Saturday, August 27, 2011

Peak Week! (Part IV)

With only five weeks left until the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon I am feeling pretty good. I'll write a blog about my overall training cycle as the race gets closer, but for now I want to just focus on this week. As I've said in earlier blogs, I am running fewer overall miles with this training cycle in exchange for swimming and pool running. I've also added in core strengthening which consists of 3 planks each day.

Here have been my past "peak weeks" and their resulting marathons:
  • August 2008: 55 miles. I ended up getting really sick (maybe the swine flu) and wasn't able to run the Hartford marathon
  • December 2008: 56 miles. I bonked at the RnR Arizona marathon due to the heat/sun. 
  • March 2009: 61 miles. I bonked at the NJ marathon and ended up in the medical tent with hypothermia.
I don't have blogs for my other peak weeks, but upper 50's-lower 60's has been the norm. This week I only ran 51 miles as my peak.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to add in as much pool running/swimming as I would have liked because my pool is closed for maintenance. Tomorrow I do plan to drive to another pool for pool running/swimming. Or I guess with all the rain we're supposed to get from the hurricane, I could just go outside. . .

 I started the week by mailing my new Garmin heart rate monitor back to Running Warehouse for a refund. The "soft" strap monitor has continued to chafe me, despite massive amounts of body glide. And the readings were completely messed up too, showing heart rates as low as 60 and as high as 200 within the same minute. My readings were just all over the map. I'm now using my old HR monitor and getting accurate readings and no chafing.

Monday: 9 miles easy, avg. 9:05
I took this run very easy knowing that I had a hard week ahead of me. The weather was nice and cool and I resisted the temptation to go any faster.

Tuesday: 8 miles, including 4 x 1200m
I ran this track workout with my teammates in Arlington. I was fully expecting to do 5-6 repeats, so I started out easy. Using the pacing chart from my coach, my goal was to be at 5:12 for each repeat or slightly under. In my past track workouts, I have been doing 800's at around 5:08-5:10.

The woman who I usually run with during these workouts was on vacation, so I wasn't quite sure who to pace off of. During the first lap, I tucked behind this girl who is super fast (wayyyy faster than me) and told myself that she'd probably get ahead of me. Instead, I kept fighting the urge to pass her, knowing how fast she is. I soon realized that she was having leg issues and purposely going slower than she otherwise would. As a result, my first interval was much slower than target pace: 5:23. But I was perfectly fine with this because I knew I had 4-5 more to go. I ended up compensating for that first interval by going a bit too fast on the next: 5:03. But then the next two were more in line with what I expected: 5:07, 5:07. Instead of doing a 5th, the coach told me I was "done" because my form was falling apart. He wouldn't even let me finish it off with a 400.

I was upset, but I trusted that he knew what he was talking about. I felt like I definitely had the energy for at least one more interval. As a result, I left the track feeling like I didn't "give it my all" like I typically do after these group track workouts. Since the first one was too slow, I really only did 3 intervals that challenged me, and it just didn't seem like enough given that this is my peak week, and considering that it was a cool morning.

Wednesday: Rest
Typically I would have gone pool running and swimming, but with the pool closed (and the next closest pool closed as well) I just took a rest day. Except for the planks, of course.

Thursday: 8.5 miles, including 6 tempo
I placed a lot of importance on this run because I feel like I haven't had many good tempos this cycle. I did two of them on the elliptical (trying to prevent a foot injury), and the ones that I did on the road were in really hot/humid weather with less than impressive results.

It was about 72 degrees for Thursday's tempo and very humid. My goal was to run 6.2 miles at a pace of 7:40. If it had been cooler, I would have targeted 7:25. My plan was to start out on the slower side and then pick it up slightly in the last two miles. I ran the first mile by feel and logged a 7:46. This was about what I expected-- so far, so good. Then came 7:44, 7:40, and 7:43. With two miles left to go I was started to feel it. I got through those last two miles with these thoughts:
  • This tempo run IS important. You need a good tempo.
  • Look at your HR monitor. Stay in Zone 4. If you go above that, just slow down.
  • Your pace doesn't matter as much as getting in the full distance and staying in Zone 4
  • If you keep up the effort level, I will reward you by not making you do that last 0.2
I focused really hard and kept my HR at the top of Zone 4 and logged 7:46, 7:46. And I allowed myself to stop after 6 miles, without requiring the 0.2. I don't regret this decision-- it was definitely time to stop. The average pace ended up being 7:44, which I was okay with given how hot and humid it was. I would have really liked to see 7:40, but I'm not sweating it (pun intended).

Based on my coach's pace chart, this training pace correlates with a marathon time of about 3:33. (My track paces correlate with a marathon time of 3:25). Given that the weather for the marathon should be substantially cooler and less humid than this tempo run, I think I am realistic in expecting to run a 3:35.

Friday: 3.5 miles
Friday normally would have been a rest day, but since I took one of those on Wednesday instead of going to the pool, I figured that a really short, easy run couldn't hurt. Average pace was 8:58.

Saturday: 22 miles
I was nervous about this run. The temperature was 76 with a "real feel" of 82 and 22 miles is a long way to go in those conditions. I pre-hydrated all day Friday and even used Pedialyte on Friday evening for added electrolytes.

This run was a "test run" for race day nutrition. I ate a fairly large meal on Friday night at Maggiano's with my family. We were celebrating Greg and my one-year anniversary. I ate the same things I typically eat the night before a marathon-- lots of bread and pasta and some chicken. Usually I eat a bagel and a half the morning of a marathon, but my coach recommends more of a "meal". I know peanut butter is popular among runners, but I don't particularly like it (gasp) and I have a sensitive digestive system. I was up at 4:15 this morning and had about two tablespoons of peanut butter on my bagel. Which, by the way, I did not slice in half. :-) I took three Honey Stinger gels with me and a bottle of G2 and set off with my husband on our journey.

At mile 1.5, my husband tripped on his shoelace and fell to the ground pretty hard. Luckily, his water bottle broke his fall so he was okay, but he was scraped up on his other hand and his knee. His water bottle proceeded to escape his hand and fall down the nearby sewer, so we had to go home and get him another bottle and also clean and bandage his scrapes. So at mile 3, when we got back home, there was a 10-15 minute break in the run. But we got him all cleaned up with alcohol and band-aids and got him a fresh bottle of G2.

After that incident, the run was relatively drama-free. We ran around local neighborhoods, as usual, and made two stops at a McDonald's to refill our bottles with water. I took my honey gels at mile 7, 13 and 18.5. During the marathon, I will probably start taking them sooner, but I had the calories from the G2 in those early miles. My husband had 20 miles on schedule, so we split off at mile 16 and he ran home and I continued around the neighborhood we were in.

I typically like to speed up the long run during the last 1/3, but given that this was a 22-miler and it was really hot and humid, I decided to wait until I had just 4 miles left to speed up, and even then, I wouldn't turn on the gas too much.

The overall pace was 9:05, with an average heart rate of 157. For me (based on my VO2 max test) Zone 2 is 155-165, so I was towards the bottom.

  • Miles 1-8 avg. HR in Zone 1
  • Miles 9-19 avg. HR in Zone 2
  • Miles 20-22 avg. HR in Zone 3 
I was very pleased with this run. I have been ending my long runs in Zone 4 and really exerting a lot of effort lately, but given the extra long distance and the weather, I opted to play it safe. 

I plan to make the long drive to a pool that's actually open tomorrow and swim at least 1200yd and pool-run for 20-30 minutes.

I'm pleased with my 51-mile week. Up until now, my highest mileage week this cycle has been just 45, so it was a bit of a jump. Next week, I'll cut back the mileage slightly as I have the VA Beach Rock 'N Roll half marathon on Sunday. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I stay injury and illness-free for the next five weeks and that Milwaukee isn't having a heat wave on Oct. 2!

Monday, August 22, 2011

On Motivation

A few weeks ago, I was participating in an organized Twitter chat about running. If you've never participated in a Twitter chat, I highly recommend it as a great way to meet others who share your interests by discussing those topics. The moderator asks a discussion question, and participants tweet their answers with the hashtag of the organized chat. In this case, I think it was #runchat, but it may have been another one.

In any case, the moderator asked the question: "What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning and go for a run? Or head out after work?" Usually I am quick to tweet my answer and I know instantly what I am going to say. But for this one, I held off awhile and read what others had tweeted:

  • My marathon in two months!
  • Eating all that candy yesterday!
  • Wanting to get a PR at my next race!
  • Wanting to fit into my skinny jeans! 
  • I have to stick to my training plan!
These weren't the exact answers, but they sum up the types of things that people were saying. And I wondered if any of them applied to me. The closest I could think of was wanting to PR, but that's not the thought that enters my head when I wake up in the morning and go for a run. I might think about that during a run, and it might be my ultimate goal, but it's not my immediate motivation.

My immediate motivation is simply that I like this lifestyle. I actually look forward to waking up in the morning, hopping out of bed (and yes, I am usually pretty energized from the moment I wake up) and going outside for my run. So I finally tweeted that I don't really need anything to motivate me-- I just enjoy running so much. 

And then I thought about that answer some more. I don't enjoy the elliptical. I'm not all that crazy about pool running, and yet when I do those workouts I still have the same level of motivation and commitment. So what is it then? Addiction? Needing to get those endorphins flowing? 

I guess it's just the high. I like the way I feel when I run or do other types of exercises. I love the physical and mental challenge. I love pushing myself to the limit, and then redefining what the limits are. I love the satisfaction I get from finishing a track workout and seeing the paces and distances in my training log. 

Running Skirts
And believe it or not, I actually like doing the running laundry. I don't put any of my or my husband's technical clothes in the dryer so when they come out of the washing machine, I hand dry each garment piece by piece. I actually love that there is so much of it to do, because that means we ran a lot. When I was injured with my stress fractures, I was saddened by not having my running clothes to wash (although there was the elliptical-wear!) And once everything is dry, it's fun to fold everything and see it all organized neatly in my closet.

Somehow this blog when from Twitter chats to laundry. But as for motivation, I either don't need any, or I have an abundance of natural motivation. I've never felt "burnt out" on running, although I have felt burnt out from following training plans too rigorously and not listening to my body. 

It's also not difficult for me to take a complete rest day. I take one complete rest day each week and I look at it as part of the overall plan. Without rest days, I won't be able to properly recover and my runs will start to go downhill. So on rest days, I don't feel lazy or "fat". I do feel un-energized, but I know it's for a good cause. 

What motivates you? Are you an endorphin junkie or do you fight the "lazy bug" as my husband calls it?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Running on Par

August 14 marked the one-year anniversary of my marriage to Greg. It's been the best year of my life and I never imagined that I would be so happy.

Top Tier of Wedding Cake
To celebrate, we decided to go to a resort on the Chesapeake Bay where we could relax for a few days. But before we left, we thawed out the top tier of our wedding cake which had been wrapped in foil and stored in a large plastic freezer bag. It was a chocolate chip cake with milk chocolate ganache, caramel and chocolate candy crunchies. Several of our guests told us it was the best wedding cake that they had ever tasted, and I would have to agree. How did it taste a year later? Still good, but not nearly as moist.

The bottom layer was the same flavor as the top, but the middle tier was a red velvet cake, which matched the colors of our wedding-- red, white and black.

August 14, 2010
Anyway, enough about the cake! We headed out to Maryland on Sunday at around noon. It was nice to spend most of the weekend in our own home and then have three days away.

The first thing we did when we got to the resort was to go exploring. The area was just breathtaking. We walked along the bay and familiarized ourselves with all of the great amenities of the resort-- several pools, miniature golf, a few shops, tennis courts, a game room, a "library" with a bar, restaurants, and a giant chess board. For our first night's dinner, we went to the Blue Point Provision, which is a seafood restaurant on the resort. The food was excellent, and they even brought us a free dessert with a candle in it for our anniversary!

The next morning, we set out for a run. Greg had mapped out a route that brought us into the town of Cambridge, but I was worried that the roads wouldn't be run-able. Luckily, on our way out of the resort, we realized that the golf course had a path that was perfectly suited for running.We started at hole  13 and wound up back at the hotel just two miles later at hole 18. Greg and I ran 9 miles, and then I realized I was still feeling pretty good so I ran another one for a solid 10-miler. (Greg has been having issues with his foot and his calf, so he's actually just easing back into running after some time off).

Who knew that golf courses were the perfect "course" for running?

  • Free of cars 
  • Not hilly, but not pancake flat either
  • It's fun to look at the different holes
  • Built-in water stations that are easy to fill a bottle with
  • Porta potties (thankfully I didn't have to use them)
  • You're never more than 2 miles away from the main hotel should something happen
Surprisingly, we were the only runners out on the course. Maybe we weren't supposed to be there, but it was early and none of the grounds keepers seemed to mind. On Tuesday, Greg rested his calf and foot while I headed out for 9 miles. I was a bit worried for my safety in some of the more remote areas of the course, when there was not a single person around. But it wasn't long before more of the groundskeepers started to show up. 

Going into the trip, I was a little worried that we wouldn't find a suitable area to run, but I had a fantastic 10-miler on Monday followed by a 9-miler on Tuesday with no problems.

Hanging out at the Pool.
On Monday, we spent most of the day lounging by the pool. I personally don't need too much in a vacation other than to just chill out by a pool or on a beach. I prefer these types of vacations to the more active vacations because I'm always so busy and active during my normal life. I need time to just sit and do absolutely nothing, with the sun shining down on me. We found a wonderful French restaurant a few miles away from the resort to have dinner on Monday night. 

Tuesday was more of the same-- just lounging around by the pool. We treated ourselves to a couples massage at the spa and it was amazing. Usually spa massages don't do anything to really relax the muscles-- you have to go to a sports massage place to really get all the knots worked out. But I was pleasantly surprised. We asked specifically for a deep tissue massage and both of our massage therapists delivered.

One of the cool things about this resort is that they encourage you to toast marshmallows in their fireplace and make 'smores. This was a lot of fun, except for there were A LOT of bugs and I kept getting bitten, and there were kids everywhere, dangerously putting marshmallows on fire.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, Greg and I have recently taken a strong interest in Chess. We play it all the time and we knew that there would be a giant garden chess set at this resort. Our first game lasted a really long time. Mainly because I couldn't checkmate Greg, but I could keep putting him in check. And I was afraid he's gain an advantage if I let him make a move where he wasn't trying to get out of check. So I chased his King around for nearly half an hour until I finally figured out a way to checkmate him. He won all subsequent games. 

On Wednesday (this morning) we spent some time playing around in the pool, but then we had to check out and head home. It was a short trip but really nice to get away and celebrate our marriage. 

Shortly after arriving home, we headed for a not-as-fun pool for some pool running and swimming. I was impressed with our motivation to go workout when we got home instead of looking at photos, blogging, etc. 

It was a fantastic trip and I'm so glad we got to spend this time together!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Random Facts Friday

Lately my blog has been reading like a medical journal and my posts about running have been quite technical. To break things up a bit, I've decided to participate in the "Random Facts Friday" trend, where you post little known facts about yourself that may or may not relate to running. I've learned some interesting facts about my friend Katie and others so I decided it would be fun to think about my own randomness.

11 Random Facts About Elizabeth 

Salt Bagels Ready to Eat!
1. I think a bagel is ruined when it is sliced and/or toasted. The only way to eat a bagel is warm (either freshly baked or re-heated in the microwave) and then eaten in large chunks. The wholesome goodness of a bagel is lost when it's cut in half. I'm extremely picky about my bagels-- I detest Einsten Bros, and I absolutely adore Bagel Buddies in Fair Lakes.

2. My obsession with zebras originates from when I was 7 years old and saw some zebras at the Philadelphia Zoo. I was amazed at how fantastic these animals were and have loved them ever since. My zebra collection is quite impressive.

3. I am right-handed but left-everything else. I shoot pool with my left hand. I cut meat with my left hand. As a child, I could only do cartwheels on the left side.

4. As part of my job, I send out blast emails about manufacturing quality control to 50,000+ people. Inevitably, a few people unsubscribe each time.

Playing my piano.
5. I can play the piano by ear. It usually takes about 5-10 minutes to get a song where I want it to be, but I can almost always translate a song to the piano.My latest accomplishment is "She Will Be Loved" by Maroon 5.

6. I've never been "put under" with general anesthesia. I was awake when my 4 wisdom teeth were removed and during gum surgery. Thankfully, I haven't had any other surgeries.

7. My greatest fear is bugs. Specifically roaches. I would stop running for three full months in exchange for a guarantee that I would never see a bug in my house or at my office, or have a bug crawl on me. Would I stop running for six months? I don't know. I really do hate bugs.

8. My body has a very rigid clock. If I don't fall asleep between 8:00-10:00pm it will be very difficult for me to fall asleep, and I will likely have a restless night and wake up at 4:00am or earlier. I only stay up after 10:00 if I absolutely have to and my ideal bedtime is 9:00. Before I met my husband, my average bedtime was 8:00.

The playcount totally doesn't reflect my preferences.
9. I like to keep close watch on the stats of my iTunes music library. My computer got a virus about a year ago and all my data was lost and couldn't be retrieved. I'm working on re-building my library, although the current playcount doesn't reflect the songs I was obsessed with in 2006, 2007, etc. My iTunes library has 2,596 songs-- enough for 7.3 straight days of music.

10. To go along with number 9, I used to be obsessed with music countdowns on the radio and would write down all the songs as they were played and keep log books. I would love to predict the song rankings. This was when I was a teenager-- now there's the Internet.

11. I lack a natural maternal instinct. I do not feel at all natural holding babies and I'm actually scared I will drop them or hurt them. I'd like to think that if I had my own baby, I would get comfortable really quickly. But as for now, I'm very awkward with babies and small children.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Video Gait Analysis

Several of my teammates had their running gait professionally analyzed by Dr. Maggs, a sports chiropractor, and provider of other rehab services, and I thought it would be beneficial for me to have my gait assessed as well. I mainly wanted to understand how I could run more efficiently and reduce injuries.

The process was a quick warmup around the parking lot for about 1/3 mile so that I could get into my natural stride, and then Dr. Maggs would take video of my running from different angles. Here's the video:

And here is another video from a different angle. I feel like the camera is adding 10 pounds here. I swear I don't look that heavy in person!!!

I know this isn't supposed to be a vanity video, but I can't help thinking that it highlights my extra energy stores.

Anyway, after the video was recorded we watched the play back in slow motion, frequently pausing the video. The main area for improvement was my hips. I'm lacking in hip flexor and glute strength so when I land, my opposite hip droops down out of alignment. He said that this is a moderate problem and that it's more noticeable in other runners, but it's definitely something that should be addressed. I do it more when I land on my left foot, resulting in my left foot pronating more than my right foot. He told me I looked completely neutral in my right foot and that the Brooks Adrenalines are probably too much stability for me.

His theory on my peroneal tendon issue is that I don't pronate on the right foot so my stability shoe is causing supination (the opposite of pronation). While I can see how this might be contributing, I ran far more miles in 2010 in the Adrenaline than I am currently running with no injuries. I think my foot slapping correction is the more direct cause, although eventually I might move away from the Adrenaline.

Dr. Maggs gave me a series of strengthening exercises for my glutes and hip flexors that specifically mimic running motion. He said that you cannot consciously change this gait issue-- you simply need more strength and targeted exercises. This is good because the last time I consciously changed my gait I ended up with Peroneal issues! Eventually he thinks I can move to a more minimalist shoe once I correct the hip weakness. I started the exercises last week and will continue to do them. I just worry about overdoing it and being sore for a run.

The good news is that overall I have good running form. He says that my cadence is close to perfect and my posture is excellent (thank you ballet!) He said if he had to nit-pick, I was over-striding very slightly, but it was barely noticeable. I was really expecting there to be all sorts of problems, but I was happy to learn that I only have one real area for improvement.

Here is a link to the gait analysis results for Katie, Amy, and Cristina.

Update on the foot. I took six full days off of running (I did pool running, swimming and the elliptical instead). On Thursday, I ran 4 easy miles near my gym so I could hop on the elliptical immediately after for a "tempo".  I was 100% pain free during the run and for the rest of the day. Today, I did feel a hint of "something's there" when I woke up, but now it's silent. In fact, it's been the trend that I feel "something there" every morning, but it vanishes completely by noon. So as I write this, there isn't even a hint of anything in my leg or my foot. I am planning on running 18 miles tomorrow, but I am fully prepared to cut that run short at the first hint of anything.