Thursday, January 22, 2015

NVM WEEK 10: Last week happened, I guess, and O HEY! I ran a race!

Last week wasn't too bad except for the fact that I'd intended to run a few more easy miles Sunday afternoon/evening to bump the mileage up into the forties, but as you'll see, that didn't end up happening. Still, I'm mostly happy with it, I think. I guess? Whatever. Fake training, y'all.

~*~*~NVM WEEK 10 OF 16~*~*~

Grand Total: 38 miles

    * 22 easy
    * 16 goal marathon pace

Monday: Strength work.

    No karate as I was stuck at home cursing at Final Cut Pro editing video. (No but if anyone is a Final Cut Pro wizard, tho, hit me up.)

Tuesday: 2 wu, 6 GMP, 2cd = 10 total

    This run was damn well happening if I had to murder someone. I was still clearly not 100% yet (a touch of wheezing, & heart rates a bit higher than they should be), but it was not awful and I mostly hit the right paces.

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

    After 4.5 months of learning to negotiate life with a newborn, our Fearless Leader returned to karate on Wednesday night, and it was awesome.

Thursday: 8 easy

    I tried to get up for a third strength session this week & totally failed. (I blame it on being exhausted from moving crap.) But, my eight easy miles felt pretty good. Like, better than easy runs have felt since before the holidays. I think I am actually almost legitimately over being sick.

Friday: 8 easy

    Another failed morning strength session. BUT, another pretty good easy run. It started out kind of not great/not awful, but by the halfway point it actually started to feel pretty good. (Except, I have been wear testing these GOD AWFUL shoes and even after only 40 miles or so, I am sooooo over them.)

Saturday: Rest hahahaha no, grab a box bitch!

    I sort of wanted to run Saturday, but I didn't feel great and we had more moving stuff to do and I was afraid I might screw up Sunday's race if I overdid it.

Sunday: 2 easy / 10 race/GMP

    I was surprised at how good I felt after this race and really, honestly could have and should have put in a few more miles since I wasn't doing a true long run this weekend. But our movers were coming for the big stuff at 8am Monday morning, so we spent all day frantically finishing up everything that had to be done in order for that to happen. (Which, in retrospect, was not the greatest way to follow up my hardest workout since July. By Monday night, my legs were epically, utterly trashed. I will be soooo glad when all this moving business is over with.)

If I have to look at even one more cardboard box I might actually spork my eyes out.

I honestly, truly, cannot even.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Race Report: Foster City Ten Miler

My goals for this race were thus:
  • D Goal: Don't have any sudden horrible pains/injuries & have to quit.
  • C Goal: Finish around 1:20 (8:00 pace) with fairly even splits.
  • B Goal: Run 8:00 pace for at least half the race, then negative split.
  • A Goal: ?????

And I am totally going to make you read *at least* halfway through this post in order to learn which of these I actually achieved.

Because I am paranoid about getting lost & confused, I arrived in Foster City at 7am for the 8:30 start. This ended up being good because a lot of the streets that get you reasonably close to the start were blocked off, and I had to drive in ever larger circles for a while before I found available parking within a reasonable walking distance.

Staging area

I started warming up a little before eight, hoping to get in three easy miles before the race. As it happened, I spent too much time dawdling, being indecisive about when to check my bag, whether I needed to hit the restrooms again, etc., and only ended up getting about two miles done before they called everyone to the start. I was slightly concerned because, whether from race day excitement or albuterol or whatever, my heart rate was really high from the beginning of my warm-up, although it didn't feel like I was working any harder than usual.

Start/finish. Perfect race weather!

On the way to the start line I ran ran into Jen and Jess, and once at the start we found Margot as well. We wished each other luck and a few minutes later were off and running.

I had a very loose plan of starting out somewhere in the 8:00-8:10 range, but that plan was foiled because apparently my body thought I was running a half or 10K at actual race pace and about a quarter mile in I looked at my watch and saw I was running something like 7:20 pace. (Huzzah for being out of racing practice!) I forced myself to slow down to the right pace, but still ticked off the first mile 10-20 seconds faster than I'd intended.

For the first few miles, staying right around 8:00 most of the time felt pretty easy (which was the whole point). It helped that sometime in mile 2 I fell in with a woman who was running just about exactly my pace. I don't know whether I was pacing off her or she was pacing off me, but either way keeping a nice, steady 8:00 just felt easier because I was running right with someone. Then sometime in mile four, she fell back, which was too bad.

    Mile 1: 7:50
    Mile 2: 7:59
    Mile 3: 7:58

Not long after, I locked on to a dude in the same way. I ran with him for a couple of miles (and credit him for pushing me maybe just a few seconds faster per mile than I would have run otherwise), and then eventually he fell back as well. There was a woman in a green shirt who I'd been able to just see waaaaaay out in front of me for a while, and after a little ways of running mostly on my own, I started to catch up with her, and then paced right with her for a little while before she fell back as well. Mentally I'd intended to break the ten miles up into my usual six-mile GMP run plus four more, but the further along I got, the less meaningful that seemed, and my game ended up being more about steadily climbing a ladder of pace buddies running right around my pace until I lost them.

(Side note #1: I have occasionally heard/read that it's bad etiquette in a race to run right with someone for a long time without asking. But if you're actually racing hard, how are you even capable of asking anyone anything? Also, it is a competition, right? So as long as you're not interfering with them, why would you ask permission of a competitor to do something totally legal? I am curious where folks stand on this.)

    Mile 4: 8:02
    Mile 5: 8:04

Around 6.5ish I found myself running completely alone. Fortunately the course was pretty straight forward for the most part, but there was a point where I'd reeled in another woman enough to basically follow her, and then suddenly it occurred to me that I couldn't actually see her bib & for all I knew she might have been just a random person out running. Fortunately when we got to a fork, some nice moms playing with their kids at the nearby playground made giant hand gestures & called to us, "That way!"

It was around this time that I started to think about maybe trying to run a little faster. Eight-minute miles were certainly not effortless, but I was holding the pace just fine without feeling awful and I felt very confident that finishing under 1:20 would be no problem. I didn't want to go 100% all-out and collapse/vomit at the end, but I felt good and decided that from that point on I'd just run at a "comfortably hard" effort without worrying about the pace.

I ran with that same woman for a little while but by the time we hit mile marker 7 she'd fallen back as well. She wasn't falling fast, though, so I used that as my motivation in the last miles & decided that as long as I was having no problem running eight minute miles I'd make holding off any competitors and not getting passed by anyone my new goal. (Though to be honest, things did start to get more unpleasant around then because the respiratory problems I've been having for the last few weeks flared up & I started having asthma problems. So that sucked.)

    Mile 6: 8:01
    Mile 7: 7:54

(Side note #2: Because these days I'm nearly always running for time goals rather than place/beating people goals, I don't have much knowledge or experience re: "strategic" racing in the sense of outrunning competitors using savvy/cleverness. In this race, though, I ended up running side-by-side with so many different people for fairly long periods of time that I actually found myself thinking about it some. For example, if you're pacing right with someone but you're breathing slowly and comfortably and their breathing is on the quick side, you may be able to drop them by gradually speeding up, because either they'll try to match you and realize they can't/don't want to, or they stay with you for as long as they can but eventually reach a point where they have to slow down. That was kind of what happened with that last woman. It seemed a little mean, but I didn't feel that bad about it since it is in fact a competition.)

I felt in miles eight & nine that I was speeding up & running harder & was a little surprised to see that my pace was still hovering right in that 7:50-8:00 range. (This was probably a mix of asthma & not having run more than six miles at this pace in a long time.) I kept thinking, "Oh, I'm not working that hard, at this point I should speed up," but then I would try to & it seemed like the higher gears just kind of weren't there. (For that, I blame/credit lots of base training and no speed work.)

    Mile 8: 7:51
    Mile 9: 7:55

Clearly, though, some fragment of the higher gears was in there somewhere, because as soon as I passed mile marker nine I found myself speeding up with no problem, and then even more as soon as the finish line came into view. Over the course of that mile I went from 7:50 pace to around 5:30 when I crossed the mat. (Side note #3: I cannot even remember the last time I saw the numbers "5:30" appear in the "pace" field of my watch. I can't even run a mile that fast.)

    Mile 10: 7:33
    Last .05: 00:17 (5:40 pace)

Having run the last bit that fast and having done absolutely no speed work since July, I was kind of stunned that I didn't feel bad at all after I crossed the mat. Certainly not as bad as when I've run hard half marathons in the past (stumbling/puking/seeing spots/generally wanting to die/etc.). I mean I was maybe breathing semi-hard for 20 seconds or so, but after that I really felt pretty much normal.

    Garmin: 10.05 miles / 1:19:23 / 7:54 pace
    Official: 10 miles / 1:19:21 / 7:56 pace

    Overall: 38/183
    Women: 6/78
    A/G: 4/27

So.....yeah. I guess you'd call pretty much all my goals met, right?

Catching up with Jen, Jess, and Margot after the race. We all agreed that it was a great day
weather-wise and a speedy (if not particularly entertaining) course, & I think everyone
had a good race & met most of their goals.

Bottom Line: I think this race went as well as I could have reasonably expected, given my plan. I ran ten miles at my goal marathon pace with no problem and even finished fast and strong. I proved to myself that I can do that without stopping for traffic lights and water, even on un-tapered legs.

While I wouldn't say it was easy and I still have a long way to go before I can expect to do it for 26 miles, it was a manageable type of hard that never really felt all that terrible. (In fact, I think there's a certain amount of the hardness that was purely mental uncertainty, the thinking I could probably do it, hopefully do it, but still having a part of my brain that was worried I couldn't and wanted me to slow down a little just in case. For me this race was as much about working on the mental aspects of harder extended efforts as it was about the physical. Ie, "Yes, it's harder than 'easy' pace. Yes, you can do it for a long time.")

Still, it was the hardest workout I've done since July, and I felt pretty beaten up the next day in the shin splints/feet. I definitely needed a couple of extra rest days after to let my legs and feet heal. (Look, ma, I have learned something!)

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

Location: Foster City, CA

Date: Mid January (January 18, 2015 this year)

Prices: 2015 prices from the web site:

Deadlines/sellout factor: At this point, it doesn't seem like it's in any danger of selling out. Spots in both the 10 miler & 5K were still available as of race morning.

Field Size: Pretty small - 183 starters in the 10 miler & 124 in the 5K (though many more people were listed in the results who apparently just didn't start).


The start/finish area was set up in Leo J. Ryan Memorial Park on Shell Boulevard in Foster City, in the parking lot of what looked like a community center. (Google Maps didn't seem to know the name of the building.) The bib tables were obvious & easily accessible; as with every other race I've ever run that has encouraged me to pick up my bib in the days before the race in order to "avoid the race day rush," I walked right up when I arrived and had my bib in all of thirty seconds. At its worst the line looked maybe 3 people deep.

There was a bag check, although for a while I was confused about how to use it since, as of 30 minutes before the gun, it looked like this:

I was parked close but not so close that it was convenient to leave everything in my car, so I kept going back and forth about whether to just leave it sitting somewhere among the timing tent's gear (which I've done in the past at small races and no one seems to bother it) or deal with throwing everything in my car. When I finished warming up, though, someone was there taking bags, so I ended up checking it, which was easy and straightforward.

Two sets of bathrooms were open in the community center (woohoo flush toilets!). There was no line when I used them around 7:30; by 8:15 one of the women's had quite a long line, but the other (which was maybe less obvious) had only a few people waiting.

The Course:

I thought this was a pretty nice course. Some of it runs through local neighborhoods but a lot of it is along paved trails by the Bay, so it was fairly pleasant and there weren't too many turns to negotiate. It's also completely flat except for a short overpass that you cross at the very beginning and again at the very end.

The trail that makes up a good chunk of the course. I used to run this trail all the time
when I lived on the Peninsula in the mid-'00s, so that part was nostalgic for me. :)

The down side is that there is NO crowd support (except for the occasional cops who are managing car traffic, almost every single one of whom cheered or said something encouraging when I passed them. They rocked!) and because of the small field size you can get REALLY spread out and there were plenty of times when I was running either completely by myself or with one other person in sight. For the most part it was obvious where to go, or there were cops at the intersections to tell us. The only time I wasn't sure was when I was running behind the one woman & then realized I hadn't actually seen her bib, & the mom in the park pointed us in the direction that the runners ahead of us had gone.

The ten mile course had four aid stations with water and honest-to-gods Gatorade, which was plenty for me. They were spaced well and easy to access, which is all I really cared about.


I couldn't find any directions about parking on the website, but Corrigan sent out an email a few days before the race with the following info:

    "You can park at Leo Ryan Park (must come North on Shell), City Hall and/or Library/Community Center lots. There may be some parking at the PJCC but due to construction you'd have to walk a long way around to get the start line."

It turned out that there really was plenty of parking in nearby business/civic parking lots (they were pretty empty that early on a Sunday), but it took me a while to find it because I don't really know the area well and many of the roads were blocked off for the course.


A reasonably nice tech T (I think the colors look cool), plus snacks at the finish.

The website said everyone would get a beer, but I did not see any at the finish.

No medal for this race specifically, but the website says that runners who finish both this 10-Miler and the Sunnyvale 10-Miler (it says June in one place & August 10 in the other, so not sure about the date) will receive a medal for running both.

One thing that was conspicuously absent was some sort of photographer situation. I don't think that necessarily means they need to pay a fancy schmancy service like MarathonFoto or anything, but I think runners would appreciate even just having volunteers taking pictures out on the course in a few spots & then, say, uploading them to a public Picasa album that runners could look from. (This is what Brazen does and I think everybody loves it. There tend to be more photos than at big races who hire race photo companies, they're free for runners, and it keeps costs down.)

Overall Assessment:

Whether or not you will enjoy this race probably depends a lot on what you want out of it and what things about races are important to you. I basically wanted a longer, timed, supported GMP run on a flat, fast course, and that's what I got. If you want medals and bands and big crowds and whatnot, you will probably be disappointed.

For my money, $70 does seem a bit steep for a 10-miler when you know there aren't medals, photographers, a huge post-race spread, etc. to pay for. In comparison, most of the small, no-frills half marathons I've run in the past have run between $40 and $60 (and you still get pictures). For me the scheduling was right, so I sucked it up (after all, I'd been planning to run a half instead, which would have been close to that or maybe more), but I wish I'd been able to get the early bird pricing.

In conclusion: Racing FREAKING RULES, and it felt so great to do it again, even if I wasn't going all-out. My next decision re: racing is whether or not to register for the Santa Cruz Half in April. I'll be over a month post-marathon so it could be that I'm reasonably well recovered and also could potentially be in good enough shape to have a not-terrible race.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

RaceRaves & a Great Contest!

Friends, I am not a big-name blogger and it's not like I find myself constantly inundated with piles of emails for promotions and giveaways. But I do get my fair share, and most of them are for products or services that I don't feel like the folks who read this blog would be that interested in or that I just cannot get behind philosophically. But recently, I've joined a site called RaceRaves (created by Jen's friends Mike & Katie!), and Mike asked if I wouldn't mind spreading the word if I was finding the site useful/enjoyable. (You can read Mike's own post about it here.)

Basically, it's a little like Yelp for races (but much less douchey). You look up a race you've run (it's a pretty good database so far & growing, and you can always request to add a race if it's not currently in there), rate it on a few different aspects (difficulty, production, scenery, etc.), and write a little review for it. (You can also add links to more detailed race reports or images if you want.) There are also options to include your time or rate your performance for a race if you want. All the races you've rated show up in your private "Staging Area" (dashboard/home page).

If you search for a race, you'll see all the reviews people have written along with its average rating, a map of its location, and historical weather data for recent years (<--BRILLIANT).

Now, this next part, I really should not tell you. But I am a good person, so I will. Until January 22nd, they are running a sweet contest with prizes that include an early bird entry to a Brazen Racing event, shoes, a RoadRunner Sports gift certificate, etc. All you have to do is join & review your races (at least one of which I think has to be a Brazen event). (Contest details here.) I still have a huge head start on most of you, so better get typing!

Also, ICYMI, I am running a race (!) tomorrow, so wish me luck. :)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Foster City Ten Miler: The Race Plan

Friends, I am tired of posting about training.

I mean obviously I am going to continue to do it because writing about it & having virtual conversations about it helps me process how my running life is going (or not going, depending). But last month was CIM, which means that leading up to it I was reading all kinds of posts about people getting ready to race and setting goals and then later race reports about how it went and all I could think about was *GOD*, I want to race again.

I want to write posts about my big, hairy, audacious goals for x race/distance & travel plans & how am I going to dress and fuel, and after that posts about how awesome or heartbreaking it was, how I utterly smashed my goal or missed it by the tiniest hair & how I'm plotting revenge in a few weeks. In 2012 I ran nine races, eight of which I really, truly trained hard for & went into ready to kick ass & take names.

At this point it's been over a year & a half since I did that. In 2014, I ran a grand total of four races -- two just to celebrate being able to run again, one as a training run, and one demoralizing DNF. Don't get me wrong--things have been going pretty well for me this fall and winter in terms of just trying to build up mileage & get my aerobic base back, and I expect to get back to really, *actually* training for races in not too much longer. But it's required (and continues to require) a lot of patience.

*Taps foot compulsively while repeatedly checking watch.*

And lo, my first race of 2015, the Foster City 10-Miler, is nigh!

The closer this race has gotten, the more excited I've felt. I know I'm not in shape right now to race the way I have in the past (and hope to be doing later this year), but I'm still SUPER psyched to actually be putting on a bib & standing at a starting line for the first time since August.


My secret, kind-of-scary goal has always been to try to run the whole thing at goal marathon pace (8:00/mile) or faster. I know I'm in pretty good aerobic shape, but I haven't done a lick of speed work since July & only a very few GMP runs over the last few weeks, so the question for me right now is, how long can I keep up that pace?

And I go back & forth on how I feel about it. Sometimes I'll do a six-mile GMP run & think, "Wow, this is pretty hard, and I'm only three miles in," & the idea of doing seven more miles at that pace is horrifying. But then I'll finish the last mile & think, "Eh, I feel okay, I could totally go farther." Wash/rinse/repeat.

Overall, I'm optimistic about it. I think the difference between this and a goal race is that (if all has gone according to plan), I go into a goal race knowing what I'm capable of if everything goes right. There is no guessing. I have a goal pace & I try to stick to it from the very start, and if I happen to have a little extra left at the end, great. I don't take any chances until maybe the last 20% of the race. With this one, though, I don't really know, and I'm cool with that. It's totally possible I'll run 8:00 miles for a while, feel great, and negative split the whole thing; it's also possible that I'll hold that pace for a while & then 7 or 8 or 9 miles later, my body will go, "Sorry, that's all she wrote!"

I don't want to plan for that, though. I want to start at 8:00 pace & just do it until I can't--no "checking in" at mile six or "listening to my body" or adjusting based on how I feel. Nope; eight minute miles until I can't. That is all. And if I have to run 10:00 or 11:00 miles after that, that's cool! At least then I'll know where I stand.

I like to set goals for races, but since this one is more of a "see what I've got" kind of gauge situation rather than an all-out race, my goals have kind of a different flavor than usually. So here's what I've got:

  • D Goal: Don't have any sudden horrible pains/injuries & have to quit.
  • C Goal: Finish around 1:20 (8:00 pace) with fairly even splits.
  • B Goal: Run 8:00 pace for at least half the race, then negative split.
  • A Goal: ????? Hella negative split???? The whole point is to get in some marathon pace miles, so I don't want to run any faster than that until halfway. So I dunno, negative split and also not feel like death?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

NVM WEEK 9: pppphhhhhbbbbbttttt.....

You're making me tired.
In case it wasn't obvious, that was the sound of this past week (running-wise, yes, but also kind of in general).

This will be short & sweet because, honestly, there just isn't much to say. It was one of those weeks when the universe seemed to be sending me big, giant red flags to just not bother trying to run at all, and for the most part, I listened to it because I know impending disaster when I smell it.

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

    I'd planned to get up early for some strength work at the gym, but then I didn't sleep Sunday night (again), and honestly, felt so awful that the only reason I actually went in to work was because it was the first day back after the holidays & there was a bunch of stuff going on that I just could not miss unless I was actively debilitatingly ill. I wouldn't have even gone to karate except that none of the other instructors could make it. (Don & I compared symptoms to see which of us was the least sick & I won. Or lost, I suppose.)

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

    Thankfully I was so exhausted Monday night that I passed out early and actually slept a reasonable amount. The eight miles, though, really sucked. I'd thought I was getting better but I could barely breathe the whole time (asthma/respiratory problems) and every step felt incredibly hard. On top of that, I started having pain in my right hip/thigh/adductor (the messed up one) for the first time in a while, and also really bad shin splints in my left leg (which hasn't been a problem in over three years now). Basically everything hurt and it felt awful and I really, really had to push myself to even finish eight easy miles. (Over time I've kind of learned that when old things suddenly all start hurting at once, it usually just means I'm generally tired & running with crappy form.) On top of THAT, I then had to move a bunch of boxes from the old house to the new one, which aggravated everything even further. (Maybe I can count that as more strength work?? Eh?? EHHHH?? Okay fine.)

Wednesday: a.m. doctor / p.m. karate

    Because I've been getting so fed up with my insomnia, I went to the doctor Wednesday morning to see if they could adjust something & maybe fix it. We are trying some new things & hopefully that will help. :-/ Still not feeling great, still moving boxes.

Thursday: Rest / work from home

    Woke up feeling worse in the respiratory department but not completely debilitated, so decided to work from home. Between not being able to breathe and still limping a little thanks to the shin splints / right hip pain, trying to run seemed like a bad idea. Alas, there will still more boxes to move.

Friday: a.m. aborted strength workout / be sick at home

    Woke up early morning feeling worse than ever, but also feeling guilty about working at home twice already and getting in one strength workout so far that week. So, in a moment of monumentally poor judgment, I dragged myself out of bed and all the way to the gym in Redwood City. Usually physical activity makes me feel better, but after 20 minutes of giving it an honest try, every little movement was making me pant and wheeze, I couldn't breathe through my nose, and had a splitting headache. So I drove back home, called into work, and went to bed.

Saturday: Rest / move

    I was starting to feel better Friday night & had all kinds of grand plans for getting in 10 easy miles on Saturday before my 20 miler on Sunday. And I definitely did feel better in the asthma/respiratory department, but just a few quick strides down the hallway told me that I was still having a lot of shin splints pain and my right hip was still unhappy as well. Which, honestly, was fine, because we had a lot of house stuff we wanted to get done and I would have felt really bad sticking Don with it, especially since I was planning to stick him with it for something like 4 hours on Sunday.

Sunday: 20 long 10 easy

    Didn't sleep much Saturday night, woke up feeling crappy (but at least not sick), & proceeded to go back to sleep until noon. I had dinner plans with some fellow runner friends, so I knew if I was going to actually take a crack at the 20, I pretty much had to get up, eat, & get running ASAP. I definitely felt better than I had; there was some tibia / hip pain, but it was manageable and not awful, so I did give myself some props for being so sick I couldn't run responsible and resting instead of trying to run for the past three days. About three miles in, though, I just started to feel awful. Every step felt super hard and even running 11:00 miles, my heart rate was through the roof and I could not for the life of me slow it down. I probably could have forced myself through 20 miles of that, but it didn't seem like a particularly good idea, so instead I forced myself through 10 miles which was tough enough as it was. I know it was the right decision, but I still finished super annoyed. (But hey, at least I had a little extra time before dinner, so there was that.)

The good news, though! I'm feeling a lot better this week, so hopefully that means at least all the skipping runs & sleeping a lot & calling in sick actually accomplished something besides making me feel like a lazy slob.

(Still waiting on that normal week, BTW. :-/ )

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Straight Dope on Pithy Motivational Quotes (Part II)

As we begin a new year & a running blogger's fancy turns to thoughts of goal-setting and motivation, I am reminded of the deluge of Pithy Motivational Quotes with which my social media feed and I will no doubt soon be assaulted. If you missed the first round of this last January, I'll refer you to that post for a recap of my position on the matter. Though this kind of sums it up nicely:

Without further ado: The Straight Dope on Pithy Motivational Running/Fitness Quotes.

Pithy Quote:

Real Talk: There is a pretty remarkable correspondence between those who TRAIN INSANE!!!1! & those who end up sidelined with an injury and/or a chronic case of burnout. The only reliable exceptions are 1) legitimately baddass, seasoned athletes who have gradually worked their way up over time to a training schedule that may look to outsiders like !!INSANITY!! but in reality is completely appropriate given that particular athlete's background and experience, and 2) people who are convinced their schedule is a lot more !!INSANE!! than it actually is. Also, there's an enormous spectrum between !!TRAIN INSANE!! and 'remain the same.' But I guess "Reasonable and responsible plan taking into consideration both current fitness/ability level and achievable goals, or remain the same!" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Pithy Quote:

Real Talk: This lady has clearly never been in an outdoor hot tub in January with a beer after six hours of skiing. (Also, sometimes workouts just make you feel like ass. That makes you normal.)

Pithy Quote:

Real Talk: Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? I mean, yes, as with most of this stuff, I see the tiny grain of truth they're getting at; day-to-day progress is not usually noticeable and it takes time to see measurable improvement, but if you really aren't seeing progress with a training plan or whatever over a reasonable time period, that is actually a very good reason to stop & see about doing something different.

Pithy Quote:

Real Talk: No, dude. I mean I can see the first line if we're talking about racing or hard intervals or what have you, but if something hurts when you stop, either literally or figuratively, you probably need a) a medical professional or b) a good shrink.

Pithy Quote:

Real Talk: If this is true, I can only assume you only ever go on very, very easy runs.

Pithy Quote:

Real Talk: Again...I mean I see what you're getting at here, but I can't be the only one here spotting some real logical inconsistencies. Limits are by definition things you can't defy. That's why they're called limits. It's one thing to believe your limit was x, and then find out through hard work & determination that, no, in fact, x is not your limit at all. Which is awesome! But that is not a case of defying your limits; it is a case of finding that what you believed to be your limit actually was not, which is not the same thing. I also think that a big part of growing up and becoming an adult is pushing your boundaries and doing a little exploration in order to find out what, exactly, those limits are so that you don't find yourself unexpectedly crashing into them. (Been there. Done that. Not recommended.) Just because you've done that exploratory work and found some of those limits doesn't make you lame.

Pithy Quote:

Real Talk: No but some people really are obsessed tho.

Pithy Quote:

Real Talk: It's a nice little fairy tale (and an extremely American one) that anyone can BE anything and ACHIEVE anything if they just TRY hard enough (and, y'know, spend enough money). IT IS NOT EFFING TRUE. You are not, in fact, 100% completely up to you. There are certain things in life you can control, but genes are real and circumstances are real and all that is going to have an impact. What I find especially insidious about this one is the implication that, if you don't have a particular type of body and wish you did, obviously it's completely your own fault & you just haven't worked hard enough. Friends, this is bullshit of the nastiest stripe. For the most part, you can improve your health through physical activity, but there is no training plan on earth that can magick the set of genes a person was born with into different ones. We're all just doing the best we can with what we've got, here, okay?

Pithy Quote:

Real Talk: Someone has been going to entirely the wrong sort of restaurants. Come to dinner with me sometime, you poor deprived thing, & maybe we can work on this dysfunctional food-and-exercise-are-matter-and-anti-matter construct you've got going on.

Run across any other "runspirational" / "fitspirational" platitudes lately that kind of make you want to vomit? Because sooner or later I am determined to mock them all.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

NVM WEEK 8: happy new year; house; germs; winds of biblical proportions

Week 8 was my last abnormal holiday/vacation week of training (er...for now...), and I wasn't sure how it was going to work out, mileage-wise. In its favor was the fact that we were done traveling & back at home, and I took the entire week off from work (since we were flying on 12/29 & my office had 12/31 & 1/1 off anyway); going against it was the fact that it contained New Year's Eve (always treacherous from a running perspective) and the closing date on our new house (exciting!!! But super busy).

And, of course, wouldn't you know that after two plane trips and spending the week around approximately 17,392 children, Don & I both woke up Tuesday morning with sore throats, stuffy heads, and in my case, intermittent asthma.

No, this week was far from a perfect, but it could have been a lot worse, all things considered, and some parts of it were pretty awesome. The crown jewel was definitely my eighteen mile long run on Sunday, wherein I felt horrendously guilty about ditching Don & house stuff for 3.5 hours, even with his blessing.

Things did not get off to an auspicious start. I left about an hour and a half later than planned due to said house stuff and also was kind of horrified to feel myself getting hungry less than a mile in. Between that, the uncomfortably cold weather, and still feeling kind of sick, part of me was not at all convinced I wasn't just going to crash & burn. I figured if it got really bad, though, I could just call him to come scoop me off whatever patch of sidewalk I happened to collapse on.

Because of the late hour I decided to just run down to the park & then do laps of the east side (~3.7 miles each), rather than risk being on the west side in the dark. (Not that it's objectively more dangerous or anything; there's just more foliage and fewer people and the street lamps there seem to be out more often, so I never feel super comfortable running down there in the dark.) As with my 17 miler three weeks ago, I kept waiting for that achey, sloggy, ugh-just-let-it-end long-run feeling to set in, but lap after lap went by & it never did.

By mile 13 I still felt pretty normal, so I decided to try 3 miles at goal marathon pace & see how that felt. It felt hard but doable (8:15 uphill, 7:55 downhill, 7:59 flattish), and after that the last two easy miles were nothing. (I mean don't get me wrong, it was dark & cold & I was hungry & had to pee so I was glad I didn't need to run even one more mile, but physically I finished strong rather than achey & sore & dragging myself through the last miles.)

Sure, I finished around 7:00 pm in the dark rather than at 5:30 pm as planned, but afterward I felt pretty normal & as if I could have kept going with no problem. I'm particularly stunned by this given that I started the run hungry & only ever used two gels; I was legitimately worried that being hungry from the start might either force me back early for solid food or cause me to bonk. (This is where I think not carb loading for my long runs & using only minimal gels may have helped me.)

~*~*~NVM WEEK 8 OF 16~*~*~

Grand Total: 39 miles

    * 15 easy
    * 9 goal marathon pace
    * 18 long (including 3 at marathon pace)
    * No strength work or AT exercises. I suck.

Monday: Fly home.

Tuesday: 2 wu, 6 GMP, 2cd = 10 total 5 easy

    This was the worst run I've had in months. MONTHS! We've had a cold front roll in, and though it wasn't actually all that cold (40s?), the wind was a BITCH, a constant maybe 15-20mph, with faster gusts. Apparently large trees were downed all over the city & even caused power outages in a number of areas.

    And the wind, let me tell you something, was *freezing*. I could not put on enough layers to make any difference. It was just completely, utterly, totally miserable. In addition to this, I'd woken up feeling sick & been having some asthma problems all day, and they persisted into my run even after using my inhaler several times Usually that takes care of it but when it just got worse and worse, I ended up running back home to get it again rather than chance running without it. (I learned that lesson a while back.) My miles were slow and my heart rate was through the roof (which I blame on the wind, asthma, & the albuterol); also, I had a headache.

    Originally I'd intended to run 10 miles with 6 at goal marathon pace, then downgraded to 10 easy, then 8 easy, then 6 easy, then at a certain point just said "F#@$ it" & turned around to head home for the second time. I ran a few extra blocks to finish the current mile once I got back to my house, but that was it. I mean yes, physically I could have pushed myself through 3-5 more miles, but honestly, I didn't feel like I was actually accomplishing much & decided I'd rather save the gas for more productive miles later in the week.

Wednesday (New Year's Eve): 2 wu, 6 GMP, 2cd = 10 total 6 easy

    I would have liked to have done the 10 miles with 6 at goal marathon pace that day, but there just wasn't time. I mean, there could have been time if I'd gotten up early, but I was on vacation, dammit, & figured I'd just push it to Thursday.

Thursday (New Year's Day): 2 wu, 6 GMP, 2cd = 10 total Lie on couch with zombie-like countenance, drinking tea while binge watching Family Guy.

    So much for the GMP run. I spent most of Thursday feeling tired & like crap & still kind of sick. (Partly because of being a little sick; partly because the restaurant pre fixe we'd gone to the night before had tried to poison me with amazing wine & cocktails.) I could have forced myself out the door but it would have sucked a lot & I would have resented it the whole time. This counts as maybe half a wuss out, but all things considered, I don't really regret it.

Friday: 2 wu, 6 GMP, 2cd = 10 total

    I still felt a tad sick on Friday, but better enough that I figured I'd take a crack at the GMP run I'd failed to do for the last three days. The GMP miles are still hard, but getting slightly less hard, maybe? I nailed my pace exactly (7:57/mile) with my heart rate right where I wanted it (175 bpm), which I was not expecting given that I was having mild asthma the whole time (part of that whole still-a-little-sick thing).

Saturday: Rest

    Saturdays have kind of become my optional running day, where if I feel good & have time, I can run 4-5 miles, but no pressure if I can't or don't. I kind of wanted to in order to make up for some of the shenanigans earlier in the week, but on top of still feeling kind of sick, my legs & feet felt pretty beat up after Friday's run. Sure, I could have run 4-5 miles just fine, but I was paranoid about screwing up my long run Sunday & decided it was more important to rest & heal up for that than to worry about my mileage total for the week.

Sunday: 18 long, with 3 at goal marathon pace

I am sooooooo ready for a normal week!!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Gear Review: Mio Link "Strapless" Heart Rate Monitor

One way you can tell I am not a professional blogger is that I am posting this review now, rather than, say, a month before the holidays as a "Great Gift for the Runner In Your Life!"

(Newsflash: You are the runner in your life. Does anybody actually go "WELL THANK GOD FOR THIS LIST, I HAD NO IDEA WHAT TO GET ALL THOSE RUNNER CLOSE FRIENDS/FAMILY MEMBERS THAT I TOTALLY NEED TO BUY GIFTS FOR"? I have serious doubts.)

I think it's a great product, though, so now that I've used it pretty consistently for several months, I figured I might as well share my thoughts.

As I've mentioned before, I gave up on wearing the chest strap with any regularity a couple of years ago because of the bloody, mutilated patch of skin it inevitably left on my chest. (I'm pretty sure I have permanent scars, actually.)

ca. 2011. Yes, it did actually get this bad.

I found heart rate-based training incredibly useful, though (you can read more about the hows and whys in this post), & tried going back to it with the Garmin soft strap early last summer. Alas, it turns out there is no strap in the world soft enough to make wearing the thing every day bearable. So after reading a few favorable reviews of the Mio, which uses a wrist strap instead, I decided to give it a shot.

The first thing to know is that Mio makes two different HR monitors -- the Link 56P-GRY, and the Alpha I. The link is just a strap with a sensor that connects via ANT+ to a device (GPS watch, phone, etc.), whereas the Alpha I is a self-contained monitor that displays your HR on a screen. I wanted mine to sync to my Garmin so I got the Link.

The monitor itself is a small, plastic pod with LED sensors on the underside.

You slip the monitor into a pocket on the rubber strap, buckle it snugly around your wrist, turn it on, have your device scan for it, & boom, there's your heart rate.

When you're done, just pop out the plastic pod & plop it on the charger.

(FYI, mine did not come with a plug adapter. The charger is USB, but for me it was simpler to just stick the USB into the adapter so I could plug it into a normal outlet.)

The only physical feature of note on the Link is the little LED light on the side that turns turquoise when it's charging & when you first turn it off. You can also program it to flash different colors for up to five different heart rate zones (green through red), but I've never bothered with this since seeing the number is good enough for me. (This means mine flashes all kinds of crazy colors all the time & I have no idea what any of it means & just ignore it.)

Over the last few months I've gotten a few questions about it from folks who are thinking about buying one (or just curious); my answers are more or less compiled below.

Q: How does it work?

A: The Mio is an optical heart rate monitor, meaning it uses LED light sensors, a fundamentally different technology than the electromagnetic sensors used in chest straps and hospital EKGs.

The LEDs are not actually that blinding; my shitty phone camera just didn't deal with them particularly well. Here is another focused on the LEDs, which is closer to what they actually look like:

According to this CNET article, "Unlike chest strap heart rate monitors -- which closely emulate a real EKG machine by measuring electrical pulse -- these devices use light to track your blood. By illuminating your capillaries with an LED, a sensor adjacent to the light measures the frequency at which your blood pumps past (aka your heart rate). Moments later, you've got a BPM (beats per minute) reading." This is why you need a tight seal against your skin for the Mio to work--any outside light will interfere with the LED sensors. It doesn't need to be boa constrictor tight, but it does need to be snug.

Q: Is it comfortable?

A: I don't even notice it when I'm running and kind of forget it's there, so yes. Like I said, in order to function properly the LED sensors do have to be right up against your skin so it does need to be buckled snugly, but it shouldn't be so tight it's uncomfortable. (See the pic above with my watch.)

Q: How accurate is it compared to a chest strap?

A: According to the Mio website, it reports "EKG-accurate heart rate data at performance speeds." The details of the technology were a little fuzzy to me, so I looked into it a little more. As the CNET article above explained, the technology is different from that used in chest straps, which, like an EKG, use electromagnetic sensors to actually pick up the electrical signal that tells your heart to beat, not the beat itself.

Because optical sensors pick up capillary blood volume (essentially measuring pulse), prior generation optical HR monitors have not been as reliable as chest straps or EKGs, and can become wildly inaccurate if the wearer is not completely still (making them rather impractical for athletes). The CNET article tested several wrist and fingertip monitors, including some specifically marketed for use during athletic activity, and indeed found some serious discrepancies (up to 10% in some cases), whereas the chest strap models tended to be dead-on & match a medical EKG machine exactly. (The fingertip monitors were pretty close as well, though.)

This, however, is where Mio comes in. The problem they've solved isn't optically measuring heart rate accurately; it's optimizing that technology to deal with the jostling and jarring of athletic activity. The technology itself apparently comes from Philips Medical & is exclusively licensed to Mio, so it would make sense that they'd have a significant advantage over other wrist straps in terms of accuracy on someone who is moving around a lot.

Of course the only way to empirically answer the question of whether the Mio is as accurate as a chest strap is to wear both at the same time & look at what the numbers do. And lucky you! DC Rainmaker did just that and found the two to be in near perfect agreement. Indeed, the numbers I've seen on mine are very much in line with what I used to see with the chest strap, even at faster paces (though I haven't done any speed work with it yet), and although I've read that a few people have occasionally experienced brief lags or drops in the signal, I haven't had any of those issues.

Q: Is it compatible with my [x device]?

A: As far as I can tell, it seems to be compatible with just about everything in existence--iThings of every ilk, Google Nexus 4/5, Android Jelly Bean or higher, & a whole slew of GPS watches & other training devices. I've only used mine with my Garmin FR 310XT, but it's been great. In four months I haven't noticed any lags, spikes, or drops of any kind.

Q: Battery life?

A: The site says it will last 8-10 hours on one charge. For the most part I tend to plop it back down in the charger after every run out of habit, just like my watch, but when we went to Spokane for Thanksgiving, I forgot to bring the charger & it lasted the whole week (~7 hours of use, maybe?) with no problem.

Q: Cost?

A: The Link retails for $99 right now, I think, though I got mine refurbished on Amazon for ~$75ish & have been completely happy with it. There are some pieces of running gear where I have to question whether it's worth the cost, but for me, being able to use a heart rate monitor every day in complete comfort has absolutely been worth it.

So really, it just kind of comes down to whether you want to train with a heart rate monitor and what it's worth to you. If the answer is yes and you've been thinking about it for a while and $80 or so is not going to break your budget (think of it as a race entry, more or less), I can't recommend the Mio Link more highly.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015 Classics: The Contenders

At the beginning of 2014, I decided to read one classic novel each month:

    JANUARY: A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller.
    FEBRUARY: Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
    MARCH: Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy.
    APRIL: A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster.
    MAY: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller.
    JUNE: The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz.
    JULY: To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.
    AUGUST: Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert.
    SEPTEMBER: One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez.
    OCTOBER: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson.
    NOVEMBER: Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne.
    **NOVEMBER BONUS READ**: The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka.
    DECEMBER: The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
    **DECEMBER BONUS READ**: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

I hadn't necessarily intended to continue the project, but a lot of the classics I read last year that I'd been avoiding for so long had turned out to be pretty great, so I'm thinking about doing it again this year. (Sure, a lot of them weren't really up my alley, but at least I know.)

The hardest thing last year was narrowing it down to 12 (in fact I actually only got it down to 14), and there are still way more classic books out there that I'd like to plow through before I die. Here are the current contenders:

    The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy. Started this in college but never finished it & don't remember much about it.

    Death Is a Lonely Business, by Ray Bradbury. I love Ray Bradbury.

    Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë. This strikes me as a parlor book, but it also kind of strikes me as a mysterious mystery, & I luvs me a good mystery.

    The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. Recommended by someone.

    The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins. Recommended by lots of people.

    Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens. This one seems like kind of a big deal & I should really just read it, especially since the only Dickens I've ever read is A Christmas Carol.

    The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Gushed over by so many people, including several of you.

    Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. See above.

    The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. People keep telling me to read this.

    Middlemarch, by George Eliot. Gushed over by several good friends.

    Tess of the D'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy. Heartily lobbied for by several of you last year.

    The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett. See "mysterious mystery."

    Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein. I like to read one or two sci fi classics per year & sort of can't believe I haven't read this.

    The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. Everyone says this is great, plus it's like 300 pages.

    The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith. This one just sounds intriguing. Bonus points for a female author.

    A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. This one was a pinch hitter last year but I didn't get around to it.

    The World According to Garp, by John Irving. Another one lots of friends have recommended.

    Ulysses, by James Joyce. I should probably be terrified of this one but I'm oddly intrigued.

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey. I liked the movie.

    The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin. Another sci fi classic; Don read it last year & loved it.

    Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. After One Hundred Years of Solitude, I feel the need to try another GMM.

    The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison. I adored Beloved last year. (Or the year before? Can't remember.)

    The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair. Recommended by a couple of you, I think.

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. Keeps showing up on lists of "Most Influential Books Written by Women."

    East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. Several friends have been telling me for years to read this one. I haven't been big on Steinbeck in the past but I'm willing to give it a shot.

    Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne. See sci fi classics. Also Journey to the Center of the Earth was unsatisfying.

    Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut. Slaughterhouse Five is one of my favorites.

    All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren. I find the summary intriguing.

    The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton. Recommended by several of you last year.

    The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde. Was talking about this book with friends recently (can't remember who) & it sounded like I should read it.

    The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. See above.

    A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams. I've never read any Tennessee Williams & feel kind of ashamed about it.

    The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams. See above.

So what say you, readers of classics? If I only choose 12, which must definitely make my list and why? Which would you skip? Where I've listed more than one book by the same author, which would you choose? Any favorites of yours I've missed?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Fleshing Out 2015........

HAPPY NEW YEAR, Y'ALL!! Here's hoping you are bright-eyed & bushy-tailed & ready to greet the day/month/year. :D

(And because I am told it is the order of the day -- If you're looking for a painfully earnest, dewy-eyed goal-setting post, allow me to refer you here. That's kind of all I've got, dudes.)

Friends, I run for one reason and one reason alone, and that is for the purpose of racing the shite out of my local events. So let us talk races.

I have a few picked out for this year so far:

    Jan. 18 - Foster City Ten Miler. Essentially, this race is pinch-hitting for the half marathon I really wanted to get in between Thanksgiving & NVM. On the plus side, though, woo-hoo! Trying out a new distance!

    Mar. 1 - Napa Valley Marathon. This is the race I had to defer last year because of my stress fracture & am fake-racing just for like, the experience or exposure or whatever. The goal here is not to run a particularly fast race, but really just to finish at a slightly-faster-than comfortable pace (80% is the number I've been throwing around) & feel like it did not suck.

    May 17 - Bay to Breakers 12K. This is the iconic SF race that I got a sweet internet deal on on Halloween. It's too short for me to actually be in shape to kick ass at while marathon training, but hopefully I'll still be able to beat all the drunk and/or naked people.*

    *(No but some of the naked people are hella fast tho.)

    Aug. 23 - Santa Rosa Marathon. Unfinished business. Kinda wanna blow the doors off, if my body cooperates. 'Nuff said.

I'm not ready to think much farther than August right now, but there are still a few stretches in the first part of the year where I'd kind of like to get a race in if I can. It's probably not practical to hit all of these, but here are some others I'm considering:

    Apr. 12 - Santa Cruz Half Marathon. I ran the 10K here back in 2011 when I was still pretty shitty at 10K's. Part of me wants revenge for that, but knowing that I'll still be marathon training in April & not in shape to run a great 10K, I'm thinking I may go run the half instead & see what happens. It's a solid six weeks after NVM, so I could conceivably be in not-that-terrible shape, all things considered.

    June 27 - Pride Run 5K. I've run this race almost every year since I've lived here. Actually in 2011 I ran the 10K which I will probably never, ever, EVER do again, but the 5K is not awful and it's for a good cause, so why not?

    July 12 - Jungle Run Half Marathon. This was my first half marathon EVER back in the day (2:16 baby!!) & ever since then I've kinda had an inkling to go back & give it another shot (now that I, like, train or whatever). It tends to be on the warm side so I wouldn't expect a PR or anything, but worst case I could always treat it like I did SFM2H this past summer & do it as part of a long run.

Call me a curmudgeon if you want but I'm not setting any 2015 Goals And ResolutionsTM. In the past I've sometimes set goals like PRing certain distances, but at this point I think I've sort of picked all the low-hanging fruit there & from now on PRs are going to be incredibly hard-fought battles where everything has to go perfectly, including a lot of things I can't control.

Another popular NY goal/resolution I've seen a lot of is participating in or completing a particular distance or type of event, but for now I feel like I've done pretty much everything I have any desire to do athletic-wise in terms of just finishing & there's nothing crazy & different really calling to me right now.

If I were going to "resolve" to do anything running-wise this year, it would just mainly be continuing to do all the stuff I can control, & do it better & better & more & more consistently (sleep, strength train, eat well, do the long runs, etc.), but to me those are ongoing things I'm more or less constantly working on all the time, so it doesn't really make a lot of sense to call them resolutions or goals.

Okay fine. Pie-in-the-sky, magical dream world? I would totally finish this year with a sub-3:30 marathon, a half PR, and over 2,015 miles, and I'm certainly planning to do everything in my power to make it happen. But I also know (from experience, sigh) that life happens & there's a lot that I can't control, so if none of it happens, the world will not end. (Honestly, I'd just settle for not being sidelined/in PT for months at a time.)

Happy 2015, all!!