February 28, 2016

Elevation Training

Recovery from the Kaiser SF half was more difficult than I expected.

Probably because after completing the first half marathon I'd done in 7ish months, the next day E & I hiked up to Coit tower, which, while cool, was perhaps not the most advisable recovery activity.

Coit Tower is on Telegraph Hill (an actual nontrivial hill).  The hike up from sea level involves lots of stairs.  Enjoy!
The rest of the week was a bit of a sad showing.  My left shin was in pain and my body was just generally beat up.  So I took it very easy in prep for our ski vacation, throwing in:

1. some weightlifting and recumbant bike
2. a full rest day
3. a 3 mile treadmill workout of  1 mile ladder (5.0 to 6.1 min. each) followed by 2X5 minute ladders from 6.1 mph to 6.5 mph workout (with walking recovery) totaling 3 miles in 35:52
4. 3 miles @ 10:51 with some walking cooldown
5. 3 miles @ 11ish/mile with Sis at 4,000ft+ elevation
6. Sunday - first downhill ski day in 2 years at 6,570ft+ elevation.

Who needs a purse?  I can stuff the pockets of a running jacket over a fleece over long underwear like no-one's business.
 The next week was more of the same:

1. Monday ski half-day due to whiteout.
2. Tuesday perfect ski day, 10AM-3PM with a short lunch break and multiple sessions of 5 minute intervals down steep blues followed by 5 minute recovery up the chairlift.

FYI -- I opted out of black diamonds this trip.  I am fine.  E broke his arm (which may or may not be related to his black diamond escapades).  Regardless, I feel that I made the correct choice for me.


 Wednesday AM I ran a short 2 mile interval workout on the treadmill (1% incline, 400s at 6.0 mph was enough to spike my heart rate, yay elevation!).  I did this at the spa before a dip in the jacuzzi and sauna time followed by a decadent spa day (gift from my father-in-law) with my sister-in-law and mother-in-law.  Then we flew home and managed luggage with a one-armed travel party member.  Good times.

Thursday was yet another full rest day (holy return-to-work-craziness!).

Friday, I headed out with visions of elevation benefits, but hit 1.5 miles at 11:51 and called it to walk the remaining 0.46 miles home.  I was shot.  Exhausted from the travel, the time change, and just generally not in it.

Thankfully, Saturday, I busted out 6 miles at an easy effort average pace of 11:48 with the last mile at 10:06.  And today, I did a slowly increasing time every mile no-fuel 9 miler at an average pace of 12:23.  I don't really know how to measure the mileage for the last two weeks with the skiing, but what I can say is that I feel good about doing 15 running miles (plus another 2+ walking) this weekend.  It's been a while since I've had such a solid running weekend (outside of a race), so that's encouraging.  Makes me feel like I'm still headed in the right direction for Oakland.  So wish me luck.

February 16, 2016

SF Kaiser Half Race Report (with Bonus Olympic Trials Reporting)

Happy Valentine's Day SF Embarcadero Arrow!
Saturday AM, I watched the US Olympic trials with Jen and Cat because somehow, despite being overworked and egregiously tired, Jen saw my tweet asking if anyone wanted company to watch the trials and confirmed that I could invite myself over she could host us if we were willing to come to her.

Little known fact about BT -- I *love* watching sports.  I am a dedicated sports spectator and I don't really care what the sport is.  The Olympics *destroy* my productivity.  Same for the World Cup.  UFC.  Weightlifting.  Martial Arts.  Boxing.  Track and Field.  American Football.  Baseball.  Basketball.  Gymnastics & Diving (duh!).  Same for just about any physically demanding sporting event.  I just love watching the human body do cool things (and all the drama and dedication and whatnot that I know goes into it just makes it that much better for me).

So, watching the US marathon trials with fellow running lovers and cheering on the hard work (and crying, hopefully discreetly, at powerful finishes) was a great way to spend the Saturday AM before my first half marathon in 7 months.   Also, I think I'm going to go try to watch in person next time.  I was super jealous of the folks who were there.

Take home points:

1. Desi is the best pacer ever.  She is a metronome and smart and disciplined and remains my run-your-own race idol.

2. Amy and Shalane have a strong friendship and watching their emotional bond and Shalane's competitiveness visibly overcome the physicality of heat exhaustion to get Shalane over the finish line and make the Olympic team was inspirational teamwork at its best.

3. Kara Goucher is back!  That performance was nothing short of awesome, particularly admitting that she pretty much knew she wasn't likely to make the team from mile 22 on and yet she kept pushing to do her absolute best.  Gutsy and brave showing.  I'm so excited to see what she does in the 10K.  I have a good feeling!  (And, I was so sad for her, too.) 

4. Meb is the epitome of what the sport and humanity has to offer.

5. Galen Rupp's bouncing necklace would drive me nuts!

After the trials, E & I and a bunch of friends contributed to the Deadpool box office route, then I made lentil soup and drank lots of tea before bed. Sunday AM everything went according to plan.  I got up on time, drove to my usual Kaiser SF parking spot, took the bus to the start, used the portajohns, and started back a minute or so.

They call it the Sunset District for a reason...Dinner with Friends on Monday.
 I'd set some modest goals, and I showed up ready to do my best.  Jen had reminded me that the course has some nice downhills and that I should be ready to take advantage of them, because they are fun, so I did.

Miles 1-3: Average pace 10:53/mile.  I was happy with this as I tried to run by effort and every time in the first 2 miles I looked down at my watch, I saw 10:0X.  Yikes.  I knew I couldn't do a half at that pace, but I also knew the first couple of miles were relatively downhill, so I cut myself some slack, slowed down but finished the first miles in high 10s and then naturally slowed down for the 3rd uphill mile in 11:27.

Mile 4: Took a liberal Gu walking water/fuel break around mile 3.4, left my watch running, picked the pace back up and hit the mile marker at 11:04.

Mile 5: 11:05 on the nose including another walking water break.

Mile 6: 10:25 for a net elevation loss of 105 ft.

Mile 7: 10:59 including a Gu walking water/fuel break at the 10K and a net elevation loss of 92 ft.

Mile 8: 11:23.  Woo-Hoo!  After passing the 8 mile marker, I get music! 

Mile 9: 12:19.  The first song was a gift, my cadence naturally increased and I started slowly passing people.  I felt so strong and energetic.  And then... my phone muted the sound at the end of the song.  I stopped to walk and trouble shoot.  Rebooted my phone.  Walked through the water station and fueled with my 3rd Gu.  Started running again.  Started a new song.  It gave me tons of energy.  It then also muted at the end.  WTF?  I stopped to walk and troubleshoot again, frustrated.  No, not frustrated, fucking angry.  WHY WON'T MY MUSIC WORK?  I crossed the 9 mile marker and realized I was averaging 11:07/mile at that point.

Wow.  I took a minute to congratulate myself a bit.  I had more or less hit my A pace goals on point by mile 9 and I still felt fairly good.  This was already a victory.  

Except, frankly, at this point, I was more interested in fighting with my phone, listening to music, and just finishing easily than trying to push it.  So that's what I did.

I fought with the audio features (pulling the volume bar up to hear music and then watch it slide back down to mute of its own accord is particularly frustrating at mile 10) for another 3 miles before finally solving the mystery.  My headset has been dying and its death results in a signal of disconnection which results in a mute because no one wants to hear you blasting whatever it was you previously had in headphones.  AH-HAH!

Mile 10:  11:53 -- phone/music struggles, running easily when music worked
Mile 11:  12:13 -- more of the same
Mile 12:  13:08 -- lots of walking through water stations, electrolyte liquid stations, finally understanding why music that won't play at volume.  Decided to skip the last Gu station.  I wasn't pushing my blood sugar performance limits at all.  I knew I had enough gas in the tank to finish.
Mile 13:  11:33 -- Now that I'd figured out the music issue, I ignored the hot spot on my right foot and ran the last 1.5 miles or so straight to the finish.
Last 0.28:  12:04/mile pace with 26 feet of elevation gain in the short distance.

The final story is simple.  I was very happy with the performance. (Garmin: 13.28 miles @ 11:28 AVG; Chip: 13.1 @ 11:37 AVG)  I did worse than McMillan predicted (of course, he didn't predict my music woes) but better than last year.  I was very happy to take that as a good solid step in the right direction towards regained fitness and a good performance in Oakland.

Sunday night Valentine's day date dinner was deliciously decadent multi-course Italian.  The next day, E & I slept in, relaxed with coffee on the balcony, worked a bit, and then walked to and climbed the stairs up to Coit tower before viewing the line of tourists and deciding we'd come back on a less popular day.  We hiked back down, had a brunch of oysters at Waterbar, relaxed and pseudo-worked on the holiday afternoon and went to dinner at friends' in the Sunset for home-cooked Korean food (YUMM!!! Korean shrimp vegetable pancakes, where have you been my whole life?).

Today, my calves are super tight (perhaps the post-first-half-in-7-months shouldn't be followed with stairs up to and down from Coit tower?) and my left shin has some indications of anterior tibialis pain.  (Lame.  But not surprising given the multiple left ankle sprains in the late fall.)  Today I took it easy and did recumbant bike and weight lifting to help my legs recover.

Next up?  Downhill Skiing for the first time in 2 years... I'll do my best to turn it into some form of useful cross-training for Oakland.  

Wish me luck!

February 12, 2016

Kaiser Half Marathon Pre-Race Check-In

Going into my first half marathon since June, after a late fall full of injuries, I've got some very modest goals.

A:  Keep it at an average of 11:05/mile, allowing for some slightly faster/slower segments for the hills and finish around 2:25.  This is actually an interesting goal for me to set.  I don't want to push it faster than this goal, which is something I've never ever thought before a race  (who goes into a race with a "not-to-exceed" performance mindset?).  But this performance is what I think is the absolute best possible performance I could do without destroying my desire to continue to build up for the Oakland Running festival.  If I hit mile 8 and I'm just chomping at the bit to speed up maybe I'll re-evalute, but if history is any guide, I'm much more likely to head out and string some mid-low 10s together before I start to slow with each mile and eventually hit a huge wall of suck.  I'd like to avoid that.   

B:  Finish faster than McMillan's predicted performance based off the Chrissy Field 5K:  2:27:56 (11:18 pace)

C:  Finish faster than last year's relatively chill performance: 2:35 (sub 12).  This would be roughly the pace of the (no fuel) 15K 4 weeks ago, but 4 more miles, so still an obvious increase in performance to be happy about.

D:  Just finish 13.1 miles for the first time in 7 months healthy and happy to have a body that can do so, and note that it's a solid long run in prep for Oakland.

I've got two big variables currently working against me.  First, I'm even heavier than I was at last year's Kaiser Half.  I'm working on it and things are trending in the right direction, but with 5 days to go, it's apparent where I'll end up.  Second, the predicted high is 72F -- and I'm very sensitive to direct sun and heat.  It's quite a bummer because several of my runs these last few weeks have been so enjoyable in the blissfully perfect (to me) 40s-50s.  Oh well... I can still hope for a cold day in Oakland.

I do have a few things working for me.

First, I'm at the point in my fitness build up where I'm building strength easily and my legs are visibly more solid than they were several weeks ago -- I've got the body type that gains strength in response to loading, and I tend to do so before I lose weight, even when focusing on decreased calories and increased caloric expenditures like running and other cardio-heavy workouts.

Second, looking at my training log from last year, I'm much more prepared to tackle 13 miles than I was then.  I'd essentially phoned it in after the NY Marathon in November, burnt out and busy with travel and work.  So, last year, I kind of just showed up and let F do the volunteer awesome pacer friend work of pulling me through a long run that wasn't very pretty.  I feel much more qualified to get myself through the race on my own motivation this time, which is a good feeling. 

Third, I think I'm actually going to run with music.  I almost never do this because if I've got friends I'd rather race with a focus on chatting with them.  But this time, since I'm solo, I think the music bribe and motivation is a good call.

Fourth, I haven't done a long run with any fueling in ages.  I'm crossing my fingers that my pre-race latte, and during the race gatorade and gu will definitely make for a more pleasant experience.

Wish me luck.

February 7, 2016

33+ Miles

This week, I put 33.77+ miles on my feet.  I walked less than 8 of those, including all walking warm-ups, cooldowns, and interval recovery.

In other words.  I had a real, serious, running week.


Doritos For the Super Bold -- Skywriting visible from my Super Bowl Sunday Run
Monday I rested.

Tuesday, I had good intentions, but work was insane.  I ran 0.5 on the treadmill but had to stop for a call.  Finally, I just fit in a walk and intended to have a solid long run with local group track day in the middle on Wednesday.

Wednesday, I slept in too much to run to track day.  I could have driven there, but I would have missed out on the mileage. So, I mapped out a long run and actually did 8.2 miles solo plus 0.8+walking.

Thursday, I did a mid-level effort 3 miler @ 10:44 average pace.   (I'm calling this a tempo at this fitness level.)

Friday, I decided to go hard.  I started with 11 minutes of jump rope and calisthenics intervals (6 X (1 min jump; 10 s rest: 30 sec (alternating pushups, dips, abs); 10 seconds rest)).  I recovered from that over a 30 minute client call and then opted for speed intervals on the road -- 9X400 w/0.1 mile walking R/I, averaging in the low 8s/mile for the speed.  It had been so long since I had done a demanding workout of this caliber.  I pretty much floated on endorphins for the rest of the day.

Saturday, I ran to friends so we could do brunch.  5.67 miles on a route I don't normally do, starting slow, but speeding up to a last tempo mile.

Today, I headed out for a super slow 8+ miles as my last long run before Kaiser.  I saw the skywriters (see above).  I slowed significantly towards the end, but I really didn't care, I just wanted to get it done in a comfortable aerobic state.  And I did.  8.21 miles in the highest of 12s (or even into the 13s if you believe my garmin since I forgot to shut it off while I fumbled with my phone and struggled to decipher the sky-writers). 

Why yes, this is what I consider a delicious post longish-run meal.
Upon arriving home, E & I snacked on lots of delicious salty, fatty snacks with a beer in prep for the super bowl party decadence (at which we were both surprisingly well behaved).

In short, I got in a temp. speedwork, and 2 long runs.  Best running week in a very long time.  Very much looking forward to Kaiser next weekend.

February 4, 2016

A Real Running Update

My running philosophy hasn't changed much over the years.  I set some minor race-based training and performance goals, and I try to hit them.  I miss them, most of the time, but in the process, I get some mileage in and keep myself relatively healthy.

I rarely set running goals that require me to modify my life.  Even the more difficult commitments I make to running are almost always behind work in terms of priority, which means they often get destroyed when work is a monster.

While I love how easy it is to relate to my running friends, my running goals are very different than most of theirs.  I enjoy a PR or good race performance as much as the next person, but I'm unwilling to make most of the sacrifices required to make them a regular occurrence.

And I'm totally okay with that.

I think that's the thing I've noticed about my running philosophy that's different from most of my running friends -- I just don't really get too disappointed in my running.  If I need (or hell, just want) to skip a workout or dial it down, I do so and I enjoy myself.  If I need to drop out of a race, I rarely beat myself up.  I'm aware that I probably *could* be pushing out better running performances, but most of the time, I don't.  And that's just who I am as a runner these last several years -- not very performance focused.

The first quarter of this year, however, I've combined my running goals with some general health goals, and that has made them slightly more important and harder to blow off.

The end result is I'm slowly improving my speed, strength, and stamina each week, while very slowly decreasing my mass.

This week, Monday I rested as planned.  Tuesday, work killed my scheduled workout.  Wednesday, my plan was to run to track, do the track workout and run home, to get myself to a psuedo long-run as well as some speed.  But, I slept in.  I surprised myself by mapping out a long run and heading out for 8.21 miles at a super-easy slow pace of high 12s/mile (McMillan recommended long run pace), followed by 0.83 miles walking cool down. 

So far in 2016, I've done:
- interval speedwork once a week every week
-long runs of at least 6 miles (and up to 9.3) each week
-an average of 22.5 miles/week with 5-10% increased mileage each week (counting walking) but slowly replacing much of the walking with running
-a few tempo runs  (last week's Chrissy Field 5K was a 10:17/mile effort -- one of the slowest 5Ks I've ever done, but it felt good to string some medium-high effort miles together regardless of the pace)

Essentially, I've got 4 decent and obviously improving consecutive running weeks for the first time in a long time.  Yesterday's mid-week long run was the first time I've made an effort to put running in front of work during the work week since September.

I've got 10 days 'til the Kaiser Half, which is a tune-up race for the Oakland Running Festival Half 5 weeks after that.  My goal is to stick to the current level of commitment, weekly speedwork, a long run, and increasing mileage each week until the ORF taper.  I'm actually a little excited to see how things pan out. 

Wish me luck.

February 1, 2016

Precarious Life

There are so many reasons you shouldn’t still be alive.  You could have been the ill-fated 15-year-old (a runaway), 23 year old (no family support), 35 year old (depressed), 67 year old (how do we even label you, survivor?).

And yet, you are not here on this list.

And we are.  We still live in this world.

That shit is heavy.  Heavy like the weight of books written by those who supposedly made it, but then chose not to make it all the way.  Heavy like the weight of Silvia Plath’s oven.

Fuckin’ heavy, man.

There are many contests in life.  Most of ‘em don’t matter.  But if I”ve learned one thing, it’s this.   

Teach your kids (biological, students, nieces, nephews, neighborhood kids) and know that you yourself are entitled to *survive* every contest as are they.  Be smart, but understand that survival privilege is real.  

 Let’s make it a thing we all acknowledge (and yes, it is likely harder to deliver this message to an audience who doesn’t have traditional privilege, but it doesn’t make it any less valid).

-Peace and love to Michael Feeney, you are one of many angels gone too soon.