Friday, February 22, 2013

Losing a week of training

It's true. I am losing a week of marathon training. The reason: My goal race is now on April 28th instead of May 5th. I have decided to run the Eugene Marathon instead of the Tacoma City Marathon for a few reasons:

1. Eugene is a faster course and I might be able to meet my goal of winning a marathon while running a decent time there.
2. Eugene offers elite entry and prizes. Tacoma does not offer either.
3. I know Eugene is a top-notch event since I've run it before, once as an elite. Tacoma is an unknown to me.
4. I can drive to Eugene, so it will actually be cheaper even though I'm paying for a hotel room (especially since I don't have to pay registration).
5. My Mom wasn't as excited as I expected about me running a marathon in her back yard. She'd rather travel somewhere to watch.

So, I am now 9 weeks out from my goal race. I also decided to switch up my racing schedule and run a 10-mile race next weekend. My workouts have been going so well. I'd love to see where I am right now.

Speaking of workouts. This week started off a little cruddy with a foot tendon issue cropping up on Wednesday that had me debating about whether I should rest and ice it or try to run on it. I decided to take the day off from running and ice it. That was the right answer. The foot cleared up by the next morning so I could do my 10 x 800m workout at 5 a.m. with no pain or soreness.

My goal for the workout was to run between 2:50 and 3:00 per repeat and take a 2 minute jog in between. I was to start on the slow end and work my way down.

Just as an aside, I do all of my workouts that have repeats longer than 400m on the bike trail behind my house, which is mostly flat terrain with both a dirt shoulder and asphalt bike trail. The trail has markers every half mile and I use those for my repeats. I know I could do this workout faster on a treadmill or even a track, but I like to train in conditions (e.g. weather, passing runners, veering off the trail as bikes come at me) similar to what I'll race in. Luckily, I don't have to wear a headlamp when I race!

Back to the workout. One thing I really like about Coach Hadley's program is that I repeat most of the workouts on a regular basis--every 4-5 weeks. It is a great way to gauge fitness over time. I did this workout about 5 weeks ago and thought I did a good job. I stayed within the split range Coach Hadley gave me, which was 3:00-3:05, averaging 3:03 per 1/2 mile. I recall feeling like I had given that workout a solid effort--not all out, but definitely working.

My splits this time around, on the same course, were:

average = 2:53

I finished feeling just the same as I had the last time I did the workout, but I averaged 10 seconds per repeat faster. That's 20 seconds per mile! That's leaps and bounds. I also ran this workout in trainers because I had a feeling the flats I wore last week started the irritation in my tendon. I guess that proves it isn't all about the shoes! I felt great after this workout, enough so to spend the day walking 9 miles out in the field in rubber boots and doing my shrimp squats. Bonus: my tendon wasn't sore at all last night after all of that abuse.

I don't believe I've ever improved that quickly in such a short period of time. I'm trying to savor the feeling right now because I know that there are both ups and downs in this sport.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dogs and Cats Living Together

My officemate, Bella.
This week's training had to work around issues involving my dogs and cats. My new puppy, Bella, has been working very hard to train me and The Genius. She does not understand why we haven't figured out that anything that smells like us, and the grosser the better, will be confiscated and destroyed if it is within 3 feet of the ground. One Garmin 410 strap, 1 set of headphones and an MP3 player later, we are figuring it out. She likes the running stuff, probably because it is so smelly.

All in all, she is acclimating to her new digs well. The dogs are all getting along fine. The cats are mostly fine, but one of them (Moose) had to go to the vet on Friday evening to try to unblock his peepee. He's still at the vet because even after unblocking his urethra, he still isn't peeing on his own. They have confirmed that he has stones that need to be surgically removed. Poor guy. Surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, so I hope to bring him home that night.

Logan + Bella = Hound Love.
Aside from the animal drama, I had a great week of training.

11-17 Feb
79 miles
7 runs
19 mile long run

Wednesday's workout was noteworthy in that I ran the 2 mile repeats 25-30 seconds faster than I did a month ago. That's significant progress! I wore my new Nike Lunaracers on this run too, and I loved them. These will be my marathon shoes, so I need to get them broken in!
sparkly new shoes!
What I was most proud of was my workout Friday. It isn't anything to get excited about if you only look at the paces. What made it special was the fact that I started it at 9 p.m. after a rather stressful day. I had already decided to can the workout and just do an easy run given the late start. Once I got out and was at the turn around point, I decided I would see how I felt in a few miles and left myself the option to tack on the 3 mile up tempo section at the end, getting in 12 miles rather than 9. Though my legs were heavy from a strength routine I did earlier in the day and I was very hungry for dinner (and tired!), I did it. I told Coach Hadley that it is a rare occasion when I convince myself to do a workout after deciding to run easy. 

DOMS from the strength training hit my legs and butt like a train wreck on Saturday and I felt it pretty much the entire long run today too. I ran 19 miles today with 6 x 1 mile repeats. These are goal marathon paced repeats, but I don't really have a goal marathon pace at this point. I'm just running them how I feel, which means at about marathon effort. What's interesting is that I am settling in on 6:17 pace. The last 3-4 marathon pace runs I've done have averaged very close to this pace, and not by design. I had really believed I would be in 2:50 shape for Tacoma, but I don't want to limit myself. To win the race, I think I need to be ready for anything from 2:46-2:50, so I'll just keep trying to get into the best marathon shape I can.

I didn't get in as much supplemental work as I'd like this week, but I am feeling really good right now. I'm trying to be more cognizant of balance in my training than a slave to prescription. It's easy for me to fall victim to the numbers game and forget to listen to my body. I am trying hard to listen. 

Finally, I am also excited about the fact that I am running about 4-5 lbs heavier than my normal racing weight right now. Why is that exciting? Because I know that I will lose the weight over the next 2 months--that's just how my body responds in the last 2 months of marathon training. I will become faster just by sloughing off those few extra pounds! Some people prefer to stay close to racing weight year round, but I like to let myself gain and then slowly lose as I get closer to my goal race. I like the feeling of "leaning" up and how workouts start to feel easier as I get closer to my goal weight and race.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Recap: Feb 4-10

4-10 Feb
80 miles 
7 days of running
18 mile long run

Compared to the week prior, this past week was spectacularly uneventful. I got in all of my workouts, including most of the supplemental stuff and also got good sleep and nutrition. I included a little more detail in my log to show the various strength and core exercises I do. For the strength routine that I did on Wednesday, I didn't include the amount of weight I use for the exercises, but I do use weights for most of the exercises, with heavy weights (I'll get up to 130 lbs) for the squats. I'm trying to add more to my basic core routine and work up to doing it four times per week in addition to the strength training. I'm feeling really good at 80 miles and the four miles at marathon pace today at the tail end of my long run felt like nothing. I like that feeling.

Logan and Bella. She will grow into those ears, I'm pretty sure.
In other news: I was also able to find a non-psycho puppy to adopt at a hound rescue in Jackson, CA. Her given name is Bella Luna. Jackson is a lot closer to me than Horse Creek, so, even if things didn't go well with the introduction, I wouldn't have to spend 12 hours driving to return her. She blends very well with my current menagerie, and is slowly but surely gaining confidence. She spent her first months of life roaming the streets of Sacramento, then in the County Animal Shelter and was lucky enough to find a home in Jackson before she was to be euthanized. She is a timid girl (the County Shelter had her labeled as aggressive which is why they were going to off her) and about 10 lbs under weight. She is gorgeous. I'm looking forward to watching her grow and become a more confident girl.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Running with people

Tuesday workout
16 x 400m/1 min jog rest
target: 85-89 sec/lap
actual splits: 85, 86, 85, 85, 86, 85, 85, 81, 81, 81, 83, 83, 82, 83, 82, 81

I run all of my workouts solo. This is mainly because I don't have a predictable work schedule, the team I belong to (Impalas) train in San Francisco, and I always seem to be on a different training schedule from most of my friends. For the most part, I have always trained by myself, and I am used to it. I will say, however, that I often wish I had a group (or even one person) to train with that ran my same workouts and paces. When I have had this, I felt like it made the workout so much more enjoyable and it also felt a bit easier.

I have wanted to switch my training schedule to Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday workouts instead of Wednesday/Friday/Sunday for a while now and last week's jacked schedule followed by Saturday's 20 miler gave me the perfect opportunity. So, last night, I did my speed workout which included 16 x 400m repeats. I almost exclusively run my workouts on the paved bike trail near my house, but I like doing 400s on the track. So, I headed to one of the few well-lit tracks in Sacramento at American River College. I did a quick warm up and then some drills and strides. My target paces were to be 85-89 seconds per lap and I was to take 1 minute jog rests. The goal was to run fast, but in control--to not strain and feel as if I could do a few more repeats at the end.

I started off with an 85 second lap and it felt pretty easy. I jogged 1 minute which ended up being 200 meters, and then started the next. I stuck right around 85 for the first few, jogging 200m in between. Pretty soon, I noticed members of a local running team starting to congregate at the start line. It was the River City Rebels. We worked around each other for a few laps until I realized they were also doing 400s. I asked them if I could jump in with theirs, and they didn't say no.

I was super excited to have a pack to run with. One of the Rebels took off on the first repeat (my 8th) like a bat out of hell, and I stuck with her knowing that I was going too fast for my workout. We cleared the 200m mark in 39 seconds. Way too fast. I backed off. I went through the 400 in 81. The pack stopped at the 400 mark and walked for a bit before jogging in the reverse direction back to the start line. I realized that they were doing their repeats faster and taking more rest than me--a very different workout. They were also doing fewer repeats (8-10). I stuck with them for a couple more, and I have to say it felt so much easier to push these paces with someone to chase. Thanks to Karen for being the rabbit!

After the third repeat with the group, I needed to get back to my workout. I bid them farewell and cranked out a few more. All in all, I was very pleased with how this workout went. I felt strong at the end and definitely could have done a few more. It also felt good to have a positive midweek workout experience after the weekend's 20-miler. I like the contrast of running long and steady, then short and fast close together like that. It reminds me that my legs do have some speed if I just set them free.

It was great to have company for part of the workout, and I was very tempted to change mine to continue running with the Rebels. However, I realized that I needed to stick with my workout as written to get the benefits it had to offer. I might have stuck with the Rebels had I not read Pete Magill's post about training errors earlier that day. My mistake would have been closest to Mistake #1: Start too Fast. Even though I didn't start the workout too fast, I was not doing the right paces running their workout. While the 400s were a bit fast for my longer workout, mostly, I was worried about taking more rest between repeats than I was supposed to. I do remember saying, as Magill did to his friends, "you're going too fast for me" before I left the group to resume my workout. It felt weird to say that, but it was true. My 16 x 400m workout with short rest is a marathoner's workout, and I am a marathoner after all.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Two weeks of crazy

Jan 21 - Jan 27
6 runs
63 miles
17 mile long run

Jan 28 - Feb 3
5 runs
51 miles
20.5 mile long run

1800 miles of driving

As you can see from my log and summary stats, these last two weeks were not the greatest for a marathoner in training. This was a result of my work world colliding with my training world and a decision to try to save a puppy. However, there were some spectacular things that came out of it as well.

I hate missing a day of running, but sometimes the sched just doesn't allow. That's what happened on January 23rd. I spent the day in the field looking for shrimp in vernal pools. It was a great field day, but I had forgotten how tired I get at the end of the day after walking about 5-6 miles in rubber boots on uneven terrain, sweeping a net 5-10 times in each pool (I sampled 40 pools that day), and then doing what I am now referring to as shrimp squats. The basic move for shrimping is to sweep the net through the water for about one meter and then either squat down to see the contents with the net still in the water or bring the net up to your face to see the goofy little critters out of water, squirming around. I find it easier to identify them when they are swimming around in the water, so I was squatting down and holding that for about 30-60 seconds, at least 5 times per pool. Needless to say, my legs were fried at the end of the day and running a workout was not going to happen. I kicked myself for not getting up early to run, but it would have been VERY early to get to the field on time.

I did my 6 x 1 mile workout the next day, and it went fine. I was going to also do my strength training when it dawned on me that what I had done the day before out in the field was probably a better strength workout than anything I could try to replicate in the gym. Coach Hadley agreed with that. This led to a revelation: we go to the gym to strength train because our lives our so sedentary and our daily tasks so mechanized that we don't build strength in every day activities. Now that my job has become more physical, I have to be careful not to overdo it and adjust my training to accommodate this new level of activity. I am thrilled to be out in the field again--it makes me feel alive and excited about my job. It just means I'll be subbing shrimp squats and net pulls for my Spasov squats and lat pulls. Fine by me.

My long run Sunday was awesome. I felt super strong running marathon effort (6:15 pace) and am really starting to get my endurance back. I was also excited about heading up north near Yreka, CA to meet a new puppy that I was hoping to adopt. I have two dogs already: a 12-year-old girl named Sadie and a 2-year-old hound named Logan. Last week I found out that the shelter that Logan came from was being evicted on Feb 1 from the property they were leasing and all of the dogs would be going to shelters in the area, all of which had high kill rates. If there was ever a time for me to adopt another dog, this was it. I called the shelter owner and asked whether she had any young hound pups. She of course remembered Logan and said she had the perfect girlfriend for him: a 6-month-old coonhound-bloodhound mix. She sent pictures and my heart melted. She told me she hadn't posted her yet for adoption but that she'd hold her for me if I wanted to meet her.
You can see why I drove 300 miles to see her, right?

After my long run, I packed up some dog things and started my 5 to 6 hour drive north. I got in to Horse Creek, where the shelter is, at 8:00 and was introduced to Dusty Rose. She was a sweetheart for sure and we hit it off right away. I spent some quality time with her, paid the adoption fees and loaded her up for the long drive home. She was a great traveler. We got home at 2 a.m. and I was excited to see how my dogs would interact with her. I let the Ambassador of Goodwill, Logan, out into the garage to meet her. She ran over to him and they had about a two-second stiff-legged, nose-to-butt stand off before she started trying to attack him. He didn't fight back. I was shocked at this behavior. I was worried that the new girl would be afraid and would cower. It hadn't even dawned on me that she might be aggressive. I realized she was scared. I tried to calm her, but she would not relent. In a few short minutes, Logan was cowering at the garage door to get the hell back in the house. Poor guy.

I sat with the pup for a minute trying to figure out what to do next. I decided to try introducing the grouchy old girl that I knew could hold her own. Sadie came out into the garage and the puppy instantly started trying to bite her. Sadie just stood there and barked but did not engage. I let everyone settle down a little and tried a few more things before realizing that this wasn't going to work out. I felt so horrible for this poor puppy. It was clear that she had learned this behavior from having to hold her own in whatever awful living situation she had been in before she reached the shelter. Nonetheless, I could not jeopardize the safety of my animals by keeping her and I certainly didn't have the time or skills to train this out of her (if that was even possible).

I tried keeping her out back for the night, but of course she howled and barked. The only option was to return her to the shelter. So, I brewed some coffee and set out to take her back…at 4:00 a.m. I knew I would have to stop at some point along the way to sleep for an hour or so, and I found a rest stop about 2 hours into the drive where I could curl up on the dog bed in the back of my car and sleep. I was out for maybe 45 minutes and hit the road again.

I arrived in Yreka, CA around 9:00 a.m. and was finally able to get a hold of the shelter owner. She felt horrible about what had happened and said she would meet me at a rest stop off of I-5 so I wouldn't have to drive all the way to her place. I went to the rest stop and waited. I waited for 2.5 hours. She was not answering her phone. At this point, I was cranky. I had decided to wait to eat until I had dropped off the dog, so I was super hungry. She finally called me to tell me that she couldn't make it to the rest stop and that I would need to drive to her place to drop off Dusty Rose. I was so tired, so sad and so hungry. I just wanted this day to end.

I dropped off the pup and then started for home. I finally arrived home at around 7 p.m. There was no way I was going to run. I could barely keep my eyes open after 36 hours without sleep. I slept for 12 hours that night.

The next day, I was working from home and was thoroughly enjoying having a laid back day. Then, I got a call from a colleague in the late afternoon asking if I could head down to Santa Barbara that night (6-hour drive each way). One of my other colleagues was sick, and they needed me to fill in. Of course I would. I prepped for the field work, completed my run, and then headed out at around 8:00 p.m. I got in the next morning at 2 a.m. and then had to head to the job site at 7:30, saving my run for the evening. While I did get my run in, I was dead tired again. Thursday morning, I had to run before work since I would be driving back home after the day in the field. I was supposed to do a workout, but Coach Hadley warned me to be very careful about stressing my body any more than I had already this week. If I didn't feel good, I was not to attempt the workout. I didn't feel great, so I opted for strides instead.

I finally arrived home again at 11:30 p.m. (yep, that was a 16-hour work day) and was now very concerned about getting sick. The Genius had been sick with a horrible chest cold for over a week, and I had developed the tell-tale scratchy throat on Sunday. I was just waiting for the cold to hit. But it didn't.

The cold didn't take me out because I tried not to stress my body additionally with training, thanks to the advice from Coach Hadley. Each time I had a decision to make about my training, I made it thinking about whether it would be a good or bad stress for my body. I didn't run on Friday (after another day in the field sampling shrimp!) recognizing that I would be doing more harm than good. I also didn't do any strength work this week to reduce the stress.

What I was looking forward to all week was the Jed Smith Ultra Race Saturday here in Sacramento. A masters runner from Minnesota, Amy Halseth, had contacted me a couple of weeks back to ask if I would be willing to pace her in her first 50 mile race. She was trying to meet an ambitious time standard to qualify for the world ultra championships and needed pacers that could help her get there. I was thrilled that she reached out to me. What I didn't know was how far I would be running with her. The 50 mile course would be 10, 5-mile loops of a loop that I run often. I love that loop. I had a 10-mile run on my schedule for Saturday and a 17 mile run for Sunday. I decided to see how I felt in the morning and then decide which distance to run.

When I got to the start/finish area to meet Amy, I saw her Dad (had seen his picture on Facebook!) and introduced myself to him. He told me that Amy had just come through, like 2 minutes ago, and that she was way ahead of schedule. Oh my God! I had to try to catch her. I threw off my layers and took off after her. Without a warm up, I ran for 2 miles at 6:15-6:20 pace and never caught her! I decided to cut across the nearest bridge and backtrack on the course to find her. Again, I had seen her picture on Facebook so I knew what she looked like. I also knew she was the lead female!

I finally caught her and we introduced ourselves. Funny to meet for the first time in the middle of a 50-miler. She was cooking right along at around 7:00 pace and was able to carry on a great conversation. We talked and ran a couple more loops of the course and then it was time for me to turn it over to her husband for lap 9. But, I wanted to keep going! She told me that I was more than welcome to go another lap with her, but I knew she wanted to do the last on her own. We slowed a little in the 9th lap, but she was still strong. It was so exciting to hear the Garmin beep announcing another mile completed. We did a little celebration each time since it was a mileage PR for her. Her previous highest mileage run was 32 miles. I was so inspired running alongside Amy and watching her in this amazing performance. She ended up fishing in under 6 hours 20 minutes, was the first female and second runner overall. She also smashed the standard she was trying to meet of 6 hours and 40 minutes. I ended up running 20.5 miles and was excited about that too. What a great way to do a long run.

Amy and Jaymee ticking off another lap!
With the winner at the finish!
What's even better--I felt great after the run. I hadn't taken any gel and only two cups of water, so I think this one qualified as a serious depletion run. I knew that I had either doomed myself to catch the cold from hell or I would be miraculously cured. I woke up Sunday morning feeling awesome. My throat was no longer sore, my stuffy head was a little less stuffy, and I had enough energy to do house chores for about 5 hours and run.

In the past, when I felt like I was coming down with a cold, I would assess whether I should still run at all, just run easy, do strength work, etc. I had always followed the advice that a cold affecting me above the neck was safe to keep running through and anything with a fever or in the chest should be rested. Although I had just a head cold, I was conservative this time around and tried to keep the running stress to a minimum even though the life stress was maxed out. It worked.

I see runners all the time (and I've been there too!) who have these on-going sicknesses that seem to last for weeks, and they keep running their normal schedule. I've always wondered if continuing to run and train prolongs the sickness, and now I think I know. Interestingly, once The Genius decided to take some down time, his cold started to go away too. Sample size of 2.

This week, I am hoping to have a normal schedule so I can fit running and work in without stressing my body in a bad way. I had planned to run a race on Saturday, but Coach Hadley and I decided that I should try to get in a solid training week rather than taper for a race. So, back up to the high 70s with mileage and some fast 400 repeats tomorrow!