Tuesday, November 29, 2011

8 Mile Tempo Run

3x3 Mile with 3 min rest

2.5 mile warmup
8 mile "progression" tempo in 615, 615, 608, 610, 557, 604, 607, 600 for 49:00 total time (607 average)
2.5 mile cool down for 13 miles

Pezz informed me on Monday that she and Alana were going to do an 8 mile progression tempo together.  At first, I was just going to run with them for the first three miles and then try to catch back up with them by the start of my 2nd set.  However, I made a last minute decision  to do the 8 mile tempo with the two ladies instead of my originally planned workout.

After a warmup with Mark biking alongside, I met back up with Alana and Pezz near the 2 mile mark of the greenway.  The plan was to run on the greenway portion of McAlpine, with a total of three u-turns (practicing for the Trials course).  We ran from the 2-mile mark, to the 3-mile mark (turnaround), to Old Bell (turnaround), back to the 3-mile mark (turnaround), and finished at the 2-mile mark. 

Uncertain of what my body would be capable of, I made goals for each segment to help ease any mental unrest and to focus on the immediate goal. I figured that Pezz would take off after the 4-mile mark, so my initial goal was to hang with Pezz and Alana through the 4 mile mark.  After that, my goal was to stay below 610.  After that, my goal was to stay as close to Alana as possible.  The three of us came through the four mile mark together perfectly and I felt really good.  I could tell that my legs were really tired, but I knew that if I committed to the pace mentally that my legs would be able to handle it physically. 

Admittedly, I was running scared, completely uncertain of whether my lungs would carry me the goals I had formed for each of the segments.  After the 4-mile mark, Alana pulled up alongside of me, and we ran side-by-side through 5.  She even told me that she felt like she was running a lot slower than we actually were because of Pezz's sizable distance that she kept creating between us.  Between breaths of air, I gasped out that it would be good for her mental psyche so that when it happens in a race, she'll be prepared. 

By mile 6, Alana had gained a 5-10 meter lead on me, but somehow I found another gear and powered up beside her by the 7-mile mark.  After the u-turn, she gained some more distance on me, but we finished within seconds of each other on a windy last mile.  It was really fun to work together with Alana as it motivated me to go outside of my comfort zone and to push myself, even if my body was revolting. 

I am very pleased with this workout.  I did this workout last year, with fewer u-turns and less winds, and ran slower (610 ave) than I did today (607 ave).  I am excited to see that improvement, especially given that my iron levels have been low in the last couple of weeks.  I think that the iron levels are beginning to reach normal again and that my body will begin to feel more energized.  I'm still en route to run another 90 miles this week, so it's always nice to start off with a great workout. 

Up Next: to focus on 20x400m with 1 min rest on Friday!

Countdown to Trials:  45 Days

we ran from 2 mile mark, to 3 mile mark, uturn and then back to old bell, to the 3 mile mark, u-turn, and finished at the 2 mile mark

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Week in Review

90 Miles
4 Doubles
20 mile Long Run at 700 Pace
1 Massage

Hey, there's always light at the end of the tunnel.  My iron isn't fully back up yet (that I know of), but I was still able to hit 90 miles for the week.  Considering it was Thanksgiving, I'm rather proud of achieving my highest mileage ever when I wasn't even in Charlotte for four days.  One unique thing about this week was that I ran all three of my workouts mostly by myself.  Even though I felt like total crap on two of those workouts, I pushed through them both to hit the mileage target.  Surprisingly, I've found that it's easier for me mentally to work out on my own so that I don't feel self-conscious about my over exertion.

I hope that I can hit 90 miles next week before taking a slight down week for my simulation run weekend at Kiawah on December 10th.  This next week will be a big one for me because I've got 3x3 mile, 20x400m, and a 20-22 mile long run on tap.  With the long run and the two long workouts, I think it will be much easier to hit 90 miles next week than this past week.

Countdown to the Olympic Trials:  <7 weeks or 47+ days

Friday, November 25, 2011

Greenville Fartlek in Lyndale

6x1 mile

2.3 miles warmup for 18 min total

10-8-6-5-4-3 with half rest - paces below
10:  1.65 miles for 605 pace
8:    1,4 miles for 546 pace
6:    1.05 miles for 543 pace
5:    .88 miles for 543 pace
4:    .7 miles for 548 pace
3:    .52 miles for 548 pace

1.8 miles total for cool down

I ended up running this workout in a fancy neighborhood in Greenville, NC after hanging out with Garrett's extended family all day.  It was great to spend so much quality time with Garrett's cousins since I really do feel like I'm on the cousins.  We learned more about Barbara's boyfriend, Emily's pregnancy, Thomas' summer abroad plans, and Elyse's job search.  The aunts started talking about giving birth and the boys all left the room immediately.  It's a great way to get rid of the guys at a family gathering, that's for sure.

After lots of sitting around socializing, I finally decided that it was time to get this workout going, which also meant that I would be running in the dark.  I consulted with Garrett and he advised for me to run in a fancy neighborhood called Lyndale that featured miles upon miles of lighted streets without any traffic lights.

I decided to do a workout focused on time instead of distance so that I would not focus on the speed (or lack thereof ).  I just set Mr. Garmin to beep at me for the intervals and for the jog rest to make sure that I was focusing solely on effort.  I didn't look at the garmin for the entire workout, so I definitely accomplished the goal, which was to not die.  I also made sure that my altered workout would be the same distance as my original workout plans - so over 6 miles.  This would ensure that I got in the same amount of work that I was originally supposed to achieve.

Coming through the 10-8-6-5, I felt absolutely fantastic.  I could tell that I was getting faster on each interval and my legs felt really strong.  My breathing was under control and I felt really confident that my 4-3 were going to go great.  I sure was wrong about that.  By the time I did the 5-4-3, it felt like the wheels were coming off the bus. My hamstrings were screaming and I struggled to get that leg lift that had been so easy to achieve on the longer segments.  Really, I was just hanging on.  My breathing was labored, but I pushed through it. You can tell where I struggled by looking at my pace times.  In fact, I ran faster on the 5-6 than I did on the 4-3.

Despite the shortcomings in the last 7 minutes, I can't help but be pleased with this workout because I ran faster than 6:00 pace for the majority of this workout.  Goals have been adjusted obviously, but this is where I'm at right now, so I am happy with the effort put forth!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

4 Mile Tempo

4-5 Mile Tempo at Whatever Pace You Can Hold

2.4 Mile Warmup
4 miles at 6:48, 614, 553, 558
3 Mile Cool down for 9.4 Miles Total

So my new goal for these next couple of weeks of training is to start off every workout at a pace that is ridiculously slower than I would ever start a normal workout. The reason why I'm doing this is because I'm hoping it will ensure I will have enough oxygen in the later stages of the workouts.  Today during my warmup I even contemplated moving my tempo to Wednesday because my quads were still really sore since my tempo and long run from last week.  In fact, I've been walking down the stairs sideways to avoid the soreness from the descent. 

I didn't want to ditch the workout so I decided to just try to run hard and see how things progress. I also didn't look at my garmin, but did everything on feel.  I think this method helped, but by the end of mile 4, I was panting like I had just run a 400m sprint all out.  I cooled it down, but kept my cool down miles around 650, which is not common for me to do. 

The hardest thing for me right now is to keep my head in the right mindset.  It's not much fun going out to run when you feel like crap practically every time.  I'm really testing my mental strength and tenacity, which should help me prepare for the Trials race. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Week in Review

86 Miles
19+ Mile Long Run
2 Doubles
3 Trips to the Chiro
2 Dance Lessons
3 Runs with Jordan and Meagan

After two weeks of 55 Miles, I am pleased to say that I ran 86 miles, which would tie for my highest ever mileage.  It was actually quite easy to hit this mileage since I was with Jordan and Meagan for the weekend and I could have easily put the mileage at 90 if I had joined the Kinlos for a double on Friday evening.  Not surprisingly, we were in bed before 11pm on both Friday and Saturday nights.  I'm not embarassed to mention this because it's acceptable to go to bed early if you have low iron.  Admittedly, this isn't even an acceptable excuse for my early bedtime because even when the iron is normal, I go to bed before 10. 

On Saturday, Jordan drove us to Providence where I was the stranger who attended the engagement party for one of Jordan's college teammates.  The party was pretty fun and I enjoyed learning more about Jordan's college days from his former teammates.  I also ate a piece of a giant red veltet cupcake that was absolutely delicious.  Fortunately for me, Meagan started to get really tired around 10PM and we both snuck upstairs to fall asleep before the party began to get really crazy.

On Sunday, Kim ran with us for 43 minutes before calling it day and left Jordan to lead the way.  We ran through the Brown campus and downtown Providence.  I didn't tell Jordan this, but Wake Forest's campus is much prettier than Brown's campus.  Brown is an urban campus filled with busy asphalt streets whereas Wake Forest is a landscaper's dream filled with finely manicured bushes and colorful flower beds.  I still would go to Brown if I got in for grad school, though.   Anyways, the long run was practically unbearable and Meagan and I couldn't wait for the run to be over pretty much the entire time we were running.  To make matters worse, we ended a little bit early so we had to add on close to Kim's house.  Needless to say, I'm glad I was able to log over 35 miles with Meagan this weekend.

Next week I'm going to continue to push my oxygen stores to their limit by running some more workouts.  They probably won't go as well as I would hope, but they'll keep me feeling fit once everything gets back in order.   I will spend Thanksgiving in Greenville, NC and will have Garrett to bike with me for most of my runs.  This week will be about enjoying time with family and filling my belly with food so that I can run it off in my training for the Trials!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Marblehead Tempo Test

50 Min Progression from 6:30-600 pace

3.3 mile warmup
8 mile tempo at 610 pace
2.5 mile cool down for 13.8 miles total

I had so much fun in Marblehead with Meagan and Jordan that I didn't take the time to update my blog when I was there.  It was a blast to reunite with the Kinlo's in New England for three days and get in some solid runs.  Meagan is very fortunate that she has Jordan to run along with because he's always been the best pacemaker.  Anyone that is heading to the Boston Marathon needs to take the extra drive to say hello and see their beautiful home that overlooks a sound and Fort Sewall.

Fortunately for me, Jordan and Meagan bost recapped the workout on their blog.  Since I'm still struggling a bit with the lack-of-iron thing, I completed 1.5 laps of glory with Meagan before beginning to feel like absolute crap.  Jordan came back to run with me for about .75 miles before running the third lap with Meagan to finish it out.  For the last 3 miles I was alone, but I battled through my physical deficiencies and mental barriers to finish a strong 8 mile tempo, considering everything.  In fact, I ran faster than I had originally intended, which is always a step in the right direction.  My breathing was too labored and my legs felt too heavy, but I will get to the point where I feel like normal again. 

After the workout, we cooled down on a bike path back to Marblehead before beginning a stretching session in the Kinlo dining room.  All in all, it was definitely the right decision to come visit. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

12x1 Min

12x1 Min On/Off

4.1 mile warmup
12x1 min on and off
3.5 mile cool down for 11 miles total

This was just a simple workout back to get the legs moving for the first time in ten days since the debacle at the Savannah Half.  Knowing that my iron levels were low, I went into this workout with Matt, Caleb and my trusty Garmin, hoping to think as little as possible.  The plan was to get in a 4+ mile warmup and then to complete the minuters whenever my Garmin beeped at me, without a concern for the pace.  I wanted to walk away from this work out feeling confident and strong.  Granted, I only put in 12 minutes of hard work, but this was enough to get the blood flowing.  Caleb and Matt were great partners as we pushed each other to run the fastest splits of the day on the last three intervals.  These types of workouts are the best because the focus is not on pace, but on effort.  This will be important until my iron levels reach an acceptable level as it affects what I'm capable of running.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week in Review

54 miles
6 Days of Running
18 Mile Long Run
45 Minutes of Thunder Road biking
1 Group Dance Lesson
4 Days of Abs
2 Chiropractor Adjustments

Welp - there you go.  I ran 55 miles this week and 55 miles last week.  Two down weeks, along with the help of the iron supplementation I've begun (as well as other adjustments made to things of a female matter) should help my iron stores replenish!  My goal is to keep my long runs strong, to maintain my steady state long runs, and to maintain a calm confidence that everything will fall into place on January 14th, 2012. 

This next week I will ramp my mileage back up to the normal digits of 75-80 and try my first workout back since Savannah.  I will also enjoy 3 glorious days with Meagan, Weezy, and Jordan in Marblehead, MA. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Answer: Iron Depletion!

For those of you who don't know, I've struggled with maintaining an adequate iron level for my entire running career.  In fact, I first found out about the effects of low iron on running during my sophomore year of high school, where I struggled to run faster than 6:30 pace in races.  I couldn't breathe when going up hills and I was gasping for oxygen if the pace ever got fast.  The first doctor I saw diagnosed me with exercise induced asthma.  After the inhaler didn't work, we saw another medical professional who found out that I had a ferritin level of 3, which almost required hospitalization for an iron infusion. 

If you don't anything about iron, I'll give you a quick lesson.  Iron has two essential components:  hemoglobin and ferritin.  Hemoglobin carries oxygen to your blood.  Ferritin helps the body store and transport iron.  Without iron, it feels like all the energy has been zapped from your body. Taken from one source: "In athletes, Iron Deficiency Anemia can lead to dramatic and measurable decrease in athletic performance, work capacity, reduced VO2max—and this effect is reversed when iron supplements are taken."   

I struggle with maintaining a reasonable ferritin level.  Some people may say it's because I'm a vegetarian, but I don't believe that eating meat will magically increase my iron levels.  After all, I was able to get my iron level to a 53 in March of this year, which is the best level I've ever had.  I clearly didn't start eating meat for the first time in 25 years during that time.  Instead, I started eating more leafy greens and beans. 
I have such a history with iron depletion that I have maintained an excel spreadsheet to track my levels since 2004 (see picture below).  The general ferritin level that female athletes strive for is above 20, and this is still on the lower end of the spectrum.  The average ferritin level I've had since 2004 is just 17.95.  My current level is a 5.  For me, I feel like magic if I'm above 15.  I also know that whenever I get below 10, I will experience the fatigue that is associated with iron depletion.  The results of low ferritin levels for runners are significant and I've experienced them too often for my own taste.  Symptoms?  Abnormal exhaustion, increased blood lactate, slow recovery, declining performances, heavy legs, muscular tightness, loss of motivation, and substantially increased risk of injury.
The good news is that all I have to do is increase my iron supplement (fortunately I have a tough stomach and can take a lot) and focus on eating all the iron-rich vegetarian foods that I already know about: kale, lentils, black beans, dried apricots.  After that, the iron level should jump up within 2-3 weeks.  The key is to understand that I will probably need to adjust my target paces for most of my workouts.  The best part is that the effort will still be there and should carryover once I start feeling better.  When that happens, I should feel like I just got back to sea level from running at altitude!  I also know that if I gradually ease into the pace, I usually can maintain a speedy clip. 
Cheers to understanding iron depletion and for not being injured!

Breaking the Funk!

So what's a better way to get out of a funk than to visit two of your best friends / former running partners / owners of your second favorite kitty?  There isn't a better way!!  That's right, I just booked a ticket to go to Boston for a quick weekend getaway to visit Meagan and Jordan!  Well, it will be a quick trip if Boston isn't slammed with three feet of snow in the middle of November.  I'll bring my work laptop just in case I get stuck in some unforeseen New England blizzard.  
I'm trading a weekend with my boyfriend in Charlotte for a weekend with Meagan and Jordan in Marblehead.  I'll pretend like I'm their surrogate child, tag along for runs, and eat at lots of yummy restaurants. I'm secretly hoping we'll play Scrabble!!  Most importantly, Meagan I will reminisce about our glory days - like 13.1 Minneapolis and the Heart and Sole Women's 5 Miler. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Week in Review

~55 miles
1 Double
2 Tired Legs

There's no point in reviewing the past 6 days of training, as the week was reduced to the DNF at Savannah and I already covered that yesterday.  After consulting with Coach Mark Hadley, we both agree it's time for me to take a down week, which would postpone my marathon specific training until next week.  The focus for now will be to run as many (or as few) miles as my body deems necessary.  Leaving tempos and intervals out of the picture for 10+ days should be the remedy for my tired, sore legs. 

Looking ahead to next week, I will be volunteering at the Thunder Road Marathon expo on Thursday and Friday for the Charlotte Running Club and also participating as a course monitor during the actual race on Saturday. Garrett comes back into town on Friday, and we're going out to the Ballantyne Resort for my co-worker's adoption agency's party.  This weekend is going to be a blast cheering on all the different racers in our hometown marathon and I can't wait for it to be here already!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Savannah: The DNF

13.1 @ 555-5:50 pace (~1:17:xx)

5:41, 5:56, 5:56, 6:20, 6:06, 6:16, 6:33, 6:28, DNF

First, let's just put it right out there.  I didn't finish the Rock 'n Roll Savannah Half Marathon.  Physically I am overtrained but emotionally I am pretty stable.  I'm not injured, but I'm not 100% healthy.  Mentally, I learned some valuable lessons that I can take with me to Houston.  On the bright side, I got to watch John (1:08:40), Pezz (1:14:32), and Alana (1:16:58) finish superb half marathons, all in blazing fast times, as a result of my DNF.

So, the race.  I woke up at 5:30am and did all my typical pre-race rituals, warmed up with John for an easy two miles, and changed into my Nike racing flats.  I did a couple of strides and could tell my legs were still tired.  I rationalized that I've gone into so many races where my legs were tired and performed fabulously, so tired legs wouldn't be an issue.  After some strides on the start line, I wished Pezz and Alana good luck and waited for the instructions for the start.

There was a stereo blaring "I LOVE ROCK N ROLL" and then the gun went off.  There were no start instructions so no one knew the gun was supposed to go off then.  I looked around to assess the situation and tentatively placed my foot over the start line, hoping I wouldn't get disqualified for a false start.  Apparently, the gun shot during the Joan Jett song was meant to signal the start, and the mass of 40,000 people began the race.

Alana caught up to me after 100 meters and said "That was the worst start ever!" or something like that.  I laughed.  Pezz and Alana took off, I glanced at my Garmin's estimated pace and saw 5:30 and immediately backed off.  They were about 5-10 seconds ahead of me through the mile mark.  I came through miles 2 and 3 in 5:56 and could still see Alana the same distance ahead of me.  At that point I felt fairly confident that I would catch back up to Alana and that we would work together for the rest of the race.

To be honest, I don't know what changed between mile 3 and 4.  I went from running 5:56 to 6:20 pace.  My breathing was fine.  My legs felt like they were made of clay and my form crumbled.  My jaw was clenched and my forehead was creased.  My muscles were clenching in areas that needed to be relaxed.  I saw Eric shortly after mile 3 and he told me that I looked great. I knew that he was lying and that really I looked like total crap.

Between miles 4-6, I got passed by marathoners who were hoping to run my goal time for the Trials.  My legs continued to deteriorate and my gait was altered as my left hip felt like it was locking up slowly. My IT Band and hamstring were tight, but not painful.  I wanted to drop at mile 5, but I didn't know where I was in relation to downtown, so I figured I would wait until i got closer to the city.  Around mile 7 (?) Chris Lamperski passed me and asked if I was okay and told me that I was limping.  I knew that limping 5 more miles to finish a half marathon could very well impact my plans of toeing the start line at the Olympic Trials in just 10 weeks and I didn't want to take that risk.  I passed through mile 8, where Jennifer Hadley waited to cheer me on before running to the finish to catch Alana, before passing through the crowd of people and casually jogging onto the sidewalk where the crowd had thinned out.  I put my leg up and stretched my hip, IT Band, and hamstring.  I asked for directions to the finish and began my trek. On my trek, I felt like a failure and was embarrassed that I got an elite entry and just threw it to waste by not finishing the race.

It's ironic that I dropped out because I'm actually against it in principle unless you're (1) unconscious or (2) on the way to injury.  In some ways, by dropping out, I went against one of my own values.  After all, I don't know for certain if I was on the road to injury. Sure, I've had some IT Band tightness over the course of the past two weeks.  Yes, I've had to scrap a couple of workouts or end them prematurely.  But my knee isn't in any pain like it was in January, so is it an injury?  In the end, my body is just tired and I knew that the toll of putting my body and mind through another five grueling miles really wouldn't be the best for the big goal in January.

I need a small allotment of time to assess positive and negative from this weekend and then move forward.  Then the key is to re-evaluate what I want to do over the course of the next 10 weeks. There are so many more important things in my life than to dwindle on a race that didn't go quite the way I wanted.  With that, I'm putting on my happy face, and focusing on rejuvenating my mind, body, and spirit with a calm confidence that everything will fall into place.