Category Archives: Marathon

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

 

Still (Mostly) Alive

It’s hard to believe that only 11 weeks have passed since starting Intern Year and in the same breath, 11 weeks has flown by. I am almost done with my first rotation of this year (Acute Care Surgery) and with it, done with the bulk of my training for RDC! As expected, my running has had to take a bit of a back seat to everything else but I’ve done a reasonable job of continuing to train and build and finally have some long term goals in mind!

July: My only real goal for July was to survive and figure out what my running schedule might look like when the reality of 80+ hours of work hit. We had a relatively mild summer here and since I ran in the early morning for most of it, I really didn’t struggle too much with heat and humidity. I ran a very reasonable 181 miles and my long runs progressed to 16 miles. Workouts were non-specific (long trail runs, fartleks and easy tempos) and focused on general fitness acquisition.

August: I started to figure out what work was all about and finally managed to get through my days more efficiently. I hit the wall a bit energy wise in the middle of the month and finished up with only 165 miles. I did, however, get my first 20 miler in for the cycle and my workouts started to get more specific. I also started going to Orange Theory, which has been very interesting in terms of my perception of effort versus my heart rate.

September: After a relatively disappointing August, I have been trying to refocus more on my running in September. I am about as fatigued as I’ve ever been right now and my body is showing it with lots of general aches and leg heaviness. I did get another 20 miler in and my workouts have become even more focused (more on this later). I restarted my iron to make sure I’m tuned up from that perspective and have been focusing on sleep and stretching as much as I can to combat 80+ hours of standing/interrupted sleep/weird positions in the OR. I’m doing a check in half marathon in Johnson City this weekend and interested to see where I’m at as compared to both Unplugged and the Asheville Half. I don’t know what the topography of the course will be and the weather looks hot but it will be nice to have a supported “up-effort.”

I realized in August is that I have to become more flexible with training and with that, workouts have to become more intentional. I don’t have the recovery ability to do multiple workouts a week and instead, have to make do with a couple of quality efforts each week. Because of this and because I have been so frustrated with my stagnation, I finally decided to hire/bring on a coach. I say ‘bring on’ because I am working with Dave Ames, who is a friend beyond being a coach, and the decision was about as collaborative as it gets. As many people know, Will has been my coach forever but with intern year for him and an intentional shift in our marriage to be as focused on just being married and not being co-workers, co-coaches, athlete-coaches, it was time to make a different plan.

One of the amazing things about having a coach is that all I have to do is workout. One of the terrifying things about having a coach ARE those workouts. For example, I had a medium long run on Sunday with a workout built in that didn’t seem that difficult on paper but was EXTREMELY difficult. Similarly, I have a mile repeat workout today that I am convinced is all but impossible so I have the difficult task of convincing myself first that I can do it and second, getting through it. Dave gets incredible results from his athletes and furthermore, has a lot of experience with the sports psychology aspect of racing which I need almost as much as the physiologic piece.

My race schedule has evolved as well, with a new focus on the US 50K Road Championships (hoping to podium) in March and CIM 2018 for my (hopeful) OTQ attempt. This takes a little pressure off RDC where my main goal is to just get back into marathon running and hopefully undo some of the emotional baggage I am (still) carrying from Philly.

But first, the Bluegrass Half in Johnson City on Sunday!

How I Finally Got Consistent with Strength Training

When I look back over all my notes over all my training cycles for the past decade (I came back to racing in 2007), there is always a note somewhere about being more consistent with strength training and core work. And yet, as the miles climb and workouts get harder, it would drop off and my prerace reflection and post race recap would inevitably mention a need for more strength work the next time around. In many ways, I’m lucky that I’ve gotten away without a serious running injury in that time. It’s not that I do NO strength training, it’s just in fits and starts rather than a consistent, careful approach. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve done a little core routine every night before bed since college and I think this has made a huge difference for me. Still, I feel the repercussions of my inconsistency during long workouts as my form collapses or late in races when certain muscles fail faster than others.

Anyway, in an effort to prepare for intern year and acknowledge that even more than usual, time will be at a premium for the next five years, I downloaded a free version of the Daily Workouts app for abs and arms. Each of these had a 5, 8 or 10 minute option. Within a couple of days, I was hooked and bought the full app ($10). This added levels 2 and 3 as well as kettle bell, cardio, pilates and exercise ball routines. Since buying this app in April, I haven’t missed a single strength workout. A single one. Through moves and graduations and everything else, I’ve done at least 5 minutes of core daily and 5 to 10 minutes of other strength workouts on the appropriate days.

Here’s why I think this app works for me (I am in no way sponsored, by the way): when I normally did strength workouts, I would plan to do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps for a variety of exercises focused on a body part. Inevitably, I’d finish a set or two, then open my phone. And answer a text. Or scroll Instagram for a second. Or answer an email. Then I’d half-heartedly go back to lifting. Not only did this take way more time than it needed to, but half the time I wouldn’t finish the workout I’d planned in my head. This app doesn’t allow me to get distracted and it doesn’t allow for excuses either. I have 5 minutes to do arms or abs or glutes, no matter what. Once the app starts, it is counting and showing you the exercises. No exiting to check Instagram, no distractions.

I share this story not only to be as real as I can about a training struggle that I face but also in case others have a similar experience with strength training or schedule restrictions and want another possible solution. As I said, I ended up purchasing the full app but the free version was excellent too, just with ads and more limited range of exercise options.

How do you get your strength training in? Does anyone else use an app or online software?

Running During Intern Year***

***Caveat: This is a plan. The shit may hit the fan a month from now and this may all be a pipe dream. That said, I went into medical school planning for the worst and it never really happened, so I’m doing the same for Residency.

One of the benefits (??) of Residency is that we know our schedules way, way, way in advance. It takes an inordinate amount of organization to cover a hospital and our schedules are done almost before we Match. Because my program is new, ours will be a little less set as we work out kinks in coverage but we still have a full year schedule to work from which is amazing from a running perspective. Our schedule is unique because we do three month blocks from the beginning rather than one month blocks. From a professional perspective, this allows us to actually get our feet under us and build proficiency. From a lifestyle perspective, this allows us to adjust to a schedule for a longer period of time and supports more normal sleep cycles. The other big change for this year is that the work hour restrictions, a huge controversy in all residencies but especially in surgery, have been loosened. We still can’t work more than 80 hours a week (averaged over 4 weeks), but we are able to take 24 hour call as interns. I know some people hate call because they have to be up for 24 hours but I find it immensely preferable to night float where you work 7 pm to 7 am for a month at a time. With 24 hour call, you take a big nap when you get home, get a half day off and go to bed early the night before the reset.

From the 40,000 foot view, my schedule looks like this:

  • July, August, September on Acute Care Surgery (Tuesday Call)
  • October, November, December on Pediatric Surgery (Sunday night call)
  • January, February, March on Trauma Surgery (Thursday call)
  • April, May, June on Wound/Ambulatory Surgery (Saturday call)

What this means is that I have a guaranteed post-call day off as well as a weekend day off most weekends. Occasionally, I’ll have both days of the weekend off (known as the “Golden Weekend.”) From a training perspective, this means that I have two and occasionally three days for quality workouts. One of the big hurdles that I’ve already experienced in medical school and expect to experience even more as a resident is a lack of recovery. We work about 12 hours a day and much of that is standing. Even with almost no additional social life, this doesn’t leave a ton of time for quality sleep. Planning for my recovery, then, is almost as important as planning my runs. My general plan is to take my call day as my off day, which will allow me to sleep in a bit. On my post-call day, I’ll aim to be in bed early and on a full day off, sleep in as late as I can even if it means my run happens at a warmer time of day. Finally, I’m working on giving myself permission to take an extra rest day to prioritize sleep if I’m feeling exhausted.

For the first three months of intern year, then, this is the basic mockup of my schedule with strength training in italics and a presumption that my weekend day off will be Sunday which isn’t necessarily true. Because we’re easily the luckiest residents ever, we work 7 am to 7 pm (instead of 5 am to 5 pm), which means I can get my runs in before work without having to get up at 3 am. My hope is to keep my mileage between 50 and 60 miles a week but I will reassess this after the first couple of months and see if 40 to 50 might be more appropriate/improve recovery.

  • Monday: Interval Effort. Short hills or time based interval paced effort. Legs and Core.
  • Tuesday: Call Day. Off.
  • Wednesday: Post-Call Day. Long Run with/without steady state or tempo miles. Legs and Core.
  • Thursday: Recovery run. Arms and core.
  • Friday: Regular run. Core. 
  • Saturday: Regular run with striders. Core. 
  • Sunday: Workout with tempo and turnover work.

One of the biggest challenges for me is going to be being flexible in my training. I get stressed out when I deviate from my schedule or miss a workout but I’m working on accepting that this is a given with my current life. There will certainly be days when I can’t get a run in but there will also be days with surprise opportunities to get an extra mile or even an extra run in. A training cycle isn’t made or broken with one workout or even one week, and I will need to remind myself of this regularly.

I’ll cover my strength training approach in a post for tomorrow (I have a new app and I want to give it appropriate attention) but I’ve recently gotten in a great routine of getting some aspect of strength building in daily and want to continue that trend. Thankfully, this is the easiest piece to keep in my routine. Squats when I brush my teeth, crunches and pushups in the charting room, stairs at work etc…

 

Small News: I Picked a Fall Marathon

I just signed up for the RDC Marathon in November.

Yes, you read that correctly. I’m about to start General Surgery Residency and I registered for a fall marathon. Before you think I’m entirely crazy, let me attempt to explain.

First, I need something outside of the hospital for me. Running is an excellent outlet for stress for me but I need something to focus me more than just vague “stay in shape,” so a long race is a great motivator.

Second, I need to dip my foot back in the marathon pool. My last marathon was in 2014 and my last big focus race was the Philly Half in 2015. As I’ve covered, perhaps ad nauseam, Philly and the failure there wounded me more than I can express and it’s been an ugly road back. I’ve self sabotaged races, half assed training and generally faced an enormous amount of fallout from that one race. I’m at a point now where I’ve accepted that I can’t expect to come back at the same place I left in 2015. I haven’t trained at a high level in over a year and have had numerous setbacks in that time. What I can do, however, is start fixing the foundation and looking forward to the Olympic Trials for 2020.

So why a full marathon and not a half? I often joke that for a marathon to go well, God himself needs to come down and anoint you for the perfect day but that you can run a good half marathon with locusts falling from the sky. That’s still true, if you have the perfect training setup. If you don’t, however, you lack the requisite speed to run fast at the half distance. As I’ll detail in an upcoming post, my schedule for the next year is a bit…challenging and will require a ton of flexibility on my part. What it does include, however, is a guaranteed post-call day when I can get my long run in.

Why did I choose a brand new marathon that it unlikely to have a ton of people or crowd support? See above with Philly. I considered trying to get into the elite field of a race but my times are too old and I didn’t want to automatically assign the pressure of being an invited athlete to my comeback. As Abbey said the other day, “just let me run with regular people and drink from paper cups and run fast.” Yes, the ultimate goal is to post a 2017 time that will get me back into invited fields but I don’t need to add pressure for this first big race back.

Right now, I don’t have any hard goals. After all, I have 23 weeks and almost half a surgical intern year between then and now. In my mind, I would really like to break 3 hours but I’ll reevaluate that as I get closer to the race. My other big goal is to have a good training cycle that will help me to put Philly behind me once and for all.

Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

My first selfie as Dr. Waterman Manning!

I won’t even attempt to recap the past few weeks of training (or life), but the very short version is that I graduated (wooohooo!), celebrated with family and friends and managed to get two very anxious doggies back home to North Carolina. We are now getting settled in Asheville and the dogs look like little kids complete with tons of mud, scratches and sunburns. They love the new backyard and are only happy when they are outside. I’m feeling similarly and have spent countless (uncharacteristic) hours just quietly rocking on the porch and dreaming up home improvement projects. I know the storm is coming but for now, I’m enjoying 9 hours of sleep a night and no real “to-dos.”

Hard to describe the bond between classmates but it’s a bit like leaving the best teammates ever.

Running is going well and I must admit that I’m relieved to feel reinvigorated now that I’m in Asheville. It is getting hot and humid here so runs are slowing down but I’m happy to get out the door every day and enjoying slow progress with my fitness. I’ve started the process of exploring running spots around the area and was blown away by Bent Creek and the new sections of the Mountains-to-Sea trail that I’ve discovered so far. I tried to join in on a group run the other night in an attempt to make some friends but it was a pretty horrible experience (still debating if I want to write about it…). Despite that, I’ve had tempo runs, steady state runs and interval workouts that have demonstrated slow but forward progress.

The Asheville half is this coming weekend and the weather looks…not great. As much as I would like to taper down in hopes of having a great peaked result, my training hasn’t been consistent enough to warrant a taper. Instead, I’m going to train normally this week but add a rest day and extra easy day on Friday and use this as a jump off point for summer training in preparation for my fall marathon. My only goal is to have a strong last three miles, which has eluded me lately in half marathons. I haven’t chosen a race yet (waiting on vacation approval) but am excited to think about starting the (long) journey towards my Trials attempt.

Giveaway: Marathon Woman

There are few running scenes more recognizable than that of Katherine Switzer being forcibly removed from the Boston Marathon course. With the help of fellow runners, she was able to fight back and finish the race, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon and an undeniable marker of women’s coming of age in running. When Switzer ran Boston again this year, it was in her original bib 261 and was one of my favorite moments of the day. I even told the story to my non-running colleagues in the SICU and they too celebrated as she crossed the line again.

I was thrilled, then, when the publisher of her new book offered me a copy of Marathon Woman and a copy to share with others!! I haven’t finished the book yet but it is an inspiring read that I would recommend to all runners. 

Enter to win by Sunday May 21st at 11:59 and I will select a winner on Monday. There are three ways to enter and you get a chance to win from each:

  1. Comment here on your favorite Boston Marathon moment.
  2. Head to my Instagram (@runswatrun), find this Giveaway Post and comment there on what running means to you.
  3. On the Giveaway post, tag three friends who inspire you to move daily.

Do one or do all three for three chances to win! Winner will be chosen via random number generator. 

Treadmill Workout: Stamina Progression Run

I LOVE this run for a winter workout on the treadmill where I need to build fitness AND not go nuts on the treadmill. This is a 7 mile version but you can extend as you want by adding to cooldown or adding another mile progression segment. If you’re short on time, you can always just do a continuous progression with a short cool-down but that’s a different workout purpose.

The goal of this workout is to progress throughout your run, ending at what should be your tempo pace. It should never be over-the-top difficult, but should feel like you’re cruising smoothly through most of the workout and working pretty hard by the last mile. For each segment, you speed up through most of the segment then finish out the mile at the top speed for that segment. When the next minute comes around, you start progressing again. By doing this, you’re getting a little extra time in each zone but not as focused on holding tempo pace/effort continuously.

Right now, I start at 6.0 and go to 9.0, then cool down for a mile at 7.0. (10:00, 6:40 and 8:34 paces respectively). Pick whatever pace is very easy to start that gets you into your tempo range by the end! The example below is based on my paces, adjust as needed.

Mile 1: Starting at 6.0, increase speed by 0.1 each minute until 6.5. Finish the mile at 6.5. (Warmup)

Mile 2: Starting at 6.5, increase speed by 0.1 each minute until 7.0. Finish the mile at 7.0

Mile 3: Starting at 7.0, increase speed by 0.1 each minute until 7.5. Finish the mile at 7.5. (By now, you should be warmed up. Good time for a stretch break if you take them)

Mile 4: Starting at 7.5, increase speed by 0.1 each minute until 8.0. Finish the mile at 8.0.

Mile 5: Starting at 8.0, increase speed by 0.1 each minute until 8.5. Finish the mile at 8.5.

Mile 6: Starting at 8.5, increase speed by 0.1 each minute until 9.0. Finish the mile at 9.0.

Mile 7: Easy mile at 7.0 pace.

It Ain’t About How Hard You Hit (Olympic Trials 2020)

It ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. 

I’ve talked about it here before although not in great detail, but Philly 2015 and my failure to make the Olympic Trials or even break 1:20 did significant damage to my running soul. I’m still not sure I’ve recovered as evidenced by my lack of…caring during races but I’m starting to feel a bit more life since the 2020 Standards were released this past weekend. The full standard will be 2:45 and opens September 1, 2017, which is what it was relaxed to at the end of the window this past year. The half standard was lowered to 1:13 and doesn’t open til 2018. Aka, I’ll be going for the full standard.

When I asked Will on Sunday if I had a chance, he didn’t miss a beat and said, “without a doubt.” He’s generally pretty honest, so I allowed myself a little hope and even decided that I’ll run the New Bedford Half Marathon this spring as part of an extended build-up. My goal isn’t to PR but to start getting some long distance specificity back. I can’t pick a goal race or even a window yet until I know 1) where I’m doing residency and 2) what my schedule looks like for PGY 1 and 2 but I’m officially putting it out there as a big, scary goal.

Sometimes I forget how far I’ve come in the marathon amidst some disappointments, but here’s my trajectory AND what I’ll need to qualify.

  • City of Oaks 2008 3:17:35 (7:32)
  • Rock’nRoll 2009 Las Vegas 3:15:51 (7:28)
  • Boston Marathon 2011 3:11:18 (7:18)
  • Vermont City Marathon 2012 3:05:33 (7:04)
  • Vermont City Marathon 2013 2:58:28 (6:48)
  • Mohawk Hudson River Marathon 2014 2:54:38 (6:39)
  • Olympic Trials 2020 Standard 2:45 (6:17)

6 marathons, 23 minutes off and a drop in pace of 57 seconds. For a 2:44:30, I’ll need to drop 10 more minutes and 23 seconds per mile. It seems wholly insurmountable now, but we all have to start somewhere, right? I don’t anticipate doing it all in one bite; it seems more realistic to aim to get under 2:50 first and then take the final stab after that.

Weeks in Review: 7.18.16 to 7.31.16

Wait, it’s AUGUST tomorrow?!?! Slow down summer.

From my run today. It's not pretty here at all.

From my run today. It’s not pretty here at all.

7.18.16 to 7.24.16

Monday: Drove from Lexington to Charlotte then hung out in the Charlotte airport for a ridiculous amount of time. American Airlines, we are not friends.

Tuesday: Easy 3 with Will around the new XC course.

Wednesday: 6 miles with the team (hearttttttts, I missed them). Striders and hip core.

Thursday: 17 mile bike ride with Will. Every time I think I like biking, I actually do it and my butt hurts for a week…

Friday: 4.5 mile run around campus.

Saturday: Cougar Chase but no running.

Sunday: 3 miles with the dogs. Reminded myself why I never run with them. Flew back to Charlotte and drove to Asheville.

Total MIles: 16.5 

7.25.16 to 7.31.16

Every entry from this week is an iteration of “holy sh*t, humidity, hills and altitude are tough!”

Monday: 5.25 miles

Tuesday: 6.5 miles

Wednesday: 5 miles on the Mountains to Sea Trail.

Thursday: Slept in and found out why I have to run in the morning; 95 and humid when I got out from work.

Friday: 7 mile fartlek with some speedy hills on one of the many hills in town.

Saturday: 9 miles post Step 2. There is no flat here…

Sunday: 6 miles on the Mountains to Sea Trail straight up; climbed almost 2000 feet in 25 minutes.

Total Miles: 38.8 miles

This week feels like a huge accomplishment. I made it to Asheville, survived a week in the Neuro/Trauma ICU and took Step 2 (our second set of Boards). On that last item, it wasn’t my best effort with trying to cram studying in between work and training, but I’m hoping it will turn out okay.

Running here is TOUGH. It’s humid in the mornings (usually 88 to 90%) and there isn’t a single flat place in all of Asheville. The Mountains to Sea trail is pretty amazing, however, so I’ll take the elevation change for the opportunity to run on a trail like that. I seem to have adjusted to the altitude now (I had a horrendous headache on Wednesday) so I’ll be heading up higher for next weekend’s long run. I’m still stinging a little from Chicago and trying to figure out what the fall looks like but operating under the assumption that it will include a marathon so I’m stretching out my long runs little by little.