Sub 20, and an altitude-conversion post college ‘PR’

After the rather disappointing summer trainging spent slogging my way back into shape post injury, and a few decent but not thrilling early fall races, I was starting to have my doubts that I would meet my original season goal of breaking 19 minutes (a 4% improvement from last year, to put it in relative terms). I still have my hopes up for a quick final 5k at the RSNA conference, but also know that colder weather could make it more of a toughness-testing slog than a quick race. I discussed my goal dilemma with MountainMan and he suggested a still-challenging, but maybe more reachable in the short-term goal of breaking 20 minutes at altitude (over 5000 feet). This new goal would let me focus on earlier season races (so any fair weather racing at RSNA would be more of a bonus) and would let me focus for a while on goal-at-altitude pace, which is moreconfidence boosting than the short, lung-busting effort of trying to hit sea-level 5k pace up here at 8000 feet.

Although my few races so far hadn’t been spectacular, recent workouts made me believe I was finally getting into similar form as I was in last year when I just missed a sub-20 at my final cross-country race with some of the local Oiselle voleé team members. It had been a few weeks since my last race and I was itching to get in an all-out effort to see what I could do. 

Two of the races I was hoping to run were scheduled for the same day (and were either on a somewhat boring course or on a more interesting/fun but slow course), so I ended up signing up for a totally different race that one of the Oiselle voleé women was directing as a first-time race in Denver to raise money for migraine research. As someone involved in medical-related research the idea of running to help raise funds for someone else’s research was appealing!

I did the long, dark drive up to Denver, registered and warmed up, and got to meet a few new teammates on the starting line.

halfway through the drive – holiday lights already!

Weird fish on my warmup 😛

starting-line social club 🙂


After a few pre-race instructions we were off! I knew one of the women I’d met on the start line was a speedster, so focused on relaxing while running next to her over the first half mile. Another runner, a tall man in a bright yellow shirt, soon came up between us and I fell back to third in our little line, running stride for stride a in a row a bit like a track race for the first mile or so. The pace felt fast but I figured I would just hang on, keep pushing, and see what I had in my legs and lungs on that morning.

 

By 1 mile to go we were a bit more strung out and I was focusing on keeping my turnover up and pushing through the growing discomfort. I knew I was on pace for something near 20 minutes and was hoping my normal pattern of a slow 2nd mile and faster third mile would hold true.


Finally we hit 400 to go. I had gained on the guy in 2nd but couldn’t quite get up the gear to move around him, instead falling back slightly as he suddenly surged ahead. I was feeling pretty ragged and prayed none of the 1 mile walkers who were also on the course would step in front of me, as I didn’t know if I had the energy to yell or jump around them while keeping up the pace. Finally the finish came in to view and I gave a last bit of effort while watching the clock numbers come into focus.

19:45…pump arms…46…stride….47….gasp…48….49….lean….50!

Sub-20 was checked off my list and I’d managed to snag second place, helping the Oiselle voleé women in the field to a podium sweep! The small but well-matched front pack in a rather sparse field, the perfect racing weather, and the long awaited fitness had all come together beautifully to bring me to my goal with a few races left in the season. My confidence has gotten a nice boost and I’m excited to see what I can get out of my remaining ‘bonus’ races!

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September

Turns out time flies when you’re cramming in long days at work and long post-work runs alongside all the late summer/early fall “ahhh need to get out and enjoy the outdoors and camp and pick berries, etc.” activities.

Since I last had the time/motivation to write I’ve run 3 races, gotten in some really solid mileage (180 miles exactly this month, my highest by a good bit!), gotten out for some camping and berry picking adventures with MountainMan, done a bit of sewing, and attempted (semi-successfully) to catch up at work while also getting enough sleep to support the running recovery.

Races: My first race this month, and first real race since March/April was a rust buster 6k against college women in Colorado Springs. The course was amazing, but a stressful week leading up and a warm day made for a tough race and I finished slower/further back than I would have liked. I was hoping the higher mileage the last couple months would translate to a speedy race but I just didn’t have the turnover or the recent race experience to tell if I was running a sustainable pace.

I came back the next weekend with a challenging, but much more courageously run race. I spent the cross-country 5k chasing two very fast local gals in a small field, and got pulled to a fast time and strong finish. I also made two new running friends 🙂  My most recent race was a sloppy, muddy, foggy 2.5 mile “5 k” out at an elementary school fundraiser. I got to chase an ultra runner dude and a middle school boy through rocks, mud, and horse poop while sliding around in my spikes and just about freezing my legs off. It was a slow course, but a perfect “just practice racing” challenge. Now I’m gearing up for another tough XC race followed by a fast road 5k and then some 13.1 mile prep.

Recovery: After a really rough week of slogging through runs between work and a weeklong scientific conference hosted by my work that started at 7am each day and went until almost 10pm each evening I realized that I just couldn’t keep up the kind of training that I want to do this fall without making more time for recovery. I’ve been semi-successful, with some solid periods of earlier bed times and only small doses of overtime at work, but the balance has been tough. Even comparing races my performance on weeks with enough sleep has been soooo much stronger.

This week we were back to experiment days with a 5:30am start/12-hour day on Tuesday, and I had a miserable tempo run the next day. The day after that I did an early morning run with plans for a 2-a-day, and then crashed midday and chose to sneak out for a nap in my car over my lunch break because I figured I’d be much more efficient afterwards if I took a quick break to recharge. The strategy worked, but I was still dragging on my second run of the day. I’m struggling, but am so glad I at least don’t have a completely horrific work schedule like some of my super-intense-career/career training friends, any extra family obligations, or the stress of working a second job or whatnot to afford my living situation here. This doesn’t make me any less tired but it does make my grateful! Now if only I could get a few projects off my plate and/or just make it to the off season in one piece!

My goals for the coming month are to better prioritize my projects at work to still make progress while also limiting my time spent at work to a reasonable number of hours and to get solid recovery and training in since I really only have 2 months of good running left before the snow hits. The mountains are gorgeous and need to be enjoyed before they turn into gorgeous, but much less runnable, piles of snow!

Oh…it’s August!

Between several busy experiment weeks at work, increased running mileage, and family visits July was an exhausting, but satisfying month.

I spent the second-last weeks cramming in pre-6am specimen MRIs and a couple post-5pm CT scans and MRI re-scans for a time-sensitive (i.e. Refrigerated human body parts only last so long…) experiment, alongside some project plan writing, IRB paperwork, technique teaching, paper revisions, and an interdepartmental presentation that sent my heart briefly into the fat-burn zone on my FitBit but actually went quite well. The busyness of the last few weeks really hit when I ended up vacillating between nausea and extreme sleepiness at the End of Year Clinical-Fellow Hi/Goodbye party and had to head home before the dancing even started 😦

Enjoyed my presentation in spite pf my heart trying to escape


In spite of spending 5-15 extra hours at work the last few weeks I still managed some higher mileage running weeks (35, 40, and 43 miles) and a painful but beautiful trail half marathon. The running piled on a little additional weariness but greatly helped with the work stress, so was worthwhile even in the time-crunched recent few weeks.

I smiled for the camera and then went back to sleep-deprived, dehydrated slogging

Beautiful views followed by 3 hours of nausea…


The feeling of being stretched thin at work was also soothed by an amazing visit with my friend who just started a family medicine residency a few hours away and the promise of a few days off for a sister + MIL/FIL/BIL family visit. I am so lucky to have such wonderful people in my life 🙂

our fur-baby and BIL’s 5 month old puppy

Sister really savoring our time together bahaha

Family time on the train tracks

The desert near friend’s residency town – beautiful rocks and saw bats, frogs, bighorn sheep, and collared lizards!

#DayofScience

Apparently Thursday was #DayofScience. To celebrate I thought I’d share a couple typical if my typical ‘days of science’.

Experiment day:

July 13th was actually a specimen scan day so the schedule is *quite* fresh in my mind as I write this.

3:45 a.m.

Wake up (*yawwwwwn*), drive to work with radio blasting & careful eyes out for early morning deer trying to cross the highway.

4:30 a.m. – 7:00 a.m.

Arrive at medical center/research center. Clock in, change into scrubs, head into cadaver lab and prep specimens for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning (i.e. put in labeled biohazard bags and try not to let them leak all over)

Meet technologist at scanner, get protocols set up, eat bagels while magical physics makes images

7:30 a.m.

Pull up images, freak out because artifact screwed up the one image we didn’t check on scanner before ending the session

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Wrapping 😦      (The bright blob near the bottom is actually the top part of the shoulder, it shouldn’t run into the dark shapes of the scapula and humerus. MRI can use the phase of the molecule’s spin as a localizer by varying the magnetic field, and thus the resulting spin frequency, over the length or width of an image. Different frequencies makes the spins in different locations hit different phases of the spin at the same time. Here the MRI scanner got confused about the pixel location because the location-specific-phase for the upper and lower pixels in the image were the same due to inadequate phase range, so the computer thought the pixels should be in same location & overlaid them. Not helpful.)

7:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

Talk to radiologist, technologist, research assistant, surgeon; get make-up scan slot squeezed in

Re-prep specimen, lug downstairs after wrapping *very* carefully so as to not freak out patients, get scanned, lug back upstairs

Get images off PACS (picture archiving and communication system), check images, sigh with relief because they look ok, let research assistant and surgeons know we’re ok to move forward.

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Better MR image (left) next to CT image of same shoulder (right). No weird wrapping this time!

9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Wait for surgeon who’s doing the research surgery to get through a morning case. Eat lunch while working on an end-of-year department summary.

11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Discuss surgery with surgeon, find out he needs measurements from CT, run down to CT to talk to radiology tech, get 3D volumes, run back upstairs, find out 3D view angles aren’t quite right.

1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Coordinate to get radiologist and surgeon to talk to each other, finally succeed and call surgery off in order to allow time to get measurements, firm up research plan.

Reduce frustration about delay by getting a hot cocoa.

Put shoulder specimens back in fridge, change out of scrubs. Mourn loss of clothing with real pockets.

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Come up with way to do the measurements in Mimics with more adjustable volume rendering, send examples to surgeon for approval.

3:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.

Meet with director of another department, discuss collaborative research projects.

3:15 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Work more on research presentation, emails, a few other small tasks.

Talk to PI about an industry project proposal.

Realize I forgot to eat my afternoon snack when my stomach cramps so hard I feel slightly ill.

5:30 p.m.

Head home!!! Shirk actual dinner making duties in favor of heating up pasta and sauce-from-a-jar with husband, who also worked a long day.

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4:30 a.m. versus 4:30 p.m. after wayyyy too many trips up and down the stairs

Normal, much more relaxed day:

7:00 a.m.

Arrive at work, clock in, check email

Grab large coffee (yay!) from hospital cafeteria

Chat with PI briefly in break room

8:00 – 9:00 a.m.

Work on PowerPoint presentation for PI

9:00 a.m.

Fill out some IRB paperwork

Bug PI for IRB paperwork signatures

Scan/mail IRB paperwork

Re-print and scan/mail at least one piece of IRB paperwork because I invariably miss something…

10:30 a.m.

Snack time! First snack of the day while starting some Matlab analysis

Debug code, run code, look at the lovely resulting data plots

12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Lunch, either with coworkers or at desk with a book

1:00 p.m. -4:00 p.m.

Work on some image segmentation on Mimics, manually tracing regions of interest in MR or CT scan images on touchscreen

Grab a second (smaller) coffee and afternoon snack

More Mimics!

4:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Meet with researchers from another department to go over a collaborative project

4:30 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.

Send out more emails, wrap up work

Make to-do list for next day

5:00 p.m. Leave and go running 🙂

 

June running – snowy relays to sweaty, sun-burnt long runs

June turned out to be quite the wild running month. I started the month off in injury-recovery mode, praying things would hold together and get me through a frigid, snow-flurry-filled Sawtooth Relay without letting down my team or suffering a major hamstring set-back, and ended the month with a much happier hamstring and the confidence and strength to enjoy some long runs back on the trails in the summer heat.

Some highlights:

  1. Sawtooth Relay – in spite of a brief scare the day before (hamstring cramped briefly after a shakeout run with my teammate/friend) I was actually able to push the pace with zero pain or tightness, even with the couple hours of cramped van riding between my two relay legs! Our team had a blast as we pushed through swirling snow, sideways rain, and (luckily small!) hail stones to reach the much-appreciated sunshine at the finish line.

    HSCC3933

    Went from getting pelted with half-frozen snow/rain to getting bombarded by hail and wind gusts. But at least it was warm enough for shorts on leg 2!

  2. New Oiselle singlet arrived. A small but fun highlight since I am a sucker for new running clothes. I can’t wait to fly in this sunset-glow design at my next race!  IMG_0270
  3. Return to trails! After a week of lowkey recovery after the relay I re-committed to my hamstring rehab and gradually tested my hamstring out on hillier, more demanding terrain. My final week in June included some long, hilly trail runs with no mid-run or post-run soreness, and enough confidence to enjoy the amazing trail views rather than constantly worrying about my hamstring.
  4. Managed a brief handstand balance with no body parts touching the wall! This one isn’t strictly running related, but did renew my motivation to continue consistent core and upper body strength work. The effect of strength and stability during easy running is less obvious, so it’s nice to have a more demanding test to see the results of all that flopping around on the yoga mat and getting dog hair all over my hands by doing pushups around the house.

Now it’s July and the trails are calling! I plan to spend as much time enjoying the singletrack as possible while using the lessons of March, April, and May to remind me to stay on top of pre/re-hab before little twinges take me back off the trails.

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Summer – the season for long runs and outdoor ice baths 🙂