Monday, May 27, 2013

Unofficially Summer!

It's Memorial Day in the States. First, I would be greatly remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to acknowledge the veterans and express my gratitude for their service to our country, and for fighting for the rights that we consider to be so fundamental.

Second, this is supposed to be the unofficial start of summer. Oregon didn't seem to get that memo...or maybe it just chose to ignore it. I woke up to rain pattering against my bedroom window this morning, which made it quite difficult to want to get out of bed. I eventually did, but I still haven't ventured out for today's run (or really, any errands, for that matter). Rather than start this week's training, I'll reflect on last week's.

Last week's workouts (week ending 5/26)
Running - x5 (27.20 miles total)
Cycling - N/A
Core - x2
Strength - x1
Foam rolling - x3
Salt bath - N/A

For the first time in a while, I went trail running. I did 4 miles on the Wildwood Trail on Monday. While the hills weren't easy in the least (the first two miles were uphill, and resulted in a 600' climb), it was a great way to just lose myself in a run. I normally shy away from this run because of that climb, but my runner friend Darren reminded me that I shouldn't shy away from the hills and trails because they'll make me stronger and less injury-prone. 

I also did my first unstructured fartlek workout on Friday. (Up until now, I've just done basic intervals with the same amount of rest between each interval.) And dare I say it was actually kind of fun? 

In the days after Eugene, one of the big things that I noticed was that my appetite decreased. I've read about runners eating just as many calories post-marathon as they were during the peak of their training, so for that reason, I was grateful that my hunger levels decreased. This week, I noticed that my hunger levels increased, which I'm convinced is due to the increased activity (i.e., increased mileage, 5 days of running instead of 4).

I did one day of strength work (20 min) and two days of core work (about 30 min, collectively). After my core work yesterday, I concluded that I should put more emphasis on ancillary work. My goal for this week is to do at least 2 days of core work and strength work (2 days for each). Three days of each would probably be optimal for making me stronger overall, but when setting/achieving goals, it helps to break up the bigger goal into smaller, more attainable benchmarks.

Running Articles
I came across a couple of interesting articles this week. I can go into detail about these in another post, but I wanted to share them with you now.

"The Exercise Equivalent of a Cheeseburger?"
(Source: Wall Street Journal)

The article claims that endurance running (over 30 miles/week) could result in elevated levels of coronary plaque and increased vulnerability to other adverse cardiac conditions. If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I'm skeptical and critical of this article. The references that it cites are limited and hard to track down, and the one I could find was a flawed study. My friend and MPH classmate Annie suggested I use my skills from grad school to compose a more developed and eloquent critique. This is in progress.

"Why Long Runs and Workouts Don’t Need to Feel Like You Could Run Goal Pace for the Full Marathon"
(Source: Runners Connect)

I've been asked before why marathon training runs max out at 20-21 miles if the race is 26.2 miles. I think that this offers an interesting (i.e., one I've never heard before) perspective on the subject.

"Summer Reading: 2013′s Best New Running Books"

I haven't read any of these, but some of them look really interesting. Hopefully, I'll be able to read some of them this summer!

Coaching Update
Thanks to Erin and the lovely world of Twitter, I've looked into the USATF and RRCA Coaching Certification courses. Both are well-regarded, but I'm more inclined to take the USATF course. USATF is the sport's governing body, and the course prepares one for both club- and school-level coaching. Sadly, neither is being offered in a convenient location for me anytime soon. (C'mon guys, add some more west coast dates!) 

Have you read any good running books/articles lately? And if so, which one(s)?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Elites and the Rest of Us

As you may have noticed, I've been doing a Monday recap of my training from the previous week. I'd like to keep that up, because it gives me a chance to reflect on what went right/wrong in the week's training, and a chance to pass that wisdom onto you.

Last week's workouts (week ending 5/19)
Running - x4 (20.29 miles total)
Cycling - N/A
Core - x2
Strength - x1
Foam rolling - x4
Salt bath - x1

My workouts felt pretty good. My run on Friday was at a 7:13/mi pace and my run on Sunday was at a 7:05/mi pace. I'm not quite sure where the speed came from, but I'm not really complaining either. My right quad felt a bit tight after my run on Sunday, but I think the side leg raises, clam shells, and salt bath helped that one out.

Running Celebrities
More exciting than my speedier training runs -- I met Kara Goucher on Saturday at the Portland Rock 'N' Roll Half Expo. (For those of you who don't know, Kara's an Olympic runner, and a fellow Portlander to boot.) Thanks to Twitter, I learned that she'd be speaking at the Expo on Saturday. So I showed up, just expecting to hear her talk. What I didn't expect was that she'd be doing an autograph and photo op after her talk.
In honor of the "pics or it didn't happen" saying...
I'll be honest -- the runner nerd in me was a bit starstruck. Fortunately, that didn't last very long.

But back to her talk. It was interview-style -- some guy (I have no idea who he was) asked her questions about her running career for about 30 minutes, then he took a break so that the audience could ask questions (this was about 10 minutes), and then her husband and son joined her on-stage to discuss the career-family balance for a few minutes.

Her solo portion of the talk was excellent! A few highlights:

-She had tried other sports, but running was the first one that felt natural. In her words, "Running was the first sport where I didn't have to think."

-Elite runners, like the rest of us, have good races and bad races. Sometimes (e.g., her 2007 World Championship 10K), the elements are going to all come together, and the race will feel incredible (and possibly surreal). But in some races (e.g., 2009 Boston Marathon), she's given it everything she can and has fallen short of her goal. She was initially disappointed by missing a goal she felt was realistic, but then she asked herself, "Now what? What can I take from this to become a better runner?"

-You're not always going to meet every goal. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't set your goals high. Setting high (but realistic) goals for yourself keeps you challenged.

I really felt like I could relate to her. For me, running just felt...right. What's more natural than putting one foot in front of the other?

And like her, I've had good races and bad races. My surreal race was Chicago -- I crushed my half-marathon PR by 5 min, and my full-marathon PR by 13 min. I remember thinking "Holy $#%@, did that just happen?!" when I crossed the halfway mark, and just being floored when I crossed the finish line and saw 3:11 on my watch. And my bad race? Eugene. I was disappointed that I didn't achieve a goal that I felt was realistic, but looked at my performance to try to find ways that I could improve as a runner.

Once I felt like I could relate to her, I began to think that maybe the elites are a lot like the rest of us.

Career Thoughts
As you may know, I'm finishing up grad school in a month and am hunting for a job. This job hunt has forced me to consider what kind of career I really want. And what I'm realizing is that I want to be involved in coaching in some way. The idea of helping others live healthy lifestyles and become better runners appeals to me. And now that I have a point A and a point B, how do I get from A to B?

Any tips/leads for getting into coaching?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Random Observations

I was catching up on Facebook this morning, and one of my friends posted a photo from a recent 10K. He's grimacing in said photo, and captioned it, "Worst Race Photo Ever." I told him to go look at my photos from Eugene, because my expressions definitely look worse than your standard grimacing.

That scrunched up look on my face? I think I might've been trying to fix my contacts. Or I might've been ready to clock someone. Yeah, we'll just go with the latter...
And my all-time favorite for "Worst Race Photo Ever"...

Mere yards from the finish line. I look like I'm ready to eat someone's head off, and my friend described my hand gesture as "devil horns" (that's actually my gesture for "Rock on," but I could see why she'd think devil horns).
(For more ridiculous race photos, go here.)

Last week's workouts (week ending 5/12):
Running - x3 (14.18 miles total)
Cycling - x1 (8.6 miles total)
Core - x2
Foam rolling - x4
Salt bath - x1

Each run felt better than the one before it. I'd like to credit the foam rolling for helping me work out the residual kinks in my legs. We've also had some fantastic running weather! (Perhaps a bit on the warm side, but if you know me, you'll know that I'll sooner complain about it being too cold than too warm.) Maybe that had something to do with my quality runs.

After two weeks, I think I can say that I've recovered from that race. Which is good, because my thesis defense is officially scheduled, and God knows I'll probably end up doing some stress running between now and D-Day! And/or stress eating. Either way, I better watch out for cortisol. That crazy B...

One thing I noticed during my recovery was that my appetite seemed to decrease tremendously. Not that I'm complaining (it's a nice change from the peak of my training, when my appetite was insatiable), but when you're used to the insatiable appetite, it feels weird to go for hours without wanting to eat anything.

I had a random discovery during Thursday's run! While running on my usual path along the South Waterfront, I looked around at the trees (rather than the path ahead), and noticed palm trees! Yes, palm trees in Portland! I've run on that spot dozens of times, and can't believe that I never noticed them before Thursday. (If they're fake, don't burst my bubble. I'm happy just thinking that I live somewhere where palm trees are present in nature.)

Anyone else have a moment where you've been somewhere numerous times before noticing some minor/major detail?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Looking Down from Above

Have you ever spent months working on a big project, and felt burned out before the project even ended? Or drained and worn-out because of how much time you invested in it?

That's how I was feeling post-Eugene. Don't get me wrong, I love running. But between Eugene '12, Chicago '12, and Eugene '13, I've been in training mode for the last 16 months. And being in training mode for that long is just draining. (You like that rhyming there?? No? Alright, I'll just go in the corner and laugh to myself then.)

You know what else is taxing? Training for a goal and not meeting it. After missing the BQ (Boston Qualifying) standard in Eugene, my first thought was to sign up for a summer marathon so I could get one last chance to try to qualify for Boston '14 (the cutoff is in September). However, I felt that I needed a break before I could even think about starting training for another marathon. I wanted to get my head in the right place before I start the next round of training (which, in case anyone's wondering, it's the Marine Corps Marathon in October).

My time off from running allowed me to catch up on my life and wrap my head around the race. 

I finally went to First Thursday for the first time (after living here for a year and a half)...
A whole exhibit on chickens! Only in Portland... (Go watch the first episode of "Portlandia." I would post the clip, except it's unavailable on YouTube.)

Mural in the Pearl. Even on my break from running, I can't escape Pre!
I caught up with plenty of friends (which may or may not have entailed happy hour and brunch), and went to a fine Cinco de Mayo festival (just fine though -- what kind of CDM fiesta has Chinese food for sale??). I also worked on my thesis, which needed to happen because I hadn't devoted as much time to it as I should have due to marathon training.

I also wanted to take a step back to find out what I did wrong so I (hopefully) don't make the same mistakes in Marine Corps. After all, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  Thank you all for your comments and advice! Would you believe that this was the first time I've ever taken a good, hard look at my running to see how I could improve?? Once I took a step back, I felt like I was on the roof of a building and getting an aerial view of the sport of running and my race history. And in a way, life in general.

-I had delayed runner's high. Not qualifying created a runner's low (if there is such a thing), but once I broke past that and started appreciating the PR, the runner's high set in. And to be honest, part of me is still amazed that I ran a 3:08 marathon.

-I have an issue with pacing. I get too excited at the start of the race, fly through the first half of the marathon, and then have to slow down in the second half. Steven had a wise suggestion for preventing this -- start in a slower corral.

-After reading Kat and Erin's comments on my fueling, I thought about my fueling strategy, and realized that it was quite flawed. For some brilliant reason, I thought that two gels (220 cals altogether) would be enough for 26.2 miles when I had been consuming that many calories on my 20-21 mile runs. Furthermore, I didn't consume anything in the final 10K, when I was probably in greatest need of glycogen.

-Runners typically prioritize the races on their calendars, and one way of doing so is by classifying them as A, B, or C races. The most important ones are A races, and the least important ones are C races. If I shell out money for a race, I want to do well in it, and so it becomes an A race. I know that after a marathon wears you out, it takes a while to get back to normal. For that reason, I don't schedule races for a few weeks post-marathon. (Except for free, untimed fun runs -- those are my C races.)

-Marathon training is like a job, in that it consumes a large amount of time. (Between warm-up stretching, running, cool-down stretching, foam rolling, long run planning, pre- and post-long run food prep, etc., I wouldn't be surprised if training took up at least 15 hours/week.) If you're going to perform your job to the best of your ability, you need some time off. I'm not talking about 1-2 rest days/week, because that's simply a weekend for the marathon training job. I'm talking about a full-fledged, leave-the-trainers-in-the-closet break that lasts multiple days. In a full-time job, you typically receive a block of paid time off that's meant to be used for recharging your batteries (or so that's my view). Why should marathon training be any different?

-More importantly, I concluded that I wanted to register for a summer marathon so I could have a do-over, and prove to everyone (but mainly myself) that I am capable of doing what they believe I can do. I thought that if I did that, then I could erase the sour memory that not qualifying at Eugene created. But  erasing the memory would mean erasing the whole experience. Maybe I didn't BQ. Maybe I spent the second half thinking that it was the worst race ever. But I set a new PR and learned so much from this race. And life isn't about erasing the bad events. It's about learning to take the bad with the good, and using both to become your best self.

(I should confess that I ended my complete break from running on Saturday so I could join the Front Runners for their Saturday morning fun run. I hadn't been able to join them for a few weeks, and so it was nice to be able to return to the group. I kept the run to a conversational pace, and it felt good.)