Friday, May 28, 2010

10k predictor

Memorial Day morning I'll be in the San Francisco Bay Area running my first race since my cross country debut disaster in February.  In fact, aside from that race, I haven't really raced in about 6 months.  My typical pre-race mental gyrations seem to be amplified this time around probably because it has been so long since I raced or maybe because the last one was such a disaster.  For the last two weeks, I've spent a fair amount of energy trying to divine an appropriate 10k race goal.

I realize that it doesn't really matter much what I think I can run.  I'll run what I'm able to run and it will either be super painful because I went out faster than my body could handle or it will just be painful because the 10k is a painful distance for me.  I get this, but I like to torture myself anyway.

I've been trying to keep my expectations low for this race even though my workouts have been going surprisingly well.  After all, I only have 6 weeks of running training under my belt at this point and had one down week (=lower mileage) in there when my achilles acted up again.  My fitness level has rebounded nicely though.  I haven't done any true race predictor workouts, but I've done a few that give me an inkling of the pace I might be able to maintain.    

What has been really confusing is that my effort-based paces all seem to be about the same.  In the last 2 weeks, I've run a 10k effort workout at 6:00 pace, a half marathon effort workout at 6:07 pace and a lactate threshold effort workout at 6:04 pace, and they've all felt like the right effort level.  My coach expects that I'm getting slightly more fit each week, so that explains some of this, but it sure makes predicting my 10k race goal hard.

Here's what I have to work with.  I blogged about my workout a couple of weeks ago where I ran 10k effort mile repeats + 5k effort 400s around the track with the miles just under 6:00 pace and the 5k effort at around 5:40 pace.  Last weekend, I did a 16 mile long run with 4 x 10 minutes at lactate threshold effort with 2 minute jog rests.  I averaged 6:04 pace for the 40 minutes and felt great.

Tuesday of this week, I was back on the track for a fun workout that started with 15 minutes at marathon effort (6:18 pace), 15 minutes of jogging to the track and 16 x 400m at 5k effort with 1 minute jog rests.  I was a little nervous about this workout because I haven't done that many 400s in a long, long time and I knew that 1 minute rests would feel pretty short as I got into the later repeats.  I had company for this workout, which was fantastic.  I started off with 82 second 400s and immediately questioned whether I could hold that pace for 15 more circles of the track.  I did.  My splits were:


That averages out to somewhere around 5:30 pace for the group.  I felt great during and after this workout.  The last lap was hard, but doable and I left the track feeling like I could have done a few more repeats.

I want to believe that these workouts indicate I could come to close to my PR on Monday (37:23, ~6:02 pace).  The little devil on my shoulder says that I'm high to think that I can hold that pace given my last race performance and the short amount of time I've been back into training.  I think a reasonable goal is to shoot for something in the range of 6:00-6:05 pace and just hope to see a 37:XX on the clock when I cross.  I think breaking 38:00 right now would be wonderful.

Look for my race report on Monday.  Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Oh, and if you haven't checked out JT's latest project featuring….ME…you should take a look at the Houston Hopefuls website.  Check back regularly as she interviews other masters women trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials.  Should be a great series.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

My new toy

That's right.  I got an Alter-G super duper treadmill!  It's been really hard to keep this a secret.  I used the prize winnings from the Belgrade Marathon to make a down payment, but I think the investment is well worth it.  I mean, think of all of the prize money I will earn as a result of how fast this thing is going to make me.  And, I can charge a pretty penny to let other runners use it.  The possibilities are endless.  This thing will end up paying for itself, I just know it!

Okay, if you believe that, you are a serious Gulli Bull!  My new toy is actually an iPad, and in this post I'm going to show you a few of the ways that it is contributing to making me a faster runner.

Let's start with some obvious attributes.  There are hundreds of thousands of apps that you can download for this thing, not even counting all the iPhone apps that you can also use (though the experience isn't quite as nice with those).


This app is fabulous.  It keeps track of everything I eat, the exercise I do, tracks my weight and body fat, and has a massive web-based database that makes finding nutritional information about the foods you eat a snap.  Throughout the day, I'm able to check my calorie balance to gauge how much and what I need to eat to meet my goals.  This product comes as an iPhone app too, and it looks like you can just use the web version as well.  I highly recommend it!

Your basic calendar

This app uses the same calendar that's found on the iPhone and all of my Apple computers.  It's just a whole lot prettier. Because I use MobileMe, all of my calendars stay synced at all times.  I use this program to track my shoe wear by color coding the workouts based on which shoe I'm wearing.  Eventually, I know someone will invent an app that will add up those miles and automatically order my next pair of shoes for me at exactly the right time.  I can dream, can't I?


Keeping up with my blogs
There are a couple of apps I've found for this.  To keep up to date on all of the blogs that I follow, I am testing out StickyBeak.  It's quick and easy to set up by simply accessing your Google Reader account information.  It's been a little buggy, but a recent update seemed to fix a lot of the issues.  I'm also excited about using my iPad for updating my own blog.  BlogPress seems to be the way to go with this.  Compared to the iPhone, the iPad is really a dream to type on whether you use the on-screen keyboard or a bluetooth wireless like me.       

50 Cent is in the HOUSE!

While it may seem a little bulky to you, having all of my music, e-mail, blogs, calorie counters, internet browsers, etc. at my finger tips everywhere I go is essential.  So, I found this great armband case for my iPad so I wouldn't miss a thing while I'm out on my runs.  The GPS navigation is handy too on the go!

Getting all stretchy stretchy   

This was a recent discovery for me and one that will make me faster by keeping me from getting injured.  Did you know that iTunes has yoga podcasts?  I didn't.  I discovered these the other day when I was looking for an alternative to the Rodney Yee video after my DVD player crapped out.  I was surprised by the number of quality podcasts available.  The series by has quite a variety of slideshow and video programs to choose from of varying lengths.  I've done the Yoga for Runners workout and really liked it.  It's closer to Vinyasa Yoga than Hatha in that you're constantly moving, so you work up a sweat.  I like that a lot!  I did one of the yoga for core strength workouts the other day and found that 20-minute zinger to be very challenging.  Of course, you don't need an iPad to view these.  I do love being able to plop down my yoga mat, prop up my iPad in front of it and follow along just about anywhere.,


Remote desktop    

Picture this scenario.  You're at Peet's Coffee using your iPad to create an important blog post.  You forgot to take note of your splits from the workout you're writing about and you really, really, really want to get this post on line.  But, how do you access your home computer from Peet's Coffee?  You use an iPad app called Desktop.    What you see in the screenshot is my home computer screen with Garmin Training Center running.  Using this app, I can access my home computer (must be turned on, of course) and take control of it to check my workouts, download my data from my Garmin, send files and pictures to myself.  I've done all of these things.  It's a little on the slow side, but well worth it when you really, really, really need something.

I Love my iPad

I'm not ashamed to admit it.  The Genius is getting a little tired of competing with the iPad, I think.  He has found me awake at night tapping away at it's cuddly keyboard.  The other day, he surprised me by playing paparazzi and snapping a shot of me using it in the shower.   

No doubt, I will be a faster runner as a result of owning this fabulous piece of technology.  

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Not so fast

I know better than to make a statement like I did in my last blog entry about being done with my injury.  Those kinds of things always come back to bite you.

Last Sunday, I had a 14-15 mile long run that included 60 minutes at marathon effort plus The Rock Circuit.  I took off into the wind at marathon effort determined to stick to my new rules about not stopping during the quality in my workouts (R-WYCH = run what you can hold).  I started out at 6:33 pace for the first 20 minutes or so with my HR in my marathon zone.  I picked it up for the next 30 minutes to 6:25 pace and then even more to 6:22 pace for the last 10 minutes.  I loved this workout!  I was so happy to finish strong at a pace that was close to my goal marathon pace AND without stopping.  The interesting thing too was that my HR only appeared to go up, on average, one BPM with each increase in effort.  It amazes me sometimes how little difference I see in my HR for the various efforts I run.

I started my recovery jog and noticed a familiar little pinch in my achilles.  I hadn't felt that in a while and it made me nervous.  I thought that it might go away as I continued to jog and get ready for The Rock.  Then, it started to absolutely dump buckets of rain on me.  I was 2 miles from home and thought, "What the hell?  Let's just get this damn thing over with."  So, I did The Rock in the pouring rain, knocking out my crunches and supermans while laying in the mud, flopping around.  It was kind of fun in a Private Benjamin sort of way.  Unfortunately, my achilles did not feel better after The Rock.  It was sore on my 2-mile soggy jog home as I finished off my 16 miles.

Looking at what I've been doing, this was not unexpected.  I got to that point in the injury cycle where I truly believed I was home free.  I had stopped doing all of my regular maintenance like icing my calf after each run, stretching, rolling out the calf, massage.  I wasn't doing any of it.  How soon we forget.

Monday morning, I ran with my girlies and my achilles was still sore.  I was definitely disappointed, but I had a feeling that it was temporary.  I chose to believe it was just my body's way of reminding me that my calf/achilles is still slightly undercooked.  I resorted to this full-on treatment regimen:

  • icing my calf after running
  • doing my 60 minute yoga for athletes video 3 x per week
  • rolling my legs with the TP Massage system every day
  • massaging the achilles
  • massaging the calf
The good news is that it has worked.  I ran on land for 30 minutes Tuesday followed by 60 minutes of pool running and then only did yoga on Wednesday.  Thursday, I was expecting to jog an easy 6, but took a look at my scheduled workout before heading out the door just in case.  I'm glad I did because I was able to do the whole 9-mile workout without any pain.  I ran another easy 6 on Friday and felt some tightness in the achilles, but I was pretty sure it would pass.

This morning, I met some girlies who also had workouts that would be best done around a track.  That's right, I said TRACK!  I haven't done a track workout in an incredibly long time and was a little excited about it.  After a 5-mile warm up, I headed to the track to start my workout.  It was 5 x (1 mile repeats @ 10k effort with 1 minute rest, then 400m @ 5k effort with 3-5 minutes rest).  Here's how I did (pace for 1600m, pace for 400m):

  1. 5:59, 5:38
  2. 5:55, 5:32
  3. 5:59, 5:37
  4. 6:00, 5:41
  5. 6:04, 5:39
This was a good workout and ended up being my longest (16.7 miles) since being injured.  I felt strong the whole way in fairly warm and exposed conditions.  I was pleased to average just under 6:00 pace for the 10k effort and under 5:40 for the 5k effort.  But, the best news of the day was that I felt nothing whatsoever in my achilles and still feel nothing right now as I type this.      

So, I will refrain from making predictions about how over this injury I am.  I promise to be good and take care of the regular maintenance it requires so I can continue ramping up my mileage and intensity.

I'm still working on a clever way to reveal my newest gadget.  I love the speculation from my blogging peeps: Alter G, altitude tent.  What could it be?  I promise I'll reveal it soon.

Friday, May 7, 2010

My dirty little secret

I have finally reached the point where I no longer worry about re-injuring my calf/achilles. Last week I ran three hard workouts in seven days of running for a total of 60 miles. Over the last two days I have run up and down hills for just shy of 20 miles, abusing my quads and shins without a peep from my calf or achilles. I truly don't even think about my left calf (or was it the right?) any longer unless someone asks me about it.

Now that I can stop obsessing about that, I have turned to thinking about my decreased fitness level. I know how my fitness ebbs and flows around a marathon cycle--peaking for the event and then taking quite a while to return to a familiar level post marathon. But, the post-injury comeback is a new thing for me with plenty of opportunity to learn. While injured for six weeks, I had lots of time to think about my previous training regime. I've decided to try to change some of my "bad" training practices.

I think I've mentioned before that I tend to run my workouts on the hot side. As a result, I am embarrassed to admit, I have become accustomed to taking "water breaks" when necessary to maintain the intensity. I am quite aware that this is not right, but it's simply the way I've done things for the last 5 years. My measure of fitness has become less about how fast I'm going for how long and more about stringing together longer and longer workouts at a given pace without stopping for a break. These breaks are typically very short (10-20 seconds), but they give me a chance to catch my breath and get my heart rate down enough to sustain the higher intensity for the planned duration of the workout.

Acknowledging the wrongness of this approach, I have a hard time believing that it has had a major negative impact on my overall fitness level. I say this because, under this method, I have attained a level of fitness and run faster than I ever thought possible. Of course, one could question how much faster I might be running if I employed a break-free approach, but I don't find that kind of speculation very useful.

Where I think I have shortchanged myself is in the mental aspect of training and racing. When I get to the point in a training run where I'm pushing myself harder than I can sustain, I allow myself that 'out' to stop and walk. Granted, I haven't stopped to walk in a race in like three years, but I wonder how much better I'd be at handling the mid-to-late race urge to bail if I trained to complete my workouts without stopping.

I've decided to find out. In one of my first post-injury long runs a couple of weeks back, I had a 25-minute progression run that started at marathon effort and progressed down to 10k effort for the last few minutes. I ran this in 80-degree weather and into a headwind most of the way, but I didn't adjust my paces to compensate for the conditions (or my conditioning). I took about 4 short breaks during that progression run and progressed from 6:38 pace incrementally down to 6:03 pace. I would normally declare that I was improving if I did the workout at the same paces but stopped fewer times the next time I had it on my schedule.

I had a 30-minute progression run on my schedule a week later and decided I was not allowed to stop during the workout.  I started out at about 6:40 pace again in 80-degree weather but without a headwind. I stepped my pace down by about 5 seconds/mile every 5 minutes and resisted the urge to progress any faster than that.  I repeated the mantra "run what you can hold" throughout the run.  As I dropped from 6:20 down to 6:15 pace, I started feeling that urge to stop, but I fought it.  When my Garmin alerted me to change paces for the last 5 minutes, I thought I couldn't possibly go any faster. Somehow, I did and finished up at 6:08 pace.  I completed this 14.5 mile workout with an hour of The Rock Circuit including strides.

Even though my paces in that workout were pretty slow compared to where I was 2 months ago, I was so damned pleased with myself for resisting the urge to take a break and holding the paces I did the week before. That's the great thing about running. You can always find some new way to test yourself and improve.

My focus now is on gauging effort and building my mental strength. I think I'll need this more than ever in the shorter distance races. I am quite familiar with how I feel in a marathon and what I can ask of my body and mind. The shorter stuff is an entirely different animal with a new set of pain and suffering to adapt to.

In my next blog: I have a new toy and it is guaranteed to make me a faster runner! What could it be?