August 20: Running on the National Mall

Moving, especially for a new job, is exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. I have not worked out consistently since May. I finally felt comfortable enough after 5 weeks to venture out for a run around my neighborhood. In my part of town, people don’t really exercise outdoors (and likely not at all). I committed to running for 20 minutes, which I knew was about all I could manage having not run in months and having not worked out in 2.5 weeks (I mistakenly thought the mile I walk each day was doing something for me cardiovascularly). To compound my issue, almost all of my run was uphill! So yeah, for two days I was walking quite gingerly.

My cousin, whom I live with, invited me to go running with his friends after work. I am not an after work exerciser, but I couldn’t resist the lure of running on the Mall. When my cousin said he planned to run from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, which turns out to be about 4.6 miles, I said I would do 2. We missed the rain, so the weather was perfect for running and the sand paths were well-packed and a great running surface. Since my cousin is preparing for the FBI fitness test, he had a different purpose for running, i.e., speed. He charted the course for me and said we’d meet at the WWII Memorial. Off he went. I knew better than to keep up with him, but I was trying to keep my eye on him until I oriented myself with just where I was on the Mall.

I was done by the time I reached the WWII Memorial. I prayed for red lights so I could have a reprieve as I waited to cross the street. I kept wondering how I could be so out of shape. I mean, I just ran hills two days before! A mile shouldn’t wear me out like that. I told my cousin that I was walking back to the car, and he told me no. I was given as much time as I needed to recover, and we started back toward the car.

The thing about running is you can spend lots of time with your thoughts (I think it’s unsafe to run outdoors with earphones on, so I don’t listen to music.). As my body began to rack with great discomfort, I couldn’t help but be reminded that I felt about as bad as I did running across the finish line of my first race, which was a 10K. I wanted to stop running, but I drew on my experience at the Flying Pig and willed myself to the end. The other thing I realized was that I was running a lot more than 2 miles. The most important lesson I learned running last night was that if I am going to continue to run with my cousin in the evenings, I have to do better about fueling my body. Cookies and a PB&J sandwich were such bad choices! I’m embarrassed to even type it, but it’s the truth.

I managed to make it back to the Capitol where my cousin was waiting. I was so nauseous when I should have been feeling awesome. Fortunately, the scenery more than made up for my ill-planned run. I mean, why not enjoy the time spent working out? And what better than taking in the sights of our Nation’s capital!?!? It was a relief and a beautiful sight seeing the U.S. Capitol lit up at against the dusk sky as I made my final push down the Mall. For just a moment, I forgot about my discomfort and savored the moment. It’s going to be really pretty to run in the Fall, and I’m looking forward to it. I plan to be on the Mall every Monday I am able to run. I’m in the process of setting goals, but the end goal is to run from the Capitol to the Jefferson Memorial, which I estimate is about 6 miles round trip. The Jefferson Memorial is my favorite monument. It’s so serene by the Tidal Basin because very few people take the time to walk the extra distance. Framed by cherry blossoms, it’s so beautiful. But before I get my personal 10K on, I have to manage running from the Capitol to the WWII Memorial and back. As it turns out, the distance round trip is about 4 miles, and I ran it in 33 minutes, which includes the time I was stopped at lights. So while my poor running-day diet was highly problematic, the fact that I was averaging sub-10 minute pace for that distance was more likely my issue. It is refreshing, however, to know that with proper conditioning, I should be able to put up some personal bests in future races!
I guess walking one mile a day during the work week has been helping a sista out *smile*


June 14: Heart rate training revisted

I am a convert! Heart rate training is where it’s at to improve stamina and endurance for long distance running. I averaged a 12:07 min/mi at 80% MHR during my 40 minute weekly run this morning. On May 18, I ran a 13:52 min/mi and stayed in the 70-80% sports zone for 90% of the time; today, I stayed in the sports zone for 98% of the time *smile*.

Saturday I introduced speed work into my routine. I sprinted 4 X 400 m while slowly jogging a recovery 400 m lap. My fastest lap was the 3rd sprint, which I completed in 1:57. The weekend before, I actually sprinted 400 m in 1:45 but I also felt like I was going to faint afterwards, so I’ll build up to that lol! Sunday, I ran 7.67 miles, averaging a 10:27 min/mi. I had to stop a few times within the first two miles to beat my calves into submission. The compartmental syndrome has really flared up lately; I need to buy a pair of compression socks and pray that minimizes the discomfort. Otherwise, I will most certainly have to walk part of the half-marathon. My feet become so numb that I have to watch my stride to make sure my feet land properly; they have a tendency to roll inward already, so when the numbness kicks in, the pronation becomes even worse.

Since my morning run was sub-12:12, I have accomplished one goal I set two weeks ago. Now I just have to build my long runs up to 96 minutes, which I will in two weeks. I planned my running schedule through August 28, after which I officially begin training for the half-marathon. By August 28, I plan to be running 13 miles on long run days and be down to a 10:00 min/mi for 80% MHR days. How exciting!


June 5: Pre-training for Rock ‘N Roll half-marathon in Vegas revisted

Well, I successfully completed my first three weeks of pre-training for the 13.1 in a few months. I have seen improvements in my endurance and stamina thanks in part to heart rate training. The concrete and asphalt were doing a number on my feet and joints, so I mostly run on an indoor  track or an outdoor high school track these days. It’s not as fun running in circles as it is taking on the varied terrain of my old running routes, but I have zero interest in injuring myself.

For June, I am still only running four days a week. To switch things up, I am running 40 minutes at 80% MHR on Tuesdays and running six-8 minute intervals on Thursdays. Saturdays I am introducing speed work into my routine. Sundays I am running for time while keeping effort below 85% MHR. So instead of 2 days of heart rate training, I am doing 3 days this month. When I run at 80-85% effort, I feel like I can just keep running. I want to be able to run as much of the 13.1 miles as I possibly can, and slowly building up aerobic endurance is the key. Currently, I am running slower than my 10K pace, but even at an 11 minute mile, I can complete a half marathon in 2.5 hours. I’m confident that come December, I’ll be running at least a 10 minute mile at 80-85% effort.

Since I am increasing the time of my runs on Sundays, I have been particularly attentive to hydration. I stop for a few seconds every 2 miles to rehydrate. I notice an immediate improvement in my heart rate; at a constant pace, my heart rate stays lower just the first mile after a water break compared to the last 0.5 mile prior to the next water break. Fortunately the fact that it is hot and humid here in SW Ohio encourages me to drink much more water than I had been during the cooler months.

By the end of these next four weeks, my two running goals are to finish a Tuesday run sub-12:12 (which would be a full minute off my June 1 time) and to finish a Sunday run sub-11:00 for 90 minutes (which would be 20s per mile faster for 27 minutes longer than my June 5 time). I like to switch things up, so the key for me is to just be consistent as much as possible particularly with three conferences in four weeks. So, we’ll see how I’m running in four weeks!


May 23: Pre-training for Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon Revisted

What a weekend! In hindsight, I probably did a bit too much so I have given myself a rest day today. On Saturday, my goal was to run 4.5 miles at a 10:15 – 11:30 minute/mile pace and see how my heart rate responded. I included a second zone in the program to run 1 mile at a slightly faster pace if I still had any energy left. Well, after 4.5 miles I felt good, so I ran the mile. After 5.5 miles, I still felt good and pushed myself to run 10 kilometers! I actually beat my 10K race pace and averaged 10:30 minutes per mile *smile* My average heart rate was 176 bpm or 92% of my maximum heart rate; I want it at least 10% lower.

Initially, it was challenging to maintain a steady pace. Even though I gave myself plenty of buffer room, I found myself running faster than 10:15 minute/mile quite often. After a couple of miles, I settled in to the pace, though. After running my own 10K, I ate breakfast and headed to step and sculpt. I enjoy the class too much to miss it. Surprisingly, I still had plenty of energy for my second workout of the day.

Then Sunday morning, I was up bright and early to begin hydrating. After Saturday’s run, I lost 1.4 pounds due to loss of water. I had a slice of whole wheat bread with peanut butter, sliced banana, honey and cinnamon for a pre-run snack. After 30 minutes, I laced up and hit the pavement toward the high school track to run 4 X 800m intervals at 9:30 – 10:45 minute/mile pace. Since I am new at training with a heart rate monitor, I like to give myself some leeway in sticking to a pace. After each 800m interval, I walked for 0.2 miles (the watch wouldn’t let me program 0.25 miles). In mentally preparing for the interval training, I wanted to jog in between each interval. I found that I needed real recovery time, so I walked. Maybe next week, I will be able to slow my running pace and not walk during the recovery period.

Late Sunday, I noticed my lower back was rather sore. I wasn’t sure if all the physical activity was the cause or if I overextended my back doing supermans in step and sculpt. I stretched throughout the day and feel much better this morning. I’m usually pretty vigilant about proper form during exercising, but I must be even more mindful in the future. I have a long road ahead in training for this half-marathon. I am not interested in being sidelined with a preventable injury.

Tuesday and Wednesday, I am back to training based on heart rate rather than pace. My goal is to develop enough patience so that I can do three or four days in June using heart rate training. As I practically sprinted around the track, I felts as though I was betraying the process of heart rate training even though learning to maintain a pace for an extended distance is an important part of training for any race. I’m not going to beat myself up too badly; I’m just taking heart rate training one run at a time!

Recap for 1st five days of pre-training:

  1. Wednesday: Ran 38 minutes. Average pace: 13:52 min/mi. Average HR: 144 bpm (75% MHR)
  2. Thursday: 45 minutes in total body tone group fitness class; 15 minutes May 2011 SHAPE abs workout
  3. Friday: 60 minutes in group fitness Pilates; 51 minutes ballet conditioning DVD
  4. Saturday: Ran 66 minutes. Average pace: 10:30 min/mi. Average HR: 176 bpm (92% MHR); 60 minutes step and sculpt group fitness
  5. Sunday: Ran 33 minutes: 4 X 800m intervals, walked 320 m recovery. Average pace per run-walk interval: 11:57 min/mi. Average HR. 166 bpm (86% MHR); May 2011 SHAPE abs workout

I am going to give the long, easy runs on Saturdays another shot next weekend. But I had the most insatiable appetite after running and attending step class. I did well and ate healthy carbohydrates, protein and fats. I really, really, really wanted some ice cream though! If my appetite goes haywire again, then I will just move my long run to Friday mornings and do ballet on Saturday.

May 15: Heart rate training

My new Polar RS300X heart rate monitor to help improve my aerobic capacity

I bit the bullet and purchased a Polar RS300X heart rate monitor with S1 foot pod from last week. It arrived on Friday, but I waited until my long run day to test it out. The RS300X is more like a computer than a typical fitness watch. I purchased the bundle for $150 since the items sold separately cost nearly $300. After considerable research on the Polar website, I opted for the foot pod instead of the GPS because I wanted more instantaneous data about my pace and distance.

I set up the watch with my personal information Saturday night. The program asks typical vitals like height, weight and birth date as well as how frequently I work out. Sunday morning, I strapped on the transmitter and completed the Polar Fit Test to calculate a value similar to a VO2 max, which is the amount of oxygen my body can uptake at maximum capacity. Ironically, the Fit Test required that I be at rest for five minutes to compute my value. According to the chart that comes in the user manual, my VO2 max of 52 makes me “elite” lol. I was quite shocked by this information.

Following the Fit Test, which I plan to do every Sunday morning, I dressed in my workout clothes and hit the pavement toward the track at the nearby high school so I could calibrate the foot pod. As I suspected, with very little effort, my heart rate was 85-100% of my maximum heart rate; such a result is exactly why I wanted to incorporate heart rate training into my fitness plans.

I botched the foot pod calibration because I went under the wrong “settings” menu. I was still able to determine pace and distance, though how accurately I am not sure. Since it was great weather to run, I played around with different pre-programmed workouts on the RS300X. I tried interval training. For the first zone, I was to keep my heart rate about 60% of my maximum heart rate while in zone two I could go up to 85% of MHR. I had to walk for the five minutes of zone 1 to keep my heart rate within range, and I slogged along at an 11 minute mile for the second zone. Over time, as my aerobic training improves, I will be able to run faster while still keeping my heart rate within the two ranges of interval training.

Overall, I am really pleased with the RS300X and foot pod. It will take some time to become fully accustomed to the features, but it has everything I need for what I want to do. When I am not doing cardio, I switch the watch to “Free” mode so that no pre-defined heart rate range limits are set. I can train in my Ownzone™ meaning that the program is tailored specifically to my vitals and fitness level. I can even make up my own routine, but we’ll wait until I fully exploit the pre-set programs before I go tinkering.

I think the main features that I appreciate after just a two days of using it are that I have an accurate number of calories burned, that I can monitor how my fitness level and efficiency improves, and that I can aerobically train my heart rather than anaerobically train it as I have been doing probably my entire life. I am going to be SO ready for my next race *smile* Sub-10 minute pace, here I come!

April 10: Training for 10K back on

Since the early hill on my 6.2 mile course challenged me more than I anticipated last Sunday, I opted to run the route backwards. Unfortunately, because I didn’t advance in the route enough last week, I managed to get lost *smile* I didn’t run the entire time because my compartment syndrome constricted blood flow to my lower legs making it uncomfortable to endure for more than a couple miles. I walked until blood flow returned to normal then began to run again. Once I shortened my running stride considerably more, I didn’t have as much constriction; by then, the damage had be done, so to say. I really need to be sure to watch my stride, especially on race day. Now that I am more cardiovascularly fit, I want to go hard early in a long run. But I have to be patient and save my juice until the end. Lesson re-learned.

I am travelling again for several days later this week, but I will have access to a fitness room and presumably a treadmill. I won’t make the same mistake of slackening off training this time!

April 3: Training for 10K stalled

I’m sad to say that my week long trip to Anaheim, California for a conference last week pretty much derailed my 10K training. Well, not the trip itself, but the fact that I was so off my normal routine. Our hotel did not have a fitness room, but I managed to workout for about 30 minutes each morning doing body weight exercises in circuits. Our hotel was at least one mile each way from the site where my division held symposia, so I at least exerted myself somewhat. By the time I learned my surroundings enough to figure out where I could run and have some sense of direction, I had lost the motivation to do that much exercising. I’m sure the most unhealthy food choices I made had a lot do with my lethargy. While I know I should have mustered up more willpower and just eaten house salads twice a day for six days, I couldn’t resist the 30th anniversary chocolate cake cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory; the BBQ shrimp and grits and gumbo; chicken sandwiches and fries; or Subway cookies. Yes, I lost my mind.

So, you see where this is going. Sunday morning, I mentally prepared to run 6.2 miles. I basically made it 1.25 miles before my hamstrings and calves just said “Eff you!” I couldn’t take the fussing out, so I hobbled on home rather than continuing to run or walk anymore of my planned route. I was truly heartbroken because I had been making such great progress in my training. I expected setbacks but not quite like this. I’m making sure to hit group fitness everyday this week and running a mile on the indoor track. I will try 6.2 again Sunday, even if I have to walk most of it.

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