Sunday, November 30, 2014

Not running in Grand Canyon and Zion

Posted by Rachel

This post is about two weeks overdue, but so it goes. In mid-November, Travers, Kristen, and I took a 4 day trip to the Grand Canyon and Zion. My only regret is that we weren't able to take an entire week and spend more time in Zion and add Bryce and Arches. This will be one of my future domestic vacations, for sure. There are very few places left on my US bucket list anyway, and about half of them will be complete after our post-IM vacation next year. But back on are a few snapshots from this vacation.

Grand Canyon

The first day we took the bus to several different lookout points inside the park. The second day, we spent the entire day hiking the Bright Angel Trail. Travers and I went out to the peninsula, while Kristen made it most of the way, to the garden. I wouldn't say Kristen loved the hike back up (did you, Kristen??) but she did pretty well. Next time she goes on vacation with us I'll give her a training plan :) Here are some snapshots of the Grand Canyon.

From the left: (1) Photo from vista points on Day 1, with Travers standing way too close to the edge as usual. (2) If you look really carefully, you can see me running. I'm pretending I'm a trail runner! (3) We made it to the edge of the peninsula, where you can look down at the river. (4) Me on the way back up, carrying some extra baggage :p (5) Driving out the east side of the park the next morning. It was chilly. 

Overall, the Grand Canyon was amazing and I'm so glad I went. Personally I'm probably not that interested in returning since there are lots of things that I haven't seen that I'd rather see first. But once is a must.


We arrived in Zion mid-day on Saturday, so we didn't have the time to do any of the longer hikes (plus, admittedly we were a little sore from the Grand Canyon the day before). We did a bunch of the small hikes though. Zion was INCREDIBLE, and I think we chose the right season. All of the trees were colorful reds, oranges, and yellows. Zion Lodge inside the park was pretty awesome, as well. The second morning, Travers and I decided we were going to attempt the Narrows. On the first day Travers had decided that the water was 55-60 degrees, to which I thought: "No problem. I open water swim in that shit all the time. Sure, it's cold, but it's not too bad." That morning, the air temperature was in the 30s. "No big deal," I thought, "the water will feel warm". We walked a mile from the bus stop the the Narrows and started trudging in the water. At first it felt cold, but I figured it would get better like it does for open water swimming. After a few minutes, it was getting worse, not better. I was laughing hysterically at how freaking cold it was. About 0.1 into the Narrows, I made Travers turn around. Getting out of the water I wanted to walk quickly back to the shuttle bus. I couldn't feel my lower legs or feet. At one point I stopped to take my shoes off so I could put my leg warmers back on, but I couldn't untie my shoes. The laces were frozen. It took me about 4 hours to recover from this. We couldn't hike for the rest of the day because I refused to put on soaking wet freezing cold shoes. When we checked out of the lodge, the guy at the counter told me the river water was 45 degrees. Zion fail.

From the left: (1) Zion and the Virgin River. (2) Hiking through rocks to the Emerald Pools. (3) Incredible fall colors. (4) Do NOT hike the Narrows in November, or any other time when the water temperature is < 55. (5) Neat rock formations in Zion. Can you see Travers?

Overall, I think I will return to Zion two more times. This seems plausible since it is only a 2 hour drive from Vegas, where Kristen lives. One trip will be in the fall again to hike 1 or 2 of the longer more challenging trails with awesome views. Another time will be in the summer, to conquer the Narrows. This trip is highly recommended during a training off-season.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Weak weekly mileage and a conference report

Posted by Rachel

My weekly running mileage last week: 6
So far this running week: 7

My mileage last week can be explained (sort of) by a vacation to the Grand Canyon/Zion where I actually did hiking and stuff. This week, I have no excuse except that I had to go to a conference that was a 2 hour drive each way. The conference was for printed electronics. Even though work is boring in blogland, I did see a few talks that were professionally completely irrelevant but personally kind of interesting. So, I thought I'd share them with you guys via this blog. I'm not a tech person at all so maybe everyone knew about all these, but I still thought they were interesting.

Semi-affordable product that could actually be useful for IM training: 4iiii's Precision power meter
The CEO of this company gave a talk and the history he presented was really interesting. He talked about some of the first communication devices in athletics and the evolution of ANT and today's devices. Now, they have (one of?) the most affordable power meter on the market- see link above ($400).

Most interesting product that I had no idea existed: Athos' "intelligent" sports clothing
According to the claims, this sports clothing can measure heart rate (not that exciting) but also muscle activation (bingo). I think it would be super interesting to know which of my legs is lazier, and also if there are certain muscles that I'm not activating as well as I should. I saw a sample of the cycling shorts and they were really just like regular ones as far as appearance, stretchability, etc until you turn them inside out. I don't have any idea what something like this costs (although this info does seem to exist on their website), or how the data is processed.

Product that we could've guessed was coming/may already exist but I still enjoyed sitting through the talk: Adidas miCoach
I think the hardware for this is pretty similar to what many other companies (Garmin, etc) already have as far as capability, although a few newer-ish technologies are incorporated (for example, the way they monitor heart rate). The part that I interpreted as interesting was their supporting software and data analytics to result in personalized coaching. Their technology is already being used by some professional sports teams. It is entirely possible that other companies already have this but I didn't get to watch them present at a conference, so you get this info instead.

And that concludes my extremely low level report of fun sports stuff that I got to see at a work conference. I wonder if people who ran in the 70s ever could've pictured today's Garmin and training tools, and what we'll be training with 20 years from now (assuming I can still move by then).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

CIM Training: Weeks 1-12.5 (and I did something really stupid)

Posted by Chen

I started this post exactly a month ago and was just waiting to finish out my 8th week of CIM training before I posted it to the interwebs. Little did I know that I would soon be hit with a cold/cough that would have me bailing on my long run that weekend and would subsequently knock me on my @$$ for the following two weeks.

That incident actually sums up my training cycle quite nicely – two steps forward; seemingly twenty-six point two steps back. Allow me to explain.

I went into this training cycle coming off a personal worst marathon and more low-mileage summer weeks than I care to count. And when I say low, I mean I routinely took 3-4 rest days a week and saw lots of weekly totals in the teens. In reality, I was relatively stressed about the new job, and running just fell by the wayside for the first time in a long time (read: years). But that’s a horribly weak excuse, so it really boils down to me being lazy as hell.

It was unsettling for running not to be a core component of my life, and it honestly felt like I lost part of my identity for a while there, as cheesy and as over-dramatic as that sounds. So when it came time to put together a training plan, I was ready. In retrospect, maybe too ready.

In my eagerness to get things started, I naively thought I could jump back into my normal routine from week 1, resulting in several depressing and somewhat alarming weeks of training. I was so worn out from the higher-than-lately mileage in those first few weeks that I actually considered going to the doctor to get my blood work done because I thought something might be legitimately wrong with me (I work in hematology oncology, so you can imagine the worst case scenarios circulating through my noggin). Really – I thought about that every day for about 2-3 weeks.

Then I realized: No, Chen. You’re not dying. You’re just ridiculously out of shape, and you have no reason to expect otherwise. 

It wasn’t until weeks 4 and 5 that I finally felt things starting to click. My easy runs were actually feeling easy, and my long runs were back to my usual paces. Tempo runs were starting to feel more like just a hard effort, and less like inhumane torture. And perhaps most importantly, I started to look forward to my runs, rather than dreading how tired they might make me feel.

And then the aforementioned sickness hit, leading to two weeks of poop. Yes, I was able to run, but none of my runs felt good, and I had to rework my training plan in order to account for my lower mileage. It was discouraging, and I started to let go of my sub-3:30 goal and started to focus on literally finishing the race.

Luckily, by week 10, I had recovered just in time to run the Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon at goal marathon pace (averaged 7:54 pace), followed the next day by a 20 mile long run. If you’re wondering why I chose to run 20 miles the day after a half, it was because I knew there was no way I’d be running 20 the following weekend since…

Week 11 ended in New Orleans for a wedding, and everyone knows that if you’re at a wedding, you’re definitely drunk, and if you’re at a wedding in NOLA, you’re barely classifiable as human. For future reference, 4 days in NOLA is 2-3 days too many.

Last week (week 12) was arguably my best yet: over 65 miles for the week, including a 12x400m track workout, an 11 miler with 7 at goal pace, and a 24 miler at 8:24 pace. I like to refer to that 24 miler as my magical run, magical not only because of the pace I was able to hold relatively easily, but more so because Matt (fellow blog author) and I randomly arrived at the exact same spot along Lake Merced at the exact same time, totally unplanned, and coming from two different cities. MIND. BLOWN.

For those who care about data, here’s a slightly more detailed look at the past 12 full weeks:

At this point, 37 miles stand between me and my three-week taper. And of course, as I sit here writing this post, I’m feeling feverish and achy. This training cycle really wouldn’t be complete without another few steps back, right? ;-) That said, I’m refusing to believe that I’m actually getting sick and that I will wake up tomorrow morning feeling downright sprightly. Wish me luck.

Oh, and that stupid thing I did?

If you’re keeping track, you’ll know that I’ve completed exactly zero triathlons to-date. I’m just going to ignore the fact that I’m signed up until 2015.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Winning! (and also giving up)

Posted by Katie

Let's start with the good news shall we?

A few weeks ago I WON running shoes! Salomon trail running shoes no less which I already wear and love.

Bored one evening I happened to open an AnyMountain promotional email and at the very bottom was a description of a contest they were having. The rules were to post a picture to their facebook page with the hashtag #RunAway to enter and best photo will be chosen (based on likes? that part was unclear). Anyway I figured this was a pretty low effort contest and the prize sounded awesome (running shoes yay!) so I posted this picture.

You might remember this picture from my pre-race thoughts post for IM Lake Tahoe 70.3. I posted and promptly forgot about it figuring that lots of people would enter and I am not particularly lucky in contests. Then BOOM, I get an email saying I won and would I like to come into AnyMountain to pickup my shoes. Um yes.

 Salomon XR Mission my FAVORITE trail running shoe and in this sweet teal color. YAY
I have to shout out the Corte Madera AnyMountain staff, they were so super friendly and awesome when I came to pickup my shoes. I had the choice of several different models of Salomon shoes from light weight track shoes, to heavier hiking shoes but I ended up settling on a model that I already own, the Salomon XR Mission. I  love how they fit and I use these shoes for both trail running and backpacking (my other pair scaled Mt. Whitney!). Thanks again AnyMountain and Salomon!

Okay now for the "giving up" part of the title and the bad news. I've decided not to run CIM this year. I've been nursing a strained back for the past two months and not really giving myself time to heal. This all came to a head today on a run that should have been 18 that I convinced myself 15 was okay and then it turned into 5. I pushed through this back injury for Challenge Rancho Cordova 70.3 triathalon, and Healdsburgh half marathon so I was fully planning on being somewhat reckless again and going for the full marathon at CIM in December but I realized on my run today that I need a break. I am hoping that with this break I can get healthy and build some core strength before ski season and IM Canada training kicks off next year.

At least the 5mi that I slogged through had good weather.. #fogcity