Sunday, April 12, 2015

Cue the Inspiring Music

...Because I am about to really, truly, pinky-swear start training for a real race, which I will totally ramble on about a bit later in this post.

FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS: Another Discount for You

I think I mentioned that I'm running the American Parkway Half Marathon in Sacramento on May 2?

Apparently I should have waited a few weeks to sign up because a few days ago I got a sweet discount code for it. Sign up using the code APRIL11 and save $11. (It's $65 by 4/26 - after that registration is only available in person April 30-May 2 for $80.) The only downside is that you kind of have to decide, like, *now*, since the code expires Monday, April 13th at 11:59pm.

It will be my first time at this race but I've heard only good things about it, and all the proceeds go to maintain & restore the American River Parkway Greenway, which is a really nice place for walkers & runners in Sacramento to get some miles in along the river instead of the gross hot sidewalks.


Things around these parts have been a bit crazy lately. I slept in my own bed a grand total of five nights in the last two weeks, partly because of work & partly because of fun stuff. We made our semi-annual trip to Paso Robles the last weekend of March, and then spent five days skiing in Colorado (since we have had approximately zero halfway decent snow in Tahoe this year).

This is pretty much the only picture I took on the mountain because, busy skiing. However, please enjoy these other gorgeous pictures I took in other places:

Peak One

Cool old railroad tressel in Silver Plume

Blue sky is so blue!

Hiking in Red Rocks Park

Red Rocks from across the freeway

On our way back to the airport on Sunday, we stopped at Avery Brew Co, which OMG, if you're a beer nerd, you've got to get out there sometime.

Yes, they are out in the middle of nowhere on the out-out-outskirts of Boulder, but it was worth it. (In fact, they were so amazed that we weren't locals that they ended up giving us a bunch of free beer. So that was cool. :) )

I'd scheduled things this way on purpose because I expected work to be relatively calm by the end of March, but that turned out to be not so much the case so in addition to all the travel I've also spent a lot of time recently working in hotels and on planes and pulling 10-12 hours days when I haven't been on vacation (which is not normal for me).

I had a bit of a hip scare in Colorado due to a rather spectacular fall (this is not a skiing blog so I will not bore you with the details); for the rest of that day I couldn't put weight on my right leg without eye-watering pain in my pelvis, which was pretty scary for a few hours. It seems to have worked itself out now, though, and I've been running on it just fine with only a tiny bit of tightness in soreness in the same upper right hip/thigh/adductor/hamstring area I've injured before. It was partly for this reason that we decided not to bother trying to ski more on Sunday morning & instead decided to just go drink beer.

But let us speak of running.

THIRD ORDER OF BUSINESS: For-Realsies Marathon Training

The Story So Far...

Last summer I decided to try to run the Santa Rosa Marathon. It was close to home, reasonably priced, well-organized, and on a good course, so even though I'd spent the spring recuperating from a stress fracture & then three weeks eating & drinking (not running) my way around Italy, I figured, what the heck, I'd been 80 seconds away from a BQ running hurt on a hot day last year, and 3.5 months was a completely reasonable amount of training time. I mean sure, it never really felt like the odds were in my favor, exactly, but I suppose my logic was that if all the pieces did happen to come together, then I could still sign up for Boston in September if I wanted (which would have kind of worked out nicely, given that I'm speaking at a conference there a few days before the race anyway--ie, next week--so my flight & part of my hotel cost would have been paid for by work).

But they didn't, and so I figured, hey, as long as I have to wait for my leg to heal before actually training for anything seriously, I might as well do this thing right & get some base training in. And that's (almost) all I've been doing since last August.

Fast Forward to Now!

So here I am, taking another shot at it, and that is bringing up Feelings, like

  • Whoah. Déjà vu. Including breaking myself at SF Half & panicking for most of August. Right now, Santa Rosa is still burned into my brain as The One I DNF'd, which occasionally gives me The Panics.
  • On the other hand, I am in SUCH a better place training-wise than I was a year ago! Last year I started training on May 12, with my "long" run in the 5-6 mile range. This year, on March 1, I ran a frikking marathon and barely felt it, and I'm starting my Santa Rosa training in early April. I'm speculating here, but I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that if I'd actually run at marathon effort at Napa, I probably could have shaved ~20-40 seconds per mile off the first 20, which would have made my 3:52 more like 3:42, and that's on nothing but 30-40 miles a week of base training and a few weeks of adding in a 6 mile GMP run. So it's really exciting to think about what I might be able to do after an *actual* training cycle involving speed & tempo work (provided I can stay healthy).
  • On the other other hand, the stakes feel higher. With NVM I could just be like, "OH IT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, I AM ONLY FAKE TRAINING FOR THIS RACE, IF IT SUCKS NBD." But now, I do care, and it will matter to me if it sucks.
  • Related: I've gotten really used to just going & jogging a bunch of miles every day or two, and I have to admit I'm having mild heart palpitations at the thought of going back to the track or doing actual LT/tempo runs (as opposed to GMP runs, which are just not the same thing).

That last one. Oof. I knew it was coming, & I am not too proud to admit it's been worrying me for weeks. (Maybe months.)

I have learned a few things in the last year, one of which is that, no matter how bad ass you think you are, you can't really jump into full-on speed workouts after two months of having a stress fracture & two months of walk-run intervals. Not even if you keep the overall mileage low. Real, legit speedwork asks a lot of the bones and connective tissue & what have you, and if you haven't prepared them for it, it's going to be like trying to pick a lock with a herring. Things are just going to get messy and that's all there is to it.

In general I like my RunCoach plan for Santa Rosa & I think it's a very good, smart progression, but given that I haven't been on the track since last July & it was hard on my right hip then as it was, the speed work starts out a little too aggressively for my taste. So, being a Woman of Action, I have taken Steps.

I recently read Greg McMillan's new book You (Only Faster), which is mostly about how to take a generic, cookie-cutter training plan and tailor it based on your personal preferences, situation, strengths/weaknesses, things you know about yourself as a runner, etc. Which I thought was pretty cool, because so few running books go into that kind of thing. The most useful thing I personally took away from it, though, were his "mini plans," usually four weeks long, intended to prepare you for the meat-and-potatoes of your training plan.

For example, he recommends that most runners do 4 weeks of speed prep before marathon training, and that runners who haven't done speed work in a while do 4 weeks before that of light but consistent hill interval work. This wasn't the first time I've heard that advice, and during my last strength session with AT we were chatting about sort of "pre-training training," and she explained that the reason people recommend a few weeks of light speed work on hills before starting more serious speed work on the track is because doing some lighter stuff on hills first has the effect of preparing your muscles & bones & whatnot for the more intensive efforts to come. It lets you get into those higher (read: more painful) gears at slower paces, while still sending your body the message that, "Hey! We're about to start doing some harder, faster stuff now, adapt appropriately, plzthnx!"

So, after reading McMillan & chatting with AT, I decided I'd give it 3-4 weeks of hill intervals and 3-4 weeks of easier "prep" speed work a la McMillan, and then drop into my RunCoach plan. Hopefully, this will help keep me from destroying my hip again.

The plan was to do my first teeny-tiny-baby-hill interval workout on Thursday of this past week, which I was a little unsure about given that I'd almost ripped my leg off the previous Saturday & it was still feeling kind of sore. But I decided to adhere to my general policy with these things, which is "You have to at least try," and if it hurt and generally sucked a lot, I could throw in the towel at any time and try another day.

And, it actually did not suck that much! Well; no. It did suck. It sucked a lot, particularly the last twenty-five-to-thirty percent of each interval. The workout called for 6-8 "medium" hill repeats, which is McMillan-speak for 50-60 seconds at 15:00 race effort. So I found a significant-but-not-stupid hill nearby that according to my Garmin was about .11 miles long and took me just a little over 50 seconds to ascend, running fairly hard but not sprinting.

Why do hills never actually look like hills in pictures?

I decided not to go batshit crazy on my first speed workout in 9 months & just kept it to six repeats, but DAMN. Without fail, every time, I would get about halfway up & be like, "Hey, this isn't bad at all!" Then a few seconds later, "Wow, this suddenly got a lot harder," and a few seconds after that, "I actually think I might be about to die." I found myself marveling after each one at just how terrible I felt, which I think is probably half due to having basically no high end right now and half due to being out of practice at the mental part of running hard repeats & dealing with feeling like death after each one. (At least it passed quickly.)

But, I did it! 6 x .11 hills, with no disasters & no pain in my hip. Next week I am meant to do longer hill intervals at slightly easier paces, so we'll see how that goes.


  1. Doing hill reps is my most hated session. I'd do speed sessions three times a week rather than do a hill session. But having said that, it's immensely satisfying to complete a hill session.

    1. I was definitely quite proud of myself. :)

  2. Hill repeats are so. hard. But I've read about 30 legit sources recently talking about how incredible they are for building up running strength, particularly as it relates to speed, so it makes a lot of sense that doing hill work would be a good precursor for track-type speed work.

  3. I hope you tried the Avery Rumpkin! I had it last year in a teeny tiny glass at my favorite bar in Austin. And that teeny tiny glass was so good but so strong...

    I'm definitely going to read that McMillan book. I'm intrigued by the idea of speed prep.


    2. We did! As expected, it was delicious, but definitely the kind of thing I only wanted the two-ounce taster of (especially since it was a warm day). They make so many more things than make it out here, and I loved everything we tried except maybe one.

  4. Wow, April kind of snuck up...didn't see it coming there and now it's almost May! (Freaking out for totally separate reasons.) As someone who drops in to one-workout-fits-all running groups for the company, I like the idea of the McMillan book. Hadn't heard of hill sessions being used as a precursor to track work, but it kind of makes sense. (What does he say about hill sessions being used as *complementary* to track speedwork? And what does he say about strides? As a flatlander, my old coach was a great advocate of the 100m strides.)

    1. This is a good question! Another thing I appreciated was how this book went into the purpose of each type of workout & what it's supposed to accomplish. I don't get that from RunCoach, so I found it fascinating. I'll have to do a post on that as well. :)

  5. Definitely use hills as mini-speedwork - they're pretty safe on the body, and act as quite the stimulus for me with all my flat running.