Monday, June 29, 2009
I am so excited to be training again, and to be loggin more mileage than during my previous marathon cycle!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
( 400m swim, 13 mile bike, 3.1 run)
OK, so I did not mention I am going to do this race, as I normally do. You see, I really wanted "an out", just in case my fear of swimming in open water would take over... And it did, a little, last night when I swam the 400m (more like 500 from what I later heard) course. Chris went with me since I did not want to be there alone. I had a couple of moments when my heartrate went really high and I checked around to make sure Chris was not too far away. .. I have to thank him for encouraging me to go ahead and do the race.
I could not sleep the entire night. I swam the course in my head several times, and planned how I would get the lifeguards' attention if something went wrong. Even though I swim between 1 mile and 1.5 miles 2-3 times a week, and have been doing this for over a year now, I have this fear of swimming in open water. It's irrational, and I knew that the only way to get over it would be to do the race.
I got up at 5:45 so that I could have breakfast and coffee. We hit the road at 6:30, and got there at 7am. I set up my bike, and started chatting with everyone. There were lots of first timers, but everyone seemed comfortable with the swim and worried about the run. We started in waves. I was wave 2 (39 an under). There were about 50 of us, and every one was v nice and polite during the swim. None of the kicking that I've heard. So the swim was uneventful. I was very calm and collected*. I have no idea how fast I swam, but I would say I was in the top 10 for the wave, which made me super happy.
The transition to the bike was smooth. I did not rush at all. I even chatted with a guy from a previous wave who got "lost" on the course and swam it twice while negotiating a panic attack. Poor guy! I had a banana, put socks and shoes on, hopped on the bike and off I went. The course was a 3.1 m loop, which we did 4 times (for a 13.4, rather than 13....see the pattern here?). I felt strong on the bike, and enjoyed myself. I passed some people, got passed by others, and I know now that I should have pushed much harder. There were lots of sharp turns on the course, and I am still working on not slowing down when I take the turns. My Garmin refused to work so I have no idea what my time on the bike was. Given that there were 4 waves, and we were all wearing helmets, that it was so hard to figure out which waves people belonged to.
The run was interesting. I transitioned in about 3 minutes, again, taking my time, and discovered that my Garmin was all of a sudden working. Such relief. The 1st mile went by quickly. My calves were in pain, which never happens to me on a run, but makes sense since those muscles are used much more (for me) on the bike. First mile was 6:40, way, way fast for me. I did not realize I was going that fast until I saw the mile split and slowed myself down as I climbed a little hill. Around the half way my stomach started giving me problems. I saw a few women in front of me (had no idea which wave, though), and I did not even think about passing them. I just hoped to keep a constant pace, though I was going slower and slower. I did pass about 5 women, all that I could see in front of me. The last 100 m or so I felt a strong urge to vomit, and I managed to restrain myself until I passed the finish line. Then off I went, as a volunteer gave me a bottle of water. My Garmin said 21:59 (7:06 mile/min), which is slower than my 5K PR, but probably pretty good given that I had swam and biked before.
Only overall time was posted, and so I have no idea how I did on the swim, bike or transitions, which is a bummer, because I would have liked to have a baseline for comparison for my future races (but hey, the entire race was $30, and we got awesome tech Tshirts, too). I estimate 10 min swim, 45 min bike, 22 run, and about 6 min or so transitions. I know I did not push at all on the swim or the bike (I should have been on a "harder" gear) and I only raced the run, and so I think I can greatly improve. Also, my husband is hooked, and while he keeps telling me that it is crazy to run 1/2 and full marathons, he would love to try a triathlon. Would be super fun to race together, though I know I won't stand a chance to finish before him...
It was a great day, I met lots of wonderful people, and managed to take on my fear of swimming in open water. My son enjoyed the playground and company of the other kids along with a chocolate donut that I shared with him after the race (OK, he had 3/4 of it). And my husband was the best cheerleader, per usual!
* I have a tendency to get nervous before races, but during races I am calm and collected.
Monday, June 22, 2009
The Baystate Marathon is on 10/18, in Lowell, Mass, about 30 min from my house. Can you say convenient? It is a flat and fast course, with 30% runners qualifying for Boston. It's a 2 loop course, which I actually like (in theory). I think it would mentally help to know what to expect for the last 13.1 miles. Also, I'll get to see my family twice:) . The race is at 8am, which is good, I think, since I am doing my long runs at that time, so I suppose my body is used to running in the morning. This time would also mean nice cool temperatures.
I am going to use the FIRST program again, albeit a modified version.
1) More mileage
Since Boston, I have been building a base of about 30 miles, with a long weekly run between 10-12miles, and 4 (rather than 3 runs). I typically do 8 fast miles on Monday, 8 easy/fast on Wednesday, 2-3 slow on Thursday (after a 15 mile bikeride) and 10-12 on Saturday. I feel my mileage was perhaps a bit too low for Boston (average 30 miles/week), as I was fine cardiovascularly (due to lots of crosstraining) but my legs were dead for the last 6 miles. I am hoping that 35-40 average miles/week would help me feel stronger during the last few miles. The mileage increase is going to come from 3-4 miles recovery run on Thursday (after bikeride) and from adding 1-2 miles of cool down/warmup to my tempo and speed runs. I will see how this will go, and will back off at the slightest sign of injury.
2) More intervals during crosstraining
For Boston, I crosstrained 3 days a week, and did 2 swims and 1 bikeride. Through lots of reading, I am learning that biking is probably the best crosstraining for runners. As such, I am going to try to do 2 bikerides/week, including some intervals on my trainer or outdoors, and 1 long swim (1.25-1.5 miles) with kicking intervals (those really get my heartrate up). Since during the summer we go to the townbeach almost every late afternoon as a family, I am sure I'll be able to sneak in a few 400 meters intervals in addition, as well. I am hoping that all this interval work is going to make me faster. Will see.
3) Fewer overall speed intervals.
A few seasoned runners recommend doing speedwork only toward the end of marathon training, to avoid injury and mental fatigue, and also because as one fellow blogger noted, they are not that important for the marathon (I will not run 400 meters @ a 6:10 pace during the marathon - I'd like to, but it's not going to happen). As such, I decided to see about running some races during July and maybe part of August in lieu of interval work. It so happens that Lynn Woods hosts trail races Wednesday evenings up to September or so, and a few trail running fellows whom I have not seen in ages are attending. Since the races are on trails, the forgiving footing will hopefully keep me injury free. Again, nothing is set in stone, so I will see how things are going. During September and October I will replace all races with speed work at the track.
4) Better recovery
For Baystate, since my training is going to be more intense than for Boston, I need an even better recovery plan. I am lucky that I enjoy healthy foods and really don't crave and actually can't eat overly processed, sugary foods. For the past month or so I started drinking a "recovery shake" after any workout longer than 1 hour, and learned that it helped me have less muscle soreness and less fatigue post run. I blend together milk (or greek yogurt) with 1/2 banana, a handful of blueberries and a few strawberries and ice. I sip this delicious drink while reading in my icebaths (which are much more enjoyable in the summer). In addition, I am going to use the roller after every run, and be disciplined about ab work and pilates. I also need to get better about eating protein, and perhaps eat more lentils and beans since I am not a big fan of meat. Oh, and I really need to sleep more - four, five hours a sleep on Friday night is not conducive to good running on Saturday, and I am not Dean Karnaze*.
5) Stick to the specified pace for the long runs (first 2/3 of the run), run the last 1/3 faster, run the last 4 miles or so at MP.
I managed to do some of these during my training for Boston, but I was not consistent. I was uncomfortable running slow, and, although I did run negative splits a lot, I felt exhausted and that I have gone "all out" after most of my long runs.
OK, I think that's all I had to say. I have a "secrete little race" on Saturday, so "little" that tapering is not really required, and then Baystate training starts. I feel ready and excited.
* Dean Karnaze reportedly sleeps only 4 hours a night.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
* you should check this out, they've got running clothes, too - check "clearance". Oh, and they should totally sponsor me!
Monday, June 15, 2009
Having said that, let's just summaries a few things I have learned:
1. Most training plans are similar - they all require long runs, faster runs, and really fast runs. Except that they use fancy names that they don't always agree on, like tempo vs lactate threshhold, or interval versus speed work.
2. They all agree on the benefits of strengthening exercises, though they disagree over whether stretching is necessary; some even go as far as saying that stretching before a proper warm-up is dangerous, as it may lead to muscle tears.
3. They all agree that form is important, though some emphasize it more than others.
4. They all mention cross training, though some value it more than others. Some state improved VO2max and general aerobic capacity via cross training, while others say that cross training does not help much with running, with perhaps one exception (biking).
5. They all agree that if you are injury prone, cross training is a good option.
6. Most agree that for marathon training intervals should be longer than when training for a 5K. Daniels recommends doing intervals that last in between 2-5 minutes; shorter intervals are OK but recovery between these intervals should be v short.
7. Some value high mileage, other value lower mileage plus cross training. However, they all agree that you need a lot of 20milers when running low mileage, and only 1-2 if running high mileage. Now I understand why FIRST has me do 5 20 milers while Pfitz only 2-3.
8. Running more than 20 miles does not have any proven physiological benefit (though it does have a mental one).
Some things I have learned and will incorporate in my marathon training.
1. Race with a purpose - goals could be trying a new nutrition strategy, running negative splits, etc.
2. Run with a purpose - each run should help you achieve something, so the pace needs to be controlled and within a particular zone, rather than "just running".
3. Bricks are awesome workouts - the short run at the end helps the brain gets used to running on fatigued muscles.
4. Doing intervals while cross training can act like a "second speed workout" sans the injury.
5. Doing the last few miles of a long slow run at marathon pace can boost confidence and physiological adaptation.
* and **I strongly, strongly recommend that you check out my two favorite running books: Lore of Running by Tim Noakes, and Brain Training for Runners by Matt Fitzgerals (he also has a blog - check him out at http://mattfitzgerald.org/ ).
Training for Baystate Marathon starts in 2 weeks, which is great, because I "ran" out of running books. Which is a good thing, since I much rather run then read about running.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
The older guy sporting speedos in the next lane suddenly appears in my lane, swimming towards me. I pull to the right. He realizes he is in my lane and goes back into his. This keeps repeating several times. Made for a fun swim!
* Wednesday: decide to wear heels at work
Come home with swollen feet and blistered toes. If I can't wear my Injinji and compression socks with the heels, then no more heels for me.
*Thursday: brick workout
On the way home from work I think about how one of these days I am bound to get into a bike accident. Later that afternoon.... Slowing down at a stoplight. Can't get my shoe off the pedal on time, and fall down and scrape my right knee. Get back up while propping on a car nearby. The driver is visibly distressed and asking if I am OK. So sorry! At home my son is very excited: "We have matching boo-boos, mommy!".
Friday, June 5, 2009
Mondays: 8 mile run, some strengths and abs and weights
Tuesdays: swim (1-1.5 miles) and bike (45 min indoors or 15 miles outdoors).
Wednesday: 6 mile run, some strengths and abs and weights.
Thursday: 15 miles bike ride followed by 3-4 mile run. OR 30 miles ride.
Saturday: long run (at least 10) and swim (1 mile)
Sunday: swim (1.5 miles) and bike (15 miles).
I am one of those people who enjoys training more than racing.
Training is my daily me time. I get to be with myself and sort through my thoughts, or listen to some pretty awesome podcast, or music, or gab away with my running pals. Once in a while I get a day where my stride, or stroke, or pedaling feel fluid and ease, my mind and body one, and time stops and everything seems just perfect as is. Peaceful.
Racing is more difficult. I get worked-up about races. I set high standards and want to PR every time. I can't stand the thought of something going wrong during race day (so far I have been so lucky). Although I think I am mentally tough and able to push through at the end of races, I don't enjoy that. In sum, you can say that I don't like to race but I love to be able to say "I have raced" . At the same time, there is something magical about the last 6 miles of the marathon, the last 3 miles of a half marathon, and perhaps the last mile of a speedy 5K. I hate the moments when I am working on convincing my mind that I am doing fine (and my body is screaming), that I have less to go than I actually have, and that the pain/nausea/etc is really not that bad, manageable, mild. In fact, one of my mantras is "Can you stand more pain?" Yet after every race I think of things I can do better next time, so that I can go faster, so that I can trick the mind even more so that it can allow my body to move quicker. It's a never ending game that I love and hate to be part of.
I feel that every race teaches me something about myself. Like the fact that I get race anxiety one week in advance but am calm as a clam the day before and during the race. Or that I visualize racing over and over in my head during the last few runs pre-race. Or that I get sad after marathon(s). And impulsive. And oscillate from insecurity to megalomania. That I get back to my typical self a few days after. That I strive on discipline and accomplishment. And much more.
Racing pushes me outside of my comfort zone, allows me to take risks that I no longer can afford to take in other aspects of my life, at least for the time being. Without running, there would be something else, but I am glad it is still running and I am going to play the game for as long as I can.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Ok, so I registered for this race 3 days in advance. I really wanted to do a 1/2 marathon this summer, but I wanted to give myself at least 1 month of post Boston recovery. As such, I was not able to do some of the flat and fast 1/2 marathons in the area, and traveling for a 1/2 is just not my thing. The only 1/2 left for the entire summer was the Heartbreak Hill. I knew I was not prepared to run a hilly 1/2, but I also remembered that, although I did struggle on HH during Boston, that hill is really not a big deal, just long but not too steep. When the RD told me the race shirt is technical, I signed up. Two days later I received an email from the RD: "This is a challenging course, with steep rolling hills, so start slow and make sure you pace yourself. The good news is that the last mile is generally downhill". What did I get myself into?
I completely blocked any race related thoughts over the weekend. It was my mom's last weekend before returning to Romania, and I focused on that. I slept like a baby, and was ready to run in the morning.
After my typical oatmeal with blueberries and coffee, I headed out to the race. I picked up my registration packet. I obsessed over whether I should eat a banana or not, or a gel. Then it was time to line up and off we went.
I had no plan for this race, rather than NOT to run more than 13.1*. I knew I wanted to have a PR, but I did not know whether I could do it. So, I was making excuses in my head. Perhaps this is why I made the rookie mistake. I went out tooo fast. This is so unlike me, I am very good at pacing myself, always start out slow and speed up later. I am not sure what happened, perhaps my brain knew that I could run faster...
I ran the first mile in 7:11. I felt great. I did manage to slow down after that, and by mile 3 I was at 7:30 average. I realized from the beginning how tough the course would be, but my legs felt fresh and I felt like I was flying up the hills. At mile 5 my pace was 7:44, and I planned to stay there. We ran Heartbreak at mile 6, and that was probably the easiest hill - long, but with only a slight incline, as opposed to the short and steep hills that made up the rest of the course. After Heartbreak I told myself that we would probably turn around but no, we went up, up, up on this circular hilly street, and I started getting a bit frustrated. I managed to keep up the pace, but I was getting tired. Pretty soon we were running down Heartbreak, and it was nice to go downhill and see runners going uphill. Been there, he, he! At that point I realized that I was getting very close to a woman in pink, whom I have been eying from the beginning miles, but who seemed too far away to attempt to catch. At mile 8 I was on her. I did not want to pass her yet, I just wanted to run behind her. She would get ahead of me on the uphills, and I would catch her on the downhills. At mile 9 I saw another woman runner walking. Walking, hmmm, sounds so good. NO! At mile 9 my legs also started to feel weak, and my toes got numb. Cardiovascularly I was fine, breathing a bit hard on the uphills, but recouping easily with deep breaths on the downhills. I started to worry a bit. I felt I did not have control over my legs. I did not feel any pain, just weakness. Darn! I started telling myself that it will pass, I just have to go with it, but it was frustrating to feel great otherwise and not be able to run faster. Plus, the chick in pink was way in front of me at that point. And then I stopped and walked. Only a few steps, and then I snapped out of it and started running. I knew better - walking at the end of a race is just silly, does not help at all. Pace was 7:55. Yikes! By mile 10 I was feeling a bit better. Legs were cooperating and I pushed the pace. I knew I could not catch the "pink lady", but I wanted to go faster. I looked at my watch and calculated that I could break 1:43 if I picked up the pace. I did. I remembered that the last mile was downhill, and I kept telling myself that the race is only 12 miles, that the last mile does not count. Pace went down gradually, in spite of the rolling hills. With every hill, I would tell myself, "last one, last one". It worked. At mile 12 I seriously picked up the pace. I saw the clock at 1:42:30 as I got close to the finish line, and kicked it for a 1:42:40 finish time.
Garmin stats: 1:42:40, 7:50 pace
Official stats: 1:42:57, 7:52 pace; 13th woman overall. 3rd 30-39 category.
Post race I felt great. None of the usual dizziness, hotheadedness that I normally experience. I got a free massage and some food after seeing my family. My son had a ball cheering on the runners. At the end of the race he and my husband ran through the finish line and everyone cheered on them. Now my son keeps telling everyone: "I am a fast runner. I am the fastest". I am loving that. Check out his smiling face as he was cheering on runners (red shirt and blue hat).
He also liked the trophy I got:
Overall a great day!
So, although I am happy with the results, I do feel I can run faster. A friend of mine who ran the race found this calculatorhttps://phsexchweb.partners.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.runworks.com/calculator.html , and said that based on the elevation profile for this race, we can substract 3 min from our race times in order to get a more reliable and valid 1/2 marathon time. That would be a sub 1:40 for me, which, based on FIRST would tell me I could do a 3:30 marathon (1:42 says I can do 3:35).
What I did wrong:
*Did not taper. At all. Ran 3 tempo run the previous week.
*Mentally I did not handle mile 9 very well. I should have pushed more. My pace went down a lot at that point, and, although I picked up the pace later on, mile 9 cost me.
*I started out too fast. Enough said.
What I did right:
*I ran the darn race even though I was not trained for it and very intimidated by the hills. This is good for me, get myself out of my comfort zone.
*I managed to pick it up at the end and did not fall apart at mile 9.
What I've learned:
I am strong cardiovascularly. All the swimming and biking have done wonders for my cardio system. However, my legs are not able to keep up. This was also my experience in the marathon. I think I am going to add another day of running, call it a recovery 4-5 miler at 8:30-9 pace, to get my legs ready and my mileage up. I would still be going on relatively low mileage (35-45), but much better than where I am now (25-30) or where I was during my training for Boston (27-35).
* I always zig zag and run at least a .3 extra.