Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run Race Goals

This weekend I will run my first race in almost three months. It seems like my first race of the year, but then I remember that the Goofy Challenge did take place in January. That seems like such a long time ago! This will also be my first time running Cherry Blossom, a staple DC race that I have somehow missed out on until now. I was registered in 2009, but a foot injury kept me from running.

When I signed up for this race back in December, I had big goals. I thought I would take three weeks off after Goofy and then jump right back into training. I had my eye on a sub 1:20, but unfortunately, my piriformis and non-firing right glute had other plans. I wasn't even sure until the last week or two whether or not this would be an easy training run, tempo effort, or race. Since I've made significant progress and been able to return to regular workouts, I'm going to be racing on Sunday.

I have no idea what to expect.  I've only done three tempos and two interval workouts, so I feel like my speed training is certainly lacking.  I also feel like I'm still working myself back into shape and am not anywhere near where I was last fall when I ran the Army Ten Miler and set my current PR. Leaving me to believe that going for a PR this weekend isn't all that realistic. However, if I look at my long run paces from late September and early October before that race, they are actually significantly slower than what I have been doing in the last few weeks. And while my times at the track are slower than what I was running in November right before the Philadelphia Marathon, they are actually slightly faster than where I was in early October. What exactly does this mean for Sunday's race and pacing?  I have no idea. I think it's fair to say that my brain is most definitely not in racing shape, but perhaps my fitness is not quite as bad as I believe it to be.

I've decided that this is a great opportunity for me to test out my new watchless approach in a race. I'll run based on effort and see what happens.  This has worked well on my last few long runs and it takes my "I'm not in shape for this pace right now" brain out of the equation.  Maybe I'll surprise myself with a PR and maybe I won't, but I think it will give me a realistic assessment of where I am right now. And with my real focus on racing for a half marathon PR in May, that's all I really want to know.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Three Things Friday

1. I had a great time spectating the Rock n' Roll USA Half Marathon/Marathon on Saturday with Cheryl and Dash.  The weather wasn't so bad for spectating, but I was quite comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt by mid-morning, which is never a good sign for everyone running. Knowing how hard everyone had trained, I was disappointed for my teammates that the weather didn't cooperate. But you have to play the hand that you are dealt and I was proud of everyone for making the best of what was a not an ideal day for racing.

2. I went back to the track for intervals on Tuesday morning for the first time since before Philly. It felt great to be running fast and I had no pain! It seems that I am now back to "regular" training and I am thrilled.  Not necessarily thrilled with where I am during the workouts, but no one ever said that getting back in shape was easy or quick. I'm still sorting out my schedule, but I think I've got it figured out so I can work in a fifth day of running (second easy run of the week) and get my weekly mileage to that happy place, without sacrificing time at the pool.

3. While my legs are quite happy to be back to regular training, my stomach is not.  It's been very angry at the end of my last two long runs (both 14 miles) and was a somewhat unsettled after Tuesday's track workout (though it does seem to be fine after this morning's tempo). At first I blamed what I ate before long run #1 (bagel and peanut butter), but I tried something different before long run #2 (Clif bar) and it didn't change the results.  Both were breakfasts that I have a had no problems with in the past (though I thought the problem could have possibly been eating a whole wheat bagel instead of a plain one).  This weekend I plan to get up earlier so I can eat farther ahead of the run, but if that doesn't work, I don't know what else to try.

The only other thought I've had is that the culprit might be the faster pace. The first long run when this surfaced was the one when I didn't look at my watch and went significantly faster. I'm hoping that if speed is the cause that my stomach will eventually adjust. I've had similar long run stomach issues in the past and they tend to resolve themselves after a few weeks after my stomach gets adjusted to the "change."  The first time I had stomach issues was during my first marathon training, when I wasn't used to eating when running, and it happened again when I started doing runs of longer than an hour before work. Perhaps after several months of only relatively easy paced runs, my stomach is out of shape for the faster stuff too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cherry blossom run commute

I hate fighting with crowds, so a foggy morning run commute was the perfect way to see the cherry blossoms!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Running blind

Two weeks ago I went to the CAR fun run for the first time.  On the way there I decided that I would run with the group and not look at my watch.  I guessed that the pace would probably be a bit faster than my solo easy runs, but unless I was really struggling I was going to keep up.  I knew early on that we were running faster than I normally would, but it never felt uncomfortable or hard.  Just like I was pushing it slightly more than I would on my own.  I was able to chat the whole time and felt good at the end.  It turned out that I was probably running about a minute per mile faster than I'd usually run.

After seeing these "results," I decided it was time for a little experiment. I've long suspected that my brain is holding me back because I feel like certain paces are too fast for me or unsustainable for a long run.  So maybe if I took my brain out of the equation, I would actually end up running significantly faster.  My one hesitation about running with no idea of pace was that I would start out too fast and really struggle at the end.  This has been a problem for me in the past in longer races, but I've grown a lot as a runner in the last few months and I think that at this point this is probably more a myth that is holding me back than a reality.  I need to teach myself to run based on effort and feel and take my Garmin (and brain) out of the equation.

So two weeks ago before the long run I set up my Garmin so that I could only see distance. I started the run with some teammates and tried to settle into a comfortably hard pace.  I could tell that they were running faster than I tend to start long runs, but I tucked in and just tried to keep up.  They were doing ten miles, so they turned around after five and I was on my own for the last nine.  I was a bit worried that my pace would drop off without someone to chase, but I focused on maintaining the same effort level.  At mile seven I took a quick bathroom break, ate a snack, and put on my iPod before turning around and heading back.  I felt good the whole time, though I didn't have the energy to really drop the pace for the last few miles.

I tried this strategy again this past Sunday with similar success.  Once again I had company for the first few miles, but did the bulk of the run on my own.  I really thought about keeping a steady effort level and continuing to push when I could feel myself start to back off or slow down.  I felt pretty strong most of the way, but like the week before didn't have that next gear to turn to for the last few miles.  I think that will come with time though, as my body adjusts to running at this faster pace.

Both weekends I ran 14 miles and while I was a bit slower this week, I was faster than my current half marathon PR at 13.1 both times!  Obviously I knew that my PR was very outdated (and the first week I took a break at mile 7), but it is still a great confidence booster.  I know I have a lot of work to do to get where I can be, but this is a step in the right direction.  Obviously every run won't feel as strong as these, but taking my brain out of the equation can only be a good thing.  So while I'll still be wearing my Garmin (can't live without the post-run data!), you won't see me looking at it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Blame Game

My calves have been super sore and tight since Sunday's long run.  Not only is it very unusual for them to be this painful, it's also unusual for me to feel aches and pains from a long run for more than 24 hours afterwards.  Despite pool running yesterday morning and lots of stretching and sticking last night, things are still very tight today.

So do I blame:
A) Running faster than I usually do
B) Epsom salt bath instead of my normal ice bath
C) Stomach issues that prevented me from properly hydrating and refueling right after the run
D) Forgetting to wear compression socks for the rest of Sunday
E) Daylight saving time
F) All of the above

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Three Things Thursday

1. I’m very happy to report that I will be heading back to the track tomorrow morning and giving my butt its first taste of speed in several months. I know that my form still has a long way to go, but everything has been feeling so much better in the last week or two. I’ve tried picking up the pace during my long run without any ill effects. So now it's time to see how it does with a tempo. I may end up getting there, warming up, and only running a mile, but it’s time to see where I stand. I know that soreness is likely (those right glute muscles aren’t used to working!), but if there is any hint of the burning pain from before or if the pain starts radiating down my hamstring, I’ll be shutting things down immediately.

2. Last night I went to my first CAR fun run.  It always seemed like a great opportunity to have company for an easy run, but I knew that there was no way I could get home from work in time to change and drive to Falls Church before it started at 6:30. I mentioned this to Amy a few weeks ago and she pointed out that it starts at 7:00. Never mind that in every weekly CAR newsletter the fun run and 7:00 starting time are clearly listed in the workouts section. No, I was positive it was 6:30. No idea why. I'm glad that myth has been corrected because I had a great time last night and will be going back again. Also, I should probably start reading the newsletter a little more closely. Who knows what else I am missing?

3. Morgan wrote an interesting post earlier this week about race shirt sizing and the lack of small sizes (or women’s sizing) at many races.  This is actually a big pet peeve of mine, so when she asked for people to post pictures of their worst offenders, I was happy to oblige. 

This is a "small"

Trying to show how much extra fabric there is

Given that I set my marathon PR in Philadelphia, I would probably be wearing this shirt all the time if I wasn’t a tent.  I understand when smaller races don’t have the budget for have men’s and women’s sized shirts, but I think it should be a standard offering at large races.  Since most of these sell out long before race day, it can’t be all that hard to figure out exactly how many of each to order.  At the very least, if it's unisex sizing, there should be an XS option.

I actually got an email once from a small local race the day before packet pickup saying that if you ordered a small you should get there early because they had fewer than were requested during online registration. The race director explained this decision by saying "we've all been at those races where the only shirts left were smalls. We seem to have dodged that problem." I was seriously tempted to email back and ask where these races are, because I would like to run them.  I seem to only end up at the races where the shirts left are way too big! 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Four

1. I had to do last week's long run on my own because I had a friend coming to town for the weekend, so I decided it was as good a time as any to try to pick up the pace a bit.  Since I started PT I'd been taking it very easy and hadn't really tried to see how my butt would respond to a bit more effort.  My plan was to run it as a progressive long run and back off if I ever got to a pace that caused pain.  I ended up being very pleased with the paces that I was able to run and I didn't have pain during the run.  I was, however, pretty sore for the rest of the weekend.  I was hoping it was the "right" muscles that were sore (because they were finally working) since it was not the pain that I was having before.  It's so hard for me to differentiate between all the muscles back there.

2. When I started swimming again in January, I knew it would be a good idea to pick a distance and time trial it every few weeks to track my progress. I debated between 1000 and 1650 and went with 1650 because it was closer to the actual race distance. So obviously that would be a better marker of my progress, or at least that was my rationale. Last week when I prepared to do my second time trial, I really wished I'd picked 1000 the first time. It's just a much more reasonable distance!  But I felt like I'd committed myself and a 1000 time just wouldn't be quite the same, even if I was looking at pace per 100.  I'll think more carefully next time I pick a TT distance for a future training cycle.

3.  I've discovered it's extremely relaxing to lie on the floor with an ice pack on your hip/butt.  I don't know why, but I almost fall asleep every time.

4. To reward myself for all of this swimming (and in advance of a big swim planned for Saturday), I picked up a new suit on Wednesday.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

February Recap

I might not have blogged much in February, but I was still getting my workouts in!

Miles: 89.09 (+ ~42 miles in the pool)

X-Training:  8 swims

Rest Days:  4

Race(s): None

New gear: Newtons! Of course I actually got these in January, but didn't get a chance to run in them until this month.  So far I'm really liking them, but I'm limiting myself to one run a week.

Workout goals:
Smart return to running - My original "return to running" plans were derailed when I still was having butt pain when I started running again after my three week break.  I started PT and am working diligently to get my right glute to do what it is supposed to do.  Fortunately the PT didn't tell me that I needed to stop running, so I've delayed my return to the track and logged lots of easy miles.

Swim - I'm happy to saying that I met my goal of swimming 2x a week.  I'm finally getting back to a happy place with swimming and I like it.

Planks and strengthening exercises - It wasn't quite what I envisioned, but my PT assigned me a number of daily strengthening exercises and stretches that I've been doing religiously.

Non-workout goal: Continue the apartment cleanup - I didn't get much done with this.  I'm not sure what happened, but the month got away from me.

February was most certainly not the month that I was expecting.  I was looking forward to a glorious return to running and had planned that by the middle of the month I'd be back at track and tempo workouts.  Unfortunately, my body had other plans and I started PT instead.  Given that "situation," I'm very pleased with the month I had.  I still managed to run almost 90 miles and finally got myself back into a good swimming routine.  I feel like I'm making progress in PT and I'm committed to doing whatever it takes to get my right glute working like it should.

March Preview

Workout goals:
(All of these are going to sound familiar)

Keep swimming! - The 2x a week schedule is working out well and I plan to keep it up in March

Smart running - I'd like to increase my mileage this month and keep on steadily working on my base. I feel like I'm close to the point where I could introduce a bit of speed back into my running schedule.  I know that I need to be very careful about this and hyper-aware of how my body is responding.  There's no need to rush this and cause more problems down the line.

Stretching and foam rolling - I'm not sure how many more weeks of PT I have ahead of me, but I know that even once that is over, I am going to need to keep up the stretching routine.  I also know that I need to be better about using my foam roller on a regular basis

Races: None. I do plan on getting out and spectating some local races this month!

Non-workout goal: One of my "personal" goals for 2012 is to volunteer more.  I have a few places in mind, but so far I haven't taken the time to reach out and get started.  I will do this in March.