Friday, November 30, 2012

The Mysteries of Running

As a gymnast, I practiced my tumbling, dance, and acrobatics daily. By the time competition came, I had rehearsed my routines hundreds of times.

When I was learning the two-handed backhand in tennis, I rented a ball machine and hit hundreds of backhands until I got it.

But in distance running, we never practice our races until we “get it.” Training at race pace for race distance is just not done. Instead, runners train by stressing all the different systems we need to enhance in order to perform at goal race pace. We do easy runs to enhance aerobic capacity. We do tempo runs to push back lactic threshold. We do intervals to increase VO2 max.

When I started this training cycle, I thought running for 90 minutes at a 6:50 pace was insane. And now I believe it is achievable.

Still, it is a mystery to me how 12 weeks of training will come together to produce a 1:30 half marathon on Sunday.  

But I already know I want to be faster.

two little runners (Kristen)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Final Weeks and Tapery Goodness

Is it just me, or is nearly every running blogger out there in taper land right now? And am I the only one that doesn't mind taper?  I love running but frankly its so nice to feel like the "worst" of training is over. In fact, this is the first time I have had a glimpse into the difference between running and training. Running = fun. Training = kiiiinda fun+hard work. Kind of like when your dad tried to convince you that chopping and loading wood in the freezing cold Wombat Forest (yes, thats its real name) for your ancient wood stove (yes, my parents still cook with a wood stove) could be made fun by the addition of a freezing-cold camping expedition and/or jam (jelly) donuts. Ok, so maybe the donuts worked a little. I guess in my running world, training has been made exponentially more fun by the jam-donut-equivalent of cute running gear and snazzy shoes. Like these babies that arrived a couple of weeks ago:

The new Mizuno Inspire 9s... lighter and brighter. Love em!
Haaaanyway, new kicks aside, I have actually had a lot of fun these last 12 weeks since Philly. I feel really proud at what I have asked of my legs, and what they have given me in return. I started the cycle thinking that I could finish a mile or two under 7 minutes, and at the end of the cycle could run 6 miles under 7 minutes. I am also proud of our (Kristen and my) commitment to training hard but SMART. Knowing when to push and when to hold back to avoid injury. I feel like most of my posts reference injury in some way, but I have read about soooo many elite runners that almost, but didn't, make it to the top; not because of a lack of talent or commitment, but because they were sidelined by injury and missed their chances.  Im no elite, but I am definitely not willing to miss out on opportunity to PR, or even just have a great run, because I was too stubborn to rest when necessary.

So my last two weeks of training/taper before we're off to run the Vegas RnR Half!

November 19-25, 2012
Monday: rest after my longest run ever :)
Tuesday: 70 mins easy elliptical in place of easy run. I decided to only do key workouts to ensure my hamstring/ butt issue didn't reappear before the race. I used my heart rate monitor to keep it in an aerobic zone - around 150 or so (60-75%).
Wednesday: Speed workout on treadmill with 1% incline. Same workout as previous week: 1 mile easy, 6x1Ks at 6:22 (9.4 on tready) (which is somewhere around my likely 5k pace, I think) 1 mile easy cool down. I lengthened the last couple of ks to about 0.7-0.8 miles. Great workout, but I had a little gas left in the tank at the end, which Ive heard is optimal for your last couple of speed sessions.
Thursday:  65 mins elliptical, upper body strength
Friday: My last tempo run! The workout was suggested by Jake at Wasatch and Beyond. It was 1x3 miles, 1 x 2 miles at HM pace, then 1x1mile at 10K pace. My splits were 6:56, 6:57, 6:49, 6:57, 7:00 (the pitch black mile) and 6:40. I ran the 7:00 in pitch black! I was a little bit disappointed in my splits, but I think it went pretty well, considering the cold/dark/wind etc.
Saturday: Elliptical 60 mins, with leg strength + a little plyo.
Sunday: Elliptical 90 mins easy in place of a long run (I had some foot pain from running my 18-miler in new shoes... duh, rookie move.)

November 26 - Race Day!
Monday: rest
Tuesday: Final Speed workout. 6 miles, with 2x1 mile at 10K pace (6:31 or 9.2mph) on treadmill at 1% incline. This workout was a little challenging, but I felt very comfortable and could have done more, which is what I was aiming for.
Wednesday: Elliptical, easy 40 mins + arm workout
Thursday (today): 6 miles easy

And for the remainder of the week... rest until the race!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

You Know You're A Runner When . . .

Your speed workouts have become so intricate you have to stick a post-it on the treadmill to keep track of what you are running.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Superman Complex Strikes Again

Running 101. After a race, rest. Best to rest or take an easy day for each mile of the race. For example, after a 10K, no speed work or hard effort runs 6 days.

I know the rules. But . . .

Thursday’s race didn’t feel like a hard effort, so I thought I was ay-okay to long run on Saturday. “I have strong legs.” I bailed after 9 miles because my calves were not right. The calves continued to ache into my long run effort on Sunday. Yet I finished the run because “I haven’t been injured in a while, and I’ll be fine.” These are exact transcriptions of my thoughts, scary.

This is not the first time I’ve believed that running rules do not apply to me. I have a Superman complex when it comes to running. Thankfully, according to Wikipedia, I can expect to lose my Superman complex in less than 4 years, phew!

A Superman complex is what occurs to young adults and adults that are between the age of 17 through 35. Nothing can damage them. Superman is nearly invincible as they see themselves within these years. 

But seriously, I'll be fine by race day, Sunday! This Clark Kent speaking. 

Week 12: 39 miles

Monday 11/19: 15 minutes elliptical until boredom set in, and I jumped on the treadmill for 2 miles; leg workout.
Tuesday 11/20: Speed workout – 5 x 1 km at 9.4 (6:22) with 0.5 km slow running recoveries. 7.2 miles.
     This workout was already subject of its own whiny post.
Wednesday 11/21: Yoga.
Thursday 11/22: United Run For the Hungry 10K in downtown San Diego.
     Big time PR! Official results: 39:24 (6:20 average pace).
Friday 11/23: 2 hours of tennis.
     I cover about 2 miles for each hour of tennis I play. I say "cover" because a lot of that distance is walking around the court and picking up balls. The rest is kind of dancing and prancing and occasionally sprinting around the court. Foot work folks!  
Saturday 11/24: Easy run – 9 miles up to Swami’s beach and back. 1 hour tennis.
     I was in the zone with the backhand. Hit some backhand beauties up the line for winners – the most satisfying shot in tennis and one of the best feelings in the sporting world. Lining up the shot. Waiting for the ball. The swing of the racket and the pop off the strings. The bounce of the ball on the open court, and the sound of the ball’s crash with the back fence. Winner!
Sunday 11/25: Progression run – 14 miles total with last 3 at 7:15 in Mission Bay.
     Probably the last hard effort of the training cycle. An eerie feeling.

two little runners (Kristen)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ryan Hall's "Running with Joy"

Ryan Hall is an the American Half Marathon record holder, won the 2012 Olympic trials marathon (placed tenth in the Beijing Olympics). He's also run the fastest marathon ever by an American, at 2:04:58. Dude knows a lil bit about running. Despite looking about 18, he is 30 and is married to the hotti-biscotti(also) distance runner, Sarah Hall.

Hall's book, Running with Joy, is a series of diary entries documenting Hall's training, thoughts and feelings in the lead up to the 2010 Boston Marathon.

At this point I have read numerous running memoirs and this has been my favorite by far. I wouldn't say its a "fun" read; it doesn't have some of the crazy stories told by Dean Karnazes, or the epic drama that epitomized Alberto Salazar's life (or - for 14 minutes - lack thereof.... harhar... sorry).

There are two reasons I loved this book and it is staying on my iphone kindle where I have approximately 0.2 kbs of space left due to the ridiculous number of ebooks I have on there.

First, it is clear that Hall is determined - as the book's title would indicate - to run with joy. Not run to win (though winning is nice). He is committed to just LOVE running. He is determined to appreciate and be thankful for every step. He is determined to cease defining his success by race times or victories, and to begin defining success by the utmost joy he can obtain from his running.

Hall's joy in running is deeply rooted in his faith, and his belief that he was created by God to be a runner. That is how he commits to inspiring himself and acting out his faith in service to others (incidentally, he created a not for profit organization with his wife called "Steps" through which he and other athletes contribute their winnings to social justice causes).

As a Christian myself, I was really moved by Hall's commitment to develop his faith in such a way that his relationship with God - and his ability to find joy in his daily life - was the most important thing to him, far greater than his running achievements or worldly success. If you're a non-Christian, be prepared to come across a lot of biblical principals, and faith-based teaching in here. However know that they all revolve around one lesson that is pretty universal, regardless of religious persuasion (or lack thereof): finding joy and satisfaction in what you're doing, is more important than "winning".  I love how Hall grapples with this concept as an Olympic marathoner, whose entire livelihood depends on his winning or losing. He mentions that after giving a talk to some school children, he ran with a small boy who tripped and fell over. He was amazed at the kid's explanation that he "got back up!" The boy had obviously absorbed Hall's lesson to them that success does not mean never failing; success is getting back up when you fall down.

Second, Hall's daily musings are driven by his actual training plan and are interspersed with some great tips on workouts, mileage, gear and fueling. Much like the advice from greats like Lauren Fleshman, I find this information so much more helpful and targeted to serious runners than most of the very elementary advice you obtain from beginners running books, or Runners' World articles.* It is also just fascinating to see what the daily life, mileage and training patterns look like for the elite. Moreover, Hall really undresses himself for the reader; even delving into into the taboo topic of having somewhat disordered eating patterns when trying to get lighter and faster.

Overall, I really recommend reading this book. Do no be put off by the religiosity of it, if you are not a person of faith. The principals - and certainly the training tips and insights - are universal and accessible by all runners.

- Penny

*I don't mean to disparage these publications. However, once you have learned the basic lessons of finding the right footwear, not increasing mileage too soon, running on even-cambered road, taking rest days, stretching etc etc etc, you can find yourself wanting more targeted, specific and in-depth training information.

Friday, November 23, 2012

United Run For the Hungry 10K Race Recap

Official results: 39:24 (6:20 average pace), 4th of 103 in F30-34, and 11th female. 46th overall.

This was my second time running downtown San Diego’s 10K Turkey Trot. The 2011 race was my second race ever, and I finished in 45:25 (7:19 average pace). This year, I beat my 2011 time by 6 minutes because I trained like a MOFO in 2012!

My strategy going into the race was to run it as a tempo run at 6:50, and I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to do it. My legs were extremely tender. Not just sore/stiff. But aching and angry from last week’s 38 miles and this week’s leg workout and speed session. I didn’t sleep well Wednesday night because I kept waking myself up by flexing my leg muscles as hard as I could. It wasn’t quite a cramp because once I was awake, I could stop contracting the muscles. (And now it’s continued for a second night in a row. It’s official, the legs have revolted.)

The pre-race logistics were a breeze. Races downtown are easy because there is plenty of parking and no traffic bottlenecks. The race’s start was at scenic Horton Plaza. It was a little bit cramped picking up the bib, shirt, and race packet. But this is barely worth mentioning. Importantly, there were plenty of porta-potties and no lines. Weather was nice. The sun was only out for the last few minutes of my race, and the temperature was about 60-65. I raced in tights and a long sleeve shirt because, despite my Norwegian ancestry, I am a complete wuss when it comes to cold. (And heat for that matter. I’ve “gone native” living in San Diego for 6 years and am only comfortable when the temperature is 70-73.) But most of the gals were in shorts and tanks.

I “decided” not to use my Garmin for this race when the watch had not acquired satellites by the countdown to the start (after searching for over 10 minutes). I was also not able to start my RunKeeper app in time because there was only a 10 second warning that we were going to start! (Yes, I use a GPS watch and a running app on my phone. In fact, I own two GPS watches if you must know.)

So I timed my race the old fashioned way, using the stop watch feature of the Garmin. I’ve never done it this way before. But the race had markers at each mile interval, which in my experience is pretty rare for a 10K/5K race. It wouldn't have mattered if those markers were not there because I always knew where the miles were based on the familiar Garmin mile beeps of the runners who somehow were able to pick up a signal.

In a third technology fail of the day, my chip did not work. The timing guys said they had to look for "backup data" to get my time.

My mile splits that I can remember looked something like this:

1.0 – 6:08

     Holy crapoly, this is going to cost me. 

2.0 – 12:30

     When is the other shoe going to drop?

3.0 – 19:11

     Ahead of anticipated pace by 100 seconds. 

4.0 – 25:40

     When am I going to experience that tough race moment where I have to choose whether to push on or pull back? (I never did.)

And I crossed the finish line at 39:24 (6:20 average pace).

     Ummm, how was this possible? 

Answer 1: The course was short. By about 0.2, according the GPS watch-wearing runners I polled. This is a pretty big fail for a race director in my book. So let’s call it a 6 miler, which makes my average pace more accurately 6:33. Still a massive PR over my next best 10K average pace (7:06).

Answer 2: Without GPS, I could not check in on my pace, which I normally do (i) every time I pass another runner, (ii) every time I get passed, (iii) every mile, (iv) every time my effort feels hard, and (v) every time my effort feels easy. So I was not making judgments about how I felt at particular pace moments in the race. I was running by feel because I could only calculate split times a few times during the entire race. I ended up surprising myself with my pace. Not sure I would have run this fast had I been able to use my watch. But I am not giving up GPS technology just yet. I’ve learned from this race to keep an open mind about how easy a fast pace might feel.

two little runners (Kristen)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The familiar feeling of sore legs and other mid-week craziness

After nearly three weeks of no exercise, my leg muscles were supple and knot-free. I was long and lean in my first yoga class back and no hot spots. I know the yoga girls' elusive secret of staying so flexible . . . they don’t use their legs to run 40 miles/week.

Now, one week back to running and 38 miles later, and I am experiencing the familiar feeling of sore legs every day. The rocks in my calves are back, nearly every leg muscle is sore. My legs are tender, especially below the knee.

I had a little more spring in my step those first runs back last week, even though I was not at full capacity lung-wise. This must be what post-tapering feels like.

During my cold-induced sojourn from running, I lost strength and fitness. And I am worried that I won’t be able to gain it back in time for Vegas Rock ‘N Roll because my time is short and I am congested and not yet breathing at full capacity. During runs, I still cough and my nose runs. But last week was still a solid week of training. The x-factor is how much fitness I lost versus how much I can get back in one more week of training before tapering.

I also lost confidence. Prior to the cold, I had just begun to feel confident in my ability to run my goal pace at the Silver Strand Half. My legs were strong, and I felt like I was a horse when I was running. No joke. This is what I looked like in my mind (source: GeeAlice via Wikimedia Commons):

Horse gallop

I was mentally prepared for the pain and suffering of Silver Strand. I had visualized the race and determined that I would be mentally tough at each and every terrible moment. It was disheartening not to be able to run it.

Now I freak out after every run because it felt harder than I expected or harder than the same sort of run used to feel when I was healthy. I am constantly doing little experiments during my runs to probe how much fitness I lost/regained.

I did a speed workout today for the first time this month. It was the hardest speed workout I have ever done, even though it was one of my shorter sessions, clocking in at just over an hour and 7.2 miles total. The objective was 2 miles warm up, 5 x 1 km at 9.4 (6:22), with 0.5 km active recoveries at 6.0 (10:00), 1 mile cool down. This workout gave Penny a lot of confidence, so I thought I would try it.

Observations: My legs were lead due to (1) 38 miles last week, after three weeks of either zero miles or single digits; and (2) a leg workout yesterday, even then my legs felt dead from the weekend's tempo and long runs. I was still suffering from coughs/runny nose. Running during the rest intervals made the workout much harder than prior speed sessions I have done where I had walked to recover. Even running the recovery at 6.0 (10:00 pace) made a huge difference in difficulty. I completed all 5 fast intervals.

But: Before the 4th, I walked for about half of the recovery, and before the 5th, I walked the entire 0.5 km recovery interval slow, 3.3. I hit pause after the 3rd and 4th intervals because I felt like I could not run one. more. step. Then I hunched over, caught my breath, and carried on. My weak link here was my cardio fitness, not my leg strength. The legs are back, and I was mentally tough, overcoming the temptation to stop after 4 fast intervals. Now I need to rid myself of the last remnants of the cold.

And I need a rest day tomorrow.

Concluding these rambling thoughts, I need to shut up about the cold and stop focusing on it. That’s a promise!

two little runners (Kristen)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Entering the sharpening period and narrowly escaping injury

So it HAS been noted by some that I have not been blogging much of late. Usually I would say this is pure laziness on my part. And it was to some degree.

But I reeeeeally didnt blog about running because I was scared that I was injured. For some reason I could talk to Kristen about the butt-crease/hamstring pain I was feeling until I was blue in the face (or she got sick of me) but writing it down on this here blog seems to take it from pre-injury niggle territory, to full-blown injury-dom. And at this stage of my training cycle, such a position would warrant a gigantic freakout. So I stayed a little away from discussing it out there in the real world.

Anyway, its pretty much gone now, so Im ok to talk about it again. I'm sure you're both relieved and elated, you, our 2-3 precious readers*

So the last two weeks of training have looked like this:

November 5-11, 2012 (four weeks out from goal race)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 10miles easy
Wednesday: 1 mile easy, 10 x 800s on treadmill, at 9.4 (6:27min miles) with 0.25 mile walk recoveries, 1 mile easy - toughest speed workout I have done, but made it through.
Thursday: Easy elliptical, 45 mins plus light leg strength. My Fast Running Blog entry was:

I began feeling a pain in the butt/upper hamstring after yesterday's run, and decided to skip the speed work in favor of XT today. I think it was brought on by my two speed workouts last week on the treadmill where I felt my form go down the gurgler. I know I overstride on the treadmill, and don't seem to do well at keeping up a good cadence at higher speeds. 

Friday:  Was still feeling tightness but decided to go for my tempo anyway. I was pleased with how it went, given that it was windy and I was unfueled (it was morning; Gu chomps are not the greatest first thing):  2 miles easy, then my splits were: 7:01, 6:54, 6:58, (1 min break) 7:00, 6:50, 2 miles easy. Very encouraged by the last mile!

Saturday: SHOULD have XT, but went for 8 miles easy (8:20 pace) plus a home made strength workout: pushups, squat jumps, sumo squats, mountain climbers, lunges.

Sunday: Hamstring tight and sore. Butt sore. Freak out, freak out!! Skipped the long run, and cross-trained on elliptical for 60 mins before flying to San Diego to see my fellow little runner work.

November 12-18, 2012 (three weeks out)
Monday: Rest. Commiserate with Kristen about how we're both laid up. Lots of stretching, rolling, hamstring curls. 
Tuesday: Rest again.  I was self-diagnosed with a bit of upper (proximal) hamstring tendonosis (aka "pain in the butt").
It feels like tightness in your hamstring, but burning pain in your "sitting" butt bone, because thats where the hamstring attaches to the pelvis. It actually got better when I stopped stretching. I think I was pulling on the upper hamstring which is actually tendon, not muscle. It made a big difference. Kept the strengthening regime going though, with hamstring curls.
Wednesday: Tempo. I was aiming for 6 miles at around 7; i.e., nearish to race-pace. Disappointing. Actual workout was 1 mile easy, then 6 miles: 7:08, 7:09, 7:04; 7:23 (what??) 7:06, 7:08, 1 mile easy. I totally lost the game in that 4th mile and literally stopped running for about 20 seconds. Got back in it though, and fuddled through the last two miles.
Thursday: 60 mins easy elliptical, + 2 miles easy on treadmill
Friday: Speed - 1 mile easy,  6x 1k at 6:22 (9.4 on treadmill with 1% incline), 1 mile easy + easy leg strength
Saturday: 60 mins elliptical intervals plus light core workout
Sunday: 18 miles at 8:20 pace - longest ever run!

So my hamstring/butt area doesn't feel 100% now but it doesn't feel injured anymore. I was really disheartened to lose those couple of days of training. But I gave myself a little reminder:

Note to self - for the upteenth time. Yes, it is agony when you've been training really hard and hitting all your scheduled workouts to have to take unexpected days off to take care of a "pre-injury" niggle. But remember this feeling; this feeling when you know you just escaped a real injury by taking some time to let your body recoup. It is only a few days. Take it, and you will thank yourself when you are running healthy again in no time. There are no workouts you can accomplish in a few days that could possibly make up for weeks - or even months - of time off that you have to take if something turns into a real injury!

I have to keep hitting myself over the head with this "gentle" reminder. Anyone else have to do that or do you just plough through and hope for the best??

*Possibly includes both our fathers, so no, the popularity count on this blog is not our most astounding feat.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Cold's Hangover

This cold has knocked me on my ass for the entire month of November.

Exhibit 1 (Training Journal):  There are a lot of "zero" miles and " :-| " faces in my entries this month.

(waaahhhh, waaahhhh, feel sorry for me feel sorry for me feel sorry for me, waaahhhh)
I've had enough! And my last chance race is only 2 weeks away.  The way I see it, I have two choices: (1) come back slowly, carefully, wait for the cold's last remnants to pass before re-engaging in hard core running; or (2) train as I would if I was feeling 100%, cold be damned, and hope that my body catches up.

On Wednesday, I made up my mind. The scene, my favorite treadmill, "runch" time. The first time I've felt up to running in weeks. I start out nice, easy, slow. Feels okay, so I slowly speed up. Then my iPhone decides to shuffle onto the best running song of all time: Closer by Nine Inch Nails (great beat, and so angry). I sail up to goal race pace, hold it as log as I can (half a mile, oh gawwwd...). Slow for a few minutes and crank it back up for another half mile.

But this is about where I expected to be based on how I was feeling: shitty. Feeling great, or feeling shitty, I have to execute the final two weeks of this training plan if I have any hope of meeting my time goal in Vegas. So I am running (within reason) the way I ran in September and October when I was feeling great.

Keep your fingers crossed that this doesn't result in a cold resurgence!

Week 11: 38.25 miles
Monday 11/12 - 1 mile walking, exhausted.
Tuesday 11/13 - 1 mile walking, felt good.
Wednesday 11/14 - first run back, fartlek on the treadmill, 30" for 4.0 miles.
Thursday 11/15 - mile repeats: 3.5 miles with 2 miles at 6:48 on the treadmill.
Friday 11/16 - easy run: 6 hilly miles in Balboa Park, 9:00 average pace.
Saturday 11/17 - tempo run: 6.25 miles with 5 miles at 7:20 pace. Hardest training session of the entire cycle.
Sunday 11/18 - long run: 16.5 miles in Del Mar with 1500 elevation climb, 9:00 average pace.

two little runners (Kristen)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dean Karnazes’ Utramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner

Dean doesn’t race to achieve paces or places. He runs to see how far he can go. That figure is precisely 226.2 miles in one run – a solo Ragnar + a marathon.  He’s an ultra marathoner. 

Favorite song? I am guessing A Flock of Seagulls’ I Ran (So Far Away) . . . and I ran. I ran so far away. I just ran. I ran all night and day . . .

It’s obvious from the first pages of Dean’s book that the man loves running. Probably more than any other person on the planet. Or at least out of all of us running-writers, he has best-expressed his love for running in print.

A familiar story . . . until it gets crazy:  Dean ran cross country in high school but didn’t run again for nearly 15 years. That all changed on his 30th birthday. In a boozy haze at a bar in the Marina (San Francisco), the urge to run overcame him.  In the wee hours of the morning, he stripped down to his undershirt and boxers, put on a pair of yard-work shoes, and ran 30 miles from the city to Half Moon Bay.  Then he limped around for a few months.

Once recovered, he became a runner—not just any runner. An ultra runner, eventually finishing many of the world’s most challenging foot races. The Western States 100 (total climb 18,090 feet). The BadwaterUltramarathon (135 miles through Death Valley in July with a climb from below sea level to 8,360 feet). A marathon in Antarctica (the coldest, driest, and highest average elevation of all the continents) finishing at the South Pole (there is really a pole there, and “pole taggers” are tourists who fly there to have their photos taken with the pole).

Meanwhile, Dean is just a regular John Doe. Married, two kids, holding down a job in corporate America.  I can’t believe his wife is cool with this.

More than any other of the endurance athlete autobiographies that I have read, Dean tells you what it’s really like to run these ultra races.  The pain and suffering (e.g., he thought there was a clam shell in his shoe during the Western States 100, but it was his big toenail). The brushes with death (e.g., hypothermia, hyperthermia, exhaustion, dehydration, oncoming traffic). But also the joy and glory (e.g., running to raise money for children who need organ transplants).

. . . and I ran. I ran so far away. I just ran. I ran all night and day . . .

two little runners (Kristen)

By Ed Schipul from Houston, TX, US (running with the seagulls)
via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, November 12, 2012

9.3 to 0 MPH

My taper was less of a taper and more of a complete stop in the fast lane on the freeway. Following my epic speed session last week (15 x 0.5 miles @ 9.3 MPH (6:27 pace)), I started to feel a little scratch in my throat. I stopped running after that and even won a few early rounds in the title belt:  Me versus The Cold. But, ultimately, the cold proved victorious.

On Wednesday, one week after the epic speed session, in denial, I ran 3.5 extra sweaty treadmill miles, 2 of them at race pace. I knew it wasn't a good sign when I was drenched and dripping sweat after only 30 minutes – under normal conditions I would just be hitting my groove.

Thursday, the cold was full blown. I couldn't go to work and stayed completely horizontal all day, watching 8 hours of television, including two episodes of DVR'ed Modern Family and The Voice, and then the entire first season of Girls, the new generation’s Sex and the City on HBO.

Side bar: Modern Family, that is just a consistently good sitcom. The Voice, hello Adam Levine! And don’t you think Christina is much nicer this season, and way more articulate? Girls, I dig it. I would watch a season 2. It is a comedy/coming of age story of four 20-something New Yorkers. Lena Dunham, the starring actress, also writes and directs the show. Allison Williams, who plays BFF Marnie, is great and absolutely steals the show.

source: IMDB
Friday I went to the doctor who confirmed that I had a cold, not strep throat. Regarding the race, the doc cleared me to run it, so long as I didn't have a fever, body aches, or chest congestion, but he didn't think I would feel up to it. And he told me "not to expect a PR, unless you are Wonder Woman." Interpretation: you’ll still be able to run and PR this race because you are Wonder Woman!

So while I was getting my cough medicine prescription at the grocery store, I filled up my cart with the world’s healthiest foods and, in a futile attempt to eradicate the cold, set about eating as much of them as I possibly could while watching season 2 of Twin Peaks.

Side bar: Twin Peaks is so creepy! I can't believe who the killer was! There were so many clues, but I still didn't figure it out. The show is visually stunning, and it has the best soundtrack. Other than the clothes, I think the show is very modern. J.J. Abrams (Alias, Lost, Fringe) should bring it back as a new series.

source: IMDB
But the food didn't help. By Saturday, every time I swallowed, my throat emitted lightning bolts of pain. I knew that I couldn't race on Sunday. There was no way I could drink enough water and eat enough food to properly prepare. I didn't even bother to pick up my race packet. So I watched movies all day.

Side bar: The Graduate, The HelpCheaper by the Dozen, Mr. Wrong, The Sitter, and We Bought a ZooThe Help was the best of the group. I liked Cheaper by the Dozen too, but I was disappointed in the ending. Lesson: bratty kids get what they want. I thought The Graduate was so boring, and Dustin Hoffman’s character irritated the crap out of me, which is likely why he received an Oscar nom for the role.

source: IMDB
Sunday – race day – came and went. As I watched even more television and movies that I can’t even remember, I wondered if I’d ever start feeling better. I walked a mile around the block and then, exhausted, slept for hours.

Now I am wondering if I have the blogger's curse? I was just bragging about how I crushed my training plan, nailed every workout, and did every thing right. 

And how much fitness have I lost?  I haven’t had a real run in 14 days. And this cold really wiped me out. 

When will I be able to start training again? I walked another mile today and was exhausted again. My “second chance” race is Vegas Rock ‘n Roll December 2. 

Will I be back to where I was pre-cold?

two little runners (Kristen)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Zeddie Little, the Gerber baby of runners

Zeddie Little became an overnight internet sensation when he was captured in the best candid race photo ever taken, according to the NYT.

Why does he look so good when I look like this:
Damn it Brightroom!
Is it the effortlessness on his face? The socially appropriate amount of sweat? The way the sun reflects off of his perfect hair? His smile? Or, likely, he actually gave a shit about what he looked like at that moment in the race. 

Zeddie (and how great is that name?!) makes me believe that good race photos are achievable. And since most runners can't run with the grace of Tirunesh Dibaba or the beauty of Allyson Felix, and are just not "ridiculously photogenic" like Zeddie, I think the photographers need to step it up!

First, take photos of us early in the race, when we are feeling good, hydrated and fueled, and believe we can still achieve our PRs. Not when three quarters of the race are over, our bodies are exhausted, we have sweat 'staches, and our hopes and dreams crushed (above). And quantity is important. If you shoot 60 frames per second, odds are at least one of them will be good, no? Finally, take photos when we are in the air, not when our legs hit the ground . . . shaking jowls are only adorable on a bloodhound. 

By Bruce (Flickr) via Wikimedia Commons
The NYT quotes a Brightroom executive as responding to runners' griefs: "That's the way you're running. You've probably never seen yourself run before." That's just like a photographer to blame the subject. 

two little runners (Kristen)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The real step back and Hurricane Sandy

Two weeks ago (yeah, totally behind in blogging here) I took a step-back week. I asked a childhood runner friend of mine what is meant by a step back week. His response:  "my running mentor guy is hugely strong on every 3rd week being a step back when increasing your mileage, and every 4th week when training normally. Based on his advice I would suggest cutting about 20% from your program by reducing your long run, removing one effort session, and replacing another effort session with something shorter and sharper like 10 x 500m off 3:00 run at about 10kRP so you still get your speed fix without fatiguing your legs like longer reps do."

He also shared his training plan with me. Aaaaand then I spent 20 minutes with a headache trying to calculate what "krp" is in miles. 

Unfortunately I got his advice after I had finished my step back week. I decided I wanted to cut back on easy miles and just exert myself on the "key" workouts. It ended up looking like this:

October 22-28, 2012
Monday: rest
Tuesday: 60 mins elliptical intervals, core
Wednesday: Speed (8x800s at 6:27 on treadmill with 1% incline) - 7 miles total
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 60 mins elliptical intervals 
Saturday: 13 miles with last mile moderate (my Garmin died but I guess it was between 7:15-7:30) 
Sunday: 60 mins elliptical intervals + plyometrics

Total: 20 miles 

This week marked the beginning of cold weather in NYC, but not quite so cold as to warrant full winter gear. A tough (albeit very first world) apparel problem. I sat around whining one morning about how I had nothing to weeeeeeear.... until I remembered a jacket that I had bought for precisely this season. Lulu for the win:

Worked brilliantly. Kept me warm in the first few miles, but was sufficiently breathable that I didn't overheat later on. 

October 29-Nov 4, 2012
 Monday: 10 miles easy
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: Speed (10x800s at 6:27 on treadmill with 1% incline) - 9 miles total (ran to and from the gym as subway was down)
Thursday: Elliptical - easy 45 mins + core
Friday: Tempo: 1 mile easy, 2x3 miles at 6:48 pace on treadmill with 1% incline, 1 mile easy
Saturday: Elliptical 60 mins + plyometrics
Sunday: 16 miles easy   

Total: 43 miles

Last week I tried to work my miles around Hurricane Sandy; I live in an elevated part of Manhattan in a pretty solid apartment building so we didn't expect to sustain much damage. Thankfully we did not, but my heart goes out to people who are STILL without power.  My husband was able to help out at some of the shelters and I have been buying up bread, peanut butter and jelly for our local soup kitchen. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do to actually get people back into their homes and living their lives again. But with the intensity of the storm, I am at least thankful that more lives were not lost to it.  And it has been wonderful to see efforts of individuals to clean up the city and take care of each other. Only a few days ago, Riverside Park was still completely trashed (and closed to the public). On my long run Sunday, I was blown away by the number of people out in the park with garbage bags and rakes, cleaning it all up:

It doesn't even look like a storm came through! As much as I bag this city sometimes, I am completely astounded by its resilience and toughness. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Engage your brain to boost your speed

Stay on Task
by Alex Hutchinson
Runner's World December 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

You Know You're A Runner When . . .

Your bedtime rituals include compression socks and toe stretchers.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Week of Epic Runs

The week started out in Malibu on Saturday. A little weekend trip to attend a wedding. I woke up unexpectedly early and ran along the coast at sunrise. The Malibu coast faces south, so I saw the sun rise over the ocean. Probably one of the few spots on the west coast where you can see the sun rise over the water? Then after breakfast, a coastal hike in Point Magu State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. Epic ocean views.

Ray Miller Trail
Sunday evening, back in San Diego. The scene: Mission Bay Park. After a long warm up, I ran 5 miles at race pace – 6:50. I saw sunset on the ocean side of the park and a beautiful full moon over purple skies on the bay side. I remember feeling incredible after this run. Exhilarated. And confident in my ability to hold this pace for 13.1 – but now that I am writing about it . . . the feeling seems like someone else’s. I need another fast run to get my confidence back up!!

Then the most epic run of them all. Speed. Tuesday 6:20-8:04 p.m. Treadmill. 15 x 0.5 miles at 9.3 (6:27). I treated this workout very much like a race. I thought about it all week, really all training cycle. This was my most difficult workout. I visualized it. I even fueled for it. No bean and cheese burrito (=my favorite food) the night before. But rather, chicken tacos (more sensible). Then the day of the workout, I put a few more carbs into my diet (big crusty bready sandwich for lunch).  And hydrated all day long. I was ready. I crushed it.

Thank you, running.

Week 9 (10/27-11/2):  29 miles

Saturday (10/27): Easy run in Malibu, 5.5 miles at 8:30 pace. Hike in Point Magu State Park on the Ray Miller trail, 4.5 miles.

Sunday (10/28): Tempo run in Mission Bay Park, 8 miles with 5 miles at 6:50 pace.

Monday (10/29): Yoga.

Tuesday (10/30): Speed workout on treadmill. 15 x 0.5 miles at 9.3 (6:27 pace), 0.25 rest intervals (walking). 104 minutes, 11 miles.

Wednesday (10/31): Rest, so tired . . .

Thursday (11/1): Weights, legs/plyo/core.

Friday (11/2): Rest.

two little runners (Kristen)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Art and Science of Tapering

This is the first time I have made it to the end of a training cycle having fully completed my training plan (other cycles have been undisciplined toward the end) and having stayed injury (and accident) free! Horary! So now I am 10 days away from race day (Silver Strand Half Marathon) and feeling strong, fit, and healthy. Navigating uncharted waters, I think it is time to taper?!

There is surprisingly little information about tapering in most of my running reference books. On the blogosphere, I am seeing runners reporting “taper tantrums” from lack of running. But I’m not finding much information about how to taper, for how long, and why.

So I turned to the running Bible: Tim Noakes’ Lore of Running (4th ed. 2001) for . . .

The Science of Tapering

Tapering is the process of resting up before a major race. Runners discovered tapering by accident. History is replete with examples of runners being forced to rest due to sickness or injury in the weeks prior to their events and then having breakthrough performances.  The most famous, perhaps, was Carlos Lopes who won Olympic gold at the 1984 games in the marathon after an accident prevented him from training for 10 days prior to the race.  Another Olympic example is Joan Benoit.  She won the 1984 United States Olympic marathon trials only days after undergoing knee surgery. Benoit later said that she thinks her knee injury was the single most important factor that led to her victory:  it forced her to train less throughout the training cycle.  Noakes at 321-22.

So for the niggled/injured runners late in their fall training cycles, maybe your injury is a gift, and you'll have a breakthrough performance in your race. Stay positive!

There are also scientific studies to support the practice of tapering as having positive effects on race performance. But there have been no studies specific to half marathons or marathons. Noakes concludes that according to the few studies on tapering, a taper is most effective when “there is a rapid reduction in training volume . . . in the first few days of the taper and training during the taper is at high intensity, approximating 5-km race pace.” Id. at 321.

Noakes also believes from personal experience that the harder and/or longer your training cycle, the longer you’ll need to taper.  Id. at 621.  And further, the longer the race distance, the longer the taper.  Id. at 653.

Noakes’ book excerpts half marathon and marathon training plans written by many different experts.  Most half marathon plans include a 1 week taper. Most marathon plans include a 2 week taper. Ultras and ironman races, by comparison, may have up to a 4 week taper.

So that leaves us to figure out our tapers by feel . . .

The Art of Tapering

Peasant Woman Holding a Taper
by Jules Breton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The goal is to find the sweet spot between giving your body enough rest to allow a full recovery of the muscles and avoiding a loss of fitness.

Right now I am feeling fit but tired. So I am less worried about losing fitness and more worried about getting enough rest. I think a slightly longer than the standard 1 week half marathon taper is in order.  

I am thinking of tapering along these lines: 
  • Run no more than 15 miles during the taper period. But no running the last 3 days before the race. This means for my last week of training, I’ll cut my average weekly mileage over the last 7 weeks by 50% (I had been running roughly 30 miles per week).
  • I am going to cut out leg weight workouts and plyo completely.
  • I’ll keep up with core because those muscles are secondary in running and, for me, seem to recovery quickly after workouts.
  • I’ll add another light yoga class next week to stay stretched out (and to give me something to do in place of running). 
Taper Plan 
  1. Friday – normally scheduled rest day
  2. Saturday – tempo run at race pace, no more than 5 miles
  3. Sunday – 3 miles easy
  4. Monday – yoga
  5. Tuesday – mile repeats, no more than 4 miles
  6. Wednesday – 3 miles easy, core
  7. Thursday – yoga
  8. Friday – rest
  9. Saturday – rest
  10. Sunday – race
Let the taper begin!

Any advice for a successful taper? What kind of taper has worked for you?