Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Calm Yourself!


Recovery Week -- that time in the training cycle when you think about race day goals, scare yourself shitless, and then try to calm yourself back down and then think about how your training cycle fits into them.

I set out for a recovery run this morning with the intent of thinking about my goals for Santa Rosa. If you've been following along here for any point of the last 5.5 months, you may remember that my marathon goal is to break 3 hours. Ah, the elusive 2:xx marathon... It scared me shitless before Newport, and it still scares me shitless. I can't help but wonder, "Am I ready to crush that goal?" So before I start to spiral into a web of self-doubt, I'm going to just take the rational route here and think about my training.

I can't say that I had any major catastrophes this training cycle (knock on wood). I still had some aches and pains (e.g., piriformis), but that's nothing new. I didn't end up doing as much core and strength work as I said I would. The first few weeks were good, and then I moved, and suddenly, everything went awry on that front. Simply finding the time and energy to run seemed like a miracle.

You know what else didn't happen? Sleep. Old habits die hard.

I didn't focus as much on speed as I should have. But between the superhero 5K and a workout of 5x600m intervals at 5KRP that I ran 20+ seconds faster than 5K pace, I think the speed work that I did do went quite well.

But what did happen? Well, I made a more conscious effort to eliminate gluten and dairy from my diet, and my GI system has been happier. Maybe not happiest (refined sugar seems to also send my GI system into distress), but happier. And that's progress.

I did at least one of my long runs at 6am. Yes, it required me waking up at 3am, but I did it. And I survived. And it went well.

I ran an ultra relay at altitude (4000+ feet above sea level), and over a span of 29 hours, managed to run 35 miles at an average pace of about 7:30.

So my overall point here is that while some things didn't go right, some things did. And focusing on those is keeping me calm from freaking out.

It's hard to believe that this will be my 10th marathon. If you asked me when I started this marathoning business if I'd do 10 marathons, I would've looked at you like you just took some crazy pills. And now, I feel like the one who's taken some crazy pills. It's hard to believe that the 5.5 months that I spent in continual training for two different marathons are about to come to a close. Part of me is expecting to deal with the post-marathon blues, and to be tempted to sign up for another marathon as a means of coping with them. But we shall see...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"Just the Tip" Tuesday

I just realized that it's been a while since I shared some tips with you. So in honor of Tuesday, I present you with "'Just the Tip' Tuesday."

-The crock pot is an amazing gadget. I can throw food inside, turn it on low, and then head out for a long run while it cooks. I've tested this out twice already with jerk chicken. The chicken was delicious, and my house has yet to burn down.

-If you want a gluten-free gel that contains more than 50 mg of caffeine, look no further than the Cold Brew Energy Shots from Pocket Fuel! I just tried the mocha this morning. The gel pack is a little big, but it tastes great. (They also have java and vanilla flavors, but I've yet to try them.) I might've found my 18th-mile caffeine booster.

-When packing a gym bag to go workout in the morning, use a checklist to make sure that you've included everything. I seem to be very absentminded, and so far, I've forgotten a shower towel, belt, deodorant, tie, and even underwear (yes, this did happen). The day that I remember everything will be a huge victory.


Okay, now that that's done, it's time for training talk. Since switching up my routine to not run during the hottest part of the day, I think my running has improved. And by improved, I mean "cool enough so I don't feel like I'm gagging on 80-something degree heat."

Also, I finally started one of my long runs at 6am (the Santa Rosa start time). Lessons learned: This requires waking up at 3am to give myself ample time to eat. But wake-up call at 3am, start running at 6am, and start working by 9am. And it was comfortable outside too! (Minus the rain, but "You can't control the elements; only how you respond to them.") I felt like I crammed a lot into today, but like the saying goes, "Runners Rowers cram more in before 8am than most people do all day." Perhaps I should try that again.

Do you tend to be absentminded? 

Do you prefer morning or evening workouts (or midday)?

PS I entered the Runner's World Cover Photo Contest! Vote for me (and keep voting daily until 8/26)!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Celebrating Training Victories

When we last spoke (or rather, I spoke and you potentially listened), I had just moved and hadn't trained as much as planned over the prior two weeks. Unless daily stair climbing counts. Because I moved to a 3-story townhouse, and the only bathroom is on the top floor. And let me tell you, climbing these stairs about 58 times a day is no joke. I think after two weeks though, I'm finally used to it.

For this week, my main goal was to make sure I ran more miles than the previous week. The forecast called for more super-hot days, so my secondary goal was to beat the heat.

Of my seven runs last week (Monday was my only rest day, and I doubled up on Saturday), two were early morning (before 8am, during the week), one was mid-morning (9:45am), one was lunchtime, two were mid-afternoon (1:30-3:30pm), and one was early evening (7pm). Operation stay reasonably cool was accomplished. And I was able to see on my early morning runs that the heat had definitely been slowing me down.

I managed to log 51 miles this week, which was more than the 44 that I logged last week. Therefore, I accomplished my mileage goal too!

Another huge milestone was that I raced my first 5K in nearly two years! On Friday, one of my coworkers asked me if I wanted to run this superhero 5K with her on Saturday (the next day) along the waterfront (one loop from Hawthorne to Steel Bridge). I was all over this, even if it meant having to go to Target to buy a superhero T-shirt.

Assuming the course was mapped properly, my goal was to break 20 minutes (6:26/mi). We started, and I just booked it. Maybe I started out too quickly, but like I said, I hadn't raced a 5K in a while. I hit the first mile in 6:16, which was way faster than goal pace. (I did pass Batman though.) The second mile was along the east side of the Esplanade. I passed some more people, but felt like I was significantly slower than the first mile. My mile split was 6:28 though, so I guess I wasn't as far off as I thought. The last portion involved going up and over the Hawthorne Bridge, and then back to the finish. I stopped my watch and hit Save before I could even process that the course was 0.5 miles short. Had I been thinking, I might've just kept running along the waterfront until my watch hit 3.1 miles. Coulda, shoulda, woulda though, right? Anyway, my final time was 16:38, which amounted to a 6:23 pace.  I was a bit disappointed that the course was short, but I was stoked to run all of that faster than my goal pace (and run my first race in a sub-6:30/mi pace). After the last few weeks of running, I needed that confidence booster.

The next day, I had "15M with 12M at goal marathon pace" on the plan. However, as a result of the 5K (and the 4 recovery miles) the day before, I decided to change this to a 2M warm-up, followed by 6 x 1M repeats (with 1M of rest in between), and then a 2M cooldown. My legs felt good until speed interval #5, and then they just felt like lead. But I found some kick for the last interval.

Both of those stories reminded me of a very valuable lesson. In any training plan, you have to celebrate the small wins, because it helps you remember that something's going right in your training. And the sum of all of those small wins is a huge victory.

Do you celebrate your small wins? And if not, will you start doing that?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Moving, Forward and Up

Before you start harping on me about my hiatus from blogging, know two things:

1. You can always keep track of my workouts on dailymile.

2. I moved. Yes, I'm still living in Portland. No, that doesn't make the process any less stressful.

Unpacking at the new place. Clothes EVERYWHERE.

To sum up, week 4 of SR training was spent packing up my old place, and week 5 was spent getting settled into my new place. As a result, I scaled back on my mileage for those two weeks (ran 34 miles out of the scheduled 51 for week 4, and 41 of the scheduled 60 for week 2). I also scaled back because it was HOT out here. No joke, it hit 99 degrees one day last week. (I think the last time I was anywhere that hot was when I lived in NYC.) And running in it was HORRENDOUS.

With that being said, my runs just didn't feel good over these last two weeks. Paces that typically feel easy suddenly felt sluggish, and I felt as sluggish as I did when I was struggling with iron deficiency a few months ago.

That could be for several reasons. One obvious explanation would be the heat. According to an article in Runner's World, "Every 5°F rise in temperature above 60°F can slow your pace by as much as 20 to 30 seconds per mile." It could be related to sleep, as I haven't done much of that since before I moved. Another potential explanation would be the iron. I just learned the other day that both regular and decaf coffee contain phenols, which inhibit iron absorption, and I have had more of that in recent days (though it hasn't been much). I would also try to blame the 4th of July party where I got glutened, but that would only explain Saturday and Sunday's runs. So who knows. My guess goes toward explanations #1 and 2.

Speaking of hydration/fueling, let me tell you a great lesson I learned Sunday! You ready for this??

Not all sports gels are gluten-free.

I was about to head out for my long run Sunday (18 miles, which ended up being in the 80-something degree heat) when I looked at the label for the chocolate flavored Clif shot, and saw that it contains maltodextrin. Now I remembered from my recent research on soaps and cosmetics that maltodextrin is a gluten-containing ingredient that is sometimes found in soap, shampoos, etc., so I went to Clif's website, and confirmed that both the shots and the shot blocks are not gluten-free. Fortunately, Gu Energy GelsHammer Gels, and Honey Stinger Gels are all gluten-free, so I'm not particularly worried about my long-run fueling. But does anyone know of a flavor that's super-caffeinated and gluten-free? I need to find a fix for my beloved Clif chocolate cherry gel that contains two shots worth of espresso!

Do you have any theories on my sluggish training? And/or any recommendations of caffeinated sports gels?

Monday, June 23, 2014

An Announcement and a Recap

I'll discuss my week of training in a moment. But first, an announcement. I'm serving as a social media ambassador for the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon on August 31!

It's no secret that I love running. And unless you're a new reader, it's no secret that I love wine. So naturally, I'm all in favor of anything that combines those two loves. But why should you join me out here (besides the chance to run with me)?

-The Willamette Valley is beautiful, and Labor Day weekend in Oregon is typically dry.

Source: Destination Races

Source: Destination Races

-It's Labor Day weekend! With the extra day off (assuming that your employer gives you the holiday as paid time off), a long weekend is that much more feasible!

-The Post Race Wine and Music Festival, with over 20 different wineries from the area. 20 different wineries in one place? It's like one stop shopping!

So join me! And act now before registration fees increase on July 1.

Back to your regularly scheduled report.

No major lessons on the food front. The other half recently read about Harvester Brewing, a new-ish gluten-free brewery with a gastropub. The beer is derived from chestnuts and the menu looked amazing, so we were both intrigued enough to make a date night out of it on Friday. Verdict: It was probably the best gluten-free beer I've ever had! The dark ale with hints of espresso flavor? Mmm! The food was quite delectable too. 

When I was refilling the soap dispenser in my bathroom the other day, I discovered that the soap contains milk in it. Yes, I should've expected this from the "milk and honey" scent, but I bought the refill jug long before resolving to cut gluten and dairy out of my diet, and never thought twice about it until the other day. 

Until Wednesday, my energy levels were very consistent and high. From Wednesday to Friday, I still had consistent amounts of energy, but less than before. I'm attributing it to a lack of sleep.

Also, my skin seems to dry out incredibly quickly if I'm dehydrated (which makes sense, because my body's probably usurping water from my skin so that the rest of my organs could function) or handling cardboard (damn move).

Workouts (Planned / Actual):
Mon - Rest or cross training / one hour spin class
Tues - Standard warm-up, recovery 6 mi, 2x1' standard core / Standard warm-up, 6.01 mi at 7:47/mi pace
Wed - DS routine, GA 9 mi, IT Band Rehab routine / Standard warm-up, 9.11 mi at 7:38/mi, IT Band rehab
Thurs - Rest or cross training / rest
Fri - Standard warm-up, GA 9 mi with 8x100m strides, strength workout, Standard warm-up, 5.03 mi at 8:03/mi, DS routine
Sat - Standard warm-up, recovery 5 mi, DS routine / Standard warm-up, 9.08 mi at 7:35/mo, 2 rounds of the 10x10 strength workout
Sun - Standard warm-up, MLR 13 mi, 2x1' Standard Core / Standard warm-up, 13.1 mi at 7:55/mi pace
Total - 42 mi / 42.33 mi 

I may have swapped Friday and Saturday out, but I still hit my weekly mileage go! Also, my foot doesn't seem to feel much better or worse. Okay, let me be specific, 42 miles this week felt like much less than that. Maybe it's related to the added ancillary work?

Anyway, off to bed. Happy Monday!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Summer's finally here (almost)! How can I tell? At 9 pm, it's still bright outside. I live for these long days!

You know what else screams "summer" to me? Ice cream. The other half recently introduced me to Coconut Bliss ice cream. Coconut milk-based, minimal ingredients, maximal flavor. Despite the fact that I seem to be unable to put have trouble putting the pint back in the freezer once I take it out, I highly recommend it! To be honest though, soft serve is more my thing. Back to Eden (the absolutely wonderful vegan, gluten-free bakery I finally tried about two weeks ago) apparently has soft-serve, dairy-free ice cream, and so I may have to go back there and get some to celebrate the official start of summer.

Another summer delight: mojitos. Fortunately, rum is distilled from sugarcane (and not grain), so I can still enjoy those. Unlike my former friend, the vodka-soda with lemon.

In all seriousness though, after two weeks of minimal gluten and dairy, my stomach seems to have dropped the swords of revenge. Maybe not 100% (my GI system seemed to retaliate a bit after drinking gin, and I later learned that gin is also distilled from grain), but compared to how it felt the week before Newport, I'll take that.

I'm still being mindful of my caffeine intake, and my energy levels have still been pretty consistent. I kid you not, I wake up after about 5 hours of sleep, only have 1 (sometimes 2) cup of coffee, and can still last about 18 hours. It's crazy! Maybe there is something to that extra iron dose (and pairing it with vitamin C, while limiting my coffee and wine consumption).

So now let's switch from food to training. I can't wrap my head around the fact that I'm already 2+ weeks into my multi-marathon training plan. All of the workouts have been either recovery runs or general aerobic (GA) runs, so it feels more like funning at times. But the "fun" is what keeps us coming back for more. Am I right or am I right?

To force myself to do ancillary work, I wrote it into my multi-marathon plan. After 1 week of testing that trick (because week 1 of this plan was simply recovering from Newport), I think it's working. A brief recap of weeks 1 and 2 of workouts.

Week 1 (Planned/Actual)
Mon - Rest or cross training / 4.43 mi of cycling in 20 min
Tues - Rest or 5 mi / rest
Wed - Recovery 5 mi / 5.16 mi at 7:41/mi
Thurs - Rest or cross training / rest
Fri - Recovery 5 mi / 5.06 mi at 7:36/mi
Sat - Recovery 5 mi / 7.19 mi at 7:40/mi
Sun - Recovery 7 mi / 5.13 mi at 7:40/mi + foam rolling
Total - 22-27 mi / 22.54 mi running + 4.43 mi cycling

Week 2 (Planned/Actual)
Mon - Rest or cross training / rest
Tues - Standard warm-up, recovery 6 mi, 2 x 1' standard core / Standard warm-up, 6.24 mi at 7:45/mi, 2 x 1' standard core
Wed - DS routine, recovery 5 mi, IT Band rehab routine / DS routine, 5.01 mi at 7:40/mi, IT Band rehab routine
Thurs - Rest or cross training / rest
Fri - Standard warm-up, GA 7 mi + 8 x 100m strides, strength workout / Standard warm-up, 7.07 mi at 7:34/mi, 2 rounds of 10x10 RYBQ strength routine
Sat - Standard warm-up, recovery 5 mi, DS routine / Standard warm-up, 5.06 mi at 7:40/mi, DS routine
Sun - Standard warm-up, GA 10 mi, 2 x 1' standard core / rest (unless walking around all day in honor of PDX Pride counts)
Total - 33 mi / 23.38 mi

How's your training going? What do you think of the briefer recaps?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Science of Newport: A Race Analysis

When we last spoke, I had revealed my mile-by-mile recap of the Newport Marathon, and the emotional side of the race. "The Art of Newport," if you will. (If you need to catch up, go read that recap first.) This will be more about the technical side of the race.

It has been said that those who can't remember the past are condemned to repeat it. And before I begin training for Santa Rosa, I want to visit Newport one last time to determine what went right, what went wrong, and what I could do differently on August 24.

So what went right?

First, the speed work in the Pfitzinger plans. Maybe not all of the tempo runs went according to plan, but I remember all of the track workouts when I felt like I was going to die during the intervals, and ended up nailing my target splits.

On a related note, I did most of the runs as prescribed in the training plan, and one of the keys to improving as a runner is to run high mileage (or so Jason at Strength Running tells me).

All Willy Wonka memes aside, I logged 56 miles for my peak week (the only time I ran more miles in a week during Eugene '13 training when I ran 57 miles in a week. But I wasn't working full-time then, so I'm chalking this one up as a win). Furthermore, April 2014 was the first time I logged 200 miles in a month.

With the exception of the last week of training, I was more mindful of what I ate. Sure, I had my cheat moments, but I know that I paid more attention to keeping gluten and dairy out of my diet when I went out to eat. Also, my issues with iron absorption compelled me to reduce my coffee consumption (because coffee hinders iron absorption) during the second half of training. I cut back from about 3 cups a day to 1 cup, and none after noon (well, most of the time). Once the nasty, wicked headaches subsided, I felt like my energy levels were more consistent. Less caffeine, more energy...maybe it really WAS messing with my iron absorption.

My pre-race massage also ended up being a wise choice. I did this a week before MCM because my legs were extremely tight, and after the success I had there, I decided to work a pre-race massage into my recovery week calendar. Groupon was also offering a deal for a LMT near my office, and how could I pass that up? My legs definitely felt fresher after that.

But what went wrong?

While I got enough sleep for me, I don't think I got enough for a recovery week. In the days leading up to the race, I only got about 4-5 hours of sleep per night. If you know me, you'll know that my attitude on sleep is along the lines of "I'll sleep when I'm dead." I just try to cram as much as possible into my days (because I don't know how to sit idly), and it usually catches up with me. I know that sleep is important in recovery, and that these same benefits probably apply to the taper as well.

The GI issues I had during recovery week and the race itself. Before I received the results from the celiac blood test, I took "potential celiac disease diagnosis" to mean, "You should go enjoy a burrito in case the test comes back positive (since ignorance is bliss)." And while I enjoyed said burrito as I ate it, the hours of GI distress that ensued was less than optimal. If I had to guess, I'd say that my mid-race GI distress was either due to the extra coffee I drank on race morning (normally, I'll have one cup of coffee before the marathon, but I ended up having about 1.5 cups this time) or to the gluten- and sugar-rich race eve eats (because my system wasn't used to them).

Per usual, I started out way too quickly. Between race morning excitement and jumping into an unofficial sub-3 pace group in the first mile, my pace for the first mile was my fastest lap of the whole race. I knew as soon as I saw that lap that I went out too quickly, and also knew that it was too late to do anything to prevent the damage.

My gel and water stops didn't correspond perfectly. I took the gels as planned, but on a couple occasions, the next water stop wasn't for another mile after I consumed the gel. You need water to help metabolize the glucose that's in the gels, so I couldn't reap the full benefits of them. Or so is my guess. And I'm sticking with it.

How can I improve?

Coordinate my Gu and water stops.

Get more sleep in the days leading up to the race.

Make a more concerted effort to figure out what foods work and don't work for me. Though I may not have full-blown celiac disease, I can't rule out the possibility of a gluten sensitivity (especially after the issues with that burrito). Also, the adjustments I made based on my iron absorption problems seemed to help improve my energy levels. With that being said, I think continuing to pay closer attention to what I eat and my body's reaction to it could be greatly beneficial.

Do more core and strength work. I put in the miles for this race, but more often than not, I'd skip out on the ancillary work. I did more strength work in the weeks leading up to MCM, and I'd like to think it paid off there.

Do some predawn long runs. I'm putting this on my list only because Santa Rosa has a 6am start time, and I think it'd behoove me to get used to starting long runs at that hour.

Do you have any more suggestions?