Friday, September 30, 2011

Back in the ATL

25 min. w/u
Target: 5x2 mins. w/2 mins. jog, getting faster
Actual: Above
20 min. c/d
Total: 9+ miles

I'm back in my former stomping grounds to work 13.1 this weekend and kicked things off with a slumber party at Brooke's. Since I was already downtown, I decided to execute this little mini-workout at one of my all-time favorite training surfaces, the Active Oval in Piedmont Park. Back in the olden days when this blog (and my stab at becoming a serious runner) was in its infancy, I toiled through many a hard effort at the AO. It's hard to beat a flat, gravel half-mile training surface surrounded by skyscrapers right smack dab in the middle of Midtown. As I trotted along today, it was fun to think of some workouts from the summer of 2008 when I really thought I was getting in shape, realizing how far I've progressed since then. I would love nothing more than to come back in a few years and feel the same way about where I am right now! I may be on the doorstep of 30, but I sincerely believe there are many more years of improvement ahead of me. Thanks, AO, for reminding me of this today.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Reality Check on the Speed Loop

3.25 mile w/u
Target: 3x15 mins. @6:20, 6:10, 6:00 w/3 min. rest
Actual: 3x15 mins. @6:02 (3 min.), 6:00 (5 min.), 6:05
3.25 mile c/d
Total: 14 miles

When Jordan wrote out the proposed paces for this workout, I thought it looked way too easy. In fact, I was so confident (for some completely unfounded reason) that I estimated I should be able to coast through each interval at 6-minute pace or faster. Unfortunately there were several factors stacked against me, not the least of which being that this would make for my third hard run of the past four days. I also anticipated the weather finally breaking, a wish that never even came close to becoming a reality. It has literally rained and stormed at least once a day for the past week, which meant that my two preferred locations for this workout, McAlpine and McMullen, were a big fat mess. Yet another early morning thunderstorm meant that the air was thick and muggy for my 9am start time as well. I've learned both anecdotally and through research that a dew point over 70 unfailingly makes for a miserable workout or race experience, but with 13.1 Atlanta coming up on Sunday I really couldn't afford to push this back another day.

And yet, all the above taken into account, I stubbornly maintained my grossly overconfident attitude and refused to let Jordan set a relaxed pace. Each interval seemed to follow the same pattern: run too hard for the slightly uphill first k, rebound for a nice downhill second k, begin to overheat and struggle on the third k, then count down the seconds of a seemingly endless fourth k. To Jordan's credit, he refused to let me quit when I stated flat-out that there was no way I could do a third set. To my credit, I only cursed him internally and didn't make a scene in the middle of Dilworth Road East. Instead I drank a cup of water (courtesy, as always, of the Rebecca Thomason front porch refreshment center), tried to calm my breathing, actually listened to Jordan's advice to start the third set slower, and simply trusted him that I'd be able to hang on. Sure enough, I did, albeit at the slowest pace of the day.

This workout wasn't great. It definitely wasn't pretty, and I probably would have dropped out had Jordan not been there. If this is supposed to be my marathon pace, then I have a heck of a lot of work to do between now and January. Regardless, keeping a long-term approach in mind, I'll consider finishing this a success in itself. Here's to hoping my legs rebound and recover in time to run a similar pace for 13.1 on Sunday!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Week in Review

85 miles
3 doubles
2 workouts
4 days in Mass
5 AFDs

Without a doubt my best week yet! I'm getting stronger and fitter every day and slowly starting to gain back some confidence. Let's hope this carries over into the next two weekends' races, 13.1 Atlanta and the Army 10 Miler!

Progressive Long Run

Target/Actual: 15-16 miles w/pace progression
First 10 mins: slow jog from my house
Next 45 mins: 7:05-7:15 pace
Next 40 mins: 6:59-6:23 pace
Last 15 mins: slow jog to my house

From my first few steps out the door this morning, I was ready to be finished with the run. Though autumn had teased us with a few brisk mornings last week, today the air hung thick and damp with 93% humidity and an oppressive dew point of 72. Trying to reconcile the post-workout heaviness of my legs with Caitlin's goal of a fast, progressive long run further heightened my dread. And though normally Sunday runs take us to novel locales such as the Whitewater Center and the Beatty trails, the weekend's almost incessant rain meant that even our default backup location of McAlpine was too messy to traverse. Instead, we'd be starting from our houses and meeting in Freedom Park just like we do for "normal" weekday runs. On the one hand, this was great as it meant I could sleep later and didn't have to drive anywhere. On the other hand, I anticipated that it would be mentally challenging to make my body run almost twice as far as it's usually accustomed to on the familiar neighborhood streets.

In the end, however, all my worries were unfounded. We picked up the pace naturally, almost imperceptibly, during the first hour with Caitlin's friend Will in tow and her boyfriend Garrett escorting us on his Huffy 10-speed. Once Will split off to head home at the intersection of Queens and Queens and Providence and Providence (for any non-Charlottean readers, yes these are actually four different roads with only two different names among them that intersect in one glorious representation of Southern infrastructure), Caitlin and I turned onto Providence and began to gradually inch down the pace. Maintaining sub-6:50 was tough on the Colville hills, but the pace quickened noticeably as soon as we turned back onto Providence and enjoyed a long flat section all the way to the Booty Loop. We parted ways at the entrance to Freedom Park feeling fatigued but not exhausted, both in agreement that steady long runs like this are just the ticket to improving fitness for the Trials. This may not be the most enjoyable type of workout, but with good company and baseball stories from the peanut gallery it turned out just fine.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Two Workouts in One Week. True Story.

Workout #1: Tuesday, 9/20
2.5 mile w/u
Target: (3:00 uptempo, 1min. jog, 1:00 fast, 1 min. jog) x 6
Actual: Above
3.5 mile c/d
Total: 11.5ish miles

After traveling to Massachusetts for work on Monday, Jordan and I had to improvise Tuesday's workout setting. We settled on the Marblehead Neck, a spit of land that juts out from mainland Marblehead and boasts more multi-million dollar homes than the Booty Loop. (Very Great Gatsby-ish, or at least what I envision when I picture something Great Gatsby-ish. I could be totally wrong here, but you get the gist.) A few weeks ago when staying at my boss's home in Marblehead I
'd done a run around the Neck, and though I remember it being a very pleasant and charming outing I couldn't recall much about the distance or the terrain. As I would discover today, it turns out there's not a flat stretch of road on the entire peninsula. That might not be of much significance during a lackadaiscal easy run, but when you're less than one month clear of injury and attempting your first workout in twice that time, the prospect of a constant roller coaster ride can be pretty daunting. It's almost better that I didn't remember what I was getting myself into.

An aerial view of the Neck

Prefaced excuses aside, this turned out to be a successful effort. I benefited greatly from having Jordan front and center to set the pace, both of us grateful for the recent upswing in the health of his foot. Since I don't own a Garmin and had no bearing for distance markers on the Neck, I was at the mercy of Jordan's pace-setting abilities and my own questionable fitness level to dictate the pace. Gear-changing workouts like this aren't my forte even when completely fit and healthy, but I tried to sprint the one-minute sections as hard as possible while still making sure I would be recovered enough to start another uptempo section in a minute's time. Predictably, I excelled on the segments with more downhill and struggled a bit on those with a less forgiving grade, but in the end according to Jordan I ran "well," which is as lofty as his praise gets. Apparently I averaged 5:50 pace or faster on all the three-minute segments, so I would guess the one-minute segments were around 5:30 pace, but honestly the specifics are beside the point. The objective of today's workout was to run hard but controlled, and that hurdle was cleared with room to spare.

Workout #2: Saturday, 9/24
3.5+ mile w/u
Target: 25 mins. uptempo (~6-6:10 pace); 3x2 mins. @5:30 pace
Actual: 25 mins. w/4 mile split of 24:01 (6:02, 6:05, 6:00, 5:53); 3x2 mins. w/400m splits of 82, 79, 78
2 mile c/d
Total: 11 miles

What's that they say about the best laid plans? All week I'd intended to workout on Friday with Caitlin and Spada, but that dissolved when they had to start at 6am and I had to take Jordan to the airport (yes, the same airport we'd just arrived to 12 hours prior) at 6:30. I dropped him off and drove to Old Bell to soldier on alone. Throughout the 30-minute drive the sky was dark and overcast but with scarcely a drizzle--that is, until the exact instant I pulled into the parking lot when the clouds opened up and commenced a deluge of diluvian proportions. Equal parts stubbornness and the desire to not waste a drive out to the park forced me out of the car and onto the trails, but less than a mile later I had to turn around when the rain was so intense that it literally stung my eyes with each shard of moisture. Begrudgingly, I decided to try again tomorrow.

Tomorrow, which of course is actually today, began auspiciously enough. Megan Hovis and I agreed to meet at Old Bell mid-morning, she for an easy 34-mile run (not really, but close) and me for some company on the warmup. The 75-degree air was fraught with humidity and the sky promised more rain, but we were both confident it would hold out until the afternoon. Three miles later, we were proven wrong. In a scene so identical to yesterday it was almost comical, seemingly within seconds the ground went from dry to literally soaked with rain, more puddles appearing and overflowing by the second. Every time we thought it couldn't rain any harder, Mother Nature just laughed and kept dumping it right on our heads. At one point Meg's contact lens got pushed halfway behind her eyeball by the insistent drops. The only thing more ludicrous than attempting a workout in yesterday's weather would be doing the same today, but at this point I didn't have much choice. Meg and I bid each other a soggy farewell before going our separate ways with promises of checking in with each other via text later to make sure we hadn't drowned or gotten trapped in the park.

After a few minutes of stretching and trying to collect myself mentally, I set off from the start line of the Footlocker course. I turned left at the bridge past the half-mile marker while the rain intensified with every step, hoping that neither the road crossing nor the wooden bridges would be too treacherous to pass. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself right on pace after the first mile despite multiple instances of bobbing and weaving around puddles and, in some cases, charging through calf-deep water. There were several moments when I could scarcely see three feet in front of me due to the volume of the rain and the complete saturation of my contact lenses--not it really mattered, since I spent the entire run with my head down to navigate the rapidly eroding landscape at my feet. About halfway through, soaked to the bone and shaking water from my head like a truculent puppy, I literally began laughing out loud. There may exist worse conditions for trying to run fast, but I've yet to experience them. And yet somehow the pace didn't lag too much, although admittedly I was working much harder than I should've been to hit the prescribed times.

And then, just as suddenly as it began, the rain ceased. Almost immediately the sun burst forth from the clouds, causing a steamy, stifling mist to rise from the ground and into my already oxygen-deprived lungs. Did I mention the weather wasn't ideal? Regardless, I finished the tempo with my fastest split of the morning and then wogged around for a few minutes before starting the two-minute intervals. 75 degrees and flooding might be borderline dangerous, but 75 degrees and steaming is almost more uncomfortable. Like the tempo, the quicker intervals felt much harder than I would've liked, but by this point I was just so thrilled to be done that I hardly noticed. I felt good enough on the cooldown to throw in 5x20 second strides, more to pass the time than anything else, and finished up at my car feeling as though I'd just endured a monsoon worthy of Noah and his furry friends. It wasn't pretty, but I got it done.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Week in Review

80 miles
3 doubles
3 days in ATL
5 AFDs

Finally a great solid week of mileage, bolstered by the knowledge that I'm mentally and physically ready to start training like a big girl next week. Other than that, I have a lot more to say and no time to say it! More to come very soon, including...drum roll please...a few real live workouts next week! Stay tuned, friends. It'll be worth the wait.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Week in Review

70 miles
2 doubles
4 days in Chicago
5 "tempo" miles
4 AFDs

With a few weeks of base mileage underfoot, I feel confident saying I'm ready to start integrating some workouts and harder efforts into my training. Sunday's tempo mashup was a good baseline effort and now there's nowhere to go but up! One thing I know for sure is that I better get my act together soon or Meggan Franks is going to kick my butt at 13.1 Atlanta in a few weeks! Not to mention I've got Army 10 Miler the week after that, plus a few other changes on the horizon that I'm not quite ready to discuss. Suffice it to say, life is getting busier by the minute and I need to put my training face on if I'm going to have half a chance of keeping up.

Chicago Half-Marathon Tempo Run

~1 mile w/u
Target: Tempo some part of half-marathon
Actual: 3 miles @17:52 (5:54, 5:55, 5:58); ~1 min. break; 2 miles @~12:35
2 mile c/d
Total: 8 mil

Chicago Half-Marathon starting. Photo courtesy of Chicago Half-Marathon.

It doesn't take a genius or a seasoned coach to figure out that I was in no way, shape or form ready to race a half-marathon this weekend. I've been back to "normal" training for less than a fortnight, and the last time I completed some semblance of a respectable workout was a full six weeks ago. Heck, I haven't even done anything uptempo save for a few one-minute pickups during Wednesday's morning run. Still, I would be lying if I didn't admit that all weekend I harbored some teeny tiny urge to toe the line and see what these leggies could do.

That is, until my alarm went off at 3:30am on Sunday morning less than five hours after I'd set it. Going on back-to-back-to-back 12+ hour workdays on my feet at the expo, coupled with very little sleep and a plethora of pre- and post-race responsibilities on Sunday, made the logistics (and appeal) of going for gold highly unlikely. However, it did not mean I couldn't at least lace 'em up for a few quality miles before scampering back to the Karhu/Craft area for the rest of the morning. After hastily warming up and pinning on my number (might as well look legit), I squeezed through the corrals and made it to the starting line with less than a minute to spare. Racing flats, not so much.

After an exceptionally patriotic version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" worthy of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the starting horn sent us off. In pleasing contrast to 13.1 Chicago a few months ago, this morning's weather was in the mid-60s with moderate humidity. As the throng of 15,000+ runners surged forward through the park and onto Lakeshore Drive with the sun rising over crystalline Lake Michigan in the background, one would be hard-pressed to find someone who didn't agree that it was a gorgeous morning for a race.

For me, however, a race was not in the cards. I split the first mile in a surprisingly comfortable 5:54 near the front of the pack, but by the second mile marker I could tell that my unfit and work-weary legs were not accustomed to (nor happy with) what I was subjecting them to. I suppose maybe I should've done a stride or something faster than seven-minute pace in the past month. Oh well. At any rate, by mile two I was securely in third place and already bargaining with myself about when to make my exit. One mile later I stopped, took a minute to rest my legs, and then rejoined the race with my friend Jill who was rocking out 6:20s with a few of her Fleet Feet teammates. (Jill, if you may recall, is my equally nomadic friend whom I originally met at 13.1 Miami and have since seen in NYC, Dallas and Chicago. If there is one person other than Jilane whose travel schedule rivals mine, it's Jill's.) After a few moderate miles with Jill & co., I decided that if I wasn't racing it was probably prudent to hustle back and do my job. Reluctantly I turned around and began meandering back toward the start/finish line, disappointed to leave the race but pleased to discover that six-minute pace didn't feel decidedly foreign. There are miles and miles of work to be done, but for today this knowledge is enough.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

(Comeback) Week in Review

70 miles
2 doubles
0 (!!) days off
4 days in DC
2 hours of dancing at the Holder-Robbins we

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm back! Yes, I feel embarrassingly slow. Yes, every part of my body hurts. No, I can't even wrap my brain around the idea of attempting a workout, much less a race. But it's a start.

Despite hitting "the wall" on
practically every run this week--an unavoidable hallmark of the first few weeks back from injury, I've discovered time and again--I was just thrilled to be back out there. Not to mention, I had the pleasure of taking in some pretty awesome runs: an early morning trail jaunt at Renaissance with my friends Ben and Casey, a plethora of runs around DC that included everything from the Mall to Rock Creek to the C&O towpath and all places in between, and possibly the world's largest Dowd YMCA-CRC run on Saturday morning in honor of Jay's wedding day. (Me: "There's gotta be at least 50 people here. Biggest Dowd run ever?" Matt: "I'm pretty sure this is bigger than some years of the Dowd Half-Marathon.")

Three OT qualifiers and the Thunder Road Marathon champ.
Clearly we're more talented at running than at seducing the camera.

Speaking of awesomeness and of Jay's nuptials, well, let's just say a good time was had by all on Saturday night. A little too much of a good time in some cases, judging by the splitting headache that knifed through Caitlin's and my temples with every footfall as we wearily trudged back up to the church to retrieve her car on Sunday morning. I will say that if I logged my workouts on Athleticore and if I were Billy Shue I would definitely record two hours of "alternate activity" on Saturday night which consisted of one of the most vigorous dance parties I've ever participated in. What we lacked in rhythm and skill we made up for in enthusiasm, and thankfully AJ was the only (token) black guy in attendance to make fun of our inherent lack of coordination. The MVP award of the night must indisputably be awarded jointly to Larry and Kathy Seavers, two of the most amazing runners and people--and, as we found out, dancers--I've ever had the privilege of knowing. I've said it before and I'll say it here now: if I am blessed with half their energy and zest for life at their age, I'll consider myself fortunate.

My heroes, Larry and Kathy Seavers. Nope, that's not water on his shirt.

There's not much more to report on the running front as it pertains to my own fitness (or lack thereof), but I can't close this post without giving a shout-out to the most impressive Charlotte performance of the weekend (heck, maybe the entire year), Alana Hadley's stunning 1:17:14 at Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Beach. Not only was she the first American, but she also shattered the national 15-and-under age group record. That's right, she's 14. Huge congrats to Alana and to her father/coach, Mark, for this breakthrough performance. If that doesn't serve as a kick in the pants for me to get back in shape, I don't know what will!