Friday, December 19, 2014

The Data: Encouraging, Yet Confounding

By now you all know I'm obsessed with data, right? If something can be measured and tracked, by god I will measure & track it.

This week, I was scheduled to move up to six GMP miles in a row from five miles, with a two mile warm up and a two mile cool down. My memory of the five GMP miles I did last week was, yeah, it was hard, but not insanely hard, and once I settled into the pace, actually felt good. So I was optimistic going into this run.

I'd also decided that since I'd established that I can run at ~8:00 pace at an acceptable heart rate (ie, under 180) to just start doing these miles by pace, with instantaneous & lap average pace up on my Garmin instead of heart rate. Mainly, this is because when I first started adding in GMP miles a few weeks ago, my goal was, "Just keep it below 180 bpm," but lately that's been resulting in paces in the 7:40-7:50 range. Which, don't get me wrong, is super sweet--that's getting close to my PR half marathon pace, which in the past has required heart rates in the 190s. On the other hand, the whole point of these miles is to practice 8:00 pace, so I don't really want to be running too much faster than that right now. (For all my easy & long runs, I'm still looking only at heart rate & never at pace except for the splits my watch spits out.)

Ten miles total is a convenient distance for me because it means I can do two easy warm-up miles, which gets me mostly out of the start-and-stop world of traffic lights & narrow sidewalks, then run six miles mostly through the eastern half of Golden Gate Park (few lights, wider sidewalks, water fountains), & then finally finish with the same two-mile warm-up stretch in reverse, which spits me out pretty much right back at home. The six miles in the park are mostly gently rolling, with a few shorter, steeper hills, which is a reasonable imitation of what you get at NVM & SRM. Because it's a loop all the ups & downs wash out, and I can be pretty sure that whatever I'm doing in terms of pace & heart rate & all that is a pretty good indicator of what I'd be able to do on that kind of course in general.

I am not even going to lie; this run did not feel great while I was doing it. I was supposed to do it Tuesday but it was pouring rain again, so I switched it with my easy day since Thursday was supposed to be (and was) dry. It didn't feel awful, but I kept getting weird twinges in my shin bones, and I kept thinking I was feeling some grumbling in my right quad/hip/adductor (the problematic one). I never really settled into that nice, "on," crack-like feeling I had on last week's GMP run.

Also, keeping that 8:00 pace just felt a lot harder than I thought I remembered it feeling last week. I kept thinking, "I shouldn't be breathing hard. If I'm breathing hard I should slow down. If I'm working this hard my heart rate's GOT to be above 180. This is like running a 10K." Which, okay, no. It wasn't. Half marathon, more likely. (It's just been so long since I raced a half marathon all-out that I've forgotten how hard that actually feels.)

On the flats & downhills I tried to stay right at 8:00, and by the way having not looked at it for so long, I'd forgotten how instantaneous pace can totally play mind games with you (7:42? 8:18? 7:50? 8:40? 7:30? WHO KNOWS REALLY) & you really have to pay more attention to lap average (or at the very least, process the two together). I kept forcing myself to ease up on the hills, reminding myself that even in a perfectly executed marathon, I should be running those in the 8:15-8:30 range if my goal is to average 8:00 overall. And that was particularly hard, for some reason; both my brain & my body really just wanted to charge right up & get them over with.

I finished the run feeling sort of, "Well, that was whatever it was," but not really thinking it had been all that great. I didn't have any time afterward to download & dissect the data, and in fact it was a full 24 hours before I had time to sit down and actually look at it. Here's what it showed:

I'm very very far from a professional kinesiologist, but I've done my best to educate myself so that when I look back at my own data, I can make sense of the story my body is telling me. Since you don't live in my body & haven't spent years trying to understand the numbers that come out of it, let me interpret as best as I can.

Back when I was training with a heart rate monitor somewhat consistently, I usually did my marathon pace workouts (8:00-8:10ish) in the 175-190 bpm range, depending on how long they were & what else I had done that week & how fit I was & what have you. So to do a GMP workout at 8:05 pace with an average heart rate of 169 is kind of unexpected & awesome--I have never been able to run that fast at that low a heart rate, and while it's obviously a study with one participant and no controls, I'm pretty inclined to chock that up to low heart rate base training.

Obviously I have a long way to go before I can hold this pace for 26 miles, but back in 2011 in my first marathon when my training was patchy at best, I ran with an average of heart rate of 182 for three hours and forty-seven minutes, so getting to the point where I can maintain 169 for (ideally) three & a half hours seems eminently do-able.

As for why these miles felt SOOOO much harder than my heart rate would indicate, I can only guess, but as long as I'm going to guess, I think that a) I was kind of mis-remembering how easy the five GMP miles (at a slightly higher heart rate, BTW) felt last week, and b) I was just tired. It's been a busy week, I haven't slept well, the eight miles Tuesday through absolutely Biblical rain took a lot of out of me, and there's always the added stress of getting ready for the holidays/travel.

Overall, though, I'm encouraged. My sort of secret mini-goal lately has been to run the Foster City Ten Miler on Jan. 18 at 8:00 pace or better, and at this point, barring catastrophe, I actually think it could happen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

NVM WEEK 5: i don't even know, some stuff happened...

Because I am totally a rebel/free spirit/breaker of rules/flaunter of polite social conventions/etc., I beat the holiday rush this year & put my new set of goals out there back in September (which you can check out here if you're interested).

One of my goals was to make a freaking decision about whether I wanted to actually commit to running a sub-3:30 marathon next year and then--wait for it--committing to, like, doing the work it will actually take. (Revolutionary, I know. You should probably hire me to coach you.)

Don't get me wrong, a lot of the work, I'm pretty good at. I'm good at nailing my daily runs. I do my track workouts and tempo/threshold intervals pretty consistently, even when they suck. What I have NOT ever really been that great about is long runs; not in the way you have to be good about them if you actually want to race at the top end of your ability.

I will now enumerate the reasons why I have usually been a lame Leona (?) when it comes to long runs.

    1) Time. Start to finish, a proper long run sucks up anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours, depending on how long it is, how fast I run, how many red lights I catch, how often I stop for water, etc. Plus there's however long it takes me to decide what clothing is appropriate for the weather, hunt down & slather myself in BodyGlide/RideGlide/sunscreen, gather & stow the right number of gels, fret about what if the weather suddenly changes, etc. etc. etc. Basically this means I either have to clear out half a weekend day (easier at some times of year than at others) or get up at the ass crack of dawn, which, given that I already get up when it's still dark DURING the week, I am soooo not interested in.

    2) Feeling wrecked for the rest of the day. Sure, this varies, depending on a lot of different things, but once I've run 18 or 20 miles, doing a bunch of chores / running errands / being witty & outgoing & social for multiple hours are pretty much the last things I'm interested in doing. (Also, sweet baby bejeebus, the chafing. Always with the chafing *somewhere*.)

    3) The completely & totally overwhelming idea of running for 2.5-4 hours. No matter how many times I do it & finish going, "That wasn't so bad!," before the run, I will still inevitably be like, "You cannot be serious."

    4) The monotony. It's better with audiobooks, but there are still so many times when I'm halfway through a long run & really just want to write a note to myself akin to the ones my mom used to write to get me out of PE when I had bad asthma as a kid that says, "Angela is unable to participate in the last nine miles of her long run today due to this entire business being just too mind-numbingly dull to even contemplate."

    Racing = fun & exciting. Long runs = snooze fest. Unfortunately if you don't do the long runs, the races end up sucking too. So that's that. :P

    5) There is just so, so much time for something to go wrong. For me, pretty much every run over 10 miles feels like walking a tight rope.

So now you can maybe see why I usually end up doing maybe five or six long runs when marathon training, and I don't think I've ever done more than two at 18+ miles in a training cycle. Sure, that's enough to finish and generally not suck as long as you're running the rest of your mileage, but it is definitely NOT enough to get particularly good at 3+ hours of fast running and have your best possible race.

After spending some time chatting with people who know a lot more about marathon training than I do, the consensus seemed to be that the easiest way to stop hating/fearing/avoiding long runs was to normalize them. In the past, for example, an 18 mile run was something I did probably only once in a training cycle, so it was a big freaking deal, and I spent all week fretting & worrying about it & building it up in my mind to be this horrible thing that may or may not actually be capable of killing me. My (inevitably) lone 20+ miler in a cycle, even more so. But if I can normalize 16-22 mile runs as something I just do every weekend with as few exceptions as possible, there is a chance my brain might finally just go, "Another of those? Phhhbbbbt. I do this all the time. NBD." And maybe, eventually, it really won't be.

This week my long run went from 15 miles to 17 miles, which felt like a big jump for some reason, and (as described) I was kind of dreading it all week. On top of this, my Sunday afternoon & evening were pretty packed, which meant I really had to be out the door by 8:30am to have any chance of getting it done. (Roll your eyes if you want, parents, but I am childless by design and didn't sign up for this.)

Sometimes people are like, "What is your top tip for making sure you get your runs in when you don't feel like it?"

Easy: Lying. No question. Without a doubt, that is the most effective tool in my arsenal.


No but really, I cannot even handle it

If I were to actually tell myself, "We are running 17 damn miles come hell or high water and that is THE END OF IT," I can almost guarantee you it would not happen. (See #3 above.)

Instead:

"17 mile run?? What 17 mile run?? Psssshhh; this is just a little jaunt down to the park and back." "Well, we've made it four miles, which guarantees eight when we turn around & run back home. Why not go one more mile to make it a nice round 10?" "Now we're almost to the fun downhill section, might as well go all the way down to the beach, which gets us to 7, which guarantees 14 total." "Why not weave in & out across the park as we head back? Beats the relentless uphill, amirite?"

As I reached the 11 mile mark, I was thinking about how so many of my marathoning friends swear by the occasional "fast finish" long run, where you run either the last few miles or the last few except for a couple of cool-down miles at goal race pace or faster, in order to practice (both physically & mentally) running the right pace on tired legs. I'd never tried it but was feeling actually pretty good at that point, so I decided to try running miles 12 & 13 vaguely in my marathon heart rate zone & see what happened.

(Side note: This is the kind of thing I would NEVER have just tried on a whim one day during a "real" training cycle for fear of irrevocably screwing everything up forever & ever, which is why the whole "fake-race" mentality thing is kind of fun.)

It was kind of hard, but actually not as hard as I'd expected. And actually, mechanically, it felt better than the super easy 9:45-10:15 pace I'd been sustaining. Don't get me wrong, I was happy when that last mile ticked off (not surprising, since at 7:42, I was really pushing too hard), but I also felt kind of rejuvenated, both physically & mentally. Partly I think it was because race pace miles always seem to go by fast & it felt like I'd gone from 12 miles done to 14 miles done in the blink of an eye. Partly I think it was just a feeling of "WOOHOO THAT WAS NOT THE WORST THING EVER ERGO I AM TOTALLY WINNING AT THIS RUN!!!" After that the last three miles were a cakewalk, and when I got back to my house at 16.3 miles, it was no big deal at all to go out & back a few more blocks to get to 17.

And that is how I got through the 17 mile run on Sunday that I had absolutely no interest in doing.

~*~*~NVM WEEK 5 OF 16~*~*~

Grand Total: 44 miles

    * 22 easy
    * 5 goal marathon pace
    * 17 long w/ 2 at sub-marathon pace
    * 2 x 45:00 strength work, plus exercises from AT most days

I was supposed to break the 4-0 barrier last week, but then this happened, so I am kind of relieved that this week included no major emergencies or last-minute travel plans & I was able to run all of the miles I had planned, at planned paces.

Monday: karate

Tuesday: a.m. strength work / 2 wu, 5 @ GMP, 2 cd = 9 total

    My running week got off to a nice, normal start (THANK THE GODS). And by 'start,' I mean like the first 1.5 miles, because that's approximately how far I got before I managed to trip over literally nothing & go hurtling toward the ground, barely catch myself with one hand, roll ass over shoulder into the middle of the street, & nearly get run over by three cars. (To be fair, the cars all stopped to be like, HEY ARE YOU DEAD OR ANYTHING, which was nice.) I credit karate & 13 years of learning to fall/distribute force safely with the fact that I managed to survive all of this with nothing but a gashed-up hand, a goose egg on one ankle, and a few bruises. Also, this is the first time in 20+ years of distance running that I've ever fallen, which I feel like is not doing too badly.


    You're welcome.

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

Thursday: 8 cold, wet, windy miles

    In case you haven't heard, Thursday was #hellastorm here in California, so a lot of things like this happened:


    My usual route to work.


    My back-up route to work.


    A few blocks from our house.


    A few blocks in the other direction.

    Schools were closed, cars were drowning on the parts of the flooded freeways that weren't shut down, and much of San Francisco was without power. Fortunately although a lot of our block was blacked out, our house was fine, so rather than risk the 30 mile commute in typhoon-like conditions, I hunkered down & worked at home.

    By late afternoon the wind had died down, which was good, because in contemplating my evening run, I kept flashing back to this which was kind of traumatic. I lamented my lack of waterproof trail shoes, but celebrated the fact that just the day before, the running shell I'd bought on a big cyber Monday sale arrived. (Which I totally love, BTW, & since I've had plenty of opportunity to test it out lately, maybe I'll get around to writing a review.)

Friday: 6 easy

    Forgot to plug in my Garmin so just did this one by effort on a known route. Who am I kidding, I have only one route.

    Also, that night was Don's company holiday party, which was fun. No pictures were taken but this post is dangerously low on non-gif pictures, so please enjoy this shot from the same party last year.

Saturday: 4 easy

    Trying to ease my way into Saturday runs. I ended this one by finishing at Bi-Rite & purchasing a case of wine for their Winter Wine Blitz. 20% off a mixed case? Hell yeah. #motivation #justkidding #woudveboughtthewineanyway

Sunday: 17 long

The big question about this coming week is my long run. We leave for Texas early Saturday morning & get in fairly late Saturday night, so Sunday will be our first real full day, & I'm still kind of blanking on suitable long run routes near my mom's house. The thought of making circles around the block for 18-19 miles kind of makes me want to shoot myself in the face.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Goal Marathon Pace Miles Are Basically Like Crack.

It was just like this. Not really.
On the off chance that you haven't committed my whole fake-marathon-kinda-sorta-training-plan-wtf to memory (WHAT??), my plan was to do nothing but base train for six weeks (which ended up being seven), & then start adding in chunks of ~8:00 pace miles once a week, the idea being that I would start working on getting that pace back into muscle memory while still spending 90% of my mileage on slow, easy, low heart rate runs. (I also thought it might be interesting to see what effect working on my aerobic system and not much else might have on running at that pace/effort level.)

Tuesday 11/11 was my first GMP run. Having no idea what to expect after averaging ~10:30/mile for nearly two months straight, I figured I'd play it by ear, not let myself get too serious about it, & just see what happened. I wasn't sure what 8:00/mile would feel like & kind of had this terrible fear that 1) I would no longer be capable of running that pace for multiple miles at all, or 2) my legs would have totally forgotten, like, how to move that fast & I would just trip all over myself & come crashing down onto the pavement if I tried. But hey, if eight minute miles had me sucking wind after two blocks, I could always downgrade to "marathon effort" & be all, "Meh, I listened to my body which told me to do an easier, less sucky thing, blah blah blah."

(BTW, I am hella suspicious of people who use the phrase "I listened to my body" too often because the body does always seem to be saying things like "Go slower!" or "Unplanned rest day plzthnx!" or "Spontaneous cutback week ftw!" I mean whose body DOESN'T want to go slower or take more rest days or cutback week after cutback week? [Spoiler: If you take several cutback weeks in a row, they are no longer cutback weeks. You're just running less.] Obviously I'm not advocating doing stupid things like ignoring actual pain or never backing off if something feels really wrong or making yourself sick with exhaustion, but the fact is that training for something with any kind of seriousness is hard work, and sometimes it sucks, and sometimes you're just going to be tired & uncomfortable & should probably just suck it up anyway. If I "listened to my body" too closely I would do nothing but lie on the couch & drink wine & eat bon bons all day & stay up until 2am binge watching Dr. Who. True story.)

In the end, I decided to look up at what heart rates I've done marathon pace workouts in the past & try going by that. (For the record, generally anywhere between 175 & 190. I wore a monitor for my first marathon in 2011 & haven't since, & apparently my heart rate in that race averaged about 182. On the other hand, that number is of questionable utility considering that 1) I was having an asthma attack the whole time, & 2) I ran the race basically at long run effort, not marathon race effort, as a result.) I thought I would not aim to keel over and die blow the doors off right out of the gate & thusly decided to just try to keep my heart rate under 180ish, even if that meant running slower than 8:00/mile.

All through my warm-up miles, I kept repeating words of wisdom from Coach Matt Russ re: base training:

    "You have to let your anaerobic system atrophy during base training. You will lose some of your anaerobic endurance and the ability to sustain speed near lactate threshold. LET IT GO, LET IT GO."


I do not have children so I can only assume that song was about aerobic base training.

Though part of me definitely was fantasizing about cranking it up to marathon pace & magically finding that through the mystical voodoo of base training 8:00 miles were suddenly easier than they'd ever been, I knew that was extraordinarily unlikely. After six more months of base training? Maybe. In the mean time, though, I had less than two months under my belt, and as Coach Matt repeated once again in my head, likely a heavily atrophied anaerobic system. (Read: My body has been getting more efficient at using oxygen to run slowly, but anything remotely akin to going fast is going to feel much harder because I'm no longer processing lactate as quickly.)

Oh, friends. If you only could have been there to watch me laughing my ass off as I chugged away at that first mile. (Except it would have been kind of hard to tell I was laughing what with all the sucking of wind.) Yes, it was uphill a bit, so I knew things would get easier, but I will not say I didn't cackle to myself a bit when that first mile--which felt like maybe 10K race effort--ticked off in 8:30.

    "You have to let your anaerobic system atrophy during base training. You have to let your anaerobic system atrophy during base training. You have to let your anaerobic system atrophy during base training."

The second mile (gently rolling & very slightly net downhill) at the same level of effort was a bit faster at exactly 8:00. I ran an easy recovery mile after that, then did another two miles in that 170-180 heart rate zone, which ticked off at 8:04 (mile two in reverse, so gently rolling but very slightly net uphill) and 7:36 (mile one in reverse, so gently but relentlessly downhill) respectively.

    "You have to let your anaerobic system atrophy during base training. You have to let your anaerobic system atrophy during base training. You have to let your anaerobic system atrophy during base training."

I know this. It's just a fact. A fact I know in my brain but that I haven't experienced directly in a very long time, thanks to years of ignoring real base training in favor of trying to peak for one more race (and one more, and one more, and one more).

Yes, those four miles at goal marathon pace felt more like 10K pace. You can tell from the heart rate data, though, that I've made some aerobic gains, and here is why.

When I've taken big chunks of time completely off in the past and then tried running at ~8:00/mile, it definitely did feel hard--at least as hard as these miles, and maybe a little harder. BUT, my heart rate was also up around 200 (ie, the heart rate I hit racing a 10K when I'm in shape). That's not what happened here. With this run, I ran four miles at almost exactly my marathon goal pace (8:03 average), but my heart rate for those four miles averaged 175 bpm. (Read: The absolute lowest end of what I have *ever* considered marathon heart rate.)

When I'm actually out of shape--aerobically and anaerobically--my heart has to work very hard (~200bpm) to get enough oxygen to my body to sustain an 8:00 pace.

When I've been in pretty good shape in the past, aerobically and anaerobically, my heart hasn't had to work as hard (~180-185bpm) to get enough oxygen to my body to sustain that pace, and I can also sustain it comfortably for a long time because my body has become efficient at clearing out lactate.

Right now, my body is definitely not clearing lactate very quickly, as evidenced by the fact that marathon pace felt like 10K pace. On the other hand, my heart really wasn't having to work all that hard (175bpm) to provide enough oxygen to sustain 8:00 miles, and that's kind of awesome.

To sum up:

  • Being in good aerobic shape means you can cover ground faster at lower heartrates (because more economical transport & use of fat & oxygen).
  • Being in good shape anaerobically means you can sustain higher heartrates for longer (because high lactate threshold).

I am now up to five goal marathon pace miles in a row. Although it always feels a little bit tough to kick it up to that higher effort level after running easy warm-up miles 2-3 minutes slower, once I settle into it, I remember why I enjoy running right in that barely-comfortably-fast zone and how it is basically like crack. It's so much easier to hold good form, and everything just feels right and comfortable and "on." Yes, I've detoxed a little in these last few months of 10:00+ minute miles, but after a few (relatively) fast miles, my brain definitely starts throwing an ugly little tantrum at the thought of slowing back down again.


NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!1!!1!

No, I can't run 26 miles at that pace right now (13, maybe), but after two months of restraining myself and exercising patiences and discipline, it's felt so great to open up again and really run instead of shuffle. I'm also starting to develop some confidence that I might be able to run at that pace/effort level at Foster City in January, which is fun.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

NVM WEEK 4: Please bear with me as I attempt to explain this week.

...but forgive me if it comes across sounding less than coherent. All will be made clear in the fullness of time.

(Just kidding, it probably won't.)

~*~*~NVM WEEK 4 OF 16~*~*~

Grand Total: 37 miles

    * 18 easy
    * 4 goal marathon pace
    * 15 long
    * strength work most days, but mostly in smaller chunks

Monday: 6 easy

    My last run in Spokane. I didn't have a run scheduled but since I didn't do a long run the day before, would not get any other exercise that day, and our flight was on the later side, I decided to get a few miles in. Thankfully I learned from my 18F run the previous day & wore thicker socks & two pairs of gloves. Even so, and in spite of the lack of wind, it was definitely the toughest run of the trip & pretty much every half mile or so I was like, "Can I quit now? How about now? How about now?" Not pretty. But effing done.

    Also, my front left top big tooth had been bugging me for a few days, to the point where it was keeping me up at night. Not pain, really, just this bizarre, numb, super sensitive feeling, and I kept thinking I was hallucinating that it was jiggling around a little. (This is significant because when I was twelve, I almost knocked it out in a gymnastics accident, but the dentist had put it back & I hadn't had any trouble with it ever since.) It had started to feel better, though, so I was trying not to worry about it & hoping it would just go back to normal-feeling on its own.

Tuesday: 2 wu, 4 @ GMP, 2 cd 8 easy

    I've been scheduling my GMP miles for Tuesdays, but it was pouring ran & I am terrified & slipping & falling on concrete, so I decided to swap this workout with the easy 8 I had planned on Thursday. Still kind of freaked out about my tooth.

Wednesday: Strength work.

    No karate because I was having an insanely busy week at work, including a bunch of normal work, some contract work, and also prepping for a conference I was supposed to speak at Saturday morning in Monterey. Thanks to just being insanely busy and stressed and oh yeah still freaked out about my bizarro-feeling tooth, I pretty much only ate one meal that day & slept maybe four hours. GOOD TIMES.

Thursday: a.m. strength work / p.m. 2 wu, 4 @ GMP, 2 cd = 8 total

    Woke up feeling awful, because not enough sleep + tooth really, really starting to freak me out. I tried to be hard core & went to the gym before work anyway, but then became so panicked about my tooth that I a) could not eat and b) could not concentrate on work. So instead I went home and called every dentist on my insurance within a five-mile radius of my house to see if there was one who could see me, like, NOW. (My regular dentist was booked but also is in Redwood City near my office, and if I ended up needing to have some kind of horrible procedure done, I didn't want to have to worry about driving thirty miles.) After not too many tries I found one six blocks away who could see me at 3:30.

    Basically I was fine until the dentist came in & asked me what was going on & then I pretty much collapsed into a trembling, snotty, sobbing, hysterical mess in the dentist chair & frankly I'm kind of amazed he was able to make any sense of what I was even saying. (No way this could possibly have been related to the lack of sleep and food, NO NOT AT ALLLLL.)


    Basically, that.

    Long story short, he took some x-rays, poked around, & declared that the tooth was in fact dead. Cue more blubbering & shaking & general hysterics. Finally the dentist managed to reassure me that this is actually not THAT that big a deal as dental issues go and also not surprising given what I'd done to it 20 years ago. He said he felt pretty sure they could save the tooth, but on the other hand, he was like, "Yyyyyeah, you need to have a root canal, like, now."

    But not actually now, because it's the kind of thing they usually do by just giving you a shot in your mouth to numb the area & then drilling at it for an hour & a half or so, & in my hysterical panicked state, he didn't actually think I'd be calm enough to make the procedure safe. So instead, we scheduled it for 11:30 the next morning, & he gave me a prescriptions for Valium (to take the night before & a couple of hours before the RC) & for the sedative they'd give me immediately before.

    Thanks to all this, I had nothing to eat that day except half a cheese quesadilla. I knew I had time to eat or run but not both, so by way of compromise I ran only 8 miles with 4 at goal marathon pace instead of 9 with 5 at GMP & fully expected it to totally suck ass. Surprisingly, though, it wasn't that bad at all, & I did jump up from 2 x 2 @ GMP to doing all four in a row, & it actually didn't feel that hard (though GMP itself does still feel kind of hard).

    (Surely you didn't think I was going to skip the run? It's my tooth that was dead, not my feet. Who skips runs because of dead teeth?? Psssshhhh.)

    (No but not even joking, my first thought when he was like, "You need a root canal now" was, "I CAN'T have a root canal now, I have a FREAKING RUN to do.")

Friday: 6 easy Emergency root canal / be high all day (ie, "where the fun starts").

    I tried to explain to the dentist that I have tried to have medical procedures before where either ludicrous amounts of drugs were required to knock me out or the doctors actually could not manage to give me enough to knock me out, & maybe he should take that into consideration when deciding what/how much to prescribe of whatever it was he was going to give me. But he didn't listen & ultimately prescribed for me the lowest dosage of Valium there is (I think) & instructed me to take only 1 the night before and 1 two hours before the RC.

    I had never taken Valium or anything similar before, & my housemate described its effect as basically just making you not care about anything. "Essentially," he said, "it salted the fields in which I grow my f#@ks."

    Let the record show that I took my one Valium at 10pm, and by midnight, I was still possessed of many, many f#@ks. Also, I did not sleep because I was too busy panicking about the RC and feeling certain I would wake up in the morning with my tooth having fallen right out of my head. Trust me; many, many ugly, panicked f#@ks were given.


    Valium, what even is the point of you??

    Although he'd only told me to take one Valium before coming to the office, he'd actually prescribed two more, and because I am a woman of action I swallowed them both at 9:45 Friday morning. Also, because desperate times call for desperate measures, I had a shot of bourbon for good measure when by 11:00 I could still detect no change whatsoever in number or intensity of f#@ks given.


    Did I mention the hysteria

    Anticipating that I would get a run in after all this root canal business and then head to my office to finish prepping for my talk the next morning, I put on running clothes & then walked the six blocks to the dentist. By 11:30 I was once again in the chair desperately trying not to panic. The dentist had prescribed 3 pills of Triazolam which was meant to make me just kind of floppy & cooperative during the RC, but he'd told me he did not expect to need all 3. At this time I informed him that Valium was basically candy as far as I could tell and it did not seem that the additional bourbon had done much either.

    He said normally he gives people only one of the Triazolams, but to help him gauge, would I say I was the type of person who has like a glass of wine or two & feels a little buzzed. I informed him that I would say I was the type of person who has like a bottle of wine & feels a little buzzed. He gave me a tablet and a half.

    We waited like 30 minutes & when nothing happened, he made me put on dark sunglasses & gave me another half, and after 30 more minutes, finally gave me the entire last tablet. 15 minutes or so after that he said we really just had to get started, & hopefully it would start kicking in as they worked. This is when I started to whimper a little. Then he leaned me back and put a blindfold on me & started giving me shots in my mouth, at which time I whimpered more and louder.

    But after that, things were cool. I could pretty much hear everything but felt nothing except what felt like pieces of rubber being stretched over different parts of my mouth. Eventually the drugs did kick in because after what felt like 20-30 minutes, it was all done, & they were unblinding me & helping me up. I felt a bit wobbly but otherwise pretty normal.

    This is where things get entertaining. I remember getting into my housemate's car (since I was not allowed to walk home), but nothing after that until waking up in my living room in the dark three hours later, passed out on the couch, & suddenly remembering we were having dinner (my first meal of the day, mind) with friends at 7.

    (Later, I found out that during those missing hours, I apparently texted my family members relentlessly about potential Christmas gift ideas & what did they think about this/that/& the other thing until they politely were like, "Well, I've got to get going..." I also RSVP'd to a friend's birthday/holiday party invite on Facebook with an extremely earnest and enthusiastic message about how I would ONLY come if I could bring Christmas cookies to decorate, described in detail the cookie cutter sets I currently possessed, and explained in what ways I would be willing to expand my collection for this particular event. I also apparently sent Don the messages below:

    At that point I apparently got bored & wandered off.)

    Apparently I managed to dress myself appropriately & put on make-up like a normal person, but I don't actually remember anything between waking up & Don getting home at ~6:45 & telling him, "LOOK I AM READY FOR DINNER AND ALSO I FEEL COMPLETELY & TOTALLY NORMAL #ADULTING."

    As far as I remember, dinner was completely normal, I had completely normal conversations with friends & waitstaff, ordered wine competently, & ate my dinner like a normal person.

    As far as Don & my friends remember, that is not what happened.

    My friend K said that when we walked in, her first thought was "Holy shit, how did Angela get so drunk between work and now?? You guys could have cancelled!"

    Apparently I had a very entertaining conversation with the waitress around ordering my wine (a GREAT idea when you've got nothing in your stomach but Triazolam, obviously); I kind of remember not really understanding anything she was saying, but somehow this did not strike me as at all unusual & I was just kind of like, "Sure, bring me one of those whatever-you-saids." When my food came I told Don, "Oh, you got me brown! It's probably really good." Also, apparently multiple times in the middle of carrying on a normal conversation I would suddenly stop & stare off into space for a while, & when we left Don had to hold on to my arm so that I didn't go careening into other diners. I'm sure everyone in the restaurant thought I was absolutely shit-faced out-of-my-mind drunk.


    It was like this but with wine.

    I remember nothing at all after this, but Don said that when we got home I rang all the buzzers for the three units in our building before he could stop me, and although he kept reminding me I had to get up at five a.m. and drive to Monterey to give a talk (!) and should really go to bed, I insisted on playing around on the internet for a good hour instead.

Saturday: Total chaos.

    After leaving dinner, the next thing I remember is sitting bolt upright in bed at 4:30am with this horrible feeling that there was something important I was supposed to do. After establishing the day & time, I realized that I hadn't been able to do any of the prep work the day before that I'd been planning on (at least I was pretty sure), which meant I had to get up *right then* & drive to my office to get it all finished.

    Again, eating did not occur to me. (Probably because I'd kind of gotten out of the habit this week.)

    After an hour of frantic work at my office, I was on the road to Monterey by 8:00am. When I found myself nodding off at the wheel & also nearly out of gas, I stopped for a triple shot latte (FOOD WHO NEEDS FOOD) & filled up the tank. I exactly an hour before my presentation, which was exactly enough time to get myself checked in, find my co-presenter, locate our room, & get set up.

    Everything went fine & we got excellent reviews. Normally I would have stayed for the rest of the conference, but I had a busy day yet & instead headed straight home.

    I'd hoped I'd have time for a short run, given that I was pretty sure I hadn't run the day before (BUT HEY WHO KNOWS???), but all there was really time for was changing clothes, stuffing half a burrito in my face, & doing something not hideous to my hair before we had to leave to see this on the big screen for the first and probably last time ever.


    This movie pretty much defined my early grade school years.

    Don had never seen it, and I promised him if it came to San Francisco, I would take him.

    After that it was dinner, which took considerably longer than expected, and after that, heading home for yet ANOTHER costume change & then out to a fancy holiday party. (This is why I had to make my hair look non-hideous before the movie.)

    At 3:30am, I drank approximately a gallon of water, collapsed into bed, and passed right the eff out.

Sunday: 15 long

    Oh my god I slept for so long. SOOOO long.

    Knowing I had a 15 mile long run ahead of me & was most likely woefully carb depleted, I choked down a latte and as much oatmeal as I could stand, then headed out into the last remaining 2.5 hours of daylight, fully expecting that run to suck complete and total ass. And actually, it didn't. The first eight miles were pretty easy. Miles 9-11 were the worst, probably because they were relentless uphill going east back through Golden Gate Park and because having 5-6 miles left just mentally felt like a lot, but then once I hit 12 things felt easy again, probably because I was running downhill at that point and because 3 miles left just feels mentally easy.

    Shockingly, this ended up being one of the fastest and lowest heart rate runs I've done so far. Lately I've been experimenting with the train-low-race-high philosophy (actually, just "train low," I guess) as far as carbs go & not fueling at all on my long runs, which has been completely fine, & I'm not convinced that isn't why this run was about ten times easier & better than it really had any right to be.


    One of the iconic Ocean Beach windmills (always a sign of an actual long run!)


    Ocean Beach! Looking San Frantastic as always.

    After that, it was throw some laundry in, stuff a pizza down my face, go see a friend's play (awesome), try to catch up on yet more of the work I'd intended to do Friday, & hit the effing sack.

I don't want to pretend there is anything noble about this week or that it contains some kind of moral. But, actually, it *does* kind of make me want to say, look folks. Sometimes you just have to get shit done & you can't let things like work and hysteria and lack of food or sleep or dead teeth get in your way.

(Unicorn movies, tho. Sometimes you just have to see a unicorn movie and there's just nothing to be done about it.)

(THE AUTHOR WAS THERE, SHUT UP.)

What am really saying, I think, is that I have spent the last couple of years really trying to train myself not to make excuses, ever, & to really, really recognize the difference between situations where I truly, actually cannot or should not do a planned run (because obviously those exist) and situations where I'm just letting my brain convince me that's the case. So, in that sense, I am pretty proud of myself for not wimping out this week, EVER. Because once you let a thing get in the way of a run, it's that much easier to let that thing get in the way the next time.

This coming week, I just want my damn life to go back to normal. Hopefully that's not too much to ask. :P

Monday, December 8, 2014

Miss Zippy (who I always want to call 'Mizzippy')'s Year of Running Link-Up!

I am almost done recapping Week 4 (it's kind of a doozy & you'll understand why once I get it posted), but in the mean time, it's time for Miss Zippy's Year of Running post, 2014 edition!

  • Best race experience? Probably my first race back after my stress fracture, the Get Lucky 5K in Rohnert Park in March. I had just got the clearance to run three straight miles with no walking, so HELL YEAH, the first thing I'm going to do is go race a 5K. An all-time PW, but it felt so good just to get out and run fast (or at least what felt fast at the time).

  • Best run? Oh geez. No idea. I don't keep track of these things. My Halloween run was pretty great. That first race after the stress fracture was great. But honestly, I can't pick out anything anymore specifically than that.

  • Best new piece of gear? No contest, my Mio wrist band heart rate monitor. I've been meaning to write a proper review for it--I promise I'll get to it soon! Basically there is no way I could possibly wear a heart rate monitor for every run otherwise.

  • Best piece of running advice you received? It's a tie between "Eat more protein, preferably at every meal" and "SLOW THA EFF DOWN on the easy runs." Since September I've slowed my easy runs down from 8:00-8:30/mile to 10:00-10:30/mile, and I've seen some significant aerobic gains as a result. (Here's hoping that translates into faster race times in the spring.)

  • Most inspirational runner? This woman I just learned about called Aimee Mullins, who is the fastest woman in history with prosthetic legs. I heard an interview with her on NPR & then saw a TED talk she did, and her story is just amazing. Also she is DEAD hilarious

  • If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? An educational roller coaster ride. I've had some high highs and low lows, and definitely learned a LOT about smart training and racing and generally taking care of a runner's body that I'm looking forward to putting into practice even more next year.

    You can check out everyone else's link at Miss Zippy's page by clicking on her picture above!

  • Tuesday, December 2, 2014

    NVM WEEK 3: I learn things. And drink a lot.

    Don & I were in Spokane, Washington this past week for Thanksgiving visiting his parents, which is always a quiet, peaceful few days full of good food & amazing wine. This is what happens when your SO's parents are wine educators. (I, for one, have thoroughly enjoyed being educated by them.)


    #gratitude #blessed #justkidding #getinmybelly

    In addition to eating & drinking my weight in turkey, mashed potatoes, wine, and pie, I learned a lot of things this week. I will now recount these learnings in chronological order.

    ~*~*~NVM WEEK 3 OF 16~*~*~

    Grand Total: 33.15 miles, all easy. Not the week I'd hoped for, but we'll get to that. Still, better than any other Thanksgiving travel week to date, which is something.

    Monday: karate

    Tuesday: 10 easy

      My schedule called for 9, including 5 miles at goal marathon pace, but given how beat up I was still feeling from last week's sleep debt that refused to die, I decided to take it easy & not push for the faster miles. But, I threw in an extra mile to compensate for the skipped GMP miles, because that is totally how that works.

    Wednesday: a.m. strength work / travel

      I had a morning session with AT, which was fascinating. We did basically all transverse ab stuff to start, & learned that I am apparently not awful in that department but still not great. Then she had me work on holding a bridge position & then lifting each leg off the ground one at a time. Which? I learned that I cannot do. Not even a little. Which indicates that something in the glute/core area is just not firing, no matter how well I do on all the strength assessments. So my homework is to lie there in a bridge position & try to pick my feet up off the ground one at a time. Or at least try.

      (Sidenote: Although my sessions with AT have thus far involved only the most basic, simple, non-impressive looking exercises imaginable, they are by far the hardest, most painful, & most sweat-inducing strength sessions I have ever done, and that includes CrossFit.)

      After that I headed home to finish packing & get to the airport, which led to learning #3: If you must travel the day before Thanksgiving & can swing it, try flying out mid-day.

      "Busiest travel day of the year."

      The airport was absolutely empty when we arrived at 1:30 for our 3:00 flight, but the TSA folks told us that it had been a mad house that morning & they expected it to get bad again later with the after-work crowd. Apparently, we were flying right in the sweet spot.

      Learning #4: By far the most pleasant way to kill time at the Oakland airport is to head over to Vino Volo in Terminal 2. (The airport is not that big so it shouldn't take long to find.) Since we'd given ourselves so much extra time in anticipation of crazy security lines, we had a solid hour to kill before our flight even started boarding.

      Also Vino Volo has the nicest, most friendly servers/pourers you can possibly imagine (and probably more than than you can imagine, given that they were working in an airport during the holidays).

    Thursday: 8.15 easy

      I haven't been able to run much in Spokane recently thanks to a stress fracture last year & really bad shin splints in 2012, so I was thankful (HA!) this year to be healthy & rested enough to go jaunting around the just-barely-rural area where Don's parents live before Thanksgiving dinner.

      There are miles and miles of empty road rolling past scenic farms, fall colors, & evergreens, with narry a traffic light in sight. It was a little windy but not too cold, & I got a healthy dose of hills that certainly rival anything I run regularly in San Francisco.

      For the first few days there, the temperature stayed in a very reasonable 45-55F range. The low end of this is colder than we typically get in SF, so I was sure to pack plenty of tights, long sleeve shirts, ski socks, & gloves. On Thursday it was still sunny & low 50s, so I wore my thinnest tights, a light long-sleeve, normal socks, & no hat or gloves. It was a little windy in places & there were a few times when I kind of wished I had gloves, but for the most part, my outfit seemed pretty much fine.

    Friday: 8 easy

      On Friday I did the same route but backwards, which meant starting with ~1/2 a mile nice, gradual downhill followed by 3 miles of brutal up hill. Given that I don't really run a lot of brutal hills these days, this was, um, an interesting experience. On the other hand, at least it was paired with a 20mph tailwind.

      On the other other hand, that meant I finished with two miles or so of short, brutal ups interspersed with slightly longer but still kind of brutal downs, and a frigid 20mph headwind. (I'd forgotten how hilarious it is to run downhill with a strong headwind, because you actually have to work to move forward.)

      As a result of all the hills and wind, I actually got several good stretches in at close to marathon heart rate, which I figured was probably fine since I didn't run any GMP miles earlier in the week. It wasn't that cold (high forties, maybe) but thanks to the wind & little bit of drizzle, I definitely felt a bit frozen in places when I got back.

    Saturday: Rest/eat/drink/etc.

    Sunday: 15 long 7 easy

      In my fondest dreams, I had hoped I would get a proper long run in in Spokane. Alas I wasn't feeling great Saturday night & then slept a grand total of 3 hours, so when we woke up to single-digit temps, I was very close to just calling it altogether. After lunch with friends, though, I was feeling considerably better & proclaimed when we got back that I'd just run until the sun went down. Unfortunately, that only ended up giving me a little over an hour (what with the sun setting at 4:30pm up there this time of year). But given that it was about 18F at that point & dropping fast, even in my thickest tights & ski socks, two shirts, two pairs of gloves, & a hat, I am not sure I would have lasted much longer (which is a shame, really, because I was just starting to get into a groove & totally could have run happily for way longer, except for the cold/dark/empty rural roads/etc.).

      When I got back, I couldn't feel my skin in most places & couldn't actually stand more than luke-warm water in the shower because otherwise it actually kind of burned. I pretty much spent the rest of the evening sitting in front of this & trying to thaw out.

      But yeah. If we'd gotten back from lunch say an hour earlier, I actually MIGHT have been able to get a long run in with no problem. Still, this is the most miles I've ever run in Spokane (by a lot) so I'm trying to be happy with it.

    Also, let us briefly talk about what I learned regarding what your heart rate does when you travel.

    These days, down in SF, my easy runs have pretty much all been in the 142-148 bpm range. Up in Spokane? *Completely* different world. At what felt like the same level of effort, I was consistently averaging 155-170 bpm. Yes, the routes were hillier, but even slowing to what felt like a super easy effort, I still routinely found myself in the 170+ range on long uphills, and almost never saw that number drop below 150. I can understand this somewhat on the colder days, but the first couple of days weren't THAT dramatically different from SF, so I've had a hard time trying to figure out what the difference could possibly be.

    (And I'm pretty positive it has something to do with location. Six easy miles in Spokane on Monday, 12/1? Average heart rate 163 bpm, which is an all-time high for this particular base training cycle. Eight easy miles in SF the next day? 143 bpm, among the lowest averages I've seen. Go figure.)

    My only real goals for this coming week are to break 40 miles & get a 15 mile long run in. If both of those happen, no complaints.

    Saturday, November 29, 2014

    A Sweet Deal on Foster City 10-Miler/5K

    2015 is shaping up to be the year of apocryphal distances. I was lamenting recently about how I really wanted to run a road half sometime between Thanksgiving and mid-February, but there don't seem to be many nearby that fit into my schedule super well. Then recently I got an email about the Foster City Ten Miler on January 18. No, it's not a half, but it's in the ballpark more or less, and would at least give me some sense of where I am 6 weeks out from NVM. I was getting ready to register last week when I came across Jen's post on the same race where she posted a discount code.

    The prices are $50 for the 10-miler & $30 for the 5K for another two days (the prices go up on 12/1, I think), so if you act now, you could get the 10-miler for $40 or the 5K for $25, which is pretty reasonable. No, it's not a half, but it's the closest I'll get to one until after NVM, and I'm actually kind of excited about running a 10-mile race for the first time.

    I'm not sure yet what my goals will be, but most likely it will be either 1) run at marathon pace / effort just for the practice, or 2) actually try to run it as fast as possible, knowing I won't *really* be in race shape for that distance, just to see what happens. We'll see when we get closer.

    If you're in the Bay Area, come run with us!!!