Training week 5: goodbye, Gallowalking

On my long run last week I had forgotten to take the walk break on the first couple of half-miles and had been doing it just once per mile. This week I forgot about it entirely for the first few miles and spontaneously decided to abandon the Gallowalking. It sounds good theoretically, but I did my first three marathons without it, and I haven’t been noticing any benefits. Galloway talks about people beating their best marathon times by a lot when they implement his method. BUT – how was their pace before? If you’re going out too fast and walking the last three or four miles, run/walk could definitely improve your time. If you’re pacing yourself well, as I do, it’s not as clear how it would help, unless you make a point of running faster during the run segments – and that would make it harder to know what’s left “in the tank” for me. The approach I use, where I pretend that the first 20 miles of the marathon is the last training run and the 6.2 is the actual race, has worked really well. Here’s someone reporting on exactly that – he concludes “Galloway’s method helps runners, even some good ones who run in the 3:00 range, to run faster marathons…..even, ostensibly, by large amounts…..simply because they haven’t learned or aren’t disciplined enough to run good marathons without them.”

Going back to walking only while drinking, combined with my photo and map-checking stops, seems just as good as extended walk breaks, and the 10 miles went by easily without much fatigue. I was super-thrilled for my pace to naturally match the 13:44 I need to finish in 6 hours! It was a rainy morning, so that helped. I’m glad I’ve been getting up at 4:30 on Sundays; I don’t actually get out the door until well after 5, but so far that’s still gotten me home, with bagels, early enough to feel like the day isn’t gone.

31.79% of Easthampton! (Still in 5th place.) I got in some long roads, the entire eastern corner (a narrow little “handle,” so easy to complete), some nice residential streets, and all of the Harvest Valley Condominiums. It’s a tremendously boring development with so many almost-identical houses, but the gardens were nice, the main street is “Lazy ‘D’ Drive” (love a lazy letter!), the views of Mount Tom would be awesome on a clear day, and it led me to identify a trait of newly developed neighborhoods that I’d been sort of aware of without thinking about: offset cul-de-sacs branching off a main road are really easy for things like plowing, deliveries, and running every street. You just go straight, left, straight, right etc. until you’re done; no possibility of getting in a loop or skipping a street.

Date (temp/humidity)DistanceAvg pace/fastest splitTimeHR (avg/highest)Notes
Tue 7/20 (69°F/96%)3.0912:08/11:1437:27141/163
Thu 7/22 (63°F/90%)5.5512:16/11:111:08:06Intervals only: 136/168
Fri 7/23 (66°F/81%)~312:09 (first mile)37:33140/171Runkeeper crashed
Sun 7/25 (66°F/97%)10.1413:39/12:482:18:27138/171
Totals~21.8 miles4.7 hoursWeight avg 116.7, resting heart 57

Training week 4: new numbers

I’m trying the 90 free days of Fitbit Premium so I get access to some data I didn’t have before (sleeping heart rate etc.), but nothing seems particularly interesting. Mostly they market the workouts etc., which I might explore. The main new number, though, is a proper timed mile on the Smith College track, now that I’ve researched the markings (this was the most helpful site): 10:18. On the one hand, that’s faster than my approximately timed miles earlier this year. On the other, it’s significantly slower than my fastest 5K (Westfield in 2018, so not that long ago: 9:37!). And although I told myself I’d start at 60% effort and move up, either my “dial” is broken or I don’t have the same stamina I used to, because I was only able to pick up the pace at the last half-lap. Oh well!

I vaulted into 5th place at CityStrides for Easthampton – 24.86% of streets. It will take me a long time to move up one more notch, as the current 4th place runner is at 54.34%. Some minor fun things – see below – and I found the new-ish Easthampton fish ladder, which I’ll return to some spring when it’s open for visitors.

Date (temp/humidity)DistanceAvg pace/fastest splitTimeHR (avg/highest)Notes
Tue 7/13 (65°F/100%)3.212:22/12:0440:11140/158
Wed 7/14 (67°F/100%)5.1612:22/11:551:03:45Mile only: 167/180timed mile
Fri 7/16 (66°F/100%)3.0413:23/12:4041:39145/160
Sun 7/18 (64°F/95%)8.0914:07/12:431:54:17135/171
Totals19.49 miles4.3 hoursWeight avg 116.5, resting heart 58

Training week 3: electrolyte experiment

My guideline for when to start planning hydration on a run used to be eight miles/90 minutes, but now that I’m slower I’ve moved it down to seven. For my first marathon I used Gatorade, for the second water and gels, and finally water plus dates for the New York Marathon, which worked best of all. Huge advantage: not having to clean sports drink out of my CamelBak reservoir… But I’ve been doing so well with exercising in a fasting state that I’m exploring electrolytes without calories.

Now that I’ve been doing my “eating window” (start eating at noon or later, stop around 8 or 9) for years, my body is very well-adapted to it and, subjectively at least, my blood sugar levels feel rock-solid. I’ve followed a normal long run (5-6 miles) with several hours of biking and hiking before eating anything, and felt totally fine (way better than in the old days when I’d eat breakfast first, fuel after a long run, and still be wiped out for the rest of the day). Jeff Galloway’s Marathon! is full of “eat a PowerBar to raise your blood sugar” (literally, he recommends keeping levels high by eating every 30-60 minutes all day) but that wouldn’t be good for me. This article confirms that it can be good to train while fasting, but recommends fueling for the longest training runs. I have races scheduled starting in week 12, so probably I’ll add dates back in to the 16-mile long run in weeks 10 and 11 if I don’t experience any problems until then. I do worry about losing electrolytes through sweating, and I want to be mindful of my one hard-working kidney! My local running store carries SaltStick products so I got the caps (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D). I took one capsule an hour into my 7-mile run and felt fine. I’ll plan on one every hour of running, but I also stuck a gel in my pack just in case I end up bonking as the runs get longer.

This week took me to #10 in Easthampton on Citystrides (16.76%). I mostly covered the industrial area (found the Topatoco building) and some suburban streets – nothing spectacular but fun as always. I’m definitely at the upper edge of a pace that will let me finish Hartford in under 6 hours (13:44 max!), so it may be tougher to keep running marathons as I slow further with age. Comparing to week 3 of training in previous attempts, I’m around 2 minutes per mile slower than 2004, 1.5 minutes slower than 2015, and 1 minute slower than 2018. An extra reason to enjoy each one I get to do. I see the Walt Disney World Marathon is a 7-hour course… and here’s an old list of “Time Friendly Marathons,” so there must be others. Old Colony Marathon is listed, in Springfield – aha, it’s now in Westfield but it’s 14 laps, no thank you!

Date (temp/humidity)DistanceAvg pace/fastest splitTimeHR (avg/highest)Notes
Tue 7/6 (69°F/100%)3.1213:03/12:3240:45142/157
Thu 7/8 (66°F/99%)4.0712:06/11:2149:13138/167Intervals
Fri 7/9 (66°F/100%)3.2312:54/12:2441:39145/187Pouring!
Sun 7/11 (64°F/95%)7.0413:48/13:051:37:09136/169
Totals17.46 miles3.8 hoursWeight avg 116.7, resting heart 57

Training week 2

Exploring Easthampton is great – I’m so glad I picked this as my challenge. It’s fun moving up the CityStrides ranks quickly at the beginning. I went from 22nd place to 15th and doubled the percentage covered (12.14% of the streets) by knocking off a lot of short streets. The low-hanging fruit won’t last forever but it’s fun. I found a new conservation area to come back and explore (Pomeroy Meadow Conservation Area), vicariously enjoyed amazing gardens, saw tons of bunnies, and amused myself puzzling over why the years on the fence at Williston seem to be in random order (answer: it was originally tied to meeting a fundraising goal per class). The Williston gateway has a plaque for William Leonard Pitcher, class of 1891, “with the happy knack of making people feel better” (reminds me of Jonathan!) My favorite find was Wonky Owl Farm. I also spotted a bunch of mushrooms I’m pretty sure were king bolete (Boletus edulis), which I’ve always wanted to try, but they were on someone’s lawn (South Street near Glendale) so I’d need permission to pick them and I didn’t have a knife or bag anyway. Maybe I’ll get a chance to go back someday.

Date (temp/humidity)DistanceAvg pace/fastest splitTimeHR (avg/highest)Notes
Tue 6/29 (82°F/81%)3.0312:22/12:0137:26143/174Gave blood later that day but it didn’t have much of an effect based on subsequent numbers, yay!
Thu 7/1 (72°F/92%)~412:06/11:36~ 48139/162Runkeeper crashed at 2.5 miles; intervals
Fri 7/2 (65°F/96%)3.0112:30/11:5337:35143/163
Sun 7/4 (56°F/95%)6.0513:34/12:491:22:09144/170
Totals~16 miles~3.4 hoursWeight avg 116.2, resting heart 58

Training week 1

I decided to work on Easthampton as my next City Strides project. I forgot to check where I started – about 2%? – but after one long run I’m at 5.78%, 22nd place (and that’s having lost at least 5 streets I’ll have to redo because Runkeeper crashed and I didn’t catch it right away). I’ll get up as early as I can on Sundays, ride Valley Bike over, and pick up bagels from Tandem on the way home! The electric bike will keep my legs fresher, I hope, and Sunday bagels are an Elwitt family tradition that it’s fun to pick up again. Tandem opens at 7am so at least for the first few months I hope to be done with my run by then and have lots of day left. Riding to Easthampton adds almost an hour to the whole expedition, but the motivation of exploring new streets is worth it. I considered tackling Hatfield next, because it has fewer streets, I’m already at 15%, and the leader is only at 74%, but it’s uphill to the nearest access point and I’d have to ride my regular bike. The Easthampton exploration is off to a great start – I enjoyed parts of the Williston Northampton campus, spotted Bigfoot, and got some great views of Mount Tom.

A copy of Jeff Galloway’s Marathon! jumped out at me from a giveaway box and I’m making my way through it. I love his focus on enjoyment and his recommendations for runners as they age, so I’m trying out his “walk for a minute periodically” technique on long runs – experimenting with a walk break every half mile, which is about every 6 or 7 minutes.

Date (temp/humidity)DistanceAvg pace/fastest splitTimeHR (avg/highest)Notes
Tue 6/22 (71°F/74%)3.3112:10/11:4240:17139/164
Wed 6/23 (62°F/63%)311:44/11:20~ 35147/176forgot to stop the timer
Thu 6/24 (54°F/81%)2.8612:25/11:3035:28129/162Intervals
Sun 6/27 (72°F/92%)~ 6.7514:19/13:05~1:30:00126/153Runkeeper crashed
Totals~16 miles~3.3 hoursWeight avg 116.1, resting heart 57

New numbers, new gear, & kidney reunion

New numbers

My six-month labs are in. It was such a busy week that I forgot to hydrate more carefully before the tests, which I meant to do, so perhaps the numbers would have been even better – but they’re fine and stable!

Pre-surgeryDay after6 weeks6 months
Creatinine (mg/dl)0.71.21.11.1
EGFR (ml/min/[height^2)96505654
Protein, urine (mg/dl)1616

I tried to do another timed mile. This go-round I remembered to use the Fitbit running activity instead of the stopwatch, so I have the exact numbers, but what I am now very uncertain about is the actual distance. I knew I had to adjust somewhat for running in lane 8 but figured I was close enough and it wouldn’t make a big difference. So wrong! Track markings are way more complicated than I realized. It reminds me of when, as a beginner, I was asked by another kayaker “Are you using that rock?” I understood each word but couldn’t parse the sentence (he meant, “Are you resting from paddling by taking advantage of the weaker flow of shallow water over that rock?”) I thought I knew how to use a track! Since I’ve learned to distrust any race distances that aren’t USATF-certified, it makes any attempt to benchmark or compare like-to-like somewhat futile…

1.1-ish miles?2021/03/092021/04/212021/06/03
Time11:14?10:48?10:40
Weight113112.4115.4
Resting HR585958
Temp/humidity36 F/62%?59 F/58% ?61 F/85%

New gear

KDA shirt

It took ages until KDA swag was available again, and then more ages for the shirt to actually get printed and arrive, but I finally can represent Kidney Donor Athletes! It’s a really nice shirt – incredibly light and ventilated – so I’ll want to save it for races and not get it all rubbed up with frequent use.

Xero HFS shoes

And I got a pair of new shoes. After giving up on FiveFingers because of the difficulty of getting the right fit, I’ve cycled through a bunch of minimal shoes with a more traditional shape. I got a pair of Xero Prios three or four years ago and loved them – the sole lasted as promised (they’re guaranteed for 5000 miles) but the uppers fell apart eventually. I hiked in them a lot so they got hard wear (including lots of mud). Then I tried a no-name cheapo shoe that was comfortable and nice, but the soles wore through very quickly. So I’m back to Xero, this time the pricier but even-better-for-running HFS. I absolutely love the way these look and they are light as a feather. The wide toe box is super-comfortable. I’m going to try not to get them muddy…

Xero keeps emailing me and asking me to promote their shoes, but their vibe is a little over-enthusiastically salesy – for a while I couldn’t get away from their Youtube commercials and got heartily sick of them. So points off for the marketing, but the product is great.

Best of all: kidney reunion!

Yes, I finally met Chris in person, right after the 6-month mark of our donation, and it was absolutely wonderful! She’s an amazing person and I am so fortunate to get to know her – I would have been delighted about the experience anyway, but this is the icing on the cake.

“Captain” (my kidney) and “Tenille” (Chris’ new kidney) reunited

Training plan

I’ve run three marathons with the same plan, so why break the streak? This is the Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer schedule, which is probably about the minimum mileage possible. Because I’m such a slow runner, that helps keep the time commitment reasonable. And I’m not aiming for a PR… I don’t think I’ll ever break 5 hours again, but if I could at least beat my New York Marathon time (5:19), that would be fantastic.

I would love to fit some races into the training schedule. Bridge of Flowers, normally in August, hasn’t announced a date yet. The Frozen Yogurt 5K is only tentatively set for 8/27, so I didn’t put that in yet. I see that Impact Racing is currently holding some of their annual events but at different times. Also the registration fees have gone way up, which shouldn’t be a surprise I suppose. I went ahead and signed up for the Black Birch 10-miler (only the second time it’s been held and will be new to me) and the Fort Hill 5K (ran once in 2019).

My current mileage is only about 8-10/week so I’ll start ramping up soon (targets 10 miles week of 5/24, 11 week of 5/31, 12 week of 6/7, 13 week of 6/14, 14 week of 6/21).

 date (Mon)Weekday 1Weekday 2Weekday 3SunTotal
week 1Jun 21333615
week 2Jun 28343616
week 3Jul 5343717
week 4Jul 12353819
week 5Jul 193531021
week 6Jul 264541124
week 7Aug 24641226
week 8Aug 94641428
week 9Aug 164741631
week 10Aug 235851634
week 11Aug 305851634
week 12Sep 65185Black Birch 1038
week 13Sep 135851836
week 14Sep 20582 + Meadows Run 5K927
week 15Sep 27358Fort Hill 5K19
week 16Oct 43walk 326.229.2

Getting faster again?

I ran a timed mile at the Smith College track at the 3-month mark (March 9th) and again a few days ago, but alas I just used the Fitbit stopwatch, forgetting that it doesn’t save to the dashboard. I’m sure both were under 11 minutes and pretty sure the most recent one was 10:48 or so, which is better than January’s speed. More time since the surgery may be helping, but also I’ve been rigorous about doing the 7-minute workout every day since late January, followed by pull-ups. I’ve done strength workouts off and on before but never kept it up for very long. It’s even more important as I age, and now that I have a long streak going in the phone app it’s much easier to want to continue that investment. Apps creating external accountability really work for me!

I’m half-vaxxed (second Pfizer next Wednesday) and looking forward to May when I’ll be fully vaccinated and will start ramping up to marathon training. I’ll stick to my same Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer schedule; it’s worked so well in the past, why mess with a good thing?

Hartford, a dream, and videochat with my recipient!

  • It’s official – I registered for the Hartford Marathon, to be held Saturday, October 9, 2021! They’re very thoughtfully giving the option to get a full refund if you change your mind before June 1, and there will be capacity limits and other safety adaptations. I hope the finish won’t change – it’s under the Memorial Arch with hundreds of mums lining the final approach, and it’s been described as one of the most beautiful marathon finishes.
  • Like many people’s, my anxiety dreams evolve to include new aspects of my life – the common “exam I forgot to study for” was joined by “class I forgot to prep” when I briefly taught adult ed, “role I forgot to learn” when doing theater, etc. But I was not expecting a “need to go back and finish kidney donation” dream! In it there was a second surgery I had forgotten about, so I was late and unprepared. I had driven myself to the hospital, neglecting to coordinate with Jonathan and not realizing I’d be in overnight and he wouldn’t be able to pick me up because the car was in Springfield. I got lost trying to get back to my room. But the funniest part was that I went ahead and started the surgery on my own (!) and my wonderful (real life) surgeon, Dr. Kurbanov, was angry at me. I sheepishly told him “I don’t know what I was thinking.” It was such a relief to wake up!
  • Best of all, super-duper exciting and wonderful: I was able to videochat yesterday with my recipient and her husband. Valentine’s day is also National Donor Day so it was extra-appropriate. We have a lot in common, especially our love of reading, and it’s so cool that she lives not that far away. We’ll all get together for dinner someday when the pandemic permits. She looks wonderful – she says her color is back! I was already so happy about having donated, but being in touch with her is the lovely extra cherry on top, the icing on the cake, the bonus I didn’t count on. There’s something about seeing her that feels like tying a bow on the whole experience – visual confirmation that my previous kidney is working and doing its job in its new home. It’s like a halo of joy around the contentment I was already feeling.

New one-bean baselines

On Tuesday I had my six-week post-nephrectomy follow-up – a quick meeting with the coordinator and the surgeon, and a blood draw to establish my new one-kidney creatinine levels. I’ve felt 100% back to normal since about week 4! These are good numbers so I’m pleased.

Pre-surgeryDay after surgery6 weeks out
Creatinine (mg/dl)0.71.21.1
EGFR (ml/min/[height^2)965056

Important side-note: you will often see two EGFR (estimated glomular filtration rate) values, “African-American” and “non-African-American.” This “race correction” is bad science and is one of the many ways the health care system disadvantages people of color, especially black patients, who spend longer on the waitlist if it is used in the algorithm. The Institute for Healing and Justice in Medicine has a helpful toolkit for learning more and helping to end this bias.

To accompany this bloodwork baseline, I timed a one-mile run on the nearby Smith College track. I’ve done this several times over the years but I haven’t properly kept track (pun not intended!) The last time would have been within the past couple of years and I’m certain it was over 10 minutes; a decade or two ago it was under. Normally I use annual races as my benchmarks. I miss them very much; I did run a virtual 5K in August, but it’s hard to keep the pace of a real race. I was over 50 for my fastest 5K ever, where my mile time would have been around 9 1/2 minutes, but that’s race conditions and downhill.

1/20/2020, 10:40am11:14 mile
Weight113
Resting HR58
Temperature/humidity36 F/62%

I was a little surprised not to break 11 minutes, especially because I’m at the low range of my normal weight. I’m definitely slowing down with age, which is to be expected, but maybe even though I’m feeling totally healed, my running has room to come back? This Runner’s World article indicates that from 40 to 70, most runners slow down by about 1% per year. I’ll try to do this timed run on a monthly basis.

I mostly don’t mind aging at all. I keep growing as a person and getting better at dealing with life; each decade I’ve become happier and more fulfilled. But it’s an adjustment to acknowledge that I’m no longer competing with myself, expecting to get faster and stronger over time; now I’m racing the aging process, which will always catch up. My goals have to change to flattening the downward curves – appropriate for the pandemic world.

The really exciting news from this week is that I am now in touch with my recipient via email! Needless to say I won’t share any details in public, but I am so delighted to have a direct connection now. I hope we get to meet in person some day!