Sunday, August 28, 2011


I ran a race yesterday.  A real race.  It was my first 5k race (not counting WMAs) in a year, and it was awesome.

My 18:02 finish was 9 seconds off my personal best, but this race wasn't about PRs.  This race was about getting back into racing.  In order to do that, I needed to have a good race; one where I felt in control and strong the entire way; one that left me with a hunger to race faster and harder.  Yesterday's race did that for me.

I have some experience racing the 5k distance and have never liked it.  That awful burning feeling in my legs that comes on during the last mile always screams "SLOW DOWN OR YOU WILL DIE" to me, and I always obey.  My 5k races have always been run in the middle of marathon training.  Over the last 8 weeks, I've given myself the luxury of training for the 5k with race-specific workouts, and I think it made a big difference.  First, I now have a consistent warm-up routine: 2 mile jog + 5 minutes of drills + 5 strides.  I basically do this routine before all of my track workouts so it is familiar, and I know it is effective.  I timed my warm up so that I ran my last stride 3 minutes before the gun.

Second, I really know my race pace.  I started a little fast in the first 400m or so, but I very quickly fell into 5:45 pace--my first mile split.  I went through the second mile in 5:42 and felt really good compared to how I felt last year at that same point on the  course.  The third mile was my slowest this year and last year.  It's a naturally slow mile because it has 4 out of the 4 90-degree turns on the course.  Plus, it was the last mile which is always the toughest.  I thought about that last mile at the end of every workout over the last 8 weeks.

My friend Brooke ran her first race in a while recently and gave me the best advice, "don't go out too fast and remember the burn is normal!"  I repeated, "the burn is normal" with every step in that last mile.  The thing that made me happiest was seeing that I ran that 3rd mile 5 seconds faster this year than I did last year.  It's a good thing too, because the 24 year old second place finisher wasn't far off of my tail.  I led the whole race, so I had no idea where my competition was.

While I came in 9 seconds slower than last year, I can't complain at all.  I was in awesome shape at this point last year, so being even close to that fitness level given how little training I've had to work off of is really promising.  Of course, I would love to be faster, but I also feel like I am not yet fully baked.  I think I need about 3 more weeks to get back into the swing of racing so I can really push myself and test my fitness.

I am changing my schedule accordingly.  My original plan was to end my 5k training with this race, take a major down week next week and then do some base training before starting into a 15-week marathon program on October 3rd.  Instead, I'll recycle some of the mid-week 5k workouts from the Squires and Lahane plan and race the next 3 weekends.  I'm also going to bump up my weekend long runs a bit each week, so I'll be ready to roll out consistent 20 milers come October.  More than anything, I just want to get my body and brain used to racing aggressively.  Next weekend I'll run a local 5k cross country race.  The following two weekends are 5k road races.  I'll then do one week of base and take a week off before hitting the marathon plan.

Countdown to the Olympic Trials Marathon: 138 days!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Peaking and Pausing

I ran a 17:45 5k Sunday night.  It was a workout, with rests in between the repeats, and it was tough.  After it was over, I questioned how on earth I will manage to run that time in a couple of weeks without those breaks and then decided that this was not a fruitful way to think.

The dual purpose of a race-pace workout is to stress your body so that it adapts in a way that allows you to hold that pace for longer and to train your brain to handle the discomfort that most certainly accompanies the stress you endure holding that pace.  I know these things, but that does not make the workout any easier.  I guess I was hopeful that, at some point, 5k pace would feel easier than it does.  Then I realized how stupid that is.  When 5k pace feels easy, it's no longer your 5k pace.   

Last week's workouts proved to me that my 5k training plan is working its magic.  My last post described my speedy 12 x 400m midweek workout.  I really have never run a faster workout than that.  Sunday night, I ran 2 x 2000m @ 5k pace with 4 minute pause rest + 1000m @ 5k pace.  This was a tough workout.  I ran the first repeat in 7:03, the second in 7:11 and the last 1000m in 3:31.  That second 2000m repeat felt really hard, and my slower time reflected what I was feeling.  However, when I added the time up, I realized I had exceeded my total time goal and felt content.  

I was able to get a little more information about the "pause" rests in some of my workouts from Coach Bruce Lahane, the co-author of the training plan I'm following.  I asked him about complete rest versus jogging and told him how I felt kind of sluggish walking rather than jogging during the first workout where I tried the pause.  Here's what he said:

"The "pause" comment suggests that the recovery between the runs could be a bit easier than straight jogging.  I don't think too fine a point needs to be put to it.  Many runners might walk for 30 seconds, then jog for 3 minutes, then walk for 30 seconds and off they go.  The little bit of walking restores them a tad more than straight jogging.  When greater effort is being put into intervals, sometimes a little walking helps people to recover a bit more. 

However, you seem to be experiencing the reverse, that is, you feel sluggish after walking.  I'd suggest that you do whatever feels better to you. 
The bottom line for any training is the result that it produces in the individual.  So, it doesn't matter much how most people react to training, but rather how you react.  Part of the fun of running is figuring yourself out - adjusting training according to how your body reacts."

In Sunday's workout, I tried the walk/jog/walk suggestion with much success.  I felt recovered, but not sluggish.  Thanks, Coach Lahane!

I really loved his response.  What a great reminder to keep the focus of my training on me and how I respond to various workouts as well as the recovery.  This is the main reason I'm trying a new plan--to see how I adapt to different types of workouts and recovery regimens.  I was successful with my previous training, but how can I know that was the best plan for me?  Is there actually any "best" plan for any of us?  There's no way to know of course.  What I do know is that I was not recovering properly in my previous training.  There was way too much going on for my body to adapt to, and I actually thought that rundown feeling was how I was supposed to feel all the time.  This notion was supported by reports from other friends in heavy marathon training.  

Given how I am responding to high mileage, doing very tough workouts, I know that I was working too hard before.  Please don't read this and think I'm dissing my previous training plans.  They obviously made me very strong and got me to my OTQ!  I just think I will get faster and stronger by focusing on smarter recovery.  If you didn't see this nugget from Ryan Hall's triathlete coach, Matt Dixon, on recovery, you might be surprised to know that he took one day off completely each week from training (that's right, no cross training) before Boston.  It was a revelation for me to hear the obvious: you shouldn't feel like you need the taper at the end of a marathon (or any training plan) to recover from your training.  You should be recovered and super-charged going into the taper!!!    

So, a little over a week of sharpening and a short taper should line me up well to shoot for a fast 5k.  Incidentally, I do feel totally fresh going into this taper! This will actually be my first 5k race (not counting the WMA 5000m on the track) in a year.  That's right--the last 5k I raced was the Race for the Arts last year.  While I think I'll be in good racing shape in a little over a week, I also know that there are other factors that play into how well I might actually perform (look at Lauren Fleshman's wild ride this summer).  So, I have two other 5k races lined up in September that I will use as back up races should the Race for the Arts turn out to be a bad day for me.   The other thing I am constantly reminding myself of these days is that my real race is in January.  Regardless of whether or not I get a chance to best my 5k time, all of this speed work and consistent training will pay off in a big way in Houston.                        

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Okay.  I know for a fact I have never run a workout as fast as I did last night.  Is it a coincidence that I ran this workout in my new Nike LunarSpider R2s?
My review?  The shoes are fast.  I ordered them on a lark late last week from when I was feeling like I wanted to try something new in footwear.  They only come in men's sizes and they recommended my size 9 lady foot would be happy in a men's 7.5.  But, they were out of the 7.5, so I ordered the 7.  I was certain that they would not fit, but, if I ordered them, at least I could touch them.  They look so cool.

When they came, I weighed them on my food scale (currently dedicated to weighing shoes), and they were just a hair under 5 ounces!  Crazy light.  They looked even cooler than the picture on the website, and I'll be damned if they didn't fit my feet perfectly.  I felt like Cinderella with arachnids on her feet.  I couldn't wait to do my 12 x 400m workout the next day in them.

My feet always fit well in Nikes because both are narrow.  These shoes are no exception.  The upper is so thin and light that they just seem to form another layer of skin around my foot.  There's plenty of room in the toe box, even though a shoe salesperson might not think so.  I've found that I need less room in the toe box when the shoe has less of a heel-to-toe drop.  They have a fairly stiff sole, but I really felt like my feet were in touch with the track surface and that made the shoes very responsive.  There's hardly any cushion, just enough to protect your feet from serious bumps.  As I ran in them, I wondered if I would wear them in a marathon like Shalane did in NYC.  No need to decide that now.  I'll start with a road 5k and go from there.    

I saved my workout for the evening, since I love running at night, but the day was long and I was pooped when I got home.  The Genius came home from his run to find me laying in my running clothes on the bed at 6:45 p.m. trying to take a short nap.  I got in about 15 minutes before waking and realizing I needed to get out the door pronto.

I downed a Go Girl and headed to the track where I felt super sluggish on the warm up.  I slipped on my Spiders and everything changed.  I did my drills and strides in them and knew they were special.  As I strode, I felt like the cartoon character whose legs are spinning out in front while their torso lags behind for a split second before joining the lower half in a speedy get away.  I felt kind of clumsy at first until I got used to the little rockets on my feet.

My workout was to be run at 4 seconds per lap faster than 5k pace.  So, I estimated 5k pace to be 84-85 seconds per lap, making my target 80-81 for these.  I had 1:30 jog rests for this workout.  My first repeat was a blazing 79 seconds complete with a tingly sensation in my upper body and a slight burn in my quads.  Too fast.  I tried to calm myself down a little and ran the next in 78.  Oh well, I thought.  Just go with it.

Each repeat felt better and better, and I kept throwing down 78-79 second laps.  I got to the last two laps and switched my iPod to my current power song J. Lo's Get on the Floor  (don't judge!).  This was the first time ever in a track workout where I felt so good I just smiled when I hit the end of my rest and whispered bring it!  The last repeat was 75 seconds.  Oh, hell yeah!

Splits: 79, 78, 77, 79, 79, 79, 80, 78, 79, 79, 77, 75
average = 78

It's getting ill it's getting sick on the floor!  

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Hint of Progress

I love progress.  I've seen slow, but steady progress in my workouts these last few weeks.  What makes me even more excited, however, is the progress in my decision making involving my running and recovery.

Two weeks ago was a big, big running week with 85 miles and three tough workouts, so my dogs were understandably tired.  I was feeling great in the Nike Frees so I had been wearing them almost every day.  A week ago Sunday, I ran a hard tempo in my old Mizunos just to give my feet a break from the Frees.  The next day, I ran in the Frees again and noticed a tension across the top and tenderness along the outside of my left foot after I ran.  I've actually felt this off and on, but it was noticeably more sore this time.  My left calf muscle was also really tight.  I knew that I needed to pay some attention to the calf muscle, since I had neglected rolling it a couple of days that week.*

*Note to self: limit training if you can't keep up with the maintenance.  If life is too busy to roll every day, then back off the mileage to fit it in.  No excuses! 

Was this a case of too much too soon with the Frees?  Was it actually the hard run in the Mizunos that aggravated my foot?  I decided to wear the Mizunos on Tuesday and my foot hurt worse, even painful to the touch.  Researching top of foot pain (TOFP) on the internets was a big mistake at first.  Every post was about stress fractures and my mind started racing with the prospect. I finally found a site that provided a more palatable explanation for what I had going on and, based on the ultimate outcome, it was probably the right one.

Regardless of the diagnosis, I knew I needed to take a day of rest from running.  I worked the bajeezus out of the knots in my calf and iced my foot a bunch of times.  I also bought a new pair of Mizunos since my old ones had over 400 miles on them (way more than I've ever run in a trainer).  I had been hopeful that I could get away without buying another pair of them and run Free for the rest of my life.  I reminded myself that this minimalist transition was something I was making up and was not critical to my running career.  I needed to listen to my body.    

The bummer about missing Wedensday's run was that I had a track workout scheduled for that day.  This is why I am especially proud of myself for resting.  It's so hard to give up a day of training, but even harder when that day is a hard workout.  I had a double planned for Thursday and went ahead with the morning 5 miler in my new Mizunos.  All systems were a go, so I added the workout from the day before in to the evening 9 mile run.  This was a risk since I knew fast track running might aggravate the tight calf, but I also knew I could stop if I felt anything bad.  I didn't need to stop, and it was a great workout.  

Currently, the knots are gone from the calf after a lot of work and the foot is fine too.

My second mark of progress came last night in what I saw as my most difficult workout of this cycle.  It was 5 x 1200m @ 5k pace, picking up the pace in the last 300m of each.  It was that last bit that got me nervous.  This workout had a "4 minute pause" between repeats.  This pause thing is new for me, but I figure Coach Squires has good reason for writing the workouts the way he does.  I follow them as written, but I'm just not used to having anything but a jog rest between reps.  You'd think it would make the workout seem easier, but that's not the feeling I got.

I started this run at about 7 p.m. last night, which is my favorite time of day to run right now for some reason.    After drills and strides, I rolled into the first repeat.  I was happy with how I felt at the 1000m mark and even happier when I saw the 3:30 on my watch.  A few weeks ago, I had done a 6 x 1000 workout and averaged 3:35 for those.  This was a good sign of progress--if I could hold it.  I can't say that I really picked up the pace much in that last 300m of each repeat, but I certainly kicked up the effort level which may have served to maintain a good clip.  I ended up doing every single repeat in exactly the same time 4:13.  This result is funny to me because the configuration of each was so different.  The first repeat started with an 80 sec first 400m and then I slowed to find the 4:13.  I worked hard in the last 2 repeats to make sure I started at 84-85 and cut down from there, and I still ended up at 4:13.  I guess that was just my number for the night.

Uncertain of what the "pause" was supposed to look like, I decided to walk for the 4 minutes between each rep.  My legs actually felt really sluggish for the first 100-200m of the repeat following the walk break compared to what I feel like after doing a jog break.  I'm sure it helped me to hold the paces I needed to though.

This was the fastest workout I've done so far this cycle, holding an overall 5:38 pace which equates to a 17:30 5k. Progress indeed.