Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Decision

There was a very good web only article about running and menstruation on recently. Sadly, I identified quite a few issues that I'd suspected were affected by my cycle.  I kept trying to pretend that those issues didn't affect me but as my cycle has started to change recently because of The Change, it's been harder and harder to ignore. 

The breathing issue and decreased lactate threshold certainly dominates running the last week of my cycle.  I can still get in shorter harder efforts but forget about longer runs.  Running "easy" is about all I'm good for.  Basically this article suggest training in the luteal phase of your cycle is chancy at best.  For me that's about 14 days out of 24 days as I have a short cycle.  I discussed this with my coach and she brought up the interesting idea that in reality out of 24 days, I have about 10 days of solid training.  those other two weeks are always hit or miss.  Over the past couple years this has become more of an issue. 

And when will Eugene Marathon fall on my cycle? Yes, the worst possibly time and I came to the decision that it was not worth driving to Eugene for a slog of a marathon.  I just can't take it physically or mentally.  So I will be a sensible DNS. It doesn't mean i'm happy about it as I'm missing seeing some friends who are traveling to Eugene from Texas and K and I are putting aside our plans to see the Oregon Coast. 

That Earth Day 10k I ran?  That race felt on the best days and I felt great on every level.  I know I am in great shape but I have to pick those longer races carefully.  I did have things checked out with my doctor and I'm debating some options.  As a woman who has always been pretty lucky with her cycle (very regular with minimal symptoms) I feel pretty strange blaming things on my cycle.  But that is where I am and I'm ok with it. 

Meanwhile, I'm debating options for other marathons or even just a half.  Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dig Deep

wet and muddy spring
It's about now that I'd like to pick some sun and warmth.  It's been just a miserably cold and wet spring.  The fuzzy spring green trees are late this year.  The forsythia bloomed late march/early april and often it can bloom late February.  It's late.  fortunately all the weeds are doing just fine.  Sigh.

It's getting pretty close to May and Eugene.  There is still some good training that has to happen.  I signed up on the spur of the moment for a 10k this past weekend.  I know I needed a good hard effort of a race and still wanted to get a medium long run in and it went really well.

I've done the 2-mile Winter Grand Prix Series which takes place at Magnuson Park.  They also put on a low-key monthly series with either a 5k, 10k, 15k and sometimes a half marathon to choose from.  The course is about what you'd expect at Magnuson with lots of turns, a small hill and some odd conditions but for $15 and a pretty good turn out, it's perfect.

I was feeling pretty good for lots of reasons and was hoping to come in under 50 minutes.  I planned to start around 8 flat.  Mainly I just wanted a hard, solid effort and knew the race environment would help me with that.  And, of course, with these little races it is easier to get sucked out faster.  I clocked 7:40 for that first mile even with the hill.

Uh oops.

Slow down or you will die a horrible death, my brain said.  But the body was thinking different and hit the next mile at the same pace.  And I was feeling good. I was with a few guys around me and could see some other women ahead but thought they were probably running the 5k.  The last mile of the course had some really ankle deep mucky section.  It was very short but very surprising.  I nearly lost a shoe and watched those around me mince about and practically stop.  This is where PuddleThumper shines through and puts that trail running to use.  I just charged through.  After a nasty and narrow hair pin turn, we were back at the 5k finish and onto the next loop.  I'd lost some time with that muck.

No worries.  i stayed with it and even stayed strong on the next round of the kite hill.  I was dreading the next round through the muck though.  Surprisingly, they'd rerouted the course onto some grass which was just as mucky.  this really took it out of me here at the end of the race and I could feel myself really fighting my form trying to hold on.  That last hair pin turn?  I nearly fell over.

As I approached the clock, I could see i was solidly in the 48:XX and was delighted to come in under well under 49 minutes.  Woohoo!  Sub 8. I waited and watched AR and GY and then K come in.  the sun even came out although by that time we were all hoping it would stay in for the run as what runner here in Seattle is used to sun now?  

Various runners planting saplings after the race.
As this was the Earth Day Run, we were given little saplings at the end of the race.  We could take them home if we wished but there was also the option to plant them in an area just off the finish/start line.  We were given a little trowel and quick tree planting instructions and just like that, a sapling was in the ground.  How nifty is that?  considering all the races I do at magnuson, I hope to watch that little tree grow for some time.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Check that off the list.

Yes, that's right.  Before each of my previous three marathons, I have taken a spill and fallen while out running generally in the week before the marathon.  It happened this week and I am one month out from Eugene.  I am hopeful that this fall will count and I can check that off my marathon check list:
  • gu (6)
  • electrolyte capsules and baggies
  • body glide
  • chocolate milk
  • fall on training run

Oh I was so mad.  Turns out those yellow bumpy things that you see on curb edges are not traction devices as I (and it turns out most others) had thought.  No, these are "detectable warning devices" and are put at curbs to denote a street for those with visual disabilities.  They provide a contrast to the sidewalk (yellow here) and a tactile contrast (bumpies).  And I now think they make them extra slippery just for fun and kicks.  I was out for an easy run and and put my foot down just wrong and whoa!  I rolled.  I think.  It was early and there was no one about.  I gimped about a bit, assessed various appendages and completed my run knowing that i'd be sore the next day and I'd either have to skip a run or keep it shorter than planned.

I was lucky.  One scraped, bruised knee, one sore shoulder (same one as always dammit!) and a scraped elbow and ankle.  the worst part is that just as I was running, I was realizing that although I am tired from marathon training, I am not having the typical for me nagging almost injury.  And then BOOM!  My hip and hamstring haven't been too happy since this fall but the magical Physical Therapist will fix it soon.  My advice?  Do NOT step on those death traps. 

After two weekends in a row with 20 milers, I was pretty tired this week.  That tiredness coincided with the hormonal low of the month and a lot of doubts about long runs in general.  I know I am much stronger and fitter.  I had a track workout thursday and by myself had no trouble hitting the workout (I did cut it a bit short because of the fall).  I was shocked that i had to slow myself down to hit the proper pace.

Yet, I still am having a hard time wrapping my head around that whole 26 mile thing.  Again.  I'm fine until about 14 or 16 and then I want to settle into a what I call a trudge.  It happened at Yakima and has for a couple of long runs.  I've upped calories and electrolytes and that's helped and I just have to have faith about taper.

I heard this podcast this week and it really struck a nerve for me.  It was lovely to hear the breathing/footfall pattern of this amazing ultra runner. Taper, taper and taper and then continue to think about footfall and cadence.  I know I start to drag when I get tired.  Don't think, just run.  It does work.

Radiolab podcast - In the Running (17:40)

Meanwhile I'm off to do my little exercise to keep the hips aligned until the magical PT guy can fix it all.  And soon, I know spring will eventually show up here in the Northwest.  We had the sun in Ellensburg and it was glorious. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mercer Island 10k / Yakima River Canyon Marathon

Busy season, yard work and marathon training are conspiring against me and keeping me off of blogging for a bit and lots of things have been happening.  Lots of things required some thinking about too which is the surprising part of running training. 

Mercer Island has a series of events in March which kicks off the racing season here in Seattle.  The Half marathon is the big draw and brings out the speedsters.  It's a tough, hilly course and the weather is usually passable.  Last year I ran the half but this year thought the 10k would be better.  It would give me a chance to work on hills and pacing and holding a hard effort.  I had no idea what to expect for a reasonable time but was hoping to hit around 50 minutes (I ran just under 49 minutes last summer in a flat 10k). 

I admit that the hills had me very nervous.  I did NOT want a crash and burn like what had happened at Nookachamps earlier this year.  And this was a tough course in that the first half mile starts downhill.  Mile 2 is about the only flat mile and then a series of hills begins.  The finish is uphill too just for fun. I got out at a good start (not too fast) and felt very comfortable for the first couple miles.  As the hills started, I stayed even with those around me and would still pass people on the downhill.  The last mile uphill, I managed to stay at 8 flat which I am very pleased with.  For the uphill at the end of a race, this is real progress.  50:22 chip time and I was 6th in my age group.  Not bad at all.

Even better, I was not at all sore from this race and went into the heaviest mileage of my training so far.  I've been able to hit speed workouts well and have had better long runs.  I was chatting with DRS a few days after the race. DRS also ran the 10k and was very disappointed with the race. I'd been disappointed with the time but knew the effort was right for where I am in my training. Maybe I could've gone faster but mentally and physically, I wouldn't have been happy to have a slog into the end.  This course is brutal for that and I watched many people blowing up on the course.  It's tough.  No doubt about that.  I've been thinking of the 10k as one more stepping stone onto that marathon in Eugene.

This past weekend was another stepping stone.  We drove over to Ellensburg Friday night for the Yakima River Canyon Marathon (YRCM).  Ok, I'd not do that drive over Snoqualmie Pass again at night at this time of year.  Yikes!  That was a little hair-raising. No snow but it was rainy and very hard to see.  it was great to get to Ellensburg and realize it was dry.  yes!

The YRCM is a fantastic event.  It's pretty small and laid-back but they do know how to put on a good event.  The course starts in Ellensburg and does a little loop before starting down the Yakima River Canyon to Selah.  I do mean down.  Overall this course drops but there are some nasty hills later in the course.  I am not sure if this would be a PR course or not?  Probably but that downhill hurt after a while.

My plan was just to do this a training run.  I'd originally wanted to run the entire event very easily but coach was quite concerned that 26 miles would be too much. I had to agree.  I'm not a high mileage runner and I'd run 20 miles last week for a long run.  So I planned to run 20 and then start walking, aiming to be picked up by course officials and taken to the finish where K would meet me.  And it worked.

It was sunny, windy and cool at 40 degrees when we got started.  I opted to dress a little warmly with the idea I need some heat acclimatizing for Eugene.  I figured it would warm up once the sun got up and it did but for the wind.  Mostly we had a tailwind through the canyon but at times, the head wind or cross wind would be ferocious!  I was aiming for marathon pace for a chunk of my 20 mile run and trying to hold MP when into the wind even downhill was impossible. 

I carried a small water bottle and refilled at aid stations.  I guess my only complaint with this course and the conditions is that there needed to be more aid stations.  If I had not carried water, I'd have been hurting.  Otherwise, I loved the event.  Friendly and helpful volunteers and while the road is not officially closed, traffic is encouraged to go elsewhere.  it was not a problem running on either side of the road.  Sometimes i found the cant of the 2-lane road a bit severe. 

I did have fun chatting with runners around me.  From about mile 12-15 I ran with a gal from BC.  She's running Boston in 2 weeks and just keeping it easy (better her than me!).  Then I saw the guy who hated being chicked on a training run a few weeks ago. 

That's right.  A few weeks ago on the Snoqualmie Valey Trail, EC and I were doing an easy run and ran into a group of Team in Training runners doing their long run.  Turned out that they were aiming for YRVM.  We generally and gradually passed most of these runners except for one guy who as soon as we were within passing on the uphill, sped up to stay ahead of us.  We both rolled our eyes at each other.  he eventually stopped and then came charging past us later.  Again stopping to fix a shoe or some such thing.  I just wanted to yell at him to run his own training run.

This guy had a distinctive stride with one foot that turned out.  Around mile 16 once I'd slowed again after my marathon paced miles, I saw him!  And started chatting with him.  He was a nice guy out for his third and he said last marathon.  I'd say he was at least running his own marathon and it was nice to have company for some miles. 

And mile 20 ticked over and I started walking.  half a mile later, I hit an aid station and told the radio operator that I'd like to drop and that was it.  It took a bit to arrange a ride with the medic and another runner who'd dropped at teh previous aid station.  That poor runner was hideously embarrassed to drop out of the race even though he could barely walk with a quad strain. 

it was a good experience and I"m glad I did it especially since the course was just beautiful.  My legs were tired from the training miles and my feet were really starting to hurt.  yeah, I could've walked/jogged another 6 miles but to what point?  This way, I got back to the finish in good time and we got back to Ellensburg to do some tourists activities.  It was a very good day in the sunshine.

Then we went and drove the course so K could see it. It was a short weekend getaway and I'm tired but it was worth it for the experience and the sun!  And taking a break from it all was really pleasant.