Friday, August 31, 2012

The Stupid Grin on My Trainer's Face - VO2 Testing

The big news? I basically moved up a full zone across the board. This shocked me and the trainer. This and the other results all led to my trainer Donnie's stupid grin. We thought we'd see small improvements. But whoa...

And my Aerobic Base went from 141 to 156. A 15 beats per minute increase. Remember that I am not an exercise psychologist so forgive me butchering an interpretation of these results. I'm trying to understand what all this means. So what used to feel harder at a heart rate of 155 for example (which would have been Zone 2) now is less of an effort (at Zone 1 now).

A lot of the speedwork Jeremy would assign Tuesdays and Thursdays are the cause of this increase. Pushing up that aerobic base and making those harder efforts a little easier over time. Retraining my heart!

However, in seeing this improvement in heart rate zones, the gain in fat burning efficiency within each zone that I had worked so hard to gain between March and May... is now GONE. Boo. It's all about what you are training. The gains from March to May were lots of miles slightly above aerobic base to just get really really efficient in those heart rate zones with little to no speedwork of any kind.

Note the major drop in Zones 2 and 3 in my ability to burn fat as a percent of total calories burned. Remember that for endurance running, I want to burn fat, not carbs (glycogen). I can run a lot longer eating off the stores of fat in myself than I can from stuffing potatoes and cookies down my gullet.

For those who love more data, fat burning percentage ranges...

Trainer Donnie was happy to see a higher number of calories being burned each minute. Meanwhile, the ultrarunner in me freaked out because to me it means I have to eat more each hour. Especially in later miles when I don't want to eat anything. I guess for future weight loss though and even weight maintenance, the improvement in a good thing... just maybe harder on race day replacing an extra 60 carb-y calories per hours (2 cal/min x 60 min x about 50% carb burn).

Finally, my VO2. Well, that's a tough one. I also can't report an official change in Anaerobic Threshold. We know I went from a 171 to AT LEAST 178. Which is the heart rate this time where I slapped the Stop button on the treadmill before I would throw up in my mask. I'm slightly claustrophic and separately have a strong gag reflex. Put me in a mask hyperventilating while in all-out sprint trying to reach max heart rate and the mask rubs slightly behind and under the chin, and I spent the last minute and a half of each test trying to not upchuck into a closed mask. Eek, I hate that part every time. So we don't have a good VO2 numbers for my higher Zones, but the lower Zones show you I have seen improvement.

What do the Zones mean for paces? Well, because the test Donnie does is a combo of pace and then incline, it's not immediately obvious what that translation is in the absence of a 4-10% grade LOL!

But I took the new zones and went back to Tuesdays speedwork. And while it was a hot evening and later miles will show some cardiac drift so that could impact heart rate, it's a good starting point for guesses. It had a good amount of early miles at 12:30 pace, then 200m repeats with recovery at 9:40 pace, and then end up with miles 5-7 being an acceleration run of increasing pace every 1/4 mile until I ended at 10:40. So I put together the following early guesses...

9:40 pace -> Zone 3.0
10:40 pace -> Zone 2.6
11:20 pace -> Zone 2.1
11:50 pace -> Zone 1.8
12:30 pace -> Zone 1.0

I'll try out throughout the weekend these paces and see how the zones fall true.

Yes, I know ideally we would all train and set workouts based on heart rate zone. But most of us don't. We think in terms of speed, so this translation is just easier, just needed.

8 days to Woodstock 50 Miler!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

San Francisco Marathon - A Marathoniversary To Remember!

My friend Alicia (@Trailscaredycat) coined the term "marathoniversary" in a Facebook comment to me the day before this year's San Francisco Marathon. I was celebrating the 1st anniversary of my first marathon at the same race!

Saturday morning I flew into San Francisco and headed straight to the expo. I was a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador for the second year in a row. This year, we had about 30 ambassadors from across the US, spreading the goodwill of the race and spreading awareness and boosting registration in our local area for an event that each of us already loved. I spent a few hours there, getting to know some of my fellow ambassadors (I had missed the Friday night ambassador dinner) as many of them were working the Tech Center portion of the expo. I also had the privilege to meet many other people who were previously just handles out in the Twitterverse!

Back to the hotel to relax a little and met up with Steph (@StephHahnTX) and Reneigh (@ReneighRuns), both of whom I met for the first time that day. Long time Twitter friends, first time "In Real Life" friends!

Then, dinner with friends Elaine (@trigirlruns42k), Sharon (@5dolla_Runna), Arlyne (@acokertx), and Arlyne's husband Brian. A 9 pm bedtime since there would be an early early wakeup of 3:50 am.

Race Morning

4:45 am. The official photographers all jump on me as I walk towards the start line. Apparently, a girl in a tutu attracts a lot of attention!

Ran into fellow ambassador Charlie. Look at the difference in our bib numbers, and hence, our starting waves. Dude didn't sleep all night and yet would still run a 2:53 marathon, yeesh!

5:15 am. Hung out in the VIP area with the ambassadors. Eat a few nervous bites off the blueberry bagel half Alyssa (@diaryavgrunner) couldn't finish (LOL, we agreed it was silly to let it go to waste when neither of us could eat a whole bagel!).

5:30 am. Lauren (@RunningLaur) and I find the Worth The Hurt tent where Peter (@RussianBear) should be finishing his first marathon that he had started running (the course in reverse) at midnight. 40 athletes did the Worth The Hurt challenge, while raising money for several great charities. We didn't have much trouble getting back into that restricted area with a matching tutus that also matched the equally tutu-ed Russian Bear. LOL. You might remember Peter from my report last month at Western State 100, where we had both volunteered.

Peter was in the portalet line. He was super cranky, but I couldn't blame him. He had hardly slept since the previous morning (good for 100 miler exhaustion training but bad for attitude) and all the runners had gotten lost in Golden Gate Park at 3-4 am and he guessed he was now already at 28 miles for the morning. I forced a picture out of him, promising I wouldn't take another of us the rest of the time, but he still got pretty angry with me. While he was in the portalet, I told Lauren, "If he's like this the whole way, I won't be able to do this. I'll leave you." I was worried. I expected cranky, but not from the get-go, and my fear was 6 hours of it when I'm a pretty emotionally sensitive person. I was worried this was falling into the worst case scenario that was in my head.
In between yelling at me, he did at least smile for the picture.
But get some food in him, some water, let him rest in a chair, and Peter's attitude improved dramatically. Phew! And I have to say, he kept a really good attitude for 90-95% of the race. I don't know how I'll feel at mile 50 in 6 weeks, or how I could possibly feel at mile 54 like when he finished, but I hope I keep in good spirits as much as he did given the circumstances.

We went to the very front of the Wave 5 start line that was coming next. Ultramarathoners could start in whatever wave they could get themselves to because they needed to be a little concerned to stay within the course time limit overall. We would stay to the right side as far as possible, and move to the sidewalk for walk breaks. Bart Yasso was emceeing with the announcer and spotted us up there. Peter got a big shoutout as the Russian Bear, Bart described our triple tutu power, and I got a shoutout by name too. Very fun!

After that it was pretty chill for a long while. Chit-chatty. A combo of run for a little bit then walk for a bit.  Lauren and I took our jobs as friends / pacers / crew very seriously. Peter dictated the start/stop of runs and walks. But we might suggest a spot to start walking again, or ask if it was a good time to run again if it felt right. We'd remind him to drink. Hold a soda here, or a couple banana halfs there, and maybe fish out snacks/chews from the back of his pack now and then.

Peter was dreading the Golden Gate Bridge; for me, it's one of my favorite parts. I tend to love out-and-back portions and this is a LONG one. Unfortunately, unlike last year, the bridge was very foggy so minimal views. But Peter knew it would make him cold. The bridge is cold, and I always advise to keep a throwaway shirt on through this section. The fog made the bridge and air so wet, and it made footing on the bridge gratings a little nervewracking.

We got to yell to several other SF Marathon Ambassadors on the bridge who were heading back, I saw an old RRCA friend George but too late to say hi, saw my friend Patrick from Dallas pacing the 5:15 group, and then I ran into Dallas friend Maggie at the turnaround. On the way back, I was so thrilled that I had the chance to see my dear friend Elaine from Dallas, who was running the first half and decked out in a tiara since it was her birthday! To show how crowded it was and how late we saw each other, I missed friend Sharon next to her and she missed me.

Around mile 15, we passed the finish line for the first half marathon. They had moved left over finish line food over for us to take. Lauren offered me half of a Panera cinnamon scone. Yum, ultrarunners love real food during races!

A mile later as we approach the aid station, Peter needed his hydration pack refilled but wanted to keep his legs moving. Dutiful crew, Lauren held the pack, I opened and held the bladder, wonderful volunteer filled it up. But all this took time. So then the awkward quarter-mile sprint holding a hydration pack in one hand to catch back up to Peter. And what do you know there's an official photographer during that quarter-mile. The only official photos where I looked like I was booking it... in a tutu. :-)
We started leapfrogging with our Ambassador friend, Laura (@LauraLang3). Laura's a second year Ambassador like me, and she's from Sacramento. About 20 miles in, Laura would join us to the end of the race. It made it so much fun to have our crew of 4!
Walking with Laura, I met this nice guy, Chuck I think, who
in talking about where we were from, he started listing off Dallas races
he had done. Turns out he ran the New Year's Eve race
of my New Years Double event. Small world!
About mile 22, there were two hard downhills. I wanted to test out my legs, so I sprinted each downhill and waited for the others at the bottom. I felt good, and it was great confirmation of how much stronger I was getting.

At mile 25, we go around the outside of AT&T Park. What a mess! A Giants game was getting ready to start and there were lots of oblivious spectators milling about who didn't know there was a marathon going on. We looked like a funny group. The girls surrounding a guy in a tutu yelling "Runner coming! Move aside!" Peter was already 53 miles in. We weren't expecting him to start dodging spectators. Later I'm glad for the bodyguard role we took on. My friend Patrick told me after the race that he DID get tripped by a spectator and ended up taking a nasty fall!
Still smiling with one mile left
We came into the finish, and I was so happy for the day we'd had. Such fun. Great attitudes. We'd had 6 hours of laughs, funny comments from participants and spectators, and friendly banter back. We had encouraged each other, checked on each other's status throughout the race, and taken care of each other. United originally through the San Francisco Marathon Ambassador program and through our Twitter friendships, it was so nice to cement these IRL (in real life) friendships, and I hope they all feel the same. And pre- and post-race with ALL the Ambassadors felt just the same. They are people you know you will keep up with for years to come, celebrating each others' runs!

A 6:16 finish. 3:10 for the first 13.1 miles and then negative split the marathon with a 3:06 second half. Which also makes me all the more proud of Peter who had managed that consistency over the second half of 54 miles! And for myself, I came home to find our moving time of 5:44 (lots of aid station stops and potty breaks) was only 10 minutes slower than my time at the SF Marathon last year when it was my first race. It reiterated to me how far I had come in the last year. I was faster, my endurance was stronger. I'm still not fast, I still don't have the stamina of many, but I had improved MYSELF a lot over the last year!

And I know for some people it's all about the shirt and the medal, so closer up pictures of the two. This is the back of the shirt. The front had the race name big on it.

Sidenote: that night I powerwalked 3 miles (the long way) to dinner (Scoma's for Elaine's birthday celebration), and then 2 miles back to the hotel, to end the day at 31 miles!

Happy Marathoniversary!!

Next up: A busy calendar ahead for me.

  • My first 50 Mile race on September 8 at the Woodstock 50 in Michigan. 
  • Refocus completely on the bustle of race directing the Showdown Half Marathon on October 13. 
  • Palo Duro Canyon 50K October 19
  • Rocky Raccoon 50K November 3
  • Heading back to Cali! I just signed up for the San Francisco North Face Endurance Challenge 50K (although it may be a 50M if my spot in the wait list comes up!)
  • One month off to race direct the New Years Double again this year. 
  • Finally, the Rocky Raccoon 50M in Huntsville, TX on February 3.