Monday, March 28, 2016

EUGENE WEEKS 11 & 12: Good times on the track + lots of recovery.

First, I want to say that I really do appreciate all the comments in response to last week's Dies Irae of a race report reminding me that no, I am probably not actually getting slower by the week, but yes, the road from Blerch-ville back to #beastmode is a long one and I'm only a few months in. So thanks for that! I think I'm over it enough to put it out of my mind and focus on Eugene, which is good because I looked at a calendar recently and HI IT'S BARELY A MONTH AWAY and how the heck did that happen?


One thing I love about training for endurance races is that you literally cannot do it like this.
(EDIT: My friend E just pointed out that no, actually, you absolutely, 100% can. IF you want to pass out and/or vomit on yourself and/or possibly die.)

I think I mentioned that prior to the Passion of the Oakland Half, I did run a speed workout that actually made me feel kind of halfway good about things, which is significant because I think that might have been the first time that's happened this year. On paper, it looked like kind of a beast: 2 x 1600m @ 10K pace/1:30 jog, 30:00 marathon effort, then another 2 x 1600m @ 10K pace/1:30 jog. (Fun fact: These types of workouts actually show up in my schedule labeled, "Big Workout!!" which I find kind of hilarious.)

Up until then all my speed workouts had been in the 6.5-8.5 range, which makes sense as only recently did I reach the point in the post-injury comeback ramp where I started adding faster running back in at all. With a warm-up & cool down, this one totaled 11.5 miles, which felt like a BIG jump up in terms of mileage in one speed workout. And that's even without considering the fact that I'd just run 20 miles two days before and was definitely not 100% recovered. But, my rule is to try to do all workouts before looking for excuses to cut them short.

And, it wasn't that bad! I mean, it was hard. But the first two mile repeats in 7:15-7:20? Completely doable (which is a relief as mile repeats at 10K pace have been miserable for me lately). I ran the 30 minutes at ~8:30ish, which felt like about the right level of effort. The last two hard miles were significantly harder than the first two and I did have to run pretty much all-out on the last one to make the pace, but I did it.

(The cool down, though...oy. I felt completely braindead and my legs were like lead. It didn't help that it was hot & all my sweat was aggravating some really bad chafing I had leftover from Sunday's 20 in the rain. I actually had to take my shirt off because some spots on my torso hurt so bad, and a spot on my thigh ended up so raw that it was bleeding by the end of the workout. So, that sucked.)

Anyway, that was the highlight of week 11 (other than, y'know, crashing & burning at Oakland).

~*~*~EUGENE MARATHON WEEK 11 OF 17~*~*~

Some Numbers:

    * 34 miles (12.9 easy, 8 speed/tempo, 13.1 race)
    * 20:00 stretch & roll (ugh, I am really failing at this)

Monday 3/14: Rest

Tuesday 3/15: 2 warm up, 2 x (1600m @ 7:18 / 1:30 jog), 30:00 @ marathon effort, 2 x (1600m @ 7:18 / 1:30 jog), 1.5 cool down = 11.5 total.

Wednesday 3/16: Rest

Thursday 3/17: 8 easy. Oh. My. GOD, this was the hardest easy run I can ever, EVER remember not just giving up on completely after a mile or two. I was so, so tired and my legs and feet felt like they'd been hit by a train. I assume that was the 20 mile long run + 11.5 mile speed workout two days later. (This was when I first started getting worried about Oakland.)

Friday 3/18: Rest.

Saturday 3/19: 2 mile shakeout Rest. Legs felt like absolute garbage. Just BARTing to the expo & back was exhausting. Definitely not reassuring. (I dunno, maybe an easy two miles would have helped, but I doubt it.)

Sunday 3/20: 1.4 easy + 13.1 race.

This last week has been all about recovery, and MAN, have I needed it. I was traveling for work Monday through Thursday, which actually worked out well because the trip coinciding with post-race rest days meant I didn't have to worry about figuring out where to run and shoe-horning it into my work schedule. On the other hand, even these short, easy recovery runs have felt REALLY tough, which I'm taking as more evidence that yes, I really did leave it all out there at Oakland (under the circumstances). No strength work but I'm planning to start up again this coming week with Phase 2 of "The New Rules of Lifting for Women."

~*~*~EUGENE MARATHON WEEK 12 OF 17~*~*~

Some Numbers:

    * 22 miles, all easy
    * I did not stretch & roll this week, not even once. The reason is because my muscles have actually felt really good and loose, even post-race, and it's usually stiffness/tightness/etc. that reminds me "Right, I need to stretch and roll." But I'm pretty sure the reason I've been feeling good in that department is the fact that for a while there I was being pretty consistent about it, so I really, really do need to get back to it before disaster strikes.

Monday 3/21: Rest/travel/work

Tuesday 3/22: Rest/work

Wednesday 3/23: Rest/work

Thursday 3/24: 7 easy/fly home. We had a late start on Thursday, so I got up at the regular time & ran 7 miles on the treadmill. As terrible as Oakland felt, this first easy run wasn't too bad (though I did take several quick breaks since treadmill running sucks).

Friday 3/25: 7.5 easy. The recovery continues. This run was significantly tougher than Thursday's--legs felt heavy and sluggish, and I was so generally tired and wiped out overall that I felt like you probaby could have knocked me over with a feather.

Saturday 3/26: Rest.

Sunday 3/27: 7.5 easy. The first half of this run felt a lot like Friday, ie, awful. My legs still felt heavy and sluggish, my lungs felt like they were working extra hard to take in enough air in spite of my shambling gait, and it was VERY windy so I ran the first 3.75 miles into a 15-20mph headwind. But the second half felt better (sure the tail wind helped with that) and I was surprised at my average pace for the whole run.

Next week: Back to speed work, NROLFW Phase 2, and another 20 miler!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Race Report: Oakland Half Marathon 2016

2016 was my third year running this race. At my first Oakland Half in 2012 I ran a four-minute PR, and at my second in 2013, in warm temps and feeling awful, I somehow pulled out my third sub-1:40. Which is all to say, this race has always smiled on me in its way, so I hoped that this year it would at least be gentle with my out-of-shape, undertrained ass.


LEFT: Such a fun race with this lady in 2012 (who, I should also mention, just ran the freaking Antarctica Marathon a few days ago because she is HARD CORE like that). RIGHT: 2013 post race with Cat & Jen (who know *LOVES* this picture). In retrospect, not the best day for knee socks.

God, was I wrong.

So very, very wrong.

I should say, I think there is a fine line between being realistic & honest with yourself vs. making doom-filled self-fulfilling prophecies, between having giant, hindsight-is-20/20 realizations vs. making excuses after the fact. I hope I'm more on the former side than the latter in both cases, but it's hard to be 100% sure about these things.

First, I should say that I have never--NEVER!--been a pre-race head case, but ever since I started racing again in December, I have been ALLLL of the pre-race head case. Like, the entire week before the race I am obsessing about how much the race is going to hurt and how unpleasant it's going to be and how unprepared I feel. Like feeling sick at my stomach the night before because I'm so anxious and afraid. Like being too wired to sleep the night before and too nauseous to eat the morning of. Like feeling a new wave of panic each time I notice I'm a minute closer to race time. This has never been like me but it has been VERY me these last three races. Other things that have never been like me but are like me lately include dreading fast/hard workouts because they are so mentally difficult and so depressing in terms of the paces, so, I dunno, maybe that's related.

Second, I should say that I was kind of nervous when I saw that my Oakland Half race week workout schedule looked like 1) a 20 mile run on Sunday (the farthest I've run since July), 2) a tough 11.5 mile speed workout two days later (the longest speed workout I've done since July by 3 miles), and 3) the highest weekly mileage (45ish?) I've run since July.

The 20 miler and the tough speed workout were actually some of the better, more confidence-boosting workouts I've had lately, but then two days later (ie, three days before Oakland) when it was time to run an easy 8 miler, I felt like an absolute train wreck. Trust me, I had 70+ minutes to think about it and I actually don't think it's an exaggeration to say that that was *the* toughest, most impossible feeling run I can remember except for maybe the end of Mountains 2 Beach three years ago. I actually almost quit at 2 miles because I was legitimately worried about being able to make it all the way back home. (Why, then, did I keep running anyway? BECAUSE IT SAID 8 ON THE SCHEDULE, DAMMIT! I'm not saying that was the *right* call; I'm just saying that was the reason.)

So yeah. I slogged through that run at 10:00+ pace and then laid on the floor in my living room and didn't move for maybe 10 minutes.

"No biggie," I reasoned. "I have 2.5 days to recover. PLENTY OF TIME!" But I continued feeling like garbage the next day, and Saturday also, so much so that I skipped the scheduled 2-mile shakeout run because I literally kind of thought that I might have 14 miles left in me for the weekend but definitely, definitely not 16. (Again, I'm not saying it was actually true; I'm just saying it's how I felt about things at the time.)

Actually, I had a few hours Saturday night of feeling pretty optimistic after re-reading my Oakland Half 2013 race report, where apparently I felt like poop and/or a train wreck the entire week & had basically all but committed to phoning it in & then somehow magically ran a sub-1:40. Which reminded me of that post of Phoebe Wright's where she was like "Feeling crappy and tired doesn't matter! Only the training matters!" And I was like, "YEAH PHOEBE, YOU TELL 'EM!"

Plus I was sitting on the confidence from that beast of a track workout I'd just done (did I mention it was 11.5 miles, including a bunch of 10K pace mile repeats, and I CRUSHED it? I crushed it), and in comparison to that, seriously, how hard could it be to run, say, ~8:00 miles for 13 miles or so.

(Spoiler: It could be real, REAL hard. Real hard.)

By bed time I was back to feeling nauseous and jittery and scared out of my mind. (At one point I might have actually thought to myself, "Hey, you never know. Maybe I'll get lucky and just die in my sleep.") By the next morning, I was so sick at my stomach I could barely eat, and from that point on I pretty much just devoted my energy to collecting reasons for why this was 100% for sure going to be the worst race of my life:

    1) My legs & body in general are trashed from the previous week.
    2) I didn't sleep enough.
    3) Oh goody, the only viable BART train to the race is late --> +10 to general anxiety.
    4) SWEET now I don't have time for a sufficient warm-up.
    5) Stripped down to my race clothes, I am not cold --> it is already too warm for a good race.
    6) Now that I am finally warming up everything feels terrible.
    7) It is 9:07, three minutes till the gun, time to head to the corral, and HOLY JESUS ON JET SKIS THEY JUST STARTED THE RACE AND I AM IN THE 2:30 PACE GROUP!!

Things pretty much went on like that. I spent the first two miles or so playing frogger to try to get out of the 11:00-12:00/mile zone and wanting to punch people who kept stopping dead in their tracks to take selfies. (Which, yeah, I know isn't fair; if you're going to stop every few minutes for pictures, the 2.5-3 hour pace group is where you should be & it's partly my own fault that I was in the wrong place. I was just angry & frustrated.) Then in mile 2 we hit this tiny little bottleneck where hundreds of people were trying to squeeze through a space maybe four people wide. (I'm not kidding that I think I had to actually walk for 1.5-2 minutes. We found out later this was due to a combination of construction & weather & the race organizers thought they'd worked it out.) Finally around mile three I was able to more or less hit the pace I was shooting for, which, although it didn't feel easy, exactly, didn't feel completely like death.


This must be pretty early on still because I don't look nearly pathetic enough.

I know that a mental problem I have in the half sometimes is expecting the pace to feel easier for longer than it should, so I'd decided ahead of time that at no point would I think thoughts like "This feels too hard for x miles left, I better slow down" and instead I would just focus on trying to run one more 8:00 mile, and one more, and one more, and just do that for as long as I could.

Which kind of both did and did not work out. On the one hand, I think it was only mile 4 or 5 before I was having a complete panic attack inside because 8:00 pace felt so much harder than I thought it should and the thought of voluntarily continuing to put myself through it for 8-9 more miles was utterly horrifying. Mentally I completely fell apart at the thought of the distance that was left and honestly wanted to quit right then & there. On the other hand, the part of me that was still rational was able to convince the panicked, irrational part to keep going because "Don't worry, you only have to do this for as long as you can, and then you don't have to anymore," and that was cool with me. (Yes, the logic there leaves something to be desired, but you don't race a half marathon with the mental/emotional capacity you want; you race a half marathon with the mental/emotional capacity you have.)

I think it was around the halfway point that I honestly began losing the pace. But what was unique about this particular losing of the pace was that it didn't feel like I was running too hard and needed to slow down. ie, it wasn't a cardiovascular type of hard. Instead it felt more like I'd run too far. My legs felt dead and numb and just detached from my body in general in a way I much more associate with the last few miles of a marathon than with the halfway point of a 13.1 where I've been too ambitious. For the entire second half of the race, at every point, I felt like I was giving 100% effort and instead of screaming in pain my legs were just like, "Eh. Nope. Sorry, Chief. Outta gas."


True fact, I chew on my tongue when I'm suffering.

And, inevitably, this resulted in #FEELINGS. So, so many moments when I felt so low that all I wanted to do was stop and sit down and have a good, long, self-pitying sob. So many moments of debating what would be worse, the shame of giving up and quitting or how awful it would feel to finish but see what I was sure would be a personal worst on the race clock.

In addition to self-pity, there was also a lot of bitterness. I now started making a new list in my head, entitled "People Who Need Punching in the Neck" which included the following:

  • People stopping dead in their tracks to take selfies
  • People holding wacky and/or whimsical signs ("Smile! You paid to do this!" "If marathons were easy they'd be called your mom!" FUCK YOU ALL FOREVER)
  • People yelling "You look great!!" WE BOTH KNOW YOU'RE LYING & IT DOESN'T HELP.
  • The dude running next to me with the sports beans who is matching my pace exactly no matter how many times I try to speed up or slow down to lose him (sports beans and I = MORTAL ENEMIES.)
  • The dude at mile 4 telling the woman he's running with, "Don't worry! We're almost halfway there!"
  • People yelling "You got this!!" Like, how would you even know that? Based on what? I get that you're trying to be encouraging, but unless you know the person and what they're likely to be experiencing right now and have a very good personal reason to believe they truly do GOT THIS!!, maybe just go with "GO [name on bib]!!" because when someone really, really, really don't "GOT THIS," having someone yell that at you is more demoralizing than I can even explain.
  • The woman at mile nine matching my pace while apparently having some kind of very noisy stroke and/or cardiac event (who am I kidding, though? She just sounded how I felt.)
  • The volunteer yelling "WATER!" from whom I took a cup and then proceeded to pour Gatorade all over myself (real talk, tho, volunteers get a pass, because volunteers. Seriously, I love you all, even if you did trick me into a Gatorade shower.)
  • Everyone at mile 10 yelling "You're almost there!!" WRONG NO VERY BAD 100% PILES OF NO.

In case it's not clear, I'm pretty sure I finished this race on pure spite because honestly, I did not have much else going on in the pycho-emotional realm. By the last 5K I was trying not to collapse in a heap of sobs and barely keeping up sub-10 minute miles, which is only something that should ever happen to me if I have a broken leg. By the last mile, I was pretty much dead inside, which I think you'll agree is pretty obvious based on the shots below.


Working super hard to hold it all in in that last one.

    Official: 1:54:53/13.1 miles/8:46 pace
    Garmin: 1:54:55/13.35 miles/8:36 pace

Not to sound like an ungrateful oblivious ass, because I know there are plenty of people who would be thrilled with this time, but everything is relative and I have never in my life run so hard for such an abysmal result. (I have run one slower half, my first ever in 2008 which I basically didn't train for.) Thankfully I had friends there after the race to listen to me bitch & moan and remind me that yeah, I was pretty much running on trashed legs, and getting into a negativity spiral never helps anyone. By the end of brunch, I was almost laughing about it.

Almost.


Chillin' in the VIP tent post-race with Three Medal Jen, which was pretty nice when it briefly started pouring. (Photo credit = Jen)


Baked eggs & polenta at Bellanico's with Jen, bt, & Clare.


(I know I said I was getting the French toast, but then Jen ordered these amazing donuts for the table & my sweet tooth was satisfied.) (Photo credit = bt)

On the other hand, I have to figure out how to mentally deal with the fact that I ran a kinda-sorta okay 5K basically detrained in December, and every race I've run since then as I've started training again has been progressively worse and worse. I have to look back at the physical stuff and the mental stuff and somehow untangle how much of each contributed to those results and balance all that with the fact that neither of these last two sucky races were my goal race and going into a race with fresh, tapered legs does indeed make a huge difference. (Later in the week I'd emailed Coach A about something related & we back-and-forthed a bit about how the race went, and honestly I was quite relieved to hear she agreed it was probably mostly those hard workouts the week before & if this had been a goal race it would have played out much differently. Phew.)

On the other other hand, ugh. UUUUGGGGHHH. Someone I'm not paying money to please remind me there's a chance in Hades that I am not actually getting slower by the week.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*LOGISTICAL STUFF~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Location: Oakland, CA

Date: Late March (March 20, 2016 this year)

Price: The Oakland Running Festival includes several different events. From the website:

(For what it's worth, a slight increase in most cases from the last time I ran it.)

Deadlines/sellout factor: This year, there were still spaces in the half and full as of the expo on Saturday. I believe the 5K and relay sold out beforehand. No race day registration.

Field Size: Again, not sure about the caps, but the results page lists the following numbers of finishers:

  • Marathon - 682 (significantly down from 2013)
  • Half Marathon - 2564 (significantly down from 2013)
  • 5K - 2761 (WAY up from 2013)

The Expo:

As in past years that I ran, the expo was at the Marriott City Center right off 12th Street BART in Oakland, which is super convenient, & comprised pretty much what you'd expect -- a few running clothes / gear purveyors, a few health / fitness booths, sign-up booths for other local races, & a few community groups. Roadrunner Sports was there selling lightly used returns for $50/pair, which I thought was pretty sweet. (Alas, nothing I wanted in my size.)

To get your race bib & shirt, you must print out your e-registration card from the link ORF sent you, then bring it to the expo. I don't know if it was the time of day or what (2:30-3:00ish?), but when I got there the place was fairly empty & I was in & out in about ten minutes.

The Course:

I don't think the courses have changed much in recent years. One big hill in the marathon (~475 ft upwards from miles 6-9 & back down from about 11-15) & basically flat the rest of the way. The half course is reasonably flat, with just a few spots with short rolling hills or just-noticeable grade (the worst of it being--where else??--the last .1 miles or so to the finish line).

Aid stations are in general I think more frequent than most half marathons I've run (every mile & a half or so?), which I appreciate. Both courses wind through all different parts of Oakland. There is lots of great crowd support from residents & local community groups, which is fun (though I felt like there was less this year?). There are a lot of turns and it can get a bit warm towards the end if the sun comes out, but like I said earlier, I PR'd at this race in 2012 and ran my second fastest half in 2013 on a hot day, so in general I think it is still a reasonably fast course.

Staging:

The Snow Park staging area is super-convenient to the 19th Street BART (although marathoners should note that trains don't run early enough on Sunday to get you to the race by the 7:30 start).

As long as you're not running too late, it's pretty easy to park for free on the street within a few blocks of the start, or there are a few closer lots and garages that were doing event parking for ~$10 or so. If you're arriving after the earlier races are started, just be sure that you know where the street closures are so that you don't count on trying to get somewhere you can't actually get. (Check the site for updated parking options & road closures.)

Gear check is basically right by the start & BYO bag which I think is great. It can get crowded immediately before the start of each race, but also moves pretty quickly.

Swag:

A nice long-sleeved tech shirt & hefty medal. Instead of a giant bag full of samples & coupons you won't use and fliers for races you won't run, you can log into your "virtual goody bag" online & see if there are any fliers or coupons you're interested in, which I appreciated because it didn't mean a bunch of unnecessary trash & recycling.


(The shirt looks navy blue in this picture but it's actually more of a turquoise.)

Overall Assessment:

Sunday was not my day this year, but I still like this race in general. It's well run for having so many different events to manage, and although it's maybe not *THE* fastest PR course in the Bay Area, I think it's still a pretty solid option for this time of year at a still-reasonable price. It's likely I'll be back.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Oakland Half Marathon predictions & goals....

Honestly, my only real goal at ORF this weekend is to do my best and run as fast as I can and make peace with the fact that, barring some kind of miracle, it will be far from my best 13.1 ever.

But, I do like to have ballpark expectations so that I know how hard to push myself, so this is me sort of thinking out loud about that.

Using my December 5K & February 10K times, I used a few different online race prediction calculators & came up with numbers ranging from 1:41:30 to 1:43:00, which, frankly, seems WAY fast to me. But, that might just be because I've always been faster at the 5K/10K distances than longer ones. (Exhibit A: My 2012 5K PR of 20:44 predicted marathon & half marathon times of ~3:18 & ~1:35 respectively, and though I ran PRs at nearly every distance that year, I never came close to either of those.) But it does make me feel like maybe sub-1:45 (~8:00 pace) is not an unreasonable goal.

In general, the wild cards at this race tend to be 1) GPS reliability and 2) the weather. Everyone knows hat although the course is certified, we all tend to clock anywhere from 13.25 to 13.6, just because of all the buildings & that one tunnel in mile 3 (I think), and because the race starts at 9:10 in late March, there's always the possibility of a warmish race.

In a way, the GPS issue doesn't *really* matter. You run your effort level, whatever you've got that day, and it is what it is. Mentally, you just have to know that you're probably not going as fast as your watch thinks you are. So I will probably only use my watch to get a general idea of what pace I think I can hold in the first few miles, shooting for say 7:55ish, and if my body gives me a big giant NOPE, well, that's whatever it is. Such is life. (But, I am going to try to run hard and if nothing else try to spend some quality time suffering & generally working on my mental toughness.) My other thought re: GPS is that I will probably turn the auto lap off (since I already know it will be unreliable) & just try to hit lap as I pass the mile markers. (I've tried this a couple of times in the past--sometimes it works out, & sometimes I just don't have the bandwidth because I'm too busy, well, suffering.)

Weather-wise, things look pretty decent so far: Partly cloudy-to-overcast, not above 60F until 11am (when I should be done), and little or no wind. There's a 56% chance of rain currently, but give me rain over sun any race day. (Besides, it's not like I haven't had plenty of practice.) Still, you never know 'round these parts so mentally I'm trying to prepare myself for anything. (Warm weather, even a little warm, always seems to be my undoing.)

Lastly, there is the fueling question. It's been a while since I did this with any level of planning, so here's what I've got:

    Pre-race: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g CHO
    Mile 2.6: cup gatorade -> ~5g CHO
    Mile 4: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g CHO
    Mile 4.3: cup gatorade -> ~5g CHO
    Mile 5.3: cup gatorade -> ~5g CHO
    Mile 6.7: cup gatorade -> ~5g CHO

    ***1 hour mark = 56g CHO***

    Mile 8: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g CHO
    Mile 8.6: cup gatorade -> ~5g CHO
    Mile 9.9: cup gatorade -> ~5g CHO
    Mile 10.2: cup gatorade -> ~5g CHO
    Mile 12: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g CHO
    Mile 12.2: cup gatorade -> ~5g CHO

    ***Total = 112g --> ~64g CHO/hour***

(Those water stops looks sort of oddly spaced to me, but that's more or less what's on the map so I'm going with it.)

The background here is that I used to have no carbs during a half, then later about 6 oz of sports drink (so ~20g CHO) over the course of the race, and then I learned some freaking science & found out that 30g per hour is the lowest amount of CHO that makes any difference whatsoever in a race & really more seems to be better up to the point that it makes you sick at your stomach (a point that varies for different people). In the past I've done fine with 60g/hour, so that's what I've tried to race at the last few times I've bothered to actually make a plan. Matt Fitzgerald has a good explanation of all this in his book The New Rules of Marathon & Half-Marathon Nutrition.

Oh, and one more goal is to ABSOLUTELY refuel at Bellanico's afterward with this:


Country French toast with whipped mascarpone, strawberries,
huckleberries, & maple syrup. THIS IS HAPPENING, PEOPLE.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

EUGENE WEEK 10 OF 17: In which I run to Marin County & back.

On Sunday I had 20 miles to run, which I was not exactly excited about it since El NiƱo has finally delivered & it was pouring rain & kind of windy & not really meant to stop until late evening.


The storms lately have been no joke. Apparently the wind blew down this tree on my usual route through the park sometime Saturday or Sunday morning.

I've run a bunch of 20 milers in my life and it's kind of funny how the route varies depending on what, psychologically, I think will get me through it. Some days I do not want to have to think even a little bit--just zone out and put one foot in front of the other until my watch ticks off mile 20. On those days it's laps of the east side of GG Park, all the way--plenty of nice even sidewalk, gently rolling hills, relatively few traffic lights, & plenty of water fountains & public restrooms should they be necessary.

But on other days, just the thought of pounding out that same loop mindlessly for 3+ hours actively makes me want to vomit. STIMULATION! ADVENTURE! insists my brain. Sunday was that kind of day, so I decided that, eh, screw the weather, let's run to Marin County and back.


Not giving up too much internet privacy, I hope?

I've run across the Golden Gate Bridge a few times but never 10 miles out, starting at home, & 10 miles back, so there was a little bit of novelty to it. As usual the rain was mildly annoying for the first mile or so but then I just got used to it & after that it wasn't really a big deal.

It should be noted that this route is *at least* kind of an intermediate way of running 20 miles, maybe even advanced intermediate. There are some long, not-insignificant hills heading up to the bridge, and a few poorly paved or unpaved sections (which, in the rain, had become slushy and/or muddy in places). The Bridge itself can be more of a challenge that people think--it really is a big hill, and though it's not *crazy* steep or anything, people are often surprised at the grade going up and down as they cross. On top of that if it's at all windy in general, it can be CRAZY windy up on the span.

On the other hand, you are rewarded with some really fantastic views along the Coastal Trail, which in my opinion are gorgeous on any day but particularly breathtaking on a rainy, overcast one.


Playing peek-a-boo with the Bridge on Lincoln Blvd


Hello there big boy!


Never gets old.

Plus there's just the novelty of being able to say you ran to another county & back.

I definitely had a chance to break out some of my trail running chops on the way up (not that I have a ton of those, but still), and even then the whole thing actually took longer than it should because it seemed like every time I'd round another curve or summit another hill I encountered yet another gorgeous view that demanded to be photographed. Seriously, I was reaching almost corny levels of "OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE I LIVE HERE! LOOK HOW GREAT RUNNING IS!"

The wind on the bridge was no joke. My long run pace is usually 9:30-10:00/mile but the tail wind crossing from San Francisco to Marin was blowing me along at ~8:45ish, even uphill! (There were a few times when I thought it could have legit blown me off the bridge if it hadn't been for the guardrail.)


MARIN! #achievementunlocked

Of course, that meant crossing back the other way was equally tough. I'm not great at estimating wind speed but nearly the whole way across, I felt like I was doing one of those drills where you run with an elastic cord attached to a belt around your waist, and there were times when the wind was so crazy I could barely even move forward. (According to the internet, this would indicate maybe a 35-40mph head wind?) It didn't bother me, though; instead it kind of just made me feel like a bad ass. "Yeah; I run to other counties in 40mph headwind. NBD."

This crazy euphoric I CAN'T BELIEVE I LIVE HERE bad ass feeling lasted until about mile 12 (just a short ways off the bridge) when almost out of nowhere I suddenly felt exhausted, which is really weird. Usually on a long run, I make it at least 14-15 miles before it actively starts to feel hard. (Also, right around this same moment, my phone went from ~15% battery to completely dead in a single photo attempt, which sort of seemed like a perfect metaphor for my physical state.) I wasn't feeling emotionally low or discouraged, just kind of concerned about how things had gotten so physically hard so suddenly, considering I still had over a third of my run left to go. There were a few moderate uphills left plus some significant downhills (which I'm sure you'll agree are not exactly easy when you're tired), so I just kept hoping I'd get through those without hitting a wall.

Thankfully, it never really got any worse--just hit "gaaaaahh this sucks" around mile 12 & kind of stayed right at that level through the end. And the very end was maybe, dare I say it, easier than usual? Often in the last 2-4 miles part of me will be thinking "Ugggghhh I CANNOT," but this time it was just kind of, "Meh, this kind of sucks, let's just get it over with."

Also, I was in quite a lot of pain immediately after, probably worse, actually, than most marathons I've run. (Not injury pain or anything; just that general waist-down intense ache that kind of makes you wish you had a morphine drip.) I kind of wondered if all of this was due in part to it being a tougher route than I usually do my long runs on, or the crazy wind, or the fact that it came at the end of my highest mileage week since July, or some combination of all of it. But in any case I got it done, and it was not completely awful.

~*~*~EUGENE MARATHON WEEK 10 OF 17~*~*~

Some Numbers:

    * 44.3 miles (13 easy, 6.4 tempo, 4.9 speed, 20 long)
    * 2:00:00 strength work
    * 30:00 stretch & roll

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

Tuesday: 2 warm up, 10 x (600m @ 2:38 (7:05 pace) / 200m jog), 1.5 cool down = 8.4 total. This pretty much fit the mental model I have for a normal, average track workout: The first few take effort and you feel like maybe you should be running them faster, and then they gradually get harder, and by the end you're just *barely* hitting the splits at ~90% effort. So not easy, but satisfying and not terrible. The target was 2:38 per 600m & I hit them all between 2:34 & 2:39 without feeling like I wanted to die, so I think this one goes down as a win.

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

Thursday: 6 easy. Schedule called for 8, but I was trying to get the big workouts in in their entirety while also keeping my weekly miles under 45 (still ramping up to match the official plan) so I cut it a little short.

Friday: 2 warm up, 3 x (2mi @ LT pace / 2:00 jog), 1.5 cool down = 10 total. KICKED. MY. ASS.

Saturday: Rest. But be very productive! Don is out of town skiing this week with friends, so I took the opportunity to clean basically the entire house, grocery shop, pick up & return some packages, deal with some mail, pay some bills, do my taxes, & take care of a few other annoying household/administrative chores I'd been putting off. Finished off the night by actually cooking a meal (GASP!) & reading a book on the couch with a glass of wine. So, it was a good day.

Sunday: 20 long. Basically did nothing else, but I don't feel bad about that.

NEXT WEEK = OAKLAND RUNNING FESTIVAL!!! It's probably going to suck (not ORF itself, just my *personal* race), but at least I'll get to hang out with Jen, Cat, & bt!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Tempo Runs Kicking My Ass

Back in the day, tempo/threshold runs were the easiest & most enjoyable workout on my weekly schedule. More often that not, that "comfortably hard" place that nestles about halfway between speedwork & easy maintenance felt like play time--I could open up my stride a little and really let myself run, but without having to push push push into that not-so-fun red line place that's necessary on the track. It was work, yes, and usually tough towards the end, but also exhilarating and super satisfying.

Well, lately I feel like those days are gone. And that's with my assigned tempo pace about 15-20 seconds slower per mile than it was three or four years ago. Now it's nothing but work, work, work all the time.


And by 'life' he means 'tempo runs.'

I think there are a few reasons for this.

    1) I'm in objectively less-good shape now than I've been in a while.

    2) I had a lot of months away from actual workouts, so my mental toughness is not really up to snuff, ergo everything feels harder on top of that.

    3) My current tempo pace (~7:40) is about the pace I was running half marathons in circa 2012-2013 and that's still how my brain thinks about that number. So when I see a workout like 3 x (2 miles @ 7:40/2:00 jog), I go, "Oh cool, two miles at HM pace, nbd." So on top of everything else, I go into it completely unprepared for how hard it's going to be and how hard it's going to feel.

(And yeah. It's kind of depressing to think about it, but 7:40 feels hard right now. Doable, but legit hard.)

On the plus side, heart rate wise, the effort level on paper looks about right, so I don't think this pace is harder than I should be running for tempos relative to my current fitness.

In general my pace was ~3-5 seconds too fast across the board (because I still haven't regained a good feel for the effort level so am relying more on GPS & also panicking sometimes about keeping the pace & hedging a little, probably), which is not the end of the world, though I'm hoping to improve my "inner pacer" as I do more of these workouts. (The first mile was uphill & into the wind so ~7:51ish, & likewise the last mile was downhill & with a tailwind so ~7:23ish. I wasn't sure pace-wise how much difference that should make so I just tried to keep the same effort level, ie, BUTT HARD.)

Also, fun nerdy biofact, I ran 600m repeats much faster at the track on Thursday and my HR never got above 183. Dunno if that means Tuesday was a lazy heart day or if yesterday was just one of those physically "off" days. (Which is possible. I was tired and my warm up & cool down miles were noticeably slower than usual.)

The good news is that in the end terrible workouts generally just motivate me to keep working hard to get back into shape! (Or, y'know. *Better* shape.)

Monday, March 7, 2016

EUGENE WEEK 9 OF 17: So if you're too busy & tired to blog about it...

...that means training is going well, right?

(Somebody tell me I'm right.)

I mean. It's not that I'm running crazy huge mileage or anything, and honestly I really don't feel like I'm spending a bunch of time running, but man, I'm certainly exhausted all the time. So maybe relative to doing nothing/some elliptical when I can flog myself to the gym, my body kind of thinks I'm doing a lot.

(Spoiler: It's not a lot.)

~*~*~EUGENE MARATHON WEEK 9 OF 17~*~*~

The hard thing about this week was having social events scheduled basically every non-karate night, which meant that I was basically always sprinting in the door, showering just enough to not be offensive, throwing on real people clothes & some rudimentary make-up, & darting back out the door again. So that whole post-run stretching-and-rolling thing has been sorely lacking this week.

Some Numbers:

    * 39.66 miles (13.66 easy, 3 tempo, 5 speed, 18 long)
    * 3:00:00 strength work
    * 30:00 stretch & roll

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

Tuesday: a.m. stretch & roll/p.m. 2 warm up, 2 @ marathon effort, 1 @ half marathon effort, 2 cool down = 7 total. Another of those runs that made me feel really, really crappy about my fitness & like I should just save myself the trouble and give up now. Either that or I was just really, really tired.

On the plus side, my fabulous friend K, who works for the amazingly I-can't-even-describe-how-awesome food non-profit Leah's Pantry, was helping to put on a fundraiser that evening involving a bunch of delicious food with beer pairings, which was fun. Also there were raffles and Don & I won a $200 gift certificate for local art, which means that even after contributing to the fundraiser we still came out ahead. #winning

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

Thursday: 6 easy. Technically it was only supposed to be 5 but I was really feeling more like 6 so I went for it. Basically as soon as I got back we drove to Alamda for a last-minute dinner with with friends involving a) duck liver pate b) beef wellington & c) wine pairings. It did not suck.

Friday: a.m. strength work/p.m. 1.5 warm up, 5 x 1600m @ 10K effort/1:30 jog, 1.5 cool down = 8.66 total. Oh, you guys. Much like my 10K a couple weeks back, this workout really highlighted for me how much my mental toughness as deteriorated. Here I am, running 10K effort mile repeats at a pace that really should not be a problem, and all I can think about as I near the end of each one is a) I am legit about to throw up, b) there is absolutely no way at all period I can do even one more interval, and c) I should probably just quit running altogether, things have deteriorated so badly. And then it's over and both my brain and body are like, "Oh, everything's fine now, nbd." ??????

This was definitely the hardest workout I've done post-injury, so just completing it was a confidence builder in some ways, but on the other hand it made me feel kind of lame & like I really need to get the mental part together ASAP because OH HAI OAKLAND RUNNING FESTIVAL IN 2 WEEKS!! Also, it was pretty hard on my messed up left foot, even with tape. And there is a lot of tape involved.

On the plus side, this track workout was immediately followed by a $5 viewing of Mad Max: Fury Road at our local Alamo Draft House, where they bring you really good food and beer/wine/cocktails during the movie. The two things I have to say about this experience are:

1) If you are a die hard feminist and/or really into over-the-top amazing film making and haven't seen Mad Max: Fury Road yet, you should really take care of that as soon as humanly possible. Like seriously. Just skip work or something.


FURIOSA 4 EVA

2) If you like movies and really good food & booze but do not have an Alamo Draft House nearby, please accept my condolences. And maybe just move.

Saturday: Rest. Because, badly needed.

Sunday: 18 long. This day began with a lovely brunch with an old college friend in Oakland. After that it was back to the city & off to GG Park for a few laps of the East Side.

I don't want to oversell this long run by calling it good, exactly (my left foot was still killing me, even K-taped to oblivion), but not since NVM 2015 can I remember running for this long and really just feeling like it was just no big deal at all (except for the foot) and I could have kept chugging along indefinitely. Which, of course, meant that as soon as I finished, I went into this weird shock of pain from the waist down that lasted maybe 20 minutes. Not really sure why, since I took it pretty darn slowly. Maybe it was just the cumulative week's mileage (highest since July), or still recovering from Friday's track workout.

Either way, after dashing in & out of the shower, I drove up the hill where some friends had cooked a giant pasta dinner, which I think you'll agree is pretty much the perfect follow-up to your longest run in nearly eight months.

(Also wine. Because wine.)

Off to bed now! Have a great week! :D

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

EUGENE WEEK 8 OF 17: My Goals for the Eugene Marathon

I'm still over two months out from the Eugene Marathon, but that's close enough to start thinking about my goals.

Obviously I'm still in the process of ramping up mileage, which pretty much by definition means mileage is not *currently* ramped up, which, combined with the fact that I did almost zero running between August and January, means I can't reasonably expect to have anywhere near a PR race.

BUT! I am trying really hard not to let that push me into the "Eh, just run to finish & do whatever" zone. I did that at NVM last year and I think it was something I needed to do at the time, but it's not what I want to do this year at Eugene.

Instead, I am trying hard to do a mental thing I am really terrible at, which is 1) admitting to myself that my absolute best possible perfect-day performance is going to be significantly slower than I'd like, and 2) committing to going after whatever that best possible time is anyway. I want to race hard and run as fast as I possibly can, knowing that "as fast as I possibly can" is going to feel disappointingly slow.

Eesh. You guys. Super hard for me.

How I do at the Oakland Half in a few weeks will give me a better sense of what I can reasonably expect in Eugene, but right now I'm kind of thinking that if I run a sub-3:50, I'll have to call that a good day.

For some context, here's how my past marathons have gone:

  • CIM 12/2011 -- 3:47. In pretty good shape, but was sick leading up to the race & ran most of it with an asthma attack.
  • CIM 12/2012 -- 3:52ish??? No one really knows because this was the year of the crazy typhoon & some of the starting mats shorted out & a bunch of people (including me) didn't get chip times as a result. This was a disappointing year because I'd spent the rest of 2012 training pretty hard for me and setting PR after PR, so it sucked to run most of this race in pouring rain & 20 mph headwinds & not even get a chip time.
  • Mountains to Beach 5/2013 -- 3:36. In really good shape, I think, because I was already building on so much consistent training. Disappointing because 1) it was a HOT day and 2) I tore my hip flexor somewhere in the last 4-5 miles.
  • Napa Valley 3/2015 -- 3:52. I ran this race just for the distance after about six months of almost nothing but a ton of easy base training. I ran all but the last few miles at a super comfortable la-la pace and it felt, if you can believe it, super easy. (I have always wondered what would have happened in this race if I'd actually tried to run fast.)

So, yeah. I definitely will not have anything near approaching the aerobic base I went into NVM with last year, so it will be interesting to see if really trying my best with the training I'll have will be enough to get under 3:50. If I can pull a sub-3:47 and (bizarrely) my second fastest marathon ever, I'll be super pleased, but I think the odds of anything faster than that are frighteningly slim.

And that's okay.

(Really; I'm just going to keep telling myself that. It's okay.)

After that, I'm hoping to spend the summer doing nothing but a ton of super easy miles in an effort to get my aerobic base at least closer to what it was like going into NVM, and then try to train pretty seriously through the fall for CIM in December. If all goes to plan (and I can manage to not injure myself), I think that would position me pretty well to have an awesome, fast race in Sacramento. And that would really just make my entire year.

~*~*~EUGENE MARATHON WEEK 8 OF 17~*~*~

Honestly I was kind of a mess this week, but at least still managed to hit my mileage goal of 33-34 miles.

Some Numbers:

    * 34 miles (14 easy, 4 tempo, 16 long)
    * 1:00:00 strength work
    * 50:00 stretch & roll

Monday: work/travel

Tuesday: work/travel/turn 35 alone at the Hampton Inn

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / afternoon 2 warm up, 4 @ 7:40, 2 cool down / p.m. karate. This run sucked, partly because I'd done something really stupid and trashed my quads at the gym that morning after doing no squats for 1.5 weeks. Still don't regret doing the run. Did some karate at karate but also spent a good half hour, um, "coaching" from the ground where I was stretching & rolling (which I really needed).

Thursday: Nothing. This day sucked (except for getting to spend the evening hanging out with wonderful friends) and I felt awful and depressed about nearly everything. That is all.

Friday: 5 easy. I'd been planning to do my track workout this day, but my quads still felt like hamburger meat and I knew 10 miles of 200m repeats/other stuff was probably just not a good idea. On the upside, the 5 easy miles felt FABULOUS and I legit had to discipline myself not to go further. (Still trying to keep the weekly mileage in check.)

Saturday: 5 easy. Since it didn't work out Friday, I thought about going to the track Saturday, but then thought I should probably prioritize Sunday's long run. (Back-to-back track workouts & long runs tend to not play well together & also get me yelled at by coaches.) Still, see above note re: feeling awesome & as if I could have run a million miles.

Sunday: 16 long. This run was far enough to get out to the Land's End Trail head & even a good 1/2-3/4 mile into it before turning around. I haven't run out that way in a long time & kind of forgot how gorgeous the scenery is.

Still never gets old.

The run itself felt a little harder than last week, which I guess makes sense considering it's my longest run post-injury at the end of my highest mileage week post-injury, and I did a little running on Saturday, which I don't normally do. By 13-14ish, I was definitely ready to be done! Still, it felt good overall (besides my stupid left heel pain, which is still hanging around. Grrrrr.) Will be interesting to see how next week's 18-19 feels.