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...


  1. Looks so nice on the beach! What takes you to Minnesota? Running with the team? School? Do you like training by heart rate rather than pace? Good luck on your move! Can't wait to hear more about all the adjustments to weather and the new location.

  2. Looks so nice on the beach! What takes you to Minnesota? Running with the team? School? Do you like training by heart rate rather than pace? Good luck on your move! Can't wait to hear more about all the adjustments to weather and the new location.

  3. Hey Emily! Didn't realize before that you had a blog! Man I feel like we would be perfect training partners based on those paces haha. Too bad we're not on the same continent:)