Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How do the elites do it?

Yesterday marked the beginning of week 2 of mega mileage.  I ran 68 miles last week - a new weekly mileage PR by 8 miles.  Other than the Thanksgiving Day 10k, which I raced at 6:31 pace, all of the runs have been slow.  But slow does not necessarily mean easy.  I'm trotting it out like no other.
How do the elites do it?  70 miles per week is maybe what someone running the 5k distance at a professional level may do, and those doing the marathon may even do double that distance.  I am fully aware that the professionals have the following advantages:

  • This is their full time job. 
  • They have access to therapists and masseuses 
  • This is their main focus per day.  
  • They have sponsors who help supply them with proper nutrition
  • They have access to world-class facilities
And here I am, not even at sub-elite status yet, trying to wrack up considerably high mileage, certainty high for an amateur.  It can be very exhilarating, knocking out that kind of mileage.  On the other hand, it is friggin' tiring too!  My legs definitely feel it, and while a singular 8 or 13 mile run wouldn't accrue that much soreness, doing then in back-to-back succession does the trick!  Sunday morning I ran 13.5 miles, and that was definitely a shuffle.  It's so funny how you can have speed on one day, and then just a few days later struggle to run 2 minutes slower per mile than race pace.

Aptly timed, Kara Goucher posted a video about her life as an elite marathoner: http://innovationforendurance.msn.com/videos/running/96  Way different than mine!  

Today was a single day of running: 8 miles, which I waited until the end of the day to do.  It was nice and cold, but not raining (which it had been doing all day), that I knew I wouldn't get too hot.  My legs felt a little tired, but not as much so as they had in the past few days.  I've lately been doing a lot of my runs around campus, rather than the Mall.  They are much hillier that way, and I have a lot less traffic to deal with.  Anyways, I was at mile 5, going up a very steep hill, and then there was that magic moment.  My legs "unglued" - you may know the feeling - where all of the soreness evaporated and I felt like I could go on forever.  It's moments like that when I know I am a distance runner - that it takes over 40 minutes/5 miles to warm up and feel good to go.

Anyways, I always love trying new things in regards to running, and I am enjoying the mega mileage experiment.  I don't think I'll ever run out of new things to experiment with.  I've been at this for four years now, and still am learning new things each season.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Race with Grace 2012: Mother/Daughter Race

Happy Thanksgiving!  I got home Wednesday afternoon, and promptly threw on my shoes for my second run of the day.  6 miles in DC, 4 in Rochester.  This weather is beautiful - perfect fall running weather!  The mileage is racking up: 12 on Monday, 6 on Tuesday, 10 on Wednesday.  I signed up for the Race with Grace 10k, which is my annual Thanksgiving Race in Hilton - this is the fourth year I've done it.  And more exciting was that my mom was going to do it too!  She was sidelined with ITBS last  year, but has been running strong since her big half marathon in September, so we were good to go.
While I would be donning my racing flats, I wasn't aiming for anything big.  Particularly with the volume of running, having run 10 miles the day before on Wednesday, I was not concerned with hitting a big PR.  Still pretty stoked about my 39:50, and with this course being a little hilly, it was my goal just to beat my course record (42:15) from last year.
But I wasn't going to take myself too seriously.  A friend of mine who I worked with in Santa Cruz lives in Rochester, and we got together last night and had a couple of glasses of wine.  Was nice and relaxed - no problems falling asleep this time!
It's funny how different my race morning in DC looks compared to Rochester races.  In DC, it's just me up early - it's very quiet, and I go to my races alone.  I'm very much just in the zone.  At home, it's more of a family affair.  We have breakfast together, drive to the race together, etc.  I kissed my mom good luck, and took my spot near the start.  Last year, I was the 15th woman, and I was sure that even with tired legs, I could advance a bit.  I didn't really know how my legs would feel - they seemed a bit heavy during my shuffling warm up.  But when the air horn went off, I just took off.  The pace felt fast, and it was - the first mile was 6:09.  Whoa, back off lady, this is not a 5k.  By mile 2, the pack had thinned out a bit - I was running with a few guys.  I figured I should ease up a little, and came through the second mile in 6:20.  Still fast, but it felt like I could sustain something closer to this pace for 4.2 more miles.  This course is pretty quiet when you get going, so I was just trying to focus on my breathing and staying even.  I came through the 5k in 19:58 - was clearly slowing down, but I still felt in control.  There were more hills in this race than my PR one, and so I was trying to save a little for each of those.  At this point, I had passed a few women and had my eye on another.  It's hard to tell when someone is 50 yards ahead of you how long it could take to pass them.  It took about a mile to finally pass her, and then I wasn't sure how much of a gap I had left between us.  But the breathing and footsteps I could hear sounded like men's, so I was hoping that I had definitively passed her.  I was starting to feel tired around mile 4 - 25:50ish, and was trying to assure myself that it was just 15 minutes left.  I was torn between trying to pick it up - I could see another woman about 100 yards in front of me - or just holding steady.  Each of my mile splits had slowed by a few seconds, and I was completely okay with that.  I picked off a few more guys, and was just trying to hold steady.  That last .2 is heading into a parking lot, and then a sharp last turn.  I could see my dad waiting close to the finish, and was very happy when my time flashed up.
6th woman (out of 537), 2nd in age group
61/1133 overall
A course best by almost 2 minutes, and only 34 seconds off my PR.  Yesterday's 10 miles and 2 glasses of wine didn't really hold me back!
The winning mother/daughter team
And now it was time to wait for my mom to come in.  She finished in 56: 35 - a big PR from her 1:04 at the NY Mini 10k in 2011!  She was pleased and ran a very strong race.  We hung around afterwards (since it is local race, we know a lot of participants), and not only did I place 2nd in my age group, but we won the mother/daughter category!  That was the first time my mom ever won something.  So, it was a big morning overall, and a lot of fun.  My brother just came home in time for dinner, and then the whole family will be reunited.  A fun day, and lots to be thankful for.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Drawing back the curtain on the new plan

There is always a next great adventure.  Whether it’s a new job, moving to a new place, a new relationship, there’s always something new.  The day in and day out will change at some point, and it’s always healthy to shake the dust off of a routine and try something new. 
Soon after my Army Ten Miler, Sarah said that she had wanted to experiment with something new to my training routine.  It wasn’t going to be a part of my fall season race schedule, but in between the fall and spring seasons.  This was particularly because I’ve gone almost two years now with no ITBS problems – I had built up a lot more strength in my legs.  Last year, the Thanksgiving-New Year running was very much ad hoc – run or swim as I felt, but no speed, and no reason to get in more than 30-35 miles per week.  But now, we were going to experiment and do something that she has done between training seasons...
High mileage.  She said that I’d quickly get up to 70-75 miles per week.  I looked pretty startled, and told her the most I’d ever run was 60 mpw, and that as during marathon training.  Sarah said that it’s actually not that shocking to do a “strength segment” like this.  How can you get in that kind of volume without injuries?  You take out the speed component.  So normally, I run about 40 mpw, with 2 speed workouts thrown in a week.  There won’t be any speed, just high mileage.  Apparently, you can do one (speed or strength) but not both, at least not for a while, because that’s when injuries are most likely to occur.
So, I am diving into a very high mileage segment.  There will be lots of double days, when I’ll run in the morning and at night.  She said that the first two weeks are quite an adjustment “And you just feel like crap, but you’ll get past that.”  Ultimately, the point of doing this (other than clearly not having to worry about holiday pounds – right?) is to really build up strength during the “off season” and when I come back to the more cyclical training in the New Year, I’ll be read to switch gears and add back in the speed. 
Sure, I needed a little convincing, but really, I think it’s going to be very cool.  This is what I love to do, and a lot of times, I divide my cross training days into two workouts (swim in the morning, lift/core work at night) to simiulate that feeling.  May as well make it a reality!
Plus, there is something about going into the unknown – in this case, ramping up my mileage.  I have dreams someday of running 100 mpw training for a marathon.  The only way to get to that point is to start on a smaller scale for shorter-distance training.  
Today was day 1 of mega mileage.  8 miles in the morning, 4 miles in the afternoon for 12 miles for the day.  So excited.  Felt like a champ suiting up twice today.  I'll get up to 65 miles this week: half done in DC, half done in NY (going home for Thanksgiving!).  It's a good way to change things up, and I am looking forward to seeing how things pan out in this segment.

Friday, November 16, 2012

And now for something completely different

Sunday's 10k marked the end of my official fall racing season.  And with that came a directive from the coach that I've never had.  A brand new assignment for the week, unlike any other...

A whole lotta nothing.

Do nothing.  No running, no cross training, no gym, nothing.

Be a coach potato, catch up on sleep, have a life.

In the four years of running (and I've really just hit my steady 4 year runniversary this fall), I've never taken a week off from exercise.  Even after a marathon, or even dealing with injuries, there has always been some form of cross training or light jogging.  So, the 7 day stretch that I'm in the middle of is brand spanking new.

And I'm taking advantage of the free time.  Extra hours for the dissertation, for sure.  I would say I spend at least 10 hours of a week training, so putting that into the PhD is definitely an added bonus (and my advisor would surely agree).

Now, I will admit, there is part of me that is just itching to put on my kicks and bolt out the door.  It clears my head, it blows off steam, and hey, I just freakin' love it.  But I'm following the orders from the big boss, who has not steered me astray yet. I'm not going to cheat.  Monday will be back to normal.

Actually, it won't.  Monday is the start of something also brand-spanking new.  Definitely unchartered territory for me.  What will it be?  Only time will tell...aka next week's post.

Any guesses?

Monday, November 12, 2012

That Other Mythical Barrier: 2012 Veteran's Day 10k

While the Army Ten Miler was my goal race for the fall season, I still had one last race on the formal schedule: the Veteran's Day 10k.  I still did a few hard workouts to get ready for it, but mostly the hay was in the barn.  All of the training in preparation for ATM was going to carry over.  I had a good 4 mile tempo last weekend at 6:50 pace, and a race week workout on Tuesday to just get in some fast laps.  In compared to some of my most recent times, my 10k PR (40:55 from the Pike's Peek 10k in April) had been a little soft.  Sarah said to get ready to plan an "assault" on the 10k time, and aim for a 40:20 race.  I've done this race before, and I've run numerous other races on this course.  I had accumulated a lot of good runs and races this season, and it was time to wrap the season up with the 10k.
Saturday night, Pat and I cooked a gluten free pasta dinner together and just relaxed.  He even does foot  and back rubs!  All loosened up and ready to go.  I've tanked getting a good night's sleep the night before recently, and last night was similar.  I finally fell asleep around 2, and 6AM came all too fast!  But, I actually didn't feel too crappy waking up.  I had a little breakfast, and then ran my warm-up to the race.  The greenest way to travel, right?
Stolen from someone's instagram - it was really a gorgeous morning
It was a beautiful morning: low 40s, sunny, no wind, and lots of beautiful changing leaves on the trees of the National Mall.  I had cut things close a little bit with getting out the door (I needed to write my predicted mile splits on my hands), that all of the pre-race prep left me with just 3 minutes to the start, and I hadn't checked my jacket/pants/etc.  I followed the lead of a couple other runners and tucked them up in a tree (with fingers crossed).  I then took my place at the start.  I was in the 5th row - this is a super competitive race, and the local racing teams each had a bunch of runners competing.
We took off, and a ton of people really bolted out.  At this point, I'm just going to assume from here on out that other than a marathon or maybe a half, that it's always just going to feel fast from the get go.  I went through the first mile in 6:15, and knew I needed to just pull back ever so slightly - after all, this is not a 5k!  By mile 2 I was running closer to 6:25 pace, and while that was slightly faster than goal pace, I was going to roll with it.  That was the plan - take it out pretty hard, and not get too caught up in the splits.  I was feeling pretty strong, and while I wasn't going to pick things up, I was planning on being able to push more in the second half of the race.  What I like about the course is that the turns are pretty smooth - no turning around a cone!  You can sort of bend into them much easier.  I hit the first 5k in under 20 minutes, and was feeling good.  Could I keep this pace up for 20 more minutes?  I was in a good place, yes there were lots of people in front of me, but no one was really passing me at this point.  I was feeling a little tired (I forgot to take a GU beforehand, and I was a little bummed about that), but was just trucking along.  Mile 4 came along quickly, and at this point, I started to pick things up.  Or maybe just an effort to maintain the pace - I was determined not to blow up.  I kept checking my watch, and tried to not get too worked up about the times that there coming up - they definitely did not match the splits I had inked on my hands.  In Kathrine Switzer's Marathon Woman, she described her 2:51 marathon PR at the 1975 Boston Marathon and said "It felt like the road was rising to meet me."  Some of my best races have felt like that - that I was light and ready.  Those PRs were not easy to attain, yet in the moment, everything came together.  That's how I felt today.  I knew I had one more gear left, and started to accelerate as I hit mile 5.  There's one bridge to cross with three-quarters of a mile left, and I wanted to save a little for that, and I rolled through that, determined to just keep motoring.  And then came mile 6.  I could see the finish line, but you always have to remember that with the 10k, that .2 is almost a lap around the track - it takes time to do it.  I was pushing so hard, and I could finally start to see the clock appear with a time that was showing a time I have thought for years was unattainable, and could've started to cry as I crossed the finish line:
6:25 pace
I went sub 40 for the 10k!  The sub 20 minute 5k has a mythical nature to it, and I just broke that in March for the first time.  But to do 2 sub 20 5ks back to back seemed impossible at this point.  I could not believe it.  I did not think that within the same year of going sub 20, I'd also go sub 40.
The crazy thing about the results was:
94/1920 overall
20/1042 women
7/280 age group
This was a super competitive race!  The female winner won in 33:45.  And while yes, it is great to place really high or win an age group award, today I was going out with a time goal in mind.  And I had lots of people to key off of.  I did my cooldown with a big smile on my face - I was just stunned.
And then when I came home, pancakes and bacon for breakfast.  Yum!  The flowers in the background are from Pat (so sweet).
The first race I ever ran was the Jingle All the Way 10k in December 2008.  I ran it in 55:04 (8:52 pace), and was happy with that time.  In four years, I've chipped away over 15 minutes off of that time.  While there aren't many more minutes left in my threshold, I'll be curious to see what's left in the tank.  All I know for now, is that yesterday's race was beyond anything I could've dreamed of.
We broke out the bubbly last night - something I also did when I went sub 20.  There's something about the special milestones that just merit a little extra celebration.  They don't come along every day - those mythical barriers.  And they are just so important to hold onto during challenging moments - I know this will be my boost for a while.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Catching up on things

When over a week passes between blogs, usually there's some sort of explanation.  Not really this time, but I do have a few things to catch up on.  Key thoughts of the blog: fartlek, swim, track, hurricane
First of all, thank you all for the positive comments in the Army Ten Miler blog.  It felt like it was one of the best races of my (young) career so far, and I was on a big high for a while.  My legs were also so trashed for a few days after.  I'm used to some soreness for a couple of days after a hard race, but this was a new level.  I did have a workout to do 2 days after the race, and the warm-up for that was truly a shuffle, and I wasn't sure if the legs were going to be able to pick it up during the fartlek segment: 5 minutes hard, 3 minutes easy, 4 minutes hard, 2.5 minutes easy, 3 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy, 2 minutes hard, 90 seconds easy, 1 minute harder, 30 seconds easy, 2 minutes harder, 90 seconds easy, 3 minutes harder, 2 minute easy, 4 minutes harder, 2.5 minutes easy, 5 minutes hard, 3 minutes easy, 2.5 mile cool down for a total of 11 miles.  And in case you wondered how I kept track of those numbers, I wrote them all on my hand.  I often need to do the same thing with my track workouts.  Anyways, I was able to get my legs moving during the workout, but certainly ran a mighty slow cool down too.  This is a nice speed workout to do on the roads - it takes about 45 minutes to run that middle segment - I start my watch and just go (find a trail though - you don't want to get held up with stop lights all of the time).
In my cross-training, I tend to rotate between swimming and biking.  There is no rhyme or reason behind it, but I'll generally spend about a month doing one sport, and then go back to the other.  I think both are complementary and offer different benefits.  Anyways, I had a killer swim last week.  In all of my swims, I cover 2000 yards, and it tends to range between 41-44 minutes on any given day.  There's no real change of pace - maybe the pace slows toward the end, but that's about it.  But on Friday, I swam broke 40 minutes for the 2k swim for the first time - 39:50!  I was super excited.  While speed in cross training is not really a huge factor, it is nice to see these improvements in a sport that is still relatively new to me.  And no, no thoughts of a triathlon yet.
October ended with 154 miles, which has been close to the norm for the past year.  My final big workout was on Halloween.  I even had on black and orange to match.  I've done this workout before, and it is a challenging one, designed to get you used to changing gears midway.  Now, most of my workouts involve accelerating the pace as the workout progresses, so that's not new.  
2.5 mile warm-up, 1.5 miles continuous on the track (alternating 800s 3:18, 3:08, 3:21), 2 lap jog, 1.5 miles continuous on the track (alternating 3:07, 3:30, 3:07), 2 lap jog, 2 x 800 (3:09, 3:03) with 1 lap recovery after each, 2.5 mile cool down for a total of 10.5 miles.  
It is very hard to have to kick and pick things up like that midway through an interval!  And recognizing how to shift back and forth from 6:48 to 6:19 pace is not easy.  And then those last 2 isolated 800s are just a good way to push really hard at the end (and at least mentally easy to know that is only 2 laps this time, instead of 6).  It was great to wrap things up with this hard workout.  I have 2 more smaller workouts on Saturday and Tuesday, but those are just geared toward staying sharp and fresh at this point.
The Veteran's Day 10k is a week from Sunday - my last big race of 2012.  I will do a couple of holiday races after that, but this is the last one on the official training calendar.  I am looking forward to going out and demolishing my old 10k PR.  At this point in the season, I've run a solid 5k, 5 miler, and 10 miler, but no good 10k.  Yet.  
And finally, a note on Hurricane Sandy.  We were fortunate in DC - never lost power or anything.  School was closed for 2 days, so I stayed up with BF's family in Keedysville, MD.  I feel terrible about all of the devastation in New York and New Jersey.  I'm also a bit conflicted about the fact that the NYC Marathon is still happening.  If I was doing it, I would be completely bummed if it was cancelled.  But the fact of the matter is that I'm not convinced that the energy and resources are worth going to the marathon when so much rebuilding needs to take place.  I think it's good that the NYRR is pledging to donate over $2.6 million to NY relief, and are going to use private resources to deal with transportation and other logistical issues.  But at least at the heart of it all are thousands of runners aiming to get there, toe the line, and hear "New York, New York" play as they cross the starting line of the largest marathon in the world.