March 29, 2012

Double Dipping (2 quality workouts in 1 day)

One new wrinkle I've added into my training during the buildup towards Boston is the AM/PM "double dip" - where I have been doing a tempo run in the morning, then a track session after work. I've developed the ability to recovery very quickly after hard workouts over the past year, so this has been a somewhat natural progression.

Like a lot of runners, I often feel really good after doing a tempo run, especially later that same day. I figure that while the body is primed and feeling good, I might as well throw in a little bonus turnover/speed work, then really focus on recovery afterwards. The advantage is that I get in the extra workload without sacrificing a true recovery day. The other bonus is that it keeps me from running either session too fast! It forces me to make each workout on these days a controlled effort. In February and March I did the double workout 6 times - here is a table of what those sessions were and the paces:

AM: Tempo
PM: Track
6 miles
12 x 400m
  4x200m + 8x400m + 4x200m  
(34, 71, 33)
5 miles
8 x 800m
8 miles
20 x 200m
3 x 1600m + 8 x 200m
(4:55, 33.0)
8 x 400m

These aren't my longest tempo runs, or my hardest track workouts by any means. But I have found these days to be very beneficial in the overall scheme of the training. The tempo runs are generally at marathon goal pace or slightly faster, and most of the track work is at 3K/5K goal pace... except on longer reps (800-1600m), where I'm doing "cruise" intervals at threshold pace. I keep the rest short on all interval workouts... usually a 200m jog b/w reps.

I would caution most runners against incorporating this into their training unless you aren't very susceptible to injuries and you've already built a very strong aerobic foundation. If you are considering trying this, I would recommend starting with something along the lines of a 3-4 mile tempo run in the morning, and then an easy session of 6-10 x 200m @ 5K pace in the afternoon. Give your body a chance to get accustomed to what you are throwing at it, without overloading the systems all at once. Then try it again 10-14 days later. Over 2 months I did this only 6 times, so its not necessarily something to start doing twice a week. Once every week or two is probably the ideal way to mix it in. You still need to get the longer tempo runs when training for the marathon (for me, those are in the 8-16 mile range) and track workouts like 5-6 x Mile where you are running faster and need to have fresh(er) legs for the workout.

[Update from original post: As I thought about this more after posting the blog, I think I should make it very clear that in addition to having a strong aerobic foundation before trying this training idea, you need to be very comfortable running doubles in general - easy shakeout runs after harder efforts and long run. I would say that you'd want to be consistently running doubles for months, maybe even a year, before trying to squeeze two workouts into such a short timeframe.]

Mentally, its a challenge to psyche yourself up to run fast again, especially when you've already had a very good run in the morning. To me, this is an additional benefit - your mind has to be tough, just like in races!

I didn't really have any good pictures to include with this post, but here's my arsenal lined up by the door right now :-)

March 26, 2012

Andrea's Brazil Journal #2 - A week in Juiz de Fora

After a beautiful weekend in Rio de Janeiro, I headed 2.5 hours inland to Juiz de Fora for work at the BD Medical manufacturing plant. The drive to Juiz was very windy through the mountains and it felt like we were driving through a mix of the Smoky Mountains and the jungle. Very cool.


The city of Juiz is really interesting because it is completely built into the mountains. It is super hilly and very crowded - definitely not ideal for running!

The week was largely devoted to 1) work 2) running and 3) lots of eating. The cups below have Acai berry smoothie in them. It is probably the best thing I have had here, and I am pretty much obsessed with getting it every day! It was also interesting to me how small the bananas are and so different they taste!

I noticed that there are some different types of trees that are really beautiful in Juiz. The purple trees are called Tibouchina Granulosa, not sure about the first though (it's so hard to understand Portuguese!).

And check out these huge ant mounds!

One night, my co-worker's mother cooked us some authentic Brazilian food. We also went to her English class, and the English teacher said that I had the "high accented girl voice that she read about in books". What does that mean?!

Overall I had a good week. The area has a totally different culture and lifestyle and I will talk about this in my next post. I will say that it was very challenging and frustrating to not understand people. I wasn't a big fan of running 50 miles on the treadmill during the week either, but I got it in! :)

March 24, 2012

26.2K "Simulator" - Dialing it in

Trying to dial in the hydration / fueling strategy
I haven't really been posting a ton about training like we were doing in the fall buildup towards Philadelphia. No re-inventing the wheel - I've been averaging about 135 miles/week with several quality sessions and a long run every week. You can check out my day by day training log entries here: January - February - March. I've done a lot more miles at marathon pace and threshold pace that I did last fall - my fitness is at an all-time high level.

A new wrinkle that I've added in has been double workout days. I always run twice a day, but during this training cycle I've been (every week or 10 days) doing a marathon-paced (or faster) tempo run in the morning followed by speedwork on the track that afternoon. This has allowed me to sneak in an extra workout without losing a recovery day. I'm going to write a more detailed blog about why I'm doing this in the next week.

Anyways, this weekend I did my "big" tempo run of the training cycle. Last fall Andrea and I did a 13.1 mile tempo at race pace (Video) and that was the longest race-pace effort of the cycle. Since I'm feeling even stronger this time around, I decide to do a true Hanson's style simulator this time around: 26.2 Kilometers (16.3 miles) at marathon pace. The idea is that you do this without cutting back the workouts or mileage at all, and its therefore hopefully simulating the last 16 miles of the marathon. Since I  ran 150 miles last week, and had double workout days on Tues/Thur of this week, I definitely went into this without fresh legs on Saturday.

The workout went well - I ran the tempo right at 5:20/mile pace despite the windy conditions. It didn't feel that hard physically (it was more challenging mentally to be out there running at that kind of effort level, SOLO, for that long). If sea-level and tapering bring out a little more magic, I'm ready for a good one in Boston. Its good to practice running at a strong pace for that long, and it feels good afterwards not only to know you can do it, but to have the feeling that you could easily have kept it going.

This workout gave me a chance to try out a new hydration / fueling strategy for the marathon as well. I don't like taking gels, and they are not easy to choke down at 5:15 pace. I'd rather drink my calories, so I got some real mountain dew, let the carbonation out, then dissolved some electrolyte tablets in the drink. It was a delicious explosion of sugar/caffeine/salt! This might end up being my drink of choice for Boston, depending on how many bottles I'm allowed to have out on the course.

I use nalgene wash bottles (250mL) - easy to drink out of on the run!
Since Andrea is in Brazil I had to get creative with stashing bottles along the road.
I make a big loop out of chicken wire and then can grab the bottles while running without breaking stride.
Post-tempo, in the jeep because the bugs are starting to hatch.
It was 70 degrees this weekend - at least I'll be ready if its warm in Boston.
Some random photos...
Added the Saucony logo to the White Wolf
New Kroger flavor! First impression - delicious!!!

March 19, 2012

Andrea's Brazil Journal #1 - Rio de Janeiro

After a very catered trip flying business class down to Rio de Janeiro, my co-worker Rafaela and her friends picked me up at the airport. We drove throughout Rio - by the slums, the rich areas, the inner city, etc. I always find it strange in other countries that the poor people live on the mountains whereas here in the US the rich people live on the mountains. We eventually wound up at Sugarloaf Mountain. There is a tram service that runs all the way to the top of the mountain and gives some amazing views of the area.

After that, we headed to a nice restaurant on the beach then drove to several other beaches to walk around - the famous Cococabana, Baja, Botafogo, and a couple others. The beaches are all separated by mountains and rock formations which gives a uniqueness to each one. 

I spent the night at the apartment of Rafaela's friend near Baja Beach. We went out to a bar at night and I tried Caipirinha (an alcoholic beverage). I think they told the waiter to make it really strong because it was terrible - I thought that I was drinking straight alcohol! I'm planning to stick to the fruit juices for the rest of the trip! They are so fresh and taste delicious here, especially the acai berry.

I was relieved that there was a bike path along the beach that I could run and be safe. I was able to get out on both Saturday and Sunday for runs. I felt very fatigued from all the traveling and walking but felt much more relaxed after having a little time for myself. 

We went to the beach for several hours on Sunday and out to a nice restaurant. The weekend with Rafaela and her friends was very fun and I am grateful that they let me join them! I have to admit that it was a little awkward because I don't speak Portuguese and had no idea what they were talking about for two days! Lots of smiling and nodding :o)

Finally Rafaela and I headed to Juiz de Fora, which is about a 2.5 hour drive on very windy roads in the mountains. It was a beautiful drive. I checked into my hotel and finally got the internet so I could communicate to family and friends! I will spend the week here and then head to Sao Paulo on Friday.


Baja Beach

March 16, 2012

Andrea: Indoor Triathlon and off to Brazil

This post was written by Andrea:
I really love how active my company is about getting people to live healthy lives. One event that my office does every year is an indoor triathlon competition. This triathlon a pretty random combination of events - running, elliptical, and recumbent bike - for 7 miles total. Last year, I won it for the women and got 3rd overall. However, at that point I was just beginning to train seriously and was new to my job so no one knew me very well. Now I am pretty well known across the company as being a runner and good athlete, so the pressure was on for me to beat everyone! Here is my "race report" -

Indoor Triathlon Race Report

Treadmill 2 miles, no incline - 11:37

Elliptical 1 mile, 5% incline - 6:48
Recumbent Bike 4 miles - 15:38

Total time (with transitions) - 34:30

I gotta say, there was a lot of pressure for me to win this silly triathlon. Several guys have come to my cubicle over the past two weeks and told me their times and what I would have to beat. I only wish that this was back in November when I was in tip-top marathon shape!
Warmed up 2 miles, followed by lots of stretching and massaging for my feet. Then hit the treadmill. The time starts as soon as you push start and it took forever to get the treadmill up to 10.5mph. I felt really strong for the first 1.4 miles then got a little tired because I haven't run fast besides a few 200s this year. 11:37 is not too bad - really a relief because I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to even hit 6 min/miles with my lack of fast running.

Transitioned to the elliptical and put the resistance at 8. Quite a workout to move the legs at 230 strides/min - I was breathing pretty hard!

Final leg of recumbent bike. The one here at work leans back really far which is kinda awkward when you're trying to pedal fast. Resistance at 8 here too.

My transitions lacked any grace - almost fell off the treadmill and the elliptical :o)

Overall, a great workout. I won overall (even despite my lack of fitness due to injury) so I have bragging rights now until next time. Also, I beat my time from last year by 1:45 too - I hope that's a good omen for races to come!

The biggest accomplishment is that my feet gave me no problems at all! Looks like I'll be able to start tempos in the next couple weeks.

Now I am heading off to Brazil for 17 days - Rio for 4 days, Juiz de Fora for 5 days, and Sao Paulo for 7 days. Thank goodness that I get to travel Business Class - it's a whole other world!!

The advantages of Business Class - lie flat seats and United Club with free snacks, bar, and comfy seats!

Meanwhile, Jake will be putting his finishing touches on training for Boston. He's got some BIG workouts coming up in the next couple weeks! Luckily I will be home in time to make sure he tapers - he loves his big mileage :) 

March 15, 2012

Mountain to Fountain 15K Race Report

Last mile of the Mountain to Fountain 15K
Last weekend (March 12) I went down to Arizona to race the Southwest Spine & Sports Mountain to Fountain 15K. A long name, but an incredible race. Before I give my recap, I want to say that this is a race that should be on your radar if you live in the southwest, or simply want a good excuse to travel to sunny Arizona in the spring. The race organizers are clearly runners and understand what makes a great race experience, because they every single little detail down perfectly. It was one of the best races I've ever been a part of. I'll definitely be back next year!

I like to get in at least one "indicator" race 5-6 weeks before a marathon to see where I'm at, and break up the training a little bit. An intermediate focus helps keep me "sharper" during the day to day grind. This 15K fit perfectly into the schedule, and since it was only a 15K, it would require much recovery time afterwards. I did a cut-back week of 108 miles going into this one (my lowest since before Christmas), but that was enough to have my legs feeling nice and snappy. I didn't want any true "taper" weeks until it is really time to taper for Boston. I'm happy with my performance in this one, and optimistic that the stars are going to align the right way in Boston a month from now.

Here's a slightly edited version of my race report from Fast Running Blog with some more photos...

My goal today was sub 46 minutes. I figured anything under 46:30 would be acceptable, and 45:30 might be possible if I ran out of my mind, but 46-flat seemed like a good target.

The elite runners met around 6am at the Fountain Hills community center to pick up our bibs and then we got bused up to the start. You could just look around the room and tell that it was going to be a great race - lots of super fit athletes!

Once we got up to McDowell Mountain Park I just hung around for a little while (I was cold!) and then eventually started my 3 mile warmup and did a bunch of strides. I ducked into the brush to go to the bathroom about 5 minutes before the start, and ended up jabbing some sort of cactus thing into my leg! I was standing on the starting line pulling the prickers out of my left thigh. Awesome. It took my mind off the race until the gun went off.

The first mile was all uphill (~100 feet) and a pack of about 12 guys immediately separated. I just tucked into the back and tried to conserve energy. The pace felt slow, but that was mainly because of the uphill. No one took the initiative to really push the pace, which was probably a good thing for everyone. We hit the first mile in 5:15

I expected the pace to immediately get nuts because now we were hitting some nice downhill, but it didn't happen right away. I was in 9th or 10th place, but only a few strides off the lead. I saw a little gap open up, the lead car with the cameraman hanging out the back, and thought "OK, we're not going to jog for 9 miles and then kick, let's get this party started..." and I just went right to the front and picked up the pace. I led until we hit mile 2 (4:43). 

Now we were rolling. Other guys started making moves. There was a $100 bonus for whoever hit the 5K mark first, so 4-5 guys really started stringing it out. I hung back, and fell back to 8th or 9th place. That was fine with me - I never intended to lead much of the race, I just made the move at the mile to get things rolling.

Mile 3 was 4:39 and I hit the 5K in ~15:11. Mile 4 was 4:38. These were downhill miles, and they were very nice!

The 5th and 6th miles were much more rolling than I thought they would be. Mile 5 was 4:55. At this point I broke away from the chase pack that had formed. The top 4 guys in the lead pack had a solid 150-200m on us already. Mile 6 was another 4:55, and I hit the 10K in ~30:11 (so 15:00 for the second 5K).

Now I was truly all alone (in 5th place), with one runner about 100+ meters ahead, and the other three guys were way up ahead. I knew that as long as I didn't fall apart, I had a top 5 finish in the bag, but I also wanted the $400 prize for 4th place, so my focus became slowly catching the guy ahead of me.

After 10K this race gets pretty hard. You hit some hills at a bad point in the race, and they are long, grueling climbs. I wasn't really looking at my watch, just focusing on the guy ahead of me, and he was coming back, so I just kept the effort level where it was. I wanted to conserve enough energy so I could pass him with authority when I caught him. Well, the 7th and 8th miles ended up being pretty slow (5:11 and 5:15 - barely faster than marathon pace!). I moved into 4th place at ~7.5 miles and made a little surge to gap the guy I passed immediately.

Now it was time to rally. Quick math told me that I needed to run under 5:00 pace for the last 1.3 to get under 46 minutes. Now that the climbing was over, other than 1 short uphill in the 9th mile, I was able to get the turnover going again and drop the pace. The 9th mile was 4:50. My parents were right before that mile marker and yelled at me to pick it up... I responded and felt like I was able to take it to another gear for the final stretch - 1:30 for 0.32, so about 4:30-something pace on the kick.

Got the sub 46 goal, got the top 5 finish, the $400 in prize money paid for the 2 plane tickets for the AZ trips I've made in the past month, and my legs felt really good afterwards. Cooled down 3+ miles on the grass. 

The awards ceremony was fun, the post-race party had tons of great food and drinks - Pizza, chicken, chipotle, gatorades, muscle milk, oreos, chocolate chip cookies, etc. 

I'm very pleased with this race and I think it really sets the tone for the last 5 weeks heading into Boston. I'm very fit right now - I just need to fine tune a few things and I'm going to be ready to run a strong marathon. 

After the race my legs immediately bounced back. That's a good sign, and an indicator that my strength is my strength. The marathon training really makes your body resilient. 

The course was net downhill but I would not consider it a very aided course. The uphill first mile, rollers from 5-6 and then the climb in 7-8 is tough running. I think I probably could have run faster for a 15K on the track at sea-level. 

Mile splits - 5:15, 4:43, 4:39, 4:38, 4:55, 4:55, 5:11, 5:15, 4:50, 1:30
5K splits - 15:11, 15:00, 15:42

The final 1/3 of a mile ahead
Post race with my parents
Awards ceremony
Top 5 Men
Lots of goodies to take home - and farm animals!

March 14, 2012

Kayaking in the Desert


Who says there is no water in the desert? Well, there really isn't much, but there are a few reservoirs east of Phoenix where the Salt and Verde rivers are dammed that create some really cool "lakes."

I love outdoor adventures, but considering how hard I am training right now, its really hard to fit anything in that involves additional stress on the legs. So when my Dad suggested taking their new kayaks out for a spin, I was excited. I did a 20 mile run Monday morning on the heels of Sunday's 15K race, so I was a bit tired and looking forward to a relaxing afternoon on the water.

We paddled around for a few hours and had a really great time. I have no interest in whitewater kayaking, but cruising around on lakes is more my style. Its a fairly good upper body workout as well.

Jeep locked and loaded
Ready for launch
Out on Canyon Lake
Awesome desert scenery

Gotta have peanut M&Ms to fuel the motor

We stopped here for some fishing...
And lunch - diet dew, gatorade, and chicken.

Relaxing on the water
Kicking back
My parents and I also went to a spring training (cactus league) baseball game on Saturday - Rangers vs. White Sox. I'm not really a big baseball guy, but it was really fun to just sit outside on a nice 80 degree day in March!

Camelback Ranch main field

Coolest restaurant ever - pictures of dogs everywhere!