Sunday, November 27, 2016

Marathon Training - Week 5: In Which There Was a Half

This was a week mostly back to normal! I ran very close to my original plan for this week.

Sunday - 13.2 miles @ 12:10

I ran the Magic City Half Marathon in Birmingham, AL. I had a pretty good run and even though it wasn't a PR, I was happy with my time since I was just out for the experience of it all and didn't want to re-injure my leg. I can see how I might be able to PR at this race in another year, though. It's got next to no elevation, but the slight downhill grade on the last 3 miles can really be used to good advantage.

Tuesday - 5 miles @ 12:11

Bundled up and ready to run!

This was a cold and cloudy morning! I went to Thompsons Station Park to run laps on their nice gravel loop. It was about 34°, cloudy and a slight breeze the entire time I was there. Of course, 10 minutes after I left, the sun came out and it warmed up to above 40° in no time flat!

I wore my lululemon toasty tech tights (first time this season), an UnderArmour charged wool half zip shirt, an inknburn zip hoodie, a headband that covered my ears, a skull cap and silk glove liners! I was also wearing Drymax winter socks.

When I got dressed in all that, I thought for sure I'd be dropping back by the truck to shed some layers, the hoodie being the first to fall, but nope, I kept it all, except I finally pulled the gloves off around mile 3 and tucked them into a pocket. The hood on the hoodie didn't stay put, so it was never in play when I was running. I thought it would annoy me bouncing around back there, but it didn't really. I am disappointed that the hood won't stay up, but with no drawstring, the chances were slim.

This was supposed to be a tempo run. A steady pace run. But I was naughty. I did the first 2 laps at my marathon pace, but sped up to 12:05/mi for miles 3 and 4 and 11:39 for mile 5. I really should have had the discipline to stay at the 12:30/mi pace especially after the half just 2 days before. I had no ill effects from it though and it did keep me warmer.

Wednesday - 4 miles @ 13:51

Setting up the Goal Workout

I still hadn't dropped any money for the iFit Premium product, so I found another fun feature of my treadmill. This was a Goal Workout. I set the goal to be 4 miles at a 13:00/mi pace. The treadmill let me warm up, then went into the 4 miles. After 4.5 minutes, I manually dropped the speed to 3 mph to walk for a minute, then tapped the "Follow Workout" button that appears on the screen whenever I deviate from a workout. This bumped the pace back to 4.6 mph. I did that for the entire 4 miles and that worked well. Then I did a cool down and stretching.

Screen showing the average pace on the left. This was the overall average for the entire run. Wish I could get this metric on other workouts!

Thursday - Hill Workout - 5.5 miles

I've been shying away from any elevation for the last couple weeks since I'm pretty sure my leg tenderness was brought on by too much hill work too fast, but the leg has been feeling pretty good, so time to get back to work.

My hill workouts don't have a pace target per se. It's about doing the miles. I will admit to trying to better my performance every time out. Why not, right? Run a little more uphill than last time to make me a stronger runner. Makes sense to me. But at the core, if I'm not feeling it, I don't really have a pace target to stick to.

So this time, I did not run much of the uphill. I walked most of that and jogged downhill. I also added an extra hill climb to my workout. My previous hill workouts have involved 3 hill climbs (and their corresponding downhill). This run had 4 so that made my workout 5.5 miles instead of 4 miles. I think it worked out well so I think my hill workout just became 5.5 miles long; at least when I run this hill.

I did jog a couple of times up each hill, but not for long and I didn't push it. Plenty of time to get back to running uphill.

Sleepy, but ready to run

I was a little chilly. It was windy. I wore a short sleeve shirt because it was a bright color, but my arms were cold for the entire run, so arm sleeves would have been nice. I'll have to get a bright colored long sleeve shirt for road running.

Friday - 4 miles @ 13:49

I finally pulled the trigger and paid $94 for an iFit subscription so I could go back to creating custom workouts on the website and sending them to my treadmill. And $94 was their Black Friday sale!

I'm honestly really annoyed about it. I paid $50 last year which was much more in line with how much I use the service. And their website is not very user-friendly. Creating a run/walk workout (or any complicated custom workout) is cumbersome and you can't edit a workout once you create a workout. The more I think about it, the more annoyed I am that I paid so much for my treadmill and still have to pay extra on top of that to use all the features of my treadmill. And pay extra for a bad web site that's not getting updated and is so un-user-friendly.

This workout was a basic run/walk for 4 miles. Run for 0.45 miles, walk for 0.05 miles, repeat until done.

When I got done, I did something I have not done in a long time. I did a dedicated stretch routine. Before I started running as much, I did step workouts and my favorite step instructor is Cathe Friedrich. So I have a bunch of her workouts on DVD. She has a stretch DVD (Stretch Max) that has 3 different 20 minute stretch routines on it. I pulled that out and did the one that doesn't require any equipment.

I definitely need that. I didn't feel the absolute best while I was stretching, but I felt really good the rest of the day after stretching out like that. I don't have time for 20 minutes of stretching after every run, but I really should try to do it every now and again.

Weekly Stats

Training mileage: 31.7 miles
Training time: 6 hours 57 minutes

Total Mileage*: 33.5 miles
Total Time*: 7 hours 37 minutes
Elevation Gain:  1626 ft

* includes warm-up and cool-down

What's Next?

I'm going to go out and run. The plan is to run 6 days and see how things hold up. I have adjusted the mileage for the weeks remaining in my training cycle because of the 2 weeks I basically missed while babying my leg. This will mean fewer runs longer than 16 miles in my training cycle, but better than knocking me out of more weeks by trying to push too soon.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Magic City Half Marathon Race Report

I signed up for the Magic City Half Marathon in Birmingham after my horse had an accident in the pasture. Originally, I was signed up to do the Raleigh, NC, Skinny Turkey half marathon when visiting family for Thanksgiving, but when it became apparent I would not be able to leave my horse and go to NC, I looked around for another half marathon to do Thanksgiving week and settled on this one in Birmingham.

I had a hotel room booked, but on Wednesday I wasn't sure I would be able to do the run because of my mild injury so I canceled the reservation.

Of course, then I had no more pain or issues the rest of the week, so I decided to still run the race, but take it easy and not strain the leg any more. I decided to just drive down, run the race and drive home.

My race clothes all laid out. Made getting ready in the wee hours of the morning easier.

This meant I had to get up at 3:30 AM. I was dressed and on the road by 3:50 AM and reached the race venue just after 6:30 AM. The race was being staged at Regions Field, Birmingham's minor league baseball team's home field. We would start outside the field, but finish along the first baseline!

I found a place to park a couple blocks over and, all bundled up, went to pick up my bib and t-shirt. It was 35° and I was COLD!

I got my bib, but they didn't have the size medium shirt I signed up for and I had to take an extra large. That bugged me. Why bother asking for shirt sizes if they're not going to GIVE me my shirt?? The shirts were running small, but extra large is still too big for me to wear in public. Too bad. I really like it otherwise. And before you tell me that putting on a race is a big deal and t-shirt sizes are a minor issue, sure, I get that. But it's just an extra small thing to check to see what size shirt the person signed up for and actually give them that shirt. Considering I run for the medal, the t-shirt and ice cream, the t-shirt matters to me. Not sure why, I have a bazillion. But it does.

Finish line along the first base line. Start line through the 3rd base gates and some of Birmingham.

I headed back to my truck and finished getting ready, then sat in my truck with the heater blasting until 7:30.

I debated wearing my black hoodie for extra warmth, but decided against it. I wore what I wore on last week's training run. My Under Armour half zip, my RaceReady mid-weight capris and my headband with ear covers. I added a thin skull cap as a nod to the 8-10 mph COLD wind and the shade of early morning in the city.

I jogged over to the baseball field and kept moving to warm up. Finally I moved to the start line and stood in the sun for the last few minutes before the start.

Cold me at the start.

I positioned myself pretty far back in the field. In fact, the drag car was not too far behind me when I started. In a field of some 1000 runners, no need to be run over or in the way of the faster runners especially since I wasn't planning to PR or move out, just an easy early morning run with 1000 of my closest strangers. I just wanted the experience and see how my leg held up.

I started out pretty slowly, walking to keep my average pace down and trying hard to control my pace while I was running. My first 2 miles were my slowest at 13:19 and 13:27 respectively.

I still tried to be slow and easy for the next 4 miles and I was, I just used the gradual downhills to my advantage to ease on down the street with minimal wear and tear and gradually sped up from 13:02 in mile 3 to 12:23 for mile 6.

Miles 7 and 8 were up a gradual incline and my pace suffered a little bit at 12:55 for each mile, but my HR, legs and breathing were ok. By mile 9, I was stepping it up a little bit, using a downhill to get some long strides in. I passed several people on this hill that were walking down it. I clocked 11:51 for that mile. Mile 10 was going back up the hill I'd gone down. I did jog up most of that hill and turned in 12:42 for that mile. My leg was feeling good. No twinges from the previous concern.

Miles 11 and 12 I was starting to feel a little heavy in the legs. I did the math and realized I had no chance of getting a PR at this race, so I didn't push on these miles. I didn't really back off, but I didn't push either. I wasn't expecting a PR, but I figured if I did the math and I had a chance, I might have push harder to see if I could make that happen. But I was a good 4 minutes off my pace for a PR and with only about 3.1 miles to go, no likely way to make that up. So I accepted 11:51 and 12:19 for those miles.

Mile 13, though, I maintained the pace and dropped any walking which netted me an 11:10 minute mile. I stepped up the pace for the last quarter mile to the finish line until I was in a full out, if I trip, I'm going DOWN, run by the time I hit the finish line. That was done in an average 8:34 pace.

The finish line as seen from the stands.

Because of how well I finished I figure I might have been able to go faster during the first 8 miles, but who knows. If I'd pushed harder, I might have re-injured my leg or burned out. Either way, I'm pretty happy with my performance for this run. I had fun and turned in a respectable finish time for me. And no issues with my leg. I'm going to take it easy the rest of the week. Still run, but not push anything and see how it goes.

I wore my Paradigm 2 shoes and am completely happy with them. No blisters, no issues. I think I've found my next long run shoe. Next test is to see if they'll hold up to 15 or 16 miles!

Food was a little different with this run due to me leaving the house so early. I made a mug of mocha to take with me and nursed it all the way down to Birmingham. Turns out, I only drank about half of it. I also had a single "sausage" patty before I left the house. I had intended to stop at McDonald's for an egg white and cheese english muffin around 6 AM (2 hours before the start), but decided to just eat a Picky Bar instead. That worked so well I forgot to take my first gel right before the start, so ended up taking it at mile 2 just before the first aid station. That put my 45 minute eat alarm on my watch off kilter, so I ended up having another gel just before mile 6, then mile 9 or so and the last one at mile 11. Seemed to work out ok.

All done! A good run!

All in all, I had a nice run. I was cold for the first mile or 2, but by mile 6, I was adjusting my layers for best ventilation. I drove home and stopped a couple times to walk around for a few minutes and ended up at home with very little soreness. I will consider doing this run next year, even if I do make it to the Raleigh run. Not a huge fan of getting up at 3:30 AM, but it worked out well.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Marathon Training Week 4 - Back to work

Last week was a really short week due to resting a mild strain. This week was a cautious return to regular running.

Sunday - 11 miles @ 13:29

View of the cemetery at the battlefield; 2 days after Veteran's Day.

Since I'm pretty sure my strain was due to running too much elevation too close together, I went to the Murfreesboro Stones River Greenway to run. There's not nearly as much elevation change there as there is at the Nashville Stones River Greenway.

I was originally scheduled for this to be a light week and a long run of only 10 miles. I tacked on another mile since I missed a turn and did an extra half mile getting back on track. Not a big deal, though.

It was cold to start at 35°, but warmed up to 55° by the time I was done. I wore clothes easy to shed. I wore a pair of mid-weight capris from RaceReady. Because I'm short, they come pretty far down, so only 2-3 inches of skin were visible at the ankle. I also wore my favorite Under Armour half zip, silk glove liners and a headband that covered my ears. By mile 3, my gloves were off and in the small pocket of my shirt. I started popping the covers up over my ears around mile 6 and started in on the zipper on the shirt by mile 8. I was cold for the first mile, but comfortable the rest of the run.

This was the longest run so far in my Paradigm 2 shoes and no issues. So happy these look like they're going to work out! Happy enough that when I saw another pair on sale 50% off, I snagged them for a backup pair.

Around mile 6, I felt a few twinges in my right hamstring. My right leg had the mild strain in the inner thigh. I paused several times during the rest of the run to stretch my hamstring for a few seconds and that seemed to work out ok.

All smiles after a good run.

All the outside water fountains on this trail have been shut down for winter, but the visitor's center at the Battlefield was open and they have a very nice water bottle fountain. Also, the bathrooms at General Bragg and Old Stone Fort were open with running water at the sinks, so still plenty of water to be had.

All in all, a good long run, even if only 11 miles.

Tuesday - 5 miles @ 13:46

This was originally scheduled for a tempo run at a 12:30/mi pace, but since I was easing back into it, I turned it into a run/walk. I still ran at 12:30/mi pace, but only for 5 minutes, then walk for 2 minutes, repeat.

I ended up on the treadmill for this run, but I don't remember why I didn't drive out for this run like I usually do.

I had absolutely no issues with this run. My leg felt great before, during and after the run.

Thursday - 6 miles @ 14:05

Due to a morning appointment, I didn't have time to drive out for a run, so I ended up on the treadmill again.

I still haven't renewed my iFit subscription due to their ridiculous price hike to $144/year (up from $99 just a few short weeks ago!) and the fact that I can't find a coupon code to make the cost more palatable.

So I played around with a couple of the pre-programmed workouts on the treadmill. I did a warm up, then I did Speed Workout 2. It was marked beginner and it definitely was. It basically had me run at 14:17/mi pace (4.2 mph) while it changed the incline between 1% and 4%. Surprisingly it wasn't that hard to run that slow with the incline changes. That was a 2 mile workout.

Of course, 2 miles isn't enough, so I tried the next workout. Speed 3. This one was more challenging and more fun. It kept the incline pretty much at 1% (small changes to 2% or 3%), but stair-stepped the pace every minute until it had me running at 9:14/mi (6.5 mph) for 2 minutes before dropping back to a jog and ramping up again to finish out at another 2 minutes at 9:14/mi. That was 2 miles also.

For my last two miles, I had it run Speed (??) Workout 2 again, but this time I bumped the speed up to 13:03 (4.6 mph) for most of each mile and walked for about 2 minutes. The treadmill continue to change the incline between 1% and 4% per the normal workout, I just controlled the speed.

Then rounded out with a half mile walk and a good long stretch. I rather liked this workout. It definitely was more fun to break it up into 2 mile chunks.

Friday - 2 miles @ 13:40

Back on the treadmill. For just 2 miles, I couldn't justify driving anywhere and I didn't want to go out on the road. This was an easy shake-out run before the half marathon coming up on Sunday.

Me and my girl Sasha. Love this horse!

I also got to get out on my horse, Sasha, for a couple miles. It was a beautiful day. Maybe the last good day of warm fall weather and I couldn't pass it up. We normally ride for longer than 2 miles, but that was fun and good enough.

Weekly Stats

Training mileage: 24 miles
Training time: 5 hour 28 minutes

Total Mileage*: 26.25 miles
Total Time*: 6 hours 15 minutes
Elevation Gain:  769 ft

* includes warm-up and cool-down

What's Next

The Birmingham Magic City Half Marathon will be my long run this week. I'm looking forward to running this as I've never run it before.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Marathon Training Week 3 - Recovery Week

This week I rested my leg. I also took warm baths because heat helps me more than cold does. And I stretched and did some hip & glute strengthening exercises.

On Tuesday, I ventured onto my treadmill for a very easy 2 miles with no incline to see how I fared. My iFit subscription expired and I couldn't find a promotion for 50% off. I don't really want to pay the full price of $144 a year, so I controlled the treadmill myself. 5 minutes light jog and 1 minute walking recovery. I had no issues during that run.

View from the trail toward the road/entrance.

Wednesday, I had errands in Thompsons Station, so I went to the local park. They have a great hill and trail in the back of the park, but since I was on a recovery run, I opted to stay on the crushed gravel loop. That loop is advertised as about 1 mile, but it's really only 9/10ths of a mile. Still, it's an interesting run with a small amount of elevation and lots to observe while running. I ran 5 minutes, walked 1 minute again and ended up with 5 miles at an average of 13:46/mi.

Part of the beautiful trail.

I did have a small amount of uncomfortableness the next day, not really in the same place as my previous issue. But I decided to take the rest of the week off anyway and just continue with the therapy.

Weekly Stats (such as they are)

Training mileage: 7 miles
Training time: 1 hour 36 minutes

Total Mileage*: 8.2 miles
Total Time*: 2 hours 1 minute
Elevation Gain:  313 ft

* includes warm-up and cool-down

What's Next?

This coming week was supposed to be a step back week anyway, with reduced mileage. I'm going to try to return to regular work, but I'm going to replace my tempo run with an easy run of the same distance.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Marathon Training Week 2 - Injured Already

After a great first week of marathon training, I had to curb my enthusiasm and my miles this week due to a slight tendon strain. I still ran more miles this week than I did on an average week during my last marathon training cycle.

Sunday - 16 miles @ 13:38

Top of one of the hills

I was so pleased with my run at the Nashville Stones River Greenway (NSRG) last week, I decided to do it again. This time it was 15° warmer than last week. I also wanted to make it up to the end of the trail where it crosses the Cumberland River and connects up with the Shelby Bottoms trail. So I skipped any of the side trails and ran straight up.

One thing that bugs me about this trail is the lack of water along the length. I'm SO spoiled by the Murfreesboro Stones River Greenway that has water fountains at least every 3 miles, not to mention real bathrooms at 3 good places strategically placed.

But the NSRG has hills! Elevation (at least in total) comparable to what I'll face in the Chattanooga Marathon. So I really want to be able to incorporate the NSRG into my training plan. And to do that effectively, I have to be able to get water.

So this run was about running, sure, but also about finding places to get water. Not knowing exactly what I'd find, I went prepared with 4 10-oz bottles on my fuel belt and my 18-oz handheld all full of water. I did get a snarky comment from a cyclist during my cool down about how much water I was carrying, but he was gone before I could respond.

At the 3 mile mark, the trail passes Khol's on Lebonan Road. I had thought about going into Khol's to see if they had any water for sale, but I hesitate to go into a store when I'm actually in the middle of my run. I decided I would try that on the way back if I needed to.

The trail then passes under Lebanon Road and there are stairs down to the river. If I had a water filtration system, I could go get water there.

The dog park is right at mile 7. There is a water fountain at the entrance to the dog park, which is across the street from the Two Rivers Park Trailhead. I didn't go check to see if it was working because there were lots of people around and I still had water, but I did note its presence.

One entrance to the dog park. This is not the one with the water fountain.

Next of note, water wise, was reaching Wave Country. Even though it was closed, there are a couple of vending machines accessible. I spent 3 minutes trying to get one of them to take my money, but only succeeded in giving it a dollar and not getting it back. :(

Tunnel under Briley Parkway. Love this mural!

Frustrated I ran on, under Briley Parkway (this is pretty cool, btw!) and across the pedestrian bridge over the Cumberland River. This is where I turned around. The path continued down to hook into the Shelby Bottoms Greenway, but I was already past half my mileage and still had to run back to the south end of the trail.

On the way back by Wave Country, I stayed on the path instead of going by the Wave Country entrance where the vending machines were. I ran past the Skate Park. As I was watching the skaters, I caught sight of a water fountain at the other side where their entrance was. Doubling back, I went around and the water fountain worked! Yay. I refilled my 2 empty 10-oz bottles on my belt and added more water to my handheld. It wasn't a water bottle fountain, but the water went high enough to easily fill my small water bottles.

Next, I ran down the little road with the picnic shelters and found a restroom with running water. So I could fill my water there if need be.

Now that all my exploring was done, it was time to get down to business and finish out the run. I headed back on the trail with my water bottles full and my bladder empty.

At mile 10, I ate an entire Picky Bar. Normally I just eat 100 calories every 45 minutes, but I have a problem with getting a little nauseous on runs over 13 miles, so I'm experimenting on how to fix that. This was a normal eating interval, I just ate the 200 calorie bar instead of half of it. It didn't help; I still got nauseous a couple miles later.

On a steep hill, there were these little pull offs all the way down. Wheel chair emergency stops??

About the time I got nauseous, I started to have trouble maintaining my pace while running. I did maintain it though. I pushed through even on the hills. On the last big hill before my cool down, I hit the hill on a running interval and kept running until my watch chimed to walk. I did drop to a walk, but when my watch said to run again, I just couldn't. So I kept walking and when I crested the hill, I picked up a run again. Even running downhill was getting to me, but I kept it up.

Due to my exploring to find water, I ended up hitting 16 miles about a mile and a quarter from the trailhead. I went ahead and walked. I might could have pushed and gotten 17, but I was done. I meandered back to the truck, pausing several times to stretch. I also downed a lot of the water I had on me.

Very happy to be ALL DONE!

Back at the truck, I got changed and got into the driver's seat to go home. And noticed my lower back hurt a good amount. While running, I had 4 water bottles on my fuel belt. 2 at the back and 2 at the front. Fairly balanced. When I needed water, I took it from the front two bottles first. This meant the bottle on my left lower back was always full since I was able to find water. 40 oz of water is a lot of weight and required me to cinch up my belt tighter than I normally would. Fortunately, there was no bruising and the pain went away after a day. In the future, I think I found enough water to carry my handheld and a couple of water bottles, not all 4.

This was not a very pretty run. Looking at my splits, my pace wasn't that far off my regular pace except for when I was trying to get a bottle of water from the vending machine and headed to the restroom. My average HR for the last 4 miles, though, reflects how hard I was working on those miles. My last mile was run at an average HR of 172.

Definitely still need practice at the 16 mile distance.

During the afternoon, I felt a few twinges in my right inner thigh, but chocked it up to a hard run. It wasn't really bad. Just a twinge here and there. A bit of tenderness.

Monday - 3 miles @ 14:01

This was an easy run on the treadmill. I felt the same tenderness on my inner thigh during the first mile, but warmed out of it.

Tuesday - 5 miles @ 12:24

Tuesdays are tempo run days. Supposed to be run at 12:36 - 12:30. This one ended up a tad fast.

I went to Jerry Erwin Park in Spring Hill during lunch. This is a small park with a 0.9 mile paved loop. To get my 5 miles in and a warm up and cool down, I did the loop 6 times. The first 3 I did clockwise, then turned around to do the last 3 counter-clockwise.

I still wanted to quit every single time I passed the parking lot. I much prefer either a long loop or an out and back. At least when you get to the out, you HAVE to come back. But running past my truck 5 times before I could stop was mental torture.

This was a warm run at 86° and that didn't help. I also had trouble concentrating and getting my breathing right.

My right inner thigh was sore for almost the entire first mile before I warmed up out of it. But by the time I got home, I was really feeling it with every step.

So Tuesday was my last run of the week. I originally was scheduled for another easy run and a hill run, but I decided to let the leg rest and hope I can get back to it soon. I think I ran too much uphill too soon. I probably should have either walked more of the hills on my long run or just gone and done my long run at the Murfreesboro Stones River Greenway with less elevation.

Weekly Stats

Training mileage: 24.15 miles
Training time: 5 hours 23 minutes

Total Mileage*: 26.5 miles
Total Time*: 6 hours 17 minutes
Elevation Gain:  1,178 ft

* includes warm-up and cool-down

What's Next?

My right leg injury is going to affect this week at least and then I'll see where I am. I have a half marathon scheduled on the 20th and I'd like to make that run if I can. It has a 4 hour time limit, so even if I go really slow, I can do it. I probably won't be anywhere close to a PR, but I want the experience of it as I've never done that run before.