Monday, July 17, 2017

Half Marathon Training & Bowie 6 Miler trail race recap

So this blog post is a little late. I meant to write it up yesterday, but forgot, so here I am doing it after work on Monday.

Last week, I was scheduled for 5 days of  running since I rode my horse for 4 hours on Sunday. But I only got Monday's tempo run and Tuesday's easy run in before calling it quits for the week. I had some left foot pain and decided to let it heal up so I could run the Bowie 6 Miler yesterday morning.

Monday's tempo run was my first tempo run of the half marathon training cycle. My target pace for my tempo runs is 11:50/mi. Each tempo run will consist of 1 mile warm up at easy pace, the prescribed tempo miles and a 1 mile cool down at easy pace. Monday's run was a 3 miler.

I remember my first tempo run last year. I was petrified of 3 miles! This time, it was a breeze, even in 88° weather. I was right on target for my first 2 tempo miles, but went faster (11:13) for my last mile. I enjoy knocking out the last mile a little faster if I can. Last year, I didn't do the extra 2 miles for warm up and cool down, so we'll see how I like that. I went ahead and did my normal walking warm up and cool down on top of the easy jog miles, so a 3 mile run clocked in at 5.6 miles. As my tempo miles stretch out, the double warm up/cool down will become less of a percentage of my entire run. That's the way math works! I think.

I did this run at River Park in Brentwood, so paved path with minor elevation for the distance. The water fountain at Primm Park wasn't working so I had to hop into the bathroom and drink from the sink. I'd forgotten my handheld and doing 5 miles with no water was not an option in that heat!

Tuesday, I went to my local track (my back field) and did 8 laps for a total of 2.33 miles. That didn't include any warm up or cool down as I just did chores before and after for that and didn't track it. About 1,000 feet of elevation gain in that 2.33 miles. Goal was an "easy" run, so I ended up hiking up the hills, shuffling down them and running the short flat-ish spots. Technically, I was supposed to do 4 easy miles, but I think I got a good workout even still. Going down the hills I was feeling it in my foot, so I decided to call it for the rest of the week so I could still make the trail race.

Bowie 6 Miler Recap

The race was a 6 mile trail race Bowie Nature Park in Fairview, TN. Put on by the Nashville Running Company.

I received some really bad personal news over the weekend, so I debated going to run this race at all. I wasn't particularly feeling up to running and was crying a lot. Hard to run and cry at the same time. At the same time, I hadn't run in days and I thought running might help clear my head.

So after debating it with myself, I finally left and showed up at the race venue at 7:30 AM. The race start was 8 AM and I hadn't picked up my bib yet. Fortunately, it was a small, local, laid-back race (about 200 runners) and I was able to walk right up to get my bib and t-shirt. There was a very short line for the bathroom (real bathroom with 4 stalls! And sinks and soap! No porta potties here!), so I was standing well back of the start line with 10 minutes to spare. I did some warm-up moves, still debating going back to the car and going home, but that was silly. I was there. I might as well run.

People gathering at the start.

I started dead last, or at least I think I was last. I was last of the pack. If there were others that started after the pack, then I wasn't last.

I jogged along behind everybody until the trail started to force people to spread out. I passed a couple of people, but nothing to get excited about. I wasn't really planning on racing this run anyway. My training schedule called for a tempo run of 3 miles on Monday, so I was planning to try to take it easy on the first mile at least and then maybe have 4-5 miles of tempo effort. Not supposed to be race effort.

A mile and a half out, I twisted my right ankle and had to pull off to let people pass me back. I walked for a couple minutes and then gingerly started running again until the pain subsided and then I was able to go back to a normal pace.

I passed a couple of people going uphill, even though I was walking. I started jogging again when my HR dropped too much and the incline leveled out a little.

At mile 3, another runner heard my GPS beep the 3rd mile and asked how far we'd gone. I answered and then fell into step with her, chatting about the trail left in the race since I train at Bowie and she had never run there. She was running all the hills and I was walking most of the hills, so at the next decent incline, I let her go on.

I caught her just before the aid station, but then I stopped to refill my handheld. I also picked up a mint chocolate GU. I didn't get a chance to try it during the race, but I am really interested to try it on my next training run that needs fuel. Probably my long run this week if I get to do it.

I managed to catch Suzanne after a little bit and we continued to chat until the last bit of the race which was on pavement, up a small incline.  She decided to sprint the finish and even though I knew I wasn't going to catch her, I chased her anyway. She beat me by 4 seconds. :-) Give or take! It was a small local race without timing chips. We high fived as soon as we slowed down and spent several minutes chatting and exchanging FB info before heading home. I really enjoyed running with Suzanne and chatting with her. Really made going to the run worth it. :)

What's next?

I'm going to try to get back to my training program. I missed my first speed workout, so I'm not sure how I'm going to adjust for that, but I have a few days to figure that out. For easy and long runs, I'm just going to jump into the current week and do those runs as scheduled as long as my right ankle and left foot hold out. Gotta do that strength work.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Music City July 4th 10k Race Recap

The Race

Music City July 4th 5k/10k put on by What Do You Run For? I have done this race many times and while I could park elsewhere, I'm pretty used to parking in the Public Square Parking garage just across the street from the square with the race booths set up. I did the same thing this year.

This year, we started at 7 AM instead of 8 AM. Which I'm all for, even though it meant I had to get up at 5 AM. It rained a lot the days and night before the run, but during the run, it was pretty nice. We lucked out on the temp, with it only in the mid-70s. The humidity was pretty high, but that's to be expected in Nashville, TN, on July 4.

They started the 5k and 10k together. The course is a single 5k loop that the 10kers do twice. I got my race packet (shirt, race number, and a drawstring backpack) and ran back to my truck to leave the shirt and grab my handheld water bottle.

I debated taking the handheld. Water stations were supposed to be around mile 1 and mile 2 and I assumed there would be one at the finish/start of the second loop. And while humid, it was a good 10-12° cooler than expected. Finally, I decided to take my own water bottle.

I saw several picture opportunities during the race that I would like to have, but I was going for a PR and decided not to pause for pictures.

I ended up at the start line just in time, but then the race didn't start for 11 more minutes. I was probably pretty annoying to my neighbors as I just couldn't stand still and bounced around like a ping pong ball. I remembered to take a gel before the start.

We finally got started and I again seeded myself too far back in the pack. I did the same thing at my 5k race on New Year's. I found myself hemmed in by walkers and had to dart around them to be able to run. I don't mind walkers. I do it. But 3 or 4 abreast in the middle of the lane slowing to walk with very little warning is pretty annoying. And walking on a downhill within 1/2 mile of starting boggles my mind. ;-)

Another pet peeve was people playing music through their phone speakers. Like I want to hear your music! I don't! If I want music, I'll pop my earbuds in and listen to my own tunes. It's one thing to do that on a solitary long run with nobody about or just the occasional person to pass, but in a crowded 5/10k start?

As I approached the first water stop around mile 1, there was a line and the volunteers were frantically pouring cups. I took a sip from my handheld and bypassed the water table. Mile 1 dinged at 11:25. A little faster than my projected 11:45 to hit a PR, but I knew there were more hills ahead.

We circled Nissan Stadium and crossed over the Cumberland River. The approach was an uphill, so I ran partway up, then walked until the crest and picked up running again. The second mile had more downhill than uphill and that mile took me 11:24. Way to keep a steady pace, I thought, but can I keep it up?

We turned on 5th Avenue and ran past the Country Music Hall of Fame toward the Bridgestone Arena. Fortunately, we were only on 5th Ave for a block because it was HOT. No breeze and just gross. I was really happy to get out to a breeze again.

The second water station was around mile 2.3. Again, it was pretty busy, so I took another couple sips from my water bottle and passed it by. I had been taking a few sips here and there and had some water left. I knew I'd be taking a gel in soon and I always take water with my gel.

Just before the turn onto Union Street and into the downhill before the 1/2 way mark, I took my second gel. A tad early, but I knew I wanted to be able to concentrate on the downhill and not be distracted by a gel. I took a few good swallows of water with the gel and headed down the hill. Mile 3 passed with an 11:28 pace. Ok, slipping a little. but still pretty close to the other miles.

At the halfway mark, I manually pressed my lap key and noted the time for the 5k. 35:57. So this is a little embarrassing. I saw that time and I was not happy! My goal time for this race was 1 hour 13 minutes. So the halfway mark would have been 36:30. I was 33 seconds ahead at the halfway mark.

But for some reason, my brain thought it was 37:57, which if I could keep pace and not go slower, would still push me to almost 1 hour 16 minutes, which would not be a PR. So I was annoyed at the half-way mark because I thought I was doing so well (I was) but [I thought] my watch said I was slower than I thought I was. If I'd had more wits about me, I would have realized I couldn't be running an 11:25/mi pace for the first 5k and still be slower than my target pace of 11:45. Just brain not working right, I guess.

I'm not really into quitting, so I didn't just stop or slow down or just say forget it. I kept running. I ran up the little rise to the first bridge crossing, fully expecting to see the halfway water stop. And nada. No water stop! Wow. I was super glad I hadn't drained my water bottle at the last gel. I was pretty low, but I had some more water.

I went into cruise mode, running downhill, letting gravity and my leg turnover pull me down the hill and past 6 or 8 runners that were walking or running slower than me. It wasn't a big downhill, but I'll take advantage of every bit of downward slope I can!

I finally felt like I was settling into my run. I am not really a good short distance runner. Anything under 3 miles and I never really settle in. There were a lot fewer people around me. I began to run the tangents and running where I needed/wanted to without having to worry about running into people or getting in somebody else's way.

I popped one of my bluetooth earbuds in and pressed the play button. Nothing. I had prepped my music before the run, so I should have been able to just press play and get my running playlist. I turned off the earbuds and heard the little disconnect tone. Then turned them back on. And didn't hear a tone. Nothing. My heart sank and I got really annoyed when I realized they weren't coming on. Even though I'd put them on the charger the night before, they must be dead. I'd been counting on my music to help push me through the last half of the race and keep my tempo up for that PR that I thought was already in jeopardy, if not completely toast.

On long runs, I carry a spare set of basic (non-bluetooth) earbuds for just such an occasion, but I'd left those in my duffel bag in my truck. No recourse. Nothing to do but

So I ran. I made it to the mile 1 (mile 4.1) water station. This time there were plenty of cups ready to grab and only one other runner in the vicinity. Since I was low on water, I would have stood in line anyway. I needed the water. I grabbed the cup and kept walking while drinking and took off running the minute I was done.

Mile one of the second lap done in 10:42. Wait, what?? That's a bit faster than my 5k PR pace. It helped that I was able to cruise down the hill at my own pace and not dodge other runners like I had to do in the first mile.

As I approached the 2nd Cumberland River crossing on this lap, I counted the light poles to the crest of the bridge before it leveled out. 8 or 9. So I ran to the 4th one (passing a lady walking the hill). I glanced behind me and saw a pack of runners just past the water station. Wow. I'm not used to seeing many people behind me! I turned back to the job at hand and walked briskly up to the top and picked up running again. The lady I passed also began running when I did and I matched strides with her for about a minute before pulling away. Not sure if I sped up or she slowed down, but when the downhill hit, I went into cruise mode and off I went. So glad I practice running downhill!

Mile 2 of the second lap was done in 11:07. Slower than my previous mile, but still faster than any of the miles in the first lap. I took my last gel here. I debated taking another gel so close to the finish, but I decided it wasn't a bad idea and it might kick in by the last 1/4 mile. At the very least, it would keep me from crashing at the finish before I could get more food into me.

I got another drink at the last water stop and thanked the volunteers. I was a little tired at this point and could feel my legs getting heavy, but I only had about 3/4 mile left, so picked up the pace after I was done with my water.

After a couple more mild hill climbs, I rounded the corner and headed down the home stretch. I felt my watch vibrate to indicate the last full mile but I didn't bother glancing down to see the split time. I could see the finish line and hear the announcer. A lady was coming up behind me with a pacer friend. The pacer said something like "go on, you can do this" and I have NO idea who he was talking to, but I took it to be me and started running faster. :-D.

The finish clock showed 1:11:11. I wanted to hit under 1:12:00! 1:12:00 would be a PR in itself and I knew my chip time was less than gun time. I ran and made it in 1:11:50 gun time. :-) Whoo-hooo!! My chip time was 1:10:20! A good solid PR from my previous record of 1:14:30 set in 2012 at the Hendersonville Classic on Memorial Day.

I didn't realize until I was analyzing my watch data that I'd inadvertently added 2 minutes to my half-way time when doing math to determine if I was on track for a PR. I'm really glad I didn't just phone it in the last half because that almost certainly would have meant no PR.

I got my medal, a bottle of water, and a banana and headed to my truck. I drank the water, dropped my bib, medal, and handheld off at the truck and headed back outside munching on the banana. There was a Starbucks a few blocks away, so I ordered a Frappuccino from the app and walked to get it. Coming back, I realized that using the parking garage pay station and elevator furthest away from the race venue was actually pretty nice and no waiting.

The Training

Pretty happy with this race and my PR. I set out and trained to PR this race and got it done. Admittedly, the weather helped. A LOT. Humid, yes, but 10° less than expected and some cloud cover is a big help.

My 10k training started back in April just after the Bridge Street Half Marathon. I decided to run a lot of easy miles and a lot of trail miles. I used HR and breathing to determine if I was running easy or not. I also tried to add in a lot of elevation. I did run some negative split runs and some speed interval runs, especially in the last 6 weeks of training.

All done!

Training stats

12 Weeks
Number of Runs: 41
Number of Trail Runs: 21

Longest Run: 12 miles; trail miles no less
Training miles: 135

Training hours; 34 hours 54 minutes
Average Training Pace: 15:30 <- Go slow to get faster?? :-D
Total Elevation: 14,208 feet

Interestingly enough (to me), my elevation for 10k training was only 4,000 feet less than when I trained for the Chattanooga Marathon. I think hill work, at least in small doses, agrees with me.

I did have a little issue with my left arch giving me some trouble during this training cycle. I'm going to have to step up my strength exercises and make sure I don't let that turn into a big issue.

What's Next?

I've been training for the Iron Horse Half Marathon for the last 4 or 5 weeks. The overlap with 10k training was a little weird and not something I really want to repeat. I probably ran more the last 3 weeks of 10k training than I normally would have because I was also training for the half marathon so I could leap into the Hansons Half Marathon training in week 5. But they were easy miles and it's hard to argue with a 4 minute 10 second PR. But starting next week, I can "just" train for the half marathon.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Half Marathon Training Overlaps 10k Training

These last 3 weeks, I've continued to train for my 10k.

I've been slowly adding mileage and intensity to my training weeks, trying to peak for a July 4th 10k. I've run 100 miles so far this training cycle with over 12,000 cumulative elevation gain. I've been running mostly on trails with some elevation, so it'll be interesting how that translates to a street race. I'm going to try to incorporate a little move pavement work in the next couple of weeks before the 10k.

Half Marathon Training!

At the same time, I've got my eyes set on my next goal race, which is the Iron Horse Half Marathon in Midway, KY, in October. I had a great run there in 2016 and I'm hoping to get a PR there this year since I'm more familiar with the course now.

The plan

I've settled on a training plan. I'm going to start the Hansons beginner Half Marathon plan. This is a pretty aggressive plan. If you're not familiar with Hansons, they have some pretty good books that explain their philosophy. Basically, it's run. A lot. You get tired. Your legs get tired. And still you run. A lot.

The beginner plan has 6 runs a week, with 3 SOS (Something of Substance) workouts a week. Tempo runs, Long Runs, and Speed or Strength Interval runs. The plan starts with Speed workouts and switches to Strength workouts for the last half of the plan.

Each run is to be run at a prescribed pace. Tempo runs are run at goal race pace. My goal pace is 11:49/mi. Long runs are 12:50/mi - 14:20/mi. Easy miles are 13:20/mi - 14:20/mi. Speed intervals will be run at my 5k pace (10:53/mi) and Strength intervals at my 10k pace (12:00/mi).

I began investigating Hansons last year in preparation for my 2nd marathon. But I decided running 6 days a week and running a lot of miles was a recipe for injury for me at that time. I spent several months and 2 training cycles (one for a half, the other for a full) slowly building up my tolerance for running more than 3 days a week. In the peak training weeks for my marathon, I was running just over 40 miles a week. A lot for me.

Since I would like to PR my half in October, I've decided to take the plunge and train with Hansons. I also have my eye on the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore in March 2018, so I'm going to alter the training plan to suit me. That may make Hansons purists cringe, and that's ok. But I'm still gonna do it. ;-)

The alterations

My endurance horse after a hot training ride.

I plan to run at least 5 days a week. I will try to run 6 if I can, but I also have my endurance horse to condition, so Sundays will be for her long ride. If I don't ride Sasha or I happen to have time for the easy run, I'll throw that run back into the mix. I've purposefully shifted  and swapped the days of the training plan so Sundays are always easy miles. I will always have an easy day or rest day between my SOS (Something of Substance) workouts.

Saturdays are rest days for me, except in very rare cases where I'll run on Saturday night after sundown. I'm a Seventh-day Adventist and Sabbaths are rest days, both for mind and body.

So that leaves Monday through Friday for my runs. Mondays will be Tempo workouts. Wednesday = Long Run. And Friday for Speed/Strength workouts.

View at Smith Park, one of my training trails.

More alterations! Since I'm looking at doing a trail marathon after this half marathon, I'm going to run some of my half marathon training runs on trail. I plan to do most of my easy miles on trail and at least some of my long run miles on trail. Because of this, my easy and long miles will be slower than my prescribed paces, but overall, I'm expecting the effort and the overall benefits of trail running to win out here.

Tempo and speed/strength interval runs will be on pavement to keep my legs used to the pounding of the road.

Overlapping Training Cycles!

The Hansons Half Marathon training plan is 18 weeks. So technically, I started this plan this week. Fortunately for me, the plan eases into the miles, so while I'm tapering for my 10k, I'm ramping up for the half marathon training. This week was a little weird in that I did 3 interval workouts for 10k training and one easy run instead of the 4 easy runs prescribed by the Hansons plan. But the next two weeks are fairly similar since my 10k plan has me doing mostly easy miles between now and the 10k with the exception of a couple of easy interval workouts and a negative split run. None of which will negatively affect the ramp up of the half marathon plan.

Week 1 Half Marathon Training Stats

Number of Runs: 4
Number of Trail Runs: 3
Training Mileage: 21.5 miles
Training Time: 4 hours 54 minutes
Training Average Pace: 13:42
Elevation Gain: 1,644 feet

Total Mileage: 24.6 miles
Total Time: 6 hours 1 minute

Vi Update

This Bluetooth headset is still pretty much useless. The Android app did get an update, but I'm still having crashes both with the headset itself and the app. Not pretty. I'm a little scared to trust the thing for runs because I want to make sure I have my podcasts or music when I want them.

The Vi has definitely not lived up to the hype for me.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Training & 935 & Vi Update

I've been running the last few weeks, but way shorter workouts at a slower pace than I trained for the marathon. It doesn't really feel like training most of the time.

I've been sticking to the trails for most of my runs to try to build up my endurance on trails for training for the Asheville Marathon even though that training cycle won't start until late this year. I have doubts that I'll be able to effectively train to beat the timer at the AM, but I want to try at least.

This past week, I started in on week 7 of 10k training and started adding interval work to my schedule. I ran 10 intervals of 1 minute at high intensity (basically run fast) with a 2 minute recovery. I decided to do that on the road instead of trail so I could focus on running fast and not have to worry so much about tripping. I was really busy this week and didn't have time to drive to a paved closed running trail. I considered the treadmill, but short, intense intervals are not well suited for the treadmill unless you already know how fast you need to run to reach a high level of effort.

I was pleasantly surprised to see my run minutes were in the neighborhood of 8 minute/mile pace. Some faster, some slower, since the road I chose to run back and forth on has a slight elevation, so some intervals were slightly downhill and others slightly uphill.

It was a tough workout for me, but highly satisfying.

Then on Friday I got to run 7 miles of the Pinhoti trail with some decent elevation to it. It was a great training trail and I really wish I could run there all the time! I had so much fun running the downhill, but was appreciative of the training I got going uphill as well.

I've had my new toys about a month now.

Garmin 935xt updated impressions

The Garmin Forerunner 935xt is pretty much my constant companion now. I wear it almost 24/7. It gave me decent feedback about how much I'm moving when I sleep. Continuous HR monitoring let me see my resting heart rate is in the mid-50s instead of the mid-60s like I thought previously.

The battery life of the 935 is pretty good for what I'm doing now. I only have to charge it every 7 days or so, but once I start running more, I'm sure I'll have to charge it more often.

The biggest drawback of the 935 for me is the onboard HRM doesn't handle abrupt changes in HR very well. So doing short intervals of high intensity for a minute doesn't show an accurate HR during the interval. So it's hard to measure HR vs perceived effort during the run. To fix this, I will use my chest HR-Run strap during interval workouts.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with my decision to upgrade from the 630. I really thought I would miss the touch screen, but I find that's not really an issue and it's kinda nice to be able to wipe the sweat and dirt off the watch face without worrying about changing the data on the screen.

LifeBeam Vi impressions

Quite frankly, I'm not impressed so far. Vi doesn't talk very much. The first run I did with her, she was pretty chatty, but subsequent runs have been quiet. It's hard to get her attention for a command. You're supposed to be able to tap the right ear bud, but it's so hit or miss and then she can't understand me most of the time and then I'm back trying to get her attention to listen. So I end up just listening to my podcasts or music like it's any other set of really expensive Bluetooth earbuds.

So yesterday, Vi got an update for her software. The update promised better mic and voice recognition. I was excited and took her on my run with me. Things went great for about 1/4 mile. I was able to touch the right earbud to get her attention and get her to tell me my heart rate. Then she stopped responding. The Android app had crashed. Oh joy. I got her going again and she said we were ready to run and then wouldn't respond again. I decided to stop messing with her because at least my podcast (Embrace Running's Vancouver Marathon recap and Mighty Blue on the Appalachian Trail episode #20) were at least playing correctly and I didn't want to make Vi mad enough not to play those at all.

There's an Android app update promised in the next week or two, so I might just wait until that's available before trying again.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

New Running Toy - LifeBEAM Vi

This week I started using 2 new toys. This post will focus on one of them.


This was a Kickstarter project my husband saw last year. He said "hey, honey, that looks like something you should get!" I love how my husband not only tolerates my obsessions of endurance running and endurance horseback riding, he downright encourages (enables??) them!

I've been running with a "necklace" bluetooth headset (the LG Tone Ultra) for about a year now. It's really nice not to have to worry about a cable winding around my body and attached to my phone.

So when my husband saw this bluetooth headset that also boasted HR tracking and a built-in running coach, he thought I'd like it. I wasn't convinced at the time, but after a few weeks of pondering, I put in a pre-order in January. I expected it to arrive just after my marathon in March, so I was hoping it would help kickstart (pun intended) my rear back into running after the marathon. Last year, I took 4 months off from running after the marathon and I didn't want to go that long this time.

After some back and forth with the LifeBEAM support team, during which some of the emails never reached me, I finally got a shipping tracking number and the device arrived this week. I got to run with it for the first time on my Friday evening 5 mile trail run.

There was no paperwork in the box itself. Just the headset, a charging cable (a standard micro USB cable), a soft carrying pouch and a large pod with various sized ear buds and fins to find that perfect fit. The box itself has text that announces the Vi (pronounced Vee) is already charged, tells you where to find the power button and says to go download the app. And that's it.

I downloaded the Vi Fitness app from the Google Play App Store for my Android Moto X Pure phone and started it up. The app advised to pair with the headset. I pushed that button and it popped me over to the standard Android Bluetooth settings. I tapped the item marked "Vi Earphones (35A)" and my phone connected and a voice in the headset cheerfully announced the device was connected. So I returned to the app. Which continued to insist I needed to pair with the Vi. I forced the app to close and then opened it again. Still said I needed to pair. Long story short, it didn't recognize the Vi being connected until I turned my phone completely off, then back on, made sure the Vi and my phone were connected via Bluetooth before opening the app again. Then things were moving a little better.

I couldn't figure out how Vi would get my heart rate, so I had to go to their site and look through their FAQ before discovering that the HR is an optical HR sensor built into the left ear bud. I had only the right earbud in during set up. No wonder it didn't see my HR. I popped the left ear bud in and almost immediately got a HR reading.

I headed to a nearby trail system for a run. I wasn't sure exactly how long I was going to run, so I just chose the "Free Run" option instead of a set distance or time.

Me wearing the Vi headset. I need to remove the tag!

The Vi voice talked to me during my run. You can change how much she talks in the app settings, but I just left it at the most talking. I figure I can also turn her down later if I want. I ran my podcast app which conveniently paused when Vi wanted my attention.

Vi gave me tips throughout the run about running form, running too hard and how to use the headset. Such tips as, hold the +/- buttons to skip forward/back on your music or podcast player. Or tap the right earbud so she'll listen to you.

You can say "Heart Rate" to get a bead on your heart rate. This is what I did often during the run so I could compare it to the optical HR sensor on my newly acquired Forerunner 935. They matched almost perfectly. I hadn't been expecting much, so that was a nice surprise.

Since I've only run with it once so far, I don't know if it'll turn out to be something useful or just a gimmick. I'm interested to see where they go from here.

New Running Toy - Forerunner 935

This week I started using 2 new toys. This post will focus on one of them.

Garmin Forerunner 935

I have been a Garmin user since, well, eons ago. I used the Garmin Forerunner 201 and the 301 and on and on. I have a lot of units in my arsenal. For training for my first marathon, I bought a Forerunner 630 and have enjoyed using that. When the 735xt came out, I decided it wasn't worth upgrading and I would miss the touch screen of the 630.

I happily used the 630 for training for my first and second marathons. The biggest pain point for me on the 630 was battery life. If my 630 wasn't fully charged, my 20 mile long runs would tax the battery and I did get a low battery warning on it during both marathons. Not a happy thought that my data collector would die on me during a marathon! I always ran with my backup Forerunner 620, just in case. Even though the battery life on that one isn't much, if any, better than the 630.

Anyway, when the 935 came out, I wasn't sure I wanted it. I did want to upgrade, but I was annoyed at the $500 price tag for a watch with an optical HR sensor. I haven't been impressed with optical HR sensors I've used in the past, so that was a gimmick I didn't want or need, since I'd use my existing HR strap. Also, I was worried the optical HR sensor part of the watch would be uncomfortable, especially for something I didn't want to use.

So I went looking for reviews and read DC Rainmaker's review on the 935. If you've never read his review on a fitness gadget you want, you really, really should. He's very thorough. He showed a picture of the back of the 935 with a very flush optical HR sensor. The optical HR sensor would not be uncomfortable and get in the way. That did it for me. I pulled the trigger and put in an order at REI, even though it was on back-order. It shipped the next day. :-D

I ran with it for the first time on Tuesday. A 2.75 mile flat paved run at a local park. I used my regular 630 paired to my normal HR chest strap. I did not pair the 935 to my HR strap. I wanted to see what the optical HR sensor would do. I wore the 935 in the normal watch position and the 630 further up my arm on the same arm.

The 630 paired to the HRM-Run chest strap gives Running Dynamic metrics. That information is provided to the 935 by a tiny pod device that clips to the back of my running shorts. That was an additional purchase. This thing is smaller than a foot pod and just turns itself on and off. No fuss, no muss. I tend to forget it's back there. The watch has a handy feature to remind me to take it off when I finish a run. While the directions say an occasional spin through the wash is ok, it's not recommended and one should take precautions to remove the device from one's shorts.

I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the optical HR on the 935. It was very close to the HR strap. The biggest issue with the optical HR is the fact that it can take a second or 2 to register a change in HR and if you're doing short intervals or hovering around the max HR alarm you've set, it can take a little longer to respond to changes than the chest strap. But when I was running evenly and steady, the HR was comparable. I am starting to think I can get away with skipping the chest strap altogether! Which would be great as the HRM-Run strap rubs me and I have scars from marathon training with it.

While I didn't mean to test this HRM theory, my very next run, I forgot my Foreunner 630 at home. So I bravely set out to run trails with only my Forerunner 935 and the running dynamics (RD) pod. It was fine. The data looks fine. The HR looks great and it kept me from overreaching and running too fast. And it was so freeing not to have that chest strap digging into me!

Believe it or not, on my 3rd run with the 935, I AGAIN forgot my 630. That run I also forgot my RD pod, so I didn't have any of that data for that run, but I'm most interested in the pace, HR and elevation data anyway.

I am actually wearing the 935 all the time. Even while I sleep. The band is very comfortable. I can get the watch snug for the HR reading, but I don't feel like I'm being choked at the wrist. It has been many many years since I've worn a watch when not running.

I've discovered my resting HR is about 59 bpm, which is a good 6 beats lower than I thought it was.

I charged the watch on Monday afternoon as soon as I got it and have not charged it since. I have worn it 24x7 for the most part. I have recorded specific activities with it. I've run 3 times, ridden my horse once and done PT with the other horse several times with this watch. It still shows 54%. I'm starting to wonder how I'll get by when I have to finally charge it up again. ;-)

Although I actually do miss the touchscreen of the 630, the 935 is quickly taking its place as my main running watch.

Garmin's comparison tool for the Forerunner 935, 735xt and 630: Comparison Tool

Of note, the Forerunner 630 is a "previous model," which basically means they're not making them anymore.

Bridge Street Half Marathon & 10k Training

It's been a month since I posted to my blog! I need to get back into the habit because even if nobody else reads these posts, I enjoy looking back on them as a running diary.

Bridge Street Half Marathon

I did make it to the Bridge Street Half Marathon on April 9. I had originally planned to get a hotel room, but scrapped that and got up at 3:45 or so to drive down to Huntsville, AL, for the 7 AM start. It was chilly at the start, but I warmed up quickly.

At the start, near the 3 hour pacer

I started with the 3 hour pace group. This was the first time I'd been at a run that had a pace group slow enough for me to run with! Unfortunately, they were running too fast for a 3 hour pace, so I dropped back after a mile and a half and let them go on. I caught and passed them in mile 4 and never saw them again.

Super cool part of the run through McMillian Park and their double helix path! 

I really enjoyed the run. The first 9 miles were fairly easy for me, but it got a little harder for the last 3 or 4 miles. I was running around a large group. They were pleasant and not at all annoying, but I didn't like playing leap frog. We were going about the same average pace, but doing different run/walk ratios to get there. To get away from the leap frog, I sped up and dropped my walk breaks. I got a comfortable lead on them and then, around mile 11, there was a porta potty. I needed to pee and I hadn't seen a porta potty for miles and miles. So I debated and finally zipped into the porta potty. I lost my lead I'd had on the group and had to speed up once again to get my lead back.

Around mile 12, my right calf began to bother me. I didn't speed up any, but I also didn't slow down, so it didn't really help my calf muscle. The last 1/2 mile was a bit of a struggle as my calf was hurting and I was running faster than I should have been, but the finish was "just there" so I pushed to get it done. The finish line was in the middle of the open air Bridge Street Town Centre mall. Pretty crowded!

I got my medal and a water bottle and stumbled over to the closed carousel for a little breathing room, literally. I had hit my max HR just at the end there and needed a little room to move around to let my HR drop slowly. I finished in 2 hours 47 minutes, so well under the 3 hour mark.

My favorite part of the entire run was a father with his young children. They were clearly following a runner, but I never was able to identify which runner they were cheering on. But they certainly cheered me! The little girl was 5 or so and her little brother was maybe 3. Their dad had a wagon he pulled them in. Because the run winds around the streets of Huntsville, this guy and the kids were at several spots along the race route. The kids were giving out high fives! It was great fun to see them and I looked for them along the route. I saw them 4 or 5 times. The last time I saw them was just near the finish. They were crossing the street in front of me to reach the finish line (I still had to run around the outside of the shopping center first). The little girl ran to get in place to give me a high five. Her little brother was in the wagon pulled by their father and I circled around to get a high five from him as well. Really made my day to see them so often. They seemed to be having so much fun and I certainly enjoyed it as well. I did take a picture of them but I'm not going to post it here out of respect for their privacy, but they were great.

10k Training Starts!

I started my 10k training the week after the half marathon. Due to my calf muscle being a little tender, I took a full week off before starting training for the Nashville, TN, July 4th 10k. The 10k is a street run, but since I signed up for the Asheville Marathon next March, I'm spending a lot of this training cycle on trails. Since I'm not running nearly the mileage that I ran for marathon training, I figure this is a good way to ease into trail running with the shorter runs. Of course, it makes for slower runs. To boot, I'm also training to HR this cycle, so I'm spending a lot of time trying to find that sweet spot for the fastest pace within my HR limit for any given run.

Part of the trail at Smith Park in Brentwood, TN

Week 1 Stats 

Number of Runs: 5
Number of Trail Runs: 3
Training Mileage: 11 miles
Training Time: 2 hours 54 minutes
Training Average Pace: 15:47
Elevation Gain: 1,290 feet

Mill Creek Park parking area off Old Hickory Blvd

Week 2 Stats

Number of Runs: 4
Number of Trail Runs: 3
Training Mileage: 14 miles
Training Time: 3 hours 43 minutes
Training Average Pace: 15:54
Elevation Gain: 1,958 feet