Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I will not go streaking this summer, but...

Sorry, Will Farrell, I will not be be streaking with you this summer.
Runners World is kicking off a summer streaking challenge: to run at least a mile a day from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July.  They did a similar winter challenge from Thanksgiving to New Years.  And I will not go streaking this summer. I have never been a streaker, in any sense of the word, and I don't intend to now.  I had a buddy of mine who had a 1,000+ day running streak going, and then got sidelined.  Even when I wasn't running every day, but 5-6 days a week, I got sidelined with ITBS.  Slightly less running and lots more cross-training = much better racing...for me.  That's not for everyone, and I know that.  So, I will not go streaking this summer.
But I will also be running through the sprinklers!
I had a very hard workout this morning, and it was 85 and humid.  I was so happy when I got to the track and the sprinklers were on.  They actually spilled onto the track, so every lap at the 200m mark, I got misted!  Thank God, because it was hot as hell!  I am a baby about the heat, and tend to melt/lose energy super fast, which I did not want to happen with this workout:

2.5 mile warm-up; 6 x 150 meter strides; 1x 800, 4x400, 4x200; aim for 2:55 for the 800, 2 lap jog; 86, 85, 84, 83 for the 400s (1 lap jog between each); aim for 39-40 for the 200s (200 jog between each). 2.5 mile cool down. Total=9.5 miles

 It was very tough, and I started sweating during the warm up.  This was how it turned out:
So, there was no blowing up, but couldn't quite hit the scheduled times.
800: 3:00
400s 85, 86, 85, 87
200s: 42, 42, 42, 42 - I could not go any faster on these.

It's so funny - during 5k/10k/marathon buildup, I could always go much faster than the times listed.  But during this mile stuff, I either hit it exactly, or come up a bit short.  I am definitely at my max with this speed.  There is no "oops, that was a fast one!"  Only, "nope, couldn't go any harder."   But I was very grateful for the sprinklers - getting doused each lap not only was physically refreshing, but mentally refreshing too.  I felt like a cross between these two images.  During the cooldown, as I was wiping sweat from my eyes and just trying to finish, all I could think about was "It was this hot for the Boston Marathon this year," and that is humbling, because it meant that some 20,000 people ran the whole 26.2 in this weather - I could not do that.
And for that, I am grateful to be currently focusing on the mile, not the marathon.  And grateful for sprinklers too.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Running Vacation and a Solo 800

Generally, my lack of blogging can be attributed to 1 of 2 things: I am busy or running is not going swimmingly.  In this case, for last week, it was both.  It was my last week in DC full-time for the summer.  My brother graduated on Sunday from Notre Dame (very proud), so in addition to returning my parents' car to Rochester, we then got in the car and drove to South Bend.  In short, I drove 380 miles on Thursday all by myself (yes, I know, most 25 year olds have made such a road trip), then got in my parents car and we drove to South Bend on Friday.  Commencement was Sunday (really nice), and then we moved Ryan out and came home on Monday.  In total last week, I ran about 13 miles - lowest mileage since...June 2011?  And it can be described as such:
Last Tuesday, I had a big track workout scheduled.  I felt awful and tired as soon as I started running, and my left hip hurt.  I got to the track, did 4 lousy strides, and 1 interval, and then called it a day.  I did my cooldown and trotted home = 5 miles instead of 9.5
Wednesday: easy 5.  Felt better, no hip problems (must've just slept on it funny), but still tired.
Friday: easy 3.5 at home in Rochester.  No pain, still tired.
I didn't run at all over the weekend.  I wrote to Sarah and asked for my 800m time trial to be moved from Saturday to Tuesday and got her blessing on that.  Since I had had such an off week, I was hoping that this workout would go well, especially since it included a time trial.  I was also just hoping to get in a run that actually had good speed in it - not a run where I felt like I was struggling to just put one foot in front of the other.
This was the workout.  Nowadays, I've gotten to the point where I can memorize them, but I had to write this one down:
2.5 mile warm-up; 2x200 (40-42); 800 meter time trial; Aim to run 2:42 (81 second per lap pace); 3 mile run; 6 x 300 (69, 67, 65, 63, 62, 60) (jog about 200 meters between each); 2.5 mile cool-down. Total= 11 miles
I was very excited.  During the warmup, I felt like I had more energy than I had in a week.  I ran to my old high school track, switched into my flats, and did my 2 200s in 39 and 42.  Okay, I still have the speed, and I am totally able to do this.  Now, I must've misread this, and thought I was supposed to run a 2:40, which I thought was crazy fast.  A few weeks ago, our goal was 2:50, but Sarah readjusted it...but I remembered 2:40, not 2:42.  I had never ran an 80 second 400, now I was supposed to do 2 of them?  I told myself that no matter what, it was going to be over in less than 3 minutes.  And so, I started my watch and was off!  I went through the first 400 in 80 (fastest ever) and was a bit concerned about my ability to repeat the effort.  Sarah said that this was to be an all out sprint, and it definitely felt like that.  After 500 meters, I was just trying to hang on.  I did not dare look at my watch and I just wished I had someone else pushing me through this.  It was very hard to do it alone.  Everything just hurt and felt hot, and I staggered across the finish line.
So, only 4 seconds off of the goal!  Not too bad!  That was the fastest 800 I've ever ran by almost 10 seconds.  And it was very very hard.  This video was of Jenny Simpson's reaction to an 800 that she ran this weekend, and I couldn't agree more with the feeling.
And then I did my 3 mile run off the track, and returned for the 300s, which were fine, but man, I was tuckered out by the end.  The cooldown was more of a shuffle, but I felt like it was a major triumph.  Best run and best workout in over a week, and with just 2 weeks to go until my mile track race, I felt like I was back on track (pun-intended).  I wrote to Sarah afterwards, as usual, to let her know how it went.  She knew that things had been a bit off-kilter, and we were both hoping that this would be a success.  Her response,
Well, that's only 4 seconds off the new goal, so that's not so bad by yourself!  And that feeling of complete leg burn at 500 meters....welcome to the 800!  I hope you feel good that you were able to do that time, and hopefully that also makes the mile splits seem even easier in comparison. 
And I do think that will be the case.  This also showed that some time off was just the thing I needed to feel good.  Plus, with the adrenaline of a race, I hope my 5:47-5:45 goal will be all the more attainable.  In the meanwhile, two weeks to go - time to sharpen up!

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Mile, The Marathon, and everything in between

I am now in week 2 of mile training.  This is very different from any other training I've done.  There are no 20 mile runs, nor 11 mile runs with 6 miles of tempo.  No mile repeats on the track either.  All of the intervals are now 800s or less.  Who ever would have thought this 6 time marathoner would be doing 200s as part of training?

And speaking of the marathon, when Sarah and I were running after my time trial last weekend, she asked, "Do you miss the marathon?"  And I said, "Honestly, no."  And it's true.  The marathon has been so good to me, and I've had a few really good experiences with it.  But I do think I jumped into it too fast. No problems, but too young to be committing to the marathon on a forever basis.  So, the marathon is not only off the radar for 2012, but I think for 2013 as well.  I still have so much work to do in the shorter distances, and then I will return down the road to the marathon, and re-debut.  Plus, I have had so much fun with this shorter-distance racing.  I have done 6 races already this year, and in a marathon year, I would have only done 2.  And I think racing is a lot of fun.  It is great to get out there, and really try to crank out a really hard run.  In the marathon, there is just so much time for things to go wrong and everything goes into that 1 day.  In these races, even if you have an off day, you can come back in a couple of weeks, and try again.  It makes each race less pressure-filled and more fun.  Sarah thinks that I am ready to run 3:10 when I decide to return to the 26.2, but we both think it's important to hold off on returning.  So, in the meanwhile, I am enjoying being a miler-in-training.

Which also means following all of the mile elite racing too.  Jenny Barringer, Shannon Rowbury, and Morgan Ucenny are my new favorite elite athletes -- all have done really well in the mile (or 1500m - bring back the mile!), and so I have been following all of their training.  Not to worry Kara, Desi, Shalane, Magda, Deena - I still love you all too!

These are the two track workouts I've done this week (on Tuesday and Thursday).  After the 5:53 mile trial, Sarah sent me some revised (faster) times to aim for.

2.5 mile warm-up; 6x150 meter strides; 2x800; 6 x400; Aim for 3:07 for both
800s (1 lap jog between each); The 400s should be about: 91, 89, 89, 87, 86, 84; Jog about 200
meters between each 400 (a little more if you need it). 2.5 mile cool-down. Total=9.5 miles

I went out a bit too hard in this workout, but didn't blow up too much in the end:
2 x 800: 3:01, 3:05
6 x 400: 90, 88, 87, 88, 88, 87
Still a work in progress, but figuring it out, bit by bit.  Those 400s are hard!

And then yesterday:

2.5 mile warm-up; 6x150 meter strides; 6 x 200 meters; aim for 40-42 for
all; 200 jog between each; 2.5 mile cool down. Total=7 miles

The first 2 had me unsure how well they were going to go, but I think they ultimately loosened me up for the rest of the workout.  43, 43, 39, 39, 39, 40.  The nice thing about the 200s is that they are almost done before you can feel them.  Anyways, it was a good workout, and nice that the workouts are short enough that they can wait until mid-day or even the afternoon to do them - not like a 11 or 12 mile slog fest in the heat instead!  I have never run sub 40 in a 200 before, and I did it 3 times!

So, in just a few short years, I went from training for a marathon to training for a mile.  I think normally it's supposed to be the other way around.  Then again, I am working on a PhD in medieval history - not sure if normal describes my lifestyle!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Ole: Celiac Awareness Month with French Meadow Bakery

Happy Cinco De Mayo!  It is holidays like these that among anything else, food is a major component.  and if you have any sort of food allergy, it can be hard to find food options to incorporate so you can join in on the party.  And for Cinco de Mayo, the company I need to recommend:
French Meadow Bakery
They are a great company with gluten free options.  I reviewed their brownies last year.  They sent me a bunch of gluten free tortillas, which are quite versatile.  I put them to the test for Cinco de Mayo this year and made quesadillas with goat cheese, mozzarella cheese, and mushrooms.  My mom makes them and they are always delicious (click here for the recipe).  And here is a picture of me with the quesadillas.  Now appearance wise, don't judge - that's all on me - I am not a pretty cook - I cannot make it look ascetically pleasing.  But judging on taste - yum!  This was probably one of the most complicated things I've ever made, but the tortillas were delicious and well-received (not just by me, either).  It is so important to be able to make things like these that fit with the theme of the event, and suit both my gluten free needs and the needs of the party.  Ole!
Gluten free quesadillas for Cinco de Mayo.
Ironically, I am wearing a St. Patrick's Day shirt for the big holiday.
And the other product they sent was gluten free pizza crusts.  These are awesome, and are personal size, which means you can bring them to lunch, or to a party and you are good to go.  They taste just as good as gluten-filled ones, and get the job done.  One of the things that the gluten free crust can also do (and I meant to write about this last month...but time always slips away) is serve as a nice meat-free option on Friday's during Lent.  I think of the 7 Fridays of Lent this year, I had this pizza (with cheese) for dinner 6 times.  It also served as an excellent pre-race meal, and I had it before several races this year, including the National Half Marathon.  
May is Celiac Awareness Month.  1 in 133 people have this disease.  I have it, my aunt has it, friends from high school and college have it, Amy Yoder Begley and Stephanie Rothstein - 2 of the top American distance runners have it.  And the national response has improved - there are increasing numbers of restaurants and companies taken action to provide gluten free options and gluten free cooking environments.  However, more work still needs to be done in terms of labeling products with information concerning allergies.  Visit 1in133.org for more information on this.
I'd like to thank French Meadow Bakery for jump-starting Celiac Awareness Month for me and for continuing to send and offer fantastic gluten free options, yet proving once again that gluten-free does not mean taste-free!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

I'll make a miler out of you

(you have to be hearing the Mulan song while reading this)
I wasn't kidding - within 6 hours of my 10k on Sunday, I had a plan from Sarah about my next race.  It's like a riddle, it's not a 5k, it's not a marathon, and it's not anything in between.  It's not an ultra, it's not a mud race.
It's a mile!  My next race will a 1 mile track race on June 7th.  I have never raced a mile before, nor have I ever done a track race.  So, the next month is devoted to speed work, real speed work of 200s, 300s, 400s.  This is going to be completely different from any other kind of race or training that I've ever done.  It is my goal to go under 6 minutes, but maybe more like 5:55.  It will be my last formal race of the spring, and the shift in training will allow me to harness all of the fitness I've put in over the last 16 weeks, and shift into speed for 5 more weeks.
So, my new best friend is going to be the track.  Instead of 1 track workout a week plus a road speed workout, I will now be doing 2 track workouts a week, plus a road workout.  Instead of 12 mile long runs on the weekend, I'll probably max out at 8 or 9 miles for the long run.  In sum, less mileage, more intervals and much more faster intervals.
Tuesday's workout was my first test case.  2.5 mile warm up, which is usually preceded by mile repeats or something, but not on Tuesday.  8 x 300m with 200-300m jog between each.  Well, that was a different kind of workout!  65 (whoops), 71, 69, 68, 67, 65, 63, 62 for the 300s, and I jogged 200m for the first 4 and then 300m for the second 4 as recovery.  That was hard and at 250m for the last few I really had to work to keep going in the final 50.  Obviously, that first one was too fast, but then I was able to be a bit more consistent with them.  My quads were still a little sore from Sunday, which I'm sure between the effort and the rolling hills on Sunday, is to be expected.  This was a completely different bag!  Instead of easing into workouts starting at 6:55 pace, these workouts will be starting close to 6 minute pace.  These were all hard!
Thursday's workout was an 8 mile run with 8 x 60 second fartleks thrown in - not too hard, but it is definitely a different feel to incorporate some semblance of speed every other day.
Today, Saturday (Happy Cinco de Mayo!) was a mile trial at the American University Track.  Sarah was going to pace me through it and the goal was to break 6 minutes and get a good handle where my fitness is at with just over a month to go until my mile race.  So, we did a 2.5 mile warm up to the track.    It was about 70 and very humid, so I was already pretty hot and certainly warmed up.  She had me do 2 x 200 to get the legs moving, which I did in 43 and 45 seconds, while she did a 1200m .  I was a little nervous, because I knew that the was about the pace I would be running the mile, and had some doubts about my ability to keep that pace up for the whole time.  Sarah was going to run just slightly in front of me, timing me, and calling out splits.  We toed the line, ready to go, and I knew that Sarah would do a good job running even splits (that was my biggest concern - that I would go out too fast for the first lap).  And without a bang or shouting command, we were off.  The pace felt great - not like I was trying to sprint around the track.  88 for the first lap (including the 8 meters added in to make it a full mile, not a 1600) and I felt like I was in a groove.  2:56 after lap 2 and I was feeling good - time to hang on for that infamous 3rd/penultimate lap.  This one was much harder, but I was holding on and just watching Sarah has run 36:xx for the 10k, and is just very fast (she ran for Duke in college), so watching her run was good - because this was a comfortable pace for her, and she looked smooth.  While I didn't look smooth, it was easier to at least relax a little, rather than running beside someone else who was gasping, swinging, and fighting to hold on.  4:26 for lap 3.  (invisible bell clanging-bell lap)  Unlike our 5k track race simulation in the fall, which felt like I was being dragged around the track for 13 laps, I felt like I was in  more control.  I hung on, and finally crossed the finish - and phew!  I caught my breath and Sarah revealed my mile trial time...
Wow!  That was a lot faster than I thought I could run, and actually the goal time for my race in June!  She was very pleased with the effort, as was I.  And we both think that with a good month of training, I should actually aim for 5:49 in June.  We did a 4 mile easy run in the woods (very fun - nice and cool, and a pretty run), which helped shake out/ shake off the mile a bit.  I am very stoked about the time trial, and what it means for my actual race in June.
Track at American University
So, with that (and a 9 mile "long run" tomorrow), week 1 of mile training is in the books.  Looking forward to see how all of this training plays out!