Category Archives: endurance

Race Report: Swamp Rabbit Urban Ultra 25K

Let’s start with the punchline first…

And now tell the funny story…

I was initially planning to do a half marathon two weeks ago as a fitness test but ended up tweaking my hamstring and getting the Resident Plague and spending that Sunday in a feverish ball asleep for 36 hours. Because I live firmly in the Bible Belt, finding a Sunday race is tough and I work on Saturdays so finding a replacement race was difficult. Thankfully, I am now on a rotation with the world’s most understanding Attendings who are generally entertained by my running escapades and they were okay with me missing last Saturday so I registered for the Swamp Rabbit 25K. When I discussed this with Dave, we were both psyched for the distance because it provided an opportunity to really assess my current marathon fitness. Of note, I MAY have mislead Dave into believing this was a road race because I believed it was. See, the Swamp Rabbit is the 30+ mile greenway in Greenville so I assumed this race used the greenway. I was wrong.

I woke up bright and early on race morning and headed to Greenville. As has been our lot lately, the weather was a bit on the miserable side. Summer has come back with a vengeance and the humidity is oppressive. It was about 70 when I got to the race course with an equal dew point, leading to almost 100% humidity. Thankfully, it was overcast with occasional rain sprinkles. The course was a 10K out and back but the 25K started at the halfway point and since we had to be bussed out there, I didn’t bother warming up until we got out there. I did a short run (on the paved trail) and some drills and we were off at 9 am.

I immediately ended up at the front and although another woman went with me for about a half mile, I spent the remainder of the race alone except for passing 50K runners or seeing other 25K runners on the out and back. The first mile was on pavement and I just tried to settle into a relaxed pace that approximated marathon effort. I came through in 6:58 and thought “perfect!.” And then we took a sharp right turn onto a goat path. Turns out that although the course was BASED on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, it actually included many segments on single track, boardwalks and sand. Whooops. As I sputtered internally, I focused on staying efficient and keeping my effort up while I explored the first 5K back to the Finish Area. We climbed a big grass hill with multiple switch backs, then barreled down the back side on a root filled descent. The remainder of the “back” contained boardwalks, trail, stairs and some pavement and a final grass hill up to the Finish/turnaround. I rolled through and headed onto the “out” section.

The first part of the out actually stays on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, so I tried to use this time to pick up my leg speed and bring my pace down again. We then climbed a long hill followed by a long descent and turned onto the same switchback that we had careened down on the way back. That climb was TOUGH. Roots and switchbacks made keeping momentum tough and although the first time over it wasn’t too bad, the second time was misery. Then it was down the grass hill and back on the Swamp Rabbit to the 10K/where we started.

I took my first gel at the 10K and this was where I realized how hot I was. Since my goals of using this a marathon simulation were a bit shot and I was comfortably in first, I actually stopped and took my gel rather than choking on it. Then I set off again for the return trip. On the pavement, I was happy to see my pace right around 6:50. On the trails, all bets were off. I will admit that as I wound my way through the last trail before the Finish Area, I was internally whining about having to do ANOTHER 10K on the trails. I came through the Finish/15K and stopped again for a sip of water and THE BEST SIP OF COCA COLA EVER. I see why real ultra runners swear by it…By now, I had soaked through my singlet and shorts and was just in survival mode.

The last 10K included a few moments of happiness but mostly a slog where I bribed myself multiple times with the idea of a) laying down and b) finishing the Coke I’d left at the finish. During this last 10K, the sun came out and the conditions went from overcast and humid to just plain brutal. Crossing one of the swamps on a boardwalk, I am pretty sure turtles were moving faster than me. Somehow I persevered and the next thing I knew, I was crossing the last bridge and running up the grass slope to the finish. I crossed in 1:57 and happily found my Coke. I didn’t lay down because I was SO soaked that I never would have gotten the grass off of me.

All in all, I’m very happy with this race even if it wasn’t quite the simulation run that I’d hoped for. My pace averaged out to 7:30 pace on super challenging terrain which makes me feel more confident about what I can do on the road in a month. I’m also happy with my mental game. I could have completely shut down upon finding out the course was a trail race but instead, I worked hard on the paved sections as I could and tried to be efficient on the trail sections without injuring myself or letting my heart rate drop too far. I also had a great time getting to know more of the local Ultra community. Maybe it’s the South but the two ultra “crowd” experiences I’ve had since moving here have been just overwhelmingly welcoming and positive.

Splits below, although not that useful as my Garmin is atrocious on trails/under tree cover. I saw everything from 5:50 to 12:00 minute pace during the race and although I believe the latter, I’m skeptical about the former…

6:58

7:29

7:33

7:26

7:36

7:09

7:50

7:46

8:00

8:30

8:00

7:38

8:00

8:00

8:08

 

Race Report: Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race

1:01:56, 18th Woman.

First and foremost, I am a road runner and spend very little time on trails (although I would like that to change in the coming years as we’re moving to an epic trail running town!). That said, I LOVE playing around in the woods and am wholly entertained by sliding sideways through mud and skittering along cliff edges. Despite moments of frustration yesterday, I had a complete blast getting out of my comfort zone and up some big hills at Sleepy Hollow.

Before I recap, let’s take a flash back to my last trail race and the areas of improvement I identified after that adventure.

  1. Learn how to tackle downhills.
  2. Don’t give up time on the easy parts.
  3. Tie your shoes tightly and learn how to cross rivers/mud.
  4. Know when to hold em, know when to fold em.

Coming into yesterday, my goals were simple: finish, keep both shoes on and try to apply lessons from last year’s Rivah. I actually spend a fair amount of time at Sleepy Hollow in the winter on skis but had literally never seen it without snow until yesterday. That said, I knew it featured some super gnarly singletrack and set a goal of 10 minute pace overall to balance the faster grass sections with the singletrack. Other than that, I didn’t have any plans, hopes or dreams.

The weather was perfect for a trail race with temps in the low 40s with just a touch of drizzle. We were well protected in the woods from wind but I suspect spectating wasn’t a ton of fun. Will and I ran the last 2 mile chunk of the course as a warm-up and although it was technical, it featured an amazing last mile of downhill and flat with good footing so I hatched a plan to use this place to move up if my legs allowed it.

This was the largest Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race (300 runners) ever and since I’m no trail runner, I positioned myself midpack for the start. When the horn sounded, people shot off while I jogged up the first incline. Since I didn’t know what to expect, my plan was to take it easy on the first ascent and see how I did. Even at that easy pace, I was breathing hard by about 5 minutes in. We turned onto a lovely singletrack and since we were still densely packed, this gave me time to calm my breathing and settle in. One of the best parts of this race was that it was either up or down and once you survived a climb, you knew you had a lot of recovery coming. After we crested the first hill, I felt good and started on the downhill. And people started STREAMING by me. Apparently my downhill skills have not really improved since last year…With rocks and roots and mud and leaves, I just wasn’t comfortable sending it and just did my best as what seemed like half the field went by me.

We then hit a long section of flat to downhill packed gravel/grass and I found my tempo effort and went. This awareness was a HUGE improvement from last year and was something I was able to do throughout the race. As we reached the bottom of this trail and the lowest point of the course, the hardest climb (for me) began. It started as a mudslide uphill that was nearly impossible to run, so I stayed to the side of the trail and powerhiked. (Look at all this learning!) Then after another short section of wide gravel/grass , we turned onto a switchback heavy singletrack where you could see so far up the ridgeline that the leaders were visible. Mentally and physically taxing, this was probably the hardest part of the course for me, especially when we hit the mile 3 marker and I realized I wasn’t even half done. Towards the top of this section, we saw Darth Vader and traversed a sketchy little cliff section where I literally grabbed a tree as I second guessed my footing. We went up over the absolute top of the land (another powerwalk hill) and finally headed down towards the start/finish area and the final loop.

This downhill and flat section offered a great opportunity to settle back into tempo effort and I felt strong and in control. Cruising past Will at the beginning of the third loop, I focused on my form with driving knees and turnover and felt super confident in my ability to tackle the third loop. After all, I’d already run it and it wasn’t THAT bad. Ha. As we turned onto the singletrack portion (most of which is at a 28% grade), I found myself struggling to powerwalk, let alone run. The only reason I wasn’t completely devastated was that literally everyone else around my was powerwalking too. Turns out that what might seem easy on a warm-up is a bear after 4.5 miles of racing. When we finally reached the top of that climb, I forced myself back into a jog and carefully watched footing then rejoiced when we hit the gravel/grass road descent. As I’d planned on my warmup, I clicked into tempo pace and started moving towards home. I was able to pass two people and caught up to the woman whom I’d passed on every uphill but who decimated me on the downhills. As we worked up the last hill, I realized I wasn’t sure what the etiquette was for kicking it in at a trail race and felt like maybe, that wasn’t cool. I stayed a couple steps behind her as we finished up and crossed the line at 1:01:56.

All in all, I’m so happy with the way this turned out. I wanted to get a solid effort in, have some fun in my last race in Vermont for a while and see if I could apply what I’d learned from my last trail race. I did a great job of keeping both shoes on, powerwalking when appropriate and running fast where it was possible. My downhills, however, still leave a lot to be desired. There’s always next time!

 

Weeks in Review: 2/13/17 to 2/26/17

There’s no filter to undo those circles…

2/13/17 to 2/19/17

Monday: Early morning snowshoe run for 45 minutes because the snow was just too amazing to not play in. Plus, I’m signed up for the Northeast Snowshoe Championships so I figured I’d better get out and practice!

Tuesday: 8 miles with 4 miles at tempo pace. Downhill skiing in the afternoon.

Wednesday: 4.28 mile recovery run.

Thursday: 8 miles with 4.5 miles at steady state on the treadmill.

Friday: 3.25 miles easy.

Saturday: 45 minute snowshoe run at my parents. SO hard in all the snow.

Sunday: Off day.

Total Miles: 23.5 plus 90 minutes of snowshoe running.

2/20/17 to 2/26/17

Monday: 8 miles with 5 by 2 at interval pace followed by a mile at steady state.

Tuesday: 5 mile recovery run

Wednesday: 6.65 mile regular run

Thursday: 5 mile progression run

Friday: 10 miles of classic skiing at the State Meet.

Saturday: Long call. Lots of hospital walking but no run. 300 abs routine before bed.

Sunday: 11.3 mile long run.

Total Miles: 46.0

The last two weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind. When we’re on Inpatient Medicine, we typically work six days a week with one weekend day off. Since the State Meets fall on weekdays, however, I had to stack some weekends so that I could have the time off. This past week, my “off day” from the hospital was very much an on day at the rainy, windy classic State Meet. Needless to say, I’m pretty wiped out and amazed I ran at all!

The toughest girls you’ll ever meet.

And my resilient, wonderful boys relay team.

My workouts have felt pretty good lately, which I attribute in part to my being fastidious about taking my multivitamin with iron. I stopped taking extra iron after last summer because my running had decreased and the high sweat loss season was done. However, because of the size of my hematoma, I decided to add a multivitamin with iron back in and have felt much peppier on runs lately.

I finally feel like I’m getting in a rhythm with my early morning runs…which must mean it’s time to switch schedules again! I have one more week on Inpatient Medicine, then switch to Surgery Boot Camp. This has a later start time but I think I’ll continue to do my runs in the morning. As ski season winds down, I’ll also be looking to add Body Pump back in for strength training.

Goals for 2017

The only guarantee in 2017 for me is change. In March, I’ll find out where I matched. In May, I’ll move and graduate. In mid-June, I become a surgical intern. As I’ve been ruminating on goals for 2017, one of the biggest challenges is that I don’t know exactly what my life will look like and past June, I don’t know what my call schedule will be which makes planning races or training difficult. Thus, my biggest goal for early 2017 is to lay down the habits that will allow me to continue to train during Residency. My secondary goal is to build a foundation to chase the Trials Standard for the 2020 Olympics and continue to represent Skechers Performance at local, regional and national races.

To do this, I’ve had to think about what works for me in terms of training, what is a reasonable training load that will allow me to race well AND be sane and what I’ve continued to struggle with during the past few years. I don’t know the specifics of any program yet but I do know that I can plan on working 80 hours a week with approximately one day off a week.

  1. 40 to 45 miles a week. Such a bitter pill to swallow but I have to be realistic about what I can really get in throughout the year. At this point, my plan is to do 30 minutes on most mornings with an early wakeup two days a week for an interval effort and a steady state effort plus a long run on my off day. This obviously won’t prepare me for a marathon length event but should allow me to do a half marathon or shorter with minimal notice. It will also let me scale up to the marathon once I have my schedule.
  2. Daily strength training or core. One of the things that I’ve been reminded of during my run break is that I feel so much better when I’m doing strength training and core on a regular basis. Although I am well aware of the benefits of strength training, I always struggle to fit this “extra” in. To better do this, I’ll plan to do my strength or core work at the end of the day. It’s so tempting to hammer through my to-do list but I need to make strength a real priority and setting a time for it both eliminates the need to get up at 3:30 am every day and gives me a mental break at the end of the work day.
  3. Diet Quality Score > 15. Despite my best efforts, interview season continues to wreck havoc on my nutrition. When I have a choice, I’m making high DQS choices but on interview days, all bets are off. There will be plenty of temptation to eat quick, easy food but residency is just as much of an endurance sport as running and fueling with good food will make both running and learning to be a surgeon a little less painful.
  4. Flexibility. Trying this one again! Yoga practice at least once a week, both to center my mind and work on my ever worsening flexibility. Daily foam rolling routine (8 passes over each major muscle group) to follow my daily strength/core.
  5. Morning runs!! The only constant for me is that if my run doesn’t happen in the morning, the likelihood that something comes up skyrockets. When I come back to running on Monday, my first order of business is to get my run done. My hope is that by June, it’s such a a habit that I don’t think anything of it.

As I always tell my girls, it’s one thing to set goals. It’s another to figure out the processes that set you up for success in reaching them. I’m highly motivated by checklists so I’m going to make a weekly checklist that sits on my bulletin board and includes all of these items as checkmarks. I also went back to a paper weekly/monthly planner for 2017 (I need the broad overview to feel in control) and will write in my daily workout as well as my week goal on the week page. Finally, I’m putting a bulleted version of this goal list on my bathroom mirror and on my desk.

What are your goals for 2017? How are you setting yourself up to meet them?

Week in Review 12.19.16 to 12.25.16

First, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and spent lots of quality time with friends, family or chosen family. For me, it was enough of a gift to be home for a couple of days without packing a bag!

Monday: Interview at Brown so quick early workout with 2.5 miles on the treadmill and a body weight strength workout.

Tuesday: 7 miles easy outside followed by 45 minutes of nordic skiing at the Range.

Wednesday: Appointment went way over so all I got in was 45 minute of skiing at Trapps.

Thursday: 9 mile progression run plus 45 minutes of nordic skiing.

Friday: 7 miles of easy running.

Saturday: 6 mile fartlek with 10 by 1 min hard, 1 min easy.

Sunday: Easy hour of skiing at my parents.

Total Miles: 31.5

Total Minutes Skiing: 195 minutes

I did not do a good job of balancing running and coaching this week, period. During cross country season, if I screw up my schedule or have too much going on, I still get a run in at practice. During nordic season, however, I’m on skis and although it’s a GREAT workout, it’s not a run. It’s typically my intention to use skiing as a secondary workout but that didn’t work out this week. I’m glad that I got a decent progression run in as well as a fartlek workout but I’ll admit that I’m frustrated to not be able to string together any reasonable training lately. My total mileage for 2016 will be much lower than any other year during medical school (even my surgery years), so I’m doing a little soul searching on what is going on to contribute to that and what I can do to improve for 2017.

The All-Terrain Runner series was released for 2017 so I’m debating about whether I want to sign up for that again and try to get more events in this year or simplify and stick to New Bedford with a plan to reevaluate after I know where I’m moving in June.

Week in Review 9.19.16 to 9.25.16

Monday: 7 mile recovery run.

Tuesday am: Body Pump then 7 miles easy.

Tuesday pm: 4 miles with the team, some moderately fast in their workout.

Wednesday: Interval workout. 10 by 400 on the track (87 to 89 for all). 10.5 miles total.

Thursday: 4 miles easy plus Body Pump.

Friday: 8 mile run in the rain and cold.

Saturday: 6 miles at Manchester.

Sunday: Power hiked Camel’s Hump with Will. 45 minutes up, 30 minutes down. Both of us are sore today!

Total Miles: 46.5

I’m starting to embrace whatever the day offers me for fitness. Part of me wants to be back on a strict training plan, with big race goals and high mileage, and part of me is loving the fact that when I woke up yesterday and it was 40 and sunny and crisp, I decided I wanted to go for a hike and did that instead. As I wrote last week, I’m struggling with a comparison trap and trying hard to get myself out of that rut. I did get a super successful workout in on the track last week and am happy with my effort in that. I’m also really loving getting to Body Pump a couple of times a week. I’m sore but definitely getting stronger again.

For this week, I have a marathon pace workout today (fits with the team workout…) and a long run Thursday plus Body Pump, some doubles and a hike up Mount Mansfield on Sunday.

Why I Am Trying a 9 Day Training Cycle

It’s no secret that my schedule is wonky at best. I am occasionally on a Monday through Friday workweek but most of the time, the idea of weekend or workweek is irrelevant. Add in the fact that I start coaching full time this coming week with meets almost every Saturday and half my weekend instantly evaporates. On top of this, I have call requirements and a fall full of interviews, some of which are a long travel from Burlington.

In addition to this scheduling nightmare for the fall, I’m also in desperate need of a better recovery plan. Thanks to the above schedule, my ability to increase sleep is limited and by definition, I’m on my feet all day, sometimes in very awkward positions. How then, to create more recovery time so that I can keep chasing after my athletic pursuits? One option is to increase my intensity but drop my volume. I ran a very successful first marathon on 35 miles a week, so this is a possibility I’ll likely reconsider during residency. The other option and the one I’ll be trying out this fall is the 9 day training cycle. 

The premise is simple: instead of trying to do a speed workout, tempo workout and long run in 7 days, you do it in 9 days. The nice part of this is that each harder effort is followed by both a recover run and a regular run and increases the likelihood you hit hard workouts fully recovered. Because there are more days to play with, the added benefit of flexibility is a good fit for the inevitable travel delays that I’ll experience this fall.

Here’s what my first “week” back will look like:

50 8/24/2016 Hard 8/1:1 x 10 Legs
50 8/25/2016 Recover 6 Arms
50 8/26/2016 Regular 7 Core
50 8/27/2016 Hard 8/3 by 1 at T Legs
50 8/28/2016 Recover 6 Arms
50 8/29/2016 Regular 7 Core
50 8/30/2016 Long 12 Legs
50 8/31/2016 Recover 6 Arms
50 9/1/2016 Regular 7 Core

How do you adjust mileage for a 9 day cycle? As I’ve addressed in comments before, I prorate all of my mileage to get the right day to day load.  In the case of the example above, 50/7 is a daily load of 7.1, so my workouts are (daily load + 1), recovery is (daily load – 1) and regular is 7. Long run will start at about 25% of my total mileage and increase. After this 9 day set, I’ll go to 55 miles per ‘week’ and adjust accordingly.

When do you have an off day? I’ll be taking an off day on the 4th recovery day, which is every 12th day. Right now, I take an off day every other week which can be anything from 8 to 13 days. I think with the additional recovery offered by the 9 day schedule, I’ll be okay with this being on the long end but it will definitely be something I pay attention to when I reevaluate.

How long is my experiment? I’ll be trying this through early October, enough to go through 6 microcycles. If I feel like it’s an improvement over my current schedule, I’ll keep it going through the rest of the fall. if not, I’ll either go back to a 7 day schedule or try something new.

Anyone ever do a 9 day cycle? 

Calm (Alternative Title: Mindfulness I Can Tolerate)

I am one of the least intentionally mindful people on the planet. I move at 100 miles an hour, I always have ten projects in the air and generally consider it a successful day if I get through half of my to-do list. Recently, however, while on Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, I was introduced to calm.com which is a website and app dedicated to simple mindfulness exercises. What I like most about the site is that it has 3 minute guided mindfulness exercises, which are a tolerable length even for me. There are also numerous options for calming noise on the right sidebar which is a nice feature for when I’m working or reading something that doesn’t require 100% concentration.

As I’ve shared many times on here, I struggle with significant running anxiety. Interestingly, my race anxiety has decreased a ton over the past few years (maybe too much as sometimes I feel like I don’t care about race outcomes any more) but my workout anxiety remains incredibly high. I don’t sleep the night before a big workout and as I get ready to start, I’m nauseous and in full on panic mode. Flooding one’s muscles with cortisol is not exactly the way to prepare for success so I made a deal with myself to try to incorporate some mindfulness features into my pre-workout prep. Now on workout days, my routine goes warm-up –> 4 laps of jog the curve, stride the straights –> drills –> eyes closed, mindfulness moment. I close my eyes, work through one of the mindfulness actions of wiggling my toes and attending to that action and take some deep, intentional breaths. It sounds hokey and one of my biggest challenges is not rejecting the idea but my workouts have improved MARKEDLY since starting this. It could certainly be incidental but it seems that taking a few moments to focus before starting helps to bring my heart rate down and narrow my focus.

For me, a few minutes of intentional mindfulness a week is a much more tolerable way to work on focus and anxiety than yoga, which has the paradoxical effect of making me significantly more stressed about my schedule, my lack of flexibility and so on. I do still do my 20 minute routine for runners but beyond that, yoga has never seemed to work to help my mental game. I’m hopeful that adding this small touch of mindfulness will be a good addition to my pre-race routine and help me move back towards a healthy dose of anxiety and race anticipation.

Do you practice mindfulness? How do you focus yourself before workouts and races?

San Diego Here I Come!

I have a rare week off in March and since Will isn’t off, I decided that I’d use the week to go train somewhere other than Burlington. I initially looked at heading to western North Carolina or to Flagstaff, but by the time I found flights, rental car and housing, the trip was getting to be ridiculously expensive. Imagine my surprise, then, when going to San Diego ended up being a totally affordable flight AND a chance to visit my sister for a week.

My sister lives on the BEAUTIFUL island of Coronado which boasts the Silver Strand Bikeway, a 7 mile bike path that runs along the ocean. When I was out there last, I did most of my runs out here and in March, I plan to do my tempo runs and afternoon runs here. I’m also excited to explore other places around the San Diego area both to work on my trail running and general fitness.

In particular, I’m excited to get to Lake Hodges Trail, Miramar Reservoir and of course, Balboa Park. If I can get out there, I’d also love to run out at Mount Laguna which sits at almost 6000 feet and sounds like a beautiful place to get a couple of hours of hard work in.

What’s your favorite place to run in San Diego? Anywhere in the area I shouldn’t miss?

Week in Review 2/8/16 to 2/14/16

Well, the Trials are a wrap and it was an incredible day as promised. The heat was severe as many athletes dropped out throughout the race and even the seemingly infallible Shalane Flanagan suffered towards the end. In the end, the men’s side came out to be Galen, Meb and Jared Ward while the women’s side will be Amy Cragg, Desi and Shalane.

Monday: 4.25 mile run on the frozen golf course to start getting my legs ready for my spring adventures.

Tuesday: 5 miles early on the treadmill. Workout attempt fail #1. Hip core after.

Wednesday: 6 mile hill run on the treadmill.

Thursday: Post call, off day.

Friday: 6.2 mile plod and study.

Saturday: 10 miles feeling great on the treadmill because it was -8 out!

Sunday: 4 miles easy plus arms.

Total Miles 35.4 

Running is such a fickle beast. Last week, every run felt amazing. This week, every run was a ploddy achy struggle until Saturday when I felt great again with no explanation for either end of the spectrum. So it goes. For this week, I’ll be doing my normal running mileage plus adding in an afternoon workout of either snowshoe running, trail running, stairclimber or walking/jogging at 15% grade as the weather and snow allows.