Posts Tagged ‘speed’

Riverside Drive and a New To Me Garmin

I am solidly six weeks into marathon training.  So far it has been pretty good, with some ups and some downs.  Last week was an unusually down week, with a change in my diet and some insomnia creating a period of very low energy, before bouncing back by the end of the week.  I felt really amazing Thursday through Saturday.  Otherwise . . .


So yesterday, I suffered one of my worst runs ever.  It was an 11 mile route along the always challenging Riverside Drive.  Now, I like Riverside, and ran it voluntarily and solitary about 3 weeks ago for a 9 mile route.  But like it or not, it is very, very challenging.


I meant to write about how I was gifted last Monday with a used Garmin and how it has been a help and a hurt in my running.  A help in that I can do a better job of maintaining the pace I want and even speed it up, and a hurt in that I can look at my current pace and feel intense despair over how slow it seems compared to the effort I am exerting (see the mention of low energy above, though too).  Anyway, against my instincts and a reasonable suggestion from the donator, I decided to wear it yesterday for the long run with Team Cocoa.


So, first things first: thanks to the Garmin, I know that in my attempt to stay with the main pack, I ran my first mile of 11 at a 10:20 pace, which for me, for a long run, is WAY TOO DAMN FAST.  Add to that that within the first mile, even holding a low to mid-10 min per mile pace, I was falling quickly to the back of the pack.  I was among the last 3 by mile 5.  This was not a good place for me to be, mentally, though at this point, I was physically doing well and looking forward to the remaining 6 miles.


Once we got on Riverside Drive itself, after the absolute brutal climb up from the Nickel Bridge to Forest Hill Avenue, I started feeling that awful feeling in my stomach:  I needed a little blue house and I needed it soon.  Miles 5 and 6 were tough, hilly, and my stomach was cramping. I was running with the last two team members and Coach Adam who always brings up the rear.


At mile 7, when we got to the main entrance to the Buttermilk Trail very close to the Lee Bridge, I found the much needed rest-stop and assured the team I could find my own way home (it was a very straightforward and familiar route anyway).  After suffering miserably in the sweatbox of the porta-john, I came out feeling a little light headed but got underway again to cross the Lee Bridge, a portion of the route that I enjoy the most, which no one else seems to.  After the shady but very still and moist air of Riverside Drive, the strong breezes that blow above Belle Isle and the James River feel very refreshing to me.


But it was once I was across the bridge that everything fell to shambles.  My legs felt like I was running through wet cement.  If I closed my eyes, I saw blue sparkles.  The lightheadedness became more pronounced.  I tried running for a block and walking for a block for a while, drinking my water, and hoping to find a second wind.


It never came.  I decided it was time to trim the route a little (by then, there was simply no short cut back to the stadium), and I cut the diagonal across Monroe Park, and rather than follow Monument back to the Boulevard, I made my way to Broad, again, to slightly cut the diagonal of the route, and took the walk of shame for the last 3 miles.


My body hurt in ways that seemed to have nothing to do with running.  My sides and back hurt.  The pressure of my running bra on my shoulders was nearly unbearable.  The cuff of my tights around the base of my knees felt awful.  I was a massive ball of pain for reasons unknown.


It was crazy to collapse like that, because the previous weekend, I had run 10 miles, hopped in the car, drove 4 hours into the mountains, and set up a camp and was quite physically active for the rest of the day, only slightly tired from my early morning exertions.  After yesterday, the best I could do was pour myself into a Epsom salt bath and then sleep for 4 or 5 hours afterwards.  I don’t know that I would have gotten up when I did except Byram said “The World Cup is starting” and I was up like a shot.  To go back to lying on the couch.


What caused the collapse?  Was it because I didn’t eat a little something before I ran?  Was it because I never took a rest day last week and even doubled up workouts a couple of days (running and power yoga)?  Was it because I had too much water and not enough electrolytes?  Was it because I had GI troubles both before and during the run (probably caused by the very greasy smoked bratwurst I had for dinner the night before)?  Not enough sleep?  Not enough calories?  Too much heat?  Too fast at the start?  The very challenging route?  All of the above???


It was probably all of the above and even some factors I haven’t considered yet.  It was enough to leave me wondering if maybe I am not cut out for a marathon yet, though.  Maybe I should switch over to the half marathon before I do more serious damage?  No, I don’t really believe that.  My coworker and the donator of the Garmin reassured me this morning that sometimes these runs happen, and he recalled having to stop on the exact same route a few years back and recover before he could make the last 3 miles back to the stadium.  Of course, he hasn’t managed a full marathon yet, either, and he has been running for many years more than I have.


I feel like I only write when things go wrong, but what is there to say about Saturday morning’s humid 5.5 mile run that went just fine (except, again, for some stomach cramps right at 4.5 miles)?  I felt great on Saturday  Even despite  the GI distress, I felt good enough on Saturday to add a little length to the route and take a fast sprint down a steep hill on a side street near my house.  How did my weekend workouts go from so right on Saturday to so wrong on Sunday?  I can’t explain it.


So today begins a 3-day liquid fast for me.  I decided last week that I needed a total body reboot and I have had success with these fasts in the past.  My diet will consist of 3-4 protein shakes a day, as much water, herbal tea, and coffee as I want, and a cup of bullion a day (I need the salt in this heat).  I know this will bring my energy levels down somewhat for the next few days, but I can accept that trade for a reduction in water weight, a renewed focus on what I put in my mouth, and usually an end to sugar and carb cravings.


Today is cross-training day and I plan to get on the rowing machine for 30 minutes at lunch.  Tomorrow is 3 miles at home, 6 miles on Wednesday, and 3 miles again on Thursday.  I have been adding in yoga and core training workouts from Byram’s Diamond Dallas Page YRG yoga videos.  Those have been very effective and I can discern a real difference in things like my downward dogs (heels are down after a the first few minutes of any workout), my Three Legged Dog is getting taller and less wobbly, and my lunges are definitely getting stronger and more stable.  So while still not a fan of ordinary main-stream yoga routines, I am having fun and finding success with DDP’s yoga, as much as I cringe at some of his more sexist comments, or roll my eyes at the alternative names he gives to some of his poses.


So, feeling better today, I refuse to let yesterday’s awfulness stop me yet.  I have 18 more weeks until race day.  I am sure there will be other horrible workouts in all of those miles, and I am also sure I will have some stellar days.  I have particular faith that when the mercury starts to fall and the humidity comes down out of the “breathing underwater” range, that my workouts will improve.  Just writing all this out has helped improve how I feel about yesterday and how I feel about going forward with Team Cocoa and my status as the sweeper.


I will keep on working at staying positive (hard for me) and keep racking up the miles (less hard).


Swifter Sweeper

Happiness is new running shoes. No lie. I had surpassed 300 logged miles on my Brooks Ghost 6s and for the past several weeks, each time I went for a run in them, I was coming back with an ache in my right ankle. Well, by Sunday, I came back with BOTH ankles sore and achy. I suspected the shoes, went to Lucky Foot (my favorite running store!) and left with a new pair of Ghosts.

I went in fully intending to switch back to more supportive shoes like the Adrenalines. The sales associate really didn’t think I needed the support, but I tried them anyway. Well, after running in neutral shoes for 9 months, wearing the Adrenalines was like tying a pair of 2x4s to my feet. I tried stepping down a click to the Brooks Ravennas but they still felt too stiff and clunky.

When I put on the Size 12 pair of Ghosts, all desire to change up my shoes fled and they came home with me.

It is funny to me how when I was younger, what color and shape my shoes were meant a LOT to me. I wanted my shoes to look super cool; I really didn’t care how well they fit or how long they held up. 15-20 years later, and I could care less what my shoes look like, as long as they fit well and I keep all my toenails this training cycle. And now I pay 5x more for them than I ever did.

Function before form.

So, here is the only thing bugging me about MTT and my awesome team. I ran around a 10:30 minute per mile pace on Sunday morning; this is wonderful to me and is gradually becoming the new normal (not 11:30s like it has been for the past 2-3 years) and I am so happy to see progress in my pace. But even with that pace, I was the “sweeper” for most of the route; dead last member of the team. I caught up with a number of folks on the Boulevard and even passed several of them as we went over the Boulevard Bridge, so that was kind of nice (yay, hill training has paid off!), but it was a tough effort for me to even keep some of the team in sight on Monument Avenue for a while.

My options are to switch to a novice team that runs fewer miles and has slower participants or suck it up, put out the hardcore effort this deserves, and recognize that there might be weeks where the coaches are tapping their toes looking for me.

It would be unworthy to switch to a team with slower members just so I don’t run the risk of being the official Team Sweeper.

Someone always has to be last, right?

Back To It

I didn’t run a single step between November 17th and December 1st. I walked some, I might have dashed across a cross-walk, but no running for the joy of running. Late in those two sedentary weeks, my body felt bloated and my mind felt cluttered. It was driving me slowly insane not to feel confident enough to go for a run. I never quite grasp how important running is for my mental health until I have to go an extended period without it.

This Monday past, I packed my green gym bag with a technical shirt, sports bra, running pants, socks and shoes for the first time in a long time and committed to starting my plan to get faster.

I am going back to the beginning, back to where I started. Couch to 5k. When I started running in April of 2010, it was in the basement of the parking deck of my office. I was too embarrassed to be seen doing it in public, so it was slow, sweaty walk/run laps in the darkness of the deck. At the very beginning, even the 60 seconds of running in the first week was too much for my terrible conditioning. I think I had to spend two weeks on every single week of the plan for a while, and I think I was hung up on week 5 with a 20 minute run for 3 or 4 weeks before I succeeded.

But ultimately, I did succeed and of course finally found my way out of the darkness of the parking deck and into the light of day. And I eventually went a lot farther than a 5k, too, but never at any speed much better than maybe an 11 minute mile.

I want to run faster but have not had much success just trying to speed up with the normal types of ways to get faster, all of which are variations on just run faster and run up hills. I remember that C25K worked for me and so I think it would work for me again, just running faster. So Monday, I put myself on the treadmill and walked at 3.2 mph for 90 seconds, and then sped it up to 7.0 mph for 90 seconds. Wash, rinse, repeat until 25 minutes are up. This was actually Week 2 of the plan, but my conditioning is good enough that I was able to skip Week 1 altogether. So 7.0 mph was challenging without being crushing, but I was glad too when I got my walk breaks.

Wednesday, I decided I could walk faster on my walk breaks so I set the slow speed for 3.5 mph and kept my run speed at 7.0. I was not sure how the run would go considering I had roller skated for 90 minutes the night before, but it went fine. I will finish Week 2 of the plan today at lunch.

Are you surprised that I feel a bit intimidated by next week’s plan? I will have a couple of 3 minute runs at full speed. And the Friday after Christmas, if I can keep up with the plan, there is a 20 minute run at speed. That is not just intimidating; at this moment, it just seems flat out impossible to run an 8:30ish couple of miles on the treadmill without stopping.

Now it is not currently my plan to suddenly become a 8:30 minute miler. It is my plan to get closer to a 9:30 to 9:45 minute miler. But since I am doing this on the treadmill (so I can easily control my pace), I am training at a faster than goal pace to compensate for the easier to run on surface. It is only a theory that this will work; in a few weeks, I will start running outdoors again and that is when I will see whether my theory translates to faster outdoor runs.

Stay tuned. It should be interesting.

A Celebration

On Saturday morning, the training team ran 13 miles, many of them being part of the race route for the Richmond Half Marathon. Our route took us north on the Boulevard and into Bryan Park, just like the race will.

I have to admit it; I hate running in Bryan Park. It is the middle of the Race itself, it is boring to look at, it is a bit hilly, and with leaves and pine needles typically on the path, it is usually slippery. Even though I hate it, it is important to run in the park to help get my head ready for the Race.

Speaking of the Race, it has sort of slipped my mind that I am actually running a race in about a month. You wouldn’t think it possible given that I get up every Saturday morning and go run with a team of other people getting ready for the same race, but somehow it just of feels like my routine and I lost sight of the end goal.

Part of it was that I had gotten hyper-focused on these two weeks, last Saturday when we ran 13 miles, and this upcoming Saturday when we run 14 miles. Fourteen miles is a new distance for me; my longest ever run has been 13.25 miles. Another three-quarters of a mile isn’t truly a big deal, but at the same time, it sorta is. If only in my head. So in that way, this coming training team run feels like a bigger deal than race day.

So, bringing this back to where I started, I was running through Bryan Park and passed over the spray painted 10k mark for the Race. It was in that moment that I really remembered that I have a race coming up in 5 weeks. Well, alright then. I guess I better get a move on it, right?

Saturday’s 13 mile run was a tough one. Part of it was that I didn’t have any of my normal fuel; no GUs and no Nuun to drink. I settled for pretzels and PowerAid supplied by the team. That was not ideal nor my routine, and I think that contributed to the difficulty of the run. But the truth is that I have not been extremely dedicated to my weekday runs, and I think that is making these long runs so much harder. Letting my base mileage slip is leaving me very sore, very beat up, and very unhappy because I hurt so much by the end of these long runs. Ice baths are becoming the new normal and while I know they are controversial, I can say very unscientifically, they absolutely work for me.

A lot of my weekday runs on the treadmill because the weather has been so up and down. We are finally returning to a more normal October weather pattern this week, so I am going to work really hard on getting back outside and making my weekday runs count. I still have five weeks to get this right. My pace has generally been where I wanted it for the race. Saturday’s average pace was off by about 30 seconds per mile but most of my runs have been at my target race pace or better for my shorter runs. Now I have to do the work to sustain and push through those last 2-3 miles where the pain begins to settle in.

And one final thing, unrelated to anything above: it was on this day, seven years ago, that I finally quit smoking. Since I am home for the Columbus Day holiday, I am going to go run a 6 miler this morning here in the neighborhood in celebration.


I have been working really, really hard on retraining my brain.

You see, I believe it is my brain holding me back more than my legs, lungs, or heart. Right before the Instant Classic, I wrote about how I was practicing smiling while running. It works! I know that sounds stupid, but if you make yourself smile, you think about why you are smiling. When I smile when I run, even if I am forcing it at first, all of these great thoughts start moving through my brain.

“Man, this is actually FUN!”

“Bet that lady who sees me grinning thinks I am an absolute nutter. Cool.”

“I could be sitting at my desk looking like I am ‘chewing glass’ right now. Glad I am out here smiling instead.”

When you are smiling, you can’t think “God, why do I choose to do this to myself?” It helps banish the thoughts like the one I had yesterday: “How in the HELL is Broad Street uphill both ways on Church Hill? It simply isn’t possible!”

It’s working and I can empirically prove it. My pace is coming down. I can see that on my Daily Mile training charts. The major improvement I have been looking for, which is getting faster, is finally happening. More and more of my runs are averaging mid 10 minute miles rather than mid 11s. I am even getting some averages in the low 10s, and on the treadmill I am starting to see some upper 9 minute mile averages.

I started running 3 years ago this month, in April of 2010, 3 months post gastric bypass surgery. Back then, I didn’t know a thing about pace or distance or anything. I was just running laps in the bottom of my parking deck, trying not to die after a single minute of running, and hoping to God that no one actually saw me.

Once I became conscious of things like pace, I knew more that I wanted more than anything to run a sub-12 minute mile. That was my first real goal once I had more or less succeeded at the Couch to 5K training program (which took more like 6 months, not 6 weeks for me).

I did eventually succeed at that goal, but I have since languished in the 11-12 minute mile range. Looking back, I realize I was doing just enough work to call a workout a run, but not really putting in the work to make real gains.

Now, all I want in the world is to get under 10 minute mile averages on a regular basis. My legs, lungs, and heart can do it; it’s my head that gets too heavy to carry. It is more than just smiling, of course, but the act of smiling does help ground my brain and shift from a negative headspace to a positive one.

Yesterday, a coworker saw me running down Church Hill and he said I looked like I was having a good time. At that point in my run, I was. After climbing Libbie Hill and then going up to Chimborazo Park, I had suffered a bit, and so that steep downhill of Broad Street heading west back towards the Downtown area felt kind of like an easy treat, and I definitely running a sub-10 minute mile pace. But I was also smiling and focusing on how glad I was to be out and about and running.

It’s Tuesday and Tuesdays are for speed, which is why I am particularly miffed that I left my gym bag at home today. It’ll have to be an evening run in the Chester YMCA, and the combination of the Chester Y and evening runs are especially hard on my brain, so tonight, I will practice smiling, and keep working on retraining my brain.

The MOS Plan and What Now?

(This has turned out to be a massive brain dump and I am posting this because I have deleted every single other post I have typed recently; a quick way to get into the habit of muzzling oneself.)

I am being almost literally crushed by the sheer volume of paper on my desk that needs to be scanned into our shared drive so the attorneys can all access this discovery.

So on that note, let me take a few minutes for some “me time” and blog, instead!

As is typical for me after a major race, I have gone radio silent. Not that I haven’t typed up probably a dozen blog entries since 3/16, but for whatever reason, I either find I don’t want to convey what I typed or what I typed doesn’t convey what I actually mean.

The week after the race, I was so jazzed about it that I almost immediately signed up for another half marathon taking place on April 13th, the Dismal Swamp Stomp. I felt amazing, knew I was in great shape, and I wanted to run a flat course and see what time I could come up with.

Real life sent me crashing back to sanity and I have relented from that madness, but I haven’t quit pretending I am training for it. Last Saturday, 15 minutes short of exactly one week post-Instant Classic, I was back at City Stadium with the hardiest of the former Shamrock Training Team who felt like coming out post-race. I put in 6 surprisingly fast miles and came home thrilled. This year’s post race recovery has been a dramatic 180 degree turn around from last year’s recovery. I am hoping to manage to get 7 miles in this Saturday morning before real life requires my immediate attention.

Like I promised myself before the race, I have also gotten back into the weight room, getting back to my Michelle Obama Shoulders lifting program. It is exactly what it sounds like; a weight training program designed to give me an awesome looking body from the waist up.

Bench presses, push ups, deadlifts, rows, military presses, shrugs, raises, and so forth. Some planks and birddogs, too. At least that is one half of the MOS plan. The other half is diet, where currently, I am failing miserably. I’ll get that under control eventually. I’ll get there, just not today.

So what am I driving at? I don’t have a specific goal. I want something but I can’t quite figure out what it is. I know I want to get stronger, fitter, faster. I want to blow last year’s time at the Dauber Dash straight out of the water. I want to have arms and shoulders that are worthy of wearing sleeveless shirts.

Bah. I don’t know. My dander is up and I feel the need to do something out of the ordinary. Maybe I should take up BotN/ACL as someone suggested? Maybe I should just go back to SCA fighting as my husband suggested? Maybe I should look harder at that MMA dojo as the She-Bitch in the back of my brain keeps suggesting? I don’t know. If the suggestions I keep getting are any indication, maybe violence is the answer?

Maybe I just need to focus on getting my shoulders to look like I want them too and getting my miles under 10 minutes?

Picking Up Steam

It’s Wednesday – mid-week long run day. I have never, in any training cycle (and this is my third), done very well at getting my mid-week long run in. Today I am supposed to run 8 according to the schedule. Instead, I will run 7 today; 4 on my lunch hour and 3 tonight on the treadmill.

I am at the stage where my legs always feel tired; yes, one indication of overtraining. I think to myself, gee, I just need a little rest, but the time for resting my legs is in the past, and in only 2 and a half weeks, I can in fact rest them to my heart’s content (for a little while, anyway). But there is also a point where you have to overtrain to a degree. That is why we taper in the last week (for a half distance); to recover from overtraining, setting yourself up to be rested and ready to race without having lost any endurance. So I acknowledge my general weariness, my occasional snippy mood, my heavy legs, and my poor sleep, but I reject that it is a reason to stop and rest now.

I did a progression run on the treadmill yesterday – my 3 miles came in at a 10:06 average pace. I am getting closer and closer to a sub-10 minute average pace (on a treadmill), which is completely foreign but incredibly tantalizing territory for me. I deeply resent my slow natural pace and I acknowledge that it comes from an inherent laziness and the desire to avoid pain.

That being said, it is a little bit silly to be training for speed right now when what I need to be training for is more endurance. Being able to run 3 miles in about 30 minutes is all well and good unless you are trying to succeed at running 13.1 miles in hilly terrain. I know the benefits of short, faster distances, but I wonder if by slacking on my longer, slower, distance training (like those mid-week long runs), if that isn’t what is shooting me in the proverbial foot.

I am also surely overthinking all of this. It’s not like I am running Olympic time trials. I don’t care that I am overthinking it; I overthink almost everything.

Something I am happy to report is that my weight is finally starting to come down, thanks to some changes I have made in my life. I have lost 4 pounds so far, and that equates to nothing on my visible frame, but that isn’t why I am happy to have dropped 4 whole pounds. If a 2005 study on osteoarthritis can be trusted, every pound of body weight lost equates to a decrease of 4 pounds of pressure on my knee joint load. So theoretically I have taken 16 pounds of pressure off my knees thus far. Whether that makes a significant difference in my comfort levels or not remains to be seen, but I can guarantee you that weighing even only 4 pounds less won’t make anything worse on race day.

Now, I just need to shake the nerves I am starting to get about this race, along with the weight.