Change and Adaptation

My entire existence as a “real” runner — i.e., someone who trains consistently from week to week — has been a relatively new phenomenon, dating back to the beginning of 2012.  It coincided with 2 other big changes in my life: moving to downtown Oakland and transitioning to a part-time job.   The move to Oakland gave me access to Lake Merritt and its perfect-for-beginners flat, 3-mile loop.  The part-time job provided enough flexibility to let me figure out when I like to run (mornings, to my surprise) and gave me the freedom to embark on marathon training without overwhelming my schedule.

While I really like many aspects of my job – nice location/setting, friendly coworkers, low stress, and flexibility, there are also downsides, the biggest of which is I don’t enjoy what I do.  There are a lot of reasons for that, but we won’t get into it here.  As the weeks went on, I came to dislike my job more and more, to the point where I was expending a lot of negative energy thinking about how much I hated it.  I kept thinking in the back of my mind, “It’s time to move on.”  So here’s my confession: I hung on as long as I could partially because this job doesn’t interfere with my running.  (I was also lazy, confused, and a little scared about finding a new job.)

What spun me out of my negative energy cycle was a friend’s suggestion that I apply for an opening at his company.  Visualizing that scenario empowered me to decide to actively go on the job hunt.  After a couple of months of networking and applications, I got 2 interviews and one offer — which I’ve accepted, pending contract negotiations.  I think the new job is an excellent fit for me and my future supervisor seems great.  The one thing I’m anxious about is the full-time schedule, plus the 1.5 hours of commuting I’ll be doing each day (at least it’ll be by public transit, thankfully).  This will have a huge impact on my running and, more importantly, on my weekly household routine with the Gypsy Runner.  It’s time to get serious about meal planning!

So, while I’m excited about the new job, I’m also a little anxious about how this is all going to work.  I’m confident that I will figure it out (I’ll have to!), but I know that the first couple of weeks will probably be pretty rocky and exhausting.  However, I also think I’ll be spending so much less energy hating my job that the transition will be worth it.  Here’s hoping!

Question for you: Any tips on balancing training with a full-time job and other obligations?

***

This week in training:

Mon – rest
Tues – 1 hour MAF run: 5.4 mi at 11:06 pace
Wed – 1200 yd swim
Thurs – 1 hour MAF run (trails): 5.03 mi at 11:55 pace
Fri – rest.  Bought a new pair of running shoes, which is always exciting.
Sat – hard but fun hike at Huckleberry and Sibley (great write-up and photos on Cathryn’s blog): 4.7 mi, ~1400′ elevation gain
Sun – 2 hour MAF run: 10.17 mi at 11:47 pace.  This run didn’t feel great due to a bad night’s sleep.  My legs were also probably pretty beat from Saturday’s hike, now that I think about it!  On the bright side, my average pace dropped by almost 45 seconds compared to my long run from 2 weeks ago, so maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought. ;)

From Sunday's run

From Sunday’s run

This coming week, I’ll be resting my legs for RAGNAR(!) Napa Friday and Saturday.  We’re down 2 runners, so if you’d like to run with Team “You’re the Wine that I Want”, please email me at willblog4food [at] gmail [dot] com.

Have a great week everyone!

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Gear review: Mio Link

The Mio Link

The Mio Link

If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you know that I’ve been doing MAF/low heart rate (HR) training.  While this is a recent experiment, I’ve been curious about HR training for a while.  I used a HR monitor (HRM) during the first half of my training for the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) last year to make sure my easy runs were truly easy.  Even though it was reassuring to see the HR data confirm my perceived effort, I despised the HRM I was using – the standard Garmin HRM that comes with many of their GPS watches, which was generously loaned to me by RC.

I had 4 major issues with the Garmin HRM.  One, it did not fit me.  Even at the tightest setting, the strap was a few inches too large.  I had to cinch it together at the back with a safety pin, resulting in 1-2 inches of fabric sticking out and creating another chafing spot (see point 4, below).  Two, I hated wetting the electrodes.  After a few sessions of wonky HR data, I asked around and found out that most people either lick or spit on the HRM electrodes.  Gross.  I did it, but I didn’t like it.  This leads into the 3rd point: unreliable data.  Maybe it was the poor fit or not-wet-enough-electrodes, but the Garmin HRM almost always reported random spikes during the first mile, despite the fact that I usually did a short, dynamic warm-up and started out with a low perceived effort.  Fourth, and the most egregious issue of all, was the chafing.  Short runs were fine, but after my 2nd 20-mile long run for MCM, I chafed so badly that I gave up using the HRM for the remainder of my training.  I know that some people get around the chafing using medical tape, but I wasn’t willing to try it.

An example of the crazy HR data from the Garmin HRM.  Don't worry - I won't show photos of the chafing.

An example of the crazy HR data from the Garmin HRM. Don’t worry – I won’t show photos of the chafing.

Traumatized, I put away the Garmin HRM and my hopes of using HR data to help with training.  Then, about 2 months ago, Kimra posted something about the Mio Link, a HRM that you wear on your wrist instead of around your chest.  My interest was immediately  piqued.  Without even trying it, I knew it would address 3 of the 4 issues I had with the Garmin chest strap.  After getting Kimra’s opinion on the Link and reading online reviews from trusted bloggers (here and here), I was even more interested in getting it.  The thing that put me over the edge was deciding to embark on MAF training, which I knew would be impossible with the Garmin HRM (though for a hot second I considered getting the soft strap).  All of those factors, plus the satisfaction guarantee from REI, sealed the deal.  Within 5 days of ordering, I had the Mio Link on my wrist and ready for action.

The back of the Mio Link, which works by light technology.

The back of the Mio Link, which works using LED technology.

Before I continue with the review, here are some of notable features according to the product website:

  • Mio Continuous Technology with EKG-accurate heart rate data at performance speeds
  • No uncomfortable chest strap, so you can train with heart in comfort
  • Customize your workout with up to 5 user-settable heart rate zones
  • Connect to your favorite fitness apps & sport devices with Bluetooth Smart (4.0) and ANT+.
  • Comes in two sizes (wrist sizes: S/M – 121-175mm / 4.8”-6.9”, L: 149-208mm / 5.9”-8.2”)
  • Water resistant up to 30m depths

I should also note that Mio also makes a stand-alone watch with a screen called the Alpha, which is twice the price of the Link.  Unfortunately, it does not appear to have GPS capabilities or memory, so you’ll still need another device or app to track that information.  And while we’re on the subject of HRM worn on the wrist/arm, Scosche also has a optical/LED HRM that’s reviewed in depth here.

After reading a lot customer reviews, it seemed like the biggest issue with the Link was irregular readings.  Pete Larsen suggested some tips in his review, including wearing the Link higher up on the wrist to avoid bony parts.  This makes sense because the LED technology requires a tight seal with the skin in order to block out other sources of light, which interfere with HR readings.  Another thing Pete suggested was wearing the Link on the same arm as your GPS watch.  Yes, this is dorky, but if you’re already wearing a gigantic GPS watch and wearing compression socks, you don’t have much room to roll your eyes at what’s dorky and what’s not, you know what I’m saying?

Looking super cool with not one, but two huge devices on my wrist.

The Link is very easy to use – just put it on very snugly, press the power bar (the set of 10 nubs under the Mio logo), and you’re ready to go!  I’ve been using the Link with my Garmin 210 and it’s worked seamlessly.  The one time that my Garmin wasn’t charged, I was forced to use the Mio app on my iPhone, which could use some serious improvement.

Screenshot from the Mio app for iPhone 5.

Screenshot from the Mio app for iPhone 5.  There are also “workouts” you can download – basically video footage of a run or bike ride, from what I’ve gathered.

The Link has an indicator light that flashes different colors, telling you which zone you’re in (zones are set using the Mio app).  I find this feature somewhat useless because it’s not constant, only flashing every 2-3 seconds.  All this to say — the Mio Link by itself is not that awesome, but when paired with a Garmin, it’s great.  As for battery life, the manufacture claims that it will last 10 hours, but I haven’t tested it for myself.  The HRM pops out of the wrist strap and clicks easily into the USB-charging dock — a much more reliable interface than the Garmin 210 charging clip.

The Mio Link HRM on the charging dock.  The USB cord tucks into the dock for a well-designed little device.

The Mio Link HRM on the charging dock. The USB cord tucks into the back of the dock for a well-designed little device.

I’ve used the Mio Link about 20 times over the last month and I’ve been extremely satisfied with it.  After using it for about 2 weeks, I went for a run with the original Garmin HRM to compare the kind of numbers I was getting.  I was happy to see that the HR/pace data was very similar to numbers I was seeing with the Link.

HR data from a recent run.

HR data from a recent run using the Mio Link.  No more weird spikes!

The only time I’ve had any issues with the Mio Link was when I didn’t have the wrist strap tight enough.  It’s a bit uncomfortable at first to have the wrist strap so tight, but I get used to it very quickly and often forget about it during the course of a run.  Also, because it’s on so tight, the strap leaves an impression on my skin, but it goes away within ~1 hour.  Plus, it’s all relative — when compared to swim goggle racoon eyes, arm marks are definitely preferable in my book!

The summary/ low-down*:

PRICE: $99.99

PROS:
– No chafing
– No need to wet electrodes
– Consistent readings when worn tightly
– Easy to put on, take off
– Easy to use
– Compatible with almost every running device and app on the market today

CONS:
– Pricier than Garmin chest strap HRMs
– Another device to wear on your wrist
– Leaves arm marks and is very sweaty after use
– Indicator light does not flash frequently enough
– No internal memory to track HR data

*in the context of using the Link with a Garmin 210

RATING: 9/10
Highly recommended, especially compared to the chest strap HRM.

Disclaimer: The above review is my personal opinion. I have not been compensated in any way to endorse this product.

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MAF Test #2

Welcome back to my adventures in MAF training!  You may or may not remember that I did my first MAF test 4 weeks ago, during which I got an idea of my baseline fitness.  It’s recommended that MAF testing be performed at regular intervals to track improvement (or lack thereof), so I decided to do my 2nd MAF test yesterday morning.  Briefly, here’s how to execute a MAF test:

  • warm-up for 2 miles, targeting 10 beats per minute (bpm) below aerobic max HR (for me, this is 128 bpm)
  • run 1-5 miles at aerobic max HR (138 bpm for me)
  • cool-down, during which I target 133 bpm

Before I get to the test, let me recap how MAF training has been going.  The basic structure of my training is as follows:

  • Mon: rest
  • Tues: 1 hour run (1 mile warm-up, MAF miles, 1 mile cool-down)
  • Wed: swim, 50-60 min
  • Thurs: 1 hour trail run in the morning, 30-60 min run in the afternoon (training for Ragnar!)
  • Fri: rest
  • Sat: 2 hour long run
  • Sun: cross-training at gym – usually 45 min bike
  • Throughout the week: foam rolling, strength exercises 2-3 times/week

The first 2 weeks were frustrating as I saw almost no improvement.  Since then, however, my hour long runs have been getting better — i.e., I’m seeing faster paces at the same or lower HRs.

Here’s a table showing the average pace and HR from my Tuesday morning runs:

A summary of my Tuesday morning runs.

You can see from the table that the average pace has decreased substantially in the last 2 weeks.

Coming off a pretty decent set of runs this past week, I was hopeful that MAF test #2 would show significant improvements.  I woke up yesterday morning to weather conditions almost identical to those 4 weeks ago – a very good sign, because the lower the number of variables between tests, the better.  To keep things even more consistent, I ran almost the same exact route as I did for the first test.  The results?

MAF tests copy

Compared to test #1, my average pace was 56 seconds faster, and my overall time was faster by 3m42s.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a drop in pace as the run progressed – usually, it’s the other way around.  Moreover, I didn’t push very hard to keep HR at 138 for the first 3 miles, which suggests that I probably could have run a bit faster.  Yesterday was also the first time I saw sub-11 minute miles during all of MAF training, which made me feel awesome. :)

After the MAF test miles, I ran 3.3 more miles for a total 9.3 for the day.  To keep my HR 133 or lower, the pace for my final mile was 12:34 — slow for me, but much faster then the penultimate mile of my previous long runs, which have been all around the 14:00/mile range.

I’m really happy with how MAF/low HR training has gone so far, and I’m excited to see how the rest of this experiment will play out.  It definitely doesn’t hurt to see significant improvements in fitness and performance in a relatively short period of time.  Most importantly, I’m continuing to build a good running base of ~25 miles/week without significant aches or pains — which is huge in my book.

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Tiny Glimmers of Hope

I can already tell that my MAF training experiment is going to be full of highs and lows.  A little over a week ago, I was in a funk after my 2nd long run.  Then, as if the running gods were saying, “Hang in there, Jen” (cat poster and all), this week included 2 workouts that indicated my MAF training was moving in a positive direction.

First up: Tuesday’s run.  I’ve been doing workouts based on time instead of distance, and my Tues/Thurs morning runs have all been an hour long.  I usually run 1 warm-up mile (target HR: 128), 3 miles just below maximum aerobic HR (138), and the remainder of the hour for cool-down (target: 133).  I’ve seen my average pace speed up little by little over the weeks, and this Tuesday was the first time I was able to run more than 5 miles in one hour!  I know it might seem funny to be so excited about an 11:51/mile pace, but considering that I did my first hour-long MAF run at 12:11/mile 3 weeks ago, I was really happy about this run!

The other glimmer of hope was yesterday’s long run.  Again, my goal is to run for time and not mileage, and since I’m still building a base, my aim is to run for ~2 hours.  When I woke up to mostly sunny skies yesterday, I realized that Fog-ust (i.e., Foggy August, a regular thing in the Bay Area) appeared to have ended early this year, which meant hotter temps.  And hotter temps meant higher HR.  As a result, I went out very conservatively and was actually able to keep my HR way below the max target.  I was happy that I could maintain a halfway decent pace (relatively) until the last 1-1.5 miles, which is a big improvement over my last long run.  Here are the stats: MAF long runs copy

Note that both my average and maximum HRs were lower for this last long run compared to the 1st two.

The true test is coming up next weekend, literally, when I’ll undergo MAF Test #2.  I’m excited to see the results, though I’m not banking on any huge improvements.  We’ll see!

***

In non-MAF running blogger news, I’m happy to report that I attended not one, but two blogger “meet-ups” this week.  On Tuesday, Cathryn, her Dude, and I met up with Amy and Aaron, who were in town to run the Santa Rosa Marathon last weekend (her recap is already up!).  We had brunch in Emeryville, and it was delightful to finally meet them in person after being online friends for so long.

Yay for new IRL friends!  Photo courtesy of Cathryn.

Yay for former-internet-strangers-to-IRL-friends!  Photo courtesy of Cathryn.

On Saturday, I met up with Bay Area running (current and former) bloggers RoseRunner, MILF Runner, Faster Bunny, and Sesa in Oakland for some chillaxing weekend fun times.  I was reminded, yet again, that the internet has introduced me to some really great people.  However, being the bad blogger that I am, and you know, actually wanting to live in the moment and enjoy people’s company, I didn’t do a lot of picture taking.  This is the one photo I have from Saturday:

This tree is called the Family Jewels Tree.  #notajoke

This tree is called the Family Jewels Tree.  Those green balls had little hairs sticking out of them. #notajoke

So there you have it, my week in a nutshell.  Hope everyone is having a relaxing and fun Labor Day Weekend!

 

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Race Recap: 5K on the Bay

10K Logo 2014 a10K on the Bay” 5K run/walk
Aug. 24, 2014
Hayward, CA

I’ve been itching to run a 5K for a few months now, and when RC and LJ expressed some interest in running this particular race, I said, “Sign me up!”  Heading into race day, I was unsure of how things would go, considering that I hadn’t done any speed work in 4+ months, nor had I run faster than 11:00/mile in the past couple of weeks.  Would my legs even remember how to turnover faster, and how would my lungs respond to the effort?  I decided that trying for any particular time goal was an exercise in folly.  Upon seeing last year’s modest results, I thought there was a good chance that I could at least finish in the top 3 of my age group, and maybe even top 3 women if I was lucky (i.e., depending on who else showed up).  Therefore, my strategy was to run a race and not a time trial.  Following this timely article by Lauren Fleshman, I’d run the 1st mile with my brain, the 2nd mile with focus, and the last mile with heart.  In her words:

In the first mile, you can’t let any emotion or excitement in at all. Start with a pace you are confident you can maintain and then relax a little bit more. Until you see that one mile marker, all you are allowed to think about is running smart. From 1-2 miles, focus on maintaining your form and start to look around you, taking a survey of which runners around you probably went out too hard, and which ones you should make your prey in the third mile. You are taking some time to strategize for the big battle, and you aren’t allowed to draw your sword until you pass the 2mile marker! The last mile, start to pick off your victims, and allow your mind to feel gratitude for how powerful and strong your body is. As soon as you can see that finish line, pretend you are Meb running down Boylston St in front of all of America and run with passion, tall and proud!

Pre-race:
One of the best parts about a 5K? No muss, no fuss.  I didn’t have to worry about eating breakfast, how much fuel to bring and where I’d stash it, whether I’d chafe, etc.  Even the day before the race, I found myself thinking, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t do/eat/drink X, Y, or Z” and then realize that I was running a 5K, not a marathon or even a half.  I kinda went overboard a little on Saturday, though, hiking 8.5 miles with Jane, eating pizza and drinking my first Pimm’s cup with my Ragnar Napa team, and eating and drinking some more at my friend DR’s birthday party.  The two things that I did right were to hydrate properly and go to sleep early.

I woke up at a relatively normal time of 6:50 a.m. and got to the race without any complications.  After warming up with dynamic drills and about 15-20 minutes of jogging, I met up with RC and LJ and we chatted while waiting for the start.  The weather was warm — I wasn’t the least bit chilly in my tank top and shorts, but I was thankful that it was overcast at least.

This is a small, local race, with the more serious runners entered into the 10K.  Looking around and assessing my fellow runners, I felt okay lined up about 3-4 rows back from the start line, with a few faster-looking women ahead of me.  I didn’t want to be too far behind because the trails were only about 5-6 people wide and I didn’t want to get stuck behind any walkers.  At 8:29, one minute before the race was supposed to start, the Ford Timing guy came out to set up the start mat, which he did in an impressively quick fashion.  At ~8:34, the horn sounded and the runners surged forward, being careful to duck under the “5K start” sign that was set up about 5’6″ off the ground.  Just one of the many charms of a small charity race. :)

I wish I took this while people were actually standing there, so you could see how short this sign was.

I wish I took this while people were actually standing there, so you could see how low this sign was.

The Race:
I charged off with everyone else, and just as Lauren Fleshman warned against, I let my emotions and the excitement take hold of me for about 2 minutes.  I looked down at my Garmin and saw 7:xx mile pace.  Holy crap, definitely too fast!  I focused on the couple of women directly ahead of me running with good form and relaxed into their pace.  It seems that we all started out too quickly, but then we settled into a much more reasonable pace by the end of that 1st mile, which I clocked at 8:35 (avg HR 159, max 171).

For most of the 2nd mile, I slipped behind a woman wearing a pink jacket.  I’ll call her the pink jacket lady or PJL for short.  (Creative, I know.)  I had underestimated PJL due to the amount of clothing she was wearing in such mild conditions — a jacket over a running shirt up top and capris on the bottom — but she ended up being a very solid runner.  Since I was hoping to recover a little from the first mile, I settled behind her and we fell in step.  I confess, I drafted off of her tiny 5′ frame for almost a mile and didn’t return the favor.  I finished the 2nd mile in a more relaxed 9:01 (avg 169, max 172).

I purposely ran a little more conservatively in the 2nd mile so that I could turn it up in the last mile to see how many people I could pass.  PJL was my first target, whom I passed easily.  Next, I overtook a small boy who stopped at the water station.  Rookie.  Then I passed a woman who had been 20-30 feet ahead of me the whole time, followed by 2 men and another little boy (where do these speedy little boys come from??).  At that point, I asked myself whether I was satisfied with my progress — i.e., should I step off the gas or keep going?  Partially out of fear that the people I passed would over take me, I kept my foot on full throttle.  The nice thing about this course is that it’s super duper flat.  The bad thing is that you can see the finish line from more than a mile away AND you have to duck under the 5K Start sign on your way to the finish.  I kept focusing on getting closer and closer to that finish line, when I found myself catching up to 2 more people, a guy and a girl and overtook them as well.  However, the guy wouldn’t give up and I kept leap-frogging with him.  Every time I passed him, I overheard him joking around with the girl behind me (the last woman I had passed).  Even though I was definitely struggling, the threat of them overtaking me was enough to keep me going.  I finished the 3rd mile in 8:27 (avg 194, max 209) and ran the last 0.17 mile in an 8:01 pace (avg 203, max 209).

Post-race:
I deliriously ran/walked through the chute, where gracious volunteers cut the timing chip off my shoe and handed me water, fruit, and a finisher’s certificate.  I made it back to the finish line in time to take photos of RC and LJ finishing, and grabbed some more food including a yummy peach donated by a local farm.  We got our free cotton race t-shirts and I said good-bye to RC and LJ.  I thought about waiting around to see a couple of friends to finish the 10K and for the awards ceremony at 10am, since I was curious about whether I had placed in my age group.  However, that would have been another 30 minutes of hanging around by myself so I decided to jog back to the car and head home.

Way to out-kick that teenager, RC!

Way to out-kick that young whipper-snapper, RC!

Like I said, where do these speedy little boys come from??  LJ has to beat this one off with some last minute hustle.

Like I said, where do these speedy little boys come from?? LJ has to beat this kid with some last-minute hustle.

A couple of hours later, the results were posted online.  I was very happy to see that I had come in 3rd in my age group, and that the last woman I passed in the race was in my age group — meaning I beat her for 3rd.  Sweet!!  It was a very rewarding feeling, because I often ask myself, “Why am I doing this? Does this even matter?” — especially at the end of a race.  Usually, it doesn’t matter, but occasionally it does, even if it’s just a matter of pride and nothing else.  I learned that I may not be as fit as I was 9 months ago, but my racing game is definitely sharper than it used to be.  I also realized how fun a 5K can be — yes, it’s painful, but they’re short, require less preparation and planning, are much cheaper, and involve very little to no recovery.

Official results:
time: 27:23 (8:51/mile)
3/35 AG (30-39), 8/120 females, 28/198 overall

About the race:

  • Organizers: Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center
  • Cost: $30 in advance, $35 day of.
  • Course: Very flat, gravel/dirt trails.  Right by the Bay, so wind might be an issue.
  • Parking: No parking at the start/finish.  Free parking was available about 0.5 miles down the road at a business park.  They were running van/shuttles, but most people chose to walk.
  • Aid stations: 1 water stop for the 5K that we passed twice.
  • Bathrooms:  I saw about 6 porta potties but there might have been more.  I didn’t need to use them at all (yay for 5Ks!).
  • Swag:  Cotton t-shirt and finisher’s certificate with a commemorative Hayward Parks pin.
  • Post-race food and drinks: Water in compostable cups, fruit, trail mix, and chocolate milk.
  • Other notes/summary:  Since this race benefits the Hayward Shoreline and the Bay Trail, and because I run there so often, I was happy to take part of this event and make a small donation.
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Random Things Thursday

I have a bunch of random thoughts floating around in my head, so I thought I’d unleash them all in the form of a blog post!  Lucky you!

Random thought #1:  MAF long runs are harder than I expected.  Why? Well, primarily because of cardiac drift — i.e., the longer the run, the harder the heart works to maintain the same effort… which means I have to slow down over the course of the run to prevent my heart rate (HR) from exceeding the max aerobic target.  Over the course of an 1 hour run, this isn’t too difficult, but I’ve found in my longer runs of 1:45-2:00, it’s a bit of a challenge.  So much so that today, I had to slow down to 13:00-14:30/mile paces (!!) for the last 2 miles.

Here are some of the stats comparing the long run I did this past Saturday to the one I did today.  I tried to keep the first 2 miles below 128 and 133, respectively, run most of the miles at a target max HR of 138, and then drop the last mile down to 133.

MAF long runs

Heat is another issue.  See that spike between miles 6 & 7 on 8/16 and the one between miles 5 & 6 today?  That was pretty much when the sun came out and the temperature felt like it spiked 10 degrees in a matter of minutes.  I know that I should be patient, that building an aerobic base takes time, and that I’ve only been doing this for 2 weeks, BUT…I wish I could see at least some improvement.  On the bright side — I’m now able to run 9 miles continuously without significant pain, which is something I haven’t been able to say for a while, so at least there’s that. #glasshalffull

Random thought #2: I was a lot more fit last year, at least according to my HR data.  I went back into my Garmin archives to look for HR data from last year, when I was using the chest strap HRM.  I wore it for the first two 20-milers during MCM training and my HR stayed well below 138 for a majority of both runs while averaging ~10:45/mile.  Instead of feeling bad about my current state of inferior fitness, I’m trying to stay positive and concentrate on the fact that I can and will regain that fitness eventually… and hopefully, I’ll exceed it this time around!

Random thought #3: Larisa Dannis is my (MAF training) hero.  Larisa Dannis is an elite runner who came in 2nd female at this year’s Western States 100 and stayed within the aerobic zone for the whole frickin’ race.  Up until 4 years ago, Larisa was a “just” a hiker.  Since taking to ultramarathoning in 2010, she’s had incredible success at races, including 1st female at the 2013 Vermont 100 miler, 1st non-elite female at the 2014 Boston Marathon, and 1st OVERALL at the 2014 Peak Ultra 33.4 mile race.  Not only is she an amazing athlete, but I challenge you to watch this interview and not conclude that she is also extremely likeable, positive, and humble.  Most of all, her passion for running is infectious.  She credits MAF training, in addition to regular strength training and myofascial massage (i.e., rolling) for her success.  If you can’t tell, I’ve become quite a Larisa Dannis fan girl!  Shout-out to Mike, who was the one who tipped me off about Larisa’s HR training and Western States success.

Random (non-MAF-related) thought #4: Good luck to those racing this weekend, especially Angela and Amy at the Santa Rosa Marathon! Kick some ass-phalt!!

 

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Book Review: Anatomy for Runners (plus quick training update!)

Howdy friends! I promised a while back to review Anatomy for Runners by Jay Dicharry, so here I am to make good on my promise.
Anatomy for RunnersFull Title: Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking Your Athletic Potential for Health, Speed, and Injury Prevention. 

About the author: Jay Dicharry is a certified physical therapist and expert in sports biomechanics.  Formerly the Director of the SPEED clinic at the University of Virginia, he is now the Director at REP in Oregon and assists with the training of elite athletes such as ultrarunner Max King, NCAA champion Lauren Fleshmen, and triathlete Jesse Thomas.  So, basically, this guy knows what he’s talking about.

About the book: The book is divided into 2 major sections.  The first section discusses the science and theory behind running anatomy, mechanics, and form.  The second part includes a quick test to assess strengths and weakness, followed by recommended exercises for the parts that you “failed”.  It’s a very quick read; I finished it in 2-3 days, but will likely re-read more than once.

Recommended audience: Injured runners, runnerds who love learning about all things running, runners who sense they could be stronger, and runners who are interested in injury prevention. 

Craziest fact I learned while reading this book: To truly elongate tissue/muscle, you need to strech 3-5 minutes a day for 10-12 weeks!!  The good news is that, for running, you don’t necessarily want all of your muscles to be that elongated.  The hamstring and achilles tendon/lower calf are the most crucial for proper range of motion.

Things I liked about this book: Dicharry does a good job of making some very dry subjects, such as anatomy and biomechanics, somewhat interesting.  He writes in a very straightforward and occasionally irreverent tone, which I found enjoyable.  The assessment was useful in identifying weakness — some I knew I had (single leg squats), and others I didn’t realize (bridges).  The recommended exercises build on each other to make sure the fundamentals are there before getting to the more advanced exercises.

Things I did not like about this book:  The section of recommended exercises is very disorganized.  While there is a useful table identifying which exercises are recommended for particular weaknesses, the exercises themselves are not organized in any discernible fashion.  I’ve had to flip through the book many times to find the exercise I was looking for.   Then, when the prescribed exercise is finally located, it may or may not be described very well.  Some of the exercises have great photos, exact descriptions, and recommended reps/sets.  However, there are also quite a few exercises where there is one semi-informative photo, vague instructions, and no details regarding how many reps to do.  Finally, it’s strange to me that a book like this does not have an index.  It makes it extremely difficult to look things up, obviously. 

Bottom line: Despite its faults, I recommend this book.  I found it informative, interesting, and useful in identifying parts of my body that needed work.  It’s also an economical way for injured runners to help themselves.

***

Quick training update!  MAF training continues.  Last week, I ran 22 miles (very slowly), swam 1400 yds, and did my strengthening routine (clamshells, etc.) 3 times.  My hips feel good (knock on wood), though my low back is still kinda achey for unknown reasons. 

Even though I’m not supposed to race during MAF training, I couldn’t help but sign up for a local 5K.  Looking at last year’s results, I stand a good chance of placing in my age group even if I don’t run anywhere close to my PR.  Actually, my PR would’ve gotten me 3rd overall woman, so that’s an exciting prospect.  Anyway, it should be a fun (though painful!) race, especially since RC and LJ are running it too. 

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