Monday, February 29, 2016

Gear Check - Part 1 - Amphipod RunLite XTech 4 Plus Review

In just a few days, I will start (and hopefully finish) my first marathon. I have been specifically training since early November. In that time, I have been trying various equipment on my long runs and have settled on the following gear set up.

Primary fuel belt: Amphipod RunLite Xtech 4 Plus.

I found this on sale at REI and grabbed it. I have a couple of other Amphipod belts and I really like how sturdy the actual belts are. The configurability of this one was very attractive. Everything can come completely off the belt, which means everything can be positioned exactly right.

The belt came with 4 10.5 oz water bottles which are essential for my long runs where I can't refill my water bottles. Each bottle is shaped well and feels pretty good in my hand.

The bottle holders have 4 separate hooks to hold each bottle, which works better than their old way of holding the bottles. I was always worried about the old water bottles popping out of their holder. As long as I get these snapped into place, that is not a problem or worry with these. The bottle holders themselves do not move horizontally on the belt once they are positioned.

Jett-Squeeze on left; pop top on right
The water bottles each came with the new "Jett-Squeeze" tops instead of pop-tops. I thought that was a great idea, until I put a Hammer Fizz tablet in them and had tiny geysers shooting out with every step because the contents were under a little pressure. No big deal, I ordered a set of pop-tops for mine and no more geysers.

For the marathon, I will only use 2 of the 4 bottles and remove the extra bottle holders. One bottle will be positioned in the front by my right hand for quick on the go access. I will refill this one from the aid stations. The other bottle will be diagonal from it on my lower back on the left to balance the weight out. This will be my extra water if needed or in later miles, I might start getting Powerade in one bottle and water in the other.

My belt came with one pouch that can be positioned anywhere on the belt. I like that a lot since my other Amphipod belts have pouches, but they're positioned at my lower back and can't be moved. This pouch is big enough to hold my Moto X Pure phone, which is a good sized phone. I can also slide some ID, cash, and a vehicle key into the inner pocket that keeps things away from my phone.

The little loops on the outside of the pouch will securely hold 4 fuel gel packs. The gels are easy to pull out when needed, but hard to get in and I have yet to see one budge after I put it in until I go to pull it out.

I liked the pouch so much, I bought a second one. I use it for chapstick, kleenex (don't always count on the porta potties having tissue!!), and a small container of Body Glide. When I need an extra place to stash a tube of Shot Bloks, it fits easily. I can also put gels on this one if I need to.

The last thing on my belt is a catch-all container. They call it a SnapPod module. This is on the old style of bottle holders and can move horizontally on the belt easily. That's good and bad.

When I have all 4 water bottles on my belt as well as this SnapPod, the SnapPod will eventually wiggle over next to a water bottle and start clanking. That's a bit annoying, but a quick shove puts it back in the middle and it takes a while before it makes it way back to the nearest water bottle.

The SnapPod is great for holding a couple of extra Picky Bars and I use it for trash. I have it positioned directly in the middle of my back, but it's very easy to pop the top open, pull out what I want or slide in a used gel pack and pop the top back closed.

The belt itself is comfortable. The front water bottles do bounce a little when they are full, but not enough to bother me. I prefer to have the belt slung down further over my hips rather than at my natural waist and this belt works well for that. As I get a little sucked in during the run, I can adjust the tension of the belt easily, especially when I don't have all 4 bottles on it.

This was at the end of my trail half last week wearing the belt. I had a bit of trouble with my bib number, so this is a little higher than I normally like to wear the belt.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

In One Week...

The Chattanooga Marathon is coming up fast. I have checked the long range forecast several times over the last 2 days and will likely continue to do that.

Last week I did a half marathon on Sunday as a dress rehearsal for the marathon, coming in at 2 hours 56 minutes for my first trail half. I was happy to be able to mostly maintain a 4 minute to 30 seconds run/walk cadence. I ran at a 12:30/mi pace when running. I did walk briskly up the one long hill around mile 4 or 5 instead of trying to run any of it.

I did a 3 mile easy pace run later in the week followed by a heavy weight workout.

This week, I'll put in a couple of easy 2 milers.

I have been getting plenty of sleep, but the last week, I have let life creep in and keep me awake later and later to where I am at a deficit on my sleep. This week I will focus on getting plenty of sleep so as not to go into the marathon with a deficit.

So with that thought...Good Night!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Finally a good long run

My long run this week was not nearly as taxing as in weeks previous.

I ended up at the Harpeth River Greenway and ran 15 miles in 3 hours 16 minutes 30 seconds for an average pace of 13:06. My target pace was 13:03. That makes me very happy.

My splits were not the most even ever, but they were much more stable than they have been. My longest mile was 14:10, but that included a pit stop, so I'm happy enough with that mile. My next longest mile was 13:40 and my fastest split was 12:29. This was too fast. For some reason, I kept running closer to a 12:00/mi pace while running and it was very hard to dial it back.

I chose to do a run/walk, but this time, I decided to cut my walk portion back to 30 seconds and really walk slowly. For some reason, walking a 20:00/mi pace on the treadmill feels fast, but walking a 20:00/min pace outside feels excruciatingly slow. So I concentrated very much during each 30 second period to walk slowly and take advantage of the short downtime.

For my run portion, I targeted a 12:30/mi pace for 4 minutes. I watched my instant pace field on my Garmin 630 very closely and adjusted as needed, trying to concentrate how my legs felt doing the correct pace.

In my 15 mile run, I did some 40+ run/walk intervals. I felt pretty good for most of the run. My legs started feeling a bit heavier around mile 13 and I had to push harder to maintain my pace, which resulted in running that mile a little too fast as I adjusted to the new feeling of the target pace.

My heart rate for each mile crept up and up from 148 average during the first  mile until my last mile had an average HR of 175.

I'm still now sure how this marathon will go (in TWO WEEKS!!!!), but I am very happy to have a good long run under my belt. It was so so nice to get outside and run instead of logging more miles on treadmill! I logged over 60 miles on the treadmill over a 3 week period and that is more than enough to make me happy to be outside.

I am officially on my taper and looking forward to the marathon. I'm really hoping the weather will cooperate.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Long Runs - My Nemesis

I did my long run this week as promised. Due to the ice and snow, I ran it on the treadmill. 20. Miles. On. The. Treadmill.

I've been struggling with the long run (here defined as 14-20 miles). My tempo runs, my speed runs, my short, easy runs, those are all doable and I have little issue there.

For the long run, I used to have issues fueling. So I played around with that until I've pretty much got that down. Alternate Clif Shot Blok, Gu (or Hammer Gel) and Picky Bars. Every 15 minutes or so, eat something. Drink between eating. I've gotten to where I can eat without getting sick.

I used to have issues dressing for cold, long runs. I still am playing with that. Wind and rain messes me up, but other than that, I have a good wardrobe (minus a good shell) and am fairly confident I can dress properly.

I used to have issues with my shoes. Until I went with my moderate cushioned shoes instead of my max cushioned ones.

I used to have trouble recovering from long runs, but with my fueling strategy combined with hot tub soaks and an early night's sleep after long runs, I've got my recovery down pretty good.

But those long runs still get me mentally and physically.

For my treadmill run, I ran 4 miles at 13:03 pace, then walked a full mile. I did that 3 times, which got me up to 15 miles. During mile 14, I started to have some pretty good pain that migrated around. My HR zipped up and I was very very happy to get to walk for the 15th mile.

I couldn't imagine running anymore. Even after a mile of walking. That's 20 minutes of walking. But I pushed the buttons to get back to a 13:03 pace and managed to eek out 2 more miles before I gave up and walked for a half mile. Back to running and my treadmill had a malfunction and stopped. Took me a couple minutes to get it back going again and I managed to run a mile of the remaining 1.4 miles of my run.

I had pain migrate from the outside of my left knee to my right middle toes to my left glute to my right hamstring. All over. I was tired. My HR was hovering around 170 while running. I was so ready to stop. It took some serious will power to finish out the 20 miles in an excruciating 5 hours.

I can't imagine running a marathon. How on earth am I going to get through those last 6.2 miles? I really don't want to walk the entire last 10 miles. :( I'm ok doing run/walk, but I really don't want to out and out stop running and walk. But it looks like I'll have to if my marathon turns out like my long runs.

Will the long run ever get easier?

At least I've done my last 20 miler for this training cycle. Due to tapering, my  next long run will be in the neighborhood of 15 miles, followed up by a half marathon two weeks before the Chattanooga Marathon. Then nothing but short runs to give my legs a good rest.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Training Schedule Juggle

Last heard from me, I was on an easy week of jogs. I got 3 easy runs of 6, 6 and 7 mile runs in. I followed each of those up with 30-50 minutes of strength training immediately following the run. I'm still trying to find my strength routine. I know, I know, I'm a bit, ok a lot, late adding strength training. I hate weight lifting. So boring! But I figured I'd better start some. Better late than never.

I did like a couple of my routines, but I didn't lift heavy enough. Even with a 20# weight belt, I need to go heavier than my 20# dumbbells (total of 60#) for squats, lunges and deadlifts, so I have to get out my barbell next time.

This past week, I only ran once, an easy run of 2 miles. Yep, that's it. I did do 30 minutes of strength training though...

Tuesday, I was working my day job, packing to get ready to go to an endurance ride and I was lazy and actually slept that day instead of squeezing in a 6 mile run.

Wednesday, we traveled to the endurance ride. Now, Thursday, I thought I might get out and run some, but the weather and circumstances and my own excuses kept me from it.

So the only redeeming thing about last week was that I did a whopper of a cross training session on Friday. I rode a 50 mile endurance ride on my mare, Sasha. Of course, that made me SO SORE, I couldn't even get my easy 2 miles in today. Tuesday, I'll run my long run. I promise. Even if I have to run it on the treadmill. Unless the vet can see my other horse...Then, who knows?

I'm freaking out. Four weeks out from the marathon and I can't seem to keep my training together!! This is not going to be pretty.

If you're interested, head on over to my Endurance Riding Blog and check out my cross training day.