Monday, June 25, 2012

An Off Day For The Garmin

This was an out and back run - oops!
Some days we have "on" days and some days we have "off" days.  For me, this was neither - it was a run that was more "meh" than anything.  Hot, humid, and sunny usually doesn't make for great runs, so I'll just chalk it up to a decent run on a not so ideal day.  This run was more about my Garmin than anything else and I am convinced it had an "off" day, which is fine since it works perfectly nearly 99% of the other days.

Pretty sure I wasn't running down mountains
So what went wrong, you ask?  Well, I was just uploading some of my files from the past week and happened to notice something that stood out - my watch said that I had an elevation gain of 551 ft and a loss of 1,211 ft.  Strange, since this was an out and back run on a paved trail that is typically a 1% grade with a few occasional climbs, but certainly nothing that would give me those readings.  It is also interesting that it registered close to double the loss than gain.  Not sure why the math made it come out to that, but it is interesting.  Look at the profile above - doesn't look like it should for an out and back, does it?

Just a simple out and back route
Not sure why it happened, since the pace and distance readings were spot on, but it is always interesting to see how the gps takes in data and formulates it into something we find meaningful.  Well sometimes I guess, it isn't quite as meaningful. 

Lessons to be learned

We just have to take what these watches (or cell phone apps) provide with a grain of salt, whether it is a funky pace reading or something else.  We all have to remember that these watches are to supplement the data our body provides.  If it feels like you are running an 8:00/mile and your watch is showing 11:00s, don't just keep trying to speed up till it reads 8:00.  Let your body dictate what you do and your watch will be there to confirm things for you (usually).

And when it comes to a race especially, it is important to know what your goal paces feel like, so if you want the data, do some pace driven runs where you cover up the face of the watch and let your body dictate the pace.  See how close you can get to your goal pace.  Its a great way to mix up your regular runs and can be a fun game to play.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Back At The Track

Alan Webb Sets American Mile Record
I've said it before, but I'll say it again - the track is where I feel most at home. Growing up running high school track, anytime I step foot on a track, I immediately start get flashbacks to "the good old days". Our Reston =PR= DTP program just kicked off last week and we had our first track workout of the season last night, despite the 100 degree temps. Shockingly, we had a solid group of about 20+ people show up! Must be some hardcore runners we've got this session! And for the next 20 weeks, we'll continue to lay all the sweat and grit of pushing the pace out there and it doesn't get much better than that! Oh, and by the way, did you know that the track we run at is legendary?  South Lakes High School is famous in track circles as being the high school of Alan Webb, who not only holds the American record in the mile (see photo above), but became the 1st high school miler to run a sub-4 minute mile indoors AND shattered Jim Ryun's high school mile record to run 3:53:43!  Oh, and he also will be running in the US Olympic Trials Saturday night in the 5k, so feel free to tune in.

For me, going to the tack is a chance to re-ignite that fire for speed. So now that our new group of DTP has been initiated to the summer heat, its all good from here on out. Last night's workout was one our training programs typically start with as a way of setting a baseline for where your fitness is. We come back about a month or so later and do the same workout to see how much improvement has been made. The workout goes like this:

  • 10-15 min warm up
  • 1600m (@ 10k/10 mile pace)
  • 2 x 800 (@ 5k pace)
  • 4 x 400 (@ 5k pace, descending to faster if still feeling good)
  • 3 min rest between each
Its a great workout that introduces a solid amount of faster running, without overtaxing the system.  If you read here, this workout probably sounds familiar since she just wrote about it as well.  And if run properly, doesn't leave you exhausted by the end.  One of the most common mistakes people make is to run track workouts too hard.  Just because its faster running, doesn't mean it has to be super fast.  Often times, especially for runners training for 1/2 marathon to marathon distances, you shouldn't be running your track workouts faster than 5k/10k pace.  That's not typically the purpose of the workout.  If you do run them too fast, you risk not getting the desired training benefit and/or the inability to adequately recover in time for the next quality session.

So being that it was 100 degrees yesterday, we advised most people to cut the workout a bit shorter to keep things safe.  Most people, including myself, did everything as listed, but cut the last 2 400s.  In that kind of heat, that was more than enough.

  • 1600 - 6:10
  • 800 - 3:02
  • 800 - 3:00
  • 400 - 1:27
  • 400 - 1:23
Now could I have run those faster?  Sure I could!  But you have to remember that these are designed to be run comfortably hard at the prescribed effort, not as fast as you can go to survive.  But the nice thing is that I can look back at this same workout I've done a number of times and compare my times.

             Then (Dec)    Now
1600      6:28               6:11
800        3:09               3:02
800        3:07               3:00
400        1:29               1:27
400        1:25               1:23

What you see is an across the board improvement in every interval, while also working the SAME effort.  That is the key.  You can take a previous time and run faster the next week, month, or year, but if you don't have a benchmark of a consistent effort to put forth, there is no way to measure if you just ran harder or if you are actually more fit.

So despite the heat, I was happy to welcome back the track to my usual weekly workouts.  Can't wait for more!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Race Report: Run With Dad 5k

As I mentioned in my Friday post, I ran the Run With Dad 5k on Sunday - otherwise known as my 1st Father's Day!  I couldn't think of a more fitting way to celebrate than to run a Father's Day 5k.  If I am being honest though, I knew I wouldn't be running this race all out.  Mentally and physically, I just didn't have it in me to try to run PR effort.  With a 1 month old, I just haven't been able to squeeze in enough of the 5k type stuff that would put me in 5k race shape.  I am still in great running shape all things considered, but just not race ready for a gut busting effort.  Not to mention, my body comp has taken a slight hit and I am a few lbs heavier.  All of those factors played a role.  So my goal for the race was to run a hard effort through 2 miles and then pick it up for the last mile at my actual 5k race pace.

Race morning turned out to be great - temps around 60 felt cool and crisp.  I went out for a 2+ mile warm up just to get in some pre-race miles and scope out the course a bit.  Unlike most courses, this one took place on a smaller network of trails in Reston, which means it would have lots of turns and hills.  I was told ahead of time that it is a tough course, so I just wanted to get an idea of what I had in store.  Sure enough, the rumors were true - lots of little short, steep ones and only one big hill that we'd go down in the 1st 1/2 mile and have to come back up toward the finish.  So after my warm up and a couple of race pace strides, I headed over to the start line on the high school track with about 5 minutes till the start.

I seeded myself about 3 rows back, knowing that this race would have plenty of faster runners in it.  Most of the =PR= Racing Team was there, so I put myself where I thought I'd fit in, which turned out to be a pretty good spot.  Once the gun sounded, we were off and I didn't really have any jostling for position, since everyone up front was pretty much where they should be.  After the quick 300m on the track, we headed off into the woods.  The majority of the first mile was downhill, so I knew my pace would be a bit faster than the rest of the race.  After winding through the tree covered trails, we crossed the Mile 1 marker in about 6:02.

I knew Mile 2 had a bunch more hills and that Mile 3 would be largely up hill, since Mile 1 was largely downhill, so I was glad to come through still feeling good.  I kept the effort the same, but my pace slowed, since we hit more little hills.  Mainly, I was keeping it in the 6:20 range and I felt like I had another gear, which was where I wanted to be, so I could pick it up for the last mile for a solid run.  I came through Mile 2 in 6:22 and started upping the effort.

Maybe it was because of the constant weaving or the woods, but the race seemed to pass by very quickly.  Before I knew it, I was on Mile 3 and upping the pace.  I started to hurt a bit, since we had to pretty much go up hill the entire time until getting back to the track.  As we weaved our way back, we finally came up on the big hill and I gave it everything, passing 3 people in the process.  After about 100 meters, we turned back onto the track, where I continued to pick it up.  My Mile 3 split came in around 6:10, which I was pretty happy with considering it was up hill.  Effort wise, it was much harder than any other mile.  As a matter of fact, keeping the same effort over the last .1 yielded a 5:15/mile pace, which sounds about right.  It was tough working those up hills so hard!

I came through the finish in 19:11, with my 3rd fastest 5k time ever.  Which is kind of funny to me now, since I wasn't really working terribly hard, it was a tough course, and my fitness isn't quite there yet.  Says a lot about where I've come from.  Doesn't seem like too long ago that I had my breakthrough 5k performance of 19:31.  Of course, my PR is now almost a full minute faster than that.

After the race, I met up with some friends at the finishline and we headed out for a long cool down to get in more miles on the day.  To me, the day was more about celebrating being a dad, and getting in a solid long run workout with a hard 5k in the middle.  I ended up with about 10 mi on the day total.

When we got back from running, it was just in time for the awards ceremony.  Sure enough, I won my age group and took home a gift certificate to =PR=, which will be money well spent for sure.

With a stacked field, I was glad to get my award, though some of the other age groups had more speedy people.  Overall, I finished 26/469, which is right around the top 5%.  Not too bad for a fast field.  Even if I gave it a full effort, I only would have been a few spots higher, so it was kind of nice to wake up this morning not feeling like someone took a sledgehammer to my body! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Tidbits - Father's Day Edition

Sometimes, I feel like the only way to get a post in is just to bullet point style the crap out of things.  When life is busy, there isn't time for long in depth posts, so here we go:

- I'm a winner!  I recently won a Camelback Racing Vest in a giveaway on Steve in a Speedo's site.  Since this is the first time I've seen a Camelback racing vest, I'm really looking forward to using it during the hot summer months.  Looks pretty intense!

- Since Father's Day is on Sunday, I figured it would be appropriate to run in a Father's Day 5k.  Though I'm certainly not in peak condition, I'm just looking forward to getting out there and getting in a solid workout.  I'm going to race it, but I just don't think I am going to match my recent PR.

- Last week I managed to hit 40+ miles, despite getting all of my runs done in the morning.  This typically means 5 am runs, but I am starting to get into the habit now, so it is easier to just get it done without battling the head demons telling you to go back to sleep.

- The only problem with my morning schedule is that I typically need to be downtown by 8:30 am, which means I really only have 1 hr to actually run when you do the math.  For anyone not living in the DC area, the sad fact is that typical commutes are over an hour.  In my case, its about 1:15 each way.  Getting up at 5 am and hitting the trails by 5:15, means I get back by 6:15, shower, eat, and am back out the door for work by 7:15.  Its rush, rush, rush all day, but then I finally come home and have the whole evening to spend with Rebecca and the little man.  The ability to do that in the evening, makes the hectic mornings worthwhile.

 - No post would be complete without a cute baby picture, right?

Is the football really big or am I that small???

Friday, June 8, 2012

Making It Happen

As expected, being a dad has brought a new definition to the term "busy" to my world.  This of course means that all the other "stuff" you used to do takes a back seat to your primary responsibility of taking care of the little man.  Of course, this doesn't mean life as you know it is over, either.  For years since I've been reading blogs, I've come to learn the sacrifices that people make in order to make things work.  For example, waking up early to get a workout in, simply because if it is going to happen, then that is when it will.  I never fully grasped this concept until I placed myself into the situation once Baby Z entered the world.

For me personally, when I am gone all day at work and get home, I want to see the little guy, not leave out the door again for 1-2 hrs, only to see him for a few short hours before we are off to sleep to do it all over again.  I want to spend as much time as possible within my means.  So if I want to run, often times the morning is the best chance.  Both Baby Z and Rebecca are still sleeping at 5 am and still are typically by the time I come back, so it just makes sense.  Nobody loses out, except for my body, which will eventually adapt to the slightly short sleep cycle.

The main difference between my morning runs now versus before Baby Z are the urgency.  Like I said, if I am going to get a run in now, this is when it will happen, period.  There is no guarantee that I will have another moment later on, so if I want to get a run in, first thing it is.  Previously, I'd set my alarm and if I was tired still, I'd just get the run in later in the day, no biggie.  Now, I don't really have that option.  When I get home from work, it is one thing after another, between spending time with him, giving him a bath, eating dinner, etc.  Before I know it, it is 9 pm and the last thing I feel like doing is going for a run, whether outside in the dark or on the treadmill at home.  Of course, that may change at some point if I absolutely need to get in a run when I am actually training for something that requires more dedication, but the key is this:

The priorities in your life change when you have a baby.  No doubt about it.  But since running is still a high priority in my life, I have to make time for it.  Nobody else will do the work for me.  If I want it, I need to make it happen.

And that is exactly what I am doing.


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