Wednesday, November 28, 2012

CIM Goals & Race Plan

Maybe I should call this post The Art of Racing in the Rain (apologies to Garth Stein, whose book I haven't yet read).

Yes, it's true: "heavy" rain and 18 mile-per-hour winds. If I'm reading the course map right, we'll be running right into those winds for a good chunk of the course. The race is still five days out. I'm hoping that wind forecast will be revised. You can't do anything about wind except maybe draft off of other runners (and when you do that it's only polite to take a turn being the trailblazer yourself)......or revise your finish time expectations.

Rain, however, I can handle. This being high and dry Colorado, I didn't train in it even once, but I used to run in it all the time in Houston and New York City. Here are the tips I plan to follow on race day:

1) Wear a garbage bag while waiting at the start.
2) Wear a baseball cap to keep water from dripping down my face (thanks, Raina, for this one!).
3) Lube up with Body Glide and (on my feet) Vaseline.
4) Have a friend hold dry socks and shoes somewhere on the course. Lucky for me my old friend Angela is coming from the Bay Area to watch, though she may change her mind when she sees that forecast.
5) Change quickly after finishing into dry clothes.

You can't do anything about the weather except try to make the best of it. Those of you who ran the Boston Marathon earlier this year know that all too well.

My taper runs this week have gone well, including the 4x1 mile at race pace workout I had yesterday. I ran it on the treadmill at a 1% incline with each mile at an 8:27 pace. My heart rate cooperated nicely, staying between 155-163 on all four miles.

That positions me nicely to go with the plan Darren and I discussed on Saturday afternoon. Darren, like my husband Dan and like me, said his only concern is whether I've done enough time on my feet (long runs). Due to my back issue and a September cold, we couldn't ramp up to the point where I could get in a really good number of 3-hour-plus length runs. But on the other hand, I did well in my half-marathon in October, I've felt good during the training since then and I'm feeling healthy and rested. Even my twingy hamstring has cooperated for the last three weeks.

So Darren thinks if all comes together, I can get the Boston qualifying time of 3:44:59 or better.

So that's my goal: 3:44:59

Here's how he wants me to execute:

1) Run about an 8:30 pace for the first half. That would put me through the half-marathon mark at 1:51:30. A little slower is OK, but he absolutely does not want to see anything faster.
2) After the halfway point, I'm allowed to pick up the pace if I'm feeling good. He thinks 8:20 to 8:25 miles at this point would be safe, but NOTHING faster than 8:20. I'm to hold these paces through Mile 22 if possible.
3) After Mile 22, if I've been able to hold the pace, I can either speed up more if I'm still feeling good OR slow down a tad if I'm feeling tight or tired. If I do slow down, he thinks I should still try to maintain 8:40s in order to make my time goal.
4) I'm not to worry about my heart rate, though I do plan to have the strap on (liberally lubed with Body Glide) so I can analyze it later.

 Here are some additional things I plan to do:

1) Start with the 3:45 pace group. As long as they are not running faster than 8:30/mile, I'll stick with them through around 15 miles. If they're a little slower (like 8:34 or so), it's probably to my advantage. Slower at the beginning is good.
2) Wear my pace bands from Races2Remember in case the pace group doesn't work out (maybe because they are going too fast). These will save me from trying to do math with an increasingly addled brain.
3) Turn on the tunes at Mile 18. This really helped with "the Wall" in Houston and I hung on to it as as reward for getting through the earlier miles according to plan.
4) Carry a bottle for the first few miles at least so that I don't have to scrum at crowded aid stations. Ditch the bottle when things spread out and it starts to bug me to have it in my hand.
5) Stick to my trusty Shot Bloks with water every 4 miles or so for fuel. (Darren thinks I need to learn to love sports drink, but we agree we'll save that task for the next marathon.)

I'm rooming with Tricia, and am very excited for her to finish her first marathon, which I think she'll do in style. There will also be numerous other bloggers there. I'm excited to meet Amanda, Margot, XLMIC and others.

And I'm VERY excited to see Angela. I've known her since first grade. Her whole family is an inspiration and not just in running (though they excel at that). She's mentioned in my first post on this blog. It would be an honor if I could qualify for Boston with her there.

Getting back to the issue of the wind....I will be unhappy if it doesn't turn out to be the perfect day. I'll be disappointed if I don't meet my goal for this race. But I'm determined that ONLY something like weather, which is totally beyond my control, will keep me from it this time. Damnit, all you can do is try. In marathons, even on perfect days, you NEVER know.

As the author I mentioned at the beginning of this post put it: "There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose."

I'll see you guys on the other side!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

One Week to Go

I have one week to go until the California International Marathon. In one week, in fact, I will be finished with it, for better or worse.

Last "Long" Run: Yesterday I did my last long run, 90 minutes with a harder 1/2 hour thrown in in the middle. It was a lousy run as confidence-boosters go. I managed to stay at what I have been hoping will be race pace (8:30/mile) for about the first 15 minutes of the "harder" part. After that, my heart rate, which was supposed to stay between 155-165, began to wig out on me, and I had to slow down. The final 30 minutes, in which I was supposed to stay below 150, actually required some walking to do that. I don't think I can blame the Garmin this time. I think my body just wasn't having it. Soon after, I had to find a bathroom pronto. Let's hope neither of these things (slowing down and gut issues) happen next Sunday. Maybe I can blame two days of Thanksgiving food??? :^)

Heart rate training can be a real heart-breaker (no pun intended) because there's no way to avoid the bluntness of it on bad days. When you start to exceed requirements, you just have to slow down, or there's no point in doing it at all.

That said, it's not the first time I've had a bad run a week before a marathon. Does this happen to anyone else?

Conversation with Dan:

I bored my husband even more than usual about CIM this weekend, but I figure he has only a few more days of putting up with it. On Friday night over some two-handed bridge, I asked him if he thought I could do it (meaning qualify for Boston). Dan is always honest with me. He's a scientist, very rational and practical, and while he's also very kind, he wasn't going to be all sunshine and sparkles if he really didn't think it possible.

So I was happy when this is what he had to say on the subject: "The only question for me is your endurance. Did you do enough long runs? You clearly have the speed."

So he didn't say NO (and the long run issue is the one on my mind, too). Which is encouraging!

Menu Planning:
I'm normally a huge scatterbrain when it comes to meal-planning, but not this week. Here's what's for dinner in my house through Thursday:

Tonight: Pasta w/ Dan's tomato sauce and mushrooms
Monday: Leftover pasta (last speed workout Tuesday morning--4x1 miles at marathon pace--requires bland food)
Tuesday: Egg, chili and cheese burrito (recovering from said hard workout while working late)
Wednesday: Chicken, green salad and green beans
Thursday: Pasta w/ Dan's tomato sauce (again; hey, don't stray from what works, right?)

Pace Bands:

I've ordered pace bands from Races2Remember. They are for 3:50 (which would be a PR but not a BQ), 3:45 (the Golden Threshold and my A goal) and 3:40 (the Moonshot)

How I'm Feeling:

Yesterday afternoon I sat down with Darren for a half hour to talk about the race and our plan for it. That plan is not final, because some of it depends on how Tuesday's 4x1 mile workout goes, so I'll be including the details of the conversation in my goals post later this week.

But right now, a day after the conversation on another beautiful day in Colorado, I'm feeling pretty optimistic, even with the way yesterday's run went. I'm not going to say "I know I will BQ." I'm not an "if you believe it, it will come" person. But if it's a good weather day in Sacramento, if I approach the marathon with the proper humility and concentration, if I execute the plan Darren laid out for me, and if I can find the zone I ran in in Detroit, I think I CAN BQ. And after the year I've had, that's such an exhilarating mindset to be in!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kicking My Bootie

THIS is tapering???? says Terzah the Tortoise. :^)
I may be tapering, but today you could have fooled me.

My alarm woke me at 4:30 so I could get to the gym when it opened at 5 for my Tuesday speed workout.

This was only the third time this entire cycle (including the lead-up to the Detroit half-marathon) that I've gotten on a treadmill. The weather has been amazing, warm and calm and clear. It's been fantastic to train outside so late in the year. But today marked the second week I've done the Tuesday workout on the treadmill. I typically have to get up earlier on Tuesday than any other day. I like running in the dark, but only when I can let my mind wander and the miles flow by at a comfortable pace.

And Tuesday paces.....aren't comfortable. Darren's had me doing increasingly faster-paced workouts--and it was getting hard (by myself, in the dark, groping to light up the Garmin to see my heart rate and pace) to push my legs to the point where the heart rate stayed above 170 or higher as long as he had asked. So I asked him if I could do these inside, and he said yes, provided I keep the incline at 1%.

Here's what he had me doing between 5:30 and 6:45 a.m. today:

After a warm-up and some strides:
2 miles at HR 160-165 (two min active rest)
then 3 x 1/2 mile at HR 170-175 (two min active rest after each)
then another 2 miles at HR 160-165 (two min active rest)
then 3 x 1/2 mile at HR 170-175

This is how that translated into pace:
1st 2 mile--paces between 8:00-and 8:47
1/2 mile--6:58-7:30 pace
1/2 mile--7:05--7:30 pace
1/2 mile--7:05-7:30 pace
2nd 2 mile (the disappointing one; legs felt like rubber)--huge range between 8:27 and 9:30; I was able to ramp back down to 8:47 in the 2nd mile and still keep HR at or under 165, but just barely
1/2 mile--6:58--7:24
1/2 mile--6:58--7:24
1/2 mile--6:53 (!)--7:12 (happy with these; not sure why they stayed fast when the 2 mile preceding them was so slow, but I'll take it)

The total with the warm-up and cool-down came to about 9 miles. I was proud of myself...and pretty much ready to crawl back into bed.

BUT it was time to meet Colleen for the last of our four pre-California International Marathon weight sessions.

Another blogger with a hamstring issue emailed me last week to ask what Colleen is having me do to keep my own occasional right-hammy flare-up under control, so I thought I'd share that here. The answer is: a lot of hamstring-strengthening exercises and a lot of glute exercises. And by "a lot" I mean A LOT more than I've ever done before.

Today, for example, we did hamstring curls on a special bench designed for that purpose, raising the weight with two legs, then lowering it with one. We also did two sets of hamstring curls on a Swiss ball (with a small weighted ball between my knees to bring my adductors into the game). We also did balancing lunges with my back leg dangling from a rope loop. We also did bridges and clam shells for the glutes, and side walking with my ankles bound up in one of those rubber band ropes. There were also upper-body exercises and calf strengtheners.

Between all of those, we did LOTS of core--side planks, crunches on and off the ball, curl-ups on an angled bench...You've probably done or at least seen most of what we do. It's just that with Colleen, I do much more of it.

Finally, throughout the workout (not just at the end), we stretch, especially those hamstrings (though we do it gently).

Colleen has had hamstring issues a lot of her career, too, and she said that whenever she slacks off the hamstring exercises her issues return. When her hamstring is sore, she says, she eases into the work, maybe lifting only ten pounds with the "bad" side--but weight training is part of what she does. Always.

That's a good lesson for me. I've always found weight training dull, and even when I've been faithful about it, I've never trained as hard as I have with Colleen. It's been an eye opener.

So after getting my bootie kicked twice, first by a world-class coach and then by a world-class runner (who is a fantastic personal trainer; I recommend her to all my Colorado running friends), I went to the dentist, squeezed in an hour nap....and then went to work.

Taper ain't never been like this before!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Virtual Race and a Long Run


Laura at Mommy Run Fast is co-hosting a virtual race to raise money for the Red Cross's efforts on behalf of Hurricane Sandy victims (it runs through December 1, so you can still sign up; click the bib image above for more information). Dan and I had been looking to donate anyway to a hurricane-related cause, and I had a speedier one-hour run on the books this week, so I thought I'd make a "race" of it.

Yesterday's run was a "steady state" run, in which I was to start out with 15 minutes at a very easy heart rate (145 beats per minute), ramp up to 15 minutes at 150-155 bpm, then to 15 minutes at 155-160 and finish with 15 minutes at 160-165. I figured I could do at least 10K in that period of time, so that's what I'm calling my virtual race.

Here's how it ended up:

Overall: 6.35 miles; 1 hour 6 seconds; avg pace 9:28; avg HR 152

Mile 1: 12:03, avg HR 136 (Garmin was wigging out as usual during the first mile; I'm not sure how accurate the pace or the heart rate is for this mile)
Mile 2: 9:09, avg HR 144
Mile 3: 9:21, avg HR 154
Mile 4: 8:46, avg HR 160
Mile 5: 9:01, avg HR163
Mile 6: 8:49; avg HR 164
Last .35: 8:33 pace, avg HR 163

It wasn't my fastest 10K, but I nailed the workout and felt fantastic. Plus Darren was happy with it, which makes me happy. Thanks for hosting the virtual race, Laura!

Today I followed that up with a 2 hour 15 minute long run, this time all at an easy heart rate (below 150). I ran it slowly, but I returned to the tough course in Boulder where I ran long two weeks ago, so the terrain made up for the pace.

This was my last long run of the cycle. Darren has already posted next week's workouts, and the "long" run next Saturday is only 90 minutes. There's a tough speed workout on Tuesday, but I can truly say now that I am tapering.

Two weeks to the California International Marathon.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Three (W) Things Thursday

I don't usually do Three Things Thursdays or Wordless Wednesdays, but it sort of works today. It's another excuse to do a post in bullet points, at least!

1. Weight: I've been worried about it, in the manner of someone who has a big race in just over two weeks and can't seem to stop eating. My sweet tooth has become a fang. So has my savory tooth (chicken and dumplings.....mmmmmmmm........) I'm still controlling the sweet tooth except on Sundays, though I did have some pumpkin pie at my daughter's class Thanksgiving lunch today. I love pumpkin pie. Not exercising such control over the savory tooth......except to hold off on dairy before speed workouts and long runs......

I'm less worried today because the number on the scale registered 125.4. I haven't seen a 5 for that third number since before my kids were born. So it's actually OK that I'm hungry lately.

Bring on the pumpkin pie (mostly on Sundays, of course, and I know this free pass will be over after the California International Marathon...but still.....bring it on).

What's your favorite holiday dessert?

2. Watch: I got a new strap for the Garmin and since then it's worked just fine. I'm being much more faithful about rinsing it out after EVERY run, and hand-washing it with soap after every five runs.

I'm still worried about its accuracy (maybe taper worries are setting in before I even taper). So yesterday I experimented with wearing the strap above my instead of below my "girls" (guys have an advantage here; bras and breasts....tricky for heart-rate monitors). It worked OK, but I think during a longer run it would chafe, so today I went back to the usual position.

If you heart-rate train, how do you position your strap? (Interested in hearing from gals AND guys on this one.....)

3. Weak Points: Thanks to two massages I can't really afford from the excellent Kate, one visit to Dr. Hansen the chiropractor, plus Colleen's perfect exercises, my right hamstring has subsided and is feeling completely normal. My back, like a child that's been ignored too long, has been bugging me a bit the last few days. But some good Pilates stretches and time on the foam roller placate it, and it hasn't interfered with any runs. It's also still at its worst in the morning right after I roll out of bed. Running loosens it up.

One of the massages revealed that my right calf is also VERY tight. I'm now paying it more attention with the Stick and roller as well. Boy, do I hate having my calves massaged! It makes me want to kick like an unbroken colt.

What sore spots do you hate to have worked on?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Not Tapering Yet.....

We are three weeks out from the California International Marathon. But I'm not in taper mode yet.

Yesterday I completed what I'm guessing will be my longest long run of the cycle, a three-hour beast with two 30-minute sections at tempo heart rate embedded in the middle. It was cold and windy, but I've run in worse. I finished the first two hours, including the first 30-minute tempo section, just as directed. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the second tempo 30, my gut decided to speak to me, and rather than see if I could get through it without stopping, I ducked into a handy outhouse and dealt with it.

Upon leaving the outhouse, I launched into tempo pace again as quickly as I could....only to develop a painful side stitch. Suddenly the mild headwind, which hadn't really bugged me before, seemed gale force, and I felt I was huffing and puffing. Once the stitch worked itself out, and I turned out of the wind, the pace came back. But I was already halfway through the allotted time and my heart rate hadn't once reached the level it was supposed to for that section (164-168 beats per minute). By the end, I finally got it up to 166. But I felt like I'd failed on that tempo section, and the paces were 20 to 30 seconds slower than the race pace I'm hoping for at CIM (8:30/mile). Overall, I give myself a B-minus for this run.

In the afternoon, the next week's workouts arrived from Darren. He made no comment on my long run, positive or negative. What I did notice is that this coming week will still be hard work. Saturday's long run is 2 hours and 15 minutes, all of it easy this time. But the day before is a 1-hour progression run, and I have a hard "sustained" session on Tuesday that represents no decrease in distance or intensity from the ones I've done for the last three weeks. As has been the case for weeks now, I'll run every day but Sunday.

I'm glad about this. The two-week taper worked much better for me for both the Top of Utah and Houston Marathons last year. And this cycle, which has featured less-than-optimum amounts of time to build up for 26.2, I feel I need all the real workouts I can get (without tiring myself out too much, of course).

How long do you like your marathon taper to be: two or three weeks? If you're running CIM (or another race coming up soon), do you feel like the hay is in the barn or that you still have work to do?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Guest Post: Kyria's Tips for CIM!

Many of you know Kyria, author of TravelSpot. I discovered her earlier this year and liked her immediately. Not only is she a fast runner (and a smart one), she is a big fan of libraries and a voracious reader. Over the last few weeks, she's sent me lots of good information about my upcoming race, the California International Marathon. Since I know many others who also are running it, I asked Kyria if she'd share that advice here in a guest post and she agreed! Thank you, Kyria!

As you know, Terzah is training for the CIM, which is not only in my neck of the woods, but was my first marathon ever last year! I had a a great time doing it and Terzah asked me to share with her readers (many of who are doing the CIM as well) some of the things I learned while running this race last year. So here are 10 things I learned about the CIM. I hope that they help!

1. How to Dress: At the beginning, it was about 32 degrees, but it warmed up to about 60 later on. The arm sleeves are going to be your best friends. That and a Goodwill or throwaway sweatshirt!

2. Spectators: Tell them to NOT spectate at Manzanita Ave or Loehmann's Plaza. It is a mess; it is where EVERYONE else is; it is where the relay changes over. Let me reiterate: it is a mess.

Avoid the: Carmichael Relay Exchange (Fair Oaks/Manzanita)

Avoid the: Loehmann's Plaza relay exchange (Fair Oaks / Howe)

3. Hotel: The Sheraton is the host hotel and it is worth it to stay there. They are right downtown, so you can walk around Sacramento really easily, and going to the expo and the race are a breeze! Also, getting back to the hotel after the race will be really easy!

4. Buses: The hotel buses are not only heated, but you can sit in the bus until the race starts!

5. Course: This course DOES have a net downhill, but beware! There are gentle rolling hills along the way; I think the climb is around 200 feet and the decline is around 500 ft, making it a net decline of around 300 feet.

6. Pacers: I did not use the pacers, except at the very end when the 4:10 pacer was about to pass me so I kicked it up a notch! The woman who was doing it was very encouraging. I would recommend using them if you can!

7. Post Race Meal: We had brunch at Bernardos. It was delicious! If you have a group, you can reserve their back room too, which means no wait!

8. Personal Pacers: My dad likes to run the last half mile with me sometimes when he comes to my races. In this one, that may get you disqualified! I don't know what would happen if the person paced you in the middle of the race, but I am not sure I would chance it!

9. Water: I usually carry water with me, but in this race, I really didn't need it. They had 17 aid stations and 3 different Gu stops!

10. Touristy Things & FOOD: This is not race related, but I lived in Sacramento for a few years, so thought I would throw out a few extras for all you visitors! When you are not prepping for the race and relaxing, you should go to: Old Town Sacramento, The American River Bike Trail, Sutter's Fort, Discovery Park. You should eat at: 58 Degrees and Holding (wine bar), Ernestos (Mexican), Frank Fats (Chinese), and Jack's Urban Eats (salads, meat, soup, sandwiches).

Good luck to everyone running and have fun! You can read more about the race in my Pros and Cons post or my CIM Recap! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Hilly Long Run

Unlike the Top of Utah Marathon, which features straight downhill running for the entire first half, the California International Marathon is much more of a rolling course despite a net downhill. So I know I need to practice running up after running down and vice versa.

Colleen had told me last July that a good long run for CIM training can be had by starting at a trailhead in North Boulder, running on the level gravel path along the foothills and past Wonderland Lake (see picture above; the trail is along those hills on the far edge), hooking into a ritzy North Boulder neighborhood along 4th Street where the ups and downs are marked, turning west and running up Boulder Canyon....and then running back down the canyon, through the neighborhood and back to the trailhead. You can tack extra miles and time on by continuing on the Boulder Creek Path, too, so this can be as long a long run as your training plan calls for.

Mine called for a 2.5-hour progression run. I didn't think I'd need the extra Creek Path distance, so I ended up having to tack an extra loop on at the end for the last 25 minutes, but that wasn't a problem. Here's what the elevation change looked like:


I think I did OK on the "progression" run part of this also, though the watch went haywire on me again early in the run (see the spiky part below starting about 10 minutes in). Unlike last week, I just ignored it, keeping an eye on total time and pace, and trying to ramp it up at the prescribed intervals. When I looked at them afterwards, the heart rates were a bit high, but I did pretty well on that front too:

Next weekend's long run is a different animal. It's a 3-hour outing with 2x30 minutes at a heart rate of 162-168 (approximately race pace heart rates). So I'm going to get a new strap. This race is too important to me to mess around with the equipment--and fortunately there are good deals online for Garmin straps. Darren also wants me to do these intervals on a flat course this time--so no trip to Boulder next weekend. That's OK. I'm proud to have tackled this tough course once. And I do feel I can handle ups after downs, and downs after ups.

One interesting note: Darren gives me only a week's worth of workouts at a time. I've been surprised at how happy I am with this. Normally I'm a huge planner who likes to know what's coming (even in novels I read ahead!). But seeing only one week ahead helps me concentrate on the task at hand without fretting about whatever tough runs are further out.

The exception, of course, is the race itself. I know exactly what's coming on December 2 at 7 a.m.