  The whole point for me was getting to race again and getting a sense of my fitness.  I got to practice racing and work through some pre-race blunders (running too many miles the day before; bringing kinesio tape for my ankles but forgetting scissors), and I ran enough of the race to confirm that I'm pretty out of shape right now.  And the fact that I went off course so late in the race was also good.  There is a "moment of truth" that one usually has to work through around 2/3rds to 3/4ths into the race - I had already done that when I went off course, so I got that practice in.

So basically, I got what I came for.  And I got to experience what racing will likely be like for the near future - rolling starts and minimal support.  The biggest lesson I learned is the importance of being really familiar with the course you are racing over, since you may not have someone ahead of you to lead the way.   Not just to avoid the possibility of getting lost, but so that you can race your best.  I think that any bit of mental energy you spend trying to determine where you should go next is mental energy you're not dedicating to keeping your foot on the gas.  Best to know the course so you don't question, you just go.


I was a bit annoyed at first with the race volunteers for not directing the turn.  Not only did they not tell me which way to go, they also didn't yell out "you're going the wrong way" or something like that when I veered off.  It would have been nice to not have to ask for directions....

But on the other hand, this was a weird set up, where they had just single runners coming through with a minute or two gap between each, and I'm sure they had been standing there for several hours by the time I raced.  It had to be hard to keep up concentration and focus for that long with that little activity.   I just got unlucky.  But fortunately, it didn't happen in a goal race.

Other notes:

  • It was 81 degrees with a dewpoint of 55 when I raced.  Which is great weather for racing a mile, albeit a bit too warm for racing anything longer than that.  The low dew point felt lovely.
  • My Garmin reported splits were 92, 93, and 95 before I went off course.  I don't think those were perfectly accurate, but definitely not more than a second or two off.  
  • While I'm really glad I did this race, I don't think I'll be back if they use this course again.   The pavement was a bit rougher that I would like for racing a mile on a good part of the course (not just the finish area) and I also had to cross some embedded train tracks at least twice.  At a slower race pace neither would have bothered me much, but when racing a mile it's good to have footing that you don't have to think about - either a track or a smoothly paved road.
  • For a mask I wore a wide headband to the start line, pulled down so it covered my mouth/nose.  Pulled it up on my forehead to run the race, then pulled it back down after crossing the finish.  This worked well.  Except for the fact that it meant I couldn't wear my lucky headband with skulls on it.  Which is undoubtedly why I got lost during the race.
  • Every time I go to Harrisburg, I'm reminded of how close it is to Arlington/DC.  It seems like it should be further, but it's actually closer to my home and a shorter drive than Richmond.  Heck - it takes less time to get to Harrisburg, Pa. from my house than it usually takes to get to Fredericksburg, Va.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Training log - Week ending 8/16/2020

This week was 48 miles of running and 17 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here

Bumped up the pace a bit this week on both Tuesday and Friday to test the hamstring a bit more.  It was a bit tight at times, but otherwise held up well, so it continues to progress.

I am probably going to race a mile on Wednesday night as a rust buster (the probably is because I want to get the OK from my PT AND thunderstorms are forecast for Wednesday afternoon in Harrisburg right now).  So I skipped a long run today.    Sadly, today (Sunday) ended up also being the nicest day for a run in many many weeks.  Ah well, such is life.  There will be more good running days.


Monday: 5.5 "miles" of pool-running and upper body weights/core.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 12 miles, including 6 Iwo Jima hill repeats (2 minutes hard uphill, 90 second recovery, 30 second stride, and 60 second recovery).  Followed with leg strengthwork and streaming yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 5 miles easy on treadmill (9:50), streaming yoga, and 7 miles easy (9:11) plus drills and two strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday:  Upper body weights/core, 6 "miles" of pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: 12 miles, including a workout on Hains Point of 5x 4 minutes on, 3 minutes jog, followed by full rest and then 6x30 seconds on, 30 seconds off.  Paces for the 4 minute intervals part were around 6:28-6:46 ish if you believe the Garmin (I don't necessarily for that short a distance).  Followed with leg strengthwork and streaming yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 12 miles very easy (9:17), plus drills, four hill strides.  Later took a streaming yoga class and foam rolling.

Sunday: Upper body weights/core, streaming yoga, and 55 minutes of pool-running.  Foam rolling in afternoon.