Sunday, March 23, 2014

Four Courts Four Miler


First of all:

The Four Courts Four Miler was a really fun, if slightly challenging race.  It's an out and back course, which starts and ends with a fairly steep, nearly mile long hill.  D didn't find it that challenging, but it was all I could do not to swear during that final steep uphill to the finish.  I foresee another racing photo of me wincing in agony...

The best part of this race is that they start a "leprechaun" (ie fast runner in crazy outfit) about ten minutes after the everyone else.  For every person he passes, a dollar goes to charity, and for every person who beats him you get a little gift at the finish line.  It's also possible that the best part of this race is that you can get a free Guiness at the finish.  Either way, it's a cute race with lots of spirit.

Second of all:

My hamstrings are really tight.  I ran 13 miles yesterday, and then went to pilates this morning before a short recovery run.  My inability to bend correctly is getting a little ridiculous and more than a little embarrassing.  D already has a foam roller, so I just invested in one of these-

The Stick Marathon Stick

Lets hope it's worth it!

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Long, Rough Winter

C here.  It has been a long, rough winter for running: 
  • Some good things have happened (i.e. finally placing first place in my age/gender group in a small Thanksgiving 5k!)

My favorite type of snail mail!

  • Some not so-fun-things have happened (i.e. falling on ice and crashing in snowbanks, running in 0 degree weather wearing so many layers I waddled, getting a never ending series of colds that set back my training a surprising amount)

From one particularly nasty running fall on ice, where my gloves were totaled, but my hands were fine

  • Some things just happened (i.e. had a ton of fun in New Orleans, and D and I met one of my favorite people ever at the finish of a RnR half...but neither D nor I had the half marathon we'd trained for)

Proudly sporting the Garmin D got me :)

But we're still here, still running, and still finding our way back to our pre-winter fitness!  Next up, a 4 miler on Saturday
Jingle all the Way 8k in December - great race, good results, and I'd nearly forgotten about it!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

New Garmins Are Coming!

D -  One of the most useful tools in my running kit has got to be my Garmin 310xt. It's a big orange buddy who lets me make up running routes at will, let's me know when I'm slacking, and tracks every step I take. I've only had it for a year (I opted for an older top end model over a newer lower end model), but I would have a lot of trouble switching back to manually tracking my runs, mile markers, creating new routes figuring out my splits.

Not surprisingly, my enthusiasm has rubbed off on C and now she's starting to want one. Surprisingly, this morning I got an email from C letting me know that the new Garmins are coming out (the FR620 and FR220). They are beautiful, and from what I've been reading, pretty cool devices.

Here is a summary of the research I did on the device this afternoon:

At $450 the 620 is more than I would think C needs to be spending (and would be willing to) on a Garmin. The 620 has some cool additional features (wifi, multi-sport, Vo-M and virtual partner) but for 200 dollars I think they're features she can live without.

The 220, going for $205-300 is feature packed, and meets all the criteria I set out when I originally started looking for a watch for C, but didn't find anything that met the criteria.

Criteria for C:
Battery life: A descent battery life is a must for both of us. Forgetting to charge the watch shouldn't mean not being able to use it. And, if/when we start running marathons, it has to last 4 hours of the race and be able to be turned on an hour in advance in case the GPS takes synch time. At 10 hours anticipated battery life (by garmin) this watch will handle marathons... or two.

Night Visibility: C runs at strange hours and weather, so she needs a watch that she can actually see and use. With a color screen, the 220 goes beyond any watch I've read about yet.

Multiple Information Screens: I know that during a race, C is not going to want to scroll through or wait for an auto scroll to be able to check distance, time and pace. The 220 can actually handle this. So, the important info can all be on one screen - distance, time and pace.

Ant+ compatible: C has mentioned wanting to use a heart rate monitor for training. If she starts using a treadmill, the footpod compatibility is nice to make workout logging that much easier.

Waterproof: If you can have a sports watch, and have it not be waterproof, you're not working out properly. Garmin upped the ante, from the "sweat-proof" to a more legitimate 50m waterproof. No need to take it off for post race swims. 

Size: This has been the toughest challenge - finding something light and small enough with the above features. This is still going to be the huge question-mark on if she wants one too. But, for her sake, I've put together a quick comparison to give an idea of its size.

310xt (My watch)
Width: 2.1 inches
Depth: 0.7 inches
Height: 2.2 Inches
Weight: 2.5 ounces

FR220 (the one I'd recommend you get)
Width: 1.8 inches
Depth: .5 inches
Height 1.8 inches
Weight: 1.4 ounces

So - it's literally half the size (cubic inches) and barely over half the weight. 

Stuff it's missing:
the "go home" feature: I love on mine. If I get lost, the 310xt, 910xt has a screen that shows an arrow (where I am) and a line so I know generally where I've been and how to get home (just keep the arrow on the line). It even vibrates when I approach a turn. I have the ability (but haven't done this) to plot a course and upload it to have the watch tell me where to go as well.
Unfortunately The 220 or 620 do not appear to have this feature.
The mutli-sport modes: on the 310xt you can select different modes (Running, 3 biking modes and an "other") it's fun to record random data (like skiing for instance) but it was useful to separate out my biking from my running on the watch. You also loose the ability to switch between minutes per mile and miles per hour. 
The 220 and 620 lack this feature. However, they can still record the data, and it can be marked later as biking. This will mess up the watch's PR settings - so if you want the watch to congratulate you when you beat your best... it'll think that 1 minute mile you did in your car was better. Of course, if the watch is only used for running, this doesn't matter. 

Random Stuff they Added:
Blue Tooth: There's an app for that. Garmin now has an iphone app that allows you to upload workouts to your phone... while you're working out. Your phone can upload them to garmin's site, and people can follow you as your race. 
Wifi: The 220 doesn't have this, but the 620 can upload directly to Garmin's website when it has a wifi signal. 
Color Screens: Totally not a useful thing - but pretty cool none the less. I'm sure this will be technology better utilized when Garmin watches start to integrate road maps - but they haven't done this yet. 
Pre Synching of GPS: You can tell your watch where you are going to be. In theory this will allow the watch to synch with satellites faster when you travel to a new place, up to 7 days in advance.

Final thoughts:
Between the Garmin site, Amazon, and most importantly, DC Rain Maker, the 220 really does look like what C has been looking for. As long as it fits (and that is a big if) I don't think anything it is missing should be a deal breaker. C isn't in the habit of doing runs that would get her lost (unlike me) doesn't seem to have triathlons as a goal, and doesn't own a bike currently. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for some final reviews, but so far, it seems like an awesome leap forward for Garmin.

The review that has me pretty excited about the watch: 

Dc RainMaker amazon link (buying through here helps to support the best running equipment review site ever)



Monday, November 4, 2013

Run For the Parks Recap

10k Race Results and new PRs
D: 45:42
C: 46:28

On Sunday we had a much needed successful race in DC. PR (Potomac River Runners), which is an amazingly active running store/running club, put on a race, Run For The Parks 10k, through a scenic section of DC's monuments. It was flat, felt fast, and well organized. With the much needed drop in temperature, I was able to push my pace much more than I have in a while.

The morning started off with an Uber (phone-app car service) ride to the start (a great way to not have to carry a wallet to a race). The driver had just taken a woman to the start, who was in a bit of a panic. She needed to be there in "nine minutes". We thought, maybe she was late for volunteering at a water stop, was an elite, or something else. Then I realized, It was the first day of day lights savings, and the Uber driver hadn't set his clock yet! - she probably hopped in the cab, saw his car's clock and panicked.

Instead, we arrived at the race with an uncharacteristically calm C, with plenty of time in our wonderfully warm new sweatshirts and paced around trying to ignore the very cold wind.

C had laid out her race plan for us the day before. 7:24 per mile would break our PR by about 2 minutes, so we were doing 7:24s. Usually we spend a bit more time thinking about pacing options, but, I didn't question it and instead set off at a slightly faster pace (C had taken off at this point, as she tends to do in races).

Right in the first mile, I settled into a comfortable pace that happened to be about 7:08s - 7:20s, with a small group of guys who all had the same pacing in mind. One was a seasoned marathon runner, so I attached myself to him until the half way turn around, when he started to kick in and take off.

In the end, I had a wonderful PR, held a respectable 7:22 pace (for an arbitrarily, morning of the race chosen goal pace of 7:24, I was surprisingly close) and felt wonderful doing it. I found a wonderful focus on this run, to the point, I couldn't tell you a thing about the scenery, but can recount the outfits of almost every person who passed me, and that I passed back....  Like the guy in orange who kept slowing down on the corners....
Me (bright yellow on the right) cheering C (in blue on the left)

C hit a PR too, less than a minute behind me.

Best of all - the race put up the photos on Flickr instead of those ridiculously over-priced sales sites (Great find C!) - so we were actually able to include race photos this time around!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fall Running

D-  I moved to a new town just south of Boston this Fall. One of the tough things about moving is finding new running routes - and one of the benefits it turns out. I can do 3 or 4 miles hard in a quiet neighborhood without waiting for light. A 9 mile run can take me up and over the Blue Hills, through woods and with an amazing view of Boston. Best of all, it's only 2 miles to hit the Bay and be greeted by the smell of ocean air.

So, to celebrate the new season and new city (and per request from C) here are photos of my weekend runs.

Cheering on the Marine Corps Marathon

2013 Marine Corps Marathon Map
D and I will run a marathon, it's just a question of when.  In the meantime, I spent the morning at the MCM scouting the race/cheering at the top of my lungs.

I ran about a mile and a half to the course on the southern side of the mall (around mile 16.5).  From my first cheering spot, I could see the runners cross the far bridge and then turn around and run directly in front of me.  As you can tell, there weren't many spectators that early in the race, but I got there right before the first runner-
Very blurry photo, but this is the lead car, and the Ethiopian runner who would eventually go on to easily win the race.

The second two runners.  For a race without elites, I was surprised how spaced out the front was.  It took a while before there was a steady stream of runners.  After a pack of runners finally did start to come, I ran on the sidewalk along the course toward the center of the mall where the crowds were bigger - I was still cheering away though. I was a little disappointed in the number of spectators who just stood there - Cheer!!

"You run better than your government"

Special MCM water cups?!?

The marines were manning a lot of the water stations, which was pretty awesome.  The marine above was drinking about every other cup when I went by :0)

A final view from about mile 18.  I only covered about 2 miles along the course, but I could see across to the other side of the mall as well.  I wish the crowd support was a little better, but it was great to see so many Marines spread out along the course.  I would seriously consider running the MCM, but I need to learn a little bit more about the number of hills early in the course.  However, it's hard to imagine a much better setting than the national mall!

On a personal note, this was not an impressive run by me today (I think I probably ran about 3 miles total, with some seriously long cheering breaks).  I ran 10 miles yesterday (approx 9min/mile pace).  I'm looking forward to my 10k with D next week!  After the 10k I'll start upping the mileage again.

-Peace and MCM love!-

Saturday, October 19, 2013

What I Learned


I'm still trying to figure out exactly what went wrong with my Johnstown YMCA Half Marathon. Actually, a lot went wrong, but I need to separate out what I have control over vs what I didn't, and try to move on from there. Effectively, turn this into a learning experience while enjoying a few weeks off.

The Training Plan

What went wrong: We upped our mileage, both in terms of weekly and our longest run. C may have gotten into the best shape of her life from our training plan, but for me, I think it missed some important components. After months of being tired, I didn't work in enough of a taper, and I think was still tired walking into race day. I also don't think I was ready for 40 mile weeks, as I was tired for 2 months and never got in any speed work and walked on more of the runs than I care to admit.

Can I control it?: YES! Experimenting can create great results... or trip you up. I know my body can handle more than I throw at it, but I also should have eased into this last cycle a bit more. For the next round of training, we're going to modify the workouts to build in some breaks and some speed workouts.

The Positive Spin: I ran 40 mile weeks, week after week. Sure I was tired, but my body handled it. I also ran 18 miles, actually ran it (no walking) - which is the furthest yet.

The Cupcake Project
The Government Shutdown

What went wrong?: Our original race plan, to do the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half, got shutdown when the national park 8 miles of the course was on was closed. We had to scramble to find a new race in only a few days.

Can I control it?: No... well, "Of the People and For the People," but in the larger sense, things go wrong, races get delayed, and you have to accept that.

The Positive Spin: With 4 days notice, we found a great race, booked a hotel and even managed to drive the course. Adaptability Badge unlocked- next time things are looking bad, I know we can dig in and find a solution. Next time I won't let it stress me out as much.

The Inclined Plane

What went wrong?: We got to the start of the race by riding this awesome platform, or Vehicular Inclined Plane, up to where the race started at the top of a massive ridge.This meant a net downhill course. Woohoo PR!!! Actually, the downhills were so steep and long (2 miles at one point) they hurt. This left shot legs for the uphills and flats.  There were lots of uphills too somehow.

Can I Control It?:  Yes. Working hills more frequently will allow me to deal with these challenges. I can't change the hills, but I can train for them.

The Positive Spin: My body/mind didn't give up on the race until after a few of the daunting hills and I mostly had a flat run back to the start. So, I actually managed to conquer the tough parts of the course. With training I'll be in better shape after finishing them.

The Heat

What went wrong?: My tolerance for racing in heat is somewhere in the mid to high 70s. Since Johnstown got up to almost (maybe actually) 80 degrees I was out of my element.

Can I control it?: No, I can choose races... but if I'm going to be doing more races in DC, I'm going to have to adapt.

The Positive Spin: I've gotten in the habit of running on the treadmill (see above issue with hills) in AC. A doctor I talked on my flight back home pointed out I should do heat training if I'm heading south for a race (purposely run short runs mid day in the summer) or in general just in case the temperature jumps.

Source Wiki.

What went wrong?: I overheated at the end of the race, and part of it was not having water.

Can I control it?: Not sure yet

The Positive Spin: I think overeating and drinking (water) the day before a race is a habit I need to get over. As marathon talk recently pointed out, I should eat reasonably and healthy, and we'll see if that helps. In the mean time I'll have to channel my inner camel.

Mental Failure

Running Time article on mental fatigue
What went wrong?: My mind gave out a few miles before my body started resisting. Part of it was the heat, the dehydration, the hills - but in the end I know I gave up on the race before it was over.

Can I control it?: Yes! To admit otherwise would leave room for it to happen again.

The Positive Spin: Train smarter - part of the mental fatigue came from last minute race planning, over training, and other life stresses. The biggest part was that I over-reached with some runs and ended up walking. Effectively, I trained myself to stop running. Sure, running too far is bad, but I should have taken the sign to modify my training schedule. The solution will be to draw on the feeling of having a race slip from you to push out the extra miles when needed, and the planning to not put myself in the position where I have to.

At 1:57, this was my slowest race since my first half marathon. Considering all the hard work (possibly too hard at this point) it was crushing. I was almost glad for a painful thigh as an excuse to take a week off from running.

It's now going on two weeks, with only some light weekend mileage, but no more excuses except a cold. I have 2 weeks of training before a 10k tuneup race, and 15 weeks till New Orleans Rock n Roll Half Marathon.

Will I look back at this and say, "oops, should have done all that" or will I smash my PR in NoLA? The good news is the weather will be somewhere between 48 and 67, my idea racing weather, according to averages... or between 20 and 85 by records....