Sunday, July 31, 2011

Week in Review

87 miles
3 doubles
1.5 days in NYC
1.5 days in Boston
5 AFDs

Despite another hectic week of work, I was able to basically achieve my mileage goal. I would be lying if I didn't admit I almost snuck in three (junk) miles on Sunday evening just to reach 90, but fortunately I was sensible enough to talk myself out of it. Honestly, what's holding me back worse than my seemingly incessant travel is the nagging shin/posterior tib pain. Generally it's fine (although still noticeable) after I warm up for a few miles, but my first few steps of the day (as in both literally my first few steps out of bed and also my first few running strides) are quite uncomfortable. I'm rehabbing it with visits to Dr. Greenapple, ice cup massaging, strengthening exercises and compression socks, but as with any semi-injury I suppose it just takes time to heal completely. As long as it doesn't get worse I will continue to run on it. If it does regress further...well, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Off to DC for the majority of this week. Yay for running in my favorite city!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Success on the Dilworth Speed Loop

3.25 mile w/u
Target: 4x1.5 miles w/3 min. rest; starting at 6 min. pace and cutting down
Actual: 8:37 (5:45 avg.), 8:34 (5:41), 8:36 (5:44), 6:30 for <2k (5:37 through mile)
3.25 mile c/d
Total: 13.5 miles

Last night Caitlin and I discussed our strategy for this workout, more from a perspective of our mindset rather than the physical details. Or, to be more specific, how the unavoidable and almost debilitating heat/humidity would force us to change our definition of "success" from the outset. We agreed that setting overly ambitious goals--unrealistic due to the weather regardless of whether we think we should be able to achieve them--would result in us walking (or hobbling) away from the workout discouraged and dejected. Instead, we resolved to set the bar low and focus more on strength and effort rather than straining to hit a certain split. In theory, we are the smartest people on Earth.

Fast forward to 12 hours later, when we trotted on over to the Dilworth Speed Loop to meet up with our male escorts for the day, Caleb and Billy. The three of us agreed to let Caitlin set the tempo, and after a few precious sips from her water bottle we were ready to begin. Within the first few minutes, it was safe to conclude that I felt awful. Considering that I haven't run a hard step save for a few strides since Beat the Heat two Saturdays ago, my body was surely confused and not a little indignant about the mild torture I was forcing upon it. After finishing the first interval I was relieved to learn we'd run faster than six minute pace but doubtful of my ability to continue at the same effort level. Fortunately my body seemed to snap into gear after recovering from the first unexpected jolt of speed, and the second and third sets felt much more comfortable. That said, though my breathing regulated itself to a relatively controlled level, I could tell after two in a row at low-5:40 pace that my legs weren't going to cooperate for much longer. Sure enough, once we approached a slight uphill just past the mile marker of #4 I could feel my form unraveling and my legs straining to keep in contact with Billy and Caitlin. Instead of forcing the issue, I backed off and jogged it in.

Despite ending on a less than inspiring note, I was actually very pleased with the cumulative effort. We ran much faster than expected and kept our cool (pun intended) in drastically less than ideal conditions. As seems to be happening more and more frequently, Caitlin set the tone for our effort from the first step. I can't wait until our fitness balance shifts--not because I want to "beat" her in our workouts, but because I need to return the favor for all the intervals she's been dragging me through lately! We'll have a chance to work together on a much bigger stage in just three short weeks at 13.1 Minneapolis, and I'm confident the fitness gains from today's workout will manifest in our performance on race day.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

(Down) Week in Review

61-62 miles
1 double
1 day off
3 days in ATL
4 AFDs

If ever there existed weather which necessitated a down week, we just endured it. Good grief. Last weekend's unusually mild temperatures turned out to be a sick and twisted joke, lulling us into a false sense of comfort and then BAM!--we're right back on the very threshold of hell. There was a moment on Wednesday morning just after Jordan and I had finished a sweltering, stifling "easy" run at the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta, a moment when we stood breathlessly panting next to my car while literally wringing out a deluge of sweat from our shorts, after which I looked Jordan dead in the eye and said: "Do not ever, under any circumstances, for any reason, ever let me complain about winter again. And if I do, remind me of this day."


With that being said, the week's training wasn't entirely bad. Mostly that was due to the company of friends, in particular my former CRC teammate Stephanie "Pezz" Pezzullo. Pezz moved to Flagstaff about six months ago to pursue her goals as a steeplechase Olympic hopeful and has enjoyed a very promising year. Within the past month alone she qualified for the finals of the steeplechase at USATF Outdoor Nationals and finished as the one of the top Americans in both the Boilermaker 15k and the Peachtree 10k, her first road 10k ever. Lucky for me she's back in Charlotte for a visit, and it's been great to catch up with her on a few runs this weekend. If a fraction of her speed happens to rub off on me along the way I definitely won't complain.

Looking ahead to next week, there is--spoiler alert!--quite a bit of travel on my agenda. Tomorrow I'm headed to NYC for a Craft wear test run at New York Running Company and a few store visits, then Tuesday I'll train it to Boston for a few days up at Karhu and Craft HQ. I can only hope the weather will be slightly more tolerable in the Northeast or else my high mileage goal for the week might be overly ambitious. Either way I doubt that any workouts will happen until I return to Charlotte due to travel and work commitments, but I plan on bumping the miles up to "normal" again beginning tomorrow.

Speaking of Craft, I would be remiss if I didn't close out this entry by offering a shout-out to Andy and Frank Schleck and the entire Team Leopard Trek crew for an amazing performance at this year's Tour de France! I could not be more proud to have them representing our brand and showing everyone that Craft's performance apparel is truly the best in the world. Allez allez allez!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Week in Review

93 miles
30 miles on soft surface
17 mile long run
4 runs in Texas
5 AFDs

Another high mileage week is in the books, but I think it's obvious to everyone that I need some down time! Disappointment over Saturday's race p
lus some lingering calf/shin pain in my right leg plus a jam-packed early week of work in Atlanta means I'll truly be taking it easy this week. This will include--gasp!--a planned day off on Tuesday. A quick review of my blog showed that my last day without running took place during the week of April 18th, so I think I'm due for another one. Tuesday's workday will start early and finish late, which conveniently makes it ideal for respite from pounding the pavement.

That all being said, don't interpret everything above to indicate that I'm giving up on the higher mileage. On the contrary, I firmly believe that the work I'm doing now will pay off come January even if its benefits aren't immediately apparent. After this week I plan to jump right back into the high mileage/moderate intensity training, hopefully with fresh and well-rested legs and a renewed mental outlook. My next major rac
e is 13.1 Minneapolis in five weeks, and with Caitlin by my side I truly believe we can run sub-1:18 given tolerable weather conditions. One down week, four quality weeks of training and then we'll see what these legs can do!

Me, Jordan, Caitlin and Thomas post-race and sans shower at Foothills Brewery.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Beat the Heat 5k

5k w/u + strides
Target: 5k @sub-17 (5:27/mile)
Actual: 17:17 (5:24, 5:46, 5:30)
$215 won ($150 overall, $65 age graded)
3.5 mile c/d
Total: 9.5-10 miles

To quote the ever-supportive Jordan Kinley: "Well, that was unimpressive."

So yeah, that pretty much sums up my performance last night. The weather was amazing by North Carolina summer standards--a surprising respite from the stifling heat and humidity we've been dealing with lately--and the course was as fast as one could hope for in this area. (I should qualify that, however, by adding that practically the entire second mile was uphill--but it was followed by a long and generous downhill for mile three.) No, there are really no excuses for why I just felt flat, tired and heavy-legged from the gun. Caitlin pulled away from me shortly after the first mile marker, and though I caught Heather shortly thereafter I was unable to make a decisive move to pull away from her. Instead she was the one who confidently charged ahead with just over a quarter mile to go, putting a full five seconds on me in a very short period of time. As for the overall winner, a Kenyan from the Raleigh area whom none of us recognized (but who was, incidentally, wearing a pair of Karhu Racers), she was pretty much in her own race from the start. But the frustrating part there is that her finishing time of 16:52 is something I should be fully capable of running right now. Instead I was farther away than I'd considered as my worst case scenario.

If the race itself could be described as terrible, the post-race festivities more than made up for it. A group almost 20 strong (including three of the top five male finishers as well as a solid Charlotte contingent of Jordan, Caitlin, Matt, Billy, John, Thomas and Allen) posted up for the duration at Foothills Brewery in downtown Winston-Salem. Without question, the best part of a night race is the revelry and merriment that ensues afterward. A good time with good friends makes a world of difference in washing away the lingering disappointment of a hard-fought battle lost.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Week in Review

90 miles
2 doubles
2 days in DC
15 mile long run
5 AFDs

My second 90-mile week is in the books, and I'm surprisingly no worse for the wear. That's not to say I enjoyed every minute of it, but I'm certainly growing stronger and more confident with every passing day. It's nice to head out the door for a 12-mile run and not think much of it. Though the weather is oppressive, I honestly don't think about it at all except during workouts. On every other day it's just a fact of life, something that doesn't even factor into my consciousness. To constantly dwell on it would be a pointless waste of mental energy.

That said, the weather conditions I'm about to encounter will surely make North Carolina seem tame in comparison. I fly to Texas tomorrow afternoon to spend four days in Dallas and Austin before returning home late Thursday night. My mileage will likely suffer, due more to the travel and work obligations than the weather, and I'm hoping against hope that I'll return home feeling fresh and light for Saturday night's Beat the Heat as opposed to heat-addled and exhausted. We'll see.

Without question, the best part of the past few weeks' running has been exploring some new and/or rarely visited routes. Since the beginning of July I've logged some single-track miles within a relative stone's throw of my front door (Renaissance Park on Tyvola, a 10-minute drive, and Anne Springs Close in Fort Mill, just a few miles across the SC border), as well as a few solid outings in my hands-down favorite urban running setting, Washington DC. Anytime you can cover Capitol Hill, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall, Teddy Roosevelt's Island, Georgetown, the C&O Canal towpath and the Mt. Vernon Trail on foot is a win in my book (as is any route traversed with the incomparable hostess Ms. Jilane Rodgers). I may not be able to afford to permanently reside in the District, but I'll gladly take any opportunity to visit on behalf of Craft and Karhu.

Other notables for the week? A much-needed massage from Byran, a bitchin 4th of July BBQ (if passing out on the living room floor at 7pm isn't patriotic, then Jordan isn't a true American), storm chasing down I-85 and a narrowly missed copperhead blitzkrieg on the Davidson trails today (after which Allen may or may not have screamed like a little girl with little pigtails, despite the fact that I was apparently the one who narrowly escaped death). All in all, not much more a gal can ask for in a week's worth of training.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

McAlpine Death March

3 mile w/u
Target: 3 mile @17-low; 2 mile @11-low; 1 mile @5:30 all w/800m jog
Revised target: 3 mile @sub-18; 2 mile @ 11:30; 1 mile @sub-5:40
Re-revised target: Don't drop out; try to hang on to Spada
Actual: 17:37 (5:50, 5:50, 5:57); 11:52 (5:53, 5:59); 5:41
1 mile c/d
Total: 11 miles

I realize that reading about how brutal the weather is might be getting a little old. And I swear, I'm doing my best to not dwell on it in every single post. But today in particular merits an exception, so please humor me as I address it up front and then move on to the nitty gritty details. The facts themselves need little elaboration: upon finishing the workout, I consulted my personal weatherman (i.e., the iPhone) and learned that the temperature was 78 degrees, with 91% humidity and a dew point of 73. The temperature wasn't the issue. Rather, it was the stifling, sweltering, stagnant air that had me literally flinging sweat off my body in every direction less than two miles into the warmup jog. Around this time last year I posted a blog written by Paul's coach, Tim Budic, which succinctly argues why the dew point is the most reliable indicator of how weather affects performance. Similarly, a current LetsRun thread explains dew point and even offers one person's aptly titled "Misery Index," or a combination of the temperature and dew point. Peruse both of these useful links at your leisure, but just know that today's weather was bordering on dangerous.

Regardless, there was work to be done. As Jordan, Paul, Spada and I set off on our warmup jog we tried not to dwell on the weather, but nonetheless noted we'd be amending our ambitious prescribed paces in favor of survival. Spada and I decided to start out at 5:50 pace for the first three-mile segment, which I knew might prove difficult considering the conditions, but I was willing to give it a shot.
For me personally, I knew the most important thing was not to lose contact with Spada or else I'd be left sputtering in no-man's land indefinitely.

The first mile, which began with a slight downhill from the three-mile marker on the trail, felt comfortable enough. By a mile and a half, however, my breathing began to noticeably labor, and despite passing through two miles at Spada's side I could tell he had more in the tank than me. He pulled ahead for the third mile, during which I made a conscious decision to back off or risk not finishing the workout. Even at that, I contemplated dropping out. After all, the interval finished at the Old Bell parking lot--how easy would it be to just call it a day and slink wearily back to the car??

But of course, we pressed on. The half mile recovery jog was over before we knew it, and within seconds of starting the second interval Spada had already dropped me. For the first mile I kept my eyes trained on his back, marveling with jealousy at the ease of his stride. It looked like he was barely jogging! I silently reminded myself to apologize to him after the workout for doing so little to help him run faster. A few minutes later, however, I noticed something strange: despite how much I was struggling and how much he appeared to be doing quite the opposite, the gap between us was almost imperceptibly narrowing. With each stride I gained another fraction of a meter, and by the time we reached 1.5 I'd pulled up alongside. He had towed me along for the first mile and a half, and now I would return the favor for the remaining 800 meters. Though this would be our slowest mile split of the day, it was also when we were working the hardest to fight through the cloying air and piercing sunlight to simply hold the workout together. We finished side by side, our breath ragged and gasping.

With only one hard mile to go, you'd think we would be elated. Instead, I again questioned my ability to continue. The only saving grace was knowing that Jordan had stashed a Nuun bottle at the start of the Footlocker course where we'd begin our final interval. If I could just take in a few precious sips, hopefully I'd be able to regulate my body temperature enough to finish strong. As Spada and I shuffled along beside each other, I voiced what I knew he was thinking: even if we barely broke six minutes for the mile--even if it was the hardest six-minute mile of our lives--we'd still be running under our goal marathon pace. For today, that would be enough. My spirits began to lift ever so slightly as I offered him encouraging words. Suddenly: disaster! Jordan had taken the water bottle! In hindsight, the action makes perfect sense; we weren't returning to that spot again, so if he didn't snag it on his way past then we might not get it back. In the moment, I was crestfallen. I literally asked Spada for an extra 30 seconds of rest to mentally regroup, which he didn't seem to mind allowing.

Maybe it was the extra recovery, or the knowledge that we were almost done, or the motivation of finally being able to match Spada stride for stride, but for whatever reason I felt surprisingly strong on the mile. After expecting to barely break six, I found myself passing through the halfway point comfortably on 5:40 pace. I kept the effort level high, but never straining, and was pleased to finish up with my fastest split of the day without going to the well. Considering that just minutes earlier I'd questioned even attempting the mile, it's hard to not look at that as a victory. Overall, though my splits were unremarkable, this workout actually ended up being a surprise confidence booster. If I can run below marathon pace in these conditions, I have to think that when the weather breaks--in, you know, three or four months--the same pace will feel like a breeze. A cool, dry, delightfully comfortable breeze.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

12x400 at JCSU

2.5 mile w/u + strides
Target: 12x400m @75 or faster w/400m jog
Actual: 12x400m w/200m jog
75, 75, 75, 79, 74, 74, 73, 73, 71, 74, 73, 72
3 mile c/d
Total: 10 miles

There are few prospects less appealing to me than waking up at 5:30am to almost immediately begin sprinting around the track. (For reference, I'd put it somewhere between, say, attending a Star Wars convention and sitting front row at a Justin Bieber concert.) Fortunately, knowing I'd be sharing the oval with Caitlin, Billy, Eric and even potentially the Paul and Spada show made dragging my body out of bed slightly more bearable. I'd gone to sleep thinking the plan was 16x400 with 60 seconds rest, which seemed daunting. I awoke to a text from Mark Hadley via Caitlin saying that the workout actually only called for 12 repeats at 75 seconds or faster with a 400 meter jog. While the idea of running fewer intervals was obviously welcomed with open arms (feet?), I knew that running faster would prove challenging. Despite that, I was also not thrilled about the longer rest; 400 meters might not seem like a lot, but when you're moving at a snail's pace between every interval it could potentially draw out the workout much longer than any of us would like. Fortunately upon arriving at Caitlin's I learned that she was on the same page, so we agreed to up the ante and try to hit the same splits with only half the rest. We're crazy like that.

All in all, the workout went quite well, especially considering my current mileage volume. A quick snapshot of the past seven days, beginning with last Wednesday, looks something like this: 12, 18 (14/4 double), 14 (9/5), 12 (w/workout), 12 (hilly trails), 12. Well-rested I am not. With that said, I was surprised to be able to lock into 75-second pace right out of the gate. It normally takes my old grandma legs three or four jolting laps to find the proper tempo, but today they snapped right into the pace. Except for the noticeable 79-second outlier for #4--during which I inadvertently chastised the boys for taking the first 100 out too fast, causing them to apply the brakes a bit too liberally for the remaining 300--every single interval was at or below target pace. (Speaking of outliers, that 71 for #9 accidentally happened after we took a few extra seconds of rest to guzzle down some precious agua. Guess it really perked us up.) Our 200-meter jog was consistently at 75-80 seconds, more than the minute I always took when cutting shapes under Simmons' tutelage but far less than the 2:00-2:30 that Mark had prescribed, and up until the last few intervals I felt like it was perfectly adequate. My underlying fatigue finally showed through on the 12th and final lap, when Caitlin and the boys ran away from me like I was standing still, but otherwise I couldn't really ask my body for more than it offered today. If I can make it through the next few weeks of high mileage, I just might end up pretty darn fit!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Week in Review

90 miles
3 doubles
2 days in Charleston
5 runs with Jordan
5 AFDs

It wasn't easy, but I managed to hit my mileage goal despite having to seriously backload the week. My body is tired but strong, and I'm looking forward to challenging myself and pushing my limits even further in the coming weeks. Gotta just keep doing what I'm doing, one day at a time.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

McMullen Tempo With the Big Dogs

2 mile w/u + strides
Target: 8 mile tempo @6:00-5:50
Actual: 6 miles in 35:40, one mile jog (8-8:30?), one mile @5:47
2 mile c/d
Total: 12 miles

Originally I'd planned on joining Caitlin for her nine mile progression run on Friday, but after Thursday necessitated a 14 and 4 double I knew I needed an easy recovery day before cranking up the engines again. Fortunately the all-star trio of Paul, Spada and Mike Beigay were gracious enough to extend me an invite to their Saturday morning session, so with Jordan in tow I set off toward McMullen just as the sun was rising.

After an unexpectedly gorgeous day on Thursday, in which the weather gods mercifully offered low humidity and a tinge of crispness to the morning air, I was hoping against hope that Friday and Saturday would bring more of the same. Friday morning felt downright cool, albeit with slightly higher humidity, but I could tell as soon as I stepped outside this morning that we would get no such respite for today's workout. Oh well. Our warmup jog was easy and relaxed, and I took solace in the fact that I wasn't completely drenched by the time we returned to our cars. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all. With a few final encouraging words we set off at a brisk pace along the dirt path, Paul leading the charge with the rest of us flanked in a "V" formation behind him. I tucked in and hoped to just get carried along.

To be honest, I never truly expected to be able to hang with them the entire way. Maybe some people (i.e., Jordan) would respond that with such a negative attitude I'd already sealed my fate before the workout even began. I knew that running with them for at least five miles was realistic, but the end result would depend on just how much they decided to drop the pace during the second half. I felt relatively comfortable at our four-mile U-turn, despite dropping a 5:50 for mile three, but once we started heading back the other way I could feel my effort level rising precipitously. Mile five was also 5:50 and my breathing was noticeably labored. Each time we hit a bend or slight incline in the trail I could feel myself losing contact with the group by another few meters. Jordan gamely held back, offering encouraging words and entreating me to stay focused, but I knew I was done. I made it to the sixth mile marker before coming to a stop and waving him ahead to catch the group.

After catching my breath for a few seconds, I slowly began to jog back. I was disappointed that I wasn't able to finish the workout, especially since this is my goal marathon pace come winter, but I also knew that the purpose of a tempo run is not to run yourself to exhaustion. As I approached the penultimate mile marker I decided I'd pick up the pace and try to bring it in with a sub-5:50 effort. If I hit the 800m mark slower than 3 minutes then I'd shut it down, but I passed the marker comfortably in 2:53 so I continued homeward. I finished with ragged breathing and heavy legs, but I was satisfied that I'd somewhat managed to salvage the workout.

Overall, I had a great time mixing it up out there with a different workout group. And it goes without saying that I'm thrilled to have Jordan back in action, not to mention the fact that he cruised through this tempo as though he'd never missed a beat. With the workout behind us and a holiday weekend ahead, it's time to relax and enjoy some much needed recovery!