Sunday, December 20, 2009

My New Year's Resolution (from 2006)

At around this time of year in 2005, I was busy assessing my running goals for the new year.  At that point, I had been running for 16 months and had four marathons under my belt.  In a year's time, I had shaved 20 minutes off of my marathon PR and was pretty excited about my progress.  I had just run 3:20 at CIM and had averaged 26 miles over 4-days per week in 2005.

I look back on this time because it was when I first decided to shoot for an Olympic Trials qualifier (OTQ).  I found the first documentation of this goal in an email from Jan 3, 2006 sent to Batty, now one of my best friends and early girlie training partners.  Here's what I told her:

I'll be focusing on bringing my marathon times down which will in turn mean faster 5k, 10k and 1/2 marathon times.  I hope to run a sub-3 hour marathon by Chicago in October and/or CIM in December.  In 2007, my goal will be to run a sub 2:50 marathon and try to qualify for the Olympic Trials.  

That's right.  I just ran a 3:20 marathon and am ready to try to give an OTQ a shot.  Really?  My personal records at that point in other distances were no more indicative of my potential than my marathon:
  • Road mile:  5:58
  • 5k: 20:41 
  • 8k: 35:13
  • 1/2 marathon: 1:37:33
  • Marathon: 3:20:08
I find this fascinating because I really can't recall why I ever believed, as a middle-of-the-pack marathoner, I had the potential to run as fast as I eventually have.  I think in the beginning I was just doing the math:  I shaved 20 minutes off of my marathon time in 1 year, so I only needed to shave another 33 minutes off of that time in 2 years to qualify.  Easy.  Ah, the ignorance of youth.

Even more impressive is that I was getting support from coaches and fellow runners.  I kept this goal as a little secret, testing it out on a few trusted running friends.  When they didn't laugh in my face (though they may have rolled their eyes and twirled their finger around their ear after I turned away), it gave me hope.  As I told more and more people about my crazy goal, I became more and more confident that I would get there.

Maybe I was waiting for someone to tell me how unrealistic it was for me, a woman in her late thirties, with less than 2 years of running under her belt, to even dream about running that fast.  That never happened.  Instead, I had three coaches during that time period that believed in me and consistently told me that I could do it.  One said this in Feb, 2007: "But if you aren't ready to run 2:47 within 12 months, I'll be very surprised, and if you can't do it within 3 years I'll shit in my hat and eat it, as the saying goes."  Lucky for him, I ran 2:46 within 3 years. 

Of course, I didn't run under 2:47 in time for the 2008 qualifying window.  My fastest marathon time leading up to April 2008 was 2:57.  I gave it everything I had and my coaches worked their hardest to get me there.   After I ran the 2:57 in Eugene in 2007, I had a rough year recovering from low iron stores.  I kept training hard with my eye on that sub-2:47 and basically chased the qualifying time in a couple of marathons before realizing in the winter 2008, that I wasn't going to get there.

Why didn't I give up then?  Again, I don't know.  I felt like I had plateaued from April 2007 to November 2008.  I was whittling away at all of my PRs, but they were going down by a few seconds here and there, it seemed, rather than the leaps and bounds I was used to.  I found this to be a very difficult time to continue to train hard and to believe.  In some ways, I felt like a fool for ever having believed I could run under 2:47.  Worst of all, I had told all of those people what I was trying to do and had to face the cold hard fact that I didn't even come close.

This year, I finally ran under 2:47.  While I still didn't qualify for the Trials, it felt so great to see 2:46 on that clock at the finish line, I didn't really care.  I had believed that I could run that fast for four years and had finally proven to myself that it was possible.

The moral of this story, if there is one, is: to achieve remarkable things you first have to picture yourself doing it which means truly believing that you can.  And, you're much more likely to get there if you surround yourself with people that believe in you and motivate you to achieve that goal.

So, maybe I should set my sights on that A qualifier for 2012?  I only have to shave 7 minutes off of my marathon time, and I have 2 years...  This is how it begins.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh, what fun it is to run... the Christmas Re-e-lays!  Early Sunday morning, I drove to the SF Bay area to compete in the Christmas Relays for my racing team, The Impalas.  One of four masters runners on our relay team, I was responsible for running one, 4.5-mile loop around Lake Merced.  Technically, I was supposed to be running this as a workout.  My coach put it this way in my schedule:
  • 16 mile moderate run including Christmas Relays @ LT effort (NOT HARDER)
I assumed this was going to be a low key event, so running it as a workout would not be a problem.  I disclosed this to my teammate when I signed up for the race, so I felt like I had set the bar appropriately for my performance.

I am seriously navigationally challenged and get lost everywhere I go (except, apparently, in China, but that's a  different story).  So, it was no surprise that I got lost on my way to the Relay venue.  I had great directions, but I just got too confused looking at them while driving.  While I had planned to arrive an hour early, I finally arrived at Lake Merced at 8:30 and was scheduled to run the first leg of my relay starting at 9:00.  By the time I parked and walked the 1/2 mile to the team tent, I was left with only 20 minutes to the start.  I really had to go pee and pee takes priority.  So, I got in line behind about 50 people, getting completely soaked waiting in the pouring rain for a free john.

I now had 10 minutes to get my racing gear in order and get to the starting line, which left no time for a warm up.  I reminded myself that this was just a workout, so I could warm up during the first mile.  Then, my teammate running the 3rd leg of my relay told me that she was nervous about her performance.  She went on to tell me that our team was tied with the Tamalpa women's masters team at 113 points each after about a dozen races in the Pacific Association grand prix. This race would decide which masters team won the 2009 title.  A twinge of guilt coursed through me at that moment concerning my plan to run slower than race effort.  But, I decided I needed to be true to my coach and follow my workout plan.  I was just keeping my fingers crossed that LT effort would be faster than what the other team was running.  I changed into my racing gear, left my trainers on and toed the line with a number of other jolly runners.

The first mile was up a gradual hill and I knew I was going out pretty hot when I was keeping up with some of my fast teammates.  I decided to wear my heartrate monitor for the race and looked down to see that my HR was up in the high 180s!  I was super excited.  I might just see a max heart rate here today!  It didn't dawn on me that I was running a lot harder than LT effort, doing about 5:30-5:45 pace up the hill.  As soon as we hit the downhill, my HR plummeted to the low 170s and stayed there for the rest of the race.

I kept repeating to myself lactate threshold effort, and no harder.  Lactate threshold effort, and no harder.  This was especially challenging heading up the hills on the course.  After I passed a woman around mile 2 who was wearing a hot pink mylar skirt and a gymnast's unitard, there were only two women in front of me--both Impalas.  So, I stopped feeling guilty about running this as a workout and just settled in to my pace.  I  finally slowed my pace down by the 3rd mile and really got into a great groove which ended up corresponding to a HR of 171 bpm.  Even up the final hill in the last 1/2 mile, I slowed the pace to maintain LT effort and a 171 HR.  I was very pleased with my self control.  I crossed the line in 27:02, so an overall 6:00 pace for the 4.5 miles.  When I realized the pace I had maintained, I was especially pleased.

I still had 11.5 miles to get in, so I ran a couple of miles counterclockwise on the course to cheer on runners.  One of the Impalas' non-competitive relay teams was missing a runner, so the night before I signed up to run the 3rd leg for their team so they could still race, again disclosing that I would be running it slowly.  I got back to the starting line and waited for my teammate, whom I had never met, to come across the line and tap my hand.  I had gotten several different descriptions of her, but I wasn't convinced I'd be able to tell her apart from the many other Impalas out there running relays.  I was really concentrating on reading the runners' bib numbers as they crossed the finish when I heard the announcer say that Shannon Rowbury had just crossed the line for one of the teams.  What what?  I looked up and she ran right in front of me.  I have to admit I was a little star struck, but I didn't have time to talk to her or tell her how cool she is.  She probably hears that all the time anyway.

So, I finally found my teammate and took off for another loop around the lake.  I ran that loop at around 6:45 pace and then completed one final loop at just over 7:00 pace for 16 miles.  We had a nice little potluck spread in our team tent, and after each loop, I would go there to refuel on cookies and cake.  This was way better than taking gu.

So, our relay team took first place in the masters division for the race as well as the overall PAUSATF Grand Prix title for 2009!  It felt great to be a small part of that accomplishment.  Our fast open women's team won the relay in the women's division and our masters team came in second overall for women's relay teams.

After the race, I was eager to get home and download my Garmin data, and I was not disappointed by what I saw.  My HR had indeed been running high in the first mile of the race and leveled off at around 189 as we crested the hill.  It actually spiked up to 206, but that I believe was an anomaly.  As I said earlier, as soon as I hit the downhill in mile 2, my HR took a nose dive and remained in the low 170s.  I declared 193 to be my new MaxHR reading and sent word to my coach.  While my coach conceded by saying my MaxHR was tentatively set at 193* (and that * is important), she thinks that the HRM may have been malfunctioning.  It just doesn't seem right to me that it could malfunction so sincerely, though.  I want to believe that the adrenaline from the start of the race coupled with a lack of a warm up made my HR spike early before settling in.  But, it could also be that there wasn't enough sweat built up on the monitor sensors to allow it to function properly.

I like the 193 number because it corresponds nicely with the figure I believe to be my HR at LT effort based on my recent and past workouts.  The low 170s fits into the 88-92% of MaxHR range that Dr. Daniels declares the LT zone.  I was also very pleased that 6:00 pace felt so great for that distance.  The Run to Feed the Hungry 10k I ran as an LT effort workout just a few weeks ago on a much flatter course had me running 6:10 pace for LT effort and the same heart rate.  So, I felt like this race showed progress.  More than anything though, it was a fun day to hang out with my teammates, eat good food and compete.                  

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A few of my favorite things

Some like running because they believe it is a minimalist sport. All you really need to get out and run is a pair of running shoes. I say, nonsense! You need stuff, and here's some of my favorite running stuff.

Favorite training device: Of course, my Garmin Forerunner 310 XT is at the top of my list. I made the switch from the 405 a few months back and am still very happy that I did. I geeked out enough already about the pros of this model in this post, so I won't go into the details again. I will add that I found out this morning that this little beauty can go through a complete wash cycle and come out both squeaky clean and fully functional!

Favorite devices that keep me running injury-free:  The TriggerPoint Massage Kit is a life saver for a high-mileage runner like me.  I've used the kit several times per week for over 2 years to work out the kinks and keep me running injury-free.  I use the entire kit starting with my calves, working my quads and then tearing up my IT band.  Ouch, ouch, ouch it hurts!  But, it's a good kind of hurt.  The one thing I'm not sure of is whether or not, like a foam roller, these things break down over time.  Mine seem to be showing a bit of wear.  Even if they do break down after 3 years of use, I'd happily pay $140 for another kit.  Compared to the cost of going to see a PT or The Miracle Worker a couple of times, this is a steal.  

This company has added a new line of roller devices that they call the Grid.  I bought one a couple of months ago and really like it for my hamstrings and shins.  I have to be extra gentle when I use it on my shins, but it works very well.  While it costs more than a regular foam roller it has a hard, but hollow core that helps to keep it from getting that figure-eight shape that a regular roller gets after just a few uses.  The cut out in The Grid holds the Quadballer quite nicely as well for more compact travel. 

Favorite running tights:  I was actually surprised to discover how much I loved these capri tights by Lucy.  I normally wear Nike head to toe, but these tights rock in ways I didn't expect.  They fit nice and snug around your quads and hamstrings, which makes them feel a bit like compression clothing but in a good way.  They fit loose around the knee to allow your leg to bend without binding.  They are super low-waisted, which I think is flattering on non-muffin-top kinds of days.  They also have a nice zippered pocket in the back that securely holds gu, keys or the loose change you find lying around on the streets during your daily runs.  When I'm not thinking about bundling up during cold winter runs, I like to look cute in a sassy little running skirt from   Guys look hot in them too!  Come on guys.  If Bart Yasso can get away with it...

Favorite running shoes:  I have a few pairs for this category and they're all Nike.  My top pick here is the Lunar Racer.  I race every distance from the 5k to the marathon in these babies without any negative effects even though they are almost half the weight of my regular trainers.  I have run 6 marathons and dozens of other races in these shoes and would not wear anything else.  Unless, of course, Nike comes out with a better version of this one.  I vacillate between the Nike Pegasus and the Max Moto for my regular trainers.  Both are solid shoes for neutral runners like me and help me grind out the daily miles just fine.  The nice thing about wearing a shoe like the Pegasus is that you can easily score the older models for less than $50/pair on line.  When you go through  a pair of shoes every 3-4 weeks, it starts to add up!  

Favorite running socks:  I am a big fan of Balega socks and run in them all the time.  However, on a whim, I bought a pair of Thorlo Experia multi-sport socks a couple of months ago and was shocked by how much I enjoyed them.  The first time I wore them for a run, I remember wondering if I was wearing new shoes because if felt like there was a cushion party going on and my feet were the guests of honor!  I love getting new socks.  Such a small investment can make such a difference in your run.  And, if you don't like them, sew on a couple of buttons for eyes and you have yourself a great hand puppet/Christmas gift for little Mitzy.   

Favorite running top:   This favorite was another surprise: the Nike cold weather long-sleeve women's running hoodie.  I can't remember exactly why I ended up buying it, but I do recall thinking that the hood was definitely all for show.  I couldn't really picture myself wearing it during an actual run.  Until last week, that is.  It got frigid (by cali standards) here in the Central Valley dropping to below freezing for a number of days.  This is highly unusual weather for us.  I went out for a run early in the morning and wore this garment. I thought the hood would serve as a nice neck warmer.  When I got out into the biting wind, I put the hood up and was amazed by how comfortable it was and how warm my little ears were!  I must have looked super cool too.  Like a speed skater.  Think Eric Heiden or Bonnie Blair.

Favorite compression clothing:  I have become a big believer in the use of compression clothing both during and post workout.  I have blogged about this before too.  While I do wear the RecoFIT compression sleeves regularly, I recently tried out a new model and liked them.  My quest for a new pair began after losing one of my RecoFIT sleeves to the dryer Gods.  I looked everywhere for the bloody thing to no avail.  So, I went down to Fleet Feet Sports in search of another pair to wear on my evening run.  I had always stayed away from the compression racing full socks because I like to wear my own socks.  I always wondered, however, whether it made a difference having compression from toe to knee versus just ankle to knee.  Always the guinea pig, I bought a pair of the CEP compression socks (in black) and have to say I quite like them.  They are much, much tighter than the sleeves I've been wearing, but my legs did feel great after my run.  My big question is how many times can you wear these before you have to wash them?

Favorite visibility device:  Now that the days are short, I find myself only running in the dark regardless of whether I run before or after work.  This means I need to be seen by cars and cyclists.  I have tried a number of devices that blink and flash, but my favorite is the Brooks Nightlife L.E.D. Light Band.  It blinks very brightly and the metal armband simply snaps in place without rubbing your arm or clothing raw.  If you don't leave the damn thing flashing for days, it seems to have a long battery life.  The CR2016 battery is also a breeze to swap out.

There you have it folks.  That's my list of faves.  Merry Christmas!

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    Heart rate, schmeart rate

    I am not happy to report that a satisfactory maximum heart rate value continues to elude me, but not for a lack of trying.  My workout during the Run to Feed the Hungry was a first attempt to find the magic number.  While I attained a high value (192 bpm) within the first 1/2 mile of the race, I wasn't able to get my heart rate up high enough at any later point in the race to satisfy my coach and me that I had hit a max value.  My heart rate actually declined throughout the race and was 174 bpm at the finish.

    Tuesday, I took another shot at this during a tough workout.  Here's what I did:
    • 2 mile warm up
    • 15 minutes @ LT effort (ave. 6:00 pace; ave. HR 171 bpm)
    • 3 minute jog
    • 5 x 75 second hills @ 3k effort
    • 5 minute jog
    • 12 minutes @ LT effort (ave. 6:07 pace into headwind; ave. HR 170 bpm)
    • 3 minute cut-down from 3k to mile effort (Max HR 177 bpm)
    I was to record my maximum heart rate during the workout and it was 178 bpm (attained while climbing a hill during the first 15-minute LT effort interval).  This is not my max.  I know it's at least 181 bpm since I hit that HR multiple times during the Run to Feed the Hungry race/workout but never felt like I was "maxing out".

    I decided to consult the internets to find another way to determine my max.  I found this very thorough discussion by Sally Edwards where she offers a number of formulas (mostly unreliable), HR max tests as well as submax tests.  I decided I'd try the step test.  It consists of stepping up and down on an 8" step for 3 minutes using a slow but steady cadence and recording your average heart rate during the last minute of the test.  You then add 75 (if you have excellent fitness) to that number to get your max.  My HR averaged 107 bpm during the last minute of the test giving me a max. of 182 bpm.  I don't think this a reliable value.

    At this point, I'm a bit fed up with the quest to determine my max HR.  I proposed to my coach that I could just use my HR at LT effort to determine my max, but she pointed out that my LT effort heart rate may actually be quite close to my max.  I guess that's why I'm not sure it makes sense to spend much more time trying to figure it out.  If I were to go with a max of 182, then I should be running LT effort at an average HR between 160-167 (88-92% of max a la J. Daniels).  Based on my recent workouts, I'm pretty sure that LT effort has me between 170-175 bpm and marathon effort/pace around 162-169 bpm.  It seems like guessing at a max value is just going to complicate the issue.

    I do feel like I gained some useful insight if nothing else from this quest.  I looked back at my workouts from 2007, where I actually spent a lot of time running with my HRM strapped to my chest.  I was able to see evidence of distinct progress as well as validation of my marathon effort and LT effort heart rates.  Back before I ran my first sub-3 hour marathon in April 2007, I did my last long run with 14 miles at goal pace (average pace 6:40-6:55) and happened to wear my HRM.  My average heart rate during the goal pace part of the workout was in the 168-171 bpm range.  This is close to, albeit slightly higher than, the heart rate range for my marathon-paced workouts right before Twin Cities.  However, 2 years later, I was averaging 30+ seconds per mile faster.  Progress!

    The bottom line for me is that I'm going to wear my HRM more often and not just during easy workouts to keep myself slow.  I want more data.  My hope is that someday I will see a max value that I can use.  If nothing else, I'll have data to geek out on 2 years from now where I can (hopefully) reminisce on how much faster I am running while maintaining an average heart rate of168 bpm.  

    Saturday, December 5, 2009

    Getting down to business

    "Are you trying to kick my ass?"

    The Genius asked this question as we crested the last hill about 7 miles into our hilly trail run last Saturday near Inverness.  I was scheduled to run 10 easy miles that day.  As we caught our breath, I reminded The Genius that I lose speed control on trails in that I only have one speed.  He said, "Right.  One speed.  On." I was not looking at my Garmin at all, just enjoying this effort-based rollercoaster, tromping through the mud, jumping puddles, dodging hikers.  He hit his lap button and mentioned something about a 5 minute something pace at the end.  Was I going that fast?  Maybe on the downhill stretch.  I paid for my shenanigans the next day during a late afternoon long run where I was slightly dead legged making the 14 miles feel like 50.  He told me the next day that I am going to have no problem with cross country if I run like that on trails.  I hope he's right.

    This week marks my first week back to reasonably hard training.  I let myself relax post-Marine Corps Marathon in every possible way: I stopped tracking my food intake, slept in every day, and truly kept my running easy (well, except for the trail run).   I do like the perspective I get when I'm on the other side of training.  The rest makes me realize just how much time and effort I'm putting in to this pursuit and it gives me a chance to do something other than eat, sleep and drink running day in and day out.  The problem with allowing myself to fully experience the softer side is that it makes for a rough transition back to my hardcore training lifestyle.

    I am not one for easing back into a routine, so I jumped into the ice water with both feet this week.  I resumed my early-morning training, meeting my early girlies 4 out of the 5 days at 5:15.  I feel like a pansy saying this when there are folks from the east coast reading my blog, but it has been cold here!  Every morning was in the low 30s.  I run cold anyway, so I've been bundling in at least 3 layers on top, long tights with compression sleeves underneath, gloves and a fleece headband.  That's a lot of clothing!

    This week, I ramped up to 72 miles from the mid-50s, completed The Rock Circuit twice, got back to my TP Massageballer routine, and had three hard workouts scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  Tuesday morning, I ran my hardest workout of the week.  I got to warm up with the Bat who was doing my same workout but at different paces.  While we didn't run the whole workout together, I was happy to know that she was out there working hard too.  The 10.5 mile workout included:
    • 5 strides;
    • 2 miles @ marathon effort w/1 min jog rests; 
    • then 5 x 30 sec’s @ 5k effort w/30 sec jog rests;
    • then 2 miles @ half marathon effort w/1 min jog rest;
    • then 5 x 30 sec’s @ 3k effort w/30 sec jog rests
    I've seen these kinds of workouts before and, I told the Bat that, while it looks easy on paper, the transition from the 5k effort repeats to the half marathon effort without rest was not going to feel easy.  I ran the 2 miles at marathon effort at 6:18 pace and the half marathon effort at 6:09 pace.  I wore my heart rate monitor for grins and my heart rate averaged 172 for both 2 mile segments.  I found it interesting that my HR would stay the same in the second repeat under a faster effort.  I also remembered that I had run 2 x 2 miles at goal marathon pace (6:15 pace) just before Twin Cities.  I checked my records and my heart rate was 168 on average for both repeats.

    What can I take away from that?  For one thing, I was probably working harder than marathon and half marathon effort this week.  It also reminded me of the value of wearing the HRM on some runs to have a benchmark to touch back upon.  So, I think I will wear my HRM for some future workouts to see how my HR changes as I become fitter.  It will be nice to watch it creep back down into the mid-160s or lower for my GMP workouts this cycle.  I still don't know what my max HR is, but I will get a chance to find that out next Tuesday in a max HR test.

    Monday, I was back to watching my food intake, counting my calories using my Absolute Fitness iPhone app. and weighing myself daily.  I don't exactly have a weight goal in mind for this marathon cycle, but I would like to get below the 125-pound mark I attained prior to Twin Cities.  I think I can get a little lower than that for Eugene, but I'll just have to see how I feel along the way.  While weight is a very important factor for a marathoner, I do know that pushing it too far is counterproductive.

    As a sort of farewell to the good life, The Genius and I went to Roxy's Sunday night to order up my last meal before employing my new eating plan.  I had a massive burger, garlic fries and chased it with a beer.  I added the apple-cranberry cobbler, vanilla bean ice cream and a cappuccino for good measure.  I was full as a tick walking out of the restaurant, but it felt good to indulge.

    Here's to the next 5 months of training!

    Friday, December 4, 2009

    Eating baby powder redux

    I was checking out some of my blog stats today and was slightly alarmed by the results.  I wrote a blog last May entitled Maybe I should start eating baby powder, and later sort of regretted the title since none of my followers seemed to know what I was talking about.  While it appears that many runners haven't heard of this, it seems a lot of people who don't read my blog are curious about eating baby powder (a form of eating disorder called pica).

    As it turns out, my blog gets about the same number of hits from people who google Jaymee Marty, as it does from people googling eating baby powder.  Today I noticed that someone who googled does eating baby powder make your butt look bigger found my blog.  When I tested this Google search myself, I found my blog came up 4th on this list of closely-related websites:

    1. WikiAnswers - How can you make your breasts bigger
    2. How can i get a big bubble butt?
    3. What helps your boobs grow? - Yahoo! Answers
    4. Run Away Fast: Maybe I should start eating baby powder...
    5. Ask PoopReport: My Ass Stinks! |
    That's good stuff.