Thursday, February 14, 2013

Let the training commence!

(Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day!)

Day one (Monday): Rest day. Well, not quite, cross-training. It seems odd not to run on the first day of the training plan, but my legs are a little tired and achy from running on both Saturday and Sunday and I thought it was best to let up today in order to run better tomorrow. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

Last week I did my marathon training test runs. In the RLRF plan they set forth three "test" runs that you should be able to accomplish in order to train for a given marathon finish time. As with everything in RLRF, they are pretty challenging. Frankly, if I could have done them easily I would expect to be able to run a 4:15 marathon right now, rather than in 16 weeks.

So I planned them into my training last week. And I did them. Not easily, and not 100% successfully, but close enough that I feel pretty encouraged (and hopeful that the four months of training will in fact bring me up to where I want to be). I will say that I picked the easier end of the spectrum in the various options, which were....

Long run. 15-20 miles at 10:09 pace. As I wrote last week, on Saturday (February 2) I did a 16-mile run at 10:12 average pace. A little slower than optimal, but many of the miles were faster as well. Plus I overcame my slow warm-up to bring the average close to 10-minute pace. I'm calling that pretty good.

Speed work. This one was my worst, on many levels. Some would say I just failed. I would say...I didn't completely succeed. Of the various track distance options, I picked the shortest, which was six 800s (half miles) that were supposed to be 3:58 each (just under 8-minute miles). I knew this would be impossible a challenge because when I am at my fastest I can run sub-four-minute half miles but I am definitely not at my fastest right now.

So anyhow, I did a little over two miles of warm-up and then went to the track. I was later than I should have been, of course, and six intervals (with quarter-mile recoveries) just did not seem feasible. I was determined to do at least four, and after the first two I thought I might squeeze in five.

The first two were 4:15 each. Meh. The third one was 4:10. Okay.... I had a good start on the fourth, and thought I might beat the 4:10, but about half way through (that is at a quarter-mile), someone off the track gestured to me. I thought it was a wave, but no...he was telling me to stop. (Did I mention that I was running on the track by the middle school near my house?) So apparently this was some school official and he said I couldn't run on the track because school was in session and it was a "safety issue." He also gave me some B.S. about private property and I am going to research this to see who really owns this track. And let me say that the kids could not even access the track from the school grounds (as it is locked on the school side), you can only get in from the street. Plus the track was half flooded and no classes were going to be out there under those conditions.

But I guess I can see why they would frown on people using the track when school is in session (not really, but I'm trying to be reasonable), and so I'm going to have to really work to get there and finish my track work before school starts. Unless of course they manage to lock it from the street side and keep me out entired. Which would really tick me off.

Anyhow, I ran on to the exit, which put me at .39 miles and I couldn't really bring myself to try to finish the 800s in the street. So I did 3.8 x 800 at a pace slower than the plan called for. (Although based on Yasso 800 standards I was consistent with a 4:15 marathon pace, as "all" my 800s were at 4:15 or faster....) That morning I just ran another mile or so to finish my run with 6.35 miles overall.

Tempo. The final test workout was a tempo run with three miles in 26:10 (or five miles at a slightly slower pace or eight miles at a slightly slower pace than that). I decided to do my tempo miles at the Valentine's Day Dash 5K on Saturday. I suppose it wasn't quite kosher to use a race to accomplish tempo miles, but it's not like I was following any rules properly anyway!

So I headed down to Green Lake on Saturday morning (way early to allow for a long warm-up run), got my bib and shirt and took a run around the lake for a 3.1 mile warm-up. I had plenty of time for multiple bathroom stops, and even enough time to drop my jacket at the car and re-pin my bib onto my shirt. I could have run with the jacket on but I got plenty warmed up on the warm-up run and my outfit was cuter without the jacket (even though the jacket was red).

I lined up near the back of the 8-minute mile section because I didn't want to overestimate my abilities. In retrospect I wish I had gone to the front of that section, because the first half mile was a crowded cluster and I was really caught up in a mob of 9-minute milers (many of whom probably also felt they were being held back by the masses). I think if I had been further forward I might have been swept along with some 8-minute milers.... Anyhow, usually in a 5K my first mile is the fastest then I slow down a little. This time my first mile was the slowest, about 8:40. The other two miles were about 8:25 each. So, for purposes of my tempo run, the three-mile total was 25:30...rocked it! My total time for the 5K was 26:20. Not the greatest of 5K times, but not horrible either. By April I am hoping to do a 5K under 25 minutes again.
I really like the race shirt this year! I expect I will be wearing it a lot, for hanging out and stuff.

I started my actual training runs on Tuesday with a tempo run. Usually the first running day of the week would be an easy run, but looking at the schedule for the week to come, I decided it would be better to start with the slightly harder runs earlier in the week, and save my easy run for Friday, as I'm running a half marathon on Sunday. Anyhow, the plan called for two miles easy, two miles at 8:44, two miles easy. I actually started with about 2.25 miles warm-up, then pushed out two miles at 8:44 and 8:38, and finally cruised through the final two miles at about 9:55 and 9:40. My overall average pace was 9:55, which shows you just how slow those warm-up miles were! The tempo miles weren't exactly easy...I can't believe I've run many half marations at 8:44 pace, and a couple at 8:38 or faster!

Today, Thursday (Happy Valentine's Day!), I dressed up in a red jacket and red hat (but not the sparkle skirt) and headed out for "speed work," three one-miles at about 8:15, with one-minute (or so) recovery jogs. I started out slow, as usual--I don't even look at my pace during my warm-up, what's the point?--and turned around at 2.5 miles to start my mile intervals.

My warm-up miles are slightly uphill, so it is true that I get to do some of my faster miles on a slight decline. I'm okay with that, since part of the point of speed work for me is to improve my leg speed, and the easier downhill helps with that. I'll also admit that during each mile I had to stop at some point for an unavoidable stoplight (at a highly trafficked street, so I couldn't just jay-run across). I've always figured that the slight benefit I get from the short break (and I do stop my watch) is offset by the seconds I lose having to get up to speed again. But whatever, I can't help the lights.

Mile 1 - 8:16. Better than I expected, actually. Considering that my 5K on Saturday was about an 8:30 pace, I wasn't sure if I could go below 8:20 (at best).... I jogged about one block for recovery but also stopped and waited for a light.

Mile 2 - 8:13. Great! I was thrilled that I could still maintain the pace. I did another block (.1 mile) of recovery.

Mile 3 - ummm...8:30. Don't know what happened here. This mile involved turning around and heading back about a third of the way along, and yes there was a couple of uphills, but still this was about ten seconds slower than I would have liked (I was prepared to be a little slower because of the change of incline). I will say that this mile involved a section of road where I am always a bit slower than I think I should be based on my effort...I think this is one of those invisible hills, where you have an incline even though it seems flat. In the last quarter mile I felt like I was going to rip my lungs out and puke them I must have been working hard at least for that segment.

I finished by running "easy" back to Starbucks, including a quarter mile sprint down a hill (2:01, I timed it), for a total morning distance of 6.5 miles. I think my overall average pace was about 9:34. Yeah, those first 2.5 miles were really slow.

Last night I made my contribution to Valentine's Day by baking a festive cherry pie. I had some extra pie crust and cherries so I also made two mini-pies for my parents.

Yeah, not a food photographer, but hopefully they will taste good! I used the best-ever piecrust recipe from the Anjou Bakery (I always make extra pie crust to accommodate deeper pie crusts and my inability to make the pie crust cover as much area as it should.) Also, I should add that this pie crust is pretty hard to handle because it has so much butter...but it patches easily when it tears and cracks. I usually do a regular rolled-out top but had fun with the cut-out hearts! (The recipe as-is, with marionberries, is obviously great as well.)

For the filling I used sweet cherries (from the freezer, obviously) and two recipes which are essentially the same. One is from Smitten Kitchen and the other is from Simply Recipes. They both use significantly less sugar than a traditional pie recipe...I used about 3/4 cup sugar for six cups of cherries. I also like homemade cooked cherry pie filling (made with sour pie cherries), is so much more delicious than canned pie filling! (I tried to find a recipe to link to but couldn't find one where you cooked the cherries...mine is bookmarked on my iPad but that's at home.) My number one tip for all cherry pies is to be sure to put a little almond extract in your cherry mixture. It makes all the difference!

With that, I will just wish everyone a sweet, happy Valentine's Day!

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