Pacing reality check

After a year of letting it languish in the bottom of my backpack, today I resurrected my Garmin.  For today’s run I kept pace on both it and the MapMyRun app, which confirmed, sadly, what I already strongly suspected: MMR overestimates distance by about 5%.  That doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that 5% error at a 10:00 per mile pace equates to  30 seconds per mile–and there’s a big difference between 10:00 and 9:30 per mile!  So I had pretty inflated pacing times for a lot of my recent runs.

But even with more accurate stats, today’s run was good news!  Today I ran all the way out to the dam at the end of the Vasona reservoir (heh.  “All the way.” Like it’s far.  But it felt far!) and back: just a hair over four miles.

mile 1 Garmin 8:57; MMR 8:34 (sigh. if only…)

mile 2 Garmin 9:03; MMR 8:36

mile 3 Garmin 9:36; MMR 9:26 (you can tell here that MMR is also not very consistent in how much it errs).

mile 4 mixed pace: I jogged some at about 10:15, ran a couple fast pickups (100m-0.1 mile) at 6:45-7:00 pace, and walked in between.

Overall this came to 5k at 28:02 (Garmin time), plus some jogging and speed work at the end.  I would be entirely satisfied with 28 minutes at Jenny’s Light next Sunday.  It’s also very evident that at this stage of recovery/retraining, a little bit of speed work goes a long way: after just a couple sprints with AM a few days ago I found my resting pace had improved.

Otherwise this has been a good week for exercise: ran 2.78 mi around campus on Tuesday, and did our family walk route Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  I did AM’s micro-conditioning workout on Monday and Wednesday also, which is less than I intended: somehow I can’t shake feeling it’s something I need to really set aside time and dress for, and I totally don’t: I can do 60 jumping jacks and some pushups and crunches in jeans!


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The power of a good role model

Over the first week of the New Year, I was pretty undisciplined about getting in my walks and runs.  We were traveling for NYE, and then it took us a couple days to re-establish our routine once we were home, so I got in a run (2.3 mi) on the 29th, and a walk on the 30th and 4th, and that was it.

But this last week I’ve done much better, thanks in large part to my fabulous sister-in-law coming to visit.  AM is a mother of two little ones and an instructor for Stroller Strides, who recently completed her first half marathon.  It was incredibly motivating to have her here to run with and to talk about post-partum exercise with.  Especially since she looks like a damn Victoria’s Secret model–whatever she did after her babies, I want to do that!  I really admire her as a mom and athlete.  My daughter also adored her, she had lots of good suggestions for non-exercise things like sleep training, and her visit was the perfect pretext for a family trip to the beach and some local wine tasting, so it was good business all around.

But, to the point:

Sunday I did a quick run on my own: 2.5 mi.

Tues family walk 3.1 mi.

Thurs I ran 3.3 on my own, including the first mile at 8:44–it was nice to be able to run more than 5k.  This included about 2 miles of straight running with no stoplight breaks–a small victory but nice to know I could do it.  I am starting to sincerely enjoy running again.

Fri AM and I ran 3 miles at 10:06

Sat we ran 3.6–but I forgot to turn my timer off and lost track of pace.  Probably about 10:00-10:15.  However, since AM was doing this burpees countdown challenge, on both this run and Friday’s we stopped midway through for her burpees.  I tried…halfheartedly…to join.  Friday I think I managed 4! My God!  So not any upper body strength these days.  Saturday I did 10…but couldn’t pull off the full push-up, it was really more of a plank burpee.  But then we did a couple sprints as well (about 100m repeats I’d guess), and I have to say that even though I was so so easily winded and much slower than AM, it felt really good to run full out, if only for a moment.

Today we did about 2/3 of our family walk, and AM passed along this micro-workout for strength conditioning:

30 jumping jacks;

5 pushups

25 high knees

7 burpees

10 crunches (I did 25 bicycles)

7 squats

5 more pushups (I did 10 on-my-knees pushups instead.  So embarrassing)

10 more crunches (I did 25 bicycles)

5 more pushups (10 on my knees)

7 more squats

30 more jumping jacks (have I mentioned the bouncing?  I keep laughing at myself because I have literally never needed a sports bra before and now I finally understand what the rest of my gender has been complaining about).

1 minute wall sit (this also was absurdly hard)

5 more pushups (2 real..then 3 on my knees)

25 high knees.

The whole set took me just 8 minutes.  I REALLY like having this because it takes so little time and I can do it in my living room whenever I have a short break.  The large number of short exercise sets also makes it very non-intimidating.  I’ve been having a hard time starting on strength work because 100 crunches, or even 10 inchworms, seems like a lot.  This is just little bites of exercise.  It feels easy to at least be able to do some of it.  I hope to be able to stick with it at least some of this every day, and build toward more.  I can already tell I’m going to be sore tomorrow, and part of me feels annoyed with myself that I can be tapped by so little when I used to be able to do so much more.  Still, just as with running, with strength work I have to start somewhere, and I’m happy to have started.

19.4 miles for the week (14.4 running and 5 walking)


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A new year, a new life, a new body, a new race!

I hope everyone is having a great holiday season!

I officially signed up for my first post-pregnancy race: the Jenny’s Light 5k in Los Gatos on January 26th.  Jenny’s Light is a foundation that provides resources and support for post-partum mood disorders.  It seemed like the perfect cause for my first race after my daughter was born.  I have been so very lucky to have my husband with me for these first weeks, to have him be so loving and supportive and good with her, to have my daughter be so beautifully healthy and growing so well, to be able to take this time off of work, to have a supportive boss, to have a great mother-in-law who I love come to help us out at first, to have access to great medical care…and it’s very easy to imagine that without all those things (especially my husband and my daughter’s good health) I would have been really vulnerable to depression.  The emotions after birth are so viscerally irrationally intense, and it’s easy to see how it could have been a bad trip instead of such a great one.  So we’re going to do this 5k as a family, in support of any/all the new moms who haven’t been as lucky as I have.

I am keeping my goals very conservative: enjoy the day, don’t get hurt, and shoot for 30 minutes but be disappointed by nothing.  (And because I’m now used to judge-y mom forums, let me just say that no, I don’t plan to jog with my 3-month-old.  She will stay with Daddy as he walks with her in her usual stroller.  I will jog alone, and then come join them when I’m done).

I’ve been continuing to do my short runs around town: 5k yesterday at 10:10 pace; 2.3 miles on Christmas Eve at 9:35.  Otherwise we’ve been continuing with family 3 mile walks about every other day.  I plan to keep it going! Run about 3 times a week and walk the rest.  I haven’t been doing much stretching, which I need to, and eventually I’ll add back in core work once my abs have re-knit a bit more.

A lot of the rhythm of running is coming back to me, but in some ways the familiar parts of running highlight the new differences.  My ankles have been really stiff, and my hips feel awkward, to say nothing of unaccustomed bouncing in the chest!  It has made me realize that a few extra pounds are hardly all that’s changed, and I need to be patient learning how this new body works and what it can do.


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Never thought 2 miles could feel so far

3.3 miles walking yesterday, 2.3 miles running today.

8:59 first mile

10:50 second mile

9:16 last 0.3


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Starting up again post-partum

Let me ‘splain.  No.  There is too much.  Let me sum up.

I had a baby.  She’s healthy, beautiful, and awesome, in all the literal and colloquial senses of the word.  That was 8 weeks ago.  Now I’m starting exercise again.

I ran pretty regularly for the first trimester, and then about 15 miles a week until 18 weeks when I got salmonella poisoning and had alarming contractions and went to the hospital for an IV.  Everything ended up fine.  After I recovered, I dropped down to just precor and long walks or hikes–still about 15 miles a week, until about 25 weeks, when I dropped the precor and just kept walking.  At 32 weeks, I started having gestational hypertension, which got worse at 34 weeks, and that’s when I stopped most rigorous exercise.  My daughter was born at 37 weeks (no names or pics since I’m still not sure I want to have her info on the internet yet).

The hypertension lasted for 3-4 weeks after her birth, and that’s about how long I felt pretty beat up physically.

Taking stock, I gained 29 lbs during pregnancy, exactly what I should have, and had lost 15 by the time I got home from the hospital.  The first few weeks of breastfeeding have knocked off another 3-4lbs so far, so I’m about 10 lbs heavier than I used to be.

But so, so, so squashy.  After about 3 months of no real exercise and 7 months since I was really in shape, my abs don’t work, my arms are all soft, and my legs, especially thighs, are so weak and squishy.  So I’m starting slow.

The last two weeks we’ve been doing family walks down the Los Gatos trail, which is about a 5k trip.  We’ve been doing it 3-4 times a week.

Friday I went for my first post-partum run: 2.3 miles around Los Gatos.  The first mile was 9:30, the second 11:50, and the last 0.3 8:30.  I felt so out of shape, but still so happy to get back to it.  Nothing really hurt, but my abs felt bizarrely loose and weak.

yesterday I was so pathetically sore!

I did it again today, though, and it went better–9:40 average pace on the Map My Run app. (Not counting time stopped at lights though–and MMR always overestimates distance, so probably more like 10:00 really).

My plan is to stick with 2-2.5 miles every other day until it’s easy, and keep up with the walks, to be ready for a gentle 5k at the end of January.

It’s good to be getting back to it!

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Temp and Tempo

A recap of the Big Sur half marathon will be along in a minute, but first I wanted to log some thoughts about the running I did in the preceding couple weeks, which had some real ups and downs.

First, the downs.  Two weeks ago I had just a totally miserable long run.  It was 12 miles, but I hated it from about the second mile onward, and when I very slightly rolled my ankle early in mile  7, I just quit, and walked the remaining 6.  I’m still not really sure what went wrong–I had hydrated pretty well the day before and hadn’t been overtraining.  There are two factors I can point to: one is that my motivation was low; I hadn’t made a clear plan for the run, and didn’t feel eager about it at all when I got up.  I think this must be what ultra-ers think of as “junk” mileage.  I felt like I had to get a long run in, but wasn’t purposeful about what it should be or how I was going to pace it out.  The other was that it was pretty warm out–about mid-70s, with bright sun.  I know I always struggle in the heat/sun, but I haven’t gotten anywhere toward how to make it better, other than going for my run extra early on hot days.  A conversation I had with Jen recently about the relative importance of hydration vs cooling seemed really appropriate–she had been reading about some elite runner (name? no idea) who had concluded that it was far more important to keep cool during a run than to force hydration, and just drink when you’re thirsty.  This really resonated–on a cool day I can easily run 13.1 without getting thirsty or suffering any kind of dehydration symptoms, but when I’m too hot I’m miserable.  So I’m taking this as a lesson to look into ways to keep cool.  Has anybody tried products like the Cool Point handheld?  At $20 it seems like something worth trying.


Now, the good:

I had some excellent treadmill tempo training runs in the last couple weeks.  One hour run where I went 7.73 miles (7:45 pace–I started at 8:06, and held steady at 7:47-7:41 from mile 0.5 to 6.5, then 7:24-6:58 for the last 1.23), and one 4 miler at 29:30 (7:22 pace), which is my fastest 4 miles ever.   While I was treadmilling, I did a little practice counting out my running cadence.  Many cross country and track experts seem to advocate training to 180 steps per minute, based on Jack Daniels’ studies of elite runners in the 80s (specifically the 1984 Olympics).  So I checked myself out.  At a 7:47 pace, I counted my steps for 4 minutes and found I was taking an average of 175 steps per minute.  At a 7:24 pace I was taking exactly 180.  So….? On the one hand, if 180 steps per minute represents some biomechanical optimum (like the equivalent of a matching the right gait for a particular speed for horses), then I guess I’m glad to find I seem to do this naturally.  Maybe it represents less injury risk or something.  On the other hand, it means I can’t really work at taking more steps per minute as a way to get faster, and I also seem to scale my stride length with pace more than my number of steps (that is, to go faster, I take bigger steps, rather than more of them.  Which is intuitive, because otherwise those elite runners would never be able to go at 3-4 minute/mile pace while taking the same number of steps as I do going half that fast).  One less variable to mess with, I guess.

Finally, I had a really good long run last weekend.  13.1 miles, 1:49:20.  Pretty much a race-pace half marathon.  It was cool, slightly breezy, and I’d just been training at a faster pace for that treadmill workout.  I also ate a GU 10 minutes before I started, which correlated with more energy than I’m used to feeling late in a long run.  So I brought those same tactics to Big Sur, which I’ll post about shortly (spoiler: a good race, but not a PR).

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Week(end) wrap-up: mostly easy miles

Coming off of Healdsburg, I wanted last week to be the start of getting back to a more reliable and rigorous workout schedule, as part of a buildup to my next big target: the Big Sur half marathon in mid-November.
Monday: rest (some stretching and foam rolling)

Tuesday: 5 miles precor, plus half my old core routine (OMG.  This has gotten difficult while I was hurt and lazy…)

Wednesday: 3.1 miles at near 5k pace: 8, 7:24, 7:06, 0:40 for a total of 5k in 23:10.  This felt very hard but very good!  And then I did 2 more miles at 8:30 for a total of 5.1.

Thursday: a long walk but nothing formal

Friday: core work, 3 miles precor

Saturday: joined JYL for the middle part of her 18-mile CIM training run.  She trekked through the whole thing with nary a complaint like the total rock star she is.  This was perfect for me since I was looking to log a fair number of miles at a gentle pace.  I joined in when she was at mile 4, and we headed up to Point Isabelle and back for 11 miles at about 10:30 pace, then she split off to finish her last 3 while I felt frisky and bolted the last 0.75 back to my car at 7:40 pace.  I felt good, apart from the big toenail on my right foot, which got a little banged up at Healdsburg and is now a lovely range of evening colors.  2 marathons, a dozen-plus half marathons, probably a hundred double-digit training runs, and this is the first time I’ve experienced the whole toenails-turning-colors thing.  Huh.  Hope it doesn’t fall off!

Sunday:  LAAAAAZZYY :).  Tiny bit of foam roller and stretching.  Total for the week: 13.15+5+5.1+11.75=35 miles…but only because I ran long on one Sunday and the following Saturday.

Monday: p90 X2 “Total Body” (Love this workout, but have to do it only when I have the house to myself, since trainer Tony’s inane witticisms drive JMG moderately crazy).

Tues/Today: 5.1 miles precor, foam roller, stretching.

Plan for the rest of the week:  One speed/tempo run of 5-7 miles, 2 core workouts, and one more run or precor at a moderate pace.  Plan for the weekend is 10-12 at 8:30-8:45.  Goal is 25-27 miles total.

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