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?

4-3-17-4

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!

4-3-17

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.

4-3-17-2

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.

4-3-17-3

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.

But Where Do You Get Your Protein? A Vegan Runner Answers

I don’t work at a juice bar.

I am rarely in down-dog pose.

My name doesn’t include an astral object.

And I most definitely don’t look pale and scrawny.

These are just a few of the traditional images people have about vegans. Nope. This vegan looks like this.

Vegan-1

The fact that I’m also a first degree black belt in taekwondo, have run several half marathons and marathons, and just recently qualified for the Boston Marathon further breaks these stereotypes.

Vegan-2

More and more vegans are coming in all shapes and sizes, including a burgeoning group of vegan athletes. Super ultra-athlete Rich Roll, whose book “Finding Ultra” was a huge inspiration, made a loud statement for moving to a plant-based diet after being named one of the 25 fittest guys in the world in 2009 by Men’s Fitness magazine. But veganism isn’t just for endurance athletes. Uber muscular vegans, like former NFL defensive lineman David Carter and bodybuilder Torre Washington are further smashing the weak vegan stereotype. While the number of vegan athletes is growing, due to the misconceptions mentioned above, I found myself wary about committing to a plant-based diet, and my journey to veganism has for sure been a circuitous one.

Since the early ‘90s, I have had meatless tendencies, and as the years progressed, I became more knowledgeable about vegetarianism (abstaining from animal flesh) and veganism (abstaining from all animal products, including eggs and dairy).  In addition to the health advantages of a vegan diet, I learned about the environmental benefits and, of course, the tragedy of factory farming. Since 2007, I have primarily been on a vegan diet, meaning I cheated with non-vegan options for dessert and pizza, as well when traveling. Because Paris, OK? However, while 80% vegan or “veganish” was a strong statement for veganism, it wasn’t until last March that I made the full commitment, and I haven’t looked back.

In my nine-year journey to transitioning from an 80% vegan athlete to finally a 100% vegan athlete last March, I had a meandering route. The reasons for my stop-start dance with veganism were based on concerns that perhaps some athletes contemplating a switch to a plant-based diet might be struggling with. Hopefully my experience can help. Here were some discomforts I had to work my way through:

  1. But where will I get my protein? At first, my diet relied on fake meats because I was fearful that I would die from lack of protein. Now I rarely eat faux chicken or the like. Turns out beans, peas, kale, spinach, etc. and ad infinitum all contain protein. Also, you don’t need as much protein as you’ve been told you need.
  2. Not feeling full. This was weird. Being raised a meat-and-potatoes girl, it was uncomfortable not feeling stuffed after a meal. You know what? You learn to love this lightness. In fact, that is primarily why I found myself gravitating towards a vegan diet as a marathoner; I hated feeling weighed down by meat in my body.
  3. Not getting enough iron. My previous bloodwork has intermittently indicated that I’m borderline anemic, meaning that I have to be diligent with getting enough iron. People traditionally associate iron with meat, but I use one iron supplement and eat a lot of beets. This seems to take care of that.

In exchange for giving up animal protein, I have increased energy and decreased recovery time. Decreased recovery time means I can train more, which means more athletic gains and faster race times. In fact, after becoming 100% vegan in March 2016, I PRd both of my half marathons, taking a full 6:30 plus off my former PR from 2012. I then smashed my marathon time by 33 minutes and qualified for the Boston Marathon after four years of trying. Now, in full disclosure, I also added a trainer and speedwork to my training last year which was instrumental; however, all of the workouts were fueled by plants. At the very least, being vegan was not a detriment to the demands my trainer put on my body. However, more accurately, being plant-based allowed me to take on and thrive under the increased pressure and elevated workouts he put me through.

 

Vegan-3

I like specifics, so this is what a typical eating day looks like for me:

Breakfast: Beet, banana, blueberry, coconut water, and almond milk smoothie.

Lunch: Salad with kale, red chard, arugula, spinach, mixed greens, beets, edamame, carrots, avocado, tofu, and dressing with omega 3s.

Dinner: Brown rice, tofu or mushrooms, two types of veggies, and some fat to fill me up.

Snack: Peanut butter balls made with oatmeal and protein powder.

I never worry about my protein intake. And, when someone inevitably poses the question that is the title of this post, here is an answer that I heard another vegan athlete say. Actually, it’s a question in response to their question: “Well, where do you get your protein?” See, cows and chickens don’t eat animal protein either. So if plants and seeds are a good enough protein source for the protein that you’re eating, then…

A new breed of vegan is emerging that is strong and performs at a high level athletically. If veganism is something that’s been rolling around in your mind as something you’d like to try, then I strongly encourage you to do so. Have fun with it, be curious, and experiment. The nourishing plant-based food I eat not only gives me energy and strength, it makes my body and soul light, and those cumulative effects shine through. This is what a 49-year old non-protein deficient vegan athlete looks like.

Vegan-4

2016 & 2017: Review and Resolve

What an amazing running year 2016 was! Truly transformational physically and mentally. It seems somewhat trite to condense it to a Best of/Review, but here are the sound bites.

Total Races in 2016:*

1 300m (WTF): Alemany High School (January)

1 5K: Hollywood (April)

3 Half Marathons: Surf City (February); Mountains2Beach (May); Ventura (September).

1 Marathon: Revel Canyon City (November).

PRs: I PRd every half marathon beginning with Surf City (1:55:59; 1:52:28; 1:51:18 ) and my one marathon (3:52:27).

*All race reports are under the Races tab.

ye-1

Best Training Run:

A totally routine middle-of-the-week base pace run. But it was one of those days when you feel like you can run forever. I love those runs!

ye-2

I also ran down the Seine and ended up at Catedral de Notre Dame in Paris.

ye-3

Best Apparel Addition:

These Zensah compression arm warmers! They are perfect for those sorta-but-not-really-cold LA mornings (I’m talking 54 degrees northern peoples).

ye-4

Random Running Bonus:

Speaking of those compression arm warmers…I became a brand ambassador for Zensah! So unexpected and random. It’s been a great way to connect with even more people in the running community, as well as try new products. Like said arm warmers!

Best Post-Long-Run/Race “Meal”:

Hugo’s Vegan Cinnamon Rolls with Vegan whip cream

Most Surprising Dietary Occurrence:

You know where this is going, right? I “accidentally” became Vegan! Well, I’ve been on-off 80% Vegan since 2007. Meaning, I ate mostly Vegan but would cheat with desserts and, duh, pizza. There were a few periods in there where I also had some health issues that had me experimenting with eating animals again, but in March of this year, I unexpectedly became full Vegan. It was easy, and I haven’t looked back, even surviving a trip to Paris!

ye-5

Most Unexpected Training Benefit:

Um, I look different. It’s only 10-15 pounds, but everything just tightened and popped. See the Before and After September 2015 and September 2016.

fullsizerender-17

Best Laugh at My Expense:

The time I ran the 300m against my friend, a world-class sprinter, and a group of 15-year old girls. I mean…Anyway, despite the ridiculousness of the situation, I still wanted to do well. I turned towards an awkward Asian girl, who did not want to be there and looked like she only took P.E. because it was a requirement but would much rather be in a science lab (I’m Asian, so I’m allowed to say this, OK?), and my competitive streak kicked in. I thought “I can take her.” The gun went off, and it was then that I experienced the longest minute of my life. So many emotions happened in those 60 seconds. First that exhilarating “Wow, I’m going so fast. I’m flying!” Followed shortly, way too shortly, by “Uh-oh. I can’t hold this. I’m going to die.” And then the rest of the minute, just pumping my arms and trying to hold on. Anyway, Awkward Asian girl caught me with about 50 meters to go (argh!). At least I didn’t puke.

alemany
Calm before the storm.
TRANSITION

Well, enough of this backward-glancing. This is what I am looking forward to in 2017.

What an odd year it will be. My qualifying time for Boston occurred two months after the registration cut-off date for 2017, so I won’t be able to run it until April 2018. I have an entire year to…

WTF

Well, the best-laid plans. I did in fact have several goals ready for this post. And then I went on a routine 6-mile run on December 30, 2016, tripped on a wire, took a hard fall, and fractured my patella. Y’all, 2016 was a real one.

ye-7

Anyway, I have been to the ER, my HMO doctor, and tomorrow I finally see an orthopedic specialist, after which I’ll have a better idea of what goals I can realistically make. The first and most important goal I have now is to stay positive, heal from this fracture, and stay healthy. When Trainer mentioned “stay healthy” as my goal for 2017 prior to my fall, I shushed him. My achievement junkie mentality felt that that sounded like a participation medal, but wow, I would for sure take that medal now.

Despite this unexpected, disappointing, and – not gonna lie – kind of scary setback, I am grateful for such a transformative and amazing 2016. While 2017 has not started out according to my plan, I do believe in a bigger plan that I just don’t know yet. And hey, I do like a challenge, so…

Wishing you all a fantastic running year in 2017!

RACE RECAP: Ventura Half Marathon – Shoulda Woulda Coulda

OK, so what’s the time limit on posting race recaps? ‘Cuz I’m just at three months and one day after I ran this race, and while I realize it’s slightly obnoxious, hopefully it’s a forgivable offense. The plan is to post two race recaps this week AND get back to a regular blogging schedule now that I’m in my offseason. So if you’re still hanging in there with this MIA blog, here goes.

The plan was to the run the Ventura FULL marathon. That was the plan anyway.

After my triumphant Mountains2Beach Half Marathon, where I landed a brand new PR at a time that I never dreamed of, I took my usual vacation week to recover. As soon as I returned, I dusted off last year’s training plan for the Ventura Marathon and got busy. I knew I’d only have 12 weeks to build up my mileage to marathon standards, and that I would be cutting it close, but I felt in good enough half marathon shape that the plan would be doable.

ventura-1
First run after M2B — along the East River in NYC.

Training was going well. I was curious to see how my body would hold up to the added mileage on top of my increased speed and strength training and, as had been the case since starting with Trainer, I was unsure if the speed and strength work would translate into a fast marathon. The first 4½ weeks of training went as planned as I increased my mileage slowly and busted out an 18-mile long run for the first time in nearly a year. Then it happened: I strained my right Achilles. Gah! I had a weekend trip to Vegas planned, so even though I was not thrilled about missing a long run, I figured the timing was right to sit out a few days, get healed up, and still have enough time to get in three 20-mile runs.

My Achilles had other plans. I ended up having to take a little over two weeks off, plus a week to test it out and taper up, which left me only five weeks before the marathon. I am a fan of symmetry and had been looking forward to running the full distance at Ventura as it was exactly this race and one year since my last full marathon, but I decided to downgrade to the half marathon and use it as a training run for the Revel Canyon City Marathon in November instead.

ventura-2
Bib pick-up. This is a super fun race expo on the beach.

With this decision, I approached Ventura with the mindset of running it at 80% effort. I had to take time off after the Surf City Half Marathon, and if I hadn’t already planned a vacation after the M2B Half Marathon, I probably would have had to take a week off then too. My body just needs to recover after race effort. Since I could not afford to take a week off in the middle of marathon training again, this race was not going to be a full-out effort.

ventura-2a
Kicked it on the beach for a bit.

My goals were as follows:
A-sub-1:50. Why not? That’s what “A” goals are for, right? Shoot for the moon.
B-PR (run sub-1:52:18).
C-sub-1:55 and not get injured.

I also had an unconventional A-minus *goal*, and that was to not stop at so many water stations! My number of water stops has been an ongoing battle — I mean, discussion — between Trainer and I. I have always stopped at EVERY water station during a race, no matter if there were one (like in a 5K) or twenty-six. I stop/walk and drink whether I’m thirsty or not. This, despite the fact that I never drink water at every mile when training and could easily run eight miles during a weekday run without water. Part of it is physiological, the body is expending more energy during a race, but I also knew part of it was a mental crutch. Yikes! The mere thought of skipping water stations terrified me. I felt dehydrated just thinking about it!

I lined up hoping to run with the 1:50 pace group, but there was no pacer for that, and I ended up – gulp – starting out with the 1:45 group. 1:45?!? Just like Mountains2Beach, I planned to hang as long as I could, hopefully until the 4-5 mile mark, and then hold on. I glanced down at my watch a few times during the first few miles and saw some 7:30-7:45 min. mile paces, which seemed about right because the pace felt just out of my reach. I dropped out of the pace group around mile 4 but felt good about cruising into a sub-1:55 finish time.

I found two women who were just slightly ahead of me and running 8:10-8:25 min. miles, which felt fairly comfortable, so I hung with them for the next five miles. This is an extremely flat and boring out-and-back course, so there’s not much to report here other than Ventura is flat AF. Anyway, I bravely and courageously passed by water stations. Oh, yes, friends. I was determined to reach at least one goal at this race, even if I collapsed from dehydration. (Part of me hoped that this would happen just so I could tell Trainer “I told you so”, but no such luck.)

ventura-3
Nothing but flat highway for miles.

I started fatiguing and cramping as per usual around mile 9-10, only now not only was my body starting to break down, but my Garmin was dying too! It had been going in and out since mile 6, and I had no idea what my actual time was. At this point, I reminded myself of my overall goal for this race, which was to run it at 80%, use it as a training run, and stay injury-free. Thus, I backed off, and did just that.

And here’s where the I Shoulda Woulda Coulda comes in. My finishing time was 1:51:18! Yes, of course I was happy about a new PR by 1 min. 10 sec., but I was also left disappointed – I was thisclose to going under 1:50. If I had known how close I was (why, trusty Garmin, why?!?), I would have kept the pressure on. To top things off, I ended up having to take five days off after the race to recover from a minor bottom-of-foot inflammation anyway, so I just shoulda kept the pace up; I woulda felt better about my race effort; and I coulda gone sub-1:50…argh!

ventura-4
Hey Finish Line, I see you!

Moral of the story: There are no training races. I don’t race enough to have some “fun” races, and I am competitive enough that if I line up, I want to go hard. So lesson learned…leave the 80% effort for training.

Here are the final race stats. Not bad considering I turned 49 a month before!

Finishing Time: 1:51:18
Pace: 8:29/mile
Age Group (45-49): 9/131  — finally cracked the top 10!
Women: 73/938
Overall 203/1490
Water Stops: 4

So this makes three half marathons and three PRs in 2016. It is astonishing to think that for seven years, I hovered in the 2:14-2:04 range, breaking through only twice to hit sub-2:00 finishes, and now I had run three races in one year at 1:55:59, 1:52:28, and 1:51:18. I mean…

But would these half marathon times translate to the full mary? That question still remained and hung over most of my marathon training cycle. The next recap is scheduled for later this week and will document my first full marathon in over a year. Here is the teaser in hopes you will tune in: It involves the word “Boston.”

Hope you have a great running week!

ventura-5
I love this medal — so Ventura!

Race Recap: Mountains2Beach Half Marathon

After my triumphant Hollywood 5K in April, I decided to start training for the Ventura Marathon rather than continue half marathon training for Mountains2Beach at the end of May. I had been hanging out at the 25-30 mile per week range for a few months, and this decision meant putting micromanaging my paces on the backburner and focusing on piling on the miles. Building up to the 48-50 miles per week that I’d need to hit to feel ready for Ventura would take some time and waiting until after M2B would be pushing it.  So I dusted off my old marathon training schedule from FMC and proceeded to ramp up the mileage.

M2B-1
Still did track work but focused on building endurance.

Marathon training and I greeted each other like two people involved in a long distance relationship seeing each other after a long absence. Excited for that first longish midweek run, then reminded of those odd behaviors accompanied with an “oh yeah, I remember how you used to do that” feeling, and culminating in being tired and hungry AF. I went on a rapid bump-up to 34-36-38 miles per week, topping out at a 16-mile long run and myself reunited with that familiar but not unpleasant sensation after a long run when I’d be super tired and yearning for a nap, but my legs would be too jacked up to settle down. They didn’t hurt; just very, very Awake.

M2B-2
Slimthick.

My long run paces pre-5K and during my hamstring issue were slower than before Surf City, and that messed with my confidence. Post-5K they continued to be slower, but since I was focusing on building endurance rather than speed, it was easier to metabolize. I also helped knowing that my overall fitness was improving. When I first started with Trainer, I could workout with him OR get my run in, but no way I was doing both. Then I built up to getting short runs in after my training session, and by the end of this training cycle I was getting my regular runs in (including an 11-miler!) post workout with him. My increased strength was encouraging, but I just wasn’t sure how fast I was, which didn’t have my confidence at optimal level pre-M2B.

M2B-3
My pace was a disappointment. Running with my friend was not.

In the couple weeks before M2B, I had two good track workouts and, even better, a long run of 14 miles that came in at 9:05 min. per mile pace, which was about where I was for Surf City. This finally made me think that I could PR and go sub-1:55 at M2B. Just in time!

M2B-4
Yay! Finally a good pace for my long run!

With my newfound confidence, I set my goals for the race as follows:

C-PR (sub 1:55:59)
B-Sub 1:55
A-1:53

The A-goal seemed a little crazy since my training times didn’t indicate that, but what the heck, that’s what A-goals are for, right? Shoot for the moon. I had really hoped there would be a 1:55 pace group like in Surf City, but M2B is smaller, and it was either a 2:00 or 1:50 pace group. I decided I would go for it and try to hang with the 1:50 group as long as I could and then drop when I had to.

M2B-5

Race conditions were perfect: overcast and in the upper-60s pretty much throughout the race. I hopped into my pace group, and off we went. The group immediately felt too fast, but I hung in there and didn’t drop back until  about mile 5, which was exactly where I wanted to be. The course is a net downhill, with the only uphill portion in the beginning of the race. After mile 5, it is downhill or flat, and I knew that even if I couldn’t quite hang with the 1:50 group, I could do well on that backend due to the favorable elevation.

One race tactic that Trainer has tried to get me to do that I have been unable (read: unwilling) to do – even on the 5K! — is to stop at less water stations. It is surely a mental thing, because even though I don’t need and don’t drink that much water on my training runs, I stop at ALL the water stations during a race. All.Of.Them. And I walk them. It’s a nice little mental break. However, I did notice that it seemed to take a wee bit of energy to get back up to pace when I stopped and started (Ya think? Can you believe I just figured it out?) , so I was hoping to minimize my stoppage. Well, there are only seven water stations on the M2B half marathon course, so there was an enforced water stoppage restriction, and even though I did find myself getting water at each station, I did run through all of them, minus when I took my gels and ended up walking through them. So a small mini triumph and hopefully the start of better water station habits.

Things were going well from miles 5-11, and I could still sort of see some of the 1:50 group, so I knew that I was in the sub-1:55 mark for sure. My goal was to get to mile 10 at 1:25 so that even if something bad happened (stomach, fatigue, etc.), I could still come in sub-1:55.

Sure enough, “something” happened at about mile 11. I started cramping. WTF?!? After cramping during Surf City and getting a charley horse post-race, I switched to SaltStick caps instead of the electrolyte pills I had been using, and they worked well during the 5K and on my training runs. I had also thought that not walking the water stations would help with this issue. Nope. I got that twinge in my left calf, and thought “Oh hell, no.” It seized up a little, but rather than stop, which is what I did at Surf City, I just ran through it. I mentally pictured my calf relaxing, and after about 100 yards or so, it loosened up. My other calf seized up later in the race, but same process, and again it relaxed. Unfortunately, while I didn’t have to run with a calf cramp, it did slow me down because whenever I tried to accelerate, I’d feel that twinge. Arggghhh. I really wanted to go for it in that last mile, but my calf wouldn’t let me be great!

I know by this time you must be on the edge of your seat wondering how your heroine did. Well, despite not seeing those fast paces during training, and even though my crampy calves conspired against me, I finished with a 1:52:28 half marathon time! Friends, that is insane. I never thought I’d see that number. I’m a steady-eddy 2:00-2:07 half marathoner. It takes an extraordinary effort or luck (like a short course in 2012) to get me in at sub-2:00, and that has only happened twice in over twenty half marathons pre-Trainer. Not only did I PR…not only did I go sub-1:55… I even beat my A goal! Crazy.

As for the race itself, it wasn’t as scenic as the full marathon course. It was pretty blah and seemed like quite a bit of running in the town as opposed to on the bike path with beautiful mountain vistas, as well as along the beach with six miles to go. However, that old beach route did mean running by the finish line and circling back, so after a listening to the complaints, they made a course change this year to avoid that. The crowd support is spotty, but that’s not why you run this race; you run this race because it’s a fast course. The medal was nice; the t-shirt meh; the swag negligible. Again, people don’t run the race for that stuff. So, did the course deliver and meet expectations? A resounding yes.

It was awesome to end the first half of my racing season on a high note. Two half marathons and a 5K resulted in back-to-back half marathon PRs and a 5K third place AG finish. 2016 has started off well, but as you know there is no rest for the weary. After a short vacation in NYC, I am back at it this week training for that full mary in September. Yikes. Not gonna lie, I have some nervousness about my body’s ability to withstand the beatdown it’s about to take, but I’m also curious and excited. Having these solid race results will be good information to draw upon when training gets tough mentally and/or physically in the coming months. And so here I am just two months shy of turning 49 and still setting new PRs, so perhaps it should be said again: Getting injured last September may have been the best thing to happen to my running.

RACE RESULTS:
1:52:28
Pace: 8:35
Age Group (45-49): 11/157
Female: 128/1197
Overall: 306/1811

M2B-6

 

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.

RMR-HH5
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.

RMR-HH1
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.

RMR-HH2
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!

RMR-HH4
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!

RMR-HH3
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.

Training Week Feb. 8-14, 2016: Post-Race Regrouping

Well, Surf City left me with more than just a new PR. I received a couple “gifts” from the race. Luckily, nothing terribly awful, but that charley horse was no joke and my calf was jacked up for a few days. And then, totally random, I got a corn on the bottom of my foot. What the what?! Turns out that’s more painful than the calf strain. Anyway, again, apparently not life threatening. Phew.

coco
Rehab Kit

My last five half marathons were run in the middle of marathon cycles, so I assumed that I’d just keep it pushing, but this time I found myself not too motivated to do much of anything. Not only did I only do one measly run, I also skipped one session with Trainer. Obviously, I really couldn’t do anything more than recovery or base runs because of the calf and corn problem — sounds like something a farmer/rancher might be dealing with — but other than the 3-miler to test out the calf, I wasn’t even up for short easy jogs. I guess not having a marathon to train for fed into my lack of motivation. I mean, what’s the hurry? My next race isn’t until April, and it’s *just* another half. But not only did I find myself physically not very driven, mentally, I was just spaced out for most of the week. I found it difficult to concentrate and even found podcasts too intense for my weary brain. I think I may have been like really dialed into to this race, and it caught up with me, so I pretty much vegged out mentally too.

Anyway, I was kind of beating myself up that I wasn’t being more active in my recovery and kept trying to snap myself out of it and Get.It.Together.Dammit! On Thursday I finally saw Trainer, and I figured that would kickstart my week. We had a pretty lively session and got my feet and legs working again (see video below for a drill we did), but the hoped-for motivation to buckle down for the rest of the week died when I left the gym, and I ended up stuffing my face with Indian food and cheesecake instead of doing the light workout I had planned that evening. When I saw him the next day, knowing that I had my running shoes in the car and had planned to go for a run after our session, I kind of threw out there my ambivalence about running this week. Well, Trainer actually suggested…just giving myself a break this week. What?!?

So a giant weight lifted. I wouldn’t mind getting my tightish hammy in a little better shape because I know I’ll be going hard again real soon. (Like in an hour.) In the meantime, I’m doing all that stuff that I’d put off until that time over yonder known as “After The Race”. Good thing Valentine’s Day fell on Recovery Week. Ha.

Once my brain started functioning again, I thought of a few things I’d like to improve for this upcoming training cycle:

  1. Nailing down my post-workout nutrition. I suck at eating in that post-workout 45-min. window, and at my age, the name of the game is recovery, so I have to take any and all steps to get me ready to take on more training. I finally got used to eating pre-workout in my last cycle, and now I have to be diligent about re-fueling in a timely manner.
  2. Adding more miles. I just ran out of time for Surf City. I was only up and running for 8 weeks before the race, so I was only able to get up to 30 miles per week. I would like to get it in the 35-38 mile per week range.
  3. Refining my prehab and maintenance. There is a ton of information out there about staying injury-free – rolling, stretching, and strengthening exercises. After many years of accumulating this information and trying out various activities (yoga, pilates, weights), I am more confident about what I can lose (most of the static stretching) and what types of exercises will keep me strong (Bosu is my Best Friend), so I’m trying to be more efficient in this area.

So not much to report other than I have fully enjoyed my week of eating, sleeping, and NOT running.

I leave you with the news that brought out the super petty in me and brought me much joy: I ran the Surf City Half Marathon faster than Matt Damon. It’s true, readers – your faithful blogger is faster than The Martian. Eat my dust, Jason Bourne!