2017 Training Week Two – March 27-April 2: The Reckless Runner

Runners can be reckless at times. We run up in the mountains where all sorts of animals and reptiles are hanging out. Some of us run solo in the dark on lonely streets before most of the population wakes up. And some of us really crazy folk will actually try out new socks on marathon day. What?!?

But is there anything more reckless than the runner who trains for a race WITHOUT A PLAN?!?

This is me. It’s true. When I decided on my May (5K) and June (10K) race schedule, I immediately went to my handy book that I had loosely based my 2016 half marathon and marathon training plans on: Brain Training for Runners by Matt Fitzgerald. I chose his plans because the tenets he discusses in this book closely mirror the type of training I’ve been doing with Trainer. I figured that if the schedules worked for the longer races, then I’d go ahead and use them for these shorter distances…Then I laughed because I can no longer follow a traditional schedule.

Runners have training plans. That’s like law, right? I myself love Plans – and not just for running. I have a retirement plan, a second career plan, a reading plan, a podcast listening plan, a skin care regimen plan, etc., et al. and ad infinitum. On a micro level, if you saw my calendar, you’d see that almost every time period is blocked for something and are weekly repeats: Date Night, working out, working, “admin”, chores, church, etc., et al. and ad infinitum again. I’m like the German train system, OK?

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And this, ahem, discipline (rigidity?) definitely transferred into my running life. This is what my typical weekly running schedule for the past 7 years pre-2016 has looked like:

Run 5 days – long run day, speed day, tempo run.
Rest 2 days.

But last year I became a different runner in a variety of ways, one of them being that my training plan could best be described as “In Pencil.” Meaning, any training scheduled for that day/week/race cycle could be erased and changed last second. Schedules transformed from in‑ stone to fluid. Now, sometimes I run four days, sometimes six days….depending. Sometimes I do track, other days hills, and of late it’s been a combo session. Also, what is a tempo run? While it’s a staple of almost every training schedule I’ve seen, I’ve done a whole two them in the last year. In addition to track and/or hills, I do some type of speed work at least twice a week, but it’s all indoors on turf, involves cones, and is the same type of work football players – not marathoners — do. Does that even count as running? And how do you count that in miles? *Throws hands up in the air* Add to that, Trainer never tells me ahead of time what we’re doing, except for whether we’re indoor or outdoor, so I have been unable to predict, and thus plan, a schedule. Nuts, right? Listen, I would never prescribe this for anyone, least of all myself, except for that it worked for me. I PRd all three half marathons I ran and BQd my marathon, so I am not messing with this un-formula formula!

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So this is what my “Schedule” looks like for my upcoming 5K and 10K races:

Run 5 days a week. Always one long run (somewhere between 8-10 miles), and usually one outdoor day (track or hills). The other fill-in runs are all over the place. Sometimes they’re all the same distance; other times, I’ll try to mix it up and have mid-distance, short distance, and alternate. A couple times a week, I’ll have a quick-paced short run before my training session that then continues afterwards; done either at a brisk pace or, depending on what happens during the training session, a slow recovery pace. Plus one 30-60 min. aqua jog because my body can’t really deal with running six days a week on cement. And of course one rest day. Complete anarchy. Why not just make Wednesday the start of the week while I’m at it.

So there’s a general plan, but the totals and paces are continuously subject to change.

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And as usual, the lessons I’ve learned in training definitely carry over into my life, as well as vice versa. Today I removed a few time blocks from my calendar. Do I really need to micromanage and fill up every minute of my time, even if it’s to type “FREE TIME” in color-coded blue? Nay, friends, I do not. I cavalierly hit “Delete Event” over and over! Further, I’ve learned that I do not need to know and schedule every detail ahead of time. Also, did you know that the universe does not fall apart if plans are changed last second? Revolutionary, I know. Learning to be more flexible rather than imposing my will based on a rule from who knows where has been an unexpected benefit of my new training regimen that I didn’t even know I needed.

So while I still don’t run alone in the dark, and am wary of running the trails during the summer for fear of seeing a snake, running without an official Training Schedule is something I’m willing to take a chance on. Which really isn’t a risk at all because I’ve seen that for someone as rigid and uptight as me, it works! In fact, a training plan and life framework with a structure that is adaptive is not only sustainable, but ultimately freeing. Just another case of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and reaping the rewards of pushing myself.

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Hope everyone has a great running week!

Training Week
Monday – Rest Day
Tuesday – Run 1.5 base pace miles; training session; run 4.5 recovery miles
Wednesday – Aqua jog 60 minutes
Thursday – Run track and hills
Friday – Run 2 base pace miles; training session; run 4 base pace miles
Saturday – Run 6 recovery miles
Sunday – Long run 8 miles

^^^ What is that even? Ha.

2017 Training Week One – March 20-26: The Miami Vice Solution

For the last five-plus years my race calendar and training schedules have been in place several months (lie: years) in advance. Everything pointed towards The Goal, which was qualifying for Boston (BQ), and my races pretty much followed this schedule:

February – Surf City Half Marathon
April – Hollywood Half Marathon
May – Mountains2Beach Marathon
September – Ventura Marathon
November – Santa Clarita Half Marathon (if I wasn’t too beat up by then)

Basically, two half marathons as a ramp-up to back-to-back marathons, and then a cool-down/end-of-the-year half before I’d go on vacation. Well, this past November, I unexpectedly qualified for Boston. Yes, it was not on the plan. The plan was to run it as an assessment marathon to see where I was, run my two tune-up halfs, and then go for Boston in May at M2B. Qualifying for Boston was AMAZING (yes, all caps!)…and it also through off my entire racing schedule for the first half of 2017. Quality problems, I know.

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After talking to Trainer, I decided to run track for the first half of the year. The plan was to enter some meets and “race” (read: survive) the 800m and 1500m events. Cool. Sounds like a Plan. Well, my BQ marathon happened on November 12th, and while I planned on taking a solid 2-3 week break, I hardly anticipated the 2-3 month break that inevitably occurred. Between an almost three-week European vacation, suffering a freak injury on my way to starting track season, rehabbing from that injury, and then finding out I had missed the open track meets and only the invite-only meets were left, I found myself in the last week of February still without a plan other than to “stay healthy” for Boston. In 2018.

This ambiguous, semi-Letsky Gosky attitude did not sit well with me. I am someone who has a five-year plan ALWAYS. I have goals upon goals and in several different areas, so this was unchartered territory for me…which, it turns out, is exactly where I was supposed to be.

Podcasts are your friend when you do as much aqua jogging as I do (because old). One of the more standout ones was a coach for high performers, who discussed the basic tenets of a workshop he offers on The Champions Blueprint. One of the steps in the blueprint occurs after one achieves a goal, and that is a period of adaptation and pause. Adapting to my new status meant realizing the identity I’d had for five years – “Someone trying to BQ” was different now. I wasn’t prepared for this new self! So that took some getting used to as I realized that my 2017 race calendar would need adjustment. Then came the pause. A time to rest and recover and then choose my next goal. Perhaps this is where I rushed things, as sitting still can be so jarring for me. At any rate, my freak injury somewhat forced The Pause, which apparently was going to happen with my consent or without. Ha.

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As my rehab progressed, and I finally got strong enough to run again, the next goal slowly came into sight…And it wore pastel t-shirts and suits. Yes, I’m talking about that landmark ‘80s television show Miami Vice! In addition to bringing back Don Johnson’s career, it also gave us the bravado of Philip Michael Thomas, who played his partner, Ricardo Tubbs. Thomas coined the acronym “EGOT”: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony, in reference to his plans for winning all four.* And that’s when my goal hit me: I would EGOT the All-American standards for all four road distances! I have already hit the USATF All-American standards for both the half marathon and full marathon distances, and this May and June I will try to do the same for the 5K and 10K distances. You guys, I haven’t run a 10K in over five years. The pain of going that fast is making me weep inside as I type.

But I’m totally excited by this goal! I will have to train hard for it, but it should keep me healthy. Yay. So here we go…USATF Masters EGOT plan is under way. If only I could figure out an acronym for these acronyms.

Total Mileage for Week: 25
Long Run: 8 miles
Outdoor Workout: Hill sprints and 200s

*It should be noted that Thomas has not, as of yet, been nominated for any of these awards.

Race Recap: Hollywood 5K

A funny thing happened on my way to a half marathon…

So last time we saw our heroine, she was fresh off her high of running a half marathon PR at Surf City (not to mention smoking Matt Damon). I had high hopes for the Hollywood Half, and with eight weeks to train, I was looking forward to pushing myself even more by tacking on extra mileage and throwing in some tempo runs on top of the hill/track work I was already doing with Trainer. Because, as you know, if it isn’t broke, for sure you should mess around with it and fix it (read: screw it up). Obviously more is better when you’re staring down 50 years of age, right? Argh! When will I learn?!?

So you know what happened next. I strained my butt/hamstring after my first hill workout post-race and instead of taking it easy, I kept pushing and added in extra speed work on top of it. At about two weeks after Surf City, I knew I had a bit of an issue and thus began my crazy-making attempts at fixing my problem by getting four opinions:

  1. Dr. #1: “STOP RUNNING. You cannot run for four weeks. This [high hamstring tendinopathy] is the type of injury that ends running careers.”
  2. Dr. #2: “You can run but lay off the speed and hill work until I can work on it a little more.”
  3. Trainer: “You’re not injured.”

And of course, the most reliable…

  1. The Internet.

Option no. 4 only increased my anxiety tenfold. I mean, how many times can you Google “high hamstring” “recovery” “stop running” without making yourself mental?! My careful examination of renderings of the human skeleton in an effort to diagnose myself rivaled that of a bomb tech deciding whether to pull the red wire or green wire. The internet was not my friend.

I elected to go with somewhere between opinion 2 and 3, leaning more towards 3. I took a full 1½ weeks off of running, and then slowly started building up my mileage. After a couple weeks I found my long run times were a bit slower than pre-Surf City and that my legs were fatiguing early. At first I thought it was just from losing some conditioning taking those couple weeks off, but then I wondered…could it be…that I changed shoes after 19 years in Nike Air Structures?

Yes, dear reader, in yet another case of when something is working, I will for sure find a way to mess it up, I decided to change shoes. Never mind that I have tried SEVERAL times to change shoes in the almost two decades that I’ve been wearing the Nike Structures. There was the Asics experiment that gave me blisters, then the Brooks (yuck) go-round, followed by the fairly recent trendy Hoka attempt. This last time (ha!), I went with the more reasonable change of switching from a Nike stability shoe to a Nike neutral shoe. I wanted (want! I want!) so badly to be in a lighter shoe. The Structures make me feel like a Clydesdale, especially since I have to wear orthotics for my flat hobbit feet. I figured now that I was on a midfoot strike and no longer pronated that I was at last going to be able to wear the fun lightweight cool kids shoes. The Nike Air Elites were fine…for the shorter runs, but my legs weren’t having it on my long runs. Worse, I started getting the beginning stages of plantar with them. Ugh. I went crawling back to the old clodhoppers.

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The new shoes. So light, so pretty. Le sigh.
So even though my hamstring was feeling better, and I was back in my old shoes, I now had only about two weeks to go before the Hollywood Half, and I knew I wasn’t in any shape to PR it. Moreover, I was worried that I’d hurt myself going hard because my hamstring was still not 100% — after all, last year I strained my calf at the Hollywood Half and had to miss a little over a week of training. Since Hollywood isn’t my “A” race anyway – Mountains2Beach at the end of May is – I started toying around with the idea of dropping down in distance and doing my first 5K in eight years. What?

Since it had been so long between 3.1s, I really had no idea what to choose as a goal or even what to expect. Perhaps more perplexing was how to race it. Treat it like a track distance and go out as hard as I can and then try to hold on for the last two miles? That sounded insane and painful. Or maybe run it more like a mid-distance race and take it easy and kick it into gear the last mile? The distance seemed too short to leave the last kick until one mile to go. Trainer mentioned something like if at 1.5 miles I was feeling good to just floor it. Ultimately my race strategy was a well-thought out Give Full Effort. More specifically, I figured 8:05 minute miles was a good goal. Oh! And I was also going to try my hardest to not stop at the water stations in an effort to get some practice in for my longer races.

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The race expo is held at the Hollywood Palladium, and the start line is in front of the Dolby Theater, home of the Academy Awards; hence the oversized Oscars.
One of the best parts of the race is that you can take public transport – yes, in LA – to the race. The Metro drops you off close to the start, but I took the next exit over and was one of those people that annoy the shit out of me at the half and full marathons by doing a warm-up run before the race. Really? You are in such good shape that you can run 27.2 miles? Anyway, since I’m old and it takes me at least a mile to get warmed up, I ran the mile to the start line. It felt good to be the annoying one for a change.

The worst part of the race is that 5K, 10K, and half marathoners all start at once, and no one is really enforcing the Stay In Your [Pace] Corral rule, so it is a major clusterfuck. I tried to stay at the front of my corral, but I could tell there were runners in my group that were supposed to be in much slower corrals, and the first part of the race was spent dodging in and out of these people. I tried to be careful, but at some point, some of them caught elbows. I only sort of glanced at my watch to make sure I was around 8:00 min. miles.

The race went by quickly! I checked my watch at what I thought was an early part of the race and realized that I only had 1.5 miles left. That was bizarre. I kept a steady strong effort and felt good throughout, with my hammy only giving me a few twinges. Having said that, I have a feeling I could have gone a bit harder, since I remember feeling pretty awful at my last 5K. This did not feel too bad at all, but who knew? The distance was a difficult one to gauge.

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Look at my form! My arms are finally not flailing and swinging about!
Well, friends, you’ve probably been on the edge of your seat wondering “Well, how’d she do?” Or you’ve fallen asleep. Either way, here are the results out of the 1800 plus participants who ran the 5K:

Official Time: 25:42
Age Group: 3rd place
Women: 15th Overall

!!!!

YO, let me say it for the people in the back: THIRD IN MY AGE GROUP!

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Listen, Valerio and Graybill-carroll stole my money y’all. Pretty pink champagne medal tho.
Not to be ungrateful, but my time would have won last year. Two speedsters must have aged up because they were blazing fast. In fact, the woman who won my age group was the first woman overall. *Shakes Fist*

I managed to beat my 5K time from eight years ago by five seconds, which is pretty cool, but I did not get a new PR — that time was set over twenty years ago and is 24:50. However, I do plan to fix that, which I recognize is a little crazy, but a certain amount of delusional thinking is healthy, I think. Also, despite my triumphant time, it was a major Fail on not stopping at the water stations. Well, only half a fail. I never walked the water the stations, but I did get water at each (all two of ‘em!) one. I just sloshed that stuff all over my face and kept it pushing. I guess that’s an improvement?

I ended up hitting my goal pace by running an 8:04 pace on my Garmin (the course went long), and my splits were 7:49, 8:12, and 8:09.

Anyway, I enjoyed the 5K distance which tells me I definitely need to go harder. I feel like I should want to puke afterwards, and like a true weirdo runner, I’m looking forward to it. A cool thing about running a 5K is that my whole day wasn’t ruined trying to recover…the not so awesome thing is that I couldn’t have my guilt-free post-race food fest that I usually have after a half or full marathon. I ate reasonably. Boo.

As for now what, since it was “only” a 5K, my training wasn’t interrupted too much, and I was able to do a strong 9-mile run the next day and resume training the next week without having to take any time off. I’m now getting prepared for the Mountains2Beach Half Marathon on May 29 and simultaneously adding on mileage in preparation for the Ventura Full Marathon in September. So back to the norm.

Hopefully part of the norm includes getting back to more regular blogging now that I’m not going to so many physical therapy appointments, poring over the internet for solutions to my problem du jour, switching shoes, and freaking out about my butt, but no promises.

Hope everyone’s running and training has been going well!

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Your triumphant protagonist with her medal. Oh, and a nice shot of the entrance to the Metro. I wasn’t lying about public transport in LA.