Saturday, January 23, 2016

Winter training adaptations

After a very mild December, winter arrived loud and clear about a week ago. It's tough because I love to train outside. All you can do is adapt.

Sometimes it's fun to be out in it.
Sometimes it's smarter to stay in.
Sometimes one is snowbound.


Last Sunday morning I had a long run scheduled and planned to hit the New River Trail. It's a bit of a drive from the house, so when I woke up to light snowflakes, I jumped in the car and found I was the first and only person on the trail for 11-1/2 of my 12 miles. It was magnificent to run along the New River, across bridges, and in the old railroad beds cut into mountains. It was simply amazing for my soul.


Thursday morning the roads were covered with a slick "teaser" snow. The S curves of the uphill road between our neighborhood and town EATS cars with even a light dusting. I did not chance driving to my swim but instead swapped in a interval workout on the Vasa Swim Ergometer. That thing KICKS MY BUTT. I've been back on it the last few weeks and am so glad to have an at-home swim option! 


Friday we got a nice snow wallop - about 12" in a day. We didn't leave the house for 48 hours and hubs only got out today in our 4wd truck. This meant:
  • improvised at-home strength workout with a yoga mat, 10 and 25 lb dumbells: squats, pushups, lateral raises, shoulder press, lunges, bicep curls, one-legged deadlifts and 25 minutes of yoga. I was surprised to be sore from it! (the good sore)
  • two treadmill workouts including one long-for-me-on-the-treadmill run of 10 miles with 2 x 15 minutes at 10 mile intensity)
  • two sessions on the bike trainer and Zwift
I was so fast that it's blurry

One of these days I need to better calibrate my Garmin for use on the treadmill - it's so far off!

While I was on the long treadmill run I watched a very cute movie about a troubled teen and blind runner who run together and bring out the best in each other. I ended up really enjoying that run!

The cool thing is the training got done (and it kept me sane and happy), I enjoyed the challenge of adapting, and I even got in some sledding "cross-training." (But it was cold..brrrrr)

Grant was way faster than me.


In the photo at the top I am sporting my new Asics top from the RunAbout Sports 2015 Race Series Awards! I managed to land atop the women's 45-49 age group for the second year in a row. We had a great time coming together and seeing what we all look like showered and in "normal" clothes!!

The top five runners overall received VERY generous cash rewards and credit to RunAbout. Thank you to RunAbout Sports, Carilion, Dowell Chiropractic, and all the series sponsors.

Congratulations to my fellow award winners and to ALL those who adapt and run through all the seasons!!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Race Report: Frozen Toe 10K

photo credit: Kristen Chang

Yesterday I ran the Mountain Junkies Frozen Toe 10K on the Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail on Roanoke Mountain in Roanoke, Virginia. I was glad it was more muddy than frozen.

I was excited because it was to be a new trail race experience for me - the only other trail races I have done have been the Brush Mountain Breakdown on my home trails that I know well. I didn't know this trail at all, and I didn't even look at the elevation profile or plan. I just figured whatever it was, it was. Down, up, flat...just go!

I rode to and from the race with ultrarunner Jordan Chang and ironwoman/runner Kristen Chang (of Real Food for Fuel). (And because they are so fast and finish races long before me, I have them to thank for the finish line photos!!

The only advice I'd been given was from fellow local masters runner Linda who said to go out pretty quickly on the out-and-back asphalt loop or risk being caught behind slower runners on the narrow trail. Apparently everyone had that strategy and the group took off like a shot aiming for the human turnaround cone. That's a brave volunteer!

Once we hit the trail, I stuck to my place in the single-file line and we steadily made the mile and a half climb up the mountain. It did not yet feel like "racing" and I could feel myself growing a bit impatient, but I also knew this is part of the challenge of trail racing. I debated passing people but when I watched the few who did, I saw the energy it took to accelerate uphill off the beaten trail. So I opted to settle in and save my energy on the narrow trail.

Soon our efforts were rewarded with a mile back down on what, by my standards, was a plenty rocky and root-covered trail. The seasoned trail racers probably found it very tame and quite a number of girls flew past me. I won't lie - it was humbling!! They were more sure-footed and/or less risk-averse. But I wanted to keep my crutches in retirement, so I pushed myself to the edge of my downhill leg-and-brain comfort zone and just didn't really stress about it. 

This was shaping up to be very different than my Brush Mountain Breakdown race experiences where the small field meant you often had the trail to yourself. I was in a pack of runners for much of the race.

I found myself behind a male masters runner, later introduced as Kemper. He seemed to be running smart, steady, and confidently and something told me that I would be wise to fall in behind him and follow his lead on pacing. In doing so, I found myself passing a few people on the uphills, running strong and happy on the flats, and feeling like I was finally racing! My goal was to try to keep up with him (not always easy), stay focused, and remain upright.

photo credit: Kristen Chang

I did keep up with him, and finished ahead only because he dropped and retrieved a glove in the final half mile. At the finish I thanked him for helping me to a more patient yet overall faster run than I would have had otherwise. I learned a lot.

Kristen, Rachel, me

I finished as the top master's female in a time of 51:11, 8th female overall. The winning female time was 47:16 and the master's record is 49:13.

Thank you Mountain Junkies for the socks. I had forgotten that my trail shoes "eat socks" (as Kristen aptly described it). Having worn the wrong socks, the race socks saved my day!

I also appreciate the beautiful hand-engraved award that captures the essence of the Frozen Toe 10k race and the heart of the trail running community! I had a great time!!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Why you need to consistently log your workouts

A coach recently posted an open letter to his athletes on a Facebook group to which I belong. The part that caught my attention was as follows:
I want to work hard! I want to give you a 100% coaching experience. But I need your help to allow me to achieve this. I can’t do it alone.
I can only coach you at the level you allow me to. I want to give you 100% so help me do that. Here is a rough estimate:
Uploading data: 40%
Comments: 40%
Feedback/Questions: 20%
Only 40% of this coach's clients are taking the time to upload their workouts and provide comments, so 60% are not. These are adult clients who willingly pay money for guidance and interaction with a coach...then ignore it! I find this astonishing, yet I've heard from other coaches similar stories of clients who pay month after month and rarely communicate back in the other direction.

These are probably the same people who think it's enough to pay for a gym membership, and that you don't actually have to go!

The thing about coaching, it is SO much more than "just" receiving a training plan. Good coaching is an interactive two-way communication process. If you want your coach to be invested in and engaged in your training and racing success, you have to be invested and engaged too.

Reasons to log/upload data and comment on your workouts:
  • It helps you to reflect on a workout - It gets you in the habit of thinking about how did I feel - physically and mentally? Did I note any pain or injuries? What went well? What could have been better? What questions do I have? Did I understand the purpose of the workout? What external factors might have played a part (diet, hydration, sleep, stress). What did I learn about myself? This is a vitally important part of the process and a great opportunity for self-discovery and growth!
  • It puts one workout into perspective. When you are recording one of many workouts on the calendar you are reminded that no single session will make or break you.
  • It provides critical feedback to the coach about how you felt. It's important that he know if you felt awesome, or tired, or overfaced, or not challenged.
  • It gives your coach data needed to evaluate performance and make adjustments if needed. Coach Jim has the experience and the analytical tools on TrainingPeaks to offer me guidance based on evidence. He does behind-the-scenes analysis I don't even know about that informs his planning for me. 
  • Consistent logging shows your commitment to your training. How much commitment and engagement can you expect from your coach if you are not doing your part?
  • It provides an objective history of training and racing. It's all too easy to forget what we have done and are capable of!  (After not feeling too great about an FTP test the other day, my coach pulled up data to show me how it was much better than this time a year ago.) 
  • It allows tracking of longer term trends and changes.
  • It is important for establishing a disciplined routine. Training is not just about the session - it's preparation, training, cleanup/refueling and logging/reflection. 
  • It's gratifying to look back at how many swim, bike and run miles were logged! No matter how things are going at any point in time, I can draw confidence from my consistent work ethic over many years. 
If you are not faithfully uploading/logging your workouts (with or without a coach), you are really doing yourself a tremendous disservice by failing to capture the qualitative and quantitive data!

I have used TrainingPeaks since June 2009 and have logged over 3000 sessions! It's been an invaluable platform for communication with Coach Jim. He posts my training plans there and my post-workout comments are emailed to him so he knows when I've finished a workout. It's not unusual to get a quick email back from him right afterward with follow-up analysis, comments, suggestions, and very often, words of encouragement. That two-way dialog and accountability are so important to me! I depend on Coach Jim in what is otherwise a pretty solitary training journey for me.

Whether you are using TrainingPeaks or a paper journal, I would just encourage you to make this the year you are faithful to recording your workouts! 

Be the 40% that logs their workouts, not that 60%! The race leaders are surely in that 40%.

workout log!

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Habits...of Thought

When we think about change and resolutions, it's so often focused on outward behavioral change: stretch regularly, eat more veggies, get to bed earlier (ok those might be some of mine).

What about our inner thought processes? Shouldn't they be subject to change too? It's easy to get trapped in mental loops that are not good for us but so often we just accept them! This week I recognized one and am ready to turn it around.

Friday I put in a nice 50 mile ride (despite temps in the 30's). It was just an aerobic ride that called for 30s pickups at the end of every 5 minutes. I love that ride format - it gives my mind something to chew on and some variety for my legs.

Anyway, toward the end of my ride I had the thought of:

 "I'm SO glad I don't have to run after this." 

Then I suddenly realized that negativity toward running off the bike has become a consistent thought pattern in my training rides and in my races. It started when the iliac artery issue was acute. I dreaded the run because I just never knew when the pain would hit and my leg would shut down. There were a few races before I was diagnosed that I actually remember hoping for a mechanical issue on the bike so I could skip the run. That's how anxious I was.

The artery is no longer an issue, but I haven't shed that fear and negativity.

I came into this sport as a runner and for several years that was my strongest of the sports by far. In recent years, the bike has eclipsed it a bit, but I can still run reasonably well. There's no reason to be negative!!

I recognize that my challenge is to flip my thought patterns on the bike heading into the run.

It's time to reprogram my thinking so every time I am on the bike, I am going to work on visualizing and imagining myself happy on the run:

  • Picture myself smiling, relaxed, and in a rhythm
  • Think of my favorite running mantra - "Running is a dance that covers distance"
  • No worries about bike mechanicals!
  • "Drafting" is ok
  • Free food and drinks!
  • Just pick off the miles, one by one
  • Can chit-chat, high five spectators, fall into cadence with other runners
  • Love that finish line!
I need to remember that it's something I GET to do, rather than something I HAVE to get through. It's not a swim-bike. It's a swim-bike-RUN.

These pictures represent how I want to feel - strong, happy, capable, controlled, tough, gutsy.

I was reading 800m track star Nick Symmond's book (Life Outside the Oval Office) and he wrote about managing his fear of a big race by just deciding that no matter the outcome, he was going to smile and look like he was having THE most fun out there, and he did. I plan to do the same.

I'm actually kind of excited to finally be able to put words to what I have been feeling and see a way through it.

What thought patterns are you ready to change?