Tuesday, February 18, 2014

17, 16: Atonement

Monday Feb 3.  1000 yard swim.  I'm 33% of the way through my break from running.  I went out for a short easy swim, just moving at a moderate pace, not pushing it too hard.  I included a couple kick sets to get my legs working.  Later in the day they felt much better than in the morning.  I'm also sketching in some goals for the next chunk of racing/etc, but I'm waiting to see how a few event dates land and how I feel after a finishing a couple more races in this set.  I'm contemplating whether or not to commit to a stretch goal or just to dive in.

Thursday Feb 6.  1800 yard swim.  I'm now on my fifth leg resting day--I let a planned bike ride on Tuesday fall through to get extra sleep.  Allowing myself to rest has really let my body crash for a few days.  It was only this morning that I finally awoke without a lot of effort to stand and walk.  I went out for a lunch time swim class with light rain, which we really need.  I might cycle tomorrow, and I might wait until Saturday to get going again.  The stretch goal I'm contemplating is becoming more firm in my head, but I'm going to make myself wait until the end of the month to commit.

Friday Feb 7.  13.0 mile bike ride.  Very light rain that picked up as I finished.  I rode up to grizzly peak and back, treating this as an uphill strength session, staying in a higher gear on the uphills and riding out of the saddle on a couple of the smallest hills.

Saturday Feb 8.  11.5 mile run.  It's been raining the past few days here.  Finally.  Perfect weather for a trail run.  I don't know why, but I find running in the rain to be more calming than any other conditions.  The world feels more alive, and there's fewer people out.  I went to the middle part of Chabot regional park, exploring some trails along the western edge of the park that I've never run on.  Some of them are the hardest looking part of a race I'm running in two weeks, so I was also scoping them out.  They weren't too bad, since Chabot is forgiving as far as most climbs go, except for the fresh mud on the exposed parts of one climb.  I ended with an out and back on the Cascade/Columbine trails, which follow along the bed of a seasonal winter stream for a while.  It says a lot about how bad the recent drought has been that after two days of rain, there was still no water in the creek bed.  

This also ended my self-imposed six day running break.  I ran a lot of uphills, taking downhills and flats easier to enjoy the day.   I also applied something I'm trying to change in my swimming form to my running form, with the theory that I'd get more distance per stride.  It mostly involves keeping my grounded foot on the ground longer, pushing off further, to get as much work out of each stride that I could.  I didn't time myself, but it overall felt more comfortable for a given effort.  I mixed this in with a bunch of walking, since the form change is working my hamstrings harder.

My left heel was sore again, and has been on and off all week.  I think there's something tight or weak when my left calf fully extends, since adding the zero drop shoes (which I'm occasionally running in and now always walking in) and the much greater amount of uphill running I've been doing cause these muscles to work harder over a greater range of motion.  Something to keep in mind for planning longer runs and races until it balances out.  This, along with aggressively rolling out my right IT band seem to be slowly reducing some strength, flexibility, and form imbalances I've been aware of.  

Sunday Feb 9.  35.6 miles cycling.  Cold.  Wet.  Rainy.  Windy.  Foggy.  And eventually Dark too.  The perfect day for a long ride.  After learning from last time, I backed off on the pace, managing to finish strong.  I rode the last few miles much slower than usual, since visibility was bad.  I was intending to extend this to a brick, but I was cold, and the rain made the last part take longer than planned.  I followed this up with furniture construction, building a place to sleep for someone who will need one.

Monday Feb 10.  1000 yard swim.  Just moving, a good recovery workout after pushing myself both days over the weekend.

Tuesday Feb 11.  7.5 mile run.  With 1800+ feet of climbing.  I started before 7, running through Huckleberry, around Sibley, and back.  It was foggy and the streams were flowing (finally!), but at the Round Top ridge, I broke above the fog to awesome views of sun on fog patches across the east bay.  The one day I don't have a camera.  It was a hill endurance day, probably my favorite kind of "run."  If you think in terms of "elevation density," something I've started to do to mix up difficulties of my runs, this was higher than Steep Ravine.  It was also my longest run in the Superiors, and my feet are a little sore as I write this, since I'm still getting used to them.  They hold up surprisingly well for traction on steep wet trails--better than on steep dry trails.  And they were quite comfortable on the technical parts.

Wednesday Feb 12.  4.4 mile run.  Out to the Emeryville peninsula and back.  I kept a decent, but steady pace, given the tired legs from yesterday morning.  I bailed on a morning ride to get more sleep in too, since I needed the recovery after yesterday.

Thursday Feb 13.  3000 yard swim.  I backed off on running to let my legs recover after pushing a little hard for two days, and because I had an early morning appointment.   I think I'm ready,  endurance wise, for the 50k in a little over a week, and I don't believe that strictly pushing it instead of recovering intelligently will do any good at this point.  I've run a 27 mile race with significantly more elevation and a 22 24 mile race with about 60% of the elevation in the last month.  This won't be that much further than 27 miles.  And there will be much less stairs.  After having a large chunk of time to work hard in the office for a number of hours, something I don't often get a chance to do, I up'd my swim plans for the day, doing a 2950 yard swim speed workout.  I compulsively added an extra lap to make it 3000.  There was a stretch of 6 200's in a row with increasing speed.  Halfway through, I wanted to bail, but kept going, and flew through the second half.  I'm glad I did; it's probably my best overall swim workout so far this year.

Saturday Feb 15.  12.8 mile run.  I had the right window of time and the right week in terms of training to squeeze in a "run" up to the summit of Mt. Diablo.  With 3800+ feet of climbing, on a deliberately easy-paced weekend, this took a little while.  I parked at the Mitchell Canyon trailhead and headed up Mitchell Canyon, which has a deceptively steady incline on what's a relatively flat trail.  I was feeling tired and stiff from pushing it both Tuesday and Wednesday and from not having time for a morning ride since then, as moderate paced bike rides tend to loosen up running stiffness.

This eventually transitioned to steeper fire road climbing.  And climbing.  And more climbing.  The view slowly became awesome, as I could see both the hills I know in the Berkeley/Oakland hills and the Sherman Island kitesurfing area.

Around deer park flat, it got windy.

I passed a boy scout troop twice on the final stretches to the summit.  On the last stretch on the Juniper trail, it looked like the trail was the line where they held last fall's fire.

I paid a quick visit to the summit, and headed back down to the North Peak trail, finding all the downhill to be steeper, more technical, and slower than I expected.  But also more fun.

There was more high wind on the Bald Ridge trail, which was just great to run along; I think I'll come back to run some more of the ridge trails.  I finished by heading down the Back Creek trail and a couple others to get back to the trailhead.

This was almost all new trails to me, with a lot of different environments, and a place I've wanted to run for a long time.  It's by far the largest single climb I've done, and the highest elevation density (this new measurement of trail difficulty I'm using) at 298.8  Methinks I'll make this a more regular training spot, since it's not all that far from home.

Sunday Feb 16.  4.5ish mile bike fail.  I set out for a 25 mile ride.  My legs were really tired, given the almost non stop climb up Mount Diablo on Saturday.  But it was a different kind of tired; one where I had much less force, but not a kind of tired where I felt anything sore.  Halfway up Grizzly peak, I stopped for a break, and failed to get my shoes in the pedals when starting back up.  A few second later, after falling (not surprising), there was one less spoke in my back wheel (surprising), and everything was out of wack.  I bailed.  Time for a wheel repair.  And time to learn more about getting into these pedals on an uphill.

These were a good pair of training-focused weeks.  The first was deliberate rest to avoid overtraining, which feels like it did its job well.  Everything felt stronger after it ended.  The next was full on.  I'm getting to know what isn't working in my training schedule right now, in that I'm finding I need extra recovery time on specific days (Monday and Thursday).  I'm confident I'm at the volume I need for the distances I want to run until the end of the year, so I might as well start deliberately missing those workouts.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Fort Ord "39k"

This was a great course.  Many of the single track trails, especially in the valleys, were packed sand, not something I’ve found often.  This was an extra race I added, not one I trained well to target, so I didn’t put much expectations on myself other than to get a long run in, but with the pressure of a race to pick up the pace.  And I really wanted to go run this course, being a bit out of my neighborhood, furthering the goal for this year to run more in new places further from home.

It was an odd race for me in a lot of ways.  My legs had been tired the last week, after a hard bike/run brick the prior Sunday, as well as a very-high-for-me social schedule over the last week.  I pulled back on my planned running and biking during the week, and I felt good at the start.  And then I ran uphill—quite a bit.  For a majority of the first 10 miles of the course, and about half of the second.  Recent training was really paying off on what’s been my weakest point for quite a while.  On the downhills I was just slow.  I just didn’t have the drive to keep my recent pace for very long without hurting, similar to my runs during the prior week.  And after mile 10 or so, my heels started to hurt.  Possibly due to the faster uphills; I’ve noticed that working my calves hard has a side affect of pulling on my feet enough to make this area sore.  So I just relaxed when I needed to and enjoyed the run. 

The trails were great, and varied a lot.  Rocky fireroads on open hills and sandy single track in covered valleys; these trails were just fun.  This would be a great course to return to, especially in a year that we get more than .04 inches of rain in the month leading up to the race.  

Somewhere after the second aid station, while I was zoned out and following a couple other runners, I got off course.  They were pulling away from me, but I eventually convinced myself I was off course since it was flat for far too long.  ITR just doesn’t make courses this flat for this long.  Seeing no course flags, I checked the map and talked to a local runner, finding a way to get back on track without shortchanging the distance.  I must have been really zoned out, since it took me over a mile to notice.  On the way back, I caught a 100k runner who made the same mistake and pulled him back on track too.  This added a couple miles to my run, but it got me out of the just-keep-running mentality for a while, and made for a fun excursion.  It also kicked my adrenaline up for climbing and descending the next hill, making what was a sore part of the race a lot more fun.  I later found out they went back to add more markings to that turn too.

There was a short flat section that led into the second aid station.  This part just sucked for me.  I don't really like to use the word "suck."  But it did.  Legs and feet were protesting, so I walked some stretches of it, just waiting for the next climb.  It's quite ironic that I was waiting for a climb to come to get of a flat section of the course.  That climb delivered, about two miles of steady uphill, and I ran a good chunk of it.  The next mile and a half were downhill, which didn’t go very well.  Heel protests were back.  Getting into the last climb, I took off, hoping to pass the one other runner I could see.  I did this and kept going, until I got to the point where I could see no one and really didn’t know how much more of the course was left.  I eased back again to not beat myself up and came comfortably into the finish, running the final uphill.

I wrapped up in 5:05, running 24.2 miles, about two miles over the course distance.  Despite the slow downhill, aching legs and heels, and side excursion, it’s actually a better average pace by 20 secs/mile than I ran at Woodside (my only other 35k), which had 300 feet less elevation gain.  So I’m not complaining, as that’s a significant improvement. 

ITR was also putting on their first 100k here, and I stayed until dark to volunteer at the finish area.  It was inspiring to see people finishing a run of that distance, and a lot of fun.  And forcing myself to stand was probably better recovery for my legs than finding a couch at home.

I in part added this race to get a last fast and long run in before running a 50k for the first time, which is in three weeks.  It did that well, the extra excursion even working for me in that regard.  But with al the leg aches, I’m going to challenge myself to take a six day running break.  It’s about the right timing for a short recovery rest too, since it’ll give enough time to get in a hard week before tapering.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

19, 18: Ramp Up and Beat Down

Monday, January 20.  25.6 mile bike ride.  Still feeling very stiff in a few places from the Steep Ravine marathon, I moved my long ride from Sunday to Monday, since I had the day off.  My calves were still tight, so I changed from a two-big-climbing-effort route to a single-big-climbing-effort route, and headed down Pinehurst.  I rode out past Moraga on an unseasonably warm day, and eventually kind of stumbled across a paved trail up to Lafayette.  Lots of parents out with their children.  I rode this out and back, and, upon returning to Canyon, turned south for the eventual long climb up Redwood and Skyline.  Somewhere before this, it occurred to me that when I started riding bigger hills about 4 months ago, I had to stop every tenth of a mile or so just to keep my quads from burning.  I don't stop at all now, and it's become mentally easy.  That had to be good training.  So I kicked up my effort a notch by riding the whole climb in a single gear, one higher than I ride most of the climb.  It wasn't as hard as I expected, but it was a better workout.  I might progressively increase my baseline climbing gear now.  I woke up the next morning with well beat-down legs and bailed on a planned easy run.  I had the energy to keep going, but that's not always the smartest thing or the most effective way to get stronger/faster or to increase endurance.  All side goals of this whole outdoor sports thing.

Tues Jan 21.  Rest.  I took Tuesday off, in part because of a packed schedule, and in part to get extra needed sleep in the morning, and in part because I was feeling weak and tired by the end of the day.  During a short massage, it was pointed out that my right IT band and muscles around it are tight.  My right thigh has been tighter for years, but stable, while my left thigh has had its ups and downs.  Intense rolling work in December really loosened it up though, so it’s time to repeat it on the right thigh.  

Weds Jan 22.  4.2 mile run and 2650 yard swim.  On the run, my calves were still tight, muscle tone was out of whack, and my right thigh was off kilter from some intense rolling the night before.  So I decided to run out on the French Trail and make the Redwood Peak climb, running about half the uphills, albeit slowly.  This was a day to just keep moving.  The evening swim was much better, with a lot of swimming, kicking, and pulling intervals.  It’s nice to be able to breath well enough to swim again. 

Thurs Jan 23.  5.4 mile run and 2400 yard swim.  I decided it would be good to include two big climbs on my morning run.  I started on the Huckleberry loop, and it was windy.  I ran down and up the valley to Sibley, ran around Round Top, and returned.  1400 foot climb.  Including these large climbs on my normal weekday runs (I seem to be getting around 1000 feet on many of them now) seems to be doing a lot more for my uphill running skill than the planned gym hill intervals.  I'm contemplating bailing on them for now, since I don't notice the fatigue on trails, and it's mentally easier to push through it and push myself harder outside.  I went to swim class at lunch.  We have a new coach; today seemed to be speed focused, which I'm liking right now.  It's good getting feedback from different coaches, I had some new notes about my form that I wasn't aware of.

Friday, Jan 24.  15.2 mile ride.  I rode the Pinehurst/Redwood/Skyline loop, adding some milage at the end to hit 15 miles.  I stuck to the higher-minimal-gear idea from Monday, and I added some higher effort intervals to the climbs, kicking things up a few gears for a bit every five minutes.  My variation of an idea from one of a handful of training plans I'm using to make my own training plan right now.  It did make the long climb much more fun.  I bailed on a planned swim to say farewell to a departing colleague, and since I had plenty of swim distance in the prior two days.

Saturday Jan 25.  9.5 miles running.  I ran (and hiked) a couple loops at Tilden, adding up to over 2500 feet of climbing in less than 10 miles.  Training is paying off well, I ran quite a bit of uphill trails.  At one hilltop, I chatted with an older runner who was out with his wife (she was still halfway up the trail) about running vs. walking on some of he steeper climbs.  Agreeing with him, walking is often faster, but running what I can makes me overall faster in the long run, even if it slows me down a lot at that moment.  I got the heart rate monitor working for this run--watching it, it's actually quite useful for deciding more logically when to run uphill and when to walk.  At 170 I start to get really inefficient.  But a combination of laziness and muscle protest try to have their way sooner.  I was using this as a sanity check to push through and keep going a number of times, which was far easier than I expected.  This is my first weekend of backing off on my long runs on a biweekly plan to alternate running and biking focused efforts.

Sunday Jan 26.  30.3 mile ride and 1.1 mile road run.  It's time to start increasing long ride length, also on a biweekly schedule, with the goal of alternating weekends of long ride efforts with weekends of long run efforts.  I could keep going with both every weekend, and I want to, but I realized that time needs to give in to other parts of life.  It's freeing in some ways though, since I don't feel so much in a rush if I only make one effort that pushes my time/distance bounds every weekend.  I dropped off NF, who's visiting, for a coffee get together, and rode a Sibley/Grizzly Peak/Inspiration Point/Orinda/Moraga/Canyon/Redwood/Skyline loop of 30 miles.  I kept a very strong pace for all but the last 5 miles, setting many Strava PRs on climbs.  The higher-min-bike-gear and the intervals earlier in the week made a huge difference on my climbing strength.  It was also my first ride down Wildcat Canyon Rd, which is a far less insane nicer descent than El Toyonal.  I immediately followed this with a quick road run (my first road run since the Berkeley half), hoping to get many more bike/run bricks in before Hawaii.  The first mile or two of running is a weak point for me in a tri.  It's also my first run with the headlamp, since it had gotten dark by this point.  I might be making more use of it this week due to some morning schedule constraints.  Finishing up, I drove back to pick up NF before heading home to eat far too much.

Monday Jan 27.  2800 yards swimming.  A fast workout, swim speed 12-2.  Lots of high-paced short sets.  I gave my legs most of a break for the day.

Tuesday Jan 28.  6.15 mile run.  Because of a morning errand of toting the furball to the vet and listening to her many vocal protests, I squeezed my run in during lunch.  Arg, road running.  I ran out to the start of the new bay bridge path and back.  I didn’t realize how far it is to get there; it’s a 10k run to get there and back, most of it through the maze of approach ramps.  I’ll have to return when I have more time to actually run out over the bay.  It was sunny and hot and my legs were still really tired from Sunday.  I forced in a bunch of higher speed intervals though, which makes things more fun, even on days like this, when I can’t keep pace up very long.  I also rearranged my workouts for the rest of the week, playing things a bit more by ear, to be better recovered for a race on Saturday.

Wednesday Jan 29.  2600 yard swim.  I took a day away from running/biking (my original plan) to let my legs rest a bit.  I bought some new road shoes (Altra Torins), which I've been walking in for a couple days to break in.  Just walking in them is helping to stretch out some long term tightness in my right thigh.  I'm contemplating shifting all my shoes in this direction, since the zero heel to toe drop (including on my zero sandals) feels better in my feet and in my legs.  I swam the Swim Speed 13-1 workout to get some workout time in, since I might take Friday off or easy.  I'm noticing a significant swimming improvement since returning to it after a short break at the beginning of January, mostly in form and strength, which I hadn't really anticipated, as swimming seemed to have been plateaued for a couple months.  I'm consistently about 3 strokes lower for a pool length than I was in December.

Thursday Jan 30.  4.3 mile run.  Another road run at lunch.  These are good for pushing speed, but this was just to get time outside.  I kept a slow pace in lieu of Saturday, and having had tired legs all week.

Friday Jan 31.  13 mile ride.   An easy back-and-forth on Skyline.  Just looking to stay warmed up.  No real hills.

Saturday Feb 1.  24.2 mile run.  That was supposed to be 35k...  I ran the Fort Ord trail run.  Surprisingly strong uphills, slower than usual downhills.  Lots of muscle protests after 10 miles, and I mistakenly added a couple miles.  Really great trails, I'd like to go back for a stronger run again.

Sunday Feb 2.  Rest.

I planned a full week of workouts for the coming week, but even with taking the last two weeks easy, things were off a bit on Saturday.  Except the uphills, which were really strong.  As a gut feeling move, watching some muscle aches creep in, I'm taking six days off of running to swim and cross train.  Writing these blog entries, which I share minimally, helps a lot with reflecting on training choices and their outcomes.  Since I've started writing this, I've used things I notice when writing to adjust my training, sometimes with surprising results.