Week of 3/24/14 – 3/30/14: Country Music Half Training, Week 11 (the one where I run 14 miles and don’t die)

I started out this week saying, “If I can make it through this week of training, the rest is all downhill.” It was my mantra. This is because this week was the highest mileage I had planned for the entire training cycle. (We’ll ignore that the next two weeks are roughly the same mileage before I start my actual taper.) And all capped off with the farthest distance I’ve ever gone (and ever plan to go, as far as I’m concerned, unless I get hit by a crazy truck and decide to train for a full marathon): 14 miles.

week of 3/24/14 to 3/30/14

Tuesday

I decided to move my goal pace runs to Tuesdays and my easy threesy to Wednesday so that maybe my legs won’t be dead for my Thursday runs in the coming weeks. This week was a not-too-terrible two miler. I will admit that my legs were still a little sore from the weekend’s runs. (“Sore means getting stronger!” – another mantra.)

I might have had another ulterior motive, since I needed to hurry up and get downtown for a Preds game. So the shorter, faster run won out over the slightly longer and slower run.

Oh, yeah, and it had been snowing all day. Really, winter, what is your problem? Go away. No one likes you anymore. I donned the tights once more (thought I was safely into shorts and skirts weather, sigh) and headed out.

Since I was kind of in a hurry, I didn’t do much of a warmup. I jogged while I set up my watch and then did about 0.15 miles of warmup after I started the timer. I just went into beast mode after that and quickly spit out 2 miles. And by quickly, I mean I didn’t stay in my half goal pace. I went to tempo and ultimately 5k pace. Oops?

mei running in my neighbor totoro

I envision chasing chibi totoros when I run.

Wednesday

Can this count for next week’s three mile goal pace run? Because that’s what I ended up doing. I really didn’t mean to. I just started out feeling so good that, even when I saw I was 30 seconds to a minute speedier than I should have been at the end of the first mile, I still kept going at that pace and didn’t stop to walk. I’m sure this won’t catch up with me at all…

Thursday

This week’s track intervals were 1200m (that’s three laps around the track) at 5k pace with 400m (one lap) of jogging recovery, repeat four times. And, yes, I actually made it out to the group run on the track this week. My goals for this week’s intervals were the first two at 10:30 pace, the third at 10:15 pace, and the last as fast as I could muster (at least 10). Or interval times of 7:52, 7:52, 7:41, and 7:30.

We started out jogging (okay, probably everyone else was jogging…this was faster than an easy run for me) down to the track, then everyone started out by doing a one lap warmup. Except their warmup pace is apparently my 5k pace (actually they were faster…I was already last), so I just used that as my first lap since I knew they’d be waiting on me in the end anyway. The first interval was a little bumpy, since I started a little fast, so I slowed down a bit about halfway through to come in closer to goal. The second one was a little smoother, and the third was as smooth as melted chocolate (and a little faster than goal too!). My recovery intervals were all a little faster than what I thought they should be (the last one was under an 11 min/mi pace!) but I did recover well enough, so I guess that’s all that matters. I really pushed on my fourth and had a nice finishing sprint while everyone waited for me to be done.

My final times? 7:56, 7:56, 7:39, and 7:15. Woohoo!

The plus side to being the slowest and everyone waiting on you is everyone cheers and applauds when you are done.

I do think it was a little easier this week than last because of actually being on the track and being able to say to myself, “Only one more lap!” We were also fighting against 20 mph winds (and it started to sprinkle on my last interval), so my times are all the more impressive to me because of that.

Saturday

I was in a hurry on Saturday. I thought I had to be somewhere at a certain time (turns out it was canceled), so I blasted through my mileage for the day. I had planned 5 miles easy, of course, but, in an effort to speed things up, I cut it half a mile short and basically did the whole run at 5k pace with one 2 minute walk break around the 2.5 mile point. Yeah…I’m not sure I can call that my 5k pace much longer.

Sunday

Fourteen miles. 14. How do people train for full marathons? How do people run ultras? I will never know because I doubt I will ever make that attempt based on the fact that I hate long runs and think they should all die.

Despite those lovely sentiments, I had spent the whole week visualizing the run in my head. This will be fun! I am going to kill this run! 14 miles? No problem! That’s less than the distance from my house to…uh, well, not work, that’s closer. And not downtown Nashville either. Um, well, it’s definitely less than the distance from my house to Disney World! I actually, at one point, had psyched myself up for this run so much that I considered signing up for a marathon. The brain is an odd thing.

I did, however, resolve to try out some fueling strategies during the three hours I would be pounding pavement. I looked up to see what they would be providing us during the half marathon and when so that I could mimic that during this run. (With the thought that if that didn’t work, I still had next week’s 12.5 miler to figure something else out.) Except the website doesn’t say. What the heck, people? The site doesn’t even mention how often water stations happen. Anyway, after a bit of googling I found out that last year it appeared there was possibly only one GU station on the half course, at mile 10. So I decided if I wanted to fuel earlier than that, I was going to have to bring my own.

I’ll detail this all out in a future post, but I basically just went to Fleet Feet and got a few things to try based on what the guy who works there told me. For my 14 miler, I decided to try a tri-berry flavored GU at mile 5 (roughly an hour in) and a blueberry flavored Huma at mile 10 (roughly 2 hours in).

In an attempt to see if the gels actually helped, I kept the same 5:2 intervals that I attempted last week. The first few miles were fairly uneventful with most of my running intervals done at easy pace. At mile 5, I trudged up the bridge that crosses the river from Shelby Park to the Stones River greenway and got my first taste of GU when I got there. It wasn’t bad. Mile six was pretty hilly, but I was flying by mile seven. If you recall, by mile seven last week I was practically dead, but here I was running 5k pace. Score one for the gels.

I kept 5k pace on my run intervals throughout the remainder of the run. That’s right. I actually sped up the whole run and ran the second half faster than the first. My legs didn’t even really start to feel tired (okay, they felt a little tired from the beginning because of my speedy run the day before) until about 12.5-13 miles in. That’s nuts. I ran through the 13.1 distance in 2:42:27. Considering my overall goal for the Country Music was 2:45:00, I’d say it’s time to set a new goal if I can best that in training. My final time for 14 miles? 2:54:16 or roughly the same time it took me to run 12.5 miles last weekend.

All in all, this was a HUGE confidence building week!

Week of 3/17/14 – 3/23/14: Country Music Half Training, Week 10

week of 3/17/14 to 3/23/14

First of all, I just want to say that this week I surpassed the total amount of mileage that I ran in training for the Disney half (180 miles). And there’s still five weeks to go. So there’s that.

Tuesday

I wanted to make sure I kept this one extra easy, since this would be my first week running three days in a row in a long time. I didn’t go run with the group, since I wanted to stick with three miles at an extra easy pace. So I decided to try low heart rate training. I’d been reading a lot about it, but was kind of dubious about the “run slow to run fast” thought process. Specifically, I’d been reading about the Maffetone Method. I’ll go into all of this later, but the gist is that you keep your runs at an aerobic pace so your body becomes more efficient at burning fat for fuel, instead of carbs. It is also supposed to cause lower chances of injury. (Which makes sense. I was barely moving. How could I get injured?)

Maffetone has a formula to calculate the upper end of your aerobic heart rate, which is 180 – your age. He also provides some fine-tuning, like subtracting another 5 if you’ve been injured in the past couple years, etc. I just went with 148 because I’d be walking if I subtracted another 5.

So I set my Garmin to alert me if I went above 148. And alert me it did. It has this really annoying sound that plays when you get out of your heart rate zone. And I went out of it. A lot.

At first, the watch wasn’t recognizing my heart rate monitor. I trotted along at my normal 11-12 min/mi pace waiting for it to pick it up. I stopped to walk briefly to tell it to rescan. Finally, six minutes after I started my run, it found the HR monitor. And immediately sounded the alarm. My heart rate was already up to 163.

I walked until it got down in the correct zone, then slowly started to jog around a 15 min/mi pace. Which WOW is slow. I can walk a 15 min/mi pace. In fact, it’s more efficient to walk at that pace than it is to run. Anything faster than that? Alarm. A hill? Alarm. I had to walk slowly up every hill. I was normally walking up one and the alarm went off. Yeah…

The point of all this is if you consistently train in your low heart rate zone, eventually your pace will get faster at the lower heart rate. That can just take a few months. A lot of people give up on LHR training because of the incredible slowness you have to start at. I’m going to actually try it consistently this fall (when I go for a month long streak) to see if I get any improvements out of it. For now, it’s just a way to keep me extra slow because I didn’t even break a sweat. In fact, I was cold the whole run, despite it being nearly 60 degrees.

Overall, I finished 3 miles in 46 minutes with an average HR of 149. Yes, not only was it slow, but I didn’t even manage to average within the correct zone. We’ll see come this fall if this really works, but for now I remain skeptical.

Wednesday

My first goal pace run! My goal half marathon pace is between 11:15 and 11:45 min/mi, so this was a fairly easy pace to keep for just a mile. I did a half mile warmup, then the one mile at goal pace. These are going to ramp up in difficulty in a few weeks, though, since I top out at a five mile goal pace run.

Thursday

Week two of track intervals! Well, it was supposed to be, anyway. I didn’t quite make it to the track. As I mentioned before, in order to make it to the Thursday night group, I have to pack up all my running stuff and change at work. I packed up all my running stuff on Thursday morning…and then left it at home! Oops. So I was going to be way too late by the time I got home and changed and drove out there. I’m already the slowest, so I didn’t want them to have to wait on me an extra 20-30 minutes. So I went to the park to complete the workout.

This week we were doing five intervals of 1000m at 5k pace with 400m jogging recovery. I didn’t know if I should adjust my 5k pace down after my PR last Saturday. I have been training with a 5k pace of 10:15 to 10:45 min/mi, but my 5k time would suggest I could alter that down to 9:45 to 10:15 min/mi. I decided to aim for 10:30 min/mi for the first two intervals, 10:15 for the next two, and around 10:00 min/mi for the last; or, 6:30, 6:30, 6:20, 6:20, 6:10 for my interval times.

I don’t know if it was the added 200m per interval, the addition of a goal pace workout the day before, or the fact that I wasn’t doing it on a track so I didn’t have any visual feedback to know how much distance I have left to cover, but this seemed way harder than last week.

I still went out too fast on the first interval (although not nearly as bad as a week ago) and did the first 1k at a 10:11 min/mi pace. I walked a bit on my recovery to change some settings on my watch, then jogged the rest. I felt pretty good at the start of the second interval, but part of the way through I felt a side stitch coming on. And it was nearly killing me by the time I finished the 1k. I was practically in tears. I slowly walked my recovery period, using every trick in the book I knew to get the side stitch to go away. I could still feel it on the third interval, although not quite as bad, but it still was my slowest at a 10:42 min/mi pace. I walked about half my recovery to try to work it out some more and jogged the rest. The fourth interval was better and I did it in about the same time as the first. I jogged the entire recovery after that, then floored it for the fifth interval, finishing up at a 9:32 min/mi pace.

I’m not going to lie. It was a hard workout. But it was supposed to be, as I kept reminding myself. I do think not being on the track made it harder, since I only had my watch to tell me how much distance I had left but no real visual “finish line”. I may also experiment with switching my goal pace and easy runs to see if that helps, because those goal pace runs are only going to get more tiring.

tiana exhausted

My final 5k interval times? 6:21, 6:28, 6:38, 6:18, 5:54. I think the first four would have been more consistent if not for that stupid side stitch!

Saturday

The threat of rain on Sunday made me move my long run to Saturday this week. 12.5 miles, the longest I’ve gone in training! But it was very hard fought, and I wouldn’t really call it a “good” run by any stretch of the word.

I had decided that maybe a change of scenery would help, so I went up to the Hendersonville greenway, which I haven’t run on before. I also decided to do 5:2 intervals to keep it easy and make sure that I didn’t burn myself out at the beginning and have nothing left at the end. Spoiler alert: it didn’t help.

I started off strong, and the scenery change did help for about 4-5 miles. The first hour flew by, and I was feeling good. However, by the start of mile 7, it was all going downhill (not literally, unfortunately). I ended up taking an extra walk break up a hill, and the extra breaks just kept coming from there, even walking one entire run interval (so 9 minutes total). Soon I modified my intervals to 3.5:3.5. I maintained that until mile 12, but I swear the last half mile was nearly impossible to get through. I just couldn’t get my legs to go anymore.

A lot of this was due, probably, to the fact that I was really hungry but hadn’t brought any gus or other food with me. I’ve never really had to fuel myself on a run before, but I guess it’s time to start figuring that out because these nearly three hour runs kill me. After I was done running, I immediately drove to McDonald’s for a chocolate shake and fries because I felt like I might pass out if I didn’t get some sort of something in my stomach, besides the 2 litres of water I drank while running. (Yes, it was a lot of water.)

Sunday

After Saturday’s tiring run, you might think I skipped out on Sunday’s. But no! I went out to the park Sunday morning with the intention of doing my five easy miles. But my watch decided to die 1.2 miles in (with no walking, by the way). So I went home, charged it, and then headed back out to finish, doing 3.8 miles slightly faster than easy pace and only taking one brief walk break about 2.8 miles in when I pushed myself up a hill a little too hard against the wind. It ended up being more of a goal pace run, which is fine with me. I’ll take as many of those as I can get. I was honestly amazed I felt strong enough to do that after the day before, but maybe my body is learning to recover faster.

Beat the Blerch!

I apologize in advance for this stream-of-consciousness post, but I am too excited slash sad to care.

I’ve been a regular reader of The Oatmeal for years. When he published his comic “The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances” last July, I was only 6-7 months into running regularly (with a 10k being the longest distance I had gone), but a lot of it resonated with me. Especially the parts about running to eat. Because that is basically what I do. I’ve never ran to lose weight. I run so I can feel less guilty about downing entire pizzas and cakes.

I even bought the running shirt to go along with the comic. And I ran in it when I went to Seattle last fall, which is where Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, lives.

i believe in the blerch shirt

This was not taken in Seattle. This was taken at work. Sometimes I get confused and wear my running clothes other places.

So when he announced that he was publishing a book on running, I was excited. And then I saw that he was holding a race: a 10k, half marathon, and full marathon. And, of course, it was in Seattle. Exactly a year after my last trip.

whyyy

I’m resolving to use more reaction gifs in my blog.

“Why couldn’t you have done this a year ago??” I lamented, knowing there was no way I could afford another trip out west that soon. Although I did entertain the idea because my best friend lives out there, and I miss her bunches. Then I entertained moving to Seattle because I miss her bunches and everything cool happens out there. (I haven’t ruled that out yet.)

But, no worries, east coasters! In an article on Runner’s World’s website, “next year he hopes to expand the race to the East Coast after this year’s ‘trial run’ to see how well mid-marathon cake goes over.” Oh, did I fail to mention that part? There’s cake and Nutella at every aid station. MY FAVORITE FOOD IS AT EVERY AID STATION. Was this race not meant for me?

By “east coast” they probably mean somewhere that is equally expensive and inconvenient for me to get to here in landlocked Tennessee.

And there’s people in blerch suits chasing you. Which is just all kinds of awesome. This is like the one race that could make me want to train for a half marathon again. (And I’m not saying that lightly. I am very much over half marathons.)

I want a Blerch medal! Registration opens (and, let’s face it, probably closes, as it’s expected to sell out quickly) on Monday. Who wants to pay for me to go to Seattle in September?

Race Report: Nashville Predators FANGtastic 5k – March 15, 2014

When this race happened last year in February, I was in the early throes of Couch to 5k. It was not even on my radar. But as I kept running, I found myself awaiting the announcement of the 2014 dates. After I signed up for the Hot Chocolate 15k, I thought there would be a conflict. But then…it was in March! I immediately signed up because I heart the Predators and I heart free tickets.

(Weird fun fact: I’m pretty sure the bib numbers were assigned in the order you signed up for the race. I have the lowest bib number. I may use hyperbole a lot, but when I said “immediately” it wasn’t one of those times.)

Fitting this race into my half training schedule was a little bumpy, since my Saturday was supposed to consist of a five mile run. But since there was a 70% chance of rain on Sunday, I decided to do eleven miles total on Saturday and move my five miler to Sunday. I figured I could just run the 5k with a one mile warmup beforehand in the morning and a seven mile easy recovery run following right after on the greenway to make up the mileage. And, while I wanted to race well, I also had to consider that I had those seven miles plus the five miles scheduled for the next day. I knew if I really pushed it, I could probably finish in 32 or 33 minutes. But I thought this probably wasn’t the race for a PR, despite my excitement coming off of my 15k time and the speedwork from two days before. Thus, my goal time was to do around what I had done for my last few 5ks: 35 minutes.

Race Day

My friend Chris was running the race with me. He had just graduated Couch to 5k a month earlier, so this was his first real 5k race. I met up with him a little after 9am on the day of the race, and we headed down to the arena to pick up our race bibs. Packet pickup was quick. There was no bag check (I wasn’t expecting one for a race of this size), so we went back to the parking garage to throw our race tees in our cars. After that, I started my one mile warmup. Chris chose to tag along, so I kept it really easy, around a 13:30 mile.

Gnash at the Nashville Predators Fangtastic 5k

Pre-race with Gnash!

After a photo with Gnash and a sip of water, we chose a spot in the crowd to start. I tried to pick a spot in the middle-back, so hopefully we wouldn’t be behind too many walkers, but also past all the speedy people. Except I’m not sure the people in this race really knew how to line themselves up, as we ended up around both speedy people and walkers. Oh well. They were prompt in starting the race, which I always appreciate.

fangtastic 5k start line

Start line photos are a little like Where’s Waldo. Can you spot us?

Let me talk about the weather for a second. It was a gorgeous day outside. But perhaps not entirely running friendly. It ended up being the maybe the second or third 70+ degree day we’ve had this year. The race started at 10:30am, so it was starting to warm up pretty good. And the sun was out. When I initially checked the weather for the race, it was supposed to be race-perfect: around 55 and cloudy. It ended up being around 60 and sunny. Not terrible, just not ideal.

The course itself was an out and back. We traveled down Demonbreun to music row, around the Musica statue, with a turnaround point at Edgehill. This means the first half of the race is mostly uphill, while the second half is mostly downhill.

fangtastic 5k elevation profile

As soon as we started, we were staring at the uphill that is Demonbreun from fifth to eighth. “Good luck on the hills!” I called out to Chris as we took off. I started up the incline around an 11 min/mi pace. A few rolling hills later, I was at the bottom of the biggest hill of the entire race: the hill on Demonbreun that goes up to the roundabout where the statue is. I thought about walking it. But I didn’t. I charged up that quarter mile section around a 10:30 min/mi pace. And I was greeted with a sweet, sweet downhill and the start of the second mile at the top.

Down 17th Street was much a blur. I know that I wasn’t entirely feeling this race, but I made myself go on. At the halfway point was the sole water station of the race. I had told myself I could take a walk break there, but when I got to it, I grabbed a cup and kept on running. Then, of course, proceeded to dump half the cup on myself because it’s really hard to run and drink water at the same time. I can’t even walk and drink water out of a cup at the same time. I tried the pinch technique, which at least got some of it into my mouth.

Up 18th was much like going down 17th. There were some people outside in their yards that would occasionally cheer us on, but not a ton of crowd support, except at the beginning and end. Soon I was back at the Musica statue and got to run back down the Demonbreun hill. Why, hello, 8:30 min/mi pace!

At this point, there was less than a mile left. I hadn’t looked at my watch much the whole race, so when I glanced down at the start of the third mile, I was surprised to see how fast I was going. No wonder I kept wanting to walk. I did some calculations in my head. Pretty much, no matter what, I was going to PR. I could stop and walk and I would still PR. I knew I wasn’t going to break 30 minutes (I have plenty of time for that later this year), so I told myself I could take a break if I wanted to, knowing that I had seven more miles to run later. But my legs laughed at me. “You’ve come this far,” they said. “It’s mostly downhill from here. Just finish it out.” So I did.

fangtastic 5k finish line

Picking up speed towards the finish!

I crossed the finish line in 31:25, according to my watch. Nearly a four minute PR. Nothing has ever felt as good as stopping running did! I grabbed a banana and a water and situated myself near the finish line to wait for Chris.

He rounded the corner and finished a little past 46 minutes. So proud of him!

chris finishing the fangtastic 5k

After he went to grab some water and food, I picked up a bagel. Best bagel ever. We walked over to where they were posting the results, and I found my name. It said my time was 31:23! Later, I checked the results on the website and they said 31:25, just like my watch. I guess I’ll go with that for my official time. 22nd in my age group though!

The results as posted on race day, which is 2 seconds shorter than what they posted online.

The results as posted on race day, which are 1.5-2 seconds shorter for everyone than what they posted online. I’m bib 5501.

Race Analysis

In addition to my best 5k time, I ran two sub-10 minute miles, which I’ve never done before. One, sure. Two? No. Let’s just let that sink in. It’s looking really good for busting that 30 minute 5k barrier later this year! I managed to have negative splits, which was kind of expected based on the elevation profile of the race. My slowest mile was the first, at 10:39, and my fastest was the third, coming in at 9:19. I didn’t run tangents very well on the first mile, since I had to weave around a lot of walkers at the start, so in a more correctly seeded race, I think I could definitely be faster there.

Here’s my quarter mile splits. You can see they were fairly even throughout after the first one, just speeding up in the last half mile or so. The first quarter mile was on a hill and I was weaving around walkers, so it makes sense that it’s the slowest. The next slowest one is the aforementioned hill on Demonbreun. Look at that finishing sprint!
quarter mile splits

Overall Place: 267 out of 910
Female Place: 108 out of 540
Division (30-34 F) Place: 22 out of 87

Shoes: Skechers GoRun 2