Race calendar for Spring 2016

It’s been over 4 months since my last race and now that my running mojo has returned I’m ready to toe the starting line again. 2015 was a year of PWs so I’m ready to (hopefully) get some shiny new PRs or at least feel strong during my races.

Last winter I signed up for the inaugural RUNSLC winter race series. This is designed to get people ready for the Salt Lake half marathon in mid-April. And it fits in almost perfectly with the tune-up races in my half marathon training plan. Plus, the races start about 2 miles from my house and they have donuts at the finish. Donuts!

Feb 6th: RUNSLC 5K.

I wasn’t able to run the 5K last year due to an injured calf muscle, so this will be my first ever road 5K. Yes – you read that right. My first ever road 5K. My first ever race was a half marathon so I kind of skipped all of the shorter race distances. Also, 5Ks hurt. My 5K PR is from a trail 5K that I did about 18 months ago (23:33) when I was in pretty great shape. The main thing that I remember from this race was feeling like I was going to puke at the finish line. I didn’t but oh my God I did not enjoy the feeling. I’m quietly confident that I will get a PR at the race – unless we get a winter storm the night before – and my plan is to go all out and hold on. That’s how you run 5Ks, right?

March 5th: RUNSLC 10K

I do have a road PR for this -> 46:39! My one and only road 10K. I think I’ll wait until after the 5K to figure out my goal pace for this. One interesting thing about this race series is that you have to cross tram lines twice (out and back), and if there is a tram coming then you just have to wait. Last year I managed to avoid this happening but what can you do? Except curse to yourself a lot if you have to watch a PR slip away?

April 2nd: RUNSLC 15K

This race is two weeks before my goal half marathon and will be my trial run and will hopefully give me the best indicator of how I should plan my half marathon. Last year I ran a little under 8 min/mile pace and I’m hoping to beat that this year -> and make 2016 the year of the PRs!

April 16th: Salt Lake half marathon

Goal race!!!! Hope the weather gods are looking out for me!

After April my calendar is wide open. I’m hoping to hit the trails a lot in the summer and have decided after making some pretty dumb running decisions last year that I will sign up for things closer to the race date. That way I won’t feel bad if I can’t make a race and won’t push it when I need to rest. I want my summer free for backpacking trips and any other adventures that might pop up.

Salt Lake Half Marathon Training Week 1

Monday: 5.5 miles. Hill repeats! Training for the Salt Lake half marathon has officially begun and today I did my first ever formal hill workout. Previously, I’ve fitted hills in my runs – they are pretty much impossible to avoid here in SLC, but I’m trying to stick to Hal Higdon’s advanced plan and want to push myself a little out of my comfort zone (and intervals start next week! eeekk!). Luckily, we had a beautiful sunny (and clean air) day so I headed out at lunchtime to a hill that runs parallel to one of the few hills on the Salt Lake half marathon course. The sidewalks had been mostly cleared of snow and I was ready to start.

The hill was almost a quarter mile long (0.24 miles to be exact) and about 70 ft in elevation gain, so using my math skills I figured that this is a 5.5% incline and it seemed good enough for me. So I ran up (2.28/2.27/2.26/2.30/2.20/2.20) and jogged down 6 times. The effort felt comfortably hard with my heart rate peaking in the mid-160s so I’m going to call it a success. Bonus: my calf cooperated.

Tuesday: 3 miles. Hit the gym to do an easy treadmill run (9:13 pace) and then some strength work. This plan specifically states to do some strength work twice a week and as someone who is prone to injury it’s something that I need to do in order to be able to continue to run. It’s mostly focused on single leg work, glutes, hips with just a little core work.

Wednesday: 40 minute tempo. 5 miles total. In this plan, both the midweek tempos and weekly long runs are designated by time and not by distance which is new to me.

10 minute warm-up at 9:13 pace

25 minutes at 7:19 pace

5 minutes at 9:13 pace

This was another comfortably hard workout. And I had a little bit of a mental workout to stick with it for the full 25 minutes.

Thursday: Rest.

Friday: 3 miles easy at 9:31 pace and a little strength.

Saturday: 10.45 miles. Long run day! And also snow storm day. We got 5 inches overnight and it was still snowing by midday so I made the call to do this on the treadmill at my gym.


The plan called for a 90 minute (3/1) run, which means you run the first 3/4 at an easy pace and then speed it up for the last quarter so that’s what I did.

67.30 minutes at 8:49 pace followed by

3 minutes at 8:34 pace

3 minutes at 8:20 pace

3 minutes at 8:06 pace

3  minutes at 7:54 pace

3 minutes at 7:42 pace

3 minutes at 7:30 pace

3 minutes at 7:19 pace

1.30 minutes at 7.09 pace

This run felt great. The easy part felt easy, and it was nice to speed it up at the end – hitting my threshold pace for just a little while. And FYI the movie Clueless is exactly the right length of movie for this workout. Plus, if you are my age you get to relive some serious 90s fashion disasters.

Sunday: 3.05 miles easy. 10:23 pace – keeping it as easy as I can and my heart rate agrees!

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 17.13.10

Bonus: I didn’t fall on my butt!

Weekly total: 30 miles.

January total: 120 miles. My highest mileage month since last April.

Final thoughts: The first week of any training plan is always fun, right? New workouts and lots of optmism. I would have liked to run more outside – and hopefully the air and weather will cooperate this week.

I hit a double digit run for the first time since September! And my body is reacting. The calf issues seem to have resolved themselves, but I am tight in the usual spots – hip flexors and my glute medius. I’ve been stretching and massaging as best I can. But someone ate (yes – ate) my foam roller so I need to get a new one ASAP.


Lucky for me, I will be visiting Salt Lake Running Co. on Friday to pick up my bib for my first race of the year – so I’ll probably pick up some kind of torture device while I’m there. This will be my second ever 5K, and my first ever on the road so I’m a little excited about it and will talk about race goals/plans later this week.

Anyone else running a half marathon this spring?

Winter running in Salt Lake City

I’m about to start training for half marathon number 5. And of course that means planning out my running schedule. Sometimes this can be complicated by winter weather but in Salt Lake City we have an added complication -> our air quality.

Before I moved here I never really thought about air quality. That is a Beijing problem, right? Well it turns out due to a combination of geography (valley), poor planning (oil refineries in said valley) and bad luck (low sun angle) we have really bad air in winter – mostly January but it can sneak into December and February. So before I plan my weekly running schedule I need to check these:

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 15.41.48

Green is good!

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 15.41.11

And yes – these are our typical January highs.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 15.42.01Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 15.41.37Lucky I’m a scientist, right? The main bummer is that when it’s sunny with no snow – that is when the air is likely to be bad. And by bad I mean – your throat is scratchy and in some cases physicians recommend that you refrain from exercising outside especially if you have any medical conditions that might make you sensitive to pollutants. Storms are great at clearing the air out but that means snow and icy conditions. It’s a Catch-22.

For the last couple of years I’ve been doing low (or no) mileage for January and this is the first year that I’ve done longish runs this month. Luckily, I’ve managed to do all of my weekend runs outside and even snuck in a weekday trail run. This has made me so grateful that my body is cooperating so that I can run and I really appreciate any outside run. Although, I have been using my treadmill runs to catch up with Scandal.

The bad air – or inversion as the locals refer to it – is a constant topic of conversation here in SLC in the winter but I can’t complain too much. If I can make it through January then things settle back to normal – and our air is pretty good for the rest of the year, and our winters are relatively mild (sorry Midwesterners and East coasters). Plus, if we really need to escape the air we can just drive 30 minutes and be at 9000ft enjoying the fresh mountain air!


But on clear days it’s amazing!

Training: T-1 week

Monday: 6.2 miles at 8:29 pace

A much needed day off work (MLK Day), no big plans and some great weather meant an unmissable opportunity to run outside. In sunshine. And with almost clear sidewalks. Win! This run felt so great – and I even managed to surprise myself with a sub-8 mile.

Tuesday: 2.45 miles (to and from the gym)

Another chance to run outside and some strength work.

Wednesday: 5.5 miles. Tempo day! 1.5 miles at 9.13 min/mile pace with 3 tempo miles (7:24/7:19/7:13) and a 0.5 mile cooldown. I tried this workout last week and it was a struggle – I only managed 2 of my 3 tempo miles. This week I felt like a different person.

Thursday: Rest day.

Friday: 3.05 miles on the trail at 10:18 pace. Packed down snow and beautiful view on a lunchtime run. Perfect.

Saturday: 9.1 miles at 8:47 pace. I’ve been doing all of my recent long runs blind. My watch vibrates to let me know when I’ve done a mile but I don’t check my pace until I’m done. I want to practice running by feel and not doing these longer runs too fast so I need to protect myself from myself.

Sunday: 2.6 miles with Sophie. We had a small storm roll through on Saturday night and it dropped 5 inches of new snow. So I brought our pup out with me and it went – well what’s a word between terrible and frustrating? We need to work on our leash skills!

Weekly total: 28.9 miles

Base building is done! Now sh*t gets real. Half marathon training is on. It actually started with my Sunday snow run. This allows everything to fit better with my current work schedule and basically breaks down into:

Sunday: Short, easy run

Monday: Workout. Hill repeats or intervals

Tuesday: Short, easy run

Wednesday: Tempo

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Short run – easy or race pace on alternate weeks.

Saturday: Long run

With as much strength training as I can fit in. The only downside is a slight twinge in my right calf that I’m keep a close eye on, but I’m hoping my body can hold it together for the next 12 weeks.

My thoughts on the Garmin 235

I was lucky enough to get a new Garmin for Christmas. The Garmin 235 replaced my old Garmin 110 which had been with me since I started taking running more seriously at the start of 2013. It was a great watch and did everything I needed. I have to admit here that I never used a lot of the functions such as training modes, but it tracked my distance, splits and pace and that was enough for me. The 110 also came with a chest heart rate monitor that I used twice. I hated wearing it and decided I would just have to run by feel and forgo heart rate measurements.

When I heard about the 235 I thought it was awesome. It could measure heart rate via the wrist strap and I decided it would be my next watch. Well, my husband decided that would be happening much sooner than I had planned, and I’ve been wearing it for the last month or so.

Heart rate:

This is what really sold it for me. It can measure your heart rate but you don’t have to wear an annoying (at least to me) chest strap. Because this is the first time I’ve ever monitored my heart rate while exercising (and because I am a huge nerd), I am completely obsessed with all the new data. You can probably find other reviews that talk about the accuracy of the HR monitor, but personally I take it as a pretty good but probably not perfect estimate of my HR.

For each run, I now get my elevation, pace, HR and cadence.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 16.05.16

You also get a measure of other aspects related to your heart rate. Here for example is what percentage of each run you spent in each zone (from easy to all out), which reminds me of the couple of workouts at Orange Theory Fitness. Basically, Z1 = warm-up, Z2 = easy, Z3 = aerobic, Z4 = threshold and Z5 = maximum. This particular run felt on the upper end of easy, sub-tempo but still working. This is also how my long run looked on Saturday.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 16.06.33One on my aims is to have my recovery runs all green.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 16.12.32And this is how my tempo looked.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 16.13.23I’m still figuring it all out but it’s a good reminder to keep easy days easy.

You 75also get a couple of other pieces of information related to HR. One is a training effect number. This can range from 1 to 5 and gives you some feedback on how that particular run affected your training as a whole. A number greater than 3 but less than 5 indicates that you are improving. A 5 means that you are probably over-reaching.

You also get a recovery time which is dependent on your training effect number i.e. a hard session needs a longer recovery time. Not rocket science but still interesting.

Because of the HR monitor you also get a better estimate of calories burned per run. This has actually shown a lower number for me (my old watch was guessing 90 calories per mile, but now it’s about 75).

The 235 can also act as an activity tracker and can continuously monitor your resting heart rate. This has shown me that I have a pretty low resting hear rate – about 45 bpm which I’ll probably mention to my doctor at my next annual checkup.

Activity tracker:

The 235 also tracks your steps (including those from running), which I didn’t know about before I got it. It will initially set your steps to 10,000 and then alter it for each day depending on your activity levels. It’s a nice reminder to move a little more each day. You also get a vibrating reminder to move if you’ve been inactive for more than an hour.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 16.34.01Can you figure out my rest days?

Other features:

I’ve found the GPS acquisition to be significantly faster than the 110. You can also sync your watch and phone so that you get text message and other alerts (these can be customizable) on your phone, and use bluetooth to upload your data via the Garmin connect app. It comes with a USB connector that I personally find to be easier and quicker for uploading data but the bluetooth seems to work pretty well.

The watch itself is more intuitive to use than the 11o and has a color screen. It is smaller and I’ve been happy to wear it as a normal watch.

You can get some interesting data too. For example, it gives a VO2 max score and uses this to predict your race times for 5K, 10K, half and full marathon. I have no idea how accurate this is but for me, the more numbers the better.

I’ve also been getting a measure of my cadence which I’ve never had before. This was something that I worked on with my PT who encouraged shorted strides and it’s nice to see that I’m usually close to 180 steps per minute.

One downside:

The 235 has two options for running: indoor and outdoor. In my opinion the outdoor works just fine. My usual routes are measured correctly and I feel the pace is pretty accurate too. But indoors all bets are off. The tracking is way off with a treadmill. For example, a treadmill run of 7 miles translates to just 6 with the watch. I know treadmills can be a little off but that seems a little too much. Also, a treadmill pace of 7:13 (8.3 mph) will only register as 8.33 min/mile using the watch. After using it a bunch of times inside I feel like this feature is just not accurate and you should just stick with the treadmill data.


I love this watch. I don’t think I’ve taken it off since I first got it and think it’s a great combination of GPS watch and activity tracker.




A running confession

So I have a running confession to share. I have run two full marathons and four half marathons, plus a bunch of trail races and never have I ever done speedwork. No 400s, 800s or 1600s. I’ve done tempo runs but never intervals. They always sound hard. But now I am starting my half marathon training plan next week and it calls for some speedwork. And the weird thing is that I am actually kinda looking forward to trying it out.

So I am looking for your help. I get the principal behind everything and I have a pretty good idea about what paces to start with but I have some newbie questions.

Do you do your speedwork on a treadmill or a track?

How much of a gap do you leave between intervals? A certain amount of time or a distance?

Do you walk or just run super slow between intervals?

Do you program it into a watch? Can you even do this? How do you get your run done without checking your GPS every two minutes?

How do you think speedwork has helped your running?



Training: T-2 weeks

November, December and January have been all about that base. Running base that is. A combination of injuries and burn-out meant I took a break from running for October and the first half of November. And let me tell you that running is a humbling hobby. Paces that previously felt easy now became a struggle. Ughhh. It was the first step (literally) in getting back into shape.

I started by running four times a week in the low 20 miles per week total. My long runs started at 5 and 6 miles, before plateauing at 7 miles for three weeks, followed by another 3 weeks at 8 miles. Since the start of the year I’ve been topping out at 25 miles with a long run of 9 miles.

I have a couple of races lined up for the start of 2016 with my goal race being the Salt Lake half marathon on April 16th. This means that my 12 week training program starts on January 25th so I have one more week to go before things get real. This time I am planning on following Hal Higdon’s advanced plan. Fingers crossed my body holds up. This race is my current PR, and while it would be nice to beat that time I’m more interested in figuring out where m fitness is right now. Before that I have a couple of tune-up races to get rid of the racing nerves.

Monday: 4.85 trail miles at 10:35 pace/570 ft elevation. Blue skies, not too cold and clean air. I couldn’t resist.

Tuesday: 1.5 miles easy on indoor track. I got a pair of Altras back in the fall and am trying to ease myself into wearing them. Strength workout afterwards.

Wednesday: 5.25 mile tempo. 2 miles at 9:13 pace, 1 mile at 7:19, 7.13, 1.25 mile cooldown at 9:13 pace. Was hoping for 3 fast miles (I did this workout the previous week) but my legs were not feeling it.

Thursday: Rest. Short strength workout.

Friday: Rest. Snowy day so decided to wait until the weekend to run.

Saturday: 9.15 miles at 8:40 pace. Best long run in a while.

Sunday: 3.1 mile hike; 4.5 mile recovery run at 9:14 pace. Surprised that this pace felt so easy.

Weekly total: 25.3 miles.

The first week of my plan calls for a little under 30 miles and I feel pretty prepared for it. Confession: My peak mileage for a half marathon has only ever been 35ish miles so this training period should up that a lot. Plus my first long run should be about 10 miles which is longer than what I’ve started with previously. I say about 10 miles because this plan sets long runs by time not distance, which is also new to me. Lots of new things and I’m excited to see if I see any improvements in my racing.

My weekly workouts also include my daily walks with Sophie. We usually go out for a little under an hour in the mornings and try to hike at least once per weekend. This Sunday we hiked up Thaynes Canyon. What a great way to spend a morning.