Sunday, February 26, 2012

My turn!

Finishing Lord Hill - photo by K.

 I'd volunteered for last week's trail race for a few reasons.  I'd never been to the Fort Ebey area on Whidbey Island and wanted to see it.  I like getting the volunteer credits to apply to race entries later in the year.  And, most importantly, I knew I was running in Evergreen Trail Runs Lord Hill 10 Miler the following weekend.  Last week was a rest week and I figured volunteering was a good way to not run.

Too bad my body had other ideas and after the rest week, I developed mild virus with some mild body aches, mild congestion symptoms and an odd rash. Friday, I thought I was fighting off more sinus issues than I like and started coughing.  Still, I never felt that terrible and managed to hit my target weekly miles for the week: 42 miles.  When I was not feeling great, I kept it very slow and easy and prepared to bail every run if needed.  Of course, this week was the week that every run was also in rain and wind.  Oh joy.

Saturday I went out for an easy 4 miler and felt much perkier.  Perfect timing for a 10 mile trail race then!  Of course, we'd had so much rain and even some snow that I was pretty certain the trails would be a bog.  I would not be disappointed and I was really looking forward to this event even though the weather was supposed to be iffy for day of race.  I've never been to the Lord Hill Regional Park which was mostly why I picked this race.  Happily I was able to talk a couple friends and K into joining me.  Another friend also got talked into the race so we had a full car driving out the less than 45 minutes out to the trail head.  It would be K's and the other friends first trail race.

Oh Lord Hill because they can't print curse words on maps.
It was quite a mud bog in the parking lot and the word was out that it was slick and muddy out on the trails. We started right on time and almost immediately I was in the thick of runners walking up the first hills.  This race set new standards for steep for me too.  The hill before the two mile mark was so steep and so slick that it was honestly hard to hike up.  Keep going and don't worry about the calf burning sensations.  Soon enough we made it to the top and ducked onto the single track trails which were just stunningly beautiful.  I was out of the crowd now and just enjoying myself.

Since the footing was so slick, I knew I was working a lot harder and figured I'd better push calories earlier.  I had a gel at 3.2 miles and hit the one aid station at mile 4 not too long after.  The kind volunteer filled up my small handheld water bottle, i grabbed a piece of cooked potato and dredged it in salt and took off chomping on the salty goodness.  I was hoping to see some of my friends on this out and back section of the course and they did not disappoint.  Just as I was about to duck onto the single track again, I saw both RPD and the trail racing newbie and made them stop to take a photo.  Happy describes this photo well.
Happy Trail Runners

Of course I'd gotten passed by quite a crowd when taking a photo.  That section of trail ended up being the most technical and I felt pretty slow on this section.  Pretty soon we got back onto a section of both trail and fire access road which was more runnable.  I took another gel at 6 and realized that this fun was going to end sooner rather than later.  Too bad because I was feeling good!

And that showed as I caught back up to teh group who had passed me when I'd stopped for the photo.  Eventually we got to a downhill section and I started consistently passing people.  That was a great feeling! I hit the last screaming downhill running well and was very happy to finish under 2 hours.  I looked at a 10 mile trail race I'd done in 2009 and had come in under 1:50.  I was hoping to finish in about the same amount of time today but knew once we'd hit those trail conditions, that wasn't possible.  Could I hit under 2?  Yes!

I was dressed well for the conditions and never felt too warm.  Many of the trails had creeks running down them and add in shoe sucking muddy sections, dry clothing and dry shoes have never felt so good.  And as an added bonus, they had a great spread of food at the finish.  I knew we were going out to breakfast afterwards though and that was also a lovely treat with great company.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

One more time?

Even though i knew the reasons for the slow 5k last week, i was still rather bummed out about it.  this week was a cut back week where I deliberately kept all runs short so I'd have less miles overall and added in an extra day off just to have time off my feet from the pounding of running.  I don't cut back intensity with cut back weeks unless i'm feeling really tired and worn. 

the past couple of years there has been a nice race series every month here in the Seattle area.  The Magnuson Series has a 5k, 10k or 15k every month for an inexpensive no-frills race.  I could do another 5k!  Should I though?  Nothing was hurting. i was feeling pretty good overall but basically decided a 12 mile easy run was going to be better for some upcoming events. 

And then we woke up to 20 mph sustained winds with rain and gusts up to 40 mph.  No.  I am not running 12 miles in that and no way to bump the long run to the next day (more on why later).  So I drove over to Magnuson Park Saturday morning and signed up for the 5k.  I got a shorter warm-up in because it was so miserable running into the headwind and called it good enough.  Surprisingly there was a much larger crowd signed up for all distances than I was expecting.  I got to chatting with one gal as we were huddled up against the building waiting for the race start and the 5k she had just signed up for was going to be her FIRST race. 

I congratulated her on still coming out even though the weather was so horrendous.  Eventually the airhorn went off an we were away with a tail wind.  I hit sub-7 for that first quarter mile with no problem.  Yikes, that is some tail wind.  I settled into it and felt so much better than last week which was a relief.  Where the wind was coming in at the side, it was enough to push me over a foot or so when i was mid-stride (ie with both feet off the ground).  I have never felt like a hand was pushing me over but that's what it felt like.  It's a good thing there weren't any others around me as I'd easily could've bumped into them if it was crowded.  the turn into teh wind was just tough but I kept battling.  I passed a guy here and there and eventually got passed by a gal around 1.5.  I just told myself to try and keep her in sight. 

the last mile of this course has a lot of turns and is on a small graveled path through a marshy area.  Some of the trail was underwater with all the rain we'd had.  Keep running!  Finally we came to the last half mile of the race where we turned directly into the wind.  It felt like hitting a wall.  A seagull happened to come flying up next to me and a gust of wind stopped it.  I kid you not.  Finally the hairpin turn and i could finally run again.  I had to laugh because as i came to teh finish and could see the clock and my time was pretty much exactly what it was last week.

BUT, this course is not a fast course and conditions were atrocious.  This 5k course has a hill, half is on a gravel path with many, many turns and a hairpin turn.  Next time you do a workout on a track, try doing a hairpin turn in the middle of an interval and try not to fall over.  It's tough!  So, I'm delighted actually!  Yep, i knew i had some more speed in me and that is an excellent effort even with the cold I've gotten this week. 

And as I was doing a short cool down, I happened to see the new runner walking that section into the wind.  As she made the hairpin turn back towards teh finish I ran with her a bit to give her some encouragement and cheer.  She said she'd had some horrible pain in her side so I gave the trick for getting rid of side stitches (breathe out hard using your belling muscles a few times). She did this a couple times and exclaimed that it worked!  She seemed pleased with the run overall and she should be, it was a tough day for a race.

And why couldn't I get in a long run today?  I volunteered at's inaugural Fort Ebey Trail run out on Whidbey Island!  It was perfect weather and a wonderful venue.   I was at the aid station at mile 3.2 with another gal also volunteering.  It was an all day sort of thing getting out there, getting ready and then aiding runners.  Almost all were exceedingly happy and thankful especially the first time around the loop.  Those running the longer distances and adding a second loop (so we saw them twice), were defintely saying the course was much harder the second time around. 

There are always some issues with trail runs.  We had no cell phone coverage so no way to know when to expect runners or last runners.  Some runners got lost when they made the wrong turn at our aid station.  Hey!  If you aren't sure, ask!  We knew where to go and were shouting out directions but it can be chaotic at aid stations.  And no, i do not know which if any of the items we are serving at teh aid station are dairy and gluten free and healthy.  If you need that, you need to bring your own items.  Yeah, some people got grumpy and I'd guess that was from not enough food while running! 

I was well prepared with long johns, extra blankets and scarves, warm soup in a thermos, chemical handwarmers and distractions (a book and my knitting).  It was a long day which went very quick and was quite fun.  I hope to run this event next year as the park's trails looked gorgeous and inviting and tough! 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

This doesn't make me crazy anymore.

Another view of the Old Milk Truck on the trail.
We got back from our Albuquerque trip late in the week.  I was able to take an extra day off from work and go do a bit more exploring for a new trail/road loop that Coach Lesley and I had figured out some weeks ago.  The Old Milk Truck was just as startling in place this time as last time.  What is it with abandoned cars along trails?  We got off onto another trail by accident and found one car which looked like it had flipped.  I was not too interested in exploring that one as it seemed possible that bodies could be in it.  Yikes. 

It was pretty neat to see that some substantial work had been done on the trail since we'd been there last.  After just a few miles on easy trails, we got out onto a rolling road and enjoyed trotting along.  I declined adding on more miles as I had wanted to rest my legs for the upcoming Love 'Em or Leave 'Em 5k.  That turned out to be a moot point. 

I went to work for one day and spent hours on my feet running around trying to cram one week of work into a few hours.  This honestly isn't a big deal generally as this can happen quite frequently with some of the more physical aspects of my job.  Friday though, I was super tired after this.  Really?  After almost of week of lying about napping and knitting with fun, easy (and they were easy - legs were feeling great) runs, one day of work leaves me practically napping at lunch time?  Hmm. 

Yep, I knew signing up for this race that it was going to be iffy with timing of my cycle but that's just the way it goes sometimes. I'd had great running the previous couple weeks and higher mileage.  I thought it possible that legs would be tired going into this which would be just fine but i'd had a great short speed workout just to get the legs moving while we were in Albuquerque.  I felt great then! Oh well, just go out there and do the best you can on race day.

I woke with even more symptoms and warmed up feeling very blah.  I did some strides which didn't feel very strideful and made my way towards the race start.  At least I'd timed that perfectly.  I was about 10 minutes before the start of the race.  I peeled off warm up layers, draped them over a fence and wandered into the corrals amusing myself by watching everyone start to really bop around when this song came on over the loud speakers.  We were off at the airhorn and pretty quickly i was across the timing mat. 

I was trying something different for pacing per my Coach's wishes.  I'd been having such good runs and faster than expected that she really wanted me to run this race NOT looking at pacing at my garmin watch. I'm game so i set my screen to my long trail running screen which gives elevation, overall time, time of day and distance.  Now i know i should be able to figure out pace per mile with this information but my brain does not do those sorts of calculations without pen and paper so this was safe.  I'd let it beep me what the mile laps were at least on the first one because I was curious. 

We start off and it's pretty crowded.  I just try and maintain a steady and strong pace without weaving.  It's honestly feeling hard and I'm not too happy about that because I know i'm slow.  Harumph.  We get onto the path along Green Lake and a guy pushing stroller pushes past all of us on the gravel.  I know i wasn't the only one a bit demoralized by this.  Ha!  The first mile clicks over at 7:30 and I know it's not my day.  the only thing to do is just keep engaged in this race and fight for it and I do.

I desperately wanted to walk as breathing felt hard and legs just didn't want to move any faster.  I usually listen to other people around me and gauge their breathing with mine.  Today, I'm working just as hard as everyone else.  I just want to hang on as we hit the top of the lake and into a strong feeling headwind.  Oh joy.  It's actually pretty good weather at mid-40s and maybe a quick shower every once in a while.  I opted for a running skirt and short-sleeves.  I dropped my gloves before the race but kept my headband as my ears always hurt with cold wind. 

I have my eye on a couple gals ahead of me.  One is in purple and one is in a blue/black vest.  Stay with them!  The purple gal slowly pulls away.  The gal in the vest is also hurting as at about 2.3 she pulls off to walk a bit.  I am SO tempted but stay with it battling the wind.  Finally we drop onto the little trail which will take us to the finish and i can see the clock is almost to 24.  I push and manage to finish just over 24 minutes.  Blargh.  Really I couldn't say that at any point during this race that I felt good and moving well or feeling strong so 24 minutes is pretty good. 

I knew I'd lost momentum into the wind but I didn't expect to slow quite so much.  However, I was afraid I'd start way too fast so 7:30 was good.  Miles 2 and 3 were 7:40 and then 8:05 (wince).  This kind of thing really did used to drive me crazy but I know if this race had been the week previous I'd have run really, really well.  It's just the way things operate for me.  I chalk this up to a good training run and a good mental strength work out and move along. 

A race that was well timed and that I went into with tired legs was the 12ks of Christmas just two months ago.  I ran that hilly race which is three times as long at the same exact pace as this 5k (7:44).  Ha!  How ridiculous is that? I knew I'd run that race well and actually raced right on the edge pushing the whole time and was stunned and delighted with the results.  This 5k?  There is no doubt in my mind that as much as I like to pretend hormones can be ignored, they affect my ability to do certain things at certain times.  So, yep I'm disappointed that the timing of this race was off but not too unhappy with the solid mental workout.  If I could work it into my schedule I'd look for another 5k to jump into but there are other fun things ahead which might preclude that.  And I went out exploring some more trails today.  My legs were tired but a nice and easy trot on squishy, hilly trails was perfect recovery.  After three weeks at higher mileage, I am looking forward to the easy running week. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Desert interlude...

Time for the annual trek to visit the in-laws in Albuquerque.  I was here last in December 2010 and not running too much since I was post marathon and the legs weren't all that happy.  This time around was a great running visit. We got out to the Albuquerque foothills and happily did a short run/scramble following the myriad of trails in the area.  We mostly stuck to the 365 trail except when we got off of it purely by accident and ended up scrambling up and down a bit following a trail which runs under power lines.  The altitude at 6k (seen on my watch in the upper left corner) is something else!  We are used to 0 - 1000 feet at our local foothills so you could definitely feel a bit of gasping when climbing those hills. 

The trails, of course, are so different than the Seattle. Dry and sandy with some rocks and roots but nothing as technical as my favorite trail haunts in the Seattle area.  The landscape especially in mid-winter is quite dry and dull looking.  Spring is still a fair bit away as it gets below freezing every night.  That doesn't mean the sparse landscape isn't beautiful.  It's just different in it's own way. 

For a change of pace, we then went to the Paseo del Bosque area which is along the river Rio Grande which bisects Albququerque north to south on it's way towards Mexico.  I've not been along this area in Albuquerque in years and years.  We parked at the Rio Grande Nature Center and found sandy trails that went through the cottonwood forests along the bank of the river. I'd never seen the river from a bank so that was a real treat.  it was moving pretty quick with all the snow melt. 

The trails through the cottonwood forests during the winter are quite spooky looking during the day.  There are no leaves on the trees and very little undergrowth.  It is so sandy that it's hard to believe that trees can actually survive here but then that's what cottonwoods like.  We saw just a few people out walking and did follow some bike tracks.  That would be hard going biking over that sand!  This little section was a nice diversion until we got up onto the main Paseo del Bosque bike trail which runs for 16 miles along the river and connects with other bike trails.  It's a paved path plus a wide gravel area next to the path.  It's obviously a great place to get runs in as we saw some speedy people obviously getting in some speed work. 

Great idea I thought!  I'd planned on doing some intervals on this day if I was feeling good and I was.  So after the trails and a couple easy miles on the path, I did some 4 x 400s (quarter miles) with quarter mile recoveries.  I think this is one of the first times I've been in Albuquerque and running and actually felt good with the altitude and was able to get a quality workout in.  Yes, you can tell the difference in breathing as you gasp a bit louder for oxygen but it didn't feel any harder which I find remarkable.  Finally, I think possibly, i have better iron levels.  Low iron levels can compound the effects of altitude it seems. 

Of course, training at altitude here would be countered by the great eating we do here.  Carne adovada, green chile papitas, sopapillas...mmm, the list goes on!  K's parents' cat below (Bisquit but he is the size of a large loaf) is obviously ready for his meal too. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012's it going?

Right now I am loving the extra miles in my schedule.  For whatever reason, I really do feel better running a bit more and even throwing in a double (ie run in the morning and evening) once a week. I have 40 miles planned for this week with a very nice track workout and a tempo workout already accomplished.  It's not very typical of me to get two quality workouts in during a week so I'm making sure to keep those easy miles easy.

I had a fair number of questions about my post about the book "Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance."  And I'd thought I touch on how that attention to diet is going and what I think of his latest book. And for the record, no i have no association with the author.  I came across the book purely by chance and felt it very relevant to what I was noticing and thinking about my training.  

First, I do have a scale which will give me a body fat percentage reading.  I have an Omron Body Composition Monitor which has a scale and a hand held monitor.  The nerdiness factor in this household can be pretty high from both yours truly and my husband K.  K researched the heck out of body composition monitors for me and decided on the one linked because it was a consistent product meaning that it would give consistent body compositon readings.  And no, I am also not receiving any compensation from Omron either.  

Is it accurate?  Meaning is the reading the scale is giving me truly what my body fat percentage is?  Well, that is hard to say and something I don't really worry about. I cannot say that it gives me a number which is true and there is no way to confirm that without other types of testing. It does give me a consistent day to day reading.  I have noticed that using it for over a year now that at times in training as I've approached times when I have felt very fit that I have a lower body fat percentage.  It is now something that I am more accurately tracking instead of a "hunh, that's interesting." 

To use these scales, you need to standardize how you use them.  You should be well hydrated, you should use them at the same time each day preferably after using the bathroom and you should not have just worked out or taken a shower.  As a female, I can have some pretty wide swings in water retention because of my cycle, so I take that into mind as well.  As an athlete, I have noticed that I can also have some interesting changes in weight after a long run or a very hard workout (running or strength workout) where I am noticeably sore. I typically weigh myself once a week before my long run (ie Saturday). 

I've been tracking calories in and out via  There are numerous sites on the web and apps which will let you do this.  Considering that most of the meals we cook are all homemade, it can be a bit of a challenge to estimate what I've eaten.  I do my best and don't worry about it so much.  there are also online calculators which will let you calculate a homemade recipe serving.  Most online calorie counters will have you enter height and weight and estimate your lifestyle for a basic calories burned in a day estimate.  This can be called Basal Metabolic Rate or Resting Metabolic Rate and gives you an idea of what to aim for with daily calorie intake minus workouts. 

I do not like being hungry.  Let me repeat that in a way that will make more sense.  If I am really hungry, I am brain dead and cranky and DO NOT function well at work or at home and certainly not at play.  So it is important for me to get in enough calories throughout the day.  My job is more active than a basic desk job and I really notice if I've not eaten enough during the day.  These past two weeks, I've been monitoring how much I need to eat given my early morning workouts and keeping calorie intake pretty well tied to how much I'm burning. 

Following some of my goals from the initial reading of this book, I am doing very well although I haven't lost any weight that I've noticed consistently.  I've been making sure to eat much more on the weekends when I run a lot.  Noticeably, I had more energy and was much less hungry on the Monday following. Duh.  It's not rocket science yet sometimes I forget that I have a pretty hard running engine that needs to be well stoked to sustain my efforts.  I've been consistently eating more and better in the mornings (I run in the mornings most days) and I've noticed that I am less ravenously hungry in the afternoons. 

I've not wanted to cut calories very much so have been fairly cautious about that as I've increased miles.  This will take a bit of time to figure out and I am ok with that as I do not have a lot of weight to lose.  Without really trying, my diet tends to be about 28% fat, 18% protein and 54% carbohydrates.  That seems about right for my level of training. 

I did get the new book "Racing Weight Quick Start Guide" which seems to be much more directed to athletes who want a plan (diet and workout) with the idea of quickly changing their body composition.  I found the science and explanations more complete in his original book.  I was sad to see that the section on appetite and managing hunger was gone as was some of the specifics for each type of endurance athlete and those who are new to endurance type events.  But this second book may be a more easy to grasp - do this - type of book for more people.  Personally I liked the uncertainty inherent in his first book.  Everyone is different and it really does take time to figure out what will work for you. 

Meanwhile the triple chocolate crack cookies fresh out of the oven are delicious.  And yes, we've renamed them crack cookies because it is really hard to just eat one...