Friday, March 30, 2012

Vacation, Training, Oiselle Sale!

The best thing to do after a goal-race training cycle & race is to jet off to Hawaii the same week.

I normally wake up hours earlier than I would when not on vacation in Hawaii in order to get my runs in before it gets too hot.  With hardly any running on the schedule I got to catch a few extra hours of sleep and also racked up a couple extra days off due to vacation laziness smart ankle recovery.

After over a week off, my first run back was rather wind-sucking.  But I find after the first two runs or so after that amount of time off, things start clicking again. I'm ready to get back into the swing of things now.

I never ruminated on the Modesto training cycle.  I meant to, but my ankle put me in such a funk race week I couldn't muster up the motivation to do any reflection.  As I mentioned here, I decided to change things up for Modesto.  As my running evolved I actually got up to 6 days a week of running (versus the 4 days a week I was doing for years).  For a good portion of the end of the plan, I averaged a weekly mileage that was higher than the peak week of my former plan.  There were lots of miles in pace zones previously thought to be out of my comfort zone and many of those miles were done during long runs.  Progression runs, tempo runs, ladders, fartleks, hill sprints, phew!  In January I ran 217 miles and in February I ran 228.  My previous monthly mileage PR was 187.  Seeing as how my last cycle on my old plan yielded a 4 minute PR and this most recent one a 9 minute PR, I think it is safe to say that changing it up was a good idea.  I really believe that the training in my legs was what got me the time I did at Modesto -- they were almost on auto-pilot and just kept plugging away.

The last couple of weeks of training, my body was definitely getting tired.  My easy pace slowed down from where it had been at the beginning of the training cycle. But since my pushed paces were faster than what I could do at the beginning of the plan, I figured it was just the plan working.  I'm debating whether I want to repeat the same plan without changes for my next goal race to give my body some time to settle into the higher mileage and demand a little longer.  We'll see how I feel.

Believe it or not, I have another marathon in less than a month.  My next two races are of the "just for fun" variety where I mozy along, take photos, and walk through any water station which catches my fancy.  While I was running Modesto all I could think was that I was so looking forward to Big Sur.  The race has recently started sending out emails and I am getting pumped for my favorite West Coast marathon.

Now for your weekend shopping pleasure, my favorite running apparel company is having a sale on a sale this weekend!

Quick Sale Details:
When? Friday 3/30 - Sunday 4/1
What? Customers receive an extra 20% off sale items with code: SPRINGTIME this weekend only.

My favorite item from the sale rack is the Base Layer Run top.  I have two of these and they are perfect for the cooler SF runs in the occasional 40's and ever present low 50's (I do like to stay cooler than most people when running so I imagine it could take most people through the 60's).  It has sleeves with thumb holes!!  The longer length is perfect since I often pair these with capris and the top doesn't ride up at all.  There is a zippered pocket on the back, too.  This is my go-to pre-work early morning run top.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Mario

Mario wrote the book on recovery weeks.
Recovery week is over!  Time to get running!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Modesto Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #32:

Sub 3:50, birthday PR.

The Full Recap, Marathon #32:

I have so much to say about this race, and at the same time, nothing at all.  Last week left me mentally flat in ways I don't even understand.  I missed a couple of yoga workouts and a handful of miles because of the sprained ankle. When you get down to it, I skipped ONE run workout last week.  However, when I went out for my run on Friday I felt like someone who had been laid off running for weeks who was getting to go for a first post-injury run.  To put it simply, my ankle really bummed me out.  In hindsight I don't even think it was for the race this past Sunday.  Sprained ankles are mentally horrible injuries to overcome. Unlike other afflictions I've dealt with, these suckers strike instantly and unexpectedly.  You can't see them coming from a few runs out and do damage control.  You can be out for an awesome run and in one bad foot plant find yourself out for weeks.

Quite frankly, I spent last week mourning the loss of confidence I had built up the last year since my bad sprain and knew I'd be back at square one again.  I was, and still am, sad for what this means for my running in the coming months.

My run on Friday went okay and I tried to get myself psyched up again for this race.  I thought I had but really I wasn't in the same mind frame as I was going into Fresno.

I had two goals for this race:
B:  sub-3:50
A:  sub-3:45

I knew the latter would involve digging deep, having a coming to Jesus moment, and pulling through to the other side.  I thought I had the training to make it a realistic thing to fight for.  I did some calculations and figured out that I should be holding an 8:42 pace for the B goal and an 8:31 pace for the A goal according to Garfield.

The course is pretty much flat except for an overpass that didn't give this San Franciscan much trouble.  However, the course was ever so slightly downhill trending the first half and slightly uphill trending the second half.

I prefer to run even splits in races if possible.  But going out at 8:31 didn't feel so wise so I decided to try to go out around an 8:35 and try to ratchet down to the 8:31 the second half.

I don't know why and I don't know when precisely, but I knew very early on that today wasn't going to be my day.  In hindsight I'd say I knew at around mile 5 or 6.  At the turnaround, I had an average 8:36 pace which was pretty much right on track for my plan.  But I knew I was fading and didn't have it in me to bring that down at all.  Boyfriend says it was after the turnaround, but I disagree and think it was before (chances are he is right what with marathon-brain and all), but I passed him cheering at one point and all I said was, "It's getting really hard."

With the out-and-back nature of the course Boyfriend popped up more than a handful of times.  He brought a dry erase poster board and changed the sign up every time I saw him.

The weather for this race was 100% perfect.  It was supposed to be in the low 40's at the start and the mid-40's at the finish.  My perfect running weather.  The sun peeked out for a little bit in the beginning of the race, but the cloud cover rolled back in for the vast majority.  My hands were slightly numb without gloves.  I never felt hot and I never felt cold.  Perfection.  There was a headwind for about two miles before the turnaround (strong enough that a cardboard garbage bin blew over) but soon enough it was at our backs and later became more of a faded crosswind as the course turned.

I ran with my 22 oz hand held and with the cool weather, didn't have to stop to refill it.  Boyfriend swapped out the empty larger hand held for my smaller 10 oz at mile 19.  That 10 oz plus one cup of water at a water station got me through the rest race.  I think this is the least amount of water I've taken in during a marathon.  I generally always drink by feel so don't think this factored in to anything but perhaps worthy of noting.

I was sort of putzing along checking in with Garfield every now and then.  If I thought I was going too slow I'd pick it up a smidgen.  I didn't have any fighting spirit in me, though, to really dig deep and force myself to run at a pace that would have secured my A goal.  I thought about the mantras that worked for me at Fresno and felt sort of meh about them.  I am not sure how to describe it -- I don't think I was running at the same effort level I was at Fresno. I really think my mental attitude was just not there to get it done.   But at the same time, my legs felt flatter than I had hoped and I told myself it was an off day and to do the best I could with it.

My average pace slowly creeped up.  When it hit 8:40 I realized I was in jeopardy of losing my B goal.  That lit a small fire in my heart and I dug deeper to secure that goal for myself.  At the same time, it was nothing like the strong finish executed at Fresno.

Mile 1:  8:39
Mile 2:  8:31
Mile 3:  8:29
Mile 4:  8:31
Mile 5:  8:41
Mile 6:  8:37
Mile 7:  8:36
Mile 8:  8:29
Mile 9:  8:39
Mile 10:  8:34
Mile 11:  8:42
Mile 12:  8:30
Mile 13:  8:34
Mile 14:  8:41
Mile 15:  8:39
Mile 16:  8:47
Mile 17:  8:44
Mile 18:  8:37
Mile 19:  8:40
Mile 20:  8:48
Mile 21:  8:53
Mile 22:  9:00
Mile 23:  9:01 (water stop walk)
Mile 24:  8:49
Mile 25:  8:36
Mile 26:  8:28
Mile 26.35 (Garmin) 7:56

I have done a lot of thinking about this race.  At first I was upset I had an off day -- that either my legs were off or my mental game wasn't in it.  And then I got worried that I had a great day.

Going into this race, more than the result I got on Sunday, I was excited for the gains I had made this training cycle.  I felt that my goals were realistic and based on good training data.  Boyfriend pointed out that I didn't crash and burn.  "That involves lots of walking," he said.  And I suppose he is right.  It never got so bad that I contemplated walking.  So then I started worrying that perhaps 3:48 was really the limit of my ability for this training cycle.  Had I been totally blind to my actual abilities the last few weeks of training?

I've ruminated on this for a while.  I really don't think it is true.  When I did that half marathon last month I felt oodles better at mile 6 of that run than I did at mile 6 of the marathon yesterday even going 10 seconds a mile slower.  So I do think my legs had an off day.  At the same time, perhaps they had an off day because I pushed too hard the last month of training?  Things to think about and consider going forward.

As for my mental issues, I blame it all on the twisted ankle.  And honestly, I can live with that.

At the end of the day-- even if I had tired legs, even if I had pushed too hard the weeks before, even if I didn't have the mental fortitude to squeeze out every possible second, even if I just had an off day -- I posted a 9 minute PR.  Boyfriend pointed out that on a less than stellar day, my worse mile split of this race was still faster than my goal pace of the last marathon.  That's huge, and I am immensely proud of it.

As for the race itself, I think it is a great local option for a fast time.  It is one of the flattest marathons in driving distance of San Francisco.  The scenery is pretty in a Norman Rockwell kind of way but very repetitive so I would not run this one for kicks and giggles.  The crowd support is fairly sparse but endearing (Boyfriend said it was an easy race to spectate at due to parallel country roads).  The weather was awesome this year, but if it is a bad weather year you're very exposed and have long straight sections which could turn a bad wind into an awful situation.  Organization was great.  The race had free race photos (of course they didn't get one photo of me) and awesome food at the end (bags of chips, I'm looking at you!).  The swag has a high craptastic value, but this isn't one you'd run for the shirt or medal.  There is a half marathon which starts off with the full which always irks me, but they're only around for about 7 miles which isn't bad and long since finished by the time you head home.

Amazingly, my ankle felt no worse after the marathon than it did before the race.  I'm sure I set recovery back a little, but I honestly expected a bigger fallout than the minor stuff that has almost subsided.  I got a nasty blister from my ankle brace.  There is a hot spot it creates that I usually put a piece of medical tape over.  It's been more than a few months since I last wore my brace and with only a short test run Friday, I wasn't 100% sure where that spot was anymore.  It takes 16 miles for the hot spot to become bothersome, and right on cue at about 15.8 the rubbing started to bother me.  But that is pretty much the biggest issue my ankle gave me during the race.  I'm taking a full week off and will see how I feel when I start running again in a few days.

Edited to add:  I forgot to mention that the roads are a little chewed up the first few miles.  I saw *three* people totally fall and eat it in the first few miles.  With my wonky ankle I was super paranoid and had my eyes glued on the ground.  Especially since things were more congested in the beginning of the race.  Once you get out into the country the roads were not bad at all.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Mario

One of the signs Boyfriend made for me during my race yesterday.  So cute!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Week 14; The Best Laid Schemes O' Mice An' Men...

Sadly, my view the latter half of the week.

Saturday:  7 miles @ 9:56 pace, 6x hill sprints; Want to know what you shouldn't do before a run?  Eat a big bowl of pasta, follow that up with a bag of dried mango, and then head out the door shortly after.  My abdomen was a hot mess this entire run and I was constantly burping pasta and having those sort-of-puke-sort-of-burp moments.  Side-stitch Central and the only way I could keep going was to keep the pace super easy.  Which was what I had planned so a great run!

Sunday:  Bikram Yoga

Monday:  4.2 miles @ 9:43 pace; This should have been a slightly longer run but life got in the way a bit and I cut it short.  I was also feeling pretty sluggy and figured the extra couple of miles weren't really needed.  After all, I figured, tomorrow I'm doing 9 miles with speed (famous last words).

Tuesday:  7 miles @ 8:50 pace, including 4 miles @ MP-10 sec (8:12 pace); So this run was going great.  It was lightly raining which I love because it keeps the paths from getting too congested.  I had originally planned to do this run really early in the morning in order to make it to yoga before the day got busy.  I decided the extra sleep was more important this week and I'd just hit up yoga tomorrow (again, famous last words). The extra sleep was great and I'm finally on track with this Daylight Savings nonsense.  Then somewhere about 5 miles in, I twisted my left ankle.  I didn't drop to the ground like the last time this happened, but this also wasn't a roll you just shake off in a couple of strides, either.  I had to stop and walk it out for a few minutes.  It still hurt a little but I doggedly finished up the pick-up and then cut my 9 miler down to a 7 miler with one mile cool down home.

If that last sprain was a 10 on a 1-10 scale, I'd consider this one a 6 or 7.  Everyone today is telling me that the extra days off may actually be good for me, I'm not going to lose any fitness before the race, blah blah blah.  All I can say to that is if it were true, everyone would take the week before the marathon off.  And they don't.  So there.

Friday:  4 miles @ 9:26 pace; I debated whether I should have gone out for this run.  Physically, I knew it wouldn't make a difference for Sunday for my legs and endurance.  And if anything, it would set my ankle back.  Mentally, I needed this run so badly.  It took a while to find my ankle brace and associated accessories, but I had a really nice rainy, windy run.  If there's a silver lining on this extreme taper week, it's that my legs felt amazingly fresh.  My ankle is not 100% but so long as I don't roll it laterally again, I'm feeling optimistic it'll survive 26.2 on Sunday.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday Mario

Last week Tuesday was Mario's 9th birthday!  It is really the 8th anniversary of his Gotcha Day and since he was full-grown when I adopted him, I just tack on a year to get his estimated age.

Cake and a candle for the bipeds

Banana Peanut Butter Blueberry Surprise for the Birthday Boy!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Week 13; Power Down

I'm not much of a flower person, but Boyfriend brought home some beauts the other week.

Saturday:  4 miles @ 9:52 pace, 8x hill sprints

Sunday:  7.2 miles including 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 2:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 ladder intervals with equal recovery (average 7:17 pace);  Brought my average pick-up pace down a few seconds from a few weeks ago.  Win.  But my legs are tired.  During the recoveries I felt like a machine powering way, way down (insert stereotypical power down sound here).  After this run all I could think was that taper came at just the right time.

Monday:  6 miles @ 8:54 pace

Tuesday:  4 miles @ 9:43 pace, 10x hill sprints, Bikram Yoga.

Wednesday: 10.5 miles @ 8:40 pace, including 2x 4 miles @ MP (8:26, 8:25 pace); I am still debating what I think a realistic MP is for me right now.  Being in the mid-8:20's feels like MP so I went with it.

Thursday:  Bikram Yoga;  This class was so hot and miserable.  At the end the instructor congratulated us on not leaving the room and the studio erupted into applause for ourselves.  I would have joined in, but I was meditating too hard on not dying.  Seriously.  I go to a night class just once a week and it is always far more humid and hot than the day classes I attend.  I've decided these super hot classes aren't really worth it.  When I'm suffering so much from the heat I only half-ass the poses. 

Friday:  13 miles @ 9:39 pace; Last double-digit run before the marathon.  I felt pretty sluggy the entire run and it wasn't quite the way I'd like to say goodbye to double-digits before the race.  I thought I hydrated well after the hot class the night before but that along with the sunny, "warm" SF weather may have been the downfall of this run.  Still, pulled out the easy pace I was looking for, so won't linger too long on this one.

I have one more quality run next week, but my main focus is recovery for the race.  The last week before a race my mantra is, "Don't be a hero!"  Also hoping to get in 3-4 more Bikram sessions before the race.  I've definitely been slacking in the Bikram department lately.  However, this means I'll probably have to go back to the dreaded night class.

I've entered that awesome point of the training cycle where I am officially a germophobe.  To add to my neurosis, the 10 day forecast finally includes race day.  I know 10 days out is practically like asking a Magic 8 ball, but right now it is saying high of 65, low of 38 (swoon!!) and 60% chance of showers.  Me likey.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Week 12; Last Big Week!

This video of a bunny who thinks he is a herding dog circled the rabbit webs a few weeks ago.  Two things:  1. Since I do my long runs on Fridays & have the moniker, "RoadBunner," I LOVE the song (Yes, it is a bit sadistic being about rabbit pie and all; Yes, I am a nerd and bought it; Yes, I am a dork and also put it on my running playlist.)  2. My animal science professor in college said this, and now I am totally convinced:  Sheep are the stupidest animals on Earth.

Saturday:  Bikram Yoga

Sunday:  8 miles @ 8:46 pace, including 2x 15 minutes @ 7:55, 7:54 pace with 3 min recovery; I did this same workout in December when I first started this training plan and my paces for the pick-ups were 8:13 and 8:07.  One of my goals for the year is to bring my tempo pace sub-8:00.  Don't think I consider 15 minutes (a little under 2 miles each pick-up) tempo distance-wise, but I'm feeling like pretty soon I'll be able to do 4 miles at this pace at tempo effort.

Monday:  12 miles @ 9:11 pace; Plan called for a moderate effort and I probably should have gone for 9:00 pace.  Felt great the whole time, except for the wind tunnel otherwise known as The Great Highway.  It was a beautiful, sunny day but the wind was murder down on the beach.  I knew it was going to be windy and thought about staying within Golden Gate Park where it wouldn't be as relentless, but decided to suck it up.  Hands down, wind is my least favorite weather condition.  I'd rather run in rain.

Tuesday:  5 miles @ 9:43 pace, Bikram Yoga

Wednesday:  10.1 miles @ 8:45 pace, including middle 8 miles @ 8:28 pace; The plan I am following does not believe in doing too much marathon pace work too early on.  Something about peaking too early.  Not 100% sure I believe in this stuff, but seeing as how I rarely did any marathon pace work in the past, who am I to say?  The middle 8 today were supposed to be at marathon pace.  I've recently been reevaluating my goals for Modesto and the last few weeks have been training with 8:30 as my goal pace.  Yeah, that sounds crazy to me, too.  I haven't nailed down my strategy yet, but figure I can't lose from training at a slightly faster pace.  Generally, the pace today felt comfortably hard -- about what my goal pace usually feels like.

Friday:  18 miles @ 8:45 pace; This was a MP+20 run and I nailed the pace I was aiming for.  I have come so far this training cycle.  My first "hard" long run on the plan back in December was 12 miles with the middle 10 at MP+10-20 sec.  I was so nervous for that run and managed to do the middle 10 @ 8:53 pace.  I wasn't nervous for today's run and ran much further and faster.  Obviously 18 is not 26.2, but it still feels pretty good when a non-super race pace would yield almost a ten minute PR; Bikram Yoga.

And finally, it is taper time!  Wow.  Where did this training cycle go?