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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Picking up the pace

Fun fact from yesterday evening's workout:

I ran it at a faster pace than I ran the Crescent City Classic 10k this year.

And tonight's workout was eight miles. We did a mile warm up, then three miles at goal marathon pace, then two miles at "tempo" pace, then three more at goal marathon pace. We ran it at City Park, n the roads, but luckily our evening workout was bright enough to avoid trips and falls thanks to the Christmas lights set up for Christmas in the Oaks. And I was also lucky enough to have a big group to work with: it was myself and five other guys. You know what, though? I never take advantage of running in a group to allow others to "pull me along". If we are on the track, we'll take turns pacing, but I struggle when I follow. I think it messes with my cadence or something. I am a million times better in the lead. Same with the roads: we don't really take turns leading on the road, but I do better spread out or up front. I don't care that I'm "doing more work"; I just feel like it's more natural and easy that way.

Our first set's splits were 6:59, 6:52, and 6:46 for the MP miles; we picked it up for the tempo and ran 6:35 and 6:28. As we settled back into marathon pace, it felt almost easy now: conversational. 6:52, 6:48, 6:45. Now, those splits are a tad fast, but I think I should add a few seconds; my Garmin was beeping a little sooner than everyone else's, so I think it lost satellite for a little bit. My teammates got most splits in the low 6:50's. My results were 8 miles at 6:46 pace, so yeah, faster than the 10k I ran this spring. I can feel the training working!

But here's the big catch: I have to prove it in races. So far this year, despite several PRs, my racing has been spotty, especially short distances. Up next is the Turkey Day, that race that loves to hate me (it's usually a rough day for me), and at five miles, it will be a test of speed. I hope I can pull off a good race, and hopefully another PR!

Do you workout with a group? Are you a lap leader or follower?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Marathon training: two months to go

Houston is just eight weeks away, and our training has gotten a little more serious. It's a little more serious for me regardless of time and training, simply because the Power Milers do so much more hard work and run so many more miles than I usually do. Here's how training has intensified in the last few weeks:

  • We've already done two twenty-milers, which is way early in training for me. Both of these went very well for me, even though both had less-than-ideal weather: warm and humid for one, and extremely windy this morning for the second.
  • We kissed our day off good-bye. Yep, no more days off. The last break I had was October 27th, and the only reason I got that day off was because I was running the Jazz half the next day. My only "rest" now is a day with five or seven easy miles. Surprisingly, I noticed a huge improvement by skipping rest days. Right away I felt stronger. The difference was mostly how strong I felt, physically and aerobically, early in the run. It's like I'm always ready to go. I am a little concerned about injury or overtraining - My knees have been aching, and I've already started needing less and less sleep, which usually means my body is pumping out cortisol - but as far as running goes, it was time to make that move. I'm no elite, but for now, five easy is rest. 
  • We've reevaluated our paces. I started out marathon training with the goal to PR, specifically run a 3:05:xx (my PR is 3:06:11). But as time has passed and workouts have been completed, our group coach looked through everyone's goals and adjusted them. He moved me to a goal 3:02! That's a huge pace jump for me, but I actually think it is doable. If I stay healthy, I should be able to accomplish that. My races haven't always pointed to that kind of projection, but I have had strong long runs. As of now, my goal marathon pace is a terrifying 6:57. Yes, it starts with a six. That's scary. But exciting! 
  • We're being stingy with our rests during long runs. I am much more comfortable with our long runs now, and one reason is that everyone is making an effort to minimize stops. With such a large group, it can be hard: we develop lines for the bathroom or water fountain. But we're not just shooting the breeze, at least. I get the longest breaks of anyone, because I run from my house to our meeting place, then wait around for our run to start. So I run a little over half a mile, then take a lengthy break. I don't mind that much, because I've barely even started the run, so I don't think it really matters. Today I waited seven minutes, but sometimes it's more like ten or twelve. So for today's 20 miler, I had about twelve total minutes of elapsed time minus moving time, and only five minutes were mid-run: one group water stop at mile five, one combined bathroom/water stop that I really could not avoid - taken during the break mile in our workout - and then a few minutes at mile 19.5 chatting with the guys who were finished/cheering others on before jogging home. 
  • We're also being stingy with our fuel. Like, extremely stingy: it's nonexistent. We're doing all our long runs as glycogen depletion. This is really severe for me, because I cannot eat before I run unless I want to risk GI bleeding later. So I wake up, have a cup of coffee with cream (so maybe 30 calories, if that?), and head out for 20 miles. In the later stages of both long runs I've taken two salt tabs, but they only have 5 calories each, so I'm virtually fuelless. This was something I was really worried about initially: I was so sure I'd bonk. But not only have I not bonked, I've felt really strong at the end of the runs. This is so counter to my usual long run outcomes that this fact alone is giving me great hope for a solid race in January.
  • We're adding hard workouts to our long runs. No long slow distance here: it's all work, all the time. Today our 20 miler started with ten easy (80 to 85% of goal marathon pace, or for me, around 8:05 to 8:20 pace), followed by four miles at goal marathon pace, one mile aerobic float (about 20-30 seconds above marathon pace), then another four miles at marathon pace before one easy mile cool down. That's quite the workout! 
So how did today go? It actually went really well. It was incredibly windy today, so we decided to do our marathon pace workout on the park's 1.8-mile oval track to at least be able to alternate headwind and tailwind, rather than do it on the levee as an out-and-back, which would have been brutal. We started with a ten-mile loop, easy pace, but I didn't know the route and everyone was going much faster than I expected. I tried to be as true to my pace as I could without losing touch with the group, and it worked out OK - I think I ran right at 8 minute pace for that part of the run. 

I made it back to the park and launched right into my marathon pace miles, opting to skip the water and bathroom break others were taking - which was a bad idea; I had to go so bad for that first set of MP miles! The wind was making pacing really tricky: as I usually do in the wind, I work too hard, and my miles kept ticking off much faster than my goal pace. My first segment of four miles was 6:53, :47, :47, :49. I wasn't running with anyone in the group (too bad; it would have been nice to work with someone), but we kept passing each other in the park and everyone was so motivating! I felt like the tailwind parts were like flying; the headwind was a ton of work. I rolled right into the aerobic mile, which I ran in 7:31, but I did make a dash into the bathroom: that just couldn't wait any longer. I also chugged some water at the fountain, because the only other water I took in was at mile five. By now I'd run fifteen miles, and I geared back up for the final four marathon pace miles, worried that the pace would feel much more challenging so late in the run. But it didn't. I cruised through in 6:49, :53, :47, :49. I did start to struggle on the last mile. My throat was so dry that my breath kept catching and kind of gagging me, but I had no problem holding the pace. As soon as I ran the fourth mile, I made a beeline to the water. The fastest guys, who were long-finished, were waiting for others with water bottles, offering water on the run (which was such a nice gesture, and one I should have taken advantage of!). I hung with them for a few minutes, cheering on the last members of the group as they made their final pass, before jogging home. Overall, I felt good: tired, like I'd worked, but not bad at all. I can definitely feel myself getting stronger, and I have high hopes for this marathon! 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Middendorf's Manchac ten miler: podium sweep!

The Power Milers only recently added women to their team, but it's paying off: first at Blue Doo, and now again at Middendorf's Manchac ten miler, we swept the women's podium. Our guys did well, too, going 1, 3, 4, and 5.
Manchac is about 55 minutes away, near Hammond, so we gave a ride to a friend who has a less-than reliable car. He said he was excited to see what our amped-up "game face" music would be on the ride over, and was a little let-down by Morning Edition on NPR. Hey, when you catch a ride with boring old people, that's what you get!

We arrived in Manchac at 7 for an 8 am start, which was plenty of time for us to park and pick up packets before my warm up. In fact, we were one of the first cars there, which is a rarity for us! My group was doing a 3-mile warm-up, since we were converting this into a long run, and I went ahead and put on my race shoes for the warm up. In the past, warming up in different shoes has lead to some front-of-calf soreness when I speed up for the race. I wore the New Balance 1400s again, even though they made my knees and ankles tender after Jazz half. My warm up felt pretty good. It was nice out, sunny and mid-50s, a little humid, a little breezy, but not bad.

We grouped at the line and I looked around at the other women. This is a small race, and immediately I knew our ladies had the podium this race! None of the familiar fast faces were out there...which gave me a fighting chance! After the national anthem, the horn sounded, and we headed out to climb the bridge. This course is an out and back with a giant bridge at the start and finish. It's not so bad on the way out, but the return trip? Ooof, it's rough.

I settled right into low-mid 6:40's right away - 6:45, 6:43 - hoping to run 6:45 pace for the race. It didn't feel terrible, and for part of the race, I tagged along with some other Power Milers. But that was probably a bad idea, since they were going faster than me, so two of my early miles were a tad fast. I had an idea that I was second female, but the turnaround point would tell. The first half was uneventful, except a water-grab snafu (for some reason, the volunteers set up cups, then let us all try to make a mad grab on the run...I missed one once, and ended up knocking over a bunch of Gatorade. You can't take me anywhere). But I was aware that we were taking advantage of a tailwind, as usual for this race. Sure enough, I rounded the cones and smacked into a headwind. But now I could see my place, at least. I was well behind speedy Paige in first, but I had second place by over a minute.

Naturally, I was totally alone for the second half in the headwind! But I put my head down and plugged on. I had some miles in the 6:50s, but I never fell apart. Yet I never sped up, either. I felt good aerobically, but my legs had zero pep. No life at all. I got a mental boost from seeing David (we pulled off a sweet mid-race high-five, too), plus some other friends and, actually, a lot of 10kers still on the course. This race also has a 5k and a 10k, and we all start together and turn around at different points, so for the final miles, I was chasing 10k runners.

Before I knew it, that blasted bridge was looming in front of me, and I am a little ashamed of my pathetic jog up its steep side. I think if both of your feet are on the ground at one point, it's not really running anymore! But then I plunged down the back side to a 1:07:47 finish: second female and a PR by close to a minute!
Paige, me, Daniella. Making that money!
With Paige in front and Daniella behind me, our ladies took the top three spots, meaning we all went home with Varsity Sports gift cards. I got $100! SWEET! I'm pretty happy to see another PR fall: my old one was from this course in 2012. My overall 6:46 pace ought to be faster (my half marathon is 6:49), but I think at this point in marathon training, I can't ask too much of my tired body. We have been running a lot, including a hard 20 last week, and I could definitely tell by my heavy legs. But a PR mid-training is a great sign for things to come!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Rollercoaster weekend

This weekend I did two things:
1. Ran the worst 5k of my life
2. Ran the best 20 miler of my life

So, the 5k. It was the hot and humid Crescent City Fall Classic 5k, a corral qualifier for the CCC 10k in April. And...I didn't qualify for the B corral. I MISSED THE 20 MINUTE CUT OFF. What the heck!?
Still smiling pre-race, showing off my brand-new kit!
BTW the shorts SUCK.

I just had a terrible race. I was late, I couldn't find my bib (we had group pick up as part of a registration contest for local schools, and I was so late that my friend giving out the bibs had already started his warm up), and it was hot. Then, I picked the wrong shoes. I wore the same shoes as I had on for last week's half marathon, and they are too soft and mushy for a shorter distance. And I had no leg turnover. I never got my pace under 6:20, and ran 20:01. I couldn't believe it. Worst of all, I felt sick after it, like I'd run as hard as I ever have. It was so bizarre. I was coming off a week of high mileage, I'd raced the weekend before, and I had an extremely stressful work week: I think I was just exhausted. I might be teetering on overtraining, actually. I'll see how next week goes and assess then (we had 63 miles this week and 64 planned for next week. Can I push through, or will I be overwhelmed with fatigue? Time will tell!)

The very next morning, I had a 20 miler. And not just any old 20 miler: ten easy, seven aerobic, and 3 marathon pace, all with no fuel. The day promised to be another hot one, so we met earlier than usual: 5:30 am. I had to use David's GPS watch, an older Soleus that I am unfamiliar with, because mine was on the fritz again. It wouldn't take a charge! So once again, it was a mostly-by-feel run, since I couldn't figure out how to view any pace except instant pace. I ran with Dave and Kevin for the first ten miles, although they were a tad faster than my easy pace - we changed up the route a bit to add some miles, and I didn't want to get lost. Their aerobic pace, however, is significantly faster than mine, so I was on my own for the final ten. At 17 miles, I was almost to Audubon park. I took a salt tablet, chugged some water, and got ready to suffer through three marathon pace miles. But it was no big deal. I easily ran faster than marathon pace, hitting 6:50's even while heading home on St. Charles, which is a tad more challenging than the park. I ended up with 20 miles at 7:28 pace, which is the fastest I've ever run a 20-miler. But even more importantly, I felt strong at the finish.

So what gives? Am I so marathon-trained that I can't run 5ks anymore? Why such a huge discrepancy in my abilities? Have you ever run a marathon and found that your shorter races suffered drastically?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Jazz half recovery

It's over a week later, and I think I still feel a little "Jazz Half" in my legs!
The good race picture: "Yay, 1:29:xx!"
The picture in which I look terrified, or like I'm crying, or something? Maybe
I look like this because I'm scared Morgan will catch me?
Meanwhile, totally do not remember passing this guy at all. I know I passed
quite a few on my charge to the finish but it barely registered. 

Sunday I did just five easy miles. It was cold and beautiful out, but I made sure to keep the run short. Monday was another easy, easy run; by then I was feeling a lot of soreness in my left ankle: like my ligament was strained. But not bad. I could run on it, but I did ice it later.
Tuesday was back to track, and you know what? I felt fine. We did a workout of 2 x (1 mi at HMP, 90 sec jog), then 2 x (1 mi at 10k pace, 90 sec jog), then 4x400 at 5k pace with 60 sec rest. I easily hit my paces and in fact, felt great. During the cool down, though, I felt really tired. We were running 9+ minute pace and I asked to slow down!

I stayed tired all week after that. It was a tough week: we had 64 scheduled miles (I ended up with 63 because I shortened Monday's run), including a ten mile aerobic effort on Thursday and a race Saturday. More on the race later, but - it was TERRIBLE. Was I still exhausted? Maybe. Running a PR half marathon and then blithely continuing with training isn't my usual modus operandi - and I think it took a bigger toll than I expected. I have to keep reminding myself: I'm not getting any younger!

Other than running, I did a little gentle strength (hip stuff, as usual) and some runner's yoga this week, focusing on stretching my quads and hamstrings and avoiding any hip openers (which hurt my post-op bionic hips). I'm maybe sort of starting to feel a little better!

What does your usual race week recovery look like? Do you "train through" races, or treat each race like a goal race? Do you take time off after a race shorter than a marathon?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Long run update

When I first joined the Power Miler Track Club, I wondered how to handle long runs. As the slowest member of the group, I was pushing way past my pace on these runs. Now, as marathon training commences, we are pushing the weekend distance up from twelve to fourteen to sixteen miles. Could I keep hanging at 7:30's? Honestly, probably not, for sixteen miles. But I also came up with a solution.
Since the group generally starts slow and finishes fast, I can hang with them for the "start slow" part. Only for me, it's not really slow. So instead, I do some slow-to-me miles early, before meeting them, then join them for middle miles, then speed up to finish. Since I've already done extra miles, I part with the group once they start picking it up: I take a shorter route back. A few Sundays ago, for example, I ran two miles at 8:30ish before joining the group for another five, then as they headed into City Park to add a two-mile loop to our staple route, I turned onto Esplanade Avenue to finish my run.
This serves three purposes:

  1. I get to see the group and be social, for at least part of the run.
  2. I get to run my correct pace
  3. I also finish earlier than everyone else since I start earlier, and that allows me to get to church on time.
I might have to make some changes as time passes and our long runs change, but it works for now. We're doing two hard efforts a week right now - speed on Tuesdays and some tempo variation on Fridays - and I can't risk total exhaustion on the long run. I'll either get hurt or my Tuesday quality will suffer. So far, sticking to my paces, Tuesdays have been largely good. I'm glad I figured out a solution that allows me to still see the group for part of the miles. I mostly do long runs alone, so this is kind of new to me, but I find it really breaks the run up: I'm chatting for part of it, then just quietly enjoying my run for the rest.

How about you - do you do long runs alone, or with a group? Or a running partner?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Jazz Half Marathon: a PR!

I am quite excited to report that I did, indeed, PR in Saturday's race! I ran 1:29:18, which is both a PR and my first sub-1:30 half. I was also third female, and a podium finish (theoretically; no one here uses podiums at road races) was icing on the cake!

As I mentioned before, I registered for this race late, and we already had plans, including a work party that started at 9 pm Friday night. I managed to make it out of there and home by 11:00, and got to sleep around midnight, so not much later than usual. I woke up at 5 am to torrential rains, but by the time I was dressed and heading out the door by 5:50, the rain had stopped. It was 56 degrees, but windy. As usual, I didn't have breakfast, but I had a cup of coffee on the way to packet pick-up (I really appreciate the morning-of packet pick-up option for this race). It was held in a hotel lobby near the start, which means I also got to make a bathroom stop. I did a two-mile warm-up, and after trying them out, decided to wear my New Balance 1400s. I was worried about them slipping around on the damp ground, but it didn't seem to be a big problem: the roads were starting to dry. I did one more port-a-potty stop before heading to the start corral, but I think that was a mistake. I didn't really have to go, but the line was incredibly slow, and I just got less and less warmed-up. So by the time I got to the start, I was feeling stiff. I'd stay that way the whole race.

Hanging in the front corral.

A group of us were self-seeded in the front corral, including my super-fast teammate Michelle, who I expected to win easily, and my teammate Morgan. Morgan is much faster than me at short distances, so I wasn't sure what kind of half marathon she'd run. There were some other women I didn't know, and I realized after we started that I should have checked their bibs to see if they were running the half or the 5k. There aren't any usable out and backs to check your position after the first mile or so, which meant that I spent most of the race unsure of my position.

The first few miles were actually pretty tough. I felt very strange: my legs felt stiff, my quads were almost immediately sore, and I was running with a weird gait, like I couldn't get any leg swing at all. I attribute that to a poor warm-up - I should have gone longer, and shouldn't have stopped so far before the start. And I need to do strides or something faster, so I don't start fast on stiff legs and get sore right away! But the real reason it was tough was the wind. The first miles were really, really windy. Luckily, when we turned onto St. Charles avenue, it turned more gusty, so we got some relief, although it still wasn't pretty. By then, we were starting to sort our overall positions out. But how? I knew Michelle was the fastest girl out there, and was too far ahead for me to even see (she went on to win in 1:23 on a windy day). I could see Morgan in front of me, and she had a bicycle pacer. Hmmm...she must be third? Meanwhile, I could sense another woman nearby but behind me. I could tell by her breathing and footfalls that she was a woman, so that was nerve-wracking.

And then...disaster! My Garmin was kind of useless already, since it usually reads downtown really wacky thanks to the tall buildings, but I wanted to use it for mile splits, since there were mile markers on the course, but no clocks. However, at mile 3 it beeped "low battery" and...then I couldn't get the "low battery" message off the screen. It froze. Meanwhile, the watch kept working for miles, all the way to mile ten I think, with mile splits beeping, but frustratingly hidden under the frozen message on the screen! So, I was on my own. No problem: I'd go by feel. I plugged awkwardly down St. Charles and into the park, my favorite part: home turf! I run here all the time! And I saw my friends Melissa, Christine, and Caroline here. They cheered for me and Melissa told me, "You can catch her!", pointing to Morgan. And sure enough, the gap between us was shrinking. We were at nine miles shortly after leaving the park, but I realized that rather than passing Morgan, I was about to get passed myself! Girl Behind Me and her male pacer were hot on my heels! Sure enough, by ten, they whizzed by me, and then Morgan, who was only a few yards ahead of me by then. In a minute, I was past Morgan, too, offering encouragement. We followed that pattern for a mile and a half, but then behind me I heard a guy talking to Morgan. A friend had jumped in with her and, invigorated, she sped up - and passed me back! By now my Garmin was long-dead and I had no clue my pace or position. But whatever position I was in, I didn't want to give it up to Morgan. I also felt like I was slowing down, and needed to speed up, hoping to at least snag a post-surgery record, since I thought PR was out of the question. I held back momentarily, but at mile twelve, I made another move and pulled even with Morgan. We neared the windy final mile almost even.

I love how the Jazz half course ends: you turn off Saint Charles Avenue onto Lee's Circle, take the first exit, then turn right for a straight shot to the finish at about 12.8 miles. Your last turn gives you ample time to see the finish line and gain some speed (I hate courses that turn at like mile 13.0 and give you no time for a hard finish). As we headed into those final turns, I cut the tangents sharply, laid on the gas, and left Morgan behind. Soon I could see the finish, and could hear the announcer call the second female. Second! So I would be third! That is - IF I could hold off Morgan's finishing sprint! Well aware of my slow kick, I started sprinting at once. I looked up and saw the clock was still at 1:29 as I approached and I was shocked: I thought I was closer to 1:32. It's tough to judge pace in the wind. I was elated to finish in 1:29:18, having made all three of my race goals: PR, break 1:30, and place in the race. Morgan was right behind me in 1:29:25!
Second and third female - yes, I tried to recruit her to our running group
I'm very happy with this result, since I am mid-marathon training and my "taper" was taking Friday off after running every day this week, including 12 miles with seven hard on Tuesday and an eight mile tempo on Thursday. At some point, I'd like to actually train specifically for a half, and at that point I'd want to get low 1:28, high 1:27. But for now, I'm just glad to have the 90-minutes monkey off my back!

(Meanwhile, in Garmin-ville, I did figure out how to reboot this screen, which is what came up when I plugged it in:

But my race record is just gone. It won't file transfer, but it also doesn't even show up in my activity history on the watch. Luckily, the race has some timing mats, and I think they give an accurate picture of my race pacing...

I think maybe I race BETTER without a watch?!)