The black lining to the PR rainbow

Black lining PR rainbow

Didn’t think there was any downside to a PR, did you? I know I didn’t. In my mind a PR should be nothing but pink unicorns and fairy dust. And it is, for the most part. But this summer I’ve stumbled upon the realization that it can also be an inadvertent ticket to crazy town. A ride on the PR-seeking crazy train, which, over the summer, has pulled me through the stations of doubt, fear, and mild injury.

I couldn’t figure out what had me in such a funk. A nagging hamstring strain had me questioning how hard I should be training. Which, in turn, probably meant that I wasn’t training as hard as I would under normal circumstances. Two local races resulted in completely lackluster performances. Then a friend posted this great article on the extremes of training for a PR that snapped my reality into focus.

Neither of these extreme states is the smartest, right? Uber-Fitness Mode might give you an amazing body but it can also result in unhealed injuries and (eventually) misery and abandonment if you don’t listen to your body. Meanwhile, Super Sedentary Mode gives you the Couch Body which eventually leaves you cranky with friends and family, and also unhappy when the extreme carb rush is over. (“Oh no. Look at me. What have I done? And why am I covered in powdered sugar?“)

The problem with a great PR is that it’s a rush that feeds itself. There’s no topping the feeling of exhilaration that happens when you see the magical number next to your name. You want more. You know you can do it again, with a few more miles, a little more work. And now, that thing you do because it makes you feel good and enhances your life? It becomes something else. The workouts ratchet. The stress builds. You worry that you’re not doing enough to run well in the next race. The chase for another PR is now an addiction.

My friends, as the amazing Lauren Fleshman put it here: “…there is no pot of gold waiting at the end of the achievement rainbow.

It’s time to step off the crazy train. In the past this has meant a swing of the couch-surfing variety. But I still have a 5k road race and cross country season on the impending calendar. I also have that hamstring thing that, incredibly, has not managed to magically go away on its own. It’s time to learn about the dimmer switch. It’s a mental shift of letting go, of enjoying the process and forgetting the results. Here goes nothing…

The pain train and the recovery run

The pain train is back and it’s taking names. It’s also reintroducing me to the concept of the recovery run.

Friday morning repeated a workout I’ve mentioned before.

1 1/2 miles @ 8:51
1 1/4 miles @ 7:13
1600m @ 5:51
1200m @ 4:23

With 3-4 minutes rest between intervals, this is a workout that challenges not only physically, but mentally as well. The last three intervals got the lactic acid good and pumped and I struggled a bit to get it all done.

Normally after a workout like this I look forward to a full day off. But this week Jim scheduled an easy 5 miler. This looked suspiciously like a “recovery run”, which I’ve always blown off as bullshit code for a run that’s interfering with my rest time. Traditionally I reward myself with a nice day off following a good hard effort. Day after a race? Sit on the couch. Run a crazy hard interval workout? Enjoy a leisurely Saturday morning.

Recovery run

So, it was with some reluctance that I set off for a 5 mile recovery run. I felt a little sore and tired and questioned whether this would do anything aside from exacerbate those qualities. But you know what? As I started running, the soreness and fatigue started to disappear. Keeping the pace easy helped a lot. I maintained a conversation pace the entire way and never felt out of breath. But my legs loosened up and I returned home more energized than I was when I left. This piqued my interest: what’s up with the recovery run?

According to author Matt Fitzgerald on, the recovery run builds fitness by forcing you to run in a pre-fatigued state.

There is evidence that fitness adaptations occur not so much in proportion to how much time you spend exercising but rather in proportion to how much time you spend exercising beyond the point of initial fatigue in workouts. So-called key workouts (runs that are challenging in their pace or duration) boost fitness by taking your body well beyond the point of initial fatigue.

Recovery workouts, on the other hand, are performed entirely in a fatigued state, and therefore also boost fitness despite being shorter and/or slower than key workouts.

Fitzgerald explains this more in an article on

In a key workout you experience fatigued running by starting fresh and running hard or far. In a recovery run you start fatigued from your last key workout and therefore experience a healthy dose of fatigued running without having to run hard or far. For this reason, although recovery runs are often referred to as “easy runs,” if they’re planned and executed properly they usually don’t feel very easy.

Elite runners utilize the recovery run throughout their training, as Roy Benson describes in this Runner’s World article. If a 12:48 5k runner trains regularly at 8:00/mile pace, maybe I need to rethink my Saturday mornings. Pancake morning can’t disappear entirely, but maybe it’s worth a little shakeout jog beforehand.

When running sucks and what to do about it

Is there a person in the world who hasn’t said the words “running sucks”? I doubt it.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m big on breaks. I don’t generally run while I’m on vacation, I try to schedule two breaks throughout the year (usually one or two weeks long), and take a full rest day once a week even in the midst of intense training. I took a week off after the Trials, and another easy week to ease back into things. And now it’s time to get back at it. This is the time when running sucks.

When I hear other runners talk about their workouts or mileage, I find it easy to assume that they’re just pumping out the distance without a care in the world. When I’m really in the thick of training, this can be somewhat true. But getting to that point is not without struggle. That’s where I am right now.

The first two weeks returning to running can be miserable. Every run, no matter how short, feels like the end of the world. Legs become jelly at the slightest challenge and the sweat pours. When I ran before 7 a.m. this morning, the temperature might have topped out at a searing 60°F (accompanied by the cooling breezes of Puget Sound). And yet I returned home drenched. My legs threatened to give out at the end of 8 miles, right as the commuter bus to the ferry terminal breezed past. I staggered home thinking about how much running sucks in these build-up weeks.

So what do you do?

Embrace the pain and know that it will pass.

Much like the point in a race when you wonder how you could possibly take one more step (and then do), these are the weeks to dig in and push through to the other side. One day you will go out for a run and realize that you are experiencing the absence of misery.

Spark joy.


Take the scenic route or call a friend. Find a pretty trail, a chatty partner, or switch up your route. Starting back after my break I realized that I had lost my running mojo in the weeks leading up to the Trials. As much as I had tried to enjoy the ride, I was stressed about being a little bit injured, about missing workouts, and about performing well. If I’m brutally honest, the stress was mainly about performance, and performance relative to other people. There is no way this will ever be the path to happy running. I don’t normally race other people. I race the clock, or myself, and had lost sight of that going into a race on such a large stage. For me, this is about the worst way to run. Figure out how to run happy for you and then have fun.

Stick to it!

Don’t give up. The fog will lift and you’ll have one of those glorious runs that remind you why you do this in the first place.

When running sucks

A day at Hayward Field: Olympic Trials edition

I never had Olympic dreams. When I was in my “prime” competitive running years, I never ran in any big meets. In high school I fell just short of qualifying for the state meet. In college I watched and cheered as friends and teammates competed at the Penn Relays, IC4As and, NCAAs. I was such an unremarkable runner that my high school counselor, in expressing his disbelief that I could possibly run competitively in college, said to me, “I mean, it’s not like you’re a world-class runner or anything.”

Suck it, Mr. Meredith.

Olympic Trials bib

Never would I have thought that I could compete in a field of runners this strong.

Olympic Trials Hayward Field

Photo by Mark Connolly (TigerIron)

Never, in a million years, would I have dared to dream of walking into a stadium filled with 22,000 track and field fans. While no one would call me unflappable, I can be a bit stoic about certain things. But filing into legendary Hayward Field and looking up at the packed stands took my breath away. I had to hold back the tears.

Olympic Trials Hayward Field

The thing, for me, about experiences like this is the soup of emotions that overwhelms my usual train of semi-rational thinking. Everything became such a blur that I even got lost on the track. Seriously.

How do you describe the event of a lifetime? The way it’s experienced, in completely disjointed terms.

Hayward Field big screen

Photo by Mark Connolly (TigerIron)

Where’s the finish line?

At any other track meet, the finish line is easily identifiable by the crowd of 3 people and the equipment surrounding it. In the distance events there is also a lap counter and maybe a coach reading off lap splits. At Hayward Field, however, people lined the stadium, equipment surrounded the track, and the stands pulsed with the cheering of 22,000 fans. On a 400m track, the 1500m does not start and end at the same place. And once we started racing, I completely lost track of where the finish line should be. Every turn looked exactly the same to me. It wasn’t until two laps to go that I heard or saw the lap counter and realized where the race would actually end.

Acting like the elites


My credentials granted me access to all areas of the venue. I whisked through security lines, walked right past Jackie Joiner Kersee (no pen/camera/phone with me – and let’s be honest, lacking the nerve to actually approach her – but I fangirled internally), and snagged ice cold water from athlete hospitality. What I came to realize, however, was that these backstage areas were a total pressure cooker. Jeez, people apparently get really intense when a spot on the Olympic team is on the line. So I ended up hanging off-site and with my girl Sarah Lorge Butler, who was there covering the event for Runner’s World. She wrote the sweetest story about us here.

Get out of my lane, Ashton Eaton


We owed our sell-out audience to the event finals surrounding our race: the 400m, the 100m, and the completion of the decathlon. While corralled into our secondary holding area we shared space and warm-up lanes with the decathletes, and I found myself striding right past 2012 Olympic gold medalist Ashton Eaton. Again, no pen, but fangirled internally.

Mom moment

I wonder how Galen Rupp gets to the track on race day? I arrived at Hayward Field via Albertsons, where I stood in the candy aisle choosing treats for my kids to throw at Bainbridge Island’s Grand Old 4th of July parade the day after the race. I had forgotten to do this before we left, and had to cover my ass in case we didn’t have time to do it the next morning.

My peeps


I feel so fortunate to have been able to share the experience with Mike and my kids. I don’t know if the kids took anything away from it (aside from some killer tats and cool autographs), but it meant so much to me that they could be there.

When the race of your life isn’t THE race of your life

Masters women 1500m Olympic Trials 2016 Hayward Field

It’s a fact: you’re not always going to run an awesome race. This was not my best race. Some of the reason for this was out of my hands (a little injury) and some of this was a complete breakdown in employing any sort of race strategy. Yes, I missed some key workouts and did not feel completely on my “A” game. But I could have done myself a favor and started a little more conservatively. I finished in 6th place, in a time of 4:51.82, and while I would have liked to have raced better, this day at Hayward Field was still the experience of a lifetime.

I cannot thank you all enough for your encouragement and well-wishes. Every single note of support meant so much to me and I carried all of your thoughts with me to that starting line. Peace out and I’ll leave you with a quote that a good friend just sent me:

“A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways they’re capable of understanding.” -Steve Prefontaine

Olympic Trials bound

I’m in and it’s on. I made the cut for the masters exhibition 1500m at the Olympic Trials and am headed to Eugene, baby!

This is the glamorous face of it. A sweaty, hot mess working out in the afternoon to try to adapt to running at race time, which will be at 5:07 p.m. on Sunday 7/3. The full schedule of Track & Field Olympic Trials events can be found here.

Olympic Trials workout

Due to my quad issues and with the number of days to race day rapidly shrinking, I’m trying to fit in as many quality workouts as my body will allow. Several key workouts have fallen by the wayside in recent weeks and I feel considerably less fit than I want to feel. Yesterday was 2 sets of 3 x 300m to work on top-end speed and leg turnover.

How did it shake out? Meh. I struggled to hit times at the upper end of the goal range.

Set #1: 300m @ :53, :54, :55 with 2 minutes between intervals

Jog 400m

Set #2: 300m @ :54, :54, :56 with 2 minutes between intervals

Running in the afternoon simulated race time and forced me to run in the heat of the day, a one-day attempt to acclimate to the hotter temperatures in Eugene. It’s good to wait until the last minute and do it once, right? I always run in the morning and am therefore accustomed to temperatures in the 50s. This is the blessing and curse of living in the temperate Pacific Northwest. You can run comfortably outdoors year-round but good luck traveling anywhere else for a race. You’re frequently screwed.

Above all else I’m trying to remind myself to relax and enjoy the experience. There is an amazing group of women assembled for this race, and competing at storied and historic Hayward Field at the University of Oregon among future Olympians is the chance of a lifetime. So many people have helped me get to this point. There is NO WAY that I could do it on my own. You’ll all be there with me as I make my way around that track. Live streaming of the event should be available at here.

Cramming, re-injury and massage

Cramming is never a good idea. Moreover, it’s usually a direct reflection of other poor decision-making from your recent past. I’ve had my share of unnecessarily stressful finals weeks with the only real consequences being exhaustion and a better grade than I probably deserved. Cramming when it comes to running is just downright STUPID. And, as I’ve seen recently, results in injury and re-injury. Can I really be that dumb twice? Oh, yes.

With a little more than 2 weeks to go until the masters exhibition race at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, a day in Eugene is looking more like a reality for me. My seed time is currently 4th on the list, so as long as 8 people don’t run faster times before the qualifying window closes on Saturday, I should be good to go. This was one of my big goals for the year, and yes, the first accomplishment will be to qualify. But I’m greedy. I want to run well while I’m there. With that in mind, events of the last two weeks have been less than ideal.

I returned from the east coast two weeks ago fresh off a 5-day break and ready to start a solid segment of 1500m training. Though we rolled in somewhere in the 1 a.m. hour, I was up at the crack of dawn to push through a 9 mile run, and somehow strained my left quadriceps muscle. Since then, it’s been wreaking some serious havoc with my training. After spending a week trying to muddle through, Bethanee convinced me to get a massage. Confession time: I’ve kind of written off massage as a bit of a new-agey indulgence, something for the spa-going set or for elite athletes to go along with their agents and sponsors. Being neither of those, I’ve never seen massage as something for me.

Until now, that is. Is massage always like this? I think I’ve experienced magic. Matthew Timmons, of Cascade Natural Therapeutics, is a miracle worker. I hobbled in with a deeply cramped up leg and was just about pain-free the next day. Two days later I could run four miles without any sort of hitch in my giddyap. This was great, but I had lost close to two weeks of quality training. So what did I do? An interval workout the next day. With all the time off I was supposed to ease into it.

It went something like this:

2 x 400m @ :83
2 x 400m @ :78
1 x 800m @ 2:44
1 x 800m @ 2:40
2 x 400m @ :79
2 x 400m @ :78/:77

1:30 recovery after each 400, 3:30 recovery after each 800m.

It was great. Until the next day, Tuesday, when it wasn’t. Remember how cramming is a bad idea? I do too… now. You need at least a few solid training runs before attempting any sort of speed work. Two runs totaling 6 miles? Not nearly enough. Today it was another massage, tomorrow, remedial running if I’m lucky. Don’t make the same mistake. Make your comeback slowly. But if you do succumb to the cramming temptation, find a good massage therapist. This shit’s for real.

Part 2: Pacing Rhody in the Brooks T7 Racer

Yo, Brooks. You totally nailed the T7 Racer.

Brooks T7 Racer

That’s my girl cheering me on.

This was apparent two weeks ago at Port Townsend’s Rhody Run, a fantastic destination race for those who like superb race organization and support, a stunning location (historic Fort Worden), and free beer. There’s even a family that offers a champagne stop along the course every year. Who says there can’t be joy in suffering?

Rhody Run 2016 start

Equal to the general cheering and encouragement I heard on the course were comments about the shoes.

“Nice shoes!”

“Go… wow, look at those shoes!”

I wore the T7 Racer for both the 12k Rhody Run and 8k Beat the Bridge. They’re lightweight but offer a little more cushioning than the Mach 17 Spikeless (currently on sale on the Brooks site!) that I wear for shorter distances (generally 10k and down). The T7s have been really popular and are a bit difficult to find these days as the new T7 model should be released this month. But I was able to find mine on Zappos, and they still have a good selection of sizes here. It’s a unisex shoe, ladies, so don’t go looking for the women’s version.

This shoe is so good that I saw a 1:37 improvement over my 2014 Rhody Run time. OK, maybe Brooks can’t take credit for all of that. Maybe there’s something to this whole pacing thing.

Apparently the phrase “pace yourself” isn’t just a meaningless platitude. I tend to run with the eternal optimism that if the first mile feels good, maybe the rest of the race will fall into a place with a big PR. Theoretically it makes sense. But in running, it doesn’t always work out that way.

The last time I ran this race I ran the first mile in 5:52. The rest of the race was a hot mess and ended with an average of 6:17/mile pace. This year, I was determined to prevent that misery from happening again.

Rhody race organizers shifted the race a week later to move it away from Seattle’s Beat the Bridge 8k, which has been on the same Sunday for the past few years. This enabled them to attract a standout field, which included Joe Gray (6-time USA Mountain Runner of the Year) and Drew Polley (Olympic Trials marathon competitor) on the men’s side, and Jamie Cheever (Olympic Trials-bound) and Emma Polley (Olympic Trials marathon competitor) on the women’s side. I had run the first mile of Beat the Bridge with Jamie and Emma the week before, and knew that would not be the path to a happy race this time around.

Orange was well represented too. Go Club Northwest!

Orange was well represented too. Go Club Northwest!

So, I held back and ran the first mile around 6:02, finishing the 12k in 44:36, averaging 5:59/mile pace. It was over a minute and half faster than the last time I raced there, and so much more comfortable. You really can’t argue with this strategy of racing.

The effort was good enough for 5th place, out of the prize money but the fun of the race more than made up for that. This really is a great race, and an easy ferry ride from the Seattle area. Mark your calendars for next May, and don’t forget to pace it.

Why I do CrossFit

Why do I do CrossFit? To compensate for doing dumb things like this first mile of yesterday’s Nordstrom Beat The Bridge 8k.

Beat The Bridge 8k

That’s me and a trio of Olympic Trials caliber women leading the first mile. It took me about three miles to decide that I really shouldn’t have been up there. But after training for the 1500m these past few weeks, that 5:30 first mile felt downright easy. Like something I could do forever. Or, as was the case yesterday, for approximately 3.5 miles. Unfortunately the race lasted another 1.5 miles, during which I slowed significantly and was passed by two women. But, and this is where my CrossFitting comes in, I had the strength to hold onto a podium spot in a race that is traditionally very competitive.

I do CrossFit

Fun fact: Half dude on the left next to winner Jamie Cheever? That’s Seahawk defensive end Cliff Avril, who, along with DE Michael Bennett, gave us our awards.

I’d love to say that I do CrossFit because I’m bold and brave and found it all on my own. The truth is: my husband made me do it. OK, not really, but he did find me my gym (his gym), CrossFit Outcome, and my trainer, Bethanee Randles.

Trainer extraordinaire. Photo by Pete Saluotos.

Trainer extraordinaire. Photo by Pete Saluotos.

When I started working out with her last July, I was worried that bulky muscles and strength would slow you down. Since then, I’ve set PRs in the 5k, 6k, 8k, 10k, and the 1500m. Apparently I was wrong.

Why do I do CrossFit? Three reasons.

Injury prevention. Ironically one of the biggest objections I hear from people (after the whole bulky muscles thing) is the injury factor. Don’t people who do CrossFit get hurt all the time? That’s why you need to find a trainer whom you trust, AND THEN LISTEN TO HER. According to this article on Breaking Muscle,

The stronger you get, the more resilient your body will become to the demands of running. The repetitive impact of running won’t wear you down as much. Plus, when you’ve got a strong body, any preexisting conditions will be less likely to worsen. This is because strength training helps to improve structural weaknesses in your body, whether in the muscles, joints, or connective tissues. Often, this will eliminate the source of many common running injuries.

Strength for speed. I’m no trainer, and don’t really know how this works, but I’m here to tell you that stronger muscles have meant faster times. backs me up on this here. When I started working out with Bethanee last July, I couldn’t string together two real push-ups. Now, at 42, I can even do a strict pull-up. I never thought I’d ever be able to do that.

CrossFit community. This is not just a public relations anecdote. My gym is a really great community of super supportive like-minded athletes and friends. How could I not want to be a part of that?

One of the best parts about this is that it doesn’t take a lot of time. I do CrossFit twice a week, for 30 minutes each session. It may not sound like a lot, but it gets the job done. What can you do in 30 minutes? Here are some sample workouts.

Workout #1

3 rounds of:
10 push ups
10 V ups

3 rounds of:
20 cal Assault bike
20 wall balls
20 kettlebell swings

Workout #2

4 rounds of:
8 dead lift
12 GHD sit-ups
15 plate raises
10 plank walks

Workout #3

4 rounds of:
5 back squat with 3 second pause at the bottom
10 good mornings
5 chin-ups
1:30 plank

Get to the gym. I’m telling you, you won’t regret it.

Race debt

It’s the sister ailment to the workout hangover: race debt.

It’s the week after a big race and you want to build on those gains that you must have made while racing. Maybe you tapered a bit and are ready to make up for that lost mileage. You’re fired up. You’re ready to focus on the next race. This is no time to rest, on your laurels or anything else. This is the time to strike!

And your body says, oh no, my friend, it’s time to pay some bills. Sleep debt, energy debt, and muscle debt are hungry creditors and all add up to one thing: race debt.

Lost sleep: If someone were to ask you, in the days leading up to a race, how you’re feeling, you’d answer with a resounding “great”. Because you ARE great. Cool as a cucumber. No problems. But your sleep says otherwise. Maybe it’s an hour less here, 30 fewer minutes there. But it’s less and that’s what matters. Then there’s the post-race night of sleep. You’re still fired up. No use stressing over sleep now, the race is over. What’s one more night? Congratulations, you’re now three nights behind.

Runs before the run: Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about.


Mike calls this “The Fear Dump”. Whatever you call it, you’re probably losing some nutrients you don’t normally lose. And then there’s the energy you’re burning, the race day meal(s) you might be missing, and suddenly, you’re behind on fuel.

Race debt food debt

This was my post-race meal at XC club nationals, AKA too tired to leave the hotel to find real food.

This is definitely part of the problem.

Taxed systems: Yes, it might seem like your workouts are harder and longer than the race itself. But there’s something about a race that you can’t replicate in a workout. It’s part of the reason you run faster in a race. Your muscles are working harder. Your cardiovascular system is pumping faster. And when you go out for that long run the next day, or the day after that, and everything hasn’t returned to its regular state, you’re now borrowing against something you don’t currently have: a recovered body.

Now what? If you’re anything like me, you spend a week or two wondering (out loud, to anyone who will listen) why you feel like total crap. If you’re lucky, you get back on top of things and go about your merry way. If not, you get hurt. Or sick. And then, you do what you should have done in the first place: TAKE A BREAK.


It doesn’t have to be a long one. Maybe it’s an extra day or two more than you had intended. Or maybe it’s a week or three, depending on what you’re recovering from. Race debt is no joke; don’t let your mind tell you otherwise.

I was out for a couple of days this week with a wonky calf. On Monday I slept during the time I should have been running. Will that be enough of a break? We’ll see. I’m hoping to run Beat The Bridge on Sunday. Only time will tell. Race happy, recovery healthy, my friends!

The workout hangover

In my advancing age I have stumbled upon a new phenomenon: the workout hangover. It’s like those hazy Sundays from college, except that the path to getting there wasn’t nearly as much fun.

The symptoms are the same though.

Poor sleep and exhaustion: Who takes a nap at a 5th grade lacrosse game? I do. Right on the sideline, directly on the turf.

Foggy head: My judgmental 8-year-old just accused me of saying “worser”. And repeating the same mundane comment about the weather on the walk home from the bus stop. Just be glad I’m still capable of talking to you, kid.

Dehydration: Probably, though I train my body year-round for this (who likes drinking water??) so that’s harder to say.

I realize that the road to overtraining and injury and that of a killer PR are almost one and the same. I’m doing what I can to remain one step ahead of the line between the two, working to dial in the sleep and nutrition.

But sometimes, that just isn’t enough. Sometimes, after a smoothie and a good breakfast, you’re still shoveling handfuls of Trader Joe’s Sour Cream & Onion Puffs at 9:30 a.m. Sometimes, you really need the big guns.

Don’t judge.

Workout hangover beverages

Emergency situation in progress; glass has been broken

Here’s what you do: start with the Frappuccino. If you have ready access to a Starbucks, get yourself a real one, and not one of those bullshit mini ones they tried to roll out last year. Seriously, what was that? Who’s going to be happy with two ounces of coffee milkshake? But if you’re in a pinch, the bottled stuff will do.

Now give it an hour. If things aren’t so bad, this might be enough to set you right. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. Soda is your friend. Yes, this is my method.

What’s behind all of this angst? The hope for a PR, of course. And these workouts, starting from Friday:

12 x 400m @ :75-:77 pace with 1:30 rest between intervals

It’s the short amount of rest that is the real killer of this workout. Mike and my friend Sal came out to help and I definitely couldn’t have done it without them.

400m track workout

This guy… busts out 400s like they’re nothing.

Then today. Expecting a long run, only to check my Messenger and discover that this is on the agenda:

3 x 1200m @ 4:05 pace

Damn you, technology. In another time that would have been a phone call that came an hour too late.

You’d better believe it’s been a Starbucks kind of day.