On Christmas and the Importance of Recovery

You know the phrase, “And now for something completely different”?  Well, that has been my life this past week.  Typically, a day in the life of Katie involves waking up, going to work and sitting at my desk, working out over my lunch hour, sitting at my desk some more, going over to Rob’s place, eating dinner, and then going home.

Every. Single. Day.

And honestly, being a chronically boring person who loves routine, I’m pretty okay with that.  It had been getting old, though, and even I needed a break from the routine.  That’s exactly what I got when visited my family for a week (a whole week!) over Christmas.  For a week, my days involved staying up later than usual, sleeping in much later than usual, having running partners, spending time with my grandparents, and playing with the four little monsters (my name for my nieces and nephews) every day for what seemed like hours on end.  These are all wonderful things, but they are not my typical routine, so for someone who thrives on routine like I do, it was pretty exhausting, especially my aunt duties.

RustinHiding
He was being so cute sitting on the stairs, so I took my phone out and told him to say, “Cheese.”  Then he ran into the corner.

Overall, the week was wonderful.  For my marathon training, I had two longer runs this week, a thirteen mile long run and a ten mile tempo run.  And, for the first time in forever, I had a running buddy for both of them.  Neither my dad nor my older sister ran as much as I did this week, but we worked it out so I had a running buddy for all but three miles.  We used my dad’s five mile loop, and my dad and sister would choose how many loops they wanted to run with me and just run their miles while I ran mine.  For my ten-mile run, for example, my dad ran the first loop with me and my sister ran the second with me.  It was a great system, and with the weather as cold and slippery as it when I was in Idaho, I needed it.  The weather turned should have been completely manageable runs during my recovery week into reasonably difficult runs, so it was nice to have “pacers” so that I was thinking about something other than how cold it was and how much I didn’t want to be running at that particular moment.

WinterLane
Snow. Ice. Slipperiness.

But I don’t think anyone really cares about the workouts that happen over Christmas (although, as always, they are available if you are interested).  I think people care more about all the loot that is exchanged.  And there was a lot of loot this year.  It was a big Christmas at the Pridgen household.  My parents hosted, and my older sister’s family (a husband and four kids), my little sister and her husband, my grandparents, and I were all there exchanging gifts.  Plus, we all kind of love giving gifts on Christmas, so the number of gifts was sort of over-the-top.  And at least a little embarrassing.  My mom always forbade us from sharing photos of our Christmas tree, but I’m an adult now, so I’m totally going to.  Keep in mind that many of these presents are for the plethora of children my sister has.

ChristmasTree
To be fair, there wasn’t actually much under the tree because many of the presents were large in size.

I got some nice running clothes that I probably wouldn’t have purchased otherwise because I’m cheap.  My younger sister got me a pair of running shorts because she had noticed that I wear the same pair of running shorts every single time I visit.  My older sister got me some running socks, which I’m excited about because I’ve lost one sock out of almost every pair I have.  My presents for the monsters were a big hit.  I got my five-year old niece a Shopkins playset and some Shopkins.  Shopkins are these weird little characters that are personified department store items.  For some reason, I think they are ridiculously cute (calculator with glasses! a winking carrot! a smiling little telephone!), and my niece loved them.  I got my three year old nephew a Hot Wheels race track which was the most fun toy I played with all week.  He got four cars going at once, which I thought was impressive for a three year old.  And I got my almost-two year old nephew a little trainset with wooden tracks that fit together and trains that stick together magnetically.  We let him open it early on so he would play with it while we all opened presents instead of running around like a little terror and ripping open every present he could get his hands on! (Oh, my littlest niece isn’t even three months old, so I just got her a little stuffed animal.)

Yet despite not going to work, having a cut-back week in marathon training, and sleeping in, I felt myself get more tired instead of rejuvenated as the week progressed.  I shouldn’t have been surprised.  I think all adults learn that, while they love their parents and siblings and grandparents, visiting family can be exhausting.  Not because the family is exhausting, necessarily (though I’m sure some are!), but because it’s outside of the routine.  I was pretty good about getting off by myself to decompress, but sometimes it was difficult.  My nieces and nephews love to play when I visit, and when my niece asks, “Will you play with us, Auntie Katie?” and then looks up at me with her giant eyes, it’s pretty hard to say no.

Jordyn
How could I ever say no to her?

I’m not sure if it was the extra wear-and-tear of Christmas or if catching something was inevitable since I spent a week around different people and new germs, but on Saturday night I noticed my throat was getting sore.  I tried to convince myself that it just hurt because I had run 10 miles in 10-15° weather that day, but I knew I was getting a cold.  Sure enough, I woke up on Sunday with congestion and a pretty painful sore throat.  Sunday was a rest day, and I tried to keep it that way.  We had a mega-Sunday dinner* with probably around 15 people (that’s huge for the Pridgen household!), but I spent most of the afternoon after that watching Netflix and taking a short nap.  The kids came over around supper time, but they were mostly content to sit and play with their toys with me there instead of asking to play house or Follow the Leader.  Still, I found myself facing a difficult (for me) decision on Sunday evening as I started to feel achy from my cold.  I wanted to work out on Monday since I typically take my rest day later in the week.  But I knew Rob had taken a day off work on Monday so he could pick me up from the airport and then spend time with me, so I didn’t want to schedule a workout on Monday afternoon.  I had been planning on getting up early on Monday and getting my three mile tempo run in for the week before leaving for the airport at seven o’clock.  Normally, this would be an early day for me, but not absurdly so.  As I thought about waking up with crud in my throat and running hard in the dark at 15°, I realized the only thing tying me to the workout was the fact that I couldn’t take the day off because I hadn’t planned it as a rest day.

So I decided to ditch the unnecessary obsessiveness and give myself another day of rest so I could recover from my cold.  Of course, I had to run it by the two most obsessive people I know (my dad and my older sister) so that I could feel comfortable with my decision, but I’m really glad I decided to take the day off.  I woke up at a reasonable hour to go to the airport and arrived in Salt Lake City just a little before 11:00am.  And the rest of the day was absolutely relaxing.  Rob and I exchanged Christmas gifts.  I got him some nice pans he had been eyeing, a couple bags of Starbucks Christmas Blend, and the Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki (a filmmaker, if you aren’t familiar with him).  And Rob got me a new carbon wheelset!  It’s super cool—the wheels are gorgeous, and apparently they also have a good brake track (because braking on carbon wheels can be sketchy).  I guess he got a really good deal because of little defect that didn’t affect their functionality at all.  Sometimes dating someone who works for a bike retailer is pretty awesome.  We got burritos for dinner, and I spent the evening playing video games, serving as a bed for the cat, and watching Spirited Away from Rob’s new boxed set.  Not once did I regret not going for a run in the morning.  And after a day of rest, I was able to get up very early and power through a speed workout on the treadmill the next day, all without feeling like I wanted to die.

Wheels
AHHH!  Aren’t they so cool?!

You’d think that I would have learned and understood the importance of recovery in a training plan (and also in life), but I’m kind of a slow learner, so it’s something that I still struggle with.  It’s easy for me to get caught up in the pattern of trusting my training plan so much that I forget to trust my body.  Now that my body is recovering from the cold, I can feel how my legs benefitted from the easier week of training.  Now that I’ve had the time to relax and regain emotional equilibrium, I can really appreciate the week I was able to spend with my family, most notably my nieces and nephews.  A few days of recovery does wonders.

Lamb
Mostly it was this little guy that aided my emotional recovery.  I have been getting cuddles galore since coming back to Salt Lake.

*Sunday dinner happens around 12:30pm.  I’ve seen people confused by that, much to my own confusion.  I’ve always been raised with the notion that dinner is the “large” meal of the day, regardless of whether it is served at noon or at seven.  I believe this is technically the correct usage of the word, but I think in the less-formal Northwest, that usage sometimes falls by the wayside.  Of course, a strong argument could be made that since this usage has fallen out of favors in certain areas and thus results in confusion, it is no longer technically correct in those areas at all because the ultimate purpose of language is successful communication.  But that would be a post for an entirely different blog altogether.

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Weekly Recap (12/21-12/27)

Monday: Swim—30 minutes; Bike—30 minutes; 6-minute abs
I went to the gym for an easy swim and some time on the stationary bike.  This was the first longer, easy swim I had done since I started Masters swim team, and I enjoyed it.  The time went by quickly, and I felt strong through the entire swim.  I’m not sure how fast I was swimming, but I swam the last 200 yards in about 3:30,  and although I may have sped up some when I realized I was nearly done, I tried not to, so I suspect my overall pace was just a little slower than that.  I periodically did “form checks” where I took note of how I was maintaining my form, and I think my form remained relatively good throughout.  Then I hopped on the stationary bike for thirty minutes.  It was hell.  I find it kind of funny that I can go on four hour long bike rides and not get bored but that I can’t stand fifteen minutes on a stationary bike without wanting to chew off my own foot.  This was the first time I’ve done any sort of brick workout in forever, and it was nice to practice two disciplines in a single day again.  I also did some core work afterwards.  When I’m trying to get three core routines in every week, it helps to start on Monday.

Tuesday: Run—800m, 3 x 1600, 800m
I spent all day Monday dreading this workout.  No joke.  I credit the speed work in my plan for helping me get fast, but I’m really starting to hate these days.  I’m typically just wrecked after I finish them.  I woke up around 7:00am, ate some breakfast, drank some water, and prepared myself mentally.  Around 9:30am, I left in search of a track.  The first high school was a bust (locked!), but a parent there suggested a nearby junior high without a fence around the track, which is where I ended up doing the workout.  Based on my previous paces, I was supposed to run these in 6:50.  However, I struggle with the longer intervals in this program, so I was hoping to hit 6:55, with two minutes rest between each repeat.  Needless to say, I was thrilled with my actual times:
6:48.1, 6:43.4, 6:33.3
Clearly, I had forgotten to take into account the lower elevation in Idaho.  My pace during the first mile felt easy and sustainable, so I pushed the second mile a little bit more.  And I still felt strong.  I was never gasping for air, and I felt nearly fully recovered after the two minutes.  I started my final 1600 about the same pace as the first two, but after two laps, I stepped on the gas a bit.  I pushed the second 800 hard and ran the final 400 in around 1:33.  This was a very encouraging workout, even if I did benefit from the lower elevation.  I struggled with my speed workout last week, so I thought this week would be a killer.  Instead, it was a breeze.  Just another reminder that you can’t really predict your performance on any given day.

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There is no scenery in Nampa, so I just took a shot of my pretty new shoes.

Wednesday: Run—13 miles (1:44:58); 6-minute abs
Because the temperature was supposed to drop pretty significantly, my dad and I decided to do our long run on Wednesday.  My dad, my sister, and I all needed to run, but we needed to run different distances.  And so a plan was hatched.  We’d all do a 5-mile loop together.  Then my sister would drop off and my dad and I would run the loop again.  Then he’d drop off, and I’d run three more miles.  We started running at 9:00am, and while the day showed every sign of turning into a gorgeous one, it was still too early for that, and it was a bit cloudy and quite cold (around 30°).  It had rained/snowed the previous night, so it was super slick for most of the five mile loop.  My older sister took a little fall, and my dad and I had a couple of close calls.  Needless to say, the ice limited our pace and also wore us out because we were using all sorts of stabilization muscles we didn’t typically use.  We ran the first five miles in just about 41 minutes and dropped off my sister.  The second five mile loop went a little faster because some of the ice was melting.  But I was feeling it.  The ice and my hard speed workout the day before were weighing my legs down.  The second loop was a little faster—about 40:20.  Then I dropped my dad off and headed off for the last three miles.  By this time, the sun had come out and it was a beautiful morning.  The section of the route I ran for the last three miles was not as slick as other areas, so I picked up the pace a bit and finished the route in just under 1:45 with a pace of 8:04/mile.  I also did core work right before heading to bed.

Thursday: Swim—2500 yds
I woke up in the morning just so happy I wasn’t running that day.  I went to the pool pretty early with a workout I made up about 15 minutes before leaving:
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (distance per stroke)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
3 x 200 @ 3:20
4 x 100 @ 1:40
5 x 50 @ :50
6 x 25 with 5 seconds rest
100 easy
I took a longer break between each different distance.  I hit the paces well throughout the workout, but it was a tough one.  The first of each of the different distances felt totally manageable and the last felt very hard.  I was quite impressed with my ability to put together a tough workout.  I will admit that I probably didn’t work quite as hard as I would have in a masters practice, but I swam much harder than I used to before joining Masters.  If you are a triathlete and have the opportunity, and you haven’t done it yet, join a masters team.  Seriously, I kept reading that bit of advice over and over again, and now that I have finally done it, I understand why everyone was recommending it.

Friday: REST
It was Christmas, so I took it as a rest day.  I ate tasty food, opened presents, and played with my little nieces and nephews.  I was going to do some core work, but after the four little monsters children left, all I could fathom doing was sitting comatose on the couch.

WinterLane
It was a white Christmas in Idaho, for one  of the only times in my memory.

Saturday: Run—10 miles (1:18:41)
My longest tempo run for the whole marathon cycle was scheduled for this week.  It was only supposed to be run at an 8:00/mile pace, but I wasn’t looking forward to running that distance in 12°, which was the temperature when my dad and I took off.  This time, the plan was to run the five mile loop twice—once with my dad and once with my older sister.  For whatever reason, this run was a struggle.  I went out a bit too fast, and my dad and I kept up a sub-8:00 pace for the first loop and finished it in about 39 minutes.  Then I dropped him off and picked Danielle up.  She let me set the pace because I was running further than she was, so I took the first (well, sixth) mile pretty comfortably and passed the mile marker in 8:15.  So I knew I’d have to push the rest of the run a bit because this run was not coming easily.  So we picked up the pace and hit the next miles within a few seconds of an eight-minute pace, either way.  While it wasn’t nearly as slippery as on Wednesday, there were a few slick or snowy parts that forced us to slow down a bit.  During the last mile or so, Danielle starting feeling it too (though she was still feeling better than I was!), so we struggled together for that part of the run.  We did pick it up the last mile, though, and I finished with a pace of 7:52/mile.  It was fun to run with Danielle again.  Before this week, the last time we had run together was a couple of kids ago when she was pregnant with her second.  She just had her fourth kid two and half months ago and was already out there running five miles in the freezing cold and snow in a sub-8:00 pace.  She’s very impressive!

Sunday: REST; 6-minute abs
I was planning on taking a rest day on Sunday, and I was glad because I woke up with a nasty sore throat and some congestion.  I can’t say I’m happy about picking up a cold, but I can’t say I’m surprised either.  I decided to try to take the day easy, but I did do some core work to make sure I hit three days of core this week.  My abs felt competent while doing the exercises, so I’m going to (finally) bump the time up  to seven minutes next week.

Eight month checkup

Every month as the 21st approaches, I panic as I realize I’m one month closer to my Ironman.  I’m fully immersed in marathon training now, and I’m sad to report that my bike and I are not spending much quality time together recently.  But that’s how it goes.  Winter solstice is on Tuesday which means that the days will start getting longer again and spring will officially be on its way.  I’m already looking forward to its arrival.

Physical

Fitness:
My running times have continued to improve dramatically this month.  Last month, I struggled to run seven miles in a 7:47/mile pace, and this month, I easily ran eight miles in a 7:40/mile pace.  I’m very pleased with my continued progress.  I know that I’ll probably stop improving so quickly soon, but I thought the rapid “hey, I’m actually focusing on running!” stage of improvement would end sooner than it has.  I’ve had a few really solid swim workouts this month as well.  Additionally, while my swimming improvement has slowed down, I don’t think it has stopped yet.  I feel strong and comfortable in the water and recently had a very encouraging 1000 yard time (16:12).

General health:
I’ve had some trouble sleeping, so I’ve been a bit tired lately, but nothing that has been too frustrating.  My appetite has been solid, and my weight has stayed stable.  Of course, there’s that little matter of my leg pain that started last week.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the second I felt the discomfort/pain on the outside of my leg, I was reminded of my stress fracture from college.  The pain was on the lower outside of my left leg.  It was barely there right, but I remember noticing the pain from my stress fracture for the first time, and it was barely there too.  It may be paranoia, but I want to be careful, so I’m going to watch it really closely.  Based on my Googling, I suspect it’s just some tendon pain.  But if the pain gets worse and sticks around, I am going to cut way back on my running and maybe abandon marathon training all together.  My goal is the Ironman, and this marathon is just a training run.  It’s not worth it to hurt myself over it.  And the benefit of being a triathlete is that, in the case of injury, you have two other disciplines to focus on.  If this pang does turn out to be a real injury, I’ll just have to spend the rest of the winter on a trainer and in the pool.  And, I mean, the trainer sucks, but it’s better than the elliptical and pool running, which was my sentence during my last running injury.  The good news is that I don’t think any of that will be necessary because it’s been feeling fine the last day or so.

Mental

I’ve had some real low moments this month.  I “quit” running and triathlon after my speed workout last week, struggled with some real motivation issues with both running (normal) and swimming (not normal), and I faced some anxiety after my leg started hurting.  But I’ve worked really hard to keep these low moments in perspective and not let them bog me down.  And I’ve been pretty successful, too.  I generally struggle (to put it nicely) with keeping my perspective when things go wrong or when I feel crappy.  For some reason, I’m much better at remaining positive regarding triathlon.  Letting myself feel bad has helped.  My leg feels weird.  I may be imagining things or I may not be.  Regardless, I’m worried and it’s okay.  I can feel worried and not break down.  I was discouraged after my speed workout.  So I let myself be discouraged without beating myself up.  I knew I would feel better the next day, and I did.  Recognizing and accepting unpleasant emotions actually helps me process them.  Now if only I could do the same thing in non-triathlon life…

Superlatives

Longest swim: 3050 yards

Longest ride: 25.72 miles

Longest run: 17 miles

Most encouraging workout: I would have said my 17 mile run with my dad, but my weird leg pain/discomfort disqualifies that one.  So I’ll go with my masters swim workout where we did eight 200s.  I didn’t think I would be about to hold the 3:05 pace for all the repetitions, but I did(and even went faster on a few!).  I surpassed my expectations and showed more speed and endurance than I had earlier this fall.

Most discouraging workout: My seven 800s.  I’m not entirely sure why these were so discouraging because, in general, it was a strong workout.  But during the entire workout, the thought “I don’t want to be here” was floating around in my head.  As I walked back to my car, I was sick of training, waking up late, being tired, being thirsty, etc.

Average time per sport per week

Swimming: 96

Cycling: 68

Running: 200

TimePerSport08

Looking to the future

Just like last month, I’m pretty happy with my running progress.  I think my history of running and my decent aerobic base from the last few years of triathlons are the reasons why my running has improved so quickly.  It’s funny that when I first conceived the notion of running a marathon, I was hoping to break four hours and now I’m starting to wonder if I could hit an unofficial BQ time (unofficial because my dad and I aren’t running a real race—just doing a 26.2 mile training run).  If my leg (well, my body in general) holds up and if I keep training like I have been, I will feel great about my running when I start my Ironman training plan.  My swimming is going well, too.  My only perpetual worry is cycling.  It’s probably my weakest discipline of the three, and I’m not really giving it much love over the winter.  I just keep reminding myself that it’s the off-season and that I can’t focus on everything.

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Weekly Recap (12/14-12/20)

Monday: Swim—Masters swim team (2300 yds)
I woke up to snow!  That didn’t stop me from going to the pool which is only a few miles away.  We did our workout based on heart rate.  The main set was 100 sprints, and we were supposed to recover until our heart rate dipped back under 120.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (fast kick, easy swim)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
200 build
6 x 100 sprint (rest until HR <120)
200 easy
4 x 75 (medium, hard, easy)
I had a hard time getting my heart rate back under 120.  I’m not entirely sure why.  I have a fairly low resting heart rate (often below 50 and always below 60), but it kept “catching” at 140 on the way down.  I know next-to-nothing about heart rate training, and it would be interesting (and probably helpful) to know more.  I would be interested in seeing if my heart rate drops faster after running intervals.  When swimming, I have a hard time getting enough air when I’m sprinting.  While running, I can have all the air I want.  After the workout, I got stuck in the parking lot for about half an hour.  I had to clear out the space behind my tires with my scraper.  It was obnoxious and solidified my decision to work from home.  Except I worked from Rob’s home instead because I’d much rather work from home with a cat than without one.

Tuesday: Run—884m, 7 x 800, 884m; 6-minute abs
I did my core work during lunch.  I just switched my jeans out for shorts (already wearing a t-shirt—software company, FTW!) and went down to the office gym for a few minutes.  I also had to figure out some way of getting my speed workout in, even though most of Salt Lake was covered in nearly a foot of snow.  I don’t think the high schools here plow their tracks in the winter, so that was out of the question.  And I wanted to avoid running on a treadmill if at all possible.  So I decided to try out the indoor track at the old Olympic Oval (sometimes it’s really nice that your city once hosted the Olympics).  The track is 442 meters long (hence, my 884 meter warmup and cool-down), and it’s the only indoor track I’ve ever heard of that is longer than the traditional 400 meter outdoor track. Instead of taking one minute breaks, I walked from the finish line to the start line.  Thus, my recovery period got a little bit longer as the set went on.  My times for the 800s were as follows:
3:19.5, 3:19.0, 3:18.2, 3:18.3, 3:19.0, 3:18.1, 3:21.0
As you can see, I fell off on my last 800.  I was a bit disappointed, but I ran it hard, and that’s all I could do.  Maybe my legs were still a bit tired from Saturday.  Maybe it’s because I was so unbelievably thirsty.  Maybe I just didn’t quite have the fitness.  I was drained afterwards, and as I was walking back to my car, I decided it was probably time for me to quit running triathlon life.  I felt low and burned out.  But some days are like that.

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Didn’t think  I’d ever be told to yield to a Zamboni!

Wednesday: Bike—35 minutes (9 miles)
I said goodbye to my bike with a short ride during my work day.  Even though my preparation took longer than my actual ride, it was totally worth it.  It was cold (around 30°), but I had plenty of layers, so the ride was very pleasant.  I was pleased to find that the path by my work had been plowed and would be available for cycling and running.  It was a beautiful day out, and my bike and I had a wonderful time.  I promised it that I would be back after Christmas and assured it that I would miss it terribly.  And I really will.  I think cycling is my weakest leg in triathlons, but I also think it’s the type of exercise that I like the most.

Thursday: Run—8 miles (1:01:27)
It snowed on Wednesday night, so my exploratory probe on Wednesday to find out if the pathway was plowed ended up being useless because I didn’t know if they had gotten around to plowing it this time around.  So I planned out another route that stayed on roads I knew would be cleared.  Due to a little uncertainty surrounding my travel plans this weekend, I wasn’t sure if I’d be doing my 17 mile run on Friday or Saturday.  In case it ended up happening on Friday, I wanted to be careful not to run this tempo too hard.  Reader, I failed. In my defense, it wasn’t an exceptionally hard run.  The pace felt easy on the way out, comfortably hard most of the way back, and hard the last mile or so.  But my overall pace was 7:40/mile.  It’s very cool to me that I can run that far and that fast.  I know my times aren’t anything special, but I’m surprised I’m running so much faster than I was just a few months ago.  But I do need to learn to hold myself back some.  Because my tempo runs were all hard workouts when I first started my marathon training plan, I’ve continued treating them as such, even though my fitness has reached a point where the prescribed paces would be a solid workout but wouldn’t devastate me.  Basically, I’ve been running based on effort, but I may need to readjust the effort at which I’m running in some cases.  Especially when I’m probably running 17 miles the next day.

Shoes
It was my first run in my new shoes.  I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the colors were.

Friday: Run—17 miles (2:20:53)
My parents came into town for the weekend, and my dad and I did our long run together.  We had dinner reservations at 6:00pm, and they drove up just a few minutes after 2:30.  That didn’t leave much wiggle room, so my dad threw on his running clothes, and we headed out the door.  We were generally aiming for an 8:30/mile pace, but because my dad wasn’t sure how the elevation would treat him, we weren’t going to be too obsessive over it.  The first three (uphill) miles averaged out to an 8:40/mile pace, but as the terrain got easier and we warmed up, we sped up considerably.  I felt good pretty much the entire run.  I can’t speak for my dad 100%, but when I checked up on him, he always said he was doing fine as well.  We had two water stops (which should have been four, but the double-duty water bottle was MIA) and both fueled with some sports gummies.  There were a few longer, very gradual climbs, and I know those wore on both of us, and there were several areas where we had to run over packed snow because the plows hadn’t hit that path or sidewalk. However, even near the end of the run, my legs felt tired from duration and repetitive motion and not the standard running fatigue, if that makes sense.  The downhill at the end of the run made it easy to finish strong, and we managed to finish with an 8:17/mile pace, make it to dinner (just ten minutes late), and have a great night eating and then seeing the Christmas lights that the LDS church puts up in Temple Square every winter.   However, I noticed a slight discomfort/almost pain when I started walking around after recovering from the run a bit.  It was on the lower outside of my left leg—not a fleshy area.  The second I felt it, I was also worried.  It wasn’t a normal ache or pain for me.  And it was in a similar place as the stress fracture that I had in college.  So I was flooded with anxiety about it pretty quickly.  I’m not sure if my immediate worry was due to remembering a similar pain (my past stress fracture) or just a product of being an anxious hypochondriac.  My current plan is to reassess on Tuesday when I am supposed to do my next running workout.  I’ll take it easy until then and opt for a swim instead of a bike ride over the weekend.  Fingers crossed that this is an anxiety-driven overreaction on my part!

RedTree
I’m not LDS, but the lights at Temple Square are not something you want to miss.
WhiteTree
Seriously, they understand how many lights to use on a tree.
CharlieBrownOrnament
We also peeped the giant Christmas ornaments made of candy in Macy’s windows.

Saturday: REST; 6-minute abs
I had already scheduled Saturday as my rest day, and I’m glad I had it.  In addition to driving with my parents up to Idaho, I spent some time online looking at information about fibular stress fractures.  What I read was mostly encouraging.  They are somewhat rare because the fibula isn’t a weight-bearing bone (or, at least, not a major one).  Obviously, they happen sometimes because I had one in college.  What I read suggested that most fibular stress fractures start out as a tendon issue.  When you don’t take care of the tendon, it stretches and pulls on the bone until it causes a stress fracture.  Because my previous stress fracture wasn’t diagnosed for a long time, I wouldn’t be surprised if it started out as a tendon issue and progressed.  So it gives me hope that the familiar discomfort/pain I felt is just a sore tendon after a run that included much more snow and much more hopping and navigating around puddles and snow piles than usual.  I’m also using my dad’s cure-all solution for any sort of leg/foot pain—a piece of athletic tape wrapped once around the arch of the foot.  Who knows if it will actually help, but it won’t hurt anything.  Oh, and I did core work as well.

Sunday: Swim—2500 yards; 6-minute abs
My dad got his hands on a few passes to the Nampa Rec Center for me while I’m in town, so I headed over there for a swim.  I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do, but I ended up getting a pretty solid workout:
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (distance per stroke)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
1000 (16:12)
2 x 100
2 x 50
200 easy
I was interrupted during my 1000 and had to switch lanes which was frustrating, but I was pleased with my time.  I know it’s my best 1000 time, although I can’t quite remember what my previous best was…  I think it was either 16:40 or 16:20.  I also wasn’t completely gassed after my 1000.  I was tired, but I didn’t go 100% all-out.  Adding a few faster sets in after the longer, hard 1000 pushed me.  The 100s and 50s at the end of the set were tough and felt like they were good practice for finishing hard at the end of a long swim which is what I’ll be doing in eight months.  I also did some core work right after swimming, meaning that I just barely managed to squeak in my core work three times this week.  My questionable leg is feeling better, so I have high hopes that my fears were just an overactive imagination.

My Longest Run Ever

FarthestRun

I had been eyeing my most recent long run on my schedule since I first decided on my marathon training plan.

15 miles.

That would be the longest run I had ever done.  And after seeing it on my training plan getting closer and closer as the weeks went on, it felt a bit momentous.  My longest run ever.  It felt like it meant something.  This feeling was unusual for a reasonably practical person like myself, who lacks any poetry and romance except for a strange tendency towards the dark that rears its head occasionally.  But I felt like I would be crossing some sort of barrier, maybe from a runner to a real distance runner or from a wannabe Ironman to an Ironman-in-training.  And, to be honest, I spent the week before the run enjoying the anticipation, even though I knew from past experiences that the culmination of that anticipation would be my walking into Rob’s place after my run and collapsing on the couch while proclaiming, “Well, that was the worst.  Running is awful.” (Have I mentioned my flair towards the dramatic?)

So it was with a sense of both excitement and solemnity that I dutifully mapped out my route on Friday.  I avoided the monster of a hill that I had quite accidentally worked into the last few miles of my 14 mile run the previous week, but the route was fairly hilly regardless:

15miles

Still, I was surprised at how manageable it seemed to me.  It makes sense, of course, because this run was only a mile longer than the one I did the previous week, but it was encouraging to see what felt like a big accomplishment mapped out on the computer screen in front of me and thinking, “I can totally do that!”  I prepared for this momentous occasion in the only way possible—I played video games after work and then spent the evening with Rob at his parents’ house, eating leftovers and playing Cribbage.

The plus-side to winter is that I don’t have to set an alarm on the weekends.  I go running near midday instead of early in the morning during the winter to give it a chance to warm up a bit.  So, after waking up and eating a banana, I headed over to Rob’s place for second breakfast (coffee and two small sandwiches on leftover rolls).  By this point, it was only about 8:00am, and I wasn’t planning on running until about 11:00.  So we sat around.  I dinked around online, doing absolutely nothing useful, and Rob actually did work.  Like, for his job.  While he was earning a living, I scrolled through my Facebook feed too many times to count, drank a bottle of water, and ate a bowl of frosted flakes.

Eventually, I started to get antsy.  It was time to get going.  So I left to complete my last pre-run task—the laying out of the water bottles.  Because I’m neurotic, I’m incapable of carrying water on my person, and because it’s winter, there are no water fountains working in the parks.  To make sure I stay hydrated on my runs, I plant water bottles along my route.  On Saturday, I planted two water bottles, one of which I would pass by twice.  My water stops were planned near mile 4, mile 8, and mile 12 of my run, and I planned to eat one Shot Block while approaching each of these stops.

WaterBottle
Spot the water bottle.

Once I got back to Rob’s place, I drank a glass of chocolate milk as my last bit of pre-longest-run-ever fuel and headed out the door in some capris and a long-sleeve dry fit shirt (it was in the upper 30s and partly sunny).  I did my best to start out slow.  I knew I had a long 15 miles ahead of me.  Plus, my standard long-run route starts with a pretty significant and long hill, so I know if I start too fast up that hill, I’ll burn myself out.  My pace felt easy up the hill (as it better if you are going out for a 15 miler), and I was pleasantly surprised when I hit the three-mile mark—my first “time check”—at an 8:25 pace.  I had paced out the run at an 8:30 pace, but because the first three miles were uphill, I didn’t think I’d be hitting that pace yet.  There was a nice downhill segment that started just after mile 3, and I was cruising.  I stopped briefly for water at mile 4 and checked my time at mile 5.  I was unsurprised to see that I had sped up.  At this point, I remembered that this was my longest run ever.  I tried to think about that as a bit of motivation, but all I could muster was a half-hearted, internal, “yaaaaay…”  Then I realized I was a third of the way through my fifteen mile run already, and that brightened my spirits considerably.  I didn’t have to force myself to be excited about that one.

The next three miles flew by (that particular segment of my route always does), and before I knew it, I was at mile 8 and refueling with a Shot Block and some water.  About a mile before, I felt my energy start to drop a bit.  The fuel and water perked me right back up, though.  Shot Blocks have been wonderful fuel for me.  I was surprised because I thought the motion of chewing and swallowing would be too much for me when I’m running.  But it hasn’t been a problem at all. If I were running faster, the physical task of getting a gummy out and consuming might be difficult, but I haven’t had any problems at my modest pace.  Additionally, the sugar plus the tiny bit of caffeine in each block gives me a noticeable boost (or maybe my fueling has just lined up with downhill sections?).

SugarhousePark
Sugarhouse Park always goes by quickly because there are people and dogs and ducks to look at (none of which are visible in this photo).
SugarhouseParkTrail
Another photo of the path in Sugarhouse, right as it meets back up with the main road.  These photos were taken post-run, while picking up my water bottles.  I don’t carry my phone with me when I run.

Miles 9-12 were a slog.  I had already been out for over an hour, but I knew I still had about an hour left.  For me, that’s psychologically the toughest part of a run.  I was still running at a sub-8:30 pace, and I wasn’t really struggling to keep up that pace.  I was just ready to be done.  My left knee was aching on and off (my new shoes just got here yesterday, though!), and my body was just starting to feel tired.  When I hit the ten mile point, I had another little internal celebration because I was two-thirds through my run, but it was less jubilant than my celebration five miles ago had been.  I had either biked or run on all of the roads in this section before which gave me some idea what to expect.  And I’m glad I knew what to expect because the route took me under the freeway, by way of a steep downhill followed by a steep uphill.  The downhill and uphill were both very short (shorter than a quarter of a mile), but with my knee giving me some pain and my fatigue building, neither one was enjoyable.

Mountains412
Technically, this was the view looking back near mile 12.

Once I fueled near mile 12, though, I was feeling much more positive.  Downhill, then a short uphill you’ve run a thousand times, then downhill to the finish. I concentrated on the rhythm of my stride.  I also thought about the couch I would be sitting on soon.  I thought very little about the fact that this was my longest run ever and I was almost done.  Sentimentality rarely makes its way into my actual performance of tasks or milestones.  The uphill section was hard, and I could feel in my legs that if the run had been much longer, I would have hit a wall.  I tucked this little bit of knowledge away as something to keep in mind for my upcoming 17 mile run.  At this point, I was just thinking, “Yale, Yale, Yale,” Yale being the street I would turn on to run back down the final hill.  And then I turned on Yale.  I still had over a mile left, but it was downhill.  That made it much easier to keep my pace up, but my legs were aching.  It wasn’t my joints or any scary muscle pain.  It was just a deep, dull, please-sit-down-we’re-tired ache.  I typically try to pick it up the last mile or so, but I knew I was far ahead of my planned 8:30/mile pace, so I let myself finish the run on autopilot.  It wasn’t worth pushing myself to exhaustion over a few seconds on a training run.  I had one final, annoying stoplight break literally less than a block from the end of my run.  Way to ruin my dramatic finish, stoplight.  And then, I was done.  I slowed to a stop, gave a melodramatic groan, and then sat down in the grass before realizing that was a little silly and slowly making my way back to Rob’s place (I had to run a few houses past his to hit exactly 15 miles).

I finished the run in 2:01:44 and was surprised when I plugged that time into a pace calculator and realized I’d finished the run in an 8:07/mile pace.  I ran similarly fast the previous week, and I thought that last week’s fast long run would make this one a bit slower.  My fitness and recovery is definitely improving.

Watch

As I had suspected, I walked into Rob’s house and groaned when he asked me how my run had gone.  Considering I knew I had run well, that felt a little disingenuous, so I clarified.  “Well, I mean, it went fine, but it was a run.”  He nodded in understanding.  There were no fireworks or celebrations for my “longest run ever” because, as I had guessed, the moment I actually accomplished the milestone, it stopped mattering much to me (this is how you get sucked into an Ironman, people!).  But still, over the next few days, I periodically found myself thinking about my last couple long runs, and not just because my sore quads were reminding me every time I tried to sit down.  And I felt a kind of subtle but deep-seated satisfaction when I did.  I can’t help but think that it is a Really Cool Thing that I can just go out on a Saturday morning and run for fourteen or fifteen miles.  I know I’ve worked hard to get to this place, not just the past few months but with all the base-building I did for my half-Ironman and for my Olympic triathlon this summer.  It has reminded me just how impressive bodies are.  They really can do amazing things if they are properly prepared. Now let’s just hope that in eight months, my body can travel 125.6 miles further than it did on Saturday.

Weekly Recap (12/07-12/13)

Monday: Swim—Masters swim team (2600 yds); 6-minute abs
I thought it was going to be a terrible swim on Monday.  I slept like crap on Sunday night, woke up to sore and tired legs from my big weekend, and felt sick by the time we started our main set.  Why did I feel sick?  Check out the workout.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (closed fist)
4 x 50 (dreidel kicks)
100 build
2 x 10 minute swim
2 x 100 pull
It was the dreidel kicks.  The dreidel kick was a drill where we were all in the streamlined position and we (tried to) kick while rotating 360° from our backs to our fronts to our backs again, and so forth.  I got motion sickness from the drill, so I started the two 10-minute swims tired, sore, and sick.  We were supposed to swim hard for both sets but hit the same yardage during the second as the first.  And somehow, I seriously outperformed what I thought I could do.  I swam 650 yard for both sets, and during the second swim, I came in for the 500 at 7:50, which is my fastest 500 to date.  So what set today off from other days?  I ate a banana and had some water before going to the pool which I never do.  Usually I just go on an empty stomach because I don’t usually feel like eating until I’ve been up a couple of hours.  I don’t think that a single banana was 100% responsible for such a good day.  I’m also better at distance and was probably better rested than I felt.  But I’m sure it helped, so I’m going to make a habit of eating before swimming.  And about two hours after initially attempting the dreidel kicks, after sitting at work and sipping some coffee and water, I was almost completely over my nausea.   A tendency towards motion sickness is one of the genetic curses passed down to me by my father.  Thanks, Dad.  Oh, and after work, I managed to motivate myself to do some core work.

Tuesday: Run—800m, 5 x 1200, 800m
Another Tuesday, another speed workout.  The last time I ran 1200s, it was a very hard workout.  So I wasn’t necessarily feeling prepared to do it again, plus another 1200.  I hoped the track not being covered in snow like it was during my last set of 1200s might help, but I still spent the whole day dreading it and reminding myself, “It’s only 25 minutes and 30 seconds of hard running.”  It was a hard workout, but I felt good about my performance, even if I wasn’t as consistent as I am when doing shorter intervals:
4:59.5, 5:00.6, 5:04.3, 5:05.4, 5:05.8
I was aiming to hit 5:03 for these intervals, but I knew that was a stretch.  Obviously, the last three felt much tougher for me.  I was counting down each 200 as I worked my way through them.  These longer reps take a lot of guts for me.  It’s hard to keep up the pace for a 1200 when you are already feeling the burn in your quads after the first 100.  One criticism I’ve read about this particular training plan is that the longer intervals don’t scale well.  I’m inclined to agree.  I haven’t had any issues hitting my paces on the tempo runs, long runs, and shorter intervals, but these longer intervals are much harder for me to hit.  I’m pleased with the mental fortitude I showed during this workout.  Even the third repeat in the set was hard for me, so I spent the majority of the workout really pushing myself.  These are the workouts that bring about improvement. I’m not sure I’ll get around to racing another 5k before my Ironman training starts up, and I’m kind of bummed.  I’d like to see if I can run a 5k in a sub-7:00/mile pace.

Wednesday: REST
It was a really warm day, and it would have made a good day for a bike ride.  But I took a rest day instead because my bike looked like this:

DeadBike

I’m Rob is replacing the cables and housing, so it’s out of commission for now.  However, the rest day was welcome.  I had an emotionally trying evening on Tuesday (I think I was really hungry but was too lazy to make food), so I woke up pretty drained on Wednesday.  Plus, my legs were shot from my speed workout the evening before.  A rest day is what I needed.

Thursday: Run—5.2 miles (39:04); 6-minute abs
I still had some “use it or lose it” vacation time, so I took a day off work.  I took advantage of the day off work to get my oil changed, and I took advantage of the time it took to change my oil to get in my 5 mile tempo run for the day.  I mapped out my run prior to driving to the shop and made notes on my hands to avoid getting lost, but while I know the area fairly well, I apparently don’t quite know it “running” well yet.   So, mistakes were made.  This left me uncertain as to how long exactly my run had been (I started the run too far up the street, missed the turn-around by a few houses, and then turned down the wrong street for a few hundred feet on the way back).  I’ve very good at mapping out routes I’ve run, and less good at running routes I’ve only mapped, so I was able to re-map my actual course when I got home.  I saw that it ended up being 5.2 miles, which put my pace at 7:30/mile.  That was too fast for this run (which should have been around 7:45/mile), and I felt it.  The last half mile was downhill, but the half mile or so before that point was a struggle.  I’m excusing myself because, due to my little detours, I wasn’t sure how long far/fast I was running.  I also did some core work in the evening.  I’m well on my way to actually making core work a part of my routine.

Friday: Swim—Masters swim team (2800 yds)
I tried the magic banana trick again today before swimming, and, lo and behold, I had another good day.  Eating before a hard workout.  Who knew?  Anyway, today was indeed a hard workout:
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
6 x 50 dreidel kicks, easy swim
200 at any pace
6 x 200 at above-ish pace (:45 rest between)
150 easy
200 (faster than first)
150 easy
We could choose any pace for the first 200, so I treated it like an 800 in the pool in regards to effort.  I swam it in 3:04 which meant I was aiming to go no more than ten seconds slower for each of the six following 200s.  To my surprise, I nailed it.  My slowest 200 was only a 3:05, and most of my 200s were a few seconds faster.  I even had a surprising 2:50 on my fifth 200.  I’ve thought about all ways that time could have been wrong (Was it really a 3:50? Did I forget to do the last 50?), but nothing else works with the time I got.  I just had to chalk it up to strong form and good flip turns (which are a rarity for me).  My final 200 (the one sandwiched between the easy swims) was a 2:54.  This workout was far from easy, and I was impressed with my ability to hold a pace.  I tend to hold paces well during intervals on the track, but I’m more familiar with running and I have the benefit of looking at my watch whenever I need to.  The fact that I did a similarly good job in the pool gave me confidence that I am learning to judge my physical exertion, not just aiming to hit a time on a watch.

Saturday: Run—15 miles (2:01:44)
This was actually the longest run I have ever done, so I will be writing up a more detailed blog post about it later this week.  But overall, the run went very well.  Before I left, I ate a banana, two little sandwiches made from little rolls, a bowl of cereal, and a glass of chocolate milk.  During my run, I ate three Shot Blocks and followed each one by water.  I think I was pushing the “not enough fuel” line, so I’ll make sure to start taking more on my runs.  Like last week, I ran faster than I should have and hit an 8:07/mile pace.  I guess I need to stop that, but it’s hard to do when you are running by feel, especially when very little of the run is truly flat.  My pace was constantly changing because the incline on which I was running was constantly changing.  But when I saw I was significantly ahead of my pace with 13 miles, I didn’t try to pick it up like I sometimes do at the end of a long run.  Baby steps?

Sunday: Bike—30 minutes (7 miles); 6-minute abs
I was not feeling a bike ride.  I was sore and sleepy and kind of just wanted a nap.  But I wanted to try out my new bike setup, and I had no excuse not to go.  I’m glad I did.  I only went out for a quick half hour spin, but the mountains were gorgeous and (finally!) snow-covered.  Plus, it was good for my legs.  They felt awful for the first mile or so but warmed up and felt pretty good by the time I got back.  I also did some core work which brought my total for the week up to three.  Success!

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I can’t get over the mountains this winter.

Winter weather training tips

Winter arrived in Salt Lake City this past week.  Thus far, it’s been a mild fall and winter with no snow in the valley and temperatures remaining firmly in the 30s.  I still don’t have much to complain about in regards to winter weather, but snow (a little!) finally arrived last week, and there were a few days where the temperature never made it out of the 20s.  For the first time this year, I’ve really had to consider the weather when thinking about my workouts.  Last year, my winter was a little tragic in regards to working out.  I don’t want to repeat that performance this year, and with my Ironman next summer, I can’t afford to even if I wanted to.  Another important element to working out in winter (for me) is a complete distaste for working out inside.  Bike trainers or stationary bikes are miserable for me, and a treadmill is even worse.  So, like every blogger in the history of the world, I’ve got some winter training tips.  Specifically these are techniques that I’m using to keep myself swimming, cycling, and running throughout the winter and avoiding cycling and running inside as much as possible.  Keep in mind that these tips are fairly specific to my geographical area and personal preferences.  If you love the treadmill, you should run on the treadmill.  And if you live somewhere that experiences non-stop snow or sub-zero temperatures in the winter, this won’t be all that helpful either.  Winters in Salt Lake City can be cold and snowy, but not in the same way that, say, Massachusetts or Minnesota are.

1. Have a plan. This is where I messed up last year. I moved to Salt Lake at the beginning of December to begin a new job.  I was (understandably) overwhelmed and just trying to deal with all the changes I had made.  There was no plan to my workout schedule.  So I ended up running about 15 miles a week, cycling about three times total, and not swimming at all because I hadn’t found a gym yet.  It was really easy to put off any hard efforts because it was the off-season, after all.  If I had actually been serious about creating a plan and some goals for that time, I would have been better about working out.  My main goal/plan for this winter is pretty hefty (train for a marathon), but goals don’t have to be that intense.  One of my other plans this winter is to do some cycling every week.  I know if there is a very nasty week, I may only be able to do one short ride inside.  Other weeks, I may be able to do a few nice rides outside.  But knowing that I will ride my bike at least once a week will keep me from letting it slide for several weeks in a row.

2. Reduce volume. It is the off-season, after all. Rest is an important part of training, and I’d rather rest when the weather is awful and I don’t want to be outside anyway. While it’s important to keep active and not let your training slide (see the point above this one), I like taking winter a little easier.  Even though I’m training for a marathon this winter, I’ve only been training 5-7 hours a week compared to the 10-18 hours a week I’ll being doing once I start officially training for the Ironman.  I’m only working out once a day, and my Saturday mornings include a healthy mix of coffee, television, warm blankets, and a long run instead of 4-5 hour long bike rides starting at 6:00am.  I know that, so far, the reduction in volume I’ve had this winter is giving me a mental break that I really need before starting a tough training program in the spring.

3. Watch the weather like a hawk. This is kind of obvious, but it bears mentioning. I always check the weather as I’m making my tentative workout schedule on Saturday or Sunday.  If the weather is supposed to be very cold over the weekend, I’ll plan to get a longer bike ride in during the week.  If it’s supposed to be very cold during the week, I’ll plan to skip the weekday bike ride in favor of another day of Masters swim team.  And I watch the weather during the week, too.  If a predicted storm system moves up a day or two, I adjust my plans accordingly.  I do the same if its arrival is postponed.  I always have at least four cities in my weather app—Murray (where I live), Salt Lake City (where Rob lives), Lehi (where I work), and Nampa (where my family lives).  That way, I can always check the weather of the specific city where a particular workout will occur.

WeatherWatcher
Okay, so this is hardly winter weather.  I promise it was in the 20s a week ago!

4. Have a floating rest day. Even if you watch the weather, nothing is 100% predictable in the winter. Just last week, I wanted to go on a bike ride. The temperature wasn’t horribly cold, but the wind was cold and strong and shifted the conditions from “go for a short bike ride” to “stay inside and watch bad television.”  It wasn’t a huge deal because I had already been swimming that day.  But if I had been forced by the weather to take a rest day or work out inside when I had been counting on an outdoor ride, I would have been disappointed.  A floating rest day helps alleviate some of that pressure.  There’s two ways you can do this.  You can work in one non-negotiable rest day and then allow yourself one more “off” day if the weather doesn’t cooperate (if the weather does cooperate, you get a bonus workout!) or you can place your rest day towards the end of the week and allow yourself to take it earlier if you need to.  That’s what I do.  I typically take Friday as my rest day.  But if the weather is particularly bad any other day of the week, I can take that day off, completely guilt-free, and shift my workouts accordingly.  (Being a triathlete, I have a little bit of an advantage over pure runners or pure cyclists.  If the weather really is terrible, but I want to get a hard workout in without resorting to a treadmill or trainer, I can hit up the pool.)

5. Wear appropriate clothing. I mean, duh. But this is where I get to show off all my fun exercise clothes.* When it comes to working out, I run really warm.  During off-season winter practices in college, my coach was always trying to get me to put on some long pants because I’d get through the warm-up and then be in my shorts and t-shirt doing sprints in cold weather.  So keep that in mind while I discuss my typical clothing choices.  For running, my top of choice is a jacket from Costco.  Seriously.  It’s the Kirkland Signature™ Ladies’ Full Zip Active Yoga Jacket, and it’s great.  I love that it’s long and that the sleeves have a little cuff that can flip over and cover your hands.  I don’t run with gloves (it creates a weird sensation for me that I can’t handle), and I have long arms, so long sleeves (to cover my hands) are a must for me.  I used to run in sweatshirts that were too big for me so I could pull the sleeves down.  Now I just wear this, by itself if the temperatures are in the 30s and with a second layer if it’s colder.  I don’t wear anything fancy on my lower half.  I wear my cycling tights with the option of adding another pair of running tights or a pair of regular sweats on top.  I double up on socks for my feet and use my cycling headband to keep my ears warm.

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My classic running garb.

Cycling in cold weather is a little more complicated.  My most recent test was a short (and sunny and dry) 28° ride.  For a cold-weather jersey, I will sing the praises of the Castelli Gabba jersey until I take my last breath.  It’s wind-proof and water-resistant, and it’s amazing.  I was perfectly comfortable in just my Gabba jersey and my Craft base layer riding in 28°.  The real beauty of the Gabba, though, is its versatility.  I have worn the Gabba in temperatures up to 40° and have been comfortable.  When I hit those higher temperatures, I wear it by itself, open the side vents, and unzip it slightly.  It’s really expensive (I got mine as a gift), but since the technology has now been around a few years, other companies are coming out with their own versions of it that may be cheaper.

GabbaJersey
Castelli’s Gabba jersey
BaseLayer
My Craft base layer

My legs thus far have been fine with a pair of fleece-lined cycling tights over cycling shorts and knee warmers.  Again, when I wore this on my 28° ride, I felt comfortable and like I could have gone on a much longer ride and been fine.

TightsWarmers
Tights and knee-warmers.  Mine don’t have any high-tech windstopper material, but if they did, they would work in even colder weather.

Really, extremities are the hardest to properly protect in cold weather rides.  Your core and your legs warm up as you ride because of the effort you are exerting, but your head, feet, and hands don’t.  So far, I’ve only used a head band to keep my head warm, but in the future, I’ll probably some sort of full cap and something to keep my neck and face warmer.  Full disclosure: I will probably not buy these things.  I will probably borrow them from my boyfriend.

BeanieBeard
My boyfriend’s cycling beanie and neck/lower face warmer.  Apparently, the little puff ball on the hat sticks right up through your helmet and makes you look adorable/like a total dork.

My hands were fine with my winter gloves, but if I wanted to ride in much colder weather, I’d probably have to get lobster gloves.  Lobster gloves are pretty much cycling specific.  They put two fingers together in each finger-pocket (I honestly have no idea what word to use, but hopefully you understand what I mean) to help produce more warmth.  Full mittens would be warmer but are not realistic when you are cycling and need to shift gears and have some dexterity.

EarsGloves
My gloves and headband.  Headband is lined with a soft material and is super comfy.  Gloves are also very comfortable.

Toe covers for your shoes won’t cut it in the winter.  You pretty much need a full booties to ride long distances in the cold weather.  I will preface this by saying that I haven’t tried them yet, but I do have a pair of neoprene shoe covers that just arrived in the mail.  I’m waiting for a nasty day to try them out.  With a good pair of booties and a warm pair of wool socks, you should be set for some reasonably long rides in sub-30° weather without any issues.

ShoeCovers
My new shoe covers.  Hope they are as warm as the reviews say the are!

Winter here in Salt Lake has been quite mild so far, and because of that, I’ve been handling it like a champ.  I’ve only had to do one indoor workout (besides swimming) so far, and that was because of timing/logistics and not because of the weather.  The real test for me will come as the weather gets colder (and it likely will get colder in January and/or February) and I increase my training volume.

*No one paid me money or gave me anything to mention their gear.  It’s all just stuff that I use/love.

Weekly Recap (11/30-12/06)

Monday: Swim—Masters swim team (2700 yds)
I didn’t go to sleep until almost 11:00pm on Sunday night.  I was up watching the Broncos and then couldn’t settle down.  So I was not ready for my 5:00am alarm clock.  Regardless, I felt good in the pool.  I’ve been trying to figure out when I feel strong in the pool and when I feel weak, and I think it correlates most with my recent efforts running and cycling.  Since I only did an easy 30 minute spin on Sunday, I felt good in the pool on Monday.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 @ 1:00 (6-beat kick)
4 x 50 @ 1:00 (closed fist)
4 x 225 (broken set: 150 build, then 75 fast kick)
100 easy
20 x 25 @ :30 (I did these in 19-22 seconds)
100 easy
100 sprint (1:17)
I enjoyed this workout.  I was putting in a strong effort the whole time, but I was still able to keep up my paces throughout the whole hour.  It was hard, but doable which kept me from getting down on myself.  And I was still able to bust out a pretty quick 100, even after a tough workout.  A few weeks ago, we did a fast 100 at the end of our workout, and I swam it in 1:23.  While six seconds could be the difference between a good day and a bad day, I’ll take the improvement.

Tuesday: Run—800m, 10 x 400, 800m
I’m pleased that my nerves on Tuesdays (speed work) and Thursdays (tempo runs) are becoming more manageable.  When I thought about this workout throughout the day, I thought of it as a tough but doable session and not a death march.  I know, I know.  It’s super weird to get nervous for a workout, but that’s the way I am.  The forecast for Tuesday was cold but sunny, and fortunately that bore out.  I got to the track, but it was closed up.  I had to hop a fence to get in, but the fence wasn’t even chest height, so it wasn’t a big deal.  I rested 45 seconds between reps and 1:30 after the fifth 400. My times on the 400s were as follows:
1:30.18, 1:33.81, 1:33.45, 1:33.25, 1:33.59
1:33.33, 1:33.87, 1:33.33, 1:34.19, 1:32.74
I felt great up through my sixth 400.  Then I started struggling a bit.  Last time I did this workout, it was eight 400s, and I felt those extra two this time around.  I was very consistent, though.  My consistency in speed workouts has been improving since I started adding in speed workouts regularly.  This workout was exhausting, but I felt really good about it, especially considering the third 100 on the track is apparently perpetually shaded and was still covered with the snow from this weekend.  But hopping the fence to get back to my car was much harder than it was the first time around.

Wednesday: Bike—12.5 miles (46:34); 6-minute abs
Right before lunch, I developed a deep and insatiable hunger.  There was free pizza at work, so I went all out and ate four pieces.  The last few times I weighed myself, I’ve been down a kilogram or so, and I was perfectly satiated (not stuffed at all!) afterwards.  The last couple of days must have just caught up to me.  Then I went on a beautiful bike ride.  Seriously, I stopped so many times to take pictures.  And for each scene I tried to capture, there was one I rode by without stopping.  The mountains were stunning, the cloud patterns were a beautiful backdrop, and the browns and golds of the landscape contrasted beautifully with the snow on the mountains and the blue-gray sky.   It was a wonderful, invigorating break from my computer screen.  When I got home from work, I finally got my act together and did six minutes of various ab exercises, including leg lifts and planks.  I forgot how dreadfully painful those were.  I plan to hopefully do this 3-4 times a week and eventually graduate to eight or ten minutes of actual exercises.

12338762_1508571336109868_49917448_n
Far over the Misty Mountains cold…

Thursday: Run—5 miles (38:27)
While I wish this run had been a little faster than the last time I ran this route (38:16), I know that I can’t expect to consistently improve every single time I run.  Even though that would be awesome.  I did make a discovery.  I’m pretty sure the route I’ve been running is a little longer than five miles.  I use a large, paved circle around a mini neighborhood park as my turnaround.  I knew that there was one section of this lap that was different than shown on MapMyRun.  I thought they had just torn one section out, so I just ran across the grass to complete the circle.  However, this time I noticed what looked like replanted grass on the other side of the circle, too… and it was inside the path that I was following.  This combined with the fact that I lost 15 seconds (off an 8:00/mile pace) on a loop that is supposedly less than half a mile long makes me pretty certain that this loop adds 15-20 seconds to my run.  That’s not a lot of time, but I’ll probably avoid running that loop in the future.  Despite the fact that this run was probably a little long, my pace calculates out to 7:41/mile.

Friday: REST
A rest day and my birthday.  Perfect combination!  I spent the evening with my boyfriend and his parents.  He made his amazing pasta dish (Bachelor Pasta #9), and we all enjoyed it immensely.  Plus, there was cake.  I got some fun presents, including bright green handlebar tape for my bike.

Dinner
Sorry for my finger in the frame.  Not sucking at photography is hard. 😦

Saturday: Run—14 miles (1:53:58)
Eek.  These long runs are getting… well, long.  I decided to try Shot Blocks as fuel instead of Hammer Gel.  This was mostly because I had some Shot Blocks and home and didn’t feel like running to the store on Friday.  I also placed a couple of water bottles along my route before going for my run.  An unforeseen benefit of this was that I was driving along my route to place my second water bottle and realized that a part of my route I hadn’t run before contained a giant hill which allowed me to mentally prepare for said hill.  I felt strong from the start of my run.  My legs took a little bit to warm up (as usual), but once I crested the first major hill, I found it easy to pick up the tempo a bit.  I only checked my pace at four points during the run—4 miles, 6 miles, 9 miles, and 12 miles.  Other than that, I was running by feel.  I was consistently ahead of my 8:30/mile goal pace at each of the first three checkpoints even though my pace felt relaxed.  My Shot Blocks and water both settled well in my stomach.  They felt better than Hammer Gel did a few weeks ago, although that might have been partly because I felt better in general.  The Shot Blocks were caffeinated which gave me a nice little energy boost.  The hill made an appearance around mile 11.5.  It was bookended by a less steep ascent, but the steepest part was only about half a mile long.  It was tough on fatigued legs, and I was spent by the time I made it to the top at mile 12.  The last two miles were tough because of that hill, but once I hit the “all downhill from here” point, I had recovered somewhat and felt okay.  Since I started incorporating hills into my runs, I have gotten much better at recovering while running.  I finished with an 8:08/mile pace.  I did stop my watch when I drank water (probably 10-15 seconds three times during the run) and at stoplights.  There were probably two longer stoplight breaks (and some shorter oners) that bummed me out, but I try to keep my routes as stoplight-free as possible.  This run was really encouraging to me.  I remember a few months ago, I was stoked about a 7 mile run in Idaho on a flat route that I finished in an 8:08 pace.  Now, I’m running that same pace for a 14 mile run while 1,500+ feet higher in elevation with some climbing.  The last few long runs have felt okay, but not really good.  It was a nice confidence-builder to get in another long run where I felt strong.

FourteenMiles9thand9th
That final hill was pretty dreadful.

Sunday: Bike—15.37 miles (1:08:11); 6-minute abs
It was a gorgeous morning, and by the time I got out of church, it was about 50° and sunny.  So I was really looking forward to a warm, pleasant ride with Rob.  We got out on our bikes, and it was gorgeous.  Unfortunately, as we rode, the sun moved further and further behind some clouds and the wind started to pick up.  We still got a nice ride in, but we were both pretty cold as we rolled back up to Rob’s place.  Still, it’s not every weekend that I get in an hour long ride during the winter, so I’m not complaining (even if I am shivering). I also managed to work on my core today.  That’s twice this week, which is a huge improvement.  I’ll try for three times next week.

Hey, I’m 28 now!

It’s my 28th birthday!

I went back and forth about whether or not I should write a birthday post.  It felt (well, feels) a little narcissistic, but it also seemed like a thing to mention.  Obviously, I decided to write one.  But I wasn’t in the mood to write a heartfelt letter to my past or future self.  And, let’s be honest, I don’t have an impressive social life that would create a fun, fast-paced birthday celebration narrative.

So instead, I decided to briefly chronicle the past year with some photos.  I moved to Salt Lake City just a few days before my birthday last year, so this year has been one full of changes and new experiences.

TempleSquare
Rob and I visited Temple Square before Christmas.  Every year the LDS church decorates with some serious Christmas lights.
CrookedTree
Rob’s cute little crooked Christmas tree with a lot of loot.
SleepyClayton
I didn’t have much time to take off, but I was able to visit my family for a few days over the holidays.  This little guy had a big second Christmas.
CutEyebrow
I passed out in January and got a nice war wound.  This one wasn’t nearly as bad as the one I got the last time I passed out in the bathroom!
Church
I started attending the Episcopal cathedral in Salt Lake City.  I think that plus my 8:30 bedtime officially makes me a senior citizen.
Peeps
Easter means Peeps!
Emigration
My first ride up Emigration Canyon.  This ride was a staple the whole summer.
Cookies
Delicious cookies!  I think I made these for Rob’s and my second anniversary.
Wetsuit
I finally got a wetsuit.
Wedding
My beautiful best friend’s wedding.
Dancing
Dancing with Rob at said wedding.  I even managed to sport a pair of (low) heels!
Pip
Mr. Pip loves to sleep in boxes, being a cat and all.
MS150
Rob and I at the MS 150 (a century on Saturday and a 50 miler on Sunday)
PipComputer
Mr. Pip fell asleep working late again.
Jordaneele
I did one Olympic triathlon over the summer…
Toughman
…and one half-iron relay with Rob and my dad. (Excuse my crazy eyes.  It was early.)
Clayton
I visited Idaho for each of my niece’s and nephews’ birthdays.
Brooklyn
And I met my brand new niece for the first time ever.
Pies
And finally, I made some killer pies for Thanksgiving.

And that brings us about up to today.  Being 27 has been a bit crazy for me.  I moved to a new state and started a new job.  I signed up for an Ironman and started training for my first marathon.  We’ll see how being 28 treats me.  Fingers crossed!