Archive for March, 2013

When we last left our intrepid marathon trainee the Fit Fun Mom, she despaired over a lackluster 13-mile long run. Thank goodness the cutback week called for fewer miles and let her recover from a nagging head cold. We now join our fearless runner, who’s high after a successful speed workout and will now stop talking about herself in the third person. 🙂

It’s week eight of M2B marathon training. Nearly halfway done! Thank goodness Monday’s speed workout got knocked out of the park. Quarter-mile repeats are my new best friends!

Decoding the Speed Workout

The workout on my Run Less, Run Faster plan called for:

“10-20 min warmup    2 x (6 x 400 in 1:42)  (90 sec RI)   (2min30 RI bt sets)  10 min cooldown”

That’s a 10-20 minute warmup run, which I usually do at a 10-minute pace (6 miles per hour). I like to do speed workouts on the treadmill because it allows me to target a pace and know I’m hitting it consistently. I should increase the incline to adjust for the fact that I’m running on the treadmill but speed work is so new to me that I’m happy just to hit the pace at a 0% incline.

“2 x (6 x 400 in 1:42)” translates to two sets of six quarter-mile repeats at an average pace of 6:50, or 8.77 miles per hour. To help myself keep track of the repeats, I did one quarter-mile at 8.8 miles per hour, then did the next at 8.7 mph, then back up to 8.8 and so on.

The “90 sec RI” calls for 90 seconds of rest interval in between each quarter-mile repeat. For each ninety seconds of rest I walked at 3.5 miles per hour.

“2min30 RI bt sets” is a 2-minute 30-second rest interval in between the two sets of six quarter-mile repeats. Heavenly rest.

After six more quarter-mile repeats, I ended with a little rest after the last repeat, and a final mile at six miles per hour for the 10-minute cooldown. By the time I finished I had done 6.5 miles in 1:08. Not exactly speedy overall (or even speedy repeats for the most speedy of you readers out there), but a darn good speed workout for me. I think the fastest I’ve ever run is 9 miles per hour and so to do 12 400-meter repeats at 8.7/8.8 mph is huge! So satisfying. By the end, the sweat was literally flying. I’d swing my elbows to will my legs to keep up and the drops of sweat would fly off the ends of my elbows onto the gym windows (Sorry, people. I did wipe down the treadmill afterward but I left the windows alone).

The Benefits of Speed Workouts

Run Less, Run Faster explains the benefits of speed workouts as the following:

    • Improve maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max)
    • Increase running economy
    • Improve speed
    • Bust boredom (okay fine, that’s my own addition).

What’s VO2 max?

VO2 max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense or maximal exercise. It is measured as “milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight.”

(About.com Sports Medicine). The higher your VO2 max, the more energy you can produce.

What’s “running economy“?

Running economy is how efficiently your body uses oxygen. Some people argue that running economy is a better predictor of performance than VO2 max, and it’s also something that you have more control over than VO2 max, which is significantly controlled by genetics. (Runner’s World: “Efficient, See? Improve Your Running Economy and Go Longer and Stronger at Any Pace.”)

Do you do speed workouts? What’s your favorite? Do you do track repeats or hit the treadmill to gauge your speed?

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When can you call yourself a “runner”? I think that’s when you get out there at least a few times a week on a regular basis, no matter your pace or distance. But what makes you a serious runner?


I’m not sure of the answer, but here are some clues for me:

  • You have an “ankle bracelet” tan line on the tiny circle of exposed skin between your running socks and your compression tights (and that’s in spite of wearing sunscreen).
  • You own and wear any item of clothing with the word “compression” in it. Compression socks, compression shorts, compression pants, compression sleeves.
  • Your drink of choice on a Friday night is water. Or you convince yourself that the beer you’re drinking is carbo-loading for the next day’s run.
  • Your running shoes are more expensive than any other pair of shoes you own.
  • You subject yourself to an ice bath after a run. Or, your soak in a hot bath includes epsom salts.
  • Your non-runner friends lovingly (?) shake their heads and call you insane/crazy.
  • You log every workout down to the second and the hundredth of a mile.
  • You keep a list of PRs.
  • You actually look forward to your next birthday because it means you move up to the next age bracket for racing.
  • You plan your vacations around destination races.
  • When you start a run, your shirt is light blue. When you finish, it’s completely dark blue, every inch soaked in sweat.
  • You own a treadmill and use it for more than hanging clothes to dry.

Are you a serious runner? All of the above are true for me, so I guess so!
What are some other signs you’re a serious runner?

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I refuse to pretend that marathon training is fun right now. In general I love it and am much happier when I’m checking off the workouts on a training plan. Right now though? I have a cold. It’s an “above the neck” cold, not a chest cold, and I’m thankful for the ability to continue working out. At the same time, I get discouraged when I cannot meet the pace goal for a particular run. My 8-mile tempo run that should have included six straight miles at 8:14 (7.3 mph) became five one-mile repeats with a 400-meter rest interval in between. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of that workout. That eight miles wins a personal award for “longest run on a treadmill to date.” It wasn’t easy for me to do the mile repeats, and I am glad I pushed through and did them and at the same time, didn’t push so hard that I made myself even more sick.

My 13-mile long run that ideally should have been at an 8:50 pace was done at a jog. I don’t even want to calculate the actual pace. All I know is that overall my total time was 15 minutes slower than the 13.1 Mile Virtual Run for Sherry I did five weeks ago. And it was the first run where I felt worse, mentally and physically, than I did before the start of the run. One of the things I love most about running is the sense of accomplishment that I feel afterward, and that just wasn’t there this weekend. I did it, but it wasn’t pretty.

I don’t mean to be a downer. I simply feel some bizarre sort of obligation to be honest about the fact that marathon training is not all sunshine and roses. It’s challenging. It’s a huge commitment. It’s tiring. Yet, those are the very reasons that it’s inspiring. It’s thrilling. It’s rewarding.

Squeezing in the Training around the Rest of Life

Because my pace was off on the 13-mile run, I was literally running late. I ran in the door, toweled off the sweat (no time to shower, sorry folks!), threw on the clean clothes my husband laid out for me, and ran back out to the driveway where Mike had the car running and the younger kids waiting to drive to the junior high to watch my fifth grader compete in the Academic Excellence Day math competition.

Math Word Problem:

If Angela completes her 13-mile run at X:YZ pace,
how long will it take her to run 26.2 miles on May 26?

Bonus question: Will she PR or BQ?

Answer: I wish I knew!

For the mathematics competition, the teachers matched my daughter with four other fifth graders from local schools, and they competed against six other teams of five. After a round of 10 questions plus a bonus word problem, my daughter’s team earned third place! I reveled in getting to watch her learn to assert herself among her teammates and perform under pressure. We asked her what she learned from the experience, and we told her we were proud of her for participating in the competition. But the surprising thing that made me proud? When my 8-year-old said that the thing she learned from the competition was that “crossing your fingers really works!” She’d sat quietly throughout the whole competition, and then crossed her fingers at the end in the hopes that her older sister would win a medal! Love that girl!

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It’s week seven of M2B marathon training for me and thank goodness lucky number seven is a cutback week! After a 20-miler at 9:35 pace, an 18-miler at 9:20 pace and a 20-miler at 9:20, I look forward to “only” 13 miles at 8:50 this coming weekend.

I feel good but tired. Good and tired, that’s for sure. A story to illustrate: After running those 20 miles last weekend, I slept 10 hours that night. When I finally woke in the morning, I realized I could see surprisingly well without my contacts in. *blink* *blink* Wait a minute. My contacts ARE in. That’s right. I’d set aside my book, turned out the light, and gone to sleep with my contacts in. In nearly 30 years of contact lens wearing, I can say that’s never happened before. I’ve fallen asleep by accident with them in, most likely while snuggling a toddler or nursing a baby to sleep, but I have never before deliberately gone to bed and forgotten all about my contact lenses. No harm done thank goodness.

On my “recovery” day, I spent three and a half hours in the garden, clearing a 9′ x 4′ patch of ground, turning over the soil, and mixing in compost and fertilizer. Finally, I planted 18 tomato seedlings. I started the seeds in trays in mid-January, potted them up in mid-February, hardened off the seedlings in early March, and got the seedlings in the ground in mid-March.

Hello Roma! I hope we spend a wonderful, productive spring and summer together!

Hello Roma! I hope we spend a wonderful, productive spring and summer together!

That’s two months of hard work I left out there, exposed to the weather and the dangers of bunnies, gophers, snails and slugs. I remember one year I planted seedlings and my toddler followed behind me and dug up some of the plants. Another year I sprinkled bone meal in each of the holes to fertilize before I put in the tomato seedlings. I came out the next morning and the neighbor’s dogs had dug up every single one of my plants! This year, no toddler (my 4.5-year-old knows better than to mess with Mama’s plants) and no bone meal (and no dogs — the neighbor put up some lattice so the dogs can’t climb over the chain link fence). Today I went out and put little “collars” around each of the transplants in a feeble attempt to ward off the snails, slugs, and roly-poly bugs.

Do you build in cutback weeks during your training? I wouldn’t survive without them!

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Happy Saint Paddy’s Day everyone! A leprechaun visited my house in the wee hours of the morning. He left shamrocks and little green pots of “gold” (quarters) for me and the kids to find.

My house might not always be tidy but I do keep a beautiful bouquet on the table as a bright spot amidst the chaos. The leprechaun approves!

My house might not always be tidy but I do keep a beautiful bouquet on the table as a bright spot amidst the chaos. The leprechaun approves!

My kids have always known the true identity of the leprechaun-bunny-fairy-claus but still enjoy playing along.

After our treasure hunt the leprechaun made us all some green eggs. I politely declined artificial green food dye so Mike came up with a creative alternative. He made his own natural green dye from water and a crushed leaf of swiss chard with the stems removed!

It's extra classy when you use a wine cork as your muddler.

It’s extra classy when you use a wine cork as your muddler.

Once he strained out the crushed leaves, it made a beautiful bright green dye:

eggs with natural green dye

and some delicious green eggs!

green scrambled eggs

Speaking of greens, I love this graphic from No Meat Athlete on seven healthy, tasty greens that are often overlooked in favor of spinach and kale:

Seven greens graphic info

Obviously I’ve had swiss chard, and I’ve tried arugula too. I haven’t had turnip greens but I have had beet greens (sautéed in olive oil with garlic and salt – yum!) The rest I will search out the next time I make it to Whole Foods!

Are you Irish? Yes, I’m a whopping 1/16th Irish!
Did you run the L.A. Marathon or any other St. Patrick’s Day race today? How did it go for you? I have heard many good things about the L.A. Marathon and hope to run it someday.

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It happens to everyone at some point: no matter how hard you tie and even double-knot your shoelaces, the laces come undone. It’s bad enough when it happens during a regular run, but it can spell disaster when it happens during a race. Precious seconds tick when a runner must dash to the side of the road to re-tie laces (please tell me you follow running etiquette and make your way to the far right on the race course if you ever need to stop). Worse yet is when the runner either (1) stops in the middle of the course and blocks the people behind him, or (2) continues running with the shoelaces untied, endangering both himself and those who will crash into him when he trips over those laces. You might wonder who would ever be crazy enough to run with laces untied, but I can tell you I saw two racers do it at the Brea 8K this year. It took all I had to bite my tongue and not chastise those runners. In retrospect what I should have yelled at them was, “Buy some Lock Laces!” (This is not a sponsored post. The lovely Lock Laces people have no idea who I am. However, the Amazon product image is an affiliate link).

Lock Laces are elastic laces that replace your regular shoelaces. Instead of tying them you cinch them with an adjustable toggle.

– you never have to worry about laces coming untied again
– it’s easy to slip the shoes off and on (which is handy for everyone but especially helpful for shaving time off in transition for triathletes)
– they come in all kinds of cool colors
– they’re relatively inexpensive — I’ve seen them for sale for anywhere from $3 to $8 per pair.

– they can take some getting used to and some fiddling to adjust them properly. Cinch them too tightly and the shoes become uncomfortable, too loosely and your feet move around in the shoes.
– Some people might be bothered by the end clasps flopping around but that is easily solved by tucking the ends underneath the rest of the elastic laces just as you might tuck in regular shoelace tips.

Obviously I am a convert and I love my Lock Laces. It’s one less thing to worry about on race day. I wore them for the Santa Barbara International Marathon last November and did not have any problems.

Do you use Lock Laces? What do you think of them?

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The La Habra 5K/10K is coming up on Saturday, March 23, 2013. So far I’ve stuck to my goal to resist signing up for the race but I can feel my resistance weakening. I got a flyer that offered registration for the 10K for only $15 rather than the regular price of $35. I’ve got 13 miles on the training schedule for that day. Should I run 6.2 of them for the race? Decisions, decisions…. In the meantime, I’m flashing back to my recap of last year’s race. It’s a nice, small-town race to benefit The Children’s Museum at La Habra, the La Habra Concerts in the Park series and the La Habra High School cheerleaders. This year the organizers have hired a new chip timing company to replace the problematic one from last year. One of the really nice things about this race is that it offers childcare for children ages 2-13 while their parents race.

At the time I ran this race last year, I was training for my first half marathon. I’d recently run the 2012 Brea 8K, and was still recovering from a groin strain. Here’s my recap, plucked from my 2012 journal:

“Straight to the numbers:
Distance: 6.2 miles / 10K
Time: 51:23.03 (chip time); official time: 51:29.03 – they gave awards based on the official time]
Pace: 8:16 minutes/mile
MPH: 7.25

F40-44: 1st of 17 [ETA: the results on the web later said I was 3rd of 12 – very disappointing; ETA again: I just checked again and I am back to 2nd of my age group, 2nd of 11 – I’ve written to the race results people and the race coordinators about my concerns]

I am super happy with the race. No injury, and the best time I hoped for. It’s a new PR over my 10K triathlon time, which at first seemed like a slam dunk given I wouldn’t have to swim and bike first, but then I was worried with how hilly the course was and how my leg had been bothering me.

My 10K pace was faster than the 8K pace for the Brea 8K. I plugged the 10K time into the race pace predictor for the half marathon and it went like this:
6.2 miles at 51:23 for a pace of 8:17 predicts
13.1 miles at 1:53:28 for a pace of 8:39. How much would I love that?! [ETA: my half marathon time for the OC Half ended up being 1:55:10, pretty darn close to the prediction!]

I set my alarm this morning for 5:30 a.m. I got about 7 hours of sleep. The night before I had prepared coffee and oatmeal and a banana and I ate those right away so I’d have a couple of hours to digest them before the race. I’d laid out all my clothes and gear too. I got dressed in plenty of time and remembered my GPS running watch and chip timer. The race didn’t start until 7:50. I parked at the nearby Vons and, after using the nice bathrooms there, I walked to the race start at Fashion Square as a warm-up, then ran in the parking lot a bit to get the stiffness out. When I arrived the 5K people were just getting ready to start, and then it was our turn about 15 minutes later. Small crowd, very mellow, but a well-marked and well-staffed race. Tons of police officers to direct traffic on the course. I was grateful for them. I had lined up toward the front, maybe five to six rows of people back, and it was right where I should have been. I didn’t have to dodge many people on the way up the first hill and I never felt slowed down. I took off a little fast at the start but soon settled in. The fast 10Kers quickly caught up with the 5K walkers. That wasn’t ideal but the course was plenty wide and it didn’t cause a bottleneck, thank goodness. The hills were tough. It’s basically uphill for the first 1.8 miles and then downhill the next 1.3 miles. I did the first 5K loop in 25:22.9 minutes (about 48 seconds slower than my November 5K race) and the second 5K loop in a 26:00.4 minutes. I used the handheld water bottle my friend Holly had given me and it was perfect for the 10K distance. I loved having the GPS watch — it told me when I was on pace or not. I am a bit amazed that a nighttime 4-mile training run on the treadmill at 6 miles per hour that feels tough can translate to a 6.2 mile race at 7.25 miles per hour. Adrenaline, caffeine, time of day, rest and training, all paying off. After the race, while I waited for my official time, I jogged super slowly around the parking lot for a couple of miles, and walked some more after that. Combine that with my warmup in the morning and I got in the extra 2.8 miles of training needed for the 9-mile half marathon training I missed that morning.

The results took nearly an hour to post. It was neat to be able to look them up on a computer at the race booth. Those results said I came in 2nd out of 17, but when I went to get my medal the official results said I got first! I was surprised but not too surprised because earlier I had heard them announce the 5K overall male and female winners and they actually goofed up the winners and had to revise it. So uncool!

When I got home at 10, my 3-year-old saw me through the sliding glass door and she said, “You got a golden medal!” My 7-year-old said, “I knew it! I knew it! I knew you’d get first place!” Mike reported that the girls had had a debate about whether I would win the whole race. My 7-year-old knew it was possible I could get a medal in my age group. It was just fantastic to be greeted enthusiastically by my family when I got home. Mike was amazed with how well I’d done. He was worried I would exacerbate my injury and he’d been counseling me to go slow. It’s nearly impossible for me to do that in a race. I do not want to tank my chances to even compete in the half marathon, but I listened to my body and pushed as hard as I felt comfortable, and I got lucky.

I took an ice bath. Not really an ice bath but the water comes out so cold from the tap that it’s hard to force myself to sit down in it! Stayed there 10 minutes while I ate a Dutch Baby pancake with maple syrup and watched “Who Do You Think You Are” on the computer (LOVE that show) [ETA: So bummed that show was canceled]. Then I took a hot shower and my legs were stinging with going from the cold to hot! I am quite sore now but not injured (not any more than before anyway, no worse for the wear). I have been trying to move around every once in a while to clear the lactic acid from my legs. Mike had a fire going in the fireplace for the girls and I rested on the couch in front of the fireplace for a long time. I nearly fell asleep. I am pretty darn tired, that good kind of tired when you are happy with the effort your body has made.”

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