Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Peeking into the Pain Cave

From June 24th:

Oh, it is a dark and forbidding place. Smells a little like bear. Not a place you want to stay very long. But if you want to rock a 5K PR, you kind of need to spend 10 minutes in the cave. So to get used to it, you need to do some speed work that lets you go in and look around a little.

Sunday's plan was 3x1 mile intervals at 5K goal pace. The previous two weeks I did 800s and 400s on the track. While those do bring a certain amount of pain and suffering, they are over pretty quick, so I don't have to work on the mental stamina to hold on for minutes at a time after you want to quit. Mile intervals are good for that.

So my 400s were at 6:00 pace, the 800s averaged 6:36 pace. My goal for my next 5K is sub 6:45 so my mile interval goal would be the same, sub 6:45. Pretty darn close to those 800s...Last time I did mile repeats was February and I averaged just under 7...

I headed down to the beach to do these on the flat straight bike path. Felt like crap during a 1.3 mile warmup. Even stopped to walk 1/2 way through. Start bargaining with myself..."Well, just start out about 7:00 and see how you feel...Meh, how am I going to run 6:45 when 8:45 feels this hard? I want to get this over with..." But the starting line arrived and off I went.

Tried for relaxed speed. Felt OK. Checked the watch after 20 seconds. 6:38 pace! Well! I guess when you run 400s at 6:00 pace you get a different feel for what "fast" is. Tried to relax, but I was comfortable. Pace slipped slowly to 6:45, so then I stepped on the gas a little more. Working hard, but in control, and having fun! It was amazing that 6:45 didn't really seem THAT much harder than 8:45. Of course by the 2nd half I was huffing and puffing, but it was no problem. Finished with a 6:42!

Well! OK! I guess I can do this. Usually my first mile is the slowest too, so now the pressure was on to run the next two faster. I took plenty of time to recover. 0.7 miles, some walking, a water stop.

#2 started on a slight uphill grade. Pace was closer to 7 at first, but I knew I would make it back up on the downhill grade. Sure enough, by half way I was under 6:40 pace and flying! But the pain started to come. I could feel the lactic acid starting to pile up in my legs, and arms! The feeling of wanting to stop got stronger and stronger. My form started to falter, my face would grimace. The last 1/4 was tough, but I could see the end so I kept pushing and finished with a 6:36!

Oh, damn, give me some oxygen! Recovery took longer. More walking. Heart rate is higher. Another 0.7 miles very easy, and it was time to do one more.

The third one was pain cave training. After a minute or so I was near 7:00 so I had to push more, but the pace drop did not come as easy. After 1/4 mile I was already feeling the lactic acid coming back, the chest pain of pure exhaustion, the grimace was back. By 1/2 mile, pace was only down to 6:50. I pushed on the gas and got nothing. I would pick it up for a little bit, and my body would force me to ease off for a bit. It reminded me of 5K racing, when you are right on the line of oxygen debt, where pushing harder would be suicidal, but you know you have to try. And still so far to go. By 3/4 I could only get down to 6:48. I just kept at it and refused to check my pace the rest of the way. Just go all out baby!

Legs stiffening, form going to hell, can't get enough air in my lungs, and finally Garmin buzzes that I can stop and I ease to a walk in relief. 6:46 Phew! Well, at least I found my limit, so I know I left it all out there. A few minutes in the pain cave kind of made me fear the 5K even more, knowing what was in store for me. But at the same time, familiarity breeds confidence too. I can go back there and stay longer next time.

Here are my pace and heart rate charts.


I like the pace chart with it's little flat plateaus at interval pace and recovery pace.

The HR chart shows I was working harder each time. The first averaged 178 with 182 max, the 2nd averaged 179 with 185 max, and the 3rd averaged 182 with 187 max. Each got higher as the mile went along. Also my recovery jogs at 9:30-10 pace still got my HR up over 165. Not much of a break.

So I was pleased with that workout. Now I have an easy week. Only running once on Wednesday before heading up to Northern Cali for the Double Dipsea on Saturday with some Loop all-stars.

Back to the Track - Round 2

From June 14th:

Last week was 6 x 800 (averaged 3:18). This week would be 10 x 400. My goal was just to run really fast, and I hoped I could do 90 seconds per lap. As I trotted the mile to the high school, I wondered if I would be stymied by graduation. Sure enough, as I pass the auditorium, I see kids in cap and gowns! Dangit! I continued on to the track anyway, forming a backup plan of doing 400s on the beach bikepath.

Luckily the football field was empty and the track was open with just a handful of runners. Chairs and a stage were setup on the field - graduation must be tomorrow. Phew! I guess the kids were just picking up gowns.

During my warmup I was tracking my heart rate, and dropped to a walk every time it got up to 160, which was after about 30 seconds of running. It doesn't take much to get it up during that first mile! I took it real slow. Here is the chart. You can see once I started the intervals that it was over 185. I maxed out at 190 on my last one! And I think my true max is higher because that wasn't the hardest workout in the world. Back in high school I recorded a 208 (by counting heartbeats) during hill intervals. I guess it is good that it hasn't dropped too much?
Anyway, the intervals were fun. I was running at maybe 90% effort. It's fun to just push it and run fast. The first 200 meters are fun, the 3rd 100 starts to hurt, but then the 4th 100 you can see the finish and push it in, so the pain is not so bad. because you know you are almost done. I didn't go all out, so I wasn't getting rigor mortis or anything, but it was fast. On the last one, I reached for another gear, and found it! The suffering was higher, but it felt good to see that I could go even faster. Even after 10. So next time I will be pushing a little bit harder.

My rest intervals were 300 meters. I trotted real slow, and walked about 50 meters of the 1st 100. My HR got back into the 150s before I started up again. So anyway, here are my splits:

90, 90, 91, 90, 89, 92, 91, 92, 89, 88  to average 90.2

I didn't need to add any extra rest breaks, and I wasn't dead at the end, so it was very encouraging. A sub 6 mile seems a ways off, but a few more months of these workouts should make me faster, right? There is a 1-mile road race in August I am hoping to do. Plus a few 5Ks.

Next week I am joining a local run club that does track work weekly. The "coach" will determine the workout. All the fast local runners are in this group, but I won't be the slowest one either. Should be fun, and having others to run with will help me push it.

My first heart rate monitor run - I have questions

From June 10th:

I've managed to get by for 36 years of running without knowing my heart rate, but I acquired a monitor with my new Garmin, so I figured I might as well see what all the fuss is about.

When I ordered my Garmin 610 online, I did not spend the extra $50 for the HRM, but they sent me the wrong package. The boxes do look almost the same, with only a heartbeat pulse line to show that the HRM is included - no words. Felt a little sorry for the warehouse that shipped it, but not enough to send it back! Garmin should be more careful with their packaging!

Regular box

Box with HRM included!

Not so easy to tell the difference!

Anyway, I ignored it for months, but finally pulled it out and gave it a try on Sunday as I did a 9 mile "easy" run.

OK, here's the data.

First off, my resting HR is about 60 when I first wake up. I went out to run, stretched a few seconds. My rate was 82 when I started running. The first time I checked, after maybe 10 seconds, the HR was 172!!!! And it stayed there as I trotted to the end of my block at maybe 9:30 pace. Then I stopped for the light and it came down a bit, but went right back over 170 when I started running again. I was going slow and easy, as I always start out, but apparently my heart goes really fast to catch up to my body!

You can see it stayed high for about 3 minutes before it decided that running was a normal activity and dropped down to about 160 and leveled off. Then it stayed in the 160-165 range very steadily while I was running.

The dips after that were when I stopped for water or traffic. I sped up a bit before the 2nd break and HR went up to 170-172 as I ran about 8 minute pace. Otherwise it was about 166 for 8:30 pace.

I decided to do a little test of max HR by charging the last 1/2 mile uphill back to my house. It got up to 185. Then I left the Garmin on while I walked for a few minutes to see how fast the HR would come down. It quickly dropped to 140, and then gradually went down to 120 over a few minutes.

So I have a few questions for you HRM veterans out there.

  • Is it normal for the HR to start out so high so fast?
  • 166 average for a relatively easy run seems high. What HR do you have for "easy" runs? Granted, I push too hard on my easy days, but still. It was high from the get-go when I was not running hard at all.

I am going to keep wearing it. I have 400 intervals coming up, so should get a good idea of HR Max! How low should I let my pulse get before I start the next interval?

FYI, wearing the strap was not a problem at all. I knew it was there, but it didn't bother me. Seeing the HR on my wrist was pretty nice, but I'm not sure if it will make a big difference in training. It seemed to go up and down with how I felt my effort was anyway. I guess after some time I will be able to tell how tired my body is by seeing if my HR is elevated above normal. One more thing to track. Yay!

Let me know what you think about HRMs.

Back in the Groove

From June 9th

Hello fellow runners,
It has been 2 weeks since my epic 50K adventure, so I thought it was time for an update for you all.

I took 4 days off after the 50K, and caught a little cold in that time, but I had an important run date on Saturday that I didn't want to miss, so I got up early and drove an hour into the mountains to run 13 miles for the Mountain Goat Graduation Run! My legs were not really that sore after the 50K - nothing like marathon pain - and I felt like an "easy" 13 would not be a problem. A sensible person would have skipped it, but I kind of like this goat group and wanted to join in the festivities.

Turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year so far, it would hit 95 later in the day, and we were running in the hot mountains. Part of the course was on the Bulldog course that I raced a few years ago that about killed me in 90+ degree heat. Luckily there was only one nasty hill.
And the goats called it a race and would be recording times (for fun) but of course that made me want to "do my best" and push a little harder than I probably should. Whatever. I was feeling pretty darn invincible after that 50K. I can do anything!!!! So off we went.

It was warm (70s). And hilly. But also very fun trail running. We started in two waves, with the 'slower' people leaving 15 minutes ahead of the 'faster' people (we could pick our own group). So I got to see most of the group during the run as I caught up with the slower people. There were also some out and back sections, so we got to see a lot of each other. It was a fun social run.

I wasn't really racing, but I tried to keep up an honest pace. Toward the end I got a bit dehydrated in the heat, and had to walk a bit more than usual on the uphills, but I made it in alive. I think I was 5th place (no results posted). Pace was 9:47 for 12.7 miles. That plus Monday's 31 miles made it my biggest week of the year, in 2 runs!

Then we hung out and ate food from a potluck picnic, and silly awards were handed out as well as diplomas for the newbies. How awesome is this?
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As another week began I plotted out my training goals for the next few months. No more ultra or marathon training this year. Nothing more than a half until next Spring. So I would change my focus to speed and see if I could get that elusive sub-20 5K this year. I also want to do a 1-mile race in August and see if I can go sub-6.

My first 5K is July 4th, so I have 4 weeks to get ready. So Thursday I headed to the track for the first of 4 weekly speed workouts. I haven't been to the track all year, and have only done a couple of speed days during marathon training, so I knew I had a long way to go. Plus my body is probably still recovering from that 50K. And I still had post-cold snottiness going on. So I gave myself plenty of excuses and decided on "only" 6x800 at whatever pace I could manage.

Last year I was doing 800 repeats at about 3:05, but I was thinking 3:15 would be fine. Or even 3:30 if that's all I could muster. Just needed to get out there and set a baseline for the "summer of speed". I jogged over to the high school track and took one easy lap to get to a 1.5 mile warmup, and then jumped into #1.

It felt pretty good to run fast again. I didn't feel exceptionally smooth or light or fast, but I wasn't lumbering too badly either. Garmin had me at 6:20 pace after 200, but I knew G is always a little fast on the track. I maintained pretty well and finished strong with a 3:17.

OK, I can live with that. One lap recovery jog and #2 was a little harder, but, 3:18. #3 I was getting tired and managed 3:21.

After 3 I started walking 100 meters and then jogging 300 in the recovery. That helped. The last 3 were 3:20, 3:19 and 3:16, proving I still had a little left in the tank. I called it good and jogged home.

So, given the tired legs and lack of speed training, I'll take that as a good baseline. Next week will be 400s to see if I can get those fast-twitch muscles back in shape. Maybe 10x400 sounds good. See how close I can get to 90 seconds.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

My First 50K - An Ultra Virgin gets Lucky

Many months ago, I got talked into signing up for this thing. For a long time I thought I would never do an ultra. It just sounded long and painful to me. Since all of my marathons ended in exhausted suffering, the idea of going further was not too appealing.

But all the crazy ultra-loopsters made it sound so fun and easy. And when three of my favorite loopsters, hell, favorite people in the world invited me to come up and hang with them, and run with them through a beautiful, woodsy trail heaven, well, I just couldn't say no! I signed up, saw that it was 4 weeks after Boston, and decided to just use marathon training and see what I had left.

I would also be meeting up with one of my non-running friends who lived there in Portland, so I committed Friday night to him, and planned to meet up with Mild Sauce and the Matzes on Saturday for a hike. Well, once they knew I was in town, of course they wanted me to join them, since they were already several rounds into happy hour. So, after a burger and a beer with my friend S, we all met up just in time to check out a famous Portland landmark, the Salt and Straw, where people line up down the street for some really good ice cream. It was worth it! Yum!

Yes, I wore a hat, in a perhaps pathetic attempt to appear cool, and blend in with the others who were two decades my junior (at least)!

The next morning, S and I got up early, and headed out to Eagle Creek, where a magnificent 12-mile trail awaited us. The plan was to meet up with the others at 9, but they were running late, so S and I, and his friend D, another old guy like us, started the hike early, taking it easy with the hope that they would catch us. Well, they were much later than we thought, so it would be 4 more hours before we met up. But that was OK, because we were enjoying a fantastic hike! Check out these pictures.

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It was 6 miles one way to a magnificent waterfall. Mostly gradual uphill. It was really stunning, and such a change from what I am used to in Southern California. One really incredible view after another, and I loved it. And after almost 3 hours we got to see this.

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Spot the BP

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We took a break and had lunch and waited for the gang, but still nothing, so we started heading back. About a mile down the trail, there they were. And not just Sauce and the Matzes, but several Saucy friends, and loopster AnnieRunsforFun. Well, we had no choice but to turn around and head right back up to the falls. So my hike ended up being about 14 miles. Two days before the race. Madness! By the last three miles, my legs were really feeling heavy, and I was mentally kicking myself. But it was worth it, because seriously, this hike was amazing.

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Once we made it back to reality/civilization, we all went out for pizza and beer at Lucky Lab, a hangout for stud athletes like us.
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Then a relaxing night with Sauce's friends where I may or may not have crushed them in Wii Jeopardy. (OK, I did)

Sunday had two items on the agenda: Brunch and Dinner. But both were Loop Meetups so that made them awesome. Brunch was with LadyRunsALot (Angie) and her husband. It was great to meet her after reading her loop posts for a few years. And her DH was very cool too.
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Then a little later we road tripped to Estacada, where AnnieRunsForFun hosted all of us for some carbo-loading. More great times eating and chatting. Loop meets are always so comfortable and fun.


So, then there was nothing left but to get some rest, and do a 50K the next day! My legs were quite sore from that darn hike, but what the hell, it was just a fun run with friends right?

So far the weekend in Portland had been dry. We got lucky and had great weather for hiking and al fresco dining. But race morning we awoke to a steady rain, and the forecast was for it to continue for at least 6 hours. We were grumpy.

However, it was really perfect for running. It would keep us cool, and we would be protected by the heavy forest we would be running through. So, lucky on the weather. It just sucked a wee bit waiting for the start.

The scene at the start line.
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My plan was to run with my friends, Mild Sauce, Cal Running, and Santiago (K & L). Keep the pace easy, walk the hills as needed, stop at aid stations for food, and hopefully have enough energy to stay with them the whole way. I had my Garmin for record keeping, but I wasn't planning to worry about time. Turned out the forest blocked the signal so much that it was way off the whole time and worthless. It had me at 25.7 miles at the end, over 5 miles off.

OK, I kind of wanted to break 6 hours, but was ready to take whatever the trail gave me. With the rain, I expected a lot of mud (and was not disappointed). I stripped down to shorts and a tank top, with a cap to keep the rain off of me. And then we were off, about 120 of us. Here is the course for your reference.

We started right off with a long uphill. I trotted easily with K & L. Sauce and her friend Will started to pull ahead. I let them go for a while, but soon felt it was too easy and moved up to join them. I suggested we slow down and wait for K & L, but with no luck. They said, "Oh, they will probably catch us at the first aid station." It was still comfortable, but we gradually pulled away from K & L in the first mile, and I would not see them again until the end. So much for that plan.

So we ran. The course was simply amazingly beautiful. The rain was mostly blocked by the trees. The trails were dirt, but mostly not too muddy. They were very well groomed, few rocks or roots in most sections. The trees were huge and the forest was thick. Several times I was moved to say "Welcome to Jurassic Park" in my best Richard Attenborough impression. Felt like another world. Lots of sharp dropoffs next to the trail. Constant twisting and turning and ups and downs made it very fun. Many stream crossings, either with a little wood bridge or without. I was just running and smiling and enjoying the scene. Amazing. At one point I let out a loud whoop of joy as we cruised down a particularly beautiful section. It was bliss. Like this.

Sauce, Will and I ran together for the first 14 miles or so. We talked. We alternated spots. We laughed. We hiked up the steep sections, and let it roll on the downhills. We rarely encountered other runners. At one point we hit a very muddy section that was a steep downhill for 1/2 a mile. Crazy and kind of scary, but we survived. Will flew down that thing, and we would not catch him for 2 miles!

The miles just clicked by. Soon we were at 2 hours, and figured we better have a GU. Before I knew it, it was 3 hours and I had another. Also had some snacks at the aid stations, PBJ, pretzels, more free GU. But I didn't really eat a whole lot. 4 GUs total and lots of gatorade and a few snacks. With the cool weather dehydration was not a problem. My bottles never ran dry.

About midway was a steep uphill hiking section that was muddy and technical. A little break as it were, and then we had some open wide trail for a while. Sauce and I were side by side chatting, and just kind of giddy with how fun this whole thing was. We felt good too. Trail miles just do not beat you up like road miles. The softness of the dirt and the constant adjustments for terrain must keep your legs fresh. I came to look forward to the hiking sections for the uphills. The break would rejuvenate me rather than wear me out like running up a hill in a road race can do.

We got to the aid station at 19.7 miles and found out the distance (over 4 miles more than our Garmins were showing) and did a quick calc and realized sub-6 looked pretty probable! Stopped for a pee in the p-o-p there, and a few bites, chatted with some other runners, drank a few glasses, and then headed on. No rush.

And then most of the last 12 miles were nearly flat or downhill and I felt so good, I started pushing the pace. Just a little, enough to feel like I was racing. We locked in on another runner at a similar pace and just rolled through the forest. It's hard to get across how the miles just flew by. I felt like I could run all day, like it was a natural state, like breathing. Hard to imagine that I was out there for nearly 6 hours, running almost the whole time. I have never gone over 3 hours before except in marathons, and those were so much more painful at this point. My hams and glutes were getting a little tired, but nothing too bad. No cramps, no huge fatigue. It was crazy. I was very excited by the whole thing. Trail running rocks!

We had one more good hill to hike at about mile 28, but we knew it was downhill from there. Sauce was working a little to stay up with me, but we would stay together no matter what. I was actually holding myself back a little from 20-28, waiting for the bonk. But it never came. For the final 2, we both opened it up and flew the downhills. Such a blast. I was working now, and was happy to finally see the finish area come into view. But I also felt like I could have kept going for another hour or two. Crazy!

5:39:40, a 10:55 average per mile. Seems like I was running 9 minute pace or better while I was running, but I guess the hiking and the aid stations, plus all the little sharp curves and roadblocks do slow you down. I finished 44th of 93 finishers, 2nd in my AG (but no award). And I helped Sauce break her PR! Instead of medals we got pint glasses, which could be immediately filled from the keg.

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We got a little muddy.
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And then we got to see this fabulous finish!

Free burgers and dogs (regular or vegan) were there for us. We celebrated together. Lucky weather, great course, fabulous company. It all added up to perhaps my best race experience ever!

Later was a celebratory dinner, and the next day was more fun exploring Vancouver and Portland. Also enjoyed many fine restaurants and food carts. Amazingly, I could walk just fine. I even went down 8 flights of stairs with no trouble!

So, I hope my enthusiasm shined through. As of now, I would love to come back and do it again next year. And who knows what trail madness I might end up doing. This roadrunner has seen the light, and it is out on the trails!