Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ending 2013 on a high note

I honestly can't believe that we are at the end of 2013 and that I haven't updated my blog in almost a month! Sorry!

So much has happened these last several weeks, so I will attempt to quickly hit the highlights.

My 5 a.m. running crew.
They are up to running12 milers!
1. I am training Pain free. This is a HUGE deal. I have not had pain from my injury for at least three weeks and am now able to train like normal. I might go so far as to say that I am taking running for granted again. It is so nice. I know many of you can relate to the mental torture that an injury wreaks. This one was insidious. The pain didn't come on until after about 4 miles, so I wasn't really able to do out and back runs longer than 2 miles. I was stuck running loops so I could abandon ship if I felt pain. This also meant I couldn't meet anyone to run since I couldn't really guarantee I would make it all the way. This sucked because I love my running buddies and there's no better way to socialize with running buddies than running together. I am so glad I am able to train with them again. I am also back to running with my 4-legged buddies. We have worked very hard on not pulling.

2. I am getting fit. After spending 12 weeks on the injured reserve list, I was not sure how much fitness I had lost. I didn't completely stop running during that period, but not being able to run longer than 4-6 miles at a time takes a toll. These past four weeks, I have been able to execute my plan as written and it has not been easy! Whereas at the beginning of the month, I couldn't run over 8 miles, this month I've run four, 12+ mile runs! So, exciting. Two of those runs had 10 miles of marathon pace (MP) in the middle. I was nervous about these workouts given how little longer running I had done in the preceding 3 months. I was shocked when I ran the first 10-mile MP workout in 1:04:30. It felt awesome and my heart rate was well within the marathon zone (for me, anyway). Last weekend, I ran 13 miles with 10 miles at MP and was thrilled to run that in 1:03:10 for the 10 miles with the same average heart rate as the workout two weeks before. My interval workouts are becoming speedier as well each week. Clearly, I didn't lose much fitness during the time I was injured. I wonder about this since my mileage was so low, AND I decided not to cross train. This was a big change for me. I typically work my butt off cross training when injured, but I ran across a video of Coach Jack Daniels discussing cross training during injury, and it resonated with me. Of course being able to do some running and being able to do speed work were huge factors keeping me from going crazy. So, not cross training was palatable. Oh, and my Garmin 620 is a dream. Last time I mentioned that it was not quite reporting accurate VO2Max results, but that changed this month. As of today, my VO2Max is now at 59! That's actually pretty darn close to where I think it should be given my workouts and heart rates, though it might be a bit on the high side.  

3. Next Marathon? Right now, I am running ~50 miles per week with a long run of 12-13 miles. I am signed up for the Napa Valley Marathon on March 2nd. The math reveals that I have about eight weeks to go before that race. It's hard for me to picture a world where I can be ready to run sub-2:43 in eight weeks given where I am now. I actually feel really confident about my fitness, especially after running 10 miles at very close to goal marathon pace last week. However, I am not used to having so little weekly mileage and long run mileage under my belt at this point in a training cycle. On one hand, I feel like I should take advantage of the fitness leaps I'm making and just see how far I can get in the next month or so. I will absolutely not push my training to a point that will injure me, but maybe I don't need all the mileage and long runs. Could I run a marathon PR off of a max of 70 mpw and few if any 20 milers? My friend Jen reminded me that I have years of endurance under my belt and maybe I don't really need to work on that aspect of my training for this next race. It is a leap of faith. I have toyed with the idea of pushing my next marathon race to the Modesto Marathon, 3 weeks later, or even Boston in April. With Boston, I am waiting to hear whether I can gain entry into the elite women's field. The cut off is 2:48 for masters runners and I ran 2:48:50 in Eugene. They will give the remaining elite entries to those not meeting the standard, but I have been told they won't reveal this list until late January at the earliest and early March at the latest. Maybe a little too late for planning purposes.

4. Coaching. I recently jumped in the USATF Level 1 Coaches' training because it was being taught locally, and I wanted to be credentialed, officially. It was a serious time commitment, but I decided it was well worth it since I really enjoy coaching. I actually learned a ton from this course even though it was very focused on youth and track and field events. My coaching side business is soaring right now and I am having so much fun with the athletes that I help. I am learning so much from them and am grateful to have the time to be able to work with them. I have pretty much reached my limit in terms of number of athletes I can handle at this point. I might be slightly over, but that just means I sleep a little less.

The Coaches' training also gave me a goal for 2014. There was much talk about the pistol squat being this magical exercise that every athlete should be able to do. When I asked the trainers to demonstrate, not really knowing what it was, they looked at me sheepishly and pointed at someone else to demo the move. Once I saw what it entailed, I realized why they couldn't demonstrate it. It's hard! There are so many aspects of strength and flexibility needed to do this move. So, I decided it would become my strength-training focus for 2014. I am doing progressive training to get there, but it is going to happen! The Genius thinks I'll have it in a few months but my big limiting factor is my ankle flexibility. I will work on that and be pistol squatting to impress the masses soon enough. Here's a video of some knucklehead doing pistol squats, but it's really the most impressive example I could find.

Happy New Year Everyone!                    

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A race and a toy

Jaymee and Cindy #2-3 old girls at the Run to Feed the Hungry.
I am happy to report that I finally ran a good 5k: the best I've run in over 2 years. I ran the Sacramento Run to Feed the Hungry on Thanksgiving Day in 18:13 and placed 4th overall; second master. I love running this race and have done so nearly every year that I have been running. In fact, the throw-away shirt I wore to the starting line was from the 2005 event.

I had a lot to be excited about before the race. My Garmin Forerunner 620, which I ordered through REI in late September, finally arrived earlier in the week. I couldn't wait to test out all of the new data collecting features. It gave me such a warm fuzzy feeling inside while I was racing to know that my little watch was gathering all of this data that I could go home and geek out over later in the evening.

Let's back up a bit to review my last couple of weeks of training. I have been on a very conservative program to allow my leg to get its groove back. While I have been able to run short, fast workouts, I can't get past about 8 miles of running without feeling pain. My body is still using the same old, tired pattern that it's been using the last couple of months that causes my right glute to become very fatigued by around mile 5 and all hell breaks loose down the rest of the leg. If I run fast for 2-3 miles in the middle of that, I can get 8 miles out of the day.

This is obviously frustrating. While we may have pinpointed the hound-induced cause of the problem, so far we haven't fixed it. After laying off strength work and some of the exercises that John Ball had given me to do to allow some muscle activation exercises to work their magic, I am jumping back on the strength train. I noticed a marked regression the second week after stopping the strength exercises even adding in several complete rest days.

As a result of this prolonged injury, I have only been able to average about 30 miles per week for these past 9 weeks. A friend of mine said that she was glad I was being smart about the injury, but it's really not about me being smart. I would love to be able to be a dumb runner and continue to run through the pain. I literally can't run more than I have been. The pain stops me.

Given the state of my training, I was uncertain about what to expect in Thursday's race. I have had some great speed workouts, though they have been limited to 2 miles or less total volume of fast running. I have done a couple of tempo runs over the past month as well. I thought I might be able to hold 6:00 miles on a good day.

The hardest part about this race was getting to the starting line. Aside from the fact that I was nervous about having my leg give out during the race, I also hadn't run a decent 5k in a long, long time. The few short races I ran over the summer and into the fall were disastrous. I also don't like the special pain of racing the 5k. While I think that might be the case for many people, I do know some crazy ones that love the feeling they get from the 5k. This girl would much rather run a marathon.

I actually felt good during the race for the first couple of miles with splits of 5:42 and 5:51. The last mile was a 6:02 and definitely reflected my lack of endurance. Nonetheless, I was very happy with this race. It's clear to me that, once I can resume full training again, I have a great base of speed to work from.

When I got home and downloaded my data, I really did have a great time looking at all of the new information. The Forerunner 620, when coupled with the heart-rate monitor, has the ability to collect data on all kinds of running economy-related variables. It measures ground contact time, stride length, stride rate, and vertical oscillation. It also attempts to estimate your VO2Max. That one needs some work. After running an 18:13 5k, it told me that my VO2Max was 47 and predicted I could run a 22:30 5k. Um, yeah. UPDATE: Something magical happened and my VO2Max just increased to 53! While still on the low side, it's much closer to the 56 that I estimate it to be right now.

The other measurements may or may not be accurate, but they did change in a predictable way as I became more fatigued at the end of the race. Here are a couple of charts from my 5k race:

It's pretty clear that my efficiency decayed about halfway through the race. I got all bouncy and spent more time on the ground in the second half. I also liked being able to see what my heart rate was doing during the race. I never looked at the value while I was racing, but it was nice to confirm that what I have been calling my max HR is probably pretty darn close. My HR took about 2-3 minutes to reach a peak value of around 180 where it stayed the rest of the race. I have estimated my max HR to be around 185-190. It surprises me a little that I could run for 16 minutes that close to my MaxHR, but I guess that's why the 5k hurts so much. 

Another thing that's fun to do is to compare some of these values with different running efforts. I have done this below with an easy run and my 5k race. Notice the big difference in cadence, vertical oscillation and running stride length between the two. It will be fun to see how/if these values change as I am able to run more mileage and resume doing drills, strength training and strides.

All in all, I like the new Garmin. It's much lighter, fairly easy to use and only has a few glitches that I assume they can fix with firmware updates (can't transfer via wifi on some computers--appears to be a known issue). I am looking forward to testing out the 'find my runner' feature using the iPhone app so the Genius can find me when I'm out on my run. I think this will be a super handy feature to have during a marathon, where you will know exactly where your runner is on course at all times!  

At this stage in the game, I am taking my training day by day. I have a training plan but am never sure whether I'll be able to complete the workouts or not. It is emotionally hard but I try to have few expectations for each run. When I do, and they go poorly, it can ruin the rest of my day. This is why I do most of my runs in the evening these days (followed by some wine). Conversely, when they go well, it can mean a really fun ride until the next run. I am still riding the high of that 5k last Thursday.       

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Where the heck have I been?

I have been meaning to write an update post for weeks now. I kept putting it off until I had something concrete to write about. I finally realized that everything is always in flux, and you can't predict what will happen tomorrow. So, I will give you what I have now. So many things have changed.

1. I decided a while back not to run CIM.
2. I have a new coach.
3. I am running pain free again.

The CIM Decision

Marathon training was going really well several weeks ago, and I was really excited about CIM. When my IT band started acting up, I knew that I needed to be very careful. I tangled with Gerdy's evil tubercle in 2010 and was out of commission 7 long months. I now know that you can't force it with IT band pain. I also know that rest does not make it better. Treatment of the underlying issue is the only way to get rid of it for good.

Given that, it was pretty easy to make the decision to drop out of marathon training. It sucked slightly that I didn't have a good race to show for all of the training I had done. However, fitness does not disappear overnight. If I am smart and make sure that my body can handle the training load, I may set myself up for a brilliant next marathon training cycle.

My New Coach

Finding myself suddenly injured, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my training. I realized that I made a classic training mistake in that I didn't obey my own 3/1 rule of build/recovery. This rule requires 1 week of recovery for every ~3 weeks of hard training. I was feeling so amazing that I thought maybe I didn't need the down time. Actually, I wasn't really paying much attention until I started having pain in my leg. Then, I looked at my training plan and realized what had gone wrong. I had stressed my tissues beyond their ability to recover. One of my favorite blogs right now is written by Craig Payne and called the Running Research Junkie. I particularly liked his recent post about how to prevent overuse injuries. One passage really sang to me:

"The training routine:
The key to load management is the training routine. That is where a good coach or at least good commonsense comes in. Its all about managing the load on the tissue to such a point that the load encourages adaptation and the load is not so high that the tissues get injured. Way back there was the good old 10% rule to not increase the weekly total by more than 10% or the length of the longest run by more than 10%. The evidence does not actually support that and most coaches have become more sophisticated than that. Its more now about increasing the load, then backing off a bit to allow some consolidation, then upping the ante again. It also the old fashioned hard day/easy day. This is where the value of a good coach comes in as every one will respond differently to training loads. Compared to the time way back when I used to run competitively, I am surprised how many runners have days off these days; but it is probably one of the more effective ways to prevent injury – reduces the cumulative load in the tissues."

I absolutely believe in this principle and am really good about employing it with the athletes I coach. However, one of the reasons I hire a coach is to help me with my training decisions because, left to my own devices, I will run myself into the ground. The injury forced me to evaluate where I was headed and I realized the coaching relationship I had wasn't a good fit for me. Nothing at all wrong with the workouts, but the program was too aggressive for me. The ironic thing is that I was adding little things in here and there and, in many ways, designing my own training plan. So, ultimately, the injury was my fault. But, I had to admit that the reason I was doing this was because I either didn't trust the plan I was given or just didn't like it.

I contrasted this coaching relationship with the one I had with Nicole Hunt from 2007-2010. I am not naturally someone who feels the need to challenge a coach's program or constantly make changes. With Nicole, I did every single workout she gave me and followed her advice to the letter. So something was off with this one. It was a valuable lesson to learn for my own future as a coach. I think it is a hard thing to find a good coach-athlete fit. When you do find it, my advice is to hang on to it.

So, who is my new coach? Well, I decided I needed to go big or go home. I am now being coached by Dr. Jack Daniels through the Run S.M.A.R.T. Project. I had contacted Dr. Daniels back in 2010 when I was looking to make a coaching change but ultimately decided then to go with a local coaching option. I am thrilled to be able to work with him now.

Running Pain Free

It's the craziest thing. After the torture fest in Arizona a few weeks back, I came back to Sacramento to heal. I wasn't healing very fast and kept in contact with Doc Ball. He explained that I needed further treatment and that I needed to continue to do the strength exercises he gave me. These exercises were designed as a long-term fix and not necessarily to get me back to running quickly. The strength exercises were fatiguing my muscles in a way that kept me from being able to run pain free for longer than 4-5 miles at a time.

I went to see Dr. Lau here in Sacramento, and he found some additional problems that he felt might be causing my symptoms. The first visit didn't quite get at the heart of the matter, but the second visit pretty much nailed it. He started testing my functional strength and noticed that my adductors on the hurt leg were not working. He traced that up the chain until he found that my obliques were all jacked up. The external obliques on my left side were hard as a rock (not in a good way) and the internal obliques on the right side were concrete. He worked through the adhesions and tested my strength again and that seemed to have done the trick. I ran that night for 7 miles with ZERO pain. I was only able to go about 4 miles prior to the visit before the onset of pain. I was ecstatic. The next night I ran a workout and again had no pain. Not every run has been as miraculous as those first couple because my body is still learning how to behave properly. But, I am making significant progress.

When I thought about the pattern he described in my obliques, I realized that the blame belonged to two little furballs that I run almost every day (they run about 30-40 mpw). I run them using a waist pack. The "fast dog" goes on the left side and pulls me ahead. The slow dog goes on my right and constantly drags me from behind. When I asked Dr. Lau whether that could be the cause he said, OF COURSE! STOP DOING THAT! Or, at least change sides with them every run. I knew that my abs were getting worked when I ran them, but I always joked that I was being more efficient and getting in a core workout too. Doing that a few times a week for 3-4 miles would probably be okay. 30+ mpw over 6 months is probably a bit too much. Add on the hard training and the lack of recovery and you get one big shitfest.

So, I am finally turning the corner with this injury. I have been able to run fast all along (ala Lauren Fleshman) but haven't been able to run more than 5 miles easy. I ran 10 miles easy on Sunday and that was a huge breakthrough. My new coach has had me doing speed work for the past 3 weeks the likes of which I have never seen in my running career. I have been pumping out 200s and 400s like a mad woman and have surprised the crap out of myself with the speed that my little legs have. I have always considered myself a marathon slogger, but I am somehow churning out 200m repeats in 33-36 seconds with 400s in 74-77. Cray! I have to say it has been a ton of fun to switch it up. Since I haven't been able to run long, I have really savored the faster running. It's not particularly hard for me. It's just a different kind of stress.

Needless to say, I am learning a lot about myself through this and about training in general. I am excited about seeing where this speed work, combined with the fitness I built before the injury, takes me over the next several months. I am tentatively targeting the Napa Marathon in March as my next big race. One thing I know for certain is that I won't push it if my body isn't coming around quickly enough for that race. I am in no hurry.

One very important lesson that I have learned from all of this is that I am ultimately responsible for me. I employ coaches, chiropractors and massage therapists to help me, but I have to be willing to listen to what they're saying or trust my own instincts when they either aren't speaking up when they should or are speaking a language that doesn't make sense to me. I ultimately make the choice about what to do next and can't blame anyone else for what happens.        

 If I'm being honest, I am excited to be spectating at CIM this year. I have 5 athletes running the race this year and am just as excited for them (maybe even more) as I would be if I were running it myself. The Genius is also poised to have a breakthrough race and I hope to witness that as well! This is a great year to be a spectator. The challenge is going to be getting around the course to see everyone. I can't wait!


Friday, October 11, 2013

In the blink of an eye

I am walking a tight rope right now. It is a very thin rope that represents the line between being super fit and being injured. If I maintain my balance, I will stay on the rope and continue to train hard. If I lose my balance, I will fall into the abyss that consumes injured runners. To do big things you have to walk the tight rope.

About 2 weeks ago, I ran the best workout of my life. I'm not exaggerating. It was 14 miles total and I had 3 x 3 miles at 6:10-6:20 pace with 3 minute recovery jogs in between. I was lucky enough to have a friend just crazy enough to do this workout with me in the dark at 5:30 a.m. We warmed up for a couple of miles and then took off, headlamps flashing along the bike trail. I settled into a nice pace for the first couple of miles and finished the first repeat in 18:36 (6:12 pace). It felt controlled though not necessarily easy. I jogged around a bit and then took off for the second repeat. My legs were feeling excellent at this point and I was shocked to see 18:15 (6:05 pace) on my watch when I hit 3 miles. Wow. I ran the last 3 miles in 18:17 (6:05 pace), with the last mile clocking in at 6:00.

In my build up to Eugene, I had run this workout about 3 weeks out from the race and nailed it. I remember that workout being the mental game changer for me. I knew I was fit. I ran those in 18:50-18:59 (6:18-6:20 pace). So, here I am, 10 weeks out from my goal marathon and I am running 10-15 seconds per mile faster than that? I actually started to freak out a little. thinking maybe I was peaking way too early in this training cycle. My coach tried to assure me this was not a bad thing and that I still had room to get even fitter. I just couldn't shake this ominous feeling I had.  

That feeling was there for a reason. On my evening run that night, I was stopped after about 3 miles by pain in my lower leg. I thought it was my peroneus longus muscle for a while, but the muscle seemed to be okay. I took the next day completely off and then ran the following day going about 7 miles. My entire right leg was tightening up on me.

I tried rolling and getting massage. While the muscles released after the massage, my leg went right back to a rock-like state after every run.  I knew something was really off. I then tried taking days off from running and just cross trained on my Elliptigo. The pain still came on during the next run around 2.5 miles into it. I started playing around with speed and found that I could run fast without any discomfort, but the tightness would start up once I slowed down.

I contacted Dr. John Ball knowing that, if I wanted a shot at getting back to my training, I needed to act fast. I couldn't take much time off from running or I would not be able to ramp up my training in time to peak for CIM. Losing fitness was less of a concern to me given where I was just 10 days before. I left Monday morning for Arizona for the Maximum Mobility Spa. I spent three days in treatment for 5-7 hours each day and walked out with a tenderized right leg and the bruises to prove it.
After day 1

After day 3
I always learn a ton from these visits and this one was no exception. I learned that the IT band attaches in 2 places and that where I was feeling the pain was the lower attachment point, below and to the right of the knee cap. I learned that the manual treatment on my leg hurt Dr. Ball just as much as it hurt me. He kept saying, "how can someone as small as you create this much damage?" I was tenderized on the EPAT machine for more time than I care to recall. This softened up the tissue so John could get in and manually get at the deep adhesions. I also learned that IT band injuries have few cross training friends. The IT band likes swimming and maybe biking, but not elliptical, pool running or ElliptiGO. So, the hard XT I did on the ElliptiGO all week was really exacerbating the problem. Good to know. I got some challenging rehab exercises along with a swift kick in the ass on my way out Wednesday and headed back to Sactown.

My tight rope is very thin and wobbly right now. I can easily send myself flying by trying to force myself back into my training. I have to be patient, smart and respectful of my body's needs or the tissue will not heal. Dr. Ball told me to run every other day. I run to the point that I feel the pain, and then no longer. The idea is that with 48 hours of rest in between runs, the length of time I can run before hitting the pain threshold will increase to have me running as long as I want relatively soon. Then, I can start back to back days of running.

At this point I've taken a total of 4 days off from running scattered over two weeks. Losing a couple more while I heal is no big deal. I am using the bike as my cross training tool but will resort to swimming if necessary if biking starts to irritate the tissue too. I run today to see if I can get farther than 4 miles before feeling the tightness come on. That's where I left it on Wednesday--being able to run 4 without pain. I started with 1.5 miles on Monday, so I'm already making progress.

I had questioned whether I should spend the time and money to head to AZ for this treatment and now there's no question in my mind that I made the right decision. I had a lot of damage that needed to be dealt with and there is no better place to get healed than Maximum Mobility. I also now have a good diagnosis and some rehab exercises that will help me build my hip strength in all the right places. It is also fun to meet elite runners swooping in for some TLC from the good doc. It's like a parade of Runner's World covers. I felt very lucky to get so much of John Ball's time, even though that meant putting up with his sarcastic sense of humor.

Wish me luck, peeps!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I love the 80s

This girl did not like to run.
I grew up in the 80's and have photo documentation of big hair and dramatic make up to vouch for that (right). I still love to dance to 80s music and watch reruns of bad 80s sitcoms. Mostly now, I like to run in the 80s. Last week was my first 80 mile week. This week I'm shooting for 87 miles. And, in my workout tonight the 80s were a recurring theme.

I had a workout of 16 x 400m with 1 minute jog recovery. I met up with some super fast ladies for a long warm up of about 6 miles and then we busted out the 400s on the track. 

splits: 83, 82, 80, 81, 82, 81, 80, 81, 80, 78, 80, 80, 80, 80, 79, 78; average = 80

Yeah, so I went back to the 70s a few times there. It wasn't a bad decade. For this girl, that is pretty darn fast. This is on par with workouts I was running prior to running my fastest marathon times in 2009-2010. It gives me hope that my legs are coming around. I am usually not as strong on the shorter workouts, so this is a pleasant surprise.

I am always strong on my longer workouts, like the one I had on Sunday. Again, I was graced with great company and a great pace pusher. She sat on my tail the whole way to remind me that she would eat me up if I fell back. This was the same workout we had run the day I tried not to poop my pants. Here's a comparison of the two workouts:

August 18th: 17 miles in 2:00  
5 x 1 mile @ 6:10-6:20 w/ 1 mile coast @ 7:00-7:30 
actual splits: 

September 15th: 20 miles in 2:20 
5 x 1 mile @ 6:00-6:10 ) w/1 mile coast @ 7:00-7:15
actual splits:

Pretty amazing difference. Now, I know I was impaired during the August workout, but I actually almost repeated the same pre-race ritual for this last weekend's workout. I had a gig the night before, but this one was in the late afternoon. I still managed to get drunk but this time I passed out at around 9. I think the sleep made all the difference and this time, my bowels cooperated--mostly.

Things are starting to click and I am cautiously optimistic that I might have some good fall racing leading up to my first attempt at a Trials qualifier at CIM. As I have stated before, I just need to get into the same shape I was in before Chicago 2010 to feel like I can run sub-2:43 because I believe I was in shape for that time that day had the weather not been so hot. Then, all I need is perfect weather, a great taper and some fast people to pace off of. Not too much to ask, is it?  

I am doing everything I can at this point to stack the deck in my favor. I'll be cutting out alcohol from here on out (after this last beer tonight-I promise!); trying to get as much sleep as I can; trying to get my butt down to racing weight; taking my workout fueling to the next level; and working on the mental aspect of my training. We're getting serious here folks!

Monday, September 9, 2013

10 miles at GMP

Heading toward the finish. Photo by: Jim Glickman.
I ran a 10-mile race yesterday in 1:03:05.

I could choose to be disappointed about not running faster. I should be able to run faster than that, right? The thing is, I just can't be upset about the race. I placed second overall and won some great prizes. I got to hang out with my cool runner friends before and after the race and experience the great Sacramento running community. I ran 10 miles at about goal marathon pace on tired legs, and there is no better marathon training than GMP on tired legs. I was not at all trashed after the race--in fact, I ran another 6 miles later and did an hour of strength training. I woke up feeling great this morning, too. How can I be disappointed about all of that?

I have a choice in which version of my race story to tell you. I can tell a negative version where I wonder why I am not racing well and why my times are "slow". I can choose to question my training, my fitness, my sanity. That version focuses on the negative of the performance without any context. The one that I chose focuses on the positive that came out of the effort and was put into context. The context is the larger goal--a fast marathon whether that happens in December or some later time.

I mentioned in my last post that I had been going back through my training from 2009 and 2010: the 20-22 weeks of training before the two fastest marathons I've run. While it is interesting to look at those training logs, it does not provide the whole picture of what I did to run those times. To understand what got me to that point, you'd have to go back a lot farther than 22 weeks. You'd have to go back 3-4 years. I had been building my fitness and training for those races for years, not weeks. Everything I did as a runner before those races played a role in getting me across the line fast.

For perspective, I like to think back to a goal I had as a runner in 2005. I wanted to break 3 hours for the marathon. I had run 4 marathons at that point with my fastest being 3:20 in Dec 2005. I trained with the goal pace of 6:52 minutes per mile tattooed on my brain for two more years and 4 marathons before I was able to run that fast. What's more, the first time I broke 3 hours was the first time I didn't have to stop and walk at the end of the marathon! That was more of an accomplishment for me than breaking 3 hours. It then took me another 2 years to get close to 2:50. Neither of these milestones happened incrementally. They happened in big jumps. I ran right around 2:55 for three marathons before I hit 2:50.

My point here is that training builds on previous training. That's why consistency and patience are so important. Sometimes when you think you're plateauing, even though you're putting in a ton of work, something pops and you have a spectacular performance. The key is that you have to keep putting in the work and you have to continue to believe that it will happen.

This has been my secret weapon. I believe I can run a spectacular marathon race even though my training and racing may not indicate that I should be able to run what I do. I may question my ability to run a fast 5k or even a half marathon, but I know, under the right conditions, I can run a great marathon. I prepare myself for it, and I let it happen.

That's not to say that I don't have my share of melt downs before marathons and work myself up unnecessarily. I do! I was pretty worked up before the Eugene Marathon this year because my training was so sketchy. I didn't feel that I had put in the work for the race, and I freaked out about it the week of the race. I especially freaked out the Tuesday before the race when I was out in the field for 18 hours, hiking 10 miles up and down hills all day. I threw my expectations out the window and ran the race by feel. I had done few if any goal marathon pace workouts at the pace I was able to hold in that race.

Experiences like Eugene and the other unexpected performances I've had reinforce in me the belief in the magic of the taper and of race day. You have to be willing to let it happen and trust in your body and mind to get the job done.

I think Journey wrote a song about that, right? Hold on to that feeling. You know you're singing it right now.                  

Friday, September 6, 2013

Finding JoMo

I ran another 5k last Saturday, a cross country race, and I didn't have the race I wanted. I had hoped to find that extra gear that I know I have based on recent workouts, but it wasn't there. I ran hard, but not very fast. After the race, I added on 9 miles for a total of 15 for the day. I am in marathon training, after all. I spent the whole run wondering what was going on. I have now had 4 subpar race performances in the past ~8 weeks: three 5ks and one half marathon. I've had few if any bad workouts.

Now, I know that this type of situation usually calls for a complete rethinking of what I'm doing with my training and racing, but I don't think that is warranted and here's why.

During the rest of my long run, I realized I have two choices: I can keep moving forward and put in the work to try to achieve my ambitious goal, or I can stop trying. It is impossible to know how I will perform on any given day. So many things have to line up to have a great performance. What I know for sure is how I will perform if I stop trying. I won't have a chance.

I spent the next day looking through my training logs leading up to my two best marathon performances in 2009 and 2010. I was fearless back then and willing to push the limits of my body and mind. I had a singular focus on my goal and didn't let myself give in. I looked back at the workouts I did and was a bit surprised at how hard I worked each week. I was doing so much and really pushing the boundaries of overtraining and injury. I did not experience either before these races, but I came close. THAT is where you have to be willing to put yourself to achieve great things.

I tried to remember how I felt during those training blocks. I was tired. I ran on tired legs all the time. I had to push myself to get out the door, but I got out the door every day. I did my core and strength training. I rolled my legs out regularly. I gave up alcohol. I pushed myself hard. I had some crappy workouts along the way. I stopped for "water breaks" during almost every marathon paced run, but I did not let that smash my confidence. I was magically able to hold that pace during the marathon.

I then contrasted that with the way I've been thinking about my training and racing lately and had to admit that I've become somewhat of a wimp. When did that happen? Over the last couple of years, I have lost that fearlessness and drive in my running. Sometimes, I wake up and feel a little bit off and put off my workout. Maybe my legs are too heavy from strength training. I convince myself that I'm going to feel awful during my workout and either postpone or don't do it. What happened to the runner that never missed a workout?

She's still here. She just got lost when she got injured. I was lucky for the first 5 years of my running career because I was never injured. I was able to train consistently and got fast very quickly as a result. Then, in 2010, I got injured and kept getting injured and lost my confidence in my body. Fear and pain became my constant running companions. They stood by my side the entire time I was injured and helped me lose faith in my ability to push myself. Even after the pain went away, the fear remained.So, during that long run last weekend, in the midday heat, I asked myself: what am I afraid of now? I am not afraid of putting my goals out there and failing. I am not afraid of working hard and feeling pain. I am not afraid of losing, and I am not afraid of winning. The only thing I am afraid of is giving up.

I feel like something in me shifted this week: a sort of culmination of the events of these last couple of months. If I had spectacular races all summer, I wouldn't have come to this realization and might still be approaching my training with trepidation. Instead, I added a bit more work to my schedule this week and went after it like I did back in 2009 and 2010.

I didn't worry about whether I was doing too much on Tuesday, and might jeopardize my 10 mile race on Sunday. Add in a short, fast fartlek on Thursday to keep the legs fresh? Why not? Besides, Sunday's race is not my goal. The marathon in just under 14 weeks is my goal. This race is a stepping stone but not a validation of who I am as an athlete or what I'm capable of. I will have good and bad races and I can handle both with equal amounts of grace.

I feel like I found my JoMo, which is kind of like MoJo, but better. It is also a 100% natural joint nutrition supplement recommended by orthopedic surgeons and olympians for fast acting, maximum strength joint relief and the first name of the leader of Kenya during the 1960s and 70s.

Finally. Game. On.                          

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


I am the person who never gets sick. Even when I am sick, I'm not. I like to believe that my immune system is like the Berlin Wall and only clowns clever enough to pack themselves in the floorboards of a VW bug can get through.

Any time I feel a little off or even a lot off, I blame it on something else. For example, the week before last, I posted on facebook that the poor air quality was making my throat scratchy. Seemed reasonable. However, that was a day or two before I had the horrible episode during my long run. What I didn't mention in my last post was that I continued to feel bad for 4-5 days after that long run. That's when I thought back to the scratchy throat, all of the people I know who have been stricken by a late-summer virus, and the horrible GI issues I had been having.

I hate using sickness as an excuse, but I believe that was part of my problem last weekend during the 5k. I think what I wrote about not practicing paces in the 5k range is also legit, but I think I had an off day too.

Last night I did a track workout of 10 x 600m with 90 seconds rest. I have never done 600s before, so I didn't know exactly how it would feel. I treated it as if I was running 400s with a little bit extra and had a great workout. I felt speedy and did not feel like I had given everything at the end. My prescribed split range was between 2:05-2:10. I ran 2:04 average. Almost every single split, I went through the 400 in 81-82 seconds. That's much faster than the last few times I've done 400s.

So, I believe the virus that got through my immune system's concrete and graffitied barrier has been arrested by the Gestapo. Und tschüss, dumm Virus!         

The true test will come this weekend during a 5k cross country race. My goal is to run close to or faster than I did two years ago when I felt like I was in decent 5k shape. It is a hilly and twisty course, but the competition will hopefully help pull me to new places.
Saturday's 5k course

Monday, August 26, 2013

Focus pocus

I am happy to report that on Saturday, I survived my first 5k road race since April 2012. I was a bit surprised and frightened when I realized I hadn't raced a short race in 18 months. For that reason, I decided I wouldn't get hung up on a time goal, but I would instead practice my racing and 5k hurting skills.

The night before the race, a friend who was also racing asked what I was trying for. I think she was expecting a time goal from me. Instead, she got this:

"My goal is to not let my monkey brain get in the way of my body. This race is not about time for me, it's about focus. But if I focus, I'll probably have a good time. Sound circular? It is:)

I read a great quote the other day: focus on actions to do rather than outcomes desired. The outcomes arrive out of actions. 

So my action is to focus on staying strong each mile and see what outcome I get. Even if I don't run fast, I'll be happy if I stay focused and strong."

I love the quote about focusing on actions. It is really beautiful but takes some self discipline to execute. I also decided that I was going to try to run the first mile in control and not look at my watch at all during the race. So, I would be running only by effort and (hopefully) racing.

I executed my race plan well. I went out completely under control for the first mile. At around 1000 meters into the race, I heard someone breathing hard coming up from behind and realized it was a younger girl. I was in the lead at that point after having passed a number of overzealous girls close to the start. When I heard her breathing, I thought, "she's breathing way too hard. She can't possibly hold that pace. Let her pass."And I did. Except that she did hold that pace and put about 30 seconds on me by the final mile. I only really started to gain on her in the final mile, but not nearly enough to make it a close battle. Nice job, by the way, Emi. She told me after the race that she reads my blog:)

Instead of sticking with her, I stayed at what felt like a challenging, but controlled pace for the entire race. And, guess what? It was a comfortably hard 6:02 pace. I won't lie and say I wasn't disappointed with my time, because I was. However, I had executed my plan well, so I couldn't be too unhappy.

What I realized after the race is that I do very few workouts in the 5k pace range. I do almost everything in the 5:55-6:20 pace range, and I am very comfortable there. I don't have recent experience with the discomfort of a faster race and therefore, my brain will not naturally take me there. The girl who passed me in the first mile was at the appropriate effort level for a 5k. I was not, but I couldn't see that. Of course, this 5k was a race within a workout and I went out after jogging a few miles post race to tackle another 3 miles at goal marathon pace (GMP) for a total of just under 15 miles for the morning. I ran that GMP chunk in 6:12 and felt absolutely wonderful. 

Instead of making me feel like a slow loser, this experience motivated me to get better and more comfortable in the faster pace ranges. The idea is that, if I can get a bit more experience now with the faster paces, then my 6:00-6:10 pace will feel that much easier. So, I am running a speed workout tomorrow in place of a 3 x 2 mile workout and will be racing another 5k, cross country race on Saturday inside a long run. I am really trying to get my brain in the racing mode, you know, talking shit with my masters competitors and stuff like that. Lots of poking and finger pointing. All in good fun.     

I think it's really easy for us to become obsessed with the times on our watches for workouts and races. This focus on the outcome rather than actions can make us miss a lot of the important lessons that our training and racing experience has to offer.

I find it helpful to write down a few lessons I learn from each race. Lucky for all of you fantastic followers out there, I do this in my blog! I highly recommend that you practice this yourself in your training log, an email to your coach or on the back of a Picky Bar wrapper--wherever you feel the urge to document such things. Sometimes, I like to do this right after a race and then let it sit for a bit and try again later after reflecting personally or talking it out with others. It's amazing how much wiser I become with the passage of time and the input from others.    

Monday, August 19, 2013

Don't pants your poop

About a year ago, I saw this video (click here if you don't see a video in the space above). It's about a dude running his first marathon going through all of the usual first timer's experiences, mile by mile. When he gets to the point in the marathon where he is trying to keep from pooping his pants, I laughed but I couldn't really relate. I've peed myself before, but never had to worry about poop, even during training runs.

Until yesterday.

You may recall in my last post I mentioned a little gig I had Saturday night. I suspected bad behavior might overwhelm me if things turned out to be fun, and I was spot on. We played first, then another local band played and finally, a sweet little ensemble out of Oakland came on and stole the show. These guys not only rocked, but they were hilarious. I laughed my ass off and just couldn't bring myself to leave. I did bring myself to purchase multiple adult beverages in an attempt to throughly enjoy the show happening on and off the stage.
Felsen. Confident people frighten them.
I got home at 1:00 a.m. I ate a slice of pizza. I had made plans to meet some friends at 7:30 the next morning for my 17 mile long run. I was not happy about that when my alarm went off at 6:30. I was still drunk, I think, when I woke up. I was still digesting the pizza. I knew, however, if I baled on my friends I would not only be a loser, but I would also hate myself for postponing a run that wasn't going to feel good no matter what time of day I chose to attempt it.

So, I forced a packet of oatmeal down my gullet and sipped coffee on my way to the meet up spot. The girls knew my predicament and were very nice about it. There were a few jokes at my expense, but I felt like I deserved it. The workout wasn't a killer, well, on a normal day. I was so happy to have them with me. I'm not sure I could say the same for them.

Almost immediately, during the warm up, I noticed some independent activity that required the attention of a bathroom stop. One friend suggested a stop in the bushes, and I suggested this would not be appropriate for my situation. The workout was meant to be a continuous run (npi) alternating miles at 6:10-6:20 pace with miles at 7:00-7:30 pace. Not super tough, but still a challenge. It is called the "gentle wave". My body took that very literally.

We started the workout and almost immediately I was struck by another urgent desire to find the loo. We stopped at a portable john after the first hard mile and then the second. I think we got through repeats 3 and 4 without a stop, but during number 5, number 2 came a knockin'. That's when I started reciting to myself, "don't poop your pants. don't poop your pants." About 2/3 of the way through the final mile repeat, I saw a bathroom and I said out loud, "I am not going to shit myself during a stupid workout." I am too proud.

You'll be glad to know that the bathroom breaks were effective. I got through 17 miles, hit all my times without an offensive incident. I even ran 4 more miles that evening. I did, however, take a long nap almost immediately after coming home from that first run. My GI tract was a mess all day long too.

Of course, during my short evening run, I stepped funny on something in the dark and came down on my ankle with the force of a giant panda. I was strapped to the dogs, and their forward momentum took me forward onto my elbows, hands and butt. Scrapes, bruises and a sore ankle later, I live to tell the tale. I cross trained on the Elliptigo today which was a fun change of pace. Also, I stood all day at my computer and was quite surprised that the ankle was much less sore by the end of the day. It's swollen, but not at all sore. I may have found a new treatment for a twisted ankle: stay on the foot.

Soon enough, I'll climb on the wagon and swear off alcohol until after CIM. Even with the unpleasantness during the run, I am happy that I had the night of debauchery. You only live once, after all.                    

Friday, August 16, 2013

training update

I mentioned in my last post that my training is going well and that my mileage is in the 70s. I'm starting to hit that point in my training where the long-awaited benefits of the hard work are starting to show. It has taken longer this training cycle than I am used to and my patience was wearing thin. I ran a long workout midweek last week of 4 x 1.5 miles with 90 second jog rest and ran faster than I expected. It was fun to be able to negative split the workout, going from 6:15 pace down to about 6:07 pace. My goal range was 6:10-6:15. I finished the week with an 18 mile run late Sunday evening.

This week, I had a rough time getting my shit together midweek and barely got a run in on Wednesday, and even that was only 2 miles with my old dog and former coach, T. I was supposed to run 12 miles with an 8 x 800m workout that morning and a 4 mile easy run at night. After beating myself up sufficiently for delaying the workout, I knew that I needed to get it done Thursday.

I was feeling the fires from the foothills in the air on Thursday so decided to take my workout indoors. I seem to have amazing super powers when I run my workouts on the treadmill lately. I think part of it is that I always feel like I'm cheating on the machine and make myself work a bit harder to make up for that. Even then, however, I never feel like what I did is quite real. What I can accept is that I got in a good workout. I warmed up for 3 miles ending at just under 7:00 pace, then started my 800m workout dialing in the speed at 10.4 mph (=2:53 for 800m). I had done this workout on the treadmill a little over a month ago and started out at 10.2 mph. My goal was to make sure I started and finished faster than that last time.

At the 1/2 mile point, I backed the speed off to 8:00 pace and ran for a 1/4 mile. I then bumped up the speed to 10.5 mph and continued on this pattern until I got to repeat number 8, running that one in 2:42 (11.1 mph). I noticed that my heart rate was barely at 90% by the end of the repeat and hadn't been getting higher for the past few repeats. I also felt great at this point with a ton of energy and noticed that I had about 3+ miles left to run for the workout. I decided I would add at least one more repeat on which turned into two. The 10th and final repeat was at 11.3 mph (2:39) and my heart rate finally climbed to 95%. I finally felt like I had worked hard. I ran for another couple of miles to get to 12 miles total. I felt so energized after that run.

So, maybe the paces that I ran don't equate to anything "real", but I did get a great workout and ran much stronger and farther than I had the last time I did 8 x 800. If I could ever run those paces for a track workout, I would be thrilled. That will be my next goal, though I'm not sure I have another 800m workout on my schedule for the rest of the training cycle. Maybe we'll just have to add that in!

I have my first 10 mile 'wave tempo' workout within my long run this weekend. I don't have very high expectations for that one given one less day of rest between hard workouts and a band gig on Saturday night that is sure to lead to bad behavior. I will have some good company for the run and might even guilt one or two people into running the workout with me. I've already warned them that I might break down and cry part way through.            

Even with the lost day on Wednesday I'll still hit another 75 mile week this week. Next week, I'll run my first road 5k in a long, long time. Hopefully all of this training will translate into some fast times on the roads. Fingers and toes crossed.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Next Marathon

Oh, hello there! I guess I forgot to officially post the news that I decided to switch my goal marathon race from Chicago to the Cal International Marathon. It was actually an easy decision once I thought about it a little. More than anything, I just felt as though my confidence in my fitness level was not where it needed to be in order to pull off something spectacular in Chicago. Plus, CIM has a great course (literally in my back yard), and I know a lot of fast women that will be attempting to get their OT B standard qualifier there.

Let's just hope the weather is better than last year.
CIM 2012
Since making the decision, my workouts have gone very well, and my training has been consistent, with my mileage in the mid 70s. I feel like I'm developing a nice base that will take me through the next few months of tough training. I have long wanted to have a group to train with and finally realized a month or so ago that I could do something about this. I am lucky to have a group of fast female friends in the area that like to train hard. I realized that a big part of the problem was not having a workout coordinator. So, I took on that role and we have actually met up for several runs so far. A few of these gals will be running CIM, so I see some great workouts ahead for us. Even if we don't do the workouts together, having someone to meet is so helpful.

Starting up my coaching business has had some good carry over benefits for my running. One thing I currently dig is having my training plan (and my athlete's plans) and training log on the interwebs. You can see what they look like on my coaching website. I currently use Google Docs for this, but I plan to switch over to iCloud once they get done with their beta testing and have a fully-operational version of Numbers up and running. I am currently testing out Apple's new web-based apps and I do really like them. I just am unable to share them right now with my athletes, friends and my coach. Google docs does a fine job for now. What I especially like is being able to change training plans on the fly when things change and have those changes automatically shared. This morning, I was able to have a chat session with an athlete while we looked at the plan together. I was able to make adjustments to the race schedule on the spot. Done. So cool. I also like being able to share my training plan with my friends, so they know what I will be up to and can plug in to my workouts when they want.

I do have a number of races coming up (races in bold are focus races):

8/24  Race for the Arts 5k
9/8 Buffalo Stampede 10 mile
10/6 Urban Cow 5k
10/20 Humboldt Redwoods 1/2 Marathon
11/10 Clarksburg Country Run 1/2 Marathon
11/28 Run to Feed the Hungry 5k
12/8 CIM!!!!

This is a full race calendar, especially for me, but I am happy about that. I need to get back in the swing of racing and learn to harness the excitement of race day to maximize my performance. All of the reading I'm doing about the mental aspects of performance is making me realize just how important this is!

CIM 2013, here I come!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Jagged little pill--warning controversial topic ahead!!

Image From
About a year ago, I was not feeling quite right and was looking for answers. Sound familiar? I was already supplementing with iron to boost my iron stores which I knew were low. I was taking vitamin D since I know that tends to be chronically low for me too. I suspected that I was also suffering from low estrogen levels. I wasn't showing signs of this in terms of my female cycle, but I had really low body fat and just assumed that my estrogen levels would be low. My doc and I discussed this and she okayed me to go on low dose BCPs. I actually started feeling better fairly quickly after that and pronounced myself cured by BCP. About 3 months later I started getting ocular migraines every other day. I normally get these 1-2 times per year. This was a huge red flag. I never once attributed the migraines to the hormonal supplements, but I was urged to stop taking the BCPs because of the fact that they, and all other estrogen-based hormone supplements, greatly increase your chance of having a stroke if you're a woman over 40 who also gets migraines with aura.

Now, I am pretty convinced that it was the BCPs that were causing my increased migraine frequency. I am eternally grateful to the doctors, including my sister-in-law, who urged me to stop taking the pills. Who knows how close I came to having a stroke. I will say that I am still fuming that my gynecologist told me it was totally safe to take these when my record clearly indicated that I had migraines with aura. This isn't the first time she missed something in my record and made a mistake. I finally switched doctors, but the new one isn't much better. Ah, the joys of having Kaiser as your HMO.

The reason I am so convinced that the BCPs caused my headaches is that I finally went in to get my estrogen levels tested. My ex-Kaiser doc refused to order tests for me, so I did it myself at I didn't know anything about this cool service until a month or so ago when I was looking for a place to get my serum ferritin tested. You simply order your test and they call it in to a lab close to your house. You go in, do the deed and *voila*, test results in 24-48 hours! It was almost as cheap as what I would co-pay at Kaiser. $39 for a ferritin test. The estrogen test was $99, but I didn't have a choice there.

The result? My estrogen levels were off the charts high and during a time of the month when they shouldn't have been maxed out. Who knows what they are when they're at the peak. The chart put me in a level commensurate with women undergoing IVF treatment to get pregnant. I did some research into high estrogen levels and found that this condition is actually more common than I thought in women. It can manifest itself with symptoms similar to low estrogen, but it just doesn't get as much attention. The problem is, there aren't a lot of simple things to be done for high estrogen. So, think about me having these high estrogen levels and then adding a continuous supplement of estrogen pills to that mix. Recipe for migraines? Uh, yes.

Can I rant for a minute? Wait, maybe I have been already. The reason I think that there is so little info out there about high estrogen levels is that doctors aren't testing for it. When I asked for these tests, my doctor refused on grounds that hormone levels change daily so why bother? That is a load of crap. While it is true that hormone levels do fluctuate a lot, that is not a legit reason to not test. Why not take readings at certain points in the cycle to establish a baseline for the patient in order to try to correlate these levels to better manage her symptoms? Wait, that would cost money and makes a lot of sense. Sorry, my bad.

What I found through my research is that having high estrogen alone isn't really the issue. It's typically an imbalance of the three big guys, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, that cause symptoms. There are clinics and whole centers designed around "women's health" that do good work along these lines. I just don't know the secret handshake to get in the door. I could, of course, pay out of pocket for these services, but I've decided not to pursue it.

This is where this post is going to be CONTROVERSIAL. When I probed more into managing hormone-related issues, I found a world that made me very nervous as a competitive athlete. I started hearing rumors of men and women taking testosterone boosting supplements to relieve legitimate symptoms associated with aging, however completely inappropriate for competitive athletes since the substances are banned. The rationale, as it is rumored, is that if it is a legitimate medical condition, then it's okay to take the banned substance. I even heard, second or third hand of course, this couched as something that would never show up on a drug test if the athlete's levels were low enough to start with. Still cheating.

So, when I thought about getting my testosterone and progesterone levels tested, I also had to think about what I would do if I found out they were low. The progesterone is easy, because it is not a banned substance. Add a dab of cream here and there, and I'm golden. Anything I took to raise my testosterone levels would almost certainly be a banned substance, and while it might make me feel better, I am not a cheater.

The issue of supplementation with substances that aren't banned, such as thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), was recently a huge topic of controversy, and I found the discussion fascinating. There are those that say that if you can't handle the training load because your body breaks down (e.g. thyroid doesn't function), then that's just separating the men from the boys, so to speak, and you shouldn't be allowed to compete if you have to supplement. Take this a step further and you find those who say, if you can't get all your nutrition from food alone and have to supplement to train and compete, then you shouldn't be competing. That, I believe, is going too far. Should I not be allowed to take iron supplements because I happen to have a body that gets iron depleted easily with hard training?              

Where do you draw the line? Well, that's actually pretty easy. The line is drawn for us by WADA. If the substance is banned, and you are taking it. That is cheating.

Just. Say. No.

Where does this leave me? Well, my hormones are probably whacked out beyond belief, but, for once, I'm not sure I want to know the numbers right now. My body is aging but I can still train hard and compete well. I may end up going through periods where I feel super low energy, like I did the last 2-3 months, but this comes along with the role of playing the part of a woman in her 40s. The good news is, I don't have to worry about low body fat levels causing low hormone levels, which is actually quite a relief. Bring on the strength training and washboard abs!                

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Drunken race report

One of my prizes for 3rd place!
Okay, so maybe I'm not completely drunk, but I have enjoyed a bit of wine and beer today, because it is my birthday after all. I turned 46 today and that has made all the difference in how I feel about the race I ran. The thing is: I race pretty darn fast for a freakin' 46 year old. That was confirmed when they announced my result at the awards ceremony and mentioned it was my 46th birthday. The gasps from the crowd were audible and the cheers were overwhelming. I think, because I'm surrounded by other masters that are so amazing on a consistent enough basis, I forget how remarkable it is to place as high as I do in races at my age. I really, really tried to soak it in despite my general disappointment in my race performance.

The stats: 3rd place female, 18th overall with a time of 1:25:29.

I did not go into this race thinking it would be a stinker. I had two very bad, short, training runs leading up to the race, but that is pretty much par for the course. In fact, sometimes it seems as though the worse I feel in the couple of days leading up to a race, the better I preform on race day. Bottom line: I did not let the heavy-legged feeling I had the last two days bring me down.

We stayed in Sonoma last night and that was great. No crazy early morning wake up call, just the usual 5 a.m. I will report one thing that was out of whack, though I have been enduring this for a couple of months. I have been retaining water like a mofo. For those of you who have suffered from this, you know it can lead to some really awful feelings during workouts and races. I have been retaining between 3-5 pounds of water weight and generally experiencing miserable GI issues for the past few months. More on that later, but just know that I woke feeling like I had a camelbak installed around my middle. Since this has been how I have felt for the past two months, I didn't feel like it was particularly strange, so I am hesitant to use it as an excuse.

The race start was not ideal. The busses were packed and we arrived later than we wanted to the start area. The portable toilets had 30-40 minute lines with only 20 minutes to the start, so I went in search of farm worker portables with success. The line was much shorter for these!

I jogged back to the start and after a few minutes we were off. The course starts with a brutal uphill right away. Supposedly, then it runs downhill for a couple of miles before flattening out. However, those next few miles were definitely rolling pretty nicely. It was in those first few miles that I realized my breathing was labored far more than it should be for the paces I was doing. I was patient and just tried to run by effort. I ordered myself not to look at my Garmin until mile 6. At mile 6, I was running somewhere around 6:25 pace. And, I was breathing hard!

I then did something I've never done in a race before: I shut off my watch. I didn't want to know the details any more. I didn't want my expectations interfering with my experience. I wanted to enjoy this long run through a beautiful countryside on my birthday. I slowed to an effort I knew I could hold, and I just crossed my fingers that the 4th place woman wouldn't catch up to me. Several men caught me and passed me, but no women did.

I feel really ambivalent about how I ran this race. I know that I couldn't have pushed myself harder without risking dropping out. Mentally, I held my shit together, I think. I could have broken down at mile 6, but I made the decision that enjoying the race and finishing were higher priorities. The story I was concocting while in the race wasn't nearly as positive as the one I'm telling now. I guess I've run enough races to know that perspective changes after a race is over.

What I thought about the last 7 miles of this race was what I should do next week. Should I start marathon training for my first attempt at an OTQ in Chicago? Should I go with Plan B and run CIM? I feel like I am leaning pretty hard towards punting to CIM and right now is the time to make that decision. There are a lot of benefits to going that direction: I am currently leading the Pacific Association Masters Long Race Series and CIM is on the list of focus races. So are two other races that I couldn't do if I ran Chicago. I know several runners shooting for the OTQ at CIM. It's in my backyard, literally. Chicago requires financing to get there though the payoff for placing well in the masters' race is very lucrative. I also have this history with Chicago and therefore a certain magical feeling about the place.

Tough decisions ahead for me. Coach Hadley and I are in discussions about this currently, but no decisions have been made.

So, here I sit. Typing away at my keyboard with some seriously droopy eyelids. All in all, it's been a great day. The Genius has treated me well and I got to hang out with some of my Impala Racing Team peeps today in a beautiful place.            

Just look at that handsome couple!

The birthday girls: Michelle and Jaymee. We both turned 21 today! Just in time to enjoy some yummy champaign cocktails!
Thanks to everyone for sending me good wishes on my birthday. It really has been a great day!

Monday, July 15, 2013

I just need a 12 mile warm up

I have been neglecting my blog lately, and I apologize to those of you who have been waiting to hear how my 5000m race on the track went two Sundays ago. Bottom line: it sucked in a major way. I tried to search for some little crumb of positive that came from driving 2 hours each way to run a 19:00 5k, but you know what? There isn't one and there doesn't have to be. I didn't feel good from the very beginning of the race, and it just didn't get any better. So there you go.

Coach Hadley may have summed it up best by saying that I must just need a 12 mile warm up given that I ran a workout within my long run the weekend before with the last 3 miles faster than I raced this 5k. So, basically I'm not dwelling on the race. Sometimes you have a bad race. The sun still came up the next morning and nobody took away my birthday.

Since that race, I've had some good workouts. I ran 5 x 1 mile repeats on the bike trail Wednesday morning. I averaged 6:01 for the set which is a 5-7 second improvement over the last time I did the workout. And, I think the last time I did the workout I spent a lot more time lollygagging between repeats (though I wasn't supposed to). The most brilliant thing about that workout was that I ran it with friends! This is something that I have needed for a while--a posse of runners to meet up with so I can get my hind quarters out the door for workouts. It also helps to push me during the workout and keeps me honest. I love that I have so many fast ladies in the area to run with and that they are willing to do some of my workouts! I'm looking forward to 12 x 400m with the group Wednesday.

Yesterday, I had my first 20 mile day of the cycle. I ran 5 miles in the morning with my puppies and then jumped on the treadmill for 15 in the evening. My disdain for the treadmill has oddly turned into excitement. I seem to run so well on the thing and it has some distinct advantages for me right now:

  1. It is helping me to learn to negative split and really push my effort at the end of workouts. For whatever reason, I have had trouble lately starting out too fast on the roads in my workouts and have been positively splitting or taking a longer rest period during the workout than prescribed.
  2. I can see how my heart rate is affected by increased/decreased pace and recovery. What else is there to focus on?
  3. Mentally, this is much tougher for me than running on a trail or road. It takes so much mental effort to stay on the treadmill for 15 miles. I always feel like I have accomplished something monumental when I'm done.
  4. It's cool inside the gym. It's not outside.
There are also some distinct disadvantages:
  1. I feel like I'm cheating. I never believe the paces I see on the treadmill. Even adjusting for lack of wind resistance by upping the incline, I still won't believe it is the same or even close to the same.
  2. I don't race on the treadmill. It is an ideal environment, so what I can do on the treadmill doesn't necessarily equate to paces I can run on the roads in a "real world" environment.
  3. It engages musculature differently. We use less of our hamstrings when running on a treadmill since the whirring belt helps finish our stride for us.
  4. It. Is. Boring.  
This treadmill workout had a 5 mile warm up, 5 mile tempo, and 5 mile cool down. I ran the first 5 at a steadily decreasing pace from 8:00 down to 6:45. I took the opportunity to listen to a book I am currently fascinated by, Top Dog, by Bronson and Merryman. This book is really helping me understand how our brains work especially related to competitive situations. I am developing curriculum for a runner-specific mind training program right now, and this book (along with all of the citations it's packed with) is really helping shape it. This stuff fascinates me to no end! I've been surprised numerous times in reading the book how out of date the common thinking is about how our minds work in training and competition.

At 5 miles in, I stopped the mill and switched to some power music for the next 5 mile tempo section. I started out conservatively with a 6:15-6:20* pace (*Take all paces with a grain of salt. I cite them only for comparative purposes) first mile. The last time I did this workout a month or so ago, I ran the 5 miles at 6:29 pace. I was pretty sure I would run faster than that! I was itching to increase the pace right off the bat, but I was patient. I'm sure that made a huge difference. I cranked down the next two miles until I was around 6:03. Mile 4 was 6:00 pace and I let myself crank the pace down for the last mile every minute until I was running 5:18 pace for the last minute. My heart rate got up to 90% of max which is right in the middle of the typical tempo range according to Daniels.

The last 5 miles were the hardest for me mentally. I was dreading them actually. I switched back to my audiobook and set my mind to focus on the task at hand. I started this section at 7:30 pace and ended it at 6:30 pace. I ran it faster and faster because I wanted to finish it! I was tired by the end, but I don't feel like I overdid it.

I have a race coming up. It's a half marathon. I am tapering for it. I have no idea what I will run there. I know now, after reading Top Dog, that just "thinking positively" about it will likely lead to a poor performance. Instead, I have realistic expectations that I could have a very good day if I feel good and everything lines up, including some planets. I've run the race a couple of times before, so I know what to expect. The weather may be warm but not miserable. So, the external factors appear to be lining up. Now, we'll just have to see how the physical and mental pieces fall in place. I have had some good workouts that tell me I am fairly fit, though not in top shape. I also just ran a 19:00 5k, so there you go.

I promise to write a race report right after the half marathon regardless of how it goes! I will likely be drunk since I'll be running from Napa to Sonoma and staying the night in Sonoma. It should be entertaining if nothing else.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

RAF gets a face lift

I've spent a bit of time freshening up this blog site. A spiffy new logo, tagline and overall look. Seems much happier to me. Let me know what you think!

In the mean time, I'm continuing to train and race like a she devil. I will run my first 5k in a long time tomorrow on the track. It should be a lung-opening experience. I'll post the deets after she's done.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Coffee Mystery and a Training Update
A couple of months ago, I woke up and didn't want coffee. So what, you say? So what? I am THE coffee queen! I want coffee as soon as I rise in the morning and love to drink it all day long. I love the taste, the smell and the feeling I get from coffee. It goes beyond the caffeine, too. I have nearly every device made by man for  preparing coffee: two espresso machines, a stove top espresso maker, a Chemex glass filter, the AeroPress, the Cold-filtered Coffee Toddy, multiple french presses, and even a Belgian style syphon coffee maker. That's how much I love coffee. So, you can imagine how shaken up I was that morning and the months that followed.

I initially wrote it off as me coming down with a cold. I have disliked coffee in the past when sick. However, I never got sick and still did not like coffee. For months, I have forced myself to drink it, even though I didn't really want it or like it. I was embarrassed to reveal my new aversion to anyone who knew me. Why was this happening?! Was I going through some weird mid-life change that all women experienced? One coworker asked if I had had a stroke. Maybe? was my answer.

I am happy to report that the culprit was the allergy medicine I was taking. I stopped taking it Monday, and bam! Love coffee again. I also started craving my usual yogurt, fruit and granola parfait that I have had nearly every morning for the last three years. That's right, I couldn't stomach the stuff while on the allergy meds. Weird, right?

I also have been feeling a lot stronger this week. One of the reasons I stopped taking the allergy meds was that I wondered whether they might be responsible for a lethargic feeling I had been dealing with for the past few weeks. I had been feeling so poorly, in fact, that I went in for more lab tests to see if my electrolytes were out of balance or if my iron stores were low again. Actually, my blood work was amazingly normal. Electrolytes right in the normal range and my ferritin was a shocking 71 ng/ml! 71!! I have never had levels higher than 40. I am very happy with that. This is all good news leading into a hot summer of training.

Speaking of training...this week was all about building strength. I have been good about doing my strength work again--something I lost touch with in my last training cycle after about 8 weeks. I have added plyometrics, drills, sprints and strides back into my weekly routine. I did 12 x 400 meter hill repeats on Wednesday in the midday heat and felt particularly strong. I ran at altitude in Yosemite on Friday on a trail that was labeled as "moderate". It started with a 1300 foot climb. Tonight, I have to admit I wimped out and hopped on a treadmill for a tempo run to avoid the 109-degree heat. I sacrificed boredom for running 6 miles at actual tempo pace within my 15 mile long run.

Except, I didn't run 6 miles at tempo pace. I ran 9! I felt so incredible that I just wanted to keep going. The workout was supposed to be 3 x 2 miles between 6:10-6:20 pace. I started on the slower end with the first repeat and then increased my tempo to 6:10 pace for the last 2 miles. I didn't feel tired at that point and had 4 more miles to run on the machine. So, I decided it would be easier to run at 6:10 pace for another repeat than 7:00-7:30 pace, recognizing I could stop at any point if I felt tired. I ran 1 mile at 6:09 pace, then bumped it down to 6:00 pace. At the end of two miles, I still felt great and my HR was still in the lower end of the tempo zone. So, I cranked her down to 5:50 pace and rode out the last mile there. I could have gone longer, but I figured 9 miles of tempo work was enough.

I know that paces on the treadmill are a joke, and I don't take them seriously at all. To keep things fun, I hopped around to different treadmills for each different repeat. There was hardly anyone in the gym and I just really needed to spice things up. What I did like was staring at the wall with the words "Change Your Life" printed in enormous letters. When I run strong, I feel like I can change my life in a positive way.  

Most importantly, instead of feeling exhausted with all of this work, I feel myself getting stronger and more energized. My speed is taking its own sweet time catching up this training cycle, but I know it will eventually arrive. I originally had some 5k races scheduled for June, but I just haven't felt up to the task. I do have a 5000m track race on my calendar for next weekend, so we'll see how that goes. I will also be racing a half marathon on my birthday in late July. I hope I am able to improve both strength and speed so I make a good showing there.

My weekly mileage is nudging back up into the 70s and that feels good too. I am getting lots of run time with my critters these days. I even started running the legendary Coach T. She is 12 now and can only do 1-2 miles at 10:30-11:00 pace, but I love watching her trot along next to me. She's actually helped me see the value in a very slow cool down run. Always the coach.

It seems hard to believe that Chicago is only 15 weeks away. I have some long, hot weeks of training ahead, but I am looking forward to seeing how fit I can become in that time.

It's going to be a hot one!!!