I had the best training run of the last two years today. I was in a funk last night and very anxious about my ability to execute to the level of fitness I thought I had. My last two long training runs had been extremely difficult. I had run much slower than I thought I was capable of, I had been low on energy physically and mentally. I was really quite afraid of what was going to happen today and on race day in two weeks.
Today was amazing. It was twenty degrees cooler than it had been two and four weeks ago on my really tough runs. My fueling was spot on, my hydration was good. I ran hills today that I wasn’t able to run before. I averaged ~15:15 per mile (more on that in a bit) rather than 17 to 18 minutes per mile. Even after a wrong turn added to my mileage for the day I didn’t flag at the end. I was still running up and down hill. I was relaxed and happy. I didn’t back off after my bad days, I had doubt but I stuck to my training and today it showed in how strong and fast I felt. I fell pumped and ready to race, which is a far cry from last night. Let’s hear it for consistency!
About those apps…
Today I ran three run tracking apps on my phone: MapMyRun, RunKeeper, and Wahoo Fitness.
I have been using RunKeeper for just over a year. It’s got a good interface and I really like the interval feature. At the designated intervals of time and distance it will announce the time, distance and a smattering of other stats, including average pace. I use this to time my nutrition.
I use MapMyRun on the web to map out runs. I used it today because this was not a route I have run before. It was a good choice as I did make one wrong turn and almost made a couple others.
Wahoo Fitness are the makers of my heart rate monitor. Their data is meant to be uploaded to other apps for analysis. It does the best job of transferring usable heart rate data to TrainingPeaks, which is the application I use to plan and analyse my training.
There are predicatble time differences because I could not start and stop all the apps simultaneously (I’m sure there’s an app for that). It’s the distance and elevation differences that interest me.
RunKeeper: 3:18:25 12.85 miles Total climb 3763 feet.
MapMyRun: 3:18:39 13.15 miles Total climb 1514 feet.
Wahoo Fitness 3:19:11 13.26 miles Total Climb 5315 feet
I know that Wahoo is very sensitive to elevation change, as it tells me I have been climbing when I run on a treadmill, so I’m going to disregard that number. The climb of 1514 seems very low and I suspect that MapMyRun does a lot of smoothing. I like it’s distance number though, in the middle of the other two. I need to run them against Strava for my next run and see where that falls. I’d like to run one or maybe two apps at most. And someday I’ll grow up and buy a damned Garmin like an adult.
This race is now 16 days away. It’s time to write my race plan. Over the next two weeks I will run through this several times. The night before my race I will lie down, close my eyes and run through the whole race in my mind. I will print it out and read it to myself on race morning and I may even pack it out with me. If I could figure out how, I would have a running app that would read out prompts when I hit various map points so I could have me shouting my race plan at me on race day.
This race is a half marathon plus a little bit on hill trails on Mt. Diablo in Walnut Creek, CA. Forecast is high 60s that day, so heat shouldn’t be a factor. It has rained on this course, so I need to be prepared for that.
- Night before – prep all equipment – Nathan Pack, Gu Chomps, electrolyte capsules, bandana, trail shoes, running socks, running hat, shorts, sweats, sports bra, shirt, heart rate monitor, charge phone!, check weather and pack rain gear just in case, pack recovery drink and bottle. Oh, race belt!
- Wake up 4:45 AM, fix breakfast of oatmeal, raisins, brown sugar. Drink 16oz of water.
- Get dressed. Apply Body Glide to all necessary body parts
- Kiss husbeast good bye. Disappoint dog who by now thinks he is going with me by leaving without him.
- Race location is ~24 miles away, leave house no later than 6:30 AM.
- Arrive with plenty of time to use bathroom, find sweat check, PICK UP BIB!
- Use the bathroom, a lot. Stop drinking water at 7 AM (time for the system to clear).
- Try to calm down, chat with people, check equipment, breath deeply. Go pee again. Review race plan in brain. Do dynamic stretches to get the blood flowing, jog very lightly for ten minutes.
- Line up! Get run tracking app and interval timer for nutrition ready (snack & water every ten minutes), text husbeast.
- 8 AM GO!! only, don’t like, GO, just, go. Goal time is 3 hours, that will be a stretch but I think I can do it if I push. Heart rate can hit Zone 4 on uphills but aim to keep it Zone 2 and low Zone 3 (160-170 bpm)
- Take the first mile or so easy, get warm.
- Mile 1.7, turn onto Sunset Trail, here’s the first big hill of the day! Jam downhill!! Free speed (theme of the day)
- Steady and strong up the hill after mile 3, take the downhill quick and controlled.
- The big uphill starts just after mile 4. Stay steady and strong. Probably going to walk a fair portion of this so walk strong.
- Go pretty hard at downhills, take as much speed as possible. Flats (if you find any) take at a steady pace, shake out the legs.
- Mile 4.3 to 5.3 longest single climb of the day. Wall Point Road, Keep climbing strong and steady, keep going, you can do it!
- Yes, the hill will end, just put your head down and get it done.
- Mile 8.8 Turn off Summit Trail to BBQ Terrace Trail WOOT!! Take a picture at the peak of the race and send to husbeast, should be about an hour to go from here.
- Downhill is gonna feel great for a minute and then the suck will set in. Go as fast as is safe, slow down or take breaks if you need to.
- Mile 9 is gonna blow, as it gets shallower open up your stride.
- Charging hills is totally cool on the way down, get aggressive! Heart rate can definitely start to move up.
- Start to think about your finish line pose. Hands up? Take off hat? Get ready to finish.
- Mile 13.2 One last hill
- Here it is!! Look good for your adoring fans, raise your hands up and smile!!
That’s it, easy right? I said I wanted to go 3 hours. The problem there is my long training runs have been 17-18 minutes per mile and I would need to average 13 minutes per mile. So that’s a stretch goal. My real goal is finish and have fun. This is a very challenging course but I have the feeling it’s gonna be a great time.
This sounds awesome! Click through on the image to go enter a raffle for some awesome prizes.
I will be jogging the Oakland Hella-Ween 5k on October 25th with Pippi and my awesome and much beloved BOB Stroller. Now I’m on the hunt for a similar race for November 8th. Even if I don’t find an official race, I’ll be getting my jog on, on November 8th!
I am lucky to have a toddler who asks to go running with me and will happily sit in the stroller for almost two hours while I get the miles in. I used to run with my kid in the jogging stroller a lot. I don’t do it as much these days because I’m running at lunch during the work day or I’m running double digits on trails and single track to prep for a trail race. While I love my BOB stroller, I accept its limitations.
When my half marathon is done, I will be getting more stroller time in. For extra credit I will also take the dog with us. Multitasking can be crappy and it can be awesome. Getting my training, having time with my daughter (we chat about the scenery), getting the dog walked, and giving my stay at home spouse some quiet alone time is the good kind of multitasking.
The Diablo Trail Adventure is coming up in less than three weeks!
Training is peaking this week. Five miles at lunch on Tuesday, a 45 minute tempo run today, and 12 miles on Sunday. I feel great. The heart rate monitor is helping me target my training to the correct zones. As I suspected, before I was using it my fast runs were too slow and my slow runs were too fast.
I’m not sure I’m ever going to understand what “comfortably hard” means but I’m getting to grips with “embarrassingly slow” for my recovery days. I think I’ll label them “unashamedly slow,” I’m never going to be embarrassed that I’m getting out there and getting it done, no matter the speed (or lack there of).
It’s always a bonus when you can feel your increased fitness. Yesterday I was riding my bike up the hill and I got out of the saddle a lot. It was easy! Just up and out and booking it to survive a 1.75 mile bike commute through East-ish Oakland. I never used to get out of the saddle. Even short jumps left me completely out of breath. Getting out of the saddle was reserved for going downhill and relieving some pressure in my back.
I don’t ride a long way, but I get on my bike twice a day, five days a week. Mornings down the hill, evenings back up. My gearing choice in the evening depends on what my workout was the day before. In the mornings, down the hill, I rarely shift out of the hardest chainring/cassette combo. As an experiment, I stayed in my biggest chainring going up the hill last week, in the evening. It was doable, not super easy, but it didn’t exhaust me to buckle down and get up the hill that much faster.
This video is profound.
For any endurance athlete or for people affected by depression. It’s short, give it a go.
P.S. This is how I see myself running, I do not look like this, but when I visualize the way it makes me feel, this is it.
Sunday before last, I went out for my long run. 8 miles on the schedule, no biggie, about two hours for me on hilly trails.
It sucked. I was just out of gas. The muscle strength was there I just couldn’t make my legs move. At one point I just stopped. Stopped walking, because I surely wasn’t running. My dog, Archie, looked at me. He wasn’t tired. I didn’t want to move anymore. I did move, it was two miles back to the car and sometimes it helps to have zero options.
As I was running it was hard to pinpoint what was going on. I was so miserable and tired. I spent a few days dissecting the run and that is where the smarts come in. No run is “bad.” Some are much harder than others but in all things, it is the most challenging experiences that can teach us the most. I unpacked the whole weekend to figure out why a run that I should have been able to complete if not easily, then at least feeling decent was a death march for the three miles.
What I Learned:
The Long Run starts the day before. And the day before this run I was at my aunt’s wake. The day before that, an old friend died unexpectedly. I wasn’t sleeping well that weekend.
Lesson 1 – Never underestimate the effect of emotions on your body. Emotional exhaustion = physical exhaustion.
At the wake I was happy to see my family and sad for the occasion. I dressed up. I wore heels and make up. I danced to the bagpipes with my toddler (yup, proper wake!) Jumping up and down in heels carrying 25 pounds of little girl doesn’t make for a good lung run the next day
Lesson 2 – Stay focused. I lost my future focus (see lesson 1) and was completely in the moment. It was fun but I paid for it.
There was a light lunch at the wake. I didn’t track how much I ate. We ended up eating a late lunch at 3 PM and got home at 4:30 PM. We were all tired so I turned on the TV to watch some Thomas the Tank Engine. The next thing I knew it was almost bed time for Pip so she had a dinner of Joe-Os and raisins and I didn’t really have dinner at all.
Lesson 3 – Fueling is a constant. When I don’t track what I am eating and ensure I get enough protein, my body does not have what it needs to carry me and no amount of wishful thinking can change that.
I tried a new fuel on my run. This I knew was a risk. I was trying out eating dates as fuel. One date every ten minutes equals about my gel consumption.
Lesson 4 – Dates don’t work for long runs as fuel.
The recommendation for dates as fuel came from a bicycling website (Loving the Bike). Digestion is different for cycling and running so that might account for why the dates didn’t work very well. The dates not only did not provide me the energy to run, they also gave me a bit of GI distress, which is something I have been lucky enough to avoid for my endurance life. They stuck in my teeth, so I found myself drinking more water than usual to try to rinse my mouth out. They tasted alright but overall they do not get a pass. Maybe for a future bike ride or hike I will try dates or dates mixed with other dried fruit and see how that goes down.
Lesson 5 – Scheduling is important
If I could have not run long on that day, I would have. September is booked up, socially. Every weekend has at least one social commitment. The weekend before the tough run was a fall back week, the weekend after had even more social commitments. I had to get the run in on this day and I should have tempered my expectations. Disappointment is really powerful. The expectation that I would be running at a specific pace set me up for a negative jolt when I saw how slowly I was going.
Lesson 6 – it’s all good.
That run took ~2:45 for 8.5 miles. The good part is that I toughed it out. I didn’t give up. I was tired and I kept going and I’ve developed mental toughness. The physical endurance is built no matter how slow you go. I’ve learned a lot from the run so the difficulty, the fatigue, and the hurt are not wasted.
I know what went sideways for this run. The trick now is integrating that and staying focused on what I want. I want to run and race well. So no more high heels until the holidays, keep fueling, keep sleeping, and recognize when maybe it’s time to take a break or maybe just when it’s going to be a tough day.
Everyday around 3 PM a security guard passes near to my office and announces “…level is all clear.”
This is juxtaposed with the fact that all the conference rooms on this floor are named after famous penitentiaries.
In our last episode, our intrepid heroine undertook to set her heart rate zones based on a Rate of Perceived Exertion Test. Said test was demonstrably wrong. Because I am absolute crap at working out to RPE. The next day I replaced my scheduled tempo run with a 30 minute treadmill time trial.
The Procedure: Warm up for 5-10 minutes, run for 30 minutes at best effort, cool down for 5-10 minutes. Take average of heart rate for the last 20 minutes of the effort.
Best Effort? The fastest pace that you can maintain for the time period. Your best effort for one minute is way different than your best for an hour. There is some fun stuff you can do with testing at various durations and charting the result, but that’s for another day we’re running here!
I set the treadmill at 10 minutes per mile. This is fast for me, for 30 minutes. I have run that fast exactly once in my life. It was a 3.5 mile race about 5 years ago. I had a friend pacing me and I ran absolutely on the red line the whole damn race. I was so close to that line that by the last mile if I started talking I would get nauseous. I kept it up and averaged 9:58 per mile. I nearly vomited at the end of the race. Good times!
That’s the level of effort you’re looking for in a time trial, slow enough to make it the whole way at the same pace, fast enough that you could not go another minute at the end. So it will feel easy at the beginning “Should I go faster? I think I could go faster.” Just right in the middle “Alright, this is good. I’m working but I’m not hurting.” Like death at the end “Dear god let it end. I can do it, just another minute, just another minute.”
For reference, see Jens Voight’s Hour Record attempt. (You watched that, right? It was amazing!!)
I had picked a pace that I knew would be hard but that I hoped I could maintain. This was good! I think I could have actually gone faster but it was absolutely work to finish it. I made it the whole way and had a bit of gas in the tank at the end. Not a lot though, so the pacing was pretty good.
Now our previous test had given me a Lactate Threshold of 147 beats per minute. I knew this to be false because my predicted max heart rate of 157 was nowhere near the 164 I averaged on my weekend run the previous Sunday.
The new test, the harder test, gave me a Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (let’s just say LT) of 178 beats per minute. Dope. Absolutely. Looks good!
I took that out for a spin the next day. It was an easy day with drills and strides. My goal was to keep my run “Easy” or Zone 2 or lower. As I suspected, my heart rate monitor slowed me down, far below my usual speed for my easy days. I was running outside and it was getting on to 80 degrees. Higher heat = higher heart rate so my easy run pace is slower in the noon day sun than when I’m getting my miles in on the treadmill. At the enforced slow pace I felt great. I didn’t have to take walk breaks to finish the run and today I feel great. I could have kept up that Zone 2 shuffle for hours.
Next week we’ll see where it puts me when I do my 400 meter intervals at 5k +~30 seconds per mile pace. I’ll go with the rate I’ve been using and see where my hear rate goes. Then I will adjust to get my heart where it needs to get the most out of my training time.
I got my Wahoo TICKR X! I took a long time deciding on which heart rate monitor to buy and there were some travails. I am very excited to train with heart rate. I’m really bad at determining by Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). Like many runners, I run my easy days too hard and my hard days too easy, I think. I’ve been running off a pace chart based on how fit I was in January. This is totally inaccurate by now.
Today I ran a test workout meant to determine my heart rate zones. It was a Lactate Threshold Test, not a Max Heart Rate Test. It wasn’t hard and it wasn’t meant to be. A kinder, gentler Lactate test. The testing was based on RPE, which I’m very bad at attaching to a pace. The test gave me a Lactate Threshold of 147. Ok, sounds good.
Except on my run this weekend, my heart rate averaged 164 for three miles. I was going what I would call 10K race pace, which is supposed to be at about the Lactate Threshold. Notice I’m not talking about abstract speed here. Speed to heart rate mapping sucks when you are a multi-terrain athlete. The heart rate from running 12 min/ mile on smooth pavement is going to be massive different from the heart rate of 12 min/mile on trails or pushing a jogging stroller. If my Lactate Threshold was 147, my heart rate of 164 would be sprinting, super, ultra, absolutely as fast as I could run for 100 yards. Utterly unsustainable for 3 miles.
One of the aspects of my athletic self that I am trying to develop is the acceptance that going fast is going to be uncomfortable. That it’s gonna hurt sometimes. Like most beings, I’m not a fan of pain and I avoid it. Achieving more of my athletic potential is going to involve being willing to get into the pain cave. My RPE estimations are terrible because I’m supposed to guess if I could hold a particular pace for an hour and I have no idea! I know the pace I want to hold, I know the paces I have held. I know how far apart those are.
I performed the test on a treadmill and I’m sure that affected the outcome. I was setting the speed at paces I have been using, rather than going by feel alone. Given that this got me going a touch under 12 min/mile it was still quite an easy day. I’m thinking I will take part of that time and perform a second kind of test. This test is a lot harder. Conveniently, I’m schedule for a 30 min tempo run tomorrow (that is a fairly hard run), so this shouldn’t throw me off my training plan. I’ll report back after tomorrow with updated heart rate numbers and the result of my testing!