Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Social Media or Controlled Media?

When I first started this blog on MySpace about 15 years ago, it was very much of a journal in which I let my closest friends into my thoughts, feelings, struggles, and more. At that time, I had an audience of about 30 people. But that audience was super engaged and interested in what I had to say, and MySpace made sure that all 30 people saw my blog posts.

When I moved it to blogger in 2009 without any privacy restrictions, I stopped writing personal details and kept it strictly to running. My audience was still limited, though, because I didn’t actively try to grow my blog following. I sometimes shared my blog posts on Facebook, but there was only a small number of people who cared to read my long and drawn out race recaps. I was fine with that. My primary audience was me, as I wanted to keep a record of all my running experiences. I was actually surprised when people read my blog and took interest in the details of my running.

Then, in 2016, I started writing daily posts on Instagram where I got even more exposure, mainly for the purposes of promoting my book, Boston Bound. And before I knew it, my audience there skyrocketed and within a year, I had over 10,000 followers. Those were the glory days, before Instagram had an algorithm that controlled the posts its users’ feeds. Posts were simply displayed in the order in which they were published.

I don’t know anyone who favors the algorithm over chronological order, but Instagram doesn’t even give users a choice anymore. In fact, I created a poll in my Instagram story and 95% of users said they would prefer pictures to appear in the order they were posted, and this poll had over 400 responses! Today, Instagram has become so corrupted with bots and fake followers, as well as its own penalties to punish bots and fake followers. Instagram claims its sole objective is to make the community a “safe space” to engage, but actually its sole purpose is to make money, and to do that, it needs to tightly control what people see.

I’m in marketing, so I get it. Instagram (owned by Facebook) is a business and the purpose of a business is to make money. That’s fine, but please just be honest about it! Don’t pretend that you are making changes to improve the user experience when in reality you are trying to maximize your profits from advertisers. As much as Instagram claims that it rewards great content by promoting it to a larger audience, it’s all a computerized algorithm and I’ve cracked the code on what Instagram does and does not like.

Instagram algorithm doesn't like the track
For example, my track photos consistently get fewer views, likes, and comments than my other photos. Even though those are some of the toughest workouts I do! Why? The algorithm sees the track and/or field and something about that pattern indicates the post is of lower quality. Keep in mind, I have been posting on Instagram almost every day for 3+ years, and my lowest performing posts are always the track workouts.

Instagram also doesn’t like colored blocks of text. Sometimes to make my posts more attractive, I use colored text vs. simple black and white. But without fail, any time I put a colored text box in my photo, it reaches a much smaller audience. Also, if I edit the caption after posting the photo, engagement numbers go way down. Editing is a big no-no.

Thankfully, I can still come here to my blog and express myself without the Instagram algorithm controlling who sees it. Now that I’ve given some background on where I’m coming from, I’d like to express two major gripes I have with Instagram.

Removing the Like Count
Instagram is removing like counts from photos. If you can still see like counts, chances are that you won’t be able to see them for much longer. My ability to see like counts was removed several months ago. This means that when I scroll through Instagram, I can’t see how many people have liked someone else’s photo.

I can still see how many people liked my photo, but I have to take an extra step by tapping on “and others” for the total number to come up. This confuses the heck out of me. Instagram says they are doing it to make the platform a “safe space” where users aren’t pressured by the number of likes their photos get. But I can still see my own likes! Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose? The only thing that’s changed is I can’t see other people’s likes, and I have to take one extra step to see my own likes.

My theory is that Instagram is doing this for . . . CONTROL. As I mentioned above, they need to maintain tight control over the platform for maximum profit, and that means control over data. If likes are no longer public data, then how will businesses know which influencers have the highest engagement rates? They won’t, which means they might lean more towards paid advertising with Instagram. Eventually, businesses will have to pay Instagram for access to engagement data. You want to run an influencer marketing campaign? Well, you’ll have to pay Instagram first to know which influencers to use. Today, businesses are bypassing paid advertising on Instagram by using influencers, and Instagram wants its cut.

I have no problem with this, but I DO have a problem with Instagram saying they are doing it to make it a “safe space”. If users can still see their own like counts, what is the point?

Finally, Instagram likes are basically the result of an algorithm. I see very little correlation between the posts I think are really great and how many likes they get. I know that certain elements will trigger a greater reach from the algorithm, and therefore more likes. I would never take it personally! I know that my track workout photos will get far fewer likes, but that doesn’t mean I am going to stop posting them or feel badly about it. It’s a computer.

Penalizing Valid Accounts
Instagram penalizes accounts that it thinks are violating its terms of use. That seems logical, right? Yes, but they are once again using a computer algorithm to determine which users should be penalized.

Last Saturday, when Greg was doing his long run and I was at home waiting for the pool to open, I decided to check out the Houston Marathon hashtag along with some other running hashtags. I ended up liking and commenting on more photos than I usually do. And I did it all within about 30-45 minutes.

No like count!
On Sunday morning, when I opened Instagram, they required me to provide my cell phone number for two-factor authentication before I was allowed to do anything. I didn’t want Instagram having my phone number. I Googled it and I found out that this means Instagram suspects me of being a bot, so the phone is required to confirm I am a human. UGH. Okay, so now Instagram has my phone number that it can sell to any number of advertisers.

Since giving my phone number to Instagram a few days ago, I have received several spam text messages, using my first name. I used to get spam texts, but never with my name being used.

Once I had access to my account, I started posting and interacting as I normally do. But my daily post had very little reach compared to my other posts. The same thing happened to me again on Monday, and I realized that my post wasn’t being shown for any of the hashtags I was using. I Googled this problem, and I learned that I was “shadow banned”. This is a 14-day ban for accounts that violate the terms of use. The only thing I can think of that caused this was that I liked and commented on more posts than I typically do on Saturday. Apparently users can only like 3 posts per minute over a 1-hour period.

Can’t we just go back to MySpace, when social media was about expressing yourself and not a numbers game?

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Posterior Tibialis Tendonitis

In 18+ years of running, I certainly have made the rounds of all the different types of tendonitis!

Patellar Tendonitis: Spring of 2008
Peroneal Tendonitis: Fall of 2009
High Hamstring Tendonitis: Summer 2013
Achilles Tendinitis: Fall of 2017

I can now add to the list Posterior Tibialis Tendonitis. Here's how it happened.

December 8: CIM
Before CIM. No tendonitis!
Upon completion of the marathon I noticed a pain in my arch. It hurt as I walked back to the hotel, and when I took the Vaporfly Next% off of my foot- OUCH. It was a burning pain of about 6 out of 10 on the pain scale. It seemed as if the shoe had been rubbing against my foot in a certain way to cause this arch pain. It bothered me for the rest of the day and and into the following day.

December 9 - 15: Marathon recovery
The pain went away completely two days post marathon. So much so that I forgot about it.

December 16 - 20: Easing back into running
I resumed running with short, easy runs of 30-50 minutes. I didn't have any pain in my foot.

December 21: First post-marathon symptoms
I did an 11-mile long run and the arch of my foot started to hurt about halfway through. It was maybe about a 2 on the pain scale, so I wasn't concerned. As I walked around on it for the rest of the day, I noticed that it felt off, kind of like a tight muscle.

December 22 - January 9: Blissful Ignorance (or denial)
I continued to train, doing hard workouts on the track and long runs of 10-13 miles. I even ran a 5K on New Year's Day without any problems. My foot would bother me a little, but it was more of an annoyance than anything else, never getting above a 2 on the pain scale.

After my long run on January 4th, my foot hurt more than normal, which caused concern. It was mostly okay during the run, but afterwards it was about a 3.5 to 4 on the pain scale for the rest of the day. Very tender to the touch and I could feel it with each step. That's when I realized I would probably have to address it. I continued with my training plan and track workouts until I could get in to see my physical therapist on January 9.

Diagnosis!
It didn't take long for my PT to diagnose me with posterior tibialis tendonitis; I had classic symptoms. The two areas of pain were on the bottom of my foot, where the tendon connected, and on the side of the foot, about one inch forward from the ankle bone, and one inch below. He told me I would need to take some time off running to let it heal. Not the news I wanted.

Area of pain - feels like a sore ache
This issue wasn't caused by "overuse"-- it was caused by my shoe rubbing the wrong way during the race. So how does that result in tendonitis?!  My PT had a theory that it could have been because the shoe had an 8mm drop (as opposed to the 10mm I normally wear) and it was extra bouncy, causing my foot to pronate, where it normally does not pronate. Or, it could have been rubbing against my arch the wrong way, which irritated the tendon, and now it's going to take a while to calm down.

So. . . couldn't I just train through it like I trained through Achilles tendonitis? He said that this was different and I needed to ease up to give it time to heal. Of course, in addition to doing exercises. He was concerned that I took a week off post marathon and it came back. And he said that this is a nagging injury and tends to come back unless you treat it with the exercises over several months.

January 10 - 13: No running; pool workouts only
I took four full days off of running, but I went to the pool every day. I mainly did deep water running with a floatation belt, but I also added in some swimming to save myself from boredom. And I simply enjoy swimming. I would do it all the time if it were more convenient.

January 14 - now
After my four days off, I started running again, but only 3-4 miles per day. And that's where I am at now-- I just finished a 3.5 mile run in the snow. And of course, I have been religious about my exercises. Rest alone won't heal this; I need to load the tendon with weight.

I'm now at a point where I don't feel any symptoms while walking around during the day, which is a big improvement. However, after about two miles of running, I do start to feel some soreness on the bottom of my foot. Since I'm only running 3-4 mile easy runs, this pain has been about a 1.5 to 2 on the pain scale, and I am back to being symptom free five minutes after stopping.

I also bought a pair of the Mizuno Wave Inspire-- a shoe I stopped wearing over a year ago when I was told I was a neutral runner. I am a neutral runner, but the added stability will reduce the load on the tendon as I recover and the firmness of the shoe will help too. My PT told me that cushiony, bouncy shoes were bad for this injury.

Looking ahead
I'm trying not to look ahead and take this one day at a time. I have no idea how bad this is going to be. Once I start increasing my mileage (next week) will the pain come back while walking around during the day? Will it become more painful so that I can't run? My PT said that I can let it get to a "3" on the pain scale. But anything above that and I need to stop running and go back to a reduced load. Thankfully, I haven't felt a 3 or above since the day of my long run two weekends ago, and I want to keep it that way.

If this had happened a month out from Boston, I probably would have continued to train through it at full intensity and waited until after the race to rehab it. But since Boston is still over 12 weeks away, I feel like I can get away with easing up on the mileage now and still run a strong race.

How I feel
Of course, this sucks. I'm generally optimistic because as I said above, it wasn't like I was overtraining or anything. It was caused by the Vaporfly during a marathon, so once it calms down it shouldn't come back. I'd be discouraged if my normal running routine caused this.

I basically have some loathing of CIM, though. I tried to be positive about my experience there, but now I just look back on that race with regret. I had a perfect training cycle and I was in the best shape of my life. I went into that race healthy and with no issues. I ended up having a difficult race, missing my goal time, not getting a PR, and ending up with an injury.

My primary positive takeaway from that race was that I had such a great training cycle and it would set me up well for my Boston cycle. But now just the opposite is true. The race set me up to start my training cycle off with an injury. If CIM had been the race I had hoped to run, I wouldn't be as peeved about this. I would have been "worth it." I'm glad CIM is behind me, and I'm never going back there and I'm on the fence about ever putting my foot in a Vaporfly Next% ever again.

Phew! Glad to get that off my chest. I am sour, but I have been distracting myself with my pool workouts and focusing on the healing process. So generally, I am in a good spot mentally. I still think I will be able to run well in Boston, and at least participate (if not run fast) in the races I have signed up for this spring.


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New Year's Day 5K: It wasn't great and that's OK!

I try to be optimistic about my races if I believe I gave them my all, but this one was a flop! That's okay, we all have flops, even if we try as hard as we can.

I love the tradition of a New Year's race. It started back in 2008/2009 when I ran the Fairfax Four Miler on New Year's eve. I ran that race again the following New Year's eve, but then moved away from it when the Ringing In Hope 5K/10K was introduced because it was earlier in the day.  I ran the Ringing In Hope 5K or 10K from 2010 to 2016 and was perfectly happy with it.

After 2016/2017 they stopped running that race which meant transitioning to New Year's Day from New Year's Eve. I could have returned to the Fairfax Four Miler to stay on the "eve," but that's a nighttime race and I don't see well in the dark. So on New Year's Day 2018, I ran a 5K in Ashburn. I didn't care for that race so in 2019, I ran the 5K in Reston. I also didn't care for that race, but there seemed to be no better options, so I showed up again this morning. Even though the course isn't great, it's a =PR= race, and they are always well organized with the awards being gift cards to their stores. And the same familiar faces show up so it's nice to see my friends!

When I ran this race last year it was warm and I was sick. My time was 21:35, and I figured I could beat that by a lot given that I wasn't sick today, and we had cool weather. I set a goal of 20:50. Yes, that's nearly a full minute shy of my 5K PR but I am not in 5K shape right now and this course is challenging.

Before the Race
The race started and finished in the Reston Town Center, where my office is conveniently located. After getting my bib, Greg and I went to my office where I attached my bib, put sunscreen on, used the bathroom, and laced up my shoes. Greg had decided not to run this race because he had recently set a huge 5K PR on Thanksgiving and he was satisfied with that. Plus, he had a new camera lens and he wanted to take photos of me.

The race started at 10:00am, so at 9:30, we left my office and I began my warm up. I decided to warm up on the W&OD trail where most of the race would take place. I do training runs on this paved trail all the time so I am very familiar with it. I mentally prepared myself for the 5 hairpin turns and narrow path that would lead down to the trail and then back up again afterwards. That path, which is about 0.2 miles each way, is the reason I don't like this course and probably won't do this race again.

As I was warming up, I saw Greg and my friend Cheryl getting ready to take photos. I also had a Maurten Gel about 20 minutes prior to the race start, which I washed down with a cup of water from the aid station. It was 41 degrees and sunny, which felt amazing. Aside from the 10 mph headwind during the 3rd mile, this weather was just about perfect.

After the 2-mile warm up, I lined up to start the race. I started chatting away with some people and completely forgot to get my Garmin ready to go. Before I knew it, the announcer was counting down "3. . . 2. . . 1" and I realized my GPS wasn't located. Oh well, I guess this meant I would use my Garmin as a stop watch rather than a GPS device. I would manually lap the splits at the mile markers.

Mile 1
Maybe it was for the best that I wouldn't know my pace until the first mile marker. I would simply run by feel. I think that's what I did last year since I was sick and I didn't want to push it. After about a quarter of mile, it was time for hairpin turn #1 to go down the narrow path with the tree roots sticking up. It was a nice long decline, which I could have gained a good bit of speed on if it weren't so crowded. It was nearly impossible to pass anyone and you had to be really careful with your footing to avoid tripping. I saw a few people trip, but they did not fall.

At the bottom of the path came hairpin turn #2 onto the W&OD trail. I was so relieved to be off that path. The trail itself is also quite narrow, but at least the pavement was smooth so I didn't have to watch my footing. My Garmin beeped for its autolap, and then I manually lapped it at the first mile marker. I added the numbers together for a first mile of 6:34. Not too shabby!

Mile 2
I knew to expect the photographers Cheryl and Greg shortly after mile marker one. Once I saw them up ahead, I realized I was in the middle of a pack and it would be hard for them to get photos of me. So I surged up ahead of the pack and I surprised myself with my ability to do so. That gave me confidence so I held that surge pace (or close to it) all the way down the incline. I glanced down at my Garmin and saw 6:27, and I was happy with how everything was going.

But then we turned around (hairpin turn #3) and ran back up the hill into a 10 mph headwind. The wind wasn't horrible, but it was enough to be an annoyance. At this point, I was running right next to my friend Hannah. I figured if I could keep up with her I would be in good shape. Mile 2 was 6:45. I definitely slowed down on the way back up the hill after the turnaround.

Mile 3
I was mentally prepared for this mile to be a killer. I told myself to stay with Hannah and do whatever she did. But she surged up the hill and I could not keep up. And then I felt dead. I questioned if I would be able to finish. All of sudden I felt extremely sluggish and like I had nothing left in the tank.
I felt like I was running soooo slowy.

Just when I thought I couldn't feel any worse, hairpin turn #4 came and it was time to run the 0.2 mile back up the narrow path with the tree roots. I feel like being so careful with my footing while trying to push up the hill and watch out for other people was sucking the life out of me. That path seemed to go on forever. It seemed so much shorter on the way down! People were passing me, including women, which I didn't like, but I couldn't go any faster. I was crashing hard core. Hannah was no longer in site and my only goal at that point was to keep running and not stop.

Mile 3 split: 7:21. That's around my marathon pace! According to Strava, I did an 18-mile training run in October on this same segment and I was faster during the 18 miler. Yikes!

The finish
Once we were back on the road, I was able to really pick up the pace and run 5:44 average for the last 0.12. And it was uphill! It felt so good to be on evenly paved road that I hammered it.

My finish time was 21:12, which was 23 seconds slower than my goal. But it was also a course PR by 23 seconds, so that's kind of cool.

After the Race
I felt like death after crossing the finish line. I had sprinted it in so hard. I hugged Hannah and then saw her husband Alex finish. Eventually I reunited with Greg and I told him how hard the race was. Brutal! I ran a 1-mile cool down and then met Greg back in my office building where he was transferring the photos onto his phone.

I learned that I won first place in my age group out of 82, which was nice. There are benefits of being 41! I was the 12th woman overall, and I think I was in 6th or 7th place at the turnaround point. As I said, I got passed a lot, which usually does not happen. I collected my award and then had brunch with Greg, Cheryl and Allison (who had shown up just for the brunch!) We also got to meet Hannah and Alex's baby Luna for the first time.

Final Thought and Takeaways
I would like to blame that narrow path with its hairpin turns and tree roots for my crash-and-burn, but my bonk started before the final path. I might have been able to recover some speed at that point if I had been on paved road, but I think that watching my footing so carefully robbed me of my mental energy that I needed to focus on pushing up the hill. I would say that next time I should be less focused on the ground and more focused on my running, but I'm a cautious person by nature so that would not happen.

During the race, multiple people cheering me on when I was going "back" on the out-and-back. I don't know who they all were, but I assume they were Instagram followers. It was nice to have the encouragement and it did perk me up when I was feeling so crappy.

One person fell down and injured herself somewhat seriously. I think the W&OD is too narrow to accommodate a race of this size, and on the way back, I could see the runners on the way out jam-packed into one lane of the trail.

All in all, I did give this race everything I had, but I expended too much mental energy on that stupid path and the hairpin turns. I'm also coming off of a little break post-marathon so I am not as sharp or as fit as I would like to be. This is why I had a goal of 20:50, which is almost a minute slower than my PR.

This race fuels my fire for the 10K I am running in early February. I plan to run that a sub 6:40 average pace, which would be faster than this 5K pace. With a full month of training and a hairpin turn-free course, I am still confident I can do it!

I'll chalk this race up to a hard effort on the first of the year, resulting in an age group win. And brunch with friends. I'm not sick, so I'm already off to a better start than I was last year.




Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Year In Review

2019 was a good year for me. Any year without illness or (major) injury is a good year, although I do still experience symptoms of my bike accident. It would have been nice to run a marathon PR, but race day weather wasn't in my favor, and I know the training I did will be a strong foundation for future cycles. Running healthy and strong is my first priority and I did that!

15 Races, 129 Race Miles
This is a typical number for me in a healthy year, particularly because I tend to run a lot of 5Ks in the summer. Here's the breakdown:
  • 7 x 5K: New Year's, Semper Fi, Firecracker, Leesburg, Great American, Dulles Runway, Turkey Trot
  • 3 x 10K: Pancake Run, Pike's Peek, Fall Classic
  • 1 x 10-mile: Cherry Blossom
  • 2 x Half marathon: Columbus, Indy Monumental
  • 2 x Marathon: Sugarloaf, CIM
I should also mention my DNF at the Shamrock marathon. I got over that pretty quickly and moved on.


3.5 Personal Records
  • I set a PR in the Cherry Blossom 10-miler by 30 seconds, in 1:09:54. This was my first sub-70 so it was a big deal. 
  • Later in the year, I set a PR in the Columbus half by 29 seconds in 1:31:55.
  • Just 3 weeks later, I set another half marathon PR at Indy Monumental in 1:30:58. My half marathon PR pace is now faster than my 10-miler PR pace, so I un-officially set a PR there too.
  • The 0.5 of a PR is the official/unofficial debate from my Turkey Trot 5K. My chip time of 19:55 was a PR by 3 seconds, but they removed it from the results and used my gun time of 20:00 as the official time. My takeaway was that I got myself in the 5K PR shape while marathon training, which is awesome!
2,695 Miles logged
I set a new record for most miles ever logged in one year! I took 28 days off total, and my longest streak was 122 days in a row.



My highest weekly mileage was 81 when I was training for Shamrock. I ran 37 track workouts and 14 runs that were 16 miles or longer (not including the marathons).


Looking at the yearly mileage graph, I'm happy to see that at the age of 41, my body is allowing me to do more training than ever. Not shown on this graph is the strength training I did. I followed a program from June to October, stopping once my mileage became really high and intense.

In terms of weather, my coldest run was 10 degrees Fahrenheit, when I drove into Arlington to find a non-icy surface. I bought a treadmill later in the year, so I might never run in 10 degrees again! I avoided the heat as much as possible, and my hottest run was 73 degrees-- the Leesburg 5K. The Sugarloaf Marathon wins the prize for the rainiest, with rain pouring down in what felt like buckets for the last 10 miles.

12 U.S. States and 6 Countries
I also set a record this year for the number of places I've visited and run in. I was able to combine two of my business trips with races!

States:
  • Virginia (hometown)
    Oslo, Norway
  • Arizona (business trip + race)
  • Maryland (race)
  • New York (mini-vacation)
  • Washington DC (2 races)
  • Maine (race)
  • Texas (business trip)
  • Massachusetts (business trip)
  • Ohio (race)
  • Indiana (business trip + race)
  • Rhode Island (business trip)
  • California (race)
Countries:
  • The USA
  • Mexico
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Sweden
  • Norway
New Running Gear
I acquired a lot of new running gear and tools this year that have really helped with my training.
  • Garmin Forerunner 245 (after trying the 45 but not finding it precise enough)
  • NordicTrack Treadmill
  • RapidReboot recovery boots (Thank you, RapidReboot)
  • Aftershokz headphones (Thank you, Aftershokz)
  • Nike Vaporfly Next %, x 2 pairs!
  • Lots of clothing from Tracksmith and rabbit
My Book
Finally, my book, Boston Bound, is still going strong. This year it sold about 500 copies, which is amazing for being its 3rd year in print, and I didn't do much to promote it.

Previous Years in Review
I'm running a New Year's Day 5K tomorrow, and I'm excited to see how it goes. Happy New Year to all my blog readers!

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Best Weather Sources for Runners

We've all been there. Checking multiple weather sources in the week leading up to the big race, trying to figure out what to wear and if the conditions will be favorable. Even on a daily basis, a reliable weather forecast is critical to optimizing each run and can answer questions like:

  • Should I carry water with me?
  • Will the ground be icy?
  • Should I wear a hat to keep the rain out of my eyes?
  • Are conditions safe?
  • Should I adjust my pace due to wind, heat and/or humidity?
  • What should I wear?
I've consulted multiple weather apps/sources over the past 15 years, and I have strong opinions on which ones are the best. Of course, that doesn't prevent me from continuing to consult ALL the weather sources when a goal race is coming up, but on a daily basis, I have my standard go-to app because I think it's the best. 

In this blog post, I narrow it down to 5 weather sources, giving the pros and cons of each. 

Weather Source #5: AccuWeather
AccuWeather was my go-to weather source before I became a runner. Now, I only look at it if I am in full-on weather obsession mode and I don't use it regularly.

Pros: You can see the weather forecast 90 days out! This is further out than any other app. While the accuracy of something two months away will be very low, at least you can get a sense of what can be expected for a particular location on a particular date. And it's just fun to be able to look at it because it makes your race feel closer. 

Cons: Too many ads, and the hourly forecast is only available three days in advance (unless you pay for a subscription). I tried downloading the app to my phone about five years ago and I had to delete it because the ads were too intrusive. When visiting the website, the ads are also extremely annoying. I find it to be moderately accurate as early as 7 days out, but definitely not as good as the higher ranked apps below.

Weather Source #4: The Local News
For me, that's Capital Weather Gang at the Washington Post. When I am racing somewhere out of town, I am sure to visit the local news station's website for a forecast video.

Pros: The local forecasters give you more data than the simple numbers you get from most weather apps. They will discuss what's happening and why, and if the race is big enough, will actually tell you what to expect on race morning. The Capital Weather Gang offers in-depth information for the Washington DC area and I use it a lot in the winter to understand the probability of snow and how many inches we will get. 

Cons: Usually the local forecasts don't provide the hour-by-hour details that are needed to truly plan your running outfit. For example, if you are doing a long run, it could start at 30 degrees and warm up to 40 by the end, but you would never know that from a local forecast without the hourly detail.

Weather Source #3: WeatherBug
WeatherBug is Greg's default weather app and it's usually pretty good. 

Pros: Tends to be accurate, hourly forecast available 5 days in advance, has hourly details for the humidity and the wind speed. 

Cons: Not as granular as the higher ranked-apps below. You don't know how much rain will fall each hour, you don't know the percentage of cloud cover, and it's not user friendly. If you want to see the hourly forecast for a day that's five days away, you have to click (or tap if you are using the app) on "Next 12 hours" until your day shows up. You can't easily navigate to it.

WeatherBug hourly for this morning


Weather Source #2: The National Weather Service
The National Weather Service, also known as weather.gov is one of my favorites. It's both accurate and detailed, and the only thing it lacks is an app for the iPhone. 

Pros: The National Weather service has the most detailed hourly forecast by far. You can see temperature, dew point, humidity percentage, cloud cover percentage, chance of rain, wind speed, wind direction, wind gust, and more. If you navigate to the "discussion" area you can also get an in-depth analysis of what is going on. This wonderfully detailed forecast is available 7 days out. Just click "hourly forecast" and select your start date and time. You'll see the hourly forecast for two full days at a time. This site also has no ads. A good use of tax payer dollars!

Cons: The app is not free; it's $2.99. I actually didn't realize they had an app until I started writing this blog, so I might download it. I typically use my phone's browser to look at the forecast. Also, the hourly forecast only updates about twice per day, so if you check more frequently you aren't getting new information. The top ranked weather source seems to be updated every few hours or so.

Detailed hourly forecast from Nat'l Weather Service
According to WeatherBug, it's going to be 26 degrees at 8:00am, and according to the National Weather Service, it's going to be 30. I'll be running at that time, so I will probably dress for 28!

Weather Source #1: Wunderground
I have so much love for Wunderground. The app has a wealth of information and the website is even more detailed. It's one of the first apps I check when I wake up in the morning, and I rarely consult any other sources for my training runs. Since Greg has Weather Bug, I sometimes ask him what his phone says, but I trust Wunderground more. Usually the apps agree with each other.

Pros: Hourly forecast is available 10 days out! It's not usually accurate so far out, but it's a good first look. The app will tell you temperature, wind speed, wind direction, and if it's going to rain, it will tell you how much rain will fall each hour. This is important because a light drizzle is very different from a torrential downpour. You can even choose the weather station that is closest to you on a map, and there are loads of them. The website even has hourly historical data. So if I want to know what the weather was when I ran "x race" on "x date" I can go find out. I've already scoped out the weather history for April 20 in Boston and typically it's nice and cool.

Cons: The app sometimes crashes. There are a few ads but they aren't intrusive. Even still, I pay $1/year to make the ads go away fully. 

Boston Marathon 2018 Hourly Forecast on Wunderground
As you can see in the above screen shot, Wunderground is the only weather source I know of that will tell you how much rain to expect. At 1:00pm, it was forecast to dump 0.3" of rain. . . in just one hour!

Boston Marathon 2018

Non-honorable mentions
The two weather sources that I find completely useless are the Weather Channel (also known as weather.com) and the weather app that comes with the iPhone. That app is powered by Yahoo! Weather. The weather app that comes with the iPhone has no detail whatsoever. It will tell you what temperature it is in a particular city, but that's about it. Unless I'm missing something, which would make the app non-intuitive.

The Weather Channel is a reputable weather source and when I had cable TV I enjoyed watching it. Their app and their website, however, always seem to be way off in terms of accuracy. Every time I have consulted weather.com, along with my other weather sources, weather.com has almost always been an outlier with its forecast. And of course, it's overloaded with ads. 

Conclusion
I rely heavily on these weather apps to make decisions about my running. Sometimes I will opt for the treadmill, sometimes I will move my run to later in the day. It's also helpful to know when the sun rises, so I can determine if a headlamp is necessary. Of course, sometimes all apps are completely wrong. None of these sources showed sunshine during CIM, but the sun was out in full force for at least 15 minutes. Also, the rain kept coming and going from the forecast, which shows that the forecasters really couldn't predict if it was going to rain and when. Sometimes even the experts can't predict the weather!

Hopefully this blog was helpful, and if you know of a different weather source that I left out, please mention it in the comments!

Monday, December 9, 2019

My 26th Marathon: California International

Yesterday I ran my 26th marathon! The California International Marathon (CIM) in Sacramento. This race has a reputation for being very fast, and it attracts a highly competitive field. More runners qualify for the Olympic trials at this race than any other. So even though the race isn't as large as New York or Chicago, it attracts competitive runners who want to run fast.

For years, many runner friends had told me that I should run CIM. The race had never appealed to me because of the time zone change and how my body does not like to shift its schedule. Also, I knew there would be a possibility of warm weather. The weather has been good the past few years, but there have also been some warm years, and December in CA is not like December on the east coast. Finally, I knew it was a hilly course and I tend to run my best on flat courses. CIM is net downhill, but there are plenty of up hills to make it a challenge.

But I finally decided to do it so I could understand what all the hype was about. And if it didn't turn out well, at least I could say I did it. I had also been considering Richmond and Rehoboth again, but if either of those didn't go well, I wouldn't have even experienced a new race.

Below is the elevation profile of CIM. Notice all the little uphills that make this course more challenging than it would seem at first glance,



Thursday-Friday
We arrived in Sacramento on Thursday, giving us plenty of time to recover from the long flight and just "chill out" before the race. We stayed at the Citizen Hotel, which we booked through Destination CIM. Destination CIM is the official hospitality partner for CIM and they offer VIP packages.

Post shake-out run, the finish behind me
I slept remarkably well on Thursday night and I found the hotel bed to be comfortable. We fell asleep at 6:15pm, which was 9:15pm east coast time. Our goal was to try to stay on our normal schedule. On Friday, we went to the expo to get our race packets. We had dinner at 4:30pm and were in bed by 6:15pm. But I think my body realized something was off, because I was awake again shortly after, and stayed awake from 7:30-9:00pm local time. I finally fell back asleep, but it wasn't long before I was awoken by the sound of a loud bass.

Even though we had a white noise machine cranked up, the low-frequency bass was still audible and prevented us from sleeping. We called down to the front desk and they said that there was a night club next door. So, I was awake from 11:30-2:00am. By the time the bass stopped, I couldn't fall back asleep because it was 5:00 east coast time, which is when I normally wake up.

Saturday
Greg and I did our shake out run at 6:00am on Saturday morning since we were wide awake, and the Destination CIM breakfast was from 7:00-9:00am. I was the "special guest" at this breakfast, and it was great meeting up with some runners who follow me on Instagram and who have read my book.

We told Steve, the Destination CIM manager, that our hotel room was really loud, and he was able to get us moved to a quieter room. So after taking a quick, 30-minute nap, we moved all of our stuff into a different room, that was further away from the night club.

We spent most of the day relaxing in our hotel room and again had an early dinner at 4:00pm. To avoid any possible noise, we used the ear plugs that the hotel provided, which was a first for me. Once in bed, I laid awake in bed for two hours. Finally, at 8:30, I took the ear plugs out. I theorized that since I had never slept in earplugs before, it was something "new" that was keeping me up. Once I did that, I was able to fall asleep. Oh, the irony.

The room did end up being a lot quieter, not only terms of the night club music, but in terms of traffic. The first room was on the corner of the hotel so we could hear all the loud cars going by. Even though we now had a quiet room, my body was so screwed up from the time zone change and not having slept the night before that it didn't know what to do. As a result, I ended up only getting 4-5 hours of total sleep on Saturday night on top of the mere 4 hours I got on Friday night. I didn't freak out because I had run strong races on very little sleep in the past. Plus, I had slept very well Monday-Thursday and my adrenaline + caffeinated gels would keep my energy levels high.

Nutrition & Hydration
I made sure to stay extra hydrated Thursday-Saturday, given the flight and the forecasted humidity. I used UCAN Hydrate on Friday and Saturday (one packet each day), in addition to drinking regular water. I also put a packet of the UCAN Hydrate in my hand-held water bottle for the race.

As for nutrition, I kept it pretty simple. I had salmon for dinner the night before, with a side of bread. I ate my large meal at lunch, which was chicken and waffles, plus a large piece of banana bread.

Before the race
In the hotel on race morning
I had been sleeping on and off all night, but I was awake for good starting at around 2:30am. UGH. There was nothing more I could do about my lack of sleep, so I didn't focus on it and I refused to let it be a reason for not working hard during the race.

Greg and I got dressed and left our hotel room at 4:30 for the Destination CIM breakfast in the hotel. I wasn't at all hungry, but I made myself have half a bagel with peanut butter. I took a banana with me for the bus ride. At 4:45, we walked over to the VIP buses. These were coach buses as opposed to the school buses that most runners used. The best thing about the coach bus was the bathroom on board!

After a 40-minute drive, we arrived at the start line in Folsom. We entered the VIP tent, which was heated, and had a nice spread of food, water, and private porta potties. It also had chairs, which meant we didn't have to sit on the wet ground, or stand around for an hour. I highly recommend using Destination CIM to anyone running this race because it was so nice to have the upgraded bus and a relaxing place to hang out pre-race.

It was 55 degrees at the start line, with 95% humidity. The forecast had deteriorated quite a bit over the previous five days. I had originally been optimistic about the weather, even though it wasn't ideal. But the temperature & humidity kept rising, and the chance for rain kept decreasing. Mid 50's and rain is manageable, but we were looking at high 50s with 95% humidity, and only a slight chance of rain. I was as prepared as possible, having hydrated very well, with a plan to pour water over myself at all the water stations. I even poured water on my head before the race start so I'd have wet hair. My race outfit was as minimal as possible: shorts and a sports bra.

I finished my Generation UCAN energy drink in the tent, and then we walked to the start line. For the first time ever in a race, I put my phone in my checked gear bag. I had never done that before because I don't like the idea of it getting lost, but I really wanted to get a photo shortly after finishing the race. The start line was self-seeded, and that ended up working out just fine. Greg and I positioned ourselves in the second corral, which was a projected finish time of 3:05-3:25. Yes, they had an entire corral for sub 3:05 runners! Very competitive.

Race Plan
My original goal was sub-3:10. By Thursday, I had backed that down to 3:10:59. Given the humidity, I thought even that was unlikely, so my plan was to start at a pace that would yield a small PR, and if I could speed up in the second half, great! If not, I would still be able to PR. I figured starting out at around 7:25 would give me the flexibility to go faster if I felt good, or stay steady and still PR by a tiny bit. For reference my PR was 3:15:34, which is a pace of 7:27.

Unfortunately, humidity is deceptive-- you don't realize it's affecting you until it's too late. When I ran the Pike's Peek 10K last spring, the conditions were exactly the same- temps in the mid 50's with 95% humidity and overcast. I was about a minute off of my goal during that race, even though I never felt "hot". I beat myself up for not pushing hard enough because I didn't feel like the humidity was slowing me down.

Miles 1-6
The race started and I was impressed at how un-crowded it felt for the number of people. The road was wide, so there was plenty of room for everyone to run their own pace. I didn't find myself needing to weave my way around anyone, so the self-seeding worked beautifully from my perspective. I carried a bottle of water mixed with UCAN Hydrate, and I drank from it every 15 minutes. At the water stations, I poured 2-3 cups over myself to keep cool.

I ran with Greg for the first half mile, and then I pulled ahead slightly. His goal was sub 3:20, and he planned to start out at a pace of 7:40. As I crossed over the 5K timing mat, my watch read 23:00. I thought of the people tracking me and was happy that they would have their first split. However, my chip didn't register at that mat, and at many of the subsequent mats!

Everything felt pretty good to start out, although it didn't feel as easy as Rehoboth Beach had felt. I told myself to trust my training, and have the confidence to maintain my pace. When you get to the next level of fitness, it means you can push harder for longer, so that's what I would do.

When we got to mile 5, the sun came out. WTF!? It wasn't supposed to be sunny. My saving grace for this race was that the sky was supposed to be overcast the whole way. I started to feel the additional warmth immediately and I knew that if the sun stayed out, it would be a very difficult day for me.

Mile 1: 7:27
Mile 2: 7:23
Mile 3: 7:17
Mile 4: 7:24
Mile 5: 7:24
Mile 6: 7:20

Miles 7-13
I crossed the 10K checkpoint at 45:49, which is a pace of 7:23. I ran the second 5K 11 seconds faster than the first. That was exactly what I wanted-- a very gradual increase in speed. The course was rolling hills, with a slight net downhill. The annoying thing about the course was that no sections were flat. It was either up or down, and I found it hard to get into a groove. When I race, I like to set a pace or effort level and cruise along. I tried keeping my effort level consistent and letting the course guide me, but it didn't feel as smooth as a flat course would have.

I wasn't surprised by the amount of uphill, but I was surprised that there wasn't a single flat section. When I got to mile 10, I realized that things felt harder than they should at this point. I was working hard, and I could feel it. In Rehoboth, everything felt relatively easy at mile 10. So, instead of speeding up like I originally had planned, I decided to stay at around 7:25.

Mile 11, Elyse cheers for me!
I took my homemade Generation UCAN gel at mile 11, and at the same time, I saw a friend cheering for me from the side of the course! It was definitely nice to see a friendly face, and a much-needed pick-me-up.

The clouds kept coming and going, and thankfully parts of the course were shaded. But there was no rain, which is what I wanted most, so I kept pouring cups of water all over myself. The temperature had risen a few degrees, too, which made things even more challenging.

Mile 7: 7:22
Mile 8: 7:21
Mile 9: 7:28
Mile 10: 7:18
Mile 11: 7:24
Mile 12: 7:24
Mile 13: 7:27

Miles 14-17
My chip didn't register at the 15K, the 20K, or the half marathon point! I didn't know this while I was running, but apparently the people tracking me thought I was having major problems because my splits weren't coming through. Thankfully, I took a mental note of my half marathon split, which was 1:37:00. Back when I was shooting for a 3:10, my original plan was to hit the halfway in 1:36:00, but
We're all working hard!
I had already started adjusting my goal, so I was pleased with 1:37:00, which meant I could still PR, even if I ran a 1-minute positive split.

My legs were already tired and I was already feeling like I was pushing hard, which is not what you want at mile 13. So I made a conscious decision to back off the effort. I probably could have turned out a few more miles at a pace of 7:25, but I did not want to crash and burn. I figured if I ran 7:35s all the way to the finish, it would still be a solid race.

I finished the last of my water at mile 14 and tossed the bottle aside. It felt good to not be holding the bottle, and perked me up for a bit. There was a slight headwind here, but it didn't cause too much of a problem. Other people talked about this section of the course being really difficult post race, but I think I was so happy to have a cooling breeze, that I didn't really notice the wind as an obstacle.

The 3:15 pace group caught up with me during the 15th mile and I wasn't surprised. I thought I might be able to hang with them for a while, but they passed me pretty quickly. At that point, I knew I wouldn't be setting a PR, so my job was to stay mentally positive and run to the best of my ability. I knew I was well trained. My training was still relevant and would still get me to the finish line.

I had a caffeinated Maurten gel at 16.5, and hoped that would perk me up.

Mile 14: 7:32
Mile 15: 7:56
Mile 16: 8:00
Mile 17: 7:39

Miles 18-21
With 9 miles to go, I wondered how I would ever make it. I had rapidly declined and I had visions of run-walking my way to the finish. I reminded myself that walking would only prolong the pain. Also, I was still running at a decent clip, it just felt really awful. I told myself if I could keep the pace under an 8-minute mile, I'd be faster than I was at Sugarloaf last spring.

Somewhere around mile 19, it started raining. Hooray! It felt so good. But by that point, it was too little too late. The heat and humidity had already done their damage so the even though the rain was welcome, it wasn't enough to get me back down into the 7:20s. It was short-lived, too. After about 10 minutes, the rain vanished as quickly as it had come, and the sun was rearing its ugly head once again.

It was time to enter the flat portion of the course. What a relief to be off of those hills! Sure, I wouldn't have the help of the downhills, but my legs couldn't possibly do any more climbing.

Mile 18: 7:57
Mile 19: 7:54
Mile 20: 7:48
Mile 21: 7:52

Miles 22-Finish
I took my second Maurten gel and hoped that the caffeine would give me a boost. With five miles to go, I remembered how short 5 miles was in training. My shortest training run was 60 minutes, which was around 7 miles, so all I had to do was hold it together for a shorter amount of time than an easy run. The 3:20 pace group caught up to me and passed me. Not a big surprise, and I didn't let it demoralize me.

Not once did I let negativity creep into my mind. I made sure to smile, to not think about the misery I was in, and to instead focus on my form, and focus on getting to the next mile. At this point, I was no longer in control of my pace. I had no extra gears, the best I could do was to keep moving forward. By my calculations, I was on track for 3:24, which would be a respectable time, a solid BQ, and my 3rd fastest marathon.

I started to wonder when I would see Greg pass me. I guessed it would be somewhere around mile 21-23, and sure enough, I heard him coming up from behind me at mile marker 23. I was happy that he was having a good race and looking so strong. With just 5K left to go, I wanted to stick with him, but he was running in the 7:30's and I was in the low 8's. I simply couldn't make my legs go any faster. I kept reminding myself that I was still in the game. I smiled a lot and counted down the minutes left in the race. For me, it's always better to think about time left in a race rather than
distance.

When it came time for the last mile, I thought I could rally and maybe go faster. Nope. Nothing left in the tank! At mile 25.5, I wasn't even sure I would be able to make it to the finish. The race needed to end. Like, NOW. I was totally destroyed.

But, alas, I turned the final corner and saw the finish line ahead of me. There was no final kick. It was a struggle simply to get there in one piece!

Mile 22: 8:19
Mile 23: 8:12
Mile 24: 8:05
Mile 25: 8:15
Mile 26: 8:13
Last 0.3: (7:57 pace)

I crossed the finish line in 3:22:23. As per usual, my math was off when calculating my projected finish time. 7 minutes slower than my PR, and 12 minutes off of my goal time.

After the race
Greg had finished in 3:20:20, which was a PR for him by over 4 minutes! He saw me finish, and we walked through the finish line area together. I vomited, which seems to be the norm for me now, but there wasn't a lot in my stomach to come out.

I was feeling pretty wrecked. As we waited to get our bag from gear check, I started to see black spots, so I sat down on a bench. It wasn't long before Greg got the bag and found me on the bench. We sat there for a few minutes and then proceeded to take the post-race photos. I wanted to ring the BQ bell, but the line was really long-- once again, a super competitive field!

A few Instagram followers introduced themselves to me, and it was really exciting to meet so many people who had been following my journey. During the race itself, there were about 3-4 runners who said hi to me and cheered me on who knew me from Instagram. Definitely exciting bright spots in the race.

Greg and I finally made our way back to the Citizen Hotel and the shower felt amazing. Destination CIM had brunch waiting for us, so we didn't need to leave the hotel to get food, Even though I felt like garbage, my spirits were high. I was just happy to be done, and even though I missed my goal, I stayed strong mentally and ran a very solid race.

Final Thoughts and Takeaways
It seems that many runners struggled in the humidity yesterday. Most people I know missed their goal by a good bit, and slowed down significantly in the second half of the race. Some people, like Greg, can run well when it's in the 50's and humid, but I am not one of those people. I run my fastest when it's in the upper 30's, and I'm comfortable running in the 20's. Generally speaking, if I don't need gloves, I'm not PRing!

My coach's comments were:

That was a tough day for a lot of athletes across the board today. The slow down was crazy...almost to a point where I've not seen that in a marathon before. The conditions really effected most of the field so the way you kept pushing yourself hard through those later miles is so so impressive. I think you can be very proud of yourself and how you handed the race knowing that conditions were going to be tough for your body. I certainly am.

When I looked up my results, I realized that even though I got progressively slower throughout the race, I continued to move my way up in the field!

  • At the 10K point, I was in 2,144th place (includes all runners, male and female). 
  • At the 30K point, I had moved up 44 spots to 2,070.
  • At the finish, I moved up 61 more spots to 2,009th place.


This shows that I did not slow down as much as other runners, and I continued to pass people all the way to the finish. I started out a pace that was 10 seconds per mile slower than what I thought I could do in ideal conditions, and many runners probably did not make that kind of adjustment.

The weather and the sleep situation were unfortunate, and those were the exact reasons why I had reservations about CIM. But at least now I can say that I did the race, and had the opportunity to show my mental toughness. I'm one and done on this race and won't be going back. I prefer flat courses, and if I want hills, I have Boston for that!

Some days, a PR simply isn't available due to circumstances beyond our control. That doesn't mean we can't find satisfaction in our perseverance and effort level. Our race times do not define us.

My training served me well, because running a time of 3:22 in 95% humidity in the high 50's would not have been possible in previous cycles. This is a BQ by over 17 minutes, and I'm proud of it.

That being said, I have more fire in me than ever to run that sub 3:10. My next shot at it will be Boston-- a difficult course with historically bad weather. But I'm going to keep trying my best and putting in the work. I have 100% confidence in my ability to reach this goal, and it will happen when it's meant to. In the meantime, I am going to keep enjoying the ride.



Sunday, December 1, 2019

CIM: Training Cycle in Review

I'm wrapping up my training cycle for the California International Marathon (CIM) and I feel great. I'm noticing a huge difference between how I feel mentally between this cycle and my Shamrock cycle in the spring, when I DNF'ed.

Last spring, I was feeling really stressed. I was in the process of interviewing for new jobs and exploring multiple opportunities. I also felt like I had over-scheduled myself in general and I was feeling really overwhelmed trying to fit everything in.

This cycle, I am perhaps the calmest I have ever been. I don't have anxiety about my race, my
schedule, my job, or anything else in my life. And that has made all the difference. For the past several years I have realized how much stress and anxiety were holding me back, but now that my job is less political, I feel particularly chill.

Ironically, I have more responsibility and more work travel than ever before. I'm the Chief Marketing Officer of a tech company, which means I'm not only responsible for marketing, but helping to steer the direction of the business. In November, I traveled to Indianapolis and Providence for work, participating in all-day meetings, gave a presentation to a room full of people, but never once felt overwhelmed. Why? It's because I don't have to deal with politics at work. I don't think that anyone is out to get me, I'm not being micro-managed, and my colleagues aren't creating stressful situations for me. Most of the stress over the past 5+ years of my life has been work stress relating to people, not the work itself. I'm fortunate to I have a job where I'm empowered, trusted, and invested in the future of the company.

The commute is shorter with less traffic (25 minutes in the morning, 35 minutes in the evening) and I work from home about once a week. I don't think I realized how much my previous commute and the work environment was taking a toll on my overall stress levels. I have especially noticed this in my ability to recover from workouts and races. After the Columbus half, I ran a 73-mile week. After the Indianapolis half, I ran a 77-mile week. Both races were PRs and I felt good for the weeks following them.

I'm starting my training recap blog with this because I think the lack of stress has been the single most important factor in my fitness gains:

  • I am sleeping better
  • I am recovering better/faster
  • I haven't gotten sick
  • I have more time (with the shorter commute)
Do not underestimate how much stress can take out of you, and how much a reduced amount of stress can help with your running!

Now, onto the training recap. Below you will see a weekly graph of my training, which tells the story at a high level.


Since recovering from my bike accident on August 5, I have run every day, which makes this a 119-day run streak so far, with a total of 1,033 miles. I have four weeks above 70 miles, with the lower mileage weeks including mini-tapers for half marathons.

I didn't really notice any fitness gains until around mid-October, once the weather started to cool down. But then I had a few breakthrough workouts and races that told me I was really fit. I've chosen 5 key workouts to highlight that give me confidence for CIM. It should be noted that I was REALLY lucky with the weather this cycle. Almost all of these workouts had amazing weather: all below 50 degrees with little wind or rain.

October 24: Tempo/Hills
This workout was a 4-mile tempo, 4 x 30 second hill sprints, 3 mile tempo:
  • Warm up for 2.8 miles
  • 4 miles: 6:54, 6:50, 6:46, 6:46
  • 3-minute recovery jog (10:28 pace)
  • Hill sprints in 7:03, 7:15, 7:28, 7:16
  • 3-minute recovery jog (10:14 pace)
  • 3 miles in 6:44, 6:41, 6:39
  • Cool down for 1.5 miles
My goal had been to start the tempo miles at 6:55 and progress down to 6:40 by the end, and I did that! 

November 2: Fast Finish 20-miler
I did this run on the W&OD trail to ensure I incorporated hills. I ran the first 14 miles at an average pace of 8:09, and then finished off with 6 miles at marathon pace: 7:15, 7:12, 7:09, 7:04, 7:10, 7:09. The marathon pace miles averaged 7:10, which was awesome because my goal was 7:15.

This run was the first indication I had that a sub-3:10 could be possible. Prior to this run, I was thinking getting 3:10:xx would be the absolute fastest I could shoot for, but this run got me thinking I shouldn't limit myself, as a 7:10 marathon pace would land me a time of 3:08.

November 13: 10K wave tempo
This workout was 10 kilometers on the track, with each kilometer alternating 10K pace (6:34/mile, 4:04/km) and then 20 seconds slower (7:05/mile, 4:24/km). The track was the perfect place for this because a kilometer is 2 and a half laps! I had done this workout as an 8K in the past and really liked it, but this was my first crack at doing it as a 10K. 

Splits were: 4:08/4:31, 4:04/4:26, 4:05/4:25, 4:04/4:27, 4:04/4:20

The result was a 10K in 42:37, which is faster than the 10K race I ran in early October! Amazing how much faster I am when it's cold (22 degrees) and there are no hills. The ability to crank out my 4th fastest 10K ever in a training run and not even feel like I worked that hard was huge! Also, this was the Wednesday after Indianapolis, so it hadn't even been a full week since that half marathon.

November 16: 22 miles, mixed pace
Three days after the track 10K, I ran a 22-miler. I did have some wind to contend with on this run, but it didn't slow me down too much! This was one continuous run broken down as follows:
  • 9 miles easy, average 8:21 pace
  • 3 miles of 1:00 hard, 1:00 easy, around 6:45/9:15
  • 3 miles tempo: 7:14, 7:03, 7:00
  • 1 mile easy at 8:54
  • 3 miles hard in 7:08, 7:03, 6:56
  • 3 miles easy at 8:20, 8:20, 8:15
I felt strong and energized, and the hardest part was the three "easy" miles at the end because my legs were toast. Overall, I averaged a pace of 7:55 for 22 miles, which was my fastest 22-miler ever! I had done this workout in the past, but I had never run it so fast.

November 21: 90 minutes at marathon pace
This run was prescribed at 90 minutes marathon pace, plus warm up and cool down. Here's how it went, keeping in mind the perfect weather!
  • 2.8 miles warm up
  • 12.5 miles at 7:12 avg.
  • 1.5 miles cool down
Splits for the marathon pace miles were 7:30, 7:14, 7:18, 7:16, 7:13, 7:13, 7:12, 7:10, 7:10, 7:09, 7:04, 7:00, 6:51 (for 0.5 mile). This workout again made me feel that sub-3:10 is possible if I have a
good day! During this run I tested the Nike Vaporfly Next% in a half size larger than I wore in my half marathons. Thankfully, I had no issue with my big toe getting bruised, so I will wear them for the marathon.

Final Thoughts
Keeping these workouts in mind, the fact that they were all within a month of each other, and that I had 3 races thrown in (all PRs) makes me super confident. So much depends on the weather, and the current forecast, which will likely change, is 41 at the start, 49 at the finish, no wind, 100% humidity. I have heard Sacramento is foggy/humid in the mornings. I don't think that will be a factor, but it's something to keep in mind. My ideal weather would not get above 45 degrees, but I'd give this forecast an 8/10.

I'm signing books at a breakfast put on by Destination CIM on Saturday morning from 7-9am. It's a $20 breakfast and you can get tickets here. Thanks to Destination CIM, Greg and I have a hotel just a few blocks from the finish line, plus a VIP tent at the start line.

Now it's time to avoid all germs and stay chill!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Turkey Trot PRish

Today I ran my 14th Turkey Trot 5K, but my first Ashburn Farm Turkey Trot.

Every year since 2006, I had run the Virginia Run Turkey Trot in Centreville. I loved this race and it had become a tradition. I was saddened to learn that they were not going to put the race on this year due to the lack of volunteers. But, luckily I live in an area with plenty of trotting options so I chose the Ashburn Farm race, which I had heard good things about.

We had a wind advisory today with sustained winds at 20-22 mph and gusts of up to 40 mph. Needless to say, these are not PR conditions! Thankfully, the relatively warm temperature of 44 degrees ensured that the wind wouldn't be as biting as it could be. Originally my goal had been 19:40 (an 18-second PR), but when the wind advisory came out, I adjusted that goal to simply pushing hard and hoping to squeak out a tiny PR.

Before the race
I changed up my pre-race routine in that instead of having Generation UCAN 30 minutes pre-race, I took a Maurten gel with caffeine 15 minutes pre-race. The gel had worked well for me during the Indianapolis Monumental Half marathon, and I didn't need all that much fuel for a 5K. UCAN provides up to 90 minutes of fuel, but for a 20-minute race, I figured I could get by with one gel. Plus, I had an English muffin with peanut butter two hours before the race.

I decided to wear a crop top and tight shorts because I didn't want a loose tank blowing around in the wind. Plus, after Indy Monumental, I vowed I would never overdress again. I ended up being the most scantily clad person there, and I got a few people asking me if I was cold. But the outfit ended up being perfect me.

Greg and I warmed up on the course to get a sense of the hill profile and the wind direction. The hills and wind were where I expected them to be. A brief tailwind to start, followed by a long section of headwind and uphill.

This race offers a 5K and a 10K. Overall, there were 3,000 runners and the race had sold out. My usual turkey trot has around 1500 runners, so it was about the same size. Greg and I lined up about two rows back from the start, which unbeknownst to me was a mistake. I should have lined up right on the line-- with the kids!

Mile 1: 6:34
I planned to go out hard because I knew I'd be able to fly in the second half, which would offer a downhill tailwind. So even if I bonked, the course profile would be in my favor. Plus, I am in marathon shape right now so I should be able to hold a hard effort for 20 minutes. The first mile was net uphill, with the second half of that mile being into a headwind, so 6:34 was a very hard effort. As I passed the first mile marker, I realized I was next to Greg, and I hoped I would be able to keep up with him.

Initially, I counted about 5 women ahead of me. I had hoped to place in the top three because this race offers cash awards.

Mile 2: 6:41
This mile was painful. The first 0.8 was more uphill headwind and it was sucking the life out of me. I glanced down at my Garmin a few times and saw a 6:50 lap pace. Yikes. Originally I had planned for this mile to be faster than the first mile, but I realized that this mile was harder, given the sustained 20 mph headwind. At the turnaround, I realized I was in third place. I must have passed two women at some point without having realized it. That thought pepped me up. Greg, however, was now far ahead of me. Wind doesn't ever seem to slow him down!

Mile 3: 6:11
Mile 3 was a joyride! My fastest mile ever, but with a downhill tailwind, of course it would be! All of a sudden I was flying and my pace dropped dramatically. I even caught up to the 2nd place woman about halfway through the mile and sprinted past her, hoping that she would not try to stay with me.  I kept glancing at my watch, wondering if I could run fast enough to PR. It seemed unlikely, because I would need an average pace of 6:25, but I was going to give it all I had.

Last 0.8: 5:49 pace
That was a fast sprint to the finish! I was really trying to nab that PR.

I stopped my Garmin about a second after crossing the finish line, and it read 19:56. So I assumed my finish time would probably be 19:55. Yay! A PR by 3 seconds!

Greg ran 19:24, which is a 25 second PR for him!

After the race
My coach wanted me to run 4 marathon pace miles post race. (He's so hard core). So, about five minutes after I finished the race, I headed back on the course for a marathon pace "cool down". I ran 7:18, 7:12, 7:19, and then stopped at 3 miles because the wind was really picking up. At times, I was running in place. After stopped, I realized if I had run 0.1 more I would have officially run two 5Ks, but oh well. 3 "bonus" miles at a pace of 7:16 immediately after a 5K PR in a wind advisory was good enough for me!

As I was running these marathon pace miles, I started to process the race. My Garmin read 3.08 miles at a pace of 6:28. So is that really a PR? When I ran my 19:58, my Garmin read 3.13 miles at a pace of 6:25. Hmmmm.

Then, the bad news came. My official time was 20:00, for both gun and chip. I knew I had run faster than that! Thankfully, I was still officially in second place.

For placing second, I ended up winning a cash award of $100 plus a plaque. I was very happy with that, and this is something that my traditional Turkey Trot did not offer. I would win the same hat each year.

I asked the timer why my gun and chip time were the same. He said, "Did you place in the top 3?" and when I said yes, he replied with "We erase the chip time for the top 3 finishers. It's a new USATF rule."

"Can you tell me my chip time?" I asked.

"19:55," he replied. “But that won't be recorded anywhere official, since you placed in the top 3.”

I had never heard of this rule and I was't going to argue with him. I was still second place, and I still
ran a strong race, and that's what really mattered.

Final thoughts
After much deliberation, I am going to call this "PRish". Even though my coach encouraged me to consider it a true PR, it's not really.

1. My official gun and chip time are 20:00. There is no record of me running 19:55 expect for hearing the timing guy say it.

2. The course measured 3.08 on my Garmin. Greg got 3.1, so the course may not have been short. But, I know that have run 3.1 miles at a pace of 6:25 in the past and today I ran a pace of 6:28.

What if the course had measured 3.16 on my Garmin and I ran a pace of 6:23? That would not be an official PR, but I would have known it was the fastest I had ever run that distance.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: the race was during a wind advisory. So running that close to my PR and having a chip PR in those conditions is something I'm proud of, and it tells me I am in excellent shape. Had it not been so windy, I think that 19:40 would have been mine.

So, I'm calling this PRish. I'm not going to update my PR board at home or on the sidebar of my blog. I still consider my PR to be 19:58. However, I know that right now, I am in better shape than when I ran 19:58, and that's what is important to me, just 10 days out from a marathon.

Am I bummed about the chip/gun time thing? A little. But given that it was a short course based on my Garmin, and given that they compensated me $100, I'm fine with it!