Saturday, April 28, 2012

Workouts Galore

Time for a good ol' fashion workout recap post. I haven't blogged much about my training lately.

I've had some great workouts recently, primarily the ones with my team-- Capital Area Runners. Given how warm it was this winter and earlier in the season, I've been pleasantly surprised by the perfect running weather we've had over the past few weeks. I'm still having to wear gloves and long sleeves on some of my runs, and I love that!

I'll focus on my three "quality" workouts over the past week.

Sunday, April 22: 10-mile Progression Run
I was registered for the GW Parkway Classic 10-miler. My coach suggested that instead of racing it, that I make it into a quality workout. The race course is on a concrete surface (not as much "give" as asphalt) with a lot of rolling hills so it can really trash the legs. Since I already had a solid 10-mile PR for the season, I was totally fine with not racing this one all out. Greg didn't want to race it at full effort either, so we ran together.

My coach's suggestion was to run the first 3 miles as an easy warmup, the next 3 at marathon pace, and the last 4 at half marathon/10-mile race pace. I was more than happy to comply and Greg ran it with me at these paces.

We got to the race, it was drizzling and in the mid 50's. We ran a 15-minute warmup just to get some extra mileage in, since this race was in place of a long run.

Mile 1: 8:16
Mile 2: 8:25
Mile 3: 8:35

It looks like I went out too fast here, but the first mile is entirely downhill and I always run based on effort. If it was an uphill mile, it probably would have been 9:16.

Mile 4: 8:19
Mile 5: 8:14
Mile 6: 7:47

Mile 6 was another completely downhill mile, so even though it looks to be much faster than MP, the effort was consistent with miles 4 and 5.

Mile 7: 7:42
Mile 8: 7:47
Mile 9: 7:55
Mile 10: 7:33

Mile 9 sucked. It was mainly uphill and there was a noticeable headwind. I was actually pretty discouraged that I wasn't running any faster here. After all, my 10-mile PR pace is 7:34, and I couldn't even do 4 miles at that pace?! But I eventually came to my senses and realized that tempo pace is tempo pace. It's going to be hard even if you haven't just come off 7 previous miles at that pace. Especially up a hill.

My finish time was 1:20:48 at an average pace of 8:05. I was disappointed in my last few miles, but when I woke up the next morning and my legs didn't feel even a hint of soreness, I realized that I definitely could have run harder, and it was good that I didn't overexert myself. My coach also pointed out that my first mile of the "easy warmup" section was faster than the first mile of the MP section, which wasn't according to the plan. Of course I retorted that it was a downhill, but I probably should have saved up more juice.

Tuesday, April 24: Track Intervals
I had such a great workout just two days after the 10-miler, that I was even more satisfied with my decision to not race the 10-miler. I was happy to have peppy legs and plenty of energy left to crank out some fast intervals. The workout was a ladder: 400m, 800m, 1200m, 1200m, 800m, 400m, with 1/2 distance recovery jogs.

 Interval   Duration  Distance (miles) Pace
 1  1:35 400m 6:17
 2  3:18 800m 6:37
 3 4:59 1200m 6:40
 4  4:59 1200m 6:40
 5   3:14 800m 6:28
 6  1:28 400m 5:54 

Interestingly, the 1200m intervals were close in pace to the 800's. One thing I've noticed about my running is that I am able to maintain a challenging pace for a good distance, but it's hard for me to speed up. I've run quite a few races where I felt like I could have continued on for another mile or so at my pace, but I just couldn't push it any faster. This summer, I am hoping to push more for speed with shorter track intervals and short races.

Even though lately I've been excelling more at shorter distances, I think my body is built more for endurance than speed. When I had a VO2 max test, the exercise physiologist said that I was in the 10% of runners who actually do better in longer races. This is because my body works aerobically at a higher percentage of my max heart rate. Ironically, I have yet to prove this with the marathon, but a few years back, my longer races were always "faster" than my shorter ones, according to the various calculators. I've often set shorter distance PRs within longer races.

Ultimately, it's hard to truly figure it out because so much depends on what your body is capable of on that particular day. There's really a lack of research and studies on many things regarding running performance because you can never replicate racing conditions 100%. Okay, enough of that tangent. Point is, I want to be able to push harder in shorter races.

Friday, April 27: Tempo Run
My coach had most of us run a 5K tempo on the track. I really like the idea of a 5K tempo versus just 3 miles, because then you can really practice hammering that last 0.1. My target tempo pace for a 5K is around 7:11, but lately I haven't been paying much attention to targets (all of the above paces were faster than target) and running based on feel.

Mile 1: 7:11
Mile 2: 7:10
Mile 3: 7:03
0.1: (6:35 pace)

My time was 22:03, which was a bit surprising to me given the effort level. I didn't feel like I was really pushing until the last two laps, and my heart rate stayed at the lower end of my tempo range. It certainly wasn't easy-- tempo runs never are. I practiced staying focused and relaxed and that helped the laps fly by.

This morning I woke up and my legs felt like new, which further validated that even though I ran my fastest tempo ever, I didn't overdo it. I went out for 11 miles at a moderate pace and it felt fantastic. I can't emphasize enough how much I love this cool weather!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Musical Letdowns-- and a few diamonds

This post doesn’t have much to do with running, unless you consider the fact that I sometimes (although rarely) run with music.  Back in the days of MySpace when my blog reached a private audience, I would post about everything and anything—not just running. Music was a popular topic. But now that the blog is “out there” for anyone to read, I typically keep my posts strictly running related.

I just purchased the new Jason Mraz album and I honestly cannot believe how someone so talented could reduce  himself to this. In fact, 4 out of the past 6 albums I’ve purchased have been real let-downs. Bands who used to totally rock my world now reduced to easy listening or elevator music.  I’ll start with Mraz.

Complete Flop: Jason Mraz—Love is a Four Letter Word
I’m sorry, but this album sucks. There’s just no other way to put it. It might be good for if I was trying to fall asleep or something, but compared to his former peppy self, it is a huge disappointment. His lyrics used to be so clever and witty. His music and tones so complex and stylish. Now, it’s this half country-half folk style. Overly simplistic lyrics and melodies, which he probably thought would bring him more success after the sing-songy “I’m Yours” from 2008. That song brought him a huge amount of popularity, but it really took him down a few notches in my eyes. Bring back the days of “Geek in the Pink” and “The Remedy”.  I even loved his slower stuff like “The Boy’s Gone” and “Plane”. It was so powerful and full of emotion. Where is all the emotion now?

Let’s do a comparison of lyrics, then and now.

“Too Much Food” from 2003:
Believe it or not I super sized my sights on the surprise in the cereal box
My stomach’s smaller than my eyes
so I went to see the doctor and he said "turn your head and then cough"
I didn't listen to what he said instead I couldn't wait to get off

“The World as I see it” from 2012
No it’s not hard for me to love you
Hard for me to love you
No it’s not a difficult thing.
It’s not hard for me to love you
Hard for me to love you

“Tonight Not Again” from 2003
The night.
She brushed her hands upon my flushed cheek
Smelled of childhood remnants of a dusty weeping willow
Clouds soothe, Shredded by the calico
Were oh so vast and quick as I was on my own now.

“Frank D. Fixer” From 2012
I wish I was a fixer
I would fix you up inside
I would build you a town if the world fell down
I wish I was that guy

It’s like he went from the vocabulary of a fine arts major to that of a 3rd grader.

Plain Vanilla: Incubus- If Not Now When?
Another CD to put me to sleep. With the exception of two songs, this CD is another snoozer. What happened to songs like “Anna Molly” that really revved you up? Or even something more mellow that “Drive” that at least had a solid melody and some good lyrics. Until now, I’ve really enjoyed all of the Incubus CDs. But this one is so boring.  “Isadore” has a nice sound to it and “Switchblade” is typical Incubus style, but the rest of the CD bores me to tears.

Just Annoying: Coldplay- Mylo Xyloto
I was hesitate to purchase this album because this band has been going downhill for awhile now. Nothing will ever be like Parachutes, but the last few CDs have been real let downs. I have to say that Mylo Xyloto gets the award for worst Coldplay album to date. Even with the previous CD, there were two songs that I absolutely loved. On this CD, most of the songs I can’t even bear to listen to they are so annoying. The song “Major Minus” is a major exception. It has an awesome sound to it, and I highly recommend you check it out.

Lacks Energy: Jimmy Eat World- Invented
I was worried that this album wouldn’t be any good and I was right. “My Best Theory” which was blasted all over the local radio stations is a great song, but the rest of the album doesn’t follow suit. None of the other songs have the energy of “My Best Theory”. I really loved Jimmy Eat World’s previous mellow songs, but this CD is primarily of the mellow nature and most of the songs are just boring. I’ll admit that some of them grew on me, like “Movielike”. The Jimmy  Eat World CD is far better than what Coldplay put out. But still, a definite let down from classics like “Bleed American” and “Futures”.

I absolutely love this CD. . . . Red Hot Chili Peppers—I’m With You.
Finally, an album that is just as good, if not better, than its predecessors. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been around since the late 1980's and I think they are better than ever now. Californication from 1999 was an obsession of mine, and when By The Way came out in 2002 I was even more obsessed. Stadium Arcadium was good, although there were a few songs I didn't like. But I'm With You has brought me back into full obsession mode.  Favorites include Factory of Faith, Happiness Loves Company, Even You Brutus and Monarchy of Roses. I highly, highly recommend this CD.

A Must-Have: Foo Fighters--Wasting Light
I love this CD. Usually the Foo Fighters' albums are about 50-50 for me, but on this CD, I like almost every song. "Walk" has an amazing build, "Bridge Burning" is something I can totally get into, and "Dear Rosemary" just has a lot of good emotion.

I noticed that all of my new music purchases have been from artists who have been around for a long time. Maybe I just need to embrace some emerging artists and figure out who's just coming onto the scene.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

13 Hours, Two 5Ks

I set a new PR for myself in terms of number of races completed in a 13-hour period. Two 5Ks! Why this madness? See explanation below.

My Sister's First Race
After never having run more than a mile in her life, my sister enrolled in a boot camp last fall with her friends. Naturally slender, her nickname in high school was "bones" and she never had to worry about her weight. She's one of those women that you envy because they can eat and drink whatever they want, pop out three children and still look amazing! She decided to join boot camp to improve her overall fitness and she's been religious about going to the weekly sessions. My sister and I have practically nothing in common, so I was thrilled to see her taking a liking to running.

Her boot camp instructor got her up to running 7 miles nonstop, and convinced her to run this 10K race with others in her group. So several months ago, she told me that she was going to be running her first race ever-- the Brambleton Ribbon Run 10K. She asked if Greg and I wanted to join, so we registered for the corresponding 5K.

Crystal Run 5K Friday
Fast forward a few months and I realize that it's also Crystal Run 5K Friday season, and yesterday was the only Friday where it really fit in with my training/racing schedule. (Although arguably it didn't fit in because I was already registered for a 5K today, but let's forget about that for a moment). I love the 5K Friday races, and I have done at least one per year since they started in 2009. It's great because you can run a 5K on Friday and be recovered in time for a Sunday long run.

I ended up picking the perfect Friday. Quite a few of my teammates were also running, and my coach came out to cheer us on. There was very little wind, which is rare for this race. There are a lot of tall buildings, so I often find myself fighting the wind during this race. It was sunny and 65, which is too hot for my liking, but about half the course was shaded by the buildings, and my coach told me that I could definitely race a strong 5K in that weather. I needed to get it out of my head that I couldn't do it.

My only time goal was to break 22:00. My PR is 21:29 from last fall, so I felt like it shouldn't be too difficult to do. I certainly was not trying for PR because I didn't want to go all out and my PR was set in 40-degree weather. I warmed up with one of my teammates and felt extremely relaxed beforehand. The focus was on being there with my teammates and running strong.

Mile 1: 7:07
The race started and it was crowded. These races have gotten extremely popular over the past three years and even though I started near the front, it was difficult to run at the pace I wanted. I was with two of my teammates for the first half mile, and then I decided to pull ahead. At mile marker 1, I realized one of the teammates (Jessica) was still with me and knowing that she is about my pace, decided to try and stick with her. I normally like to run my own race, but I have lately discovered the power that comes from running with others. I knew that Jessica was strong and fast, so I decided to feed off of her energy and make sure I kept up with her. It's hard to say who was doing the pacing, but we ran lock step for pretty much the rest of the race.

Mile 2: 7:02
We were able to go faster now that it wasn't so crowded. I felt myself push harder and it was good. I felt like the first mile was too easy and the whole time I kept thinking: "this is tempo effort, this is nowhere near 5K pace". So being able to finally push felt good.

Mile 3: 7:01
Still with Jessica, we pushed through and maintained a steady pace. We were passing a lot of people and believe it or not, we still had to weave! With about 1/3 mile left to go, I turned on the gas and went for it. I felt Jessica fall behind but just focused on running hard to the finish. I ran past my coach and other spectating teammates and got an extra boost. They were yelling at me to break 22:00. I hadn't been thinking about my time at all during the race, just the effort level. But if I had thought about it, I would have realized how dangerously close I was to 22.

Last 0.13: 6:26 pace
The only thing I don't like about this race is that the finish line is up a hill and around a curve and the surface is a bit uneven. I like to see the finish line way out in front of me and let it pull me in. But I gunned it in, stopped my watch and thought for sure I had a 21:59. The official results said 22:00, and that irked me. I know it's just one second, but I was giving myself a 31-second window of of my PR and I didn't do it.

Jessica crossed immediately after me and told me that I really helped pull her through. I thought that she really helped me! The power of teamwork! It was a strong race-- well executed and fun, but I didn't feel the pain that I do when I go all out in a 5K. Granted, I wasn't really planning on going all out anyway, but not getting that sub-22:00 just left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied.

It was a course PR by 18 seconds so I am not complaining. I just thought I could have done better.

I got very little sleep that night. I always workout in the morning, and never have a problem falling asleep by 9:00. But last night, I was amped. I fell asleep at 10:15 and woke up at 3:30am with that adrenaline rush feeling. I was awake until about 5:00am, and then the alarm went off at 5:45 for the next race.

Brambleton Ribbon Run
When I decided to do the Crystal Run 5K, I told myself that I would do the Brambleton run as an easy run at my easy training pace. And if my legs were at all sore, I would just spectate. But I woke up with legs feeling fresh. This kind of bugged me because it was yet another reminder that I didn't push myself like I could have in last night's run and I still had the urge for speed.

Greg and I got to the race and warmed up. It was sunny and high 40's-- beautiful weather for a 5K. During the warmup, my legs couldn't at all feel the effects of the 5K, so I decided that I would run this race at a harder effort than training pace. I had run this course on New Year's eve and did horribly. I ran my slowest 5K in years because I went out too fast on the first hill and blew up. I was also coming off of an injury, so I wasn't in the best shape.

Mile 1: 7:20
The race starts on a long uphill (about 2/3 mile uphill). I went out feeling relaxed, not pushing anything and decided I would just run by feel. I reached mile 1 with plenty of energy and legs still feeling strong, so I decided that this would be a tempo run.

Mile 2: 7:19
My tempo pace for a 5K on the track is about 7:10, so on a hilly course I thought that keeping it just under 7:20 would be good. But I really was not at all concerned with time. I did look at my Garmin for curiosity's sake a few times, but I just kept the effort level steady. I had no goal other than to maintain tempo effort. Clearly I was not in need of a tempo workout, but I just wanted the mental practice of staying strong. Plus, I had fun passing people.

Mile 3: 7:14
There's another nasty hill that's about 1/3 of a mile toward the end of this race and it hurts every time I do this course. I'm almost always forced to slow down. But this time, I was actually able to maintain my pace (although the effort increased) and then enjoy the final downhill to the finish.

Last 0.13: 6:22 pace
I find it interesting that my final kick today was actually faster than it was last night. But I attribute that to the fact that Crystal City has that uphill turning finish, and Brambleton is more of a straightaway.

My time was 22:41, placing 4 out of 176 in my age group. Ironically, when I ran this course on New Year's eve, I was slower and placed 3rd in my age group. I guess you never know who's going to show up. I do feel like I got my revenge on this course. My time wasn't fantastic, but I didn't blow up by going out to fast, and this was all within 13 hours of another 5K race.

Greg has been sick all week, so he also treated the race like a tempo, running a 22:30. He, however, did not partake in the Crystal City run. It was a strong run for him after 5 days of no running. I'm so glad he's on the mend!

My Sister's Finish
I watched with excitement as the 10K runners came in, looking for my sister. She and two of her friends came in at about 1:04, looking strong and happy. I was so excited for her! I think I almost have her convinced to run the Army 10-miler with her friends. She thinks that 10 miles sounds like a long way, but I assured her that by October, she could definitely be in shape for it.

What else is in store for me this weekend? I actually have a long run planned with my teammates for tomorrow. I hope my legs don't fall off because we are planning to go quite far. But I'm glad I'm pushing the envelope. My legs feel great, I don't feel any aches or pains, so I think I will okay in terms of not getting injured. I'm taking the "just go with it approach" and really enjoying it.

Jessica (in blue) and I ran the Crystal City 5K Lock Step!