Thursday, February 4, 2016

Morning Mezzo

When I had my best training season ever, I was running pretty high mileage for me (chump change for others).  High mileage for me is when I have multiple consecutive weeks in the 50s.  I've done plenty of marathons where I rarely get into the 50s for a week, and when I first started running, there were races that I trained for and I rarely got into the 40s for a week.  But when I'm running strong, mid-50s is where it's at for me.  I seem to find I get injured if I go over that.  And I am very good about mixing up my miles -- some quality, but also plenty of junk miles.  The best junk miles for me are commuting miles. 

If I do my full commuting week, it adds about 19 miles to my schedule.  Commuting miles are the best junk miles because I do them alone and I'm never under a serious time constraint (if I was ever running late, I'd just shower at home and drive to work).  So 19 slow, easy miles per week. 

Sometimes VERY slow and easy, especially when I can talk my accounting buddy into going halfway home with me one night per week.  That adds in a couple miles of walk-run.

At my peak, doing high mileage with a full commuting week included, the most I ever run before I get to work is about 12 miles.  That happened fairly regularly on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.  I would run about 8 miles with my running buddies, go home for breakfast and sometimes a dry shirt, then run another 3.75 miles to work.  And then on Tuesdays, it would be a 15.5 mile weekday because after that morning 12, I'd work my usual day and then run the 3.75 home.  But it was broken up so it never felt too long.

Well, today for the first time ever I think, I did my highest pre-work mileage.  I ran a morning half, and then some!  (Half is "mezzo" in Italian.) 

I decided that with a marathon later this month, I couldn't afford to totally blow off my weekend long run. 

But on the other hand, I have the foresight to recognize that I consume more alcohol at Mardi Gras than pretty much the rest of the year combined, and odds are very high that a run will not happen there.  And even if by some miracle it does happen, I'm usually not inclined to go very long -- something about standing around watching parades and then wearing heels and dancing at a ball all night...

So I told myself to suck it up today.  I was only running 6 with my usual crew, but one of them ran to the grocery store where we met, so after our group 6 miles, I ran him home, then back to my car.  That got me to 8.  I was thinking I'd drive home and then run the trail by our house, but it was so cold this morning.  I figured I'd be freezing if I got in the car and stopped sweating on my drive home, even though it's not very far. 

So I ended up grabbing water at my car and heading toward the lake, then zigzagging my way back to the car, ending up just over 13.5 miles. 

On a weekday!


Of course I'm totally dragging ass now.  If I'd needed to do a running commute on top of that, I'd probably still be out there, crawling slowly toward the office...

I need to plow through major work so I can leave early tonight to start our trip.  But now, any Mardi Gras miles will be bonus miles.  Exactly my goal! 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Festive Options

The feeling of life rushing by me seems to come in cycles.  I'm definitely in one of those now!  Between still carrying about 25% more cases at work than usual while my new co-worker gets up to speed, to trying to get in some loooong runs before a marathon in a few weeks, to trying to be good about cooking more, I feel like I'm spread kind of thin, which has meant no blogging (but yeah, still reading, always seems to be some time in the morning or during lunch...).

Anyway, after seeing Gracie's post showing her ball gown for Mardi Gras, I realized that I need to make a decision on mine.  We're heading out on Thursday this year, so my goal is to pack tonight if possible. 

I have two choices for this weekend.  Unfortunately, both have their drawbacks.

The first choice is this blue one. 

The downsides to the blue:
It is a re-wear (I wore it in 2008).
It needs to be steamed (and we leave on Thursday). 
I hate not wearing a real bra.

Then there is my brand new option.  Unfortunately, it also has its downsides. 

Downsides to the black one:
It is black.  Lovely for evening gowns, so BLAH for Mardi Gras.
It is one-shouldered, which my best friend's husband hates (but I've done it once before, and yeah, he's not my husband, and I can deal with him teasing me).
It's new -- I can return it for a few more weeks if I decide to go with the blue one.  It wasn't super-expensive (about $200, so moderate, but some dresses can be crazy pricey), but obviously saving money instead of spending it is always good.

I have a feeling I'm going to pack both of them and decide that night. 

Either way, very excited about the trip! 

Friday, January 22, 2016


Yesterday morning on my run, somehow we ended up talking about girls (particularly young ones) participating in organized dance.  The general consensus was that it wasn't a good thing.  They were required to wear their warm-ups at all times at competition if they weren't performing because their outfits were essentially inappropriate.  My friend was talking about how he pulled his daughter out when one of their routines (at age 8) essentially involved twerking.  I'm sure there are different programs in different parts of the country (and likely even in Dallas) that are perfectly appropriate, but from my running buddy's perspective as it related to his daughter, this was not. 

I'll also say for the record that at my last job, my coworker's daughter was super into dance (and then drill team) and somehow I got talked into going to one of her daughter's weekend competitions and I dragged my husband along.  His comment to me afterward was that he was concerned he'd been placed on some pervert watchlist for even being there.  He found the whole thing hyper-sexualized and inappropriate and he said if I went to another one, he was absolutely not joining me. 

But I actually wasn't writing about dance.  (I should add as a final point re: dance that I wished more than anything as a child that I'd gotten to take fun dance classes and wear make-up.  A few years of ballet in my early childhood weren't even close to enough to compensate for my awkwardness, and ballet wasn't "fun" or "cool."  When I got older, junior high and high school, I so wished I could have been on a drill team or something like that with all the cool and pretty girls, for which years of dance competitions was essentially a prerequisite.)

Anyway, my friend was saying that his daughter didn't really care that he pulled her out of dance.  She bounced into soccer and then gymnastics.  He said he guessed she wouldn't be in gymnastics long term because she just won't have the build to do well.  We discussed whether he'd try to get her to run and/or do cross-country or track at some point.  He said that really, it's all about what her friends were doing.  She's content as long as she's with them.  They're all doing gymnastics together now and she loves it at least as much as she loved the dancing. 

At that point in the conversation, I thought (and likely said) that I feel like I'm not that different from his 8 year old daughter -- the main reason I'm up and running in the horrendous cold (well, by my standards), in the dark, and at 5:15 in the morning, is because my friends are there.  And the main reason I go to boot camp with such regularity is because my friends will be there. 

I remember all those times my mom said something along the lines of, "well, if all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?"  Ha, mom, maybe.  Especially if jumping off the cliff is something like bungee jumping.  Bottom line is that I feel very lucky right now to have an awesome running group and boot camp crew that keep me getting out there on cold mornings when all I want to do is stay in bed.  They take the place of the need for internal motivation AND they bring all those good things into my life that come with a strong network of friends from all different walks of life.  Feeling lucky.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cardiac Drift

Cardiac drift is basically when your heart rate increases during exercise with little to no increase in workload.  It's normal:  even over 30 minutes of easy running, your heart rate may go up 10-20 beats.  So heart rate rises while pace stays constant, and there is no harder effort, no heavier breathing, and notably no higher calorie burn. 

According to wiki:

Cardiovascular drift is the phenomenon where some cardiovascular responses begin a time dependent change, or "drift" after around 10 minutes of exercise in a warm or neutral environment without an increase in workload. It is characterized by decreases in mean arterial pressure and stroke volume and a parallel increase in heart rate. It has been shown that a reduction in stroke volume due to dehydration is almost always due to the increase in internal temperature. It is influenced by many factors, most notably the ambient temperature, internal temperature, hydration and the amount of muscle tissue activated during exercise. To promote cooling, blood flow to the skin is increased, resulting in a shift in fluids from blood plasma to the skin tissue. This results in a decrease in pulmonary arterial pressure and reduced stroke volume in the heart. To maintain cardiac output at reduced pressure, the heart rate must be increased.
Effects of cardiovascular drift are mainly focused around a higher RPE (Rate of Perceived Effort); that is, a person will feel like they are expending more energy when they are not. This creates a mental block that can inhibit performance greatly.
Prevention or minimization of cardiovascular drift includes consistently replacing fluids and maintaining electrolyte imbalance during exercise, acclimatization to the environment in which one is performing, and weight training[citation needed] to supplement cardiovascular efforts.
Cardiac drift is not a new concept to me.  I've trained by heart rate for at least half the year pretty much since the first year I was training for Boston. 

And I've had cardiac drift set in on long runs, and particularly on long runs with pace work, and 100% of the time when racing a marathon or even a half-marathon.

But yesterday I might have experienced something new...

Cardiac drift on a weekday?  On a short-ish weekday no less???

Is that even possible???

(At the outset, I'm ruling out dehydration or warm temps.  As I mentioned, I recently finished reading Megan's book, so I've been hyper-vigilant about hydration, and uh, it's insanely cold here right now.)

As I mentioned, I feel like my running is slooooowly coming back.  I ran a 5k a couple weekends ago and I managed to keep all my miles within a tidy little 5 second spread.  It was disheartening to realize that that little spread was slower than my half marathon PR pace (now just over 2 years old), and only a tad faster than my marathon dream goal pace (a pace I have never actually attained, but I still regard as goal MP). 

My running would certainly come back faster if I could lose some weight, but even staying right where I am (about 5 pounds over the top end of my "acceptable" range, and about 10 pounds over where I usually am, and where I prefer to be), my paces are starting to steady out and get a bit faster.  It has certainly been a long road back from my ankle injury (I actually still have 2 months left of wearing a brace for boot camp).  But I 100% feel like I'm improving, and I love seeing the progress.  Definitely feeling optimistic about the state of my running at present. 

So anyway, yesterday's workout was a taste of my least favorite kind of run -- progressive tempo.  Just a taste though.  Instead of a true PT run (which I really hate, and usually on my schedule is 4 progressive miles, plus 2-4 warm-up/cool-down miles), it was just 2 miles warm-up, 2 miles marathon pace (well, it's heart rate training, so not actually marathon pace, but the heart rate zone where you'd usually run your marathon), 1 mile in the next higher zone (equating roughly to half marathon pace), then 1 mile cool-down.

Written out, yesterday's schedule was:
2 mile warm-up
2 miles zone 3
1 mile zone 4
1 mile cool-down

How did my run go?  I basically started the pace work 1 mile early just to delay getting dropped. 

1 mile warm-up
2 miles zone 3 (first mile was just staying with my friends as they finished their warm-up, but it was pace for me, so I counted it)
1 mile zone 4
1 mile zone 5 (very bottom of it, zone 5A as it is defined on our schedule)
1 mile zone 4 (by chance, would have walked for a minute to bring down the heart rate and get back to zone 2, but as I slowed, a friend I hadn't run with since November caught up to me, so he and I ran most of the last mile in together; kept the pace easy, but the HR never really came down)

So on paper, that looks okay.  Not great since I have no business being in zone 5, but it does look progressive and it looks like I worked very hard.  (Pat on the back?  Not so fast.)

But when I look at the paces I actually ran yesterday, it's a different story:
1 mile easy
1 mile goal marathon pace plus 30 seconds (zone 3, in theory, marathon pace)
1 mile goal marathon pace plus 15 seconds (zone 3 still, in theory, marathon pace) (but I did stop for water in this mile, so it lowered my HR at least a bit, without water, I may have snuck into zone 4 already)
1 mile goal marathon pace (in zone 4 though, so in theory, should have been half marathon pace)
1 mile goal marathon pace plus 30 seconds (zone 5A, yow, zone 5A should be around 5k pace, not slower than marathon pace!)
1 mile easy pace, but heart rate still zone 4

See that bold mile?  Um, that's not good.  I mean, I shouldn't be running in zone 5A at all, but if I do, gosh darn it, that pace better be significantly faster than 10k pace, and likely faster than 5k pace.  And uh, yeah, this was not.  Not even close. 

So is it possible that cardiac drift set in to this extent after only 3 "tough" miles????  I didn't think it was even possible for that to occur in a significant way in far less than an hour.  Is there a chance I was essentially sweating plasma?  I wasn't even that sweaty.  I warmed up a lot (unzipped my half-zip top and took down my ear band), but I just don't know how much my core temperature could have really increased in the cold weather we're having.  I drank water once during the run (at about mile 2.1). 

But as I write this post, the answer stands out in my mind, clear as day now:  I need more lactate threshold endurance work. 

Sigh.  Just have to keep at it I guess...