Thursday, June 27, 2013

Beating The Heat with a Frozen Drink Pre-run

I once read somewhere that quickly drinking a slushy-type beverage shortly before a race or workout in warm conditions can help performance by cooling the body's core temperature. I had always wanted to try this, but it's not always convenient to pop into a 7-11 immediately before a race or run.

Since you're not supposed to do anything new on race day, I figured I would try drinking a frozen beverage before this morning's workout. My coach recently started hosting workouts very close to my current office location. This is kind of ironic because I will be changing jobs in two weeks, which will put me only one mile away from the regular team workouts that have been going on for years.

The meeting spot for today's workout was in front of a Panera. I figured this would be a perfect occasion to drink a slushy just minutes before a warm weather workout. Not only that, but this meeting spot is also the exact same location as the 4th of July race I am running next week. So I will have access to that same Panera, and I confirmed that they will be open on the 4th. The plan would be to warm up for a mile or so, get the frozen drink about 15-20 minutes before race start, drink it quickly and then be ready to race.

My beverage of choice was the frozen lemonade. It seemed like it would be pretty easy on the stomach and
Panera Frozen Lemonade
that the consistency would be good-- not too heavy or too thin. I purchased it, and started drinking it as quickly as was comfortable. One of my teammates approached me and I told her what I was doing. I was really excited to finally try this out, after having heard of it a long time ago.

Shortly after I finished, I noticed that my teeth were chattering and I was getting goosebumps. Yes! I really did feel like my core body temperature had dropped. It was actually a bit uncomfortable waiting for the rest of the group to arrive while not moving around.

It was a small group today-- 5 runners plus the coach. We jogged out to the W&OD trail (a paved biking/running trail with mile markers) and did about a 2-mile warmup. And then we talked about the workout. It would be three 1-mile repeats, back and forth on the trail with about five minutes of recovery in between.

Our coach briefly discussed a pacing goal for each of us. Last week I had run a two-mile tempo run at a pace of 7:12, so this week he thought that 7:00 would be a good target for my mile repeats. I honestly hand't anticipating my pace being that fast. It was warmer and more humid than it had been last week, so I figured I would be lucky just to match my 7:12 pace.

Of the five of us runners, the coach decided to pace me for all three repeats. I wasn't sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing because that 7:00 pace sure was intimidating, and I didn't want to disappoint!  The trail is a little hilly, with the first mile being a net downhill, the second a net uphill, and the third a net downhill. But all three miles have their fair share of ups and downs!

Mile 1: 6:57
I didn't look at my Garmin here and just trusted the coach. It actually felt relaxed and somewhat easy until the final uphill, when I let out my gaspy scream that happens when I am working hard. My coach told me to  keep my breathing controlled and that wouldn't happen. Interesting revelation. I never thought I could control the grunts and screams that I let out, but apparently it's a product of my breathing not being even and it also causes uneven breathing- making it a cycle. Now I have a new "process" goal as opposed to always thinking about time goals!

Mile 2: 7:01
This was much harder than the first mile since it was a net uphill. If I had been pacing myself, it probably would have fallen closer to the 7:10-7:15 range. But the coach pushed me on the hills and we maintained the pace. I typically slow down a little on uphills and speed up on downhills, but instead I kept the pace even and it worked out well. By the end of this one, I was beat!

Mile 3: 6:50
This was the exact same mile as the first one, so I knew what elevation profile to expect. Since I pushed pretty hard on the second mile, I was worried I wouldn't have enough left here. But the first half of the mile felt nice and relaxed, and it wasn't until the second half that I felt like I was really working. I was shocked to see the 6:50 when we finished the mile.

Then we cooled down and jogged back to the Panera. I think that my coach pacing me here was the largest factor in my success. I wouldn't have been as motivated on my own. And I also think that the frozen lemonade kept me from overheating, which I tend to do in workouts like these (70 degrees, 99% humidity).

This workout proved to me that I am in better shape than I previously thought. To run these kinds of paces in such weather and on hills is a huge confidence booster. These are the types of paces I would expect from a 45-degree day on a flat surface!  I'm therefore pretty optimistic about my upcoming 5K. If the weather is similar to how it was this morning, then I think a sub-22:00 is in the cards, which would be a "summer race" PR for me.

I am also excited to have a new non-time goal to focus on: breathing. I will try my best to focus on that and see if it helps. Another process goal would be to get energy from other runners. To find a runner who is running the pace I think I can run and then stay close to them.

And of course, the frozen lemonade will be a must!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New Career Opportunity and Fitting It All In

I was very fortunate to have an amazing career opportunity fall in my lap recently. At first I wasn't interested in pursuing it because I was happy in my current job and didn't see a need to make a move. However, the company changed my mind when they told me about how rapidly they were growing and how my role in marketing could really have an impact on that growth. I did some research and discovered that this was one of the "hottest" companies in the DC metro area and ranked across the board as a fantastic place to work. And they wanted me!

After a day of interviews with some of their senior leadership, I realized that this would be an amazing opportunity in so many ways. The people were all highly intelligent and driven, I would have a good sized team reporting to me, everyone seemed to really embrace the company's mission, and the company was a pioneer in its space. It's a young culture-- most of the employees are in their 20's, bringing a fresh perspective, and are eager to grow/learn.

Only this type of career opportunity could prompt me to change my lifestyle by exchanging my 20-minute,
no-traffic commute to one where I would potentially be sitting in traffic for over two hours each day. Thankfully, they have flex time and told me that I would be able to work from home once a week. It's definitely an office I would want to go into-- a fully stocked kitchen with organic fruits and veggies and juices. Catered lunches. A lounge area with couches where people hold meetings. Super casual attire. And a team of really energized people. I just needed to figure out how to best use the flex time.

Before I went into my interviews, I spent quite awhile "digesting" the possibility of this commute. Even though
This is typical traffic for the road I would need to take.
 the job is only 22 miles away, in rush hour, this would take 60-90 minutes each way, depending on how bad the traffic was. And actually, an hour-long commute wouldn't bother me too much if I was moving. But I have very little tolerance for traffic. I worked out all the various scenarios in my head of when I would come and go, which roads I would take, and when/where the running would occur.

Current Schedule
For the past few years, I have been waking up without an alarm at around 5:30, starting my runs at around 6:00, finishing at around 7:15, taking some post-run recovery time, showering, getting ready for work, and leaving at around 8:15. This gets me into work before 9:00. I work a full day, leave at a reasonable hour and have no traffic on the 20-minute drive home. Pretty simple and stress-free.

Monday: Medium long run (easy pace)
Tuesday: Intervals at the local track
Wednesday: Rest day
Thursday: Tempo run
Friday: Easy run
Saturday: Long run
Sunday: Easy run

Potential New Schedule
There won't be much "wiggle room" here and everything will have to be timed pretty precisely for things to work out. The goal is to get all my runs in, avoid rush hour traffic, and put in a full work week. I could not even imagine what I would do if I had kids!

Monday:  Easy run in the evening. Wake up at 5:00. Get ready for work. Leave the house at 5:40am, avoid most of the traffic, get into work at around 6:15. Work 9 hours (straight through lunch), leave at 3:15 to be able to take the HOV lanes inside of the beltway, get home at around 4:00. Run. Dinner. Relax. Bedtime at 8:30-9:00. 

For July and August, this evening run might need to be on a treadmill at a gym near my house. It can easily be in the 90's at 4:00, so I will have to seek out a treadmill for the summer months if that is the case. I would be done with the run and ready to have dinner with Greg by 5:30.

Tuesday: Intervals with my team in Arlington. Leave the house at 5:20am, avoid all of the traffic, arrive at the track just before 6:00. (The track is located close to my office). Run the intervals. Drive to my office, which has a locker room with showers, get ready for work, start the work day at 8:15. Work 7 hours (straight through lunch), leave at 3:15 and get home at 4:00. Work some more. Dinner. Relax. Bedtime!

I have now averaged 8 hours a day in the office, plus some additional time at home on Tuesday after work. Are we tired yet?

Wednesday: Rest day. Follow the same schedule as Monday (9 hours in the office), only no running in the evening. Instead, do some extra work when I get home while waiting for Greg to get home. 

Thursday: Medium Long Run & Work From Home.  Thursday is my day to really pack in the miles because I don't need to commute or even worry about doing my hair or makeup. I could run as many as 14 miles in the morning and still work a full day. From a work perspective, this would be the day when I focused on strategy and planning and documenting things that might be hard to do with my team around me. The office is one of those open environments where there are no cubicles and only the top 5-6 executives actually have offices. So it will be nice to have some quiet time for things that require a great deal of focus without interruption. I imagine I would be working more than 8 hours this day, too!

Friday: Tempo run with my team in Arlington. Repeat the Tuesday schedule. 7 hours in the office to balance out Wednesday's 9. 

Saturday: Long Run. I normally give myself an easy day between tempo and long run, but I have successfully run 20+ milers the day after a strong tempo, so I am not really worried. I do not want to become a Sunday long runner because I like to get it done with first thing and then relax for the rest of the weekend.

Sunday: Easy Run. If I am feeling good, I can maybe tack on the few miles that I missed from Monday's run because it was too hot to do the whole thing or I got bored on the treadmill. :-)

I think this schedule is completely workable. I know that there will be very little traffic to contend with on Tuesday and Friday mornings because I have done those workouts many times in the past. Hopefully leaving just 20 minutes later on the other days won't make things completely change. I also don't know what the commute home will look like. I think that my 3:15 departure will help me avoid most traffic and get me home by 4:00.  

The company's fully stocked kitchen will help in terms of me not having to worry about packing breakfasts and snacks and such. The locker room is also a huge help. Plus, there's a gym inside of the building in case I ever need a treadmill before or after work. This might come in handy in the winter.

In terms of the career opportunity, it's an amazing one and I plan to work really hard and put in extra hours at home when needed. I do believe that working more hours doesn't equate with better quality work, but I realize that sometimes longer hours are needed to get the job done. I prefer to be as efficient as possible during the workday so I can take full advantage of my relaxation time, and then be able to focus on working efficiently the next day. 

I'll end with a funny story. I had all of my interviews back-to-back in one single day. Within 30 minutes of leaving the office, they called me and told me they would be extending me an offer. I called Greg, told him all about it, and he was really happy for me. That evening, a pair of running shoes that I had ordered online arrived on the front porch in a white box. As I carried them inside, Greg asked me what the box was. I said, jokingly, "it's my job offer". He said something to the effect of "Really! Wow!" And then I told him I was totally kidding. How could they have mailed me something that fast? But Greg reminded me that this was a pretty innovative company.

Then a few days later, a white box of the same size arrived at the door step and Greg brought it into the house. "What's that?" I said. "It's your job offer," he replied. I totally didn't believe him. I thought it must be something else I ordered online and forgot about. But then he said "seriously, it's from them." I opened the box and it was a congratulatory bottle of champagne! How ironic! And what a nice touch from the company. 

The new job starts on July 8, so I am going to enjoy the last few weeks of my current job and the relaxed running schedule. And then, my new journey begins! 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Running in the Outer Banks

Greg and I were in the Outer Banks of North Carolina this week on vacation. We were supposed to be there from Sunday-Sunday, but a tropical storm came through and booted us out. It wasn't a mandatory evacuation, but we realized on Thursday evening that Friday and Saturday would not be suitable beach days with rain, thunderstorms, and high winds. So we left last night and beat the traffic and downpour that we would have undoubtedly faced today or tomorrow.

Soft-Shell Crab Sandwich
When we arrived on Sunday, the first order of business was lunch. I had read great reviews online about the Blue Moon Beach Grill, so when we passed it on the road, I suggested we stop. I loved this place. I normally shy away from fried food, but I had to make an exception in this case and get a soft-shell crab sandwich. It was huge, fried, and wonderful. Their fries are made fresh to order and were some of the best I ever had.

After lunch, we went to the grocery store and stocked up on food. We were renting a condo that had a full kitchen so we wanted to take advantage of that. We finally arrived at the condo, unpacked the car and were ready to relax.

We ate dinner on our balcony which faced the ocean. It was a spectacular view and the weather was beautiful.

Monday: 10 Miles Easy
My first order of business on Monday morning was to get my run in before the sun got too high in the sky. It was a rest day for Greg, who is coming back from injury, so I was alone for this run. Our condo was conveniently located at the start of a bike/walking path that ran next to the "Beach Road". It was pancake flat and far enough from the road to be safe.

The first half of this run was directly into a sustained headwind of about 15 miles per hour. Any fantasies I had about one day running the Outer Banks marathon quickly faded as I realized how windy it could get. It was also warm and humid, but the clouds gave me relief from any sun. I was so happy to turn around after five miles and have the wind at my back. It turned into a completely different run.

The Ship's Wheel "Hot Cakes"
Afterwards, Greg and I had breakfast at the Ship's Wheel restaurant, across the street from our condo. According to my father, they make "the world's greatest hot cakes". I hadn't had them in nearly 10 years, and it was nice to have them again. That's the great thing about logging high mileage on vacation-- you can eat as much of the yummy, unhealthy food as you want!

Unfortunately, it rained for the entire rest of the day, so we got no beach time. We walked around some shopping plazas, and I even built a zebra at one of those "Build-A-Bear" type places.

We bought fresh scallops from a local seafood market for dinner, and had dinner inside the condo, as it was still raining. I didn't mind the rain too much, I was just happy to be on vacation with Greg.

Tuesday: 7.2 miles, including 6 x 800m
Greg suggested that we look to see if there was a nearby track. I initially thought I would just skip intervals
The 6th 800m interval

this week, but when we found a track just three miles away, I was happy to get them in.

I warmed up for a mile and a half and then started the intervals. The first 3 intervals were hot and sunny. And then some clouds rolled in which cooled me down a little, but also brought winds. Even though I was a bit cooler, the wind prevented me from going any faster on the next 3 intervals. In cool, non-windy weather, I consistently run 800's between 3:15-3:20. On Tuesday, my times were 3:25-3:30, which I think is good given the weather.

It was Greg's first interval workout since his injury so he only did 3 of them, and then took photos of me afterwards. It felt awesome to have those intervals out of the way! I was pleased with my performance-- especially after having run 10 miles the day before.

Afterwards, we found a coffee shop where they had fancy coffee drinks, like "S'mores" and "The Somoan" (like the Girl Scout cookie). Why can't they have places like that around here? I decided on the S'mores and went back the next day for the Somoan.

Mutiny Bay Mini Golf
Finally, after having been in the Outer Banks for nearly 48 hours, it was time to go on the beach! It was a windy day, but sunny. I was insistent on getting a tan and I sprayed SPF 15 all over myself. Unfortunately, spray sunscreen doesn't work very well when it's windy outside so I ended up with a pretty nasty burn on my knee and upper shin, as well as parts of my back.

We went out for dinner that evening and then played miniature golf. It totally reminded me of my childhood when I just loved miniature golf. It was one of my most favorite things about the beach.

Wednesday: Rest Day!
Wednesday was National Running Day, and I didn't run. I don't think I have run on the past few National Running Days either. Wednesday is typically a rest day for me, so I think of it as proper recovery so that I can continue to run un-injured. Plus, one of my friends called me that afternoon looking for training advice for  her next half marathon and so I was able to help her with her running. Greg, however, got in a nice 5-miler while I relaxed inside the condo.

Wednesday was another nice day at the beach, although a bit windy. Greg stayed sheltered under the umbrella and I smothered myself in sunscreen (not the spray kind) in hopes of evening out my burn/tan. I put SPF 50 on the areas that were burned, and 15 on the areas that were not. This worked somewhat, but not entirely. We were out in the sun for about 4 hours, and spent the rest of the day relaxing inside.

Thursday: 8.8 miles, including 4 tempo
Thursday was tempo day. I woke up naturally at around 5:30 and was out the door at around 6:00. It was a rest day for Greg, so I was on my own again. The sun was strong and I was very glad that I got out when I did, while the oceanfront properties were shielding me from the sun. It was about 70 degrees and humid.

I ran on the same path as Monday-- 4.4 out and 4.4 back. I knew I had run 7.2 on Tuesday, so this was my way of rounding things out. The first 2.4 miles were a warm up and the last 2.4 miles were a cool down. The middle tempo miles were 7:44, 7:40, 7:44, 7:38. I focused on keeping my heart rate in the LT zone and everything felt great. I loved running on such a flat, straight surface with no turns. My typical tempo route has some inclines and turns, so this was a nice change. Thankfully, it wasn't windy. I definitely think I am acclimating to the warmer weather, because this is only about 20-25 seconds per mile slower than my "cool weather" tempo pace. A few weeks ago, I was about 45 seconds per mile slower.

It felt great to have the tempo run out of the way. I didn't waste any time post-run heading straight to the
beach. I knew that it was only going to be sunny in the morning hours and I wanted to enjoy it as much as possible while I could.

Thursday morning was the nicest beach weather we had. High 70's and not much wind. Greg finally wasn't cold underneath the shade of his umbrella. A good portion of our beach time was spent with me reading a book aloud to Greg. Yes, he knows how to read, but this was good bonding for us. Plus, I enjoy reading out loud. Remarkably, I have read him over 250 pages of a 900 page book. We plan to keep  it going until the book is finished.

Later in the day, it started to rain and reports of Tropical Storm Andrea were all over the news. They weren't evacuating, but we knew that Friday and Saturday wouldn't be beach-able. So we made an on-the-spot decision to leave and hopefully beat the traffic and weather.

Friday: 5.5 miles easy
This morning we were back running around our local streets. It was sad to have cut the vacation short, but we still took the day off work and spent it relaxing together.

All in all, it was a relaxing and fun vacation with some new running scenery to boot!