Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Do you have the Rhythm?

The November issue of Running Times has an article on Rhythm Runs...or progression runs as most of us call them.  My next race is in five weeks and is a half marathon.  Today when I read the article in Running Times it followed a similar conversation I had with our team coach, Mike Rush, earlier this week.  We had been discussing the upcoming half marathon and getting his advice for my running partner and I to use for our midweek longer runs.  We were discussing the benefits of progression runs versus either tempo runs or hilly workouts. 

Mike's advice was that we do progression runs...which matches the advice in the article.  Tonight Anne and I had a six mile run on tap.  We range between 6-8 miles usually for our Wednesday or Thursday midweek runs. We had decided to take tonight easy and experiment with the progression run.  Our first attempt was a little bit of a fail in that we did not run each mile progressively faster...but it was a success in that we ran two separate progression runs within our six miles.  Our splits were: mile 1 - 10:35, mile 2 - 10:14, mile 3 - 10:04, mile 4 - 10:26 (OOPS), mile 5 - 10:08, mile 6 - 9:38. 

Our 4th mile was along a busier road that had a very small shoulder.  We were running single file and must have just unconsciously slowed down.  However, we did do our second set of 3 miles faster than the first set so that is somewhat of a win.  Mike Rush gave us an E for Effort since it was our first attempt.  Hopefully we'll do better next week. 

For pace, Mike Rush recommended that we end our progression run with our last mile at or just faster than 5K pace.  We should be dropping our pace by 10-15 seconds per mile so we need to pick a starting pace that works for this.  Tonight we started just a tad too fast but also didn't get our final mile down as low as it should have been.  Learning how to feel pace can be tough and we were pretty laid back with our attempt.  We learned some good lessons and will be better prepared next week. 

Here's a quote by elite athlete Chris Solinsky from the Running Times article on why Jerry Schumacher's group refers to these runs as rhythm runs, " the way I see it, their purpose is callusing. Rhythm runs are all about controlled effort, a quality strength program. We're starting slower, working up to find the rhythm in the middle, and then staying in that small window. It's not a killer effort, just a slow, controlled, callusing." In another part of the article, these runs are referred to as an investment!

Running Times had the following tips for getting the most out of your progression runs:
1) Don't neglect warm-up.  (Our first mile was probably just a tad to quick, maybe just 10-15 seconds.)
2) Run your pace. (A little slower is better than too fast)
3) Use a heart-rate monitor if you have trouble feeling the pace.
4) Start Slow.
5) Don't worry...learn from your failed experiments.
6) Take into account the weather and adjust pace accordingly.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Me vs. The Chile Pepper

Saturday morning was the annual Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville.  This is a huge event that brings together athletes from junior high to college and even just us regular adults too.  Race morning was nice and chilly with temps around 46 degrees.  Perfect running weather! The race course is a cross country course and it was relatively dry this year.  There was a little dew on the grass but no mud like there has been in years pass.  This is one of the Rush Running team's biggest races of the year with a ton of the team participating. 

Me and Mike Rush
One of the best perks of the Rush Running team, is the Rush bus! This comes in handy on cold race mornings and is a general meeting spot for all the team.  We got to the bus around 7:00 for a 7:45 race start.  We huddled inside for a little while before heading out for a trip to the porta pottys and warmup.  I didn't want to warm up too early and then get chilled before the start.  The race start is quite a sight...600 runners lined up along a field that eventually narrows down to a trail about 10 feet wide. 

The course is a grass is the home course for the University of Arkansas cross country teams.  People tell me it is a fast course but I never believed them until today! I began the race near most of the Rush team but knew not to bolt out at the start because of how clogged up it gets.  My strategy for the race was to run a progression run.  I had hoped to start at a 10:15 per mile pace and work my way down to 9:30 per mile (hoping to break 60 minutes.) I ended up near my Rush teammate Cord for the first mile and asked what his goal was.  He was aiming for 9:30 per mile pace and we hit the first mile at 9:30 exactly.  I was a little nervous with this but I decided to try and hang on for as long as I could and scrap my race plan.  As we were nearing the 2 mile mark, we caught up to Heather who runs at our track workouts.  I joined up with her and we stayed together until around mile 3.6.  It was nice to have her company as we tackled the course hill for the second time. 

I tried to avoid looking at my watch during the race, especially avoiding my mile splits.  I knew I was going to have a good cushion around mile 4 and thought just hang on.  By mile 5, I knew that I had to start moving into that really uncomfortable area of pushing the limit.  It was time to tackle the course hill for the 3rd and final time.  I just told myself that I could get a little recovery in once I made it to the top.  One of the saving graces for the hill was that it was in the shade so I didn't overheat which would have made sustaining pace much harder.  After I made it up the hill, I knew that I was getting close to the finish village and was just trying to slowly pick up my pace on this flatter section of the course. 

The finish village adds a fun element to the race because you get to see people from mile 5.85 to the finish at 6.2.  There were Rush teammates and friends all along the way and that really helped me pick up the pace.  As I made the final turn into the finish chute I finally saw the race clock.  I was overjoyed to see that it read 57 minutes and that if I hustled I could break 58 minutes.  Hustle I did and my final time was 57:37...a new PR by 5 minutes. 

Here are my splits: mile 1- 9:30, mile 2 - 9:10, mile 3 - 9:44, mile 4 - 9:21, mile 5 - 9:23, mile 6 - 9:11, .2 - 8:09.  I'm so proud of myself for hitting the paces that I did over the last 5K of the race...especially managing to get down to an 8 minute pace for the last quarter mile! This is the first race where I have felt like I didn't have negative self talk leading me to slow down or take walk breaks.  My brain and my body just clicked and worked together for once! Outside of trying to break 60 minutes my other goal for the race was to only walk during the water stops.  I'm proud that I was able to accomplish both of my goals!

I owe a huge thanks to Mike Rush and the rest of the Rush Running team.  Mike is an awesome coach and he has been giving us workouts over the last month to prepare us for this race.  The workouts helped build my confidence and plant the seed that I had the fitness to break 60 minutes.  Mike works so hard to help all of us accomplish great things and does it free of charge.  I am truly honored to be a part of the Rush team and have found so many great friends and training partners though this group. 

Next up is the Route 66 Half Marathon in Tulsa...I've got about 5 weeks to work through my race goals for this race.  Yikes!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Whoa, I'm Scared!

This weekend is the big Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival. It is a 10K cross country style race that plays host to races for all ages from junior high to collegiate athletes and an open race for the rest of us! Let's just say I'm more than a little scared for the race. 

2009 Chile Pepper Race
My past history for the race is as follows:
2006 - 1 hr 5 min 50 sec
2007 - 1 hr 4 min 54 sec
2009 - 1 hr 2 min 37 sec (setting a 2 sec PR!)

Following the 2009 race, I ran in the Route 66 1/2 Marathon a month later and had an awesome 10K split which was definitely under the one hour mark.  The Route 66 course is notorious for the hilly start so this was a challenging 10K equivalent.  Chile Pepper is equally challenging given that it is a cross country course that takes you on a couple loops of the race course which means you hit a couple hills more than once!

Our weekly speed workouts have been gearing us up for this race and working on dialing in our pace.  I have had awesome workouts the last two weeks.  All of this is adding up to me being freaked out and super scared for the race!

Last week the workout was a non-stop four mile speed effort.  It was based on the Prefontaine 30/40 workout.  Essentially you do 200m at half marathon pace followed by 200m at just slower than mile pace.  For me, my goal splits were 1:15/1:05 or 2:20 per quarter.  (PRE did his 200 splits in 30 sec and 40 sec respectively which is how the workout got its name.) The speedwork plus my warmup and cooldown added up to over 6.2 miles and I noted that I hit the 6.2 mile mark at 1 hr 1 min.  It would have been a race PR (I had my watch paused between the warmup and the start of the workout.) I kept to my paces and actually picked up the pace over the last two miles of the speed portion.  It was a great confidence builder for me. 

This week the workout was a little bit more challenging.  We did 4x400m repeats and did 4 sets of the repeats.  The first repeat started at 5K pace and then each 400 got a few seconds faster.  We got 50 seconds rest between the 400m in the set and 90 seconds rest between sets.  Each set returned to 5K pace and descended back down.  I started around a 2:15 per 400 and worked down to 2:00 per 400 for the 4th in each set.  I had one goof up at the start of my 3rd set where my time was 2:30 which was necessary since I had to work out a side stitch.  My warmup, workout, and cooldown totalled exactly 6.2miles and again it would have been a race PR with my total workout time at 58 min 01 sec.  YIKES!!! I don't like this pressure that is building up for Saturday.

Needless to say, I'll be working on positive thoughts over the week.  I need to develop a race plan that I can be confident with and then I need to EXECUTE the Plan.  I should build in a little time change because of the cross country and hills on the course compared to what my recent track splits have been.  Again, YIKES! I think the soundtrack for my week will be a little David Bowie "Under Pressure."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Motivational Music

Beth at Shut Up and Run is hosting a giveaway for the Subway Commit to Fit contest.  One way to enter is to leave a comment with 5 must have songs in your music playlist.  You should check out her contest...the prize is a new iPod shuffle and $10 iTunes giftcard.  Below is my response and don't go stealing my song choices. 

Whitney said... 127

Let's see...I Run to You by Lady Antebellum, 21 Guns by Greenday, I Did It by Dave Matthews Band, Don't Stop Believing by Journey, and Simply Irresistible by Robert Palmer. I'm kind of all over the board with my picks but they all perk me up for different reasons and I've used them in strategic points of my playlists for that extra burst of motivation.

Now, I'll share the explanation behind why these songs motivate me! Some of these are newer additions and others are from when I first started using my iPod while running and I would make special playlists for my races or long runs.  Now, I stick to shuffle and just enjoy whatever random mix comes on, but these songs still add a little pep to my step!
I Run to You - because running is what I do when life gets crazy and it is like my gift to myself. 
21 Guns - this is my hill running song...the pace of the music helps set my pace and keep my breathing in check on long hill repeats. 
I Did It - this song was playing on my iPod as I crossed the finish line during my worst half marathon (and possibly worst race) experience ever. It was a monumental finish for me and it was total coincidence that the song came on right then.  Someday I'll have to tell you the full story on the race...but to give you an idea it started at 9:30am and temps were already high 80's. My sister brought me water onto the race course and offered me a lift at the halfway point because it was that awful...but I stuck it out and finished.
Don't Stop Believing - it's cheesy but who doesn't love a little bit of Journey.  It reminds me of a great night listening to a Journey cover band with my friend Kelly on Bourbon Street. 
Simply Irresistible - this used to come on around mile 10 of my half marathon playlist and that is about the point in a run when you just don't feel your cutest...covered in sweat and that salty film that we all get! I like a little irony since I know that I am far from irresistible at this point in a long run!  This song also makes me think of the Broadway musical Contact that included this song as one of the main storylines and the dance has always stuck in my head.  View Contact video and you too can always see the lady in the yellow dress dancing swing style to this song! My friend Meridith and I went to see this show for one of our birthdays when we lived in DC.
What songs do you like to listen to and do you build specific playlists or just random shuffle?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How Not to React When You Get Dropped!

Our motley crew for Tuesday night bike rides has been dwindling since the return of school and kids activities in September.  We have gone from nearly 15 people each week to around 6 or so each Tuesday.  We use to have a group a 3-4 girls each week, but tonight I was the only girl in a group with 5 guys. 

We headed out on an ambitious route that the group leader thought would be around 25 miles.  We left at 5:30PM which would give us about 1 1/2 hours before sunset.  We would have to haul to beat the sunset! I stayed with the group without any problems until around mile 14 or so.  We were on a section that was in general uphill for about 2 miles followed by a significant hill climb.  As we began that section, our group of six split into 2 groups.  The front group was hauling butt and wasn't really looking back on the two remaining riders (myself and the group leader.)   The two of us that were getting dropped finished up the big climb near each other and I started to try and pick up the pace to catch the rest of the group.  The group leader took a rest break but I thought he was just a few seconds behind me. 

The route we were on was relatively safe but the sun was quickly setting and I just started to freak out that none of the men in the group were checking on the two of us that were left behind.  We had a small highway to cross and I was about 1/3 mile back from the lead group when I saw them take off and cross the highway.  I let out a huge swear in shock since it was the ideal spot for everyone to regroup up.  The next few miles are on a heavily traveled road without much of a shoulder so it is nice to be in a group on this section.  I wasn't looking forward to doing it alone but had no choice if I wanted to get back in the group.   

I kept pushing and finally caught up to the boys after nearly 7 miles of trying.  I sort of maybe flipped the bird to a couple of them and sort of maybe was a little snippy with them when we got to one of the few stoplights on our entire route.  By the next light, I apologized for my snippy comment and just told them I was alone and over-reacted.  We all regrouped and rode the last 6 miles as a big group again.  It was probably best that way since we were now quickly losing light and only a few of us had blinky lights on our bikes.  We ended up with 30 miles and my average for the total was 17mph but my average during the 7 miles I was trying to catch the boys was over 18.3mph with a few miles above 19mph!

Overall, the lesson for today was don't panic and over-react.  While I am riding as part of a group, I am responsible for myself and I can't expect the guys to treat me differently.  In the moment, instead of thinking how awesome I had just done to catch back up all I could think about was how awful it was of them to not wait for me.  Totally the wrong attitude to have and I was glad the guys understood and accepted my apology for being snippy.  Whoopsie! Good lesson learned tonight!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ode to Fall Long Runs

(Please accept my apologies in advance, but I wanted to try out a little poem recap of my long run today versus the traditional recap I normally do.  I hope it isn't too horrible!)

Oh, how I didn't want to get out of my warm and toasty bed this morning.
But alas, Anne was waiting for me at the town square.
Taper time for her marathon meant an easy long run.
Dressing meant digging through drawers, long forgotten.
Sleeves and capris hidden away,
not to be worn during hot summer days.
The debate ensued as always, how many layers were needed.
Temps were 40 degrees and the sun would be rising.
Decision was made and away I went to face the day.

Unhappy that my new earbuds were already broken,
Meant music would not happen and words would be spoken.
Together we plotted a course that would amuse us
And avoid the dreaded hills that tend to abuse us.
Into the chill and sunrise we headed,
ticking off the miles as we went and chatted.
Gu stop at mile 5 and Biscuit a friendly yellow lab
He was the gracious neighborhood greeter!
This was followed by a stop at the White Oak Station,
potty stop and water bottle refills were in the making.
Back on the road and having fun,
we couldn't believe we were almost done.
Together we finished with 10 miles under our belts,
so amazed how little the time actually felt.

Thanks to Anne for helping me to get my pace back again.
Our long runs together are always a blast!
Good luck in Chicago, you are going to be super fast!