Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lactate Threshold Test Results

It's now been two days and one epic Mumford & Sons concert since my lactate threshold test.

Red Rocks is an amazing place to see a concert, even when you're in row 58.

And I love Mumford & Sons even when they interfere with my sleep. (Photo credits:
Darren sent my heart-rate ranges for training yesterday. Here they are:

My test indicated a maximum heart rate of 185. That's four beats faster than the "220 minus your age" formula would have assigned me. The training ranges therefore are:

Easy runs--145 or lower
Long runs--150 or lower
Tempo runs--164-168
Speed workouts--172-176 (the same as that blurry second mile of the LT test--woo hoo)

This may be hard to adjust to, especially on the slower runs. It's going to be hard not to let that heart rate creep over 150. I've historically been bad at holding a pace--I either go too fast or too slow, like a drunk person swerving over the center line of the road--so we'll see if that lack of ability extends to heart rates too. But I've heard good things about this type of training, and I'm excited to try something new. It seems lower pressure than trying to conform to a pace chart--after all, this is very specific to my own body--surely you can't be much more appropriate in training than that, right?

I'll let you know how my first two runs with this go tomorrow and Saturday.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lactate Threshold Test!

I mentioned in my last post how much I would like to run a race.

Well, today I got to (sort of). I ran my long-awaited 2-mile lactate threshold test for Darren.

Darren sends me the week's workouts every Sunday, so that's when I found out I had the test on tap for today. Even though this sort of test is NOT a race--it's an all-out effort done to establish proper heart rate ranges for various training workouts--I got almost as nervous as if it were. I haven't run "all-out" anything since February. I've only rarely ever run an all-out 2-miler. And I had no idea how I would manage to run that fast AND take 1/4-mile split times and heart rates.

Fortunately Darren was able to meet me at Flatiron Athletic Club (the setting of this post from a long time ago) to supervise my run on the treadmill. It was the first time I've run for him, which upped the adrenaline factor even more but also reduced the nervousness because he'd be there to help me push the pace, record the splits--and just generally get it done.

I arrived a half-hour early to warm up, stretch and do some strides. Out in the car just before I went inside the club, the new song by Mumford & Sons, whom Dan and I will be seeing at Red Rocks Amphitheater tomorrow night, came on the radio. If you haven't heard it yet, it's amazing. I listened to the whole thing, hoping the words "...feel my heart slow...." would somehow trickle into my test time.

Once inside and ready to go, I chose a treadmill on the end of a row so Darren would be able to see the screen. Then I ran a very slow 15-minute warm-up, did my stretches from Dr. Hansen and climbed back on the machine for four 25-second strides.

Somewhere in the middle of the slow 15 minutes, I acquired a neighbor to my immediate left. She seriously looked like Atalanta herself--tall, not an ounce of body fat, sponsored jersey. She started her warm-up at just a little slower than where I expected to be for my all-out test, and after a while launched into intervals at a 5-minute-per-mile pace. I just had to laugh. This kind of thing happens to me whenever I go into that club.

Darren got there right on time, and we pretty much launched straight into it, starting at an 8:30 pace, but ratcheting that down pretty quickly to 8 minutes/mile even. After that, Darren lowered it again every quarter mile, and as we got nearer the end more often than that. I pushed the lap button on my Garmin every quarter mile to record my time and heart rate for the split.

It's so great to have a coach. At one point early in the first mile he told me I wasn't running hard enough "because you can still talk and laugh." Which made me laugh a little more. Until he duly increased the pace. He also at one point stood behind me to give my form a look. Apparently I was almost entirely on my toes, fine for going fast but maybe not for a long race. But overall, he said, my form is good. He said some other things I can't remember, because I was starting to hurt by the end of that first mile.

I don't remember much of the second mile. I do recall being really hot, and trying to say the lyrics to the Mumford & Sons song in my head and losing the thread really quickly. (Darren said: "Hot? Hot is OK.") At one point I tried to look at the TV above the treadmill and was unable to concentrate enough to register what was on. Darren at this point was reminding me to concentrate on form, remember the core work I've been doing, so I tried. But he also kept pushing that pace, so every now and then I'd check in and realize I was doing that loping tired thing. At the end, all I could do was think of the number that would end that quarter split and of getting to it. The last tenth of a mile he had me at a 6:30 pace.

And then it was over. I did the two miles in 15:13:37. My first mile was 7:53 and my second 7:20. I noticed my fleet-footed neighbor had left at some point. Darren hung around a little longer and took my heart rate again two minutes after I finished. It had fallen from 177 to 133. Then he was off to a master's swim workout and I was on my own to cool down and do my weights/core routine.

Now how do I feel, six hours later? A little headachy--I probably should have hydrated better afterwards. A lot hungry. A little elated, because I can still run sort of fast (for me). I plugged the time into the McMillan Calculator, and while I've definitely lost some of my fitness since the Houston Marathon, it's at a place I can work with. I'm VERY glad I worked that recumbent bike so hard all spring. And I'm feeling VERY grateful to have hired a coach.

Now I'm waiting for him to send me my training paces. Now, I feel, the real training is beginning.

13 weeks to the California International Marathon. 13 weeks, and a lot of work to do.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Details, Details!

Since I've decided to forgo a steroid injection in my back, it's time to check in with some of the normal things that runners training for a big event worry about! It's nice to have these kinds of worries again.

New Timepiece: Sometime in the four months when I was confined to the recumbent bike full-time, my husband Dan took our Garmin Forerunner 110 on a trail run.....and though Dan (happily) came back, somehow the Garmin didn't. I didn't care at that point because I didn't need it. And when I started running outside again in June, I bought a cheap Casio stopwatch for $20. I didn't want to see my depressing paces anyway--it would have been counter-productive.

Now, however, with Darren interested in heart rates and my lactate threshold test coming up (date not yet set), it's time for me start paying attention to details again--not necessarily of pace, but definitely of heart rate. So, after consulting Cynthia, who sent me this excellent review (Cynthia's a bit of a gearhead herself!), I bought the Garmin Forerunner 210 last week.

It comes in my favorite color.
I've used it on two runs so far. I'm still ignoring pace for now, even on pick-ups. What I'm watching is that heart rate. It's definitely higher than the ones I see on the recumbent bike. But I'm not going to sweat it until I see the results of the lactate test and hear what Darren has to say. I'm mostly interested in setting a baseline.

Diet: My weight has stabilized back at the 128-130 range. Would I like it to be lower? Sure. But as the running as gradually ramped up, so has the appetite, and with my kids starting kindergarten and all the associated busy-ness and changes to our routine that we're already dealing with, I don't feel like doing anything more than maintaining my current habits (still no sweets except on Sunday, still trying to avoid chips and salsa and sometimes failing, still trying to eat more vegetables).

The only thing that's really bugging me about my diet is that on every long weekend run since I hit 50 minutes I've had to stop to use the bathroom. Sigh. I had that problem licked during Houston Marathon training late last year. Time to lick it again. What this means is watching carefully what I eat on Thursday and Friday before the long run. Less fiber. Less dairy. Fewer gassy vegetables. We'll see how tomorrow's long one goes. I'm still going to make sure there are some strategically placed bathrooms en route.

Races: Boy, would I like to do one! But it's still not my time.

Kathy and some of my other friends have suggested I do some of the fun races coming up around here. The Denver/Boulder area is about to get pretty amazing for race choices (it's actually always pretty amazing). Here's the one Kathy's doing--I've always wanted to do it--and here's an upcoming trail one I've wanted to try. The distances finally aren't beyond my capacity.

But with my back still not 100% and two long races on the calendar (the Detroit Half Marathon on October 21 and the California International Marathon on December 2), I'm going to let Darren tell me when I can race again and how far. It may be he won't let me do anything until Detroit, and I'm OK with that. I hired him because he is the expert. He wants me to get to those two starting lines healthy. That's what I want too.

Someday I'll be able to race every weekend again if I want to (and I'll probably want to), but right now running well in December is the thing I really care about. If Darren suggests an earlier short race, it'll be gravy.

Sleep: My kids going to kindergarten has been good for my own sleep routine. When they were in preschool, we could all wander in after 9 a.m. and no one cared. At their elementary school, they have to be there by 7:55 sharp, which means I need to be finished with my run by 6:30 to get them up, fed and ready. Which in turn means I'm getting up earlier for my run and have been much less tempted to read or putter around until 11 p.m. the night before.

Doctors and Other Therapy: I'm now seeing only Dr. Hansen, the chiropractor, and only once every two or three weeks. I'm also planning on having a sports massage with Kate at least once a month (I can only afford it that often) until after CIM. Hopefully this will be enough to keep my back and hips mostly happy.

All this is adding up to a pretty good groove for me right now. I hope I can keep it going. As with pace and heart rate, I'm not worrying about whether I can qualify for the Boston Marathon in December.

Logically, I probably can't expect to. But logic is only one piece of the running equation.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Executive Decision: No Injection

I'll admit: the warning that the injection for my back, originally scheduled for tomorrow, would cost more than $600 out of pocket played a role. But mostly, it's that I'm happy with my running right now, I'm convinced that running isn't making my back worse--and I want to keep my modest little momentum going.

So I did the math. It looked something like this:

[(Don't want to take a week off running; marathon 14 weeks away) + $600] - (Back still not pain-free) =

I Cancelled the Shot

It wasn't an open and shut choice. I still have a lot of pain first thing in the morning and overnight (trying to turn over in bed when I've been in one place for a while....yeah, it hurts). Getting into and out of certain positions that should flow easily in Pilates can cause me to catch my breath. And sitting too long (which I have to do at my job sometimes) doesn't agree with my back and glutes at all.

But my core is clearly stronger. I was able to go across some monkey bars on a playground with much more ease than the last time I tried (it's always fun to impress your kids). And today Kate, my fantastic massage therapist, said she thought my back and hamstrings were the loosest and happiest she'd seen them since she started working on me last December. This is despite the fact that I am down to just one session per week on the recumbent bike. All the rest of my cardio is.....running!

I can always reschedule the shot if it turns out I really do need it. But first I want to try to get to the California International Marathon as well-trained as possible given the four-month lay-off I had between March and June.

This injury isn't gone. I'm not going to pretend it is. I do wonder if it will ever completely go away. But though my running base has undoubtedly eroded, I do know that my core is far stronger than it was last year for Top of Utah or Houston, and that has to count for something. I figure I'm at least as safe training for this marathon as I was for those. This was never really a running injury, as much as it turned out that it interfered with running.

So I'm going for it. I'm going to train as hard as I safely can to run as fast as I can in Sacramento on December 2.

All I can do is, as they say in Russia, "Go with God." Isn't that all I could ever do anyway?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Do You Trash Talk?

My husband and I were playing two-handed bridge tonight, and I made a move that I thought would take a trick and surprise him. But turns out he was able to beat my play with a king I didn't realize he had.

"Shoulda counted better," he crowed.

On the next trick, I got him with an unexpected trump.

"Now who shoulda counted better!" I declared in triumph, taking the trick with a measly 10.

It's fun to do a little trash talking with my husband over bridge. But as we continued to play (and he beat me, probably because I started thinking about the subject of this post rather than the game), it occurred to me that I have a very different attitude about trash talking in running.

I don't do it. I don't like it. If anyone tried to trash talk me about a race, I'd roll right over and say, "Yeah, you're right. You're going to kick my ass."

So what's the difference between running and bridge? Part of it is that my husband and I are, well, husband and wife, and we know each other well enough to know where the line of too much and just enough teasing lies. In fact, he's one of the very few people I have enough of a level of comfort with to allow him to tease me at all. I hate being teased, period. I know it makes me come across in some contexts as uptight and humorless, when I don't think I'm humorless at all and I'm only a bit uptight, but it's the way I've always been. It's not that I can't poke fun at myself. But I'd rather be the one doing the poking. I wonder if this is a flaw. Probably. Probably not being able to take teasing is just a step from not being able to take criticism, which is a bad quality.

The other part of it, though, is that while I know I'm not very good at bridge and would like to get better, I'm laid-back when practicing it and not really worried about how I appear. In running, I know I'm not very good at it and want to get better--but I care a great deal about how I appear. I don't want to promise what I can't deliver, even to those who are friends. And if someone were to tease me about my running ability, about beating me in a particular race, my fragile ego would take it to heart, even if my head knew it was meant in fun.

This could be a big part of why I never liked team sports. Some people find sports-related teasing fun, a big part of the whole experience. Alas, I believe this is a side of running culture I'll never be able to participate in.

Do you talk trash in running? How are you about teasing?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Late Dark Horse Ellimpics Entry

XLMIC (many of you know her funny blog) recently hosted a special challenge for us injured folks.

Fittingly on many levels, she called it the "Ellimpics."

I signed up right away for the "One-Hour Recumbent Bike" category. I knew I would win....because who with a choice would ride a recumbent bike for an hour?

XL, being competitive, wanted me to go for something truly epic, like a recumbent century, or even just a metric century. But I balked. I wanted to stick to my training plan, modest as it still is. Moreover, I was three days late in completing the event (the Ellimpics, like their namesake, were supposed to be finished on Sunday).

What can I say. I'm a wimpy sort of Ellimpian.

Perhaps, though, XL will give me points for doing my event on London time (I arrived at the rec center this morning at 5:15 a.m.)...and maybe, if I'm really lucky, she'll take into account all of the miles I've done on this supportive yet boring bike since March, which must have added up to several centuries. I didn't keep track of mileage while on the recumbent. It didn't mean anything to me, and I cared more about RPM. However many miles they were, they certainly felt geological in scale as I was doing them. It was truly Ellimpic level training.

Anyway, here are today's results!

Nearing the end......
I rode exactly 15.75 miles in the allotted 60 minutes.

It's no coincidence that today happened to be one where Darren scheduled me for the bike anyway (I'm down to just one recumbent ride a week now!). So within my Ellimpian effort, I did a typical Darren bike ladder, which today looked like this:

5 minutes easy pedal

4 minutes at 90 RPM
8 minutes at 85 RPM
4 minutes at 80 RPM
4 minutes easy

3 minutes at 90 RPM
6 minutes at 85 RPM
3 minutes at 80 RPM
3 minutes easy

2 minutes at 90 RPM
4 minutes at 85 RPM
2 minutes at 80 RPM
2 minutes easy

1 minute at 90 RPM
2 minutes at 85 RPM
1 minute at 80 RPM

5 minutes cool-down easy

The photo above shows my notebook off to one side. I'd never remember these ladder workouts at that hour without a cheat sheet. Also, you'll see by the low resistance level (5) and the remaining time (only 2 plus minutes left), that I was in the cool-down phase. During the RPM-specific phases, I ratchet that resistance up quite a bit. For the 80s today, I was up to around 10. Probably some of you veteran cyclists could whup me (the thing goes up to 20)...but fortunately none of you were competing against me in the Ellimpics.

So there you have it! Do you think that's good enough for Ellimpic gold?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Vacation Running

I'm such a pessimist. I didn't think any vacation with the kids could actually be relaxing. Happy thing to be wrong! Happy thing, in fact, that this was one of the best vacations I've ever taken.

I'll let the pictures do the talking:

We stayed in this cabin, which had no bathroom or showers (there was an outhouse and, up at the main ranch complex, showers; I like camping, but for a full week I want regular showers):

Elevation around 8,000 feet
 The night before we arrived we camped at Great Sand Dunes National Park:

That's me channeling Lawrence of Arabia. Actually I was chasing down Will, who had no fear of the pathless dunes.

I had a wonderful run on the park road paralleling the Dunes before we left.

Once at the cabin, we settled right in. In the morning, I had another wonderful run and then cooled off in the La Plata River, which was literal feet from the cabin's front door.

A river runs through it (it being my bottom): I took an ice bath just like this after all of my runs at the cabin.
The scenery was gorgeous. I wish I had a ranch to run on all the time, like Christy. I didn't have to leave the property to run at all, and in fact did so only once, when I went to the Durango Recreation Center so I could do some weights, too. Here's some of the scenery from my runs, which included my first 60-minuter since March:

Wonderful soft dirt and gravel surfaces, some in shade, some in sun.
Lakes and meadows to run around. I was careful, but Dan managed to turn his ankle on one of his runs in a high pasture.
This was the view to the north.
In addition to running, we were lazy for two complete days, letting the kids get muddy and play in the river while we read books, and on two other days we rode the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and visited Mesa Verde.

Ruthie and I climb out of a kiva at one of Mesa Verde's cliff dwellings.
Pretty sure God made the Great Sand Dunes for kids. And walking on them is good for grown-up calves too. No way did I run on them, though.
I had forgotten how a good vacation leaves you refreshed. That's the point, right?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Olympics and Summer Vacation

This morning Dan and I got up early to watch the women's Olympic Marathon. We don't have cable or any kind of DVR/Tivo set-up, so watching it live was the only option. I've watched every Olympic Marathon since Deena and Meb took medals in 2004 (how awesome was that??), and I wasn't going to start missing them this year.

I didn't regret getting up (especially because Dan let me go back to sleep afterwards and I slept until 9:40 a.m., a post-kids record!). I also really enjoyed watching the men's 10,000 yesterday. My favorite feature of both races? Seeing the bonds between training partners.

Good friends who ran hard and supported each other to the end. Credit: NBC Olympics
" is silver and the other's gold." Credit: USA Today
When the floodlights go down, win or lose, these athletes will always have running and their friendships. I think it's fantastic! It makes me grateful for all of my running friends, and all of my friends, period.

Yesterday I ran for 50 minutes. I had to stop for a bathroom break, but even that made me happy, because it meant that I am once again running long enough that I need to worry about my diet the day before. Time to resume some old habits! I can't wait until Darren lets me run for an hour, and I think when I'm allowed to go 90 minutes I'll actually feel I can say those magic words, "I'm back."

I'm in the middle of reading Matt Fitzgerald's Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running By Feel. I will review it when I'm finished, but I wanted to put in a plug right away for the chapter on injury. He describes injuries as a gift because you come back from them both grateful for your running and hungry for your goals. This has certainly been my experience so far.

My family and I are going on vacation in southwest Colorado this week, so I'll be taking a blogging hiatus. When I come back, I'll be grateful for fall running, for my coaching situation, for my big kids who are starting kindergarten, for my husband, Dan, who rigged up an antenna and then a connection to the BBC so we could watch the Olympics (no cable in my house), for my extended family and all my friends. This has turned out to be a great summer, though not in the way I expected it to.

Here's the cabin near Durango where we'll be staying. Ahhh!!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Love Letter to the Ponds (July Recap)

It was one of those "I don't want to get out of bed" mornings. But my little 40-minute run with five 90-second pick-ups turned that around.

When I arrived at the park where I'm doing most of my outdoor running right now, I barely noticed its beauties. It consists of three man-made fishing ponds with a parking lot, picnic shelters and bathrooms on one side and the St. Vrain River on the other. The river side is especially pretty, the tumbling little river snaking through cottonwoods and falling over an old dam, and the ponds themselves are full of waterfowl (the egrets and blue herons are my favorites). It takes about 15 minutes at my warm-up pace to get all the way around the gravel loop. It's flat the whole time, perfect for someone coming back from an injury.

But this morning at 6 a.m. I was still half-asleep. Dan and I went down to Denver last night with some friends to see my beloved St. Louis Cardinals lose to the Colorado Rockies. I was all hyped up from the fun of seeing a baseball game--my first live one since my kids were born!--and didn't fall asleep until 11:30.

A loud splash brought me out of my reverie. I don't know what kind of animal I startled on my initial warm-up amble, but it woke me up. I began my jog, firing up the Casio. (I haven't used a Garmin since I began running again--Dan is pretty sure he lost ours. I don't know when I'm going to have to deal with that, but it's probably going to be soon.)

Gradually, awareness of my surroundings began seeping in. A rooster crowed. The full moon, sinking above the mountains in the west, faded from its initial snowy white to a pale cream color that blended with the morning sky. Ducks waddled awkwardly on land, plunging into the water where they became grace itself. My steps strengthened. I said hi to a couple of other regulars. Before I knew it, I was around the circuit once.

The second circuit brought five 90-second pick-ups. I had been too tired to worry about how I'd feel on them, a good thing since they felt great. Once thing I've noticed about the fartleks I've been assigned in the last three weeks or so is that I'm much less of a clock watcher with them than I have been with this kind of thing in the past. You know what I mean? When you think you must be almost done with the interval, and then you look at your timepiece and realize, oh, I'm only 1/4 of the way through? That doesn't happen to me much for now. It probably means I'm not going as fast as I used to, but I think it also means I'm doing them right.

Today, as I skimmed along, feeling more awake and alive with each step, I thought only about how great it was that I was in the shade for this pick-up, or on a nice straight-away for that one. When the run was over, I realized I'd gone further around the ponds than I have to this point. It was only seven and a half minutes of fast running, but it did the trick.

Four hours later, I'm feeling a little sleepy again, but also that I have the energy for the things I need to do today (including shopping for school supplies for kindergarten).

I'm eager to test myself on asphalt again, and hilly trails, and the track. I'm eager to run further. But I love my course around the ponds. It made for a July that, though I have no miles to tally and no races to report, was my best month since January and the Houston Marathon. So far it's making for a great August, too.