Saturday, November 22, 2014

Low Heart Rate Training: The Two-Month Mark

So, a quick recap:
  • Once upon a time I used to base train properly, ie, running at a very slow, easy pace for hours and hours each week in order to develop my aerobic system, before jumping into race training with speed & tempo & race pace work & what have you.
  • In the last few years I've gotten away from that practice, partly out of impatience ("But I want to run this race! And this one! And that one! And wheeeeee!") and partly due to letting a couple of years of setting PR after PR mostly on the strength of my anaerobic system lull me into a false sense of security. (Pro Tip: You can get away with this for a while but it is not really a viable strategy long-term, particularly if you want to run marathons.)
  • Since I decided in September to devote some serious time to not racing & instead trying to fix my freakish right hip, it seemed like a good time to also get back to base training.
  • Because I'm really good at lying to myself about what a truly easy effort feels like, I've gone back to using a heart rate monitor to keep me honest.

I started this business officially on Sept. 21, mainly just aiming to slow myself down to a completely easy, comfortable pace. After a few days it seemed like most of the time that correlated to heart rates in the 140s, so for the most part I just tried to stick to that. After each run, I would record my average pace and heart rate, following basically the same route every time to try to minimize any variation because of terrain. (I just turn around sooner for shorter runs, and the serious hills are all close to the beginning.)

With aerobic base training, there are two ways to tell you're making progress. Either you can run at the same pace and watch what your heart rate does (hopefully decrease with time), or you can maintain the same average heart rate and watch what your pace does (hopefully get faster). Basically, you want to see that you're accomplishing more with less work.

Now, if I could manage to pull off EXACTLY the same average pace or EXACTLY the same average heart rate on very run, then it would be easy to see whether or not I was improving. Since neither of those things are very easy, though, you end up with data that looks like this:

AVERAGE PACE & HEART RATE, BASE TRAINING MONTH 1

Because both variables jump around so much from day to day, it's hard to draw conclusions just by looking at the numbers. Clearly running at a 10:32 pace with a heart rate of 142 is better than running at a 10:48 pace with a heart rate of 152, but what about 10:32 & 142 vs 10:21 & 150? To make sense of it, I needed some mathematical way of comparing runs with different heart rates AND different paces and determining which was "better."

Luckily, this is exactly the type of thing I am paid to do in my day job. :)

First, here is a quick-and-dirty recap of how base training is supposed to work.

(***Remember, I am a mathematician, not a kinesiologist, so I won't embarrass myself by trying to explain the finer details. There are plenty of good explanations on the internet written by people who are actually experts at this stuff. On a related note, experts, please don't be shy if I have completely misconstrued something.***)

You can google all the biochemical details of how & why it works, but basically, when you spend hours and hours and hours each week bathing your cells in oxygen at a nice, easy effort level, a couple of things happen:

    1) Your heart becomes more efficient at pumping blood. That is, you improve your "stroke volume"--how much blood your heart pumps out with each beat or "stroke." Stroke volume is important because the aerobic system relies on oxygen, so greater stroke volume = more oxygen delivered to cells more quickly with less work by your heart.

    2) Your body becomes more efficient at using the oxygen you breathe in. That is, you improve your "running economy"--converting the same amount of oxygen into more forward motion. Part of this has to do with delivering more oxygen more quickly (more red blood cells, more myoglobin, etc.) and part of it has to do with cells using the oxygen they get more efficiently (more and bigger mitochondria, more enzymes for metabolizing fat efficiently, etc.)

When you improve both of these things, the result is generating more forward motion with fewer heartbeats. So it seemed to me that the question I should be asking here is, How much forward motion am I generating per heartbeat?

Stick with me; here be equations. I promise they are not too painful.

The variables I have are pace (minutes per mile) and average heart rate (beats per minute). Since pace tells me speed in terms of time rather than in terms of distance, I first converted minutes per mile to miles per minute.

Through a little dimensional analysis, it's easy to show that dividing "miles per minute" by "beats per minute" is the same as "miles per beat" -- ie, how much forward motion is generated with each heart beat, on average.

Now, I had a way of objectively comparing two different runs where neither the heart rate nor the pace were the same and determining on which run my body had been more efficient.

Here's a table listing each run since Sept. 21 for which I have data, along with its pace, heart rate, and "miles per beat":

Then I graphed the table:

Pretty hard to argue with.

A (mathematically calculated) line of best fit makes the exact nature of the trend a little more obvious:

This graph shows that, over time, I was covering more and more ground per heartbeat, on average.

For all that the trend here is pretty clear, it's important to note that if I'd only shown you the data for the first month, it wouldn't have looked nearly as convincing:


You can kinda-sorta see which way the wind is blowing, but
it's not nearly as convincing because there's so much variation day-to-day.

The reason for this is that average heart rate can be affected by a lot of different factors from day to day, like temperature, sleep, blood sugar, stress/mood, medication, etc. For that reason, you really need a longer period of time (Pete Pfitzinger says eight weeks is kind of the minimum) in order to see the trend. You just aren't going to see a nice, neat gain from day to day or even week to week because all of the noise from the factors above. In the long term, though, they'll wash out enough to see the trend.

I'll be honest with you, it is kind of a relief to run those numbers and see real, actual, tangible progress. Yes, I believe in science and (mostly) understand the biology, but there was definitely a small part of me that was all, "OH GOD WHAT IF IT DOESN'T WORK ANYMORE/THIS TIME???" Like I've said before it takes patience, discipline, and consistency to slow yourself down, waaaay down, & go week after week without necessarily seeing obvious improvement in the numbers. But it does work!

Eight weeks is really as long as I have ever formally base trained before, so I'm now in uncharted waters. Though I am starting to add some GMP miles, I'm still doing 85-90% of my miles at a super easy pace, so it will be interesting to see for how much longer I continue to make progress aerobically before the numbers plateau.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Shoe Review: New Balance 1400 v2

One of these days (hopefully not TOO terribly far away), I will be ready to race the hell out of 10Ks & half marathons again. And while I love my Kinvara 5's for every-day easy running & long runs/marathons, I don't currently have a shoe that I love for running fast in that mid-distance, six-to-thirteen mile range. This shoe has been on my radar as a potential candidate for a while, and then a few weeks back I stumbled across a crazy deal on them at Amazon.

Now, normally when I buy shoes on a crazy discount, it's because the version is or is about to become outdated, but as far as I can tell, this is the current model, so I'm not entirely sure what's up with that. The color scheme was not my first choice, but at nearly 50% off, I can deal with it. (I wanted the tasteful, demur turquoise ones. And I'm not even kidding that just a couple of weeks after I bought the ugly neon purple ones, the price on the turquoise ones dropped to nearly as low as the ones I bought. Then again, I'm loving them so much that maybe it makes sense to just grab another pair while they're cheap.)

Construction

The 1400 v2 has stack heights of 23mm in the heel & 14mm in the forefoot, for a heel drop of 9mm. (I've seen it listed as 9 in some places and 10 in others; these are the numbers Running Warehouse lists. The New Balance website says 10mm, but also says, "Due to variances created during the development and manufacturing processes, all references to 10 mm drop are approximate." A millimeter is a pretty tiny amount of distance, so perhaps RunningWarehouse got one that measured closer to 9mm. I don't have calipers, but I also don't kid myself about actually being able to feel a difference of 1mm.) For those keeping score at home, those numbers are identical to the Mizuno Hitogami.

The 1400 v2 is made on a combination NB-J last, which according to the New Balance website is a semi-curved, racing-specific, high performance last. The upper uses what they refer to as welded, "no-sew" seams for comfort and is mostly covered in open mesh, with strobel lasting. The midsole is made from a material called RevLite, "an innovative foam compound that provides lightweight, responsive cushioning;" the outsole is mostly blown rubber, with a few carbon rubber overlays for durability and traction.

They don't look it, but these shoes are super light.

At 5.6 ounces, they are the lightest shoes I've ever bought with the exception of the Mizuno Universe and my high school racing flats. (Which....had spikes. So they were actually probably heavier, now that I think about it.) They were so light, in fact, that it kind of startled me when I took them out of the box.

Flexibility/Support

Once again, these shoes may look like regular trainers at first, but they are actually fairly flexible compared to other mostly traditional-looking shoes.

RunningWarehouse & Road Runner Sports list the 1400 v2 as a neutral racer/performance shoe, but on several different sites where they're sold (including the New Balance website), there were bullet points mentioning that the shoe does have some stability to it. The NewBalance site says it features "REVlite midsole cushioning with stability," Believe in the Run mentions "Intelligent geometries for inherent stability," and Road Runner Sports describes "more stability with a bottom unit that allows full ground contact with each foot strike." Now, I don't know for sure what any of that really means structurally, and I can't comment on its effectiveness because I tend to do fine in neutral shoes & probably wouldn't notice the presence or absence of stability features anyway. But if you're looking for a responsive shoe on the lighter side and like a little extra stability, maybe they're an option.


They are actually a lot less flexible torsionally than front-to-back, which is
maybe another potential plus for folks who like just a little bit of extra stability.

Sizing & Comfort

My default with brands I haven't run in much or in a while (of which New Balance is one) is to order a size 8, which fit just about perfectly. The first time I slipped my feet into them, the 1400s reminded me a little of the Kinvaras in the way they felt almost perfectly molded to my feet. I think this is party due to the semi-curved shape of the last (the Kinvaras use a semi-curved as well, and it just seems to match the shape of my foot) and partly thanks to the super-flexible, mostly mesh upper.

They do fit a little on the narrow side, which I normally hate. Not as narrow as the Hitogamis (where I felt like my foot was spilling over the edge of the soles), but just enough to make me want to get them "punched out" a bit inside. Luckily loosening the laces seems to have solved this problem for me, but if you REALLY want a wider shoe, this one may not be for you.

My only other complaint is the seams on the tongue inside the shoe. The rest of the fabric in the upper may be "no sew," but the construction here seems a bit shoddy in a way that would have been pretty easy to fix (it seems to me). It's as if the material for the inside of the tongue was just sliced off & left hanging, without anything done to deal with the remaining sharp edges of nylon.


The black material makes it difficult, but see the rough,
scraggly bits sticking out on either side of the tongue?

This means that it sometimes feels sharp & occasionally scrapes uncomfortably against the top of my foot. I haven't tried to do anything about it yet, but I'm hoping it's something I can fix with a piece of duct tape or a nail file or some such.

Ride/Feel

I will be honest with you that my first run in these shoes was not awesome. They felt very tight and very low and hard compared to my Kinvaras; two miles in I felt like my right Achilles was going to snap, and by the time I got back home my left foot had gone completely numb, either from the tightness of the shoe or the repeated impact against the ground (which feels pretty up close and personal) or both. I was super excited to get them off and also kind of afraid that I was going to end up hating them.

But honestly, I never know when my feet are going to freak out for some random reason or possibly no reason at all, so I didn't blame it on the shoe & gave them the benefit of the doubt. Since they are a bit narrow, I loosened the laces considerably before my second run, hoping that would help.

And damned if I didn't suddenly feel like I was running in a completely different shoe. While the upper is mostly mesh, there's still enough structure there that I didn't really need the laces pulled snug for them to fit my feet. Suddenly they felt light and responsive, and gave me just the perfect combination of ground feel and cushioning.

One of the reasons that I didn't snatch this shoe up months ago is because of the relatively high drop (9-10mm) compared to what I typically run in (2-4mm). Being a mid/forefoot striker, having too much heel sometimes makes it a little more difficult to land exactly right, and I've just been trying to wear shoes as close to flat as possible, as much as possible, in general. Also the fact that the stack height in the heel (23mm) is slightly greater than the Kinvaras (22mm) and I was looking for something with slightly less cushioning.

But guys, these shoes DO NOT ride like they have a 9-10mm drop. I don't know if it's the light weight or the flexibility or what, but I never find the heel running into the ground when I land the way that sometimes tends to happen when I run in shoes with more than a little drop. (I suspect this may also have to do with the fact that the forefoot is actually 4mm closer to the ground than in the Kinvaras, because of the larger heel drop.) They feel good, so numbers be damned.

(This post from RunBlogger does a good job of explaining why different amounts of drop may feel different to different people depending on how they run and how the shoe is made, so it could be that some of those factors are in play here.)

I bought these shoes as potential mid-distance racers & never really intended to just wear them as trainers, but I have to admit that the more I run in them, the more I want to run in them. I am being a little cautious about how far I go in them right now (that's gotten me in trouble before), but so far, even at super slow, easy paces, 7-8 miles seems like no problem.

Bottom Line

I am loving these shoes significantly more than I was expecting to. I'm curious to see what it feels like to run fast in them as I haven't done much of that yet, but they are super responsive and, like I said, have the perfect combination (for my tastes) of ground feel & cushion, so I'm optimistic that the six-to-thirteen mile range might be right in their wheel house. (And hey, they're ~$60 on Amazon right now for most sizes, so it's not a crazy insane risk if you're on the fence.)

Monday, November 17, 2014

in which we join the landed gentry

Soooo last week we got enthusiastic & bought a house.

If you're thinking to yourself, "Interesting, didn't know you were thinking of buying a house," you could be forgiven, considering that we only kind of half-heartedly started looking into the process about a month ago & talked to a real estate agent for the first time on October 21. In that first conversation, they'd asked us how all-in and ready to do this we really were, because apparently when people really commit & decide to go for it, sometimes things can happen really quickly and people who are thinking they might find something in six months or so find themselves packing their bags just a few weeks later.

This is called foreshadowing.

We knew that by looking in one of San Francisco's highest-demand neighborhoods (the one we live in), being decidedly not filthy rich, and including on our "must have" list things like three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large kitchen, an outdoor area for grilling if not an actual backyard, and at least one parking space, we could be setting ourselves up for disappointment or, at best, an extremely protracted search. For those reasons, we'd girded our loins for eight or ten months of losing offers and weekend open-house death-marches. In truth, we really wanted a historical Victorian with an old soul like the one we currently rent, but knew that if we weren't willing to compromise on the other stuff, it was very likely that we would have to find a way to be happy with new construction and probably a somewhat higher price tag than what felt super comfortable. Such is the way of real estate in San Francisco.

So imagine our shock when, just days after our initial consultation with the realtors, they sent us an email for a condo that would be going on the market soon.

With 3 bedrooms, 2 bath, a nice size kitchen, deck/patio, and a one-car garage (with space to expand to two).

With significantly more square footage than we'd been looking for.

Listed below our ideal price point.

In an old Victorian.

Around the corner.

(Not even joking; you can see it from our current backyard.)

We saw it a few days later and I fought so hard to keep from falling in love with it, because it was almost perfect. And for all that it was listed below our price point, everything in our neighborhood goes for well above list price, and though it was possible we *might* have a shot, after seeing how great it was, we just didn't see how someone with more money wouldn't love it just as much (or more).

Emails with our agents about the place were simultaneously exhilerating and terrifying. "Based on my understanding of your goals, this place is pretty special and I know that condos like this - A+ location that will hold value and continue to appreciate over time, charm, size, parking, upside potential - are extremely rare," she wrote us at one point. "It's a double-edged sword when a great opportunity comes in the beginning of the house hunt...I don't always say that a place is one to go for but this is one."

Torture.

Trying to be realistic, we kept going with the realtors to see other places, but dutifully moved forward with putting together the best (inevitably doomed, we were sure) offer we could on the first house, telling ourselves over and over again, "The worst thing that happens is they say no." We knew we had great agents, trusted their advice, and felt like they'd helped us put together the best offer we could reasonably afford. Offers went in Wednesday morning & the seller was supposed to meet with her agent that afternoon to review them, so after that there was nothing to do but wait.

Mid-afternoon, we got a text from our agent. "As for the offer, all I know right now is that we are somewhere in the running and the agent is pushing for us. More later! #GrrArgh!" For the sake of my mental health, I had to assume we weren't going to get it, so at least I wasn't a nervous wreck all day.

I got home before Don, and sometime around six thirty I heard him come in, in the middle of a serious-sounding phone conversation. Then he walked into the living room, still on the phone, smiling broadly & gesticulating wildly in the direction of the house we'd been trying so hard not to fall in love with. I think I clapped my hand over my mouth & sat there dumbfounded for a few minutes before I could do anything else.

After a bit of screaming and laughing and kind of not knowing what to do with ourselves, we made a last-minute fancy dinner reservation and, after restraining ourselves for so long, spent the evening finally letting ourselves indulge in planning and dreaming about all the things we wanted to do with a place that's actually ours.

The seller doesn't want to close until 2015 for tax reasons so we'll be in our current place for a couple more months, which will give us time to think about how & when we want to handle some of the renovations the new house is going to need.

* * *

Oh yeah, and also I did some running this week:

WEEK OF 11/10-11/16

Grand Total: 38 miles

    * 21 easy
    * 4 goal marathon pace
    * 13 long
    * 2 strength workouts

Monday: afternoon 4 easy / p.m. karate

    These were unscheduled, ugh-I-haven't-run-in-three-days-need-to-go-outside-&-move-&-get-some-fresh-air miles. For all that I've theoretically been taking Mondays & Wednesdays off from running, more often than not it seems like on one or the other of these days I get home from work just tired of being indoors & really just want to get outside & move a little bit before class. (And that's the nice thing about the low heart-rate stuff -- you can tack on a few miles just because you feel like it without risking injury or exhausting yourself too much.)

Tuesday: 2 wu, 2 @ GMP, 1 easy, 2 @ GMP, 2 cd = 9 total

    LOL. This run was hilarious & interesting & really deserves its own post, so hopefully I'll have the time to write it. The 30-second version is that I was able to run the GMP miles at right around an 8:00 average pace without my heart rate shooting through the roof; it was just hard.

Wednesday: afternoon strength / p.m. karate

    No karate Wednesday night due to extremely necessary house-buying celebration.

Thursday: 5 easy

    I seriously had to restrain myself on Thursday from running more than five miles. I'm not sure why, but Thursdays are very quickly turning into one of my favorite days to run. Also, I am *really* loving the shoes I was wearing that day (and have been running in maybe once or twice a week), which just made it that much more enjoyable. (Review coming soon, promise! here!)

Friday: 7 easy

Saturday: strength w/ AT

    On Saturday morning, I had my first session with the runner/strength trainer that my massage therapist recommended, who I'll just call AT. (I probably shouldn't out her to the internet, especially after just one session.) We did about half an hour of movement, strength, & flexibility assessments and about half an hour of strength work. It was all pretty subtle stuff, so I was impressed that after less than half an hour of work, I was actually sweating quite a bit & "feeling the burn" to the point that I had to start taking rest breaks. I was SUPER sore in the butt Sunday morning, which seems promising. :)

Sunday: 13 long

    We spent most of Saturday at a wedding in Santa Cruz, which was a TON of fun. On the other hand, it turns out that 10 hours of drinking & dancing in heels & 18 hours without a drop of water is not the greatest preparation for a 2+ hour run the next day. Sunday morning was pretty miserable but after getting some food & water in me I was able to rally & got the run done in the last glimmers of daylight. It was not the best long run I've ever had given that my glutes were trashed from Saturday morning & my feet from Saturday night, but it got better, & it was nice to finish a 13 mile run & feel about the same as I do when when I finish a 6 mile run. (That whole training thing, or whatever.)


Coach Morpheus gets some pretty revolutionary ideas sometimes.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fake-Marathon Training

A few nights ago I was hanging out with some runner friends & talk turned to our one friend who had just BQ'd at the Chicago Marathon for the first time. In spite of the fact that the race hadn't gone exactly the way she'd wanted and she'd almost given up at one point, she kind of felt like she could maybe kinda-sorta finally retire from running super-hard, all-out "goal" marathons & just jog them for fun every now and then. Because really, truly running 26.2 (26.5? 26.7???) miles as hard as you can is just so, *so* incredibly difficult and painful and who needs to put herself through that on the regs.

This was a good thing for me to be reminded of, having not finished a marathon in well over a year. Much like natural childbirth (or so I'm told), your mind and body just won't let you imagine for a second that you will EVER voluntarily do this again while the memories are still fresh. But then time passes, you get some distance from the misery, the gory, excruciating details start to fade from your brain, and a year or so later you find yourself going, "Well, yeah, I mean it was hard and stuff, but I dunno, I could handle another one, I think?" It was a good reminder not to ever get too cavalier about running a marathon all-out and reminded me of how after my first one I didn't run for a month and couldn't even confront the question of running a second one for seven months after that.

My plans could definitely change over the next few months, but right now (assuming I get my right hip under control) I'm kind of thinking that Santa Rosa next August might be the next time I put a marathon squarely in the crosshairs & really aim to blow the doors off. However, between now and then I am signed up for another one, which I do want to complete if possible, so the next few months kind of seem like the perfect time to engage in a little fake-marathon training.

By fake-marathon training, I mean I am planning to more or less follow a schedule for 16 weeks and (ideally) run a marathon at the end, but without all the pressure & nail-biting & THERE IS NO TRY & all that business. The next time I shoot for a hard race and a PR, I want to train in a certain way, and at this point I know I'm not ready, physically or mentally, to do that (at least not without the wheels coming off).

So fake marathon training is really about a) continuing to get into better shape aerobically, b) getting physically & mentally tougher in marathon-specific ways, & c) breaking some bad habits--both mental & physical--& replacing them with good ones.

More specifically....

  • Blend the low heart rate/base training stuff into the fake-training schedule. Yes, I want to do goal pace miles & add a little speed work in a few weeks, but mainly I want to keep the emphasis on getting my aerobic system back where it should be, which will take time.
  • Plan to run four days per week rather than five or six (the idea being fewer, slightly longer runs interspersed with more rest days). I'm hoping that doing that while still building mileage will be a good way to safely get my body back in shape for five-to-six day weeks later on.
  • Long runs early & often. Hopefully this will help me break the bad habit of doing the bare minimum (ie, the 14-16-18-20-Taper! plan) that I've fallen into over and over. I want to get over my long run phobia & (eventually) become one of those people who happily & safely runs 17-20 miles most weekends.
  • Goal marathon pace miles. I've mentioned this before too, that something I felt was missing from my Santa Rosa training was the occasional 6-8-10 mile chunk of miles at marathon goal race, just for the purpose of getting the feeling of that pace into my body & being able to dial it in.
  • Lower peak mileage. Currently I'm running in the mid-30s, mileage-wise, and I don't plan on breaking 50 before NVM. The idea is to just try to be consistent and keep up the aerobic emphasis. I want to keep building the mileage, but SUPER gradually so that both my brain and body have plenty of time to adjust.
  • No time goals. Right now I'm thinking that my only real goal at NVM will be to run evenly & by feel at maybe ~80% & just see what happens time-wise. Definitely do not want to push hard or try to reach a specific time goal.
  • Modifying as needed, with no pressure. Yes, I have a schedule, but not having a time goal will hopefully make me feel like I can tweak things here & there depending on how things are going without mentally being like "OHGODOHGODOHGOD WHAT IF I TOTALLY JUST SCREWED IT ALL UP?!?!?!?"

So yeah. Mainly I kind of want to think of it as "Base Training Plus." Lots of mileage, but also lots of rest days, lots of getting my zen on, and a lot less intensity & pressure than actual marathon training.

I am sure the details about my fake training schedule for my fake race are not really that interesting to anyone but me, but typing it all out where I can see it in one list (as opposed to scrolling through an Excel sheet) helps me parse things a little. I promise I won't judge you for not perusing it in minute detail.

    WEEK 1 (Nov 10-16): 36 miles (19 easy, 4 GMP, 13 long)

    WEEK 2 (Nov 17-23): 35 miles (16 easy, 5 GMP, 14 long)

    WEEK 3 (Nov 24-30): ??? We'll be in Spokane for Thanksgiving that week, so a lot will depend on the weather & time. Ideally I would like to get in ~35 miles & a 15 mile long run, but I have never once accomplished such a feat in the past (though twice I've had injuries as an excuse) so we'll see.

    WEEK 4 (Dec 1-7): 36 miles (15 easy, 6 GMP, 15 long)

    WEEK 5 (Dec 8-14): 38 miles (14 easy, 7 GMP, 17 long)

Technically I was supposed to start speed work in week 6, but given that it falls right before the holidays and my ass will be lucky just to get easy running of some kind in during that time, I have a feeling it may be more realistic just to start in January.

    WEEK 6 (Dec 15-21): 42 miles (including 8 GMP & *hopefully* 19 long...Again, we shall see.)

    WEEK 7 (Dec 22-28): ??? This is the week I will be home in Texas with family, so although I'd like to get 40 miles in including a long run, most likely I'll just have to play it by ear & do whatever I can. (Also, trying to figure out where in my mom's neighborhood I could possibly run 20 miles without having to stop every 20 yards at a traffic light, & short of making laps around the block, I'm kind of drawing a blank.)

The last 9 weeks have speed/tempo workouts built in, but I'll probably have to wait until I get there to see how things are feeing & how excited I'm feeling about it. Like I said, I want to make sure I give the aerobic stuff plenty of time to lock in, and if I feel like I'm still not there once I hit January, I may back off on the faster stuff in order to get in more long, easy runs.

Obviously the exact numbers here are kind of arbitrary, but they at least give a sense of what I hope to be more or less doing by Jan/Feb. Unless I feel like doing something else.

    WEEK 8 (Dec 29-Jan 4): 46 miles (8 easy, 9 speed/tempo, 8 GMP, 21 long)

    WEEK 9 (Jan 5-11): 47 miles (10 easy, 6 speed/tempo, 9 GMP, 22 long)

    WEEK 10 (Jan 12-18): 45 miles (10 easy, 8 speed/tempo, 10 GMP, 17 long)

    WEEK 11 (Jan 19-25): 47 miles (19 easy, 6 speed/tempo, 22 long)

    WEEK 12 (Jan 26-Feb 1): ??? This is the weekend I'll be in Mexico with friends, so again, it will probably just depend on time / facilities. Theoretically this is supposed to be the peak weak, but since only weirdo freaks run peak weeks on vacation, it may have to wait until Week 13.

    WEEK 13 (Feb 2-8): 43 miles (12 easy, 4 speed/tempo, 8 GMP, 19 long)

    WEEK 14 (Feb 9-15): 36 miles (6 easy, 7 speed/tempo, 7 GMP, 16 long)

    WEEK 15 (Feb 16-22): 29 miles (7 easy, 5 speed/tempo, 5 GMP, 12 long)

    WEEK 16 (Feb 23-Mar 1): 42 miles (8 easy, 4 speed/tempo, 2 GMP, 28 warm-up/NVM)

My fondest hope is that I'll do all this aerobic base training (plus a little something to nudge the VO2 & LT along a tiny bit), run NVM at ~80% effort, end up with a certain time, & be able to say, "Check, that's how far base training has gotten me in ~5.5 months." Hopefully that will at least give me SOME sense of whether I've got enough of a base to jump into a non-fake training cycle & reasonably bust my ass for a 3:30 sometime in 2015 or still need to pump up dat base for another six months or so.

Monday, November 10, 2014

GIT. 'ER. DONE. oh and drink wine.

So I know I totally said last week that I was going out of town for the weekend, ergo no long run, & that was fine. But then it was Friday, & I was planning my day & when I would fit in an easy 8 or whatever before we left, & suddenly part of me was like, "BITCH, ARE WE DOING THIS OR NOT?" I was working from home for the day, so I decided that when I got all the laundry & packing & work done that I needed, I could spend whatever time was left running, and if there was enough time for a long run, then I would effing do a long run. And lo and behold, I got everything done by 3, which was really JUST enough time to fit in the 13 miles called for on Sunday, so off I went.

I would love to tell you that this run was pure magic from the very beginning but oof. Those first few miles were rough. Between a) four days of consecutive running (which I haven't done in a while & was only doing because I knew I wouldn't run on the weekend) and b) my previous long run having been only five days ago instead of the usual seven, my legs felt dead and heavy. Since I count my weeks Monday to Sunday, this was only a 33.5 mile week, but in the last seven days, I'd actually run 47.5 miles, which is like full-on marathon training mileage for me. The fact that I'd run twice this week in thinner, lighter shoes had also left my feet & lower legs feeling a tad beat up. Add to all this that the Mission sunshine deceived me (AGAIN), and no sooner had I hit the Lower Haight than I was shivering a bit in the drizzle & fog & wind & thinking seriously about heading back home to trade my tank & shorts for something warmer.


Yep; unless it's below 50 (and it almost never is), I am running in shorts & a tank top.

I've run through much worse, though, and the idea of backtracking through blocks and blocks of traffic lights was significantly less appealing than just putting up with the weather & heading onwards to the tree-lined & relatively uninterrupted trails of the Panhandle & Golden Gate Park. Still, given how sluggish & tight I felt, I was not entirely sure I was going to make it all the way to 13 miles.

And yet, my heart rate stayed remarkably low, even up hills, and I kept seeing split after split a solid 30-40 seconds faster than those heart rates usually correlate with. Once I crossed into the Park, everything started to click into place physically, and for a little stretch there I was consistently seeing heart rates in the 130s (I shoot to stay below 146) and sub-10:00 splits (I've been averaging between 10:20 & 10:50 for the most part).


I love this city.

The hardest part by far was mentally dealing with doing a long run on a weekday. I've gotten much better at handling the boredom & monotony, but part of that I think has to do with knowing when it's coming & mentally expecting it. Despite how good and fast and easy this run (eventually) felt, some subconscious part of my brain definitely started rioting a little when I passed six miles, then seven, then eight and OMG ARE WE STILL RUNNING IT'S FRIDAY WHYYYYYY ARE WE STILLLLL RUNNING?!?!?

In a few weeks I'll do a more detailed post on all the low heart rate stuff. If there's one thing I can say about it, though, it's that it requires patience, discipline, and consistency, and sometimes it can be frustrating to feel like you don't really see much of a difference from day to day. (Fine that was four things. It is my blog & I will count as I please.) But what I can also tell you for sure is that on Sept. 21, I did my first low heart rate run of 8 miles at 10:15 pace with an average heart rate of 161, and Friday's 13 miler was at 10:12 pace with an average heart rate of 141. So.....progress?

Anyway, I got my long run in & headed off to Paso Robles guilt-free, where it was 85F & sunny.


Chillin in the Denner warehouse. Pretty sure this is the closest I will ever get to a bottle of Saxum.

For the first time ever, our visit synched up with the "Garagiste" Festival, which is an annual wine expo they have every fall for super super small producers making less than 1,000 cases per year. ("Garagiste" being a slang French term for super-small French winemakers making & selling small lots of wine out of their garages.)

We had a few tips on where to stop & found some fantastic tiny winemakers making some delicious stuff:


Copia


Kaleidos

We also got some spectacular sunsets at our hotel Saturday night.


You know it's a classy joint when you can walk to Carl's Jr.



WEEK OF 11/3-11/9

Grand Total: miles

    * 33.5 easy
    * 0 x 45:00 strength workouts

We could talk about all the myriad reasons why I did not make it to the gym for strength work even once this week, but let's be honest, no one cares but me & excuses are boring.


When I was teaching, this was my go-to phrase. Seriously, NOBODY WANTS TO HEAR IT.

Monday: a.m. stretch & roll / p.m. karate

    Last week didn't seem all that hard and Sunday's long run was mostly unremarkable, but by the time I got in bed Sunday night a few places in my legs were aching so badly it actually kept me awake for a while. This made me think that maybe they needed rest more than they needed a bunch of squats and deadlifts and plyometrics, so I spent my Monday morning gym time stretching All The Things & reacquainting myself with the Lacrosse ball (which I've been ignoring because nothing's felt particularly tight until now).

Tuesday: 8 easy

    Uuuuuugggghhhhhh eight epically miserable miles on the 'mill before work, thanks to evening work stuff. I'm pretty sure this was the longest run I've ever done on a treadmill and I wanted to stab myself in the face for almost every second of it. My feet were killing me for the first four miles and it was BY FAR the slowest and highest heart rate run I've done since I started all that low heart rate business in September. (At one point I was sure I must be running 18 minute miles.) I know it's indoors on a treadmill so you can't really compare it to my other runs which have all been more or less along the same route (not to mention the accuracy of the treadmill), but what is absolutely objective is the sheer amount of unadulterated ass that was sucked by this run. I hate treadmills and I hate running in the morning. Let us never speak of this run again.

Wednesday: afternoon 6 easy / p.m. karate

    Sometimes I forget until I'm having kind of a schlubby day that the whole exercise-endorphins-mood enhancing effect is a real thing. It wasn't a bad day, per se, but it was definitely kind of a gross-feeling, meh kind of day up until the run. It was a pretty darn good one, I felt great, & after I was kind of stunned for a minute when I realized I actually did feel like a thousand times better. And on a Wednesday!

Thursday: 6 easy

    This run was like a miniature version of Friday's long run--a little uncomfortable at the beginning, but eventually, awesome. (And with almost the exact same pace & heart rate to boot.)

Friday: 13 long

Saturday/Sunday: Paso

Theoretically I was supposed to start adding in marathon goal pace runs this past week, but what with cramming in four consecutive weekday runs and technically hitting 47.5 miles over a seven-day period, I decided it was maybe smarter to put it off for a week. So NEXT WEEK, you guys, I'll have some goal marathon pace updates for you.

Monday, November 3, 2014

i have signed up for races.

RACES

I got enthusiastic last week & signed up for some races. What's more, I totally did that thing I absolutely refuse to do so much of the time & signed up for races that are a geological epoch away because of a sweet early bird discount.

The reason I (almost) never do this is because it seems to me that if you consider the two most extreme outcomes of this decision, they are:

1) Best case, I run the race, mostly forget how much I paid because it was so long ago, and if I do happen to remember that I got a sweet deal on it, feel vaguely pleased with myself for a moment.

2) Worst case, I don't or can't run the race & spend a month castigating myself every other day for wasting the money instead of sucking up the extra $20 or whatever to sign up when it was closer and I had a better idea whether I'd be able to run it. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A GOOD DEAL ON A DNS.

But anyway, the money is spent, I'm now registered for two races, and we'll see just how much good/bad karma I've accrued by next summer, I suppose.

The first one is Bay to Breakers on May 17, thanks to a $39 one-day-only Halloween special. $39 may not sound THAT cheap for a 12K, but when you consider that B2B tends to run ~$70ish at full price thanks to its insane popularity, I basically can't afford NOT to sign up.

The second is Santa Rosa Marathon on Aug 23. I was already leaning towards giving SRM another shot next year & had been thinking about registering while it's still in the early bird phase, and then last week they sent out an extra $20 coupon. It's hard to pass up a $105 marathon less than two hours from home when you already know from experience that it's well-organized, a good course, etc. (See: Reasons I am bummed that the timing didn't work out this year for CIM.)

So, there are now three races on my 2015 calendar; it remains to be seen which ones I'll actually feel excited about targeting & racing hard.

There's one thing missing right now that I would really like to have on the calendar, and that's a solid, low-stakes half. I know I won't be in PR shape for a while yet, but I would still really like to get one under my belt between now and NVM. Unfortunately, the two best candidates don't fall on the greatest of dates for me. Walnut Creek is the day after Don's company holiday party and also a solid hour of driving away and a 7am start, and Kaiser Permanente falls on the weekend I'll be in Mexico for a friend's birthday. Pretty much every other half marathon between 11/22 and 1/25 (because I wouldn't want to do it any closer to NVM than that) seems to be either a trail race or farther than I want to travel. Boo.

SHOES

You are welcome for the extremely untimely Pure Flow 2 review.

Though it will be a while before I'm doing much running in the 10K/half marathon/tempo range, I have long been on the lookout for a shoe to fill the Wave Musha-shaped hole that Mizuno left in my heart when they discontinued that shoe last year. I have a couple of candidates that I picked up pre-stress fracture, but those didn't see much mileage this spring & summer given that I spent most of it recovering and then marathon training/fretting constantly about potential calf/tibia/fibula injuries. Then just recently, I got a couple of sweet deals on two other lightweight performance shoes that have been on my radar for a while. Now that I'm not imminently training for something or worried about calf/shin bone issues, I'm hoping I'll have some additional reviews up for you soon.

One of the shoes I picked up earlier this year is the Mizuno Ekiden, the second lightest shoe that Mizuno makes. (The Hitogami is slightly heavier/more cushioned & the Universe is like running in huaraches.)

Because of its lack of cushioning and support, I hadn't run in this shoe since March, but for some reason on Halloween afternoon I felt inspired to throw them on for a drizzly 7 miler before heading over to do spooooky things at a friend's place.


We have now reached the point in the evening where
everyone is wearing pieces of everyone else's costume.

I had never run more than about three miles in them before (this was when I was coming back from the stress fracture) and I didn't know whether I'd be okay in them for the entire seven miles or not, so I figured I'd run maybe two in them and see how they felt, and if I needed to switch into something else I could just head back home & then tack on the last three miles in a different shoe.

And damned if I didn't go on & have my best run in MONTHS. It took a mile or so to adjust to the harder, lower-slung feel of the Ekidens, but once I settled into them, they felt so great. My legs felt light and springy, and while the shoes may have been a coincidence, I ended this run with my fastest average pace in two months AND my lowest average heart rate. Although I can feel that my legs and feet were using some muscles more than usual, the Ekidens felt completely comfortable for the entire run. I doubt I would go much farther in them right now or run in them more than say once or twice a week, but over time I could totally see working up to wearing them for a half marathon or longer tempo runs. I promise write up a detailed review once I've gotten some more miles on them.

WEEK OF 10/27-11/2

Grand Total: 38.5 miles

    * 26 easy
    * 12.5 long
    * 2 x 45:00 strength workouts

Monday: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate

    I didn't expect to feel as good as I did the day after a 2+ hour long run, and part of me kind of really did want to get out for a few easy miles for class. Figuring my body would appreciate the recovery day regardless of how enthusiastic my brain felt, though, I managed to distract myself between getting home from work & karate with annoying household chores.

Tuesday: 8 easy

    Not much to say about this run except that it was lovely.

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / afternoon 4 easy / p.m. karate

    I actually went to bed at a reasonable hour on Tuesday, but for whatever reason, woke up at 6:00 still feeling exhausted. I forced myself out of bed, stumbled around for a while getting ready, then finally got myself in the car on the way to the gym by 6:30 (which is significantly later than usual). Unfortunately after a bit of driving I realized I was kind of weaving all over the lane & blinking frantically in an effort to keep my eyes open, so I ended up pulling off the freeway into a parking lot & napping for an hour instead. I did make it to the gym, but only to shower and change, which is kind of the saddest gym visit there is.

    I didn't need to run before karate that day, but after missing my strength work & being cooped up inside inactive all day, I really just wanted to go outside & move & get some fresh air. It was also kind of cool to be out in the crazy pre-Game 7 energy.

Thursday: 7 easy

    I'd been kinda-sorta thinking on Wednesday that I might go to the gym Thursday morning & make up the workout I slept through Wednesday morning.

    Drunk/Belligerent Giants Fans: HAHAHAHAHA YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO SLEEP TONIGHT HAHAHAHA. HAVE ANOTHER M80!!!!

    Police, Surly From Having Broken Bottles Hurled At Them For Hours On End: HAVE SOME MORE HELICOPTERS & SIRENS, MOTHEREFFERS!!!!

    So it was like that until about 1am. BUT, the next afternoon, I had a lovely, very San Francisco-esque run amidst light fog and a light breeze & basically perfectly temps. So there was that.

Friday: a.m. strength work / p.m. 7 easy

    Halloween. Ekidens. Awesome.

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 12.5 long

    I got up early(ish) to do this run since we had plans to spend the afternoon looking at houses & now that the time has changed I have that much less daylight in the afternoon/evening. Thanks to the time change, though, getting up early was actually pretty easy and I was happy to have running out of the way first thing. The run itself was okay, although it was warm out and I was getting a few hints here & there of the stupid right hip/thigh issues. I'm guessing that had to do with two higher volume weeks in a row and potentially the Friday run in the Ekidens.

So, it kind of works out that next week is going to be lower mileage by necessity thanks to weekend travel plans. I am going to try to get in some *slightly* longer runs during the week, but there will be no Sunday long run. Speaking of the cursed right hip/thigh issue, I've been talking with a local strength trainer who has a lot of experience working with distance runners (and is a pretty darn impressive one herself, which is always a good sign), and I'm hopeful that doing some really targeted individual work with her will help me suss out just exactly what the problem is & deal with it before I try to run another goal race.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Shoe Review: Brooks PureFlow 2 (or: News You Can't Use)

It is time for another fake shoe review. Fake because I got these shoes on super hella clearance, which I can only assume means that Brooks is about to release an update (Newsflash: Apparently during the time this review was sitting in my drafts folder 90% finished, they did just that), ergo it doesn't do people much good in terms of deciding whether or not they want to buy them. Based on the pictures, though, I'm betting the new version is not dramatically different, so at worst this probably provides a reasonably accurate picture for someone who does not know a lot about the Pure line or how the Pure Flow fits into it.

As I mentioned in my fake review of the Pure Drift, my first Pure line shoe was the first version of the Pure Connect, which was narrow and weird and had a super-high arch & this weird bubble-sole thing going on & after months of trying to like it, I finally just gave them away. I'd heard good things about the 2nd version of the line, though (particularly in terms of the width of the shoes, especially in the toe box), and since the whole line seemed to be on sale for like $40 a pair, I decided to give the Pure Drift a try. (The 10-second summary: Lots to love, but I need just a TOUCH more cushion when I was training for Santa Rosa. Lately I've been throwing them on every now and then for a couple of miles at a time. I love the way they feel, but still definitely a shoe I will have to work up to running very far in.)

Fast forward a month or so. Sesa mentioned that she'd been loving the Pure Flow for a while now & had recently picked up another pair on clearance, & Beth echoed her sentiments. Since they are both former Kinvara-wearers, I figured that as long as the 'Flows were on crazy clearance, why not give them a try?

You can tell by looking at them side-by-side that the Drift & the Flow are clearly related & share some DNA in terms of construction.

There are some obvious big differences as well. The Flow is just more shoe overall, especially in the mid-sole, and if it wasn't obvious just by looking, there's no way you can miss it if you put one on each foot.

The Pure Drift is the lightest, lowest-slung member of the Pure line, while the Pure Flow is the plushest & most heavily cushioned. Indeed, The Brooks website describes the Pure Flow as all about "lush cushioning," which is a spot-on description.

SPECS

The Pure Flow 2 weighs in at 7.1 oz for a women's size 8. Depending on which website you read, it has a stack height of between 27 & 28mm & a forefoot height of between 23 & 24mm, for a drop of maybe 3.5-4mm. (I think officially, Brooks has generally marketed the Pure line with a 4mm heel drop.)

Other potentially interesting info:

  • Blend of BioMogo & DNA smart cushioning. Supposedly this "Earth-friendly midsole technology adaptively tunes the cushioning and responsiveness to the specific needs of each and every runner." Each and EVERY runner, you say? A bold claim. The scientist in me can't help asking what exactly they mean by that and how exactly it works, because it sounds a little like marketing hooey.
  • "Inverted Heel encourages contact points to shift forward: Aligns the joints and creates optimal energy return." This makes no sense to me.
  • Split toe forefoot feature designed to isolate first ray (big toe): Independently empowers the big toe to engage the runner's natural stability, creating a more efficient and aligned toe off." You guys, I do not buy this. TOTALLY do not buy it one bit. Yes, it has the split-toe feature, but the whole situation there is fairly well encased in blown rubber, making the sole too stiff for you to do anything independent with your big toe. And frankly, I'm fine with that. With this shoe there is WAY too much cushioning between your foot and the ground for your big toe to do much more than it would do in any other traditionally-constructed running shoe anyway.

  • "Elastic band (Nav Band) wraps over the instep: Creates a comfortable, assured arch fit. Enhancing fit and feel. Offering additional support assurance when needed." Maybe? I personally have never been able to feel the "nav band" doing anything whatsoever in any Pure line shoe I've worn.

  • "Anatomical last mimics shape of foot: Contours the foot. Minimizes the use of material to provide true support and a glove-like feel." I do like the curved shape of the shoe, particularly because the toe box is wider than a lot of trainers. I would not say the fit is "glove-like" but it is quite comfortable.
  • BKW1710 (I don't know what this means. Prizes for anyone who can a) tell me or b) make up the most entertaining explanation.)

The Bottom Line: If I'm dividing everything into two buckets of things I like versus things I don't like, I'd put the 'Flows in the 'like' bucket. They're extremely comfortable with LOTS of room in the toe box, have some nice cushion without feeling bulky, and are still relatively light and actually fairly flexible. During my Santa Rosa training I enjoyed wearing them on easy mid-week runs, particularly on days when my legs were feeling sore & I felt like babying them a little.

In a way, I think the light weight along with the flexibility is what makes this shoe work for me. If it's super cushioney, I need it to be light and flexible. If it's fairly hard, I need it to be on the slightly stiffer, firmer side. (For example, that's what I want in a racing flat.)

They have their drawbacks, though. I'm a big fan of ground feel, and while I'd prefer just a TOUCH more of that in the Kinvaras, the Pure Flows have even less of it; the ground is a distant dream. The trade-off for the cushioning that feels so great when your feet are feeling beat up is significantly less responsiveness & a bit of a sloppy feel if you're doing anything much beyond easy running (particularly on turns - I would not wear these on the track, ever). For this reason, I can't really see racing in them, except maybe a marathon where I didn't care about running that fast & thus was willing to trade responsiveness for protection from prolonged pounding. Given that the Kinvaras are lighter and have better ground feel, I can't really see a reason why I'd opt for the Flows instead.

So, not the love-love-love forever shoe I've been searching for, but not a bad option at all for an easy training run unless you just hate hate hate cushioning.

Further Reading:

  • Some notes on the Pure Flow 3 from SneakerReport.
  • RunningShoesGuru's review of the Pure Flow 3, with some notes on the changes.
  • Ann Visintainer's comparison of all three versions of the Pure Flow.