Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Five Days & Counting...

This blog post is brought to you by the Fairfield Marriot, which you may remember from this post.

And when you're alone in a hotel room with nothing much to do except wait for tomorrow, you might as well write a blog post.

First, some good news. This evening, I did my first *real* run since the 13th on the treadmill here in the hotel. The fitness center was empty so I eschewed the Rickety-est Treadmill Ever for what in my limited experience I can only assume must be the Swankiest Treadmill Ever. (Seriously, when did exercise equipment get built-in HDTV / ipod docks / DVD players??) It wasn't a long one, really--just a warm up, cool down, & two fast-ish 1200's in between--but it did give me an opportunity to give this stuff a whirl:

Which, to quote Kimra, "is not just for the ride, nor is it just for the hoo ha." Honestly, I can't face another post-CIM December with great swaths of missing skin on my inner biceps & thighs, so I'm hoping that some wardrobe adjustments & a good coating of body glide + ride glide will be enough to prevent the worst of what I had to deal with last year.

Post treadmill run, I've been vegging out with a lovely little bottle of chard I picked up at the nearby Safeway. Given that I had precious little to go on & was limited to screw tops (as I don't routinely travel with a bottle opener), I feel like I did surprisingly well for my $7. Talbott Vineyards Kali Hart Chard is malo-free & incredibly French on the nose -- barnyard funk & whatnot -- with just enough oak to balance out the other strong flavors. Win!

Finally, there's this:

Phhhhbbbbtt. That's all I have to say about that. :P

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Quick Update

It's been a busy week, so just a quick update as we hurtle towards marathon day.

I did as I was told & didn't run or otherwise exert myself over the weekend. Most of the time that's enough to take care of sore shin splints, but these guys continued to give me trouble, even walking, all weekend. There was some improvement, though, so I attempted an easy 20 minute jog on Monday as instructed. By then, the left side felt almost normal, but the right side was still in a lot of pain and I was quite happy to be done when my 20 minutes were up.

On Tuesday my assignment was 40 minutes. I wasn't feeling super-confident about this, but I decided that I'd give it a shot, and worst case, I could always stop after 20 or 30. I made it all the way through and with noticeably less pain than Monday, though I still would have described things as a bit touch-and-go.

Wednesday morning we flew out to Spokane, and because I am just that lucky/coordinated, I managed to roll my right ankle walking to the BART station and spent much of the rest of the day half-limping. It was a good thing I hadn't planned on running over Thanksgiving, because if there had been any chance of it before, there was absolutely *no* way it was happening now.

You know what's good for messed-up joints, though? FEASTING.

And there has been a lot of excellent feasting.

Thankfully, after a couple of days, it's just kind of sore and I can walk on it normally with no trouble. The shin splints seem more or less healed, but I'm reserving judgment until I have a chance to run on them on Tuesday.

This is the part where I wish I had a stronger background in biology & kinesiology & all that. On November 13, I felt like I was ready to crush this race. By the time I'm next able to get a run in, two weeks will have passed during which I've run a grand total of 12.6 miles. Yes, my lower legs will be healthy and rested, but I don't have much sense of how long "peak" marathon shape cardiovascular-wise holds up with basically no running or what the real purpose of these last race week workouts will be.

I've been distracting myself from these thoughts by looking at the weather report. A couple of days ago, the Dec. 2 forecast was 40 degrees in the morning with a 50% chance of thunderstorms. I like today's better:

Yep; I vote we just hold onto that one for the next week.

Friday, November 16, 2012

CIM Week 12 of 14: Two Steps Forward...

I am sitting on the couch right now (Friday evening) in a not insignificant amount of pain. Half an hour ago I was mentally drafting a post about the unreasonable, horrific, debilitating nature of my pain, but it has abated somewhat now so I will just say that I am very, very uncomfortable. It's nothing catastrophic--just some of the same old medial tibial shin splints that I've dealt with more or less my whole life. With a few days of rest I should be fine. Still, I'm powerful annoyed.

(In case it's not clear, those are ice packs stuffed under there.)

Here's how the week went down:

Last Sunday, I had a fantastic 21 miler except for 1) running it a little too fast, & 2) some cramping & tenderness in the outside edge of my left foot. I have a feeling that it's not completely unrelated to this and this. It got worse over the course of the course of the evening, & by Sunday night I could barely put weight on it, which was concerning. I limped around on it on Monday & took it easy at karate, but by Tuesday morning it felt pretty much normal. #winning

Tuesday: 2 wu + 1600m @ 7:00, 1:30 jog + 2 x (800m @ 6:45, 1:00 jog) + 1600m @ 7:00 + 1.5 cd. I figured I would jog a couple of warm-up miles, then decide based on how my foot felt how much I thought I could do & how fast. My legs felt tired, but my foot was pain-free so I did the whole thing, hit all my paces, & felt totally fine. Plus I had Kimra there to keep my spirits up, which was a great help. :) #winning

This is where medial tibial shin splints show up. The bizarro toe is not part of the condition.
Thursday: 4 "easy." I had six easy miles scheduled, but within a mile and a half I could tell it was going to be one of those runs. No matter how I tried to modify my gait (never a good sign), the medial tibial part of my shins were absolutely throbbing with pain. By 1.75 miles, it was really bad--like someone slicing the soft tissue away from the bone behind my tibias with a paring knife. Very briefly part of me went "Five, we are HARD CORE and we can make it to five!" (as in 2.5 out & back), but the rational part of me shut that down pretty quickly. "We're hard core, not stupid," it insisted. "Let's try not to confuse the two." Nope; I was turning around at two and that was all there was to it. Even so, I more or less hobbled through the last mile, sick at my stomach over the pain. Cue wrapping & icing. #notwinning

Friday: 2 wu + 4 @ 7:25 + 10 x (100m @ 6:00) + 1.5 cd. 2 "easy." My shins were still feeling tender Friday afternoon and I wasn't at all confident that I would be able to get much running done. Lately, though, when I'm not feeling so hot, I've been telling myself that I have to at least try. That it's okay if I can't do my whole workout or can't do it as fast, but what is not negotiable is putting on running clothes & going out there to at least confirm that I'm not up to whatever it is rather than just assuming (because 9 times out of 10 I'm wrong).

I went to the track to do this one because of the softer surface in case it helped (and also because there is no way in hell I'm doing 6:00 100's anywhere else), but I wasn't even one warm-up lap in before things started going downhill. At first it was just a mild achey-ness, but by 1.5 the slicey-stabby feeling from Thursday was back. Also, I just felt completely exhausted & out of gas. I experimented a little with how fast I could even run, but 7:45 was the best I could do, and after one or two hundred yards of that I felt like I was about to collapse. Nope; 7:25s were definitely off the table. I finished the 2 warm up miles, packed it in, & spent another hour on the couch wrapped & icing. #REALLYnotwinning

I also shot an email to Coach Tom, who I have been working with some this cycle, outlining all this. ("Coaching" is probably too strong a word, but he is responsible for my training plan & lets me email him questions from time to time.)

"Does this make any kind of sense to you? Is it possible that the long run was too fast enough to screw me up this badly for the rest of the week, or that the issue with my left foot is related to the shin splints?"

To which he responded in part:

"I think it is probably related to the LR but that wasn't such a crazy run that it is independently responsible. More likely it is the combination of all the training and you reaching the end of a tough cycle.

The MT stuff can get bad in a hurry. The best thing to do is take the weekend off. It is tough to do but the risk/reward proposition is much better (ie. If you run and get injured then you risk missing the 'thon). You're in very good shape and right now we have to focus on getting you to the line."

Done. If there is one thing I can do, it's follow instructions. No heroes up in here.

He also suggested that I try 20 minutes of easy running on Monday, & if that went well, another 40 minutes on Tuesday. I'll be out of town without anywhere to run until the Monday after Thanksgiving, so I'm trying to stay positive & look at that as a big chunk of rest / recovery time rather than big fat zeros in the training log.

I'm also trying to remind myself that nothing much of consequence happens during the last three weeks of marathon training fitness-wise -- that while you can't do a whole lot to get faster during that time, it's sure as hell PLENTY of time to get hurt or over-train or otherwise screw yourself over. So my plan is to do as Coach Tom has instructed and use this weekend to let my legs heal themselves.

Aaaaaaand, what does Angela do when she can't run for some reason?

Have a pumpkin spice muffin, darlings. By which I mean, go to this site & make them. Heaven, I tell you.

So...that's that. If anyone needs me, I'll be on the couch like a good girl, stuffing my face with seasonal baked goods. #nevertooearlytocarbload

Monday, November 12, 2012

CIM Week 11 of 14: Lies, Lies, Lies...

Lies, I tell you, are totally underrated.

Don: "You didn't lick the spoon & stick it back in the batter, did you?"
Me: "Um, NO. Because I am IN NO WAY gross & disgusting like that."

Some horrible gift giver: "Do you like it?"
Me: "OF COURSE I DO! It is absolutely the best _____ I have ever received and I LOVE IT."

Me: "Aren't I the hottest chick you have ever seen ever in your life?"
Don: "Well DUH, by like A TON."

Runner Brain: "Ugh, I soooo don't feel like running 10 miles today..."
Rational Brain: "Well, it's you're lukcy day, then! We're only going to run, like, 3 or so."

Runner Brain: "Ugh, that hill looks REALLY steep...and as I recall, it goes on for a while...
Rational Brain: "Good thing you're BADDASSEST RUNNER on the ENTIRE PLANET EARTH, then!"
Runner Brain: "Flattery will get you EVERYWHERE."

(She is a sucker for that shit, let me tell you.)

I am not saying that lying is a great idea in every situation, obviously. But I AM saying that lying to myself and others, and knowing full well that I am lied to by others at times, is a key part of what gets me through life, the universe, and whatever training cycle I happen to be in the middle of.

A and I ended up not going to Clarksburg; she has been having an unhappy hip, and I decided I wasn't excited enough about getting up at 4:30 in the morning & driving two hours each way by myself, so I decided to sleep in & do my 20ish here in SF. I had no real plan for it, except to park my car somewhere in Golden Gate Park & run for at least twenty miles.

Here is the nice thing about not really thinking of myself as a marathoner: I just cannot muster any real sense of worrying about or feeling pressured by this race in any way. There was some pressure last year, just because it was my first marathon and there were a lot of "what ifs" running through my head (what if I get hurt, what if I can't finish, what if I haven't trained well enough, etc.). But this time there's no doubt in my mind that I'll finish. Plus I know the course, I seem to be in better shape (in spite of running quite a bit fewer miles), and barring catastrophic injury or illness, beating last year's time is a foregone conclusion.

Likewise, I can't muster much enthusiasm for any particular time goal. I've been given an average pace to shoot for, but after three months of trying to "own it" the way I did 7:38 when I was shooting for a sub-1:40 half, I still don't feel that attached to it. I also feel like it's a magical-day, best-case-scenario, all-the-stars-align kind of pace, and part of me feels like the race will be a lot less fun if I set the bar that high.

Can I tell you a secret? I just don't care that much. The only loose goal that carries much meaning for me is qualifying for Boston, which is certainly within the realm of possibility but far from guaranteed. And even with that, I'm very much of the if-it-happens-great-if-not-let's-eat-pancakes kind of mindset.

For me, this second marathon feels much more like one piece in the giant puzzle that is developing some level of skill around marathoning. It took me way more than two 5Ks or 10Ks or half marathons to feel like I had a good handle on how to run those distances well strategy-wise, so it's kind of unreasonable to expect I'd be running a really good, "best case" marathon on my second attempt. Mostly I just want to finish and go, "Hey, that felt better than last time!"

So I parked my car by Kezar Stadium & set out to loop the Park. One thing I knew I did want to practice was really using the downhills as much as possible, something I think helped me a lot in Healdsburg. You know that lesson about not trying to stick religiously to your goal pace at every moment? That is particularly important in hilly races. In the past, on downhills, I've sometimes seen really low numbers & gotten freaked out & tried to slow down, but in the past year or so I've really embraced the art of "controlled falling" -- basically letting myself slide down a hill at whatever pace gravity dictates & only using my legs to keep from eating pavement. This does take a) some skill / practice and b) serious core / quad strength, but if you can manage it, it's a GREAT way to compensate some for the time you lose on the uphills. On those downhills going west through the Park, I kept reminding myself that while averaging 7:30/mile for 26 miles is out of my reach for now, it was just fine to "fall" down a hill at that pace.

Reward beer. This stuff is amazing.
I've been pretty laissez-fare about pace in my previous long runs, so for this one, I decided to push it just a little. I let myself "fall" down the downhills in the 7:30-7:45 range, with my goal on the long uphill stretches to just stay below 9:00. Surprisingly, I found my legs really wanting to go faster than that, and legitimately able to do it without feeling like I was expending much effort. Also, the uphill stretch on the second loop felt even better than the first (?!?) and I kept looking at my watch & seeing low eights when I really felt like I shouldn't be.

Since I'm not a complete marathon rookie anymore, I did rein things in some. Pushing the pace some & experimenting with theoretical best-case race pace? Fine. Basically racing 20 miles three weeks before a marathon? Not so great.

I got back to my car with about 18.6 miles down & decided on a whim to go to 21, in order to make it a nice round 40 for the week. I did the last 2.4 on the track, and since it's just so easy to go fast there, I let my body do what it wanted & cruise them at an 8:00 pace.

Now for the really amazing part. Friends, at no point did any of that run feel hard. Yes, it was a fast pace for me for a long run, but it felt completely comfortable. I never felt desperate for it to be over. No aches / pains / cramps / etc. Just cruising along for two hours and fifty-three minutes, until I was done.

Grand Total: 40 miles

* 33.4 easy
* 2 speed / intervals
* 4.6 tempo

Monday: 5 easy (sort of). This was the day I ran from home to the train, then from the train to work because I'd left my car there the previous Friday. I started a post about that last week & never finished it. :/

Tuesday: 2 wu + 2[3 x (300m @ 7:05 + 100m jog) + 400 jog] + 2 cd. Order of operations track workout. Which I managed to decipher because I have hella math skillz. This felt harder than it really should have, but you can only expect to feel so fresh after 11 weeks of marathon training.

Wednesday: Karate + strength.

Thursday: 2 wu + 4 x (1 mile @ 7:20 + 1:00 jog) + 1.4 cd. I can now add to my list of "Things I Cannot Recommend" running mile repeats on the sidewalk in the dark. It's just really, really, REALLY no bueno. I was afraid that if I drove to the track at dinner time, though, I might never find parking in my neighborhood ever again. So that was that. Again, these felt suspiciously hard, but week 11 & all that.

Friday: 4 easy. Baby shin splints & feet. They were both acting up & feeling sore & achey.

Saturday: 6 easy. My lower legs & feet were still feelign complain-ey so I was already 50/50 on this run when I got up. When we got back from the Stanford game around seven I was wiped out & decided another rest day was not the worst thing in the world. (On a somewhat related note: GO CARD!!!)

Sunday: 21 long.

Part of me still feels a little sketchy about the fact that I've run so little mileage this cycle (ie, this is only my second week that starts with a 4), but in spite of that, things seem to be falling into place fitness-wise, which is the whole point, right? The only thing left is to make sure I rest & taper well, and if I've mastered any part of this by now, it's definitely sitting around not running. :)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Apparently I Have Not Gushed About the Track in a Few Weeks

So y'know. I'm due.

Seriously. I could do track workouts every day of the week if it made any kind of sense as far as distance running goes. For mysterious reasons I can only guess at, it is also WAY easier on my body than the same number of miles on concrete at an "easy" pace. Go figure.

Kezar Stadium can get a little nutso this time of year if you're there too late in the evening. When I worked from home it was no problem for me to go during the day when there at most four or five other people there, but these days the best I can do is going straight from work, which usually puts me on the track at about 5:30.


On a normal day I can whip out a 6-7 mile session in about an hour & be home by 7:00. This past Tuesday I was stalling, though, because emotionally speaking I felt certain that the less time I spent watching election returns & biting my fingernails, the better off all of us would be. I was probably actually out there until a little past seven, and by the time I left I swear there must have been fifty people out there. Or maybe a hundred. Hell, I don't know; I'm kind of like a bird in that after a certain point it's just, y'know, a lot.

I tried to take a photograph to document the insanity, but it turns out that dark doesn't photograph that well at night.

Seriously. It was like a million billion people.

There are like nine running groups that work out there on Tuesday nights, from a kids' track & field group to the SF Road Runners Club to a group of speedy, sinewy old dudes in short shorts to the nigh immortal Impalas. A few are always there when I arrive, and the rest usually seem to trickle in around six. At that point things are still pretty manageable, though I occasionally have to get creative about which lanes I'm in at different points on the track. By seven, doing my easy cool down laps kind of felt like being on the freeway with people who don't know how to drive.

But still! Running at the track is AWESOME and you should totally try it some time if you haven't. The surface is a nice break from the impact of pavement, there are no lights / dogs / pedestrians (besides other runners) to deal with, and you can go fast without worrying about tripping on or running into something.

I understand that you may still have some questions / reservations about track running. I will now put them to rest.

Isn't the track for speedy people? I don't think I'm fast enough to run on the track.

The track is indeed a great place to run fast without worrying about footing or unpredictable pedestrians. BUT, there are also plenty of people who go to the track to walk or just do some easy jogging. Heck, some people don't even run! They just do lazy crunches and get yelled at by their trainer on the infield. Not that it matters, but is HIGHLY unlikely that you will be the slowest person out there.

Aren't there a bunch of secret customs and rituals about track running? I am afraid I will make some kind of horrible track faux pas & someone will yell at me / laugh me off the track.

Probably not as many as you think. If it's fairly empty, you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as you look out for other runners. But here are a few general guidelines:

  • It's traditional to run counter-clockwise, but if it's not too crowded & you take care to make sure you're not barreling straight at another runner, running clockwise is totally acceptable (and can help prevent overuse injuries on the inside leg, according to some). If it's crowded, it's simplest & safest to stick to counter-clockwise.
  • Track lanes are like freeway lanes -- if you want to go fast, stick to the inside lanes, and if you want to take it easy or walk, stick to the outside lanes. This helps make sure that no one gets run over or has to suddenly dart into other lanes to avoid a collision.
  • As with a busy street, it's important to pay attention & be aware of other bodies around you. If you need to cross the track, don't run out in front of people, even if you think you can beat them; wait until you have plenty of time & space. Look around you before you jump into another lane, and avoid sudden stops. If you need to stop for some reason, step off the track to give others space.
  • On a similar note, keep the track itself clear for walking and running. Keep standing / chatting / stretching on the grass or sidelines.

See? Simple! (Also, it's worth noting that there are definitely fast & experienced runners who are still somehow incapable of doing these things sometimes, and no one's yelling at them about it.)

Even doing speed work, I am not exactly cheetah-like. Won't all the Impalas and sinewy dudes laugh and make fun of me?

No, because they are too busy doing their own thing. No one at the track gives two shits how fast or slow anyone else is going, as long they're paying attention to others around them & not doing anything dangerous.

Isn't it boring to run on the track? Don't you get sick of going in circles?

I would imagine that running on a track is a little like running on a treadmill in some respects. Yes, making loop after loop at the same pace probably gets kind of mind-numbing after a certain point. (Though this baddass makes it look easy!) Most of what I do at the track is interval work, which breaks it up in such a way that it never gets boring, and actually seems to go by pretty quickly.

So if I have a point in here somewhere, the point is COME TO THE TRACK WITH ME!! RUN HARD WITH ME!! If you are hesitant about the track and/or speed work, I will make you love it (or at least not hate it). Word.

Track face. Or something. I guess what I'm saying here is that no one rocks 300 repeats the way I rock 300 repeats. Or sweaty eyeliner.