Thursday, August 29, 2013

Changing Of The Guard

So a few weeks back my Garmin started not holding a charge super-well. This has happened in the past & I've blamed it on bad design--there are at least four points of failure in the charging setup--but through trial & error I've learned to be super diligent about double-checking everything & making sure it displays the "charging in progress" message before I walk off and leave it. Lately, though, I've still been picking it up in the afternoons & getting a "low battery" message after less than half an hour. And more recently, within a few minutes of taking it off the charger.

I'm not even kidding; this was after two days of charging.

(And this in addition to those days when it just won't turn on, period. For those of you dealing with the same problem, let me lay this all out Google-search style: "Garmin 305 won't turn on" --> Hold down 'lap' & 'mode' together for 6-8 seconds, then turn on as usual. This has solved the problem every single time I knew for a fact that the unit wasn't dead from lack of charging. Don't ask me why it works. I don't know. Voodoo, probably.)

It's also been taking longer and longer to acquire satellites. It hasn't acquired them in under ten minutes any time in the last month, & in the last two weeks it's refused to acquire them at all.

I say all this to justify the fact that I've been toying with the idea of getting a new Garmin for a while now. I've had this one for nearly four years now, and since I've known plenty of folks who haven't gotten to two years with a single unit, I didn't feel too badly about it. (Plus, I got it on a pretty decent sale to begin with.)

Still. The two main candidates were these guys:

And no matter how dysfunctional the current situation, that is still a metric shitte-tonne of dollars either way you go.

But then I heard from Layla that REI had the 310XT on sale through Labor Day. And when I checked that sweet sale out, I realized I really couldn't afford *NOT* to grab a 310 at that price.

e voilĂ !

You can tell it's mine because that is obviously my backyard picnic table. Obviously.

How much of the win?

*ALL* of the win.


Monday, August 26, 2013

I. Am. BACK.

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but my boyfriend is a rock star:

Actually, that's inaccurate. Really, he is a funk/soul star, since his band plays funk & soul music & not rock music. For the most part they've spent the last 15 years or so playing bars, weddings, & smaller local music venues, but this past Saturday they had the chance to play one of the bigger name clubs in the city, Bimbo's 365 Club in North Beach. They opened for another band Don used to play in, a 14-piece Michael Jackson tribute band that has skyrocketed to national recognition in the last few years. (Don had to quit because they got too busy.) Both shows were fantastic & it was so much fun to see Don's band on stage at Bimbo's.

I even got a haircut to mark the occasion:



Getting my hair cut is not something that happens very often so it is kind of a big deal.

(I may or may not have also been feeling a little too in touch with my inner Shetland pony.)


On Saturday I'd planned to run 4 easy miles, but we had errands to run & a bunch of stuff to do before I headed off to get my hair cut & Don headed off to set up for the gig, so in the end it didn't happen. In retrospect, though, that was probably for the best -- it meant I was fresh and rested for Sunday, and that I didn't increase my mileage too much over last week.

On Sunday, my original plan had been to just try another five miler like the previous Sunday & see how that felt, but since I didn't run on Saturday and was feeling pretty good, I decided, "Screw it. We're going to six."

Six is significant for a couple of reasons. Most obviously, it would be my longest post-M2B run to date. But the other thing about six miles is that it's always been my standard day-in, day-out, just-get-the-miles-in distance. There is a perfect little loop that runs from my house to Golden Gate Park & back that I'm pretty sure I could navigate blindfolded and backwards, and if whatever else I'm supposed to be doing falls through, odds are good I'm out on that loop. Six miles, to me, feels long enough to count as a "real" run, but short enough that it doesn't require extra time or planning or actually having to think.

Attempting it made me a bit nervous because 1) I'm still having trouble running at an "easy" pace, and on some days even four miles at definitely-faster-than-easy-Run-With-The-ButtTM pace still still feels really hard, 2) 2/2.5/3 miles is a long walk home if I got that far & suddenly my hip started to hurt, and 3) I really, really, *really* didn't want to try for six and fail.

I compromised a little by running my first mile maybe half with the butt -- I tried to focus mostly on leaning forward at the hips while keeping my shoulders back, chest up, and elbows in, still clenching my abs, glutes, & inner hamstrings, and to think about getting my calves maybe 75% of the way to parallel with the ground instead of all the way. (I have found another mental trick for this -- think about showing the soles of your shoes to someone behind you.) This let me run at a more reasonable pace (maybe 8:30 or so) and still protect my hip flexors. (BTW, that is one nice thing about the tiny tiny twinge of pain that still remains -- I get really good feedback from those muscles about how good my form is at any given moment.) After a couple of miles I warmed up and settled into full Run-With-The-ButtTM mode, and although my pace did start to drop, I found that it wasn't exhausting me the way it has been. I think they call that, like, training or something.

I won't tell you that I wasn't tired when I hit the turnaround, that I didn't take full advantage of stop lights and water fountains, or that it didn't take significant effort towards the end to keep my glutes & hamstrings fully engaged. But I will tell you that I finished six miles at 8:08 pace, that my hip felt great, and for the first time since being taken to the airport in a wheelchair after M2B on Memorial Day Eve, I finally feel like I can honestly say:

Look out, baby.

The bitch is back.

* * *

Grand Total: 17.4 miles

    * 15 easy
    * 2.4 tempo


Lunch time yoga + p.m. karate / strength work


3 easy. I was meeting a friend from out of town for dinner, so this was all I really had time for. (Also, I forgot to take my inhaler before I left & ended up having terrible asthma for the last two miles, which majorly sucked ass.) On the other hand, dinner at The Abbot's Cellar, which is something every Bay Area food / beer nerd should experience at least once.

via Eater SF

Yes, they need that many / different kinds of beer glasses. via SF Weekly.

The beer list slides out of the table. OUT OF THE TABLE!!! via


Strength work only. I had an all-day meeting & was meeting another out-of-town friend for dinner in the South Bay, so that's how my day was spent. (In other Bay Area food news: Curry Up Now. Go there. You need to.)


a.m. strength work + p.m. 4 easy. This was my morning with Coach Nate & after some plyometric push-ups & Oly lifting work, he had us running 200m sprints while clasping barbells to our chests (in between bouts of push-ups & other barbell stuff). It was kind of amazing core work. On the other hand, I was not sprinting for very long.

As for the 4 easy, I absolutely could not stomach the thought of looking at my same old route again so I tried a different route, which was meh. Also being unable to run at a casual pace with good form is getting really old (not to mention exhausting).


4.36(ish?) tempo. The short story of this run is 1) I was sore & tired & didn't feel like running but forced myself to anyway; 2) Garmin hijinks ensued; and 3) Garmin is kind of irrelevant any time you attempt intervals shorter than a mile in an urban setting. In the end, I'm pretty sure I did something like 1 easy + 4 x (.5 mile @ ~7:00-7:15ish? / 1:00 jog) + 1 easy. Oddly, once I get going, I find fast interval runs MUCH, much more bearable than short, steady, "easy" runs. I still prefer to do them at the track, though.


Rest / cut hair / moon at rock star boyfriend


See above.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Quick Hits for the End of the Week

Look, sometimes I can make things fly together coherently, and sometimes.....Sometimes it's like today.

  • On Thursday morning I had a strength session with Coach Nate. Actually this is a strength class for triathletes, but since the running-specific sessions are Monday / Wednesday evenings (karate nights), this has been the next best thing, and completely worth it in every way. My favorite thing about it is the emphasis on Olympic lifting, in which I and my abs / glutes / hammies are firm believers when it comes to core stability (& therefore injury prevention). After some of that plus some mobilization work & plyometric push-ups, he had us do a circuit consisting of 1) plyo push-ups 2) some other barbell stuff 3) sprinting 200m's with a barbell clasped to our chest (though to be honest, after about 1.5 of these I was not really sprinting anymore). This was 1) a great core workout & 2) an interesting experience in general.

  • Gaaaaawwwwddddsssss how I did not want to run when I got home Thursday afternoon. Not at all. Not one tiny bit. I don't usually feel this way, but the fact that there are no easy runs for me right now has really begun to wear on my psyche. I got myself out the door by saying, "Well, just put some running clothes on, see how you feel, & if you run half a mile & turn around & come home then the day was not a complete waste." So I did, going in a different direction than usual, and actually got myself through the four "easy" miles I'd planned on without dying or vomiting. Hallelujah.

  • I don't know what, but I clearly did something Thursday that *destroyed* my inner hamstrings (did you know you actually have 3 hamstrings in each leg???? True story). Like, sitting down and standing back up was distinctly unpleasant. Add to this the general unpleasantness of running lately. Add to THAT the fact that today was supposed to be a tempo run:


    God, I was so disheartened. I was so, so close to being like, "Screw it, I can't do this today. I am rehabbing, I am tired, and I am hella sore. I can have a rest day." And then I remembered my mantra from a few months back: Prove you can't. It's fine of you're too tired or too sore or whatever, but you don't just get to say that. You have to at least try. So I tried. And lo & behold, running happened.

    I can't tell you how speedy it was and god knows it was very, very far from a proper tempo run in that a) I was having Garmin drama & thus have limited information about my distance / pace and b) I ran in my neighborhood (because driving to the track on Friday evening means coming back to said neighborhood at a time when finding a reasonable parking spot can take half an hour) & therefore did a lot of slowing / walking / stopping due to lights, pedestrians, blind corners, etc. But really, I'm just happy to have gotten some running done, including some speedier stretches, &, oh yeah, at 4.36(ish) miles, had my 2nd longest run since #apocolypseM2B. In my book, right now, that is called #winning.

  • Here is another thing called #winning:

    'Nuff said.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

#winning at Doing Stuff, Running

One of my greatest pleasures in life is crossing things off my to-do list. Particularly things that have been on there for WAY too long. This week I sort of went on a to-do list binge, knocking out random tasks like it's my job. (I suppose it *is* kind of my job as a functioning human...)

1) Medals. In general I don't get all that excited about race medals & mine have spent most of their lives on a hook in the back of my closet & I have never felt compelled to do much else with them. On the other hand, I've placed in a few races where I've gotten things other than medals that I liked and wanted to keep but never really knew what to do with, and when I don't know what to do with something, it usually ends up cluttering up my desk, which makes me crazy. I can't stand clutter.

Then a few months back I ran across a men's tie rack that had both a shelf as well as a bunch of pegs, and it occurred to me that that would be a great way to organize my race schwag. The OCD part of me found the idea of gathering all of one type of thing together in one place in a well-organized manner *extremely* appealing, & after many many months on the to-do list, last week I finally found a rack like the one I'd seen originally and ordered it, got it Friday afternoon, and voilĂ :

Hanging every medal I have seemed a bit excessive, so I decided to only hang medals I've actually won and my three full marathon finisher medals, which are all ones I can honestly say I feel like I worked hard to earn & don't feel weird about displaying.

2) Sho-dan certificate. Ever since I got it (over four months ago), my black belt certificate has been sitting on top of a bookshelf in my room. I've been meaning to frame it, but it's kind of an odd size and shape, which means it's not the kind of thing you can just eyeball a frame for. Plus, getting a frame means, like, going to a place where they sell, like, frames & stuff. Don't ask me why this is hard.

In any case, on Friday, after hanging the medals, this got done too:

3) Shoe recycling. OMG I HAVE BEEN SO SICK OF LOOKING AT THIS PILE OF OLD SHOES. Again, they've been sitting in the corner taking up space for MONTHS. On Saturday, off to the Sports Basement recycling bin they went:

4) Thrift shop. I try to purge my closet of stuff I don't like or don't wear anymore every April or May. It turns out I was kind of preoccupied this last April/May, so this didn't actually happen until this past week. Off to the Buffalo Exchange went two bags of clothes!

I can't tell you how good it feels to look into my closet / dresser and know that I will *actually* wear everything in it. (Again, if I have a nemesis in life, it's clutter.)

5) Blood tests. I've been putting this off. I always put this off. I took Thursday morning off to see my hip doctor, though, & just decided I might as well get it done while I had the time & was close to the lab. The only downside was that this was mid-morning and I hadn't had anything to eat or drink for maybe twelve hours, so my blood was not incredibly cooperative at first. After a pint of water and a few more sticks, things finally got moving, and I spent the rest of the morning rocking the Gauze Cuffs of Glory on both sides, which was super glamorous. Thankfully I have *the* world's best phlebotomists, who have never once left a mark or sore spot.

No picture. You're welcome.

* * *

In other news, #doubledigitweeks continue.

Grand Total: 16 miles

    * 13 easy
    * 3 tempo


Lunch time yoga + p.m. karate.


4 easy. Track workout scheduled, but I felt straight-up terrible on Tuesday & had also just gotten the stink eye from my sports doc re: speed work, so I didn't feel too bad about just running some easy miles (which sucked, for the record).


Wednesday was an epic fail. My goal was 1) swim in the a.m., 2) lunch time yoga, & 3) karate, but I ended up feeling terrible from the time I woke up, opting for an extra hour of sleep, getting pulled into a lunch time meeting & missing yoga, & then continuing to feel so awful that I left work early & went straight to bed. #fail (but probably a necessary one)


a.m. strength session (mostly continuing to work on my Olympic lifting) + p.m. 4 easy.


3 tempo / 1 cool down. Schedule called for 1.5 warm up, 2 @ marathon pace, 3:00 jog, 1 @ half marathon pace, & 1.5 cool down, but since I didn't want to go over four & my "easy" pace these days has been right around marathon pace anyway, I decided to just start running & maybe skip the warm up mile. Ultimately I ended up with 7:55 / 7:52 / 1:00 walk / 7:15 / 8:14. A little faster than intended but still much better than last Friday's.


Strength work only. Plan called for 5 easy, but I was already at 11 miles for the week & planning on trying for five on Sunday, which would already mean a nearly 20% increase in mileage over the previous week. Also my hip was feeling sore, so I did a bunch of pull-ups, push-ups, crunches, planks, & clam shells & called it good.


5 easy. In keeping with the Sunday "long" run tradition, I set a new post-M2B distance record & managed to keep my hamstrings & glutes engaged the whole time. For the most part my hip felt good, though as my posterior muscles started to tire I could hear it snarling, "Don't you *DARE* wimp out." (As we learned last week, firing the glutes & hamstrings properly protects the hip flexors from over-recruitment.) I finished this run feeling pretty good but also like I'd pushed the endurance of my posterior chain about as far as it can really handle right now, so I'm glad I didn't try to go any farther. I also tried to work on getting more forward lean on this run, which is easy during speed / tempo work but much harder when I'm just trying to run at an easy, casual pace. When I get it right, though, it makes the glute / hamstring engagement OMG sooooo much easier.

So almost, like, a real week of running, eh? :)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Marathon Stalking

Don't worry -- I promise I'm not about to do anything stupid. How far am I from being able to run a marathon with any reasonable amount of speed? Like, soooooo far.

Which is totally fine right now. I do enjoy the occasional marathon, but I doubt I'll ever really think of myself as a marathoner in the sense of that being the main distance I'm focused on. My true love has always been that middle 10K-to-half distance because a) I really enjoy that "comfortably hard" pace, b) it's where I feel like I have the most skill / genetic predisposition, and c) I can race those distances flat-out fairly often without taking too much of a physical or psychological hit.

Don't get me wrong, marathon training has its draws; there's something a bit sacred and ritualistic about it, and also something oddly satisfying about the amount of sustained focus that a full-on papa-bear marathon cycle demands. But like I've said before, marathon training is itself a marathon, and inevitably 8-10 weeks in the whole thing starts to feel like a bit of a slog. It's also tough to really "race"-race anything shorter during that time because of the mileage you lose to taper and recovery. By the time I ran Mountains 2 Beach at the end of May, I had been marathon training for basically nine months straight, so as I'm recovering and getting close to actually being able to train again, I'm feeling the urge to spend a few months, y'know, not marathon training and getting back to the type of workouts and races that I enjoy the most.

I can't say I'm not tempted to jump back in. CIM registration is drawing to a close, and as always, I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who will be running. Aside from the fact that it's such a hands-down awesome, well-run, runner-centered race, this is my favorite thing about CIM -- it ends up feeling like one big end-of-the-year runner bash. "To running! To marathoning! To pre-race pizza! To post-race pancakes!"

CIM 2012 - pre-race pizza at Pizza Rock

CIM 2011 - World's Best Spectators

CIM 2012 - gearing up for the monsoon

CIM 2011 - post-race pancakes

So I will admit that it has been really, *REALLY* hard for me to keep my finger off that registration button. (In fact....the more I look at old pictures, the more I'm tempted.) But in addition to the fact that I don't think it's a great idea physically for me to start marathon training any time soon, I also know that although I like the idea of running CIM, the training is just not what I want to do right now.

BUT. By the start of 2014, odds are good I'll be craving eighteen- and twenty-milers and 1200m intervals again rather than tempo runs and snappy little 400m's, so I'm scoping out candidates. The main limiting factors are 1) I'll likely be in New Orleans the weekend of 4/12 - 4/13, 2) we'll be in England / Italy from 4/20 - 5/9, and 3) I refuse to run anything organized by Competitor Group (which is is a whole other blog post that I will maybe get around to sometime).

Options so far:

Napa Valley Marathon (Calistoga, CA) -- March 2.

  • Pros: Close to home, & I know enough people who have run it to know all the good & bad things about the course & that it is not utterly horrible.
  • Cons: I'd prefer something a little later in March, or early April. It also has a reputation for terrible weather (ie, pouring rain, super hot, etc.), and kind of strikes me as a froo-froo rich people / ladies-who-lunch / overly precious kind of race. And also not cheap ($125 by 9/30 & up from there).

LA Marathon (Los Angeles, CA) -- March 9.

  • Pros: Mostly a known quantity in that it's a big enough race that if it was terrible, I would have heard about it. Also looks like a pretty decent course.
  • Cons: Kind of on the early side, air travel / lodging required, kind of a big race, etc.

River City Marathon (Folsom, CA) -- March 9.

  • Pros: Reasonably close to home (though I'd still have to find somewhere to stay), small event, flat course, reasonably priced ($95).
  • Cons: Kind of on the early side, & a totally unknown quantity in terms of organization, logistics, etc.

Oakland Marathon (Oakland, CA) -- March 23.

  • Pros: Close to home, familiar course, well-run event, small field, reasonably priced ($95 by 11/1).
  • Cons: This is one of my favorite local half marathons, so I'd be missing out on that. Also it's still a *little* earlier than I'd really like. And....I'm not absolutely bonkers about the course. The awesome crowd support & variation in scenery is sort of off set by the twisty-turny-kinda-hilly nature of the course.

Modesto Marathon (Modesto, CA) -- March 23.

  • Pros: Sorta close to home (would still need lodging), flat fast course, decently well-run from what I've heard, and CHEAP ($80 September early-bird special).
  • Cons: Like Oakland it's a touch earlier in the year than I'd really like, but that is where the similarities end -- Oakland and Modesto could not possibly be more different. Where as the Oakland course is windy & somewhat hilly & urban & packed with spectators, the Modesto course would be utterly flat & exposed, with many long straight stretches, & very few spectators. This *could* make it awesome if all you care about is a fast time, but if it's sunny, hot, windy, rainy, etc., it could also really suck.

Irving Marathon (Irving, TX) -- April 5.

  • Pros: My family is close to Dallas, so I'd get to visit them and would also have a place to stay. Also the course looks good, and the date is a little more in the range of what I'm looking for.
  • Cons: Plane tickets from SF to Texas are expensive. Also I have never run a distance race in Texas, and I have no idea how the different climate, altitude, allergens, etc. would affect me.

Big D Texas Marathon (Dallas, TX) -- April 6.

  • Pros: Same as above. (Irving is basically Dallas, so I have to say I'm kind of surprised there are full marathons there on back-to-back days. Seems weird.) Also, CHEAP ($75 until 11/1).
  • Cons: Same as above. Also, they refer to Dallas as "Big D," based on which I can only assume that whoever is running this race is not from Texas, because no Texan would ever refer to Dallas that way. (Kind of like no one from San Francisco would ever call it "Frisco." *Shudder*)

I think that's kind of it. Unfortunately our vacation dates knock out a bunch of races in late April / May that I'd otherwise be really excited about (SLO, Flying Pig, Avenue of the Giants, Surfer's Path, M2B) but such is the way of traveling with reward miles. (It took us two hours on the phone with Alaska to find workable dates. I shit you not.)

Any other March / April marathons I should consider?

Do you have tips to share with me about any of these races?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Stop the Presses, It's a Double-Digit Week!!

So I've finally run enough in one week that I feel like it's worth blogging about it, which is kind of a big deal when you consider that two and a half months ago I could barely walk. I have to remind myself of that every time I start to feel depressed about what I still can't do.

The hardest thing about running these days is how screwed up my effort levels are as I'm working on all the posterior chain stuff. Honestly, I think if I just went back to running the way I was before the the marathon, I'm pretty sure I could run as far as I wanted at a more or less respectable pace. (I'd probably also end up with another hip flexor injury.) But since I'm committed to re-learning to Run With The ButtTM, everything is hard. There are no easy runs. I sometimes have to stop every mile, not because of aerobic endurance but because of muscular endurance in my hamstrings and glutes.

As it happens, there are also no slow runs. When I really do a good job of working the posterior chain (not a euphemism), I can't actually run much slower than ~8:10 / mile (basically marathon pace) unless I'm going uphill. Which is kind of cool, but it's also frustrating that those muscles aren't yet strong enough to keep it up without lots of breaks.

I have finally figured out at a kinesthetic level how all the hamstring/glute stuff fits together with what my hip flexor is doing. The more I work on my running form and do strength work that is reinforcing the right neuromuscular firing patterns, the more I find myself consciously aware of what my hamstrings & glutes are doing while I'm running. And I've noticed that when those muscles are flexing and firing and engaging at the right times, they are protecting my hip flexor (ie, keeping it from engaging inappropriately), and when they're not, the hip flexor has to absorb more force & do more stabilizing, which makes it sore.

The response of every medical / running / movement professional on my case right now:

Look it's a .gif! Because otherwise you might not know it's a running blog.

"YES AND/OR DUH. This is what we've been trying to tell you for weeks. Welcome to the party, finally."

* * *

Grand Total: 13.5 miles

    * 10.75 easy
    * 2 tempo
    * 0.75 speed

Monday Aug 5:

Karate + strength work.

Tuesday Aug 6:

2.5 speed. On the track! Not slow! Also some strength work.

Wednesday Aug 7:

Yoga only. I did go to karate, but this past Wednesday was a testing night instead of a regular class, and now that I'm a black belt, instead of a fairly reasonable workout on those nights I get to sit on the panel. Which, don't get me wrong, is actually SUPER fascinating & interesting, but mostly involves sitting on a cushion at the front of the dojo & asking deep questions with #seriousface instead of actually sweating.


Thursday Aug 8:

An hour of strength work in the a.m. (the afore-mentioned lifting / sprints, plus some circuit work) + 3 miles easy in the p.m. My plan said four, but when my hip started to feel achey 1.5 miles in, I decided to be safe & turn around.

Friday Aug 9:

4 tempo. My first *real* tempo run since M2BM, so kind of a big deal! The plan called for 1 mile warm-up, 3 mile repeats at 7:25 with 1:00 jog recoveries, & 1 mile cool-down, which I modified to 1 mile warm-up, 2 mile repeats with a bit of walking in between, & 1 mile cool down.

Remember how I said my effort levels are kind of screwed up? Well, my first tempo mile was 7:22, which was pretty close to what it should be. The second one was 6:59, which is frankly *absurd*. Yes, it was slightly downhill, but still. I will be happy once I have my sense of pace / effort back again.

Saturday Aug 10:

Nothing, except eat oysters in Tamales Bay at a friend's birthday party & then go see live music. :)

Sunday Aug 11:

4 miles easy. Again...."easy" is very much a relative term. Since Sunday is traditionally my long run day, I thought I might just see how far my hip was up for. If I was lucky, I thought I get through maybe five, but the hip started getting achey around three so I called it good at four.

* * *

I went to see the running doc again today, and he was pleased to see that I basically don't have pain anymore besides a bit of soreness if I push it too far and that I was running up to four miles. "That's actually a little more than I thought you'd be doing by now," he said. "I'd say you're right on track." I agreed, but also bemoaned the fact that things are still progressing sooooo sloooooowly and it's been nearly 2.5 months since I've been able to run properly.

Doc: "So yeah. Let's maybe not forget that a) you basically tore a major muscle almost in half, and b) the last time you were here you could barely run half a mile."

Which, yeah. True.

I was glad to hear that he approved of my race plans (10K in October, half in November, marathon maybe next spring if all goes well); for the most part he seemed pretty happy with the work I've been doing (continuing PT, Running With The ButtTM, spinning, swimming, strength work) & encouraged me to keep it all up. He was not particularly crazy about the fact that I ran some kinda-sorta-fastish 400s on the track last week, & said that if anything I'm doing is likely to re-aggravate the muscle while it's still healing, it's that.

"Just be careful," he said finally. "I would rather see you work on aerobic / LT fitness until your leg is strong and then work on speed."

I think I probably had a look like he'd just run over my dog.

"I guess some 100s & 200s would probably be okay."

Sooooooo yeah. That's where things stand.

This week, I will hopefully attempt 5 miles at some point. #smallvictories

Friday, August 9, 2013

Residue of the Practice

Yoga teachers get all the best phrases, the ones that strike me as deep and poetic and ring like lovely chimes in my ear. I don't even really get what they mean most of the time, but I still often leave itching to find some way to work them into conversation.

(I have been obsessed with words for most of my life.)

They come back to me at the oddest times. While showering Friday morning, for whatever reason, I was unusually conscious of the tiny aches & pains in my body. Nothing particularly dramatic or severe; just the normal, minor bits of soreness that come from increasing or changing your physical activity. While I finished showering my brain leisurely scanned its way through my body, running down the list of mild discomforts and subsequently attempting to identifying the cause.

The ache in my hamstrings from working so hard to engage them while running, and probably also from the bit of spinning I've doing to supplement that. (I'm now able to finish 6.7 miles in 30 minutes, rather than 6.2 with the same level of effort.) The tightness between my shoulder blades from firing a hundred full-power straight punches in a row, the same spot that never fails to bug me a bit when I return to karate after an absence. The tenderness in my hip flexors and abductors, not from exertion but from the seventy-plus minutes (is it more than that? I don't even know) I've spent this week grinding a lacrosse ball into them. The soreness in my shoulders from set after set of deadlifts, squats, push presses, & cleans with Coach Nate. (Did I mention he had me sprint a 300 between each set? He did.)

Which all sounds like it should have been utterly miserable and depressing. It wasn't, though. Instead, thinking through all that, considering what was sore and the likely reason for it, was weirdly calming. It gave me a sense of contentment and satisfaction with how I spent my time this week and all the different ways that it is supporting the goals I have for the fall.

(Is it too ambitious to say I'd like to PR at Brazen 510 10K? Because I really would.)

Maybe this is what she's talking about, I wondered to myself, thinking of how my yoga teacher ends every class with the same phrase. Maybe this is what she means by the residue of the practice. The feeling that stays in your body, and maybe a bit in your mind, as a little memento of all the cool things you've been doing with it lately that are gradually making it stronger.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

At What Alter Do You Sacrifice?

O hey there Kezar Track! Here's a view I haven't seen in a while!

One of the most interesting group discussion activities I've participated in was called "At What Alter Do You Sacrifice?" My coworkers and I were divided into groups of four and asked to share & explain our answers to that question.

You can learn a LOT about someone that way. Some people said they sacrificed at the alter of Family or Children, because they felt like they would do or give up just about anything for their families or children if they had to, without a second thought. Some people said they sacrificed at the alter of Work, because they believed that the work we did (teaching) was some of the most important work there was to be done in terms of the future of society. Not surprisingly, many people interpreted this question as, "What is your top priority? What do you sacrifice the most for?"

I interpreted it a little differently. While I definitely try to put a fence around my running & cross training keep that time dedicated and set apart as much as possible, I can't honestly say it is my number one priority in life. BUT, I did feel like "The Track" made a fairly compelling answer to the original question.

The sacrifice part is fairly obvious, what with all the pain and agony and suffering and so forth. When I think about alters, though, I don't think about aimless torture. There's always a higher purpose to the sacrifice, something the sacrificer hopes to get in return, but isn't necessarily guaranteed. Part of me kind of likes the image of offering up my workout to the Marathon / Half Marathon / 10K / whatever Gods and crossing my fingers that they find it pleasing. If you make the Gods a kind of shitty, half-assed sacrifice, they are likely to curse you with side stitches and cramps and wall-hitting, while rewarding sweet, unblemished ones with negative splits and PRs.

Alter sacrifices also require faith. It's easy to give something up when you can see exactly how doing so will get you the thing you want. What's hard is making your offering when you just cannot see how in the name of all that is good and holy this is supposed to play out. A sacrifice made with certainty about what you're getting in return isn't an offering; it's a transaction. I've spent many an evening suffering on the track, trying to explain to myself in some way that the rational side of my brain will accept just why we're doing this and exactly what role nights like these play in inching us ever slightly closer to a goal. Very very often I fail and just have to tell it, "Look, it works. I don't totally get why or how and yes I know this is miserable and no I don't really see right now how we're going to get from huffing and puffing our way through 1200's to a [insert goal time][insert race distance], but I promise you it will happen. Have some faith already."

(I also want to point out that this is not the first time in my life I have made the "running is my church" metaphor. I had a whole canon of Saints & everything.)

* * *

Once upon a time (like, four months ago) there was Track Tuesday, and if you glanced through my training plans I think you would probably see I was more consistent about those workouts than any other day of the week. (It's the alliteration, probably. 'Tempo Friday' and 'Long Run Sunday' just don't roll off the tongue quite as nicely.) When I can motivate myself to do nothing else, I can almost always get myself out the door and in the car and headed to Kezar Stadium.

I. Love. The track.

I love how it smells, and being around other runners, and the nice squishy surface, and the complete and utter lack of dogs / cars / bikes / traffic lights / clueless pedestrians / etc. When normal girls have tried explaining to me what they enjoy about a spa day or a nice massage, I'm like, "Ah, I understand. The spa is your track. A good massage is your interval workout."

(Also can I just point out, track workouts are free.)

Maybe this helps you understand the sheer joy this past Tuesday evening of lacing up my flats and hopping in the car.

Auto Lap! I got to use auto lap!!

I mentioned last week that I'm trying to kinda-sorta at least attempt following my actual training plan to the extent that I can, without doing anything stupid. I cut my Friday tempo run short 2.5 miles in because of some achey-ness in my hip (soooo not risking it) & then took the weekend completely off except for some stretching & rolling. By Monday it was feeling good again, so I decided to use my first Track Tuesday since April to try to figure out where my speed was at & set some kind of baseline to work from going forward.

In theory I was supposed to do:

  • 1 mile warm-up
  • 7 drills & 3 strides
  • 2 x (5:00 @ 5K Pace / 3:00 jog)
  • 1 mile cool-down

During my warm-up mile I tried to really focus on glutes & hamstrings. The cool part of this is that it results in a 7:46 warm-up (I seriously cannot run slower than that while still engaging all the posterior stuff the way I'm supposed to). The sucky part is that it doesn't feel like a warm-up. Stalking your watch & desperately willing the tenths of miles to tick off a bit faster is not a good sign during warm-up.

After that, I decided to just do some running at what felt like 5K effort, continuing to Run With The ButtTM, and see what length of intervals felt like they wouldn't kill me reasonable.

I quickly came to two realizations:

1) Effort-o-meter is still hella busted. As much as I would like to believe that 6:05-6:10 is my 5K pace, it is not. Normally I can lock in to 6:40-6:50 pretty easily but I suppose that is a skill one loses with lack of practice.

2) 5 minutes was a bit too ambitious, even after slowing down a bit. I decided that 400s with 200m recoveries were sounding MUCH more appealing. At first I thought I would do 4-5 of these but during the third one I started getting the yellow flag from the hip, and these days the hip is The Decider.

So I do *have* some speed, apparently, but I really need to do some work around finding 5K pace again & seeing how long I can realistically hold it in terms of intervals. I don't want to ever push the mileage past what feels good for my hip, but I think the next time I'm out there I'll try to dial the speed back a little & see if I can do a few 800's at that pace.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Single Step

My goals lately have been simple:

By June 15: Ditch the crutch - Done & done.

By July 1: Run some amount, at some pace, & don't re-injure anything - Check.

By July 15: Running regularly again (1-3 miles at a time) - Done.

My next self-imposed benchmark was August 1, by which time I planned to jump back into my training plan. I figured I would probably still need to cut some runs slightly short & might not be able to hit every pace second-for-second yet (ha!), but I wanted to at least start following the spirit of the plan and attempting every workout (barring yellow-flag pain in the hip flexor, which thankfully, I haven't been having).

So what's on tap for the first week of August?

August 1: 4 miles easy

August 2: 6-7 miles tempo (warm-up, 2 at MP, 1 at HMP, cool down). I'll probably cut the mileage down a bit on this one; how easy the paces are remains to be seen.

August 3: 4 miles easy

August 4: 6-7 mile "long" run. This just looks hilarious to me on the schedule, but if my legs feel alright, I'll probably give it a shot.

August 5: Cross training only

August 6: 3-4 miles speed (warm-up, 5:00 at 5K pace + 3:00 jog, repeat, cool down). Was I really running 10-12 mile track workouts three months ago? Yes; yes I was. Oy.

August 7: Cross training only

Doing the posterior chain stuff is still tough. My fitness is in the hole to begin with, and as critical I know it is to my getting healthy & injury-proof, really working on engaging my glutes & hamstrings takes even more work. Because of that, I'm a little torn on how to proceed training wise. Is it better to do as much as I can with perfect mechanics, knowing that will mean lower mileage for a while, or to try to do my planned mileage & alternate perfect mechanics with less perfect ones a la intervals until I'm better at it? Or maybe I should try 2-3 miles in the morning with perfect mechanics & another 2-3 in the evening? What say you, Internets?

I'm still sorting all that out. Meanwhile I'll probably also try to continue getting in some swimming & cycling, just because it's low-impact & can't hurt cardio-wise.

* * *

In other news, DC continues to entertain me.

DC Sculpture Garden

Jack Rose Whisk(e)y Saloon

Blood & Roses at Jack Rose

Union Market

Last run with Monica (this is my hunting-for-the-picture-button-on-the-back-of-my-phone smile)

Loving DC :)