Category Archives: race day prep

Workout: Prerace Shakeout

Summer is peak racing season and as such, it’s not uncommon to have a race almost every weekend. Although frequent racing is a great way to improve speed, it also disrupts training cycles because you are constantly preparing for and then recovering from a race. This is not unlike the challenge I face as a high school cross country coach: how do we continue to have good performances every weekend AND make progress towards the State Meet. In past years, we’ve used Friday’s as our “shakeout” day, with a short run and striders before we head to our pasta party. This spring, however, I’ve been personally experimenting with other prerace routines and will be implementing the following both for my own races and for the team this fall.

First, do an easy run for whatever your daily mileage is supposed to be minus 1.5 miles then hit your local track. For all laps, aim to maintain light, smooth form. All of these paces should be effort-based; the purpose is to remind the legs of all your gears and get the legs ready for a race effort.

Lap 1: Jog the curves and run the straight sections at regular run effort.

Lap 2: Jog the curves and run the straight sections at tempo effort.

Lap 3: Jog the curves and run the straights at interval paced effort.

Lap 4: Jog the curves and run the straights at all-out effort.

When you finish your last lap, cooldown to home or your car.

One of the biggest barriers that I see as a coach and experience as an athlete is difficulty in changing gears from an easy running pace. Many of us can go from “slow” to “fast” without a lot of thought, but the ability to click through other efforts is lost for many of us and inhibits our ability to execute smart races or cover opponent’s moves. Doing this workout regularly before races helps create neuronal circuitry and muscle memory that will reap benefits through a racing season.

When Do I Do This Workout? This workout is great for the day before races up to a half marathon in length. If you want to use it for a marathon, change the paces to regular run – marathon pace – tempo pace – half marathon pace. This workout is also a great way to come back to speed work in general; it helps you to remember your paces and gives enough stimulus for positive adaptation.

 

 

 

Gore-Tex Philadelphia Half Marathon 2015

Claws Up!

Claws Up!

I struggled to pick my race for this coming fall, paralyzed in part by wanting the “perfect” place to take my stab at it and in part by wanting some known commodity to focus on all summer. Philly holds great memories for me; in 2012, I ran my current half PR here and finished 18th overall. It’s a fair course but it’s not an easy course, with two big hills in the second half of the course. There is decent course support for much of the race, usually good weather and at least a few other women around to race. I’m hoping that with the OTQ deadline looming, there will be more women than usual.

This is also the day before I come back to school. Talk about coming down to the wire…185 days to go!

Philly in 2012.

Philly in 2012.

 

Week in Review: 4/6/15 to 4/12/15

Monday: Woke up with another bout of vertigo so did my run on the treadmill for safety. Just did 4 plus arms.

Tuesday: 3.5 plus striders before night call.

All smiles to be in my call room, headed to bed by 1:30 am!

Wednesday: Post-Call zombie. Hit the track for my last workout. 2 by 1200 (4:19, 4:16) then 5 by 200 “pretty darn quick.” The 1200s felt great, the 200s felt a little awkward. Total of 7.25 miles.

Thursday: Off Day in Prep for Saturday. Tried to spend as much time as possible with my legs up.

Friday: Shakeout run plus strides!

Saturday: Falmouth 4 Miler

Sunday: Inexplicably, an excellent 12 miles after a less than excellent Saturday. I don’t understand my legs sometimes…

Total: 36.4

I’m on Teaching Service this week, which means I’m in the hospital by 5:30 am all week and on call next Saturday from 6 am to 6 am Sunday. The weather looks great this week so I’m hoping to be able to get runs in after work most days. If I’m out too late, I’ll be on the treadmill or just doing the best I can to maintain muscle memory.

Well, at least I have something on the calendar?

Evidently 2015 is the year where I’ll fly by the seat of my pants racing wise. In some ways, this makes sense. At least from now until March 2nd, my priority is the USMLE Step 1 exam and everything else has to come second. This doesn’t leave a ton of time for focused training or high miles. After a decent performance on Thursday, I feel like I have enough fitness to start doing mini-cycles until I’m ready to commit to my “big” 2015 race. As such, I signed up for the 5 Colleges Realtors 10 Miler in Amherst on February 22nd. It’s the first of the USATF NE Grand Prix series, so I’m hopeful that I can get some early points on the board. I haven’t run that race before but in reading some blogs on the course, it sounds hilly and challenging. Perfect!

Over the next 6 weeks, I’ll be working on getting some longer runs back in, keep trucking on tempo work and adding in some hills both to restart speed development and prep for the 10 miler.

Anyone else joining me in Amherst? What’s your next race?

Race Report: RunVermont First Run 5K 2015

It has been a LONG time since I’ve raced a 5K and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little anxious about what this morning would bring. I’m in good general shape but have done very little in the way of workouts since Vegas and have almost no memory of how to race a 5K. I’ve run the course before and my plan was to go out moderately for mile 1, survive the hill and headwind of mile 2 then kick it in for mile 3, which features a great downhill finish.

It was cold and windy this morning with a “feels like” of 11 at race start. I hate to be hot when I race so I gambled and wore capris and a long sleeve. Although I froze at the start, I was generally happy with this choice during the race. The start went out FAST and I was in about 10th place for women at half a mile but worked to just run my race. This turned out to be a good approach; I was in second by the mile. As we turned into the wind, I caught the woman who was in first and when she threw in a little surge, I decided to just tuck in on her as we battled the wind for mile 2. At about the 3K, however, she was starting to slow way down so I gave it my 10 quick steps and pushed past her to the next group of people.

WHERE is the top of this hill? And why does this have to be the headwind?

WHERE is the top of this hill? And why does this have to be the headwind?

Once we crested the hill at 2, I ground down and worked on just keeping form solid through the final mile. The Beech Street downhill was FREEZING but once we turned again, it wasn’t too bad for the last stretch. Somewhere along here a woman told me I was first woman, so I just kept pressing to the line. I finished feeling strong and got to break the finishing tape! I reflexively threw my arms up, so stay tuned for that picture…

Coach was not on his photo game today...grinding towards the finish.

Coach was not on his photo game today…grinding towards the finish.

I’m most thrilled with my race splits as they reflect that I respected the course and pushed when it was appropriate. I have a bad tendency to fight the wind so I’m thrilled that I trusted myself enough to just settle in through the windy mile and get it back together when we turned.

Mile 1: 6:10

Mile 2: 6:30

Mile 3: 5:49

.1: 5:31 pace

19:11, First Overall Female, 17th overall.

All in all, an excellent day that bodes well for 2015!

Week in Review 9.28.14 to 10.5.14 (The Final Countdown)

It’s always amazing to get to the week before a marathon, especially with most of your sanity and limbs intact. Usually by this time in taper, everything hurts and I’m not convinced I can start. This time around, however, my life is so chaotic that I’m almost appreciative of the opportunity to only run a few miles a day. In a perfect world, I’d keep my taper stress-free. Instead, we had an exam, our housemates unexpectedly moved out leaving an enormous financial and physical mess, and during this coming week, our clerkships are assigned which determines what we’ll be doing and where we’ll be rotating for the next year of our lives. Just a little stress. Regardless, I’m thrilled to find that I actually feel really good. I have no sore “things” that I’m hoping will go away, I’m in a decent mood and running feels pretty good.

Monday: 4.25 miles easy.

Tuesday: 5.5 miles.

Wednesday: 7.5 mile workout. Warmup, 3 by Tempo Mile at 6:04, 6:06 and 5:54 then 4 by 200 really effing hard.

Thursday: 4 miles easy.

Friday: Off Day.

Saturday: 5 miles at Thetford. Typical coaching day with sprinting around, standing and finally a 3 mile run after the race with the varsity girls.

Sunday: 8 miles with 3 at MP (6:35 today). Legs felt pretty punky but I stood for 16 hours yesterday…

Total Miles: 40 miles. 50% of normal, right on schedule.

Current Weather Forecast: Low of 42 on Saturday night, high of 62 on Sunday “mostly cloudy with a little rain.” Here’s hoping the rain holds off but the temperature stays the same.

30 Days Hath September

I’m having a little difficulty believing that today is October 1st, despite the fact that it is misting sideways outside and there are more leaves on the ground than on the trees. You see, October is when my goal race for the fall happens and we can’t possibly be there yet. I was just strapping on my Icebugs for a 1 mile run in the Intervale. I was just celebrating my first month back in the 200 mile range.

But it is October 1st and my big fall focus happens in 11 short days. Since my first run on February 16th of this year, I’ve run 1801 miles including 297 in September.

February: 12 miles

March: 129 miles

April: 214 miles

May: 256 miles

June: 266 miles

July: 296 miles

August: 331 miles

September: 297 miles

I guess the hay is in the barn. Now we wait.

Race Report: Downtown 10K

When we woke up on Sunday and branches from the tree in our front yard were banging into our siding, Will quipped that I needed to make an offering to the weather gods before Albany because I had clearly angered them. Although Saturday was worse, the winds on Sunday were around 24 mph and the dewpoint was 60. In short, it was a rough day for a race with a significant number of miles into the south wind. Even on the warmup, Laurel and I were laughing as we tried to “run” down Church Street towards the finish line.

As a smallish race, I warmed up until about 8:25, then stepped right into the starting area and lined up behind the young gun guys and one jackass with his Strava loaded who stated “I’m not running for prize money but I want to be up here!” Uh, ok. The gun went off and we headed out to battle the wind. One of the biggest challenges of the Downtown 10K course is the start, where we scream down College Street to the bikepath in the first mile. It’s difficult to resist the temptation to rip out of the start but if you do, your quads will pay for it later. Thankfully I resisted the urge and held back until we made the turn onto the bikepath. At this point, my legs were feeling good and I tried to settle into a pace a slightly faster than tempo pace. It was an empty field so I just focused on finding some people to watch while we got through the first few miles.

I led the women’s field until mile 3, but knew the other two leading ladies were right on my shoulder. One was being obnoxious and tucking in behind me without ever offering to share the leading responsibilities so I kept taking 10 step surges to try to either remind her to share the work or shake her off. Somewhere in the second mile, I caught a local guy that I know relatively well from track workouts (and have never even come close to beating) and planned to just stay with him but he was slowing down considerably, so I pressed on alone.

As we reached mile 3 and the tight turn into Leddy Park, the two women who had been with me went by which was perfectly timed with my meltdown for a mile. I went from feeling fantastic with good turnover to feeling like I couldn’t lift my knees. This also coincided with a turn that would leave us in the full force of the wind for almost 3 miles. From mile 3 to 4 there is also a gradual uphill that normally doesn’t bother me (I ran it last night and barely noticed it) but was a total grind. I tried to focus on turnover and reeling the second woman back in but if I’m being honest, mostly had a hissy fit. When we got over that hill and hit mile 4, however, I shook it off and started to feel strong again. I’d let too much distance go on the first and second women but wanted to fight for my third place spot, the cash prize and avoid my fourth place curse at this race.

Miles 4 and 5 were much more positive mentally and I was able to get my cadence and form back together for two strong back to back miles. As we entered Battery Park, I felt ready to begin my early kick and head home. Turning onto Church Street and hitting the 6 mile mark brought me back to the reality of the wind. Thanks to the buildings, there was a delightful wind tunnel that made me feel like a cartoon character where the finish line just kept moving away. The turn in Battery Park allowed me a peek at the 4th place woman so I knew I had to keep grinding.

Not in a great mood at the finish, but thanks to Jan Leja for always being at races to grab photos.

Not in a great mood at the finish, but thanks to Jan Leja for always being at races to grab photos.

I was so f***ing frustrated when I finally saw the clock; I hadn’t worn a watch for the race but assumed I was moving way faster than a 10K PW on that course of 40:27, 30 seconds slower than last year when I wasn’t training at all and almost 2 minutes slower than my PR in 2012. I was grateful to have finished 3rd but have basically nothing else positive to say about my performance besides the fact that I finished. When I plugged my performance into the Jack Daniels Smart Calculator (which adjusts for wind, temp and altitude) at even 10 miles of wind, it predicts a 37:11 so I guess I need to get over my fit but still not how I wanted to go into Albany.

After the race, however, I didn’t have a lot of time to be frustrated because I finished, got insanely dizzy and hit the bricks on hands and knees with heart palpitations. Towards the end of college, I started to have heart palpitations at the end of runs. Despite lots of tests and doctor’s visits, I never got a diagnosis and hadn’t had any extended episodes since about 2006. I do occasionally skip beats or get a run of tachycardia, but nothing too bad until Sunday. It took over an hour for my heart rate to come back down, even laying flat on our bed. Thankfully I’ve stayed in rhythm since then.

In terms of error analysis, the biggest thing that comes to mind was my surging in the early miles. Because of the wind, I knew that whoever got to the big turn in the lead had an advantage because any passing would require a whole lot of effort, so I wanted to try to call out the women sitting on me. If I did it again, I would have fought harder to not let them by I’m glad I experimented with the tactic because I want that tool in the marathon but wonder if that was part of my demise in mile 3.

Check Your VO2 Max in 12 Minutes

There’s a saying in cross country that State Champions are built in July and it’s true, much to the chagrin of coaches who battle summer jobs, family vacations and Netflix as they mumble on about summer mileage. For the most part, my team does an excellent job of getting summer runs in. We use a number of tools to encourage people to keep up with their running, including online running logs to which the whole team belongs, captain’s practices throughout the summer, training camp and time trials. Time trials are an excellent way for athletes to check in with themselves and for coaches to monitor progress throughout the summer. We don’t expect PR performances; after all, most athletes who are running are at peak mileage with no speed work. We do expect to see hard efforts and a good approximation of how things are going.

One of my favorite “reality checks” is one that you can do yourself. This is perfect for someone with a fall marathon on the calendar that doesn’t have an interim race scheduled or for someone coming off a base building cycle. It’s a simple test: warmup, then run as many laps as you can in 12 minutes and enter the results into the Cooper calculator. The calculator isn’t a perfect estimate of VO2 max, but it’s a good litmus test for training paces and progress. Used at regular intervals, it gives a great estimate of fitness improvements and possible race outcomes. Try adding this into your training plan once a month and see how much progress you make!

We’ve done three time trials this summer: one 3K time trial on the cross country course, one 5K race on our home course and one 12 minute test. Before the season starts, we’ll do a mile trial and one more 3K trial. All of the information from those efforts helps me to evaluate how well summer training went, design workouts for training camp and select early season teams.

What tools do you use to monitor your fitness? Have you ever had the full VO2 max test? How do you motivate yourself in a time trial setting?

Don’t Miss the First Annual Cougar Chase 7/26/14

(Apologies to my non-Vermont readers…)

We’re hosting the first Annual Cougar Chase this weekend (July 26th) at Mills Riverside Park in Jericho. It’s a fundraiser for the MMU Cross Country team (I coach the Girls) and is an affordable, flat and fast 5K with lots of great prizes. To make it more fun, we’re setting it up as a “chase race.” Women start at 8:30 am and Men at 8:33 am. There are special prizes for the first three people across the line as well as in divisions for middle school, high school, college, open and master runners.

Art for the race posters, drawn by two of my athletes.

Art for the race posters, drawn by two of my athletes.

Online registration has been extended to Thursday 7/24 and there is day of registration from 7:15 to 8:00 am. The entry fee is $10 and all proceeds benefit MMU Cross Country, a team that includes 60 runners of all abilities.

Eventbrite - MMU Cougar Chase 2014

Thanks for your support!