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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Small victories

Today I swung by Varsity Sports to buy my gels for the marathon. I'll have to carry all my gels because the only fuel on the course is Shot Bloks at mile 18, both too late and too hard to eat at that point in the race.
So I grabbed some Gu, and then I saw that close-to-outdated Huma gels were on sale, so I grabbed some of them, too. "Might as well stock up for winter running," I thought.

And then I realized what a victory that was. For years, my little bowl of gels stood nearly empty, one or two dusty hammer gels at the bottom. I was too injured or too deep in recovery to stock up on gels. The very thought that I will, at some point, need ten gels is cause for celebration! I'm well enough now that I have no doubt that this marathon will not be my last. I sometimes forget that I had two major hip surgeries. The myrtles and hip exercises are second nature now (and honestly, shouldn't we all be doing them, anyway?) and the almost complete lack of pain allows it to slip my mind. In fact, I can't remember the last time my hip really bothered me when running. I definitely felt the left side last week, but that was while painting my nails. I stretch out on the floor, basically in a toe-touch stretch, and staying that way for five or ten minutes makes it pinch. But ten mile tempos? Nothing. I feel like pre-injury me (except slower. Bah!).

I'm so glad that something as simple as buying extra Gu is possible now. It makes me feel better about spending $12 on eleven ounces of sugar and water.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

You can't get up early enough

The problem with summer marathon training in New Orleans is that you just can't beat the heat. You can go ahead and wake up at 3 am. It will still be hot. In fact, sometimes it's worse than mid-day because the early mornings are stiflingly humid. This summer of running seemed particularly tough, with day after day of hot and sweaty runs. I wasn't imagining it: we set a record this year for the most summer days in which the temperature never dropped under 80 degrees. You can read the full story here. 

The implications of FORTY-THREE days in which the temperature never dropped below 80F are obvious - more heat-related injuries, higher electric bills, and of course, miserable runs. Somehow I survived this summer (which otherwise seemed average to me as heat goes) but the hot, hot mornings definitely impacted my running. On two particularly warm and humid mornings I felt like I hit the wall, and it was partly sodium and fluid related. One morning, I decided to eliminate the temptation to stop for water on my tempo run, and ran nine miles without water. And then I was dehydrated all day.
The temperatures haven't really changed yet. After a few brief days of less heat, the thermometer stuck, and now we're firmly stuck in the low 90's with more humidity on an average morning than California received in rainfall all year. Last night's speed work was done in 89 degrees with 91% humidity and a sky full of heat lightening. I'm so ready for fall!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Marathon training, week 12

Monday: 10+ total. I did speed work in Audubon park after work. My schedule means I start at 7pm, so my the end the sun has set. Four x 1.5 miles with half a mile active recovery. 9:54, 10:13, 10:11, 10:30 - I have so much trouble running in the dark! On the last repeat, I very nearly got clotheslined by a leash - those thin retractable leashes that are more like, well, a clothesline! are almost impossible to see at dusk. I saw the dog, but I thought he was with the woman to my left, not the woman to my right, and tried to run in between. At the last moment, I saw the leash, and came to a DEAD STOP. I stopped so fast that I left rubber skids on the road! But all was well. No dogs or humans were hurt. 
Tuesday: Off.
Wednesday: 8 total. Worst run ever. I slept in, got up late, was starving, had to run in hot temperatures and full sun, and was forced to quit early to make it to work on time (not that I minded). I got in seven at tempo pace but felt terrible.
Thursday: 6.5 easy.
Friday: 10+ easy. Another late start: I just can't seem to wake up these days. I ended up having to rush to make it home in time for work, so my last four were in the 7:30's, 7:20's, and 7 teens, but the first part was more than amply easy.
Saturday: 10 faster than it should have been. Wait, where did the exhaustion go?! I realized that I felt pretty good when my first two miles were around 7:20, so I picked up the pace, thinking I could make up for Thursday's awful tempo. I did, averaging 7:13. I can't believe that this pace used to feel pedestrian. Age is a terrible thing, boys and girls. 
Sunday: 7 easy. Still felt wonderful, probably because it was only 84 degrees.
Total: 52 miles.

Two weeks until the marathon! But no taper yet. I expect to run another 52 or so miles next week, THEN I can taper. Technically the taper starts next Friday. I still don't feel confident at all. I would like to run under 3:15, but when I look at the pace it just makes me dreadfully nervous. The pace seems doable now, but I just don't know about twenty six miles of it! I'm certainly feeling the lack of long long runs. But then I try to remember that the marathon is my best distance: I can pull off pretty decent races even unprepared. I took three weeks off right around peak week for my last race, and still actually made my goal of under 3:20 (those three weeks off resulted in my weekly average being below 30 for that training cycle, but I did get in three twenty milers). I'm reasoning with myself that I generally do comparatively well in marathons, and I got lots of miles in, and the weather will be infinitely better than it's been for all my training. But I'm also quite aware that most of my tempo runs have felt HORRIBLE and that I've been teetering on bonk for a few measly 16 milers. To make matters worse, I'm bouncing from feeling incredibly tired to feeling fabulous in the space of a few days! I have no idea with what mindset I should be going into this race!

Friday, September 23, 2016

The fatigue is acummulating.

Hanson's Marathon Method is based on the concept of cumulative fatigue: a process in which you tire your muscles, never allow them to fully recover, and train through the soreness and fatigue to condition your body to perform well when tired - like at the end of a marathon.
Here I am, nearing the end of the program, all my longs runs behind me, and I can tell you that the fatigue has accumulated. The dead legs started in week four. Week three was a massive 60 miles, thanks to some schedule swapping that moved a rest day, and even after finally getting a rest day, I felt tired most of the week. I really started feeling it. And I started to wonder if I wasn't over-fatigued.
Hanson's claims that their plan will get you to the point of fatigue, but not overtraining. But I wonder if I'm in the middle ground: over-fatigue.
Fatigue leaves you tired, definitely needing your easy days, but still hitting your paces on your hard days.
Over-training is a syndrome resulting from stress to the body and is hormone mediated (primarily through cortisol). You can no longer improve, in fact you regress, and while you are exhausted, you can't sleep well and your easy days aren't restful because they feel hard for you.
But what if you're not to the point of over-training, but you are definitely too tired to hit all your paces? That's over-fatigue. It's over-doing the amount of miles needed to make your muscles just tired enough to benefit from pushing through.

I kind of felt like that this week. After hitting over 60 mpw several times (remember that I'm just a lowly 40 mpw-er most of the time), and close to the end of things, I rather gave up this week. I woke up late EVERY DAY and, on tempo day, quit at 8 miles (and still barely made it to work on time). Most of my runs felt hot and hard. It didn't help that the warm, muggy weather is hanging around (91 degrees at 6 pm? For speed work? WHY?! Humidity 90% during tempo? Really, why?!). So I'm short a few miles this week, and slow for a couple, and I am hoping I'm not overly fatigued!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Marathon training, week 11

Training for Twin Cities Marathon, October 9:

Monday: 9.8 total. This was 3x2 miles on the Chicago Lakefront! It was 80 degrees and full sun at 3 pm, but it felt so cool and delicious to me. This was the second week in a row with speed work on a windy beach! 13:27, 13:30, 13:25. The lakefront had perfectly positioned fountains so I could drink some water between repeats. 
Tuesday: Off.
Wednesday: 12.25 total. This ten mile tempo started out rough: I was up very late on Tuesday finishing school after flying home, and the return to humidity hit me hard. But I pushed through and, to my surprise, felt better by mile three. 7:12, 7:20, 7:11, 6:59, 7:09, 7:12, 7:08, 7:12, 7:09, 7:09.
Thursday: easy.
Friday: 10 easy. 
Saturday: 16 at 7:49 and felt like the worst thing ever. I left the house at 7:30 and it was 100% humidity. It got better when the sun rose all the way, but I was still sweating insanely. I took my shoes off and squeezed my socks out three times because the squelching was driving me crazy. One thing that's worrying me about Hanson's is that these long runs have all felt hard - and they're only 16 miles! I am particularly worried about hitting the wall, because I have problems with running out of fuel already. And every long run I've had to eat something. Normally I don't need any fuel for 16 miles if I'm working up to it, but with so few long runs and just ten mile long runs every other week, my body isn't trained to use alternate fuel efficiently. This was my last long run, although taper doesn't actually start until just ten days out from the race: yikes. 
Sunday: 7 easy. Eighty-four degrees, 84% humidity. So in other words, almost fall. Ha. 
Total: 61 miles.

Ack, I feel so unprepared for this race. Why does it feel so tough to do 16 miles? Why am I tired? Why did I decide that two of the most work-intensive MBA classes should be taken together during a 7-week session while I am also wrapping up marathon training? 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ten toenails

I would like to report that, three-quarters through marathon training, I have yet to lose a toenail. This is quite unusual for me: Because of my wide, hard-to-fit feet, I usually lose several toenails during training. But as of today, I have all ten, and I don't even think I have any threatening to jump ship (I think. I would need to see under the horrendous pink staining that transpired beneath my purple nail polish - and now refuses to budge -  to know for sure, but nothing feels loose).
Ignore the blotchy pink and just recognize that all nails are present.

I think I can credit my nail success to three things:
1. Shorter long runs. I'm just not pounding my toes for as long at once.
2. More easy running. The harder and faster you go, the more impact you feel. All this slow, easy running is protecting my nails.
3. Wider shoes. The New Balance Fresh Foam Zante is available in a wide, which fits my foot much better and is sparing my toes. I'm wearing the Zante a little less than the Saucony Kinvara, and I'm using my Mizuno Mushas (RIP) on the track. So maybe 35-40% of the time I'm in a better-fitting shoe.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Marathon training, week 10

Training for Twin Cities Marathon, October 9:

Monday: 10+ total. This was a hot mess. We went to Bay St. Louis to visit with David's family over the holiday weekend, but as our plans evolved, we ended up planing to leave early to stop at a friend's house on the way home. This messed up my "evening speed work" plan, so I suddenly had to complete this workout right away. It was 2 x 3 miles with a 1 mile break in between. So I ended up running this on a path by the beach, right after a big lunch, into a storm. I did an out-and-back, and I didn't need to worry about running this too fast for the first rep - it was straight into the wind. What a struggle! I ate or inhaled sand for 3 miles in 21:04. After the turn-around, my last rep felt like walking, thanks to the tailwind: 20:42. 
Tuesday: Off.
Wednesday: 11 total with 9 at tempo: 7:05, 7:06, 7:05, 7:03, 7:11, 7:12, 7:11, 7:15, 7:13. I don't like how I fell apart at the end! I think I started this too fast. I was still at the low-end of the pace range, but I'd prefer to be more consistent.
Thursday: 10 easy.
Friday: 10 at 7:45 pace. I moved my long run to accommodate weekend plans. 
Saturday: 6.5 easy. Squeezed this in before we left for a short trip.
Sunday: 7 easy on the Chicago lakefront. Oh, how beautiful! The weather was incredible - a sunny 72 degrees. I was supposed to do 6, but was estimating a route from our hotel, and also had to wait for my Garmin to find a satellite hundreds of miles away from home. So it was about 7, and I didn't mind that a bit. It's been so long since I've run in weather like this that I absolutely could not reign in the pace. 7:27 average, including the parts in the city dodging pedestrians, and it felt so good. I'm not worried about running too fast, because perceived effort was easy, and plus - I am going to enjoy this weather while I can! 

Total: 55 miles.

It was a little warmer again this week, but not as bad as July and August, and I think we're firmly out of that phase of summer misery. Hurray! Still, though, comparing New Orleans to Chicago - it's amazing what the weather does to you. Hard effort in New Orleans September is easy, conversational Chicago September pace (we lucked out on some beautiful weather for our trip).

I have been totally slacking off on strength training, and it's showing: I feel less powerful, and I have that feeling of weakness that leads to niggles and injuries. My hips have had less mobility (I skipped my myrtles for the first time in years this week!) and I have some mild tendonitis below my knee. Time to nip that in the bud and get back to strengthening! I started a new semester and my two MBA classes are a ton of work, mostly because one of them has had all manner of technical difficulties. It's such a heavy workload that I've been doing school until midnight every evening. Hopefully I can get a better grip on it soon, but either way, I have to fit strength in somewhere: it's important. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

New Garmin (again): the 620

After much debate (and one returned 230), I settled on the Garmin 620 for my next GPS unit. The major deciding factor was data screens: I just don't want to have to reset the screens depending on if I'm racing, doing long runs, or using the unit for intervals. The 620 has plenty of screens and I quickly set it up the way I want it. My major configurations are:

  • one screen with time, distance, and average pace; 
  • one with average pace, lap pace, and instant pace; 
  • one with lap time, lap distance, and lap pace. 

I can also hit the clock button to see time, so I didn't have to put time of day on a data field.

As it turns out, the 620 is a great deal right now. You can get a refurbished one for $169, and a brand new one for $212. I went for brand new, because David insisted. He's not a fan of refurbished electronics, so I sighed deeply and forked over the extra cash (Grudgingly. That $169 was just such a good deal!).

Obviously, the upgrade from the 305 is a huge jump. There wasn't a steep learning curve, despite the differences, because the 620 I easy to use; I am, however, enjoying the much faster satellite-location time and the improved battery life (It says 16 hours, but I actually got in over 20 hours before it beeped low battery).

I don't need to review the 620, because it's an older unit and DC Rainmaker has in-depth reviews of all Garmin products should anyone need more information, but I did want to share that, despite all its bells and whistles, the 620 remains a simple, basic unit. I was worried that all the additional options I wasn't planning on using would make it clunky or complicated, but it doesn't.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Marathon training, week 9

Training for Twin Cities Marathon, October 9:

Monday: 10 total. Now that I switched to Monday night track last week, I stuck with it. This week I drove home after work, changed, and ran to Audubon park for 3x2 mile repeats with 800 active rest. 13:45, 13:55, 14:09. Only the last rep was within my pace range - now that I'm doing longer, slower intervals, I am really struggling to get the paces right! The funny thing is that the last rep was in the dark and I couldn't read my Garmin, so apparently I pace better by feel.These still feel way too easy.
Tuesday: Off.
Wednesday: 11 total with 9 at tempo: 7:04, 7:14, 7:08, 6:59, 7:06, 7:09, 7:05, 6:57, 7:03. Average pace of 7:05 - my best tempo yet. The temperatures have finally dropped to low or mid 80's in the morning, and it made a gigantic difference in my tempo run. I was relieved that it seems that much of my struggles were just due to constant high temperatures. This time, it was only 83F, and I could not explain to my body that I should slow down to 7:15. I felt like this effort was 7:25 - 7:30!
Thursday: 8 easy. Still lovely temperatures, even a slight breeze. 
Friday: 8 easy at the crack of dawn before an early work seminar followed by the usual 9-hour work day. The worst! 
Saturday: 16 miles of sun. Well, so much for cool temperatures. It was still nicer than it's been - maybe summer is finally on the way out - but I woke up late and didn't start my run until 9 am. It was hot (90F average for my run and a "feels like" temperature of 103F when I got home), full-sun, and kind of the worst because I also had terrible cramps. Still, I was easily able to complete 16 at 7:45 pace. Maybe this training is starting to click, because I thought that would have felt more difficult. Unfortunately, I got a sunburn, though. I guess I sweated through my sunblock.
Sunday: 7 easy.

Total: 60 miles.

This week was a big confidence-booster: every run felt great. The drop in temperatures made a huge impact on my paces, and helped me see that my fitness really is improving. My speedwork feels way too easy, even the ones I am running too fast (I'm trying to get them in range, it is just odd for me to run intervals at over 7 minute pace. I get the idea, but I can't translate it into results) and for the first time, the tempo felt easy. I am still worried about the long runs, though. I bet I bonk on race day. There is a world of difference between 16 miles and 26 miles, plus, all those little aspects of the 20 miler are missing: practice carrying gels, taking fuel, sizing up the blister situation. But I promised myself I'd follow this plan to the letter, and with the exception of one skipped day, one shortened tempo, and a few too-fast intervals, I'm doing just that. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Another Wal-mart review: Booty shorts

You know how much I love to splurge on Wal-mart running clothes, like these $12 leggings, these $3 shorts, and my favorite $11 two-pack of bras.
Today's review is of the Avia Women's Active 3" Captivate Training Shorts, for the low, low price of $9.86. Or maybe it's for the Avia Women's Active 3" Inseam Short, which is only $6 right now (!!!), because as I discovered, Wal-mart is either greatly confused or considers them interchangeable. I ordered two of the first item, but I got one of each item, going by the description of the fabric content (neither was on sale at the time, though, or I'd be clamoring for my $3.86 back).
From Wal-mart's website

I decided it was time to throw caution, decency, and self-respect to the wind and invest in some booty shorts for summer running. I just could not take any more sweat-soaked flapping fabric - or sweat-soaked bunching fabric creating horrid chafing. So, after reading reviews of $50 nike shorts and $40 Road Runner Sports shorts, I turned to Wal-mart.
I bought two pairs of shorts, one black with "wine" (dark maroon) and one a weird green pattern.
So, here are my thoughts.

1. They fit well and don't ride up. They do not offer a lot of compression, if that's what you are going for (I'm not), but they stay put.
2. They don't bag out or become see-through when soaked in sweat. Yay!
3. They have a key pocket in the waistband, and it's a nice, big one, too. Even a big car key stays put.
Waistband, with inner pocket and reflective detail on back
1. High waist. These hit an inch below my belly button, which means they press on my tummy, which...isn't always a good thing.
2. Most shorts of this style do not have an internal elastic - rather, the fabric itself is elasticized, and the waistband fabric is cut on the bias or on the cross-grain to enhance elasticity. However, these shorts have an internal elastic at the top of the waistband. I don't have any complaints yet, but I can foresee this elastic twisting and curling after multiple washes.

Of interest, as I mentioned above, the two pairs I ordered are actually different composition:
Polyester versus nylon
In reality, the black/wine shorts, containing mostly nylon, should have been listed under the second link - the $6 sale pair. But what I ordered were two pairs of mostly polyester, according to the item description.

At a recent trip to Target I was concerned to see these shorts on the clearance rack for $8. Did I overspend buying Wal-mart shorts?! But no. Something major is missing from the Target pair: no pocket!
Not a deal. No pocket. 

My overall opinion? Great buy for the price. Go get some.