Sunday, September 7, 2014

Shakin' Up the Wine (Country)

You guys, I'm so far behind on posting. Alright, let's be real. I'm so far behind on the rest of my life too. But I suppose I should start filling you in on everything. First things first -- the Santa Rosa Marathon! (Since I left off with my race week thoughts.)

I heard about this race from an expo for another race, and among other draws were running through Sonoma (an area of CA that I had never been), a bottle of wine for all runners, and a finisher party involving wine, pancakes, and watermelon. I suggested it to Erin when we were planning our 2014 rundezvous calendar. She signed up, and it was like, "Oh crap, guess this means I better sign up now." I eventually did...on New Years Eve after sent me a $10 coupon for registration.

So Race Week kicked off with a massage. I initially scheduled a 60 minute massage, but about 45 minutes in, he asked if I wanted to do the 90 minute massage because he "wouldn't be able to do everything that he wanted to in 60 minutes." Okay, maybe that was his polite way of expressing pity for my legs and feet, but who am I to turn down an extra 30 minutes of massage?

The rest of that week entailed some shakeout runs, a big presentation at work, quite a few coffee stops, and plenty of carb loading (burrito bowl, dairy-free milkshake, shrimp fried rice, and so on). Oh, and packing for the trip. I have a list of race essentials (shorts, shirt, compression socks, and some other gear), and I just go off of that. This time, I just set everything out on the bed, and then packed it all into my gym bag and backpack.

And before we knew it, Race Eve hit. I woke up at 4am to get ready to head to the airport for my 7:30am flight. I'd say that that's an ungodly hour, but compared to my usual wake-up call of 4:30am, it wasn't that bad. But I'm sure it was ridiculous for my work spouse Leah, who kindly agreed to pick me up at 5:30am to drive me to the airport.

Once I was at the airport, I snagged coffee, went to the gate, and got myself "upgraded" to an exit row seat (and by that, I mean that I asked and they moved me - where do they get off making those premium seats anyway).

Erin picked me up at the airport, and we made our way toward Santa Rosa. However, we didn't exactly listen to Google Maps (we were catching up and just tuned it out), and ended up missing a turn. So we decided to get off the next exit and turn around. Except we found Denny's when we got off the freeway, so we decided to seize the opportunity to stop off for a carblicious breakfast. Denny's BYO Grand Slam for the win! (Mine consisted of eggs, hashbrowns, grits, and oatmeal. Photo not taken because I didn't think it was necessary. Yes, I'm aware that oats aren't exactly GF, but I didn't think of merely getting a double order of grits until after our food arrived.)

Upon leaving, we decided to take another detour to Safeway (it was down the street) for race eve/day provisions (bananas, sugary lemonade, and a slew of other salty and sweet snacks).

After all of our detours, we made it to SR around 1:45, and just went straight to the expo at DeLoach Vineyards (the premier sponsor of the race). Mile 10 of the race goes through DeLoach's barrel room.

Made it to the Expo!

Picking up my bottle of wine. Photo courtesy of Erin
We checked in with E's pacer crew (including Ko, who would be camping out with us at The Sandman Inn), and then I proceeded to get my swag. E and I then did a shakeout run in the area. Unfortunately, the country roads did not make for the safest running conditions, so we just stuck to four loops around the same cul-de-sac.

Around 5, we checked into the hotel. I had a near panic attack because I couldn't find my millet porridge in my bag, and so I immediately thought I left it in Oregon. (Spoiler alert: It was in my bag, and I only found it after buying backup instant oatmeal and KIND granola. Story of my life.) Shortly thereafter, we headed to Ko's friends for dinner and more eating. Seriously, I felt like I was eating nonstop. Chips and salsa, sugary treats, fruit, pasta (note: TJs GF rice pasta is a tasty and, at $1.99/lb, a relatively affordable option), potatoes, and some beef and salad. But the food was good, and the company was fantastic. We left around 9, and we were all in bed by 10 (despite our trip to Safeway for the oatmeal and granola that later became unnecessary).

Pre-race fiesta. Photo courtesy of Erin
Eating time! Photo courtesy of Erin

Race Morning
Because of the 6am start, we set the alarms for 3am. Popped my iron and vitamin C (along with vitamin D, because otherwise, I won't remember to take it) pills, and then plugged in my headphones to listen to my prerace music. At 3:20, we felt the room start shaking. Yes, that's right, folks - earthquake! (I should also add that because we were on the second floor, its effects were much more pronounced.) Each of us reacted in a different way. Erin, having never experienced one before, applied her tornado training and huddled on the floor in the bathroom doorway (distanced from the windows). Ko crawled underneath the table. And what did I do? Stood there unphased because I figured it'd be over in about 30 seconds. (Signs I may belong in CA - I hate the cold and the gray, and don't mind earthquakes.)

After the rockin’ party, I ate my millet and drank my coffee. One cup did not seem to wake up my GI tract, so I ended up having two. I took a banana to-go and ate that shortly before the race began.

At the starting area, ready to tackle SRM! Photo courtesy of Erin

Race Itself
I'll have you know that I made sure to do a dynamic warmup before the start of this race! I may not have always remembered this while training, but I remembered this time.

I wore the fellrnr pace bracelet (as I did with MCM and Newport). What I did differently was wait until after hitting the mile marker to compare my watch time to the target on the bracelet. I was between the safe and target zones for the first 20-21 miles of the race.

We started out by winding through downtown Santa Rosa, but after mile 2, turned onto a bike path. At this point, I was by myself and able to get into a good zone. The first four miles were in the dark (in case the previous photo wasn't an indication of that), and given the scenery, I expected a brilliant sunrise. Nope, not so much. But what I lacked in beautiful sunrises, I made up for with epiphanies. Such as my theory that the Boston Marathon has a unicorn logo to signify that running it is a dream for many runners.

Since I was by myself, I was able to appreciate the scenery on the course, which was nothing short of beautiful! Tree-lined bike path, vineyards all around. It reminded me of the back half of the Eugene course. Except that the Eugene course did not run along any vineyards. I had to stop around mile 4.5 to tie my shoe. Well, it was either that or risk tripping over it. I figured tying it was worth the 30ish seconds. I also felt like I had to poop, but that urge didn't feel major enough to merit stopping. (Fortunately, I made it through the whole race without that urge returning/getting worse.)

At mile 8, we turned off of the bike path and onto country roads. My plan was to take gels at miles 8, 13, 17, and 22.5 (in line with water stops). Took #1 (salted caramel Gu) at mile 8, except the next water stop was Gatorade only.

The barrel room run was a new addition to this year's race, and surely a unique one at that.

It was a rager in that barrel room. Photo courtesy of SRM

Between miles 12 and 13, I heard, "Water and Gatorade up ahead!" And used that as an opportunity to take gel #2 (Honey Stinger vanilla. The same thing happened around 17 and 21. (Gel #3: Pocket Fuel mocha cold brew. Gel #4: Honey Stinger original.) At those last two, I had the gel in one hand and the water in the other. Double-fisting, runner style.

Once I hit mile 19, I started experiencing some runner's knee pain in my left knee. I reminded myself to just keep pushing, and that you don’t always do what you want to do, but you always do what you have to do. I hit mile 20 in about 2:17, so I needed to run the last 10K in about 42-43 min to hit my goal, and 46-47 min to PR. Considering that I had yet to run any 7+ min miles according to Garmin, the latter seemed super feasible.

With 6 miles left to go, we veered back on the bike path and merged with the half-marathoners. I thought I was going quickly, because I was passing all of them. However, my perception was skewed by the fact that these people were going at a 10-12 min pace. It didn't help that the path was completely clogged. So ultimately, these were my slowest miles of the race. It was around 21-22 that the sub-3 started slipping away from me.

Faking happiness at mile 24. Photo courtesy of SRM

Just before mile 26, we turned off the bike path and onto the roads. I knew that once I hit the mile 26 marker, I just had one turn and then it was straight to the finish. I reached the 26 mile mark in just over 3 hours, so I knew that a sub-3 wasn't possible, but a sub-3:02 and PR surely were. Once I made that turn and saw that the clock had just hit 3:01, I just gunned it. The way they had the finish line structured, it seemed like marathoners and 5K runners were supposed to finish on the right and half-marathoners were supposed to finish on the left. Unfortunately, there was a group of about 4 women nearly blocking my path. I was able to swerve around them, but the thought of them preventing a sub-3:02 finish caused a few seconds of anxiety. The announcer called out my name, and I crossed the finish line with the clock reading "3:01:47”.

Me and the group of women. Photo courtesy of SRM

I was just floored. My tenth marathon was in the books, and I clocked a two minute PR (and extended my marathon PR streak to 8). I got my medal and some post-race food. I saw someone with a Portland Marathon space blanket, and my thought was, “Aww, my people!” Moments later, I saw volunteers handing out these blankets to runners. Yes, I traveled 500 miles to get paraphernalia from my home marathon.

I talked to a couple other runners who I saw on the course, and they echoed my thoughts on the last 10K messing with our perception of speed.

In addition to the race shirt, Santa Rosa also distributed full-zip hooded sweatshirts to all finishers. The sweatshirt is really nice, but the process of distributing/retrieving them was a nightmare. They tried to group everything by runner’s last name, but all of the lines still ended up merging together and snaking around the finisher area. (My recommendation is to follow the Portland Marathon’s example and hand them out with the medals, and mark everyone’s bib as he/she receives it.). I digress though.

While waiting in that crazy long line, I talked to another runner and his wife. He had just PRed by about 10 minutes and BQed, and she was kind enough to look up my finish time on her phone. Net time: 3:01:41!!

Over the next 20-30 minutes, I got my finisher sweatshirt, made a pitstop, got my and Erin’s stuff from bag check (as we did at Newport, we checked our stuff in the same bag), and video chatted with my mom. By then, Erin and Ko made it to the finisher area, and I learned that they led the 3:35 pace group to a 3:34:38 finish, and as a result, led several runners to new PRs and BQs. How awesome are they???

Erin and Anil

Erin, Ko, and their pacer sign. Check out those fine space blankets! Photo courtesy of Erin
Erin and me, keeping it real with the Porta-potties in the background

We didn't stick around for the post-race party, because it was super crowded and we had to check out of the hotel. So we headed back, showered, and then Erin and I drove back to her place in the Bay Area.

I'm sure I was smiling like crazy for the next few days after that. I've probably said this before, but I'll say it again now. When I started this marathoning business in 2007, I never believed that I'd run a marathon in under 3:10 (the Boston Qualifying standard at that time), let alone under 3:02. At initial glance, the race went off with unnoticeable errors. I ran the race pretty evenly (first half: 1:29:48, second half: 1:31:53), executed my fueling plan the way that I intended (i.e., taking gels with water), and just pushing through. It all made for a nice runner's high. However, I knew there had to have been something I could do differently, because nothing is perfect and I missed that goal by 1:41.

What to do next time:
It was hard to pick apart a race that went very well, but once the runner's high started wearing off, I was able to identify a few things that I could do differently next time around.

  1. Run more miles. This seems simple, but mileage is required for any marathon training program. And  I ran more miles during my Newport training than I did during my SR training.
  2. Do more speed work. Over the twelve weeks of training, I only did two legit speed sessions (and by "legit speed session", I mean track workout).
  3. Work on form. At times, I started hunching and had to tell myself, "Back straight, eyes forward, and fly."  
And what is next, you ask? Currently, I don't have any races on my calendar. After the last 10+ months of having at least one race scheduled, it feels so weird to have NOTHING on my calendar. It's refreshing, but also weird. But more on that later.

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?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Life Lessons on Success

In college, you take a course for 10-15 weeks (depending on what type of calendar your university runs on), then you take the final exam, and then you receive your grade, which offers some high-level feedback on your performance. Running is very similar - the training is the course itself, the race is the final exam, and your posted time is the grade. To analyze my whole performance in "Newport 101", I need to look at both the race and the work I did throughout the term. If there's anything I learned from my educational programs, it's that the grade you earned matters less than the knowledge you acquired. So if you just want to know that information, scroll to the end for my "report card." Otherwise, read on.

I signed up for this race in November at the recommendation of a few friends from the Portland Frontrunners. It's an extremely small race (capped at 1,000 runners), and because most of the course is along the water, it's incredibly scenic. Plus, a few of them had already signed up, and I convinced Erin to sign up, so I knew I'd be in for an awesome weekend with friends.

After Erin's numerous endorsements of it and stumbling upon a copy of "Advanced Marathoning" in Powell's, I decided to give Pete Pfitzinger a try. His plans had all of the components that I was used to -- recovery, speed, long runs, general aerobic/medium long runs. Worth a shot, right?

Sometime during the first quarter of the year, things began to fall apart. Alright, I'm being a little dramatic here. But when you're healthy as can be, and then get some abnormal lab results (low iron levels, high liver enzymes), and then feel like you can't go as fast as you used to, you can't help but feel a little broken. The dietary fixes that my doctor and supporters recommended (nix gluten and dairy, cut back on coffee and tea) hadn't seemed to help either, which made the whole thing even more frustrating.

Race Week
In an effort to keep myself from freaking the eff out, I tried to relax as much as possible, and squeeze in a few recovery runs. (I still had to work, but fortunately, the Memorial Day holiday made for a short work week.) So I did the following:

-Mon: 6M run; wine tasting
-Tues: massage; started getting some head cold
-Wed: 3M dress rehearsal run; haircut
-Thurs: 3M am run; leisurely evening stroll through the neighborhood 
-Fri: 2M run

Stretching our arms out across the big gates. A for effort, right?

Carb-Loading (Wed-Fri)

Right before the carb loading process started, my doctor received my latest batch of lab results, and the celiac panel came back negative. Once he ruled out celiac, I decided to incorporate more gluten into my diet/the carb loading process. I'm not sure if it were the wheat, the increased sugar, and/or the increased salt, but my skin started drying out. Funny -- I think I have a love-hate relationship with carb loading. It always sounds like a wonderful thing (because you get to eat all the processed, sugary crap that you avoid the rest of the time. However, by Friday, I was over it. My stomach just felt bloated and uncomfortable, and I just wanted the race to be done so that I could get back to my normal diet.

Race Eve
I still had to go to work on Friday. (Relaxing? Yeah...notsomuch.) But I took a half-day, so I brought my luggage with me. Including my foam roller. And so this day came to be known as "Bring Dr. Noodle to Work Day".

Erin, Kelly, and Traci were kind enough to pick me up from work. After that, we stopped at Fred Meyer to get groceries, dropped Traci off, and made our way to Newport.

From L-R: Me, Traci, Erin, Kelly. Note that I still have my work ID clipped to me.

The rest of the evening involved checking into our incredible vacation rental, packet pickup and pasta dinner with the Frontrunners.

View from our balcony. VRBO for the win!
Runners! (Photo credit: Erin)
We ended up turning in (or attempting to turn in) around 10:00, so that we could be up in time for the early 7am start.

No matter how late you set the alarm, it always seems to go off way too early. Even more so when you have four different alarms going off almost simultaneously. So at the ripe hour of 4am, Erin and I forced ourselves to wake up and eat some breakfast. I started with the iron supplement and vitamin C tablet, and then waited about 30 min to eat my combo of millet porridge (millet with dates, almonds, and agave) and coffee. Erin and I ended up having a fantastic chat as we ate, got ready, and drew on each other with Sharpies.

Around 6:15, Erick drove Erin, Daniel, Richard, and me to the start. On our way, my mom called to say good luck. 6am calls like that warm my heart. I also ate a banana.

The race starts from Yaquina Bay State Park, which is along the Pacific Ocean. I wish I could say more about it, aside from that we got to breathe in fine, salty ocean air as we waited to start.

See that ocean behind us?? From L-R: Daniel, Richard, me, Erin

PFRs with our honorary member! Photo credit: Erick
 I warmed up with some dynamic stretching (you know, lunges, mountain climbers, etc.). A few minutes later, Erin and I exchanged a pre-race fist bump, and then headed to the starting area. The start of the race was no-frills (I think because of the size of the race). After the race director made a couple announcements (none of which were the singing of the national anthem), they fired the gun and we were off. 

Miles 1-5 (6:36, 6:44, 6:50, 6:43, 7:02)
During mile 1, I met Adam, a 20-something runner from Seattle who was also shooting for sub-3. As soon as I saw my split for the first mile, I knew that I started out way too quickly. I tried to rein it in, but when you're super-competitive and running with other people, pacing becomes a challenge. Over the next few miles, we built up a good group of runners who were gunning for sub-3s as well. I also saw Kelly and Erick around miles 1 and 3.

Adam (in white singlet) and me. Photo credit: Kelly

We ran by the condo where we stayed, and also along the ocean. Around mile 4, we turned onto Bay Blvd, which is where most of the race takes place. After running on the boardwalk for a bit (I know, how quintessential), we ran by the finish line and up the biggest hill of the race.

Awesome race photo, in my opinion.

Miles 6-10 (6:52, 6:59, 6:56, 6:53, 6:49)
By this time, we (the sub-3 group and I) fell into a good groove, which I think helped keep our paces pretty consistent. Once we hit mile 8, I took my first Gu (Hammer vanilla). By mile 10, my quads started feeling tight, and I started questioning my mistake of starting too quickly. For some reason, I also felt like I needed to shit. (There were other points where I felt like I had to pee or vomit. I didn’t actually stopped, but I’m sure it rattled me.)

Miles 11-15 (6:55, 6:46, 6:46, 6:58. 7:03)
I kept up with the sub-3 group until the halfway point, and then they started slipping ahead. I hit the halfway point in 1:29:30, which made me feel like I was still on-track for a sub-3 marathon. Shortly after that, I took my second Gu (Salted Caramel gu) and some water to wash it down. Shortly after that, I started hating life. Which, when you have 13 miles to go, is not the best feeling to have. I had to tell myself such things as "Eyes on the prize", "You have worldwide supporters" (thanks to dailymile, etc.), and "Only 2.5 miles before you get to turn around and head back home."

Miles 16-20 (7:12, 6:58, 7:04, 7:07, 7:00)
Mile 15.5 marks the turnaround point on the out-and-back portion of the course. After turning around, I saw Daniel, Erin, Michael, Steve, and Jose (and exchanged a side-5 with Erin). Seeing Daniel and Erin gave me this adrenaline rush that I think helped me run a sub-7 mile. As I did in MCM, I took my beloved chocolate cherry Clif Gu with two shots worth of caffeine (Gu #3) at mile 18, in hopes that it would kick in at mile 20. Kelly drove by me, which helped push me along. Somewhere between miles 18 and 20, I began to wonder why we do these things. When you're in the midst of what feels like personal hell and don't want to talk to anyone, you don't really have a good answer to that.

Miles 21-26.2 (7:10, 7:04, 7:25, 7:17, 7:20, 7:29, 6:33 for 0.2)
Once I hit that mile 20 marker, I started whispering to myself out loud, "It's just a 10K..." Also, I started doing math. I knew that sub-3 was out of reach, but after hitting the mile 20 marker in 2:18 (first-ever sub-7 min 20 miler!), I realized that I could do the next 10K in 47 min (about 7:30 pace), and still PR. That's doable. I kept doing math after I hit each mile marker, just to keep my mind occupied and give myself an approximation of how much longer I had left.

I reached the 21 mile marker and thought, "Where the fuck is that caffeine from the Gu?!" because it hadn't kicked in yet. Around mile 22, some spectator yelled out, "You're almost there!" Lesson on race etiquette - unless there's less than a mile left, I am not "almost there."

My initial plan was to take my last Gu at mile 23, but because I didn't feel like Gu #3 ever kicked in, I took #4 (Honey Stinger) a quarter-mile ahead of schedule. Thank God, because I started feeling the effects of that Gu at mile 24 (with about 15 minutes to go). All I could think about when I got to mile 25 was, "Only 8.5 minutes left. Now where's that damn hill to fly down?!" Around mile 26, I knew that I had secured a PR. I finally summited the hill, and just had to get down it. Once I hit the top, I could hear Kelly and Erick, and I just picked it up as much as I could (without losing control on the downhill).

To the finish! Photo credit: Erick

I rounded the corner for the finish, and bolted for it. I stopped my watch, saw "3:04:03," and said, "Oh fuck! I didn't break 3:04?!" Two seconds later, the announcer called my name and said, "coming in at 3:03." After catching up with all the people I saw on the course, I walked over to the results table. I told the volunteer that I thought I PRed, and he said, "If you needed to break 3:04, then you did." He then handed me the little printout.

Time: 3:03:48 (7:01/mi)
Place (A/G/O): 2/26, 20/444, 23/789
9th marathon
7th consecutive PR (Personal Record)
2nd consecutive BQ (Boston Qualifier)

After seeing that, I was floored. I definitely wasn't expecting second in my age group. And given how I felt during the middle of my training, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have doubts about beating my previous personal best.

I made my way to the recovery area, got my T-shirt, some food, and my and Erin's bag. After that, I decided to go back to the finisher area to see if I could catch any of my friends, and I managed to run into (like that pun there???) Erin. Though she didn't PR, she got second in her age group too, and seventh female. Rock star!

The two of us eventually reunited with Daniel, Richard, Erick, and Kelly, and basked in the sun. I commented that my upper body felt more sore than my lower body, which was exactly the opposite of what I felt after any of my previous marathons. Hmm. In any case, we took a bunch of photos, and then headed back to the condo so that we could shower and get ready for the awards ceremony.

Runner love!

The boys

The girls. I already had on my compression socks at this point, and didn't want to deal with the pain of peeling them off and forcing them back on.

Post-race Celebration
The awards ceremony was pretty cool. It was definitely bare bones/no frills, but just knowing that I earned something made it special.

Companion second place plaques

After the ceremony, we said goodbye to Erin and Kelly, and then proceeded to enjoy the rest of the weekend. And by enjoy, I mean check out Newport, eat, drink, and be merry.
Daniel and I


Bacon-wrapped tuna mignon. Amazing.
Enjoying more celebratory drinks with the Frontrunners at Rogue Brewery. Top L-R: Richard, Tyson, Steve, Steve, Steve. Bottom L-R: Me, Jose, Daniel, Erick

Over my years of marathoning, I've learned that the run is about way more than just the miles themselves. (Chicago '12 was about the ALS Association, Eugene '13 was about the disappointment of missing goals/how far I've come as a runner, and MCM '13 was about coming home to the city where I got into this stuff and making dreams come true.) Newport, for me, was about community. While I achieved great things in Newport, what made the experience even more special was being able to celebrate those achievements with my runner family.

I also thought about the various supportive communities in my life. Frontrunners holds a significant place in my heart -- I joined Front Runners NY and PFR soon after moving to each city, and both offered me welcoming, accepting environments in cities where I knew hardly anyone. The dailymile community helped me believe that I could survive the inexplicable ailments, and reminded me to focus on the small wins. And of course, my community of family and friends, that believe in me even when I don't believe in myself. I may have passed the course, but I don't think I could've pulled any of this off if it weren't for their love and support. Therefore, I dedicate Newport to the incredible community I've been able to develop and maintain.

How has community influence your successes?

PS I did a race analysis, but because that didn't seem related to the theme of this post, I'll be making that into a separate post.