Wednesday, April 22, 2015

PGH Marathon Cycle, in review #GameOnPGH

The time has come.. all of your hard work has been put in. Early mornings, tiresome doubles, tempo runs, track workouts, repeat after repeat after repeat. Everything had a purpose; an end. Now, nothing you do can help you any more except some solid rest, relaxation, and total body regeneration. The Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh weekend is upon us and I am getting so excited. 

So, I've talked about hydration, fueling, recovery, and everything that goes with those topics, but I haven't posted about the one thing that this awesome blogging gig is about... RUNNING! 

I figured, now that the big workouts are over (for the most part), I could take a look back on some of the big, the bad, and the confidence-building workouts that really highlighted this cycle. With a bit of background on the workout and its ideal efforts, I will tell you about how it felt,  how much I liked the workout, and why.

3 (or 2) x 5.5mi on River Road - Saturday 3/21 : I alluded to this one in my previous blog post about recovery. It was 25F with 15 mph winds along the Mississippi River Parkway and I was fresh off the plane from Jacksonville/Savannah. Heather and Ben Kampf ran the workout, too. The goal was to simulate marathon effort and run tired through three sets. I ran one right around the 6 minute goal pace, but in my mind I knew it was not going to last. What I am learning a lot about myself via this workout and the ones to follow is that my mental attitude is really what makes or breaks the workout.  Rep two was far slower than goal marathon pace, so we called it quits. I left this workout defeated, asking Ben if this running this is really what I am meant to do. But, I still got in 15 miles total. 

Like it or Love it Score: Not even a little bit of love for this workout, I felt bad during and after. I think I would appreciate the River Road loop more if I wasn't so dang tired. 

15 progression run - Saturday 3/28 : On the Tuesday prior I had another failed marathon paced workout on the treadmill (also mentioned in my Recovery blog post). Dennis and I started tracking my resting heart rate, I started taking iron supplements, and I got back on track with Rasa's nutrition plan. After 3 days rest I went out on the Lakes in West Minneapolis and did a "progress-by-how-you-feel" long run. I started with a 7:40 warm up and progressed quickly into the high 6's (6:45, 6:38, etc) eventually working my way into the 6-flat range for a few miles. It was chilly, but the lake paths are beautiful and I started to feel more like my old self. I was far from where I wanted to be at this stage out from a marathon, but hey, If I can feel good at 6 minute pace, the that's a start.                           Like it or Love it Score: It was a solid "like" on this one. I felt better running faster than previous weeks, but my mental attitude was still in the upper-end of the gutters. 

Ron Daws 25k race - Saturday 4/4 : I had a promising workout of 10x1200m just faster than marathon pace (in shorts and a t-shirt!) on the U of M track on the Tuesday prior to this race. I felt like I was still putting in too much effort for the goal pace, but things were coming along and I was mostly happy to have completed a workout as planned! Saturday, Jillian, Ryan, and I raced a hilly 25k race (15.5 miles). We set off at low 6-minute pace and I felt so fresh! We talked through the first two smaller loops (on the right of the map) before starting into the second loop that had the infamous "Pukes Peak" hill. Each loop wrapped around the Dominick Road, which was twisty and hilly. I felt like I could push the hill and still recover on the flatter, more downhill portions. I am admittedly not the greatest hill runner to begin with, but I felt like this was doable (yay!)! We gained around 850ft in the race and I won with a 1:37.37, the Minnesota state record for a 22-year-old. 

Like it or Love it Score: I have plenty of love for this course. Its daunting and impossible to get into a groove, but I finally felt fit! I also loved having people to race with. Jillian pulled Ryan and I along through 9 miles and Ryan was there to push the finish with me. 

17 miles, 10x1 mile on the track at marathon pace - Tuesday 4/7 : Dennis and I made sure my heart rate indicated that I was recovered, and this day it looked like I was good to go! Dennis called in the morning and said that the weather on the UM track in the afternoon would decide my fate. Gina, Ryan, and I warmed up in the spitting rain and windy conditions, but my legs felt fresh and poppy; ready to go. Usually at afternoon workouts my legs take a while to wake up, but I was moving right out of the gates for this one! We arrived at the track and Dennis prescribed 10 x 1 mile at 5:50/mile. I looked in horror at Ryan, normally Heather's 800m training partner, partially because I didn't think I could complete this workout and partially because I didn't want to sentence him to the torture. He was all in, so I was too. We did the first two and mentioned to each other how we didn't feel like we were working hard. The wind was rough during the first curve, but the wind was strong enough to give us a push on the other turn. We stayed in 5:47-5:54 range with 1 lap jog recovery. Repetitions 4, 5, and 6 felt like more effort, but as I began to acclimate to the pace, it felt so easy to run each lap at the same interval times. One after another, even when the wind turned down the straightaway, we were able to come through consistently and it felt amazing. Another workout successfully completed, this one really feeling like "OKAY, I can actually do this marathon thing!" 

Like it or Love it Score: Love. It was tough, but it was a huge confidence builder! 

Fred Kurtz 10mi race and 24 miler (7:13/mi) weekend double - Saturday and Sunday 4/11 and 12:
The weekend following that track workout, Dennis and I had planned for me to run a local 10 miler. The course was an out and back, mostly on a loose gravel trail that was generally flat. The start was seeded, meaning the slowest runners left first and the fastest last (in hopes we would all finish around the same time). I was the third to last athlete to leave, 9 minutes after the penultimate female athlete started. The day was sunny and not too cold, I got to race in shorts! We started on a sidewalk near a school and ran about half a mile and then took a hard left onto the trail. The gravel was tough (tougher than expected) to run on, because the faster you moved, the more slippery it felt. I paced with some men around 6 minute pace and felt smooth through 5. We then started passing the runners who started before us, which added an extra challenge to the course. By the time we took the right back onto the sidewalk, masses of people were crowding the path and made it very challenging to push it home. In the end, I had to coast it in to a 61:15, 6:08 pace. I completed 15 miles for the day.

The next morning (Sunday), Ben, Jeff (Owner of Mill City Running Company), and I met up bright and early to go on a 24 miler! Heather, Matt, Ryan, and Jillian joined in for a few miles, too! This run was about being on my feet for a long time, another race effect I was trying to get used to. The pace didn't matter which meant that whatever felt relaxed was fine. We ran up the Mississippi River Parkway to the U of M hospital, across the Stone Arch Bridge (with the beautiful cityscape), and then around under Target Field to the lakes and back home on the Minnehaha Parkway paths. For being the day after the race, my legs were a bit heavy and my heart rate indicated that I wasn't recovered, but I was happy to be running with my friends, seeing the city, and feeling good at the low 7-minute paces. I got to know Ben and Jeff more, experience the crowded lakes (walkers, joggers, runners, bikers everywhere because of the nice weather) and I was able to practice hydrating and fueling along the way with the bottles of UCAN Hydrate that Ben and I hid around town the evening before. 7:13 per mile average and I had a big breakfast and compression socks waiting at the ready. 

Like it or Love it Score: I ran 39 miles in 2 days! So much running = so much love. Running fast for a 10 mile win and then 24 miles easy with friends was just what I needed to have a good aerobic effect. 

4x2.4 mile loop of DEATH - Wednesday 4/15 : The loop name, coined by Dennis himself, is related to the daunting hills that make up with 2.4 mile loop. It stats with a gradual down hill past a golf course and the a right turn into a gradual uphill which becomes much less gradual into the end of the first mile, then some more solid downhill work winds down to three quick left-hand turns which a steep climbs. The only flat portion comes just after the second mile for about 0.15mi, then it's a hike back up the hill to the finish. The goals were: 1) to go at marathon effort, but we both knew that the watch would be slower, and 2) to practice the downhill. Downhills are seen as periods to rest and recover, but when done right (on the balls of your feet and engaging the core to open the stride) downhills can also be used to gain some time without killing your quads. I came though the first rep (pictured) under 5:55/mi pace, SO EXCITED! Even more so, I came through the second one just 1 second slower! I felt fresh, like I could recover, and that I could strategically use different parts of the course to achieve different efforts. Dennis and I were both thrilled about my times for 4 reps. I walked away from that workout with more confidence on my hill running abilities and knowing I had another rep in me. It goes to show that my aerobic fitness was coming around! 

Like it or Love it Score: Loved that I could accomplish something on a challenging course. 

18 mile easy (7:09/mi) - Sunday 4/19 : As my final long run, I did 18 miles at a relaxed pace out to and around Lake Harriet. I placed water at 6 miles and at 11 miles I put out GENUCAN (my first try mid run). I was cruising along feeling fresh and happy at low 7 minute pace and didn't want to take any fuel in. But, with the marathon coming up, I figured I should give GENUCAN a chance, because it would be the best thing to take in about half way through my race. In 9 oz of water I dissolved 1/2 scoop of PomBlu with half a packet of the UCAN Hydrate. Although it was thick and a bit rough to take in, I felt incredible finishing the run, flying in under 7 minute pace in my last few miles. 18 miles flew by and felt like a solid, but not exhausting, easy run. I guess after 24, 18 is a bit more manageable. My body recovered really quickly from this run, too! I am so happy to be able to end my long effort with something that felt so manageable. 

Like it or Love it Score: YEAH, LOVE. easy long is my fave. 

So those are the big runs of my cycle. There were others, but there are the ones that really stick out in my mind; as failures, achievements, or memorable in other ways. I can't wait to put the Pittsburgh 26.2 on this list and really complete the build up with a great race in a great city with absolutely great people. I climb on the plane in just over a week! 

I'll finish off my cycle with a 7 mile marathon pace workout with 2x 1 mile surges and a 10 mile "Long Run" with a Team USA Minnesota Recruit on Saturday. I can't wait to get to Pittsburgh, I know I am ready to rock. 


Saturday, April 11, 2015

The training I needed most from PGH is in how to RECOVER right #GameOnPGH

Everyone is buzzing about the Dicks Sporting Good's Pittsburgh Marathon! Three weeks and two days to go (less than that, ahh!). Most people are analyzing if they ran long enough, hard enough, often enough, fast enough.... thats all well and good and when we talk about prepping for a running race, we often discuss out running training in preparation. We all put in the workouts and the long (long, long, long) runs. But lets take a moment and talk a bit about who RECOVERED enough! Its much more rare to discuss who napped the longest, who was about to get in stretching daily, or who was able to get through an entire book in a matter of a few days because the Netflix streaming was exhausted?
Stone arch bridge and the beautiful sunset on the Mississippi river, viewed form the Guthrie theatre 
As I settled into Minneapolis after a long move and then a week long trip to Jacksonville and Savannah, Dennis (Coach) and I were ready to go full force into the long, paced workouts that a marathon cycle permits. The first up was a prescribed 3 x 5.5 mile look along the Mississippi Parkway. The morning was cold (21F) and windy (15-20mph winds) but in the warm up I was feeling fresh. The moment the timer started on the first repetition, I felt like I was hit my a bus and immediately felt winded. Heather (@HeatherRaeKampf) and Ben Kampf (@BenKampf1) were running with me, chatting the whole way. 6:02/avg for that rep and DYING. Rep two was only worse, coming through at 6:15/avg. WHAT WAS GOING ON!? Those paces should be easy, and workouts weeks prior indicated this. We cut the last rep and decided to call it a day.

Two rest days passed and then we decided to try again. 20 miles with 3 warm up, then 5x2 miles at 6min pace. Because it was cold and because we wanted to maintain a pace, Dennis and I hit up Life Time Fitness and the good ol' treadmill. the warm up again was easy, the first set was challenging but doable, but then the second rep came around and my heart rate was through the roof! I got through half of the third rep before we called it quits and finished the long run at a steady 7:30 pace.

I was frustrated. My mental strength was teetering and I was questioning my potential for PGH Marathon and my distance career at all. My legs would burn at 6 minute pace for two miles, which I have been able to crank out for 12+ miles before. So Dennis and I did a little body check-in. I got blood work done to check my iron levels, vitamin D levels, Liver function, vitamin and electrolyte panel, and the works. I also revisited Rasa, my nutritionist. Lastly, Dennis had me start taking my heart rate every morning right when I wake up. I take it for a whole minute and then text it to him. My tests were all in the normal range, with the only concern being that my iron was lower than it was just over a year ago. I am taking liquid iron supplements daily to help counteract that.

Another big flag was the morning after that failed treadmill run. My resting heart rate was 72. 72!! Thats not good. for an elite female athlete, my resting heart rate should be somewhere between 46 and 52. The next day it was in the mid 50s, and the next in the low 50s. We waited just one more day and then I did another workout, a 15 mile progression run. I felt so much better, starting in the 645s and working my way down into some windy 6:00-6:05 paced miles. Then, more work with making sure I was fueling enough and watching my heart rate following workouts, we were able to optimize my quality workouts by doing them when my resting heart rate indicated my body was ready.

The moral of this story is that running on tired legs is an important part of training and running, but not resting enough can completely sabotage performance! And even if your mind says "I'm ready to run hard" and evening if you feel decent in a warm up, it does not mean your body has fully recovered from previous work.

Jillian, Ryan, and I after the Ron Daws 25k!
Thankfully, I have also had some other killer workouts since that series of failed workouts. Last Saturday (4/4) I raced a local Minnesota Distance Running Association run, the Ron Daws 25k, with my new, awesome friends Jillian (@gingerjillian) and Ryan (@Kingtholo). It was two sets of two hilly loops around Hopkins, MN. I went out conservatively, not wanting to crash and burn like I have done in workouts and races for over a month now. We gained roughly 850 feet and if it wasn't up, it was down, which made settling into a pace really tough. I got the 22-year-old female state record in the distance for the state of Minnesota and won with a time of 1:37.37, 6:17/mile average. Then, three days later I successfully kicked butt at a track session of 10x1 mile at marathon pace (between 5:47 and 5:54/mile) with a 2 minute jog in between. The wind on the first turn was brutal, but I had some awesome help with pacing from Ryan. My effort level wasn't at threshold pace (what a 10 mile race should be at, effort wise) and I was clicking off consistent 400m intervals in each set. It was work, thats for sure, but it finally felt like PGH Marathon is going to be a successful race! I am thrilled to be toeing that line, no matter what. But with this fitness and renowned confidence in my training -- running and recovery, alike -- I know I can race my best and go for my goals without a doubt in my mind.

On top of making sure to eat enough and to follow my heart rate, I have been on myself about doing all of the little things. I have listed below a few of my go-to recovery wins that may be interesting for you PGH Marathoners who are looking to maximize your rest and rehab in the next three weeks. I can't believe its already upon us and I can't wait to run with STEEL#GameOnPGH #RestUpPGH

1. Compression Socks - my brand of choice is Zensah (cool colors and lasting compression)
Max, my roommate, calls this the "B-Boy Stance"
2. Yeti - Onesies maximize comfort and are definitely NOT only for kids (@oiselle)
3. One Cup of Coffee a day, before 3 pm - I love coffee, but I can not sleep if I use it as an afternoon pick-me-up
4. Melatonin, when I need it - a natural hormone produced in the pineal gland (yes, we make it!) in supplement form. This hormone is released to promote sleep and to regulate sleep cycles. Its naturally degraded by the body and doesn't leave you comatose or drowsy in the morning.
My recovery station aka bed
5. Naps, one a day if I can do it - because sleeping isn't only for the night time. 20-45 miles does the trick.
6. Taking walks in the morning before an afternoon session - being rested is important, but keeping blood moving is also essential to getting the metabolic waste out of your muscles and tissues so they can be happy and ready for the next workout
7. Being Verticle for 90 minutes per day - I prefer to read, but I have also finished over 4 different TV series' that I had started at some point over the past year.
8. Liquids - see my previous blog about my hydration habits. I <3 water
9. FOOD - see my previous blog about a day in the life (eat-style) for a marathoner
Mattie helps me roll out and helps herself to a free pet
10. Stretching and rolling out, 5 minutes a day + 4 20-45 minute sessions - I have touchy hip flexors and upper flute muscles. I do a quick stretch set before and after a run, then a series of 10-15 stretches on my yoga mat in the evenings, too.