January 30, 2012

Ironman Week 4


am: conditioning / 1:00
This was my first class in two weeks and my body was well aware of the break! My legs and arms fatigued noticeably faster, although I know my legs are still recovering from the marathon, too. While we sweated it out inside the studio, a storm raged outside and for a moment made me question the swim I had planned directly after. But then I reminded myself that I do, in fact, enjoy swimming in the rain, so off I went!

am: swim / 1,800 yds / 0:43
My arms were a little tired from the workout just before but other than that it was a pretty good swim. The focus was on endurance with 400s as the main set, but they actually seemed to go by pretty quickly. The storm actually calmed down a bit as I was swimming so the water was actually quite pleasant. With a long day ahead of me it was nice to have both workouts done by 8am!
  • warm-up:
    • 200
    • 6x50 fast on 1:30
  • main: 3x400 @ 2:05 on 9:00
  • cool-down: 100
pm: bike / 15 mi / 0:55 / avg 16.2 mph
My schedule called for 30 minutes of rolling hills so I thought I might drive somwhere with more appropriate terrain, but then the day got carried away and I just didn't have the time. So it was off to the bike trail instead. There are a few small hills on the route I took, but I also just switched to a harder gear on the flats to simulate more vertical terrain. I also spent some time in my drop bars, which for some reason I've never really done before. The lower body positioning actually felt a bit more comfortable and my legs seemed to feel more efficient, too. I'm hoping these are some of the benefits I'll get from a triathlon bike as soon as I get the nerve to buy one!
beautiful afternoon

pm: run / 4 mi / 0:36 / avg 9:10
I took a 30 minute break after my ride then set out for an easy run. I took my pup and decided to run on the roads since it would be dark by the time I finished. This was also my first run with prescribed heart rate zones. The plan called for a 10 minute warm up in zone 2 (154-163) then 3x5 minutes in zone 3 (165-173) with rest in between. I actually felt great as I started and tried to focus on effort as well as heart rate. I was comfortably running just under 9:00 pace for the warm-up and then picked it up for the first 5 minute set. I still felt good and the pace felt manageable, but my heart rate was pushing the upper limits of zone 3. When the 5 minutes were up I slowed back down but my heart rate had a harder time doing the same.

It kept up this way until after the final pick up when I was slowing way down in an effort to lower my heart rate. It was frustrating because I felt good running faster, and it was actually harder to slow down so much. I know other things can contribute to heart rate, and I know it can be very beneficial for training purposed, but I think for running, I need to focus more on my effort. Ironically, I think just knowing my heart rate when I run stresses me out a little, which in turn just makes it higher! The saving grace of the run was the glorious sunset I was treated to on my way back. I so wish I had a camera to capture that one!

am: conditioning / 1:00
Another killer workout to kick off the day! It did kind of suck to get up so early on a day off, but that just meant I got to take a lovely nap later in the day : )
one good thing that comes with waking up early!

pm: bike / 14 mi / 0:52 / avg 16.1 mph
Later in the day (after my nap!) I headed out for a short ride. The focus was on technique with a few drills in the mix. After a warm-up I did 6x30 seconds of single leg drills with 30 seconds of regular spinning between each one. The last time I did single leg drills it was on the trainer and they were not very successful. I was worried it would be the same on the road. I envisoned jerky movements that had me swerving all over the bike path and crashing. But when it came time to unclip the first leg, I was surprised to find that it worked! I just kept up the cadence and moved right along with the other leg dangling on the side. Happy to have these out of the way, next up was 3x6 minutes focusing on pulling horizontally on the downstroke. This felt a little awkward at first but soon I could tell how much more efficient it made me. It did, however, give my hamstrings a nice little workout which I would go on to feel for the rest of the week!

am: run / 5 mi / 0:45 / avg 9:10
Easy morning run on the levy with my pup. And boy oh boy were my hamstrings sore! Once I got moving they were ok but wow. I chose not to wear my heart rate after my experience on my last run and felt much more relaxed. In the middle I had 4x20 second pick ups. Other than that not very exciting!

pm: swim / 1,700 yds / 0:40
I was really tired during this workout for some reason. I found myself slowing at the tail end of the 250s so I had to remind myself to keep up the pace. I also find that when I'm tired my form sucks (which is probably true for a lot of things, like running). The workout finished up with another round of swim golf, and I think I'm getting the hang of it. I was able to reduce my stroke count with each 50, although my time basically stayed the same.
  • warm-up:
    • 200
    • 200 kick
  • main: 4x250 @ 2:00 on 5:30
  • cool-down: 6x50 swim golf  

am: run / 10 mi / 1:31 / avg 9:06
I was actually nervous about this run for some reason. It would be my first double digit run since Houston and I was anxious to get back in to it and not be in recovery mode anymore. It ended up being a fantastice run, too. It was a beautiful, crisp morning so the bike trail was crowded with a lot of friendly faces. Once again I went sans HR but forced myself to keep it at a comfortable effort. My left knee was a little tight toward the end but otherwise I kept my pace in the low 9s and felt really good. As I was finishing up it was a nice boost of confidence to feel like I could keep going. But as soon as I stopped, the warm fuzzies disappeared as I noticed some pain in my left ankle moving down into my foot. I didn't think too much of it as I hurried to get ready for work, and figured it was probably just a product of tight muscles/tendons that needed to be worked out.

am: bike / 28 mi / 1:50 / avg 15.3 mph
I headed out on another beautiful morning for my long ride of the week. I rode toward Lake Natoma and passed a seemingly endless number of runners. I hadn't been so far in this direction on the bike trail in a while so it was nice to see some familiar sights. The first half of the ride kind of sucked though. I was struggling to maintain a decent speed and my legs just didn't seem to have much in them. Luckily the second half was much better and I actually increased my speed quite a bit for a little negative split : ) I know with more time and practice my cycling will improve, but it still frustrates me now to feel like such a beginner. Part of me feels like I just need to get stronger on the bike, and the other part of me feels like I'm just not doing it right or my bike/fit is not very good. Hopefully I can improve both of these things in the near future. My ankle felt fine on the bike, but it was actually really sore the rest of the day at work on my feet : / 
halfway at Hazel Ave.

pm: swim / 1,500 / 0:35
Tonight's swim focused on technique with a series of different drills. I was in a rush since I had plans later that evening so I was glad it was a shorter workout. I never did drills when I was training on my own but I'm finding that they're a welcome addition. I like to think they've made a difference so far, if only by making me more aware of proper form.
  • warm-up:
    • 300
    • 4x50 kick on side
  • main:
    • 200 as 25 side-to-side/25 swim
    • 200 as 25 one arm/25 swim
    • 200 as 25 catch up/25 swim
    • 200 as 25 fist/25 swim
  • cool-down: 200
nice to still have some light!

swim: 5,000 yards
bike: 57 miles
run: 19 miles
other: 2 hours
total time: 10.4 hours

January 24, 2012

Houston Marathon (Race Report)

Race morning started out as most others do. Alarm at 5am followed by a breakfast of bagel with almond butter and a banana, getting all geared up, and stretching a bit. Chris and Erin left before me to get their warm-ups in and I took my time heading downstairs. When I walked outside I was pleased to find that it actually wasn't cold at all. In fact I almost didn't need the arm warmers I'd bought at the expo last minute. Our hotel was conveniently located a few blocks from the start so I just followed the throngs of people. I ran a bit to test out my calf and was pleased to find that it felt fine. I'd trigger pointed like crazy the night before and was wearing my compression socks for the race so I think those helped. I made it to my corral just before it closed and then all that was left was to wait!
Houston sunrise race morning
I mentioned before what my goals were going into this race. I knew that as long as nothing disastrous happened, I would PR, probably by a decent amount. But I also secretly hoped I could get that sub-4 I've been coveting since I signed up for Chicago last year. My plan was to start conservatively and run more off effort than splits, then see where I'm at halfway in and push if I was having a good race. This worked out for the most part, and although the race didn't go exactly as I hoped in the end, I did run my best marathon yet.

The full and half had different starting lines before merging at mile 2 so it wasn't too crowded as we took off. I reminded myself not to get carried away with the pace, especially since we found ourselves running up the gradual incline of a freeway for the first mile. I couldn't help but think how ironic it was that Houston is touted as being so "flat & fast", and yet there we were, not a mile in, and running up some hills. Ha! My split for mile 1 was 9:17, but I wasn't too concerned as I remembered that it takes me some time to warm-up and get into a rhythm.

Going into the race I actually didn't know much about the course other than it being a loop and mostly flat. The first few miles honestly weren't very exciting but went by pretty fast. My pace naturally dropped to sub-9s where it would stay til about mile 20. From downtown we wound through the Heights and Montrose neighborhoods which had a cute small town feel and great crowd support and cheering. Around mile 6 we started to see the lead half runners coming back on the other side of the road, so I kept an eye out for Erin and Chris but I ended up missing them. Both went on to rock their races and set big PRs!
the 26.2 mile tour of Houston
look for the neon yellow arm warmers - in the middle, to the right of the orange shirt!
The half marathoners turned around at mile 9 while the rest of us continued on. Miles 10-14 took us past Rice and West Universities and their neighborhoods and were easily my favorite of the race. I was feeling pretty good, running even splits, and fueling on schedule (Gu + salt cap every 4-5 miles) plus the scenery and crowd support was amazing! The streets were lined with trees that for several stretches created a canopy of shade and the houses, especially on University Ave. were so quaint and cute! The crowd support here was excellent as well with lots of people setting up there own mini aid stations from their front lawns.

Around mile 16 I started to feel a little tired, but after 16 miles that is to be expected. I was still keeping pace, it was just taking a little more focus. Miles 18-19 took us past the exclusive Tanglewood neighborhood where former president George Bush retired to. I'd got to the point where I was telling myself to hold on and constantly wondering how much farther.

Around mile 20 things got hard. My quads started cramping badly and I had to slow down. In past marathons I probably would have started walking some stretches, but I told myself I'd made it this far, I still had a couple minutes of buffer for a 4 hour finish, I had to fight for it! Mentally I hunkered down and focused, but physically my legs just wouldn't go as fast as I needed them to. It had started to warm up a bit but luckily there was a little breeze. In fact I think we really lucked out with the weather during the race as it was as perfect as we could have expected. Miles 20 and 21 wound through Memorial Park which reminded me a lot of Golden Gate Park. I wish I'd been in a better mood at that point to have enjoyed it more, though!
That last 10k was really a struggle both physically with my cramping legs and mentally as I watched my buffer become smaller and smaller. With just a few miles to go I realized that I couldn't maintain the pace necessary to finish under 4 hours. Physically I was giving everything I had, leaving it all out there. It wasn't like in the past where I've let my head get to me. It was still hard though, especially since I knew I was going to be super close. In fact, the course ended up measuring 0.25 long on my Garmin, and as I looked down at my time when my watch recorded 26.2 miles, I saw a nice little 3 still there : ( The last couple miles brought us back downtown and I spotted Chris and Erin right in front of our hotel. I managed a smile and then tried to pick it up as much as possible as I reached the final stretch through Discovery Green park. I didn't have much of a finishing kick but it was one of the more memorable finishes as I got to run down the same finish chute as the Olympic trials marathoners had the day before. I was agonizingly close to my ultimate goal: 4:01:58.
 running by Chris & Erin at mile 26
 coming down the finish chute...
 on the far right
 dude ruined my finishing pic!
As soon as I stopped running I thought my legs were going to buckle. My quads seized up horribly and it was all I could do to follow the others into the convention center. I hobbled my way around trying to figure out what I needed to do before I could collapse onto the ground. I managed to track down some chocolate milk and then pick up my finisher's shirt and mug before trekking across the giant place to the reunion area. I could barely get my legs to bend enough to sit down, and when I finally got there I knew I wasn't going anywhere for a while. I waited about a half hour to see if Erin and Chris showed up and then I hauled myself up and hobbled the quarter mile back to our hotel.

Back in the room I checked my phone and suddenly was overwhelmed by the whole experience. A small part of me was bummed I'd come so close and missed it, but a much bigger part of me recognized that I'd just ran the best marathon of my life and set a 30 minute marathon PR, a full hour and a half faster than my first marathon less than 3 years ago. For nearly a year my marathon times have not reflected what I was capable of. After my devastating experience at Chicago after a solid training cycle I felt even more defeated. Houston was my redemption!

After I composed myself I met up with Chris, Erin, and a bunch of others for a bite to eat nearby and then came back to the hotel to clean up. My quads still felt pretty beat up and ironically my calves felt pretty good! I also ended up with a monster blister near my big toe and 2 blistered nail beds, but I usually don't come out of marathons with all 10 toenails intact : ) We were all pretty exhausted so we took it pretty easy the rest of the day. Erin surprised me with a celebratory creme brulee (my favorite!) and then we met up with some friends for a late dinner. I crashed pretty early and slept like a rock! The next morning we treated ourselves to breakfast in the fancy hotel restaurant before saying goodbye to Houston and our amazing weekend.
the monster
no. 10, the best yet : )

January 22, 2012

Ironman Week 3


This was a looong day of travel coming back from Houston. I was pretty sore after a night of sleeping and being stuck on a plane for 4+ hours did not help. Most entertaining part of the day: being asked by a flight attendant as I disembarked the plane if I needed a wheelchair - ha! I guess my hobbling looked worse than I thought : ) I was pretty exhausted when we got in to Sacramento, but was happy to find that my new shoes (in the right size this time) had arrived! They're the new 2012 color and very blue, but they'll get the job done.
 en route

I had a swim and bike on the schedule for the day, but my legs were still killing me, so I decided take another rest day and nix the ride and push the swim to the next day. I ended up moving a few other things around this week and felt sort of guilty for skipping a couple things, but then I reminded myself that I did just race a marathon and I need to listen to my body. I know in the big picture it won't make a difference, but I'm glad the week is behind me and I'm eager to tackle every workout this next week!

pm: swim / 1,650 yds / 0:38
I skipped my conditioning class and a 20 minute run since there was no way my legs were ready for that and instead hit up the pool for another afternoon swim. It was an absolutely beautiful day, and so nice to once again swim while the sun was still out. It was a pretty straightforward workout with an emphasis on endurance with some 350s. I could tell my muscles were still a little tired but it also felt really great on my legs.
  • warm-up:
    • 200
    • 6x50 fast on 1:30
  • main: 3x350 @ 2:05 on 8:00
  • cool-down: 100
 such a lovely day for a swim!

pm: swim / 1,800 yds / 0:50
I hit up the pool again, this time after work. It was finally raining and a bit chilly out, but once I was in the water it was great! I always dread having to swim in the rain and I don't know why, because I absolutely love it once I'm actually doing it. This ended up being my longest swim workout of training thus far but was broken up up with drills for the main set.

I did try a new-to-me drill called swim golf! I had to Google it, but here's what I came up with: first you swim 50 yards and note both the time and number of arm strokes, then add them together to get your "par score". Then you do a set of 50s and try to reduce your score either with a faster time or fewer strokes. The drill is meant to work on stroke efficiency, but to be honest, I found that the math aspect of it made it way too complicated! I kept losing track of my stroke count or the time. I sort of got the hang of it after a few trys, but mainly I just focused on pulling harder with each stroke.
  • warm-up: 300
  • main:
    • 4x75 (25 R side kick, 25 L side kick, 25 swim), RI 15
    • 100 moderate-fast
    • 4x75 (25 R arm, 25 L arm, 25 swim), RI 15
    • 100 moderate-fast
    • 8x50 swim golf, RI 20
  • cool-down: 300


am: run / 5 mi / 0:46 / avg 9:12
My legs finally felt good enough to try a run this morning. I reminded myself to take it easy but a few things felt tight right from the start. I actually managed a pretty decent pace but my muscles weren't too happy by the end. I know this is normal immediately following a marathon, but I'm hoping with a bit more rest they'll start feeling better soon.

pm: swim / 1,500 yds / 0:36
I spent my Saturday night at the pool since I apparently don't have much of a social life ; ) Not surprisingly I had the pool to myself and ended up having a pretty good workout. The rain had cleared earlier in the day so it was a beautiful evening to be in the water. It was also a perfect way to shake out my sore legs after the morning's run.
  • warm-up:
    • 300
    • 100 kick
  • main set: 4x225 @ 2:00 on 4:45
  • cool-down: 4x50 

am: bike / 23.45 mi / 1:30 / avg 15.5 mph
I was hoping the rain would hold off for my morning ride and woke up to cloudy skies but no rain : ) I had an easy 90 minutes in zone 2 on deck so I hopped on the bike trail for an out-and-back. It's that time of year when the trail is bustling with both runners and cyclists but it was nice to have some company. I forgot to wear my HR monitor so I just focused on my effort. I felt great on the out, easily averaging between 16-17 mph, but on the way back it suddenly felt very difficult to maintain the same speed. There was a headwind so that may have something to do with it, but it was a little frustrating nonetheless. I keep reminding myself that I haven't been riding much and with more consistency I'll get faster, but I'm impatient : )
 turnaround at Discovery Park

swim: 4,950 yards
bike: 23.45 miles
run: 5 miles
other: 0 hours*
total time 4.3 hours

* After two straight weeks without conditioning I'm ready to get back to it!

January 20, 2012

Houston in Pictures

Houston was a trip like no other. From watching the epic Olympic Trials Marathon on Saturday to setting a 30 minute marathon PR on Sunday, it was a trip I'll remember for years to come. I was joined by two of my favorite coworkers, and since one was working the expo booth for CIM we lucked out with a free room at the ritzy Four Seasons, literally a block from the expo & start/finish lines, and actually on both the trials and regular marathon courses. We took it pretty easy most of the time, hung out at the expo a couple days and saw some familiar faces, got all hyped up watching the trials, and then all ran PRs on Sunday : ) 
On our first evening there we discovered a European specialty food store across the street from our hotel and ended up going back every day, mainly for their incredible falafel : ) We didn't really get to venture outside downtown much (except for the race - report coming soon!), but it seemed to be a pretty cool city. We lucked out with cool, clear weather until the day we left when we got a quick glimpse of typical Texas humidity - not sorry we missed that! In the end it was an absolutely awesome trip!
 Erin & I at the airport ready to go!
 layover in snowy Denver
 welcome to Denver!
 hello, Houston!
 Four Seasons = baller
runners taking over the city
public, edible gardens!
 Olympic Trials expo
 so. cool.
"The Road to London"
 fireworks at the trials opening ceremony
downtown Houston reppin' the good 'ol U.S of A the night before the Trials!
gotta hydrate!
 trials women!
 Abdi, Meb, and Ryan on their way to making the Olympic team!
 the ladies of Team U.S.A.
 the infamous Phoenecia falafel, eaten no less than 4x in 5 days : )
 lots of time spent at the expo
 marathon no. 10 in the books!
the hardware
 post-marathon crème brûlée : )
 celebratory morning-after french toast!
all good things must come to an end...