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 PĆ¼ddle (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 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!