Category Archives: Running

Renton Park.run 5K

I ran the Renton Parkrun this morning and ran a post-college PR by about 25 seconds.  I’m delighted to dip under 22 minutes, and I’m obviously happy with a new PR.  The conditions were close to ideal, and the course was quite flat.  I’d tapered a bit this week, per my half marathon schedule, and so I was feeling fresh.

I showed up about 40 minutes early, and straightaway I ran into one of the race directors.  She was quite friendly and came bearing cakes.  I helped her carry the cakes in, and then I did a 2 mile warmup.  This put me at about 8:45, with the race start at 9 am.  It was in the low 30s, and I’d been wearing quite a few layers to warmup, so I jogged back to my car and stripped down to what I was planning in racing in – capri tights, long-sleeve half-zip top, and an ear-warmer headband.  Surprisingly, I didn’t really feel cold, so I guess I was well warmed up.  I jogged back to the start with ten minutes to spare, and I ended up standing around in the frigid cold for about 15 minutes (as it started a few minutes late), which wasn’t ideal.  Next time, I’ll cut it a little closer.

Finally, the race started.  I found myself behind a wall of joggers on a narrow path, and it took me a little weaving through the first 100m to get around them.  After that, it was a nearly clear road ahead of me.  There were two women in front of me, and I picked them both off.  The first was obviously running slower than me, but I was a little nervous about passing the second so early.  She slowed quite a bit, though, in the end, as the next women who finished after me was about 4 minutes behind.

I haven’t run a 5K in ages, and I couldn’t believe how long the first mile seemed to last.  When my watch finally beeped I was thinking perhaps that I was at 2 miles, and that I’d missed the first mile.  No such luck!  My first split was 7:00.   I stuck with the pace through the second mile.  My second split was 6:55, and though I was feeling lousy, I think the fact I was able to run such even splits indicates that all the long runs I’ve been doing have improved my endurance.  The turnaround was at 2.25 miles and seemed ages in coming.  When I finally hit it, knowing I had less than a mile to go was a huge mental boost.

I tried hard to stick with the pace for the third mile, and even though I felt like I was working harder, my split was 7:03, so I guess I slowed a little.  I’d passed one of the guys in front of me at about 2.75 miles, and he blew by me with about a tenth of a mile to go.  He was going way to fast for me to keep up with, but I gave chase anyway in hopes that it’d help my time, and I did run the last 0.1 at 6:36 per mile.  My watch didn’t get good heartrate data, so I have no basis for comparison there.

My time was 21:45, or 7:01 per mile.  Oh, I really want to dip under 7 mpm!  So close, yet so far.

I left quickly as H wanted to go skiing with a friend, and I needed to get back to watch the kids.  It’s about four hours later, now, and I feel pretty good.  Now, I’m going to take the kids ice skating.  I’m sure it’ll be a blast and will go swimmingly, given that L hates to fall above all else.  She is quite insistent that we go, though, so we’ll give it a try.

Now, of course, I just want to go faster!  There are really four options:

1.) Stick with my higher mileage and hope that over time it’ll make me faster

2.) Add still more miles

3.) Add speed work.  I really haven’t done any dedicated speed work, and I do think I could improve a bit by doing this.

4.) Lose weight.  1 pound = 2-3 seconds per mile.  My body likes to be at my current weight, but even losing 5 pounds could make a difference.

The next obvious goal is sub-21:30.  I am confident that it’s achievable, despite my age.  I just have to work for it.

Stretching progress and a little running

I’ve been continuing to stretch 12 minutes 3 times per week, so 36 minutes per week, using this very random and probably unscientific Youtube video I found.  My plan is to measure my flexibility on roughly the first of every month with a sit-and-reach to see if I’m making any progress.  The video stretches a lot of parts of the body, some of which are not tested with a sit-and-reach, but I feel it’s just a representative test, not a comprehensive one.  I would like to find some other tests I could do to evaluate if I’m making progress.

Anyway, drumroll please . . .

After one month, I’ve improved from a set-and-reach of -2.5 inches to -1.25 inches.  I’d say the measurement process has roughly 0.5 inches of uncertainty (say 1 sigma), so I appear to have made some progress.  I’m cautiously a little excited!  Even with such a limited time commitment, given my initial extreme lack of flexibility, it makes sense that I would see some gains.  It definitely motivates me to continue.  While in some ways I find my 12 minute routine kind of brutal, I am also coming to enjoy the feeling of being warmed up and “flexible” (relatively speaking) by the end.  I find it really interesting how much more flexy I feel after warming up and 12 minutes of stretching.

In other news, I ran 143 miles this month, my highest mileage month since I’ve been tracking as far as I can tell.  (I’ve been tracking since 2004.)  I’ve hit about 130 a few times, so it’s not crazy, but I’m definitely putting in some miles right now, with a half in March as my goal.  Hopefully, the miles will pay off, and if they don’t, hopefully I can appreciate the value of the process and running for running’s sake.  In running, I do think hard work usually pays off, but it doesn’t always happen immediately, and in the meantime, I think it’s continuing to do good things for my mental (and physical) health.  Also, one month of lots of miles won’t do much more than tire me out.  It’s putting together a string of high mileage months that pays dividends.

my first spin class

I went to my first ever spin class this morning.  I was a little nervous, as I am pretty much at the outset of pretty much any kind of group activity in which I don’t know the other people.  I was also a little worried about the technical details – how do you set up the bike?  Do I need to bring bike shoes?  Do I need a ticket?  And so on.  I was also a little worried about being able to complete the workout.  However, I imagined it would be low-key, and it was.  I went to a 9:30 class while B was at preschool, and as a result the class featured a disproportionate number of old people and also about half women.  (I have noticed that the Y is dominantly filled with men before 7:30 am, and dominantly filled with old people and women after 8:30 am.  I haven’t had to time to fully flesh out conclusions based on this.)

Anyway, we did 4 by 8 “Tabatas.”  That is 20 seconds hard, 10 seconds easy a total of 32 times.  The instructor generally told us how to set the resistance, saying either seated hill climb, or standing high hill, or whatever.  People were definitely working hard.  I don’t really take a lot of gym classes, so maybe that’s true in all classes, but there wasn’t much chatter and there was a lot of sweat.  I began to feel like I was in a torture chamber with the music blaring and people immersed in sweat and discomfort around me.

After the Tabatas, she had us do three sets of 6 minutes.  She advised starting at resistance 13 or so, and we were to maintain 90 rpm.  Then, we should increase resistance by one at 3 minutes, and then again by one at 5 minutes.  I decided to start at resistance 11 rather than 13, and otherwise followed instructions and maintained 90+ throughout the exercise.  Then, she had us do it again.

I had forgotten to check the duration of the class and kept thinking it would be over and then having to do another exercise.

The class was called spin / core, so after 45 minutes of spinning, she led us in about 10 minutes of core exercises and then some stretching.  I’m not sure if it’s because I was exhausted from spinning or because I just have a weak core, but the core stuff was so hard.  She started out with a basic plank and then you sort of rocked from side to side.  I basically couldn’t really do it.  I was toast.  But maybe if I persist, I’ll get better at it.  I’m not sure once a week is a high enough frequency for 10 minutes of core exercises to make any difference whatsoever, though.  I’d hoped my pushups were working my core, and there’s no doubt they are, but perhaps I should add some type of plank exercise to my thrice weekly strength exercises.  I think core strength is not only good for cycling and running but also for preventing back pain.  Ever since having the kids, I’ve dealt with on and off minor back issues, no big deal, but something that could potentially become worse with age.

strength training

I’ve been thinking for some time about wanting to add both flexibility and strength to my weekly routine.  My initial motivation on flexibility was to help with my plantar fascitis.  While my feet are still sore in the morning, overall, I’ve been feeling pretty good.

As far as strength goes, I was a little bit at a loss.  When I was in college, I did strength training with the crew team, but those workouts primarily used machines for the legs, and also lasted an intense hour.  I want a workout that’s (a) specifically targeted towards running, or at least towards swim/bike/run (b) can be done from home (does not require machines) and (c) takes only about 15 minutes.

On my last run, yesterday, my knee was hurting a bit at the start, and eventually built up to significant discomfort / plain by the end of the twelves miles.  I primarily blame the fact that I ran a moderately hard 7 miles, then a hard 12 miles the next day.  Basically, I have a few workouts I want to do each week, and life factors sometimes mean that they don’t happen on the days they should.  Normally, you wouldn’t want to do two hard workouts two days in a row.  In any case, I obviously need to be smarter about that, but it led me to investigate the causes of runner’s knee.  Basically, lack of strength is the culprit behind many running injuries, and apparently the ability to pound out miles does not necessarily indicate strength.

Runner’s World suggests there are a number of exercises one can do to improve this situation, so I’ve devised a little strength training routine, which hopefully will only take in the neighborhood of 15 minutes.

  • 15 plyometric jump squats (See 3:16 of this video)
  • 11 pushups
  • 10 reverse lunge with knee drive (See 0:32 of this video)
  • 8 bicep curls
  • 10 standing knee drive (with resistance band) (See 2:20 of this video)
  • 10 standing hip flexion (with resistance band) (See 2:40 of this video)

(Repeat twice, for three total sets)

So, we’ll see how it goes.

On the plus side, I ran 12 miles on my own, 8 miles of it through rain, at sub-9 minute pace without feeling that bad.  Don’t get me wrong; I was definitely working, and I was definitely tired, but it wasn’t like a race or anything like that.  So I consider it a sign that I’m building some fitness.

Winter running gear

Winter is upon again, and that means cold, dark, rainy running.   Last Christmas, I wrote about winter running attire.  Honestly, at this point, I consider myself something of an expert on running in Seattle weather conditions at this point.

Shirts

  • Sugoi Half Zip I love this top.  It’s got a nice little zip pocket that’s just big enough for my running gloves, a true half zip (not a quarter zip masquerading as a quarter zip), comes in bright colors, and has long sleeves with thumb holes.
  • Lululemon Swifly LS Tee  I finally hopped on the Lululemon swifly bandwagon.  Honestly, this one is not worth the full list price ($80!) but I do like that I can wear is just as easily to work as on a run.  It shows up in basically every wash cycle I do.
  • I still own and run in the shirts I mentioned a year ago, so they’re holding up well.

Tights

  • Nike Epic Lux Tights  I bought a pair of these (not in this pattern) after seeing my favorite runner wearing them on the cover of Runner’s World.  I’m not sure I’ve ever done that before, but the tights are great for weather around 40 degrees.  And I LOVE the pattern.
  • My Sugoi Mid-zero tights still get a ton of use.  I wish they’d sell them in some more colors.

Rain jackets / vests

  • Lululemon Like The Wind Vest  I was hesitant about buying this since it’s water resistant, not waterproof, but it has turned out to be a great buy (one sale).  I get a ton of use out of it on days when it’s in the low 40s and it’s raining lightly to moderately.  (We get A LOT of days like that.)  That’s too warm for a full jacket, and this vest if great.  I wore it for the Seattle Half, and it was a great choice that day, too.
  • Amphipod Xinglet Vest  Last winter, I tried running at work on the darkest days, or treadmilling it at the Y.  We had really lousy weather last winter, but it’s been a bit better this winter, so I’ve been out in the dark a lot more.  This really lightweight reflective vest is small but, according to my husband, really improves my visibility.

Other

  • 12 in 1 Headband  This guy has proved surprisingly useful, and it makes me look slightly less ridiculous than my other running winter headbands.

best of 2017 in running

Since it seems all I blog about these days is running, it probably makes sense to do an end-of-year summary.

Best Race Experience

Cosmo Girl 7K, bar none.  I didn’t go into the race with any particular expectations, but I came in 2nd of about 500 runners.  That’s my best race performance, well, ever, I think.  It’s mostly because the race wasn’t particularly competitive, but it was kind of awesome running down the main drag in West Seattle with only one woman and the cycling guide in front of me.  It was also my second-fastest paced race of the year, at 7:11 mpm with a 22:07 5K in the middle.

Best New Piece of Running Gear

This is a hard one, but I think I have to go with my GPS watch.  I avoided getting a watch for the longest time, but I finally gave in and got a Garmin 735XT, and I have to admit that I love it.  I don’t really look at it much when I’m running, but I like having it beep at the mile markers.   What I really like is reviewing the data afterwards.  I’ve loved using Strava and sharing my runs with the rest of my family and a few friends.  I love that the watch has a wrist heart rate monitor.  It doesn’t always work, but it usually does.  In addition, I definitely recommend Strava to anyone looking for a little motivation.  My entire family is using Strava at this point, including both my parents, and it’s been great following along with each other’s workouts.

Best Inspiration

There are so many options here.  I enjoyed re-reading Running With the Buffaloes and listening to Running: A Love Story as an audiobook.   How Bad Do you Want It? was great the night before the Seattle Half Marathon.

I’ve also enjoyed following athletes on Letsrun and Instagram.  My long-time favorite runner is Jordan Hasay; she displaced Shalane Flanagan, my former favorite runner.  However, at the end of the day, it’s impossible to beat Shalane’s amazing run at the New York City marathon.  So awesome!

Best Race Picture

I suppose it’s fitting that the best race picture of the year was from the one race I didn’t really race but ran as a training run.  I look horrible when I’m racing (see the above picture) and going all out, but I liked this one.  That is not the look of someone going 100%!

Most Fun Race

I loved doing the Lake Meri.dian Triathlon with several of my co-workers.  My co-worker and I won the men’s and women’s 35 to 39 age group for the (very uncompetitive) super sprint tri, which was just so fun.   If I ever do another tri, though, I am definitely getting a BLACK tri top.

Toughest Race

OMG, my first ever multisport race was BRUTAL.  The pouring rain left me shaking with cold for literally hours afterwards, despite running the heater in my car full blast during the 40-minute drive home.  I’m surprised I ever did another du/tri after that!  I learned that sometimes it really does make sense to forfeit your race entry and just go home.  When the weather is moderately bad and you’re prepared for it, it feels good to soldier through the rain.  But this was driving rain and I was not dressed for it.  The picture below does not begin to capture the extent of my misery, mostly because the misery didn’t truly being until the bike part of the race.

stretching

Merry Christmas to all.  We’ve had two videochat sessions with the fam, one on Skype and one on Google Chat.  The latter was more successful but still somewhat unsatisfactory.  I’d really like to take better advantage of today’s technology to improve our video chat sessions, but I guess some research is required.

The top of my left foot continues to bother me, and it’s snowy outside, so I”m taking today off, and I’ll probably try swimming tomorrow.  It’s not bad, but I’d really like it to fully heal so I can dive back into training.  I’ve been feeling an uptick in anxiety lately, which I’m guessing is related to the holidays, though it’s hard to say, but I do wonder if it’s related to taking two weeks off, and post-race letdown.  Who the hell knows.

I’ve been thinking about what I want to do next year athletically, other than run.  To me, there are different area’s of fitness – cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility.  I made some inroads on strength last year by doing 5000 pushups.  It’s hard to say if and what that really accomplished, but I think it must have been good for me.  Right?

When I was younger, I could run fast, slow, whatever, and I never got injured in the slightest.  These days, it’s not that way anymore, and I think lack of stretching is a contributing factor.  I’ve spent a lot of hours stretching, in soccer, basketball, cross country, crew, and so on.  I always found it annoying and basically a waste of time.  But, maybe it’s not.  And even if it is, I find that I don’t like being ridiculously inflexible.  I have always been inflexible, but all that annoying stretching made me more flexible than I am now.  So I’m thinking next year, I’ll set a goal to do ten minutes of stretching at least three times per week, or something like that.  In addition, I’m going to continue what I’ve started over the last couple of months, stretching my calves while waiting for traffic lights.  (There is one nasty, long traffic light I run through twice on most of my runs.)  Wouldn’t it  be cool to actually be flexible?  I’m guessing I’d need more than 10 minutes three times a week to be actually flexible, but you have to start somewhere, right?