Monday, February 28, 2011

Feb 28

My legs are still recovering from the pounding of downhill technical running.  It's a bit jarring, and maybe that's partly why my arms were strangely sore on Sunday.  Other than the bit of poundiness in my shins, I felt up for a cardio workout, so I biked instead. 

Oh, I had a nice strength session yesterday.  Records in several areas... 120/140 adductor/abductor leg lifts were suprising, since I would've thought that 3 weeks without PT would've made them weak... 400 crunches aren't a record, but the fact that I breezed through them wasn't expected... 3x60 single-leg quad dips weren't deep, but that's a lot 

I've noticed more muscle definition.  Was it marathon fitness setting in after the recovery period?  Was it all the protein (ridiculous amounts) I had in Buenos Aires?  Was it the reduced training (so reduced natrual trimming of excess mass through running, even if it's lean muscle)?  Notably, there are two muscles... the inner lower shin, and the semi-inner upper quads. 

Back to the bike session... I was tired before and contemplated just going to bed early... need it, but exercise helps you sleep better, and it reduces stress, and it keeps all of your systems in check (horomone, insulin, whatever else balance).  Always more energy after a workout.  My mind's still a little fuzzy, maybe, from being tired, but my body is ready for action, and I'm more psychologically ready for bed, feeling like I've adequately finished off my day with a nice workout, plus the benefits of stress reduction. 

Anyway... bike session... 45 minutes, 11.1 miles, 350 cal.  With running, they ask you to enter your weight, and I don't remember the bike asking me.  I'd think that some adjustment factor is required, even for a non-weight-bearing exercise like cycling, since you still need to lift your quads, and quad mass is proportionate to body mass.  With a non-recumbent bike, I guess extra mass working with gravity to produce force would also reduce the energy output, perhaps cancelling the quad lift.  So maybe body weight is a negligible factor.  There should be ways to tell, through oxygen/CO2-measuring devices.  Well, with running, my factor is about 2/3 of the standard reading, so the lower limit would be 2/3 of 350, since if there was a weight factor with cycling, it wouldn't exceed the weight factor of running, which is a weight-bearing exercise.  Although... different machines seem to estimate energy expenditure differently.  Ellipticals, I think, are way off, for whatever reason, greatly overestimating the actual output.  Maybe they don't factor in all of the momentum that gets cycled through with every stroke.  The elliptical does give you a good workout, believe me, but the settings need to be right.  I once used one at a hotel that lets you adjust stride length... it was awesome.  I've also tried ellipticals that don't make me feel like I'm doing anything, no matter how easy or hard I make the level... something... maybe stride length... just didn't fit right. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Feb 26 - p

A super outdoors-packed day.  Just what I needed to relax.  Had a nice long run, and then I got to join up with MS and AD for about 8.2 miles of hiking (about 2 miles of it was run).

For the run, 12.0 in 1:43:27, 8:37 ave.  Temps were perfect, initially chilly, then sports bra weather.  Wore the n3's w/ Spenco insoles, Oxysox.  It went pretty well.  My knees started feeling the early signs of poundiness on my second of three laps, but the feeling passed.  I think getting into PT again (didn't get to really do it for 2+ weeks while travelling) will make it all better, since hip strengthening does wonders for eliminating runner's knee.  For reals. 

I did have to take a detour from the usual trail due to trail maintenance, and that added dirt (nice) but a big hill.  Splits> 8:08 b, 6:53 p short, 7:36 c, 7:34 p, 7:47 b long, 6:23 p short, 7:36 c, 7:29 p, 7:36 b long (second lap way faster than the first), 6:17 p short, 7:11 c, 7:06 p, 7:22 b long (flew through the third lap), 8:17 car.  Man, a super negative split.  That's great.  Really great. 

I had been to Paris Mountain before, and last time, it seemed kind of dinky, since the trails I had gone on had views of the road the whole time.  With the trails we went on this time, it felt much more rustic.  I got to eat an orange, a protein shake, an orange, and goldfish in between, but by the end of the long hike, I was ready for some good fuel.  I had mixed greens with fat free feta and balsamic, a banana, mixed nuts, beef, black tea, and bread with cheese spread.  Quality fuel.  Mmmm...

The last bit of the hike was 2.2 miles of glorious trail running.  Half was flat and fun, and half was downhill, which required a lot of braking.  I may be feeling it tomorrow.  It was great, although I'm not a big technical downhill person.  Too much risk and pounding for me.  The flats were great, though.  I wore a long sleeve Brooks bright yellow shirt, the Oxysox, and my old 1224's with arch supports, plus the usual visor and shades.  Since the temps were cool, no water necessary.

It was a great day to just relax and do whatever you felt like.  Making my own schedule... like I used to love being able to do on Saturdays when I was still in school.  Freedom.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Let's Reason a Bit about the BQ

If I want to run Boston 2012, I need to qualify with a decent time by September.

Due to the summer heat, something in late April would be ideal.

That's only 2 months away.

I don't know if I could 1. train properly within 9 weeks (vs. 16 weeks), 2. train safetly, having to increase mileage at a rapid rate.

I don't want to get injured.

Marathon training gives you a demanding schedule with little flexibility, and you need to give up smaller races like 5Ks and 10Ks because you can't sabotage your planned workout or risk injury.   Even if you do them, you won't perform at your peak, since there's no time to taper during training.  I do miss being super fast.

If I wait until the fall, or even spring of 2012 to make my next BQ attempt, I'll have far more choices of races.

All seems to point to waiting...

One reason to do Eugene is that my near-term work schedule is predictable, and there's no chance of sell-out, so I can register pretty late. 

Hmmm... maybe I'll go on my run tomorrow morning... like 13 or so... and if I feel fantastic, I can go for Eugene.  It's only been 25 days since my marathon.  The farthest I've run continuously is 10.5 mi.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Feb 23

Bloooooh.  Don't mention food right now. 

Intervals soon after dinner... not a comfortable idea... actually, that's not bad.  It's force-drinking 1.5 bottles of water afterwards because you can't drink out of the tap here that does it.  I'll live, though.

Intervals... went better this time than it did a week ago.  Maybe I'm getting stronger.  It's soooo hard to believe that it's only been 23 days since the marathon.

It was a sauna again, though it didn't feel as bad this time.  Maybe it really wasn't that bad... or maybe, I hope, I'm acclimatizing.  Summer's rolling back in - boo. 

So.... intervals.  I wore Oxysox, Paramounts w/ Staiblity insoles, the Asics singlet (love it), and my Reebok short shorts.  I normally go with the durable soccer shorts that I can wash a million times without it ever looking any older, but I'll go for my light, short shorts whe I want something that dries quickly and allows freedom of movement. 

The wokout was the usual 1 degree treadmill, with the embedded mini-fan going.  Oh, tummy.  1K @ 12kph, 2 x [1K @ 14kph, 0.5K @ 12kph], 0.5K @ 14kph, 0.5K @ 12kph. I could've forced myself to tur that last fast interval into a full K, but there was a chance I would've puked, and I figured... not worth it.  Hahaha.  Too soon after dinner.  What was dinner?   I can think about it/answer it now that I feel better.  But it was good - lentils, black beans, pumpkin, quinoa, water, whole wheat baguette with nutella (lots of grains/legumes), water, and a bit of fruit salad. No wonder.  Blaaaah.

5K in 22:53, 7:22 ave... half marathon race pace!  Man... can't imagine going like that for 13 miles, haha.  I still have no idea how that happened. 

Tonight's my last night in BA!  I've enjoyed the trip, as hectic as it always is.  The second week was a lot less stressful, once the majority of the big issues got solved.  Thank goodness.  And I like my team... always have, and I always enjoy being with them.  Great people.  Mmm. 

I like my job, so this doesn't necessarily apply directly here, but even the worst situations can be okay and almost pleasant as long as you're with people you love.  That's what I've found.  It's just really comforting to be with people you care about.  Especially napping.  Maybe it just indicates that I don't sleep enough, but to me, the most peaceful thought is just napping with someone you are about.  It doesn't matter whether they're napping too or if they're awake or whatever.  Just feeing safe and loved and drifting off into peaceful rest.

Long night ahead... gotta finish strong.
I'm tired... maybe a 1 hr nap first...  that's what I always say. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Feb 20

Thank the Lord for a good day at work.  Everyone's excited about how things went on our big day.  Thank the Lord.  That's all I have to say.

Afterwards, a 10.5 mi run to celebrate.  There were fuzzies all around, from some kind of plant.  Going out along the median park, I breathed in a couple and swallowed a couple.  Once in the ecological reserve, though, the trees filtered most of them out of the air.  It was 76 degrees, 4pm, and windy.  I'm glad it was windy, since it cooled things down.  I wore my Houston UA tech tee, since it isn't sleeveless.  I didn't wanna worsen my burn... my skin has a baby peel spot.  I also wore my Pak w/ ID and my hotel card, my visor, my shades, UA calf sleeves, and the 1225's with stability insoles.  It wasn't too long after I had eaten an apple and goldfish, but it didn't affect me.  I was afraid I'd get really thirsty, because I hadn't had too much water today, but it was suprisingly fine. 

The run went faster this time, maybe because I wasn't doing stop-and-go for pictures, and maybe because I knew the course.  I even felt stronger as time went on.  It was nice that shade increased throughout the run as the sun sank.

10.5 in 1:29:02, 8:30 ave.  753 cal.  Made up for the Empanada (good) I ate today.  It was white bread crust with probably butter and cheese inside.  The opposite of my usual, but if you're special, I'll make an exception.

Splits> 13:46 to park entrance (1.58 mi, 8:43/mi), 11:53 to the other entrance (1:43 mi, 8:19/mi), 31:24 back to main entrance (3.78 mi, 8:19/mi), 4:22 to middle path (0:55 mi, 7:56/mi), 5:38 to vertex (0.66 mi, 8:36/mi), 7:53 to main entrance (0.86 mi, 9:12/mi), 11:44 to other entrance (faster than the first time!... 1.37 mi, 8:33/mi), 2:18 to port (0.24 mi, 9:27/mi)... woo hoo!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Feb 17

This week is another marathon (figuratively) business trip week.  And still 7 days to go!  Whew! 

I got about 6, 4, 5, 7 hours of sleep the past few nights.  So last night was better, but the previous nights wear on you.  When I woke up groggy this morning, I needed an energy boost.  I had no pressing work to wake up extra early to do, so I got my boost by going to the gym.  I hadn't planned to, but I could either worrydoze, or I could refresh myself.  I did the elliptical, level 12/20, for 25 minutes.  It did't feel like much... I think I simply spent 25 minutes sweating.  It wasn't cardio at all, maybe because I wasn't going fast.  It was more strengthy, but even then, not with much of a range of motion, and much of it probably was done by momentum.  Oh well. 

Tonight, I wasn't up for a big dinner.  Normally, I eat a million mini-meals a day, so 3 big meals are strange to me.  They keep me full right through the day, but maybe just because I'm working so hard/ putting out fires the rest of the time.  I never get hungry.  In Buenos Aires, we have lots of meat and lots of fruits and veggies.  Few carbs.  That's a pretty good way to eat.  At home, I'd be more lightly proteined carbs + veggies and fruits.  It feels lighter, and it's cheap.

I got a sandwich (with some cheese!... didn't expect it to have it... they did some substitutions... I'll be okay with it if it's rare) and a salad, but it wasn't enough (even though it was 2 menu items... tiny!), so I had Goldfish and a peach and peanuts.  Then, maybe 50 min later, a run.  While I was waiting for dinner to digest, I was run-surfing (surfing the web on my favorite running/nutrition sites), and I saw the news about Boston's tightening standards.  I was even more inspired/frightened into running. 

Too soon.  Food + heat... especially the heat... don't mix.  It's a sauna in the hotel's gym... literally.  There's a sauna in there, and someone must use it, because heat's coming from it.  It's hot in there. 

5K in 24:28, 7:54 ave.  It was a speed session.  Normally, my speed sessions are much faster.  It was hot.  I did 1.5K warmup at 10.85kph, 1K at 14kph, 0.5K at 11kph, 0.75K at 14kph, 0.5K at 11kph, 0.5K at 14kph, 0.25K at 11kph.  Tough... because it was hot.  The food alone would've been bad, but food+heat... man. 

And now for work.  Goodies.

The Boston Bar is Raised

The BAA has announced how it's going to deal with the issue of selling out in record time last year (8 hours, 3 minutes).  For 2012, they will let the fastest qualifiers register first, going by increments of 20, 10, 5, and 0 minutes faster than the BQ time.  It begins on September 12, which means I won't be going for a late September/early October marathon.  I guess it may need to be late April... I'm thinking Eugene.

For 2013, they will tighten the qualifying standards by 5 minutes.  Doable.  I guess if it's doable, I can at least be third-tier.  3:29... possible, too.  It would be incredible to get in the 3:20's.  So... 3:35 is the new time to beat.  I have a 3:40 pace bib hanging up on my porch door.  That won't fly any more.  With the race to register this year, people who do make it will probably have more incentive to register while they still have a valid BQ, since simply making it over the bar doesn't give you an equal shot.  The faster, the better.  I wonder how far the registration process will get before it sells out.  What if it filled up at the 20- mark?  3:15!  Whew! 

Click here for the press release:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Feb 15

Yesterday, got to spend Valentine's Day with my teammates... VF, JS, MB+SB, BB, and DA.  We went to Sorrento, an upscale seafood place that was fantastic.  It was fun talking about travels, how hard it is to describe what we do, where we live/would like to live, etc.  It was a good time and a good way to feel cared for on this day.  I like them.  Good people...

Work's crazy as usual - 4 hrs of sleep last night.  Man...
I don't do anything half-way, and I don't love anyone half-way. 

Metric!!!  7.0K in 37:48, 8:41/mi... man, thought it would've been faster!!!   I was pushing it!  Maybe it's the sleep.  Maybe the heat... it was hot.  Maybe it was the not-so-long-ago dinner.  Oh yeah, dinner last night took 3.5 hours.  Whew!  Because of all the talking.  Didn't get back until 11:30pm.  They eat reaaaaaally late in the EU and LA.  I usually eat at 5:30.  So today, I went to the foodcourt so that I'd have time to digest a bit before doing a workout.  I had 2 days completely off, so I needed this.  That's probably my minimum. 

Wore the Saucony Paramount w/ stability insoles, UA calf sleeves, the white Asics singlet.  Watched Nikkita on the big screen while the built-in fan on the 1 degree treadmill blew air at me.  I can't imagine how it would've been if there was no fan.  I think the food played a big role... that and the heat... sleep deprivation is not that abnormal for me.  My tummy right now can feel the food still struggling to digest.  I had a chicken and veggie stir-fry today.  Also got the fruit salad again, for the post-run, although I may not be having that for another couple of hours, since dinner's still being processed.

K Splits> 5:39, 5:30, 5:27, 5:25, 5:21, 5:15, 5:08.  Ah, well, at least it was relaxing... maybe I can be energized to work for a while now.  Blaaaah. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Feb 12 - p

Back in Buenos Aires!
I found out that the Ecological Reserve is open on weekends, as well, so I headed out there once I unpacked.  It was a stop-and-go run, since I took lots of pictures along the way.  I'll add them to this post once I get home.

This is my third run since the marathon, and it's the longest yet.  It's been 12 days.  It was hot outside ( says 73 degrees, but it felt hotter in the sun.. I'm now a bit toasty on the backs of my shoulders), but I got to wear my new UPF 50+ Asics singlet that I got for $10 from the marathon expo - a steal.  I also wore my visor to protect against the sun, shades, a ShadowPak to hold a camera and cash and a credit card and the hotel room card.

It was a really nice run.  To get to the Ecological Reserve, you run on a dirt path flanked by trees and soccer fields and benches and exercise equipment.  Once in the park, they offer a few different routes: going from 1.24 mi to 2 mi to 2.61 mi to 4.9 mi in length.  I saw a lizard iguiana monster... you'll see in the picture later. 

The history of the reserve from Wiki:
The Ecological Reserve, declared a natural park in the 1980s, was formed by a land-fill of waste material of demolished buildings dumped in the river off Costanera Sud avenue to make way for highway construction throughout Buenos Aires in the 70s. Over time, sand and sediment began to build up and developed itself into a biodiversity sample of the native Llanura Pampeana ecosystem, the area now boasts a few trees, mostly willows, ceibos and acacias and is home to the city's only wild flamingos, egrets, ducks, parrots and nutrias.

From many spots, you could see the water and container ships in the distance.  On the other side, you could see skyscrapers peeking over trees.  The path was all dirt - my favorite.  Good for your knees, and good for ankle strength.  I did roll my right ankle a couple of times as I got more tired, but it's so used to rolling that it was fine.  There were many, many runners and bikers enjoying the fresh air.  I would love to live close to some place like this, where I could get in miles on a dirt path every day.  It's like an oasis in the city.  It's crazy that this resulted from a land-fill.  Hurray nature!

The last miles were especially slow as the heat and dehydration set in, but I made it.  I went to a couple of stores to try to get drinks afterwards... I wanted orange juice b/c all I had eaten that day (by noon / 10 EST) was a banana and a bit of egg at 7am EST on the plane.  But they wouldn't accept Amex.  But back at the hotel, they had a self-serve bar where you could charge it to your room, so I got my orange juice, a cal-free drink for later, and lots and and lots of free Yerba Mate... it's like a super strong green tea that's a big part of the culture.  It's delicious and probably great for you.  It's energizing.
8.1 in 1:09:07, 8:32/mi.  I'm pleasantly suprised, considering the heat and all.  616 Cal.
Splits> 13:13 to the reserve from the docks (8:51 pace), 11:14 to the other end of the preserve (8:56 pace), 11:51 to the far point (7:47 pace), 19:17 back to the reserve entrance (8:26 pace), 13:30 back to the docks plus a bit (8:58 pace).

FIT... PART 2:
After the first run, I worked for a while.  But the first run was so much fun and I was feeling such a runner's high that I went out for a second run.  I wouldn't get many chances to run outside again, since this would be my only free day here.  I wanted to cover every path in the park, so I had 2 shorter ones to go back and run through.  .  There's an entrance really close to where I start my run, which I didn't realize before.  So instead of running on the dirt path outside of the reserve twice, I went out on it but came back by staying in the park, redoing one of the paths, and exiting on the other side of the park.

Doubles are good to mix in sometimes.  They stress your body and cause adaptations in ways that are different from doing a single long run.  I still felt pretty good during the second run.  It was cooler (77 degrees... 4 hotter than earlier in the day, but with much more shade... makes all the difference), since it was about 3 EST / 5 BA time.  Was a sweaty mess afterwards, but it was a good run.

4.2 in 36:16, 8:38 ave.  Splits> 1.6 in 12:57 (8:06/mi) to the reserve, 1 in 9:03 (9:03/mi) to the vertex, 0.65 in 5:30 (8:32/mi) to the path, 0.82 in 7:44 (9:24/mi) to the pedestrian bridge.  326 cal.

After the run, I was thinking how great running is for refreshing yourself mentally.  You can literally "clear you head" because when running, your brain focuses all of its firings on the motor units, leaving few resources left for the parts of your brain that have to worry about things.  It's a good way to prepare for the coming days.

After a bit more working and showering, I went out for dinner.  In the mall's food court, there's a place called Green & Co, and they had vegetarian options, so I tried the Veggie Burger patty made of quinoa and words I couldn't identify.  It came with 3 veg sides, and I added in a fruit salad for dessert.  I was craving lots of vegetables.  Fish or chicken would've been good, too, but I wanted to try the veg burger. 

Look at the rainbow!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Feb 10

Tummy... hurts.  Blaaaaah.

Whooh... a reprieve.  Type while I can... got to run again.  I took 4 days off mostly because my legs were itching more for roller blading and getting lateral motion, more than some vertical pounding.  Makes sense.  Didn't have time to rollerblade, though.  Work's been ridiculous.  Made it through the week, though, thanks to God who somehow got me through.  It's going to be a non-stop activity-filled next two weeks... gotta be on my toes the whole time... 11 straight days of work, being around co-workers what feels like 24/7.  It's nice being with them.  I miss the feeling of being on a team.  I always liked being on teams.  When I was little, I'd organize my stuffed animals into teams.  The best team, with my favorite stuffed animals, was the "Awesome Olympians".  The third string team was the "Great Guards".  I don't remember the second string team's name.  Kind of funny.  I think I may like teams so much because it's a place where you belong, no matter what.  You are valued for the contribution you make towards the team goal.  Ehhhh... I'm getting off track.

So I ran today b/c I finally got through the week, and my legs finally felt like running today.  They've been wanting to exercie for a while, and I finally got to do that.  I wanted a bang-for-buck run, limited pounding time... and I wanted a fitness-maintaining session, so I did a speed session.  I started going, and it was hard.  Makes sense.  It's been 10 days since the marathon.  Too soon for a speed session.  So I made it an easier speed session.

1 mi warmup @ 7.1mph, 0.5 mi @ 9mph, 0.75 mi @ 7.5mph, 0.25 mi @ 9mph, 0.5 mi @ 7.5mph, 0.25 mi @ 9mph, 0.25 mi @ 7.5mph.

3.5 in 27:03, 7:44 ave.  Oh man, that's goal goal marathon pace.  It was 70 degrees, though.  My tummy didn't feel bad during the run - only after.  I iced in the pool afterwards - 36 degrees outside.

Oh yeah, my right butt had flared up again this week, so it was good to have a break to let it heal up.  I hope this doesn't make it flare up again.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Feb 5

My first run since the marathon!  I've been feeling ready to run since Thursday, so it was time.  It was going to be a non long-run, but I didn't really want to do it on the treadmill, since that would dictate the running form.  When I run outside, I can be my own, assymetrical self.  It may not be sustainable, but it allows me to run b/c the reason I choose the form I go with is that it's the most pain-free and effortless. 

So I ran outside.  I was going to do 8.6ish miles, but I started going out fast b/c I wanted to feel what it felt like to run fast again.  It would've been hard to keep up that pace for that distance.  Also, some very minor naggings also emerged, so especially 1 week after the marathon, better to play it safe. 

The ground was soggy from rain.  It was in the 50s and windy, so I wore my long sleeve Philly tech tee initially, but it got hot soon.

Felt good.  I think I'll do some biking next... or roller-blading.  I do need to stretch my piriformis, though.

Splits> 7:48 b, 5:46 p short, 7:00 c, 6:53 p, 6:29 b long, 7:43 car. 
5.3 in 41:41, 7:52 ave.

A large %age of people get sick post-marathon b/c their immune system is down.  People who exercise have stronger immune systems and get sick less frequently than those who aren't as consistent.  But a big thing like the marathon will temporarily depresss your immune system.  My throat has been a wee bit sore in the past couple of days, but nothing bad.  Just something to be careful about.

Feb 3

I'm baaaack!

A recap my recovery process since the marathon:
Sunday: Ran the marathon.  I had to walk/shuffle slowly.  I really wanted salt.  Tons and tons of salt.  Impossible to have too much.
Monday: Once I got walking at work, I loosened up.  My walking form mimicked running form, maybe b/c of muscle memory.  I still really wanted salt.
Tuesday: Like the previous 2 days, only about 6 hrs of sleep per night.  Not enough, but work's busy.  I can walk in a way that looks normal now, even though I'm sill sore.
Wednesday:  When I woke up, I was suddenly not sore.  Not a bit!  It was amazing.  Must've been DOMS before.  I did feel a bit used, but not sore.

Which brings me to Thursday...

I wanted to run, but by the time I was done w/ dinner, there wasn't much time, and I was somewhat tired, so I decided to try the Nike Training Center app for the iTouch.  It had been 2.5 weeks since my last strength session, so I needed to get back into it.  I did the Get Strong - Advanced - Endurance Master workout.  It was 45 minutes, including the cardio warmup (I backpedalled around my 1 bedroom apartment, which is quite a challenge, dodging furniture and everything) and some stretching at the end.  During the "recovery" periods, though, I did my usual PT exercises and also paused the timer so that I could do more, so the workout was probably an hour total.  It was tougher than my usual strength session.  I think that's due to muscle confusion.  Since I was used to doing the same set of exercises weekly, I had already figured out ways to do them most efficiently, and those particular muscle groups were conditioned muscularly and neuromuscularly.  With new exercises, new muscle groups had to work with different firing patterns.  I had to work harder to accomplish this.

So... the exercises.  It was squat-heavy, which is just what I need.  Hip strength prevents injuries.  And my quad:leg ratio is smaller than that of the elites.  So maybe I'd be faster, too, if I was stronger.  Split jumps make my left knee crackle, so I subbed that in with the Nordic skiing move.  It's similar, but without going down to a lunge.

At first, I thought that maybe the NTC would be something I could every day, in the morning.  Haha. Then, the next day, my lower back was sore.  My back's like never sore.  It's fine again.  I think I may just do it once/wk. 

More about the NTC itself.  It has different categories of workouts, although most are strengthy, involving weights or medicine balls and body weight.  It sets your iTouch music to the workout and also has videos to demo the move you're supposed to be doing.  It's very nice, and free, too!  I recommend it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

RACE REPORT: Chevron Houston Marathon

I'm now officially a MARATHONER!!! 

Sadly, I missed the BQ by 41 seconds... a mere 41 seconds out of the 13,200 seconds it takes to run a BQ. 

Here's my analysis of what I did right and what I did wrong... with lots of pictures!!!

"26.2 IS THE SHORT PART" - Training Plan Recap
The Saucony ad is true... 26.2 is the short part.  The many nights of hitting the treadmill, even when work left you pretty tired, and enduring the weekend long runs took some effort, but you loved every moment of it.  It made each day exciting and important.  You were in training. 

This was the first time I ever used a training plan.  Previously, the inpredictability of my schedule and my tendency to overtrain and injure myself made following a plan impossible.  The first part is understandable, but considering how well this went, I'd say that the well-chosen training plan prevents injuries... well-chosen and smartly executed.  If you're not feeling good, it's okay to back off.  Okay... I did push it at times... pretty far, too.  You get nervous, and I'd probably do it again.  I guess I was just fortunate, too.  But I did just go by feel, instead of following prescribed paces, and that worked well.  There's no way I could've handled some of what was asked.  Go by whatever pace you feel like you can handle without jeopardizing your next run or risking injury.  Make sure you also do cross training.  Strength training is especially important for injury prevention, good form/running economy, and speediness.

PLAYING IT SAFE - The Week Before the Race
- My hip had been giving me issues again in the 2nd week of the 3-week taper.  It had flared up the week of Christmas, but it got better by itself.  When it was bad even when walking on the week before the race, I was worried.  I could feel that my body was a bit taxed by the training, so I decided to skip the other proposed runs in the last week so that I could just rest.  My PT buddy also checked it out and didn't find anything seriously wrong, which was very comforting.  I spent a lot of time stretching, and that and the rest helped it feel 95% again.  I even did about 2 min of decently fast running on Thursday night, so that my leg wouldn't grow stale.  Some say that after a week without training, you lose 10% of fitness, which is huge.  But at least in HS, I'd notice that a week completely off, normally during vacations, would cause me to come back stronger than ever.  I always raced every workout, so maybe my body needed the rest then.  It was a good decision to rest and stretch in that last week. 
- I didn't change the makeup or size of my diet much.  This will probably vary a lot from person to person.  I'm someone who needs to get what my mind/body wants, otherwise my body/mind gets anxious.  It's hard to tell whether it's more body or mind... they're linked to some degree.  Anyway, I tend to eat pretty balanced and nutrient-packed foods, and if they're good for me in training, they're good for me always.  During the last 3 days, I did shift a little bit more towards carbs, but only a little.  I also reduced fats in the last 3 days.  I also subsituted some of my less superfood choices for superfood choices... like oatmeal instead of processed cereal.  I happened to eat strictly vegetarian (would've been vegan, were it not for milk and cheese), but it wasn't because of the race... my appetite for meat just kind of waned. 
- Unfortunately, work was especially hectic that week.  Lots of stress and little sleep.  Work had to come first, though.  Couldn't do much about it.  I figured I'd make it up on Saturday, the day before the race, by sleeping all day.
- During the week, I looked up the weather forecast a couple of times a day.  It got worse and worse, in the end predicting, from 7am-11am, 64->64->65->66->67 degrees, with 60% chance of scattered thunderstorms.  I had counted on Houston being a fast course due to its flatness and its good weather.  Oh well.  Can't control it.  If you've read the Houston Hype posts, you'll know how much I was debating about whether to go for it with this race or if I should take the conservative approach and just go for the BQ.  This helped to seal it for the conservative approach.

HELLO, HOUSTON - The Trip, the Olympic Trials Preview, and the Expo
- My parents came out to my apartment, and then we drove 2 hrs to the airport to fly out to Houston.  We got there at around midnight then spent another hour catching up with the family friends we were staying with.
- The next morning, at 6am, I woke again to watch the U.S. Half Marathon Championships / Olympic Trials Preview.  Elite racers competed while getting a taste of next year's trials.  We got there and walked up to a suprisingly small crowd.  And boom, immediately, I saw Magdelina Boulet, who I recognized from a Saucony ad on one of my running magazines.  It was a bit suprising, to see these people in person, right there.  There was an excitement about the place, as the athletes did their striders and made preparations for the run.  It would've been cool to even earlier, to watch their whole preparation process, with the stretches, fueling, mental prep, warmup, gear, etc.  They take this stuff seriously b/c for many, it's their livelihood.  Others, because it's hard to get sponsorships, still have to have day jobs.  I sometimes imagine that being a pro athlete would be a dream job, but I suppose having your livelihood depend on your performance would be stressful.  If it's what you love, too, though... I think the deal I have going on is nice.  I work hard at work, but that provides the means to enjoy this hobby/passion of mine.  No pressure, just enjoyment.

- The runners were a sight to behold.  They have leg muscles that you didn't know existed.  Powerful machines.  Determination and guts.  They push themselves with incredible determination and raw guts.  You could see the strain in Ryan Hall's face as he was in his final sprint, just half a step behind the lead.
- I love race expos.  A good expo is one of the things I look for when I pick a race.  I like the atmosphere -all around you are people just like you, just as crazy as you.  There's gear.  I like gear.  There are lots of free samples.  You feel like a celebrity, picking up your number and shirt and goodie bag and everything.

(Nissan sponsored a picture with me on Runner's World with Ryan Hall!)

- At the Expo, they introduced the pace team leaders.  Each group (2 leaders per time group) shared their strategy.  There was a big mix : Neg splits, positive splits (the neg split guy blasted him when it was his turn), even effort, even pace, Galloway run/walk, walk through water, run through water.  It was interesting to see how even within a group of very experienced runners, there could be such diversity.  I agree wth all of them besides the positive splits guy.  I guess I can see why he may be that way - the hills slow you down, the last 6 slow you down.  He wanted to "bank some time" in the early miles.  Eh...
- Afterwards, I had a filling lunch... it was mostly soup.  I didn't want much else, for some reason.  I was tired after a long morning, so I thought I might go straight to bed for the night afterwards.  I slept in the car ride and woke up refreshed.  I tried sleeping once I got back to my friend's house, but I ate some more for dinner, then tried to sleep again... It took a while, so I didn't end up sleeping until 10.

- I went to bed at around 10pm and woke up at around 4am.  I had already laid out my gear.

- Visor... good for the projected rain. And part of my "uniform", that I wear even when I'm indoors sometimes.

- Sports Bra... once I put it on, I realized how the black stripes might chafe me... it also just felt kind of hot in it b/c the top covers more.  So I went with the trusty old Nike DryFit Princeton bra.
- 4 Pocket Shorts... pockets allow you to carry your fuel without having to bring extra carriers like the Nathan ShadowPak.
- Fuel... Roks because protein helps carb absorbtion when taken at a 1:4 ratio, and it maybe helps your muscles a little bit somehow, I seem to remember.  PowerBar Gels - Cappucinno flavor with 2x Caffeine for the ergogenic effect and easily digestible energy.  Endurolyte electrolyte tablets, for the heat.
- Compression... I went with the calf sleeves + socks combination because 1) OxySox sometimes slide down my calves, and 2) It may retain less water during the rain, and 3) the OxySox bunched at the ball of my foot a couple runs ago, which was annoying.  Compression is for 1) better blood flow for oxygen/energy supply and waste removal, and 2) reduced muscle vibrations for more efficiency.
- Shoes... Kinvaras... see the Houston Hype post for more.  They are light.  The laces stay tied and give a nice fit to the shoe, besides the overly roomy toebox.  Plus, they're bright orange.
- Shuffle... Music makes you run with less perceived effort.  Research says that slow vs. fast music doesn't really make a difference.  Podcasts don't have the same effect.  There's something about music.  I ended up keeping it relatively soft, and I didn't even really notice it.
- Shades... I didn't end up using them, because it was going to be rainy.  No need for extra weight anyways.

- We got there at around 5:50am.  Runners were supposedly supposed to start lining up at 6:15am.  I put on my shoes (I wait til I get there, so that I don't mess up the cushioning), applied lube on my arms to prevent chafing, put on my hat, etc.  I went to the restroom.  I packed 2 chocolate covered coffee beans for the start of the race for an extra boost.
- I lounged around until 6:25ish until I started heading for the start.  Next, I checked in my bag, which took a while due to the long lines.  I looked for Gatorade b/c I wanted more electrolytes and took 2 Endurolytes.  Then, I had a choice.  Go back across the big building to the porta potties, or follow the "more porta potties are available at the start" that I heard.  I figured those would be on the way, so I headed to the start.  As I was walking, the need to use the restroom increased.  I saw porta potties and got in line at 6:41.  The line moved slowly.  Sometimes, you think you gotta go but it's not really that much.  I had drank a little more than I thought, so I thought "ok, well at least it was worth it".  I had 5 minutes left, so I powerwalked to the start.  I was in the first of two waves, but by 5 til, everyone had already crowded by the start line, so I couldn't get very far.  I figured it'd be okay, that since the physical distance to the start line wasn't that far, I'd find the 3:40 pace group and catch up quickly.
<< wooh, finally at the race now >>
- So the cannon went off, and the crowd moved up to the start line reasonably quickly, yet getting a tightly packed crowd to finally string out takes a long time.  It was 3 miles before I felt I could even breathe. Moving up was a frustrating process, especially when people run together, next to each other.  You get boxed in.  It was far better on the edges of the road, but even there, boxed in.. boxed in...
- Things finally thinned out enough to do some real running after about mile 4.  I kept hoping I'd see the next pace group, but I never got to see a single pace group.  I was so anxious about being slowed so much at the start that I overcompensated and ended up making up all of the lost time by mile 11.  Ideally, your effort should be even, so I really should've toned it down and realized that I had the entire race to make up the lost time in from the slow start.  At the time, I had been really proud that I had made it up by mile 11, but in retrospect, that's a bad sign... I must've been putting up too-fast times. 
- It was really useful wearing a pace bracelet, which gives splits for a given goal time.  I checked it at every mile. 
- Something that made me laugh during the run... we hit the 10k mark on the run.   We had just covered 6.2 miles, but that was only a drop in the bucket compared to what we knew was coming.  A little after we hit the 10K mark, the road went under an overpass.  There was a banner hung from the overpass saying "If you were running the such-and-such 10K, you'd be done by now!", and a line of people dressed up in duck costumes with kazoo-like horns were teasing us.  It was funny.  An ingenious advertisement. 
- A lesson from a poor guy I saw : Never try anything for the first time on race day.  I was running, looking at the road before me, and I noticed sandals... sandals?  Then I saw the floral designs on the sandals... someone was running in this?  Then, I noticed that it was on a man's feet.  What?  Then, I looked up and saw the Vibram 5 Fingers clipped to his belt and realized what must've happened.  This was maybe mile 4, and the poor guy probably never ran so far in the Vibrams before, had his feet start hurting, and had to borrow a kind female stranger's flower sandals.  Poor guy.  He's dedicated, though. 

- Mile 7, and I saw my dad, which was nice.  There were big crowds there.  The crowd support everywhere was nice, and so many families decided to cut up fruit to give out to the runners.  The Houston Maraton prints your name on your bib, so people cheer for you, too.  I remember at my first half marathon in Philadelphia, I got a high just from hearing people cheer for other runners by name. 
- It was fun reading some of the signs that people were either holding, or had previously placed along the course.  "Sweating is fat cells crying".  "Keep your eye on the prize"... that one helped me a lot, as I focused on the BQ.  I don't remember the other funny ones right now... maybe I'll remember later.  They were great and made me laugh.
>> found an article about the series of signs I saw with some guy's face on it! (see the left sidebar for a list of the sign slogans)
- The rain was on and off.  I've run in the rain before and  always thought it was fun and made the experience epic.  I like the rain, especially when it helps to cool you down on a warm day like this.  However, at times, it was a little slippery, not in a falling way, but in the traction way.  I only noticed it a few times, though, which is good. 
- The water stops were pretty good, although I wish they would mark which side of the road it was coming on, so I didn't have to suddenly veer across the road to try to hit the tables before I passed the water station.  The volunteers were great, especially being out there in the rain and relative (to someone who's not moving much) cold.  Every stop, I drank some Gatorade Endurance,took some purewater, and splashed a cup of water on my face and body.  Even with the rain, I needed faster cooling.
- The miles between 13 and 20 were just about covering distance so that you could get to what some people call "the real race" part of the marathon.  This was true.  And it helped to think "just 6 more miles" when you were at mile 14.  It made it seem more manageable.  Think of the marathon as several shorter runs : the 7 mi, the 13 mi, the 20 mi, and the final 6.2.
- Somewhere around mile 18, I started getting a little tired, and I even tried taking a quick nap while running, by closing my eyes.  I do that sometimes - not often, maybe once a year on average.  It truly feels restful somehow! 
- At around mile 20, a body runs out of glycogen in the muscles, if it hasn't supplemented with fuel taken in during the run.  Something that I've been curious about is what it feels like to hit the wall.  During workouts, my goal is to get trashed.  I like the feeling of wearing myself out through physical exertion.  I'm weird, I know.
- My plan was that in the last 6 miles of the race, when things are supposed to get tough, I'd dedicate each mile to someone.  During that time, I'd think about all the reasons I loved them and was grateful for them, and I'd thank God for them.  Mile 20, this went as planned.  Mile 21, some time during the middle of it, I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to be thinking about my next person and got off maybe 2 sentences about them.  It was starting to get hard to concentrate.  Mile 22, some time during the middle, I remembered again that I was supposed to be thinking of someone else, and so I got off a couple of sentences about them. After that, I totally forgot  / was physically incapable of having any ability to focus on anything other than trying to keep moving on.  Up to this point, my pace was still on target. 
- Houston is supposed to be a flat, fast course.  But it was hillier than I expected, and many of those hills came in the last 6 miles.  I guess they weren't terrible, but they were a force to be reckoned with.  Not the best place for hills.  I didn't know about it.
- At mile 23, I was doing okay.  I was exactly on target, with the extra 0:59 Boston grace minute to rely on.  But after that, things went bad.  I slowed down.  Couldn't help it. 
- The last mile was HARD.  I knew I was so close and that a BQ might still be possible, if I could kick it.  Just had to keep going with all that I had.  I saw the 1/2 mile left sign.  Then, the long stretch of straight road leading back to the Convention Center.  That building with the big red pipes coming out.  Such a sweet sight.  It looked close, but only because it was a big building.  I forced my body to go as fast as it could, but it was getting tough.  There was a headwind, too.  Up until mile 23, I was consistently passing people.  Mile 23-25, and especially the last mile, I was getting passed.  Then, the turn, and the final short stretch along the front of the Convention Center.  I sprinted as best as I could, and in the final 10 steps, my legs stopped firing correctly, and I could barely control them, but I made it over the line and was caught by med volunteers, who helped me stagger to get my medal. 
- Oh man, I was depleted.  It was tough to stand.  I got my picture and shuffled over to check my weight.  I didn't do a pre-race weigh-in, but I was about my usual weight, so I drank enough, probably.  I shuffled to get my gear bag, and I tenderly found a spot on the floor and changed out of my wet socks and shoes.  Then, I shuffled slowly towards food... eggs and a bit of potato and salsa for me.  I'd normally like eggs, but my tummy didn't really want it.  The potatoes were appreciated by my tummy, but I had only been given a few morsels of them.  I picked up my finisher shirt and beer glass, then shuffled over to my parents in the reunion area.
- We took pictures, watched the finish line a bit, drove back to my friend's house, then I took a nice warm bath.  I haven't taken a bath bath in like 15 years.  It felt good to be warm again after being in wet clothes in the cold.

So no BQ...
I'm already working on picking my next race.  I still want to go for Boston 2012.

Afterwards, I analyzed my splits to see where things went wrong....
It's incredibly informative, so I highly recommend doing this for races...