Sunday, March 29, 2015

Training Week 4: Reintroducing My Abs

Hello runners! Training Week 4 is in the books here and I've lived to tell you about it. This week I had (mostly) superb weather to greet me on my runs. Has spring sprung where you are? It's a lovely thing.
Trees in bloom and snow capped mountains. Love this place.

Here's the weekly run-down:

Monday: 6 miles EZ. Ever feel like Eeyore on a run? If ever I had that day, this was it.

  • I felt sluggish as hell the entire time
  • It rained on and off the entire time
  • And just for kicks, the streetlights in an entire quadrant of the park weren't working. Holy darkness, Batman! I mean, it felt like running in the forest at night, it was so dark. It had been a really long time since I'd run in the dark like that, and had kind of forgotten what it feels like. Mostly if just feels less safe!

Tuesday: This class that was easy two weeks ago turns out to be a wolf in sheep's clothing. Damn! Hard class! We focused a lot on ab strength, with V-sits, planks, and moving between planks and down dogs, and hopping onto our hands from planks. In case you've missed it, I've had two children and have pathetic ab muscles. I also learned in this class how people move their foot from the back of the mat to the front from down dog without kind of hurling it up there or, let's be honest, just standing up and stepping forward. Turns out the trick is to inch your feet forward first, giving yourself the vertical space to move your knee & leg. Who knew?! I still don't really do it right, but at least I know how now and can keep working on this.

After this class, I was much more aware of my abs during my Wednesday and Friday runs. After really just a few yoga classes, I can feel some strength starting to return to neglected portions of my body, and that feels good. 

Wednesday: Speed work. Yassos. So, here's the thing. It's hard to tell that I'm making progress from week to week if you just read my stats, but I can feel progress from week to week. For one thing, the workouts are getting longer in distance, and I'm hanging with that. This week I finished a distance I absolutely could not have handled at that pace in Week 1. For another, I feel better each week when I finish. This is big. In Week 1, I had a headache so bad for the rest of the day that I was nauseous. This week, my head only felt a little tense, and I never really worried that a huge headache was about to set in. And finally, I am getting slightly closer to goal paces. These workouts are tough, and I love them for that.

Workout: 2 miles EZ
1x400 @ 1:45, 200 recovery (actual: 1:50--I was trying to find the right gear, so to speak--just feeling out my pace)
5x800 @ 3:30 with 400 recoveries (actual: 3:26, 3:39, 3:31, 3:49, 3:35. The 2nd and 4th went over the slight elevation gain in the park, and into a headwind. That 4th one though, that was brutal. I just couldn't get my legs to turn over any faster)
1x400 @1:45, 200 recovery (actual: 1:45)
1 mile EZ

Thursday: I slept in until 7. It felt preposterously luxurious.

Friday: 5 miles EZ. When I got up at 6 to throw on clothes and meet Meridith by 6:20, I checked my phone, natch. How surprised was I to find a text message from 5:35am from a dear friend asking if it was a good time to call for a business matter we'd been trying to connect on.! What?!? I later learned that she'd only received a text I'd sent the night before when she got up Friday morning. Living one time zone east of me, she got it when it was really f-ing early here. Have you ever lived in a different time zone from 80% of the people you know? How long did it take you to get used to it?

Alas, the run was lovely--with my neighbor at the park. She reminded me how to love the simplicity of the run. How not to over-think it.

On Saturday's long run, I saw not one, but two things sincerely worthy of comment:

  1. On my run, I did an out & back to the south with my friend Tessa, then an out & back to the north on my own. At the northern turn around point, I saw a woman running toward me. She was every minute of 70, running, dressed in what appeared to be everyday clothing consisting of pants, a tunic-style shirt, and a hijab. I was so impressed I sort of wanted to hug her. Reasons I love this: a) she was old! I want to be running when I'm old!, b) she persisted in running despite not wearing athletic clothing--I lover that she refused to be stopped by something many people would consider a significant barrier, c) running isn't the most diverse sport in the world, and this woman brought diversity in nearly every sense of the word. Beautiful. 
  2. I twice passed the same woman pushing a stroller....for her poodle. 
Distance: 14.0 miles
Pace: 9:35/mile. I felt like I was dragging my legs through this for long stretches, but completed the run without incident. 

Total distance for the week: 32.97 miles

Finally, how am I doing on those goals? Making progress, I'm happy to report. 

Goal #1: Continue to journal my nutrition. I think this week was about like last week, ultimately, but I did recognize that a big part of the reason I'm falling down at this is that I'm eating things that are difficult to estimate nutritional information for. But I've done it before, and will do it again. I did recalibrate my plan to reflect my higher mileage, and I did track everything for parts of the week. 

Goal #2: Fix the long run nutrition situation. Success! This weekend I ate a bagel with jam pre-run, then did both an electrolyte tab in my water during the run and a Gu mid-run. I felt much better post-run, and feel like I'm getting the hang of this. 

Having made progress on Goal #2, I want to introduce a new one: do core work on non-yoga days. It's become clear to me that this is an area I need to strengthen, so, let's do it. How often do you do core work? I need to know. I'm starting to suspect that I'm the weirdo who never does core work. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Training Week 3: I have derriere antlers

Week 3 was, in a word, inconsistent.

I started the week strong with a 7-mile run on Monday morning. I love that I'm getting back to weekday runs long enough that I can call them MDMLRs--Mid-weed-medium-long-runs. Sure, 7 miles is on the short side for this, but I think I'm in the ballpark.

Tuesday I biked to yoga for my second class. The instructor's voice sounds like it belongs on NPR. So smooth, beautiful pronunciation. I wasn't sure if classes would be very different from week to week, and was glad to find that my second class was quite different from the first, even with the same instructor. I left feeling strong.

Wednesday: speed work. Did not happen. My alarm was set for o'dark thirty. It went off. I got up. I started the morning routine and just Like I've said many times, it's normal for my stomach to be a little angry when I first wake up, but this was more than that. I deliberated for about 5 minutes and finally called it and went back to bed for another hour and a half. As the day started again, then wore on, I was really glad I'd made that call. It was the 1/10 of the time you skip a run and it was the right decision.

Thursday morning I ran with my neighbor, which I really love doing. She's fast and I love going fast. It was downright cold until I got moving, but by the end, a glorious morning like always. She got a kick out of my Top of Utah race shirt.

Awkward over-the-shoulder mirror selfie FTW!
 Friday morning I was back out for an easy 5 miles. Nothing spectacular. Just shakin' things out.

Saturday: long run, with my running buddy Jeannette, who I hadn't seen in almost a year. It was great to catch up with her over 10 miles and then brunch. I've missed running with her so much!! Before this long run, I also got to experiment with one of this week's goals.

Goal: Eat real food before my long run
Status: Accomplished

I ate a cinnamon raisin bagel with blackberry jam on my way to meet Jeannette. I think it did help. It did not help that I then did not take any Gu before or during the run. Net effect=not much different from before. So clearly I need to keep working on this, but I think I am headed in the right direction.

My second goal for last week is also an on-going goal for this week:

Goal: Get back to journaling my nutrition
Status: Partially accomplished

My second goal for the week was a return to journaling my nutrition. I partially met this goal, by keeping track of food some days last week, and not on others. I initially saw a tick down on the scale, but by week's end it had found its way back to where it had been a week prior. I'm back on the wagon this week.

Goals for this week:
1. Keep journaling the nutrition
2. Work on the long run fueling situation some more
Same as before, with some progress made on both, and some progress left to go.

This coming week should see me tip the odometer over 100 for the month, and will also hopefully see a very triumphant return to speed work. Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Training Week 2: School for the Gifted

Goal: Return to Yoga
Status: Accomplished!

Do you remember the old Far Side cartoon of the kid at the door of the School for the Gifted, pushing on the door with all his might, and the sign on the door says Pull? (if not, you can see it here) That summarizes me and yoga pretty well. For all of my not picking a studio, not making time, not whatevering, it turns out you just do it. You just sign up, go, open the door and do it! Feeling like there was some barrier between me and cross-training was really silly. I was pushing on a door that's really easy to pull open.

Last weekend, as soon as I wrote my Week 1 post, I started reading reviews of different studios near my house, and the search quickly narrowed to one. I bought a 10-class pass, made a reservation for Tuesday morning's Power Hour, and when Tuesday came, hopped on my bike and went to class. I have no idea now why this seemed complicated.

The class, as yoga classes go, was fairly easy, which is perfect for a runner looking to get stretched and strong between runs. And the setting is great. The classroom is on the second floor of a building, facing north. Toward the end of class, you can look out the front window and see the horizon starting to lighten toward dawn. Pretty great way to start the day.

Pre-dawn, as I headed home from class
Speed work Wednesday was a second victory this week. In Week 1, the speed session nearly killed me (ok, maybe that's a slight exaggeration). But this past week, I came much closer to hitting the target paces, and I didn't have a searing headache for the rest of the day. Woohoo! Here are the target and actual paces for my intervals (rests not shown), goal in purple, actual in green:
400: 1:46/1:44
400 1:46/1:41
800: 3:32/3:35
1200: 5:18/5:29
800: 3:32/3:41
400: 1:46/1:48
400: 1:46/1:48

I also figured out why that second 800 is my tough spot. The park I run in is nearly perfectly flat, but not flat, and that second 800 captures the corner of the park with a slight elevation gain. It probably accounts for a few seconds of my over-run there.

On Saturday I headed out for my long run on the Jordan River Parkway with two of the girls from last year's group. They had to be somewhere by 10, so they did the first 2.5 miles out with me before turning around. I ran another 2.75 before turning around, for a total of 10.5 miles for the day. My schedule asked me to do 14, but I thought that was too big a jump up on long run miles at one time, and I think that was the right call. It was a bit brisk when we started out, but once I got warmed up, the day felt great. Lots of sunshine.

The sweaty afterglow of a successful long run
When I got back to the trailhead at the end of my run, I saw this. I love all the Olympics references here. That legacy is such a cool part of this place, and always inspires me when I'm training and come across a memento like this unexpectedly.

I'm feeling good heading into Week 3. Goals for this week: 
  • Eat some real food before my long run. My history of not doing this was problematic at last year's Top of Utah marathon, and does not serve me well ever, really. So I'm going to fix it. 
  • Get back to journaling my nutrition. I've held steady at 7lb. weight loss, and want to start seeing some progress again. 
Thanks to the few of you who stopped by last week and left me a comment wishing me luck as I get back to training mode! I love hearing from you!! 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Week 1 Training:I'm starving, and other headlines

Week 1 of the 2015 training season is in the books. Here's a run-down:

Monday was a gentle re-introduction to training, 5.5 EZ miles. No biggie.

Tuesday: you've heard me say this so many times it's ridiculous, but...this is the day for XT and...I didn't do it. The issue is that I don't have a routine. I'm not signed up for a class at work, and I haven't been to any of the many yoga studios near my house. Goal for the upcoming week: find a Groupon or intro special for one of them, sign up, and get going!

Wednesday: Speed work, for the first time in something like 6 months (six months?!?). It....was...brutal. I don't think the rest of the world calls these runs progression-regression runs, but that's what we called them in high school and the name has stuck with me. What do you call them? Where you do intervals that increase in distance up to a point, then you do the whole thing in reverse? Anyway, to prevent myself from panicking over distances and paces, I wrote it down and put it in my pocket to peek at during recoveries. (yes, I realize the interval pace is constant)

I knew it was unlikely that I'd hold 7min/mile pace all the way through, since it had been so long. Here's what I turned in (not including the recoveries):
2 miles EZ
400 @ 1:49
400 @ 1:45
800 @ 3:35
1200 @ 5:31
800 @ 3:48
400 @ 1:53
400 @ 1:51

Other than that second 800 I wasn't crazy far off. The whole time I was doing it I kept telling myself that I shouldn't expect to hit my paces in Week 1 after so long. Yet, I pushed too hard, and ended up with a pounding heading for most of the day. Like, bad enough that I couldn't eat. I always tell other people not to jump in too fast, why didn't I take my own advice?? Lesson (re)learned. Plus, as I get stronger week to week, these paces won't seem so insane.

Thursday: rest

Friday: 5 miles EZ. Talk about a gorgeous run. The moon was setting to the west just as the sun was rising to the east. All those colors. Caught between the sleeping and waking worlds. It was one of those moments where you feel sorry for people who don't run, and/or people who aren't morning people.

Saturday: Long run! And, a chance to try out a new pair of tights I bought last weekend at Salt Lake Running Company, which is my go-to store around here for all things running. I'd been in the market for a while for a pair of non-thermal, full-length tights, to span that temperature range between about 25 and 38. I'd had a hard time deciding. Several pairs at Athleta looked attractive, but were super expensive. The sales person at the running store was really helpful. She showed me several options, some in winter clearance and some not, and helped me pick a pair made by Swoob. I'd never heard of the company. Turns out it's a Utah-based company. After reading their site a bit, I love their mission:

"The idea for the company came while climbing in Utah's Wasatch Mountains. We noticed most women would stow things in their bra while climbing. After talking to other active gals we found many use their sports bras as a pocket to store anything from energy pouches to keys and phones.  Realizing an opportunity Swoob was born around a mission to support the active lifestyle of females."

The sales girl said she loved their products, and at $34 on sale, I was intrigued. Plus, the fabric felt nice, and I immediately loved the very wide waist band, which I've found drastically improves comfort. I couldn't resist. (Product can be found here on a much thinner model who is either very blessed or has had a boob job)
Pre-run: Yep--they look like black tights. Amid a sea of toys.
Admittedly, today was a touch too warm for this get-up, but not ridiculously so. Even in slightly-too-warm-weather, these tights performed very well. Things I love about them:

  • That wide waistband. LOVE that.
  • They are long enough! This is often an issue for me. I'm 5'8" and all leg. I may or may not have actually cheered a little when I put them on the first time and they were easily long enough. 
  • The pocket in the waistband is pretty generous. 
  • I think they'd make a great base layer for skiing. 
I could ding them for not having a zippered pocket, although to be honest, I usually run with my Nathan hand held water bottle, which has a zippered pocket, so this isn't a huge deal. I might care more if I were doing a 5k in them and had to carry anything valuable. Also, they do not have reflective qualities, and as I run a lot in the dark, this is the only real con I have for these tights. 

Today's run itself was 8 miles of lovely. It's no secret that I live for long runs. The second half was better than the first--it just took me a little extra time to settle in today. I took it slower than I have in a while, which was nice. 

Wrapping up the week, I'm struck by how immediately starving I am when re-entering training. Since early December, I've been working to very slowly lose some weight. I've lost about 7 pounds--go me! So I've been watching what I eat. I think the trick will be in telling my nutrition journal (which is an online tool) that I've increased my exercise time/distance, and that will signal it to increase my daily calorie allotment while keeping me on track. Stay tuned for updates on this. I've historically had a hard time losing weight while training, so we'll see how it goes. 

Weekly summary:
XT: none
Workouts: 4
Miles: 25.5

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

And We're Back! Training Season 2015 is a GO.

So, it's been a while. A long while, this off season. I enjoyed running during this time, but I also enjoyed more mornings spent curled up in bed, and more evenings spent awake past 10 pm. But alas, we are back at the trail head. Back to training season. And I'm ready to be here.

Why the word "ready", and not something more enthusiastic? I've spent a lot of time thinking about this race season, and what I want it to be. After going all out last year, setting a new mileage PR, sub-4'ing my marathon, and setting a new PR in the half, I'm ready for a more mellow race year. So I slowly admitted to myself that this was OK (this was a hard thing for this Type A runner to admit!). I've set some still-aggressive goals, just fewer of them. I'm signed up for races, just not a full marathon. And this I'm delighted about. I'm ready to get into a training season that still pushes me, but also gives me some wiggle room to see what happens. To decide on fall when fall gets here. To revel in it all.

I've been up to some pretty great stuff in the off-season, too. In January, I started meeting up with some of the girls from last year's training group. I've loved reconnecting with them and exploring some new routes. In this first picture, we're heading out for a 6 mile loop, running parallel to the mountain. Our trail was a very generous shoulder (meant for runners and cyclists), with a view over the entire Salt Lake Valley. You couldn't help but just stare out over the valley while you ran. Gorgeous!

And, winter in Utah is meant for skiing. Glorious, powdery skiing. I went once in January for work to Deer Valley (love!! It's a 4-star food resort with a skiing problem. And, winning big points with me, the ski trails are all well marked--no getting lost or accidentally heading down a black diamond!). Then on President's Day I took my older son to Brighton for his very first ever ski lesson. That kid was crazy in love with skiing, and has been asking to go back ever since. This is the view as I turned on to a slope, while he was with his group. 

This is the view to the west one evening. It's basically the same thing I get to see every single morning when I'm coming in from my run, just on the other side of the valley. This never, never, never gets old. Every morning when I see the opposite of this, I'm thankful for having laced up my shoes. 

With that, the 2015 Training Season is upon me! The first race on my 2015 dance card (run card?) is the Salt Lake Half, which I ran last year, too. It's not my favorite course, and not one I'll try to PR on, but its timing is impeccable for jump starting training for summer races. My A-Game race for the year is the Utah Valley Half, which I also ran last year and had an absolute blast completing with my STL running bestie.

What are my goals? For Salt Lake, really just to get my weekly mileage back up to some respectable level (I've barely cracked 100 miles yet this year....) and have fun on race day. For Utah Valley, I want to break 1:45. That's the goal. If you'd have asked me in 2007 whether I thought I'd ever set that as a realistic race goal, I would have laughed. But, let's do this.