Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Exciting News

I am pleased to announce that I am now part of a very cool project called the 2016 Marathon Trials Project. This project is the passion of Mark Hadley, a coach whose website I've been lurking around for a few months now. I have been intrigued by his training philosophy and inspired by the success of the athletes he coaches. I am looking forward to getting started with Coach Hadley and watching his project grow.

From his website:
The 2016 U.S. Marathon Trials Project has 3 goals
1. Help as many people as possible qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials
2. Help as many people as possible obtain the A Standard for the trials
3. Help as many people as possible finish at or near the top of the field in the trials race
One of the main reasons I joined was to be part of something bigger than just me trying to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials. I found the stories of other Trials qualifiers very inspiring as they came out in the media last year. I felt like I was connected to this larger group of athletes. I can only imagine how exciting it will be to be part of a project dedicated to getting as many runners to the Trials for 2016 as possible.

With 2:43 as the new B standard, I have my work cut out for me, but I do have a few years to work at this. I am excited to get back to training again and can't wait to share my journey with all of you!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Life Experience

"I want my milk and cookies. I wanna go home. Wah, wah, wah." 
~some random Sergeant Airborne

I've had that chant in my head for 24 years. It's what I think about when I feel like quitting. I went through Army Airborne in 1988 because I wanted the life experience of jumping out of airplanes. Nobody made me do it. It was considered a privilege for an Air Force cadet to get to participate in this training.

The first weekend of Airborne training is meant to separate the wheat from the chaff. Our company had a 30% wash out rate that first weekend. They put us through intense physical and mental exercises to test our will and force the weak to quit. And, that was just over the weekend. By Monday, when training actually started, they gathered those of us left in the main yard and broadcast over the loud speaker that they understood that we had been through a lot over the weekend. It was understandable if some of us wanted to quit. They had donuts, milk, and cookies up front that they would give to those of us who decided we couldn't take it and wanted to go home. They ate the donuts and drank the milk while we salivated.

A few poor sons of bitches actually took the bait and walked up to the front to get their milk and cookies. Of course, once they got there, they were made into fools.  We were all told that it was our mission to ensure that these jackasses got through the next three weeks of training without quitting.

This past Sunday, starting at around mile 6 in the California International Marathon, I wanted my milk and cookies, and I definitely wanted to go home.

I reported on the weather forecast in my last post. The weather forecasters were wrong--it was worse than predicted when we arrived at the starting line. All I recall is seeing some guy in a garbage bag being blown sideways when we drove to the runner drop off point.  I was barely able to move forward in the wind while being pelted with rain as we walked toward the starting line.

Once I was safe inside the elite tent, I was absolutely drenched, but temporarily sheltered from the weather. Then, I found a force that I would unfortunately let affect my race in a much more insidious way. She seemed pleasant enough as we chatted away before the race. She asked if we could run together and I agreed thinking we would start together and then find our own rhythms. After mile 2, when she told me that she didn't have a watch or GPS and needed me to give her our splits, I realized she wasn't going to run her own race. I can't really explain why this affected me like it did, but having someone ask every 1/2 mile or so what our pace was when gale force winds were blowing us all over the road just pissed me off.

I told her at the start of the race I didn't know what time I was shooting for--that time seemed irrelevant on a day like this--so I was baffled by her constant need for pace information. I could hear her sigh when I told her our pace was 6:45 or 6:50 when we turned into the wind after mile 6. We were drafting off of some big guys, but the gusts were even slowing them to what seemed like a crawl. Still, "how fast are we going now?" came after every mile marker. I finally told her I was no longer keeping track of our pace. I wasn't lying. I really didn't give a shit what pace we were going into these winds. I just wanted to make another turn out of this stuff. The fact of the matter was that my legs were cramping as we ascended every hill. I didn't understand why this was happening so early in the race, but it was. I was having a tough enough time staying focused on getting to the next mile marker let alone babysitting someone who forgot their watch or decided not to wear one.

The crampy legs and mile by mile audible reminder of just how slow we were going had me thinking about milk and cookies very early in this race. I told myself I should try to at least get to mile 10: Old Fair Oaks. I could drop there. I got through the town and decided I could probably make it to the half marathon point. There was a nice Safeway to seek shelter inside. I passed that and kept going. I realized that my friend had stopped asking me what our splits were. She must have dropped back. This lifted my spirits a bit but not a lot.

My next target, and this was going to be the real stopping point, was mile 19 at Watt Ave. I live about a mile from there. I could just run home and get a nice cup of hot coffee and see my dogs. That pleasant vision danced through my mind as I slogged through the middle miles of this race.
Mile 17.
There's 19.
God damn it!
I see people I know.
And they're cheering for me.
I can't quit in front of them.
Maybe I'll stop at mile 20.

By this time, I was laughing at myself. I was in the flat part of the course and most of the cramping in my legs had ceased. The weather had ceased to be ridiculous too. I was being passed by a few runners, but I wasn't slowing much more. I didn't have anyone outside my body reminding me that this was a suckfest.

I knew what would happen if I took the milk and cookies. I wouldn't get to quit. Even if I stopped running, I would hate that I had quit and would beat myself up. Instead, I felt oddly excited about the prospect of sticking this bitch out. I was sort of proud of myself for hanging in there and wondered whether I would break 3 hours or not. I decided to give it a shot and see how I finished. I became more and more excited about finishing as I ran past 23 and 24 miles. Only two to go. I had one girl ahead of me as I headed into the final straightaway. I sprinted past her at the finish in just over 2:59.
I know, I know: "do not copy". Sorry, Sport Photo. You captured the sprint finish!

This photo has made the rounds on Twitter and Facebook to the point that I'm not sure who to credit. Regardless, it accurately depicts the experience of CIM 2012.
This was an ugly damned race, but it was a life experience that I won't forget. I could choose to be ashamed of the weakness I showed, but instead I choose to be proud of forgoing the milk and cookies that were so tempting at mile 19 and seeing the race through to its end. My hard work was rewarded with a 3rd place masters finish, 2nd place age group and a second place finish amongst PAUSATF masters runners. This was worth some cash and a nice plaque.
2nd and 3rd place 45-49 year olds at the awards ceremony. Yes, she looks like she's 19.
Finally, this whole experience--the half-assed, 3-4 months of training, the less than fully committed nature of my race preparation, the weakness in the race--reignited my fire and made me realize that I want to run fast again. The gauntlet of a faster Olympic Trials qualifying standard for 2016 has been thrown, and I will be aiming to see if I can get there.

I am already planning my next races, to be revealed after Christmas. In the mean time, this week is all about indulgence--milk, cookies, wine, pizza... Whatever the hell I want.         

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Like the weather

The color of the sky as far as I can see is coal gray
I lift my head from the pillow and then fall again
I get a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather
a quiver in my lip as if I might cry
~Natalie Merchant

Sooner or later every marathon has bad weather. Runners of the California International Marathon (CIM) have been extremely lucky for the last 7-8 years in that weather conditions have been pretty close to ideal for running a marathon. 2012, on the other hand, will be one of those touchstone years that runners will use to describe how miserable conditions can be.

I am running CIM. I have been training for it and never had a doubt that I would run it, even as the available weather forecasts began converging on the same, bleak weather story for Sunday morning. My goals for this marathon have had less to do with the actual race or how fast I might run and more to do with getting back to training and gaining some base fitness.

I have done my best to get in the training but tomorrow will be more about sheer will than about training. I will be on the lookout for a burly guy (or gal) running between 2:50-2:55. I will tuck in behind you and you'll never know I'm there. And, if you want to tuck in behind me, be my guest.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Everything's groovy

Today's half marathon settles it. I'm in a groove. I've had glimmers of hopeful workouts lately that made me take notice, but today's 13 mile race/workout within a 20 mile run confirmed that these workouts weren't one-hit-wonders. I think I was most worried about the lack of volume in my training and how that would affect my endurance in a longer race. This week has been my longest yet with a whopping 72 miles. I'll try to get to 80 next week before tapering down.

Because I was running this half marathon as a workout, I was completely relaxed about it. My goals were all centered on pacing it correctly with no overall time goals. I ran this same race last year and had a really bad day. I should have been able to run what I expected to (low 1:20s), but I had no way of knowing I was headed into a funk that would last until the Olympic Trials race in January. Instead, I went out at the pace I thought I could hold and then fell off in a major way. It's possible I was a bit gun shy today too, given that horrible memory from last year.

I still haven't settled on a goal pace for the Cal International Marathon, but I've been running around 6:20-6:30 for my marathon effort workouts lately. So, I chose 6:30 as a good pace to start with today. I behaved very well at the start. I watched the fast women pop off the start line and I remained farther back, checking my Garmin to make sure I was minding my pace. My first two miles were 6:30 and 6:33. Awesome.

With each split, I found myself picking up the pace. I decided early on that I would not let my pace get below 6:20 until I hit mile 10. I wanted to run a good negative split and wanted to experience feeling strong enough to cut down the last few miles of the race. You might wonder why I wouldn't just race hard. Generally speaking, you don't want to run a long race like a half marathon all out a few weeks before a marathon. A lot of people do it, but I wanted to ensure I would recover well enough to get in another couple of weeks of training before CIM.

We were blessed today with perfect racing weather and sweet nature moments. I saw and heard numerous flocks of Sandhill cranes and dizzying swarms of shorebirds waving overhead as we ran through the lovely wine country of Clarksburg. I know at least one runner I saw around mile 3 was none too pleased with the birds as they launched a rain of doo doo on her head. Glad it wasn't me! It is funny how different the surroundings can be when you're having a good race. I'm sure last year was equally as lovely, but I couldn't pull myself out of my personal running misery to enjoy it.

I held to my plan and kept inching closer to 6:20 pace but didn't go under until mile 10. At that point, I had been making up time on the 5th and 6th place females and felt as though I had enough road to make a run at passing at least one of them. I passed the first runner just after the 10 mile marker and then ran up to my teammate, the second runner, with about 2 miles to go. She told me after the race that she was grateful that I came up at that point because she was entering no-man's land. We pushed each other for the next two miles. I had a bit extra at the end to drop the pace and finish fast.

I had only been paying attention to my mile splits the whole race, so I had no idea what my overall time would be. I was happy when I saw 1:23 on the clock as I rounded the corner for the finish. My official finish time was 1:23:35. As an added bonus, I was the first Master finisher and 5th woman overall.

1  6:30
2  6:33
3  6:26
4  6:25
5  6:23
6  6:23
7  6:22
8  6:24
9  6:20
10 6:18
11 6:18
12 6:16
13 6:08
last 0.1 41 seconds
Watch time: 1:23:29

I finished off my 20 miler and still felt peppy. I am now very excited about seeing how CIM goes. I proved to myself today that I can pace a smart race and I plan to do the same during CIM. Just a few more weeks to go.

As for my health issues: I have continued to get migraines though this weekend was a major breakthrough for me. I have been getting the migraines regularly on the weekends for the past few weeks, but I have not had one yet this weekend. The last one was Wednesday. I started taking some supplements recommended by my doctor and the many doctors that inhabit the internets. I am taking B complex, magnesium and 5-HTP in addition to my iron and Vitamin D. It's a shit load of pills each day.  I do feel more energized and the migraines are occurring a little less frequently. Fingers crossed.

I mentioned a couple of weeks back that I am working from home with my new job. I set up my workspace so that I have a sitting desk, but I also got a standing workstation, which is a fancy name for a desk with long legs from Ikea. The advantage of the standing station is that my hip flexors don't get shortened and my hamstrings don't get smashed near the attachment point like they would sitting in a chair. It's a bit tiring, but I have gotten used to it. My hope is that I'll continue to have fewer problems with my butt and hamstrings as a result of this new configuration. I've had no problems this entire training cycle (knock on wood).

My fancy standing workstation.
On tap for next week is my highest volume of training (hopefully) and one last 20 miler. It seems silly to me to taper when my mileage has been so low, but I have to remind myself that it's all relative. It won't be a dramatic taper, but it's still important to get to the starting line fresh.

Three more weeks!          

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Everything Changes

It might be simpler to list what hasn't changed since my last blog post, but in a nutshell:
I quit my job, started working from home doing another job, bought a new car, started getting frequent migraines, got a CT scan, stopped hormone supplements...

The new job was the biggest change given the fact that I had been with my previous employer, The Nature Conservancy, for over 12 years. I had a lot invested in the organization including amazing working relationships with some fantastic colleagues. Many will continue to be personal friends, but I still feel a sense of loss not seeing them on a daily basis. There was also a growing amount of negative stress associated with the job that was outside my control to change in the near term.

More than anything, when I looked at what I was doing on a day-to-day basis, I wasn't inspired. I am an ecologist. I became an ecologist later in life because I wanted to study nature. I love being in the field counting plants and dip-netting for shrimp. I am inspired by figuring out how nature works and applying that knowledge to conserving biodiversity. I felt like I was getting farther and farther away from that personal mission.

When I was presented with an opportunity to work with a small firm based in Berkeley with a group of like-minded biologists led by a guy that requires everyone to spend time in the field, I was very interested. This is a for-profit entity, so a very different operation than I am used to, but that is more exciting to me than it is scary. I am most excited about learning new things, and not just biological things. Learning is what makes me feel alive.      

While this change is positive for me, that doesn't mean it has not ben stressful. It has! Stress, whether caused by positive or negative forces, is still stress and affects the body all the same.  Maybe as a result of the stress, I started getting migraines every day a few weeks ago. This is very abnormal for me. I generally get one every six months or so. My doc ordered a CT scan just to make sure there wasn't anything really nasty growing in my head, and there wasn't.

In my last post I talked about my (hypothesized) low estrogen levels and how much better I was feeling being on supplements. My doctors became concerned about those supplements being responsible for my migraines since hormone fluctuations can trigger migraines in many women. I also learned that there's a growing body of medical science that shows women who get migraines with associated visual auras are at a greater risk of having a stroke when they are on hormonal supplements than women who don't get migraines or those who get migraines without the aura. This quote from this link made an impression on me: "the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the WHO have considered migraines with aura to be an absolute contraindication to the use of combined hormonal contraception". It's one thing for the ACOG to say this, but when a famous rock and roll band from the 70's like The WHO says you shouldn't take the pill, I knew it was time to listen. What I find scary is how few people seem to know this information. I have now talked to four women who are or were on BCPs that also get migraines with auras and they were unaware of their increased risk of stroke. Do doctors just not know this information? It's not exactly new. 

Even after stopping the pills, the migraines have not stopped, but they have become less frequent. I don't think the hormones caused the migraines--I think it was the stress. Nonetheless, migraines aren't fun. I actually got one in the first seven miles of a 20 mile run last Sunday. That was a first. I thought about stopping but really wanted to know what it would feel like to continue. It was pretty much as you would expect. I was pretty blind while the aura made its way around my field of vision and I felt wiped out about 30 minutes after it stopped. I did finish the run and at a decent pace.  

As you might imagine, running has had to play second fiddle to the other major events in my life. I am still planning to run the Cal International Marathon on December 2nd, but I've had to change my goals for the race. I have thrown out any goal time expectation in favor of running a comfortable first half and  ratcheting down in the second half if the day allows for that. I did this the last time I raced CIM and had the best marathon of my life. I negative split the course by three minutes and felt like a hero from mile 20 on. There's no better feeling in a marathon. A big key to that race was my mental state. I had run a shitty marathon five weeks before and had no expectations coming into the race. I knew I was in better shape than I had been able to run in the previous marathon, but there was no real pressure to perform. I have that same mindset headed into this race.

My training leading up to this marathon has been consistently inconsistent. Most weeks, I have only run 5-6 days. I've gotten in two 20 milers so far and my max weekly mileage was last week--67 miles. I hope to break 80 before starting to taper. This is lower mileage than I've run in the last five years of marathon training. Some may question why I'm even bothering to run the marathon. I see it as a great opportunity to test some of the foundational beliefs I have held about marathon training: namely, that I have to run high mileage and kill myself doing workouts to run a decent race.

If I was having all crummy workouts, I would probably be thinking about dressing up in costume and really treating CIM like a fun run. The interesting thing is that my fitness is really improving. My first 20 miler of this cycle was two weeks ago and included 10 x 1 mile @ marathon effort with 1 minute recovery on a hilly course. I averaged 6:25 for the marathon effort miles. My overall pace for the run was under 7:00.  I also had this crazy little 15 minute tempo run as a warm up for a set of shorter repeats where I found myself at 5:44 pace for the last 5 minutes. It's funny sometimes how fitness sneaks up on you. If nothing else, I'm setting myself up with a really great base for whatever I decide to tackle in 2013. Oh, and the fact that I haven't had a single niggle (knock on wood) in months is also a huge bonus.

My plan for the final few weeks leading up to CIM are to run a half marathon next weekend at marathon effort as part of a 22 mile run, get in one more 20 miler the following weekend and then bring the mileage down. I will do most of my workouts at marathon to slightly faster than marathon effort over the last few weeks to nail a rhythm down and then leave my fate to the running gods.

Happy daylight savings time everyone!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Smurf Patrol Kills

I went out one evening just over a week ago to do a 6 x 1 mile workout.  I threw in a few strides to warm up the legs and took off at what was supposed to be around lactate threshold to 1/2 marathon pace. I got to the first 1/2 mile marker and saw 3:19 for my split. "Okay, this isn't going to work tonight," I told myself. I loped home feeling defeated.

This type of workout experience has been the norm over these past few months, and I have been so frustrated. Most days I have felt ridiculously tired and not able to get excited about pushing my body even for an easy run.  I did have some weird virus and a crazy immune system inspired rash, but if I'm being honest, this has been going on for a lot longer than a few months.  In the 4-6 weeks before the Grandma's half, I had bad workouts almost exclusively. Go back even farther to my build up to the Olympic Trials, and I had not just bad workouts, but also freak injuries that didn't want to heal.

In thinking about my situation, I wondered if something systemic was wrong. I suspected low iron levels, because this mirrored that depleted feeling I had when I once let my ferritin levels get really low. I tested my iron levels twice in the last 4 months and both times they were higher than they've ever been.  I started wondering about hormones.  I am old, after all, and my estrogen levels are probably starting to drop.  I also had my body fat measured a year ago and found out it was pretty low, like estrogen depleting low. Is it possible that, when my body fat levels get super low, my estrogen levels get low enough to make me feel like a sloth?

There was one way to find out.  Well, one easy way.  I had a prescription for hormone enhancers (the name rhymes with the blog title) that had been sitting around the house since last winter. I had a long discussion with my doctor back then about taking them for their main purpose, killing smurfs, but for some other side benefits like maintaining my iron levels and eliminating the ovarian cysts that plague me. I decided not to take them back then because I was worried about weight gain right before the Trials. That was pretty silly. I consulted her again to get her blessing and started taking them a few weeks ago.

The morning after the workout I described above, I was determined to get back out and try again. I decided to change the workout to a fartlek running 1,4,3,2,1,4,3,2,1,4,3,2 minutes at 3k-10k pace with 1/2 the interval jog between (e.g. 30 seconds after 1 minute). I decided to just go with the flow and truly run by effort.  I didn't want to get discouraged in the first few intervals and give up.  My goal was to complete this one no matter what.

I started the first 1-minute interval and felt fine. I jogged for 30 seconds and launched into the 4 minute, 10k effort interval. I settled into a groove that felt like 10k effort, but I didn't want to look at my watch.  I knew it would read 6:30 pace or something slower. I just wanted to stay relaxed and smooth.  I finally got to a 1/2 mile marker and allowed myself to look at my Garmin.  The pace read 6:00! Holy crap! I felt awesome and this was 6 minute pace!  How could that be? I immediately felt a surge of excitement that lasted throughout the workout.

The rest of the workout was great. The 3k effort (1 minute) intervals were 5:40ish; the 5k effort intervals (2 minute) were low 5:50s; and the 3 and 4 minute intervals (10k effort) averaged 5:58.  I had just run 30 minutes of intervals at sub 6:00 pace.  I know, it's not screaming fast, but compared to how slowly I had been running, this was a small miracle.

The rest of the week went well, up until my long run on Sunday.  I had worked in the yard all day in the heat of the day clearing the jungle of vegetation that had started to obscure the house. I may have forgotten to drink any water the whole time I was out, ~3-4 hours.  Well, you can guess what happened as I tried to maintain a hard steady state pace in the middle of my long run later that night. Muscle cramp smack down in the middle of my hamstring. I hobbled home on it and have been babying it since.    

Despite that avoidable muscle cramp incident, I have felt peppy in all of my runs, my sleep has improved dramatically, my mood is brighter, and my energy level throughout the day has been incredible. I have a feeling that the smurf killers are working.

I just completed my best workout in months. I invented it today and call it the mini progression interval run. I had run this workout differently in the past as a continuous effort.  Every time I ran it, I ended up having to stop multiple times during the workout because I couldn't hold the paces I was running. So, I decided to just nip that problem in the bud by building rests into the workout.  I ran 16+ miles with 4 repeats of a 12 minute progression of 6 minutes at marathon effort, 5 minutes at half marathon effort and 1 minute at 5k effort. I jogged for 3-4 minutes in between each interval. All totaled I averaged 6:22 pace for just under 8 miles. Yay!
Here's an update on my training:

Week of 3 September
Total miles: 62
M: 7.5 easy with hill plyometrics
T: AM: 4 miles easy PM: 5.5 miles easy with 1/2 mile at 6:38 (workout fail!)
W: 11 miles with strides then 1,4,3,2,1,4,3,2,1,4,3,2 minute intervals at 3k-10k effort with 1/2 jog rest
Th:  6 miles easy
F: 8 miles easy
Sat: 10 miles moderate with hill plyometrics and 10 increasing effort strides
Sun: 10.3 miles with 3.7 miles at 95% GMP (6:38). Hamstring cramp!  

Week of 10 September
Total miles: 64
M: 6 easy
T: REST--travel day and no time to run:( Probably best to rest the hammie anyway.
W: 11 miles with 10 minutes at lactate threshold effort (no idea what pace) then hill repeats (on treadmill): 1,2,3,4,4,3,2,1  minute @ 5k effort with 1-3 minute jog rest.  Finish with 3 x 200m cutdowns (dodging people on Market Street sidewalks in San Francsico)
Th:  8 miles easy
F: 8.5 miles easy
Sat: 10 miles moderate with hill plyometrics and 10 increasing effort strides
Sun: AM: 16.25 miles with 4 x (6 min marathon, 5 min 1/2 marathon, 1 min 5k effort) with 3-4 minutes jog rest. Finish with 3 x 200m cutdown.  PM: 4 miles easy with 3 min @ 3k effort.      

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Race

I ran a cross country race last week: only the third cross country race of my life. The second one was on the same course last year. This was the first race for me in months, and I really just wanted to relax and enjoy it.  I did not put any pressure on myself and, in fact, had a pretty gnarly week leading up to it because I was completing my annual military tour.  I train with the military out at Travis Air Force Base, and, although what I do is not grueling work (mostly desk work), the days are really long: 11-12 hours including commuting time.   Both training and sleep suffered, and it definitely caught up with me.  I felt horrible all week long and especially horrible when I pushed my body in workouts.

Despite how my body felt, I was determined to do the cross country race.  For one thing, I wanted to score for my team, the Impalas. I also wanted to enjoy a race despite not being ready to race. I have been dealing with lots of performance pressure over the last couple of years and it finally got to the point where I wasn't having any fun running. As a result, my training had become really hit or miss.

To overcome this, I'm trying to put myself in high pressure situations and work through the anxiety, find a way to cope, and face the fear head on. It's not hard to pinpoint fear of failure as a huge issue.  I have an ego. I care about slow race times. But, I have a choice to either use these perceived failures to motivate me to train hard or let them defeat me.

Another problem lately has been that my reliably strong body has been uncharacteristically weak. I haven't been able to push myself and am disappointed most days when I go out to do a workout.

These thoughts run through my mind:
"How can this pace feel so hard?"
"I'm putting in the work but not getting any faster."
"Am I just washed up?"
"Do I enjoy running enough to keep at this?"

This last question is one that I assume not a lot of runners ask themselves. I imagine most of you started running and continue because you love it.  For me, I never loved running. I started running because it was a challenge and then because I was good at it.  It has been one of the best examples in my life where putting in hard work led to fairly quick, tangible and impressive results. I have found many other aspects of the sport to love, and believe I have cleared the hump in my love/hate relationship over towards the love side. In the back of my mind, I have always wondered what I would do, how I would feel, when the improvement curve took a nose dive.  Would I still want to train hard? This is the weighty space that my brain has occupied lately.

This cross country race marked a turning point for me. I made it to the starting line.  I kept my fears in check and truly enjoyed the race. I pushed myself hard and kept the negative self talk to a minimum. The experience wasn't all puppies and kittens, though. I struggled with the fact that I was more than a minute slower than last year, and last year I wasn't in particularly great shape. But, that's where I am right now.  I can only build from here.

The thing about having dreams is that they require belief beyond reason sometimes. That's a tough thing for me with my logical mind. I am a scientist after all. I love data, and my data is not indicating fast running any time soon. But, I am also a dreamer and I know that if I don't try, I will never get faster. My daily challenge will be to find the joy that comes from the trying rather than just from the achieving.    

Week at a glance:

Total Miles: 48
Monday: 7 easy
Tuesday: 8 moderate with strides
Wednesday: 10 moderate with 6 x 400m @ goal 5k pace (~88 sec)/1 min. jog rest;  finish with 3 x 200m cut downs; all in the midday heat.  Yuck!
Thursday: 7 miles with push ups, crunches and 1.5 mile fitness test (@ marathon pace; 9:37) followed by 45 minutes of strength training.
Friday: No running.  12 hour work day.
Saturday: 10 total with 5k cross country race in 19:28
Sunday: 6 miles easy

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What the Friday?

I set a new PR this month.  Not a running PR, but it was nearly as impressive. I set a PR for the number of welts (200+) my body could fit on my torso (with a small amount of spill over onto my legs).  This nasty weltfest lasted for nearly 4 weeks! The cause of this rash, called Pityriasis rosea (also a PR!), appears to be quite a medical mystery. The prevailing hypothesis calls it an immune system response to a viral infection of some sort since most people report having had some sort of horrible viral infection prior to its onset.

Immediately before the PR onset, I didn't have typical viral symptoms, but I did have a killer toothache. I mean, a jaw-throbbing, headache inducing, face numbing toothache. It lasted for about 10 days. I didn't suspect a virus because I actually do have a bad tooth that I need to pay a lot of money to have fixed. I did try to make an appointment with my dentist when the pain got pretty unbearable, but I never made it to the appointment because the toothache magically disappeared--just as my body started welting up.

My body looked hideous.  Just click on the link above and view some of the pictures. I was one of the lucky ones, however, in that my rash did not itch. Only 25% of those affected have no itching associated with the rash.

Since my body has been fighting its own internal battles over the past 6 weeks, it hasn't had a lot of interest in training hard. I have been training, but I haven't felt 100%.  I did my first 20 miler for my Twin Cities Marathon Prep a few weeks ago, but soon after that realized I needed to ditch that marathon plan and let my body tell me when it wanted to run hard again.

The PR went away a week or more ago, but I still don't feel perfect. I do feel like I'm getting there, though. Always eager to have a new goal, I started a 14-week marathon training program last week, targeting the California International Marathon as my goal race.  I hope this will be enough time to get over this health crisis and get in some good training.

CIM is a great race.  I've run it 5 times but not since 2008, where I had my best marathon experience ever though not my fastest time. In fact, the picture at the top of my blog was taken that day in 2008 at around mile 20, and, yes, I WAS that happy!

I've been thinking about what to do with this blog since I seem to be having a tough time motivating myself to keep it up.  I've decided to do weekly posts with updates on my training. To start things off, here's what I did last week!

Total miles: 63
M: 6 easy with hill plyometrics
T: 10 total with 2 miles of sprint training then 3 x 3,2,1 minute hill repeats @5k effort (equal jog rests) on treadmill (major mental focus required for this!)
W: 8 easy
Th: 8.5 w/10 increasing effort strides then 20 minutes at marathon effort (~6:30)
F: 6 easy with hill plyometrics
Sat: 8 easy
Sun: 16.5 including drills and plyometrics, then 30 minutes at 1/2 marathon effort (~6:25).  Tough day.                              

Friday, July 13, 2012

An Interview

Coach T after a hard workout
Here's a transcript from a recent interview with Jaymee conducted by Coach T.  Those of you who have been around for a while know who she is.  She came onto the scene last year to try to whip Jaymee into shape when Jaymee decided she wanted to turn to Dog as her coach.  Coach T ended up being a bit bossy and seemed more interested in training Jaymee to sprint after small animals than to run a marathon, so the coach-athlete relationship ended, albeit amicably.  We met up with Coach T and Jaymee on the Coast of California…

Coach T:  So, I noticed that you sort of went radio silent there after your last race.  Can you explain to us what happened?

J:  Sure.  I had a pretty tough training cycle leading up to that race.  The workouts I did in the last few weeks were pretty awful.  My legs had no giddy up in them at all.  I wasn't particularly confident going into the race, but I also learned from a very wise woman not to ever count myself out.  I felt as though I'd put in the hard work and something great may happen on race day.  I made some bonehead choices, like thinking it was a good idea to travel for work to Orlando, FL 5 days before the race, sleep less than 5 hours a night race week and then spend 12 hours traveling to Duluth two days before the race.  I was just flat on race day, and my little legs didn't want to go very fast.  I do not regret making the trip to run in the Half Marathon Championships as part of Grandma's Marathon.  The race was amazing and the support was really top notch.  I hope to travel back that way again for the full marathon at some point.  When I got home, I realized I was pretty burned out.  It is mentally tough to train really hard for a race and then have a subpar result.  I just wanted to give myself a break, which included a break from telling my running stories.

Coach T:  Fair enough.  So, did you come in last place?

J:  Harsh, Coach T.  No.  I did not come in last place this time.  I was at the back of the pack for sure, but not last.  (Proof here).

Coach T: So, what have you been doing since the race.  You said that you are taking a break?  Are you running at all?

J: I mentioned before the race in this post that I felt like I was putting too much pressure on myself and running was starting to become unfun.  I realized after the race that I actually had a fair amount of anxiety associated with my running, and I needed to figure out a way to get past that.  I was having trouble even getting motivated to just go out for an easy run.  I did what all good type As do and tried to power through those thoughts and feelings at first, thinking that if I just set a new goal and developed a training plan, I would muster the motivation to start anew.  That approach flopped as you could probably easily predict it would.  My first workout of this new training cycle was just as angst-ridden as any I had done in the last training cycle despite my newfound desire to keep my running all Zen-like and flowy.  It took me about a week to realize that I needed a mental break.  I talked with Coach L about this, and he said it was a very smart idea.  So, for the past two weeks, I've let myself just do whatever I wanted.  I ran when I wanted to run and I didn't run when I didn't want to run.  It has worked wonders.  Just giving myself that mental break has breathed some life back into me.

Coach T: Does that mean you have new goals?

J: I actually set a race goal before I decided to take this break.  I thought it would be fun to run the Masters Marathon Championship race at the Twin Cities Marathon in October.  I ran this race in 2009 and really enjoyed it.  It's a good course for me, and I loved the race hospitality.  I actually developed a training plan with Coach L right before my training implosion.  Despite the beauty of the plan, I just couldn't get excited about gearing up again for a big training push.  Over the last two weeks, I've started to feel much better about running and more motivated to train.  I've had 3 weeks of low mileage and am building back up.  I have taken the time to do a lot of thinking about my running and a bit of troubleshooting about why I felt so flat in the last training cycle.  I've started experimenting with some of the elements of my training that helped me become a strong marathoner in the first place.  This is stuff I once complained about doing, but I find myself oddly looking forward to:  stuff like plyometric hill drills and a suite of variations on strides.  I hypothesize that these activities will help me get the pop back in my legs, and I actually think it's working.  I think I'll try different types of workouts and do everything effort-based at this point so I don't pressure myself into trying to hold a certain pace.  I don't have to pull the trigger on Twin Cities until the end of August, so I have time to see how far I get in these next few weeks.

Coach T: I like your approach.  I personally think you should be doing more squirrel sprints and digging exercises, but those are the things I love.  If you like hopping on one leg up a hill over and over, then knock yourself out.

J:  I think we're on the same page, Coach T.  Do what you love; love what you do.

Coach T: Okay, that might be a little too touchy-feely for my tastes.  So, you're getting pretty old aren't you?  I understand you turn 45 soon?

J: That's right, Coach T.  I'll be in a new age group.  I'm excited about what I'll do with the rest of my 40s.  I never would have guessed that I would have accomplished what I did in my early 40s.  I have many great female masters runners to look to for inspiration--some of them are still setting PRs well into their 40s.  This past year, I feel like I've been on an accelerated learning track with running.  I had some crazy ass shit happen, but I met some of the most amazing people too and learned an awful lot about myself.  It was a year of growth for sure.

Coach T: It has been fun chatting with you here in beautiful Cali, but I have to go do some beach running and eat some crab shells with my boy, Püddle.  Hasta, chica.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Right on cue, my last post was looking like it had actually jinxed me for my upcoming race.  I wrote about the hamstring soreness I developed doing some new eccentric hamstring exercises added in to my strength routine.  That soreness came after the first day of strength training.  I did the second day of strength training a few days later.  These exercises isolated the hamstring even more.  My hamstring muscles actually cramped up during the exercises so I could not complete them with good form.  Lesson #1: muscle cramping is not a desired state during strength training and is likely a sign that bad things are happening to the muscle.

I was almost immobile the next few days from these exercises, and I was in my highest mileage training week.  I consulted my strength coach and he backed off of the hamstring work.  Rather than back off my running, I decided to continue to get my mileage in.  The hamstring cramping was pretty awful when I ran.  It concerned me--not because of the pain, but because my hamstrings were so tight and inflexible that my gait was really jacked up.  I knew it, and I actually predicted that it would lead to problems elsewhere in my body.  I was right.

The next week, the hamstrings loosened up a bit, but my calf muscles were overworked from running with jacked up gait.  My achilles and arches on both feet were screaming at me with every step.  This is exactly what I predicted I would feel.  Instead of backing off from my running, however, I had this weird response.  I justified continuing to run because I could explain why this happened.  Somehow, I rationalized I didn't need to worry about doing further damage because cause and effect were so clear.

Doesn't sound very smart does it?  Well, lucky for me, it all worked out fine.  My miracle body worker, Jen, was able to get the kinks out of those tendons and muscles so I was able to continue to get my mileage in.  I did miss one workout as a result of this, though.  Jen was the one who pointed out Lesson #2 to me: don't add in new stuff in the middle of high mileage training.  Your body has enough to deal with in recovering from the running alone.

These last couple of weeks were a stark contrast to the happy running weeks I wrote about last time.  I was running in pain again and in fear of developing another injury.  Plus, I was starting to feel the fatigue of high mileage with double runs almost every day, strength training and flexibility exercises 2x per week.  I still don't know how I fit it all in.  This took a toll on me both mentally and physically, culminating in a fantastic breakdown during an important workout this last weekend.

I had 14 miles with the middle 10 at a hard effort.  My hope was to run that middle 10 as close to goal half marathon pace as possible.  My achilles were barely sore and the hamstrings were feeling okay.  I had missed a hard workout midweek of that week (due to the achilles), so I only had fairly easy miles on my legs.  I was running 10 less miles that week as well (80 rather than 90), so I thought I was going to feel like a superstar.  I started out at a little slower than goal pace for the first 2 miles and it started to become a struggle to hold.  I slowed a little and just tried to maintain the effort.  I was continuing to slow and it seemed like my legs were stuck in molasses.  My breathing was not labored at all, but my legs--damn my legs!  I stopped at the 5 mile point to get a drink of water and had a minor meltdown.  The pity party was not pretty as I cried, bemoaning all the time I had put in to my training to only be able to run 20-25 seconds slower than goal pace.  What was wrong with me?  I should feel so good!  Why do I suck so much?!

Lucky for me, a friend saw me on the side of the trail and stopped to talk.  It forced me to take down the banners for my fun little party and get my slow butt moving again to finish the workout.  Normally, I would have been proud of myself for finishing, but I just didn't have any pride left at the end of this one.  I was a beast for the rest of the weekend.

I tried to dissect all the things that could have caused this shit workout, but in the end, I just had a bunch of possible reasons and nothing I could really do anything about.  So, some wise words from my coach and my friend T-meat helped me to see I needed to have faith in the hard work I had already put in.  I hadn't lost fitness over the 4 weeks since I last did this workout.  I was just having a bad day.

Last night, I had my last hard workout of this cycle and was super anxious about whether I would have a repeat poor performance.  The workout was 6 x 800m with a 400m jog rest.  I decided during my warm up that I would do the workout no matter what and that I would do it by effort.  If that effort equated to 6:00 pace, then that's all I could do.  The workout was awesome.  I felt so light and fast AND RELIEVED!

I did not look at my watch at all for the first repeat until I crossed the line: 2:43!  I was stunned because that was much faster than I expected.  I jogged for a quarter mile, starting to feel pretty pumped about the next 5 repeats.  I started my watch and ran to the next marker: 2:40!  Holy cow!  I have never run an 800 that fast!  The third repeat, I was still pushing 5:20 pace and my legs started to sieze as I approached the finish: 2:43.  I had to back off the last 3 in order to complete the workout, but I paced them like clockwork: 2:45, 2:45, 2:45.  This was easily the fastest set of 800s I have done.  I was so happy, you can't even imagine.

With renewed confidence in my fitness, I was able to do a little soul searching today.  I realized that I put a ton of pressure on myself to achieve my ambitious, sometimes unreasonable, expectations and that is not the healthiest thing.  I honestly think that this internal pressure is what has made me successful in running (and probably in many aspects of my life in general), but it comes at a cost.  That cost is increased stress and will lead to burn out if I don't temper it.  So, that's my challenge for my next chapter in training: to figure out how to diffuse that pressure and keep my running life light and positive.

I have a little over one week to go until Grandma's!  I've put in the hard work and am excited to see what the day gives me.  More than anything, it feels great to have been able to put in the hard work this training cycle and to feel confident in that.  Go hard or go home!    

Sunday, May 20, 2012


And just like that, I've hit my peak mileage for this training cycle.  It seems a little hard to believe that I ran 100 miles this week.  I feel pretty great, too.  No aches or pains: only some ridiculously sore hamstrings from my new strength program (thanks, Tim, for adding the Russian dead lifts and good mornings-ouch!).  From here, my running volume tapers for the half marathon on June 16th.  Looking back at my running logs, I realized that these last 3 weeks are on par with the highest mileage I've ever run--and that was for marathon training.  With another 90 mile week next week, I'll break my mileage record.      

After a few weeks of plateauing, I finally had some breakthrough workouts these last two weeks.  I ran my fastest set of 400s ever a couple of weeks ago, almost broke 24:00 for my 4 mile tempo (something I've never done before in a workout), and I've done two, 14 milers with the middle 10 miles "hard".  Hard has equated to right around 6:20 pace.  I've done almost all of these workouts in the heat.  I'm not doing that intentionally, but that's just how the schedule has worked out.  While it sucks to run hard in the heat, I'm betting on hot weather for Grandma's this year (though my race starts at 6:25 a.m.!).  At least I'll be acclimated. 

I've also had some not-so-great workouts.  Earlier this week, I set out to do mile repeats one evening when I had been feeling like poo for several days due to wicked allergies and a bad case of ovarian cysts.  I started the first repeat and knew by the 1/2 mile marker I was not going to finish the workout.  I stopped and collected myself a bit and tried another mile.  It felt awful, so I decided I would just get the miles in and call it a day.  If you're a long-time follower, you know that I typically get in every workout in a training cycle.  Some are better than others, but I rarely have to skip one.  So, this was a major bummer for me.  Coach L said to just let it go and "don't stress about it!"  This week was about getting in the volume, but I was also able to get in one of those hard 14 milers last night.

After I had run that fast 400m workout, Coach L gave me some sage advice.  He told me to remember the feeling I had during and after that workout.  It's easy to find something positive in a workout like that, but he said to try to have that feeling after every workout.  Find something positive about each workout and DWELL ON IT.  That is an amazing piece of advice, particularly for someone like me who would be predisposed to dwell on what went wrong in a workout.        

I've also pulled out my Mind Training for Runners MP3 and started listening to it.  The download has a guided imagery track and a track that you play at night with subliminal messages embedded to make you fearless.  Well, I always wake up wearing socks on my hands and ski goggles after listening to it, so maybe it's channeling some other message.  Anyway, using these two tracks really helped me in Chicago, and I know they will help me at Grandma's too.

I get asked a lot by my colleagues whether I am running right now.  Most of them tracked my long injury saga last winter and find it hard to believe that I'm training as hard as I am without any pain.  I think I've struck a good balance between strength work, dynamic flexibility and massage this training cycle.  My strength program is designed to work with my running training and is tapering right along with my running.  My body has definitely changed shape over the last 2-3 months.  My legs look like tree trunks to me, though I know they really aren't.  I have my football player shoulders back.  Pretty swoll in general, but I'm okay with that.

Jen Walker at CMT Sports Therapy has been a major player in keeping me running healthy.  I see her once every two weeks.  She not only gives me a good tune up, but also gives me a status report on the state of my muscles.  A couple of weeks ago, my right hamstring was starting to feel "ropey" though I wasn't feeling any real pain from it.  That cleared up with some work by her and extra rolling on my part.  During this last week's visit, she gave me a thumbs up. She said that while my muscles were tight, they were healthy, and I had good bilateral mobility.

I have also continued to do the hip mobility exercises that John Ball gave me back in January.  I do these 2-3 times per week, and they are key!  They only take 10 minutes to do, and I always feel a million times more mobile after doing them.

I feel as though I should knock on wood right now because I've had a history of jinxing myself with posts like this.  I know I'm doing everything I can to stay healthy and strong.  A little voice in the back of my mind (John Ball) is always there whispering that you can do everything right and still get injured.  I choose not to listen to that voice.

Friday, April 27, 2012

When negative is positive

Well, hello there.  It's been quite a long time since I've posted.  Sorry for being out of touch.  Rest assured, everything in my running world has been bouncing along nicely.  In fact, it's been relatively boring, but I am very grateful for that.  I mentioned how chaotic my work life has been a few posts ago and that hasn't changed much.  However, Heather gave me some sage advice that has really worked.  She told me to look to the things in my life that are positive as a way to drown out the negative din.

Running has been a great way for me to focus my energy on something constructive that is under my control. Being able to run without concern for injury has made it even more perfect.  I have bumped my way up to 85 miles per week by slowly adding miles each week for the last 11 weeks. I will continue to scoot up, 5 miles/week, to see how I handle it.  Once I hit 100, I think I'll level off for a couple of weeks, but that's only 3 weeks away!

I came down in mileage last week for a race.  What what?  Yep, I ran a race: my first 5k in seven months.  It was a great opportunity to test out some of Coach L's mental exercises and focus on a fast finish.  Every workout I do is meant to be run as a negative split to program my body/brain to get faster throughout the race.  I didn't have a time goal, but I did want to finish hard the last mile.  I have never negative split a 5k before and was determined to do so.  One way to do that is to sand bag the first half, but that doesn't really count.  I wasn't sure how to split the race since I knew the course had some good hills.

I ran 18:25 (by my watch) and my splits were 5:58, 6:06 (hilly mile), 5:45, :36.  I was so pleased with that third mile and how focused I was able to remain through quite a bit of pain.  The pain was coming from my hip flexor muscles.  This was a "good pain" in that I knew it was muscle fatigue and not injury.  Holy guacamole were they screaming!

Look at those screaming muscles!
Confession time. Post race, I confessed to my coaches that I hadn't followed their pre-race instructions (do no strength work after Thursday) because my schedule didn't allow.  On Friday, I had to make a choice: do I forgo strength training for the entire week (I hadn't done any earlier in the week) or do I get it done and live with the consequences in the race?  I decided that the strength work was more important to me.  However, I did learn a valuable lesson in how much 24 reps of 100-lb squats + lunges + core work + Bulgarian squats + what not, can dull your legs for a fast race or workout.  Strength Coach Tim asked me if I'm the type of person who always has to learn the hard way.  I told him I am not.  I knew the likely outcome of my choice, but I chose being strong over being fast.      

To that point--I am convinced that the main reason my body is handling higher mileage so well this time around is due to this strength program.  I have been building in that program too, adding weight and decreasing reps to really build muscle.  I just went over the 100 lb mark for my squat (front and back) repetitions and look forward to the day I am doing my reps using my own body weight.  I like the mental image of me doing squat reps with myself on my shoulders.

Like most distance runners, I have been concerned that my body weight would also increase as a result of packing on more muscles.  I am proof positive that this doesn't have to happen.  I'm now at the same low weight as last October when I was running good mileage but doing zero strength training.  My arms were puny back then though my legs were still muscular.  My body fat is a little higher now than it was back then, so I actually have room to lose a bit more.

Riffing on the subject of body fat. I was really concerned about having levels that were too low after getting hydrostatic tested last fall.  Yes, I know that there is error associated with this measure, but I was still damn low adding on the highest standard error estimate associated with this method. That actually bothered me for months because everything I read said that my levels were so low that my body shouldn't be functioning.  In fact, I worried that the injuries I was experiencing in November/December were due to low body fat.  I was trying to figure out a way to gain body fat while continuing to exercise: not because I was experiencing any symptoms of low BF, but because I fell outside the *normal* range for ladies.  Simply eating more doesn't work since exercise converts the excess calories to muscle rather than fat.  The only way to store more body fat is to eat more AND stop exercising.  I proved that when I was injured: my body fat popped right back up.

I did a lot of asking around about this issue and what finally convinced me to abandon my quest for higher body fat was a convo with Dr. Ball.  I told him about my dilemma and he said, "you didn't get injured because you had low body fat.  You got injured because you were doing stupid shit with your training.  You don't need more body fat."  He was right.  My body fat levels are low but fine.  I'm a muscular girl and will always weigh more than most distance runners. I'll probably have lower body fat than most of them too.  That's how I'm built: like a Swiss tank.

I am a runner/singer.  Music is another hobby that has helped me cope with the rocks at work lately, but it has always been a calming activity for me.  My Mom used to tell people that she knew I was dealing with problems as a child when I would lock myself in my room and saw away at my cello for hours. I would emerge a different child.  I feel lucky to be able to rely on music for this.

Setting the goal and qualifying for the Olympic Trials in my late thirties has made me think:  well, WTF?  What other crazy things should I try to do?  Two weeks ago, I submitted an audition video to The Voice!  Chances are it won't even be watched, but the process of choosing songs, practicing, recording and telling my story, was super fun.  Plus, I have this video to show for my hard work (YouTube link here if you can't play the embedded version)!  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A big race

I'm pretty excited about a decision I've made this week.  I had planned to run a 10k on Memorial Day until I got a message from USATF about the Half Marathon Championship race in Duluth, MN in June.  I've always wanted to run the Grandma's Marathon because I've heard so many great things about it.  Running the second half of it will do just fine.

This race is especially exciting because I feel like it's far enough out that I actually have a shot at getting in good shape for it.  My fitness is by no means great at this point, but my workouts are solid, and I'm definitely handling higher mileage well.

I went to see a new massage therapist last night and loved her.  Jennifer Walker at CMT Sports Therapy is a real pro.  The point of the treatment was for maintenance since I don't have anything that hurts right now.  She explained what she was feeling as she worked over my legs.  At the end of the session, she told me that she really enjoyed working on me because she was able to get all the way through my lower half without needing to spend a ton of time on any one major kink.  She said that I'm in very good shape, my muscles are healthy and fairly balanced.  My psoas got extra special kudos for being more mobile than most runners she works on.  Yay, psoas!  Getting regular massage from Jen will be a key feature of my routine moving forward.  Since I'm building mileage and intensity right now, I'm going to start with a 3-week massage cycle and see how that goes.

I got a new piece of electro gear this week: the Garmin 910XT.  It's a slick unit and definitely an improvement over the 310XT.  It's smaller, a better color (all black) and has new and improved features.  My favorite is a double tap on the watch screen to turn on the light.  It also uploads so much faster than my old GPS.  If anyone is looking for a 310XT, I have one for sale!

Finally, one of my blogging buddies, Girl in Motion, is going through some scary health issues right now.  I'm requesting that you send her some positive vibes and keep her in your thoughts as she works her way through the medical maze to good health.    

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dealing with stress

All stressed out and nowhere to go

Stress sucks.  I'm talking about the kind of stress that leaves you mentally and physically exhausted at the end of the day and then keeps you awake at night.  Many things, like my running, are going so well right now, but work is very stressful.  This isn't the "optimal" kind of stress resulting from tight deadlines working on fun stuff.  This is the negative kind that comes from people being unpredictable and passive-aggressive. There are some really good aspects of my work that I wish I could spend more time focusing on to balance everything out.  I guess I am having trouble seeing that balance point on the horizon.

In looking back at last fall, I realize that these work issues were present even then.  I now wonder how much of a role this stress played in the illnesses and injuries I succumbed to before the Trials race.  I imagine quite a bit.  I don't ever want to end up there again, so I need to find better ways of handling stress.  I would love to hear your ideas on how you deal.

One of the brightest spots in my life and something I now look forward to each day is my running.  It wasn't very long ago when that wasn't the case!  I am making a concerted effort to maintain all of my strength, flexibility and recovery work to ensure that I continue to run without pain.  That is a challenge as my mileage continues to increase (65 this week!), putting more demands on an already cramped schedule.

I just completed my 4th week of training and am repeating workouts I did in the first and second weeks.  I really like this concept of cycling through workouts a couple of times at the beginning of training.  It's giving me a sense of how quickly I'm gaining fitness.  For example, the first workout I did was a 4 mile fartlek of one minute on and one minute off repeated throughout.  I ran this with my friend and my coach.  We probably ran the whole 4 mile workout in around 25:50 or so, but our coach had us run the last 4 minutes "on".

The Püddle (aka Logan) is doing what I wanted to do Tuesday night.
Fast forward three weeks to this Tuesday night when I had the 1-on-1-off fartlek workout on my schedule again.  I worked a full day, went to two hours of band practice and got home at around 8:30, still needing to get in my workout.  I really, really, really, wanted to just eat dinner and go to bed.  The Genius had waited to do his 10-mile run with me so I didn't have to run in the dark alone.  There was no way I could disappoint him!

Running in the dark on the bike trail is actually really fun, but boy was I tired.  My goal was to try to run the workout in under 25 minutes and, of course, progress my pace each mile during the workout.  I ended up running the workout in 24:55 and progressed my mile paces throughout.  I was very happy with my progress, especially considering that I did this workout as written as opposed to running the last 4 minutes all "on" like the first time.  I wonder how many more weeks it will take to duck under 24 minutes.

Stump the chumps

Here's something that I am perplexed by and would like someone to help me understand.  Some weeks, I do both a 4-mile fartlek like the one I did earlier this week and then a 4-mile tempo later in the week.  Four weeks ago, after that first fartlek workout, I was lamenting my slow pace and wondering what in the world my tempo pace would be.  The Genius said that I should be able to do my tempo faster than my fartlek.  That has not proven to be the case!  I run just about the same overall time and pace whether I'm doing it at a steady pace or speeding up and slowing down continuously throughout the workout.  Weird, right?

Even The Genius is stumped, and that's hard to do.  His reasoning was sound--if you could run faster or just as fast doing the speed up-slow down thing, why don't people run races that way?  My best guess is that it's a psychological phenomenon.  When I'm doing the fartlek, I know I'm going to get a "break" after a certain amount of time.  Even though my pace is around 6:30-6:45 for that break, it's a relief and allows for a little recovery.  The workout is sort of broken up into little chunks (that's for you t-meat).  My hypothesis is that it has to do with looking forward to the breaks or knowing that I only need to suffer a little longer before I can recover.  Contrast that with a tempo workout (my least favorite workout in the world) where the whole thing's just one long suffer-fest.  A tempo requires a different type of mental toughness, and one that needs a lot of work for me.  I'm interested in alternative hypotheses on this and your experiences with the two contrasting workouts.        

Strong like bull

As my workouts and mileage progress, so does my strength training.  I completed my 6th week of training today and am starting to get much stronger.  I was able to clean and press a bag of dog food today--something I couldn't do a couple of months ago.  Actually, that was only 40 pounds.  I was able to clean and press 60 lbs to get the barbell on my shoulders for back squats today.  This program is great in that Coach Tim started me out with no weights and sort of a traditional higher rep no/low weight routine.  He called this the honeymoon period.  He was just trying to get my body used to the exercises and prime me for heavier lifting.

The 6-week program I'm in right now progresses in weight on many of the exercises as I'm able to take on more, but the reps decrease.  By the end of week 6, I'll only do 3 x 8 squats, but they will be with heavy weights.  Not all of the exercises have that pattern, but this is definitely different than anything I've done before.  The really amazing thing is that I have not once felt that "oh my God I can't walk" soreness that I always used to feel with my strength training. I have a suspicion that it's because before I just jumped into the strength training without the "honeymoon period".  In fact, that was why I stopped strength training--I always felt sore for a couple of days after doing it and that interfered with my running.  Now, my legs definitely feel heavier the next day, but I'm able to shake that out pretty quickly.

I really like working with Tim.  He understands how runners train.  He is adapting my plan to my running schedule so that my strength training has me peaking at the same time my running is for my races.  Speaking of races: I probably have a few on the horizon.  Now that I feel like I'm starting to get my mojo back, I'll probably jump in something sooner rather than later just to start working on my mental game.  I am planning to run the Marin Memorial Day 10k in May as a goal race.  Let's see if I can take down that "soft" 10k PR this year!    

You can do it, little Golf!
While I continue to rack up my running miles, my trusty little VW Golf is doing the same.  I will go over 200,000 miles this weekend in my cute little diesel car.  I'm hoping to get at least another 100k out of him and hopefully out of me too!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Running stuff I love

Before I tell you about the running-related things I love right now, I thought I'd give a quick training update.  I started doing workouts this week and couldn't be more thrilled.  I've done two workouts with the instruction to run them as a progression and at light to medium effort.  They both went so much better than I thought they would.

I did a 4-mile fartlek workout of 1 minute on/1 minute off on Monday with my teammate, t-meat and my coach.  This was awesome because I was pushed by them and definitely completed the workout faster than I thought I would.  It was also a tricky workout.  Yes, I know it seems pretty straightforward.  The trick is that you run each mile faster than the one before.  If you think about that, not each mile has the same number of on and off minutes in it, so you have to be really careful to start out slow enough and then speed up both the "on" and "off" repeats.  We averaged 6:25 pace for the whole thing (including the off minutes), and negative split the workout.  It felt great to get the legs moving faster than the easy pace I've been running for the last four weeks.

Thursday, I did a traditional tempo run--something I haven't done in ages.  My goal was to start out very comfortable and cut down each mile, ensuring I had to keep my mind in the game to maintain pace the last mile.  I had the good fortune of having a partner for this one too (thanks, Bat)!  I started at a comfortable 6:36 pace and cut 5-8 seconds per mile off each mile, finishing at 6:22 pace.  My coach told me he doesn't want me worrying about paces right now.  The goal is to execute the workouts correctly, regardless of pace, to program my body and brain to always start out slowly and increase my speed.

Not only does this program require progressing within the workout, but each workout gets faster during the training block.  For example, I will start my next tempo run (in 2 weeks) at the average pace of the one I just did, so around 6:30 pace and cut down each mile from there.  The next will start at the average of that one and so on.  You can see how easy it would be to get sideways with this program if you start out too fast.  There's a lot of self control needed to get through the program in one piece.  I will also continue to up my mileage each week until I reach 80-85 miles per week at which point we'll assess whether I go higher or stay there and add cross training as a second workout some days.  I'll run a little over 50 miles this week.  

I feel like I have recently hit upon some real winners in the way of running-related stuff and wanted to share.  Here are some of my new favorite things:

Balega compression socks--the best of both worlds

The great thing about compression attire becoming popular is that the selection has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years.  I have worn compression sleeves and socks for close to three years now and have tried just about every brand.  I was hooked on CEP socks for a while because of the high level of support they offer, but I have always hated the foot of the sock.  I often found my foot sliding inside my shoe while wearing CEP socks and would end up with crazy blisters, especially when wearing my racing flats.  Compression sleeves are an alternative that allow me to wear whatever sock I like, but the compression is just not the same with those.

So, imagine how excited I was to see that my favorite sock brand, Balega, started making a compression sock AND that runningwarehouse.com was selling them for half the price of CEPs!  I immediately ordered a pair and was very pleased.  They do not have the tight compression of the CEPs that requires 10 minutes to roll them up your lower leg, but what appears to be less compression certainly does the job.  I love wearing these socks for recovery with boots at work too.


Right before the Olympic Trials, I started to use Nuun.  I honestly can't recall why I bought a container of these tablets--probably product placement near the checkout counter (gets me every time), but I am so happy I did.  I was plopping these tabs into my water on a daily basis before the race and felt much better for pumping those electrolytes into my body.  I like the fact that I can use my own water bottle with these too,  eliminating my consumption of sports drinks in plastic bottles.  They also have no sugar or corn syrup or nasty artificial flavors or colors in them.  This helps keep my water bottles and my body clean.

I liked the product so much that I decided to try a 1/2 tablet with water in each of my special fluid bottles at the Olympic Trials.  It's typically not a good idea to try something new on race day, but I felt like I wasn't taking a big chance with this.  I loved the combination of Roctane Gu and Nuun tabs for fueling.  I normally will only take water in a marathon because of concerns that sports drink would impede my digestion of Gu during the race.  The addition of Nuun didn't have that effect.  It was the perfect complement to the Gu I was taking every 5-7 miles.  


With the large volume of running I typically do, I have relied a lot on finding good tools for self massage (keep it clean, here). My favorites are my $2 lacrosse ball, and the Grid.  I recently dusted off my Stick  when I was having soreness in my calf muscles and was reminded how great a tool that is.  I decided to see what new devices were out there on the market that I could try out.  I ordered the MuscleTrac because it was similar to The Stick and the description on their website sounded convincing.  It was a $45 investment that I felt I could afford to make.  What I like about the product is that I can really dig into areas in my muscles with adhesions.  The little knobs are more effective at getting at the adhesions, I think, than the flat rollers on The Stick and it is a nice alternative to a Lacrosse ball for my calf muscles and quads.  I like having the whole suite of tools, actually, because they each give a different result.

LuluLemon MacGyver Jacket

I need to admit that I have an addiction.  My addiction is to LuluLemon running gear.  Yes, their gear is cute, feminine and fits really well, but the main reason I love their stuff is because it does not stink!  This is a small miracle for someone like me who spends a lot of time in workout gear and has oft been embarrassed by the perma-stink that emanates from my old moisture-wicking shorts and bras within milliseconds of beginning a workout.  I have a very sensitive nose and absolutely cannot stand the smell of dozens of workouts on my clothes.  I tried everything to get the stink out of my old clothes, and I mean everything!  Feel free to suggest things I haven't tried, but I believe I have exhausted my possibilities.

I was super skeptical about Lulu's claim on the anti-stink properties of most of their fabrics, but I am now a believer.  I have put these clothes through the test too!  I have worn some of their silverscent shirts 2-3 times trying to get my BO stink to embed in them with no luck.  The shorts I have found to be easier to stink up, but the stink also seems to wash out of them with a regular wash using regular detergent and doesn't continue to build.

Another thing I love about the products is that they are very creative with their designs.  I love to explore the new garments I get to find the hidden pockets and special writing on the inner lining.  I love one of my tops right now that has words on the inside of the built-in hand mitts that state "cold hands" on the left inner glove and "warm heart" on the right.  There's something special about these little features that make me smile when I put on the garment.

The jacket I am enjoying the most right now is what I call my MacGyver jacket.  It is a warm, down jacket that I run in when temperatures are below 40.   I thought at first that running in this thing would leave me boiling by the end of the workout, but it has these amazing long zippered vents on both sides in the front that effectively cool you down and the under sleeves are a light, stretchy fabric that allows your pits to let off steam.  By far the best feature is the reversible nature of the jacket.  It becomes a reflective beacon when you turn it inside-out.  Perfect for cold, dark, early mornings.  It's also very fashionable, and I wear it around with regular clothes too.  And it doesn't stink!

One of the challenges with LuluLemon is that their popular products fly off the shelves and they don't seem to replenish their stock.  So, you have to be willing to bite the bullet and pay what seems to be a hefty price for something that you really like before it is gone forever.  Well, you can always find stuff on eBay, but the price is typically jacked way up!  Many people complain about how expensive their clothes are, but they are not much more than other brands.  I will always pay more for a superior product, anyway, especially one that keeps me from stinking like a dog's overly expressive anal gland.      

believeiam Relaxed Hoody

I adore my believeiam hoody-dress.  It is my go-to post-workout and lounging-around-the-house clothing option that I can slip on over tights or wear as a dress.  I love the idea behind the cryptic floral designs printed on the believeiam products.  If you look closely, you see that the flower is actually a bunch of letters forming an inspirational word.  The idea is to wear the clothing as a costume so that when you put it on, it's doing more than just covering your body parts--it makes you feel relaxed or strong or whatever the flower design says.  I actually own two of these hoodies now.  I found out the hard way that you shouldn't clean the house with bleach in garments you care about.  I now have a white spotted house cleaning hoody and a hoody that I can wear out in public.  Unfortunately, the bleach spots did not form an inspirational word on my hoody, but they did inspire me to belt out a few choice words of my own!            

Here's to cool gear and running happy!