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Run Away Fast

Updated: 2018-03-09T07:45:40.771-08:00


This is Life


This blog has been dedicated to my running adventures for seven years now. In those 7 years, I have gone from being a somewhat fast runner to an Olympic Trials Qualifier and Marathon Winner. This blog was an important part of that journey for me. Regardless of whether people were actually reading, I felt like I was connected to a larger community cheering me on toward my goals. I am very grateful for that support and truly believe it helped me achieve my goals. Thank you! I have also met some wonderful people both virtually and now in person as a result of posting about my running here.

Over those 7 years, I have posted much less about my life, especially recently. I started a small business 2 years ago in the ecological consulting field and that currently occupies more of my time than I should probably admit. Self employment has so many wonderful benefits, but my gosh it is a lot of work. My business has really taken off and work-life balance has been a big challenge. I consider myself lucky to marry my passion with my work, so it is a labor of love.

Running is a big part of my life. While I continue to dream and set big goals, I have less time to devote to it, which includes time I can spend writing about it. The story of my running continues on but it is something I will likely share mostly with my friends and family. If you want to follow the nuts and bolts of my running, I am active on Strava. Give me a follow. I am not saying that this is the last you'll see of me and this blog, but I wanted to explain why you might not see posts from me very often. I am always open to questions via email/Facebook messenger/skywriting, so feel free to drop me a line.

Keep running your hearts out.

Movin' on up


I have some exciting news! I am planning to run my first ultramarathon! This will be a road 50k where I will shoot for the Masters' national record. I will attempt this at the Jed Smith 50k in February. I have actually been talking about this goal for a long time, but I wasn't sure I was ready to let go of the Olympic Trials qualifier goal. Now, I am.Rewind 6 weeks--My training was going fine for CIM. I was running consistent, higher mileage and doing some races here and there. I was putting in the work and waiting for my workout times to fall. They didn't. The problem is not my fitness level, but my biomechanics at this point. For as long as recent memory allows, I have had a hitch in my left side. It wanders but is typically pain/weakness in my lower left leg. This leads to a lack of power in that leg. I notice it most when trying to hop on one leg. No push off. So, I am not able to propel myself forward fast during workouts when half my body lacks power. This became more than just an annoyance a couple of weeks ago when I felt my left glute/high hamstring tighten up during the Clarksburg Half Marathon. That tightness turned into a stabbing pain in my ass, literally--the old piriformis acting up again. I knew if I was smart I would still be able to run CIM, but any hope of a super fast time was out the window.I was also lacking the belly fire needed to achieve the OTQ goal. This entire training cycle--well this entire year--I was waiting for that fire that would ignite the same drive I had to qualify for the 2012 Trials. That fire never even became a spark. I loved having the hairy goal out there to push toward. I truly believe in setting those for myself because they make me work harder and push myself farther than I would without them. It wasn't really that I didn't believe I could achieve it but that I didn't want it bad enough to make the sacrifices to achieve it.SO, I am running CIM. As with all of my marathon races, I have A, B and C goals for this one. The A goal was always to run fast, relatively speaking. The B/C goal is to make it to the start and finish lines, which will lock in my Pacific Association USATF Masters Long Series title for the year. This last one is big for me. First, I haven't raced a marathon in almost 3 years. The last one was the Eugene Marathon in 2013. Winning the PA Series is kind of a points game since you can win or place well just by showing up to the races and placing fairly high at each race. For me, however, it means that I raced consistently all throughout the year. With a year of significant health issues keeping me from racing last year and a couple of years of injury before that, consistently racing is a big deal.With the 50k on the horizon, my focus for CIM has changed a bit. I will be looking to run a fairly hard race but I'm not going to jeopardize a finish nor run so hard that I require a long recovery. I have no idea what that will look like on the clock on race day, but I am looking forward to seeing how it unfolds. This pain in the butt I've had is clearing up with some activation exercises prescribed by the ever-capable Dr. Lau at Elite Spinal and Sports Care and acupuncture treatment from Bradley at ProActive Acupuncture in Midtown. The acupuncture is blowing my mind with how well it works. I do have a long row to hoe with this dysfunction, but I'm on the right track.The 50k is a short 8 weeks from CIM, so I will need to come out of the marathon healthy and turn around the fitness I have built to be able to run at a good clip for a longer distance than I ever have in my life. That is an exciting goal for me! As for my future in ultra racing, I really don't like running on trails enough to commit to any trail ultras.  But, I didn't like running at all for the first 36 years of my life, so I have learned to never say never!Good luck to everyone running CIM. I will be dedicating my race to my dear friend Jane Inouye.Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that I set the American 5k record a couple of weeks back. NBD.Beat The Blerch 5J Results [...]

There's an App for that!


One of my favorite readers, Heather, asked a very good question about the slogging of marathon training. Instead of responding in a comment, I decided to write a post instead. Here's her question:"how much fatigue and slogging is an acceptable level for you? Or do you not feel sloggy that often, but simply a bit tired? I have a really hard time determining if I should push through sloggy dead legged phases, or back off before I overreach/overtrain. You've written about being a fan of large amounts of running data, do you use that data to determine if you're recovering properly? Is there an app for that?"There IS an app for that! I use it every day, and it's called ithlete. This is an app that, coupled with a bluetooth heart rate monitor, measures your heart rate variability (HRV). I've posted briefly about it before, but I wanted to spend a bit more time with it since I have really begun to rely on it as a training tool. I have also been reading more and more research about what an impressive measure HRV is for a number of different things in addition to training.First off, there are a lot of apps that measure HRV. At one point, I was trying to evaluate a few of them simultaneously which required taking my HRV using 3-4 different apps every morning and that was really not tenable. I quickly zeroed in on ithlete because of the ease of use, the user interface and mostly because of the fact that it interprets the data in a way that I can use. Having an HRV number was really not very helpful for me. Let me show you what I mean.You'll want to click on the image so you can get a closer look, but what you see here is my HRV data for the past 9 months or so. The green, yellow and red dots connected by the light blue line at the top of the chart are the daily HRV values. You can see I took a break in August. The black bars are showing my training intensity. I enter that data for my workouts basically scoring them from easiest (1) to hardest (9). The red dots in the middle of the chart are my resting heart rate values. I mentioned in a previous post how my resting HR had gone down over the past year and this really shows that drop nicely. Here's a closer look at my HRV for this marathon cycle.You might notice a pattern in this chart of a drop in HRV (usually shown as a red or yellow dot) after a hard workout (tall black bar) followed by a rebound back to the pre-workout value. This is what you want to see. Also notice that there are a lot of other things I could add to this chart (sleep, fatigue, soreness, etc.). These are qualitative ratings you input every time you take your HRV. The idea is that you can look for correlations between HRV and these factors. It can get kind of messy, so I usually just use training load. One really interesting thing to note, for those of you who use resting heart rate as an indicator of fatigue and overtraining is that it is really not very sensitive. My HRV is scooting all over the place in response to training, sleep, and life stress but my RHR is staying pretty darn steady. It makes me wonder if RHR is really a good measure for telling you when you've gone over the edge, but it can't really help you know when you're getting close to the edge. This may be peculiar to me, but worth a few thoughts.These charts shown above are screenshots from their website but are also included in the app. What I find the most useful for day-to-day decision making is this chart, which is only available on their website and you have to have a "pro" subscription ($5/month) to get access.It plots your daily recovery and activation to give you an idea how recovered you are and how much energy you have. It plots these data on the chart based on your values from the last 30 days. It also gives recommendations for training that day. I almost never act on the low activation recommendation. I find it correlates strongly with a low RHR and I think my RHR is falling due to training and not necessarily because I am burning out. I do act on the high activation data. I [...]

Deep fried frog legs


In case you're not following me on Strava (note the convenient link on the right of this post), here's what I've been up to.

Lots of miles. Lots of slow miles, actually and about 2 fast/long workouts per week. My body is still adjusting to the volume. I do get a glimmer now and again that the miles are sinking in and I am becoming stronger.

It is really amazing how training is such a huge leap of faith. We train through some pretty brutal workouts, niggling injuries, life drama, and utter fatigue; all with the hope that the stress we put our bodies through will eventually lead us to achieve our goals whether they be running a fast time, running a longer distance than ever before or just challenging ourselves to stay fit and focused on good health. One of my goals is to challenge my body in a new way through higher mileage and (so far) my body seems to tolerate it fine. I had lost my confidence in being able to run high mileage but I think I just needed to slow everything down to tolerate the volume. I call my slow easy runs "mitochondriacal runs" to remind myself that slow running serves an important purpose too. I *heart* mitochondria! New t-shirt logo?

Lately, I have been feeling less fatigued in my runs and, even though my running is not very fast, I know it will be soon enough. In the past, my fitness gains have come in giant steps. I am waiting to grow my frog legs and take that giant leap forward. I don't know when it will happen, but I will look back on all of this work and remind myself that it was good old fashioned slogging and hard work that got me there, with a side of trust in the process.

All the Miles


I recently discovered I have the same disconnect as the poor runner in this meme regarding my vision of myself as a "high mileage" runner versus what I actually have been doing for the last 5 years. Forcing myself to be honest and actually look at my running log over that time period made me realize I have been anything but a consistently high mileage runner. I've done a bunch of workouts and had some high mileage weeks (and a couple of good races), but there's been nothing consistent about it. Thinking of myself in these terms has led to inconsistency in my running due to my repeated attempt to jump back into my *usual* high mileage regimen while also maintaining a hard workout schedule.Lesson: don't let where you think you should be get in the way of where you need to be.I needed to hit the reset button and allow my body to adapt to consistent running again. I think there is probably a window of opportunity that we have when we are forced to take a break from our usual training where we can jump back into training at our typical volume and intensity, but I have a feeling the timeframe is not 5 years. I actually haven't seen much good information on this subject because most is focused on the very short term, like taking a few months down versus years. Nonetheless, I decided I needed to view this more as starting from scratch and listen to how my body responded to training. That's always the best bet, but it is super tough when you have visions of yourself as Lolo Jones in your head.I mentioned in my last post that I have been indulging in podcasts during my runs and have now listened to probably 30-40. The information becomes a bit garbled when listening to that many in a short time period in that I am not really able to attribute what piece of sage advice came from which coach or athlete. Aside from realizing that there are a million different ways to train to improve performance, I have been able to pick out the common themes from the many episodes I've listened to. Here are a few:1. Volume is king. Nearly every single coach and athlete has said this is the bread and butter for improvement. Some say you can get away with aerobic XTing some of the workouts, but for the most part you just have to run more. People are afraid of adding volume because they think they will get injured. I am starting to change my view of this. I believe people get injured from increased volume because they are also maintaining or increasing their intensity along with it. Some can do this but most cannot. This is why I am trying a stepwise approach to increasing my volume. I am trying to let my body adapt to the higher volume first, whilst maintaining some basic speed and speed endurance workouts before I ramp up my intensity. A couple of interesting things have happened over the past month or more of doing this. My average resting heart rate has decreased by 5-10 bpm. That is huge!!! Plus, I'm able to run faster at a lower HR. That is adaptation in action!       Lesson: Everything builds from that strong aerobic base.2. It takes at least 2 years of consistent training at a high level to start to see the benefits of that training. I know this to be true from my own experience but it was interesting to listen to athletes and coaches discuss this. Only a couple actually recognized this as a "rule", McMillan being the most vocal. His rule that you have to train the athlete, so they can train to be able to train to achieve their goals is an outgrowth of this. This was one of the epic moments of podcast listening for me. It's when I realized I really just need to build a base of training so I could train to achieve my goals. Brilliant.Lesson: Patience is a virtue. Give yourself a 2 year goal and be viciously consistent about training.3. Strength training is secondary to running, but it can provide another adaptation to help you become a better runner. So many of the athletes/coaches I listened to, most notably Steve Spence,[...]



Somehow, this blog got away from me these past few months. Sorry for that (if there are any of you out there still following along). I have changed a lot of things about my training these past few months and they all seem to be paying off. Before I get into that, I will offer a quick update on my last few months of running and my future race plans.March--injury averted: I was really happy with my decision to abandon ship at the Napa Valley Marathon. This may have been one of the smartest decisions I've made in my running career. I spent the month working on the niggles that plagued me during the race and successfully ended the month with pain free running without having to take time off.April--we can rebuild her: I ran as much as I could this month despite lots of work commitments. Working as an ecologist in California, spring is my busiest time of year. I ran a couple of 'races' (a 10 miler and a 12k) just to keep the wheels greased.RnR SD. The calm before the storm. You can get these ridiculously cute shorts here. May--racing fun: I had been focused on 10k training and a fast 10k on Memorial Day when I saw that the Masters 1/2 Marathon Championship race was being held in San Diego. I made a quick call to my Mom asking if she wanted to go, and the decision was made. My brother and sister-in-law joined too. This wasn't my best race as far as time, but it was a lot of fun. I love Rock-n-Roll events and was happy to get the chance to run this one.June--mo miles: Marathon base building was THE focus. My goal for this month was to get my mileage consistently in the 70-80 mpw range. I was successful.    Race plansI have decided to run the Chicago Marathon in October as my goal marathon race. This is where I qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials. I really enjoy the city and the course and am hoping for a fast finish under the 2:43 qualifying mark.I also have a few other races lined up between now and then:18 July: Eppie's Great Race 5.82 mile run (filling in for a friend; tempo workout within an 18 miler)26 July: SF Half Marathon (2nd Half). Not the fastest course, but a good check in on my fitness.22 August: The Giants 1/2 Marathon. Looking for a check in 8 weeks out from my goal race.   CoachingAfter my abandoned marathon race in March, I thought long and hard about how my training had gone and how my lifestyle affected my running. This is something I do after every major race, but in this case, I needed a lot more soul searching. When I started working with Coach Jack Daniels, I was a bit of a mess. I had become injured in a build up to a marathon and was just coming out of it. I remained a mess as health issues took me down in 2014, but throughout the time I worked with him, he took a conservative approach to building back my mileage adding about 10 miles per week every 6 months. I started with 40-50 mpw in Nov 2013 and ended up at ~70 mpw by March 2015. This was so important for me. I remained injury free that entire time and now have a great base that I am building upon.For this next marathon, I decided to try my hand at self coaching again with the help of a book called "The Science of Running" by Steve Magness. I am pretty sure very few people knew who he was (except those geeks like me who have followed his blog and writing for years) until the whole Salazar doping scandal emerged. I highly recommend reading this book as there are a lot of really great insights in it and a good summary of the latest science and research related to training.I am loosely following his marathon training plan right now with modifications to fit my mileage limits and the areas I need to focus on. I am just finishing the base phase of training (roughly 6-7 weeks) with my main focus on getting in a solid base of mileage. I have prioritized building volume over all else in this phase and will be ending the phase at 92 miles this week. This is higher than[...]

Knowing when to fold 'em


I dropped out of a marathon yesterday. It wasn't an easy decision and took me six miles to make. Of all distances to DNF (did not finish), I think the marathon is the toughest decision of all. So much work goes into preparing for 26.2 miles and to not get to test your fitness after months of hard work is very disappointing.I have dropped out of exactly three races in my career including yesterday's Napa Valley Marathon. I have also finished races that I probably should have dropped out of or not even started. The decision to stay or go is always a personal one and has to be one that you can live with.When I first started running, finishing every race was my main goal and I powered through lots of bad days to earn the finisher's medal. For better or worse, I became a competitive runner with a concomitant change in my perspective on racing. My lofty goals required a much more measured approach to these decisions about when to stay or go in a race. It wasn't until I became really, really injured that I understood the gravity of this decision when damaged body parts were on the line.Right after I qualified for the Olympic Trials at the Chicago Marathon in 2010, I was high as a kite and scheduled to run the Athens Marathon as part of the US Military Marathon Team only three weeks after Chicago. I had always been able to parlay my marathon fitness into multiple marathons without doing damage in the past and expected this to be no different. Two weeks post-Chicago, I was on a training run and started to feel a stabbing pain in my outer knee that was absolutely debilitating. I could not run. I kept trying, but this problem would not resolve. I decided that I would not miss the opportunity to run in Greece and represent the US in a World Championship race, and went ahead and ran Athens.The Athens course is brutal. Lots of uphill, but worse, the last 10k is all downhill. My knee was hurting from the first step and eventually went numb as I pounded downhill to the finish in the ancient Panathenaikos Stadium. My performance led the US team to a Gold medal and I absolutely cherish every bit of that experience. However, I had no way of knowing the cost of running that race injured. I paid for it with over 6 months of no running due to this injury. In some ways, I think that prolonged injury also set me up for a cycle of similar and serious injuries over the next several years as I came back (probably too quickly) to running only to get sidelined over and over.I got to meet Joanie in Athens!Gold Medal Team USA!So, back to yesterday's race. I went into the race with nothing seriously wrong with my body. I made it through the heaviest training I had done in over 5 years and was actually patting myself on the back for keeping all the niggles that had popped up at bay. For over a year, I have had a constant and very active exchange of power going on between my left foot/leg and my right hamstring/glute. Sometimes, they both hurt, but most often one or the other is getting my attention. I have successfully trained through this with a combo of massage, rolling and targeted strength training. When it is really getting my attention, I am much more diligent about my treatment regimen. In this training cycle I was very aggressive early on in treating the imbalance and actually had both problems resolve completely. So, what did I do? I stopped doing my rehab. Yes, I know. This was stupid and contradicts what I tell the athletes that I coach. I am human too.My left foot was getting my attention more and more the last couple of weeks. I didn't pay much attention given that I was starting my taper and thought I'd have plenty of time to work it out before the marathon. That didn't really happen. I just hobbled around when I woke up and forgot about it as it loosened up throughout the day.So, yesterday, I was feeling good at the start. Everything had really gone very well aside from some un[...]

Training update PLUS new gadgets and tools for training


Since I have fallen behind in updating all of you, I am giving you one monster update with lots of exciting new information on some of the things I'm trying out right now to help with my training and recovery. I'm not even going to try to be brief because I am pretty excited about how I am feeling and don't want to skimp on the details. So, grab a beer, cup of joe or some kombucha and enjoy the ride!Jed Smith 30k 1st female!1. Training update. The most important news is that I am still on track to run the Napa Marathon on 1 March. This is huge for me given the fits and starts I've had training for marathons and not running them over the last 12 months. The heavy lifting of my marathon training is now behind me, and I have a taper ahead. I have done the biggest workouts of my life in this training cycle (think 10 mile tempo runs within 22 milers and 15+ miles at marathon pace) and they have gone well for the most part. I have raced twice this cycle. The first was a half marathon at the beginning of February where I had a disappointing performance. I was really hoping for a good race, but my body was not cooperating. I had that feeling of breathing easily while my legs were stuck in thick mud. The following weekend, I ran a local 30k quasi-trail race as a workout and that went really well. I started out around 7:00-7:30 pace for the first couple of miles, cruised the middle 14 miles at ~6:20-6:30 pace and cooled down the last 1-2 miles. I won the women's race, set a 30k PR and the course record by 4 minutes.   The best part of this training cycle is that I feel great. I recovered from my surgery in December and am finally back to excellent health. Though I have had a bad race and a couple of off workouts, for the most part I feel amazing. I actually feel somewhat undertrained to be honest. I don't have the typical total body fatigue that I generally associate with marathon training. My mileage peaked at 80 mpw about 2 weeks ago and I've averaged around 70 for the last 12 weeks. I have also been doing around 3-6 hours of strength and core training each week. I should be tired, but I am not. I have been smart about taking rest when I need it--sometimes delaying workouts when I am feeling really off or even skipping them (did that twice this cycle).On a fashion note: If you see me flying around in cute running shorts and brightly colored tops (as in the picture above), I am most likely wearing clothes from a company called Janji. I appreciate this company because they have found a way to combine two things I really love: running and environmental protection. They make super cute, high quality running clothes and give back to society by funding individual projects that provide clean water to people around the world. Their colorful clothing and beautiful designs represent the various countries where they are funding projects. I love the idea that some of the money I spend on running clothes (and it is a lot!) doesn't just go to making big companies richer but that it goes to a cause that I can really stand behind.         2. EnduroPacks. This product or rather supplement regimen may be part of the reason I am feeling so good. I read about it on another runner's blog and began looking into it. I was bothered by the fact that the only reviews of the product I could find were all reviews from people who had been given the product free to try in exchange for a review. All of the reviews were so good, that I was very skeptical. As a coach I am always searching for new products to recommend to my athletes but not until I have tested them myself. So, I ordered a 60 day supply and have been following the regimen the last 2 months. This isn't a single supplement but an actual regimen you have to use every day. It includes taking a liquid multi-vitamin, which is actually really tasty. There's an electrolyte spray that y[...]

Top 10 lessons in 10 years of running


In all the craziness of this past year, I forgot that 2014 marks my 10 year running anniversary. I started running in August 2004 and ran my first marathon that December. I walked through every aid station and had the time of my life in that marathon. I remember celebrating every mile over 20 because it was the farthest I had run in my entire life. I qualified for the Boston Marathon in that first marathon and was told that this indicated I might have some talent. I'm glad I have continued to run and push the limits of my training to see how fast and strong I can become.I have learned a ton over the last 10 years and have chronicled about half of that in this blog. I decided to try to summarize some of the top lessons in this post in countdown fashion.Lesson 10. Know your weaknesses. Acknowledge them, but don't beat yourself up about them. These may be cravings that keep you from making your goal weight for your big race or mental weaknesses that crop up every time you do a tempo workout. I have found that it helps to face these things and figure out ways to deal with them. One thing I like to do is remind myself of the bigger goal. Say I am craving that bag of Lindt candies sitting out on the counter (this would be a real craving, btw). When I reach a point in my work where I want a distraction and can't stop thinking about the candies, I will make myself wait 10 minutes and during that 10 minutes review my racing weight goal. I don't tell myself how horrible a person I am or how fat I will be if I eat those wonderful chocolates, I just try to delay the action and remember why I care about not eating the chocolate. It isn't fool proof, but it mostly works, especially if I do this often. For that dreaded tempo workout, I often have trouble just getting out the door. Once I'm rolling, it doesn't seem to be a problem. So, I try to find ways to get myself out running without thinking about the tough workout I have planned. I often make a running date with someone for an early morning run and run the warm up with them. Since I'm already out there, it is easier to just roll into the workout.       Lesson 9. Chunk it up.I decided early on in my marathoning career (at the age of 38!) that I wanted to try to qualify for the CIM '04. Walking thru the aid stations!Olympic Trials (OT). I was a 3:20 marathoner at the time. Rather than be overwhelmed by the massive gulf between my then marathon PR and what I needed to run (a difference of more than 30 minutes!) I decided to chunk it up. That is what I call breaking it down into smaller, bite sized chunks: something I can fit in my mouth and digest. I first set a goal to run a 5k race at the goal marathon pace I needed to get the OT qualifier (6:22 pace at the time). Then, I ran a 10k at that pace, and a 10 miler and half marathon. This took about 5 years. Over that period of time, the standard changed from 2:48 to 2:46, so I had to adjust my pace goals for my races, but I was finally able to take a shot at running an entire marathon at that goal pace. It took me two tries once I was ready to run that pace, but I finally did it in 2010. I use this same approach in workouts and races. It's a simple way of making a big hairy goal doable. Lesson 8. Run with people (and dogs) that you like.My running crewThis one might actually be more of a life lesson, but somehow it really sunk in for me once I became a runner. I spend a lot of time running, and I like to run with people for most of it. Well, to be truthful, I really like to run with my dogs, and I treat them like people, so that counts too. I run with a variety of people but they all have one thing in common: I feel good when I run with them. We may not run the same pace all the time, but I try to be respectful of their paces when they need a recovery day and then (politely) excuse myself when I need [...]

For Sadie Pants


Sadie Pants Marty. 2001-2014I had always thought that animals come into our lives somewhat randomly. We go to the pound or look at pictures on a website and choose them almost arbitrarily. Someone once told me that they thought animals chose us, and the animals that I've had the good fortune to share my life with have made me a believer. Sadie, aka Hope, 2001Sadie was named Hope when I first found her on the internet in 2001. I think these were the days of the cable modem, so it took a concerted effort on my part to hunt her down. She was from a bad part of Modesto and part of a large litter. Her SPCA picture captivated me, but it was the actual meeting of this little butterball that convinced me she was the one for me, even as her brothers and sisters tried very hard to convince me they were the better choice. The name Hope didn't seem to fit, though I now see the beauty in it. I named her after lyrics in a Dr. Dre song I was listening to on the drive home: "...and get to mackin with this bitch named Sadie, she used to be the homeboy's lady." It stuck.   Sadie enjoyed a long life of adventure. I lived in Knights Landing, CA when I first got her and she had a large yard and acres and acres of farmland to cruise around on our daily walks. She developed a hatred for chickens after she was terrorized by the mean-as-shit roosters that the previous tenants had left behind at the house I was renting. Many chickens would be sacrificed for those roosters' hijinx. I hope never again in my life to ask someone, "how can I reimburse you for your chicken?"         Sadie had many companions over the years. She loved kitties. Well, she ate a few too, but she loved Sadie and Astro, 2001the ones that I loved. She also had her doggie companions. Astro, a world-renowned, pig-hunting Catahoula, was unfortunately a short-lived partner. He died when she was about 6 months old but no doubt taught her quite a few important details about being a dog.   The love of her life was a coonhound named Buddy. He was the most loving dog I have ever had the pleasure to meet and a perfect, low key, companion for her. Sadie liked very few dogs, but Buddy was love at first sight. They shared the better part of nine years together and were only separated when Buddy became suddenly ill with a sickness that took his life in 2011.Sadie and Buddy, 2002. The day I brought Buddy home for Sadie.Logan and Sadie, 2011.After Buddy went, I knew that I needed another companion for Sadie. I wanted another Coonhound and found Logan on the internet (how I find all of my dogs). The Genius and I drove all the way to Yreka to meet him and adopted him on the spot. I was terribly nervous about whether this little guy would be welcomed by Sadie, given that she really didn't get along with many other dogs. Maybe this wasn't love at first sight, but they got along very well. Logan added years to her life, I am sure. Because I have a thing for hounds, I adopted a third dog in 2012 to bring me very close to the edge of "crazy dog lady". This one has been a handful, but I am glad that she chose me when she did so she had a chance to learn from Sadie and bring some puppy energy into Sadie's last years. One of my favorite pass times was watching Sadie and Bella spar in that fun dog way that they do--full of pomp and circumstance and lots of great puppy noises.     Logan, Sadie, and Bella. 2012. Where do the people sleep?Sadie has been a part of my life for so long, it is hard to imagine it without her. In fact, as I was watching her sleep in the sun yesterday, I realized that she has been the basis for numerous major life decisions during the last 13 years. I chose the house I currently live in for its proximity to the American River and the opportunity to take daily walks with Sad[...]

CIM minus


From the title of this post you can probably already tell what's coming: I'm not running CIM. Why? Because I'm scheduled for surgery on December 2nd.When I had my first surgery to remove my fibroid baby in August, the surgeon was able to scrape about 80% of it out. The doc told me that, for many women, this was sufficient to resolve their problems and suggested a wait-and-see approach. I did not want to wait and see whether my hemorrhaging resumed and asked him to schedule the second surgery to remove the rest. I waited for about a month and finally got a call from scheduling offering me the December 2nd date. I told them that I had a marathon 5 days later and couldn't take the date. They said they would see if they could find something else.A month went by with no calls from Kaiser. I was fine with this because I wasn't having any symptoms. A little over a week ago, that changed. I was back in hemorrhagic hell for about 5 days and missed a race because of it. I realized that I needed to take the surgery date that was available. I have also asked to have the inside of my uterus cauterized (called ablation) so I never bleed again--or at least for several years. Because I was able to get my blood levels up after the surgery, this episode didn't take much out of me. However, I definitely felt the impact. It is absolutely stunning how good I feel with higher hemoglobin levels. I vow to never let them drop again!In case you're counting, this is the 5th time I've started training for and not been able to run a marathon in the last 12 months. It is frustrating, but each training cycle I have gotten a little stronger. I had some of the best training of my life in the last couple of months and that fitness does not go away overnight. As long as I keep training, it will carry right over to the next race.The lovely Napa Valley Marathon course.My current plan is to run the Napa Valley Marathon on March 1st, which seems fitting since it's sponsored by Kaiser. It's a great race and fast course, though the only time I've run it was in 2006--the year that there was a 15 mph headwind and freezing rain the entire way (it's a point to point course). A headwind is unusual for that race, so I am hoping the weather will be more favorable this time around. They've also had tailwind years. Fingers crossed for that!I worked my way up to 20 mile runs with 10-13 miles at marathon pace before all of this went down, and I was feeling really strong. I am reducing the mileage of my longer runs now (though maintaining my overall training volume) and getting back to some speedier running before I launch back into marathon training in a few weeks. I'm hoping to get a fast half marathon and 5k out of my current fitness in the next month. Keeping my fingers crossed that my body cooperates.A little hip niggle over the last couple of weeks scared me back into doing my rehab work. When I'm feeling good, I tend to forget the weaknesses in my right side that need constant attention. I have been doing tons of strength work these last several months, but as the PT noted, I am using the same compensations in that training as in my running and making everything else strong while my poor glute is neglected. Focused exercises are the name of the game. The niggle went away and I've noticed some improvement in my right side strength. It was also a good reminder to me to roll both sides of my body equally. My left side tends to be tighter than the right, but the left side never hurts. I tend to roll the side that hurts more than the other and that just exacerbates the problem leaving my left side tight and loosening up an already mobile right side.      Speaking of rolling, if you haven't seen this guy before, you should check him out. His name is Enso, and he works miracles. All those [...]

CIM minus 10 weeks: aiming high


Weekly summary:70 miles1 speed workout: 5 x 1000m/3 min recovery (3:26 ave.) + 6 x 200m/200m recovery (34 sec ave.)1 long run: 20 miles moderate (7:05 pace)6 hours strength training (3 x hot pilates, 1 x kettlebells, 1 x barre, 1 x bikini butt) This has been an interesting week in a number of ways. I was anxious in the first half of the week about the speed workout I had lined up for Wednesday. I haven't run many speed workouts in the past several months and the last attempt (3 weeks ago) went really badly. For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you are aware that, relatively speaking, I am much faster at the longer races. For example, my marathon PR equates to a 16:57 5k, but I have only barely broken 18:00 for that distance at my fittest. The main reason for this disparity is that I don't practice at 5k pace. I started running as a marathoner and have focused on that distance at the exclusion of all others. I am very comfortable with the discomfort of running a lot of marathon paced miles but am very uncomfortable holding 5k pace. That's why I was anxious. My paces for this workout were also very ambitious. 5:24 pace is fast for me, but I wanted to give it a shot. I asked the Genius if he wanted to do the workout with me and maybe help pace me for some of it. Thankfully, he agreed. I'm not sure I could have pushed myself that hard without help. I was pretty sure I could hold 83 second quarters for this workout and that was my goal, even though my training plan called for 81. My fastest 1000m workout ever averaged 3:35. So, this would be new territory. I wondered whether I had ever really pushed myself in an interval workout and I really wanted to try to do that here.We started off the first 1000 and I was right on The Genius' heels. Despite getting a slight tingling feeling in my fingers at the end, it felt reasonable. First 1000m = 3:22 (81 sec/400m). We jogged the 3 minutes (which is a long time) and started again. This time, I started to fall behind my pacer. I felt like I was going backwards fast. I didn't look at my watch, but he pulled away from me in the last 200m and I started to feel heavy-legged and tingly as I tried to keep up. Second 1000m = 3:22. The Genius was speeding up, which made me feel better. However, I also realized the signs of oxygen debt coming on too early in this workout and decided to dial it back a bit. I ran the next three 1000m repeats in 3:30-3:31. I didn't take my splits during the repeat for these but just tried to concentrate on holding a hard but steady pace. I was happy that the early fast intervals didn't compromise the final miles of this workout. I felt good at the end. I finished the last 200m of the last repeat with a very strong mind repeating my new mantra, 2-4-2, to myself as I pushed it to the line. We finished this workout with some fast 200s. I ran all of them in 34-35 seconds and they felt great. Much like the threshold pace run last week, this workout was a huge confidence booster for me. I lack confidence at the shorter distances so this was a really important training experience. To know that I can push myself and even start out too fast and still hold it together was big. I had a straight up, easy to moderate paced long run of 20 miles on Saturday and wanted to try to get my legs a bit tired before that run so I could work on running long on tired legs. So far, my mileage for this cycle hasn't taken me to a point where I experience muscle fatigue during my runs. I decided instead to use strength training to tire my legs out before this long run and see how that felt. I did back to back classes at P2O Hot Pilates on Friday night taking Bethany's Kettlebells and Barre classes. These were great workouts and my legs did feel pretty tired. I wan[...]

CIM minus 11 weeks: the reality show


Weekly summary:61 miles1 missed workout1 long run: 19 miles w/ 4.5 miles easy + 2 miles T (LT pace) + 5.5 easy + 2 x 2 T pace w/2 min jog + 2.5 E 6 hours strength trainingThis training week was both marginal and spectacular for me. It was marginal because I missed a workout. That is such a hard thing to deal with emotionally, especially when it is due to stupidity (on my part). The spectacular part was the long run I did get in. I am pretty sure this one counts as a breakthrough workout. I had planned to run 65 miles this week, so I came close to that. All in all, I would put this week in the plus column.I missed the workout because I was testing my limits with strength training. I started adding serious strength work into my exercise regime about 6 months ago. It started with a couple of months of hot yoga and then I found P2O Hot Pilates in Midtown Sacramento and knew I'd found a the right place. I have been training there for 4 months now. I started gradually taking a variety of classes but no more than 2 per week. I worked my way up to 3 and then 4 per week within a couple of months. Now, I do 4-6 workouts per week. These are mostly hour long classes and they are hard--the hardest strength classes I've ever taken.This week, I was feeling ambitious and decided to double up on Monday with a kettlebells and hot pilates class followed by a 6 mile run with our run group. I think that would have been okay had I not done hot pilates and a bikini butt class the two days prior. On Tuesday, I was feeling pretty worked. By Wednesday, my planned workout day, I knew I wasn't going to be able to deliver anything close to fast running, so I just ran easy. I thought I would postpone the workout to Thursday, but work got in the way of that. So, there I was, on Friday with a workout to do. I got my new training plan from Jack and the Saturday long run meant I wasn't running anything fast on Friday. I bit the bullet and let the midweek workout go and decided to focus my energy on having a great workout Saturday.I was lucky enough to convince a friend to meet me for the warm up of this workout, but she needed to meet at 5:30 a.m. Having someone to meet and getting the workout done early were way more important than sleeping in on a Saturday. My friend is 4 months pregnant and amazingly fit. She pushed me for the first 4.5 miles!! After we parted ways, I put in my headphones and took off at T pace. On my training schedule, my T pace has been 5:54 for over a month now, but I have not been able to hit that pace. The last few weeks, I've flirted with it, but never nailed it. I didn't intend to do it on Saturday either. I have been treating my target paces as something to work toward as I become fitter.It was completely dark out when I started my speed work, and I was able to just get a nice rhythm going. I decided I would only look at my pace at the 1/2 mile markers. I hit the first one and saw 2:54 as my split. I thought, "this is going to be a long day" realizing I was really pushing the pace early. I split the first mile in 5:51 and the second in 5:55 (hilly mile). I now had 5+ miles to think about those next 4 miles at T pace. My legs were feeling a little tired from the barre class I had taken the night before.With 13 miles on my legs I started the next 2 miles and split that in 11:46! I was so excited, I was actually running my goal T pace at the end of this long run. The last 2 miles weren't nearly as pretty, but I still split 11:52. I then jogged back to my car, pretty pumped about what had just gone down. I love the breakthrough workouts. You never know when they'll happen, but they always do when you're putting in the work and taking care of the machine.I definitely need to keep playing with the strength sche[...]

The build up to CIM


It is official. I am entered in the Cal International Marathon to be held on 7 December 2014.  This will be my 7th time running CIM and my 21st marathon. Did I mention that 7 is my lucky number? Kismet.

I have decided to update this blog much more frequently as I build up to the marathon--posting about my training and racing each week as well as the little things that I am doing to stay healthy and strong. If my past marathon training is any indication of how this one will go, it should be an interesting ride.

I am finally feeling healthy enough to make a run at an Olympic Trials Qualifier in this race, and that is exciting. However, so many things have to come together to make that happen. I have had magical days before and will continue to push myself in training and believe that I can achieve this big goal.

Please, join me for the ride. Eleven weeks and counting...

Thanks, Lindy, for posting this! 

Four weeks post-surgery and a win!


Wings out. My debut race as a Oiselle runner and I won!I am really happy to finally be able to report that I am cured. After months and months of seemingly endless posts about my struggle with out-of-control uterine fibroids and my anemic state, I am sure you are happy to get this news. No more posts about bleeding and lady parts.Well, maybe one last bit. I was cured with a procedure called hysteroscopic resectioning. In this procedure, you are put completely out while a skilled surgeon sticks a device fitted with a camera and laser up your va-jay-jay and whittles away at the fibroid growing inside the uterus. The laser cauterizes as it goes so there's no risk of excessive bleeding. My fibroid was occupying the whole space, so there was a lot of work to do. In fact, they were only able to remove 80% of my fibroid baby before I became borderline hyponatremic. That's the risk of the procedure. The fluids they pump inside the uterus to keep things flushed out start to get absorbed by the body and at some point the electrolyte balance in the blood is compromised to a dangerous level. I knew ahead of time it was unlikely that they would be able to get it all in this first try, but was assured what they did get would still solve my problem.I doubted this but have to say I now believe. I am 4 weeks post surgery and training like a mad woman again. It took a couple of weeks to stop bleeding completely, so my blood levels are still recovering, but, lifestyle wise, I am blissfully normal again. One odd thing that occurred within a day of the surgery was a return of massive energy and cognitive clarity. I have found nothing on the interwebs that can explain this. I was still taking the same (damn) hormones (massive dose of progestin) at that point so this had to be from the lack of fibroid. The only thing I can surmise is that the little bastard was stealing my energy. It makes sense physiologically that growing one huge ass muscle (fibroids are all muscle) inside the body over a very short time period would require a lot of nutrients and energy. So, my body must have been directing a lot my energy to it. Think about it. I was basically growing a bicep inside my uterus.The surgery was a breeze. I was recovered in two days. I ran 13 miles three days after surgery and have not looked back. My training has gone really well too, though I am trying to be very cautious about not overdoing it. It is really easy with this much energy to want to ramp up fast and push myself too hard. My race shoes had Schwings! Thanks to Christina for the photo from mile 10.I ran a race on Sunday. Well, I won a race on Sunday! It was thrilling to feel strong again. This race was the Buffalo Stampede 10 miler and it was my first race running for Oiselle. I have run this race numerous times and actually won it once before in 2010, just before my PR marathon in Chicago. My workouts leading up to the race were mixed. I caught a cold the weekend before (lack of sleep does it to me every time!) but still had a great long run workout of 17 with 2 x 2 miles at lactate threshold (T) pace, then 5 miles easy and another 2 x 1 mile at T pace. My last T mile was 5:50 and I knew I was on a roll. Midweek was another story. The cold was fully embedded in my sinuses and I couldn't breathe. I did a track workout of 5 x 1200m and had to cut the third one to 800m because of the breathing issues. I was barely holding the pace I had run for my 15th mile on Saturday! Did I panic? Nope. I wish I could recall who wrote this: "you can't fake a good workout". You can have bad workouts, but there is no questioning your fitness if you have a good one. So, I clu[...]

So many good things to share


Despite the setbacks I am having in my running due to my health problems, there are so many things going right at this moment, that I can't possibly be bummed out.First, I am pleased to announce that I am now representing a fantastic company, Oiselle. This company first caught my eye when they sponsored one of my favorite runners, Lauren Fleshman. They are a group of strong, outspoken women who provide awesome support for female athletes of all levels. I love that they have opened up the team to more runners and are able to support so many athletes despite being such a small company. I saw this as a chance to be part of something that is wonderful.     Our fun running group last Sunday!Second, I have partnered with a local studio, P2O Hot Pilates, to help with their running program. I joined this studio on an introductory offer and fell in love with the family atmosphere and the work ethic of the instructors and members. These classes are no joke and are fantastic for developing strength and mobility in runners! I love that they offer a free organized running program that is open to all levels and even non-members. The owners want to encourage running in their community, and I am excited to be a part of that! I am currently leading the runs on Thursday a.m. at 5:30 and Sunday a.m. at 7:00, both from Big Lots at 8700 La Riviera Dr. We head to the bike trail and have a lot of fun. Please feel free to join us for a run!Third, my businesses are doing really well right now. I am enjoying an amazing explosion in my ecological consulting business. I love the work that I'm doing, all of which is supporting the conservation of biodiversity in California and beyond. I care so much about this work and am grateful I am able to make a living doing what I love. It's also wonderful working for myself. I was pretty freaked out at first about the challenges of starting my own business and all of the hardships that come along with that. I have been pleasantly surprised at how easy and fun it has been. Even with the health issues and medical expenses, I am able to make it work. My coaching business is also thriving, with athletes doing really well all around the country. It is an honor to help them and watch them work hard and reap the rewards of that hard work. That is why I love coaching.         Finally, it wouldn't be an RAF blog post without a health update. I know it seems weird that I am so public about something that is so personal and really unflattering. This blog has always been about honesty and sharing information and experiences with others in hopes that it will somehow help. The messages I receive from women who are either going through this same thing or know someone who is confirm that my openness is helping others, and that's what it's all about.This week confirmed that I made the right decision to postpone my marathon until December. My health issues reemerged at an alarming level this week, and I have become even more anemic, yet again. The good news is that I am working on the things that I can: overall strength and running speed. My endurance is not good at all, but I can do speed work without a problem. As always, once the spigot shuts off, I will be able to get my blood levels up and will be back where I left off.I had a hysteroscopy (scope inside my uterus) last week and confirmed that my big daddy fibroid is in fact occupying my entire uterus and is stuck inside the lining. I have a picture of this guy on my refrigerator. My friends who saw the picture started seeing fibroids in everything: banana muffins, emoticons. I will spare the rest of you that torture. So, the fibroid I have [...]

I Got You Babe


I had to make a tough decision this week about my racing schedule. I have been training for the Eugene Marathon now for months and am as fit as I have ever been heading into a marathon. I have conquered some major workouts and have been putting in the highest mileage since last fall. In my last post, I mentioned that my health issues had cropped up again and that I was taking some new medication to try to bring things under control. As luck would have it, the new medication worked for its intended purpose, though I had to up the dosage to get it to work. However, the side effects from the meds were pretty dramatic. Several days last week, I experienced severe GI distress for hours so terrible that I was unable to eat or even stand. I understand this to be a common side effect of the medication, but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with.As I missed a couple of days of training (and work!) I realized that I just wasn't going to be able to rally from this one. I could feel in my easy running that my blood levels had dropped again (confirmed yesterday with hemoglobin of 11.5 and hematocrit of 35). It feels like I'm running at altitude or through molasses. The easiest efforts feel harder than they should. I've had success at getting my blood levels to recover quickly, but my training suffers until they improve. So, I conferred with friends and coaches and decided that I should let Eugene go.One of the things that really struck me in my conversations about this was the distinction between just running another marathon and trying to achieve a gigantic goal. I have no doubt that, if my blood levels did rally in the next couple of weeks, I would have a decent race in Eugene. I'm sure I'm in sub-2:50 if not faster shape. I had to ask myself the question: what are you really wanting to do in Eugene? Do you just want to run a decent marathon or do you want to run your fastest marathon? We've all read stories of elite runners who overcame years of injury or sickness to come back and have spectacular races or seasons. What I am realizing is that you don't get to play the lead role in that story without making some really smart decisions about your training and racing. You have to decide what is most important and you have to go after that goal with the determination and drive of a predator. It is perfectly fine to race a bunch of races because you love the thrill of competition or racing, but that comes at a cost. You won't maximize your potential with that approach or if you do, you will pay later with a broken down body. I've seen it over and over. The people who achieve the big goals make sacrifices and smart decisions along the way that move them closer to their goals. So, I did the calculations. If I ran Eugene and then took the 4 week recovery into account, I wouldn't be ready to start training for another fast marathon until September. I think my best chances for a fast marathon are in my own back yard at the Cal International Marathon. I would need to get started training for that in a few weeks.So, my body decided not to cooperate this time around. As frustrating as this continues to be, I do know that my day will come and that there is a marathon PR or even an Olympic Trials qualifier in my future. I also know that if I don't work with my body and make smart decisions along the way, I won't reach my potential.So, I am starting over again, getting back to some speed work and letting my body recover a bit before launching into another marathon training cycle. I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, waking up to Sonny and Cher over and over and over. But, I'll take that over the a[...]

The one where I run a 1/2 marathon distance PR


That's right kids. What are the chances that both half marathons I run this spring end up being long, and not just a little long from Garminization, but 3/4 mile long? I feel like I should play the lottery some time soon. Here's a picture of me right after I finished. Do I look pissed?I think this is right before I exclaimed, "Damn it, Chad!" (a Fleet Feet Event Mgt. employee) as he put my finishers' medal around my neck.I have put off writing this race report because, quite frankly, it isn't fun to write about failures, and I also needed some time to cool down. I am not going to bash Fleet Feet Event Management, the organization that put on the event. They typically put on really professional races, but they had some bad luck of their own in the days leading up to this one. In short, they were short on volunteers for the event and they weren't able to supply enough course monitors to man the half marathon course. I'm sure they thought they had set up enough barriers and laid down enough chalk to keep everyone straight, but the course was very confusing to even the cyclists with maps who were leading the runners all over Sacramento.The first problem I had that day was forgetting my Garmin. I have never done that before! I thought I might try to be Zen for this one and just not use a watch, but OMG am I glad I found a loaner! I can't imagine how much more disastrous that race would have been had I not known how long I had been running after I lost the course. And, then having a record of some of my splits for posterity's sake since the recorded time was about 5-6 minutes slow. I saw my friend Erika right before the race and luckily she had a friend, Jacqueline, who was running the half marathon and generously offered me her Garmin. I was so humbled by this gesture! I will pay it forward one day, I promise!As I saw the pleas for volunteers from Fleet Feet Event Management stream across Facebook in the days leading up to the race, I had a bad feeling that something might go wrong. Given my experience at the Parkway Half and the fact that I had missed a 10k race the month before because of my health issues, I just wanted to run a legit race and test my fitness.I met the eventual winner at the start line and introduced myself. She runs for the Oiselle Racing Team, and I knew that she would lead the race from the gun since she has a 1:17 half marathon PR. I also found a friend at the start, Kristen, whom I have met at other races and expected her to be right up there in front too. This is an all-women's race, by the way, so the three of us formed the lead pack. Except that we really weren't a pack. From the gun, Alison was in the lead as I expected. She went out hot. I stuck to my race plan which was to run 6:10-6:20 pace for the first couple of miles to get in a groove. I didn't become discouraged as Alison and then Kristen increased their lead on me in those first few miles. I had read a fantastic race report from Ellie Greenwood, the winner of the 2014 Comrades Marathon, the day before where she emphasized the importance of never giving up. You just never know what might happen in a longer race. Especially a hot race. The temperatures would reach 100+ later that day, and I think it was about 80 degrees when I finished, so not exactly cool. I have been heat training so I knew I would race relatively well in those temperatures and that would be an advantage.Back to the race: Alison had gained a lead on Kristen and me by mile 3 and a cyclist dropped back to help us figure out where to go since we could no longer see the lead runner. Kristen was right with the cyclist and[...]

Shoes, Supplements and Strength


After months of posts about my health issues, I am happy to move on to much more important things: shoes, supplements and strength training!First, I should update you on my training. I can't say things have been as great as they were around the time I ran the Parkway Half Marathon. That truly was an exceptional time for me. My blood levels were peaked and I felt awesome. Since then, my blood levels have dropped quite a bit and I had to miss a race because of it. This regression is upsetting, for sure, but I am learning to cope with my new 'normal'. My condition is progressively improving, but that improvement curve is more sinusoidal than linear.I am learning a lot about patience and attitude. When my blood levels are higher, I have great workouts and when they are lower, my paces slow. BUT, I am doing the work that I need to to become a faster marathoner. I have really had to work on my attitude when my blood levels start to drop. I know it will affect my performance and it is really hard to even motivate myself to go out and run. I know that my goal for each workout is not how fast I run it, but just that I get it done at the right level of effort. As my blood levels rebound I will naturally get faster and paces will feel easier. The work I put in, regardless of how I feel, will pay off in fitness gains.I make this sound easy, but it's not. I am in the meat of my training for the Eugene Marathon right now and am doing the big Jack Daniels' workouts. I generally have two long runs per week with 10-14 miles of marathon and/or threshold pace mixed in. In the last week, I ran two marathon paced workouts of 10 miles. The first one was run with reasonable (not great) blood levels and the second was a week later with lower levels. The first workout felt absolutely great. I cruised along for 10 miles @ 6:10 - 6:20 pace with ease and felt fantastic. This was a pretty remarkable workout for me given how far out I am from the marathon (8 weeks!).In contrast, the one I did Thursday of this past week was not so fun. I had experienced the worst bleeding since March and am likely close to anemic again. I knew going into this workout that I was going to suffer. I drug my feet all day about even doing it and finally pushed myself out the door at around 7 pm. It was 85 degrees. This workout was a total of 14 miles with a continuous workout of 6 miles marathon pace + 1 mile threshold (T) + 3 miles marathon. I was mostly dreading that T pace. I started out into a headwind which really pissed me off and I decided to run back and forth on a two-mile stretch of the bike trail to get relief from that for at least half the workout. For some reason, this is easier for me to handle mentally than running out 5 miles and back. I broke the run down into two-mile chunks in my head. I started off around 6:25 pace for the first two miles into the wind. It felt hard. I turned and, with the wind at my back, was able to speed up ever so slightly. 4 miles done. I got some water and turned back into the wind. My pace remained steady around 6:20 through 6 miles. I had already decided to ditch the T pace mile if I was feeling crappy and almost forgot about it until I hit the half mile split in mile 7. I saw that my split was 3:03 and I decided I should try to get under 6:00 (my T pace) for this mile. I actually felt okay running 5:59 for that mile and then slowed for the M pace to complete mile 8. I stopped again for water and then finished up the last two miles under 6:15 pace. So, all in all, this workout was only 1-2 seconds slower per mile than the one I did the week befo[...]

The one where I run my fastest half marathon in almost five years


I am giddy about what has happened over the past four weeks. I have felt progressively better as my body has recovered from the most recent bout with anemia. I found out last week why when I got my blood test results back:Hemoglobin: 14.0 (11.9 a month ago!)Hematocrit: 42.6%Ferritin: 38 (19 a month ago!)These are numbers I have dreamed about. They are the levels that Jack said he thought I should be striving for. I didn't think it was possible for me since they are higher than I have ever tested! How did I do it? Well, the biggest factor was the lack of blood loss. I have swung in the opposite direction of where I was two months ago. I haven't lost any blood in nearly 30 days! This is unprecedented for me, but I am NOT complaining!I have also continued to supplement with liquid iron 2-3 times per day. I had been taking other products and was watching my blood levels either stagnate or decline. Once I stopped taking those, I seemed to do a lot better. It is really difficult to determine cause and effect with the supplements. What I know works is: liquid iron supplement + no blood loss.The challenge with this condition is that you never know when the flood events will hit. I have been walking on egg shells these last couple of weeks just waiting for one to hit. I can't say exactly why I haven't had one, but I suspect the progestin-only BCPS and all of the things I'm doing to reduce my estrogen levels must be contributing. It is also possible that the fibroids are shrinking. I can still feel them, but they do seem smaller. Wishful thinking? Maybe.I decided a month or so ago that I wanted to plan some races. I had to cancel two of the three races I had planned for the winter/early spring racing season due to this health issue and  was anemic for the one race I ran. So, I wanted to test out my fitness in a low-key half marathon. I chose the American River Parkway Half Marathon. This race course runs along the American River Parkway Trail which is where I do all of my training.I held off signing up for the race, because my calculations showed the next scheduled flood event would occur somewhere within the week leading up to the race, if I stayed on schedule. As I mentioned above, that didn't materialize but the anticipation was overwhelming. It also meant paying an extra $25 for the race ($75), but I figured that was worth it, especially since some of the funds went to support the Parkway Foundation. I use this trail so much, I was happy to contribute to that cause.I have been running well in training and doing some hefty workouts again in preparation for the Eugene Marathon in July. My lactate threshold pace is back down around 6:00/mile and my marathon pace has been around 6:20-6:25. I suspected, on a good day, that I could at least hold the same pace that I did for the 10 mile race a few weeks back (6:25 pace). I decided to start out around there and then try to negative split the race.Race weather was as perfect as you get here in Sacramento in April. It was foggy and cool. I actually wore arm warmers and gloves! The announcer said at the start that he was expecting some really fast times as a result. After the inexperienced and over-exuberant racing chaff separated from the wheat in the first 400m, I found myself pacing with a couple of guys. One was a friend who is faster than me, but he was doing a brick workout so had ridden for 90 minutes before the race. I was happy about that because for me it meant I had a chance of keeping up with him. Even though there was little to no wind, drafting is still a huge[...]

Still running a few pints low


And then, it was six weeks later. I'm not sure how time got away from me, but I apologize for not updating my blog sooner.To recap: Over the last 2-3 months, I have lost a lot of blood and become clinically anemic (low hemoglobin) because I have fibroids in my uterus. There are three of them and one is the size of a 16-week old fetus and the other 2 are about 6 weeks along. In fact, the big one completely fills my entire uterus! I got to see them in ultrasound pictures but decided not to get a printed copy to hang on the fridge. The main, troubling symptom is massive blood loss and the only way to recover from that is to take iron supplements and, well, stop bleeding.Last time we met, my hemoglobin had tanked to a low of 9.7. Over, the past six weeks, I got it up to a high of 12.4. My goal is to be around 14. My running mileage and intensity increased steadily with my blood levels. I began feeling so much better with each incremental gain in red blood cells. I have also found that this is not necessarily a linear process. Some weeks, my blood levels rose in what appeared to be regular increments while in others, they didn't go up at all, even under the same supplementation regime and without any blood loss. Then, some weeks, like last week, I lost so much blood that I ended up losing ground and became anemic again. Here is a quick record of my blood levels and corresponding workout milestones:2/14/14Hemoglobin: 9.7Hematocrit: 29.3Running workouts: Kept all workouts to short speed efforts. Ran about 3-4 days per week, ~20 miles/week. Felt very tired running. Had to stop numerous times to get through an easy run. Had to walk rest breaks when doing speed work.2/18/14Hemoglobin: 10.8Hematocrit: 33.7Running workouts: Still keeping to short speed efforts. Ran about 3-4 days per week, ~20 miles/week. Still felt very tired running. Still walking in rest breaks when doing speed work. 2/25/14Hemoglobin: 11.2Hematocrit: 35.4Running workouts: Finally starting to feel better. Ran a long run at around 7:30 pace midweek and it was hard. Heart rate averaged 88-90% of max for the whole run (usual pace at that HR range is ~6:10). Did a short speed workout over the weekend and it was the first time I didn't have to walk the recoveries! 48 miles this week. Felt less tired running in general. 3/6/14Hemoglobin: 11.7Hematocrit: 35.7Running workouts: Not much change here. Pretty disappointed that my hemoglobin didn't rise more over the last two weeks despite the iron supplements. I guess recovery from anemia isn't a linear process. I did some running on hilly trails and felt much better than I thought I would. However, I had to cut my first lactate threshold workout into chunks a few days later because I couldn't hold 6:15 pace for more than 800m:(.3/12/14Hemoglobin: 12.3Hematocrit: 38.7Running workouts: Had my first long workout with 9 miles at alternating marathon and lactate threshold pace. Ran all of it, but boy did I stop a lot. Averaged about 6:25 pace, but I did stop about 6 times during the course of this "continuous" workout. 3/21/14Hemoglobin: 12.4Hematocrit: 37.8Ferritin: 35Running workouts: Had my blood drawn on my own and decided to get ferritin checked too. Was happy to see that my iron stores are still up there! Ran a couple of lactate threshold workouts and stopped in at least one of the miles to complete at the faster paces (5:58-6:07). I don't recommend this, btw. It's not the way you're supposed to run them, but this is what happens when your brain is disconnected from your anemic body: yo[...]

Running with Anemia


Things are never so bad that they can't be made worse. ~Humphrey BogartI believe I first heard that quote while in the Air Force. It was probably in reference to a bad commander that I couldn't wait to see move on. The military tends to rotate commanders every 2-3 years so we would rejoice when a bad one left. I'm sure some crusty old Chief Master Sergeant saw us rejoicing and threw that quote our way. Inevitably, I learned from experience he was right when the bad commander was followed by someone much worse. I have held that quote in my brain for over 20 years not because I'm a pessimistic person, but because I am a realistic person who likes to be prepared.I'm going to pick up where we left off because I want to chronicle this adventure for those of you who may find yourselves in a similar situation. I get a great amount of info from others' blog posts and articles I find on the web. What I have found so far is that the issues I am dealing with are estimated to affect up to 80% of women and athletes are not spared. However, there is very little information specific to athletes out there on these topics. I decided I would at least share what I am going through in hopes that others will do the same making more information available to female athletes (and their significant others) everywhere.       Where we left off: Two weeks ago, I had dropped out of a half marathon race because I had an episode of blood loss the night before. I decided to contact my lady doc since I realized 4 weeks of continuous bleeding was no longer within a normal range of variability for me. She scheduled an ultrasound for me the Thursday of that week and my regular doc scheduled some blood tests for me. I was relieved to get the blood test results showing that I hadn't become anemic since my last blood tests in November. Just when I thought things were pretty bad, they got much worse. On Friday, I had a meeting scheduled and came prepared in case I had a major flooding episode. Well, the flood gates opened during the meeting and I could not control it. I had to politely excuse myself and drive home. This was flooding of biblical proportion. I had a dinner date with a friend that night at her house and experienced another flooding episode that led to an embarrassing admission on my part and sitting on a towel for the rest of the evening. My friend was, as I of course expected, very gracious.I went for two runs over that weekend. Seven miles on Saturday and 12 miles on Sunday. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to pull this off and maintain a decent (7:30) pace. I was definitely tired, but I was never on the verge of passing out or anything extreme. Last Monday at 2 a.m., I woke to heavy bleeding and decided I needed to take action. I immediately sent a message to my lady doc. It was returned immediately with an out of office message. Damn it! I was luckily able to make an appointment with my former lady doc for that morning.During that visit, my doc started with my ultrasound results which showed I had fibroids growing somewhere in my uterus. One of them was a big daddy, protruding 7cm into the uterus. The doc explained this was the likely culprit causing my excessive bleeding. However, she said that the IUD I had in place should be spewing out hormones to counteract the bleeding. We decided to have her take a look inside the madness, do an endometrial biopsy to rule out super bad stuff and remove the IUD to see if maybe it was contributing to my problems.When[...]

This one's for the ladies


My title is intended to serve as fair warning to readers of the male species and any women who are uncomfortable with girlie talk that this sh*t's about to get real. Fast. I really, really don't like talking about this stuff, even with close friends, so writing about it is not fun either. This blog has never been about comfortable writing for me, though. So, I'll just do what I normally do when I feel uncomfortable and picture you all naked, reading my blog, eating cheetos on your couches. There. That's better.I dropped out of my half marathon race on Sunday. Not a proud moment for me, but a necessary one. With all of the hard work I had put in, it was a great disappointment to not be able to test my fitness in a race. Again. Conditions were pretty abysmal, as all of the rain California was missing for these past few months blew in and dumped on the race course that morning. Seriously. I saw waterfalls in Golden Gate Park draining the burgeoning drainageways into lower lying areas. Given that and the fact that my Garmin completely fritzed out, I'm not sure it would have been a great test anyway. I still have no idea how fast I ran the 8 miles of the race that I did run before walking off the course. What ultimately stopped me was a health issue that has been developing for months.I know. I just got through an injury that sidelined me for months and now this. It sucks.My health problem is no doubt related to being in my mid-40s and likely some wackadoodle hormonal changes associated with my age. I've blogged about that before. However, this time, I am not talking about feeling a little tired or taking a day longer to recover. Here I am talking about, to be indelicate, bleeding like a stuck pig. I can't begin to quantify the amount of blood I have lost over the past few months, but it is a triumphant amount.Of course, with the loss of blood comes anemia, and that's what is limiting me right now. I am supplementing as much as I think I can safely (liquid ferrous sulfate in OJ, 2x per day) and doing everything right in terms of not eating calcium rich foods, no tea or coffee with it, etc.  I just think supplements are no match for my archenemy or, as I like to call her: She Who Must Not Be Named (SWMNBN).I have tested my ferritin levels (iron stores) regularly since last June and have seen a gradual decrease in those values over time: 70+ng/ml (June), 38 (Sep), 38 (Oct), 25 (Dec). So, clearly my body is losing iron stores despite the supplementation. That last downward jump, between October and November happened after my first encounter with SWMNBN. It lasted for 5 hours straight and, being my first episode, I was so afraid, I had the Genius on standby to take me to the emergency room if it didn't stop.I started really feeling the effects in my training about 3-4 weeks ago. My legs started getting that heavy feeling, and it seemed to take more effort than necessary to hit paces. I especially felt the effects after a big episode. I've now had 4 of these with a lot of "normal" ones in between. I would need to take 1-2 days off from running right after the major events and felt like I needed tons of sleep to recover.Without mentioning SWMNBN, I ran my fatigue and lower ferritin levels by my coach and said I thought that was contributing to my lower energy levels. He explained that a given ferritin value isn't really that useful. What is useful and important is the trend in values. He explained that hemoglobin levels were also ve[...]

Playing with intensity and volume


My training has been going very well this past month. The running injury I sustained from being overtrained in September is a distant memory. I knew that, when I resumed full training, I would need to do something differently, and the decision to work with Jack Daniels was a good one. I am excited to get my training plan every month, and it always surprises me. I have been able to execute the plan without an issue, and it is not an easy plan by any means! One thing that is very different with my current plan is the amount of quality running (defined by me as anything faster than marathon pace) I am doing as a percentage of my weekly mileage. When I saw that my mileage was to be kept at 55 miles per week (MPW) through January, I was a bit concerned having always believed that I had to run high mileage to be super fit. I am trying to prepare for a marathon in March, and I have always taken my mileage up to at least 90 MPW before a big race. I also know that Jack won't increase my volume by more than 5-10 miles per week, every three weeks, so projecting forward, I won't be running much more than 70 MPW max for this marathon. Do I need to in order to run a PR in the marathon? I don't think so.Why? Because of the volume of quality training I am doing. For example, this week, 50 percent of the 60 miles I am running will be run at faster than marathon pace (range of 5:30-6:30 pace; average ~6:15-6:20).  That's 30 miles of running at faster than 6:20 pace! I have never done that much quality volume in training. And, because my total volume is lower, I am handling it just fine. I am not sure that I could handle it if I were running 80+ miles per week. This is significant because I used to get my race-ready confidence from being able to hit goal marathon pace for 9 miles (3 x 3 mile workout) before my marathon. Now, I'm running anywhere from 10-12 continuous miles at a few seconds slower than GMP a couple of times a week and that is an amazing confidence booster. As we all know, so much of marathon performance is based on confidence in our training and ability to hold GMP.What I notice with this high quality training is that I go into each run feeling relatively fresh. I don't have dead legs to contend with because I'm running 5-8 miles easy, often including 6 strides, on the days between them. The other thing that I really like about this training is it gets me back to having distinct phases of training with a specific training focus for each. I know that I do much better when I progress from speed to strength to race specific training. My last program alternated speed and strength workouts on a weekly basis, and I didn't respond as well to that.The biggest lesson I've learned about training lately is that one size does not fit all. And, even if the size fit a few years ago, it may no longer fit today. The best plan for each of us is the plan that keeps us running consistently, and we are often the best judge of what that plan looks like. There are a number of different ways to train to become a faster runner. Trying something new is a gift, even if it doesn't pan out. At least you've learned something new about yourself as an athlete. Maybe this big experiment I am undertaking with quality and volume won't pan out, but I don't care. I am hopeful that it will, but I will learn something no matter what.Photo by Ian Shive (text added).Maybe the most significant thing that has changed in my life recently is tha[...]

Ending 2013 on a high note


I honestly can't believe that we are at the end of 2013 and that I haven't updated my blog in almost a month! Sorry!So much has happened these last several weeks, so I will attempt to quickly hit the highlights.My 5 a.m. running crew. They are up to running12 milers!1. I am training Pain free. This is a HUGE deal. I have not had pain from my injury for at least three weeks and am now able to train like normal. I might go so far as to say that I am taking running for granted again. It is so nice. I know many of you can relate to the mental torture that an injury wreaks. This one was insidious. The pain didn't come on until after about 4 miles, so I wasn't really able to do out and back runs longer than 2 miles. I was stuck running loops so I could abandon ship if I felt pain. This also meant I couldn't meet anyone to run since I couldn't really guarantee I would make it all the way. This sucked because I love my running buddies and there's no better way to socialize with running buddies than running together. I am so glad I am able to train with them again. I am also back to running with my 4-legged buddies. We have worked very hard on not pulling.2. I am getting fit. After spending 12 weeks on the injured reserve list, I was not sure how much fitness I had lost. I didn't completely stop running during that period, but not being able to run longer than 4-6 miles at a time takes a toll. These past four weeks, I have been able to execute my plan as written and it has not been easy! Whereas at the beginning of the month, I couldn't run over 8 miles, this month I've run four, 12+ mile runs! So, exciting. Two of those runs had 10 miles of marathon pace (MP) in the middle. I was nervous about these workouts given how little longer running I had done in the preceding 3 months. I was shocked when I ran the first 10-mile MP workout in 1:04:30. It felt awesome and my heart rate was well within the marathon zone (for me, anyway). Last weekend, I ran 13 miles with 10 miles at MP and was thrilled to run that in 1:03:10 for the 10 miles with the same average heart rate as the workout two weeks before. My interval workouts are becoming speedier as well each week. Clearly, I didn't lose much fitness during the time I was injured. I wonder about this since my mileage was so low, AND I decided not to cross train. This was a big change for me. I typically work my butt off cross training when injured, but I ran across a video of Coach Jack Daniels discussing cross training during injury, and it resonated with me. Of course being able to do some running and being able to do speed work were huge factors keeping me from going crazy. So, not cross training was palatable. Oh, and my Garmin 620 is a dream. Last time I mentioned that it was not quite reporting accurate VO2Max results, but that changed this month. As of today, my VO2Max is now at 59! That's actually pretty darn close to where I think it should be given my workouts and heart rates, though it might be a bit on the high side.  3. Next Marathon? Right now, I am running ~50 miles per week with a long run of 12-13 miles. I am signed up for the Napa Valley Marathon on March 2nd. The math reveals that I have about eight weeks to go before that race. It's hard for me to picture a world where I can be ready to run sub-2:43 in eight weeks given where I am now. I actually feel really confident about my fitness, especially after running [...]