training diary: half marathon prep – week 1

As I mentioned in my last post, if all goes to plan then I will be busy training for a half marathon PR this spring/summer. First up is See Jane Run on June 4 in Alameda, followed by Santa Rosa in late August. I ran the Santa Rosa half back in 2014 and have done the 5k distance at See Jane Run twice.

IMG_4686.JPG

Bubbles @ SJR last year.

For this impending race, I have developed an 8-week training plan that’s fairly conservative and loose, targeting consistency while building up a comfortable base with 5 runs per week: 3 easy, a Thursday speed workout (low key-ish like fartleks or pace runs), and a weekend long run. As for tune up races, I’ve got a 5k race to close out April and then Bay to Breakers as usual on May 21.

IMG_4643.JPG

Breakers! 2017 will be my 5th consecutive year running. BTB is infamous for their back of the pack shenanigans, but I think that the actual race course is awesome and it’s definitely a contender for my favorite local race. It’s also hell of historic – the event began in 1912 as a way to lift the city’s spirits after the devastating 1906 earthquake.

So here’s how last week, April 10-16, played out:

Monday 4/10: Rest My intention had been a 4 mile run commute after work, but I was so exhausted from a fun-filled weekend that I decided that I might be better served by an early bedtime.

Tuesday 4/11: Superslow strength training Also – a brisk walk with Darwin to/from the studio.

Wednesday 4/12: 5 miles easy (9’20 avg pace)

Thursday 4/13: 3.6 miles fartleks @ 8x 1 min on 1 min off.  (9’14” avg pace) I was supposed to do 10 repeats but I didn’t have time! This was my first speed workout in a while so it’s just as well to get back into it probably.

Friday 4/14: 5.3 miles easy (9’10” avg pace) A very invigorating run. I really enjoy this loop that takes me through Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, and Mission Bay, passing AT&T Park right in the middle. Highlight of the week!

Saturday 4/15: 9.8 LSD (9’54” avg pace) My plan called for 9 miles, but I found one of those magical hidden trails in Golden Gate park, and so my halfway point went a little long. I was mildly annoyed because somehow my apple watch cut the run short while I was paused at a stoplight 6.5 miles in. Ugh.

Sunday 4/16: Rest After a lousy sleep, this recovery day was a bit rough. I felt draggy all day, but I did manage to take it really easy and spend a lot of time off my feet I capped off the week by cooking a lovely almost-vegan Easter dinner and eating a piece of cake. 🙂

IMG_6261.JPG

Spring vegetable cous cous with spicy pesto. Yemm.

Total Weekly Mileage: 23.7

All in all it was a great kick off to half marathon training. After a good night’s sleep on Monday, my energy levels were solid and I had a lot of fun on these runs. I’d say 75% of my meals and snacks were healthy, and except for Saturday night, I got at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. These peripheral things become so important as mileage increases, and I often don’t pay enough attention in favor of just trying adhere to my daily run calendar. But I really feel it when I eat junk or don’t get enough rest, and I keep reminding myself to prioritize this aspect of training. 

So this week, in addition to just putting down the mileage of course, I have a few goals for making sure I’m in good form to get it done:

  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep
  • Eat intuitively and limit alcohol
  • Put in a little time for stretching and foam rolling (even if it’s just 5 minutes)

 

“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.”

Mahatma Gandhi.

Well here is the post in which I introduce my prospective strategy for training for the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers International Half Marathon in 5 stinkin’ weeks!

Between determining details of the mileage and rest and cross training in the weeks ahead, through my research I’ve come across some global notes which may prove to be just as important for making it to and through the BIG DAY:

**Let go of expectations**

At least with respect to time. 2015 was supposed to be the year of the big PRs — but this ship has long since sailed. No matter. New goals include:

In Training

  • barring injury or illness, complete the planned training runs (i mean for god’s sake it’s just 5 weeks…).
  • that said, don’t take things so seriously.
  • that also said, every run has a purpose.

During the Race

  • enjoy the tour of the city and crossing the Canadian border.
  • overall: just have fun.

After the Race

  • after the race: eat pizza and beer (preferably a local one)
  • be grateful to spend time with my mom and dad, brother and sister-in-law, and others.

**Long runs are the foundation**

A repeated mantra in many half-marathon and marathon plans regardless of the length: laser focus on diligently hammering out that Saturday LSD. Of course, every run should mean something, but they’re the gravy.

**Practice finishing EVERY SINGLE RUN strong**

Failure to do this was, in my assessment, the single biggest contributor to my mini-meltdown at the San Francisco half marathon in July. It’s not that a positive mental attitude would have led to a better performance necessarily, but perhaps the last 3 miles would have been less grueling and mentally exhausting. Too often I allowed myself to wallow in tiredness and waning enthusiasm — during workouts but especially in last miles. But — I thought, at least I’m completing the prescribed mileage. At least I’m getting it DONE. It’s no mystery why on race day my brain just hit a moment where it was like — STOP. NOW. The ensuing internal bargaining and self-pity made the experience mildly excruciating and I am not interested in a repeat. Which brings me to…

**Stay positive — or at least, recognize negative patterns in thinking**

One thing that they stress in mindfulness meditation is that when thoughts arise, to make a soft mental note like: thinking. Or even more specific like: judging. These labels are simply a recognition of the occurrence, without trying to change or analyze anything. I think that my recent indifference to running and training has centered on, quite simply, a negative attitude towards it. Trying to think positive thoughts is one way to do this, but in other ways trying to force it can almost feed the negativity in a perverse way.  So if I can’t be positive, I can at least recognize negative thinking, laziness, excuses… without judging them … and then go out and complete the exercise anyway.

Onto the goods, now. Completed on scratch paper in highlighter and ballpoint pen over lunch at the office — here is my custom, handy-dandy, 5-weeks-out, shit-kickin’ half marathon training plan:

5 week half marathon training planWell for now that’s the best I got. Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain. Or snow. Or Tornado.
Question time! Have you ever run a race with minimal preparation? What was your experience? Any advice?

“I have a lot of fun doing this but I don’t necessarily think that it’s good for you.”

Josh Spector. Ultrarunner.

“The benefits of running decrease after a certain amount of time…I do it because I love it…”

Talking about exercise with a friend last week, he warned: “Don’t make me run and don’t make me do crossfit.”

I don’t know much about crossfit, but I wouldn’t be recommending it to anybody based on what I do know. At the same time, while you’d expect that my enthusiasm might make me an evangelist, I don’t recommend running either.

There’s no shortage of conflicting evidence concerning the benefits and dangers of running, but recent research suggests that those running more than 20 miles per week (or frequently run faster 8 min/mile) may have shorter life spans.

In other words, when “increasing mileage and pace, the benefits of running seem to disappear,” cardiologist Martin Matsumara told The Huffington Post over the phone this week.

Interestingly, this closely echoes some of Josh’s musings during his 135 miles in the above video and the quotes I’ve referenced. But:

Matsumara says that people should absolutely not stop running. “Runners in general enjoy longer and better health,” he said.

You can see in that little documentary that while Josh is clearly under physical and mental distress, these kinds of experiences are not only enjoyable, they practically define him. He describes running as an integral, non-negotiable part of his existence. The majority of us are less fanatical of course, but I think that many runners understand the kernel of this passion.

I’m learning that overall fitness is a holistic effort that is largely personal. For me this means strength training for the body, yoga for the mind, and running for the soul.

At the end of the day, it’s what works for your body, mind, and soul.

“This is dedicated to the one I love.”

The Mama and Papas

After six months of regular practice, I’m experiencing the real joy of yoga.

Okay. Wow. It’s hard for me to write a sentence like that like without irony, but it’s not excruciating as it once would have been. As the person whose eyes would roll with every “om,” who after more than 10 years of attending classes still can’t finish with a “namaste” (I just…no) — let’s consider this a small breakthrough.

I’ve been taking a long time to think about this post because in some ways it actually gets to the meat of the blog’s purpose. As an exercise in being positive and pure and not so damn judgemental all the time. Stop being afraid that gentleness will loosen my grip on reality. I want to catch myself starting to give in to impulses that limit my ability to experience or feel something new and say, “I defy you impulses!” And then write something like: “I’m experiencing the real joy of yoga.” Okay then.

Although cynicisms persists, and my tolerance for yoga teachers as spiritual gurus and pop-psychologists remains fairly low, as some of the physical components have demystified I find myself becoming more curious and thoughtful of certain esoteric aspects of yoga. I feel powerful and light in crow pose. I achieve quiet moments in a long-held Virabhadrasana III. Continue to understand and move beyond my fear of upsidedownness. At the moment, what eludes me is dedication.

“Sometimes at the beginning of class, the teacher invites us to dedicate our practice. It’s a powerful invitation because it can essentially means that every asana, every breath, is in reverence to this person or thing for which we feel a deep sense of gratitude.”

Tania Ketenjian / Bernal Yoga Blog

Unclear how else to handle it, I’ve traditionally dedicated my practice to myself (like: be gentle to myself! I’m worth it!), or more often to the opportunity to cultivate a particular quality like forgiveness or determination or patience. But I think of the latter more as an “intention”(setting one at the beginning of class is also something that teachers routinely encourage). Intentions are very helpful for me as a destination to return to when the body and mind start to slide apart. It’s the idea of dedicating my own experience of yoga to another living thing that gives me the “hmmm”s.

I have attempted it in the past, without any clear motivation or understanding of how or why. In the year and a half that my dog Goose was sick with congestive heart failure, I’d occasionally dedicate a practice to him. More recently, I’ve thought of a friend who’s trapped in a toxic situation at work. But again, I wasn’t quite sure of the purpose or maybe more importantly, whether I could buy into the idea at all. It struck me as some self-important yoga bullshit at worst, and at best, hopelessly new-agey. But then why the impulse “dedicate” a practice to a sick poodle who I loved so much? Or an upset friend? Or an associate who has been giving me difficulty? What gives this meaning? Softening to the idea of dedication, the question repeats and repeats through my mind.

Finding an “answer” seems wrong — but I find myself inspired in the search of opinions and understanding through random streams of consciousness. Lately I’ve been thinking about this idea that maybe dedicating a practice is similar to dedicating a piece of art. I’ll ask myself — what’s the difference between dedicating a song or a painting or a story and dedicating a 30 or 60 or 90 minutes of yoga? Well, there’s a physical component to art that makes the idea more tangible to me: an artist makes a physical contribution to the world. What exactly are we dedicating in yoga? What is that contribution? Does it come back around to some intention? Or is this all a bunch of garbage after all?

I’m learning how challenging yoga really can be for both body and mind. Now again with the joy. When I say joy I don’t mean that it’s some kind of pure happiness, although pure and happy is part of it, but I mean that feeling of feeling all the feelings. This stirs something in me. I feel different, but it’s also familiar. Some kind of innocence and freedom that I used to know.

Nama….Eh. Still no.

“I only have ‘yes’ men around me. Who needs ‘no’ men?”

Mae West.

Image

It’s climate-change spooky warm here in California, but I can feel the season on me too. Some have the special super power to flip the mental switch from holiday celebration to just another winter, and up and reset their lifestyle and eating habits on January 2.

Are these the Optimists, New Year Resolutionists, Health Evangelists, the Consistenly Inspired? Are they simply very, very strong?

I suppose I need a grace period in the form of 29 days or so. I’m fairly at peace with my fitness regimen for now, but struggle to maintain the concentration necessary for a consistently healthful diet. Because in the darkness of winter, “Nos” and “Shalt nots” feel especially dreary, so it began last Saturday, with a flurry of “Yes.”

Yes! Make healthy eating a priority in February!

Yes! Eat vegetables and berries and apples and fish, and kefir and tempeh and tea.

 Yes! Do my best keep record of my food intake in the form of calories, unprocessed foods, and macronutrient ratios (I endeavor for 50-30-20 Carbs-Fats-Protein.  But historically, when concentrating on healthy eating I usually end up with less carbs and more fat, and don’t really worry about it as long as I’m eating a lot of vegetables and the fats are natural).

Yes! Pay special attention to areas where I tend to fall behind: Iron intake, sugar, and drinking plenty of water.

Yes! Enjoy 3 satisfying meals a day. Intuition and listening to hunger cues informs healthy snacking, rather than boredom/routine/immediate availability of food.

Yes! Feel my body move. For sport and mental well-being. Walk, bike, run, yoga, lift weights.

Yes! Drink wine sometimes, usually with food. Have a cocktail or two on the weekend, sipped luxuriously.

Yes! Calmly and responsibly break a rule when the occasion arises (SF Beer Week, wine tasting with out-of-town family late this month).

I wonder if the secret to good health is openness and brightness and happiness and positivity and yes, and if the secret to all of this is good health in return. Who should care one way or another about well-being if we’re not inspired to love ourselves and feel empathy for others? What masks as narcissism, how do we find truth? Is this hard for everybody, and why is it hard for me? It must be painful to reflect the light of the universe all the time, and everyday people do ghastly unthinkable things.

Is there always yes, really? Does it hover above a dangling piece of curved glass, like a secret orchid, waiting for us to find it?

“we ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.”

Hemingway – A Moveable Feast

The pillars of this web log?   Betterment.   Simplicity.   Warmth.   Health.   Quiet.   Small Things.   Body and Mind.   Tea.   Walking Around.   Sheets of Fog.   Thoughts.   Careful Words.   Mindfulness.   Positivity.   Calm.   Nourishment.   Clean.   Breath.   Soft.   Honest.   Fearless.

How do you introduce yourself to yourselves?  Your best and your ideal and your authentic and your real self and your impulsive, automatic self?  And where does your worst self sit while the others eat and drink and cheaply and sleep warm and love each other?