Friday, February 19, 2010

Best. Run. Ever.

I am a sound sleeper. I am asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow and I only wake up ...

a) to the sound of my alarm
b) to the sounds of my children over the monitor, whether in the middle of the night or playing in their beds in the morning (on the weekends)
c) 10 hours later (or longer!).

The alarm is obviously a critical component because I never get 10 hours of sleep. Thursday morning I had my alarm set for 4:45 AM, figuring I would wake up around 5:00 AM, after snoozing a bit. I have to hit the snooze at least once, so I always build in extra time for that.

Well, I stirred Thursday morning and checked my watch, thinking to myself, I feel like I should have heard my alarm by now. This is usually followed by the panic of knowing that I have overslept because I either a) set the alarm but did not turn it on or b) set the alarm for PM instead of AM. I was confused when the indiglo on my Timex showed that it was exactly 5:00 AM. I checked my alarm and sure enough, I had set is for PM, not AM. I remember thinking to myself how lucky it was that I woke up on my own … and then I was asleep again.

I stirred again and thought, “crap, why didn’t I get up when I realized I had not set my alarm?”, but was relieved to see it was only 5:15 AM. I really just needed my snooze, I guess. This has only happened once before, which is why before every race I set 4 different alarms to make sure that I do not oversleep!

With that, I got up and got ready for my Thursday 10 miler and tempo run.

I run a two mile loop around my neighborhood, so I do all of my splits in 2 mile increments and plan my runs accordingly. I decided on a 2 mile warm up, followed by a 4 mile tempo run and a 4 mile warm down.

I started my warm up lap listening to Freakonomics on my iPod, but less than a mile into my run, my iPod battery died. Ugghh. My initial reaction was to run into the house when I finished the first 2 mile loop to let it charge for 2 miles, so that I could have it for the last 6 miles of my run. Instead, I ended up deciding to suck it up and run without music or audio books because on occasion, it is good race simulation.

I have been doing 6 mile tempo runs (2 mile warm up, 2 mile tempo, 2 mile warm down) off and on for the last month or so, so I was nervous to be extending the tempo portion of the run to 4 miles. My Tuesday 10 mile runs are done at my ‘I can run all day’ conversational pace somewhere between 9:00s and 9:30s, so pushing below 8:00s is definitely outside of my comfort zone.

I made a concerted effort not to push too hard for the first two miles, knowing that I had to do an additional 2 miles. I tried to just keep the pace just below 8:00s. I felt good for the entire 2 miles and while I could not have held a good conversation, I was not suffering. With the first two tempo miles behind me, I took a swig of G2 and gave myself a short pep talk heading into the next 2 miles. I asked myself what I was so afraid of – I mean, what is the worst that could happen, I could bonk and have to slow down during a training run? Not a huge loss, right? So, with that, I was off for the next 2 miles of tempo work. I was shocked at how much easier the second 2 miles felt at an even faster pace. It was like my body just needed some time to warm up and then it knew what to do. I was thrilled with the results and almost considered pushing it to a 6 mile tempo run, but decided to stick to plan.

For miles 7 and 8, I just ran comfortably, not checking my Garmin for pace. I was excited to see my split for those 2 miles, given the low level of exertion. The last 2 miles are what I dub the “Victory Lap” and invariably, I tend to speed up for that lap because I have a horse-to-stables mentality. Again, I was shocked to see I was running low 8:00s so comfortably and so far into my run.

Miles 1 + 2: 9:01 pace
Miles 3 + 4: 7:53 pace
Miles 5 + 6: 7:39 pace
Miles 7 + 8: 8:25 pace
Miles 9 + 10: 8:12 pace

Avg Run Pace: 8:14 pace

Oh, and I got to watch a beautiful sunrise to boot!

So, what is making me faster?

Maybe it was my pre-run meal the evening before, which included delicious butter flavored birthday cake with chocolate icing (yum!)? Maybe it is my new Saucony shoes? Maybe it was the cooler temps (run fast to stay warm)? Maybe it is my new confidence and previous tempo runs paying off?

All I know, is that it was the best run I have had in as long as I can remember! I just hope I can duplicate that feeling next week.

p.s. don't forget to enter the TriSwim Giveaway . I will do the drawing early next week!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

TriSwim Giveaway and my Swimming Pet Peeves

Like many triathletes, I was not a swimmer growing up and while my swim stroke and efficiency have improved dramatically over the last 2 years, I am far and away a better cyclist and runner than I am a swimmer. It doesn’t help that I often dread going to the pool, mostly due to my swimming pet peeves …

Pet Peeves
1 – There are many triathlete jokes about chlorine (you might be a triathlete if … you smell like chlorine all the time) and they are all true. You go for a swim and two showers later you can still smell chlorine. I work in an office and regularly have to meet customers and chlorine is not my perfume of choice, but on swim days, it follows me everywhere, plus I hate the texture of my hair on swim days, even after multiple washings.

2 – Goggle marks. I have tried a dozen different pair and I have yet to find a pair that don’t leak or fog incessantly or (the absolute worst part) give me nasty goggle marks until after lunch. I am tired enough as it is, and these goggle marks make it look like I have serious bags around my eyes! Not attractive for morning meetings at the office. Right now I swim with Women’s Vanquishers and they don’t leak but the goggle marks are horrendous! I just heard of Sable Goggles and I am thinking about giving them a try, but I am not sure if they are worth the risk for $50. If you use Sable Goggles, I would love to hear from you.

3 – I am usually swimming at 5:30 a.m., plus a 15 minute drive, which means I am up early on swim days. I much prefer rolling out of bed and into my running shoes. Swimming requires too much prep work!

I know, it sounds like a lot of excuses. The good news (for my training at least) is that despite my dread, I drag my sleepy arse to the pool for a good 3 hours a week.

The better news? I am excited to report that I can now cross #1 off of my list of reasons I don’t like the pool! Yes, the chlorine is a w f u l , but I just got to test out SBR’s TriSwim products and I am a beliver! On top of getting rid of the unfavorable chrlorine perfume, I love what the shampoo and conditioner did for my hair! The conditioner smelled incredibly refreshing, the body wash lathered nicely and the lotion soothed my dry winter skin that hates the over-chlorinated pool! I will keep these in my swim bag and in my gym locker from now on!

The best news?
You too can check out these great products by entering into my TriSwim and Foggle giveaway!

Winner will receive the entire TriSwim line in the convenient TriSwim Shot size (great for your swim bag!) and Foggle anti-fog towlettes for your goggles.

How to Enter – each item gives you 1 entry into the contest:

1. Check out the TriSwim Website – it is full of great information and leave me a comment.
2. Follow my blog. If you enter via #1 and already follow my blog, you will automatically get a second entry.
3. Post a link on your blog to this giveaway.

Just let me know in your comment which ways you are entering. Good luck!

Now, if I could just do something about those pesky goggle marks … this photo is from Friday morning an hour after I got out of the pool with make-up on to cover the worst of it! You may have to click on the photo to enlarge it, but you can clearly see my goggle marks – and yes, they were there until at least 2 pm!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Comfort with Discomfort

Last season I was focused on two things - going long and not getting injured. As Ironman got closer on the calendar I chose to forgo speed work and anything else that I felt may increase the chance of injury.

They (who is they, by the way?) say, if you always run long and slow, you will get good at running long and slow. And guess what else? On race day, you will be slow. You can't expect to be a speed demon on race day if you are always training slow.

I was focused on getting to the Ironman starting line healthy and having the endurance training so that I could cross the finish line. My training made me pretty darn good at going long at a moderate pace, whether swimming, biking or running. Moderate, of course, is relative to ones own strengths and weaknesses, and compared to others, I am sure I could be considered slow.

This season, with a decent endurance base supporting me, I am working on getting faster. I have started adding weekly tempo runs to my routine and while I don't necessarily look forward to these runs, I know that they are both physically and mentally rewarding. Physically, I am confident that running faster will make me faster (and you can substitute swimming and biking for running too). Mentally, running faster in my workouts is showing me both what I am capable of speed wise and giving me confidence that I can handle the discomfort that comes with pushing myself hard. I know that this confidence will come in handy on race day.

On a separate note, this weekend was the Rocky Raccoon 50 mile / 100 mile endurance race. Since I abandoned my training partner for the race, I volunteered to crew for him instead. So, Saturday morning I woke up at 4:30 and drove to his house so that we could make the 1 hour trek to Huntsville for the 7:00 am race start. Rocky allows packet pick-up race morning, so we retrieved his packet and got him to the starting line. The 100 milers started at 6:00 am, so the starting line wasn't too hectic for the 50 mile start.

This race is very casual and family friendly. It was frustrating to be there and not be racing and that feeling only got worse as the day wore on and I was itching to run.

After seeing Mark off, I went back to the car to nap, knowing that I would not see Mark again for about 3 hours. It was pretty chilly out, otherwise, I would have been happy to nap in the shade. Just after 10 am, I saw Mark again, looking great after his first 16.7 mile loop. After a short stop, he was off again. Meanwhile, I was coordinating with our families who were on their way to the race site. I got to spend about an hour with them before Mark re-appeared and I was off to run my pacing loop with him.

I have not done much true trail running so I was not sure what to expect. My "trail" running has been on crushed granite on a flat, circular loop, so I had a steep learning curve on the pine needle, root covered trail. After tripping, but thankfully not falling, a couple of times, my footing got better and the running got easier. I had also forgotten that running on trails also slows down your pace. On the positive side, the trails around the lake were beautiful and the miles passed quickly. I was struck by how friendly and encouraging every single person on the trail was. If I was ever unsure as to whether I wanted to commit to an ultra, all of my doubts were set aside on Saturday. I have to do one now -- and I would seriously consider doing a 100 miler too (after tackling a 50, of course!).

Mark had a great race and it was awesome to run the last lap with him. With several miles to go he started to pick up the pace and with 2 miles to go he was running sub-9 minute miles. I could hardly keep up with him for the last mile and I had only run one-third of the miles that he had! I felt like a total failure but I kept pushing knowing that I could manage through the discomfort. He later told me, quoting Born to Run, that when you feel like running fast, you run fast, and when you feel like running slow, you run slow -- and at that point he felt like running fast. I was glad to be able to give him company on the last lap and to support him as he has been a rock for me through some tough training cycles as well as pacing me to a sub-4 hour finish at the Houston marathon last year.

Sunday Report
Mileage for Week Ending 2/07/2010
Swim: 6400 yards in 300
Bike: 83 miles in 5:15
Run: 32 miles in 6:04
Strength Training/Core: 0:30 (high heart rate)
Total: 14:49

Stretching: 0:00 -- I have been feeling great (knock on wood), so I have been bad about stretching. I can commit to 5 minutes each night this week.

Have a great week!