Monday, June 29, 2015

Workouts - June 29, 2015

This week has been two things: busy and HOT.  Despite a Saturday with a sunrise temperature of 80 degrees and the dewpoint at 78 (spoiler: that is 99% humidity), I made it out for a club run.

Track Club ladies.  You can see me here living out a life principal I like to call "no shirts over 80 degrees."  Not to get all sappy, but I love how running brings people together.  This group ranges in age from 25 to 60 and I learn more about their lives each week.    

Workouts for June 22-28, 2015 
Monday: 5.5 miles on Lakeshore Trail, 9:15 pace in hideously hot weather, hour-long lower body workout at PT
Tuesday: 5.2 hilly miles on my favorite downtown loop, run as a progression (9:18 pace, first mile 10:03, last mile 8:37)
Wednesday: full body resistance circuit at home (45 minutes)
Thursday: 5.6 miles on Lakeshore Trail, 9:01 pace 
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 8.2 miles with the Track Club, 9:13 pace
Sunday: 20 minutes of weights before my hour-long group cycling class
Strava Log

Last Sunday was the summer solstice, so I'm hoping we won't see temperatures like this past week's again until next year (I'm not selling the bike shop, though).  During the middle of the week, the heat index was around 105, with extremely high humidity and poor air quality.  It has definitely been a good motivation to get out of bed before sunrise.  My insane husband goes out and runs on his lunch break.  Seriously, I will never be as tough as him.

I'm settling into a good routine with my training that goes like this:

Monday: pre-dawn run of 5-7 miles
Tuesday: early run downtown
Wednesday: lower body weights (plus maybe a short run or other cardio)
Thursday: another early run of 5-7 miles
Friday: rest
Saturday: long run
Sunday: upper body weights and group cycling class

This week's Saturday run group.  Again with the no shirt thing.

In case you're curious, my "warmup" involves sitting around waiting for the 6 am start time.

This week's Saturday run with the Track Club was a "step back" run of only eight miles.  Our club training plans have periodicity, meaning we do a very hard week, followed by two moderate weeks with increasing mileage, then an easier week.  Each four-week cycle has a little more volume and intensity than the cycle before.  That gives your body an opportunity to recover and absorb the training.  If you pay attention to my training logs, you can see that I try to build this periodicity into my own training as best I can.

Also, most of the runners in town (including me) are getting ready to race on Saturday.  The Peavine Falls Run is an 8.2-mile trail combo race on Oak Mountain.  It is a regional classic, always on the Fouth of July, and it's been held since 1980.  The distance is weird because the race goes to the top of Peavine Falls (duh).  It's a tough course...the first 3.7 miles are like climbing a staircase, then you have to pump the brakes for a steep downhill on singletrack trail.

I am absolutely thrilled to be recovered from my injury and I can't wait to run Peavine.  I don't have any time goals because the course is so odd and I'm not really back in racing shape yet.  I want to run in control the whole time and enjoy myself.  That's it.

After Peavine, I'm going to evaluate my performance and decide where to go for the rest of the summer.  I'm toying with the idea of a formal heart rate training plan, or customizing something for myself.  I'm looking at some published plans, including this one that was sent to me by a friend:

Obviously, this is a fairly advanced plan with a high volume of running (for me).  But I like the philosophy.  

At any rate, I have several weeks to decide.  We have a good bit of vacation coming up, because I impulsively made plans to go camping, then bought cheap tickets for a week in the mountains.  Hardcore training for fall can wait until after then ;)

Have a great week!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Diet Part I: Is it Possible to Clean Up Your Diet While Distance Running?

This is a question I ask myself frequently.  Mostly on my long run days.  With my head stuck in the freezer eating ice cream from the carton.  In this weekly update post, I wrote about things I want to do differently this year, and mentioned diet specifically.  It really got me thinking.

It's a common complaint from runners training for long distances.  At track club events, on running forums, in conversations with my training buddies, I hear the same things over and over.  "I am soooooo hungry."  "You wouldn't believe the absolute crap I've been eating."  "All this running makes me so hungry I can't lose any weight!"  Or: "I'm eating like a teenager and still dropping weight."

Obviously, you need a huge amount of calories to support a marathon training cycle.  Some long runs can burn up to 2,000 calories, or roughly the equivalent of what I eat in a whole day.

Eighteen miles = a whole day's worth of calories.  Gone. 

Plus, running 40-50 miles per week ramps up your metabolism to ridiculous blast-furnace levels.  You can eat healthy foods to make up a deficit like that, but only to a certain point before you're all like "peanut butter ice cream crepes on a pizza made of Indian takeout!"

I looked far and wide for a photo of me holding food items in an excited manner, just like all bloggers seem to post.  I figured there should be hundreds of such photos on my hard drive, considering my enthusiasm for food and the fact that I eat every day.  Surprisingly, this was the best I could find.  It was taken at the Delaware County, New York Fair in 2011 and it will have to do.  So...yay corn and pickles.  And bangs. 

My main issues are:

1.  Too much sugar and refined carbohydrate.  This is fine to a point, especially considering the amount of carbs required to run.  First it's a little Gatorade here, some soda there, gels, then candy, extra treats, white bread for sandwiches...before you know it you are cramming extra sugar into your diet even on rest days.  I need to learn to adjust my refined carbohydrate intake to my actual requirements.  Anything above that amount leaves me tired and dehydrated.

2.  Too much alcohol.  I love wine and beer, and I have always enjoyed them moderately, even while training very hard.   There really is nothing like sitting down to a well-crafted meal with a drink to complement it.  But, it is easy for me to fill up on empty alcohol calories when I should be eating extra portions of whole foods instead.  And especially in the summer, alcohol can dehydrate me and cause problems with sleep.

3.  Too much saturated fat.  The few times I have attempted to track my diet with any amount of precision, I was shocked by how much saturated fat I was getting from eggs, cheese, coconut, and condiments like mayo.  It's something I never would have guessed, because I only very rarely eat meat.  When I'm running a lot, I know I go way past the outer bounds of my "recommended" saturated fat intake.  And I'm ashamed to say it's the worst kind...saturated fat from chocolate, processed foods, and baked goods with hydrogenated oils.

I have a condition called Congenital Idiopathic Hypertriglyceridemia (seriously, try to say that aloud), meaning I have higher blood lipid levels than most people just because of my genes.  Yay for basically being a Viking, I guess?  It's not really a problem right now, but as I age it can cause all sorts of stresses on my cardiovascular system (something I've seen happen to several of my relatives).  I want to do what I can to prevent this.  

So, do you guys think it's possible to clean up your diet while you run long distances regularly?  Over the next several months, I'm going to work on this stuff and see how it goes.  Fortunately (weirdly?), I have been in the habit of photographing almost everything I eat.  It started during my pregnancy, when my midwife encouraged me to keep a detailed food journal.  She used the Bradley Method, which emphasizes diet and exercise as the keys to a healthy pregnancy and birth.  I struggled to keep my food journal accurate and up-to-date, so I started snapping phone pictures of each meal.  Annnnd...being a very scientifically minded person and creature of habit, I never really stopped.  My phone is full of crooked pictures of fruit and pizza, basically. 

In the next diet post, I'll share photos of typical meals and look at some of my habits honestly.  It should be entertaining and embarrassing for everyone involved.  

I'm not a nutritionist.  Nor a dietician, naturopath, personal trainer, life coach, or guru.  In fact, I have exactly no expertise in this matter other than a general science education and experience owning a human body.  If you want real and evidence-based help with your diet, you should consult someone with better credentials. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Workouts - June 22, 2015 and Photos from Last Week's Run Social

First of all, let me say that I am completely gutted about the murders in Charleston.  Just last month, my family traveled to Charleston as tourists, and we took a walking tour along church row.  In my post, I mentioned the great old Pinckney name in reference to my distant cousins who lived in the area seven generations ago.  I am at a loss to find words for any of this.

Our church has a devout and racially diverse group of parishioners, and we felt the loss of our brothers and sisters in Charleston in an especially sharp way.  On Sunday, our rector delivered a gut wrenching sermon on the matter, and it has been the first bit of clarity I have had during any of this.

I generally keep religion and politics off this blog, but I could not jump into this post without saying something.  Especially since I posted very recently on churches in Charleston.

Now, let's look at some happy photos of runners doing running things, and my sweet son.  I hope these cheer you guys.

I am working as an ambassador for the Birmingham Track Club now.  We are a group of 15 fanatical runners who work to promote the track club on social media and to our friends in the city.  We have started hosting Saturday afternoon socials with other running groups in town, and Saturday we were with the Downtown Running Club.  They led us on a four-mile run, and we set up coolers full of drinks and a table of fruit and pastries.  I opted out of the run, because I had just finished my Saturday long run, but I had plenty of exercise chasing this guy around the city sidewalks.

And, here are the workouts from this week:

June 15 - June 21
Monday: 5.5 miles on Lakeshore Trail, 9:12 pace
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: 6.3 miles on Lakeshore Trail, 9:26 pace
Thursday: 3.5 miles around downtown, 9:05 pace
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 11.6 miles with the track club, 9:13 pace
Sunday: dynamic warmup and abs, hour long cycling class

I meant to do another day of cross training, but ended up with two rest days instead.  I'll admit, sometimes the days definitely get away from me.  Nate and I both have non-traditional work schedules and we try to arrange things so one of us is home with W and we don't have to use much childcare.  Then we both need to plan around the hottest time of the day, deal with work emergencies, and share one car. 

My work is busy right now because 1) we are signing a huge deal tomorrow, and 2) it's fiscal year end.  Nate's work is busy right now because people rely on social services more in the summer (kids stop receiving free school lunches, air conditioning bills use up extra income, etc.).  Sometimes I get to the end of the day without a workout, and I'm trying to be more okay with that.  I see so much improvement just based on mileage alone, so I try not to skimp on that and not worry about too much else.  And I'm also aware I haven't been in the pool lately. With school out for summer, the pool is N-U-T-Z and I'm scared of it! 

I'm working on a diet post for later in the week, and it promises to be both embarrassing and photo-heavy.  

Monday, June 15, 2015

Workouts - June 15, 2015

This will be a quick update, because I have another exciting running-related post to share later in the week.  I'm not going to lie, work today has been insane.  And!  This morning, I treated myself by driving over the mountain for a run on the shady Lakeshore Trail.  I ground out 5.5 miles in the heat, dried off, and headed back.  As I was passing under a highway overpass, a fist-sized rock flew out of a truck overhead and shattered my windshield.  Of course, I thought I had been shot but I managed not to swerve or brake erratically.  So there's that.

What I'm saying is, this week is off to an interesting start and I'm lucky I'm posting this at all.

Here's a great running photo, of a Birmingham Track Club social I hosted downtown on Saturday.  We had a four-mile social run followed by refreshments and brunch at Paramount.

Let the Alabama heat flow through you.

Monday: 40 minutes of lower body weights at my parents' house
Tuesday: 5.1 miles on Lakeshore Trail, 8:51 pace
Wednesday: 5-mile progression workout on the treadmill, ended up 9:07 average pace, the last mile was 7:05
Thursday: 2.8 miles in the park, 9:03 pace
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 10.5 miles with the Track Club, up and over Red Mountain twice, 9:35 pace
Sunday: 25 minutes of a full body weight circuit, hour long group cycling class

The big news is that speed is finally coming back, and I think (hope?) I am getting acclimated a little better to the heat and humidity. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Traveling to Charleston, South Carolina

Over Memorial Day weekend, we did a bit of travel by piggybacking onto one of my business trips to Savannah, Georgia.  We planned to drive north to visit family near Washington, D.C., so we stopped briefly in Charleston, South Carolina along the way.

My husband had never been to Charleston, although it is promoted heavily in some publications he reads...Garden and Gun, Southern Living, Brooklyn Magazine, etc.  I hadn't been to Charleston since I was a young teen on a family trip, so I just had vague memories of church tours and stops for ice cream.

While we were hanging out in our Savannah hotel, my husband found a self guided walking tour of old town Charleston.  I've just poked around on the internet for about half an hour looking for it with no success, so you'll just have to take my word for it!  He is a huge history buff, and we both love spending time outdoors, so this type of thing was perfect for a quick trip.  He even downloaded and printed a little map, and a caught him looking like a total tourist at one point.

Just tourist things.

Since we drove straight up from Savannah, the first order of business was parking (oddly difficult, and I recommend the cheap city-owned parking garage next to City Hall) and finding a bathroom.  Caffeine is a bit of a necessity for this type of blitzkrieg touring, so we went to  City Lights Coffee for some iced coffee and to get W some calories (best way to prevent a temper tantrum).  Awesome decision, because the temperature started climbing into the nineties just as we started walking.

My number one travel tip.

Here are some photos from the walking tour:

This row house had a pristine, hidden veranda that was like looking into a peaceful tunnel.

Classic Charleston architecture.

US Post Office and Courthouse designed by New Orleans architect William Freret.

Saint Philips Episcopal Church Cemetery, burial site of Charles Pinckney.  

Children's graves.

Some of the inscriptions were so touching.  We lingered here not to be macabre, but because we are Episcopalians who are into genealogy, and I am descended from some of the Pinckney cousins.  Plus, the churchyard was shady and cool.

The woodwork on some of the detached homes was amazing. 

Perfectly manicured gardens of the homes facing the bay.

I like to think these oak trees were standing through the Civil War.  This home faces the fort.

So there's that.  We were in Charleston for about two hours, and I feel like we saw what we could.  We spent less than $15 for the coffees and the parking, and pulled out of town just as everyone started to get cranky.  Charleston is definitely on our list for a more focused return trip. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Workouts - June 8, 2015

This week has been a real breakthrough for running.  I feel like I am almost "back," meaning the horrendous uphill slog that has been regaining running-specific aerobic fitness in the dead of a record-shattering heatwave is OVER.

From Saturday's long run with the Track Club.  I'm in a neon green shimmel.  You can see by my friend Matt's and my body language that We Mean Business. 

I ran slightly over 25 miles this week, which is what I consider minimal "base level" for mileage.  I also had a 10-mile long run where I felt comfortable and relaxed at a 9:40 pace.  And, I've been fairly dedicated with the early morning workouts...a virtual necessity in this heat, and the best way to schedule around work and a toddler.  So, here you go....

June 1 - June 7
Monday: 3.1 miles in the (flat) park, 8:58 pace
Tuesday: 5-mile speed session on the gym treadmill, 8:56 pace
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 4.2 miles on the gorgeous Lakeshore Running Trail at the crack of dawn, 9:19 pace.  Then, I stopped in at my gym to rinse off and eat before heading to a three-hour physical therapy session.  An hour of that was heavy weights and I let my HR monitor run through it.
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Long run with the Birmingham Track Club, 10 miles at 9:40 pace.  These are always fairly hilly but scenic.
Saturday: 2.7 miles easy recovery in the park, 9:10 pace

Overall, I am proud of the running performance this week.  I wish I had done more cross training and more strength, but I can't have it all unless I have unlimited time.  I do want to build back up to 35-40 miles per week by the end of summer.  I have already decided that the next three weeks are going to be a hard little push to get back to where I was before my injury.  After the July 4 Peavine Falls race, I will reevaluate where I am and set some pace and mileage goals for fall.  My physical therapist says he considers my injury to be healed, so I'm going to hit the next several weeks hard.

There are several things I am planning to do differently with this fall training cycle.  I want to run fewer times per week, and concentrate my running energy into quality speed sessions and longer long runs.  I want to keep up the weight training I have been doing and build more muscle to become a more well-rounded athlete.  I want to cross train in the pool or on the bike each week.  And I want to focus more on diet, because let's be honest, at the end of my spring marathon training cycle I was eating more sugar and more fat than is probably reasonable for an "athlete."

A few people have asked me whether I am worried about "losing" all this hard work during another pregnancy next year.  And I'm not really.  Ever since my early teen years, I have had a fairly decent aerobic fitness base.  My body responds very quickly to intense training.  I feel like I can go from "scratch" (ie. several months off) to 10k racing shape in about 8-12 weeks.  While I was pregnant with W, I was able to maintain a decent running schedule until the almost the bitter end.  We'll see how things go, but I'm not stressed about it at all.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Vengeance is mine.

I feel like I have been redeemed! 

On Thursday, I had my last session of physical therapy.  I need another few "check ins" to make sure things are staying in place as I get stronger, but I am done with the hard work.

Hopefully, there will be a lot less of ^^this^^ in my future.  (BTW, that is my therapist in the yellow shirt, and he gets all the credit for smacking me back into shape.  Atita at Premier PT, ladies and gentlemen.)

Also, this morning I ran 10 miles at a 9:40 pace and it felt amazing.  After eight weeks out for injury, followed by three weeks of struggling to get my fitness back, this was the first run where I felt strong and relaxed for the whole thing.  I feel so optimistic now.  Also, I completely understand why people never start running in the first place, because working up to a basic level of running-specific aerobic fitness from scratch can be overwhelming.  Over the past month, I have had many, MANY runs where I just put my head down and suffered.  Today's run was liberating.

And for that reason, I couldn't wait for Monday's post to talk about it.  TL;DR YAY RUNNING!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

My Race Calendar for the Rest of 2015

Now that I feel like I am safely past my hip and IT band injury, I feel like it's time to plan my training and racing for the remainder of the year.

Time for more of this!

I probably overthink this stuff, but what else is new?!  I do want to qualify for the Boston Marathon, because I think that is a good milestone for most recreational runners.  After my first marathon this February, I am only 20:45 away from that goal.  I think it's doable!  But, I also want another child and marathon training is incompatible with...all that.  After looking at all the variables, I think it's best to focus on the 10k and half-marathon distances for the remainder of 2015, and leave the BQ for later. 

I actually love the 10k, and my current PR for that distance is proportionally faster than my PR's for other distances.  I ran that 10k after only four months of deliberate training (in the heat of summer), while breastfeeding a toddler (ok, not actually during the race), and less than a year after childbirth.  I sort of want to see where I can go with my 10k.  I would love to get my PR down somewhere in the neighborhood of 43:00.

And the half marathon.  Ohhhhhh, the half marathon.  I have only run one half marathon, even though marathon training required MANY runs longer than 13.1 miles.  The half marathon I ran fell poorly in my training calendar, and I unknowingly ran it with a serious injury.  I (over)think some aspects of running culture, as well, and I dislike the way half marathons are feminized.  At large races and in popular running publications, half marathons are publicized as the "girl equivalent" to the manly marathon.  And women register for them in droves (proving that marketing works, AND filling my age group, haha!).  I feel like all of this means I don't respect the half marathon distance the way I should.  It's a tough race, and I want to 1) change my attitude, and 2) do better at it.  And, okay sure, I want to avenge my bad race in Asheville.

So, here's what I have planned for the rest of the year:

Peavine Falls Trail Race (8.2 miles) on July 4

This is one of my Track Club's four "Classic Quad" races.  I get a free entry, so it's a no brainer.  I am aware that it is less than five weeks out, and I am still coming back from injury, but I think it's a good goal race for where I am in my rehab and training.  I have one goal: run the whole thing safely and happily.  

Four Bridges Half Marathon on October 18

My Track Club is providing training and group runs for this, along with a significant discount for members.  It's in Chattanooga, Tennessee, about two hours north of home, so it's a mini-destination race to a town my family loves.  A lot of my club friends are going, and planning to race it hard.  We have a significant regional rivalry with track clubs in Atlanta and Nashville, so I want to show up for the rumble.   

Vulcan Run 10k on November 7

This is the final race of the "Classic Quad" and a huge amount of fun.  I loved running the race last year, and I want a big PR this time around.  The first 200 finishers get a "trophy shirt" that has all sorts of weird, dude-bro significance for local runners.  Last year, I was just minutes away from the cutoff time.  Is it weird to be all like, "I NEED THAT SHIRT IN MY LIFE."  Because that's totally how I feel.  

Magnolia Half Marathon  on November 21

This is a tiny little newer race near where my parents live in rural Mississippi.  Sounds crazy, right?  It is a great value for the money, and goes right past the house where my mother grew up.  My speedy husband is running the full.  We have never run a race together, because of scheduling training and race day childcare.  We are planning this as a little trip to see my parents, who can keep W for us while we go on a run date.  I thought about instead doing the Magic City Half Marathon on November 22, which starts just blocks from our apartment, but it's just too close to Magnolia. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Workouts - June 1, 2015 - June is going to be the month!

Good morning!  I had a great week with some interesting workouts.

With my Track Club friends, Jenny and Michelle, before our nine-mile run on Saturday.  Jenny is a med student who trained for and ran her first marathon the same time as me.  Michelle is a Track Club OG and race director who knows every street in town.  During the run, these ladies smoked me of course, but I absolutely can't imagine an early weekend long run without Track Club camaraderie and our awesome water stops.  

And here's the whole group.  Our president Alex made us pose for a new group photo now that everyone's in summer clothing.  I'm serious...NO OTHER group of people would show up at 5:45 am on a summer Saturday to run mileage in 98% humidity.  I love these guys.  (I'm trying to hide near the middle in my black baseball cap.)  

Okay, here are the rest of the workouts...

May 25 - May 31
Monday: 4 relaxed miles outdoors, traveling in hilly Virginia, 10:14 pace
Tuesday: Rest, drove 12 hours home from Virginia
Wednesday: 5.1 miles on my favorite hometown loop, 9:39 pace
Thursday: hit the gym for lower body weights, then surprised myself by feeling like 4.2 miles on the treadmill, 9:14 pace
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 8.5 miles outdoors with the Track Club, 9:57 pace (more like 10:15 with the water stops)
Sunday: An hour on the stationary bike trainer, trying some heart rate intervals

I log everything on Strava, even the weight workouts, because I have been using my new TomTom Cardio watch as a heart rate monitor every time I exercise.  Some observations: 1) nothing gets your heart rate up like running, absolutely no substitute, 2) heat and humidity cause heart rate to be elevated and erratic, duh, 3) I am to the point where I can absolutely feel myself cross my anaerobic threshold.  Like clockwork, I get that failing/gasping feeling and look down to see "180" on my wrist.

On that note, it has been a real struggle to stay out of the anaerobic zones on my runs lately.  It's partly the heat, partly due to my lack of running-specific conditioning since being injured.  My ego has suffered at moments.  Most notably, I had to walk some hills while running a very crowded path.  And on Saturday's run, I had to gasp to a friend, "I need to slow down, see you later." 

All I can do is set little goals for myself with each run (silly, injured-person stuff like "I am going to run at least three miles" or "I will not walk during this lap").  Other than those small goals, I try to focus on the big picture and ignore the more painful little moments.  A month ago, I was desperate to be able to run a hill, ANY HILL, much less a series of steep hills at a particular pace.  My mileage for May was roughly twice that for April.  That kind of thing.  And of course, NO LEG PAIN AT ALL, WOOHOO!  That is huge.

I have an eight-ish-mile trail race coming up on July 4, and right now I am planning to run it, though not necessarily "race."

That's it for the workouts stuff.  As of today, I have started working as an ambassador for the Birmingham Track Club, so I'll be posting a lot more about our summer races, training runs, and social events.  I will also do some travel posts for Charleston, South Carolina and D.C. during the week.