Sunday, July 31, 2011

Race Report: Bad Bass 10K

Bad Bass 5K/10K/Half MarathonThis race was stop #3 on my 2011 10K Summer Tour (Santa Cruz, SF PrideRun, Bad Bass, and Summer Breeze). Similar to PrideRun, I had a little bit of an injury scare going into this one. I've been having some weird Achilles tendon pain on and off lately, and for reasons I won't bother going into, I ended up doing my last run before the race on Friday morning instead of Thursday afternoon (1 mile warm up + 2 miles at 10K pace), then spent somewhere in the neighborhood of four hours shopping in SF on foot. I finished the run with just a little bit of Achilles soreness and a little bit of tibia pain; on the other hand, while it may not do much for your cardiovascular system, it turns out that four less-than-leisurely hours on your feet can still tax your musculoskeletal system in ways that are not insignificant. My legs were not happy by the end of the day. Thankfully, we spent a chill evening seeing Captain America (better than I expected!), which gave them a little break and helped some. Still, I'll be making a note to myself to just stay off my feet altogether the day before a race as much as possible in the future.

Last week, I set several different goals for this race, depending on how my legs were feeling:

  • "A" Goal: Race the bloody hell out of it; shoot to place (and to not fall down a hill and die / inflict serious damage on self)
  • "B" Goal: Run the whole distance, but at a conservative pace; run to finish strong & stay injury-free, don't stress about placing.
  • "C" Goal: Run most of it, but take walking breaks if I have more than very mild pain.
  • "D" Goal: Finish any way I can, even if I have to walk all or most of it. (This was the "already-paid-for-the-schwag-might-as-well-show-up" consolation goal.)

I woke up Saturday morning feeling strong, refreshed, and pain-free, so as long as my legs held up, "A" Goal it was. (Apologies for the lack of pre-race photos; I had planned to arrive an hour early since I hate feeling rushed, but I got kind of lost on the way to Lake Chabot and ended up arriving only 25 minutes before the gun. This ended up being just enough time to park, get my bib & timing chip, check my sweats, warm-up (sort of), and suss out my place in the start line hierarchy. Despite a little bit of panic, I kept reminding myself that things like this are exactly why I always plan to arrive an hour early.)

Location: Lake Chabot Regional Park, CA

Date: Late July (July 30, 2011 this year)

Price: 5K -- $29 until 6/19, $34 until 7/17, $39 after 7/17; 10K -- $34 until 6/19, $39 until 7/17, $44 after 7/17; Half Marathon -- $50 until 6/19, $55 until 7/17, $60 after 7/17

Deadline: Race day registration if space (there was space in all distances this year)

Sellout Factor: Unlikely; it was a small event with race day registration

Logistics

Parking is available inside the park ($5 for all day) a short walk from the start, or you can park on Lake Chabot Rd just outside of it for free if you don't mind a slightly longer walk. For all intents and purposes, I suppose the free parking is technically unlimited, but if you arrive late (ahem) and want to park for free, that can mean a much longer walk because all the close parking will already be taken. I was late enough that I decided to just cough up the $5.

start

In addition to local pre-race packet pickup on Thursday and Friday, you can pick up the morning of (which is what I did). The pick-up table was well-labeled, well-organized, and efficient. There is a free sweat check at the start/finish (the 5K & 10K are out-and-backs and the half marathon is a loop, and the race is small enough that it's a short walk from the check to the start); you go pick up your own at the end. The T-shirt and goody bag station (also well-organized and efficient) was right by the sweat check; you could pick them up before or after the race.

The Course

The nature of the course varies tremendously, depending on which distance you run. The 5K is all on pavement with just a few easy, rolling hills. The 10K keeps going past the 5K turnaround; it was on pavement until about 1.8 miles, at which time it heads up a fire trail called Live Oak Trail, or as I prefer to call it, the Ascending Fire Trail from Hell. The turnaround is basically at the top of the hill. From what I can tell, the half marathon seems to be about half pavement and half fire trails. It includes the Live Oak Trail portion as well as a few other reasonable hills. We had great weather (sixties, dry, slightly over-cast), but I could see why this (and any other trail race, I suppose) would suck ASS if there were rain or had been rain at any point in the last week or so. (The paved part of the trail was also mostly shaded, which was nice too.)

Let me just say this about the Ascending Fire Trail from Hell: Look at the elevation chart. Look at it closely. Look at the units. Do the math. Find out what in your area is comparable, and train on it. Here, I'll help you:

I knew it was there, and I looked at the elevation chart, but still I failed to appreciate the truly ridiculous nature of the Ascending Fire Trail from Hell. I was like, "Yeah; I run hills. No biggie."

Let the record show that it was indeed "a biggie."

Knowing mile 3 consisted mostly of a big hill, I'd planned to run a slightly slower pace than I would on a flat course. I didn't do a great job of this during the first mile but I reined it in somewhat during the second. Then I saw the hill. Ugh..., I thought, this is going to suuuuuuuuuck...

AFTfH

I slowed down & figured I could probably run the whole thing if I didn't push the pace. All around me runners were slowing to a shuffle and then to a brisk walk, and after about a third of a mile I was having a very sober conversation with my central governor. We can get up this hill without walking, said the CG, but that probably means a slow, painful crawl to the finish. Which made sense. I knew running back down the hill would be no picnic either, and I hadn't run crazy stuff like this enough to know for sure how my body would feel or what it would be capable of afterward. So I played it safe and stopped trying to run and just walked as fast as I could, keeping an eye on my heart rate (which on weird terrain is usually a better indicator of whether I'm on track than pace). There were a few short plateaus so I tried to jog those a little whenever I could.

downhillThe trip back down was absolutely terrifying (right). I basically had to watch my feet the entire time, which made it a lot harder to watch people around me and not go careening into them. I tried to stay on my forefeet and lean forward, but on some of the steeper sections it became clear that this was probably a bad idea given my lack of trail experience, and a lot of the time I found myself braking down on my heels in an effort to stay vertical and not eat dirt. I have never in my life been so excited to see pavement.

At this point I pretty much felt like I was going to throw up. (Partly this was due to whatever bizarre sports drink they were serving -- it sort of tasted like Kool-Aid made with saccharine and did not agree with my stomach at all.) But then the training kicked in, and I found I was able to pick up the pace again pretty quickly. Not enough to get back to my usual 10K pace, but fast enough to know I'd be able to finish respectably.

With only about three quarters of a mile to go (and about eleven minutes behind my 10K PR), I was pretty much focused on just finishing in style and was not terribly worried about placing. Then I rounded a corner and passed a woman pushing her kid in a stroller. "Number four is right in front of you," she called excitedly to me. I don't know what she actually meant by that. But at the time, my brain decided to interpret this statement as meaning that I was within striking distance of the woman currently in fourth place in my age group (I know that's completely ridiculous; how could she have know that?). So I wrested control from the CG, mustered everything I had left, and went after her.

It took forever but I managed to push by her. With half a mile left, I spotted the next woman a few hundred feet ahead (remember, in my mind, she's in 3rd in my age group right now). She was the last one I could see, so I started sprinting, all the way past her and then all the way to the finish (at something like a 6:30 pace).

(Apparently, there was a sizable gap in the taking of finish line pictures -- the little speck circled in yellow is me. Click to embiggen.)

I don't normally post splits, but I think I will this time, just for the sheer entertainment value:

  • Mile 1 - 7:12
  • Mile 2 - 7:50
  • Mile 3 - 12:44 (AFTfH, going up)
  • Mile 4 - 9:16 (AFTfH, going down)
  • Mile 5 - 8:05
  • Mile 6 - 7:54
  • 6.00 - 6.33 - 2:10 (6:34 pace)

In spite of a finishing time eleven minutes slower than my PR, I managed to pull off 3rd in my age group, which was pretty validating. (Also, can we just talk for a moment about how neither of the two women I passed in the last .75 of a mile were in my age group? Nope; it turns out one of them was the 1st place winner in the next youngest age group, and the other was the 1st place winner in the next oldest age group. Something similar happened at both my previous 10Ks; apparently all the fastest chicks are in their early-to-mid thirties. ;)

Goodies

A cotton T-shirt is included in the registration price. For $6, you can upgrade to a very nice technical shirt (or, if you don't want a shirt, you can deduct $5 from your race fee). An $11 tech shirt ain't bad. The only issue with the shirts was that we were warned that they run large, so if we were on the fence about which size to order, we should order a size down. I ordered a women's small, which I could barely squeeze into. They will do exchanges for you if they have an extra in the size you want, but apparently lots of people were having the same issue and trying to trade for a size up. On my way out, I swung by the table again to see if any mediums or larges had become available; there weren't, but someone had just returned a youth small, which to me looked significantly larger than my women's small. I tried it on and it was a perfect fit. I think they got a lot of feedback about the shirt sizes, but I'd still order a size up next time.

The Brazen Racing events are cool in that all finishers, no matter what distance, get a medal. For what they charge, you'd think they'd be dinky discount medals, but they're not; this one was at least as big and hefty as the one from Rock N Roll San Jose ($85!). In addition, they also award equally hefty ones three deep in each age / gender group in five year increments, plus Fleet Feet gift certificates to the overall male & female winners for each distance.

Each participant also got a small plastic bag with a few fliers, coupons, & samples as per usual.

I'm happy to report that, in spite of some insanely tight / sore quads (thanks, AFTfH), my lower legs are doing great today and not sore at all. I'm still going to give them a few days off (maybe until my Brooks Adrenalines get here), but going into this weekend I was really worried about how my Achilles tendons & shin splints would hold up. It really makes me curious if there's something I do differently when I'm racing than when I'm doing speed workouts at the same pace over shorter distances.

I can't say I'm likely to run this particular race again (the AFTfH may haunt my road racing dreams for a while), but I'm still really glad I signed up for it and was healthy enough to run it. There's something validating about trying something a little different, as well as running a really hard race and finishing strong (something all you SF half / marathoners know a thing or two about), and Brazen did a great job organizing the event. REALLY looking forward to running another of their events at the end of August -- on a pancake flat course. :)

Week In Review: July 24 - 30

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)





Race Week!

Monday: 6 miles easy/moderate. Monday was the test run for my Achilles tendon after having not run at all since the previous Tuesday. Definitely a yellow alert run at first--I was just waiting for the first sign of pain. With the exception of a few little twinges right near the beginning, though, I had a great, pain-free run to the Marina & back (a new route for me, and I think I'm loving it). I probably ran it a little faster than I should have, but I hadn't been out in almost a week so it was tough to stop myself. I was also tempted to go farther; several times I had to remind myself that the purpose of this run was to test the waters, not see how far I could go before I ended up limping again, so I turned around when I still felt good at three miles.

Tuesday: 4 miles (1 warm up, 4 x 5:00 minutes @ 5Kish pace) I say 5Kish because I was running at what felt like 5K effort; it just ended up being faster than usual. I had to remind myself to go easy today -- cut the intervals off if there's significant pain, and forget about adding additional easy miles. This week is all about being healthy enough to race Saturday. I made it through three with just a touch of soreness in my right shin and left Achilles but figured I could get one more in with no problem. The last time I did this workout, my pace was slower and I had to quit after three repeats because of lower leg pain, so I'm calling this a good run. Part of me was tempted to just eek in three or four more easy miles; thankfully, the part that won out was the part that really, really wants a good race this weekend.

Wednesday: 5 miles easy. This was my reward for acting like a sane person at the track on Tuesday and respecting my tendons by not attempting to do extra intervals or run bonus easy miles after. I don't normally run the day before or after a track session, but I've been taking it one day at a time this week & decided that if I felt good Wednesday, a short, easy run would be okay. I ran the same route as Monday to the Marina, but turned around half a mile sooner. A little bit of soreness in my right shin and left Achilles, but nothing too concerning.

Friday: 3 miles (1 mile warm-up + 2 miles @ 10K pace). This is the run I had scheduled for Thursday afternoon; I really wanted to spend Friday resting. Alas, Thursday ended up being busier than I'd anticipated & there just wasn't time, so I got it in as early Friday morning as I could manage. A little soreness in the Achilles & shins, but not too bad. (The real trouble was the four hours I spent shopping on foot in SF later...that was perhaps not the greatest race-eve plan ever.)

Saturday: 6.83 miles (.5 mile warm-up + 6.33 race!) @ Big Bass 10K! Despite arriving half an hour later than I'd planned and finding out the hill in mile 3 was approximately 97 times as steep as I thought, I finished strong, didn't break anything, and even managed to come in 3rd in my age group. Not bad for my first trail race ever! No lower leg issues, and other than some lingering soreness in my quads (gotta love a fast downhill), I feel pretty darn good. Full race report in a bit. :)

Grand Total: 24.83 miles

Phew. What a week. Taking the next few days off (at least until my new shoes arrive) to give my lower legs a break. Then back to business -- only four weeks until Summer Breeze 10K!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Food: Blueberry-Almond Granola

This morning was my last run before Bad Bass 10K tomorrow (mostly ready, I think...). I had my usual breakfast around 7:15, but by the time I left the track around 9:30 I was STARVING.

This happens sometimes; I've already had breakfast, but then I go for a run and come back ready to gnaw my own arm off. It isn't time for lunch yet; fruit isn't going to do it, because what I really want is a giant doughnut or a cinnamon roll. When that feeling strikes, I've found that a combination of protein, a little carbs, and a little fruit often does the trick. It's substantial enough & has enough sweetness to it to satisfy the pastry urge and has enough calories to get you to lunch, but packed with nutrition instead of just empty calories. To that end, blueberry-almond granola!

(Okay, so I don't actually know the "official" definition of granola. Isn't it kind of a catch-all term for a dry mix of fruits / nuts / grains / etc.? Let's go with that.)

Update: Don has just informed me that granola must be baked in some way, and I did not in fact make granola. Eh. Whatever.

What you will need:

  • Blueberries (a goodly number)
  • Raw steel-cut oats, like Quaker (some)
  • Sweetened almonds (some more) (I used the vanilla cinnamon almonds because they sell them at our local Safeway and I LOVE them, but you could use pretty much any kind that has a little sweetness. Alternatively, you could use plain almonds and add a little brown sugar / cinnamon / nutmet / what have you.)
  • Plain non-fat yogurt

blueberries

oats

almonds

yogurt



To be honest, I have no real idea of how much of each I used (though maybe the pictures help some), so adjust according to taste. (For reference, I only made one serving, just enough to fill a small bowl.)

Steps:

mashed almonds

  • Mash up the almonds using a mortar & pestle (or whatever). The pieces don't have to be super-small, just granola-sized.
  • Mix berries, almonds, & oats together in a bowl.
  • Spoon in yogurt to taste
  • Devour!

all doneIn addition to being really delicious (I'll definitely be making it again for a post-run snack) and satisfying your immediate hunger, this particular combination should also keep you feeling full for a while. Because they're high in fiber, oats and oatmeal take longer for your body to digest, which can help you feel full for longer. In addition to a healthy dose of fiber, almonds also contain essential fatty acids and protein, both of which will also take more time for your body to digest. Berries are also high in fiber (& water content, which helps with fullness), and non-fat yogurt is a fantastic source of lean protein.

Obviously, there are any number of variations -- use a different berry, or a combination of berries (or some other type of fruit entirely), or different nuts, whatever you like. The point is that you've now got a tasty snack that's loaded up with fiber, protein, anti-oxidants, a little calcium, and some healthy carbs, which should both satisfy your hunger and keep you full until lunch (or dinner, or whatever). :)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Shoes On The Way!!

Alas, they didn't have the Adrenaline GTS 11 in speedybitch red (tm) down at the San Carlos Roadrunner Sports today. On the plus side, they were able to fix the issue with my VIP account, and got the red ones ordered online for me. All told, I'm getting a pair of $99.99 shoes for a cool $79.99, thanks to the VIP account and my 10% coupon. (This is kind of a novel experience, given that, even on sale, the Kayanos typically cost me $90-100, and that's still $40-50 off the regular price.)

I'd kind of hoped to have them by Wednesday so that I could try them on Wednesday & today, & if all went well, have them available for Bad Bass Saturday. (Although it's a very non-technical course with a lot of pavement, there are a few trail-ish portions, so I'm going back & forth about whether it's smarter to try to run in the Mizunos or take the safe route & go with the Kayanos.) Still, they should arrive by the middle of next week, which isn't too bad. Can't wait! :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Running, Clothes, & Sexual Harassment

aphrodite"Another run in the city, another bout of sexual harassment."

This was my facebook status sometime around a year ago or so. It could easily be my status once or twice a week when the weather is warm. It could be my status so often that I'm almost used to it.

Almost.

It was one of the hardest things to orient myself to when I first moved to San Francisco. Prior to that I had lived on the SF Peninsula, kind of off the beaten track, and did most of my running through a canyon that ran behind my place, on one of the many breath-taking trails nearby, or on a gym treadmill. I had never once been the victim of cat-calling or sexual comments while running.

In response to my facebook status, a few non-San Francisco-dwellers (and a few who are) responded incredulously, "Really? In San Francisco?" Yes; in San Francisco. Apparently being somewhat progressive and enlightened overall doesn't necessarily extend to how we treat women we don't know.

The first couple of times it happened, it shook me up a bit. After it happened enough times to form a pattern, I started changing the route that I ran to avoid areas where it seemed to happen more often than others. This didn't really change much. It turns out that if you run more than five miles at a time in a city that's barely seven by seven square, sooner or later you're bound to run into ignorant men who are more than happy to objectify you.

The one redeeming factor about SF in this respect is the weather. When I decide what to wear for a run, I decide roughly 10% based on what is clean, 5% based on what doesn't clash, and 85% based on what will be comfortable. Even in the summer, even in the middle of the day, it doesn't get particularly hot all that often, so there are plenty of days when I'm perfectly comfortable running in shorts and a T-shirt (and a fair share of colder, windier ones when tights are called for). But if it's above 70 and sunny, I know from experience that by the time I'm 2 miles into my run I'll be utterly miserable if I'm wearing more than shorts and a sports bra, so that's what I'm going to wear. I don't think that's unreasonable. I think I should have the right to do this without being accosted by strangers and becoming the target of lewd remarks.

The comments range from the reasonably benign (marriage proposals, honking, kissing noises, loud incitements to "work it, baby!," requests for my phone number, etc.) to the slightly troubling (comments about specific parts of my body, warnings not to "run that sweet ass off,") to the sincerely distressing (requests for sexual favors, descriptions of what the harasser would like to do to me, comments about my clothes that include words like "bitch," "slut," "hoe," etc.). Some of them are the kinds of things I could shrug off easily if they weren't part of a larger pattern. Some of them really aren't.

(I feel like I want to take a moment to drive home the point that I am NOT in any way offering these incidents as evidence of my hotness or attractiveness. I think that sometimes when a woman mentions being sexually harassed, her complaints are dismissed because people interpret them as a way for her to draw attention to her physical appearances without seeming conceited -- "Oh, woe is me, men think I'm SOOO hot, they just won't leave me alone!" That's not what this is. Anyone who's studied it will tell you that ALL kinds of women face sexual harassment, not just those who meet certain societal beauty conventions, and not just those who wear skimpy clothes. This is about something that makes it really hard for me to enjoy one of my favorite activities and leaves me feeling like I want to crawl into a hole after.)

I've discussed it with a lot of different people and gotten a lot of different responses. They've included:

  • Advice: I shouldn't let it bother me because "men are men" and this is all natural, normal behavior that men can't help engaging in when they see a woman they find attractive for whatever reason.
    Why it's bullshit: I don't buy this because I am a firm believer that, while we might not always be able to control our thoughts and feelings, we can ALL control our actions and the words that come out of our mouths, and we all have the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of others and consider how our words and actions affect them. I think that this logic discredits all the wonderful, amazing men I know who are 100% capable of controlling their words and behaviors, no matter how attractive they find someone.

  • Advice: I should take it as a compliment (hey, at least guys notice you!).
    Why it's bullshit: I can't see the logic in taking as a compliment a comment that reduces me to my body / how I look. Honestly, I have a feeling that these guys who find me attractive enough to make sexual comments about find me so mostly because of the amount of skin they can see, and would treat most women in the same outfit the same way. And if I was in the same outfit and they didn't find me attractive for whatever reason, something tells me I'd just end up the object of comments intended to make me feel bad about myself.

  • Advice: I should enjoy it while it lasts. In particular, this is advice I've gotten from a couple of women in their 40s or 50s; they remind me that there will come a day when no one is interested in objectifying or harassing me, and I will miss it and find it affirming on the few occasions when it does happen.
    Why it's bullshit: First, it's very, very difficult for me imagine this is true. (Do they also expect me to believe that there will come a day when I miss strange men grabbing my ass in crowded bars?) Second, how I may or may not feel about something 10-20 years from now does not change the fact that it makes me feel GOD AWFUL right now and makes it difficult to enjoy an activity that I usually love. I don't understand how someone can miss being treated with disrespect.

  • Advice: I should change what I wear, that as long as I wear "revealing" clothes when I run, I'm inviting this behavior.
    Why it's bullshit: To me, this is just a variation on the "men can't help it" argument above, and one of the most insidious arguments out there, because it perpetuates the idea that men simply can't control their own sexuality and it is the role of women to control it for them by altering OUR behavior. I run in what I know will keep me comfortable, and I can't imagine anyone would view what I wear as unreasonable (eg, I'm not running around topless or in a thong bikini or anything). To anyone who insists on clinging to this position, I invite you to read a piece from Scarleteen.com entitled, "Your Body Is Never The Problem" (which, by the way, I think should be required reading for all kids upon entering puberty).

At the very least, I have accepted that there's nothing that I personally will ever be able to do to change the behavior of these men. So it really seems to come down to a) getting over it, b) accepting that I can't be comfortable on an outdoor run on a warm day, or c) limiting my warm day runs to circling the track (which seems to be a harasser-free zone, thankfully).

So....yeah. A super-cheery post, I know. I really find it difficult to believe that I am the only one who has this problem, even in SF, yet I so rarely hear anyone else talk about it. Am I? Or am I just the last one to accept & get over it?

Sigh.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Week In Review: July 17 - 23

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

This week was pretty lame running-wise, thanks to Life, the Universe, and Everything. We spent Sunday afternoon seeing Harry Potter (yay!), & then ended up hanging out with some friends on Don's from out of town on short notice. Til two in the morning. And drinking a lot. So no running happened Sunday.

I thought I'd make it up Monday after work, but after only getting about four hours of sleep it was pretty clear by, say, 10 am that I wasn't really doing much of ANYTHING until I had a nap. So I came home and crashed. When I woke up it was time to leave for karate class, so no running Monday either. This is all even worse than it sounds; we were in Seattle this weekend for a wedding, and due to tight travel and festivity schedules, I had no time to run on Saturday or Sunday. (That whole "one more 30+ mile week" thing? Yeah, didn't really think ahead about that.)

Tuesday: 8.2 miles (1 wu + 3 x 10:00 @ 10K pace + 3 easy/moderate) But Tuesday! Tuesday, I was damned well getting my run in. I actually had a good bit of work to do, so I decided to work until my brain stopped functioning, then go run, then continue working. I think I mentioned last time that I'm trying a new speed work tactic where I alternate (by the week) five-minute intervals at 5K pace and ten-minute intervals at 10K pace. The five-minute intervals were tough on my lower legs last week, but the tens were a little more manageable. (They end up feeling a lot like mile repeats, only longer and fewer.) This isn't to say it was an altogether pain-free run, but I made it through feeling reasonably good and like I could tack on some easy miles to in some way compensate for missing my Sunday run (and next Saturday too). I kind of wanted to get in nine, but at about eight I started feeling the left Achilles a little more acutely; as Beth at Shut Up And Run has mentioned lately, this is the moment where you're either a smart athlete or a DASA (dumb as shit athlete). I jogged back to my car and called it good, thereby avoiding the moniker of DASA, at least for today.

And that was it. I'd planned runs for Thursday and Friday but had scheduled Wednesday as a rest day; for a little while I thought about maybe trying to get in a short, easy run since I had so few days scheduled anyway. That was before I started having serious pain in my right Achilles again, though, even just walking around at work. To make a long story short, there was no running at all after that for the rest of the week. (You can read the long story here.)

I'd hoped that several days off would take care of whatever's going on with my leg, but we did so much walking and rushing around this weekend that I'm not sure you can really call it "rest." I can still feel that it's a little sore, but I'm hoping to try a few easy miles tomorrow, just to see how it's feeling. If it's still bad, there's probably a date with a sports medicine doctor in my future. :P

Grand Total: 8.2 miles

This week may be a little touch and go. I'm supposed to run Bad Bass 10K Saturday; if my leg is feeling alright, I should still be in good enough shape to run reasonably well. To that end, I'm planning to err on the side of caution this week & just focus on being healthy enough to run, even if I don't get all that many miles in.

Travel Rants & New Shoes!

sleepy on ferryIt's difficult to put into words how happy I am to be back home. While a great time was had by all at the wedding, I think we may have set some kind of record for number of travel snafus in a 48-hour period.

First, we barely made our train to the airport on Friday afternoon. Then our plane was delayed for engine trouble, so it left an hour late. Then Sea/Tac closed our runway just as our plane was about to land due to the plane in front of us hitting a bird, so we landed ten or fifteen minutes late. We'd planned to meet friends at a pub on Bainbridge Island, but because we got in so late everyone was leaving before we got there. Then we thought we'd just stop by anyway for a post-travel beer (they were supposed to have excellent beer), but then it turned out that they closed an hour before we could've gotten there. (Seriously, what bar closes at midnight on a Friday?)

You can see how excited I am by all this, after five hours of planes, trains, boats, automobiles, and hauling rolling luggage up and down various hills in SF & Seattle. I asked to just sleep on the ferry. This is apparently not allowed.

Saturday morning, we were supposed to meet friends for brunch in Seattle, but it turned out that ten minutes after we'd gotten off the ferry, they'd gotten back on it going the other way. We decided to go back to the Island early enough to stop by the pub for a beer before getting ready for the wedding, but then the ferry was delayed nearly half an hour due to a fire on the Island, so we didn't have time. Then, to top it all off, although we made it to the ferry and then the train station on time Sunday morning, the train came 20 minutes late, meaning we arrived too late to get on our plane by about 10 minutes.

Oh, and also, hot airport tip? Don't deal with the self-service kiosks. The self-service kiosk was HAPPY to offer to rebook us on a flight four hours later, on stand-by, for a nominal $75 per person. Screw you, self-service kiosk. The wonderful, wonderful gate agent we managed to talk to took pity on us and booked us on a flight only two hours later, with confirmed seats, for no extra charge. With extra leg room. Don was so happy and relieved I thought he might cry.

But anyway. The running part.

I am tired of just talking about how injured I am as of late and would instead prefer to talk about something cheerier and more exciting. You know what's super exciting for a runner?

NEW SHOES!!!

Even though my Asics Kayanos currently only have about 360 miles on them (they usually make it to 500 with no problem), they've felt rather hard and un-cushiony lately, and I can't help wondering if that's playing some role in this whole Achilles tendon drama I've got going on. I've actually been pretty happy with the Kayanos overall, but since I don't know what's causing the pain and want to leave no stone unturned, so to speak, I'm going to try something different, just to see if it makes any difference.

For years, I ran in Brooks Adrenalines, then for some reason I switched to the Kayanos a couple of years ago. Recently I've read several good reviews of the new Adrenalines, and since I know I've run successfully in them before, they seemed like a better place than most to start. (Not to mention the fact that they also appear on Palo Alto Medical Foundation sports medicine podiatrist Amol Saxena's list of recommended running shoes).

So I started shopping around. At first, I was psyched that a bunch of places seemed to have the Adrenaline 10's on clearance (since the 11's just came out) & were selling them in the $50-70 range. Unfortunately, they've apparently been on sale long enough that all the mid-range sizes (like 8) are sold out. (If you happen to be a size 5 or 13, though, get out there -- there are some serious deals to be had.) If you want a size 8, it appears, you'll have to pony up the $100 for the Adrenaline 11's.

At first, this annoyed me a little. Then I learned a few things that compensated a little:


  • I'm a Roadrunner Sports VIP, so I can get 10% off, plus free shipping (most of the places selling the cheap 10's were online, so even if I was a size 5 or 13, I'd still have to pay shipping).
  • I never used the additional 10% coupon they give you when you first join the VIP club, so we're up to 20% off.
  • Whereas the colors left in the 10's are pretty limited (pastel blue and green, mostly, and this weird black model), the 11's come in RED!!


The first red shoes I had were my first pair of Kayanos. At the time I wasn't used to such flashy, attention-grabbing shoes, and to be honest I thought they looked a little spaceshippy. But then they grew on me. As did racing in red. These days, I've sort of adopted red and black as my racing colors -- for some reason they make me feel super fast. :) (You can see why I was so ridiculously excited when I got my Mizunos; I didn't choose them for the color, but that's definitely how I knew it was meant to be.) But the last few times I've bought my Kayanos, I've gotten them on sale where only a few colors were available (not including the red ones).

running in red

I'm having some trouble using my VIP ID on the Roadrunner website, but they have a store in San Carlos, and since I'm planning to be down that way on Wednesday anyway, I'm going to stop in and see if they happen to have a pair in the store. (If not, hopefully I can at least get my ID straightened out so I can get them online.) I'll be super excited to (re-)try a new shoe, and doubly excited to have them in red. :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Article: More Things We Think We Know

running on grassGina Kolata is fast becoming my go-to girl for busting all the best-loved myths of running lore. A few weeks ago, she wrote a column calling the 10% rule into question (the upshot: we have no scientific evidence that it prevents injury; we as runners have just been repeating it back to one another for so long that we assume it must have some credible origin somewhere). A couple of days ago, she wrote about running surfaces, specifically whether running on softer surfaces prevents injury.

If you've ever been treated for a running injury, you've probably heard this one from a doctor or physical therapist -- run on the track, run on dirt trails, run on grass; basically do whatever you can to avoid running on pavement. On the surface, it seems logical. A harder surface --> less give --> more force for your body to absorb --> higher risk of injury. But, as with the 10% rule, there doesn't seem to be much credible scientific evidence that this is true.

Her article begins with the story of Hirofumi Tanaka, an exercise physiologist at UT Austin who suffered a knee injury some time ago and was told by his orthopedist that in order to aid in his recovery he should avoid running on hard surfaces. Ironically, attempting to run on softer but less even surfaces resulted in his twisting an ankle and re-aggravating the knee injury.

As someone who worked with injured athletes, the whole episode got him interested in whether or not running on softer surfaces was actually likely to reduce the risk of injury. And as with the 10% rule, when he started looking for large-scale, well-controlled, peer-reviewed studies that looked at the question, he found that there were none. And in terms of anecdotal evidence (which, let's be careful to remember, is very different than scientific evidence), it seemed that runners may be just as likely to get injured on softer surfaces like grass and trails, because those surfaces are more likely to be irregular.

The two articles of Kolata's that I've read so far have really got me thinking about what other bits of ubiquitous running lore that "everybody knows" might actually have little or no basis in legitimate science, particularly since running on soft surfaces is advice I've gotten from both doctors and physical therapists for dealing with my shin splints. I remember reading in an article on running form a while back (which I haven't been able to hunt down) that there has actually been very little scientific research done on issues related to running (particularly running economy & injury prevention) because of the large scale that's needed to effectively investigate something affected by so many different variables & with so much variance in results. Because of that, the article went on, most of what doctors, PTs, coaches, trainers, etc. tell us is based on their personal experience with clients & patients. Now, that is absolutely NOT to say that that advice & experience isn't useful -- just that it's still anecdotal and not necessarily scientific.

Also, I very clearly have a HUGE back-log of Gina Kolata running articles to read. I had no idea the Times published so many! Keep 'em coming, Gina! :)

Running, Injury, & Emotion

achilles tendon HURTSI am really happy to report that, with the exceptions of speed workouts & their after-math, my recent shin splint flare-up seems to be on its way out. It's been several weeks now since I've had anything but super minor tib med pain on longer and/or easy/moderate runs, and since shin splints has taken me out of running for weeks at a time in the past, I am incredibly thankful for that.

On the other hand, I can't seem to shake this weird-ass Achilles tendon pain for the life of me. It's new (since, say, June-ish), it can be very sudden, and at times it can be intense enough to end a run within just a few miles. What's worse is that it's not limited to running -- there are times walking up hills or stairs at work that I'll feel it and know right away that, even if I took a rest day the day before, running today is probably out of the question.

Today was one of those days. I had a little pain with it on Tuesday, but stopped well before I had to and didn't attempted to push through it. My original plan had been to try to get 5-6 miles in on Wednesday if my leg felt fine to make up for not running this Saturday (gotta love a destination wedding), and either way, go back to Lululemon Run Club on Thursday.

Trying to be realistic with myself, I developed a whole hierarchy of running goals for Thursday:

  • "A" goal: Run 3 miles to Lemon Club, run with the 6 mile group (even if I'm waaaaay slower than most of them), then run 3 miles back home. (This would partly make up for missing my 10-miler on Sunday.)
  • "B" goal: Run 3 miles to Lemon Club, run with the 6 mile group, BART home
  • "C" goal: BART to Lemon Club, run with the 6 mile group, BART home
  • "D" goal: BART to Lemon Club, run as far as I can without upsetting my Achilles, BART home
  • "E" goal: Run some amount of miles, somewhere, without upsetting my Achilles

Sigh.

Well, it became very obvious very quickly on Wednesday that no running was going to happen; I was in too much pain, even just walking around at work, so I didn't. Surely, I thought, if I rest today, then my body will reward me tomorrow by feeling better and ready to run.

Or not. Even after a rest day, I couldn't shake the sharp pain in the back of my calf. Even a little jog down the hallway would set it off. Not looking good.

But I came home, had a little rest, had a little food, & later in the evening experimented with a few strides up and down our hallway. The pain seemed gone, so I figured I could try to get a few miles in. (I skipped goals A through D, though, & went straight to E; I would be running on yellow alert, basically just waiting for pain, and I didn't want to risk getting distracted by anyone or distracting anyone else with my issues or getting so caught up in running with other people that I end up in DASA territory. Also walking to and from BART with leg pain sucks.) So I suited up and headed out the door.

I got maybe a third of a mile. I was having some weird knee pain on the right side as well (weird as in I haven't had any knee pain to speak of in 4-5 years), which freaked me out a little at first but then made sense once I thought about it more. I've noticed I've definitely been compensating on my right side when I have pain, usually by trying to take pressure off my calves / Achilles, usually by switching from a forefoot strike to a midfoot or sometimes almost a heel strike, which is one of the main causes of knee pain. I hadn't thought I'd been doing it enough for that to happen, but maybe I have. I tried a little half-hearted compensation, trying to find some part of my foot to land on that didn't cause pain, but about five blocks in I felt that sudden, familiar, sharp slicing pain and that was it for me. As Amby Burfoot has pointed out in the past, if you can run normally and are experiencing some pain, it's really a matter of how uncomfortable you're willing to be in terms of whether or not to keep going. But the moment you can't run without altering your gait, that's a red flag and it's time to stop. (Hey, at least if you quit after only a third of a mile, it's a short walk back, right?)

In the last ten years or so I have gotten INFINITELY (well, okay, maybe not infinitely, but a lot) better at dealing with my emotions, particularly my emotions around running. At this point, I'm self-aware enough to realize that I associate walking the last few blocks home tired and covered in sweat with victory, strength, and competence. Check me out, I am a RUNNER and I have been off RUNNING and am now very TIRED and SWEATY as a result; this is how you can tell that I am STRONG and TOUGH and generally AWESOME.

I am also self-aware enough to realize what that means for the other side of that coin. If finishing a run makes you strong, tough, and competent, you can imagine what it must mean if you fail to finish. Earlier in my running career, when that happened (because it will inevitably happen, given enough runs), walking back to where I started without having completed my run was one of the most shameful experiences I could remember having (and yes, there were tears at certain points). No one could convince me that there was any good reason to cut a run short; I would allow that yes, it might be necessary at times, but it would be because you were weak / untough / otherwise not competent, not because you were making a smart choice for your body. (Seriously, parts of this hung on for a long time; I can remember a run at my mom's house a few years ago where I tripped and twisted my ankle about three miles in. It took at least another mile of hobbling along in not insignificant pain before I called her to come pick me up, and I still felt like a complete and total loser.)

So there was a touch of that as I headed back home. That stretch is normally my cool-down stretch; when I'm walking it in running clothes, I'm used to that tired-sweaty-victorious feeling. This just sucked.

Thinking of Amby's advice about pain that changes your gait reminded me of the rest of that advice -- that running injuries that sideline us are almost never, ever sudden. They have warning signs, and it's up to us to act on them. His advice for pain that changes your gait? Three days off, minimum, with a very cautious & conservative return after that.

This is one of those situations where this is absolutely the advice I would give someone else in the same situation, but the non-rational part of me really, REALLY doesn't want to take it. That part of me is super-excited to have been back at 30 miles for two weeks running, to have my shin splints mostly gone, to feel strong running in the 8-10 range for most of my workouts. It wants to pack in as many miles as possible before this weekend, then pack in a few more before Bad Bass 10K nine days from now. It wants to say, "Welllll, we'll rest today [because we have to, because apparently our tendon is non-functional], but we'll see how we feel tomorrow, and maybe see if we can get in our tempo run before getting on the plane..."

And that's DASA territory. This is where I need to treat myself like a running friend who is not me: "Angela. This has been going on FOR WEEKS. It's not getting better. 1-2 days of rest doesn't even always make it better. You can't run normally on it. So just STOP. A few missed miles, even ten or fifteen, will not ruin your season. If you don't run Bad Bass as fast as you would have if you got those miles in, oh well. And if you try to run those miles and end up hurt worse, you may not be able to run it at all (or may end up running through real pain, and making it that much worse). So just stop trying to be such a goddamned hero about it and CHILL."

Sigh. Okay.

So I'm putting it in writing, where I have accountability.

  • I hereby solemnly swear that there will be no running today. I also swear that there will be no running tomorrow, and no running on Saturday or Sunday while I'm at the wedding.
  • I will consciously choose to look at this as fortuitous timing, and consider how lucky it is that I need to take care of an injury over a weekend when I wouldn't be able to run anyway.
  • I swear that when I get back next week, I will keep the mileage low (especially speed work); I will also call the sports medicine guy at the first hint of that same kind of pain.
  • If I feel good and am able to get a moderate amount of mileage in next week with no pain, then I will race the bloody hell out of Bad Bass.
  • If I can run some next week but am still having more than VERY mild pain, I swear that I will run it conservatively and just shoot to finish. I swear to take walking breaks if I need to.
  • If I am still having pain like I have this week, I'll still show up for the schwag (hey, I ~did~ already pay for it) but I swear that I will walk all or most of it and not tempt my tendons to melt off my body. I will hate this, but will maybe stand a chance of keeping myself intact enough to run the Summer Breeze 10K properly in August.

So. There is it. This is me, trying to be a smart athlete and not a dumb-as-shit one, trying to manage my feelings of failure and inadequacy, and reminding myself that I care a lot more about the half-marathon happening in November than I do about a couple of piddly 10Ks. (Though...it would still be pretty nice to place at a few more, no? I think there's no harm in admitting that.)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

On Social Running & Trying New Things

Lululemon AthleticaOn Thursday I went to the Lululemon Athletica Grant Ave Run Club for the first time! I have Aron at runner's rambles to thank for alerting me to the existence of these clubs. (She started the one in Walnut Creek with a friend a while back, and the two of them are now Run Ambassadors for the store.)

It's been a really long time since I've run with other people on anything like a regular basis. There was a point a few years ago when I was really busy when I was making running dates with lots of different co-workers in order to force myself to stick to a schedule and get my runs in, but that was only ever with one or two other people at a time. A few years before that I used to run with a local running club, but then some things changed in my life that made it hard for me to come to the scheduled runs. I'm kind of a loner by nature, though, so it's not something I miss all that often. Plus, running alone means I don't have to plan ahead of time when or where I'll run or what workout I'll do, and also that I can change my mind without affecting someone else.

I thought it might be cool to try running with a group again, though, just to see how I liked it. If you plan on running with the club regularly, you can sign up to have your miles tracked and earn Lululemon gear when you reach certain benchmarks (I believe that 25 miles gets you a pair of socks, at 50 you earn a water bottle, 100 = a tech shirt, etc.). Also, every other Thursday they do "roga" -- ie. running followed by free yoga. Since I know for a fact I don't stretch enough in spite of my best intentions, I figured this might not be such a bad thing to try.

This is all kind of a big deal because I have always found it very, VERY difficult and stressful to try new things, especially on my own, especially when those new things involve meeting strangers. Additionally, I've always felt a little ambivalent about yoga, so it's kind of like I'm trying TWO new things in one day. I want to take a moment to give myself mad and much-deserved props for this.

And the results? Well, I have to say the jury's still out. I'm not sold yet, but I'm also still open to trying it again a time or two.

The truth is that it turned out to be not all that social of a run. By which I mean not social at all. Since I needed to run at least 7 miles, I decided to jog the 3-miles there & then run with the 4.5 mile group (they also have a 3mi & 6 mi group), then either jog or BART home depending on how I felt. The store & group were easy enough to find, and after all the new people got signed in, one of the ambassadors (Jan) led us through a dynamic warm up involving high knees, butt kicks, lunges, and wall sits, which was fun. Once we started running, though, my group got spread out pretty quickly; we all had instructions for the route on slips of paper, but I figured I could pretty safely just follow the girl in front of me since she seemed to know where she was going & was running at about my pace.

Then, at some point, I realized that she was definitely NOT following the route on the paper (not really sure why; I wonder if maybe she was in the 3 mi group & just got in with us for a little while somehow). Suddenly I found myself completely lost and alone in the middle of Russian Hill with only my dinky little not-very-smart phone as my only hope for reorienting myself and getting un-lost. This took about 10 minutes and involved running an additional mile (as I was about half a mile off course -- see the red lines in the map there) and a lot of squinting at Google Maps on my tiny-tiny screen and trying to figure out which way was north. Finally, I got back to where I was supposed to be and finished the route.

In addition to feeling kind of bummed about that, and about not having the chance to socialize with a single person in the course of my run, my right Achilles had begun protesting VERY loudly early-on about the wisdom of all this -- bad enough, in fact, that if I had been on my own and known where I was going I probably would have stopped after a mile or two. As it was, it quieted down enough once I got un-lost that I managed to get back (I really, really didn't have the time to walk 2.5 miles back to the store), but that evening it was still pretty darn unhappy with me. Fortunately, I'd gotten enough mileage in earlier in the week that I could take Friday off without feeling too badly.

On the plus side, yoga was pretty cool. It was relatively straightforward and chill and not too hippy-dippy, and I think some of my major muscle groups definitely appreciated it. (Let's just forget for now that I got back a good 15 minutes after most people in my group thanks to blindly following the wrong person and being hopelessly unfamiliar with Russian Hill / North Beach). They also do a free class at 9:30 am on Sunday mornings, which seems like it could be really fun and beneficial except that it is at 9:30 am on Sunday mornings.

So I'm willing to go back and give it another try, mainly because it wasn't horrible, and most of the reason it wasn't great had to do with getting lost and dealing with weird Achilles issues. I may have to re-think which group I run in, though; the 4.5 mile route was pretty darn hilly, which I wouldn't mind except that a) I need to treat these days as easy runs, and too many hills makes it hard to do that, and b) I also really need to limit how much I run dramatic downhills on concrete because of my shin splints. If the six mile route is flatter (which is what it sounded like), then that might be better for me overall (even though it sounds like most people in that group run wicked fast, so it might end up being just as un-social for me).

There's also another club that meets at the Cow Hollow store on Saturday mornings at 9 am, so that could be an option at some point, if I ever manage to convince myself that it's worth the missed sleep to get up and get over there. The city is flatter over there and there are more non-concrete options for running, so that might work out better for my shin splint issues. Still, I will definitely give the Grant Ave club another try two weeks from now for the free yoga. :)

Week In Review: July 10 - 16

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

Sunday: 10 miles easy/moderate. A good start to the week! Yet another run with virtually no shin pain (and only a little Achilles tendon ish). I probably ran this one a little too fast (I do that sometimes...) but it felt really good to get in double digits for the second time this calendar year.

Tuesday: 3.87 miles (1 warm up + 4 x 5 minutes at 5K pace, ~.7-.75 mi each) I mentioned this run in an earlier post. I'd sort of hoped that doing slightly longer, slightly slower intervals and fewer of them might break the cycle of miserable shin splints days I've had following 400 repeats. Fair enough, there were no shin splints, but my right Achilles was still bothering me enough that I nixed the last repeat (originally planned 5) and called it a day.

Thursday: 8.13 miles easy (but hilly!) This was the day I ran with Lululemon Athletica Run Club. I jogged ~2.6 miles there, then ran with the 4.5 mile group. Unfortunately I got separated from the group & turned around a little, which resulted in running an extra mile! I didn't run this very hard, but a good bit of it was quite hilly, and I spent a lot of it dealing with rather severe Achilles tendon pain (again), so I was glad to be done. I'd decided that I would jog home if I was feeling good and BART if not. As much as I enjoyed the free post-run yoga, I decided it was best for my Achilles if I didn't push it.

Saturday: 8 miles (1 warm up + 5 tempo + 2 easy) Given the continued unhappiness of my Achilles on Thursday, I decided to take Friday off. Originally I'd planned six miles each on Friday and Saturday which would have put me at 34 for the week, but I decided that since last week was the first time I've been back at 30 in quite a while, I could be happy (and would probably be safer) resting on Friday, then doing a little extra on Saturday to make it a nice round 30. Sure enough, I woke up on Saturday with fresh, pain-free legs. I drove to the track (yay!) for my usual(ish) tempo run, then tacked on two easy miles at the end. Happily, both my shins and Achilles seemed fine throughout (huzzah for extra rest days!).

I'm kind of curious how close the pace I'm running my tempo runs at is to my actual LT pace at this point. I have a hunch it's probably somewhere between 7:30 & 8:00 / mile, so I've been aiming for around 7:40-7:45; on the other hand, there's usually wind at the track, so by keeping this pace I may actually be pushing my heart rate a little higher than it really should be for the purposes of improving LT. This is one of those times when I wish I had the cash to do one of those fancy metabolic work-ups that tells you all that.

Grand Total: 30 miles

I can't tell you how happy it makes me to get back to 30 miles for two weeks in a row, feeling (almost) completely healthy & pain-free. I will keep listening to my lower legs & taking days off when I need to, but even doing that, I'm managing to run a solid four days per week and continue building mileage. I really think that picking a key race later in the year (Clarksburg) and then spacing out several low-key, low-stakes races over the course of the summer and fall (the 10Ks) has kept me motivated in both the short- and long-term. It's helped me frame my training as more of a marathon than a sprint (hah), which has helped me act more conservatively in terms of taking rest days and cutting runs short when I need to (and interestingly, this has resulted in my actually being able to run MORE miles in the long term).

Next week -- hopefully one more 30+ week, then a little bit of a cut-back before Bad Bass on 7/30!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Lady Glide"

marathon tattooFriends, let's talk about chafing for a moment.

No, it's not the sexiest or most glamorous of topics related to running, but it's definitely not something any of us can afford to ignore.

Lately, thanks to my own absent-mindedness and nothing else, I've been suffering from yet another running injury -- the painful, unsightly affliction known as "marathon tattoo," front and center, right where the front band of my sports bras sit. I'm pretty sure I have a permanent scar in this spot from years of neglect; occasionally, I also get it on the inside of my upper arm from rubbing against the edge of my bra or tank top, and all manner of places from the waist down that I'll do us all a favor and not photograph for the internet.

Which leads me to what I consider to be an essential piece of running paraphernalia (I mean, after shoes and clothes): BodyGlide. I can still remember when I first learned about BodyGlide from a runner-coworker. After years of using Vaseline (ew), I cannot tell you how THRILLED I was to find something made for athletes that prevented chafing but wasn't--how shall I put this?--completely gross and disgusting.

bodyglideThis was right before my first half-marathon, and honest to god, I rubbed it over every square inch of my body that stood even the remotest chance of suffering marathon tattoo or otherwise becoming a victim of unfortunate friction. 'Cause let's be real...Ain't nothin' ruins a long race like chafing. (Did I mention it's also good for preventing blisters if you rub it all over your feet? I don't get them anymore for some reason, but at that time, this was the most magical of discoveries.) Most of the time, slathering up before a long run is second nature. While it doesn't completely prevent 100% of chafing incidents (I'm guessing nothing will, probably), it does a damn fine job of minimizing it, it doesn't smell revolting (in fact it barely smells at all), and it's the perfect balance between sticky (keeps fabric in place to some extent, doesn't make clothes feel wet) and slippery (prevents friction). When I forget to put it on, as I have on my last few long runs, I can definitely tell the difference (usually because I am missing skin; see above).

The stuff also lasts forever--I just recently finished off my second stick ever, in five years. When I went to grab another from my local sporting goods store, though, I spotted the most curious thing: BodyGlide For Her.

Seriously?

lady glideI don't know about you, but I had a very difficult time trying to understand why regular non-pink BodyGlide would be insufficient for we ladies. Could it be that I've been using the wrong one all these years?!? (More importantly - could that be why I haven't broken 100 minutes in the half yet??)

There's definitely a phenomenon that happens, where a gender-neutral product will suddenly become available in a special "lady" or "for her" version. I guess it bothers me a little because it implies that the original product was specifically "for him," not all of us, and that somehow we ladies are incapable of making use of that version.

In the course of some Googling, I came across this post from Forward Foot Strides. It was somewhat reassuring to find I wasn't the only person who's wondered about this. Also, mad props for actually contacting BodyGlide for some info. Click through for her entire post, but to quote a bit from BG's response:

"We were asked (by women) to create a package that is more approachable, to introduce more women to the benefits of a product that they, too, may have otherwise perceived as for the professionals.

So, the difference is packaging... and the benefits are reliable and consistent as they have been since we came to market in 1996!"


(So yes -- it is indeed the exact same product as regular BodyGlide.)

I'm a bit confused as to why 'women' in this context is being contrasted with 'professionals.' This statement would make more sense to me if it read "We were asked (by women) to create a package that is more approachable, to introduce more women to the benefits of a product that they, too, may have otherwise perceived as for men." Why women would perceive that regular-ol-run-o-the-mill BodyGlide is only for men, though, is as mysterious to me as why we would perceive that it was only for professionals. I guess it bugs me because it reeks of feminine apologetic, which I've spent enough time dealing with (and being grossed out by) as a woman in the martial arts, thankyouverymuch.

But here's the main thing that gets me. Regular ol' BodyGlide is available in three different sizes: .45 oz, 1.3 oz, and 2.5 oz., meaning that unless you get the super-tiny travel size (.45 oz), you pay at most ~$7.70 per oz. As far as I can tell, BodyGlide for her is only available in a .8 oz size, so at best, the ladies who have decried the lack of an "approachable" sports lube will pay $8.75 for the privilege of buying the exact same product, post pink-and-shrink.

So....alright. It's a little hard for me to believe that women in actual need of sports lube would find a non-pink package to be "unapproachable" or that women would perceive such a product to be "for the professionals" when men don't (is this also because of the lack of pink?). But if we're going to claim that, could we at least give these women the opportunity to buy the product at the same price point as men/professionals?

Just saying.

Weather / Patterns

rainy SFOn my way home from work today, I listened to people talking on the radio about record-breaking heat in places like Indiana, Arkansas, and Texas & how people are being warned to stay inside if at all possible due to heat advisories; my Facebook friends are posting sad things about broken air conditioners and outdoor activities; a couple of running sites are running articles about how to run safe in the heat and stay hydrated.

I, on the other hand, went to work today in a sweater, jeans, and a rain shell, and ran the heater in the car.

rainy KezarI also had a track workout scheduled for this afternoon, and let me tell you just how excited I was to get out there in the wind/cold/drizzle. (Alright, I know it's not real cold, but it's too cold for my preference, and the wind makes it worse.) It made me so incredibly sad to discover I'd already gone through my three pairs of running tights this week; instead, I made due with the longest pair of shorts I have and a long-sleeve tech shirt. Kezar Stadium has been a happier place to be, that is for certain.

soft paints and teaOn the other hand, there is a certain satisfaction to completing a run in nasty weather, then curling up inside on the couch for the rest of the day. Nothing follows a nasty weather workout better than soft pants and hot tea. :)

In addition to my soft pants and tea, I am treating myself to a couple of those freaky blue ice packs. A pattern seems to be developing, and it appears to involve track workouts.

My speed work has gone through a bit of evolution lately. In May and June, I was running a lot of hard 400 repeats, usually 10-12 at a time. A few weeks into that was when my shin splints started acting up again. I'd feel fine after a long run Sunday, take Monday off, run 10-12 x 400 on Tuesday, starting having med tib pain, take Wednesday off, and then end up either cutting my Thursday run short, feeling miserable after it, or just skipping it altogether and then trying to run Friday and Saturday if I could.

ice packsThis pattern went on for a few weeks. Then I basically took a week off while we were in Chicago. The week after that (last week) I did a track workout, but mile repeats at 5K pace instead of 400s, and felt great. (Slower pace = less pounding? A week of rest? Who can say?) Now I am changing things up again to better align with my 10K goals and alternating weeks between five-minute intervals at 5K pace and ten-minute intervals at 10K pace. Today I did the five-minutes, planning to do five, and knew after just a couple that I would need to cut back unless I wanted to ruin the rest of my training week. I did four, but I've been having mild shin AND Achilles tendon (!) pain in both legs since (ie, a couple of hours).

I don't think it's anything too serious; it's not the level of pain I was having a few weeks ago, and I've definitely become less hesitant about cutting things short as soon as I feel it, even if it's pretty mild. Since the 10Ks are really a means to an end, I'm trying to do my best to take the long view and invest in my fall half marathon by running less mileage and spending more time recovering when I need it so that I'll be stronger and able to run more later on. It's frustrating, but I think that if I'm conservative about my speed work, sandwich it between rest days, and ice both my shins and Achilles tendons consistently when I'm having pain, I'll end up having a better fall.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Marathon Musings...

the thinker

In the past couple of weeks, I've found myself thinking more and more seriously about running a full marathon within the next six months to a year, which is not something I've ever really thought seriously about. (You may recall this post...)

So why the new interest? I don't know. Maybe it's that so many of my runner friends have done it, and I feel like it's an experience that I want to have as a runner. Maybe it's so that I'll feel like I can speak on the subject with some (read: any) amount of authority. Maybe it's that recently I've finally been able to get in a reasonable amount of mileage on a weekly basis without ending up in pain. Maybe it's that I'm currently on track to break a 100 minute half-marathon this year, which should theoretically mean a Boston Qualifying time in the full if I train well and have a good race. Maybe it's a little bit of all of that. Then, on top of all of that, there's my amazing friend Teresa.

Teresa, who is a newish runner (I think she started training with some seriousness a year or two ago), recently ran the Mayor's Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska with Team in Training. Like me, she's dealt with some recurring injuries, but managed to train for and complete the race with a more-than-respectable time and no physical issues on relatively low weekly mileage. She came back super-excited and totally gung-ho to run another & just recently signed up for the Cal International Marathon in Sacramento on Dec. 4. She also put out the call for racing buddies -- CIM is definitely on my list of races to theoretically run, and I am so tempted! Yes, it's past the early-bird registration deadline so it'd be $105 instead of $85, but for a full marathon, that's still not too ridiculous, and it would be nice to run my first marathon with a friend. Also, you really can't beat the CIM course for a BQ attempt.

The real question (other than, "Will I be healthy & injury free long enough to put in the training?") is how feasible it is to run two long races within three weeks of each other and do them both justice. As of right now, I'm planning to run the Clarksburg Country Run Half Marathon on November 13, three weeks before CIM, so this would really mean working out a way to train for both the half and the full simultaneously, then engineering a serious recovery plan for the three weeks in between. It seems like it's do-able, but would definitely require some forethought & planning. (Then again, as Teresa reminded me today, she's running the Big Sur Half on Nov. 20, so it's difficult to use that as an excuse.)

So I'll be ruminating on that for a while. In the mean time, I had a great ten-miler today (let's not forget, only my second since October of last year), at a great and comfortable pace, with no shin splints or hip pain whatsoever, so the week is off to a good start. :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Week In Review: July 3 - 9

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

Monday: 9 miles easy. There's something very gratifying about more than doubling the previous week's mileage in a single day. To be honest, I was a little hesitant to start out with this this week, given the last couple of unpleasant workouts I've had, but I reasoned I could cut it short at any time if my shins started giving me trouble. Thankfully, not only did they hold, but I felt much more like my regular self instead of like a couch potato with emphysema. I can tell that the right one is not 100% yet (I mean, I was limping on it less than a week ago after a day of walking), but it's still a huge improvement and didn't give me any trouble during the run.

Thursday: 6 miles easy. Unfortunately, after the 9 miles on Monday, my right Achilles tendon revolted something fierce and I was almost back to limping again (though not from shin splints this time, at least). I had a track workout scheduled for Tuesday, but by late that afternoon I had to give up on it & recognize the fact that it was decidedly Not a Good Idea. On Wednesday I still didn't feel quite right & decided again to err on the side of caution (how long has it taken me to learn to do that?). Finally, Thursday I decided to try another shorter, easy run and see how things went, and to cut it short if my leg started talking too much. It wasn't totally pain free, but I did get through the entire scheduled distance without feeling like I needed to stop, so that's something. Funnily, once I got back home and showered, my leg actually felt better than it did before my run. Maybe it just needed a little bit of loosening up.

Friday: 8 miles (1 mile warm up + 3 x 1 mile @ 5K pace + 4 easy). Originally I'd scheduled to do a tempo run today, but since I skipped the track session Tuesday I really wanted to get that in while my legs were feeling good (which was reassuring, btw!). Ordinarily I'd do 4-6 repeats and probably could have, but I've noticed that my worst shin splint days have followed track workouts recently, and while up until now I've been running 400 repeats and not miles, I thought it might be best to back off a little, just to make sure everything is fine. I decided to add in the easy four as a way to at least make up some mileage after skipping Tuesday; it's amazing to me how I can feel perfectly fine after mile repeats, almost as if I haven't run at all, but then by the time I finish any additional "easy" miles, I absolutely feel every single one. Again, I say, bodies are weird.

Saturday: 7 miles (2 miles warm up + 5 miles tempo). Originally, this was supposed to be a four mile tempo run with a one mile warm up, but since I skipped Tuesday, I decided to try to add a mile to each part in order to make this week 30 even, assuming my body felt up to it (and happily, it did!). As I promised myself a couple of weeks back, I didn't try to do my tempo run around the neighborhood and instead sucked it up and drove to the track. This is a bigger sacrifice than it might sound like -- I park on the street, and in my neighborhood, parking gets difficult after ~6 pm on week nights and can be downright miserable after dinner time on a Friday or Saturday. On Friday afternoon, I'd managed to park right in front of the house (score!), but when I got back Saturday around 8:30, it took me nearly half an hour to find a spot (though, happily, it was less than half a block away from home). My tempo pace is not yet quite what I'd like it to be, but I still had a great run (I really love running on the track on Saturday evenings, because it tends to be cool and empty) and I got the entire seven miles in with no problem.

Grand Total: 30 miles

Huzzah! This is the first time I've managed to get to 30 since late August of last year (so 10.5 months, give or take). I'm holding my breathe to see how my legs feel in the next couple of days or so; if I start having any weird pains (or, god forbid, the shin splints rear their ugly head again), I'm completely ready to back off next week and go back to 25 if need be and then try for 30 again the week after. As of right now, though, I'm kind of basking in the glow of having a >= 30-mile , pain-free week. :)

Food: Five Cups A Day of Fruits & Veggies = Totally Possible!

bananasAlright, alright, I promise not to bore you with my plant intake on a daily basis, but I have to say, I'm pretty proud that I managed to come very close to getting in all five servings for a solid week!

Tuesday: This was the day of pineapple, cherries, seaweed salad, & kale salad. There were also some peppers, zucchini, & carrots in the lemon grass chicken we had for dinner. A strong start!

Wednesday: I've decided to start taking bananas with me to work every day to eat between breakfast and lunch, so there was that. Then for lunch, I had a good two-cup salad (plus a few other veggies on a chicken-wrap-thing). When I got home, I snacked on cherries and grapefruit (at least another cup, maybe more), and had a vegetable curry for dinner.
veggie curry

Thursday: I started out with the mid-morning banana; then for lunch I had my lemon grass chicken leftovers which had maybe half a cup of veggies in it, plus a good cup (maybe more?) of pomegranate seeds. Dinner was super exciting tonight -- we've been experimenting with growing different kinds of greens in the backyard, which has gone spectacularly well! They've gotten big enough recently that we decided it was time for a home-grown salad, which was FANTASTIC. I also threw in a cup or so of heirloom cherry tomatoes, then ate the rest of the package on its own. (This is another one of those things that I forget -- that I LOVE munching on cherry tomatoes; I just have to remember to buy them!) We rounded out the night with some snow peas, since they're now in season at our local farmers' market.
home grown greens
Friday: We have fresh farmers' market berries again, so I started off with at least a half a cup of raspberries with breakfast this morning, then mid-morning banana, then veggie curry leftovers and grapefruit for lunch. Early in the evening I finished off some basil tofu leftovers which probably had a good half cup to a cup of veggies in it, and then later I had a slice of spinach and sun dried tomato pizza. Got the fruit in, but I may have fallen slightly shy on the veggies.
tomatoes
Saturday: Berries in the breakfast plus a banana; we spent most of the afternoon at a barbecue where I ate mostly meat and Cheetos, so that wasn't exactly great for the fruits & veggies resolution. Before bed, though, I did manage at least a good two-cup salad, maybe more, plus a couple of figs, so if I didn't get quite to the three cups of veggies, I at least came close.

So really, not too bad for my first week! Two cups of fruit & three cups of veggies may seem like a lot, but what I've learned is that it's not so bad if you make it a priority and do whatever you have to to make sure you get them in. (Eg, a couple of days this week, I stopped by the Trader Joe's or the Whole Foods on the way home to grab a little salad or something, and making a habit out of the mid-morning banana helped a lot too.)

Also interestingly, I'm finding that if I go for the fruits & veggies first, I actually DO feel pretty full and crave other things less. There's been a couple of days where I haven't even been hungry for dinner, so eating a smaller amount of protein and carbs left me feeling just as satisfied and less snack-ey and deprived. At some points, I've even felt sort of uncomfortably full. I don't know sure if it's related, but part of me wonders if that's all the water & fiber, or if maybe my body just isn't used to getting enough fruits & vegetables in general so now it's a little weirded out.

Anyway, now that I've convinced myself that it's realistic, my plan is to try to make this five cups a day thing a real habit. Give it a try!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Food: Fruits, Veggies, & Why More Can Be Less

red fruits & veggiesWhile it's true that I get a lot of exercise and make a point of trying to eat (at least reasonably) well most of the time, I really do believe that I have genetics to thank for a good bit of my athleticism and the fact that I've never really had to worry too much about my weight. By this, I mean I'm fit, healthy, and can more or less wear whatever I want within reason.

yellow fruits & veggiesThat said, I do tend to hover right around 13-15 pounds above what I considered my ideal racing weight in high school & college. By & large, this isn't a big deal; I won't pretend that I don't love Mission burritos, deep dish pizza, the French bakery down the street, goat cheese, crusty bread, cream-based soups, good wine, good beer, and good cocktails. I live in San Francisco, green fruits & veggiesby God, and what kind of a waste would it be to not take advantage of these things?

The issue isn't IF dropping those extra pounds is possible; it's more that I KNOW it's possible, but I've done the math and I know what I would have to give up, and that it would make me a sad, sad shell of a person. For an A-race, I can buckle down for a month or so and drop green fruits & veggiesmaybe 5-8, but that's about as far as I'm willing to go.

Well; sort of. One thing I've been reminded of lately is that I really don't eat enough fruits and vegetables (do any of us??), and this is unfortunate for several reasons:



  • In a 2004 study, the number of servings of fruits & vegetables that subjects ate per day (on average) was inversely proportional to their risk of heart attack or stroke. (Subjects who averaged > 8 servings per day had a 30% lower risk.)
  • In two other studies, people who ate more than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day had a 20% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke (compared with people who had only 3 servings per day, the American average).
  • While the main studies that were once considered to prove that eating more fruits & vegetables prevented cancer have been called into question, there is still reasonably strong evidence that specific types of fruits and vegetables contain certain chemicals that prevent specific types of cancer.
  • Because of their low energy density and high fiber and water content, fruit & vegetable consumption is strongly correlated with weight loss (or maintenance, relative to gaining). In at least one study (which I remember reading but now can't find), people lost weight simply by increasing the amount of fruits & vegetables they ate, without any additional dieting instructions. If I rightly recall, the researchers surmised that this was due to people to feeling fuller (again, fiber & water) on fewer calories and eating less meat, dairy, grain, & fats as a result.

So, while I don't plan to stop eating Mission burritos or goat cheese any time soon, I'm willing to eat more fruits & veggies, partly because I should, and partly because, hey, maybe 11-13 pounds over race weight isn't quite as bad as 13-15 over? :D

The next question was, precisely how many fruits & vegetables should I be shooting for each day?

Well, according to the USDA's MyPlate website (which replaces the old food pyramid), I should be eating three cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit every day (the old 'serving' measurement is out the window). The site also told me how my veggies should break down each week (click to embiggen).

I have a feeling that if I can do this consistently, I probably will end up eating less of things that are less good for me when I don't really want them (ie, I'm just snacking because I'm hungry & that's what's there).

seaweed saladSo how's it going so far? Well, so far today I've had a small seaweed salad, two cups of pineapple, probably 3-4 cups of kale salad, and a few handfuls of cherries. How's that for a killer start! Also, it's probably important to point out that these are all foods I really like & sometimes just don't think to buy -- one thing I figured out a long time ago is that forcing myself to eat foods I kale saladdon't like because I feel like I should (beets, celery, cabbage...I'm looking at you) is a no-go.


I really like the idea of going back to a 'diet' being a prescription for what you DO eat, rather than what you DON'T eat. One thing I've definitely learned about myself during those weeks before an A race when I'm actively trying to drop weight -- feeling deprived will do me in every time. So I'm quite excited about framing things in terms of what I WILL TRY to eat every day, instead of what I will try NOT to eat. :)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Week In Review: June 26 - July 2

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

So, I spent most of this week in Chicago for a wedding (and also general eating/drinking/sight-seeing/etc.), and it turns out that my running ambitions, humble though they were, ended up being a tad optimistic. I'd hoped to get in a few treadmill runs, but on day two of multiple hours of sightseeing on foot, I started having some disturbingly intense throbbing pains in my right tibia. By the end of the day I was limping pretty impressively (and, ok, whimpering a bit), so I figured this was maybe one of those body-trying-to-tell-you-something kind of situations and that maybe a few days off (by which I mean many, many miles of walking) was not the worst idea anyone ever had. Another runner friend also in town and I had actually been toying with the idea of a lake-front run on Saturday morning, but due to many hours of merriment and revelry the night before, that didn't happen either, and again, maybe for the best. So here is my one workout summary for this week:

Dinner at Capital GrilleMonday: 4 miles easy. Knowing we were flying out that afternoon and I wouldn't have time later, I actually got up early to run, which almost never happens. Still way more shin splint pain that I feel I should have to tolerate, and way too much feeling like a couch potato with emphysema. (I'd like to point out that my 3rd place performance at the Pride Run last Saturday was flanked on either side by such runs. My body is weird sometimes.)

Grand Total: 4 miles

Eh. Whatever. While single-digit mileage wasn't exactly ideal, this was probably a week that was better under-done than over-done. Hopefully my tibs and cardiovascular system (?) will be better for the rest next week. On the other hand, it was a super-fun trip and I had an awesome week of delicious food & drinks otherwise, so complaining is not really warranted. ;)