Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chrissie Wellington’s A Life Without Limits

Chrissie Wellington is a British triathlete and four time World Ironman Champion (2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011). Her autobiography, A Life Without Limits, tells her story of becoming a world champion triathlete.

Chrissie has two driving forces in her life. One is her passion for development. The other is that she is a complete and total control freak. Interestingly, once she gave these two things up, her life took her to extraordinary places.

Chrissie never had aspirations of being a professional athlete as a child. She was a good swimmer in school but focused her energy into academics. She took up running in graduate school, unfortunately, as part of her struggles with eating disorders, both anorexia and bulimia. She has an honest discussion in the book about what she experienced and how it tore to pieces the people she loves. With supportive friends and family, she was able to overcome it.

Out of university, she worked for the British government in development; specifically, she was on the team that represented Great Britain in the United Nations. After the UN, she considered applying to law school. But she put it off in favor of traveling and seeking other, less bureaucratic development opportunities. During her travels, she serendipitously entered into some races, and ended placing fairly well without training. During this time, she also developed into an endurance cyclist, biking all over Nepal.

Then she did a really brave thing. She gave up a promising between-the-lines sort of career in development or as a lawyer to pursue a career as an athlete. And suddenly, she was on a professional team of triathletes being coached by Brett, a crazy, bipolar, and usually asshole of a guy. And she’s been cleaning up at Ironman triathalons ever since, winning Kona – the world championship – the first time she raced it. An Ironman triathalon covers 140.6 miles – a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run.

She attributes her early success to Coach Brett. Unorthodox in methods, Brett requires total submission from his athletes. The book chronicles Chrissie's struggles with handing training decisions to another person whose methods seemed incomprehensible. After her second win in Kona, she and Brett split.

Chrissie Wellington racing in Kona in 2008
By Dontworry (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
Another honest moment in the book is her discussion of shitting and pissing during races. Apparently much shitting happens in the water prior to the swim, the first event in a triathalon. But shitting can happen at any time. On the bike, pissing can be used as a weapon if another athlete tries to draft off of you. And, my favorite, when she took a dump in some bushes on the side of the road, with NBC’s cameras focused on her during her astonishing victory in her first Kona championship.

Shitting and pissing aside, a couple of tips in the book gave me comfort/ideas about my own training.

First, Chrissie does a lot of treadmill sessions. I have been doing a lot of work on the treadmill, usually 2 out of my 4-5 runs per week. I have been worried about how valuable those sessions are compared to if I had done them out on the road or track. Chrissie’s former coach, Brett, has been known to make his athletes run entire marathons on a treadmill positioned in a dank, windowless basement. No music, no TV.

Second, she gives some tips about how she stays tough mentally during grueling races. Chrissie keeps a library of positive images in her mind. The faces of people she loves, funny things, other images and words that give her inspiration. And then she flips through those images when she is in the hurt locker.

I tried this during a recent speed workout, and I didn’t have enough images in my library yet. Also, I couldn’t hold onto an image for more than what seemed like half a second. So I just started flipping through faces of people I knew…which was not very inspiring. I have to work on this one!

Would I be friends with Chrissie? Absolutely, she shines through as a genuinely nice person. She’s honest and thoughtful. Her friends and family are most important in her extraordinary life. Call me Chrissie! :)


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Every single mile...every foot of ground we cover, that's a victory

My dad gave me this book to read when I first began to run, at about age 13. I guess he knew there was a distance runner in me before I did.

''[They] ran because this was the moment which no landlord, no employer, no politician could take from them. They had stood in bread lines, taken handouts and pay cuts, watched while plump politicians had pursued their round of conferences. They had watched, impotent.It had not taken them long to realize that others were going to win the Trans-America, nor had it taken them long to reach their personal decision to continue. They had come to run across America and no one on earth was going to stop them. No, there was no need to ask why they kept running.'' 

"[t]he way I see it, every single mile we put in, every foot of ground we cover, that's a victory. Every time we think of stopping and keep going, that's another victory. Every goddam moment on that road is, too. Out here we grow every day. We grow, don't you see?"

 - Doc Cole, main character in "Flanagan's Run", by Tom McNab (1982).


Monday, October 29, 2012

Peak Week!

45 miles this week = my highest mileage week EVER! I didn't plan my peak week in advance. I usually don't plan much in advance because my work load is variable and can ramp up for several weeks at a time without much advance warning. But events kind of aligned this week, and I squeezed in peak week just before a new court order in one of my cases spun a lot of work my way. So I am now forced into a 2 week taper for the Silver Strand half marathon on November 11.

But for once, the timing is okay. I've noticed in my Thursday plyo workouts that my legs have been DEAD when I've had to jump around. I think it is best to give my legs a long recovery period so they are fully rested and ready to run the Silver Strand. I might try to sneak in another speed session or some mile repeats in the next few days, and then really go into full taper mode.

Do you plan your peak weeks in advance? How have you managed to stay on track with training when work/life wreaks havoc on your schedule?

In honor of peak week, and to be dramatic, a picture of the highest peak in the world:  Mount Everest at roughly 5.5 miles tall.

Mount Everest
by Kerem Barut via Wikimedia Commons

Week 8 (10/20-10/26):  45.25 miles

Saturday (10/20):  Tempo run in Del Mar-Solana Beach-Cardiff. 5 miles at 7:00, total 13 miles.

Sunday (10/21):  Long run in Carlsbad-Oceanside. 15 miles at 9:00 average pace.

Monday (10/22):  Yoga.

Tuesday (10/23):  Speed! 13 x 0.5 @ 9.3 (6:27) on the treadmill. 10.25 miles / 100 minutes!

Wednesday (10/24):  Recovery run in Del Mar-Solana Beach. 7 miles at 9:00 average pace.

Thursday (10/25):  Strength, legs-plyo-core.

Friday (10/26):  I desperately wanted to do mile repeats, but I couldn't get away from the office. So it was a rest day.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Speed, Ice-cream and Step Back Weeks

So last week I pulled out one of the tougher weeks of running I've done so far. I was pretty proud of myself actually... possibly less proud of precisely how much ice cream it took to fuel said workouts, but hey, as Cait so eloquently illustrated, is there a better incentive to run? Man, I love that girl's cartoons.

Anyway so here was my week:

October 15-21, 2012
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 9 miles easy
Wednesday: 1 mile easy, 7x800s at 6:27 pace, 1 mile easy +light leg strength (treadmill)
Thursday: Elliptical 45 mins intervals
Friday: tempo; 2 miles easy, 2x2 miles at 6:48 pace, 2 miles easy (treadmill)
Saturday: 60 mins elliptical intervals + plyometrics
Sunday: 16 miles with last 3 miles at 7:36, 7:19, 7:15

Total: 40 miles

Looking back, I probably didn't need to have quite so many quality workouts. That was the highest number of 800s I had done, the longest tempo I've done, the longest long run I had done, and I even decided to add a progression at the end. The latter was not planned for, but came about because I ate a Gu for the first time in ages at mile 8 (Hello! Energy! OMG must run fast then bounce off walls!) and frankly I was getting a little bored at the end of the long run.

I ended the week with a couple of resulting niggles; I felt a tad of my peroneal tendonitis come back, a pull in my hip flexor/groin area again (different side this time) and some general muscle tiredness (duh).

So I decided to have a step back week this week. But I didn't really know what a step back week was. Do you cut mileage? Speedwork? I dunno. I just decided to keep two key workouts and cross-train as I felt like it. Oh, and slam that bloody hip flexor with some strength exercises.

Does anyone out there understand how to do a step-back week and what is the most important thing to cut?  Miles? Intensity? Ice-cream?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Scott Jurek’s Eat & Run – “Sometimes you just do things” – Like Finish This Book

Scott Jurek is an ultra runner and one of the characters in Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. McDougall's book made Jurek famous outside ultra-marathon running circles. Jurek is introduced in Born to Run when he accompanies McDougall and some other runners to the Copper Canyons of Mexico to run Caballo Blanco’s ultra-marathon against the Tarahumara.

A self-described poor hick who grew up in rural Minnesota, Jurek’s story is archetypical rags to riches. He overcame a lot of hardship. A mother with MS. An emotionally barren, disciplinarian father. He had to make his own way every step of his journey. And the man got to where he is by sheer force of will. He gives new meaning to the term hard worker.

Each chapter of Jurek’s book tells a different story of his life. Childhood, the high school years, Western States 100 (seven time winner), Caballo Blanco’s race, etc.

And the story telling is decent for a sports autobio. Until he shoves each chapter’s themes and morals down the reader's throat. As a reader, I prefer to be led down a path with the story, and then left free to draw my own conclusions. I want to be shown not told.

For all of our sakes, I will avoid turning this into literary criticism blog. But I have just one more complaint about style to get out. “Sometimes you just do things.” “Sometimes you just do things.” “Sometimes you just do things.” “Sometimes you just do things.” “Sometimes you just do things.” “Sometimes you just do things.” This phrase must appear a hundred times in the book. Really, not exaggerating. (I don't blame Jurek; I blame his editor.) 

“Sometimes you just do things” is apparently Jurek's mantra – the phrase he repeats to himself when it is time to put the hammer down. The phrase originated with Jurek’s dad who made the point when he gave boy Jurek some Sisyphean task that took the entire day to complete – something like forcing Jurek to stack firewood all day instead of skiing with friends. “Sometimes you just do things,” said father Jurek to his son.

When the going gets tough in Jurek’s 100 mile+ races in impossible conditions, he thinks of his dad’s phrase, goes to his dark place, and pushes through. “Sometimes you just do things.”

There was a fair bit of preaching about veganism. But I was prepared for that; afterall, in the title, Eat comes before Run! I completely agree with Jurek that eating better food helps you feel better and therefore run better. However, I found his use of the phrase “animal flesh” as a synonym for meat over the top. As was his declaration that he was so in tune with his body and the food he was putting in it that he could tell when a carrot was picked by how it tasted. I kid you not.

But I like Jurek. A self-made man, an individualist, a hard worker. I think he was a neat kid. He didn’t have any one at home who could teach him things with his mother being sick and his dad working and generally being very unpleasant to interact with. So when he needed to learn about stuff, he went to the library and checked out books. He learned about baseball, skiing, and other sports this way.

I loved Jurek’s stories about his races. Training for ultras, actually running them, and the logistics of it all. The support vehicles. The food, the hydration. The delirium. His pacers, especially Dusty, a major character in the book from the high school years forward. Now Dusty, this is a guy who could write a compelling autobiography.

The coolest thing about Jurek is that after races, he hangs around the finish line to greet and congratulate other runners. How awesome is that?

How do people run 100+ miles in one day? I think Jurek’s answer is that you can train for it if you are dedicated enough. He trained for ultras while working full time as a physical therapist. But training for an ultra is the easy part. The hard part is persevering in the race. I think Jurek would say that you get to the finish line of an ultra-marathon through extreme mental toughness. Untempered stubbornness.  

All-in-all, I think the book tries to do too much. It is his manifesto on veganism. It is a how-to for beginning runners. And it is the story of his life. Who is Scott Jurek? I know what he wants me to think. But I don’t think he showed who he really is in this book.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

12-year-old autistic boy finds freedom in running

Caulden Gary of San Diego was diagnosed with severe autism when he was 18 months old. Now, 12 years old and running on the cross country team at Carmel Valley Middle School, Caulden is not only improving his communication skills, but he is inspiring his teammates.

On running, Caulden says,

"It makes me feel more like me."

From the San Diego U-T (read the full story here):

Because he had a difficult time looking anyone in the eyes, which is typical of the disorder, she [his mother]  trained him to be able to by holding French fries in front of her eyes and not giving it to him until he would make eye contact. Now, he has no problem with it, she said.

He has also learned to read and communicate with an iPod even though he still can’t speak.

And now, after only about two months on the cross country team, Caulden is already more coordinated, calmer in class and better at interacting with his peers, Darocki [his mother] said.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


"I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes. I had one thousand and sixty."
Imelda Marcos

Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos during a state visit at the White House in 1966.
U.S. Library of Congress image
1,060 pairs of shoes . . . that's a girl's dream! I only have 37 pairs, not including flip-flops and athletic shoes. I especially like to buy gold heels (4 pairs), black flats (3 pairs), ankle booties (5 pairs), and black heels (4 pairs). But these are not duplicates, my friends. Each has its specific function and is not substitutable for any of the others. Totally justified. ;)

Wearing 6 different pairs of athletic shoes this week for workouts, I realized that I am also well on my way to a nice collection of sports footwear.

My New Balance 890s have long been my workhorse, long run training shoe. But lately, I've found that the size 7.5s are too small and the 8s are too big, so I had to take a plunge into the world of running shoes . . . 

The choices are almost unlimited. From barefoot to minimalist to transition to neutral to stability. From Nike to Saucony to New Balance to Mizuno to Brooks to Adidas to Asics and beyond. From heel drop to cushioning to toe box room to arch height to motion control. It's a confusing place. How do you pick out a running shoe?

This is how I made sense of it. 

First, I want to know what the "heel-to-toe drop" (or sometimes "drop") of the shoe is. This is the height the heel is raised above the forefoot. Most so-called traditional running shoes have drops of 12-15 mm. Barefoot-style shoes are zero drop. I've found that the smaller the drop, the harder your calves have to work. Now 0 mm, that's hardcore. No way am I putting my calves through that! My preference is to stay between 8-12 mm for my long run trainer, but I am open to experimenting with as low as 4 mm drops for shorter runs. Most sales people will not know what the drop is on any shoe. Be prepared to Google with your smart phone.

Second, I look for fit. There are a lot of fit issues you can spot right away in the store. You don't want your toes to be bumping up against the top or front of the shoe. This is because your feet flatten out quite a bit during your foot plant. The arch of the foot flattens out, so you need some room in there for your toes to both move forward and to splay out horizontally. You also want your heel to feel comfortable in the shoe's heel cradle. You want your midfoot to feel secure.

There are other fit issues that you can't know about until you have put quite a few miles on the shoes (so it's best to find a store that has a generous return policy). For example, the first time I ran in the Saucony Ride 5s, I got blisters on my arches. I could have never known this by running a few steps on the store's treadmill. I ended up running 50 miles in those shoes - and after each run BLISTERS. The arch was too high. I returned them. You'll also know if the shoe is too small after your first long run. A telltale sign of a black toenail is feeling pressure under one of your nails . . . imagine a clothes pin clamped to your toe. That's how you know you've succeed in giving yourself a black toenail.

Third, I want to experience how the shoe rides. Whether they feel good on my feet. This metric includes things like - does the shoe feel stiff or flexible in the mid foot? Is the cushioning spongy? springy? too thick? too thin? Is there enough room for my toes to spread out during the foot plant? Do my feet feel happy when I run in them? You won't know the answer to these questions, or what your preferences are, until you've tried on a bunch of pairs.

I like shoes that are flexible in the mid foot. I do not like shoes that have posts - i.e., hard plastic anywhere in the mid foot. I don't want my foot guided by the plastic. I want my feet to move naturally inside the shoe. I prefer minimal cushioning. I hate spongy cushioning. I want to feel the ground when I run. I like a lot of room in the toe box to allow my toes to spread out. But I like my heel and mid foot to feel cozy and secure.

Color? I don't really care about it that much, but my preference is anything NEON and BRIGHT. Just don't want anything too crazy, like these:
How did you pick out your running shoes? What shoes have you loved? Hated?

In training, my weeks keep getting more intense, moving closer and closer to race day. This week I had a great week. I completed my hardest workout ever! 11 x 0.5 miles @ 9.3 (6:27). It took me 90 minutes, over 9 miles. I was exhausted! But utterly amazed that I did it!

Week 7: 10/13-10/19 (33 miles)

Saturday (10/13): Long run in Mission Bay, 15 miles. First half at 9:00, next four at 8:30, last 3.5 at 7:30. Last run in my Saucony Ride 5s (blisters).

Sunday (10/14): Jet skiing in Mission Bay, not really exercise, but very fun!! Recovery run, 4.5 miles in Solana Beach at 10:00. First run in my Saucony Kinvara 3s (light weight, liked).

Monday (10/15): Very stiff from long run still. 60" yoga. Omm. Unshod.

Tuesday (10/16): Speed, 11 x 0.5 at 6:27 pace. This took me 90", the longest I have ever run on a treadmill! Wore the New Balance 890s (v1) (another black toenail developed).

Wednesday (10/17): Moderate effort tempo run on treadmill (it was 100F in San Diego!). 40" run with 7:30 pace towards the end for 10 minutes. Upper body weights. Wore the Brooks PureFlow (springy, fun!).

Thursday (10/18): 45" plyo, legs, and core. Wore Nike Pegasus 26s (spongy cushioning perfect for plyo).

Friday (10/19): I played in a doubles tennis tournament and made the playoffs for the first time!! But we got slaughtered in the semifinals. 6-2. My partner asked me, "Have you been working on your volleys?" More of an accusation than a question! My court shoes are Nike Zoom Breathe 2K10s (stiff sole, lots of toe protection).


You Know You're a Runner When . . .

You are happy to wake up to cloudy, misty skies on tempo run Saturday.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Constructing a Training Plan for YOUR Legs

One of the things Kristen and I have done this training cycle is to really examine what worked and what didn't in our last year or two of running. We have found that complicated speed workouts are confusing, and difficult to execute. I certainly found that I was unable to really gauge how fast I should be doing speed and tempo sessions, and was likely doing them too fast and nearly getting injured as a result.

Probably the biggest learning curve, however, was understanding exactly what format of weekly workouts worked best for us as individuals. This was the single greatest element of constructing a new training plan for me.

For example, I neeeeeed a rest day after long run day, but not before. I can run easy miles before speed work, but not after. Because I work all week, its easier for me to take rest days or cross-train during the week, and get some longer running in on the weekend. Generally speaking the weekly format that works best for me is: Monday rest, Tuesday: Easy/medium long, Wednesday: speed, Thursday, XT + strength, Friday: Tempo, Saturday XT or easy + plyo and strength, Sunday: Long.

That is what I naturally gravitated towards, and what my training plans always switched to in the past. Looking back over past training (and all the workouts I didnt complete or shifted around the week) has forced me to understand what works for my legs and my time. It really takes the guesswork out of it.  As a result, for the first time, I am actually following my training plan. I still ask myself how Im feeling each day, and whether Im physically ready for the workout that I have assigned myself.... but more often than not, the answer is yes, because my legs have found a groove that Im running with (pun completely intended). The resulting benefit, of course, is that I am completing my workouts, making much greater fitness gains and gaining a ton of confidence in myself!

Do you follow training plans blindly, or reassemble them to fit your legs/schedule? Do you eschew training plans entirely and just run by feel? How do you evaluate whether its working?

With that long-winded introduction, these were the first two weeks out of base training and integrating real workouts in the leadup to my December 1st race (we are running the Vegas Rock n Roll):

October 1 - 7th
Monday: rest
Tuesday: 6 miles easy, plus 6 x 8 second hill sprints
Wednesday: Speed: 6 miles with 2 miles easy, 5x800 at 6:27pace, 2 miles easy on treadmill
Thursday: Elliptical, easy for 45 minutes, + leg strength
Friday: Tempo, 2 miles easy, 2x1 miles at HM pace, 2 miles easy
Saturday: Insanity Plyometric circuit + easy 4 miles
Sunday: 15 miles easy, with 14th mile in 6:55

I ran some of my easy miles around the reservoir in Central Park. The 1 point something mile loop around the lake is dominated by runners. No strollers or bikes allowed, and even walkers are in the minority.

October 8th-14th
Monday: rest
Tuesday: 8 miles easy, plus 8x8 second hill sprints
Wednesday: Speed, 7 miles with 6x800 at 6:27  on treadmill
Thursday: 45 mins easy ellipitical + core strength
Friday: This was a cold, windy night and I did not want to run. But I got out there and really surprised myself with the tempo portion. I ran 2 miles easy, then 4 miles tempo: 7:00, 6:50, 6:55, 6:56, 2 miles easy.
Saturday: Insanity Power and Resistance + 5 miles recovery
Sunday: 15 miles easy. For this run I went further than I have so far down the Hudson river trail toward lower Manhattan on the west side. It was a beautiful day for running and the water front was gorgeous!

Monday, October 15, 2012

You Know You're A Runner When . . .

your pants fit tighter in the calves but looser everywhere else during fall training season.
Compression slacks

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ready or Not, It's October!

This weekend running around the 'hood, I realized we are solidly in October, evinced by Halloween decorating the houses!
This is one of my favorite houses around--in Cardiff. And they always do awesome Halloween and Christmas displays. 
It's October 14 . . . wow, the Silver Strand half is less than a month away!! I'm sticking to the training plan, completing each workout. But I still feel many miles (or, more accurately, MPHs) away from my goal.

But this week, I got in a lot of speedy miles. Out of 25 miles this week, 11 were at a 6-7 pace. I was pissed at my mental weakness in the 5K tuneup race I ran on Sunday, and I knew it was wrong when I was doing those extra fast miles. But I pressed on. I am so lucky I didn't injury myself!

Week 6 (10/6-10/14):  25.7 miles

Saturday (10/6): Taking it easy before the Girl Scouts 5K. Ran 3.5 miles through Del Mar. Played an hour of tennis.

Sunday (10/7): Tune up race! I ran the Girl Scouts New Day 5K. Results: 20:33, 1st in age group, 3rd female overall. Then I ran 6 miles slow in Mission Bay.

Monday (10/8): 4 x 1 mile at 6:48 (treadmilling it); yoga.

Tuesday (10/9): core workout.

Wednesday (10/10): Speed workout on treadmill. 9 x 0.5 miles at 6:27. Temping the speed gods last week, I mocked them by saying my speed workouts are barely challenging. And I was struck down. Although I easily completed the 9 intervals, the next day my legs were DEAD.

Thursday (10/11): Legs/plyo. Jumping with DEAD legs made for an interesting plyo workout . . . mostly stuck to weights.

Friday (10/12): Rest day.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Speedy Miles

What are the components of a half marathon training plan? Training plans authored by various endurance training experts – coaches, athletes, scientists – are all built around:

1.  Long runs – your focus is distance
2.  Speed runs (intervals, fartleks, tempos, progressions) – your focus is pace
3.  Easy runs – your focus is recovery
4.  Rest days – your focus is staying off of your feet

Of course there are variations. Some add hills, weights, flexibility, cross training. Recommended paces and distances are also variables. But these are the common denominators – the collective wisdom of the experts.

I am all over the long runs, easy runs, and rest days. No problemo.

The most challenging workout for me is speed – especially intervals above goal race pace. In times past, I haven’t been able to handle speed workouts week after week. I’ve developed niggles – nothing serious, but enough to make me take precautions – half a week of rest here, no speed for a few weeks there. Result: by the end of the training cycle, I’m way behind in speedy miles.

But with my current training plan, I’ve broken the speed-niggle cycle. How? My hypothesis, it’s a combination of two factors:

1.  I'm stronger.

I’ve been running 20-40 miles a week consistently for about a year. My bones, joints, and ligaments are stronger. They can take more pounding. And I spent the summer developing leg muscle strength with heavy duty leg workouts – weights and plyo. So my muscles are stronger too.

2.  I’m running my speed intervals on the treadmill.

I live in San Diego, among the best weather spots in the world, so the treadmill has never been part of my repertoire. That all changed in August, when our three month heat wave began. It’s just too hot to run in paces beginning with “6” when it is 80, 90 outside. Sweat Diego.

But how does the treadmill compare to the road for speed workouts?
  • On the treadmill, there is no wind resistance, no hills. It's easier. I set the treadmill at “1” slope to somewhat make up for this factor.
  • Fast paces on the treadmill feel easier on my joints. The treadmill is soft compared to the roads, and its surface is even, predictable, and smooth.
  • Running intervals on the road with a GPS watch is hard. The watch give you an average pace over some distance. It's not an instantaneous reading. And since I don't have a good feel for paces, I often run my intervals too fast. The treadmill guarantees a precise pace over a precise distance. (I don't know why I never go to a track.)
  • I don’t think treadmill speed workout is great for mental toughness. When I run fast on the roads or in races, I feel an overwhelming temptation to slow down. And it is so easy to lay off a little bit, even unconsciously. On the treadmill, laying off involves the affirmative act of slowing down the belt . . . hitting the down arrows on the speed buttons. It's a totally different game.
  • But the most important factor, the treadmill is working for me. Not only am I actually getting through the speed workouts week after week, I am building on the intervals, running more of them each time. 
I am hoping for a break in the weather so that I can get to the track and see how my treadmill speed stacks up to the roads.

Doenertier82 via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Girl Scouts New Day 5K Race Recap

In an attempt to boost my confidence for my upcoming half marathon (Silver Strand), I raced the Girl Scouts New Day 5K on Sunday. Unfortunately, it was not just me versus a bunch of 11 year old girls, so the race did not have its intended effect.  The field was stacked, for reals, as word on the street was that age group winners would receive a case of Girl Scout cookies – one box of every type! And every finisher got a box of thin mints. So even the 1 mile fun run was competitive, with the first place boy coming in at 6:08, and the first place girl at 6:27. Awesome! I don’t think I ever ran a 6:27 mile until I was 30, likely 31.

The race took place in Mission Bay Park, with the 5K course running along the east side of the park from De Anza Cove south to the Hilton and back. I’ve raced here before, and parking in the past has been a free-for-all. But the Girl Scouts were super organized with parking volunteers directing traffic into the lots and even helping late-comers find parking after the lots were full. I arrived extra early, as is my custom. So I had no difficulties.

The race director did a brilliant job with all logistics. No line to pick up bibs, and there were actually enough port-a-potties so that there was never an outrageous line. There were even port-a-sinks (stocked with soap and towels), a nice touch you don’t find at many races. The race started on time at 8:25 a.m., and the awards ceremony was underway by 9:25 a.m. Unheard of, no?

There was a swell health expo, which was centered around a chalkboard structure where the girls could write their goals – you know things like plant trees, finish this 5K, eat better, exercise more, be positive, be healthy, eat pizza and cake.

So onto the main event – a word to the wise for next year, the Girl Scouts crowd the start line, it is their race after all, so the first 200 meters of the race are spent dodging, weaving around, and hurdling over little girls. The course is flat and fast. Very few corners. As long as there is no wind, and the temperature is cool enough, I think just about anyone could PR here.  

But I am beginning to realize that you can’t judge a race performance solely by finishing time. We runners tend to focus on this metric of performance. PR-ing is great, but time is just one factor we should use to measure our results. 

Not to imply that I came close to PR-ing. Clock time was 20:36. No chip times, but according to my Garmin, I finished in 20:33 (average pace 6:37), 40 seconds slower than my 5K PR (set in June 2012). 

And not to further imply that I had a great performance. I didn’t. I ran the first two miles well, clocking in at 6:27 and 6:33, respectively. But then I totally wimped out between 2.0-2.75. I let my brain trick me into slowing down – it is hot, it is muggy, you already ran 30 miles this week, you are jet lagged, etc. Several times I looked down at my watch, which read a 7:00 pace and I thought to myself: Darn! (PG version here because I was running with Girl Scouts.) I tried to pick up the pace, but my legs were not receiving the message to accelerate.

Then around 2.75 miles, a dude from the crowd yelled, “Go for it, KICK!” With that, I realized there was no good reason for me to slow down all this time. And I snapped out of it, finishing strong. My split for the 3rd mile was 6:52. But I ran the last 0.1 in 39 seconds, a 6:04 pace. Thanks dude!

Bottom line, I wish I had been tougher and busted out a third mile at 6:30. But at least I overcame my mental weakness in the last 0.35. I am trying to be positive here, but I was really disappointed in my performance. I am training harder than ever, but I am not running faster. 

Oh wait, I am judging my performance solely by my time again. I gotta think broader. My journal says, "No one race, not even the Olympics is the end-all-be-all. Every performance is simply a snap shot in the moving picture of your running life."

How about this snap shot? 

I won my age group and the coveted Girl Scout cookie price. If I measure my performance in cookies, it was an unqualified success!


Monday, October 8, 2012

Two Little Runners Talk A Lot

After the Philly RnR I took a week of easy running/resting and then relaunched into base training. Kristen and I have some pretty hefty PR [secret] goals for this next cycle, after which I'm hoping to take a break for a couple of months and just enjoy some long easy miles in the bitter, spirit-crushing cold crisp, refreshing New York winter.

The week after RnR (Sept 17-23rd) went: rest, rest, 45 min elliptical, 5 miles recovery run, 60 mins elliptical+ core, easy 11 miles (total: 16).

Sept 24-30: Base training
Monday: rest
Tuesday: Easy 6 miles + 4 Hill Sprints
Wednesday: Easy 6 miles + 10 mins leg strength
Thursday: 60 mins elliptical 
Friday: 8 miles easy
Saturday: 70 mins elliptical + arms/core
Sunday:  12 miles easy with Kristen!!

Only two major things to note.
  1. On Thursday, I developed a new format for my sweaty elbow sessions for when I miss a tempo workout. It reflects what is roughly mile repeats: 10 mins easy, 4 x 7 mins hard w/ 3min recoveries, 10 mins easy. I go by heart-rate, sticking to the 150s (below 80% MHR) for the warmup, cool down and recoveries, and try to maintain around 160-170 bpm (between 80%-90% MHR) for the intervals. This roughly simulates the effort that would go into running mile repeats at or slightly slower than goal race pace.
  2. Kristen and I talk about running a disturbing amount. Our conversations approximate the below distributions: 

True story.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Runnin’ like a New Yok-a

It was a Two Little Runners reunion this week! I spent the entire week in New York training working with Penny.

The office.
New Yorkers – known for fast walking, loud talking, and a repugnance for the social niceties practiced by pathetic, low life non-New Yorkers. But do these local charms manifest on the running paths of New York City?

Not really! Common path courtesies are followed (for the most part, more on that below), and I didn't observe any cussing/shouting matches between grown men (a surprisingly common occurrence on the streets of New York). I never got a “hi” or a friendly wave, as is custom among San Diego runners. But I am okay with that. Every runner has a stony-don’t-mess-with-me-this-is-only-peace-I-get-in-this-city-of-8-million-people look on their faces. And I totally understand!

Another difference seen on the running paths is the European tourists. We don’t have very many in San Diego in comparison to New York. Europeans don’t seem to understand that Central Park paths are not for romantic, handholding, meandering strolls – they are for tempo runs and speed workouts, so GET OUT OF THE WAY! But I can forgive them because I love that Europeans tourists always say hi in the most cheery of ways when entering an elevator. They haven’t caught onto the peculiar American custom of pretending the other people in the elevator do not exist.

It was fun to pose this week as a hot shot New Yorker. I navigated the subways and the labyrinth that is Grand Central Station. I climbed up a billion subway stairs. I walked as fast as my ankle booties would carry me. I drank Stumptown coffee (recommended). I ate bagels (recommended). I ate a pretzel from a food cart (not recommended). I got lunch “for take away.” By the way New York, the rest of us say “to go.” Mostly, I worked - New York through and through. 

I intended this week as a cut back week because of said work, plus managing the eastern time zone is always tough for me. But somehow my mileage creeped up to 30, nearly the same as my previous two weeks – weeks that left me feeling very fatigued. I've been increasing my calories, and that's helped. And I reduced the intensity of my workouts this week. I took two rest days and had to skip my usual plyo/leg workout with my trainer who always find new ways to destroy my legs.

Week 5 (9/29-10/5): 30 miles

Saturday, 9/29: Rest day. 6 a.m. PT flight to NY left me exhausted but ready for bed at 11 p.m. ET (8 PT). It's a good trick to try to get on ET by flying out very early PT. 

Sunday, 9/30: Long run with Penny along the Hudson River. 12.5 miles at about 9:15 pace. A two hour run goes very fast when you are chatting the whole time! This run left my calves very stiff – but nothing a little foam rolling and stretching couldn’t take care of over a couple of days.

Monday, 10/1: 30” elliptical intervals; core.  

Tuesday, 10/2: Treadmill speed workout, 6 x 0.5 miles at 9.3 (6:27 pace) with 0.25 rest interval (mostly walking); core. The speed work continues to feel manageable and dare I say barely challenging?

Wednesday, 10/3: 3 miles easy at on treadmill at about 9:00; upper body. Legs felt dead on this easy run. Guess that speed work is doing something after all.

Thursday, 10/4: Pastry day! New York has such great breads and pastry, probably the best I’ve had! I indulged my last full day in the city. Breakfast, a ham and cheese croissant. Lunch, a tartine, another croissant with apricot preserves, and a cannoli. Dinner, a bunch of goodies from Bouchon Bakery – nutter butter cookie, macaroons, some sort of apple tart. And this was only the pastry! Probably a 4000 calorie day with everything else! But as Penny so wisely pointed out – think of it as carb loading for your Central Park run tomorrow!

Friday, 10/5:  Tempo run in Central Park, 8.5 miles with 2 of the middle miles at 7:10.  Other miles done at subjectively easy pace, which turned out to be mostly about 8:00-8:10, except when I stopped to take pictures, revealing my identity as a tourist.

The Pond in Central Park.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Journal for Reluctant Journalers

Logging miles and workouts. Examining data, graphs, uncovering trends. Finding out what worked in the past, or developing theories on where things went wrong. Sound familiar? This is the obsession of runners. It's what occupies our minds when we are not out pounding the pavement, trails, treadmill, track.

I am going for a PR half marathon this fall. The goal is a big stretch . . . I believe it will come down to seconds or fractions thereof.  But according to my data, I've never trained this hard or felt this good. (Knock on wood.)

I am tracking every day of this training cycle in a training diary - you know the one if you are a runner-blogger gal! The Believe I Am Training Journal by Lauren Fleshman and Roisin McGettigan. 

Journaling runs in my family. My mom and grandma have both kept daily diaries for at least 30 years! I've tried journals many-a January 1st. But it has never stuck. With the endless possibilities that I could write onto the book of blank pages, I never knew where to start.

Now that the stakes are high - with a PR on the line - I've turned into a devoted journaler:  5 weeks and counting! I owe my success in faithfully recording my workouts to the methodology Lauren and Ro present in the Believe journal. A simple how to.

I record summaries of my workouts (or rest days) each day of the month.

But it is not only my workouts I record. If I want to write more about a day's workout, I put an asterisk next to the entry, flip to the back where there are blank pages and write away on my goals, beliefs, theories, worries, ideas about blogging, drawings of new yoga poses, outlines of weight workouts that I found effective, the crazy thing that happened on a run, the crazy things I thought, or whatever pops into my mind.

But certainly not every day warrants an asterisk and separate write up. And that's okay. That's the beauty of the journal. I am never overwhelmed by the task because any extra is completely optional.

Other handy dandy features are a two-year calendar to plan out future races and training cycles.

Goal pages where you identify your reasons for setting a goal, and the key steps to achieving it.

And check-in points to evaluate progression toward the goal. When I am checking in on a goal, I pretend I am looking at Penny's training log and am giving her words of encouragement and advice so that I am not too critical of myself.

The journal is very thoughtfully put together. It's full of inspiring quotes and anecdotes. And it's cute and pretty!! If you've been looking for a way to track your workouts, I highly recommend it!

Have you found an effective way to record your workouts? Please share!!


Short-Ass Vindication

"look for impressive thermoregulation and/or small body size"
"Nutrition experts Asker Jeukendrup and Trent Stellingwerff pointed out that small runners have a relative advantage in carb-loading during competition, because it appears they can load just as many carbs as bigger runners while burning fewer calories (due to their smaller size)."

- Amby Burfoot on the likely characteristics of a sub-2 hour marathoner

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

You Know You're A Runner When . . .

you are a repeat guest at a hotel because the gym has a foam roller. 

Foam Roller Still Life
at the Hudson Hotel's gym in NYC