Sunday, February 23, 2020

Boston Marathon 2020: 8 weeks to go

Since recovering from my posterior tibialis tendonitis injury, my training has really taken off. I kicked things off with a 10K on February 2, and then I got back into the full swing of marathon training. Boston is now 8 weeks away and my training for the past four weeks looks like this:

From a weekly mileage standpoint, the ramp-up looks like this:

Week of Jan 20: 35.1
Week of Jan 27: 44.7
Week of Feb 3: 58.0
Week of Feb 10: 61.9
Week of Feb 17: 73.5

This might seem like I ramped up too quickly but in late December and early January, I had been logging substantial mileage. It took me a full month to get back to where I had been before the 5 days off I took.

Training Highlights
My two most recent long runs have been very encouraging. As I discovered during my 10K, my endurance didn't seem to suffer from the time off. Therefore, when it came time to run 15 miles and then 19 miles, my legs performed really well. 

Last weekend, I was prescribed 2 hours at a pace between 7:55-8:05. It was a perfect-weather morning and Greg and I ran together on the W&OD. We ended up doing a progression run from 8:25 down to 7:33, with an average pace of 7:53. I was very pleased with that. My legs felt energized the whole way through and there were some notable hills, too!

On Thursday of this week, I was prescribed 3 x 3 miles at half marathon effort with a mere 3 minutes recovery jog in between. The splits were:

6:57, 6:50, 6:50
6:52, 6:48, 6:50
6:52, 6:52, 6:55

I was very pleased with how everything felt and that I didn't feel like I was REALLY pushing until the last two miles. Including warm up and cool down, this was 13.6 miles on Thursday.

Thursday, Feb. 20
And then, just two days later, I went out for 19 miles. Yikes. Instead of hunting hills I ran a flatter route than usual to give my legs a break. I didn't expect this to be a progression and at the start of it I told myself the only goal was to get the miles done. I started at a pace of 8:37 and finish in the 7:40s, averaging 8:05 for the 19 miles. This was one of those runs that I just went on autopilot. At mile 12 I thought I would be in serious trouble come mile 16 based on how tired my legs were. But the run continued to be manageable, although uncomfortable.  I told myself I could stop at 17 miles-- that would be plenty considering I had only done 15 the weekend before. But then I got to 16 and bargained with myself to get to 18. And of course once I got to 18, I realized I would be able to run one more. So, 19 miles at an average pace of 8:05 just two days after 9 miles at half marathon pace!

I think that this type of thing will really build fitness so long as I can stay healthy. I did a recovery run today and even though my legs were dead, I was able to get through it without anything feeling off or painful. Including my foot!

And before moving on to the next topic, I would like to thank the weather gods for perfect weather during nearly all of my hard workouts this season. It has only snowed once, and it was a very small amount. I know many people are unhappy about this, but it has been great for my training. The irony is that I just got a treadmill over the summer and fully expected to get some use out of it this winter. But it has not been necessary. The worst I have dealt with is cold rain and wind, which isn't pleasant, but it's definitely manageable.

Up Next: The One City Half Marathon
I'm guessing my coach bumped me up to 19 miles yesterday because I have a half marathon next weekend, which is 7 weeks out from Boston. So after that, there won't be many weekends left for long runs. Especially considering I am also running the Cherry Blossom 10-miler.

I posted my half marathon pace workout to a running forum an the feedback I received from multiple experienced runners was that if I can average a pace of 6:52 for 9 miles in training, which I did, I should definitely be able to hold that in a half marathon race, and probably faster. That seems really intimidating to me, but logically it should be true. Especially since my legs were then able to handle 19 miles two days later. I didn't kill myself during that workout to get to those paces.

So that means I could likely run a sub 1:30 half marathon on Sunday. The weather is looking close to ideal (28 degrees at the start, 33 at the finish) so it really could be my day to crush it. I have an "elite" bib so I'm going to work hard to live up to that bib! Right now I think I will start the race at a pace of just under 7:00 and try to be in the high 6:40's by the end of the race.

I was recently interviewed on the Run Farther & Faster podcast about my experience with the Nike Vaporfly Next%. Given that I have two pairs of these shoes with only 45 miles each on them, will I
Saturday, Feb. 22
wear them again?

For the half marathon, I will be wearing the Adidas Adios 4. It's the same shoe I wore for the 10K and it's really light. I like to be able to feel the ground under my feet, and I can't do that in the Vaporfly.

As for Cherry Blossom and Boston, I am not sure. I think I will probably stick to the Adios for Cherry Blossom, and only use the Vaporfly Next% in Boston if my foot is feeling 100% recovered and the weather is good enough to PR in. I'm not going to risk injury unless I think I could run the race of my life!

After having run a 10K, 2 half marathons, and a full marathon in the Vaporfly Next%, I don't think the shoe made me faster than I would have otherwise been. However, I recovered very quickly from both of those half marathons and was able to jump right back into training. And one of the benefits of the Nike Vaporfly is that your legs recover faster. Also, I did a 16 mile run with 13 at marathon pace and I felt like the shoes did take about 5 seconds per mile off my pace during that run. It was unbelievably fast. Of course-- the only time I experience their super speed powers is a training run! So. . . I am not giving up on the shoe entirely. Just for the immediate future.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Bust the Rust: 10K Race Report

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been struggling with Posterior Tibialis Tendonitis. This injury was the result of wearing the Nike Vaporfly Next% during the California International Marathon in December. I did not have the issue at the start line, but my arch was killing me immediately following the race.

As a result, I only ran 159 miles in January, where I planned to run around 260-270. Most of these miles were run at any easy pace. I did spend a fair amount of time pool running and swimming, but
there is no true substitute for actual speed work. I have been religious about doing my physical therapy exercises twice per day and as a result, my foot is feeling a lot better.

I didn't want to miss out on the For The Love of It 10K that was on my schedule. My coach and my physical therapist told me I could go ahead and run it. It would be a good test of my fitness, although possibly a humbling experience.

This 10K course is hilly and challenging. It's one of the most challenging 10K courses in the local area, and yet it's my PR course from 2017. Back in 2017, I was just four weeks out from the Myrtle Beach Marathon and I was in excellent shape. I ran a surprisingly fast 41:51, which I could not believe at the time. I ran three 10K races last year, all on faster courses when I was in peak condition, and still failed to beat that time. None of those courses had great weather, though. The trick is to get good weather, a fast course, and to be in good shape all at the same time. That's when PRs happen.

We had lovely weather this morning but I was not in my best shape. It was 35 degrees with winds of around 8 mph and party sunny. Before the foot injury, my goal was to PR and I believed I could crush my 2017 time. My revised goal was simply to push hard throughout the race and be proud of my effort. I hoped to break 43:00.

Regarding footwear. I really wanted to wear the pink Vaporfly Next% because they were pink and it was a Valentine's themed race. But of course, this is how I got my tendonitis so those shoes were out of the question. I wondered if I should wear my bulky stability shoes to ensure my foot wouldn't hurt, but my physical therapist said that firm, low-cushioned shoes were good. Thus, I turned to my trusty adidas adizero adios. A lightweight racing shoe with a firm ride and a touch of bounce.

Before the Race
Everything went smoothly before the race. Logistics were extremely easy, as the parking lot was just steps away from the school where we got our bibs, and the start line was right there too. This race has a history of being very cold, so it's helpful to have a school at the start and finish line. When I ran it in 2017 it was in the low 20s. Last year (when I did not run it) it was around 10 degrees and there was ice on the ground.

Anyway, Greg and I arrived at 7:20, got our bibs, pinned them on, and I took a small swig of Generation UCAN before starting the warm up. We only had time to run 1.6 miles for the warm up because we also had to use the bathrooms. 15 minutes before race start, I took a caffeinated Maurten gel for some extra pep.

We found Hannah, did a bit more warming up with her and then arrived at the start line with just two minutes to spare.

Miles 1-2
Since I had no idea what kind of shape I was in, I had no idea what pace I should go out at. Back in 2017, my first two miles were both 6:48. Due to my lack of volume, I wasn't certain I could hold that kind of pace so I thought somewhere around 6:55 would be good.

As the race started, I noticed that the pace felt controlled and smooth, and more like half marathon effort. Even though the first two miles were net uphill, I felt strong and I didn't feel like I was straining too much. I reached the first mile in 6:58 and I thought that would set me up well for the rest of the race. I told myself not to compare my splits to my 2017 splits, but since I knew what they were, it was hard not to do that. So as of mile 1, I was 10 seconds behind.

Mile 2 was also mostly uphill and it was hard. I focused on my form, engaging my glutes, using my arms, and staying mentally engaged. I didn't look at my watch but I felt really good. When it finally beeped, I saw that I had run a 7:13 mile, which I simply accepted as my fitness level. I was running hard and doing my best, so I didn't get discouraged by my pace.

Miles 3-4
End of mile 3, photo by Cheryl Young
These miles are the fastest of the race. I was able to pass a woman during the third mile, but a different woman passed me during the fourth mile. I had no idea how many women were ahead of me but I knew it was a competitive field for a local race.

Back in 2017, these miles were in the low 6:30s, so I was expecting a full downhill ride. Nope! Even though they were NET downhill, they had their fair share of ups!

During this portion of the race things got really tough and I started to wonder if I would be able to maintain this effort. I was giving so much of myself and I didn't know if it was sustainable. I refused to back off, though, because I knew that in that moment, I could do it, and I would do it as long as I could. These miles clocked in at 6:47 and 6:45.

Miles 5-Finish
I was mentally prepared for mile 5, which was my slowest mile back in 2017. I know-- I kept thinking about 2017! And I wasn's supposed to be doing that. But that was freakishly perfect execution and I was inspired by my former self! The hill was actually not as painful as I remembered it to be. I think I am generally a stronger hill runner now than I was back then, but it still created a slow down in my pace. 7:12. Okay, at least it wasn't slower than mile 2. This meant that I was maintaining my pace and not falling apart, as I feared I might.

The fact that I was definitely still holding on to both my effort and pace was a huge pick-me-up. I guess if you set the bar low and think you might bonk later in the race when it's mile 3, you get really excited to not be bonking at mile 5! I was exceeding expectations!

The final mile was painful. I gave it everything I had and did not back off. It started uphill but then had a nice downhill. And the last 300 meters were on the high school track. Oh the joy of a flat surface after constant rolling hills! I ran mile 6 in 7:04 and the final 0.26 (by my Garmin) at a pace of 6:36. Nobody was around me as I finished so I made sure to smile big for the photographer and really
Greg in the background!
take in that moment. There's nothing like that finish line feeling and I finished strong, knowing that I had given this race everything I had.

After the Race
My lungs were on fire for about 10 minutes after the race. I was so beat that I sat down on the field. It was a satisfying feeling, though! I reunited with Greg and Hannah. Greg ran 41:03 which was about 10 seconds slower than his time from 2017. No PR cake tonight, unfortunately. I also got to meet someone who I had been following on Strava for years, Bonnie. She introduced herself to me and it felt like we already knew each other! We all cheered Lisa in, and then we cooled down for 1.3 miles.

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
My official time was 43:43, which is far off from my sub-43:00 hope and very far off from my 41:51 course PR. But I wasn't as discouraged about this as I thought I might be. If someone had told me before the race that I would run 43:43, I would have been bummed out. But the fact that I held it together so well and didn't fade makes me believe my endurance is somewhat intact.

I was first place in my age group (40-44) out of 32 runners. I was the 13th overall female, which shows you just how competitive this race was for a local 10K. I am almost always one of the top 10 women in this race series by Potomac River Running but not today. I'm 41 now, and it won't be long before some fast ladies start entering my division, so I need to take advantage of this while I can!

Based on how the race felt, I think my speed has suffered from the lack of workouts but my endurance not as much. I would have expected it to be the other way around because my mileage was low, but my deep water running workouts were really intense. I believed I was maintaining my VO2 max, but letting my endurance slip.

I think that regular speed work is important for getting the legs to turnover quickly. I had run a 5K tempo on Monday at an average pace of 6:54 and I felt like I could have maintained that for longer, but not necessarily have gone any faster. On Wednesday, I had done some 1-minute and 2-minute Fartleks and those were a big strain--much more than the tempo run. So I did have some indicators going into the race that my endurance was strong but my speed was lacking.

The good news is that I can get my speed back relatively quickly. 3-4 weeks of work should do the trick and today was an excellent workout.

My foot held up really well! There were times when I could feel there was something there, but it never "hurt". Toward the end of the cool down it started to get a bit unhappy, so we stopped running after 1.3 miles. That was a sufficient cool down anyway. I logged 9.2 miles for the day, which is more mileage than I had logged since January 6. A good step forward.

I am happy with my pacing, execution and endurance. I just wish I could have run faster. Next up: The One City Half Marathon on March 1st. My half marathon PR pace from November is 6:55 (faster than today's race) so if I can come anywhere close to that, it will be good progress. Thank goodness February has an extra training day this year. I'll need it!

Finishing on the track, photo by Bidong Liu