Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Week in Review: July 23-29

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

1 week to Summer Breeze 10K

4 weeks to Santa Rosa Half Marathon

Mileage this week was short by exactly one long run thanks to some lame charlie horse action. Totally out of my control, but did make me wish I'd gotten a short, easy one in on Friday just to hedge my bets a little. Otherwise, a reasonably good week. I think I'm starting to come out of my most recent every-run-sucks phase. Which is good because apparently I am running a 10K this weekend.

Grand Total: 22.65

    * 10.4 easy
    * 7 HM pace
    * 5.25 speed/intervals

Monday: Karate + strength work.

Tuesday: 2 wu + 3.5 @ LT pace + 1 easy Go to a play written & directed by good friends. (Felt pretty crappy anyway, so at the time this really felt like no big loss.)

Wednesday: 6.4 easy + Karate + strength work. Since I didn't run on Tuesday, I came home from work a little early to get an easy one in before class. It was easy & uneventful = winning.

Thursday: 2 wu 1 wu + 12 10 x (3:00 @ 10K pace + 1:00 jog) = 6.25. This one got cut short due to time constraints. Also, I think I've mentioned this before, but OMG, this is absolutely, hands-down my least favorite speed/interval workout ever. Sometimes with certain workouts I'll be like, "Oh, it can't *possibly* be as bad as I remember." Nope; this one is always every bit as bad. I always want to quit after 3-4 intervals and the only way I can get through it is by asking myself, "Can you manage one more? Just one more?" and miraculously the answer always seems to be yes. Also, encouraging to see that, although it's the same amount of time & the same effort level, I'm covering slightly more distance than I did the last time I did this workout. Hey, progress.

Saturday: 2 wu + 7 @ HM pace + 1 cd Saturday morning I kept waking up with excruciating charlie horses in my right TFL / hip flexor area. It was so sore & painful by the time I got up that there was no question of running. It felt a little better by the evening, but Don's parents were in town & we had plans with them, so no time for a run then.

Sunday: 14 easy 2 wu + 7 @ HM pace + 1 cd = 10. Sunday was a choice between making up Saturday's HM pace run & the long run I'd planned. If this were marathon training, I probably would've gone with the long run, but for a half, the pace run seemed more important. It was a pretty good one. :)

I really have no idea what to expect from this 10K this weekend. Well; that's not exactly true. I PR'd & won the same race last August in 44:42, & ran a 44:49 in February on the same course, so I kind of know what to expect. Part of me thinks I might be in good enough shape relative to the last two times to PR again, but I also haven't been doing 10K specific training and won't have tapered much, so who knows.

At the very worst, I feel like I'll be able to run something respectable & more or less on par with those last two & get at least a vague sense of where I am going into Santa Rosa. By which I mean, going into a week-long vacation with no running three weeks before the race.

Eh. It'll be what it'll be.

Monday, July 30, 2012

In the Pudding

One of my big goals this year has been to run 2000 miles. At this point I think it's pretty clear it isn't going to happen barring some kind of miracle and/or insanity on my part. In January, it would've required a very reasonable 38 mi/wk, but since I've averaged more like 28 thus far, it seems unlikely that I'm magically going to find the time to start averaging 52.

There's nothing special about the number 2000; more than anything else, it was just kind of a fun way to try to focus on getting in lots of easy miles in addition to speed/tempo/pace/etc. workouts, knowing that that's one of the surest ways to get faster. Coming off of a GREAT race at Windsor Green Half on May 20, my original plans had been to spend June running lots and lots of easy mileage, then add hard workouts back in in July & August, & be in good enough shape by the end of August to beat my Windsor time at Santa Rosa Half on Aug. 26. Thanks to my (awesome!) new job, though, there's been significantly less time for running; in June, instead of 30-40 miles a week, I usually had time for more like 20. Or 6. Or none.

And really -- I can ABSOLUTELY live with that. Even if I go into my two August races prepared only to have fun & finish, I kept reminding myself, the new job is a great, great blessing, and there will be other summers & other races. So there's been some running, and I've gradually been getting back to 30+ weeks including as many of the "quality" runs as I can manage, but it's been far from an ideal training cycle.

So here's me, on Sunday, heading out for my HM pace run. I usually start with 3-4 miles at pace & then add a mile each week of the plan until I get up to 7-8 a few weeks out from the race, which is where I am now. This week it was 7. The story in my mind has gone something like, "Very busy -> haven't had much time to run -> mileage is low -> not very fast / strong right now." So whereas my average pace at Windsor Green was 7:37/mile, I'm tacitly expecting that, because my mileage has been low I'll be doing pretty well to hover in the 7:40-45ish range with the same level of effort.

The facts of the workout, however, seem to belie this narrative:

Um, whaaaaaa?

First mile: uphill & into the wind. Miles 2-3: still into the wind. Miles 4-5: GG Park rollers, net uphill. (6 & 7 were downhill with tailwind, so those are a little more understandable.)

Realistically, that's more like the last seven miles of a half than the first, and even then, an average 7:27 pace is a bit fast. But still, if we're talking effort, I felt great the whole time & could've kept going, no problem. This run was--dare I say it--positively easy. When I can run 6-8 miles at a given pace and feel totally comfortable, then I know I'm ready to race a half at (or at least very close to) that pace. So maybe there's hope for another PR in Santa Rosa after all?

So now I'm reconsidering my preoccupation with mileage. The only point in upping my weekly miles was to get faster, and somehow that is continuing to happen even with a fairly significant drop. Yes, I'm sure that if I could manage to run 60-80 miles a week & stay healthy, I would probably get faster. And yes, if I ran single-digit weeks for long enough, I'd obviously get slower. But the past few weeks have definitely shown me that the relationship between mileage & performance is more complex than I've been making it in my mind.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Running Green

I'll admit to not being the greenest, eco-friendliest person on the planet. I eat meat. I sometimes buy non-organic food. I've been driving 300 miles a week for the past two months.

But I try. Most of our produce comes from the local farmer's market. I limit my red meat. Use re-usable things rather than disposable. Take public transit or walk rather than drive whenever feasible.

A few months ago I dug into the ethics of some of my favorite brands of running clothes (or started, rather....); then last week I got an email about a petition to make the NYC Marathon waste-less, which included a few key facts:

  • In 2010 the NY Department of Sanitation collected 114.29 tons of litter, 6.34 tons of paper and 2.98 tons of metal, glass and plastic post-race.
  • In 2011, the race gave out 237,200 disposable plastic water bottles & 2,300,000 paper cups.
  • It creates enough trash from free disposables alone to fill seven Olympic swimming pools.

A year or two ago, I heard a report on NPR about the relative green / not-green-ness of of various road races, which included these facts along with many other unpleasant ones, like the amount of CO2 created by buses shuttling runners between the finish & start lines, the number of plastic goody bags given out (and often trashed within a day), etc. So these facts weren't a total shock. But it got me thinking about the potential environmental impact of what I typically think of as a relatively "green" sport, which eventually led me to a Runners World article on the yearly carbon footprint of an average runner.

Out of curiosity, I used their data to approximate the carbon footprint of my running. The result? 2,033 lbs CO2 last year. That's the equivalent of driving 4,236 extra miles. The fact that I didn't fly to any races helped me a lot (a 1,500 mile flight adds 4,000-5,000 lbs of CO2 to your carbon footprint), as did the fact that I drive a very gas-efficient car. What did not help was the purchasing of running clothes I didn't technically need. (Basically the more new stuff you buy, the bigger your carbon footprint.)

The most interesting part of the Waste-less NYCM petition was its mentions of races that are working to make their events less wasteful and more eco-friendly. The ING Hartford Marathon, for example, has been carbon-neutral since 2010. Some of their strategies include:

The UTC Water Bubbler
  • opportunities for sneaker recycling
  • locally sourced post-race food
  • hybrid transportation options
  • corn-based recyclable water cups
  • the UTC Water Bubbler (a 70-foot-long water fountain) which the organizers estimate saves about 10,000 plastic bottles per year

In fact, there is even an organization called The Council for Responsible Sport that certifies events according to their level eco-friendliness. You can find certified events on their site, including several big names:

  • Certified (the lowest level): LA Marathon, Nike Women's Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Bloomsday Run
  • Silver: Austin Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon, Houston Marthon
  • Gold: Big Sur Int Marathon, Big Sur Half, Hartford Marathon, Half Moon Bay Intl Marathon
  • Evergreen (the highest level): Birmingham Half, UCSD Grove Run, Marin County Tritonman

There are many other races that are making an effort to be more environmentally sound that haven't specifically gotten ReSport certified yet:

  • Ojai Full & Half Marathon (CA) - Finisher medals made of recycled materials; special eco-friendly awards for overall finishers; finisher tech shirts made from recycled materials; rideshare program to promote participant carpooling; virtual goodie bag; BOY bag sweat check
  • Whidbey Island Marathon (WA) - Organic pre-race dinner, 100% recycled paper goodie bags, & finisher medals made of recycled glass
  • Manitoba Marathon (Canada) - Compostable food-service items only; diverts 1,723 lbs of solid waste from landfill
  • Malibu Marathon (HI) - On-site recycling of cardboard, glass, plastic, paper, etc.; organic foods at pasta dinner and finish line; leftover food donated to local charities; many biodegrable products; donating runners' throw-away layers to a local non-profit organization (I think CIM does this as well); using fuel efficient vehicles for race business
  • Eugene Marathon (OR) - Volunteer "master recyclers" sort all garbage & divert 70% of solid waste; finish-line stage and vendor area powered by solar generators
  • City of Portland Triathlon (OR) - Local organic food, solar power, trophies made from recycled bike parts, & organizers buy carbon credits to offset participant travel
  • Paris Marathon (France) - partnership with GDF SUEZ to promote eco-friendly behaviors amongst participants & spectators
  • Canmore Rocky Mountain Half-Marathon (Canada) - "Waste-free" start & finish areas where everything used must be reusable or recyclable; all proceeds go to environmental causes

Now, obviously, if you fly or drive a long way to run a race you wouldn't have otherwise just because it's environmentally friendly, you've pretty much cancelled out the benefit. But if you're deciding between two or three races in the same location anyway, knowing something about how they compare eco-wise could be a helpful way to make your decision.

As much as I wish I could tell you I am planning on building my race schedule entirely out of super-green events and doing everything in my power to keep my runner's carbon footprint as small as humanly possible, that would be a total lie. I've never run a single race on the ReSport list, I'll probably continue to drive to the track once or twice a week for the foreseeable future, and if I ever qualify for Boston you can bet your ass I'm flying there at least once.

But there are a few things I try to do as much as I can. They're small things, but small is better than nothing, and I would really like to try to do a better job about doing them more consistently:

  • Keep my eye on ReSport and look for more events in my area as more become certified, & try to choose those when it makes sense
  • Take my own bottle with me & refill it rather than taking disposable bottles of water or sports drink
  • Carpool or take public transit to races
  • Bring a reusable bag for the bag check (or don't check anything if the race insists on using a specific type of disposable bag)
  • Bring a reusable bag to expos & turn down plastic ones (or just skip the goody bag altogether)
  • Lobby race directors & organizers to use compostable(or at worst, recyclable) cups on the course, avoid disposable plastic bottles, cut down on fliers & plastic bags, & use companies like Greenlayer or JL Racing (which makes technical fabrics out of recycled fibers)

Do you think about environmental issues at races? Any other small things you try to do to make a difference?


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Week in Review: July 16 - 21

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

2 weeks to Summer Breeze 10K

5 weeks to Santa Rosa Half Marathon

I am not ashamed to admit that I snatched acceptability this week from the jaws of lameness in the eleventh hour. It got off to a rough start with me feeling pretty worn out & semi-injured after sparring night at the dojo last Sunday, but in the end I managed not only to get in another 30+ week (pretty good for me right now) but also to make it through my first "long" (ie, >10) run since Windsor Green Half back in May. (I've been remiss in these, partly for legitimate reasons and partly because I just plain don't enjoy them.)

Grand Total: 31.1

    * 24.6 easy
    * 3.5 LT pace
    * 3 speed/intervals

Monday: Karate + strength work.

Tuesday: 2 wu + 3.5 @ LT pace + 1 easy Limp around on busted leg all day. Feel exhausted + eat sushi.

Wednesday: 2 wu + 3.5 @ LT pace + 1 easy 4 easy. On Wednesday I had a terrible day & spent about a billion hours driving, including a trip to Berkeley & back, so by the time karate rolled around, the absolute LAST thing I wanted to do was get back in the car. Instead I decided to do the LT run I skipped on Tuesday. About a mile in, though, I kind of suspected that nothing faster than an 8:45ish pace was going to happen; the leg I'd tweaked at sparring night on Sunday was still bugging me, and for whatever reason my Achilles tendon/lower calf areas were on fire. If I'd been on a treadmill I probably would've stopped at 2, but managed to power through the 4 mile loop.

Thursday: 2.5 wu + 3.5 @ LT pace + 2 easy = 8. On Thursday I decided that LT run was effing HAPPENING. It took me a little longer than usual to get warmed up, and the LT miles were definitely tougher than usual (that first split was particularly depressing, even if it was uphill). You know what else it was? Freaking DONE. (7:42, 7:22, 7:21, 3:14)

Saturday: 2 wu + 6 x 800 @ 5K pace + 1 easy = 6. On Saturday I had originally planned to go run the SF Marathon 2nd Half course with some friends who are racing it next weekend, but due to my inability to work out transportation logistics, I didn't make it. :( My runs got all sorts of shuffled around this week & the track one had fallen by the wayside, so I picked it up & went with ity, & had a pretty darn good time.

Sunday: 13.1 easy. Since I didn't get it done Saturday morning, I figured I should probably do it today. This is the farthest I have run in two months, and I could really tell. Actually, I could tell even before I got anywhere close to beyond what I've been doing lately. As much as long runs are not my favorite, though, I figured it was about time to get back to doing them regularly what with Santa Rosa Half less than a month away.

So a solid week, all things considered. In fact, this is something like my 3rd solid week in a row:

We'll be gone for a mini-vacation the week of August 6, during which I'm fully prepared to not get any running in at all, so my goal is to get in two more 30+ weeks (and a 10K race, NBD) between now & then.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Need for Speed

The last time we spoke, I was showing you inappropriate pictures and lamenting about how much my week had been sucking running-wise (and thanks, XLMIC, for reminding me that realistically, it only kinda sucked). It had been many days since I'd had what I'd really call a "good" run, one where I enjoyed myself and didn't feel at least a little broken. That streak of less-than-good runs was broken Saturday--where else?--out at Kezar Stadium.

I was kind of bummed Friday night because I'd plan to run the SF Marathon 2nd Half course with some other folks, but wasn't going to be able to due to not being able to work out car issues. So that was sad because I'd really been looking forward to it. Instead I slept in, ran some errands, & got some stuff crossed off my to-do list. Later in the day I still wanted to get a run in but didn't really have time for a long run, so I decided to pick up the track workout that had fallen off the radar earlier in the week. This week it was 6 x 800 @ 5K pace with 2 minutes rest. Part of me was a little nervous given how my runs had been going, but I just kept telling myself how much I loved intervals once I was there & not to worry about it too much.

It usually takes me the first 200 yards or so of the first interval to settle into the right pace, but once I did, I was kind of surprised at how easy these felt. So easy, in fact, that I started playing this game with myself where I tried to hit every single repeat in exactly 3:20. It's pretty rare that my throttle control is that good, so it was neat to see this:

With four down and still feeling great, I decided to try the last two a touch faster. No problem.

It felt so good to run fast. It always does. (And, paradoxically, seems to take less of a toll on my body that the same distance at an "easy" pace.) As much as I love-love-LOVE road racing and feel very accomplished when I race double digit distances, sometimes I wonder if, in my heart, I'll always be more of a middle distance runner than long distance.

Workouts at the track also never fail to remind me of racing on the track, which I haven't done in many, MANY years and really miss sometimes. I've been so preoccupied with road racing in the last few years, though, that I've never even really looked into it. Last year at PrideRun I got a flier for an all-comers track meet called PrideMeet, which was neat because I'd sort of assumed that once you're done with college, your track days are done unless you're at least a little bit elite-ish. I had no idea that all-comer track meets even existed!

At the time I barely looked at the flier because the date conflicted with something else. But this year I got the same flier again, and though I still couldn't make it, it did set my wheels turning. I went to the PrideMeet site, which led me to SF Track & Field:

They have track meets! That regular people can run in! And they even have field events! (Not that I ever did any field events; I just like that they happen.) Can I even explain how stoked I would be to race a track 5K? Probably not.

It looks like last Sunday's PrideMeet ended their 2012 season, but I am super excited to know that yes, track meets for mortals (and people who know how to train you for them) are out there. Definitely something to keep in mind for next spring & fall.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

With Great Power...

...comes great responsibility. I like to remind myself of this fact every time I write a blog post. And by "great power," I mean the power I have to look/sound like a complete idiot/asshole/moron/some other flavor of undesirable to strangers by writing things on the internet. Earlier today I wrote a bitchy/moany/whiney post, then re-read it this evening & deleted it because *I* found it annoying and that is never a good sign. You're welcome, future self.

Instead, I just have some Things to share. (I am not blogger-chic/-trendy enough to choose a number that starts with the same phoneme as the day of the week, so apologies for that. Frankly, I'm not totally clear on what day of the week it even is right now, so maybe it's just as well.) I will warn you ahead of time that they might not have much of a "thesis" or "point" or "basic coherency" or any of those other mainstream fancy pants writin' conventions that the Elitist Establishment is always pushing. That's life sometimes. Or blogging. Or whatever.

1) First, on the off chance that you don't read this girl's blog, then OMG you really must start. While I enjoy reading many, many blogs for a myriad of different reasons, I read Shelby's mainly because it never fails to crack me right the hell up and there aren't too many blogs that I find legitimately, consistently hilarious in a way that comes across as completely genuine and natural. Seriously. This is the case even when it's not a "funny" post. (Also she is a baddass of a runner.)

Today (or at least sometime recently) she wrote a post called "Two Things I Don't Get," and as I read it I found myself nodding in enthusiastic agreement and having that "OH THANK GOD IT'S NOT JUST ME" moment of relief you have when you really just can't believe it's just you, but no one else is saying anything, and you don't want to say anything either because you don't want to sound like an asshole. According to my calculations, though, even if people think that Shelby is an asshole for writing it out loud and I am an asshole for agreeing with her out loud, then the total asshole-perception is divided equally between the two of us, so people will think that each of us is only half as much of an asshole as they would have thought we were otherwise. And that is better.

(Update - About a billion people have now left comments on Shelby's post being like OMG ME TOO THANK YOU FOR SAYING THIS, so the way I figure, each of our total perceived assholery is given by the equation Ap = (At/n) where Ap = how much the blogosphere perceives any one person to be an asshole for saying these things out loud, At = how much the blogosphere would think ONE person was an asshole for saying them, and n is the total number of people who say or agree with them. Fields Medal, please.)

Get it? It's a dust buster, which sucks? The amount of effort I put into finding this image is about equivalent to how pleasant my runs have been lately.
2) The title of my original whiney/bitchy post was going to be "This Week Sucks." (Subtle, no?) But then I remembered that as a denizen of the run-blogging world, I should take special care never to be too negative lest I discourage and depress others. Yet I also hear that I should be careful never to get TOO sunshine-and-unicorns about my running when it is going well, because that is apparently equally off-putting and not gritty and "real" enough, and people have totally stopped reading blogs over it. Obviously I work *extremely* hard to ensure that my blog has precisely the right balance of peppy, enthusiastic posts to gritty, "real" ones, and I feared that one entitled "This Week Sucks" may have been a bridge too far in one direction.

But for reals, y'all, this week sucks. I haven't had a good run since my track workout Tuesday a week & a half ago. Ever since then I've been completely exhausted, super low on stamina (ie, the last couple miles of a six mile easy run feels like the last miles of a marathon), or dealing with some kind of physical pain significant enough to harsh my mellow. And that's when I've been able to run at all.

Part of this I'm sure was jumping from ~20 mpw to nearly 40 in one week. Part of it has probably been not sleeping enough. Part of it is also probably that I keep forgetting that Sparring Night at the dojo (ie, advanced practitioners from a variety of martial disciplines show up & fight for two hours) is more or less equivalent to a hard 10K in terms of the physical wear & tear on my body. I'm pretty sure I've lost about 20 potential miles to that alone. On the other hand, my sparring is not great and I have a freaking black belt test somewhere in the not-too-dim-&-misty future, so you know. Trade-offs.

But still. I've been bummed that I can't run as much/well as I've wanted too lately & that takes its toll on my mood.

3.Once upon a time there was a run-blogger who was like, "What's up with all the BLACK running tights? Is this is a freaking FUNERAL? An East Coast social event? Why is that the ONLY color of running tights that anyone ever wears?" Then she got super bold & ordered a pair of slate gray running tights & thought they were SUPER cool.

Then she went for a run in them & finally understood why people pretty much only ever wear black running tights.

I took a picture. Then I chickened out & decided I don't have the guts to post said picture on the internet. (See opening line above.) So I deleted it. Let's just say that there is a sweating issue that happens and there is a certain pattern to it and it is not pretty in a color where you can actually see it.

It kind of reminded me of that time that group of dude cyclists went with the red shorts. Not because of all the genitals, but more because it reminded me to appreciate the general forgivingness / camouflage properties of black when it comes to spandex.

I'm sorry. Or you're welcome. Or y'know. Whatever.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Week in Review: July 9 - 15

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

3 weeks to Summer Breeze 10K

6 weeks to Santa Rosa Half Marathon

First, mad congratulations to everyone who raced (or, y'know, ran in a circle for multiple hours. That's like a race) on Sunday! Well done, you guys! My week was less impressive than last week, but still very respectable under the circumstances.

Grand Total: 30.3

    * 20.3 easy
    * 6 HM pace
    * 4 speed/intervals

Monday: Karate, but late again so no strength work. :(

Tuesday: 2 wu + 4 x 1600 @ 10K pace +2 easy. Only my second time out at the track since Windsor Green Half, and not a bad workout if I do say so myself.

Wednesday: Karate + strength work. (Note to self -- it's really time to get back to doing strength stuff outside of class.)

Thursday: 8 easy. I really don't know what to say about this run except a) it was supposed to be easy, b) I felt like I was shuffling along at a glacial pace, c) my body felt like total crap most of the time, & d) when I got home & looked at my splits, my average pace was 8:04 / mile. Pacing FAIL. Apparently sometimes ignoring the watch causes more problems than it solves.

Friday: 2 wu + 6 @ HM pace + 2 easy = 10. Based on how Thursday went, I was completely prepared for this run to suck and be stupid hard. Which it kind of did. Maybe not as bad as I had been anticipating, but I did not feel good. I was having *such* a hard time in the early miles hitting HM pace--though there was a fierce headwind so that was part of it--and then realized somewhere around the 5th pace mile that my Garmin had apparently dropped a tenth of a mile in there somewhere, which meant my average pace was actually running 7:29ish rather than 7:36ish. SCREW YOU, GARMIN. It's been having all kinds of satellite issues lately. So yes, it was a tough run, made unnecessarily tougher by my trusting the numbers on my watch over my effort level (which was partly what inspired this post).

Saturday: 6.3 easy. I had 14 easy scheduled for Sunday which I was pretty sure was not going to happen due to Fight Club that evening, so I thought maybe I'd switch them up & try to get the 14 in on Saturday. Or I would try. Or I would just start running & see how many miles I could put up. Well, this turned out to be one of those runs where you get 1-2 miles in & you're already looking forward to every red light. I was utterly exhausted, plus having some not insignificant shin splint/ankle pain. I figured if I could get in the originally planned six, that would be quite an accomplishment. Made it to 6.3, so can't complain.

Sunday: Fight Club. On Sunday morning I went back & forth about whether or not to do a short run & then just rest up during the afternoon. Realistically, if I'd had nothing else planned, I probably would've tried to get in just a few miles, but given how exhausted my body has been this week & the little complaints I've been getting from the usual suspects in my legs & feet, a rest day (at least running-wise) seemed like a better choice. This was just one of those days where I felt pretty certain that another run was actually going to cause more trouble than benefit.

Would I have liked to have gotten up to 40 this week? Sure. But do I feel like I made the smart choice rather than the heroic one? Yes, absolutely.

And really, when I think about it in context, this week makes a lot of sense. Coming off of some pretty low mileage weeks, I ran 38 last week and felt great. It makes sense that another 30+ week right away when my body has been used to more like 20 for the last month might result in some less-than-stellar-feeling runs. (Plus, I'm still readjusting to working full time and running decent mileage at the same time, and I'm definitely not used to it yet.) This coming week I'll probably try to shoot for 30ish again, then 35-40 the week after, then 30 again going into Summer Breeze on 8/4.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Training by Pace

This is one of those posts that I almost don't write because I think most people who read this are fairly experienced recreational runners and have probably already worked through these kind of basic issues, and I don't have enough expertise to write anything useful about the less basic issues. But if you're kind of a new-ish recreational runner (ie, just starting to run with a GPS device & worry about your pace), or just starting to think about actually training for a race (versus just running a bunch of miles, then racing), you might get something out of it. In short, I guess this is the kind of info I'd wish someone had passed on to me when I was in that place.

When I trained for my first half marathon, I didn't have a Garmin & could only estimate my run paces after the fact by running with a regular stop watch, using Mapquest or some such to estimate how far I'd run, then doing the math. (I did set up a spreadsheet to do the calculations for me, at least.) Given the lack of precision of online maps, this was less than helpful a lot of the time. Sometimes what I thought was a good clip turned out to be pretty slow. Sometimes what felt slow turned out to be reasonably fast.

Not that pace was particularly relevant to me at that point. My training plans then were pretty impressionistic. The looked a lot like this:

Because I was Garmin-less, I ran my HM pace workouts at the track & just tried to hit each 400 more or less in the right ballpark. Am I saying this is a lame way to train? Absolutely not! It was in fact a GREAT way for me to train at the time. I ran consistent (if not particularly high) mileage, didn't get hurt, and averaged only 5 seconds slower per mile in the race than the ballpark pace I'd been practicing in my pace runs. So I can tell you that it is completely possible to train reasonably well for a half on low mileage, no Garmin, & paying only the vaguest shred of attention to pace.

Then I got the Garmin. And I went absolutely NUTS over pace info. In those early days, my training plans became a little scary in their meticulousness. To wit:

Now if you are thinking that looks a lot a little obsessive & scary overboard, it's probably because you are a sane person with a relatively healthy relationship with your training. Let me tell you about the consequences of writing a plan like this and then trying to follow it to the letter with your Garmin:

  • Making yourself crazy trying to respond to minute pace fluctuations on the Garmin. "Eek! 7 seconds too fast! Ack! 11 seconds too slow! Ook! 8 seconds too fast"
  • Running too hard up hills, because dammit, you know what that number should be! Likewise,
  • Running too slow down hills
  • Running too hard in the heat
  • Running too hard into the wind
  • Running too slow with a tail wind
  • Running too hard when you feel really crappy
  • Holding back unnecessarily when you feel extra good
  • Convincing yourself that there's a meaningful difference between a 7:58 mile and an 8:00 mile.
  • Obsessing over why you couldn't hold x:xx pace to save your life on one day & the next day you felt like you could've run said pace indefinitely

And so on. In summation, this was a useless, stressful, and thankfully short-lived period in my running life.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I ditched the Garmin or that I think it's some tool of the devil. I think it can be really, really useful, if it's used in an appropriate & responsible way. That was Lesson One re: training by pace.

Lesson Two is to realize it's smarter to train by "pace" than by PACE.

PACE = a literal, inflexible interpretation of a specific number. Ie, I wanted to run a sub-1:40 half, which meant I needed to run a sub-7:38 pace. So I literally tried to hit exactly 7:37 splits every single mile, regardless of all the factors listed above.

"pace" = a realistic, impressionistic interpretation of a specific number that takes things like terrain, weather, human bodies, etc. into account. Forced to tie a number to the phrase "half marathon pace," I guess I'd say I'm shooting for around 7:35ish these days, but on my pace runs I'm now completely comfortable with anywhere between 7:20ish (downhill with a tail wind) and 7:50ish (uphill with a head wind).

Which brings me to Lesson Three.

    Coach Jenny: Do not try and hit the pace. That's impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth.
    Neo Novice: What truth?
    Coach Jenny: There is no pace.
    Novice: There is no pace?
    Coach Jenny: Then you'll see, that it is not the pace that is hit, it is only your effort level.

I am not perfect about this, but I am SOOO much better about it than I used to be. Yes, I glance at my Garmin on pace runs and I make an effort to stay within +/- 15 seconds of the pace I'm shooting for, but I have also accepted that there are things that are out of my control that can affect how easy or difficult a given pace is on a given day. On a tough day or in tough conditions, I may average closer to 7:45ish on a HM pace run. On a great day I may average sub-7:30. And that is because I have really let go of a specific number as the thing I'm shooting for primarily and learned to target a certain level of effort instead. If it's a HM pace run and I'm having to put forth more effort than I know I can sustain for 13 miles in order to hit 7:35 splits, then I back off, because really, it's not a HM pace run; it's an HM effort run. In science-speak, effort should be the independent variable and pace the dependent one, not the other way around.

I won't tell you that learning to run "pace" by effort is easy. It isn't easy. It's taken me years and I've only recently felt like it's something I've started to get a decent handle on. Last summer I ran a bunch of 10Ks and started to get to the point where I could pace myself pretty well without looking at my Garmin, going just by how I knew I should feel at that pace at certain points in the race. In the last few months I've focused more on half marathons, so recently I've been getting better at that. I hope that the next time I train for a marathon, I'll at least begin to get a good feel for that pace, too.

So yeah. Let your Garmin serve you, rather than becoming a slave to it. It's been incredibly liberating for me to learn to run by feel rather than glancing at my damn wrist every 20 seconds. If you haven't yet, I really recommend giving it a try. :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Observations on Track Workouts

I have kind of a weird relationship with track workouts in that I LOVE them--like, *soooo* much--but I have a lot of trouble remembering and mustering that love on days when I have one scheduled. I think part of this is just because driving out to Kezar Stadium just seems more involved that throwing on running clothes & heading out my front door. Once I'm out there and done with my warm up, though (not during; I hate warming up), I remember how awesome track workouts are and how great I feel after. If you're kind of meh on speed work, please come to the track with me sometime. I will help you love it (or at least hate it less) and that is a promise. Today I was doing mile repeats at 10K pace, which I totally {heart}.

While I was out there, I had Thoughts and Observations and Musings. Intervals are good for that. I now present them to you in no particular order.

1. San Francisco has got to be one of the weirdest places to live in the summer. Not only because you can be shivering in icy/foggy drizzle in the middle of July, but because you can be doing so when only three miles away it is sunny and beautiful. Today Mission = sunny & reasonably warmish; Kezar Stadium = icy cold/biting wind/sideways rain. I had warmer clothes in my bag & changed into a long sleeve shirt right away. I thought about changing into tights, but that would've required trekking up to the bathrooms & I figured I'd warm up once I got started. I deeply regretted this decision later.

2. My easy two warm up miles when running on roads tend to be in the 9:00-9:30 range. On the track, they are always wicked fast with what feels like the same level of effort (8:14 & 7:57 today).

3. San Francisco has a lot of runners. Specifically, a lot of runners who like to come to the track. On Tuesday nights. (Being able to go during the day for the last couple of years has spoiled me in that regard.) Did you ever go to old school skating rinks when you were a kid, where everybody went around and around in a circle? It was kind of like that, but without the hawt 80s music & disco ball.

4. Some people need to learn the meaning of "public track." I'm looking at you, hurdles coach yelling at pretty much everyone but his three svelte-looking man-children in tiny shorts, "Joggers stay on the grass!" Never mind that SF Parks & Rec will actually ticket you for being on the grass. I've seen this happen.

5. Sometimes I really don't understand my body and its response to training (or lack thereof). I wasn't expecting to actually be able to run at 10K pace for four repeats and also stay at the right effort level right now, but I figured if I could stay under 7:15, that would be good. In the first one, my body kind of said, "The hell with that!" and I ran it in 7:09 without even breathing hard. I tried slowing down a little on the next one but finally had to admit that I needed to work harder, so in the end #2 was 7:10. After that I ignored pace altogether & just went by effort. #3 was 7:01 (!). Halfway through #4 it started to take a little more effort to stay in the 7:0x's, so that one was 7:07, but still. I felt great afterward, almost like I hadn't even run. Next time I'll definitely move back up to 10:00 repeats instead of miles or add more intervals.

6. I am all for local running clubs / teams / groups getting their speed on at the track, but it is totally NOT OKAY to spread your circle of stretching love across half the lanes. Seriously. There are so many other areas they could use for this where people are not trying to run. I wouldn't even begrudge them making a smooshed kind of oval & spilling only into the last two lanes.

7. Also, if your running group is like 40 people, maybe you don't have them warm up with strides in all eight lanes, in the wrong direction, while there about 40 other people on the track. At least 14 high-speed head-on collisions were narrowly avoided. All I could think was, "Is this seriously happening!?!?" There were clearly Leaders who were In Charge, none of whom seemed to understand how tracks work. Not cool. Not cool at all.

Brooks PureConnect8. I'm still trying to decide what I think about these shoes. I've had them for a while, actually, but haven't run in them all that much for reasons I'll explain in another post. Eventually I'll review them, but I try to wait until I know a pair of shoes pretty well & have given them a solid chance before I do that. Right now there are things I like about them and also things I'm trying to decide if I can get to like about them.

9. Children should not play soccer on or near the track. That is just a fact. A friend of mine in high school tripped on a volleyball & had to have reconstructive knee surgery as a result. That is all I can think about every time I see soccer balls at the track.

10. I love the track. I should really, really go there more often. :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Week in Review: Jul 2 - 8

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

3 weeks to Summer Breeze 10K

6 weeks to Santa Rosa Half Marathon

Grand Total: 38.23

    * 29.23 easy (sort of)
    * 4 HM pace
    * 5 hills

Monday: Karate + strength work. My friend Anna got her yellow belt, too! YAY ANNA!!

Tuesday: 6.83 "easy" (not). In my current job situation, I have a little bit of time during the middle of the day on Tuesdays when I don't have to be anywhere, so I've been trying to use it to get a run in. On Tuesday I took my running stuff to school in the morning & then drove to Golden Gate Park for a stop light-free run. I ended up with almost seven miles, but at a pace which was totally inappropriate for something we're calling an "easy" run, especially when you consider the rolling hills, direct sun / lack of shade, and the humidity that results from SF watering the park during the hottest part of the day. (Which, really, SF, wtf??) I don't really think I can log it as a HM pace or LT run since that's not where my brain was, but subjectively I'll at least know I got a toughish one in this week.

Wednesday: 10 (actually) easy. The best thing about my July 4th was having time for a double-digit run without feeling rushed, which meant I actually ran at an appropriate pace for an easy run. A little bit of soreness in the feet / heels, but otherwise a pretty good run. Second best was having a giant cheeseburger & milkshake & then seeing Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Highly recommend.

Thursday: 5 miles hills. Originally I had thought I might get a track workout in Thursday evening, but after work on Thursday I was exhausted & really didn't feel much like running at all. So I made a deal with myself -- a small number of easy miles was okay, but only if it was hills. So hills it was! Realistically they're never as bad as I think, and afterward I feel like I've been very productive. :)

Saturday: 2 wu + 4 @ HM pace + 2 cd. "Alright, self," I told myself Saturday afternoon, "it's time to buckle down & get some REAL half marathon pace miles in. Not just like, 'Oops, I ran a couple of those easy splits too fast.'" It's funny how I don't have to go very long without running at that pace before it starts to sound scary fast again. But I sucked it up & did it, ran the first uphill-into-the-wind mile too fast as per usual & panicked a bit about being out of shape, then settled into slightly-faster-than-HM-pace for the rest & felt fine. In fact, halfway through the first cool down mile, I looked down & realized I was *still* running at HM pace (downhill, but still). If nothing else, it's encouraging that that pace can still feel comfortable and manageable once I settle into it. 7:37, 7:35, 7:24, 7:17 for the splits.

Sunday: 8.4 easy. On Sunday morning I met a bunch of my run blogger friends in Golden Gate Park for a run, followed by ramen for lunch, which was awesome. I don't run with people all that often, so when I do, it's always a treat (not to mention a welcome distraction). We even made a little detour up Strawberry Hill, which I'd never done before. If you need to get some hill repeats in, this is definitely the place to go.

The only thing I can really complain about this week was that I miscounted my miles when we were running in the Park on Sunday. I got really excited that I was going to break 40, then was a little bummed when I realized I didn't quite get there. Then I reminded myself that, given my mileage lately, 38.4 is DAMN GOOD and I should be happy about it. Which I am.

If I can only keep it up through the end of August....

Friday, July 6, 2012

Shorts Roundup - Part 1

Earlier this year I went on a quest for the perfect shorts.

Actually, strike that. It wasn't a search for perfect shorts. It was a search for any shorts that didn't remove skin from my inner thighs. Sure, some removed less than others, and some took longer to start, and BodyGlide helped some, but make no mistake -- up until very recently (and I'm talking about close to 20 years of running, here), every pair of running shorts I could ever remember wearing caused some amount of chafing.

I think mainly this is a body structure issue. Even in my sub-120 lb high school days, I had the thigh-rubbing issue. It's just how I'm built. I think I'd have to be unhealthily skinny for that not to be the case. By and large, my approach has been compression shorts, just because traditional looser ones seemed to cause more of a problem faster. But I don't always want to wear compression shorts (especially when running through my neighborhood), and although I wore my best, most reliable pair for CIM last December, 26.2 miles was still far enough for me to end up with giant, gaping, bloody wounds on my legs. It was all kinds of bad.

Here's my other issue with a lot of running shorts: They freaking cost an arm and a leg! That means I can only buy two pairs before they become a moot point.

I understand that you get what you pay for -- it's not that I'm unwilling to pay a premium for technical fabrics and solid construction (not to mention that shorts with liners & zipper pockets are more complex to put together than, say, a pair of these). Sure, I'm willing to pay more than ten bucks for those things, but this is just absurd:


Brooks Glycerin 2-in-1 -- $45.95


Lululemon Run: Speed Short -- $54.00


Pearl Izumi Fly Ultra Women's Running Shorts -- $64.95

That is the equivalent of a bottle of very nice whiskey.

For that kind of money those shorts better effing FLY me over the finish line. I'll make one concession, and that's that if I knew, for a fact, that a $50-60 pair of shorts would let me run miles and miles and miles and not eventually tear the skin off my legs, I might be able to bring myself to invest in one pair for long runs. But I'm not willing to spend that kind of money on the off chance that they might.

Enter a trip to Sports Basement back in March. My limit was $30 / pair. That's all I was willing to risk on an untried product. Happily, SB was having a big sale (um, when are they *not* having a big sale, actually? This is why it's dangerous for me to go there too often) and I found two pairs that normally would have been out of my price range but that snuck in just under it with the discount.

The aptly named Brooks Epiphany Stretch Short II - $28 (retail = $36) Apparently the pink & black are currently on sale for $23 on the Brooks website. They also have all the other cool colors there. SB only had this combo.

ASICS Everysport Short - $25 (retail = $32) There are a few additional color choices available on the ASICS site.

The wear testing got off to a rough start, as it began pouring rain about two miles into my first run in the Brooks pair. And really, once it's pouring rain, pretty much everything's going to chafe. But I gave them a few more tries, and discovered that, lo and behold, for the first time since middle school, I could run more than five miles in a pair of non-compression shorts with my epidermis intact!

The ASICS pair worked out really well also. They are now my first choices every time I go for a run. At $32, I'll happily pay full price for a second pair of the ASICS, and while I'll probably hold out on the Brooks & see if the price drops below $36 for some of the other cool colors in the reasonably near future, even that isn't unreasonable for something I know is going to work out.

Bravo, athletic short technology! Apparently there have been some major advances since my college days. (I wish I could point out to you what they are, but I still have an old pair of Nike Tempo shorts that as far as I can tell are made almost identically to the new Brooks pair, and I still can't run in those without making an absolute mess of my legs. They've since been relegated to lounge wear.)

So there you go. What's next? Well, I had a See Jane Run gift card I needed to spend today, and figured as long as I was shopping at the Fancy Pants Lady Running Store on somebody else's dime, I might as well try out one of those uber-pricey pairs of fancy lady shorts and see what nearly double the price of my Sports Basement shorts gets me. More on that later.

So tell me -- Am I crazy, here? These are totally absurd prices, right? Or do I just have to accept that we now live in a world where retailers can reasonably expect me to cough up the cost of a bottle of Jefferson's Reserve Very Old for a pair of shorts?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Week in Review: June 25 - July 1

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

5 weeks to Summer Breeze 10K

8 weeks to Santa Rosa Half Marathon

Grand Total: 21 miles, all easy (well...sort of)

Posts have been a bit sparse since this whole three jobs situation came up, but I'm trying to at least keep up with my training journal & race reports, if not much else. This too shall pass! Only four more weeks (ish?) until I'll be a normal, one-job-having person.

(Did I mention not spending 2.5 hours in the car every day? Soooo over that.)

In other news, I won a RoadID gift card last weekend. That plus ~$2.50 got me my very first RoadID (don't yell at me). I am fancy AND safe now!

I didn't know it until I went online to buy it, but they have interactive ones now where the bracelet has a hotline & website plus a serial # & PIN that first responders can use to access a secure online profile you create for yourself. This means that instead of just a phone number or two, they have access to your medical history, insurance info, doctor/hospital contact info, etc. It also means you can change your info as often as you need to without getting a new plate. The interactive part will set you back a whopping $9.99 / year (with the first year free).

The one I have is the Wrist ID Slim version, which is even slimmer than it looked on the site. I've worn it all day today just to see how it feels, and seriously, I barely notice it's there. Highly recommend.

Monday: Karate + strength work. One of my first senseis from over a decade ago was in town, so it was great to see & work with him again.

Tuesday: 6 easy. This was a hot one! For the first 3 miles (uphill), 8:30 felt like a damn tempo run. (Realistically, I should probably count it as such, since it was DEFINITELY not an easy effort, regardless of the numbers.) The return trip was faster but much easier.

Wednesday: Karate. No strength work due to summer school back to school night = late to class.

Friday: 6 easy. I came home from work exhausted & the last thing I wanted to do was run. I knew I'd feel better after, though, so I went anyway, and indeed felt better (but still tired).

Saturday: 9 easy. And WOW, the universe did not want this to happen. Once again, I decided that booze + dessert + dairy products + double digit run was a GREAT idea, and once again my body reminded me that it was definitely, definitely not. I really wanted to get to 10, but I felt so terrible by 8 that when I passed the house a mile later, I decided there was no shame in ending this one early. On Sunday I was still feeling pretty icky, so I contented myself with a few chores & errands.

Yes, this was a modest week in terms of mileage, but I did meet the 20+ baseline goal I set for this short period of summer insanity, which makes me happy. It could've conceivably been 30, even, if I hadn't been still feeling bad on Sunday. In a perfect world, I'd find some time for some track workouts & long runs as well (what with the 10K & half coming up in a few weeks), but if I can keep this much up, maybe I can at least avoid embarrassing myself in August.