Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Brief February Update and Workout-Related Biochemistry

Back into training! I'm onto my third week of consistent training and seventh week of consistent running since my injury hiatus. In order to prepare myself for the Gate River run, Dennis has me run mile repeats one day a week and then the same number of repeats in straight miles for the next workout. For example, This week is 5x 1 mile at 175bpm and then 5miles at the same heart rate, without stopping, for the second workout of the week. We usually try and add in some hill sprint repeats to keep my fast twitch fibers working, and then finish the week with a fast finish long run. I've completed two so far, and was lucky enough to have company on both.

For the first I did 18 miles with the last 4 at 165bpm. I ran the first 10 with Tyler (visiting from Tallahassee for a long weekend) and then he hopped onto my bike to finish the last 8 with me. It was pouring rain, but not cold, and we did two loops around Santa Clara and Cupertino. It was so nice to have having his company.
Lake Merced as the sun is rising
The Great Highway along Ocean Beach 

This past weekend I did 19, with 15-18 miles (5 total) at 165bpm along the Great Highway in San Francisco. This is where I finished the second half of my very first marathon (Nike Women's San Francisco 2013) and it was just a perfect day. I started out the run on Lake Merced near SFSU, then up the highway to tour the hilly Golden Gate Park. I am still so thankful every day that I get to run, and even more thankful now that I am back doing workouts. I am trying to soak ups this California weather as much as I can. 12 days and could until I head out to the cold Minnesota tundras.

An attempt to get a picture of me eating my Bonk Breaker Chews in Golden Gate Park. It was too sunny.

On the past two long runs I have also used the new Bonk Breaker product, Chews! I was lucky to receive the new Orange Tangerine ones in the mail and figured my long run efforts were the perfect time to try them out. I don't often take fluids or fuel on regular long runs and unfortunately its bitten me in the butt a couple times. I've found myself light-headed and weak at the end of runs and I know its to do with my hydration levels and especially my electrolytes! Electrolyte deficiencies in blood plasma for extended periods of time can lead to hyperkalemia, which has the symptoms I felt and also additional issues causing irregular heart beat, too. To avoid this, electrolyte intake during and after workouts are essential.

 In the packet there are 8 chews, which is two servings. A serving has 90 calories, 70mg sodium, 90mg potassium, and 24g carbs (15g of which are sugars). Like all of the Bonk Breaker products, the fuel is made from real food sources and are often organic. A serving of chews would suffice, for me, for a 2 hour run. I finish off a run with UCAN Hydrate, an electrolyte drink mix, which helps me replenish. I start my runs with GENUCAN Superstarch which helps with steady glucose release for extended energy, but often by the 14th mile, I could use a little push with some quick energy. The sugar profile in the Chews were perfect to keep me chugging along and feeling energetic through the last, last miles. So first plus: essential electrolytes, second: a bit of sugar, and last, but never least: the delicious taste. Remember those candies you get at the movie theatre or on halloween called Dots? They taste just like those! SO YUMMY. they're easy to chew and manage in your mouth, even while in motion, which is another big issue I have. I've been a Gel user for the past few races, figuring the chews would interrupt my breathing. I was pleasantly surprised that these were so easy. The 2 serving pack is great for cyclists of anyone doing hard core trail running for fueling through out the run. I took 2 chews around mile 10 of both of my long runs and I'll probably move up to 4 once my runs get longer and quicker and definitely during my next marathon, coming this spring! Give them a try, you won't be disappointed.

My teammates John, Meghan, Eric, and our coach Dennis after the Twin Cities Torchlight 5K, my first official race in my  Hurricane uniform.

In other news, I was selected to be a Saucony Hurricane Athlete again for the 2015 season. I am so grateful for the support that this program offers. I will have the support of about 50 other athletes nation wide, my local reps -- Curtis until I move and then Benn Zubke (@Benn_Tuesday) in Minneapolis -- and from the head honchos which includes Brain Mahoney. I spent half of last year injured, so I am so thankful for the continued belief in my potential and know that this year will be a better year. I love Saucony shoes and gear to death and look forward to racing in my jersey for another fun-filled year.

A Bit of Biochemistry: 
The anaerobic cycle in the one that cells use when oxygen isn't readily available (on the left). marathoners use more of the aerobic cycle because they are moving slower and cells are more able to use the circulating oxygen. Sprinters use more anaerobic because their muscles need quick energy for fast movement when there isn't sufficient circulating oxygen. lactate is a byproduct of this pathway (http://science.halleyhosting.com/sci/soph/energy/resp/notes/anaerobic.htm).

I know that I have mentioned in previous posts and also above about bpm (beats per minute) values (180, 175, 165, etc.) that I use for workouts. Those not training for anything specific or not training with a heart rate monitor might not know what these values are and what they mean. Briefly, it can be tested and arithmetically estimated what a person's maximum heart rate is, based on age, heigh, weight, and so on. Then from these values training zones can be determined, each zone has your heart rate at a different level and produces a different effect on your body. There are also blood lactate level, which can be determined by finger prick that later can be matched with a specific heart rate value. Lactate is a product of the anaerobic (without oxygen) energy production pathway. the levels of lactate in the cell can indicate, roughly, what range of aerobic vs anaerobic energy production someone is in. Lactate threshold is the point when your blood lactate levels are at 2mmol/liter. Sources say this is about 20-40bpm less than the anerobic threshold, and is at about 65% max heart rate.

With these values and this information, Dennis and I were able to calculate, and later confirm with metabolic testing, that my lactate threshold was somewhere around 175-180bpm. We used to use 180, but noticed I was getting injured frequently and was leaving my races in my workouts. Recently we have dialed back to 175 bpm. We also do a lot of work in that we call the "Sub-LT" range, which is the "below lactate threshold." we put that at about 165bpm. One little disclaimer that comes with heart rate training is that it relies on mmil/liter, meaning the volume of the blood. This can be effected easily by hydration levels, electrolyte levels, and how much/when/what I ate, and also by where I run (hills make your heart rate spike, downhill running does the opposite). So, the numbers are not a perfect science, meaning I have to also be aware of my tiredness levels and how much work I feel like I am putting in. One great thing about working with heart rate is that you work based on effort, so I don't feel the need to strain for a pace when my body feels more tired or over worked. I can just use the numbers to gauge how hard to run.

Right now I am doing my lactate threshold work at around 5:25-5:40 pace and my sub-lt work around 6:15 to 6:25 pace.

Frozen Minnehaha waterfall from behind (http://i.imgur.com/Lobdn2m.jpg)
An image of the frozen falls from the front (http://i.imgur.com/7XG6M.jpg)

I am packing as we speak, starting with my shoes and my summer clothes, my books and my appliances. I can't wait to move! We've been sorting out some car maintenance troubles and discussing how everything is going to get where it needs to be, but thats what makes this all so much fun. Max, my new roommate, texts me every once and a while to tell me about things going on in Minneapolis or about things I will have to see and do when I arrive. He's big into cooking and sounds like his friends are too, so I can't wait for some cool dinner parties! The only thing I am avoiding to address (seriously) is the temperature there. My favorite game to play with Tyler is "Guess the weather in Minneapolis." It never ceases to blow my mind how much colder it is there than here. I can do this, I can do this. Max sent me a link to the picture above of the Minnehaha falls (2 blocks from our place) that are completely frozen. These giant waterfalls freeze over completely, like nothing I've ever seen before. Meanwhile, its 70F in Santa Clara, CA...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

UPDATES! It's been far too long

Hey everyone, I guess it’s time to update here! It’s been way too long and up until now I’ve been much busier than I had anticipated.

A jaunt through Santa Clara Central Park in mid January  
After the Pittsburgh 10 Miler I tried getting my body happy again by taking a few down weeks of easy running and then had a huge load of final exams. I fit a (super fun) half marathon in the Saturday before my exams and couldn’t get back onto my blog to update because of studying. Then one thing after another, I was back home working almost full-time and letting all the dust settle from the move back and from the holiday madness… and it was mid JANUARY. Here is what has happened and what’s on the horizon!

Time to get all caught up

What has happened since my last post? :

-       Santa to the Sea Half Marathon – On December 14th I raced the Santa to the Sea Half Marathon in Oxnard, CA, which is about 45 minutes north (without traffic) of my apartment in Los Angeles. It was a flat point-to-point race that started at a giant Santa Claus statue and finished near the marina by the ocean. The weather was a perfect 60F and the holiday spirit was on full blast! The costumes were great. I met Liz Camy (amazing mother and crazy quick runner) and we ran the first half of the race together.  There was no defined elite field, but a handful of quick people were out there, sure to make the race competitive and exciting. Dennis and I agreed not to taper for the race and to use it as a judge of my goal marathon pace. I took out the first two miles around 5:40 per mile feeling GREAT, but knew that this race had its purpose and I needed to try and stick to a 5:55per mile avg pace so that I could get used to what it felt like. I came to an exciting finish at 1:17.09 (5:54/mile avg) and got to celebrate with some old SCERC teammates (Valerie and Juan), the city planner and his family, and with Tim Bomba, the announcer and my connection to the race! What a great experience. I was only sad to have to leave right after awards in order to get back for my early morning final exam.

-       Graduated! – After a full week of final exams and normal training (24 miler the afternoon after my molecular cell biology exam!), on December 19th I completed my last final at UCLA and walked away 97% sure I had passed my classes. A few days later it was confirmed, I am an official UCLA Alum. With a 3.524 GPA I am now ready to go into the real work and put my biochemistry/biomedical research skills to work.

An example of a lunch I had when Rasa and I were tracking my meals by taking pictures of them

-       Food and health update – I also haven’t done much of an update about how my nutrition and health restoration has been coming. I am now at 131 lbs, no longer cold or hungry and I have been sleeping through the night regularly. I am about 5 lbs above my OTQ marathon weight and 9 lbs above my lowest weight. And what a difference 9 lbs makes! Its still a work in progress, every day is still structured around making sure I am fueling correctly, but its really becoming a good habit. I’ve still been working with Rasa Troup and we still meet every so often to talk about what I need to work on.  Things I struggle with still: eating enough grains and dessert. Who doesn’t love dessert? I am supposed to have it every single day, and for some reason I just cant seem to make it a habit. Keeping my head up though and being thankful for my health and still having my speed, even with a little bit more weight on my frame.

-       Injury – After my last final exam on a Friday afternoon, I hopped into the car and made the 6-hour trek back home with a packed car. I got in around 930pm and dove into bed. Early the next morning I got onto the track to do 10x1km repeats with a friend who is training for a marathon too. Finally, a training partner! The repeats went so well, on goal or faster and my body felt amazing. I got home, showered, shoveled some food into my mouth, and got to work for an 8-hour shift in the busy holiday madness of Sports Basement footwear. The following morning (Sunday), I woke up and got straight out on my run with less stretching than was probably required. About 3 miles in I felt tightness in my gluteus medius (right along my pelvic crest). With a few days off, nothing was giving and no doctors were available over the holidays. I ended up spending nearly 3 weeks cross training and trying to run every few days. What was most frustrating was that things were going so well for quite a while. But, all is well; I’m back on my feet again, doing loads of strength, core, and stretching correctly. I realized two things: 1. I am getting injured like a distance runner would when transitioning from high school to college, and this makes sense because I have only been training as a distance runner for just over a year. I have to be cautious and reserved with my effort and my mileage. 2. My injury-bumps in my training (stress fracture, hip issues, etc) are getting smaller and more manageable. Each one is teaching me another thing I need to be doing to keep myself strong and healthy, and I’m getting back to normal training more quickly.

-       Work – I got back home and started working at Sports Basement again mainly working in the footwear department. I love my work, my coworkers, this store, and this business. I am sad to leave such a great working environment. My last day is February 21st.

-       New sponsors! – At the end of the year I signed two sponsorship agreements for the 2015 season! It’s so great to have two brands I really believe in supporting me through this training journey. Bonk Breaker is my energy and protein bar sponsor. Their bars help me fuel healthfully and deliciously during my busy days at work, before and after workouts, and every other time too. I love the people behind these bars and I am thrilled to be apart of Team Bonk Breaker. I also signed with Generation UCAN, a SuperStarch drink mix product that is useful for extended glucose release during hard and long workouts. It keeps my insulin levels low, my energy levels consistent, and helps my body recruit my fat stores as energy. I would be more than happy to tell everyone more about it, if youre interested. I’ve done two (soon to be three) Genucan run group product talks and I just love being able to represent this game-changing fuel!

What’s next?:

This is Mattie the dog
-       Minnesota! – After a meeting with Dennis about this year’s racing schedule, and about how mild the Minnesota winter has been, we’ve made some new decisions. I will be moving to Minneapolis the first week of March instead of in April. The negative temperatures are basically over with, so I am in the clear. Well, sort of. Apparently March is the snowiest month of them all, but snow I can do. I have started purchasing snow gear and clothing so that I can still run outside as much as the weather will permit. I also purchased my first pair of snow boots and a down coat. I am excited about the new adventure. I signed a lease for a room in a duplex near Minnehaha Park! I am living just off the Twin Cities marathon coarse and near bike/running paths that are over 34 miles of endless, beautiful running. My housemates name is Max and he has been nothing but helpful with the lease agreement and my big move coming up here really soon. He’s letting me paint my room (he’s also the landlord), he is big into cooking, and he’s got a cool dog that likes to go on runs! Looks like I’ve got someone to go on afternoon runs with (: My mom and I will leave Santa Clara on February 28th and plan to arrive in Minneapolis on the 4th or 5th. I will definitely be documenting the road trip, expect some great pictures.

-       Races – what’s up next for me!? Well, because of my glute med issues, we decided that Houston Half Marathon was not going to be a smart race to get back in on. We also decided to push back my 2015 Marathon race so that I can make sure to not only get in a healthy training cycle but also so that I can race to my potential and not walk away disappointed. With some reorganization, Dennis, Pat, and I decided I will be racing the Gate River Run 15K in Jacksonville, Florida on March 14th (http://www.gate-riverrun.com). Richard Fannin is the elite recruiter. I have never in my life met anyone more excited about road racing and the elites that will be at his event. I can’t wait to be apart of such a competitive field and running event. Then I plan to get in a solid marathon cycle to race in the early spring… That one I will announce a little later on ;)

From now on I plan to be more regular about posting my blogs. Originally that was the intention and I plan to make it more of a priority this year. I hope everyone is out there running and loving every minute of that. There isn’t enough time in our lives to spend it doing things that make us unhappy. Running is my happiness and I love being able to share it with you.