Archive for ‘Gear’

February 10, 2015

The Trials of Miles



So I realized this morning that I really do have a place where everybody knows my name, and that place is Starbucks.  I may need to consider taking a week off caffeine again soon.

It seems like everyone from Running Boston and Beyond to The Athletarian was writing about their mile repeats last week, and I had my first set in ages today.  It was 3×1600 @ 6:59 (and that counts as sub-7, baby!), and it was brutal.  Since my foot *seems* to be all-systems go, I switched my focus  this week from the 4-miler on the 21st to the NYC Half in March.  I’m still trying to gauge where my fitness is now, but it feels like the time off as cost me more endurance than speed.  I need to come up with a training strategy and set some realistic goals for my spring races, so this weekend’s 10-miler was a big test.  It was my first run longer than 7 miles since Thanksgiving, and I was targeting an 8:30 pace.  I ran my usual to-, from-, and two laps of Prospect route and clocked in at 8:31’s, which was a HUGE confidence boost.
Before the stress fracture in the fall I was aiming for a 1:45 spring half, and based on the 10-miler and my miscalculated tempo the other day, I decided to proceed as planned.  That’s ambitious for mid-March, as I only have four training weeks to get ready, but if the foot holds, I have my eye on the NYRR women’s half in April.  I am ready to put in a lot of hard work, but I’ll be on high alert for any indications of overtraining or that my stress fracture acting up.  Right now my plan is to continue with running only on my structured workout days and substitute biking and swimming on what would be easy days.

On the subject of Tri, I’ve christened my bike Tzippi and spent some quality trainer time with her this week, though  I still haven’t gotten her calibrated with the pseudo power meter. I’m definitely lacking in bike training experience and I’ve been worried that I’m inadvertently spending a lot of time in the training black hole, so it will be good to get some real(ish) data soon.  I am, however, loving my new Cat Eye Strada Smart.  It’s fully Bluetooth, which means there are no wires to clip to the frame, and the workouts automatically sync with my phone.  Now if only I could find a good method for counting swim laps I’d be all set.  I generally count strokes/breaths and I find it impossible to maintain an accurate lap count in my head as well.  I could try the old Garmin-in-ziploc-in-swimcap trick, which is probably what I’ll do for racing, but I’m not convinced of its accuracy over 25 yards.  Does anyone have any good tips for keeping track?  The best I’ve come up with so far is a poolside abacus, which seems less than ideal…

January 30, 2015

Ups and Downs

It was that kind of week.

It was that kind of week.

You know those Time Warner Cable PSA’s that try to get kids interested in STEM subjects by relating them to sports?  I have a great idea for one:

“Running requires speed, strength, and endurance.  But did you know that it also requires basic arithmetic skills so that you don’t end up doing your tempo run 50 seconds per mile faster than you’re supposed to?  Well, it does.”

I’m still working on the ending.  I actually appreciate a good math error now and then, though.  (Not the Tacoma Narrows sort, but the more benign running-faster-than-I-thought-I-could kind.)  It was a good boost in what’s been an up and down couple of weeks.

Last Tuesday I did my first speed work since before the Brooklyn Marathon, and was thrilled to discover that I was able to keep up with my pre-injury interval paces without much trouble.  I banged out a solid 5-mile tempo run on Thursday and was still feeling some twinges in my foot, but by the weekend it was feeling almost back to normal.  On Friday I had my monthly strength session with my trainer, Kali, Destroyer of Worlds and Abs.  With all of the extra time spent not running for the past few months I had been putting in 2-3 strength sessions a week, and I was curious to see how I would fare this time.  My trainer is not easily impressed, though, and my hopes were not high.  After an hour of brutality, I finally earned a fist bump from her.  Go me.

Saturday I did an hour on the trainer bricked with a 4-mile run.  I had intended to go easy on the run, but I felt good and ended up running an 8:50ish pace.  I’ve been a little concerned that all the strength work might cost me some speed, but my core feels rock solid and I feel like I have much more power in my legs than before, so that’s all to the good.  Sunday was a 6-mile tempo on the treadmill bricked with a 30-minute swim, both of which felt great.  Monday I was back to strength training, as I’m determined to keep up the gains I’ve made.

Tuesday was supposed to be an interval run, which I would usually do on the treadmill.  Thanks to the Storm of the Century that Wasn’t, the gym was closed.  Brooklyn actually got about 7”, and I adore running in the snow, so happily set out with my Yak Trax.  I debated running to Prospect Park, which is really beautiful in the snow, but the 7-mile round trip seemed like a bit much.  In the end, I was happy I opted for a shorter run because my arch/big toe started hurting almost immediately.  There must have been something about the slight slippage that was intensifying whatever change there has been to my gait, and I ended up only doing 3 miles.  To make up for the missed speedwork, I did a 40-minute HIIT session on the trainer to round out the day.

Wednesday was a morning swim/ evening strength day, but I noticed when I was walking to a meeting for work that afternoon that I was rocking to the outside of my left foot to avoid putting weight on my big toe.  Not good.  I hoped it would be better for Thursday’s tempo run, but it was still tender that morning.  I vacillated, vacillated some more, and ended up deciding to swap Friday’s bike ride for the run.  I knew it was the smart thing to do—getting a secondary injury while coming back from the stress fracture is exactly what I’m trying to avoid.  I was still grumpy about it, though, and proceeded to try to set up my new Cat Eye Strada Smart before the trainer session so that I could start getting a sense of my power output.  This was all transpiring at 6 AM, mind you, so I was neither at my sharpest or most reasonable. I knew I didn’t realistically have time to get the bike computer set up, but I was still sulking about the run and resenting the whole situation.  I finally had to give up the set-up process at 7:10, which gave me exactly not enough time to get the full 40 minutes in and still get to work on time.  I also totally forgot that the Caveboy had a big thing at work that day until after he left and spent most of the ride feeling like a bad girlfriend.

That brings me to today and the miscalculated tempo run.  My foot was (thankfully) feeling better, and I was eager to get the tempo run in since I had missed running intervals this week.  I was supposed to be doing 4 miles at 8:10’s, but I obviously messed up somewhere because I set the treadmill to 8.2.  If you’re following along at home, that’s a 7:19 mile, which, for some perspective, is my mile repeat pace.  After the first mile I kind of knew something was up, but decided just to ride it out if I could.  I made it–probably with my heart rate higher than it should have been–but it was a huge confidence boost.  I did manage to finish getting the Strada set up on the bike last night (with the exception of calibrating the power output) so I’m looking forward to starting some more focused cycle training next week.  Until then, Go Pats!

November 24, 2014

My Year of Doing Scary Things


This fall I decided that this would be my year of doing things that scared me.  I finally ran a marathon, and then I ran another one.  I’ve done some things in my personal life that were scary, too, and I’m working on some more.  I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, in fact, when Long Run Buddy casually forwarded me the link to the NYC Triathlon lottery a few weeks ago.  For years, I have been espousing my complete non-interest in triathlons.  “I don’t do sports that involve changing clothes during the event” was my favorite line, but really it was all about the swim.  I can swim, but I have never been anything resembling a strong swimmer.  My upper body strength borders on non-existent, so I tend to flail my legs mightily in an effort to compensate.  It’s an effective workout strategy, as it generally leaves me exhausted and jelly-legged in a matter of minutes.

Clearly, considering an Olympic-length tri was going to be a tall order, but for some reason I didn’t write it off this time.  I mulled it over for a week.  I thought about the fact that I would definitely need something other than my beloved Raleigh commuter bike for it.  I thought a lot about the swim, and what it would take to get myself in shape for it.  I checked the deferral policy, determined that I could punt for a year if I wanted to, filled in the registration information, and clicked Submit.  A week later, I got the acceptance email.  Ironically, LRB did not, so I’m on my own for this one.  In the weeks since the lottery, I’ve signed up for a swim class and got a great deal on a road bike on Craigslist.  (She is fast and light and I’ve named her Tzippi.)  I also bought an indoor trainer, which I’m loving right now.  Even if I crash and burn on the tri attempt, having a good indoor workout option this winter will be great.  I’m already envisioning squeezing in evening cross-training sessions into my spring marathon training, too…

On Saturday LRB and I went out for my first brick workout–10 miles of biking in Prospect followed by an easy 3-mile run in Brooklyn Bridge Park.  It was my first loops of Prospect since the marathon last weekend, and for the first few miles I was flying down hills and having a great time remembering how good the race had felt.  As we approached The Big Hill, I thought about how much I had struggled running it when I first moved to Brooklyn, and how far I had come in that time.  Then I tried to bike up it.  Within a minute my legs were leaden and runners were actually passing me.  It seems The Hill is not done with me.  Also, cycling is hard.  It’s a good thing I’m not about to let that scare me.


August 6, 2014

The Art of the Run Commute


There is something really empowering about running as transportation.  I love that I can just put on my shoes and get myself to work, sans subway, bike, or car, and I feel more mentally prepared for the day when I get in.  I can make it to the office in about half an hour door to door, which is actually about the same as the subway would take, so it can actually be a great time-saver as well.  Still, commuting on foot does take some logistics, and I’ve found that proper planning is key.

The most important component of my run commute is having a good running backpack.  I like the Gregory Maya, which is a roomy but slim women’s daypack.  I can fit my purse, a change of clothes (and shoes), and even my lunch in there without much trouble.  Fit is really critical for comfort, particularly if you have a longer commute or plan to run both ways.  I had some trouble with the straps chafing my shoulders the first few times out, so I made some fleece pads that slide over the straps and give me a softer cushion.  Also, pack your keys and other pointy items away from any contact points with your body.  (That may sound obvious, but a lot of packs have the smaller, protected pockets on the inside or along the back.  This is not the spot for your keys.)


My biggest worry when I started running to work was that I’d forget something critical, get to work, and find that I had no bra or something.  I’m a list-loving kind of person, so I’ve started keeping packing lists for long runs, races, and commutes in my phone.  It’s not fool-proof, but at least I’ve always had underwear.  I always try to keep the clothes I pack as simple, minimally bulky, and wrinkle-proof as possible.   Make sure you have things like office keys and work ID’s, too.

Obviously, the biggest challenge to the run commute is the Superman to Clark Kent change at the office.  If you’re lucky enough to work in a building with showers, good for you.  I have the option of running to a gym location near my office and showering there, but I do occasionally also use the bathroom clean-up technique I developed for lunchtime runs in LA.  The first key item here is to cool down as quickly as possible, and I find downing a glass of ice water upon arrival helps a lot.  For the hygiene element, my weapon of choice is a supply of quality moist towelettes.  I currently keep a stash from Seventh Generation in my desk drawer, though you can also make your own.


The rest of my desk kit includes a comb, deodorant and some basic makeup supplies.  I have a shimmer stick that does double duty for eye shadow and blush, some face powder, and mascara.  For the guys, post-run hair maintenance is a little easier, but for the ladies I recommend minimal intervention from your run ‘style.’  If you pull it back into a ponytail for the run in, just tidy it up, or go for a bun.  For me at least, trying to up from up to down or vice versa always seems to yield disappointing results.

One final note: If at all possible, after changing clothes, hang up your running clothes to dry.  (Socks too!)  Whether you’re going to run back home or just repack your bag in the evening, you’ll appreciate not having a pile of damp, sweaty clothes sitting in your office.

Happy Commuting!


June 18, 2014



I went to work on Monday thinking I had a fairly quiet week in the office ahead of me. A few hours later I was going back home to pack a bag for Florida. We were testing an exterior wall mock-up at a lab in West Palm this week, and due to a shift in the schedule, I needed to be there at 8:00 the next morning.

Luckily, this week of training is one of my flex weeks, since we have a 10K race on Sunday. I had planned to do a repeat of last week’s workouts with a few adjustments, but given the travel I would content myself with whatever I could fit in. I spent all day at the mock-up yesterday and finally had time for a run around 5:30. I pulled my running clothes out of my suitcase, but couldn’t immediately find find the jog bra I’d packed. I knew I had put it in, so I ended up unpacking everything, checking and rechecking the pile of clothes, and even feeling around under the lining of the suitcase in case it had slipped through a loose edge, all to no avail. I have no idea what happened to the bra. I distinctly remember debating which one to take, folding it up, and laying it on the stack of clothes. After that it’s a complete mystery.

I debated my various options. If I went out to buy a bra, I’d miss my window to run. I could scrap the run altogether and go for a swim instead, but not knowing the schedule for the rest of the week, I really wanted to get one in while I had the opportunity. My only other option was to improvise something. I hiked up the straps on the two bras I had brought, but both on, and jumped up and down experimentally. Not too bad. I was undoubtedly going to sweat through all of the undergarments I had packed, but I had a workable solution. Off I went.

I was concerned how I would do in the heat and humidity, but it really wasn’t as bad as it might have been. I managed 5 1/2 miles at 9-minute pace, which felt more like a tempo HR in the heat. Today I’ll try to get in either an easy run or a swim if time allows. Until then, I shall hydrate.

October 3, 2011

An Overdue Update

It’s been a busy week, but I’m finally back on the West Coast and ready for a recap.  Tuesday I had another session at the Lounge, and talked to my massage therapist a bit about the further IT problems that week.  He felt that there was probably a lot of scar tissue binding up the muscle, which was in turn putting additional tension on the band and causing all the problems.  He spent most of the session working on my hips, and I found myself sore in some new places when I left.  I went to the gym that night armed with new shoes, with the idea of getting somewhere between 5 and 8 miles in, depending on how I felt.  My knee again felt sore in the first few miles, but it didn’t seem to escalate the way it had during the long run.  Somewhere around mile 4 it loosened up, and I was able to get in all 8 without too much trouble. 

Wednesday I was travelling all day, and on Thursday I decided to just focus on the strengthening exercises give myself one more day off running.  Friday I headed out for another easy run, and again decided that the goal would be 5 miles, and anything over that would be bonus.  The Caveboy lives in a very hilly, rolling neighborhood, which I generally consider to be ideal for a hill tune-up.  The climbs are all pretty short, but there is almost no level ground to be found anywhere in the 4-mile loop I usually run.  I was a little nervous about that, since slopes seem to aggravate my knee more than anything else.  I settled into an easy pace, though, and got through two full circuits of the loop without too much stiffness, which felt like a major victory.  It was the first time I’d been able to run on asphalt in two weeks without serious pain.  We went out for a quick 3-miler on Saturday, which I was hoping would keep everything loose without aggravating the IT band. 

Sunday was a perfect day for a long run—it was a cool 50 degrees with patches of sun breaking through the cloud cover.  We drove out to the NCR Trail, which runs from the northern suburbs of Baltimore all the way to York, Pennsylvania.  It had all the scenery I love—a meandering creek running along the trail, railroad trestles, and leaves that were starting to change.  Since the Caveboy wasn’t going to run the full 20, I ran a 3 mile out-and-back to start, and then met him back at the car.  He was talking to another runner, who had apparently dropped her car keys somewhere around mile 5.  I took some prophylactic Advil and we set out together, with a promise to track down the keys if we could.  (I love a run with a mission!)

About 4 miles into that leg, the IT band started up again.  Spurred on by the Case of the Missing Toyota key, I ground it out until we got to the 5 mile marker, and we took a walk break to search.  After about 5 or 6 minutes of scouring we decided to call it off, thinking that perhaps another runner had already found it.  Just then I caught a sparkle right at my feet, and picked up the key. This seems like a teachable moment for all of us runners:  Key fobs—get one, and the bigger, the better!  A Koosh ball would work well.  Just try to lose that in dry leaves.  The whole episode has actually prompted me to buy some snap hooks to sew into the pockets of my running gear.  I usually pin my keys into my pocket, and, while generally effective, this method does result in occasional stabbings and pokings.  I feel like the clips might be the answer. 

Anyway, either the walk/key search was enough to cool the IT band down, or the Advil kicked in just then, because when we started running again, I felt a lot better.  We decided to head back to the car just to be safe, but by mile 16 I was still feeling good.  We ran one more short out-and-back to make up the last four miles, and unbelievably, I had my 20-miler without further drama.  I realize that I did miss one more crucial point to the story, which was that I finally had the Chocolate Mint Gu, and it was fantastic.  Imagine a liquefied Peppermint Patty… it was that good.   

Due to some obvious lapse in my reasoning abilities when I booked my flights a few weeks ago, I had to be at BWI at 4:20 this morning.  That basically meant that after running 20 miles yesterday I got a grand total of 3 ½ hours sleep and got up at 3:30 AM.  (That’s the equivalent of having been up since 12:30 this morning in my current time zone, if you’re paying attention.)  I managed to sleep a bit on the plane, but I am in desperate need of some quality rest at this point.