Sunday, May 27, 2012

(Down) Week in Review

55 miles
1 day off
1 double
1 run in Birmingham
4 AFDs

Fortunately, it doesn't look like we're going to have to amputate. After a pitiful start to the week, during which I notched a whopping 10 miles over the course of three days, things improved dramatically and eventually culminated with two double-digit weekend days. The foot isn't 100% but is steadily improving. I'm confident I'll be able to resume relatively normal training next week...which is pretty much mandatory if I harbor any hopes of performing well at the US Half-Marathon Champs in just three weeks' time. Our upcoming national sales meeting and a weekend of moving will provide an extra challenge, but it's nothing I haven't handled before. Mentally I'm as determined as ever to get back out there and prove my fitness.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Week in Review

~60 miles
2 days off
14 laps on the Lowell track
1 unicorn pinata

After dropping out of the 10k, I was understandably frustrated. Fortunately there was plenty of activity to divert my mind, namely the baby shower that I was helping Emily host for Carly the following day. You would think that by 12 hours before a party you're throwing for 19 people, preparations would be largely under control. Instead, Jordan and I headed straight back to Emily's after the track meet and stayed up into the wee hours drinking wine (me), baking yummy treats (her) and singing along to our favorite song from "Rent" (both of us). 

The following morning, despite the promise of gorgeous sunny weather and good company, I opted out of the two-hour Lincoln Woods trail run in favor of resting my increasingly tender foot. I spent those hours pouting, assisting the baby shower sous chefs (aka Emily's husband and brother) and finishing up last-minute party prep. I was bummed to miss the run but quickly distracted by the afternoon's revelry and merriment, including but not limited to eating tasty food, puff painting ambiguous animal shapes onto onesies and teeing off on a BAA-themed pinata. If there's more to be desired from a baby shower I can't imagine what it might be.

Lovely running ladies in non-running clothes for a change.

Yup, that happened.

Looking ahead, much of next week is a big foot-shaped question mark. I've got a month until the US Half Championships and, despite repeated performances to the contrary, I'm confident in my fitness right now. That said, I could still use a few more solid workouts and longer tempos to really wrap everything up nicely--but only if I'm 100% healthy. Sigh. I'm definitely going to play the next few days by ear and cross my fingers that my foot will cooperate.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

NB Twilight 10k Fail

3+ mile w/u + strides
Target: 10k race @faster than 34:30
Actual: 5k in 17:22 + a few more laps, DNF
4 mile c/d
Total: 10 miles

On the one hand, I feel like I owe my tens of loyal readers a detailed and introspective recap of my (partial) race. On the other hand, we might as well just skip straight to the crux of the matter: I dropped out. To be more specific, I dropped out largely because of an increasingly sore foot. I noticed it in a vague, abstract sense early in the week, but it wasn't until Thursday when I realized that my level of discomfort had grown to the point where it needed to be addressed. So, in an uncharacteristically mature display of decision-making, I voluntarily skipped both my runs on Friday. Only then did I realize that this was, in fact, the first day I hadn't run since the week after the Trials, way back in January. So, foot not withstanding, one could argue that I was due for some rest. I slept soundly, feeling tentatively optimistic that everything would feel perfectly, magically normal come Saturday.

And, for the most part, it did. I embarked on a cautious 30-minute shakeout on Saturday morning and was pleasantly surprised to discover that nothing felt amiss. Ditto for my warmup with Jordan and Brett some eight hours later through the stunning(ly unattractive) streets of Lowell. But as the race progressed, so did the decidedly unpleasant pressure near the top of my metatarsal heads. At this point, had things been going swimmingly, I would've probably thrown caution to the wind, resolved to deal with the aftermath of my foot later, and allowed the wings of adrenaline to spirit me away to a well-deserved PR. Instead, I assessed the foot situation against the depressing reality that I was not, in fact, faring any better than at the Penn Relays three weeks ago, and made the split-second decision to pull the plug. I was able to do so before my foot completely exploded (a la Greek Fest 2010), but even that was small consolation given my high hopes coming into the race. To say that I would've crushed my PR had my foot not flared up would be a statement of blatant denial, which at this stage is beyond frustrating.

I think I'll be sticking to the roads for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

NB Twilight 10k Pre-Race Workout

3 mile w/u
Target: 10 mins. @5:28-30 pace (3:25-30/k); jog to Village track; 3x400m @82 secs. w/45 sec. rest
Actual: 10 mins. (3:24, 3:33 (incl. stop), 3:30); ~7 min. jog; 3x400m @79, 78, 81
2 mile c/d
Total: 9 miles

The goal this morning was simple: run 10k race pace as consistently and comfortably as possible. The former would likely be easy to attain given that Jordan "the metronome" Kinley was leading me along. The latter would prove to be more challenging since the 10-minute portion would take place on the dirt and gravel rail trail in Marblehead instead of on the track. Ten minutes doesn't sound like much, but at this pace it's basically an entire 3k at 10k effort. I was entirely confident that I could hit these splits on the track with ease, but I wasn't so certain about doing so on the trail. Fortunately, Jordan did not share my skepticism, so as I've done so many times before I just resolved to tuck in behind him and not overthink it.

From a mere two minutes in, I was working to do just that. I tried to measure my breath and keep it as relaxed as possible while focusing on charging with my arms and relaxing into the pace. Things were going well until we reached the sole street crossing at about six minutes, which at 7 a.m. was flush with suburban rush hour traffic. We were probably only sidetracked for 5-7 seconds but it felt like an eternity as we trotted up and down the sidewalk, more or less just marking time as the seconds ticked by on the watch. Once we finally made it across, the only remaining obstacle was the dirt surface, which grew frustratingly sandy and thick at several points. Still, I was able to stay more or less on pace, finishing strong right at the 10-minute mark. My overall kilometer average was a little slower than target race pace, but had we not been forced to absorb a ~5 second stop then it would've been spot on.

As for the quarters, they felt incredibly easy, as expected. It's a cruel irony, how difficult it can be to run slowly enough to hit race pace during pre-race workouts like this, only to find that same pace slipping through your fingers while you look on as helplessly as a bystander during the race itself. This time, however, I'm determined to achieve a different result. After three solid track workouts, a respectable 5k effort and today's confidence-boosting tune-up, I know I'm ready for Saturday.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Week in Review

86-87 miles
4 doubles
1 BAA workout
1 5k victory
4 AFDs

A solid week of training, a successful 5k, glorious weekend weather and visits from both of Jordan's parents--what more could a girl ask for? I'm pleased with the solid block of training I've constructed in the recent weeks and months and am optimistic it will all come to fruition next weekend at the NB Twilight 10k. All the pieces are in place, now it's just time to execute.

Interested in spending a few more minutes procrastinating whatever it is you're supposed to be doing right now? (Because, let's face it, reading my blog ain't it.) Then search no more! Check out Runners Connect, where esteemed coach Jeff "G-Unit" Gaudette graciously hosted me for a lengthy interview on "changing your mindset about what is possible with your running."  Several days later, regional running site The Level Renner featured my recent 12x800 workout in their new weekly training segment, Negative Splits. Thanks to both of them for giving me the opportunity to yammer on about myself for a few minutes and, in a perfect world, ideally impart a few kernels of wisdom from one runner to another. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Marblehead Beach to Beach 5k

3 mile w/u + strides
Target: win, have fun
Actual: 17:17, 1st female

When Jordan and I found out that there was a 5k taking place in Marblehead this weekend--on the very streets we run almost every day, no less--it seemed only fitting that we both participate. For him, it would be a very relaxed, pressure-free way to ease back into racing after months of injury and resultant lack of fitness. For me, this would fulfill the requirement of one last hard tempo before next weekend's NB Twilight 10k. And, given that we'll be moving from this quaint oceanside hamlet in just a few weeks, neither of us could think of a more appropriate way to bookend our season here.

After an entire week of thoroughly craptastic weather, I was thrilled to awaken on Saturday to brilliant blue, cloudless skies and glorious sunshine. Jordan and his mom left the house early to meet Huub at Devereux Beach, the start and finish site for the race. We've run by this beach, which sits just on the mainland side of the causeway that leads to the Neck, easily a hundred times but have never stopped to hang out. Today we'd not only be racing, but also spending some quality time displaying the Karhu Originals Airstream and selling some product after the event. Around 8am, I departed on foot to take advantage of the race's proximity by getting a head start on the warmup. I was borderline giddy thanks to the gorgeous weather and the prospect of a such a fun beginning to the weekend, a mood that continued to blossom when I arrived to the beach and found the Karhu Airstream already buzzing with energy. At this point there was just enough time to pin on my number, jog a few more warmup minutes with Jordan, and avoid the lines by seeking out the secret construction site port-a-potty (an underrated benefit to having run this route so many times before). Lining up at the start with a few hundred other walkers and runners, it became apparent that this was a decidedly low-key event. Now don't get me wrong, Jordan and I fully realized--and appreciated--from the outset that there would be no fanfare, no extravagant prize purse, no expectant race photographers there to capture the moment. What we didn't expect, moments before the gun (read: woman shouting into a bullhorn) sounded, was for said woman to lean over to Jordan and say, "Hey, you look pretty fast. You're probably going to win. Do you know the course? Because everyone's going to be following you." And so that is why, had you been at the starting line at 8:59 and 32 seconds, you would've seen Jordan frantically studying a printed race map in a valiant attempt to commit the course to memory because, in her words, "everyone was counting on him."

Given that auspicious beginning, would it surprise you to learn that there were no mile markers? I didn't think so. Since I don't own a Garmin, I was pretty much running on feel from the gun, er, bullhorn. What with my generally lackadaisical approach to the morning's activities, I didn't really mind. The first mile was contained completely within the several block radius between Devereux Beach and the usually busy Atlantic Avenue (oh yeah, did I mention no road closures?), which meant we had to navigate about half a dozen 90-degree turns within the first five minutes. I found myself surprisingly close to Jordan and his small group of cohorts when we finally turned back onto Beach about a mile in. At this point, passing by the start and finish area as we crossed the causeway toward the Neck, I was feeling pretty super. And why wouldn't I? The sun was shining, the wind was at my back, my biggest fans (namely Huub, his girlfriend Anne and Suzanne) were cheering raucously for me, and the terrain was almost perfectly flat. I'd traced this path countless times before on morning runs, evening runs, fartleks and tempos, and I felt perfectly relaxed and at home. Admittedly I had no idea what pace I was running, but I knew I could maintain the same effort for another 10 minutes or so with no problem.

The Saturday morning view from Devereux Beach
Once we finally bridged the causeway and reached the Neck, I could sense a male runner coming back to me. Since I didn't really have any other tangible motivation to push the pace, I resolved to hunt him down. Shortly thereafter we took a sharp left and I silently rejoiced that we'd totally avoided all of the Neck's trademark hilly sections. That is, until about 50 yards later, when we took another left onto a neighborhood side street and immediately faced a sharp, steep incline. I was still gaining on my target, but I was also beginning to tire. Once the hill was conquered and we returned in the direction from which we'd come, I was immediately hit by the force of the Neck's other trademark: a stiff headwind. By now I've conditioned myself to ignore the seemingly incessant gusts that exist on this direction of the causeway, but apparently that's not possible when you're actually trying to run some semblance of a fast pace. My target was obviously struggling as well, and with about 800 meters to go I passed him definitively--or so I thought. Do you remember the 2007 Chicago Marathon, when Adriana Pirtea celebrated down the finishing straight while Berhane Adere swings wide and stealthily passes her? Well, I wasn't high-fiving but he was definitely trying to sneak by on the outside. Tragically, he mistimed his kick and went out with a whimper instead of a bang, sputtering to a near-stop less than 200 meters from the finish. Sorry, sucka. I crossed the line in 17:17, about 70 seconds after Jordan. A double Kinlo victory! Overall, we couldn't have asked for a better start to the weekend.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Harvard Track Mile Repeats

2.5 mile w/u + strides
Target: 6xmile @5:20 avg. w/2 mins. rest
Actual: 5:23, 5:24, 5:19, 5:19, 5:21, 5:21
2.5 mile c/d
Total: 11-11.5 miles

Just as Jordan and I were debating several undesirable options for our Wednesday track workout--Crack of dawn at the Village track? Push our limits with a two-hour lunch break? Wait until after work and race the sunset?--my inbox pinged with an email from Terry. Turns out one of the BAA workout groups would be doing 5xmile, which was almost identical to the 6xmile that Jordan had suggested for me. The decision was simple. Less than 24 hours later we hit the road from Beverly into Boston, Jordan's newly arrived mom in tow, hoping we could avoid rush hour traffic and drop her off at a coffee shop or some other pleasant diversion while still making it to the workout on time. Miraculously, all of the above happened relatively smoothly, and at 6am on the dot we were ready to rock and roll.

After a leisurely warmup and costume change, the group assembled on the track. It quickly became apparent that while there were several dozen other athletes preparing to work out, very few of them would actually be doing the exact same regimen as me. Specifically, Jordan would be assuming his standard role of queenmaker for me and Emily while Melissa jumped in and out for several 400-meter repeats, but other than that we were on our own. To be honest, that didn't make things all that much different than if we'd hung back and done the workout at home, but just feeling the group energy and positive buzz was enough to convince us we'd made the right decision by coming down.

For the first two intervals, everything felt ridiculously easy as Emily and I naturally fell into a single file line behind Jordan. Even from the early stages I could tell her breathing was labored--turns out she preferred to spend her recent European vacation frolicking around exotic locales and eating exotic pastries instead of slaving away at the banality of hitting mileage goals--but talent like hers doesn't go away overnight. Sticking close to my side, she and I both tucked in behind Jordan and let him set the metronomic pace. Once the splits dropped to sub-5:20 on interval #3, my comfort level immediately dissipated. As crazy as it sounds, 5:24 felt like an absolute jog while 5:19 immediately felt like a sprint. Emily, too, was tiring quickly, but gamely stuck around through interval #4 even after initially planning to drop after #3. She's so tough, and I know the time will come sooner than later when I'll be seeing nothing but her back during sessions like these.

With two intervals to go, it was down to Jordan and myself with Terry at the watch. The wind began to gain strength as the rain that had threatened finally began to fall in sharp, angry droplets. This was the point in the workout when I'd envisioned triumphantly surging ahead and powering away to sub-5:15 splits...instead, I struggled to hang on to something resembling 5:20. The final few laps were particularly ugly, and though those splits were nothing impressive I can assure you that I gave it everything I had.

Putting things in perspective, tonight's 5:21 average was identical to three weeks ago when Jordan led me through mile repeats on the Beverly High track, only tonight I did two more intervals and took a minute less rest between each. Though I was disappointed in my inability to close out today's workout with some faster splits, overall this effort was clearly superior to the previous one and indicative of my ever-increasing fitness. I hope this translates into a respectable performance at the New Balance Twilight 10k next weekend.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Week in Review

84 miles
4 doubles
14 miles in the Lincoln Trails
2 great workouts 

On the heels of a craptastic race at Penn, it's extremely gratifying to move forward with such a positive week of training. I completed two difficult workouts within as many days of each other and felt strong and confident doing so. Then we finished out the weekend with a terrific BAA/NB Boston group run around Lincoln Woods and Walden Pond. I counted at least 12 of us in attendance, which is the largest contingent that most of us have been a part of for a long run in quite some time. Needless to say, the miles flew by as conversations criss-crossed and intertwined like the forest branches above us. There's talk of making this a weekly tradition, which is fine by me.

On a personal note, this week was deemed even more successful as Jordan and I made the extremely grown-up decision to purchase a loft-style condo in Salem. We have to be out of our seasonal rental in June, and as much as I absolutely love living right on the water there are about a dozen reasons why being in Salem makes more sense. Fortunately the stars aligned and a unit came available in a building we've been eyeing for some time. Thanks to the real estate acumen of Jordan's dad and Roger, we were able to reach a decision extremely quickly (read: in the span of one afternoon) and before we knew it, the condo was ours! I'm still in disbelief over how quickly and smoothly everything worked out, and above all I'm excited and supremely grateful. I can't wait to move in and explore our new town--and, of course, some new running routes.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Tempo and Track

2.5 mile w/u
Target: 4 mile progression starting @5:55; jog to track then 8x400m @75-77 w/60 secs. rest
Actual: 22:53/5:43.2 avg. (5:47, 5:45, 5:41, 5:40); ~5 min. rest/jog
8x400 @76, 75, 75, 75, 74, 74, 73, 72
2.5 mile c/d
Total: 11-12 miles

Another Saturday morning, another BAA workout at Harvard. Jordan and I were out the door early to make the 8am meeting time, arriving to the track with several minutes to spare. Our predominantly female group included Emily--fresh off a two-week vacation overseas and "fun run" at the London Marathon--Brett and Matt, Melissa Nash, Caitlin's friend Liz and several other BAA regulars. Conspicuously absent were Carly and Terry, who are off in Pennsylvania doing baby-related things. I was excited to have Jordan's pacing services and a solid group effort simultaneously, circumstances that haven't aligned in quite some time. I also felt a bit nervous about the mere 48-hour turnaround time after Thursday morning's 12x800 effort, but my legs felt light and surprisingly fresh enough on the warmup to banish any negative thoughts.

After a quick return to the cars for shoe changes, jacket removals and bathroom breaks, we trotted back over to our starting point on the Charles. Once again we would be traversing the "slow tempo loop," which today would be rendered more unfavorable due to the frequency and depth of mid-path puddles. On the flip side, the wind was uncharacteristically calm, the least obtrusive I've ever experienced on this loop, and though the air felt thick with humidity there were plenty of clouds to keep the temperature comfortable. Since our group naturally fell into two pace tiers, the plan was to give the first wave a 40-45 second head start before Jordan, Emily, Brett and I set out after them. Melissa, who is somewhat between the two groups, would start in the first wave and then latch onto us a few miles in. None of us were the slightest bit surprised that Terry had orchestrated this down to the minutest details even though he wasn't there in person.

Like clockwork, our two waves went off in succession, and I stuck to Jordan's side with Emily and Brett tucked in behind. My legs felt light and fast and the pace came easily. At one point Jordan admonished me to relax, but I didn't feel like I was pressing. Passing the first mile marker in 5:47 was a huge surprise--not only was it well ahead of goal pace, but it felt so easy. A quarter mile later we approached the first group, and true to plan Melissa latched on. It felt great to feed off the positive energy as we all encouraged each other. Mile two, always the slowest portion of the loop, came and went in another surprisingly quick split of 5:45. My legs were still feeling strong, and mentally I was relishing the fact that we were already halfway done. Maybe this short-distance business is better than marathon training! My legs began to fatigue as we split 5:41 on the traditionally quick third mile, but I knew I could keep my eyes glued to Jordan's back for another five minutes. The sound of Melissa's insistent footfalls close behind also motivated me to keep the pace honest. I focused on finishing with good, controlled form, knowing there was still more--and faster--running to be done. Jordan and I crossed the four-mile marker with Melissa right behind, then Emily, then everyone else in quick succession.

Several minutes and a short jog later, we were ready to take to the track. Melissa planned to join me for some of the 400s, while the other girls would go straight into a few k's of on/off 200s. Just as in the tempo, Melissa stuck close on my heels for the first four laps. After today's effort, I'm pretty sure she needs to permanently move up to the quicker tempo group! As for myself, I felt comfortable and strong through the first six, but then the post-tempo heaviness descended into my legs and quickly. Finishing the final two, I still felt strong but was decidedly relieved to call it a day instead of pushing to 10 as Jordan had originally suggested/threatened.

So, to be honest, this workout leaves me equal parts excited and perplexed. Excited because I was able to execute two of arguably my best workouts of the year in close proximity, but perplexed about why this obvious fitness hasn't translated to my most recent races. Mentally, I needed today and Thursday to get my confidence back on track. Physically, I'm trusting that these efforts will manifest themselves soon. Honestly, I think my races would go a lot better if I could enlist Jordan's queenmaking services like I do in workouts. Maybe he could just wear a feminine wig? Actually, given the fact that he shaves his legs and is currently sporting a mullet longer than Billie Jean King's, that might not be necessary.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

12x800 Success

2.5 mile w/u
Target: 10-12x800 @2:35-36 w/2:30 rest
Actual: 2:36, 2:36, 2:36, 2:34, 2:36, 2:35, 2:35, 2:34, 2:36, 2:34, 2:35, 2:34
Average: 2:35.1
1.5 mile c/d
Total: ~10.5 miles

After several underwhelming race performances in a row, Coach Jordan and I decided to take an analytical look at my training and try to fill in the missing pieces. It's obvious that months of marathon and half-marathon training have made me strong, but what seems to be lacking is a comfort level with sustaining a quicker race pace. In Jordan's opinion, the best way to achieve that is simply by running harder, faster intervals. Sure enough, if you look back at my training under Coach Simmons in 2010, during which I set all my current track PRs, my log is riddled with sessions like 12x800, 20x400, 25x300, etc. I can't even remember the last time I've done 20 times anything, so needless to say my training has changed drastically since then. But if I'm really going to try to throw down a fast track time this spring, then we both agree that's what it's going to take.

Despite our newly steeled resolve, the workout got off to a decidedly inauspicious beginning. We left work a little bit early on Wednesday afternoon and jogged to the Beverly High track across the street...only to discover a high school meet in progress. Refusing to be deterred, we immediately hopped in the car and drove home, then jogged over to the Village School track...where another track meet was taking place. At this point we were out of options and time, so we just acknowledged that it was not meant to be our day and set off for a few easy miles instead. Thursday morning we were out the door early, this time finding the Village track completely quiet and deserted. Perfect conditions.

From the outset, my plan was simple: Latch onto Jordan. Stare at his back for two laps. Rest. Repeat. I can tell he's getting back into shape as he's recently started adding on amidst his queenmaking duties, and today was another example of that. I'd stop after 800 while he continued on for another lap, which meant the 2:30 rest was more like 1:15 for him. I'm ecstatic that he's getting back in shape, but on days like this I'm even more grateful that he still deigns to drag me around for a bit at girl pace. I can't expect these days to last forever, but you can bet I'm going to take advantage of them for as long as possible!

As should be expected, it took me a while to ease into a pace I'm seldom accustomed to running. It wasn't until the end of the third interval that I finally settled in, only to be thrown for a loop when Jordan dropped the pace seemingly significantly on number four. Seeing 2:34 on the watch sent me into a mini-panic, and I immediately asked that we back off a bit for the next few. (Mind you, at this point I still thought we were stopping at 10. I would've probably had a full-blown panic attack if I'd known we weren't even close to halfway through. I guess sometimes ignorance really is bliss.) The middle section of the workout felt the most comfortable, and I breezed through intervals four through eight with minimal discomfort. Then, Jordan dropped the bomb: 12 is the new 10. Ugh. Mini-panic #2 ensued, and admittedly I backed off way too much on the ninth repeat to compensate. This snapped me back to reality, and I closed out the final three with strong, if unremarkable, splits.

In order to put this workout into perspective, I think it's worthwhile to reflect on the two times I did something similar in the spring of 2010. On April 6th, I completed 12x800 with two minutes rest and averaged 2:36.7. This was several weeks after I ran 34:37 at Stanford. Just over a month later--in what is widely touted (by me, the only person who cares about it) as the best workout in the history of my entire life--I ran the same workout with 2:30 rest and averaged 2:33.3. Several weeks later I would run a tactical 34:50/16:35 double to earn All-American honors at D2 Nationals. Today I didn't come close to that average, or to the 2:30 I hammered for #9 and #12, but I still surprised myself with how close I came. With another month of work I might even be able to better that 2010 workout, which would be no small boost for my confidence. I'm excited at the prospect, and excited to learn that perhaps my fitness is (almost) there after all.