Saturday, July 26, 2014

Not Dead Yet

"I'm not dead yet!" "Don't worry, you will be soon."
I've been feeling not exactly dead this week, but worn pretty darn thin, especially for coming off of a week of doing no karate and no strength work and running only 24 miles. There were 60 miles on my schedule, but I knew before the week even started that I was unlikely to run all of them, just because my peak so far is only 45. But I was optimistic, coming off of three days of rest, and figured I'd just take it day by day and do every run I could.

By Tuesday afternoon, though, I didn't feel at all like I'd just had three days of rest. (Which, I guess technically I didn't, since I didn't sleep much Sunday night, did an hour bike ride that afternoon & 1.5 hours of karate that night, then got up early Tuesday morning for strength work.) How I was going to pull off a monster of a 10 mile track workout was not clear to me, but my rule in all things running (barring actual injury) is to at least try, so I tried, and wonder of wonders it was not awful. (Hard, yes. Amateur-ish-ly executed, yes. But not awful.) As noted, my Wednesday & Thursday "easy" runs were not easy. Wednesday in particular was quite rough. But I got them done.

On Friday, I had a tempo run scheduled that was supposed to go:

  • 2 miles warm-up
  • 3 miles @ 7:30/mile
  • 5:00 jog
  • 10 x 100m sprint w/ 0:30 jog breaks
  • 1.5 cool down

Any time I have to do short sprint intervals like this, I go to the track, because I just do not feel safe running all-out on concrete around pedestrians. Traffic lights don't lend themselves too well to this sort of thing, either. BUT, Friday afternoon, I left work late, which meant that if I'd gone to the track, I wouldn't have gotten back home until around 7pm, and in my neighborhood on a Friday night, looking for parking at 7pm can mean a good half hour driving around looking for a spot within walking distance of home. So I regrettably decided to ditch the 100m's, run around 8 miles starting at home, & see whether at some point in there it felt like 7:30's were in the cards. (As of 5pm, it absolutely did not.)

It was pretty darn hot out for San Francisco (81-82ish when I started, I think), so between that, the insane afternoon headwind out of the west, & the fact that my usual route is a gradual-but-relentless uphill climb for the first three miles, I was not moving fast nor feeling good. (I think my first mile was in the 9:20 range.) Running 2:00/mile faster? HAHAHAHAHAHA.

By the time I was approaching 2.5 miles I'd warmed up enough that I was running in the ~8:30 range, but it still wasn't feeling easy & I couldn't imagine cranking it down by a full minute per mile. Since I was approaching the end of the relentless uphill & the rule is to at least try, though, I figured I'd give it just a *little* more gas without going crazy, try to to gradually speed up some, & just see what happened pace wise. If I could crank out some 7:30's, great; if not, then I'd just run 3 miles at what I thought 7:30 effort should feel like, & that would have to be good enough.

And once again, wonder of wonders, I found a little touch of speed. I decided I wouldn't look at my watch until I felt like I'd settled into a good HM / LT-type effort, and after about 3 minutes or so I kind of went, "This feels about right, maybe 7 out of 10." And then I nearly choked when I looked at my watch & saw I was running ~7:10 pace (ie, 10K pace).

Yes, I was running at a comfortably hard effort, but that usually puts me in the 7:20-7:40 range, NOT 7:10. I let myself slow down juuuuuust a tad (knowing the goal was to do three of these), but still ended up with a 7:20 split for that first mile. In the second & third ones, I just tried to maintain the same comfortably hard level of effort & keep my pace above 7:15ish (because I really cannot make a case for running faster than that on a tempo run).

In the end, this happened:

The downside, alas, was some pain in my right hip and some lingering soreness in my quads & right foot, which I'll be honest, has me a little freaked out for my 18 miler / SF Half on Sunday. (Hence my decision not to run on Saturday & instead spend it rolling & stretching.) But on the upside, it's given me some confidence that, in spite of how I feel when I'm running a lot of the time, I'm not in fact dead yet and actually do have some strength & speed to summon even when I feel like crap. Which.....feels kind of like the whole point?


Friday, July 25, 2014

"Easy" Runs & SF Marathon 2nd Half

Sometime not long after what I think of as my return to "serious" (y'know, for me) distance running in 2008, I ran across a quote by some popular-slash-important running person (Bart Yasso? Meb? Who knows) about how when training for something you care about it's important to keep your easy days truly easy so that you can kill it on the hard days & get as much benefit from them as possible. It didn't resonate with me much at the time because I had a reasonably good fitness base & wasn't running that much mileage. I ran pretty much all my runs hard & it was never a problem.

Once I found myself deep in the trenches of training for my first marathon, though, it was a different story. The day after a hard track or tempo workout, believe me--there was no risk whatever of my running an easy run too hard. Were the miles accomplished? Good enough. The end.

Which is basically where I am now. Six weeks or so ago I didn't have a ton of endurance, but most runs still felt pretty easy, so occasionally I would let myself get a bit carried away on easy days (because for me running fast is fun and awesome & running slow is boring torture) & it really didn't have any noticeable effect at all on subsequent harder workouts. These days, although I still finish my hard workouts feeling not like death (which I think is a good thing), the lingering effects + the cumulative effect of just plain running more mileage means that when it's time for an easy run the next day, I have precisely enough energy & brain space to care about three things:

    1) Git 'er done

    2) Keep good form

    3) Listen for pain (as distinct from "I'm uncomfortable because I'm running & would just rather be done.")

That's it. Speed? Chicking annoying dudes? Looking hella cool/baddass?

Just don't care.

On Sunday I'm running the San Francisco Marathon 2nd Half, which is exciting because when, after years of bad timing, the scheduling finally worked out for me last year, I ended up unable run thanks to the Hip Strain from Hell. Originally I'd intended to actually train for and RACE-race it, partly because I haven't run a serious, balls-out half in a while and partly because I got a sub-seeded invitation, which for some reason makes me feel kind of bad about slummin' it & running just to finish & get a medal. But that was before my December stress fracture bumped my 2014 marathon from March to August, so sorry, SFM; as fond as I am of you, I care about not screwing up my marathon a whole lot more.

So, I'm resigned to jogging the five miles from my house to the start & then running the race at probably around an 8:20ish pace or so and, as at Berkeley, likely being the slowest person there with a sub-seed bib. OTOH, it turns out that some cool & fun girls I know (you may know these three in particular) will apparently also be around, and also this guy, so it should be a good time.

Anyone else planning to be at SFM or SF2HM in particular? Come say hi!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

SRM WEEK 10: Big Track Workouts + Blah blah Week 10 blah

First, this:


Second - If you caught the previous post, you know that there is not much to say about week 10 aside from the Achilles tendon drama I managed to inflict on myself in Vancouver:

* * * WEEK 10 * * *
(5 to go)

Grand Total: 24 miles, all easy

(Also you get no bar graph because I added new stuff before I got around to writing this. Trust me, it was pretty lame; you're not missing much.)

Monday: Massage / rest / pack.

Tuesday: 8 easy

Wednesday: work work work

Thursday: 8 easy, strain Achilles tendon

Friday: 8 easy, make Achilles strain worse

Saturday: come to senses / rest / feel terrible about self

Sunday: rest / fly home

Ugh. Moving on.

* * *

The real issue with Vancouver and my travel schedule this month in general is that I'm into the part of the cycle where things alternate between a tough week & small long-run increase & an easier week with a bigger long-run increase, and my every-other-week travel schedule has been synched up so that I'm on the road for the tough weeks. The Tuesday I was in Vancouver, I was supposed to do an important 10-11 mile track workout, which didn't happen for both time & logistical reasons. This week that I'm home, I had an easier 7 mile track workout scheduled, then another 10-11 monster next week when I'm in LA.

Since I didn't do much last week, I made an executive decision to shift the tough workouts forward a week so that I can be sure to get in the key speed & tempo runs while I'm at home. So yesterday, instead of the easier 7 mile track workout, I decided to take a shot at the monster 10 miler from last week:

  • 2 miles warm-up + drills & strides
  • 3 x 800m / 200m recovery
  • 20:00 @ goal marathon pace
  • 3 x 800m / 200m recovery
  • 2 miles cool-down

(You might think a track workout would not be the best one for testing out a sketchy Achilles tendon, but actually, the track is a GREAT place for that because it's really easy to stop at the first sign of trouble.)

When I got to the track I couldn't remember exactly what pace the 800m's were supposed to be at, but for the most part I do my speed work by feel anyway, so I just figured I'd just try to hit about the right level of effort & that would be fine.

I now present my observations from this workout:

1) Shit ain't called a "Key Workout" for nothing.

2) Totally ran the first 800m too hard. Not only did I positive split the first set of 3, but I also found myself taking rather unnecessarily long water breaks during the recoveries.

3) The hardest part of a "Key Workout" = whatever part you're currently doing (including the cool down).

4) Knock on wood, but I *THINK* my Achilles tendon is better? I mean if something was going to cause trouble, you'd think 10 miles on the track would be enough to do it.

As you can see, I managed to rally a bit towards the end, which probably either means I sandbagged a bit on the middle reps or took slightly longer water breaks than were strictly necessary towards the end.

On the other hand, after kind of lamenting how hard these 800m's were & (for some completely random reason?) feeling like I should have been able to run them a bit faster, it was gratifying to get home & check the schedule & see that officially these were supposed to be ~6:55ish, so averaging around ~6:30 was kind of knocking it out of the park (for better or worse).

My online schedule doesn't know that I've shifted things around, so when I logged my workout I received the Exclamation Point of Disapproving Caution:

Eh, whatevs.

Seriously, all I want to do is break 50 miles this week. I'm way past ready to do it; time to make this shite happen.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Greetings From Sunny Vancouver + I kind of hate myself

Sooooo it was my intent to get this posted earlier this week but it turns out that when you get sent to an international conference people expect you to, like, do stuff or whatever for your income-generating day job (WHAT). looking REALLY excited about giving poster presentations!!!

In any case, if you've never been to Vancouver, I can't recommend it highly enough. It's gorgeous & clean & progressive & one of the friendliest places I have ever been. My first trip to Vancouver was at the tail-end of our Alaska trip back in 2010, when we hung out downtown for 2 days & had tasty burgers, delicious cocktails, and chocolate fondue.

Chocolate fondue at Mink, July 2010

My second trip to Vancouver was not so much a trip to Vancouver as it was a trip through Vancouver on the way to Whistler-Blackcombe in 2011, which, again, if you haven't been and love amazing gorgeous outdoors/nature (particularly skiing), deserves a spot high up on your list. All you IronMan Canada athletes & loved ones making a side-trip, you are in for a treat!

I am was back again for a research conference last week and also apparently marathon training since we go everywhere together now. Nelly recommended Stanley Park as a sweet running venue, so I kind of felt like I won the lottery when I looked at a map & realized our hotel was less than a mile away. The place is apparently a paradise of running trails (dirt, paved, hilly, flat, adventurous, mindless, you name it), so as soon as I realized how close we were my optimism re: actually getting in the miles this week improved substantially.

After we settled in & got dinner I decided to explore the park via the Sea Wall Trail, a flat, paved path that followed the edge of the park right along the water. I was supposed to do a 10-11 mile speed workout involving a set of hard 800s, 20:00 at marathon pace, then another set of 800s, but the trail was moderately busy, not super wide, and involved a good number of blind curves, which did not make me feel super comfortable about that (especially since getting taken by surprise & leaping out of the way in this case could potentially mean falling into English Bay / Vancouver Harbor).

Another fun thing I learned on this trip is that one of my colleagues just signed up for her first 10K at the end of August, and our PI, who right now is in the habit of running ~3 miles a few times a week, just signed up for her first half marathon in January as well as a series of 5Ks & 10Ks over the next few months to keep her motivated to work up to the distance. What this means is that people tend to be more understanding than maybe would normally be the case of my need to free up a couple of hours most days & come back disgusting & sweaty. is the part where I hate myself. On Wednesday I had to fit my eight miles in between the end of work stuff & dinner reservations, which meant I was pressed for time. Not really that pressed for time, but I felt like I was, so as a result I wasn't paying as careful attention as usual to how I was running & where I put my feet, etc., and around mile 6 I tripped & came down really wrong on my left foot in a way that made my Achilles feel like it was about to snap. I stopped & walked it off & it seemed okay, so I finished the last two miles, but towards the very end it really, really started to hurt & I was limping on it a little when I got back to the hotel.

The next day it was sore but not as bad as it had been towards the end of the run. For most of the day it ached a little on & off, & then towards the evening started to feel better. The weather was gorgeous so I decided I'd jog around on it a little & see how it felt, & if it was more than the tiniest bit uncomfortable, I'd call it a day in hopes of being able to do my 17 mile long run on Saturday.

After a couple of easy miles, it felt completely fine, so I kept going, and when I still had no pain after ~3.5 miles I went, "Sweet!! Totally good to finish the 8 mile loop." But then, as inevitably will happen when you are a dumb-ass & don't bring money or card for a cab, I'd barely passed four miles when it started to ache. This made me nervous but was by no means awful, and since I was now 4 miles from the hotel, I just kept going. By five miles, it was pretty painful & I absolutely would have stopped if I wasn't 3 miles from the hotel in a strange city in the almost-dark. By six miles I was pretty much just going, "Bad idea. Bad idea. SUCH a bad idea. Worst idea EVER," & during the last two I was just kind of hoping my Achilles tendon didn't snap before I got home.

My easy runs usually average between 8:05 & 8:20ish & my last mile was ~9:30 which gives you some idea of just how bad it was. To me the reddest of all red flags has always been needing to modify your stride to compensate for pain, and there was definitely a lot of that going on.

I made it to eight miles without my tendon snapping, which left me about six city blocks from the hotel, which was close enough that I felt okay walking it in the dark. (Which, btw, still REALLY hurt.) By the time I got back I could not really put weight on my left foot without pretty significant pain, and both plantarflexion and dorsiflexion were extremely uncomfortable. Needless to say my 17 mile long run did not happen and I will probably need to stay off it completely until it's completely 100% better, which with a tendon strain is kind of anybody's guess.

So yeah. I'm kicking myself pretty hard because a) I should have given it another day before testing it out, b) I should have known better than to go out so far with a sketchy leg, c) I should have brought cab money so that I wouldn't have to choose between walking a bunch of miles in the dark or running them & making the injury worse, d) I worked so, so hard to arrange & schedule things this week so that I could get all my miles in around my work stuff, most of which ultimately went to waste, and e) everything has been going just so, so well up to now in terms of marathon training. ARRRRrrrrRRRRrrrrRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!

I've been trying to think about what I would tell someone else if this happened to them in week 10 of a 15-week marathon cycle, which mostly includes things like, "What's done is done. The best thing you can do is give it complete rest & let it heal," & "You can only make it worse at this point; resist the temptation to rush it," & "Yes, the lost mileage is annoying but your training so far has been really consistent, & in the long term this probably won't make a difference, especially if you cross-train for all you're worth until it heals." Because for some reason when it happens to someone else I'm able to be rational and calm and keep things in perspective. When it's me, though, somehow these things always feel like the absolute end of the world, and although I know all those statements are true, I kind of don't really care, because in case you missed it, THE ENTIRE WORLD IS ENDING.

(Okay not really, but that's totally how I felt Friday night.)

As of Sunday evening, I am safely back home in SF, and have no pain at all just walking around. Still, I'm going to give it until at least Tuesday without trying to run on it, and if that works out okay, then I'm going to get down on my knees & thank my lucky stars that three days and 33 miles was the only sacrifice the Marathon Gods demanded in exchange for my stupidity. Next Sunday is SFH2M, and even though I'm not "RACING"-racing, I still need to be able to run 18 miles without feeling sketched out.

Monday, July 14, 2014

SRM WEEK 9: 16 Miles + Gels, Garmins, etc. etc.

(***Quick note/question -- Lately I haven't been able to comment on any WordPress blogs. When I fill in all the fields & click "submit," the screen just refreshes, but my comment never appears. This has happened like 20 times in the last week, so WordPress friends, I promise I haven't abandoned you!! If anyone had any ideas as to why this is happening, I would love to hear your suggestions!***)

Thank you all SO MUCH for all your tips & suggestions about how to carry gels. I have lots of new strategies to try, & I'm confident that statistically speaking at least one of them HAS to work. And, I did find the front pockets in my Rogas & Speed shorts! (They are a bit subtle & easy to miss, but not too hard to find if you know they're there.) I also picked up a pair of the Oiselle Distance shorts since it looks like they have some extra, larger zipper pockets, & it would be so great if I could just fit everything in my shorts pockets & not have to worry about anything else.

In case you've ever wondered what $100 worth of fancy sugar gels looks like. If you think about it
for too long, there is some real absurdity about this entire situation.

Speaking of gear, ugh. You guys, the Forerunner 220 has GOT to GO.

At first I was just annoyed by the interface, but the more I've worn it & tried to use it the way I used my 305 & 310XT, the more I've realized that it just doesn't have the features I want (which is ridiculous, considering it cost me $80 more). You can display at most three data fields at a time; if you want to see more than that, you have to set up different fields on different screens and toggle back & forth between them, and the list of fields themselves are pretty limited. (Most egregiously, "time of day" is missing, & I really need to have a screen that shows time of day & distance together.) You can only hit lap if the watch is running, and when you pause, it automatically switches to displaying elapsed time only rather than leaving up whatever data screen you're on. I also hate hate HATE the way it locks itself after a certain amount of time & then you have to unlock it again before you can do anything. Also, for whatever reason, the 'average pace' field seems completely broken. During a given mile, for example, it'll be like "8:40, 8:35, 8:42, 8:38, 8:41," and then "LAP 8:12!!!" Which makes no sense whatever. The kicker for me is that you can only set it to autolap at multiples of .05, and you can't set it for less than a quarter mile. This is not going to work for me on the track.

No, it's not completely useless and yes, I could kinda-sorta-60-40 make it work if I had to, but to me if you're going to pay $250 for a GPS watch, you shouldn't have to settle for that and "just make it work." I've been cyber-stalking the Forerunner 620, which they have at REI & would cost me another $200 on top of what I already paid for the 220, but as cool beans as it looks, I really just am not prepared to shell out that kind of money for a GPS watch. (Certainly not with all these massages I've been getting. And did I mention my computer just died?)

D'oh. Ah well, we had a good four-year run.

So I think sometime this week I'm going to take it back to REI & then get another 310XT from Amazon for ~$170, which is about what I paid for the one I got on sale at REI to begin with.

* * * WEEK 9 * * *
(6 to go)

My only regret about this week was that our Saturday plans got rearranged at the last minute & as a result I didn't get that run in, because I felt like this was the first week where I was physically & mentally ready to hit 50 miles. It's a little arbitrary, but 50 is the number I associate with actually, seriously training for something & it was a bit of a bummer to feel totally ready to cross that line & then have it not work out. If I'd known ahead of time things were going to work out that way I would have added some miles onto my earlier runs, but c'est la vie.

I ran 16 miles on Sunday & consumed 6 gels in 2 hours (~54g CHO per hour) & felt more or less fine the whole time. Though it's not all that surprising considering I didn't run on Saturday, I was relieved to get back to long runs that feel like NBD as opposed to depressing ones that I have to drag myself through. My hip did start to tighten up in a dull-achey-sort-of-way about 14 miles in, went back to normal after ten minutes or so, & then got painfully tight again post-run. (Good job scheduling that Monday morning massage appointment, self!)

Sea Cliff! Some day I'm going to run up that hill. Not today.

The other thing that's concerning me a bit is my right foot. The arch/instep area was a little uncomfortable toward the end of the run, but post run it became extremely tight & painful. Walking around on it for a few minutes does seem to loosen it up, & after a while the pain goes away completely, but if I stayed off of it for even a few minutes it would hurt again pretty badly as soon as I tried to walk on it. After a couple of hours it went away completely, so at least there's that. It's mostly on the arch/inside of my foot, not the bottom, so I don't really have any guesses as to what it might be.

Grand Total: 43 miles

    * 2 speed
    * 4 tempo
    * 16 long
    * 21 easy


    * 2.5 hours strength/stretch/roll

Monday: Rest

    I'd planned to do strength work in the morning & karate in the evening, but for some reason my brain decided to wake me up at 3 a.m. & I never got back to sleep after that, so I was in no condition to go do strength work at 6. We also had a big deadline at work that I ended up needing to work on all evening, so no karate either (though I probably would have skipped it anyway in favor of a nap). Eh; after the 12 miler that left me an utter wreck of a person the day before, this was probably all for the best.

Tuesday: 7 speed (2 wu, 4 x 200m hard / 200m jog, 10:00 @ goal marathon pace, 4 x 200m hard / 200m jog, 1.5 cd)

    This workout was touch-and-go at first with the Return of the Insanely Tight Achilleses/Lower Calves (seriously, stopping every half mile of the two-mile warm-up to walk/shake/stretch the white-hot pain out of my legs), but once I started the intervals, I felt fine & ran all the 200m's significantly faster than the plan called for with what felt like pretty moderate effort. Honestly, the workout itself was pretty easy (which, after last week, I think was probably the point); the hardest part was definitely getting through the warm-up & cool down.

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / p.m. 7 easy 6 easy

    Thanks to leaving work late & getting stuck behind a car accident on my way home, Wednesday's run became one of those "I have x minutes, so run out for x/2 minutes, then turnaround" type of runs. After my track session on Tuesday went relatively well, I had high hopes for this one, but they didn't really pan out. I was back to ungodly tight and painful lower calves/Achilles that I had to stop every couple of blocks to stretch/shake it out, and when I turned around to head back home, I found myself running (once again) into an insane headwind. Between those two things and just generally feeling tired all around, I know my form was not great (in spite of really trying!) and by the time I got to karate my quads and right adductor felt completely trashed. least I ran 6 miles??

Thursday: 6 easy

    I'm pretty proud of myself for just getting this one done, actually.

Friday: a.m. strength work / p.m. 8 tempo (2 wu, 4 x 1600m @ ?? pace / 1:00 jog, 2 cd)

    These intervals were supposed to be around 7:30ish (ie half marathon pace) which seemed weird. I've suspected for a while that the paces on my training plan are too slow, but I decided I'd just do these repeats at a comfortably hard pace & see what that translated to. I did the first one in 7:09 which felt pretty effortless, so after that I just tried to keep my pace in that general range. I managed to negative split them all (7:09, 7:08, 7:04, 7:01) without working too hard & felt pretty good after, so no complaints.

Saturday 7 easy Rest/Fail.

    Basically if I was going to do this run, I would have had to do it at like 6 in the morning, which is problematic because I'm pretty sure the only reason I've been getting away with what for me is relatively high-ish mileage right now is because I've been doing my best to give my legs as close to 24 full hours of recovery time between runs as possible. When I got up at 6, I could tell that < 12 hours of rest wasn't going to cut it & trying to do another run at that point would have been a bad plan. So I erred on the side of caution & just took another rest day.

Sunday: 16 long

There are 56-59ish miles on the plan for this week (hahahahaha). I'm in Vancouver for work through next Sunday, so honestly I have no idea how this is all going to go down. I have a feeling the speed work may just not happen, but I'm planning to do my best to just get in as many easy miles as I possibly can including a 16-17 mile long run, however I have to do it. I think 50 is doable & I would really like to get across that threshold, but 59 seems a bit over-optimistic.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Art of Quitting

Quitting is a life skill. Just like changing a tire, boiling pasta, or treating a stain, knowing how and when to just give it up is something all grown-ass adults need to learn to do. Of course, not quitting is a critical life skill as well, but as the flashier, more dramatic of the two, not quitting gets plenty of attention without even trying. In the world of life skills, not quitting is the perky, gregarious blond with big boobs & a short skirt. Everyone wants to get with not quitting.

Quitting, on the other hand, often gets a bad rap. Quitting is the cool-quiet-brunette-in-the-corner-with-her-nose-in-a-book of adult life skills. A lot of the time people think she's lame & dorky & generally give her a wide berth, but once they find themselves in a situation where they end up getting to know her a little better, they usually realize she's got a lot more to offer than they'd first assumed.

Seriously. I don't know why we romanticize not quitting so much. How awful would your life be if you never stopped eating during a meal? Or never stopped drinking at a social event? Or refused to leave a job you hated? Or stayed in a horrible unhealthy relationship long past its expiration date? A well-adjusted adult has GOT to learn when to give it up & move on, and I'm sure we all have unfortunate stories about friends & loved ones who just never mastered the art of throwing in the towel.

From The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick),
by Seth Godin, which should really be required reading for all grown-ups.

Having said that, I must in the spirit of full disclosure admit that there are certain situations in which I have a better track record of appropriate & timely quitting than others. Back in the day I was pretty universally awful at knowing when to quit when it came to athletic pursuits. Witness the number of times I walked out of the gym as a teenager missing skin on my hands / came home from polo with bruises the size of citrus fruits / ended up in the doctor's office with a running injury. "BUT I AM NOT A QUITTER!" I insisted. "NOT QUITTING IS WHY I AM AWESOME!" Yes; look how awesome you are, sitting there on the sidelines doing nothing but regrowing skin/soft tissue/bones/blood vessels. Well done.

I am not perfect but these days I am considerably better at timely & appropriate quitting than I used to be, which is important because I spent most of Thursday debating whether I was going to try to run at all or not. Wednesday's run pretty much sucked due to generally just being tired & also running into an insane headwind for half the way, which I'm pretty sure led to less-than-stellar form, which then led to a right thigh (quads, adductor, & hamstring) that felt utterly trashed by the time I got to karate, and as of Thursday everything was still quite sore.

It wasn't an impending injury-type-hurt, but given my history with that right thigh/hip, I am not too keen on taking lots of risks with pain there. So by the time I got home, I'd settled on trying a little a running & seeing how it felt, but quitting at the first sign of more than the mildest of discomfort in that inner quad/hamstring/adductor region.

And therein lies the trouble.

It's all very well & good to say you'll quit in x scenario under y circumstances or what have you, but sometimes, even on a training run, it can be hard to make that decision, particularly when the main underlying principle of what you're training yourself to do is keep going in the face of incredible discomfort. The rational part of your brain understands the difference, but there are other parts that are like, "Wait, but...but you said...wait what?"

So I knew the smart thing to do would be to set up this run so that it would be easy to quit if I needed to. Instead of setting out on my usual six-mile route & hoping for the best (being 3 miles from home when the pain hits is not conducive to quitting), I decided to do a loop in my neighborhood that circles several city blocks & works out to about ~1.15 miles per lap. Yes, it meant more stop lights, but since I needed to keep careful tabs on how my leg was doing, that didn't seem like the worst thing ever. More importantly, it meant that worst case I'd never be much more than half a mile from home. I could walk it easily, and even if I shouldn't run it but lost that battle to the part of my brain that's still enamored with the busty blond, I'd be unlikely to do too much damage.

Thankfully running didn't seem to aggravate the soreness; in fact running was actually more comfortable than walking. For the first couple of laps I did have to stop every couple of blocks to shake out the tightness in my Achilles & deal with some cramping in my feet (which has been a thing lately), but after that most of the discomfort disappeared (or at least went back to a 1-2 out of 10 kind of intensity).

I almost always only run loops like this if I'm doing a really short run (say, under 4 miles) because the repetitiveness makes me crazy, and if I had really thought I would end up running the full six miles that way, I probably couldn't have faced it. I never felt great on this run, but every time I jogged past my house & check in with how I was feeling, I'd find myself thinking, "Eh, I can run one more lap." So I did, and one more, and one more, and one more, until my watch eventually (and rather anticlimactically) ticked off six miles. Sure, it was my slowest six-miler in literally years, but if I hadn't known I could quit at any time without needing to call a ride or walk some stupid distance home, I'm not sure I even would have attempted it.

So yeah. I encourage everyone to cultivate a healthy relationship with quitting. Don't be afraid of it. Don't turn your nose up at it. Develop your ability to keep going & not quit, absolutely; just be careful not to do it at the expense of making smart choices for the long term.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Marathon Fueling: Santa Rosa Edition

This is one of those posts that is mostly just me thinking out loud for my own benefit / having a written-down record in a logical place, but hey, if your reeaaaalllllly into race fueling & totally nerding out about grams of CHO per hour & carb-to-protein ratios, then BOY HAVE YOU COME TO THE RIGHT PLACE! :D

So it turns out that up until I read The New Rules last year, most of what I thought I knew about fueling before, during, & after a long race was at least somewhat incorrect, or at the very least incomplete. Here's a quick recap of the relevant points:

  • At a moderate pace most people can tolerate 40-50g CHO per hour, some can tolerate 60g/hour or more, and some high-end ultra runners can tolerate 90g/hour or more.
  • Generally, as you run faster, your tolerance decreases. (Ie, you probably can't consume CHO as quickly at half marathon pace as you can at marathon or long run pace.)
  • Generally, thinner / more liquidy carbs are tolerated better than thicker ones at faster paces, with sports drink tolerated best. (Ie, the thicker gels that sit just fine in your stomach during a marathon may make you queasy at half marathon pace, & if you struggle with gels, you may do fine with sports drink.)
  • In races shorter than 75 minutes, extra carbs are unlikely to do anything.
  • In races longer than 75 minutes, 30g of CHO per hour is the smallest "effective dose."
  • Above 30g/hour, consuming CHO faster seems to predict better performance, if your stomach can tolerate it.
  • Many runners find that they can improve their carb tolerance with time & practice.
  • There is evidence that a small amount of protein enhances the effect of consuming carbs during an endurance event.

I did the math & found that in half marathons I'd been consuming less than 30g CHO/hour (ie, not enough to make any difference at all) & in marathons, hovering right around the 30g/hour threshold (so enough to do something, but far from optimal). My long runs are getting long enough now that I need to start figuring out & practicing fueling (I've finally gone through an entire box of gels!), so recently I looked up the Santa Rosa course map & aid station / fluid situation & started trying to make some sort of plan.

So as to avoid another Berkeley Debacle, I contacted the race director & was relieved to learn that the course sport drink is Gatorade, like real, actual Gatorade (old school lemon-lime, apparently), and not some low/non-calorie bullshit like G2/Vega/Nuun/etc. (BTW, everybody knows that those things have few or no calories and thus don't count as "fueling", right? K, just checking.)

Based on where the aid stations are, I sketched out a rough plan to keep me somewhere around 55-60g CHO/hour:

    Pre-race: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
    Mile 1: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
    Mile 3.2: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
    Mile 4: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
    Mile 5: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
    Mile 6.3: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g

    ***Hour 1 = 56g***

    Mile 8: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
    Mile 8.5: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
    Mile 10.5: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
    Mile 11.1: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
    Mile 12: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
    Mile 13: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
    Mile 15: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g

    ***Hour 2 = 61g***

    Mile 16: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
    Mile 17: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
    Mile 19: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
    Mile 20: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
    Mile 20.5: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
    Mile 22.5: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g

    ***Hour 3 = 56g***

    Mile 24: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
    Mile 24.5: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
    Mile 25: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g

    ***Hour 3.5 = 38g***

    ***Total = 205g***

So far I have been tolerating 40-50g/hour with no problem, which is a relief considering that I am grossed out by sugar/sweet things a lot of the time & as a result basically don't eat them. Over the next few weeks I'm planning to start trying to take the gels closer & closer together & see whether I can get to 55-60g/hour without feeling sick.

The next thing to figure out is the best way to carry 6 gels. (There will be some gels on the course, but none with protein, so barring emergencies I think I want to just stick to carrying my own.)

In my first marathon, I wore a spibelt & carried them there.

wrong no very bad no thumbs up AT ALL.

Screw that because a) getting a gel out of the spibelt took like 20 minutes & always made me feel like I was about to dump them all out all over the road, and b) horrific chafing. Also it kept sliding up to my rib cage, which was not comfortable at all.

In my second and third, I wore my Roga shorts with the zipper pocket & a top that also had a zipper pocket, so between the two of those I was able to fit maybe four or five, which was functional but not great because it's just still not that easy to reach behind you, unzip a pocket, & get out one gel at a time without spilling the rest everywhere.

Roga shorts with their tell-tale "butt tumor" gel pocket.
I'll probably still wear the Roga shorts for Santa Rosa, but the light white singlet I'm planning on wearing has no pockets. In the past I've tried pinning gels to my waist band & folding them over inside the shorts or sticking them in my sports bra, both of which resulted in some extremely unpleasant chafing that I am not keen to repeat. Once or twice I've taped them to a water bottle, but I won't be carrying a bottle this time, so that's out.

This past Sunday I took some internet advice & taped them to my wrists, which is a no-go because of how heavy it made my arms feel. Another piece of internet advice was to purchase some RaceReady running shorts because they have specially designed mesh pockets in the front made for carrying gels, but I checked out these RaceReady shorts & determined that they were too hideous to wear in public.

So far the most promising idea I've seen is to use an armband cell phone/music player case. I do have one & won't be running with my phone, so maybe if I stick two the Roga pocket & four in the armband case, that will work out. I haven't tried it yet but that maybe next on my list.

What am I missing here? How do normal people carry their gels?

Monday, July 7, 2014

SRM WEEK 8: The crap is coming.

I'm proud to say I ran 45 of 55 assigned miles this week, which is about what I thought would end up happening. And before I say anything else about those 45 miles, I feel like I should reiterate that I'm happy with it & in a good place both physically & mentally. Really!

Where my expectations & reality did not quite line up this week is in how easy those miles would be to rack up. Knowing 55 was probably unrealistic (and probably ill-advised), I'd started thinking of my goal for the week as "only" mid-forties, and hey, what was the harm if I was feeling extra-good some days & ended up in the 47-48 range?

But it wasn't like that. I fought for every single one of those 45 miles. Bought & paid for. Each workout was hard in different a different way & for different reasons, but none of them were easy.

Nothing exemplified the week more than my long run on Sunday. Although my mileage went up this week, it was all an increase in threshold miles, with the long run holding steady at 12-13 miles, which seemed strange to me. Saturday was an easy day & this cycle is short enough as it is, so why not take the opportunity to bump up the long one to 14 or 15? I didn't get it at all. Given how effortless my 13 miler the previous Sunday had felt, I figured that once I got through Saturday's run, I was home free.

Ha ha ha. Ha. Ha ha.

I understand now.

I remember training for my first marathon & thinking, "Ugh, I feel really tired. Better cut back. How am I supposed to train well if I feel so crappy & exhausted?" At this point, I understand that I was asking the wrong question.

Let me just start by admitting that I did not want to do this run. Did not did not did not. I wanted to run errands with Don & get ready for dinner & cocktails with friends later. But instead I was stuck with this stupid run.

It started out not too bad for the first couple of miles, and I felt like I was dealing with the 3 miles of relentless uphill that is the beginning of my usual route relatively well considering how badly I wanted to be doing anything else on Earth that was not that.

Then I hit the headwind & wanted to sit down & cry. Seriously, I don't mind running into the wind on occasion but for the last few weeks it's been 10-20mph headwinds in that part of San Francisco every. single. day, and after a while it just becomes utterly demoralizing.

But it's not like I was going to quit or something so I kept running. Around mile 3 I started feeling tired, then better around 4, pretty good around 5, and then somewhere between 5.5 & 6 I went from "Eh, this isn't so bad" to "There is no possible way on Planet Earth that I am going to finish this run under my own power." And because the universe is not without a sense of humor, this was just as I reached the farthest point from my house, just before I turned a corner (sadly, literally & not figuratively) & began heading uphill for 3 nasty, brutal miles.

My bitterness knew no bounds.

This is when I started stopping every third of a mile or so, not to catch my breath, because it wasn't that kind of tired; this was the marathon-mile-22, legs-like-lead-pipes, nothing-left-in-the-tank kind of tired. (Ie, the kind where resting doesn't really do anything.) I spent most of mile 7 debating just how bad it would have to get, how hopeless I would have to feel before I gave up & just called Don or an Uber.

Around mile 8 I started really struggling to hold good form, which usually means failing to lean forward so I can use mostly my glutes & hamstrings & instead relying on my quads & calves, which is really bad and (I am convinced) what caused both of the major injuries I had last year. At the worst of the incline, I might have been stopping every quarter mile. Eventually I hit the gently rolling part of the park again & managed to start plodding maybe half a mile at a time.

At mile 8.5 I wanted to lay down on the sidewalk & never get up again.

At mile 9 the emotional part of my brain said "SCREW THIS. Not another damn step. Call someone. Now."

To which the logical part responded, "Totally. As soon as we make it to that tree."

"There. We made it to the tree. DONE."

"Absolutely. As soon as we make it to that telephone pole."


"At the end of this block."

I played this game for as long as I could. I was so tired, could barely move my legs, & was starting to have muscle spasms in my back, but hell if I was going home in a car or walking some ungodly distance. Hell. No.

I made it to 12 miles, which left me four blocks from home. No, it would not have killed me to run those blocks (though at the time it kind of felt like it might), but I knew if I started I'd go to 13, which would mean running past my house & doubling back, which I didn't think I could face. Plus at that point I was back on a crowded, pedestrian-heavy street, and I wasn't sure I had it in me to weave in & out of people & didn't trust myself to leap in & out of the bike lane without face-planting.

Even just walking home was hard enough. I'd had plenty of calories & fluids on the run & wasn't hungry or thirsty or in anything more than mild discomfort, but for hours afterward all I could do was sit still and stare off into space & respond to simple questions in monosyllables. At one point I got down on the floor to stretch, then realized I no longer had the energy to move but figured, hey, there were worse places I could be stuck.

The exhaustion during the run was most definitely in my legs, but the after-effects seemed to be more mental than physical. I never got sore & didn't seem to have irritated anything, but I felt utterly lobotomized. Simple sentences didn't parse. My emotions were like dead fish.

Apparently Coach does know what he's doing. 13 miles at the end of a 40 mile week with only a fake 5K to speak of in terms of threshold running? No big deal. 12 miles at the end of a 45 mile week with 11 of them at threshold pace? BIG FREAKING DEAL. If last week's long run felt like running the front half of the race, then this week's definitely felt like the back half. And although it sucked royally, I know the feeling I was fighting on that run is one I'll eventually find myself fighting in Santa Rosa, so I might as well get cozy with it.

So yeah. The question, my sweet little angel face, is not how do you not feel like crap during marathon training; the question is how do you learn to keep running, on auto-pilot, without thinking, once you do start feeling like crap, because (unless you are a total sandbagger) the crap is out there, and it is coming for you.

* * * WEEK 8 * * *
(7 to go)

Grand Total: 45 miles

    * 11 threshold
    * 13 long
    * 21 easy


    * 2.5 hours strength/stretch/roll

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

Tuesday: 11 threshold (2 wu, 5 x 2K @ LT pace w/ 1:15 jog recoveries, 2 cd) + stretch/roll

    You guys this workout was not joking around.

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / p.m 8 easy

    On Wednesday Don's band was playing at Music in the Park in Redwood City, which is about 3 miles from my office. So instead of going home to cold, foggy San Francisco to do my run, I worked late & then did couple of miles down to the waterfront & back, then ran to the park to watch them play for a bit. 70° & sunny? Yes please!

Don is the second blur in black from the left.

Thursday: work from home / rest / stretch & roll

    I think Tuesday's 11 mile tempo run finally caught up with me on Thursday, because after feeling fine Wednesday I woke up Thursday stiff & sore in the hips/posterior chain areas, & had some particularly concerning soreness-bordering-on-strain-pain in my right adductor. The adductor pain freaked me out because that's part of what precipitated the Strain to End All Strains last spring. I think it would have been easier for me to make the decision to take a rest day if I'd actually gone to work that day, because I could have done some biking at the gym. As it was, no running meant doing nothing (except some stretching & rolling), which I'm trying to avoid as much as possible. I knew I'd still have plenty of mileage for the week, though, so in the end my rational brain won out & I decided to give my sore muscles an extra day to heal.

Friday: 9 8 tempo /speed (2 wu, 4 @ LT pace, 10 x 100m @ mile pace w/ 0:30 jog recoveries 1.5 2 cd)

    Ohhhhhhh how I did not want to run on Friday. Did. Not. Partly because we were having a barbecue in the afternoon, which meant I had to do my run in the morning, which I hate. Partly because I was still a touch sore (though much better than Thursday) in the right adductor/quad/hip flexor/all the thigh parts. I knew that the fast 100m's were not a good idea with my right leg still feeling a bit sketchy & I wasn't sure about the tempo miles, but I figured I'd do the warm-up & see how I felt after that.

    Ultimately I did the tempo miles, but tried to keep in mind the lessons I learned from Tuesday's long intervals at the same pace, specifically going by effort when running uphill and/or in to the wind. All in all it was not too bad, and I was kind of surprised at how relatively easy it felt to run four straight miles at this pace as compared to 1.25 mile intervals at the same pace on Tuesday.

    Even downhill with a tailwind I probably should not have run that last mile that fast, but I slowly passed this guy in the Panhandle, who then got all freaked out & had to sprint back & pass me, & then I slowly passed him again, & he sprinted back to pass me, & eventually I just got sick of this & wanted him gone for good. (Partly because he was making a lot of noises like he was about to collapse & die.)

Saturday 8 6 easy + stretch/roll

    I did the math for this day all wrong & ended up with exactly one hour in which to squeeze in some running between social engagements. As a result I probably ran it slightly too hard (also because it was kind of hot), but, hey, some non-insignificant number of miles were run & no loved ones were needlessly alienated. Still with the little niggle in the adductor region, so more stretching & rolling ensued later on.

Sunday: 12 long

I have to say that I'm kind of relieved that this week's workouts are more run-of-the-mill: some 200m's at the track on Tuesday & a few mile repeats on Friday. I appreciate the lesson of this week's long run but it would be nice not to find myself repeating it next weekend.

Friday, July 4, 2014

One Bite At A Time.

First things first: I knew you'd all want to know that in a recent study on active vs. sedentary lifestyles, most marathoners fell into what is basically the "active couch potato" category, ie they were moderately active for maybe an hour or so per day on average due to training & lightly active for maybe another hour or so (cooking dinner, taking out trash, etc.), but spent most of their other waking hours sitting, which is apparently the worst thing it is possible for a human to do on planet earth.

Apparently this was not surprising as there is incredibly high overlap between distance runners and people who do white collar/computer-type desk jobs. I feel like I'm not quite as bad as that thanks to strength work, karate, the occasional bit of biking, & having a standing desk (which I use maybe 50% of the time) but now I'm wondering if I should get one of those little office treadmills you use to turn your standing desk into a walking desk so I can maybe not die of high blood pressure / overproductive pancreas / herniated disc / etc.

Like Great America in your office, OMG so funnnnnn!!!!!!!!


It is a long road yet to SRM, but as June came to a close, I had to let myself take a moment to look back over the month with a little bit of pride and a lot of relief.

155.2 miles

21 hours & change + another ~20 hours of strength/karate/cross-training.

(In case you're wondering, the color coding is for tracking shoe mileage.)

No, it's not tons and tons by any objective standard; it's not even enough to reach the 2,000 miles-a-year club if I did it consistently. But it's still nearly double anything I've done in the last year. Although numbers like these wouldn't have phased me 14 months ago, I've learned that right now I just cannot look at a given month or week of training & go "Check, I am totally going to run 40/46/50/150/200/whatever miles this week/month." I can't even think about what I'm supposed to do tomorrow. It's utterly panic inducing.

What I can do is think, "6 mile track workout today? I can do that." "8 mile easy run today? I can probably do that." "13 mile long run today? I will try to do that." And if I keep saying that to myself every day, somehow, at the end of the week or month, things just magically add up.

Yes, on a couple of days I've had to say "Nope, tried, can't do it" or "Maybe I could do it, but probably not smart." But most of the time putting the big scary numbers out of my mind & just focused on one day at a time has kept me from feeling too overwhelmed. The only way to eat an elephant (and marathon training still does feel like a big, scary elephant) is one bite at a time.

Dibs on the short loin.

In a certain amount of theory, I am supposed to run some 230+ miles in July. I suspect I won't quite get there because I've already fallen a little behind the weekly increases (for very good reasons that I don't feel bad about at all), but if I could get up to around 200ish, that would be plenty.

The main challenge with July is that my research team & I will be in Vancouver the third week of the month presenting a paper & in then in LA (well; Covina) the last week of the month. My days will be packed but I should have most of my evenings free, so if I can find some good local routes (17 miles on a hotel treadmill is a thing that is #nothappening), I should be able to get by.

So yeah. Anyone know any good local run clubs in Vancover or Covina? :D

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Thick of It.

So what does Coach do on the heels of my highest mileage week & longest run (excepting Berkeley Half) in over a year?

Why, naturally, he assigns an 11 mile tempo run. (Ish. 2 warm up, 5 x 2K @ LT threshold / 1:15 recoveries, 2 cool down.)

I spent most of Tuesday dreading and/or fretting about this. I'd just run 13 miles two days before, done a realistically-harder-than-tempo-effort-slash-race the day before that, and last week my long run was 11 miles. Plus, although most of the time that LT/half marathon/"comfortably hard" range is totally my bag, I haven't done much running in that range post-stress fracture and 6.2 miles of it sounded like kind of a lot.

Blessedly, my warm-up went well & I didn't feel sore or overly tired or have the super-tight Achilles/lower calves to deal with that I've had on the track just about every Tuesday. Running in the mid-eights felt comfortable but not super easy, so I was still kind of nervous about trying to crank it down to the 7:25 range.

Ultimately, I'm pretty sure I kind of botched this workout. I was so up in my head and freaking out about struggling with the paces that I ended up focusing too much on the pace & not enough on my effort level, which, since most of these intervals were either uphill or into a vicious headwind or both, means that I absolutely ran some of them too hard.

I actually did 1.25's instead of 2K's because the stupid
Garmin 220 will only auto lap at multiples of .05 miles. Arrrrrgh.

Also I hate constantly looking at my watch during recovery intervals so I usually just count in my head, and apparently my counting was kind of off (though actually not quite as off as it looks, because I totally en-long-ened some of the recovery intervals slightly on purpose in order to not start the hard interval in a stupid spot or at a stupid not-nice distance mark like 5.77). Also I was running in the Park so there were water & traffic light pauses as well.

BUT! It was still a stupid long threshold run on tired legs, I still hit all the paces (actually, beat, slightly, on average) even with all the hills & ridiculous wind, and finished the run with no pain or discomfort anywhere & feeling, if anything, fresher & stronger than when I'd started. (??????!?!!!?????!?)

So I'm putting this one, if not in the WIN column, at the very least in the WIN*(?) column.

Running is weird.