Monday, November 17, 2014

Weekly Workout Recap: Surf City Half - Week 1

"What?" You, the reader, are thinking. "Do mine eyes deceive me? Is this an -actual- training report?"

Yes! It is! Okay, contain your excitement.

I will probably continue to illustrate posts with unrelated photos of California for the near future because it's just. so. gorgeous.

It's been a long time since I was in training mode. It's been a longer time since I cared about training for a race. When Katie told me her diagnosis in January of this year, all motivation to train evaporated. Caring about a time goal seemed so insignificant in the face of my closest friend's terminal illness. I dutifully logged the miles but my heart wasn't in it. And when I PR'd and broke 2 hours at the NYC Half Marathon, all I cared about was that I'd be seeing Katie in a few days when we went to California together. Meeting my goal didn't feel like it mattered at all.

Being on the other side of a tremendous personal loss, I'm not sure I'll ever care about racing the way I used to -- feeling like the upcoming race day was the most important day in my life (until the next race day, obviously).

The Chicago Marathon was the best day of my life not because I ran it well (although of course that helped), but because I had almost every person I deeply care about there. I saw my mom, Sourabh and Katie all along the course, cheering for me as I attempted something I never would have thought possible only twelve months prior, all of us wearing Lurie Children's Hospital shirts to support the hospital that continually helped Katie. I was running for a cause I believed in on the streets of a city with special memories of every visit to Katie. Each of the six times I saw my special crew, I could feel their love for me. It was a perfect day.

I'm not sure when I'll run a marathon again because I'm not sure anything could ever compare. I want to at some point, but it will have to be the right race.

However, I'm finally ready to focus on training for a half marathon again. The time away has made me realize that while I might not care about the goal itself in the same way I once did, I enjoy the structure and commitment of training. I love seeing a pace I'm scared of hitting and pushing my body to meet that goal. So I'm excited to see where this training cycle will take me, regardless of how the actual race day turns out.

It's a good thing I'm feeling committed since I realized this week that my targeted half marathon is in less than twelve weeks. I haven't registered for the race yet because I think I'm in a bit of race denial (and I missed the cheaper registration fee cutoff so there's no point in rushing right?). I haven't run double digits since the NYC Half in March.

So, how did this week turn out?

Surf City Half Marathon Training - Week 1

Last weekend involved a fun hike in the Anaheim Hills and a lot of rest, so I felt ready to go as the first week of training started. One odd thing you'll note -- no real long run. The tempo run did double duty as my long run this week.

Southern California is in the midst of a multi-year drought. It's still gorgeous, but I'm in the odd position of actually hoping it's a rainy winter for the sake of nature!

Monday: Strength workout with Melanie (Equinox trainer).

  • 1/2 mile warm up on treadmill
  • Dynamic stretching routine that focuses on mobility
  • Four sets of 10 reps of five compound movements (squat to press, anti-rotation pulls, etc)
  • Two sets of incline sprints
  • Cool down stretching

Tuesday: 4 miles easy on the local running/bike path

Dynamic stretching prior to heading out then kept it slow and easy on my normal out-and-back four mile loop.

Wednesday: Strength with Melanie.


Snagged a shot of these gorgeous cotton candy clouds on my way to the gym Wednesday morning.
  • 1/2 mile warm up on treadmill
  • Dynamic stretching routine that focuses on mobility
  • Two sets of 14 reps of two lower body exercises followed by 2x14 of two different lower body exercises (single leg dead lifts, hamstring curls, kettlebell squats, and weighted hip lifts)
  • Two sets of progressive cardio sprints interspersed with the strength
  • 2x14 core work
  • Cool down stretching

Thursday: 7 miles (5x1600m repeats)
  • Dynamic stretching warm-up
  • 1 mile warm-up
  • (1) 9:14, (2) 9:10, (3) 9:12, (4) 9:00, (5) 9:03
  • 1 mile cool down
    Melanie wanted me to run five mile repeats at my current half marathon PR pace (9:00-9:15). At first I had a really hard time dialing in to the pace, but by the end of the second repeat, I had it down and the pace felt pretty easy.

    The gorgeous clouds came out to play again on Thursday.

    Friday: Rest.

    Saturday: 8 mile Tempo + Strength.
    • 1 mile warm-up 
    • Hopped off the treadmill and did my dynamic stretches (best done after a cardio warm-up so the body is warm)
    • (1) 8:34, (2) 8:27, (3) 8:27, (4) 8:27, (5) 8:19, (6) 8:13
    • Two to three minutes of walking and light stretching
    • 1 mile cool down
    Melanie wanted me to aim for 8:15-8:30 pace for six miles with a warm-up and cool down. I didn't know if I could hit those paces, but I thought my best bet was to run them on a treadmill so I didn't have to keep checking my Garmin and could just focus on running strong. The first three miles were tough but the last three went by extremely quickly as I pumped up the volume on my playlist. I went late morning so didn't need to fuel for the run since I'd had breakfast. 

    As for strength, Melanie told me to do a workout from two weeks ago that focused on the upper body, with exercises that had the arms doing the "heavy" work but the legs and core doing stabilizing work. If I was going to double up, it was the perfect strength workout to end the tempo run since my legs didn't have much work to do.

    Capped off with foam rolling and stretching, as you do.

    Sunday: Stretching + 4 mile Recovery Run.

    Recovery Run / Take-Tons-of-Pictures Run

    Spent most of Sunday working and did some of it from my yoga mat, stretching out my legs and back. Got in a gorgeous sunset recovery run along the Back Bay in Newport Beach before I interviewed a high school applicant to my undergrad. Pretty sure nothing will make you feel older than volunteering as an alumni interviewer...


    Total Mileage: 23 miles


    Going into this week feeling strong and excited about training for a half marathon again!

    Monday, October 27, 2014

    First Art: Sedona by Sebastian Alappat

    I've been meaning to write about the wonderful painting that Sourabh and I commissioned from Sebastian Alappat for a while now, but I wanted to do it in the context of a home tour. Unfortunately, it turns out that putting together our apartment has taken much longer than we expected. And by "much longer" I mean, it's kind of fallen by the wayside. Things are more or less put together, but I don't feel like the apartment is 100% settled into or deserving of an apartment tour.

    Since I didn't want to put off posting about the painting forever, I figured I'd share the process and painting now! 

    Sourabh and I both liked the idea of getting some original art that would make our apartments feel more like a home. One thing we both love about my parents' home is how they've filled it with art, and we hope to do the same thing. Sebastian and I discussed the piece of art over the summer, however I had basically no idea of what I wanted or where I wanted to go with a piece. 

    I had some vague ideas, but really no direction. Sebastian helped me narrow down to the travel/journey concept. I wanted to use maps, so we decided to uses pieces of maps from places that Sourabh and I have lived. 

    From there, I talked about the colors I imagined. I wanted to use the palette of the American Southwest -- the vivid oranges, the deep blues. I sent some pictures from Sourabh and my road trip last year, and Sebastian instantly picked up on the snapshots from Sedona. Both Sourabh and I loved Sedona, so it seemed like a natural fit. 

    Sebastian based the painting on this picture I snapped of the rock we hiked/ran around:


    I wanted a more modern/abstract take on it -- something chunky, with an almost finger painted quality -- so the painting is in no way meant to be a mirror image. Instead, it's more of an inspiration point.

    What I realized after we decided on this picture as inspiration was that it's actually Courthouse Rock. Pretty apt since both Sourabh and I work in the legal field!


    Since our cross-country move came together so quickly, there was a bit of a scramble to get the painting completed so that it could be properly shipped. We didn't want to have to worry about taking a 3 ft by 3 ft painting on a plane! 

    On moving day last month, Sebastian dropped off the finished work:


    I was elated to see it, but unfortunately it immediately got packed up and stored on a moving truck for three weeks! 

    In the last week of September, our furniture finally arrived and we were able to permanently unwrap the painting. It's currently hanging above our couch, adding some vibrant color to our living room.


    From far away you can't see the map detail, but if you take a closer look, you can see the maps showing through. There are pieces of maps of places we've lived or, in the case of Chicago, places that are meaningful to us.  


    It was so much fun to collaborate with Sebastian on this piece and see the beautiful finished product. Sebastian also does some really cool yoga and comics-inspired work. Sebastian is married to my awesome former trainer, Amanda, which is how I learned about his work, and it's allowed me to see a lot of his pieces in progress, which has been really neat. I am so excited to watch him continue to build his artwork collection, even if I can no longer see it in person!

    Monday, October 20, 2014

    Training for Training

    Two weeks ago, I started an intensive training program with a former pro runner who now trains at my local Equinox. I went in for an EquiFit analysis, to measure my body fat, inches, etc. I'd lost a bit of weight simply from being busy and not eating that much through the whole sister's wedding, moving cross-country thing. But I also hadn't been in any semblance of a fitness regime and I really wanted to get back into concentrated training. I missed having purpose to my workouts rather than aimlessly lifting things now and then at the gym.

    I wasn't very pleased with my EquiFit results. Sure, my weight was down, but my body fat was up from marathon training (shocker, right?), and every run has reminded me that I'm not in the same shape I was last year. Which is fine -- priorities change. But I want to train for a spring half marathon PR, not just run a race, and I want to take advantage of the incredible running weather California has.

    My mom visited last week, and in the middle of October, she was walking in a sundress on the beach. Like I said, incredible weather.

    Since I'd mentioned that my interest was in running, Equinox paired me up with Melanie, a former pro runner. She showed me the kind of plan she'd put me through (strength training three times a week -- twice with her and once on my own, cardio three times a week, nutritional guidance, and I had to promise to foam roll and stretch). I chatted with Sourabh and he agreed with my idea that training for six weeks was a good idea since it takes six weeks to form a habit (supposedly), meaning this would help me get back into the running/fitness groove. Essentially, I'm training to get ready for ... training.

    Two weeks down and four to go! Here's some of what we've been focused on:

    Hip Mobility

    Several of the exercises we've been doing focus on my tight hips. Melanie wants to increase mobility and range of movement. She's had me doing lateral movements over hurdles and side lateral squats. I've also been instructed to foam roll my hips and stretch them as much as possible throughout the day while sitting at the desk.

    I want to be as mobile as ... this dog? On the beach? Yeah, if you hadn't noticed, I'm just sticking California pictures in here.

    Attention to Heart Rate

    I've just started my third week and so far I've been surprised with the strides I've made. On Saturday, I needed to do steady state cardio with the aim being a 150ish heart rate (roughly 60% of my max heart rate). After warming up, I started around a 9:00 mile, thinking that was probably right. Nope. Not even close. I ended up running 30 minutes at around an 8:15 pace.

    That's fast for me, especially at my current fitness level, or at least that's what my brain said. I didn't think I'd be able to hang on for the prescribed amount of time. But I'm nothing if not a teacher's pet, and Melanie tasked me with hitting that heart rate for a set amount of time, so I did it. And honestly I could have kept running for a while longer which I don't think I'd ever have realized if I hadn't been monitoring the heart rate and letting that set the speed.

    Actually related: I had an awesome interval run along the Back Bay yesterday using the heart rate levels as a guide for effort.

    I've never utilized heart rate training before and am really enjoying learning more about my cardiovascular performance. It's making me pay attention to the science of running and exercise much more than in the past. I'm really excited to put the knowledge I'm gaining about my cardiovascular potential to use when I start officially half marathon training (probably December, I'm thinking).

    Protein, Protein, Protein

    In order to lean out and build up the leg muscles that will fire me down the road toward a shiny PR, Melanie focused on my protein intake. Melanie has me at more than 150 grams of protein a day which I was in no way, shape or form getting previously, mainly because I wasn't focusing on it and I gravitate more toward carbs. But there are a lot of simple things I've done that have made it easier -- instead of morning-of oatmeal, doing overnight oatmeal with Greek yogurt. Eating cottage cheese with chopped up strawberries as a late afternoon snack. Finding protein-rich carbs like quinoa, farro and, of course, oats.

    In no way did Melanie suggest giving up carbs, but as she noted, they come pretty naturally (to me, especially), and getting enough protein during these six weeks is going to be the focus.

    Last night's sunset. California is really, really, ridiculously good looking.

    I feel like I have to include a major caveat to this post. Equinox memberships are expensive. My first year was heavily subsidized by my previous firm, but going forward we're paying the normal one-location rate. Working with a trainer at Equinox is also expensive.

    You might have noticed -- or at least, I hope it's come across -- that while I've mentioned long hours, I have never complained about my job as a corporate lawyer. Yes, obviously, part of that is simply the fact that it is poor form to complain about your job online (the Internets never forget!). Part of it is that I *generally* like my work. But another large part is that there are few jobs where I could, as a 26 year-old, make a very good salary. Sure, right now I'm using it to pay off my massive student debt, but it still allows me to indulge in good food and spend money on luxuries like an expensive six week training program.

    I am never going to try to prescribe this kind of training to anyone else because it would be incredibly privileged and ostrich-like to assume that everyone can just hire a trainer for an intensive get-me-back-on-the-road-to-running-fitness plan. I feel very lucky that I have the ability to do this (and that Sourabh worked an extra month this summer which made up for the unexpected four weeks I was unemployed!). However, maybe by sharing what Melanie is having me work on, it can be a bit helpful or, at the very least, a bit interesting.

    Anyone have any questions about this strength and heart rate-focused base building?