Monday, May 31, 2010

Workouts are flexible

What a hellacious week. Kicked it off Sunday with a solid 15-miler, no gels, mid-70s and humid. Felt good, but was totally wiped out when it was over. Laid on my living room floor for a while when I got back.

No getting squirelly on Monday, stuck to the muddy, hilly trails in anticipation of Tuesday hill repeats. When we got to Maple for the repeats, it was nearly 80 degrees. I averaged three seconds slower than the week before, with my heart rate max the same, so not bad.

Thursday was my track workout, but coach didn't tell me what it was in advance. That was okay, because it meant I didn't sit around all day Tuesday dreading it. We ran to the track, and coach sent me off on 4x1k at cruise pace (6:15ish). He's trailing me by about 50 meters, and as I finish the first lap, he yells, "Okay, go ahead and open it up; we'll make it a Vo2 workout."

Not one of my favorite phrases. Vo2 max means hard. I yell back and ask if he's serious, he says yes, so I shift into the next gear before I'm out of the curve. Cruise through the lap, and as I'm going into what I think is the last 200 meters, coach yells that the workout is now 1200s.


I get through the lap, finishing the interval in 4:25 after coming through the first lap at 6:15 pace. That means I knocked out a 2:51-ish 800, which is flying for me. I'm not sure I've ever recorded an 800 at that speed. Even if I went through the first lap in 90 (hell if I remember), that's still a 2:55 half-mile. Zoom! That is really good giddy-up for this slow-twitch gal.

Unfortunately I needed to do three more 1200s, and was supposed to hit about 4:25 for them all, just under 6 pace. Eighth-grader Max Mudd (see Cades Cove race report) offered to pace me, which I declined because really that's just embarrassing.

Then I tanked the next interval, with a dismal 4:37. Hit pace on the first lap, then relaxed too much on the second -- I tried to get comfortable and maybe got a little tooooo comfortable.

So of course coach put Max on me for the last two. Now that I didn't need to pay attention to my pace -- 6 min/mi is as easy for Max as texting -- I got to check out my heart rate. Bad decision. Seeing 190s after the first lap is frightening. Apparently that's what I was supposed to be doing, and it doesn't appear to have killed me.

With Max goading me the whole way, we did the last two in 4:27 each, 5:56 pace. Any time I am running sub-6 pace I get nervous. (Hence the summer of 5k training.)

Then we blasted a couple of 400s for fun, I knocked off a couple 82s, then we ran home.

Of course, then Friday felt terrible -- I almost bagged the run a quarter mile in. I thought I was going to die. Coach insisted I would feel fine for the race Saturday, so I wore my compression tights, took an epsom salt bath and crossed my fingers.

If you've read the race report yet, you'll know the finger-crossing was futile. I think the heat and multiple hard sessions took their toll and wiped me out.

But hey, I did finish up the first week of the pushup challenge!

Race report: Run for the "L" of It 5k

This post is subtitled, "The Little Engine That Couldn't."

Summer has come to the Ohio Valley, which meant at race time Saturday it was in the mid-70s with humidity pushing 80%. Lovely.

The women's line-up for this race was stacked -- probably one of the most competitive races in the city. I knew that was coming, so I was mostly racing the clock since I knew some of these girls would be a minute ahead of me ... at least. If there were any other women closer to me, I'd race them, but those other girls ... Not even. In the end, U of L runner Emily Borsare would win in 17:10, followed by Amy Doolittle-Crider, Kim Coleman and Meghan Braffet, all right around 18 minutes. Yikes!

I went into this race hoping to run around 19 minutes like I did last year, but thinking 19:15 was more realistic considering how I felt during Thursday's workout. (I can only post about one thing at a time, so I will get the week in review up soon.) Apparently even that was a little too optimistic.

I hit the first mile marker in 6:06, even though Cassidy (my 405) pinged a few feet later at 6:15 pace. Sometimes I hate that damn thing, I think I'm going to start setting it up for races so that it works like an old school watch - no auto-lap, no pace. Just chrono and I will force-lap at the mile markers.

The course is a pretty cool configuration, sort of a backwards C-shape with a little loop at the top. So people watching at the start/finish line can also see you around halfway, and there's no sharp turnaround like in an out-and-back.

My coach was at the little loop, and I yelled to him that my jacked-up right leg was hurting. He told me to relax up top and keep going. I was hoping he was going to tell me to drop out. Drats. Okay, legs, keep going. Cassidy split 6:29 for the second mile, yikes. Couple more turns and then we are back at Eighth and Main, which means I just have to get to Fourth and Main, pop up a couple blocks, then it's over. It's so humid the sweat is beading up on my skin -- no evaporation at all. Gross.

I spend from about 1.5 miles to 2.5 miles running next to my friend Rob, a pal from Track Tuesday. I start putting some ground on him as we turn onto Main, catch a couple of other men, turn onto Fourth and blast the jets. This is always a bad idea because the Fourth Street part is longer than I'd like (about .3). Catch two more guys, commit to the I'm-going-to-hurl feeling. Because once you "chick" some poor dude, you can't let them pass you back. Just can't.

Cassidy is stupid and only got 3.05 for the race, which is an acceptable figure considering the width of the course, but means its calculation for pace over the .1 is no good. It figures something like 7:20 for that part, but I was definitely working harder than that coming up Fourth Street. Oh well.

Crossed the line in 19:30, good for fifth female and an AG win. Thank goodness my friend Meghan doesn't turn 25 till next month, so she won the AG below mine.

More races coming up, more race practice, less whining. That's the plan.

Oh, and kudos to my mom and friends Melanie, Debra and Jeff on this race, too! Mom improved over her 5k a couple of weeks ago, Jeff ran in the 18:20s after not running a 5k in forever, and Debra picked up an AG award!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Getting my act together

After slacking for two months post-marathon, I'm finally getting my mileage back ... a little. I crossed the 50 miles/week mark, and started the new week with a 15 miler. AND I did two workouts. Little bit of patting myself on the back, thank you.

This week included a really sloppy trail run, a ridiculous hill workout, cruise intervals and four easy days. First week without an off day in some time. I'm feeling okay, the lump on either shin doesn't appear to be changing with more or less running ... so I might as well do more.

So about that hill workout. Since my coach seems to love this particular little hill, I make sure to invite him to do the workout with me. This is the third week I've done Maple (the name of the street), and there's at least one more week to go.

I included a nice graph so you all could see how much fun this is. Start repeat at 440 feet, end .29 miles later at 530 feet. Comes out to be about 5 percent grade on average, but it's really more like 2 or 3 percent for the first two-thirds, then 7 or 8 percent for the last third. Ugh.

We have two different markers on the way up just to check pace, the first one at about 43 seconds and the second at 1:13. Then the steep last part to clock around 1:48-1:50 for each one.

Just for kicks, though, this week I:
1. Almost ran into a deer
2. Almost got ran over by a tractor

As if the workout wasn't bad enough, this time it involved obstacles. Great.

And, in what may be one of my dumbest plans ever, I started the One Hundred Push Ups challenge. I haven't been able to stretch my arms out all week. You begin by doing as many push ups as you can for an initial test, then follow the six week program to build up to 100 at once. You do your push ups every-other day, and in five sets with a break between each set. Tonight I did 50 total and I'm strangely proud of myself.

My friend Diane is also doing the program and said if nothing else, we will be great arm wrestlers once it's over.

Coming up this week is my first 5k in ages. I don't think I've done one on the roads in about nine months, yikes. I'm going to get thoroughly spanked by my friends Rebekah and Heidi, but if I can run about 19 flat, I will consider it a good start to my "season." After this one, I've got 5ks two weekends in a row, which will be an insane amount of racing for me.

Menu for this week:
- Tapas plate with marinated chickpeas, Manchego and proscuitto
- Ravioli with pesto (and leftover baguette from tapas plate)
- Sausage casserole (it was so good last week!)
- Some sort of chicken and greens dish, got mustard greens and swiss chard at the farmer's market this weekend

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I swear I cook

New acquaintances often ask what I do besides run. Truth be told, I pretty much work (at a running store), run, sleep and eat. I am a better eater than I am runner, that's for sure.

So I cook a lot — and thought maybe it'd be fun to include my weekly dinner menu on the blog at least occasionally. If nothing else, it will force me to plan my menu ahead of time, which always ensures better eating on my part.

I frequently get ideas from recipes, although I am somewhat notorious for immediately not following the directions. It is more of "Oh, that looks good," than "How do I do that?"

This week was a good week, as in, I got my act together, decided what I wanted to cook, and went to the grocery. I try to get a good variety of quick things, and do a lot of the prep on my off days. Dishes with the most work get made earlier in the week.

- Tacos (ground turkey, taco seasonings, plain greek yogurt, cheese, taco sauce)
- Meatballs with wilted mustard greens (made meatballs in advance, delicious)
- Ravioli with apples and walnuts (frozen ravioli, easy-peazy)
- Sausage and white bean casserole (uses the rest of the mustard greens)
- Spiced chicken and veggies

Monday, May 10, 2010

Race report: Cades Cove Loop Lope

One day I will post race reports in a timely manner. This is not that day. I ran a race on April 25 ... and now I'm writing the report.

There is some backstory to this particular adventure. A few weeks after my marathon and a few weeks before this race — it being about a month after the marathon — my coach informed me we were running a 10 miler in the Smoky Mountains.

Please note the use of "race," "10 miler" and "mountains." Ughhhhh.

However, there was no way I could pass up this opportunity. The hugely popular Cades Cove scenic loop had closed down for part of the off-season for much-needed repaving. Tourists throng Cades Cove for chances to see deer, turkeys and the occasional bear. A race with bears!?!?! Of course I'm in.

The race — the Cades Cove Loop Lope — was being billed as a once-in-a-lifetime affair. It had never been done before and they don't plan to do it again, it only became possible because the repaving was done a month before the loop was set to reopen. The race's slogan was "It's now or never."

Derby City Athletic Club, the team for whom I run (in addition, of course, to nominally running for New Balance), holds its youth camp each summer in the Smokies and regularly runs the Cades Cove loop. On a spring break trip down there, he found out about the race.

Now, as if the set-up for this race wasn't sounding quite strange enough, registration was a whole 'nother matter. It was a one-day online-only affair, and because of parking limitations, registration was done by "teams."

Parking could only accommodate 140 vehicles, so each "team" would receive one parking pass. You could have as many as eight people on your team, but you were only coming in one vehicle. Even with the fairly steep price of $60 per person (for either the 10 mile or 5k option), registration closed within hours.

Coach had mentioned to me that we were doing this race, but I didn't pay a whole lot of attention ... until registration confirmation appeared in my inbox. Turned out I was being offered race entry, overnight accommodations and carpooling ... all I had to do was pay for my meals and attempt to run fast. Plus it was a Sunday race, so I didn't have to take off work.

Even with my semi-functional post-marathon legs, there was no way I was saying no. Derby City had signed up five people, so it ended up being my coach (Dave), my friend (Mat) and two eighth-grade Derby City standouts (Max and Chris). The younger boys would run the 5k — farther than what they typically race, and the second-ever 5k for both — while us older folks would tackle the 10 miler.

We headed down when Mat and I were finished at Ken Combs Running Store, piled into Dave's SUV and headed out. There was a stop for Fazolli's along the way, making me now a convert to the Fazolli's-before-racing gang. It must be the crack in the breadsticks.

I will admit being in a car with four guys, including two teenage ones, wasn't nearly as bad as I might have feared. The younger ones were absolutely hysterical, sometimes unknowingly but usually just because they're funny.

Our cabin was about 20 minutes from the race, and one of the ones Derby City uses for camp. Dave took the upstairs bedroom, Mat and I took the downstairs one and the boys got the couches. Of course, one boy stayed up till 2 a.m. texting and fell asleep on the pool table ... but boys will be boys.

We rolled out of the cabin at 7 a.m., all awesomely attired in navy shorts and orange Derby City singlets. Fake it till you make it, right?

Parking was really well orchestrated; the park rangers wanted us in the right places so they were making sure we got there. Ample bathrooms, fairly easy check-in ... The only headache while checking in was that the other runners were flat out not listening to the directions. Goodies came in a small reusable shopping bag, pretty much lunchbox sized, with the super-cool race logo printed on it. Shirts were of course oversized, but a cool shade of green with the logo in brown. Perfect for a scenic national park race.

While warming up we were talking about racing, and somehow it came up I had never won a race before. A few second-place finishes for sure, plenty of top-tens and age group prizes ... But no overall top female. The guys all had their share of wins from one time or another, probably aided by running through middle and high school, or having run for the past 25 years or so.

And believe me, a ridiculously hilly 10 miler a month post-marathon was not being considered for a win. I hadn't run more than 40 miles a week since the marathon, mostly easy mile — and I had done two hill workouts the week leading up to Cades Cove.

Coach told me going into the race that whatever I thought I could run a flat 10 miler in, add 20 seconds a mile to my pace. That's how tough the course is. I figured 75 was a good goal for the day, which would pretty much let me run my normal pace on a harder course.

Our little team did some pre-race striders, and I hope we looked intimidating because I sure felt like a stud. Now I just had to run decently and not embarrass myself.

I had been strongly advised to go out slow; the first half of the race is considerably easier than the second. So the three of us hit the first mile in 7:05, which was definitely not the plan. But it was downhill, so who can blame us. Then we get our first hill, which doesn't seem too bad. Then things get silly. From miles 2-4 there are about seven hills. Yes, seven. About four of them are 200-foot climbs, the others less than 100. But with that many of them, even the little ones are doozies since you're not getting much recovery.

Dave had backed off after our overzealous first mile; Mat stops to stretch at mile 2. I slow down a tad, since I needed to anyway, and hope Mat will catch back up. He surfaces around mile 4, and promptly drops me at mile 6. Note bene that he had adamantly stated he couldn't even run 10 miles right now, and certainly not fast. It must be nice to be young and naturally talented.

There were no girls in front of me at the start, not many in the field who looked like speedsters, and none had passed me yet. When Mat is back with me at mile 4, he reports there is a girl not too far back — not on my tail yet, but close enough for having a 10k left. By the time Mat pulls away from me, she's not in sight anymore.

There's a bit of a drop from miles 4-6, a couple of steep hills but with some downhill to counter it. But from miles 6-10, the total elevation gain is well over 400 feet. Up a bunch, down a little, repeat.

I believe I uttered the phrase, "I hate you, Dave," multiple times.

Then .... the boys show up. Having dominated the 5k, taking second and third with times right at 18:20 (probably worth at least 17:45 on a flat course), they ran backwards from the finish line to find the rest of us.

Mat is cruising at that point, tells the boys to come keep me company. They catch me at mile 8, where I have climbed my butt off over a nasty hill section. But they are running easy and talking to me, which makes my effort seem easier. I'm still in the lead, and remembering that I just told these boys I had never won. I was determined not to give up the victory at that point, although I had no idea where the next female would be.

At a late water stop, Max calls to the volunteers that they're cheering for the winning female. I roll my eyes and tell them to cut it out, to not embarrass me. The boys push me to a 6:50 last mile (fastest of the race), dropping off before the finish mat.

I clock 1:14:34, just under my goal time, picking up my first female overall win — and setting a course record that may never be broken. Haha! The next two girls were three and four minutes behind me, respectively. I was 17th overall.

Mat finishes in 1:11, 12th overall and second in his AG. Dave was 24th overall in 1:18, fifth in his AG — but would have been second one age group younger and first one age group older, so he pretty much got screwed.

Awards are awesome; I get a locally designed and produced stoneware bear statue. And a 50-minute massage and running store gift card, both which I hope to use while at Derby City's camp this summer.

There's a bluegrass band playing while they figure out awards; we get soft-serve ice cream from the souvenir shop. The ice cream reminds me I really have to bring warmups to races regardless of the weather, because soon after I'm freezing. But I'm proud to score my first win while wearing my DCAC jersey, so I don't really want to cover it up, either.

We head into Gatlinburg for pancakes before heading home, stopping to buy Talledaga Nights along the way.

All-in-all a great trip — in a way it is sad they won't have the race next year ... but I want to have the course record as long as I can!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

April Summary

After Shamrock, I decided I had definitely earned a little bit of downtime. The turn-around between Marshall and Shamrock had been fairly quick (not quite six months from race day to race day), and the crappy winter weather had been mentally harsh. With no races planned till the end of May, I figured I could take April pretty easy — running because I wanted to run, not because I had to run.

I also had this great idea that I would get back into cross training again, but that only happened like three times that the month. Including a one-hour personal training session that made me unable to lift my arms for three days. No fun.

The first week after the marathon, the last full week of March, I think I ran 15 miles. Then I got up to a stellar 32 miles the following week, all recovery miles, all slow as can be.

Then I busted out a 10 miler at a decent pace, and took two days off that week. The speed was coming back but the muscles weren't bouncing back very quickly.

The third week of April was an oops. A 12 mile long run, 8.5 mile speed session and a 9 mile run. There was a weekend switcheroo, where we were trying to do our long run on Saturday since people were racing the next weekend — I only had time to do 9, but along with a couple of easy, shorter runs, I hit 46 for the week. Initially it felt okay, but I followed it up with two 8 mile runs and a 9.4 mile nasty hill workout and had to take a day off. Over the next four days I ran a whopping 10 miles, and I needed it. Plus I had some sort of race silliness (see Cades Cove Loop Lope race report) coming up.

To round out April, the Ohio River Valley attacked my sinuses, resulting in a week of fighting swollen lymph nodes, phlegm and mucus. Gross.

After Shamrock, I had set a goal for April of averaging 28-38 miles weekly over the course of the month. I averaged about 37, so pretty good there. Of course, I had also set a goal of strength training twice a week ... Epic fail.

I should have set some goals for May at the beginning of the month instead of 11 days in. Oops. Let's say averaging 40-50 miles per week and completing 75 percent of my assigned workouts.