Sunday, February 28, 2016

Ways to Screw Up Your Tempo Run, If You Must.

I learned two things last Wednesday, which were 1) I currently have a *terrible* sense of pacing and 2) maybe don't just jump straight back into squats after a week and a half off, at least not with the same amount of weight.

I knew things would have to get shuffled around this week due to work travel. Basically I had no time on Monday or Tuesday to do anything but fly to LA, work well into the evening, get my plane home delayed 4.5 HOURS but at least manage to get rebooked on a different flight only 1.5 hours later and fly home. Oh, and turn 35. (I did mention how I spent my 35th birthday alone at the Hampton Inn, right? Good times!) So even though I don’t normally run on Wednesdays because of karate, I planned to leave a little early to try to get in a run.

Leading up to the 10K a couple weeks back, I’d skipped my squats and deadlifts so that my legs would be fresh, and then just due to some travel stuff Wednesday was the first day I got back to them. Now, I cannot explain it, but for some reason my foggy 6am brain decided that a GREAT idea was to jump right back into doing THE SAME AMOUNT of squats at THE SAME WEIGHT after 1.5 weeks of doing none.

Lolololol no.

I am not kidding that I was getting up and down like an old person for the rest of the day.

But back to that run I had planned for between work and karate!

Logistically, I really needed to do either my tempo run or track workout that day. I would’ve preferred the track, but I just knew there was no freaking way in Hades I was busting out 200m repeats in my current state. The tempo workout, on the other hand, seemed pretty reasonable, just a 2 mile warm-up, 4 miles at 7:40 pace, & a 2 mile cool down. Even given my current level of fitness (not great), 7:40s should feel like work, but only a little work.

Lolololol no.

My quads felt like hamburger meat. Like, think last 6 miles of a marathon. I mean to be honest I was expecting worse, but it was still pretty bad.

On top of this, I was relying on my watch more than usual to keep the pace because I am so out of practice at doing it by feel. And since GPS in my area is apparently just shit now for reasons I don’t understand, I ended up running the four tempo miles significantly faster than I should have, which of course made them feel even harder.

Notice how none of those numbers is 7:40.

That first mile was particularly bad, because it was uphill. Taking this into consideration, I was shooting for 8:00ish instead of 7:40 and feeling pretty depressed when I felt like I was working pretty hard and my watch was showing 8:10-8:15. So yeah, I was pretty pissed when it auto-lapped and I saw 7:36. It wasn’t quite as bad with the other three, but still, it’s annoying to have your “instantaneous pace” field vacillating between 7:40 & 7:50 & then auto-lap 10+ seconds faster.

(This is why I really do prefer to do workouts by feel/effort rather than getting glued to the watch, but I’m really out of practice at that right now, so I don’t know what else there is to do.)

So, yeah. Hoping to get some less annoying, more encouraging pace workouts in next week!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

EUGENE WEEKS 6 & 7 OF 17: a race, a climb, & some lovely beach art

I feel like all my time these last couple of weeks somehow got sucked into a black hole. I swear I've been, like, running and doing stuff! You can tell because I typed it on the internet in neat little bullet points or whatever, which is basically the most accountable thing a human can possibly do.

In other news, it is my 35th birthday & I am spending it in a hotel room in LA for work.

So excited I can hardly stand it.


Things went well! It was a good week! Accomplishments were accomplished!

Some Numbers:

    * 26 miles
    * 2:00:00 strength work
    * 50:00 stretch & roll

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

Tuesday: 1.5 warm up, 2x1600m @ 7:10ish, 2x800m @ 6:45ish, 1.5 cool down = 6.5 total, 20:00 stretch/roll. First track workout in months, and it was glorious. :)

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / afternoon 4 easy / p.m. karate. Skipped leg work since I was racing Saturday but did everything else.

Thursday: 6 easy. Felt a bit tired on this run & wondered if it was Tuesday catching up to me.

Friday: 2 easy. Since I was racing the next day I opted for extra sleep instead of strength work.

Saturday: 1.5 warm up, 6.2 RACE!! (+ 30:00 stretch/roll)

Notice how I am, like, actually running a race
and not sitting around injured. #winning #okayiwasthird #still

You can read my grumbly race report if you want, but one of my big takeaways was that I felt for most of the race like I was red-lining and running really hard for most of the race, but I realized as I got closer to the end that it was just my out-of-racing-practice coward brain playing tricks on me and in reality I had definitely not run as hard as I could have. Seriously, five minutes post-race I felt completely fine. It was a really weird feeling.

Sunday: GO ROCK CLIMBING!! Isn't that what you do the day after you race?

In case you needed more evidence that I definitely did not wear myself out at Bay Breeze, I finally conquered a 5.10a, which I've been working on since December.


The big story this past week was my long run. My schedule called for 160 minutes, but a 60% increase over the 100 minutes from a couple weeks back seemed like a bad idea, so I capped it at 140 for a grand total of 14.3 miles.

This was one of those days that just never happens for me when it comes to long runs. I felt like I could run and run and run and, although my right hip still felt a little tight (and probably always will), it felt not effortless but still really good. 14.3 felt great and if I were really stupid I could have gone further.

Out and back to Cliff House, which affords gorgeous views of Ocean Beach.

Also, just total mileage in general. For some reason mentally I was feeling like I didn't run all that much last week, but apparently it was 30 miles, which is another post-injury weekly mileage record and also quietly inching backs towards something that feels like normalcy.

Some Numbers:

    * 30 miles
    * 2:00:00 strength work
    * 20:00 stretch & roll

Monday: Karate. Honestly, I could have run Monday & been 100% fine. Actually I probably could have run Sunday. My body just honestly did not feel like it ran a race on Saturday.

Tuesday: 8 easy. My longest week-day run post injury, and faster & easier than usual. Yeah; totally did not race as hard as I could have on Saturday. Bah.

Wednesday: Afternoon 1 to gym, strength work, 1 home / p.m. karate. Super early work meeting so strength work got shifted to after work.

Thursday: Nothing. This day was 100% packed start to finish and I knew going in that I wasn't going to get any running in.

Friday: a.m. strength work / 6 easy. I'd planned for 8 again but got caught short on time.

Saturday: Rest.

Sunday: 14 long + 20:00 stretch/roll

Less than a month to go until Oakland Running Festival & my first start in the 35-39 age bracket!!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Race Report: Brazen Bay Breeze 10K

It was unbelievable to me when I actually did the math, but according to the calendar, it's been FOUR YEARS (!) since I last ran (and PR'd at) this race. I'd run it three times before and it's always been one of my favorite local 10Ks, so I was super excited to be part of it again. But WOW, I cannot believe that was four freaking years ago.

It's been a tough couple of years of (not) racing for me, so really, truly, just finishing in an even vaguely respectable time should have been more than enough, and don't think I'm not grateful for every day that I wake up healthy and non-injured and confident enough to run even 5 or 10K in a row. Still, I couldn't help agreeing with what Paula Radcliffe said in an interview before her final marathon--"I guarantee you I'll be pissed off about the time." In my three previous starts on this course, I've run 44:49, 44:42, and 44:21, so even though it's completely illogical, part of my brain still feels like that's what I'm "supposed" to do.

Knowing that wouldn't happen this time for so many reasons, I'd been trying to get myself used to the idea that this would probably be my slowest 10K ever in order to soften the blow a bit. However, there's a fine line between having realistic expectations for yourself based on your training/fitness and setting yourself up to settle for less than your best effort. I think one advantage I have as a runner is that I do tend to set ridiculously, unreasonable high expectations for myself, because it often helps me push myself harder than I would if I set more reasonable, easily achievable goals; the downside of that, though, is almost never being *truly* happy with a race. Regardless of the time, I wanted to finish knowing I'd given my best effort and left it all out there.

I must be honest, though. After Tuesday's magical track workout, I had kind of secretly hoped that maybe, maybe, maybe I could pull out a sub-45, if everything went perfectly. After all, my December 5K predicted a 45:36 10K, so maybe six weeks of training is enough to shave off 37 seconds on a perfect day? Then again, that would mean almost equaling my Bay Breeze 2012 time, which occurred after a good year and a half of consistent, reasonably solid training and a week of tapering. (I didn't taper for this race.)

There was also the question of which legs I would show up with Saturday morning: the ones that ran that magically easy, unreasonably fast interval work out last Tuesday, or the ones that ran those miserable mile repeats the week before.

It's not an exaggeration to say I was dreading this race for two days prior. I knew I wanted to race hard and run my best possible time, but every time I thought about the other times I'd run it, all I could think about was how awful the last 1.5-2 miles inevitably were and how hard it was to keep going and how at least a few times I thought I might actually die before I reached the finish line. GOD, I was not looking forward to that. I couldn't sleep the night before and was sick to my stomach with nerves all morning.

Me, glancing at my watch/the car clock: "Welp, only two more hours before I'm in the ninth circle of hell." "Only 90 more minutes until I'm wishing death upon myself." "Only one more hour before I'm debating faking a cardiac event to save myself the shame of quitting."

Yeah. Welcome to my head.

My only plan was to start conservatively, even given my lack of training, and see mile by mile if speeding up was in the cards, so I lined up a bit farther back than usual and tried not to vomit on anyone. ("Only 30 minutes or so until I'm praying to be smote by a meteorite!") I tried to remind myself how it's always easier in races to hit scary paces, and how I was probably overthinking all this, and one way or another this would all be over in give or take 45 minutes. But I don't think I ever really convinced myself. ("Maybe I can sneak out of the corral after the horn goes off???")

In there somewhere...

And oh, boy. Just a few minutes into mile 1, vacillating between 7:20 and 7:40, I knew which legs I had to work with today. Already I felt like there was no way I could run even that pace for more than half the race. My only consolation in those first couple of miles was that many of the people who'd lined up right around or right in front of me were already huffing and puffing and falling back, and I at least was still breathing comfortably. (Sidenote: I think this is a side-effect of all the elliptical training while I was injured. My cardiovascular system is still sometimes writing checks my legs can't cash.)

Mile 1: 7:29

Mile 2 seemed to last a geologic age. I didn't even let myself look at the distance on my watch because I knew it would just shatter whatever morale I had left at this point, and it was very very early for morale-shattering. I kept thinking "Surely it's been seven and a half-ish minutes by now? Did I miss it??" Then at one point I actually got confused & was thinking that the next mile was the turnaround, which is the road racing equivalent to thinking it's Friday all day when it's actually only Thursday, so you can imagine how I felt when I realized there was still over a mile left to go just to the halfway. I kept telling myself, "Come on, you were running sub-7:10 miles on Tuesday like it was nothing, surely you can pick it up just a few seconds per mile?" But every time I tried I'd start to panic a little & feel like I might actually die. (And then, of course, to add insult to injury, the jerkbrain would snigger, "Lol you used to run half marathons at this pace. LOSER McLOSERSON!")

Mile 2: 7:35

Looking waaaaaay more chill than I felt.

I really started to suffer in mile 3. I don't know if it was a very very slight uphill or mentally the fact that I was working so hard and not even to the halfway yet or what, but there were a couple of times when I saw my pace sneaking up into the 7:50, then 8:00, then 8:15 range and really just felt like that was it, the wheels were off & I might as well just pack it in. (Cue jerkbrain: "Oh, look, you can't even run your goal marathon pace for a 10K! What even is the point of you??")

About halfway through mile 2, we hit the gravel. Of course having run this race three times, I knew there was some gravel near the turnaround, but either the gravel has greatly expanded in the last four years or my memory fails me, because this wasn't just like a couple hundred yards or so approaching the turnaround; it was basically a mile plus, from about 2.5 to 3.7 (ish? I confess I don't remember exactly. But it was significantly more than I remembered from past years).

(A lesson I learned from this experience is to NOT wear the Saucony Fastwitches on gravel ever again--they have very little tread and I spent that entire mile or whatever it was sliding around and unable to get much purchase on the ground. There are a couple of spots where you go over smooth wooden footbridges and on each one the difference in how easy it felt to run was huge.)

Mile 3: 7:22

My first thought at the turnaround: "...And now I get to repeat that enter god-forsaken experience!


If I could have run & grumbled at the same time, I definitely would have been at that point. Grumble grumble slow. Grumble grumble heavy legs. Grumble grumble gravel. Grumble grumble I could have been in bed right now. Grumble grumble people still outbound on a narrow road running three abreast. (rant SERIOUSLY PEOPLE WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL /rant)

And then somewhere in there a light bulb went on and it hit me that I wasn't really suffering; I was just cranky & annoyed & desperately kind of wanted to not be running anymore. I wasn't pushing through this race like I should have been; I was more kind of just passively (and bitterly) letting it happen to me while I held on and tried not to die (or go skidding across the gravel). It sort of felt like my body had punked me.

("Hahahaha you thought we were actually trying, joke's on you, sucker!")

"Okay, for serious, you little shit," I kind of snarled, extremely pissed, "This is not nearly painful enough so stop being such a lazy bum & effing pick it up!"

Which had exactly no effect whatsoever.

Mile 4: 7:40

This was kind of a cool shot; too bad it's so small/obscured.

Yep. Definitely not working hard enough.

It was in the last two miles that I could really tell I hadn't been working as hard as I could have, in spite of all the psychological melodrama. In my best 10K races (including the first three run on this course), I've usually spent the last couple of miles with my body sort of screaming incoherently ("OH GOD I CAN'T DO THIS I CAN'T I CAN'T LET ME DIIIIEEEE" and my heartless, ice-in-the-veins brain basically responding, "Nobody asked you, shut up and run, bitch." But this time my body was more like, "Yeah, I can do this. Just don't stop. No problem. Yeah." I did push myself to speed up a little, and sure, it was uncomfortable, but I was never really able to push myself all the way to the edge of my comfort zone (and certainly not past it).

Mile 5: 7:22

Mile 6: 7:19

Once I could see the finish line (maybe .3 miles left), I think I can honestly say I pushed hard and sprinted all-out all the way to the finish, which was of course awful. But otherwise, those last two miles really were a lot more comfortable than they should have been.

Last .2: 1:15 (6:15 pace)

I'd really been hoping I'd *at least* manage that 45:36 (7:20 pace) that my December 5K predicted, but alas, I missed even that by a fairly significant margin & clocked 46:01 (7:24 pace). Officially, that ties my 10K PW in terms of pace (Santa Cruz 2011, though that official *time* is faster because it was a short course). OUCH.

On the other hand, at least I got a little hardware out of it!

Those finisher medals have really gone through a growth spurt in the last four years.

Overall: 36/679
Women: 7/450
A/G: 3/87

Other ways I could tell I definitely did not leave it all out there:

  • 4-5 minutes after finishing I felt totally fine.
  • For the rest of the day I didn't even feel like I'd raced.
  • I ran 8 easy miles on Tuesday, which was longer, faster, & felt easier than any of last week's runs.

Naturally, I have all kinds of post-race analysis running through my head, but this post is already way too long for a 10K as it is, so I'll just leave you with the nuts & bolts & call it good.

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

Location: San Leandro Marina, San Leandro, CA

Date: Mid February (2/13 this year)

Price: Prices have gone up a bit since I ran this race last. $49 for the 5K, $54 for the 10K, $70 for the half. (You can also skip the shirt & deduct $5 from your registration, which is what I did.)

Deadline / Sellout Factor: Race day registration if space (and it sounded like there was this year). Some Brazen races sell out ahead of time, especially the shorter distances, so it's worth paying attention if you have your eye on something. Though they're often good about sending out email updates about registration for popular races.

Parking: Parking is free on the road leading up to the Marina but limited, so get their early or car pool. I arrived at 7:15 & had a 10 minute walk to the start.


Man, this race has grown in four years! The staging area is a little more elaborate than I remember, with more tents and also big signs directing you where to go.

As with the other Brazen races, you have the option of local pre-race packet pickup on Thursday and Friday or race morning pick up. As always, the pick-up & t-shirt tables were well-labeled, well-organized, and efficient. Free sweat check close to the start. (Grab a garbage bag & get in line.) These days they just set the sample bags out for runners to take if they want instead of handing them out with the T-shirts, which seems less wasteful to me.

Volunteer photographers are stationed along the course & upload their pics for runners to download for free (love), not to mention awesome, enthusiastic, & hard-working volunteers all around.

The Course

Flat, fast, & paved with the exception of 80-100 yards of grass at the start/finish & the gravel around the turnaround. (Seriously, I do not remember there being so much gravel!) The trail is a bit on the narrow side, though runners are supposed to stay to the right since it's an out-and-back course & all three distances share the same road. Fine for me EXCEPT after the turnaround when some people insist on running 2/3/4 abreast with their BFFS and sometimes the end where the early 10K runners end up sharing the road with people walking the 5K and, again, walking 2/3/4 abreast with their besties. It's actually a pretty nice little path, mostly along the water and kind of pretty if you have any brain cells available to appreciate it.


  • Cotton T-shirt is included in the registration price; $6 gets you a nice tech shirt; skipping the shirt saves you $5.
  • Hefty finisher medals for all distances (which, btw, have definitely gotten heftier in the 4 years I've been away); age group medals awarded three deep in each age/gender group in five year increments (less for the kiddies), plus Fleet Feet gift certificates to the overall male & female winners for each distance. (Fun fact: This year the women's winner was a 14 year old who ran a 39:41. CANNOT EVEN.)
  • Bags of free samples
  • Fantastic post-race spread (water, sports drink, bagels, fruit, granola, cake, candy, etc. Valentine's themed this year!)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

What's In My Race Bag: Local Edition

If you've ever read blogs written by ladies with nice-looking toenails (lololol), there was a "What's In My Purse?" blog post meme going around a while back. In celebration of the fact that by the time you read this I'll probably (hopefully??) have my first race of 2016 under my belt, I'm playing the distance runner version: What's In My Race Day Bag?

Today's race is a 10K ~45 minutes or so away, so this is the local edition. (I think we can all agree that things get a bit more complex if you're overnighting in exoticccc landzzz.) Keep an eye out for a separate post as we get closer to Eugene!

  • Road ID. I finally broke down & got one of these a few years ago when I won a gift certificate in a local race. Honestly I've read/heard enough upsetting stories about unfortunate events related to running alone that I really should have done it a long time ago. WHAT'S STOPPING YOU? Seriously, go buy a Road ID or similar right now. They're actually super cheap & will give everyone in your life a little extra peace of mind.

  • Garmin. Like, duh. Except not, actually, given that I drove halfway to a 10-mile race last summer before I realized I'd forgotten a Garmin.

  • Albuterol inhaler. I have exercise-induced asthma, but these days as long as I use my inhaler before running, I almost never have problems. Every now and then, though, I have an attack while or after running, and that's definitely a situation where I absolutely do NOT want to get caught without the inhaler.

  • Body Glide. Also probably not surprising.

  • Sunscreen. No one likes skin cancer.

    Currently loving ThinkSport. SPF 50+, nice consistency, smells good, & free of all the nasty ingredients you often find in the bigger brands.

  • Toilet paper. TRUST NO PORT-A-POTTY! Last summer at that same 10-mile race, my spare roll of TP saved at least a dozen runners from certain disaster.

  • Sunglasses. I'd always rather have them and not need them than vice versa.

  • Cap. I usually throw a cap on if it's hot, sunny, or raining. Again--rather have and not need than vice versa.


  • Hair bands & clips. Never hurts to have extras!

  • Safety pins. Races nearly always have these available and I don't think I've ever actually needed to break into my stash, but it makes me feel better somehow to bring them.

  • Post-race clothes. At a local race, I usually don't really change after--just throw on a dry T-shirt if it's hot, or a warm-up jacket and maybe pants if it's cold. But, every now and then I've finished a race really desperate to get into fresh dry clothes (especially if it's not a quick drive home), so I'd definitely rather have them & not need them than vice versa. (If it's more than an hour home, I usually prefer to do future passengers in my car a solid & change instead of marinating in my stink while it seeps into the upholstery.)

  • Plastic bags. Like I said, sometimes wet, nasty things need to get off your body like NOW.

  • Hand towels. I like to be able to towel myself off after & one never knows what will be available for this purpose at the finish.

  • Flip flops. I like to have them handy in case I just cannot even with shoes post-race. Sorry not sorry. (Though actually, I almost never put them on.)

  • Lacrosse balls. Sometimes my legs get really angry post-race and I just know that getting in my car & sitting for a while isn't going to end well.

  • Kinesio Tape. Just in case!

  • Water bottle. Most races have water available in some form at the start, but not always, so I don't count on it.

  • Chemical ice packs. I started bringing ice packs to races after my first marathon when I finished desperate to ice my hip and there was like a 45 minute wait for ice packs in the med tent. I've never used one but I've also never worried about it.

  • Tylenol. Sometimes this is nice to have post-race. (Anti-inflammatories make tendons and ligaments weaker & stops muscles from getting stronger so things like Ibuprofen are maybe not the best choice for post-race or workout. Or, like, ever, if you're trying to get faster & stronger.)

  • Post-race snack. If I finish at, say, 10:00am and wait around say half an hour for the result and then drive say an hour back home, odds are good I might actually kill the first person I encounter in SF in a fit of hanger, so again, this is really all for the benefit of mankind in general. (Some races have post-race snacks which I definitely appreciate, but sometimes you don't know for sure or you don't know how you're going to feel about what they have.)

    Current favorite. I love these things & buy them by the crate!

What's in your bag when you're racing relatively close to home?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Track Magic, Y'all.

    "How beautiful it is to run fast, and then rest afterward." ~Runner Proverb

Last week I wrote about my first *proper* speed workout (ie, on the ground & not an elliptical machine) in many months, & how running mile repeats at a pace that should have felt "comfortably hard" (7:20ish) left me sucking wind & completely baffled at how I could have run a 21:50(ish?) 5K in December.

This week, I ventured out to the track for a fairly similar workout (1 mile @ 7:21, 2 x 800m @ 7:05, 1 mile @ 7:21), & based on what happened last week, I don't think you can blame me for feeling SUPER nervous, especially with a 10K coming up this weekend.

Kezar Stadium, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Still, I was so, so happy just to be back out there. It was sunny and gorgeous and not too warm, so if the running part sucked, I reasoned, at least I still had that.

It was one of those afternoon/early evenings when alllll the local middle & high school track teams are out practicing, so I had to be a little creative with my warm-up laps so as not to interfere with their various dynamic warm-ups. But the warming up felt good, so I started my first mile feeling sliiiiightly more enthusiastic than I had been!

Fair warning: This is where it gets weird.

Remember last week when I mentioned giving myself a little time to settle into a pace that felt right & then being shocked to see 8:30 on my watch? Well, I did the same thing this week, and was stunned when I hit the first turn to see 6:15-6:20s showing up.

Which is, frankly, absurd.

I gradually slowed it down, wary of GPS gremlins & such like, but I still finished that first mile in 7:06 and it felt easy.

The 800m's proceeded in much the same fashion--I was meant to do them at 7:05ish pace, but what felt "right" was 6:00ish. I tried gradually slowing things down little by little, but still finished the first one in 3:22 (6:44 pace) & the second in 3:23 (6:46 pace). (Yes, I could have run them slower in order to end up closer to the assigned pace on average, but I didn't actually want to go slower than the assigned pace, & that's just how averaging works.)

Even the last mile, which I started significantly slower in an effort to not run it 16 seconds too fast, ticked off in 7:11, which felt just ridiculously easy.

Probably not that I'm going to run a sub-45:00 this weekend at Bay Breeze, but with the longer game in mind, I WILL TAKE IT. #bodiesareweird #runningisweird #tracklyfe4eva

(Also, MY GOD, track workouts are like drugs. I had seriously forgotten how great I feel after a good speed session. More of this, please.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

EUGENE WEEK 5 OF 17: Speed + Hotness + I have no time this week.

Gaaaaaaah it is almost Wednesday and I am behind because WORK and LIFE and whatever else. I don't really have time to write, like, a full-on blog post, so here's some quick hits, which is all I can really do in ten frenzied minutes when I'm supposed to be sleeping.
  • Jeebus. Speed work (like, real, on-the-actual-ground speed work) when you haven't done it in six months is a freaking BITCH. What a confidence killer. Please die in a fire.
  • El NiƱo + climate change = really kind of insane February long runs. YOU GUYS, IT WAS ALMOST 80°. On Sunday I ran my longest long run post-sfx (10 miles) & a) it was 10-11 minute miles the whole time (no joking) while b) my heart rate was in half marathon race territory. That's some bullshit right there.

    You know we're back to proper-length runs when the Conservatory of Flowers makes an appearance! (Please try to ignore the Superbowl 50 statue, speaking of other things that can go die in a fire, along with the entire NFL.)

    (On the other hand, still feeling good in the skeletal department, so kinda-sorta win??)

  • I can't even tell you how much better I feel when I actually spend some time stretching & rolling after a long or harder run. Maybe if I can manage to remember I'll actually develop, like, a real habit. That would be rad.


Some Numbers:

    * 24.1 miles running (less than planned, but I think all my body could handle this week, actually)
    * 1:00:00 elliptical (as planned; would have been nice to get a little more since I didn't do all the running miles, but so it goes)
    * 3:00:00 strength work (woohoo!)
    * 40:00 stretch & roll (meh. Hey, I haven't quit!)

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

Tuesday: 2 wu, 3 x 1600m @ LT pace / 1:30 jog, 2 cd = 7.3 miles, + 20:00 stretch/roll

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate. We had a bunch of people out sick/injured or traveling, so no karate that night.

Thursday: 1.4 easy to gym, 45:00 easy elliptical, 1.4 home. I really wanted to try doing the pace workouts this week as actual runs, so shifting more of the "easy" stuff to the elliptical so that I don't jump up my weekly mileage too quickly.

Friday: a.m. strength work / p.m. 2 wu, 30:00 @ 8:35, 2 cd 4 easy

Re: doing the pace runs for real & jumping the weekly mileage up too soon, I shouldn't have worried. On Friday I just ran out of time. I got stuck at work late and we had dinner plans with friends, so squeezing in 4 easy miles was all I could do. Which was fine because my legs were *SOOO* unhappy, I'm assuming because of Tuesday's speed work.

Saturday: Rest.

Sunday: 10 miles + 15:00 elliptical + 20:00 stretch/roll. SO FREAKING HOT! Also worth noting that right now, 10 miles definitely feels like a long run, which is not surprising since I haven't run that far since July. Less time total assigned this week, though, since I'm racing on Saturday. I'm still slowly closing the gap between elliptical time and actual running miles, though!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Your yearly reminder that quitting is an important life skill.

So here we are, a month into the new year, up to 20+ miles a week & 8+ miles at once; my legs are feeling good, I haven't had the slightest hint of pain or discomfort, and the spot where I had the stress fracture feels completely normal. Given all that, I decided to wanted to give some faster running on the ground a try this week. On Tuesday I had some mile repeats on the schedule, and I thought those were probably a good choice for a first workout (as opposed to say, 200m's).

As I come back from this injury and start training again, I'm trying to be realistic, both in terms of 1) not pushing my body so hard so soon that I get re-injured and 2) remembering that it's now a good six months since I was in reasonably good shape. This attitude is a little bit at odds with my usual impulse to DO ALL THE WORKOUTS and MAKE ALL THE PACES, no matter what, no excuses, so it seemed like a good time to remind myself of the many virtues of quitting.

Quick recap: Never quitting sounds really good in theory, but think about it. What if you never quit anything? Never quit a relationship you'd outgrown? A job that wasn't working? A bad habit? A club that or hobby that's become more of a chore than a good time? An argument where you realize you're wrong? Something that seemed like a good idea at the time but now is clearly really, really not?

Quitting gets a bad rap, but in truth, it's a key life skill that all adults should master. To go all metaphorical on you, quitting is like weeding the garden. It keeps the soil fresh and tilled and creates room for things that are working to grow and blossom as well as space for fresh, new things to take root. The impulse to quit can also serve as a safety valve to keep us from doing ourselves serious harm.

Of course, sticking with things and seeing commitments through is an equally important skill; the wisdom (as it seems to be with many things) is in learning to tell the difference. Sticking with something because it just has to get done or you gave your word or because it'll be worth it in the end is one thing; refusing to quit things purely on principle is just stupid. Your time and resources are worth more than that!

My workout was supposed to be five mile repeats at 7:25 pace with 1:30 jogs in between. Now, first off, it does not make me feel great to see that pace on my schedule for mile repeats, but such is life when your ass has been parked on the elliptical for the better part of six months. Second, doing the whole workout including a warm-up and cool-down would have been a 9-10 mile run, and given that my longest run so far has only been 8 miles, I wasn't crazy enough to attempt the whole thing anyway. But I thought, "Eh, I'll do three and then do two more 7:25s on the elliptical at the same effort level." Given that I ran a sub-22 5K in December when I wasn't training and now I've had about four weeks of some training, you really wouldn't think (or at least I did not think) that 7:25s would be all that big of a deal. Like, effort required, yes, but not like hard hard.

Har har har.

You guys. 'Humbling' doesn't even begin to cover it.

I gave myself some time to get up to speed & when I thought, "This feels about right," glanced at my watch. And then I kind of wanted to cry when it said 8:30.

Sigh. Fine, I thought, and revved the engines a little more.

Now I did run three mile repeats at more or less the right pace (7:21, 7:26, 7:22), but finishing every single one of them felt like the end of a 5K, and that was with stopping at red lights. (Side note: I may have uttered a "Dear sweet lord Jesus, thank you" at every one.) It was not pretty. More than once I wanted to shout to the universe, "I RAN THREE BACK-TO-BACK 7:00ISH MILES IN DECEMBER UNTRAINED, WHAT THE HELL!"

There were two interesting things worth noting.

1) Once I started running fast, I had a very hard time getting my heart rate up. At that pace it should be *at least* 180 and it took almost the entire first mile--during which I felt like I was dying--to get above 165. (Normally for me 165 = running casually up a steepish hill.) Even in the last one, I only *averaged* 180. That is really, really weird.

2) I did forget that the first mile was uphill, so 7:21 when I was shooting for 7:25 really was probably WAY too fast. Like maybe that mile should have been closer to 7:40ish.

At this point I was so. So. Done. Maybe a little part of me had been thinking, "Eh, if I do 3 and they go pretty well, *maybe* I'll just go ahead and knock off the last two so I can say I did the whole workout." But that was so not happening, both because I felt half dead and also because I could feel how hard running even just that much faster had been on my poor legs which are NOT used to this right now. It just seemed like the worst idea ever. And, to be honest, I'm not sure even just doing two more time/effort wise on the elliptical would have been smart, having just experienced what that effort level apparently was today.

So, I quit. I still logged 7.3 miles for the day and logged my first successful speed workout since July (if you don't count the December 5K), and honestly, that really did feel like enough for where I am right now. I do not feel bad about it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Things that are and are not the main thing.

Recently I finished reading Matt Fitzgerald’s latest, How Bad Do You Want It?, because Matt Fitzgerald and duh. To vastly oversimplify things, the book is about the psychological aspect of endurance sports, and how the more we learn about optimizing training and performance, the larger a role those mental and emotional pieces seem to play (for better or worse).

I have this feeling that what this book will mean to an endurance athlete & what they get out of it probably has a lot to do with where they are in their “career”/”journey”/whatever you want to call it as such. (As an extremely non-professional athlete, neither of those words feel right to me, but I can’t come up with anything better.) I think if I had read this book say five years ago, it wouldn’t have meant as much. Like, I might have just shrugged & been like, “Cool story, bro.” But reading it in January 2016, it resonated with me at some critical frequency. I think I read it in two days which is fast even for me.

Sometime soon (whatever that means) I really want to sit down and give it a proper review, but for the time being I’m still letting my thoughts marinate. I bring it up because some of the big ideas Fitzgerald touches on seemed connected to a fantastic blog post I read this morning courtesy of Mario Fraioli. (If you don’t get The Morning Shakeout, you should! Or you should at least check it out to see if you should.)

The post, The Art of Keeping the Main Thing The Main Thing, was penned by elite runner Phoebe Wright. Have you ever had a moment where something’s been bothering you for a while and you couldn’t put your finger on it, and then someone comes along and perfectly sums it up with exactly the right words and you go YES! YES, THAT! THANK YOU!

This was one of those moments.

During the time I’ve been reading and writing blog posts about running, there is a certain genre of post that is obsessive about little details and their effect on race day outcomes.

  • "My race was almost ruined because I forgot my extra special never-fail breakfast and we had to drive all over x city in order to find it. DISASTER AVERTED."
  • "In order to run my best I know it is critical for me to do y warm-up, exactly, and god help the fool that gets in my way."
  • "I was awake with nerves most of the night so I knew from the start that my race was doomed."
  • "Here are my extremely detailed taper nutrition/hot yoga plans, I have done exactly this for every race and this is obviously why I have PR’d every time."

And yes; I have definitely authored my share.

Something about it always bothered me, though; something I couldn’t quite get my head around.

Because the details are important, right? Aren't the details what separates a good race from a great one? Find out what works for you and then do exactly that every time, right?

Just a couple of paragraphs into Phoebe’s blog post, it hit me:

    ”We’ve all heard the advice: “It’s about the little things,” they say, “Do the 1%” they say.

    Well, this is kind of misleading advice. There, I said it. Because focusing on the 99% is probably going to get you farther than focusing on the 1%. That’s math. Or common sense? Sometimes, we get too zoomed in and can’t see the forest through the trees. This is a problem. It is good to take care of the little things, as long as the little things don’t become the main things.

*nailed it*

    ”Let’s talk for a second about the things that aren’t the main things:
      What you ate pre-race.
      If you got a cup of coffee.
      If you got a massage.
      What spikes [or whatever] you are wearing.
      How you felt in your pre race workout
      What your weight is.
      What the pace is supposed to be.
      Doing too many strides.
      Doing too little strides.
      Doing too fast strides.
      How much you hydrated.
      Talking about all the race plans.
      How much you were on your feet yesterday.
      How much you slept last night.
      The workout your competitor tweeted about.
      How fast you did your warm up.

Is she looking directly at me? I think she might be looking directly at me.

I’m a detail person. I LOVE details. Especially details that involve numbers! I love love love obsessing and quantifying and organizing and analyzing. Give me a good data set and you may not see me again for days. A data set drawn from my own obsessive, overly competitive hobby? I’m lucky if I remember to feed myself.


Part of this is just my personality (data analysis just makes me happy), but I felt like there was something else going on with the running part, particularly when it comes to what does or doesn’t happen on race day. Cue Phoebe:

    ”Reasons why the details are easy to focus on:

    1. Details help you take the pressure off. It’s like a defense mechanism. It resolves you from responsibility of your race. If you don’t race well, it is a nice excuse to fall back on. “Well, I would have raced well, except…”

    It’s really scary to try and lose and have to be like, “Well. I’m not as fit as I’d like.” Or “I didn’t try as hard as I wanted to.” That makes you feel bad on the inside. Where if you raced badly because of that Chicken Phad Thai spicy level 4 stomach issue, then it’s not really your fault!"

Ah! Right in the gut. HOW DID SHE KNOW??

    "2. Details allow you to zoom in so much that you don’t have to think about the race or the outcome. It is scary to line up and have no clue if you are going to win. It is stressful."

Truth. Keeping your head in the game when you really care is uncomfortable and stressful, so any excuse to take one’s head OUT of the game (while still pretending to be in it—‘Oh, whether I’m going to have a gel every 20 minutes or 25 minutes is CRITICAL TO MY RACE and obviously a VERY IMPORTANT THING to focus on right now’) can seem super attractive.

    "3. Details allow you to feel like the race result is predetermined. If you take care of all the details, then it is the universe’s way of saying, “Don’t worry, Phe, all the evidence suggests that you have already won this race.”

I think another way of describing this last one is “bargaining.” Okay, so maybe you didn’t do as many long runs as you should have and cut a few speed workouts short, but you carb-loaded, slept well, and wore the right shoes, so OBVIOUSLY you SHOULD PR.

(Or, alternatively, you ate like crap all week, barely slept, and probably picked the wrong shoes, so no need to stress yourself out trying too hard since a personal worst is pretty much guaranteed.)

    ”Let’s talk about the main things that are the main things:

    1. The work you put in over the last few months.
    2. Your mindset.

    THAT’S IT.”

On the one hand, it sounds liberatingly simple. Work hard, and get your mind right. That’s it.

But the simplicity of it is precisely what makes it so scary. It frees you of obsessing over details, but it also takes any excuses off the table. It bans the distractions that keep you from having to keep your head in the game.

Now, don’t get me/Phoebe wrong (because now I’m kind of going to speak for her a little). We shouldn’t completely ignore details. We should definitely do everything we can to have our best possible race, including eating what works for us, wearing the gear we’re comfortable with, doing our best to be rested and fresh, warming up however works best for us, etc. But we should never fall into the trap of thinking that those things are going to make or break our race (except in the most extreme situations we have no control over anyway) if we’ve done the work.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to keep this in the front of my mind as I start actually, like, running real races this year. Definitely book marking the page to come back to….

Monday, February 1, 2016

Eugene Week 4 of 17: Dr. Who is gone but at least lifting heavy things still works.

This wasn't exactly the week I had planned. Not least of which because it was the last week of Dr. Who on Netflix, and WTF?? I have like three seasons left to watch before I catch up. I shell out $8 for that crap and now there is nothing left to watch except Jessica Jones. And Broadchurch. And The Fall. And reruns of X-Files and House. Shut up.

The week worked out okay, though once I found out Dr. Who is on Hulu and I can just give them my $8. Better than okay, actually.

We'd planned to be in Tahoe skiing with friends over the weekend, but said plans changed unexpectedly just a few days beforehand, which was just as well because it was around then that I started feeling a bit sick. I felt unusually tired on Wednesday, & by the time I got home I had a sore through & was also stuffed up and sniffly. It never got really bad, but pretty much all I did for the rest of the week was sleep, work from home, and get my workouts in.

In other news, I'm really enjoying getting back into proper strength work again, even though it's tough sometimes. I think I said this a few weeks ago, but MAN, it is a different world when you walk into the gym with an actual plan written by someone who knows what the hell they are doing than when you walk in going, "Eh, I'll just hang out for ~45:00 & do some deadlifts & push-ups & core & clamshells & whatnot & then hit the showers and call it good."

Now, don't get me wrong; I don't want to malign anyone's efforts at doing something instead of nothing when it comes to ye olde strengthe worke. I have certainly spent many years of my running life doing exactly that, and I really do believe it's far from useless. But two summers ago when I was hanging out with the SF Crossfit Triathlon group and last summer when I was working with AT and now these last four weeks doing the New Rules (ie, the poor woman's personal strength trainer), it is an entirely different experience when someone actually spells out for you what to do and there is an actual plan behind it.

For one, I've pretty much come to accept that it hurts. I mean, not in the "WOW-I-think-I-just-threw-my-back-out" kind of way, but definitely in the "Sweet-baby-Jesus-I-do-not-not-NOT-want-to-do-four-more-reps" kind of way. I can't sleepwalk my way through it and often find myself using the same mental tactics I use to get through speed workouts.

But, it freaking works. I have upper body muscles again and also abs (been a while since I've seen those! They actually kind of startled me when I first noticed them), and in terms of pounds of lean tissue and body fat percentage, I am definitely seeing numbers much closer to what I prefer. (To be honest, I'm more than a little surprised to see such big changes in just a few weeks. Though running consistently again also helps.)

(Look, I'm sorry there's no pictures. I just can't be one of those people with my phone out at the gym taking pictures of shit, and I am really trying to get through these workouts as quickly as possible. Please enjoy instead this picture of my post-long run beer in one of the beautiful "Buy a Lady a Drink" glasses my sister got us for Christmas, which provides clean water access for women in draught-ravaged countries. My sister is awesome.)


Some Numbers:

    * 23.8 miles running (even more than the 20-22 I was shooting for - yeah!)
    * 1:54:00 elliptical (solid)
    * 3:00:00 strength work (woohoo!)
    * 30:00 stretch & roll (meh)

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

Tuesday: 2.5 easy to gym, 12 x (0:45 hard / 1:15 easy) elliptical, 1.5 easy home + 10:00 stretch & roll.

On my training plan this workout was 12 x (200m hard / 200m easy). If these had been longer, slower intervals, I think I would have tried them on the treadmill, but I have never had great success running that fast for such short periods on time on the ol' 'mill. Next week I have some mile repeats at LT pace, which seems like a pretty reasonable workout to try on it.

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / p.m. 1.4 to gym, finish strength work, 1.4 home, karate.

On this day, I was working on the Peninsula, about halfway between home and work. One of the reasons I switched my gym last fall was because I've been doing more work off-site, and since my old gym was the one by my office, this meant that I was starting to miss quite a few workouts and shuffling the days around was becoming a huge hassle. So now I have a 24-Hour Fitness any club pass (only $5 more than what I was paying for my old gym with one site only), which helps a lot since they're freaking everywhere. So I was pretty pleased to see that there was one less than a mile from my work site.

Except no. I arrived there to find it had been replaced by a PT place. So I had to book it to the NEXT closest 24HF (so like ~2 miles away). I had enough time to get ~2/3 of my strength workout done but had to finish the rest when I got home, which meant jogging the ~1.4 miles to my local 24HF & back.

Don had a work event that night so I went to karate alone, but that was around when I was starting to feel not too great. Since there were 2 other instructors there, I bailed after half an hour.

Thursday: 6 easy + 20:00 stretch & roll. No tempo/threshold this week. And it's a good thing since I was still feeling like poo, and it absolutely showed in my pace. :-/

Friday: a.m. strength work / 1.4 to gym, 45:00 easy elliptical, 1.4 home. Trying to keep gradually upping the length/frequency of my longest runs while keeping my weekly mileage increase in check, so decided to do most of this one on the elliptical. After that I went home and slept.

Saturday: Rest. And MAN, did I need it. So much sleeping.

Sunday: 8 easy + 45:00 easy elliptical.Thankfully I was feeling a lot better Sunday morning. We went rock climbing in the afternoon, & then I went out for my coldest run in quite sometime. I know I run hot so often I'll run in a tank & shorts even into the low fifties/high forties, but Sunday evening it was tights, tank, and a tech jacket, and I was perfectly comfortable the whole time.

Also, 8 miles is another post-sfx distance record! Physically this run felt easier and more comfortable than any of them have in a while, all the way to the end, so I'm feeling pretty good right now about continuing to jump up the long run mileage ~1 mile per week.