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.