Race Week! #HHR2016

It’s taper time! I’m resting today and wishing I was running, although I just might cheat and give my son Cole a tour of the Hospital Hill 5K course he’s going to run on Friday. He’s been running with me lately, adding to his soccer fitness. Here we are at the track warming up for an interval workout last week:

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He’s wearing the Skora PHASE-X, which he also wore for cross-country in the fall and track this spring. I’m in FIT, my favorite all-purpose running shoe.

I’ve been using heart rate zones with my Fenix 3 and Mio Link to regulate effort during this training cycle and I’m really pleased with the plan on Garmin Connect. I love how it loads the workout to my watch, then the details are automatic through the run. It’s especially great with intervals – automatic laps – no losing count or cheating on rest time! Here’s a shot from earlier this spring – an Easy Run:

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It’s easy to check if you’re in the zone – I like to put this screen in the rotation – numbers plus a color range:

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If you fall below or exceed the zone, the watch buzzes at you and displays a screen to let you know you’re out of it:

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Orange says I’m above zone 2. I had my zones set pretty conservatively back in the spring – I’ve now put them back to a baseline Max HR of 179 based on my age. The watch will readjust based on your measured Max HR. It can also use your HR data to calculate a Lactate Threshold pace – very cool!

Last interval workout before Hospital Hill!

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You vs. the Clock – solo tune-up “races” #HHR2016

My training plan for Hospital Hill specified “race a 10K” this past Saturday. A tune-up race is a great way to assess your fitness level and adjust your pacing for your goal race. What should you be doing in a tune-up race?

  • Giving good effort but not max effort. Save it for your “A” race.
  • Using it as a dress rehearsal – time of day, practice your hydration and nutrition. Wear what you’re going to wear. Nothing new on race day – now’s your chance!
  • Setting a goal for your tune-up race. If you don’t have a goal, you’re guaranteed a meh performance.
  • Racing, if possible. Duh. However…

I didn’t have time for a 10K this Saturday morning – the day was booked, starting at 9am. So, I went out to my local track (my kids’ jr. high has a nice one) and “raced” against the clock. This is the first time I’ve tried to adopt a race mentality for a training run. Those training runs on your calendar that specify a race are encouraging you to kick it up a notch, so I tried to do that. I’m a believer in competition pushing your limits. This effect can be as simple as realizing that the runner who was 5 yards ahead of you is now 10 yards ahead. Pick it up!

Before I set out for the track, I used my most recent race effort to calculate a target pace. I use a simple race times predictor that grades out an effort at one distance to predict what you can do at another distance.

Since I ran a 20:29 5K just a few weeks ago, the predictor said I ought to be able to do a 10K in 42:42. So, I backed that out using a pace calculator, which yielded a 6:52 pace. Going below that was my tune-up race goal.

The morning was very cool, sunny, with a brisk north wind. I dressed out in some sweet new black Skora Tempos right out of the box along with my usual hodgepodge of apparel. I quaffed a double espresso and a glass of water at home, did my lunge matrix, and hopped in the car for the short trip to the track. Once there, I warmed up with a half-mile jog (if you prefer, EZ pace warm-up run). After that, I toed the starting line and took off. I rabbited the first lap while getting my pace settled down. I could tell pretty quickly that I’d be able to keep it under 6:50 if I just kept my effort consistent. It can be hard to strike a balance between excessive and insufficient watch checking, but I checked my overall pace about twice a lap. I was hovering around 6:45 or so, and while my overall pace drifted up over time, I kicked it in during the last few laps to bring it back down to an overall 6:45 pace and a 42:00 flat 10K. That’s less than a minute over my 10K PR (ok, I’ve only ever really raced one 10K before, but it was a pretty good effort).

Now that I’ve put up that 42:00 10K, I’m reassessing Hospital Hill yet again. I ran a little better than my 5K race. Thus, the predictor says I can do a half marathon in 1:32:40 based on my 10K effort. I’m not making excuses in advance, but that 10K was on a flat track and Hospital Hill is anything but. On the other hand, my 10K wasn’t against competition, and wasn’t max effort – I guess we’ll see how those factors even out in a couple of weeks! I can’t wait!

(There weren’t any race photographers at my personal 10K, but I finally discovered the photos from my May 1st 5K, so here’s one:)

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Couch to 5k – Runvangelism #HHR2016

Just when you think you’re going to coin a new term, Google reassures you that you haven’t. Recently I’ve had a couple of people ask me about my running and dietary habits. I warned them that they might regret getting me started on that subject! I love running, and I love encouraging others to get into running. I think that makes me a runvangelist (running evangelist). I doubt the term will achieve the fame of say, Roger Clemens’ “misremembered” (surprisingly, actually having a word origin and usage dating back several centuries). Like most enthusiastic runners, I like to talk about running, but I’d really like to talk about YOU running.

If you don’t think of yourself as a runner at all, or you’d like to start running on a more regular basis for fun or fitness, here’s a few of my basic tips for success:

  • Set goals. A training plan helps. What are you training for? Having a goal out in the future, like a 5K in 3 or 4 months, can help you stick with running once you start. I circled the Hospital Hill Half marathon on my calendar when I started running again in mid-February, and I picked a training plan designed to take me back up to that distance.
  • Don’t overdo it. Not running regularly? Not running at all? Have no fear – pick a run-walk plan. There are some people (Dean Karnazes comes to mind, who famously got off his bar stool and ran 30 miles on his 30th birthday) who can dive right in, but that’s a recipe for injury and discouragement. The maxim “if a little is good, a lot must be better” does not hold here!
  • Make yourself accountable. Log your runs. Pick a day and time you’re going to run with a friend. Annoy your friends on social media.
  • Be mindful of your diet. There is no single solution to eating better. It’s lots of little things. For me, it started with giving up HFC soda, and over time I’ve tried to add more greens and other vegetables and avoid “junk carbs” (e.g. bread). I drink water with meals now, for the most part. Don’t beat yourself up when you backslide. Personally, a weekly cheat day helps me with that. Mmm…donuts.
  • Have fun! Mix it up. Go to a trail. Run hills. Hit the track. Avoid monotony.

Happy running!

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Why should you race? #HHR2016

With just over a month to go before this year’s Hospital Hill run, a 5K I ran yesterday (the LAKC 5K) reminded me what my personal answer to this question is: you should race to push yourself beyond your expectations.

For whatever reason, I’ve always been a runner that punches above my weight class when it comes to racing. What does that mixed metaphor mean, you ask? It means that I always seem to do a bit better on race day than my training times would predict. Why is that? A race is a competition, and competition brings out your best. The group dynamic of having others around you who are striving for the same thing is a powerful mental stimulus. As much as we tell ourselves, “I’m going to run my own race,” we cannot help but get caught up in the excitement of catching or not getting caught by those around us in a race. It doesn’t matter if they’re older, younger, etc. If they’re running around you, they’re the competition!

I ran a 5K yesterday as a tuneup race for Hospital Hill. Pro racers circle “A” races and “B” races on their calendar. A “B” race is a tuneup – a harder effort than a hard individual training run, but not all-out effort like a goal “A” race. Hospital Hill is the only “A” race I have on my calendar right now. As I return from injury (running well since February!) I have often questioned the state of my aerobic fitness. The only way to really find out is to go out and race a short distance, comparing it to past efforts. Then, you can use the results of that effort to predict a reasonable pace range for your goal race. There are many excellent race predictor calculators that will translate a shorter distance like a mile or a 5K into a predicted finish time for the gamut of race distances.

I didn’t go into this tuneup race completely blind – I took a look at some of my recent training runs and used a 25:00 tempo segment as a benchmark for my 5K pace. Based on that, I was hoping I’d get under 21:30 for the 5K, which is pretty far from my 5K PR. I don’t run a lot of 5Ks, and they are usually tuneup races rather than goal races, but I have done enough of them to have a frame of reference.

The competition effect was strong in this race. I found myself clustered in a group of three for most of the early part of the race, including someone I knew. That really helped keep the pace up during mile 2. Of the three of us, I was the midpoint of mile 3 – one guy dropped back and I stopped hearing footsteps behind me. The other guy pushed out ahead of me, giving me a rabbit to chase. There’s a good chance I wouldn’t have pushed as hard as I did without these two being close most of the race. The rabbit put in a kick – before I did, so I followed suit – knowing I wouldn’t catch him but not wanting to be caught by anyone else!

Afterwards, the guy who dropped back said he had noticed my Skora Phases and complimented my ability to run well in them. When people comment on my shoes, I reply that form follows function – I didn’t learn to run well in minimalist shoes. The shoes are designed for the purpose of running well, and their form is designed to that purpose. All I have to do is run naturally in them.

The end result was a minute faster than my goal: 20:29 (7th overall, 1st 45-49 AG). I’m really pleased with that in my first race back from injury and going into Hospital Hill. I’m sure I’m not in sub 1:30 shape (my ultimate half marathon goal, never yet achieved) but this 5K test is a clear indicator that I should try to go under 1:35 rather than 1:40, which was my original goal for the June race.

So, racing has pushed me beyond my expectations! Challenge yourself with a race!

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