Sunday, October 28, 2012

Be Still My Beating Heart

My week of relatively easy running after the Detroit half-marathon ended yesterday with.....a dispiriting fizzle.

On the books was a 2-hour run with my heart rate under 150 beats per minute. My right hamstring was sore, so I was happy this one was to be so easy. But sometimes "easy" isn't "simple." From the beginning, my heart rate refused to stay below 150 if I was doing anything that resembled jogging. I'd run a few steps, the heart would zip up to 160 or above (regardless of whether I was going up, going down or running flat), I'd slow to a walk, the heart rate would plunge back into the 120s.....and this went on for the whole two hours. There was no shuffle that wasn't a walk that didn't provoke the 160-plus reaction. Yet I couldn't walk fast enough to keep it in the 130s or 140s.

Here's what it looked like. Not fun.
At first I thought it was a problem with my Garmin heart rate strap (I use the Forerunner 210). Often when I start a run, my monitor will show impossibly high readings (like in the 180s or even over 200) when I'm barely out of the 11-minutes-a-mile range. Since this is a known problem with Garmin heart rate straps, I tend to ignore it, and it smooths out. But when it never settled down yesterday as it usually does, it became impossible to ignore....and though I may be wrong, I decided to trust it, decided that my body just didn't want to run much yesterday and did A LOT of walking.

Now I'm second-guessing that and wondering if it wasn't the watch or the strap after all. I'm going to try some of the tricks I've read online for fixing this problem, and we'll see how tomorrow's easy run goes.

Either way, this isn't exactly how I hoped to launch the "marathon-specific" portion of this run-up to the California International Marathon. I guess I was due a return to earth after last weekend's high. If this is the worst thing that happens to me over the next five weeks, I'll be grateful!

Has anyone else had problems with your Garmin heart rate monitor? Any advice?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Race Notes for CIM

I'd rather be fast than pretty.
Since the Detroit International Half-Marathon went well for me, I wanted to take down my approach to the race, both before and during, so I can do enough of the same things ahead of the California International Marathon to ensure I feel prepped. This is more like a series of notes than a proper blog post--apologies for that. It also doesn't say anything about training. I'm leaving that in Darren's capable hands.

The Week Before: This was about minimizing stress. I was in bed by 8:30, lights out by nine, every night that I could be, including the night before a library workshop I co-presented up in Keystone the Thursday before the race. I also skipped a shake-out run (on Friday) because Dan and I were traveling, we'd had a stressful evening and morning with the kids and had ended up almost missing our plane. We also found when we arrived in Detroit that Dan was feeling sore-throatish. I had no desire to push it with him not feeling 100%, so we sprung for room service that night and slept 12 hours afterwards. The one piece of business I did take care of was collecting my bib and getting my corral changed from the very-back one to the third one from the front. But I didn't linger that day at the expo. I needed to rest and knew it.

The Day Before: On Saturday I did the "race prep" workout Darren scheduled for me. It amounted to about 2 miles with some race-pace pick-ups. I did it on the hotel treadmill, not wanting to stress my back or my twingy hamstring with more concrete than I had to. I was so cautious I actually did most of the warm-up part on my old friend the recumbent bike. Race pace felt really fast to me, even at sea level, and I shook my head at the idea that I could do that for 13 miles. Just goes to show you.....the day before does not necessarily indicate what the day-of will be like.

After that, I went back to the expo with Kathy, Melissa, Tina and Kelly. It was fun, distracting and I got some good deals on shirts for Dan, socks and some Shot Bloks. But this is something I would *not* have done had I been running the marathon instead of the half. In California, I plan to spend the afternoon before the race on my bottom in the hotel room drinking water and watching movies.

That afternoon and early evening were spent sitting around and eating dinner at Eric's parents' house. We watched the Michigan-Michigan State game. It was perfect, and bedtime was again early.

What I Ate: As usual for me before a race, I cut out all dairy, sweets, high-fiber foods and anything gassy from my diet starting on Friday. Dinner Friday night was some kind of chicken, white rolls, salad and water. Lunch on Saturday was a subway turkey club on white with no cheese and some Baked Lays. Dinner at Eric's parents was gnocchi with red sauce (no cheese), salad and white bread. Breakfast the day of the race was a few handfuls of Special K cereal, a hard-boiled egg and black coffee. I also started drinking water as soon as I woke up. This all worked like a dream and I had no "issues" during the race.

During the race, I had two or three Shot Bloks at around Mile 4, some Sport Beans around Mile 8 and some more Shot Bloks between Miles 10 and 12. I drank only water on the course, at the beginning from my little handheld bottle and later from the aid stations. This also worked like a charm. I actually felt the lift I got from the Sport Beans about five minutes after eating them.

After the race, I felt great and was able to immediately drink a container of chocolate milk and eat a banana. I didn't get hungry again until much later, when I downed an entire plate of chips and guac myself.

What I Wore: Skirt Sports sleeveless top, Asics arm warmers, North Face bra with pocket (which is where I stashed my Shot Bloks and Sport Beans), Nike Tempo Shorts, Tommy Copper calf sleeves, Balega socks and Brooks Pure Flows shoes. I didn't wear a hat and didn't need one. This made for some seriously bad hair and race pictures, but I don't really care about that. The hat I would have worn is my black Boulder Marathon hat, and this is the one I will take to CIM too.

Mostly this outfit worked fine. I give a huge thumbs up to the calf sleeves and the bra. The shorts were fine, but were starting to chafe in the thighs by the end of the race, something I'll need to deal with in a race that's double the length. Not sure if Body Glide will do the trick or if I need different shorts....I'll try some things out on long runs this cycle and see how it goes. Ditto for my shoe-sock combo. The shoes felt nice and light, but the bottoms of my feet were starting to blister by the end of the race, not something I want happening only halfway through a marathon. This happened to me in Houston, too, but much later on in the race. I will be experimenting with different socks on long runs to see what works.

I will probably wear something very similar in this race. I don't like the way I look in sleeveless shirts, but it was nice when it got warm in the tunnel, and later on, when the chilly air felt good, to have my arms bare to the wrists. Ditto for the legs. I'll wear capris only if it's really cold.

What I Listened To: I turned on my music (all Mumford & Sons playlist!) at the halfway mark of this race. In marathons, I typically turn it on at Mile 18. I plan to stick with this. I also used my tiny iPod Shuffle instead of my big iPod Touch. This worked well, too.

Warm-Up: This was a big flaw. I didn't really warm up at all and didn't really have time (I did do some 100-Ups in the corral--thanks to Jill for this idea). I'm not sure how to deal with this. It's really hard to time a warm-up and still position yourself properly in the line-up for a big race. CIM was capped at 8,000, which means there will be only slightly fewer people than were lining up for Detroit (the full and half-marathoners all started together). I'll have to talk to Darren about this. I've never warmed up for a marathon and it's my understanding that you mostly don't need to. But on the other hand I need every second I can get and I don't want to waste any time starting too slow because I'm improperly warmed up.

Things I'm an Advocate For:
--Staying in the host hotel--it's worth the extra money to be able to leave as late as possible, use your own bathroom as many times as necessary and be close to your room when you are finished with your race. At CIM, Tricia and I are staying at the host hotel.

--Arriving two days before the race--this means the day before is true downtime, not the negotiation of airports and check-ins. I'm doing this at CIM too.

--Sleeping a lot in the weeks before a race. My social life is about to get cut way back. That's OK. In fact, it's now time for nap. God love you if you read this far! Any advice or thoughts are welcome!