Posts tagged ‘half marathon’

April 21, 2015

Musings on More

As evidenced by my posts the last few weeks, I went into the More/SHAPE/Fitness/Idontknowwhatelse Half Marathon on Sunday with mixed feelings.  It’s only been a little over a month since my huge PR at the NYC Half, and I raced a solid 4-miler in Central Park last weekend.  I’ve been ramping up the tri training over the last several weeks, though, and I’ve been cycling (no pun intended) between feeling like I’m on the verge of overtraining, backing off, panicking because I’m not training enough, ramping up, and repeating.  My big toe stopped squeaking this week, but now it hurts in a way that is somewhat reminiscent of the early stages of my stress fracture in the fall.  (I actually had an anxiety dream two nights before the half that all of my joints were squeaking like the Tin Man.)  Needless to say that when I toed the line on Sunday morning, it was with mixed emotions.

I scored a Wave 1 start for the race, and for the first time ever I actually lined up right at the tape.  That was mainly to get a view of Deena Kastor (squeeee!) RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.  When the gun went off I attempted to hang with her for about 25 feet, and all I can say is that seeing an elite runner up close was both incredibly humbling and slightly terrifying.  In the thrill of chasing Deena I laid down a sub-7 first mile, which was probably not wise.  I tried to back it off a bit on the next couple, but running with the front pack was throwing me off and I kept finding myself speeding up.  It wasn’t long before the initial excitement wore off though, and I started feeling a bit flat.  My left quad was worryingly tight, and even though my toe wasn’t hurting much I was also fretting about worsening that injury.  To add to the fun, I could feel the early twinges of a side stitch forming, probably thanks to the breakneck speed at the start.

The course was just over two loops of Central Park, and I knew the key would be to keep my effort consistent between the uphills and downhills. I kept the pace in check for the first trip up the Harlem Hills and made up some time on the back side, but knew that pacing on round two would be tougher.  I had my first gel when I passed the starting line again, six miles in.  Almost immediately I felt the side stitch twinges solidify into a Side Stitch From Hell, a la the Baltimore Marathon.  This time I at least had more core strength on my side, though, and I found that if I kept my upper abs totally engaged and breathed very low in my belly that the pain was manageable.  I continued this way for about a mile and a half, breathing in for three steps and out for two, and eventually the cramp seemed to ease a bit.  For most of that time I fantasized about dropping out, calling my mom and the Caveboy and telling them I DNF’d.  Usually that kind of thinking would motivate and refocus me, but this time I just didn’t seem care that much.  I kept running, pretty much on pace, so I guess I did care, but I just could not find my mojo.  At some point the 1:45 pace group leader caught up with me, and I hung with her group until the next aid station, which they walked through.  They caught me again just before the second trip up the Harlem Hills, and and I was happy to tuck in and let them take care of pacing for a while.  About a mile later I heard the leader say something about the pace being off, and they sped up a bit.  They pulled away over the next mile, and while I kept them in sight, I never made a serious effort to catch them.

By that point my main concern was my left quad, which was still cranky.  I was hoping it wouldn’t cramp up with the downhill stretch through the bottom of the park, and knew I should be drinking more and taking in another gel.  I was still wary about the side stitch returning, but I finally decided it was worth the risk and took a gel around the 11 mile mark.  We still had a couple of rolling sections left, and the course was becoming increasingly crowded with the walkers that we were lapping.  I’m all for athletes of all abilities taking part in these events, and I’m a firm believer that the last person across the finish line has every bit as much right to the course as the first.  Participating in a road race demands a certain level of awareness, however.  Whether you’re running fast, slow, or walking, you’re part of an athletic competition.  Walking four-abreast and blocking the entire lane and forcing other runners into the grass or the bike lane IS NOT GOOD RACING ETIQUETTE.  I definitely paid for the clear sailing at the start with a lot of bobbing and weaving on the second lap when I was physically and mentally drained.  By the time we turned off at the 72nd Street cutoff to the finish line, I was pretty fried.  I managed to ramp up the pace to the low 7’s for the last 800m or so, picked off two runners in the chute, and ended up finishing in 1:45:33.  It was certainly a solid time, and one I would have been thrilled with last season.  I should be thrilled with it now.  It was just over 2 minutes slower than my PR last month, but the course was much more difficult and the day was at least 15 degrees warmer.  Given how generally flat I felt, it was a really solid performance.  I finished 44th in my age group and 280th/7,500ish overall, which is certainly respectable.  Still, I’m disappointed. I can’t tell if it’s just that I gave up a little bit mentally and stopped fighting for this one, or if it’s part of a bigger issue.  Last year I actually scheduled quality time with myself after key races to reflect how things were going and make any adjustments to my training going forward.  I haven’t done that this year, and I think it might be time.

My biggest concern right now is my toe and whether I’m headed for another stress fracture.  If so, it most likely points to female athlete triad syndrome and the possible need to rethink both my training schedule and nutrition.  There’s so much there to unpack that I am going to leave it for a separate post, but suffice it to say that the threat is weighing heavily on me.  It’s way too early in the season to be worrying about major injuries and overtraining.  My big-picture goal is getting to Boston in the next year or two.  That means prioritizing my overall fitness  and staying healthy so that I’m able to train consistently.  To that end, I’ve decided that for at least the next week or two, my fitness goals are as follows:


  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
  • Eat more calories than I think I’m burning each day.
  • Institute a biking boot camp and substitute biking for all run workouts until the toe shows signs of improvement.
  • Stretch every day.
March 13, 2015

I need a plan.

The New York Half is in two days and somehow I still have no game plan.  Despite the countless demi-marathons I’ve run over the years and having run the race last year, I just don’t have a  good feel for Sunday.  The fact that I’m returning from injury and have only been training for 5 weeks with limited mileage is the first question mark.  I’ve been hitting my paces on the intervals and tempos, but I do feel like my speed over distance suffered a bit with the time off for the stress fracture.  I’ve been putting in more training hours in the past few months than I ever have, but the bulk have been swimming, biking, and strength training.  Post-injury I’m still limiting my mileage only to the ‘quality runs,’ so my monthly totals are looking more like my weeklies were last year.   I feel like the change in training approach along with the added strength sessions has definitely made me leaner and given me more power in my legs, but the past few weeks have been almost like getting used to running in new body.

To top all of that off, I got hit with a cold this week, so my running didn’t so much taper as drop off a steep cliff.  I’ve been (for once) erring on the side of extra rest, so I did a short interval session Tuesday morning before the cold really set in, a brisk 3 miles Wednesday night in an attempt to shake the congestion loose, and another easy 3 on Thursday morning.  My last strength session was Monday and I’ve done no swimming or cycling this week.  I’m still feeling a little stuffy, but my five pronged defense of hot tea, Echinacea, vitamin C, bone broth, and frequent use of the neti pot seems to be working.

Still, the pacing question remains.  My last long run was an 8-miler, which I ran at 8:15 pace.  It felt quick, but not bad.  The half marathon A goal this season is sub 1:45, which basically means running 8 flats.  My gut tells me that’s probably a little too fast to sustain right now, but part of me wants to just go out like a Kenyan and let the chips fall where they may.  The course is fast—all the hills are in the first 5-6 miles through Central Park, and then it’s pretty much a gradual downhill to Battery Park.  That said, if I plan to negative split I’ll need to allow a little extra time for the terrain at the beginning and then really book it at sub-8 pace for the second half.  The Central Park hills aren’t that bad, but I know from experience that they can take their toll if you go out too fast.  My worry is that if I get caught up in the moment and take off at near 8’s through the park I’ll end up nursing a side stitch for the rest of the race.

So the real question is, how much can I actually handle right now? How fast is too fast in the park?  To add to the fun, thanks to my Garmin’s altoceloraphobia, last year I lost satellites for most of the stretch through Midtown, so I can’t really plan on reliable pacing once I hit the flat anyway.  In the end this race may be more of an exercise in just going with the flow.  Given the head cold and that it’s my first real race back since my injury, I think I’d be happy to run close to a PR (1:50:44), and then gun for 1:45 next month in the Women’s Half.  Still, the weather is looking pretty ideal—mid 40’s with some clouds, and I want to do my best and start the season on a high note.  This should be my first run in ages not done on tired legs, so maybe there’s still hope for some race day magic.

December 5, 2014

No Pain, No Gain

After I finished all the cooking last weekend I savored a few minutes of quiet and sat down with my gmail calendar to plan my next few months of training.  I love lists, schedules, and thinking about interval workouts, so planning the next race is pretty much my favorite thing.  My spring A race is going to be the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach in March, but I’m also signed up for the Fred Lebow Half Marathon in January, which is where I had set my immediate sights.  I’m also gearing up for triathlon training in the spring, so I was looking forward to starting to incorporate bike and swim workouts as a two-a-day option for winter training.

Surrounded by a pile of training books (as well as multiple Chrome tabs), I crafted a fairly intense few months of morning runs and evening bike sessions, with swim classes starting up in January.  I enthusiastically kicked all of this off with brick workouts or two-a-days every day over Thanksgiving weekend.  I was feeling like a total beast—or at least enjoying imagining the total beast I would be after a month of biking drills.  Everything was going great until Sunday, as I was finishing an 8-mile run. I noticed some mild soreness in the top of my left foot, but chalked it up to the new shoes I was still breaking in and jumped on the bike another 45 minutes to round out the day.  It was still a little sore on Monday, which is my rest day.  I figured the day off from running was just what I needed, but decided to go ahead with 30 minutes of one-legged pedaling drills in the evening.

Tuesday I hit the gym bright and early, ready for my first official interval session of the training schedule.  Such opportunity!  Such promise!  Such stabbing pain behind my toes!  I stopped, stretched, tried again, and ended up quitting after a quarter mile.  I haven’t actually stopped a run because something hurt since, oh, 2010, so that was a big deal.  “It’s great that I’ve started doing bike workouts, though,” I thought to myself.  “I’ll just do spin intervals instead.”  45 minutes later I was dripping sweat and pleased with my workout as well as my positive attitude and willingness to do something other than run.  I stepped off the bike, tried to put weight on my left foot, and nearly fell over.  After limping around a bit and stretching I was able to walk almost normally again, but it was clear that whatever was wrong, the bike was making it much, much worse.

After a visit to Dr. Internet, I’ve diagnosed extensor tendonitis.  It’s often caused by pressure from shoes that are too tight across the toe box, and I’m quite sure that my bike shoes qualify.  Tight calf muscles can also contribute, and some aggressive tiger tailing that night did release some alarmingly tight muscles there.  I’ve been icing my foot in the evenings, which seems to help for at least an hour or so following.  After 3 days, though, walking still hurts and running doesn’t feel like a remote possibility.  I also obviously can’t bike, and strapping my feet into the rowing machine seems like an equally bad idea.  I did a solid strength training session yesterday, but I’m at a loss for other cross-training options.  If nothing else, this may motivate me to sign up for a pool membership this weekend.

I’m trying to stay positive–at least this happened in the off season and not right before a race–but having such limited workout options is making me a little crazy.  I’ve also realized that no matter how good of shape I’m in right now, I’m still a newbie at cycling and I’m probably in for a lot of the same frustrations I had when I started running.  Learning new things–it’s awesome, right?  This is all going to be worth it?

September 4, 2014

Swamp Thing


This race report comes a bit late thanks to a jam-packed Labor Day weekend and the aftermath of digging out at work this week.  Now that the dust has had a chance to settle on I’on Swamp Road, though, I can say with assurance that this was one of the most fun races I’ve ever done.  The Francis Marion Dirt Dash was exactly what I was hoping for–a small race with a ‘for runners, by runners’ feel in an absolutely gorgeous setting.  To top it off, it was only about 73 degrees at the start and the dense forest provided good shade throughout the race.  It was humid to be sure, but overall I found the race conditions to be quite comfortable.

Per the race instructions, we parked at a visitors’ center nearish the start and caught a shuttle van across the highway to the park.  From there we walked back the access road about half a mile to the start line, which was literally just a heel-drag line in the dirt.  We got our numbers, milled around a bit, and I griped with a few other runners about the lack of satellite telemetry at our particular global position. Truth be told, I was a mite nervous about running in the heat without GPS pace information.  The trail ahead looked shady and cool, but I had no idea what to expect for the rest of the course or the weather.  I decided to approach the uncertainty as a training opportunity to run based on perceived effort, and though it did make the whole exercise seem more productive, it did little to calm my nerves.

Before the start

Before the start

The Caveboy was running the 12K race, so when the runners assembled for the start we wished each other luck and my Long Run Buddy and I positioned ourselves nearish the front for the half marathon.  At 7:00 sharp, Chad Haffa, the race organizer, yelled “Go!” and we were off.  We settled in at what felt like a comfortably fast pace for the first out-and-back leg.  LRB had MapMyRun going, so he called out splits for the first few miles.  We were hanging around an 8:20-8:30 pace, which was a little faster than I was aiming for, but it felt pretty comfortable.  There were few mile markers on the course (it actually only may have been at mile 2/11), but somewhere around three and a half miles in my watch found its bearings and I had pace data.  For the next several miles I tried to soak up the scenery and serenity of the place and just enjoy the run.  LRB and I split up around mile 7–he was ready to pick up the pace  and I was feeling like I needed to reign it in a bit.  I slowed to about an 8:40 and plugged along on my own for a few more miles.

I could only judge the distance left based on my assumed pace and overall time, but I guessed the next aid station I encountered to be about mile 10.  I tried to confirm this with the volunteers, but they cheerfully informed me that they had no idea where they were.  I for some reason found this to be quite charming and picked up my cadence a bit.  I passed another runner about half a mile later who agreed with the 10-10.5 estimate, at which point I felt much more confident about my pace to the finish.  The morning was definitely getting warmer, but I was happy with how I was running at that point.  I’ve never considered myself a strong heat runner, but I was holding my own at a faster pace than I expected.  With about half a mile left I passed one more runner, chatted briefly, and then focused on surging to the finish line.

I crossed the line in 1:53:26, less than 4 minutes off  my PR.  Given the trail, the weather, and the fact that I never really made myself hurt, I was thrilled with the race.  The sentiment was further reinforced when I was handed a cold can of beer before 9 AM.  (Breakfast of Champions.)  LRB had finished a few minutes ahead of me, the Caveboy was relaxing with his libations already, and soon we were cheering for the award of the giant pinecones to the overall winners.  (Seriously, best race trophies ever.)  The full results were posted Monday, and I came in second in my age group and was the seventh overall woman.

My one regret of this race was the untimely demise of my beloved gen2 iPod Shuffle.  I usually clip it to a loop I sewed onto the hip of all of my running shorts and skirts, but the stitching pulled out about a quarter mile into the race and I moved it to my bra strap instead.  I promptly forgot about its new location and proceeded to dump water on my head and down my bra at every aid station.  It actually continued to function for the rest of the race, but when I tried it the next day it was unresponsive.  Oddly, the following day it worked again, but has refused to turn on since then.  I tried packing it in kitty litter to dry it out to no avail (good Paleo girl that I am, I have no rice).  I finally gave in this morning and ordered a new (used) one on Amazon.

Anyway, the rest of the weekend was what the Caveboy described as “one of the most tiring, relaxing weekends we have ever had.”  We surfed, kayaked, and stand-up paddle boarded (which I officially love).  I also squeezed in a short barefoot run on the beach before our flight on Sunday.  I’ve been a bit off schedule on running this week, but I did a 5.5 mile run at my parents’ cabin on Monday, a 5-mile tempo at race pace and a 1% grade on Tuesday, 3 miles easy yesterday, and a 7 mile tempo a touch faster than race pace this morning.  My long run is slated for Saturday, and next week the final build up to the taper officially begins.

Happy Unofficial Autumn!


May 19, 2014

2014 Brooklyn Half Race Report


I’m coming to realize that one of the best parts of running in New York is the train ride to and from races.   At any other time, subway rides are an exercise in pretending that the strangers who are occupying your personal space (and who could potentially fall and/or step on you at the next curve) don’t actually exist.  On race mornings, however, runners smile at each other and say hello, chat about race plans, and cheerfully dispense advice.  Sure, there’s the occasional guy talking way too loud about his PR and how he usually only runs ultras, or complaining about the starting time/location/corral system, but all in all it’s generally a friendly, happy bunch.  Saturday morning was no exception when we headed off at 5:30 to the Brooklyn Museum.

We had actually gotten out the door a little later than I’d hoped, and in my rush I gulped down my smoothie and pounded some beet juice faster than was probably wise.  I nursed some butter coffee on the train, but by the time we arrived at the start it was clear that my digestive system was not fully on board with the morning’s activities. Thankfully, the Caveboy offered to make the run to baggage check while I waited in line at the porta-potties.  We reunited briefly for quick wishes of luck and a discussion of where to meet after the race, and then he headed off to the Wave 2 start.

I had a long wait ahead, as the corrals closed at 6:20 and the race was not scheduled to start until 7:00.  I tend to get nervous and a little too amped up waiting in the corral, particularly with the aggressive jock-rock music that tends to be blasted there.  I’ve realized that if I plan for it, I can use that time to calm down, so I’ve started including some chill pre-race music in my playlists.  After saying goodbye to the Caveboy, I popped my headphones in, did a last gear check, and tried to get into my race mindset.  After the usual chitchat and shuffling, we finally ended up getting off about 15 minutes late due to a car parked on the course (?) near the start.

This was my first Wave 1 start, and due either to the extreme competence of NYRR or simply the speed of the runners ahead of me, we got out FAST.  There were roughly 12,500 runners in the crush through the starting line, and within the first 20 seconds I realized I was already running faster than race pace.  I had been vacillating all week about how hard to push it in this race–I already had two half marathon PR’s on the season and part of me wanted to run this one on cruise control and just enjoy the day.  Another part of me felt like I had worked really hard training for this and it was the perfect opportunity to really push myself and leave it all on the course.  I ultimately decided to try the latter approach, and was shooting for 8:30 splits, which would be good enough for another PR.

For some reason I was more nervous for this race than for anything else I’ve run this season.  I spent the early miles focusing on settling into a steady pace and staying loose, trying to keep my shoulders down and breathing deeply.  I could feel the slight pulling of a side stitch starting, but I did my best to breathe and stay focused and positive about the race ahead.  Somewhere in the third mile I realized that my mouth was really dry, and I grabbed some Gatorade at the mile 4 aid station.  I was starting to get hungry already (probably due to the, um, compromised digestion earlier).  I had brought two gels, but had really only planned to eat one, probably around mile 7 or 8.  I decided that I would have one at at mile 6 instead and then judge from there if my stomach could tolerate another around 9 or 10.

We turned into Prospect Park not long after the mile 4 aid station, and from there the course starts rolling gently uphill for the next mile or so.  I was holding just ahead of my pace and feeling good.  The only real hill of the course comes around mile 5 and rises about 300 feet in a third of a mile.  I run it nearly every week on my long runs–usually several times–and I’ve actually developed some affection for it.  I charged up it this time, pleased with the number of runners I was passing and probably speeding up a little too much in the process.  I crested the hill knowing the hardest part was now over and focused on recovering a bit and finding a good pace on the next downhill.  At the mile 6 aid station I had my first GU (chocolate mint) and grabbed some water to wash it down.  I don’t know if it was the slight change in my breathing when I ate, or just the effort of the hill sprint catching up with me, but the side stitch that had been threatening since the start suddenly kicked in with a vengeance.  Without slowing my pace, I tried to adjust my breathing and footfalls, hoping to alleviate the sharp pain.  I rarely get side stitches, but I had a similarly severe one during my last 10K that nearly doubled me over for the last two miles.  I was now finding it hard to breathe deeply, and after some agonizing, I decided that power walking as briefly as possible was preferable to potentially running the second half the race with that much discomfort.  I walked as fast as I could for about 30 or 40 seconds, lamenting that I was wasting a particularly speedy downhill in the process.  The stitch let go a bit though, and I was quickly able to resume the 8-ish pace I’d been holding on the downward slopes.  It still hurt a lot, but I told myself I could deal with the pain as long as I could at least breathe normally.

I started counting the exhales just to focus my mind, and got to about 56 before the ache started to lessen.  (Full disclosure: the last-minute addition of the perplexing Work, Bitch to my playlist may have aided in effectively distracting me at that point.  Has anyone worked out what the correlation is between fitness and living in France?) A few minutes later I was out of the park and making the turn onto Ocean Ave, which would lead us south to Coney Island.  Without the cramp and with some sugar in my system I was feeling really good again, and started doing some quick math as I approached the mile marker at 8.  I was still ahead of my goal pace and if I maintained an 8:30, I would finish around 1:51.  I had five downhill miles to go, though, and was already running 8:15’s.  I realized that if I could keep that up, I’d break 1:50.  Suddenly, the PR seemed trivial and cracking the 110 minute mark was all that mattered.

I hammered on with renewed resolve, which was probably good, since this stretch of the race is pretty monotonous.  I pulled over for Gatorade at mile 9, but opted not to eat the gel since the side stitch seemed to be reawakening every time I took in any nutrition.  This may or may not have been the best call, but at the time I figured I could hang on without any problem and refuel post-race.  I don’t remember much about the next few miles, but by 11 I was still holding the 8:15 pace, but starting to feel it.  My legs felt good, but I was working hard and starting to feel a little loopy.  I hadn’t sipped much of the Gatorade at 9 and I was pretty sure the added speed had already burned through what little sugar reserves I had left.

Through the next mile I kept checking the instantaneous pace readout on my Garmin to make sure it stayed below 8:15, but I couldn’t really summon the focus to compute how close I might be to 1:50.  When I passed the aid station for 12 I really wanted to grab a cup, but I was afraid that if I slowed down at all I wouldn’t be able to pull it back together for a fast finish.  I remember having a conversation with myself at one point as to whether I was willing to puke for this, and I decided that I was, if it came to it.  As I charged on I started to feel vaguely detached from my legs, which seemed to be doing a remarkable job of holding pace despite my mental fog.  It was kind of disconcerting, actually, and I tried to think as little as possible that last mile.  The pack around me slowed down a bit as we negotiated a narrow pedestrian ramp, and then we finally made the turn final onto the boardwalk at Coney Island.  I picked up the pace as much as I could for the final push, hampered a bit by fatigue, but mostly by the wet, sandy boardwalk, which was quite slippery.  I ran through the finish line and stopped my watch without looking down until I was clear of the chutes.  1:49:45!  I wouldn’t have wanted to cut it much closer, but there it was!


With a few days perspective, I have the following take-aways:

I am really, really happy with how I ran this race.  I was more nervous than I expected or would have liked, and it led me to slide back into micromanaging my race a bit.  Despite that, I stayed positive, confident, and pretty happy throughout.  I really fought for this one in a way that I haven’t been able to do before.  The sub-1:50 was a huge accomplishment for me, especially given that until last November I hadn’t run sub-2 hours since 2011.  The course was downhill and about as fast as you could get, though, so I’m considering it more of a course record than a PR.

The other major point that I learned on Saturday is that if I’m going to run faster paces, I probably need to consider including more starches and carbs in the week before the race.  Stomach issues aside, I maintain a pretty low carb diet and I clearly did not have enough glycogen in my system to really turn on the jets at the end of this.  I’m planning to reread The Paleo Diet for Athletes to get some ideas on how much and when to incorporate carbs and starches.  I also may start using Generation UCan, which I initially tried a while back but haven’t reordered.  If anyone has any suggestions for “safe” carb-loading, let me know!  This was the last big race of the season for me, and my plan right now is to take the next couple of weeks with reduced mileage to recharge, retool, and get ready for the next bid thing.  Details to follow.

P.S. My 8:23 average split is precisely my BQ pace.  I cannot imagine maintaining that focus and energy for 26.2 miles.  I am totally fantasizing about maintaining that pace for 26.2 miles.

May 12, 2014

Taper Panic

Tuesday: Tempo – 5 min warm-up; 3 mi @ race pace (8:29/mi); 5 min cool-down
Wednesday: Easy 3-4 mi
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Brooklyn Half

It’s taper week, otherwise know as the-week-I-have-a-valid-excuse-for-being-cranky-and-irritable.  Like a lot of runners, I have a love-hate relationship with the taper.  Through the final high-intensity training weeks, I find myself counting down the hard workouts remaining until the glorious relief of the taper.  When it finally comes and I am suddenly without the structure and discipline of track repeats, though, I’m immediately uncertain of everything:  “Am I running too fast?  Too long?  Not long enough?  Should I even be running at all today? 12×400’s sound like a good idea…”   

Ultimately, this race is fairly low stress for me, and my goal is to run well and have a smile on my face throughout.  The course for the Brooklyn Half is fast, I know the Prospect Park loop like the back of my hand, and the last five miles are a straight shot to the finish line at a gentle downhill slope.  I’m trying not to think too much about a PR, though, since my pace and strategy will largely depend on the weather on Saturday.  New York has warmed up very quickly this spring, which means that I haven’t had much chance to acclimate yet.  I’m expecting it to be about 20-25 degrees warmer at the start than at the NYC Half in March.  Doing my interval and tempo runs at the gym all winter has definitely helped the transition, but adjusting to the humidity is a further challenge.  Still, I feel like I am as prepared as I can be and I’m looking forward to a fun race on Saturday.
Given that I am chronically under-rested and that I did my runs this weekend a little faster than I meant to, I’ve decided to take a pretty aggressive taper this week and focus on resting and re-energizing for Saturday.  That means not much running, early bed times, and trying to find new and exciting recipes for beets, which inevitably ends in me googling “beet cocktails” in desperation.  Let the tapering begin!
October 8, 2012

Week 1 Recap

Well, I survived Week 1 of training and I learned a few things.  I should start by saying that I had laid out a very aggressive training plan for the next several months that attempted to emulate what I did prior to running my half-marathon PR two years ago.  In the time since the PR, however, a few things have changed.  I’ve gone Paleo and had to completely rework pre-run fueling strategies.  I had the SI joint/IT band injury last year. Following the injury, I added two days of strength training, which I’m currently doing on my two running off-days.  Looking back at my training log, I was also a lot faster when I started training for the PR race, having just come off a decent spring half-marathon.  I was thus left with a bit of dilemma when I laid out a training plan this time.  I wanted to be aggressive with my schedule, and didn’t want to risk re-injuring myself, but I was also committed to keeping the strength training in the mix.

My initial plan (which I knew was somewhat suicidal) ran thus:

Monday – Strength

Tuesday – Interval (5-6 miles)

Wednesday – Easy (5-6 miles)

Thursday – Tempo (5-6 miles)

Friday – Strength

Saturday – Hill (5-6 miles)

Sunday-Long (8-15 miles)

The first thing to note is that there is no rest day in the mix.  The second thing is that I’m totally violating the 75% of mileage at easy paces rule.  I had laid out my interval and tempo workouts per the pace tables in Run Less, Run Faster, which I’ve used over the years and in the process, morphed into Run More, Feel Exhausted.  That scenario pretty much played itself out as I tackled the first week of the schedule.  I took the strength training pretty easy on Monday in an attempt to not be sore for Tuesday’s speedwork.  I was worried about getting off on the wrong foot and not being able to hit my paces in my first interval workout, but I did manage to push through it.  Wednesday I already had to pull back the pace, though, because I felt like my heart rate was getting too high for an easy run.  Thursday I banged out my tempo without too much trouble and felt great.   Friday was strength training again, and then a short hill run on Saturday.

I do most of my hill training on a scenic route through Santa Monica and the Palisades and I was looking forward to quiet streets and modernist architecture.  The route starts at a slight incline (maybe 1-2%) for about a mile, then becomes rolling with some nice climbs and drops of varying length and steepness.  I had been running for about half a mile when I realized that the almost imperceptible slope was already producing that dreaded running-through-molasses feeling.  I gritted my teeth and stuck it out, but it was not a particularly commanding performance. I did my best to shake off the crappiness, though, and was still optimistic going into Sunday’s 10-miler. Rather than being tired the day after a hill workout, I usually feel strong and energized.  Sunday dawned warm and steamy, though, and I quickly realized that I was going to have to rein the pace way in if I was going to make it through 10 miles.  Again, I felt like I needed to creep along at a snail’s pace to keep my heart rate in check.  Some of this, no doubt, was due to the weather, but I was really just not feeling sharp.  All in all, I’m proud of myself for having the discipline to run slowly enough to get through it.  A few months ago I would have taken off at my goal pace, burned out in a few miles, and totally beaten myself up over it.  I am forced to admit, however, that I am going to revamp this schedule to make it workable.

Professionally, I think I’m very good at prioritizing and distilling the big picture down into the critical tasks to be completed.  It is not a skill I’ve applied to running very often.  I realized that I need to approach this problem like I would any other deadline and ask the following questions:

  1. Which workouts are getting me the most bang for my mileage?  Which ones aren’t?
  2. How can I optimize my recovery time?
  3. Am I striking the right balance in types of workouts?

More to come…








October 3, 2012

Fall Race Plans

I’ve spent the past few weeks getting organized for my triumphant (I hope) return to racing.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the way I approach training and racing, and I realized that it would be advantageous to approach the entire season with a strategy, rather than focusing on one race at a time.  That should have been obvious, I suppose, but having only run track, and not distance, competitively, periodization and peaking were never really on my radar.  Running 100 meters doesn’t take much planning ahead—you run as fast as you can every time.  One of the things I love about sprinting is that it is best executed with your brain turned off.  The chief challenge of distance running for me has been balancing the careful thought and analysis required to craft a successful training schedule with the need to not overthink the runs themselves.

My greatest strength as a runner is that I’m compelled (yes, it’s probably a bit OCD) to complete my training schedule to a T.  I’ve made an effort this past year to tune into my body more and be flexible about making adjustments when I need an extra rest day, but in general I’m by-the-book.  I’m apt to get nervous before races, or even in training runs where I’m trying to sustain a specific pace, so my mantra for this season is Trust Your Training.

With the goal of approaching the entire season as whole and creating a focused training schedule accordingly, I’ve planned three races for the next few months.  At the end of October I’ll be running the LA Cancer Challenge 10K, which I’ve been doing with a friend for the past four years.  It’s a Halloween race and we’ll be running in costume, but I plan to use it as a time-trial to gauge my fitness a month into race-training.  On December 2nd I have the Nittany Valley Half Marathon, which will be a cold and hilly race back home in Central Pennsylvania.  That race should be a good checkpoint and give me a chance to tweak the next month and a half of running in preparation for the Miami Half Marathon at the end of January.

For the next few weeks I’ll be focused on figuring out exactly where I am, speed-wise, and setting appropriate goals for the races.  It’s been annoyingly hot and humid for the past few months in LA, so it’s been hard to gauge my fitness for much cooler winter races.  The weather should be breaking, at least temporarily, this weekend, though, and I’m hoping for some faster long runs in the coming weeks.

On the Paleo side, I’m doing the October Unprocessed Challenge this year. I think it’s a great message and I love month-long experiments as a concept.  It also makes drinking my homebrew beer seem quite virtuous.  I don’t have too many processed food vices, but packaged energy bars and some of my no-brainer convenience snacks have had to go.  I’m continuing to tweak my pre- and post-workout snacks and meals, although I’m intentionally exempting my brown rice syrup-laden energy gels (it’s the arsenic that makes it good!) from the campaign.  With all the other variables and a new training schedule, I don’t want to mess too much with my nutrition while running.

Now that I’m back on the training wagon (or off it and running alongside?), I plan to post much more frequent updates on my schedule a goals.  Stay tuned!