Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lesson Learned

I have slight pain in both Achilles today. I believe this was caused by doing steep hill repeats on Tuesday followed by running down and up several very steep hills on Wednesday. Had I followed the hill repeat workout with a follow up run on a flat course, I doubt it would have resulted in the pains I'm feeling today.

I figure it's not your standard overuse injury but rather an acute consequence of a single false move, so I'll just let it heal, which I think I can do without changing my training. On the bright side, I believe that my Achilles tendons will be toughened by the episode, putting me at a lower risk for future Achilles injuries.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It's A Day to Day Thing

It bothers me that I never know how well I will run on any given day. Sure, there are days when I just know I’ll feel terrible. I also have runs where I feel there’s no way I’m going to get through it, but it ends up being a good run and I feel pretty strong. And then there are the days when I think “I’m going to feel great” and I go out and just slog through it.

Then there are times like this morning. I woke up feeling fatigued. I surrendered to the inevitability that I would endure fatigue and put the miles in anyway. And as I started the run, I did feel fatigued. But about 2 miles in, something changed. It was as if I found the sweet spot in my stride. Suddenly, running felt effortless. I noticed that I went from 9:40 pace to 9:18 pace seemingly without any additional effort. I felt more efficient than I ever had before. Seriously, it was a quasi-spiritual experience. The rest of the run just felt so right that I focused my conscious attention on my stride and was not bored in the least.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Total Mileage and Race Prediction Calculators

Of the 3 5K races I ran in July, my best time was 24:00. According to the McMillan Running calculator, my equivalent times for other distances (based on a 24:00 5K) are: 6:55 mile, 49:51 10K, 1:50:56 Half Marathon and 3:53:58 Marathon. These are encouraging numbers, assuming you can actually rely on this data.

However, I find the accuracy of the race prediction calculators varies, sometimes widely. Personally, I've attributed the variation to the lack of specific training for a particular race. For instance, if your 10K race prediction is 49:51, but you don’t train specifically and adequately to race the 10K distance, the race prediction time may vary somewhat. I think this is especially true when you use short race distances to predict your marathon time.

It follows that I can only hope to think my (current) marathon prediction time of 3:53 is accurate if I am adequately and specifically trained to run the marathon. So, what does it mean to be inadequately trained for the marathon? What training factors are more likely to cause the deviation?

Most people agree that training mileage in a marathon program is the most significant factor in the accuracy of the predictions. I came across one study that looked at the marathon to 10K ratio versus mileage. It proposes using the following conversion factors when using your 10K time to predict your marathon finishing time:

30-35mpw: 5.5
40mpw: 5.0-5.3
55 mpw: 4.9
60 mpw: 4.75-4.85
70 mpw: 4.70-4.80
80-100 mpw: 4.55-4.65

The higher mileage the runners in the survey ran, the lower the marathon-to-10k correlation ratio, i.e., the faster their marathons were relative to a 10k time. This supports the premise that perhaps total training mileage is the most important factor for marathon success. It's also interesting to note that race equivalency calculators are based on the high mileage run by very advanced, highly competitive runners.

On a personal level, this just confirms my choice to increase my training volume to (peak at) 80-100 mpw is a good one:-).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bele Chere 5K - Race Report

Bele Chere is best avoided. Go do it once, people say, then make arrangements to be out of town next year . . . and every year thereafter for the rest of your life. Could the same be said for the Bele Chere 5K, billed as the largest NC road race west of Charlotte? I was about to find out as I joined the 1,300 plus runners who lined up in the shadow of McCormick Field.

The Asheville Track Club races are "gun start, chip finish," so it behooves you start as close to the start line as possible. All 1,300 runners are thinking this when the gun fires. And we’re off. Up Charlotte Street for about 1/3 mile, and up, up, up the hill on Beaumont Street, crossing Biltmore Avenue to Hilliard Street, then slightly downhill on Asheland Avenue and I'm at Mile 1 in about 7:42 gun time. Right on pace, but it feels harder than it should.

I spread my arms on the steep downhill of Asheland Avenue, and make the right turn on to Phifer Street and begin climbing the dreaded Phifer Street hill. Mile 2 is a long, steady climb, and it’s discouraging. No longer on pace to go under 24 minutes, I press on and pass the clock at about 16:00. That’s about 8:18 on an all-uphill mile. We're now running through downtown and empty fair vendors who will soon be selling kettle corn, Cajun sausage, lemonade, BBQ, cotton candy, and smoked turkey legs. We take a sharp right at Pack Square, probably 2.4 miles or so, and then we have a steady downhill to Mile 3. I'm into it now and, once I know I've survived the steep downhill that was the initial steep uphill, I put in a respectable effort in the final straightaway. I cross the line somewhere between 24:12 and 24:15, for a last 1.1 in about 7:38ish pace.

That time is over 10 seconds off my PR, but it still pleased me. In my opinion, the hills added 20-30 seconds conservatively. But I still ran negative splits (except for mile 2!) and put in a quality effort. I placed 5th in my age group with an overall placing of 295/1247. In 8 weeks, if I can find a flatter course, I think I could challenge my PR.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

30th Running of Bele Chere 5K This Saturday

This Saturday is the 30th running of the Bele Chere 5K. I ran the course this morning as part of my run, and I’m glad I did. The first mile is very hilly (Charlotte/ Beaumont/ Hilliar) but then the course is mostly mild, rolling hills. Once you get to College/ Biltmore Ave., it's all down hill to the finish line- time to put the afterburners on.

Considering the amount of hills in this course, I'm rethinking my goal pace of 7:40, which was a little aggressive anyways. . If I adjust it to 7:42-7:43, I can hopefully still break 24:00 and PR.

With nearly 1,500 people showing up, sadly, I foresee no age group awards for me on Saturday. That's OK. I'll be super happy with breaking 24:00.

Training Update..

Time for a quick training update.

The first 4 weeks of marathon training are now behind me. In retrospect, I spent most of July racing 5K’s while still trying to get in some decent quality training miles. My base mileage is currently 40-45 miles per week, although only 35-38 on weeks I ran a race. No complaining allowed though, as I’ve had fun racing.

With Thunder Road just 20 weeks away, it’s time to settle down and get serious about training. I will follow my marathon training plan to the letter from this point on. In August (weeks 5-8 of my plan) the weekly base mileage climbs to about 55, with the longest run being 14 miles. Thank goodness this is the last month of Tues/ Thurs hill repeats and fartlek runs. I will not miss the Dixon Elementary School hill!

The toughest workouts in August will be:

- 8 x 2-min. hill reps @ 7:20 pace w/3 min. active recovery.
- 7 miles at base pace w/8 x 2-min. @ 3,000 pace "sprinkled" in.
- 14 mile long run.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Folkmoot 5K - Race Report

It was beautiful weather for the Folkmoot 5k. The temperature was in the mid 50s as Leopold and I made the drive to Waynesville. Nearly 300 runners turned out for the race.

The course was a loop beginning in front of the Folkmoot Center on Virginia Avenue. The first 1.5 miles were downhill or slightly flat. The back half of the race featured several mild hills just to make things interesting.

My race plan was to average 7:40 pace. This was based on the fact that I just ran a 5K in 7:46 average pace, and this course would be flatter than that last course. I knew my plan was out the window when I came through mile 1 in 7:13. It would have been OK to be a little fast, given this downhill section, but I estimate I was 15-20 seconds too fast, thereby killing any hope for 7:40 pace. Mile 2 was 7:43. Mile 3 was 8:03. I was happy to at least shave 5 seconds off my previous time, finishing in 24:00 flat.

In most races, a time of 24:00 would not qualify as an age group placing time. But for this race it was good enough for first in my age group. Man, I love getting awards, so thanks to all you women who stayed home:-).

Leopold ran the Kids' Fun Run and took 2nd place overall! It was an exciting finish. 3 girls closing in on him right at the finish line. He barely saw them in time to out-sprint them right at the finish line.
All in all, this was a fun race with good awards and a festival atmosphere.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hey, You're Looking....Worse

I would like to lose 5 lbs. in the early weeks of training, so as to not sacrifice my running to dieting when I’m faced with the dreaded tempo runs from Hell that my Program will surely call for later.

I used the McMillan Running Nutritional Calculator ( to figure out how many calories I should consume a day in order to lose 1 pound a week. (I like this calculator a lot because it takes into consideration not just your age, height, and current weight, but how many miles a week you’re running). Calculator says: 1,560 calories a day. Current "real life": 1,700-1,900).

So, it’s been a week, and I’m down 1 pound, and I should be pleased. But I'm not.

Call me crazy, but I swear I look flabbier now than I did before I started dieting. My excess fat looks like it's literally drooping off my frame. And this is concerning, because it is NOT attractive. No, not a good look for me at all.

Although I know the real answer to this mini- freakout is to just stick with the plan and be assured that anything that is happening is surely temporary and will resolve itself on its own, I can’t let it go. Instead, I consulted the magic resource of all resources (yes, Google!) for answers. (And yes, I Google-d, “why do i look flabbier after starting a diet?”)!

Sure enough, I found an article that talked about looking flabbier in the first weeks of losing body fat. Basically, it says that when you create a calorie deficit your muscles go into a glycogen depleted state (I’m well aware I’m only ever a few miles away from a glycogen depleted state) and as a result they "flatten out" because there's not as much water being stored in them (remember there’s 3 grams of water for every gram of carb stored). The article says, "When this happens it can look like you have less muscle in relation to body fat, and you can actually look like you've gained a bit of weight."

How's that for a crappy reward?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Firecarcker 5K - Race Report

Saturday July 4th was the Weaverville Kiwanis 5K. This was my first attempt at a 5K this year.


I arrived at the course at North Buncombe High School around 7:00 to register. That taken care of, I set about warming up. (BTW, it really surprises me how you never see anyone warming up for a 5K).

Since the town of Weaverville cancelled it’s 4th of July celebration this year, race organizers had to change the course. This year's course wound through the countryside, starting and ending at North Buncombe High, rather than following Weaver Boulevard through Weaverville as it had in the past. I jogged the course, noting the hills, and headed back to my car for my Adi-Zero racing flats because…Racing flats make you feel fast.

I headed over to the start area, and a last minute bathroom break. We all lined up and waited for the gun to go off.

Then we were off.


My plan for this race was pretty simple. I thought I could manage 7:50 pace, so I set out to run the first 2 miles between 7:45 and 7:50, then I’d see what, if anything, I had left for mile 3. I wore my Garmin to make sure I didn’t go out too fast.

We headed out the gate, turning right for the first hill. I was settling in to my pace nicely, checking my Garmin every other second, when suddenly an older lady scoots right up next to me on my right and starts "talking me through" running up the hill. She says, “Now, hold your arms up higher, and shorten your stride. That’s it. Run as if you’re climbing a rope up the hill.” Well, this completely freaked me out. Several things immediately went through my head, none of which I should mention here. I'll save "race etiquette" as a topic for another post.

All in all, I really enjoyed running the new course, hills and all. I managed to stick to my race plan and finished in 24:05 (7:46 average pace), which was better than I thought I was capable of at this time. The highlight of the race was seeing Josie Weaver cheering people on near the finish. When I went by, I heard him mention to the guy next to him that I was the lady that started Boys On The Run at the elementary school. Finally, fame!

Turns out I won my age group division, but, since I left the race immediately, I didn’t find this out for a few days. Oh, well…

Monday, July 13, 2009

Yellow Shirt + Yellow Shoes + Yellow Flowers = Wow

As has been the trend for Mondays recently, my first run of the week was underwhelming to say the least. I felt lethargic and tired (hey, aren’t those the same things?). I SHOULD feel ready to go by Monday, since I take Sundays off, but apparently my 'get up and go' got up and went on an earlier run without me today. My sole consolation was passing some cyclists on a hill. They were the only people on bikes I’ve seen this week not wearing yellow jerseys, the official color of the Greatness by Association Association.

Maybe yellow IS the color of Greatness, afterall. While few are deluded enough to think they can be lightning Bolt fast, in my dreams, I want to know what it feels like to run this far ahead of everyone else:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Twice As Nice

I’m experimenting with twice-a-day running. My main purpose in running twice a day on some days rather than once is to raise my overall mileage, but I’m convinced there are merits of running twice a day, even if the overall mileage is the same.

Some coaches and physiologists believe that running twice a day will make you a "stronger" runner, while running the same distance once a day carries purely aerobic benefits not gotten in a pair of shorter runs. They feel that distributing a given number of miles among more runs reduces the likelihood of injuries, since most running injuries befall runners toward the end of their runs.

The marathon training plan I’m following suggests several optional recovery runs of 20-60 minutes as a second workout 3-4 times a week. I’m beginning cautiously, so I've added a pair of easy three-mile runs for a few weeks, then I’ll progress to three of them, building on the length and frequency as much as my time and energy allow.

I ran twice on Monday and Thursday this week. As the training plan suggested, I did each of these runs as a second workout. What I found was that in each of these runs, I felt like the earlier running in the day had somehow primed me to perform better, and I had to force myself to maintain “recovery” pace. This has left me wondering if I shouldn’t try running the easy three-milers in the morning, followed by a harder workout at the end of the day. In fact, this is what I will try.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Greatest Distance Runner

Running heroes are everywhere. Go to any 5K or marathon in the U.S., and you'll find them. They’re the beginners who cross a finish line for the first time, the veterans whose commitment to the sport never wavers, season after season, year after year. They’re the phenoms and the underdogs who defy limitations and shatter expectations. Every day I’m inspired by these runners. They all reinforce how with a simple act--the motion of moving forward--we can shape each other, our sport, and our world.

However, only one runner, Haile Gebrsellasie, is both a hero AND the greatest distance runner who ever lived.

At 5 feet 3 inches tall and 112 pounds, Gebrselassie has set 26 world records including his stunning 2:03:59 world record at the Berlin Marathon. He has won a world championship or set a world record at every distance from 1500 meters to the marathon, and also has won two Olympic gold medals at 10,000 meters.

Yet that's not what makes Gebrselassie so compelling. It's not his ridiculous speed or endurance, but a personality infused with humility, self-assurance, an awareness of his place in the sport, and a sense of social responsibility. To me, Gebrselassie evokes hope, effort, and humility.

Gebrselassie has been called the Muhammad Ali of running. While he’s not quite the figure that Ali was/is, he generates a similar type of excitement by combining once-in-a-generation athletic performance with infectious charisma. Such people are so very rare. Much more common are the athletes who have the once-in-a-generation performance but just a regular personality. Ali and Geb are unique in that their athletic performance seems to be fed by the same source as their towering personalities, and that is an overflowing lust for life, which surely is the most attractive of all personality traits.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I’ve set my sights on Charlotte’s Thunder Road Marathon on December 12. I chose Thunder Road for a couple of reasons. First, it’s close by – it’s just a 2 hour drive. Second, I’ve run this marathon before, which feels like an advantage somehow. Finally, but not of least importance, is the fact they offer pace groups.

As for my training, the general framework is not much different than the training I did for the Buffalo Marathon. For Buffalo, I used the Level 2 Marathon Plan from Matt Fitzgerald’s book, “Brain Training For Runners”. For that race, my weekly mileage peaked at about 70. This time, I’m using the Level 3 Plan from the same book, and my weekly mileage will peak at about 85-95 miles.

Higher mileage means increased risk of injury. To help offset this risk, I’ve set two process goals. First, I plan to run 20-30% of my weekly mileage on softer surfaces, such as trails. I’m hoping that in addition to offering the softer surface, trail running, with it’s uneven surfaces, will also strengthen the smaller muscles of the lower leg, ankle, and foot. Secondly, I plan to average 8 hours of sleep a night.

I would characterize my training approach as minimalist generally. I want to spend as little time training as necessary to achieve my goal, mainly because I have a husband that I would like to keep. As for my weekly workout schedule, I plan to run 8 times per week (twice a day on Mondays and Thursdays), with Sundays as a complete rest day. Three of my weekly runs will be challenging: intervals one day, tempo-type stuff another day and a long run on Saturday. The remaining five runs will be base runs or recovery runs. Two of the base runs will be followed with resistance training. Mondays base run is always followed by running drills.

I plan to do several races as part of my marathon training to make the hard work fun.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Run Like You're FAST...

Like many runners, I refuse to use the word “fast” to describe myself. I know that I will not reach my true potential if I don't find a way to get past this. I also know that it doesn’t matter if you’re world class, or if you’re over weight and can’t run at all, call yourself “fast” and you will become faster than you are now. So I’m taking the first steps to curing my disease. I’m making the decision to call myself “fast” and I’m setting up this training blog for others to see and comment on.

Part of the reason for a blog is not only to keep a log, but to engage in the community of "putting it out there." This includes not only putting my training out there so that it can be reviewed, commented on, etc, but putting my goals out there as well. It holds me accountable to some degree to those goals.

So, here goes: My remaining running goal for 2009 is to run a 3:50 marathon and qualify for Boston. Yes, I want a huge marathon PR this year, and I’m willing to do what it takes.

Hopefully this blog will offer an inside look at the life of a serious runner going for one of the biggest goals a runner can have: Boston. I'll do my best to mention everything that I encounter throughout my miles.... It is also my hope that people will enjoy my posts and maybe even take some inspiration from them.

Years from now my family, friends, and others will be able to know how I trained, what I tried, and what it took to succeed. They will know how I felt during my workouts, and how I dealt with different physical or mental challenges. I will be more than just an old woman to them. And hopefully they will learn something from my experience that will apply to more than running.