Tuesday Time Trials

Are you guys all caught up on the USATF scandal from this weekend? If not, here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

During the 3000-meter race, Gabriele Grunewald (sponsored by Brooks Running) clipped the heels of Jordan Hasay (sponsored by NIKE, coached by Alberto Salazar) on the bell lap. Grunewald went on to smoke the other ladies and win, qualifying her to represent Team USA at the World Indoor Championships in Poland. The clipping didn’t go unnoticed by the officials and was reviewed and thrown out, twice. Salazar continued to protest and Grunewald was subsequently disqualified, giving Hasay a spot on the team.

The ladies of Track & Field showing solidarity for Grunewald. (I don't know who to credit for this photo, but if someone knows, please email me.)

The ladies of Track & Field showing solidarity for Grunewald.
(I don’t know who to credit for this photo, but if someone knows, please email me.)

Twitter and the running world exploded, the case was reviewed again, and the DQ was thrown out, reinstating Grunewald as the champ. Grunewald and Hasay both released statements but I hear another controversy is brewing on the men’s side, again involving Salazar.

What’s this got to do with today’s post? Nothing except when I think of time trials, I think of track meets. Also, watching Mary Cain at these races was a delight.

She's also coached by Salazar and sponsored by NIKE. (Image courtesy of USATF.org)

She’s also coached by Salazar and sponsored by NIKE. (Image courtesy of USATF.org)

You know how when you’re in the middle of training season and you’re working hard and getting your runs in but you’re kinda sick of training and just want to go out there and see if all this work is paying off?

Do it.

Do a time trial. Set up a course (preferably flat), warm up like you would for race day, practice with your race day gear, and do it. I generally set the distance to be shorter than race distance by half or a little less.



What exactly does this do for you?

  1. It’s a good way to check in to see if your training is sufficient.
  2. It’s a solid exercise in race day prep and strategy.
  3. It’s a great confidence-boosting workout that lets you see what you can really do.
  4. It breaks up the monotony of doing the same ol’, same ol’ workouts.
  5. It’s a great workout.

If a time trial doesn’t go so well, and external circumstances weren’t the reason, it’s not too late in your training cycle to switch things up and still meet your race day goals.

Don’t be afraid of the speed and don’t be afraid to try a new racing strategy. Better you do it in a time trial workout that on race day morning.

Now go out and run!

Workout Wednesdays: Before the Workout

Workout Wednesdays usually feature a fabulous running workout for you to try on for size. But this week, I’d like to put the spotlight on what happens BEFORE the workout.

Preparation is key.

Preparation is key.
(Image courtesy of Steve Moore & gocomics.com)

So what’s the big deal with a warm-up? Well, it’s actually fairly straightforward, even if people want to ignore/argue with me about it.

In the very simplest terms, a warm-up has less to do with 3 things:

  1. Accessing energy
  2. Getting blood to the muscles
  3. Increasing the amount of oxygen in your body

At rest, your body’s main job is to keep your vital organs going. Yeah, blood and stuff goes to your muscles, but not nearly the amount needed to jump up and run a marathon at a moment’s notice.

Your heart, your lungs, your muscles, and your energy systems are basically asleep.

clipart heart 4

So what happens if you don’t warm up? Basically, you run out of gas cuz you opened the tank too wide in the beginning. No gas = muscles fail = THE WALL. Your body goes into high gear way to fast, uses way too much energy to get you going, and you bonk.

–Runner’s Bonk verb \ˈbäŋk, ˈbȯŋk\ To hit a wall; a sudden fatigue or loss of energy.

I love this movie. (Image courtesy of Entertainment Cinema, New Line Films, & Warner Bros.)

I love this movie.
(Image courtesy of Entertainment Cinema, New Line Films, & Warner Bros.)

In order to access all your energy stores, and to keep accessing them throughout the longer miles, you MUST warm up. Go easy for at least 10 minutes, if not 2 full miles. After your warm-up you can do your dynamic drills and strides and what-not, but you NEED to be warm to get the most out of your drills.

A solid warm-up also allows your lungs to catch up and increase the amount of oxygen in your blood and your muscles get enough fuel and oxygen to function at a higher capacity.

Without a warm-up, your body will be playing catch up for your entire workout. That doesn’t put you in a position to do your best work, obviously. For a marathon, the first 2 miles can serve as your warm-up, unless you’re an elite or sub-elite runner. In that case, your warm-up happens before the race.

Kara warms up. She's kind of a big deal. (Image courtesy of Raymond Britt & runtri.com)

Kara warms up. She’s kind of a big deal. (Image courtesy of Raymond Britt & runtri.com)

Don’t believe me? Stand at the start line of a marathon and watch the elites go out for some strides. They’re already sweating by the time they get to the line. They warm up.

Take this pledge with me:

“I (state/write your name) do solemnly swear to warm-up before every run, no matter the distance.”

Now go out and run!

Q & A: What’s the Point?

So, when I first started running (many, many moons ago), I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I basically just tried to keep up with the boys on my team and hope that I finished in the top 10. This was back when running wasn’t cool and a runner like me could regularly finish in the top 10 at a race.

Oh yes. I was cool. Me and my braces.

Oh yes. I was cool. Me and my braces.

As I progressed in my competitive (snort) running career into high school, I caught wind of how we had different workouts throughout the week. We termed them “easy, medium, or hard” and feared guessed which one our coach would throw at us as we changed for practice after school.

But then I started noticing a pattern to the weekly workouts.

You know, the usual.

You know, the usual.

These days, there is a very specific method to my madness, not unlike the daily torture we were prescribed in high school by my mustached coach.

The physiologic benefits of each run cannot be ignored.

  • Repeats: clearing the lactic acid out of your system
  • Tempo: increasing lactate threshold and practice cadence
  • Long: improve cardiovascular and mitochondrial function
  • Fartlek: improve running economy (how fuel/oxygen is used)
  • Intervals: improve VO2 max

There are cross-over benefits in these workouts but they all do one very huge thing:


Mary Cain is a MACHINE. (Image courtesy of therunningforum.com)

Mary Cain is a MACHINE.
(Image courtesy of therunningforum.com)

Period. End of story.

If you want to run the same times (or slower) and feel the same (or worse), go right ahead and do the same workouts. Be my guest. Doing the same type of run over and over will not change your body, how it functions, or affect your times.

But if you want to feel awesome when you run and get a little faster along the way, it’s time to get down to business with a real schedule. With some real science.

Ron Burgundy knows what’s up.

Not every workout needs to be balls out (in fact, some are purposely BALLS IN workouts) but there is a purpose to every run. Even if that purpose is to boost your mental game.

Now go out and run!

Wednesday Workouts

I love Wednesdays.

First, they are my Thursdays since I don’t have class on Fridays, so HOORAY! It’s almost “Friday”!

Second, I don’t have class til the afternoon on Wednesdays and it’s the perfect morning for me to lazy around in my PJs and catch up on homework or whatever before I run at whatevertimeIwant o’clock.

Skinny mini Abby.

I prefer PJs until about noon.

Most of my Wednesdays are cluttered with doctors appointments, work, annoying phone calls to insurance companies/school offices, and other grown-up type tasks. But when I get a Wednesday morning all to myself, I am a pig in, well…you know.


Pretty much me this morning.

Today’s workout will be my first official speed workout since my second surgery on October 5th. Since my surgeries were both operations on my abdomen, I have to wait the requisite 3 months til I am allowed to lift more than 20 pounds. Hence, why my husband had to carry our beautiful tree all my himself.

photo (2)

Lies. He has never, ever let me help him carry our tree home. Even when it was 50% larger than the one we bought this year. Isn’t it preeeeetty?

But they said I could start doing speed work in two months if I didn’t feel any pulling or pain in my abdomen.


Today’s workout will be shorter on the repetition side since I’m not exactly in the best of running shape. But these sprints are good for anyone at any time since you push that VO2 max and make your body stronger whenever you do anaerobic workouts (speed work).

  • 2 mile warm up
  • 6-8 x 400 meters (one lap on the track), all-out.
  • 1 mile recovery shake-out
Yay for track workouts!!!!!

It will not be sunny and warm on the track today, but that’s cool. Git ‘er done!

Whenever doing speed work, it’s important to warm up beforehand so that your pre-capillary sphincters near your peripheral limbs open up and increase blood flow to your muscles. Blood flow = oxygen = food for muscles. Otherwise, you will tire out MUCH faster and fail to reach your potential in the workout.

I know, I’m blinding you with science. Don’t you feel smarter already?

I want to give myself a good workout, but also the freedom to cut it at 6 repeats since it’s my first day back. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get every.single.repeat. done that day. It’s not worth the energy to feel guilty about a workout.

Guilt? About a workout? That’s stupid. Yes, stupid. Not “silly”. Stupid.



I also like to shake it out afterwards. No real science there, it just feels good.

What’s your workout today? Are you headed to the track like me or are you kickin’ it treadmill-style on this fine Hump Day? Have you ever done a 400m x _______ workout? Killer! See you on the track.

Now go out and run!

Not-Quite-Your-Pace Running Friends

My new friend is fast. Like, she runs a marathon a full half an hour faster than me. That’s over a minute per mile faster. Ridiculous. She also runs practically naked, which is hilarious since even when I do take off my shirt, Rosebud has her own running outfit. We are quite a pair.

I am not fast, but I DO have fun!

Anyway, we’re both training for the same marathon, and we still somehow manage to do some of our runs together. Full disclosure: she fully slows down for me instead of me ramping it up for her. That’s usually the way it works. I am so grateful for her company on my runs. Sometimes when I’m running, I get down on myself for feeling so out of shape and slow and it sucks. But having a friend there to chat with leaves no time at all for a pity party.

It’s my party and I’ll drool if I want to.

I decided to pay it forward and help another friend out who is struggling with getting runs in these days. And guess what? It’s kinda fun. Yes, it’s hard to run slower but I am able to run for longer and not be wiped out the next day. Totally in the vein that we talked about yesterday. I’m basically on my way to being Kara Goucher.

That is a lie. This is Kara Goucher and she is awesome. (Image shamelessly stolen from Michele @ nycrunningmama.com. To be fair, she said I could use it, like, 5 months ago. Thanks, Michele!)

Here’s the thing, because your runs don’t all have to be balls-out hard runs, running with a slower running friend can be a really great way to catch up with them, encourage them to get out the door, and (selfishly) get some extra miles. Here’s how I make the most of my buddy runs:

  • Run a few harder miles before or after
  • Run 2.5 down to the East River track, race 1-2 miles on the track while they jog around, run 2.5 miles home with my buddy
  • Join them for a run on a cross-training day when I’ve just lifted or otherwise fatigued my muscles

It’s actually really fun. I didn’t realize how having someone there with me when I’m struggling to get back into things can keep me going. I guess I never had that problem before. You learn something new every day!

Do you run with friends? Are they faster or slower than you? Have you embraced the easy buddy run mentality or are you and all-out kinda runner? Speaking of running, I ought to get going…

Now go out and run!