Turns out a bit more mileage does actually make one faster!

I still remember the four mile run in the park back in Grad School City with MountainMan during which he told me he thought I’d eventually be able to recover from my persistent foot injury and work my way back up to 35 mile weeks. At the time this seemed nearly impossible, but his confident talk gave me hope.

Now, over the last couple weeks, I’m averaging 45 miles per week, 10 miles beyond that 35-miles-per-week dream.

I’m absolutely thrilled…and have purposely inserted a lower mileage week into my training in order to avoid riding this fun higher-mileage wave right into a brutal injury-or-sickness crash. As seen in my lovely training plot below that slope is getting a teensy bit frightening :-O Time for some short recovery days to reward myself and protect my legs.

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2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 weekly mileage. Those 3 2017 months make quite the ski-jump slope ;-P March is a little artificially inflated due to a long run and a long workout in the 10-day span.

However, even during this chill, restrained week I am enjoying the benefit of having several consistent weeks of higher mileage training in my legs. About 4 weeks ago I did a workout of 2 x 2 miles at tempo pace with 2 minutes recovery in between. I managed the sets at 7:16 pace average, with a rough , slower second repeat and a very upset stomach after (lunch enchiladas on workout day = poor decision).

This week I did the same workout, but with an added third 2-mile repeat. I lucked out with a breezy but sunny free afternoon post dentist appointment, and headed over to the ~1200m bike path loop around the local pond/park. I went out hitting 7:09’s and spent the 2nd mile thinking ‘This feels lovely, but oh man I may have just made the rest of this workout exceedingly painful…’. The second set was (unintentionally) even quicker, at just under 14 minutes for the repeat. I tried to relax at the end, and went into my two minute recovery thinking the last set was either going to be amazing or a total mess.

The last repeat was definitely tough with 4 fast miles already in my legs, but I held it together and gritted my way to a final repeat average 7:03! That put me at an average of 7:05 for two miles further than four weeks ago, a pretty big jump and a huge mental-toughness and physical fitness confidence boost for the BolderBoulder 10k coming up at the end of May.

I jogged slowly home and spent the evening just about talking MM’s ear about off with post-workout energy. Luckily he’s a patient listener and is still run-nerdy enough to get excited about my random speedy workout 🙂

I looked back at last Fall and realized this workout was better than all but one of my pre-13.1 workouts. The biggest difference seems to just be base mileage since I haven’t done *that* many workouts since coming back from my break. Last year I had a few low-40’s weeks, but was still regularly in the mid-high 20’s for weekly mileage. With consistent training for a year and a quarter I finally have the mileage in my legs to allow me to do a six-mile workout, and 8-10 mile workout days (warmup, workout, and cool down total). The difference is amazing – I still struggle through the end of long workouts and long runs, but I don’t end every run feeling a little ragged, and I can pile on longer workouts without spending every ounce of energy that I have. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t actually notice a difference with the bump up in mileage but it looks like increased training is treating me kindly and my legs, lungs, and heart are all absorbing the increase and rewarding me with improved performance!

Hurrah for exercise physiology theory working in real life and the practice of slowly wearing down my running shoe soles paying off in fun, fast workouts 😀

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Winter running – February highlights a few days early

Winter running is ROUGH. There’s snow and ice everywhere, it’s dark all the time, the trails are all closed or snowed over, and cold viruses are abundant. I’ve been struggling to stay motivated, and to avoid injury on the bumpy, slippery winter streets. Podcasts and the promise of post-run hot cocoa (and warming my hands up on poor MountainMan’s furnace-like stomach) have been lifesavers on the more miserable days.

However, in spite of the regular bouts of wishing I was somewhere tropical and my generally poor attitude I’ve actually managed to get in a very solid month of training just by shoving myself out the door on a regular basis. So far my average weekly mileage is the highest it’s been since right after undergrad, and I’m getting in some road/track workouts that are promising for the upcoming racing season. All these frozen runs may actually be worthwhile!

Some highlights from the month:

1.Calf massages from MountainMan – my calves have been reacting to speed work by turning into whiney balls of ouch, and MM has been very generous with the calf torture. I’m a lucky gal! I think he may just get a kick out of watching me squirm…

2.    This workout-sunset combo: the workout was very grumpy and snot-rocket-puncuated but did involve some magical sub-6:00 pace 400’s! My legs are gradually remembering what ‘fast’ feels like and it’s cool to feel the neuromuscular changes.

3.  The mountain climb race, even though it was much more grueling than expected. It’s amazing what some fun post-run time with friends and amazing post-run brunch can do to cheer one up! I think I may have convinced MM to take advantage of his speed-hiking skills to climb his way to a men’s win next year…

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So much pain face :-O I look like I’m doing a painful-scream duet with my calves.

4. The moment I discovered that the local high school track was plowed off. Look at that gorgeously un-icy speed work surface ❤img_9274

5. New (garishly bright) shoes! I’m going to be so sad when the ‘obnoxiously bright’ running shoe trend ends…img_9358

What have everyone else’s February running highlights been? Any fun strategies for dealing with the late-winter struggles?

Team

Guess what I finally got in the mail! My Oiselle Voleé singlet! I’ve been (impatiently) awaiting it’s arrival since the original team membership order this Spring, and had almost given up hope on its arrival after the original order was lost by the USPS forwarding office. However, it finally made its way to me and I am thrilled that I’ll be able to officially represent the team next time I race!

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Why am I so excited to join this team? After all, I’ve seen a few criticisms about the newest form of the team, including the comments that it’s too big, too impersonal, or is a trick to get people to pay to advertise the company’s clothing. From what I know the original team was much smaller and had a few more perks, so in comparison the newer team set-up, with many more members, a focus on online rather than face-to-face interaction, and a membership fee rather than exclusively free perks.

I did consider these cons when applying, and decided I still had many reasons to be enthusiastic about the joining the team. Individual enthusiasm for this form of team may vary, but here’s what has me excited to fly with the Voleé:

  1. Virtual/wide-spread team isn’t  really a negative for me. Sure, I’d love to have people to train with on a regular basis, but I also enjoy the ability to run at whatever time I need to on a given day, and the freedom to modify my training plan and running routes on the fly. My recent experiences with friends in creating virtual teams for encouragement and accountability with training has shown me that being surrounded by team, even if you’re not actually training physically together, is still valuable to staying positive and motivated during the rough patches of training, and being encouraged to celebrate each small success during better times.
  2. I’ve observed great team cohesiveness with all the Voleé that I’ve met in person and online, and I am also ok with not personally knowing every single member of the team. I’d love to meet all the women in my state section of the team, and will definitely seek out teammates to run with/cheer with when I travel out of state. The lack of exclusivity isn’t a problem for me – with a larger team that just means more likelihood of finding women to run with.
  3. The purpose of the membership fee and the benefits that go along with it were clear and seemed reasonable to me. The fee included a singlet and spike bag, membership to the team forums and newsletters, a discounted pair of shorts/tights, free shipping, special team-only sales or early access to sales/items, and a donation to the developing athletes fund. Some of these definitely encourage more clothing purchases, but honestly, anyone joining the team probably already likes Oiselle’s clothing so isn’t suffering too much from the purchase-related perks. I’m honestly ecstatic to have a team singlet that isn’t huge/stinky/required to be turned back in at the end of the season (as I did in every school xc and track program), and can’t wait to use the discount on some pricy tights this winter which I probably wouldn’t be able to buy otherwise (ah, the good Colorado winters…tights wear out quickly up here). Being able to contribute to the emerging athlete fund is extremely valuable to me as I have several friends who are currently in that category, one of whom runs for Oiselle. In my current financial circumstances (i.e., not grad school) I’d actually give more to the fund if that was an option.

I’ve already met 3 teammates in person, and look forward to meeting more as I watch for matching singlets at races (should be easy to spot with the snazzy, eye-catching design!). I’ll admit the singlet also brings with it dreams of open meet cross-country teams, relays, and feeling at least sort-of legit if I end up lining up for any track races next Spring/Summer.

Sure, one doesn’t need an official team to do these things, but I’m excited to move forward with a supportive, enthusiastic team of athletes to call on when I need a boost during a busy, exhausting week, a group to cheer with, or a singlet to run beside in a challenging race.

#headupwingsout

Training and travel – strategies for conference survival without becoming a muffin and coffee-fueled blob

After returning home from Oregon I had just three days at home before cramming everything back into my suitcase and heading out for a conference a few hours drive away. The quick turnaround and long day of working, driving, and then finishing up some urgent work left me starting the 4 day conference already tired, but I was determined to get in some decent training in spite of the circumstances.

I’m going to sleep extremely well tonight and the drive home required a large cup of iced coffee, but I managed to fit in all but the last couple conference sessions, some socializing, and still hit my training goals of 1) 32-36 miles (~33 total) for the week, and 2) regular core and hip exercises.

Here’s what worked well, and what didn’t for getting my runs in during a hectic few days:

 

Packed running clothes and shoes!

  • Yes, this seems like a freebie, but I was frazzled enough that I could have screwed this up had I not created a list and then laid everything out in very organized piles on my bed while packing.

Running in the morning/being flexible with run timing:

  • Even though getting out of bed before 5:30 after a late night was rough, running in the morning the first day of the conference allowed me to attend the evening social/networking functions. However, I slacked off and didn’t quite get up on time, meaning I had to squeeze in a few miles between the end of the conference sessions and the evening events. I had to be a little cautious with the beer at the event after losing so much water to sweat during my half-hour slog in the scorching sun.
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Not pictured – my elbows dripping sweat in the adjacent grass while taking this shot 😐

  • On the second day of the conference we had a short morning session only, which meant I got to head out for a longer run after going to lunch with some lab-mates. I planned to run and then catch up on work, but ended up being less efficient due to an unexpected tornado warning. That’s definitely not the usual thing that delays a run for me!!!

Finding new places to explore, and planning at least the start of my routes out ahead of time, and utilizing Strava’s segment explorer/GPS map:

  • I planned one run from the place I was staying, and two runs in nearby parks that required short drives to the start. Since I ended up doing two runs on Thursday I actually did two from the hotel, but managed to find different trails on my morning and afternoon runs (hurrah!). For my other two runs I planned the start of my routes through the parks and then used the trail signs and Strava’s segment explorer to figure out where to explore from there. Having a smartphone and Strava has definitely improved my running away from home, where good running trails and paths can be hard to figure out without reference to the popular local routes, and the fear of getting lost can inhibit exploring if one doesn’t have an easy way of mapping out directions back to the start.

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Heading out even when I didn’t feel like it or conditions weren’t ideal:

  • I really need my introvert time and conferences are not so great for this. I ended the day on Friday feeling totally wiped out from sitting and absorbing SCIENCE all day, as well as emotionally wiped from trying to keep up on some of the really shitty things going on in this week’s news. When the tornado warning popped up I was tempted to just crawl into bed and trade my run in for a nap, but instead made myself get dressed to run so that I would be ready when the storm cleared. Going for a run ended up providing a much stronger rejuvenation of mind and body than a nap would have, and I was grateful for the time to unwind and focus only on the scenery and my foot placement on the winding sand-and-rock-strewn trails.
  • It was extremely hot compared to the temperatures I’ve been running in, but I managed to stay positive about this by viewing it as an opportunity to improve my somewhat dismal heat tolerance.
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Bunnies!

Eating healthy and staying well hydrated:

  • Hahahaha, yep, I totally failed at this. I did finally manage to get some healthier groceries so I would’t have to live entirely off free conference coffee and sugary breakfast pastries, but I definitely ate much less fruit and veggies than usual and spent the last couple days with mild nausea due to dehydration and eating wayyyy too many of the tiny, citrus-flavored candies that were the only food provided besides breakfast at the conference itself.

 

Any other stellar running-during-travel tips out there?

Sawtooth Relay: 2016 goal check.

I can officially check off one of my 2016 athletics goals: I made it healthy and in relatively decent shape to my friend and my long-awaited relay race!

True to my original goal of a healthy, strong run, I managed to run both my 6 and 5 mile legs while keeping a smile on my face and enough pep in my legs to pass quite a few members of the slower teams that had started in front of us. Our team proved to be a great mix of strengths and personalities, making the entire experience an absolute blast. We had snacks galore, an awesome cheering habit, some sweet support vehicle decor, and tons of (temporary) tattoos for maximum (temporary) bad-assery.

And the scenery? Breathtaking…especially during the high-altitude running legs 😉

Race report: LaSportiva Boneyard Boogie 11k trail race

Saturday’s race started off tough a few weeks ago when I previewed the course and apparently overextended myself to the point of becoming ill. I tried to shake off the less-than-great impression of the course, but still felt some lingering dread even through Friday’s (heavy-legged) shakeout run. I knew the course was exceptionally tough, and I feared that my relatively low endurance level would turn the majority of the race into a heavy-legged slog.

Luckily, I received two unexpected confidence boosters for this race that stemmed from my decision to join the Oiselle Volee. First, upon arriving home on tired, achy legs and feet on Friday night I discovered a mysterious brown envelope that turned out to be the Oiselle Volee welcome mailer! I immediately added the enclosed ‘I run for Oiselle’ sticker to my water bottle sticker collection and savored the cheerful surprise while downing some pasta and spending some quality time with my foam roller.

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On race morning I received another needed boost in the form of a Oiselle singlet flashing by during my warmup. I ended up stretching next to the singlet’s wearer (Rachel) and asked if she was with the local Oiselle group. It turned out she was from a few towns West and was returning to the trail series after a year or so off for a back injury. We happily chatted as we walked to the start and lined up together on the line. As the wave of racers took off onto the short dirt road stretch before the single track I tucked in behind her and we climbed the first hill together. The feeling of having a teammate and a singlet to keep an eye on in the crowd of runners brought me back to my high school and college days and provided reassurance during the heart-pounding uphill sprint to the single track.

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The quick course narrowing meant spending time in trains, trailing slower runners and then sprinting past groups of 1 or 2 on the turns or slightly wider sections. I was fortunate to be in almost exactly the same shape as my new-found teammate, and we spent the first 1.5 miles within a few runners, alternating between settling in and popping out wide to surge ahead in the line of runners.

At around the 1.5 mile mark I felt good and pushed ahead a bit, passing Rachel and another woman. I kept climbing, feeling pretty good until 2.5 miles. After 2.5 things started to get tough since we’d been climbing steadily since the start and it was beginning to warm up as the sun rose higher overhead. I focused on keeping the doubts quiet and impatiently looked for the 2nd aid station, which signaled the switch to downhill running.

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Up, up, up, doooooown

The 2nd aid station finally appeared out of the sagebrush and I happily grabbed some water, choked on it, and started my descent. I hadn’t gone more than half a mile when I heard two runners thundering down the windy, steep singletrack behind me, feet moving at least twice as fast as mine. I couldn’t match their speed so pulled to the side and let them pass. Happily, one was a buddy from running club and one was an extremely long-legged dude, so I didn’t feel too bad letting them wiz by at breakneck speed.

However, I really struggle with the downhill speed, especially on tired legs, and I was soon passed by another woman. The day had started to get truly hot and I was beginning to drag. Getting passed was discouraging, but luckily balanced out by the opportunity to pass several younger men/boys who had apparently gone wayyyy too hard in the first 3 miles. Around mile 5 I realized I only had 2 miles left and briefly pushed the pace. However, the heat and my own exhaustion fought back, and I paused briefly on the side of the trail as an unpleasant combination of despair in ever being done and hyperventilation overcame me. A woman’s voice from behind yelled ‘Are you ok?’ and snapped me out of my little pity party. I yelled back that I was fine and began running again to try to stay ahead of this concerned rival. We ran together over the last mile, with me focusing intently on matching her (much smoother) stride in an effort to stick with her.

With 400m left I knew I wasn’t going to catch her, so I just focused on pushing through the last (paved & flat, hallelujah!) little bit to keep anyone from sneaking by behind me.

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Pace/elevation profile. Windy trails do not make for steady running 😛

In the end, Rachel finished just 40 seconds back and we ended up placing 1-2 in our 20-29 age group. Go birds! I was happily surprised by the placing, and with my overall 8th place in the Women’s category, considering the relatively deep field of local ultra stars and serious trail racers. I finished in just under an hour – decent considering the course record of 51:08 and my complete inability to ride the downhill rather than clomping down it like an overly-cautious draft horse.

The after party was excellent (yogurt, pasta, salad, and a gear raffle) and any disappointment with my race (like the stopping and downhill struggle) was alleviated by the great atmosphere and post-race talk with the many friends from running and cycling club, plus my newly-met Volee teammate, who’d joined in the fun.

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The two lessons I took away from today’s race:

  1. Team helps soooo much. I’d almost forgotten this with all the decent runs alone lately, but it really does help to have the moral support and team mentality mid-race.
  2. I am in desperate need of some downhill form work and downhill strides to help with my speed. It’s free velocity so I really shouldn’t turn it down.

Patience

There’s nothing quite like pulling out your race planning calendar and penciling in the highlights of the abundance of summer races to make one short on patience. I’m dreaming of gnarly trail climbs and fast road races, and all I really want to do is bust through some gut-wrenching workouts and increasingly lengthy long runs in the newly-arrived Spring weather.

Instead, I’m wrestling with my starry-eyed enthusiasm, pinning it down while I spend a week on lower mileage in an effort to get my recently uncooperative right foot to loosen up and stop nagging me every few strides. I went a bit too hard last week with a tough workout and a (horribly dehydrating) single-track long run, and my right foot got cranky enough to warrant an attempt at appeasement through reduced mileage. I’m already noticing results – less morning foot stiffness and only a little ache after my last (short) run, but waiting is hard. *sigh*

Based on others’ tales of woe, runners are almost universally lacking in patience. We want to get PR’s, speed through workout progressions and into full fitness, blast the early miles in a race and then carry on in some heroic breakthrough effort, and push through the pain of injury rather than taking the time to fully heal. But if we want to succeed long term, we have to learn to deal with the early season sluggishness, the many races that fall far short of our goal times, the illusionary slow early pace in a long race, and the pains that interrupt our training.

So even though I can still technically run on my nagging foot, I’m giving it a break. I’ll hop on the bike today, with an eye on races 2, 8, 20 weeks down the road rather than the disappointing number at the end of this week’s training log. In two weeks, the number of miles that I hit this week really won’t mean anything…unless it’s a foolishly high number that has me nursing an even sorer foot. My running enthusiasm is going to have to just sit down and chill for a bit until logic and my a-few-weeks-down-the-road planning decide it’s free to launch back into action.

 

Any other patience-enforcing strategies out there?