Wednesday, April 29, 2015

I saw a sports nutritionist and my mind = blown.

I went to see a sports nutritionist! This post is about that. There will probably be at least a few more here & there, because HOLY INFORMATION OVERLOAD, BATMAN.

Now, you maybe thinking, "Angela. Seriously. The basics of decent eating for runners are not complicated. You are a recreational runner who rarely breaks 50 miles a week, and are so far from achieving anything even *remotely* remarkable it can't even be joked about. What even is the point?"

Short answer: I'm curious. I find the workings of bodies interesting, particularly as they relate to endurance training. In the past when I've shelled out a little money to learn from experts, I've always come away having learned something new and interesting that I hadn't known before.

Longer answer: I kind of want to try optimizing everything I possibly can as I train for Santa Rosa, just to see how it works out. In the past I've tried to learn what I can from reliable (SCIENTIFIC) sources and eat mostly pretty well in terms of running, but I've never had an expert look at what/how I eat and compare that to my life/training & give me feedback.

Also, in general I don't worry about my weight/body fat percentage--I almost never weigh myself and feel like I am totally normal & healthy--but I also know that I've drifted a good 15 pounds or so from the weight I raced best at in my younger days. If there are things I can change that aren't too onerous or complicated in order to have a better race in August, I'd like to give it a shot at least once and see what happens. And hey, I figured, worst case, s/he tells me a bunch of stuff I either a) already know or b) am unwilling to do, and then I can finally say, "Check. Now I know I'm pretty much doing everything I'm willing to." So, I made an appointment with the nutritionist at the Sports Medicine Institute in Palo Alto.

I chose SMI because they & their personnel have a solid reputation in the Bay Area endurance scene and work with many Stanford athletes as well as a number of professionals. The nutritionist has a PhD in biochemistry from Stanford and spends most of his time teaching nutrition courses at the School of Medicine & athletic department there, as well as at the medical school at UCSF, and apparently has worked with a number of big-name pros including Ryan Hall and Lauren Fleshman. (The point being not the star power, but the fact that dude is actually trained in real science and has many years of experience working with people in my sport & getting results.)

Before the appointment, he had me fill out a giant questionnaire about my training and eating habits, including information about my favorite foods, foods I don't like, anything I can't or choose not to eat, and what I eat most often and why. I tried to be as honest as possible, but I still felt a little embarrassed that under "most common dinners," I listed "pizza, burritos, Indian, Chinese, & Thai."

(Not even joking that if I had my way, it would be pizza for dinner every night. #iamtwelve)

He really stressed the importance of filling out everything as thoroughly and completely as possible and erring on the side of adding more detail rather than less and not worrying about whether something seemed relevant or not; as soon as our three-hour meeting began, it became obvious as to why. He didn't waste a single second and we still needed every minute to get through a) explaining the science to me, b) assessing my entire situation based on what I'd written, and c) putting together a program based on my activities & goals.

You guys. Oh my god.

I thought I understood about food and training and eating not-too-terribly/pretty okay. I mean sure, I knew there were finer points where my understanding wasn't great, but by & large, I felt like I had the big picture.

Lordy. I was disabused of that notion in the first 20 minutes.

I did not have the big picture. What I had were fragments of the big picture, here & there, not always the most important ones, & no understanding of how to fit them together.

To be honest, I kind of went in assuming that the takeaways would be:

  • You really have to stop (or at least cut down on) eating x/y/z (where I was pretty sure x, y, & z would be pizza, burritos, & {name of Eastern country} food), and while you're at it,
  • You should probably just eat less of everything in general, which is hard & sucks, so good luck with that, also
  • Show some damn restraint, woman.

But BEHOLD, Things For Which Dr. C Ain't Got No Time:

  • Getting people to stop eating foods they love
  • Getting people to eat "healthy" foods they don't like
  • Talk of anything even remotely like "will power" or "restraint"

He said that for years he tried promoting the "Dr. C Grocery List" with all the best & most nutritious foods he liked to see people eating, but apparently that just does not work and getting people to dump their entire way of eating and start over from scratch with things they aren't used to eating is super hard and complicated and time consuming which SURPRISE! basically sets people up for failure. "I can't even do it," he said at one point.

So instead, his approach is to start with what you already eat and like and can do easily and make small changes to fix what is for the vast majority of athletes the real underlying issue, and that is managing blood chemistry.

Yes, what you eat is important. And how much you eat matters. But far and away, the thing holding most athletes back in terms of nutrition is the timing.

For example: Our bodies absorb CHO (carbohydrate molecules) into our muscles & liver (where we store it) at a certain rate. (I hope it goes without saying that I am grossly oversimplifying, but stay with me.) As long as your body is getting CHO at that rate, you're fueling your muscles, replenishing CHO you've used up in exercise, & storing it for use in future exercise. If, however, the CHO is coming in faster than that rate, though, your body can't keep up, and the extra will get stored as fat, regardless of what the food was.

I think he said most people's baseline for sending CHO to muscles/liver is around 1 gram per minute at rest, but when you exercise, that rate increases dramatically (which is why you can have basically pure sugar during & immediately after exercise without worrying about it going to fat or messing with your insulin sensitivity). This is also why, as soon as exercise is done, the CHO you've used must be replaced immediately (ie, within ~10 minutes). At that point your body is still processing carbs & sending them to muscle/liver *really* quickly, so you can have, say, 200 calories of bread or crackers or whatever and nearly every bit of it will go to refueling.

Wait 20 minutes to have that same amount of CHO, or 40 minutes, or an hour, and your body's ability to process CHO will have dropped precipitously (by half every 20 minutes, apparently), and suddenly a quarter or a third or half of that CHO can't be processed quickly enough to get sent to your muscles, and instead will get stored as fat. So now you have a) not replaced all your lost carbs and b) gained fat unnecessarily.

Similar things happen with dinner. The problem, he said, is not that I eat pizza and Indian food and what have you most of the time. The problem is not that it's too many carbs or too much white flour or too much grease or any of that. It's that at that point in the evening my body can only absorb 1 g/minute of CHO into my muscles (which need it), and starches digest so fast that my body suddenly finds itself trying to deal with 4g/minute of CHO (or whatever, I'm making numbers up). So now my muscles are getting 25% of the carbs I eat (not enough) and the rest gets stored as (unneeded) fat.

(Also, whole grains are apparently not the answer to this, as they only slow down digestion compared to non-whole grains by about 10%.)

BUT WAIT! It gets better.

As we all know, muscle burns fat. One way to burn more fat is to gain muscle. Alas, many athletes find themselves working very hard to put on muscle and barely breaking even.

This, too, I learned, is often a result of blood chemistry in the form of unstable blood sugar. Blood sugar too low -> cortisol spikes -> cortisol starts breaking down muscle to fuel brain & keep blood sugar from falling further. So sometimes athletes are like, "Must lose fat & gain muscle! Must work out harder and create calorie deficit by eating less!" But what actually happens is that blood sugar drops, cortisol spikes, and now, in addition to having just broken your muscles down with exercise, you're doubly breaking them down by causing your cortisol to panic & cannibalize them a bit to feed your brain. GOOD TIMES!

In all likelihood, he told me, these are the main reasons why I can run 30-50 miles a week, lift weights/strength train 3x a week (ok, not lately, but in general...), spend 3 hours a week doing martial arts, eat the right number of calories from mostly healthy foods, and still be 15 pounds & several body fat percentage points over my (previous) ideal performance weight. It's apparently a very common issue, and (I'm told) actually not that complicated to fix.

The best part? When he said: "You don't have to give up pizza/burritos/{Eastern country} food."

So yeah! That's the ground work. Next time I'll talk about the changes he recommended & how it's been going. :)

Monday, April 27, 2015

SRM WEEK 3 OF 20: Lights!! + Back to Fast Finishes

On Saturday, we finally put up some light fixtures!

Things involving electricity are, um, exciting when you live in a 115 year old Victorian. First there is the excitement of guessing which of the switches in the fuse box (see? I don't even know if that's the right name for it) turns off what.

Then there's pulling off the old fixture housings & attempting to decode the ancient rat's nest of wire & asbestos that is your electrical system.

That is, in fact, the terminus of the old gas pipe, from back in the days when all lights were gas lights.

Thankfully we didn't die or explode anything, and now we have real, actual light fixtures that are not the bland, boring IKEA ones the house-dresser went with in order to sell it.

I swear I helped. Mostly by passing tools/screws/bulbs/etc. up the ladder.

Next up, I think, is replacing the nasty, cheap old washer & dryer that make the most ungodly squealing noises & leave nasty lint & crap all over our clothes. (Our house was a rental for a long time, & I have a feeling the owners just went with the cheapest functional appliances they could get. On the other hand, the fact that the place needs some work in places & has a bunch of cheap appliances is probably a big part of why we were able to afford it.)


This week was one of those ones where there are no crises or surprises and everything goes more or less according to plan. I got all of my runs in, and most of them were even reasonably not-awful.

This is remarkable because I haven't had a lot of great runs lately. I'm not generally the type of person to get on the internet at the first sign of trouble and bawl into the void; sometimes things just don't feel right for a day or two for whatever reason, and over the years I've learned that most of the time they take care of themselves in a few days.

But these last few weeks, though. MAN. I won't bore you with all the details but even though I haven't been running all that much or that far & only recently started adding in a few super-gentle hill/speed workouts, it kind of seemed like it was just one thing after another. As a result a lot of my runs have felt unbalanced and awkward and uncomfortable and I've even cut them short here & there. I was actively limping after last Sunday's 12 miler and seriously thinking about just taking a bunch of rest days because I really *really* didn't want to get hurt again.

On Friday I got in with the massage therapist to try to get some of this jankiness worked out. I told him about my skiing fall & how my pelvis & hips had felt kind of messed up & moderately painful ever since. He went to work on me & was like, "Wow, you really made a mess of things, didn't you?" He did a bunch of excruciating (as per usual) work on both hip flexors/psoases (sp?) & SI joints & my right adductor/hamstring, then told me to give it a few days & if it didn't feel normal yet to come back for another, because I had definitely effed up the suspension & he was not surprised that running felt like poo.

Thankfully, the difference was pretty clear and immediate. Friday afternoon I was still sore from all the massage work, but I no longer felt like I was running with a peg leg and broken glass in my back, so winning.

On Sunday I ran 14 miles & decided I was recovered enough to try a "fast finish" & see how it felt. It's been a while, so I didn't want to push things too hard; on the other hand, I'm planning on running a half marathon this Saturday at 8:00 pace & kind of wanted to try out a few miles in that ballpark before then. (Jogging along in the 9:30-10:00 range these days, it always seems absurd to me that I'll be able to crank the pace down by 1.5-2 minutes without utterly sucking wind.) I ran the first 9 easy, then ran 3 at a comfortably fast pace, shooting for around 8:00 or slightly faster.

After a couple of minutes I'd settled into a pace that felt about right, so I was kind of surprised to glance at my watch & see the numbers knocking around between 7:20 & 7:40 (basically HM race pace when I'm in good shape for it). My three fast splits ended up being 7:41, 7:42, & 7:33 (the last mile was a gentle downhill), which was entirely unexpected and dumbfounded me a little. I'd been trying to run as fast as possible without feeling uncomfortable & just settle into that sweet "cruising" feeling that is really my favorite speed to run, and during the last couple of months before NVM that had always amounted to the 7:50-8:10 neighborhood. I haven't done any tempo/threshold training yet & only a tiny bit of strides/hill intervals, so I don't know if that's just continued aerobic improvement, evidence that a tiny bit of speed work goes farther than I think, or just entirely random.

Either way, I'll take it! Like I said, I'm planning on running 8:00 miles at Parkway Half on Saturday (the farthest I've tried to go at that pace since last August), and it would be pretty awesome if it ended up feeling a little easier than I'd been expecting.

~*~*~SRM WEEK 3 OF 20~*~*~

Grand Total: 37 miles

    * 21.2 easy
    * ~1.8 hill intervals
    * 14 long
    * 1 strength workout :-/

Monday: Rest. Too much work for karate + kind of not feeling it.

Tuesday: 8 easy. OMG, *such* a relief to have a decent-feeling run for a change!

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate

Thursday: 3.4 warm-up, 9 x .11 hill intervals w/ .11 downhill recovery jogs, 1.6 cool down = 7 total. Ugh. These are still an absolute and total bitch. I meant to write a post about this workout but didn't get around to it. To be honest, though, I don't really have much more to say about it than that.

Friday: a.m. massage therapist / p.m. 8 easy. Sore where he worked on me, but still much improved.

Saturday: Rest.

Sunday: 14 long

Friday, April 24, 2015

Allergies, Atopic Syndrome, & Sports Nutrition

Generally I steer away from squawking about my health on the internet because it's not like we really need MORE of that. This rule kind of goes double re: talking too much about food and what I do and don't eat. But, I make exceptions from time to time for things that feel somewhat relevant to running (at least for me), so here I go DOUBLY breaking my own personal blogging rules.

I've had exercise- and allergy-induced asthma basically my whole life, and when I lived in Texas (where I grew up), I also had really bad dust and plant allergies at certain times of year. (Also to animals, though after a few days around a particular set, I seemed to acclimate & be fine.) All of this got a lot better when I moved to Ohio for college, to the point that after a couple of years, I went from taking ALLLL the asthma/allergy drugs/pills/steroids/inhalers to taking essentially none. Some of it's come back *just* a touch since I've been in California these past 10 years, but for the most part as long as I use my inhaler before I run and take a Zyrtec if I know I'm going to be out in nature or around animals, it's basically been fine.

My body likes to keep things interesting, though, and in 2008, I started having throat/upper GI problems, which ranged from mild heartburn to sometimes being unable to swallow food or even water. I saw a doctor for this, who put me on some medicine which helped a lot, and he was all like, "YYYYeah, you should probably have an upper endoscopy & a biopsy to figure out what's up with that." So we tried, and the anesthesiologist couldn't knock me out, and everyone gave up, and I got really busy & moved on with my life.

A year and a half later, I developed an absolutely hideous rash. On my face. Like, nightmarishly, cringe-inducingly bad. All the skin around my eyes became itchy, then red, then turned scaly and started flaking off. Also during this time I had to go out in public sometimes and be around other people, particularly my job teaching public high school to teenagers which was AWESOME. It was disgusting and humiliating and also quite uncomfortable, and the worst part was not knowing when (if?) it was ever going to end.

After going to the doctor like three times only to have her be like, "HM, THAT'S REALLY WEIRD, IT'LL PROBABLY JUST GO AWAY." "OH IT DIDN'T GO AWAY? HERE HAVE SOME BENEDRYL." "WHAT THE BENEDRYL DIDN'T WORK?? THAT IS SO WEIRD." I finally went to an allergist, who, after one phone conversation was like, "I'm pretty sure I know what's wrong with you. Come in & I'll fix it." Dude was like, "You have asthma, bad allergies, eczema [the scaly skin thing], and from the sound of it, eosinophilic esophagitis [the throat thing]. That there's what we call Atopic Syndrome, which basically means every part of you is allergic to everything between here & eternity."

The doc gave me a giant steroid shot which, I kid you not, was so big that it took nearly a full minute to inject. A few days later, the eczema was completely gone. The next week they did two blood allergy panels (one for plants and one for foods), for which the official results just read, "Sweet holy fucksticks."

No but really, the doctor was like, "This test is not conclusive but it looks like you have allergic antibodies to egg white, wheat, corn, soybean, peanut, hazelnut, cashew, walnut, almond, macadamia nut, cat and dog hair, mites, bermuda and johnson grass, timothy, penicillium notatum, cladosporium herharu, aspergillus, alternaria tenuis, white oak, elm, cottonwood tree, white mulberry, smooth alder, mugwort, and pigweed. So maybe avoid those things?"

But to be honest I kind of blew it off because it said I was allergic to all these foods that I've been eating my whole life without having any reaction, and besides my immediate problem was solved which is obviously the only really important thing in life.

Fast forward to a few months ago when I called to get my throat prescription refilled and the doctor's office was like "YOU HAVEN'T BEEN HERE IN FIVE YEARS, WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?" So I slunk back in, and finally agreed to get another endoscopy/biopsy, which confirmed the eosinophilic esophagitis/Atopic Syndrome. The treatment, typically, is to stop eating eggs, wheat, dairy, soy, nuts/seeds, and seafood. Forever.

(Did I mention I already can't eat cruciferous vegetables because of my thyroid problem? GUESS IT'S STEAK AND FRUIT FROM NOW ON.)

(Oh, wait. We can't shouldn't eat beef because of the drought, so chicken, I guess. Chicken and fruit.)

So yeah. That business is like a real, legit, medical-treatment diet, not something Gwenyth Paltrow made up because paleo-vego-gluten free was too rich.

My reaction, predictably: Eff. That.

And the doctor was like, "No but really. This is a food allergy & it's really bad for you, & if you're not going to do the diet, you really have to get the skin tests & then stop eating whatever it says you're allergic to."

Cue the allergist. I explained my situation and then they did a round of skin testing, which involves drawing a giant grid on your back & then pricking each little square with one of the allergens they're testing you for. (I think they did 40-50 on me.) It was less uncomfortable than I was afraid it would be, and the good news is that it only takes about 15 minutes before you can see the reactions. Sure enough, my back started to itch in several different places, and I kind of resigned myself to being told it was chicken and fruit from here on out.

But, interestingly enough, the only foods I reacted to were the nuts, particularly peanut and hazelnut. I was elated!

The downside: I eat a peanut butter & jelly sandwich every morning when I get to work, and of course, just refilled my stash last week.

Anyone want any peanut butter?

When I was thinking I might have to retool my entire diet, I made an appointment with a sports nutritionist at the Sports Medicine Institute in Palo Alto (the same place where I go for massages). He's apparently worked with a lot of Stanford athletes and other local recreational and professional endurance athletes, so it seems like he's the right kind of guy to talk to. I'm feeling a lot less panicky about nutrition (now that I know I'm not allergic to every food on earth), but to be honest, as I start to really, actually train for Santa Rosa, I kind of do want an expert set of eyes looking at what and how I eat & see if there are things I can tweak a bit for better results. By & large I feel that my eating habits are pretty decent, but they're certainly not perfect, and I feel like I'm not quite up to doing it on my own (even with the help of Matt Fitzgerald).

So, I'm seeing him next Tuesday. It will be interesting to hear his thoughts (especially about what I should start eating when I get to work now that PB&J is out)!

Monday, April 20, 2015

SRM WEEK 2 OF 20: Discount / Books / Some Running Stuff

Here be a slurry of topics, various & sundry.

TOPIC 1: Another race discount.

Remember how I mentioned Windsor Green Half a few months back, & how I really enjoyed it, & would love to run it again some day? Well, the third race in that series, the Healdsburg Half Marathon (this one, not this one -- I know, super confusing, right?) just announced $10 off with promo code HH10, good through May 7 (which makes it $70 instead of $80). I ran my current half marathon PR at this race in 2012, so it probably goes without saying that I'm a big fan.

Best finishing pic ever? Probably.

Like Windsor Green, this race was on the small side but very well-organized with a good course. It has a 7:30am start so odds are good that it won't get too warm (it was cool & overcast the year I ran it). The course is gently rolling, which worked out better for me personally than I think a totally flat course would have (getting to use different muscles & all that). Also after the race my car fob mysteriously stopped working for about half an hour and everyone was super kind & helpful & gave me race schwag to put on so I wouldn't freeze to death (and then absolutely refused to let me pay for it).

The age group awards are bottles of wine (Don: "I think you should run more of those kind.") and if you run all three races (Windsor Green, Water to Wine, and Healdsburg), you get a free custom bottle.

If I weren't running a marathon at the end of August, I would probably actually sign up for this race again because I enjoyed it so much. (Not gonna lie, PRs and A/G awards tend to help with that.)

TOPIC 2: Books.

The 2015 Classics Project presses on. Here's where we're at so far:

January: A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole (1980, 394 pages). 3 stars. Basically, if you enjoyed Don Quixote, you'll probably enjoy this as well. It is a sort of novel known as a picaresque, which means that the "hero" is a kind of self-righteous man-child type who indulges himself in all kinds of dreamy, selfish fantasies without ever learning about himself, taking others into consideration, or really developing as a character at all. The picaro here is thirty-year-old, early 1960s New Orleans resident Ignatius Reilly, who reluctantly tears himself away from his pages and pages of reflective journaling to take a variety of ill-fated jobs in order to to provide for his single mother. It's cute and clever and reasonably entertaining at times, but the picaro stuff does get old after a while, and I have to admit that I can't really see how it stood out enough to get a Pulitzer Prize.

February: The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison (1970, 216 pages). 5 stars. Last year for Black History Month, I read Uncle Tom's Cabin, which I did not expect to love but absolutely did. (Should be required reading for all Americans. Period.) It seemed like a good tradition to keep up so this year I chose The Bluest Eye, which I've wanted to read for a while anyway. It's the story of a sad, timid, eleven-year-old Black girl in 1941 that explores ideas of racial self-loathing & its origins, as well as the broader idea of facing rejection for something you can't control and what happens when instead of pushing back against that rejection, you accept it as legitimate. Short, sad, and beautifully poetic (because, Toni Morrison, who remains one of the most captivating writers I've ever read).

March: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith (1943, 496 pages). 4 stars. I read this one for Women's History Month. Five stars for being high quality, well-written YA fiction that I suspect would be meaningful to younger teens (and possibly even pre-teens?) without veering into melodrama; three stars for being just not really up my alley. (Then again, I am positive I read it about 20 years too late). So call it 4 on average. I feel like it falls into a particular sub-genre of YA whose theme is, "Life is hard, particularly growing up, especially for poor people, but sometimes good things still happen because FAMILY and LOVE," and those types of books have just never really spoken to me much. Also, I'm not sure why but I found myself constantly comparing it to The Bluest Eye and Angela's Ashes, and...well. That's tough company for any book.

April: The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin (1969, 280 pages). 4 stars. April is Women in Science Fiction Month, and everyone was like, "OMG how have you not read this?!?!?" An envoy from a loose federation of humanoid worlds visits a recently discovered humanoid world with the goal of eventually bringing them into the fold. This planet is unique in that its inhabitants spend 24 of every 26 days in an androgynous/asexual state, and then two days in what they call "kemmer," where pheromonal/hormonal interactions with a potential sex partner cause them to become (unpredictably) male or female. LeGuin wrote the book in order to explore what remained basic to human nature when biological sex was no longer a factor. I had kind of a hard time getting into it at first, but it picked up & ultimately was a good story of friendship, political intrigue, and two vastly different peoples trying to understand each other. It was a ground-breaking book for the time in terms of how gender is treated, and I give her a lot of credit for that.

TOPIC 3: Running.

Uggghh, only marginally more than nothing this past week. Do you ever do that thing where you're kind of planning a period of time in two parallel universes? Because that is what I did last week. Part of my brain was thinking through my Week 2 workouts (leg speed on Tuesday, long hills on Thursday, Sunday long run, & one or two other easy runs somewhere in there), while also simultaneously running through the logistics of traveling to/speaking at/traveling home from a conference in Boston. Somehow it didn't occur to me until way too late that those two universes were not super compatible.

~*~*~SRM WEEK 2 OF 20~*~*~

Grand Total: 18.5 miles

    * 4.5 easy
    * 2 leg speed strides
    * 12 long

Monday: Karate

Tuesday: 2 wu / 10 x 0:20 strides / 2.5 cd = 6.5 total.

    This was what McMillan calls a "leg speed" workout -- very short bursts at very high speeds designed to improve the neurological connection between your legs & brain. Technically I was supposed to do 15-20 of them but I did not think that was a great idea so I did 10 & called it good. Also, I learned that 1) at this point in my life I cannot sprint on concrete, ever, and 2) doing so on even a mild downhill is an absolute no-go. I was kind of limping after so as silly as it seems, I'll be doing these workouts at the track from now on.

Wednesday: Fly to Boston / pass out

    God. I hate flying to the East Coast. Hate hate hate.

Thursday: Conference

    I don't know what planet I was dreaming on when I was thinking I might be able to fit in a treadmill workout or two during this conference. I managed to get in some last year in New Orleans, but apparently when you're speaking and have a bunch of dinner meetings & early morning to negotiate, it's a whole different beast.

Friday: Conference

    Friday was still a pretty great day because it was when I actually gave my presentations, which was a big deal because this is the biggest math education conference probably in the world and it was my first time speaking there. My partner & I thought both talks went really well and we had a bunch of people come up to us and tell us how much they enjoyed them & that they learned a lot, and some even brought colleagues to the second one. So, no running, but still a successful day in my opinion. ALSO, I got to have dinner with a running buddy from my grad school days who lives in Boston now, which was super fun.

Saturday: Fly home

    If there is one thing I hate more than flying TO the East Coast, it's flying BACK from the East Coast. On the plus side, by the time my plane landed my body had absolutely no idea what time it was, so I was able to meet Don & some other out-of-town friends for dinner & drinks around 9ish, which made me happy.

Sunday: 12 long

    You would think that four "rest" days would leave me feeling strong & refreshed my Sunday long run, but no. My muscles & tendons & whatever are *SO* angry with me for the last few days, which included way too many hours sitting on a plane and in presentations and walking around in heels (like, multiple miles a day) and not nearly enough physical activity, stretching, drinking water, or eating reasonably nutritious food. Pretty much everything hurt the whole time and it totally sucked. Here's hoping things feel better after a few days of actually taking care of my body. :-/

Your thoughts on those four books? On "rest" days that actually do the opposite of rest days? On hella/wicked long plane trips where every single person on board must talk loudly to their neighbor & get up out of their seat nineteen times an hour?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

SRM WEEK 1 OF 20: Decent miles + a race discount


I have no idea what my post-August race plans are going to be, but I'm keeping this one in mind because I would like to run a half in the fall, and I would also like to properly visit Santa Barbara (and drink its wine) as I have only ever driven through it.

Use discount code AXSAVE10 to get $10 off the Santa Barbara Marathon / Half Marathon, which takes place in Santa Barbara, CA on Saturday, Nov. 7. Code expires Monday, April 27. (The marathon is currently $120 & the half $105; military & veterans receive a $20 discount.) The half is still pretty expensive in my opinion, though, so we'll see what happens. It's not like there aren't tons of local options as well.


Since this is the first time I've ever been back running almost right away after a marathon, I'd been warned to take it pretty easy for a few weeks and expect that everything would feel harder than normal for a while. And that's totally been the case.

Now at about six weeks out, though, I'm finally feeling pretty normal again. Easy runs feel easy, and this past Sunday I did my first post-marathon double-digit run. I did my usual ten-mile loop through Golden Gate Park at a super easy effort, and weirdly, I think it actually felt easier than the six- and seven-milers I'd run earlier in the week.

Like I mentioned, I'm taking a few weeks to ease myself back into speed work a la McMillan, so it's not *really* marathon training yet, but I do have a schedule to follow and some mileage goals to start working towards, so it felt like it made sense to start counting. (Also, I like the idea of starting counting from 20 better than 12.)

Other pros from the week: The sometimes bad, sometimes less bad, but always somewhat present pain in my right hip that I've had for basically five years seems to have weirdly disappeared??

Cons from the week: My good left hip has been hurting non-stop. It's like the weirdness just slid over from one side to the other, like, in my sleep or something. I would blame it on the ski accident, except that side never hurt after I fell -- on the right. I am seeing the massage therapist next week so hopefully he will fix it all up.

~*~*~SRM WEEK 1 OF 20~*~*~

Grand Total: 32 miles

    * 20.7 easy
    * ~1.3 hill intervals
    * 10 "long"
    * 1 strength workout :-/

Monday: 4 easy. No karate because I had to stay home & work.

Tuesday: 7 easy. This was a post-NVM distance record, so I was glad that it felt good and relatively easy.

Wednesday: Rest (again no karate because work work work).

    Thursday: a.m. strength work / p.m. 1.7 warm-up, 6 x .11 hill intervals w/ .11 downhill recovery jogs, 2 cool down = 5 total. I kept the overall mileage for this workout pretty low because I had no idea how hard the intervals would be on my legs (particularly after a morning strength workout).

    Friday: 6 easy.

    Saturday: Rest/work.

    Sunday: 10 "long"

    I finished the week feeling good (except for the stupid LEFT hip), so hopefully I'm timing things right & not jumping into 30+ too soon.

    I wish I had more to say, but I'm in Boston for work right now and 6 hour flights are exhausting. :-/

    Sunday, April 12, 2015

    Cue the Inspiring Music

    ...Because I am about to really, truly, pinky-swear start training for a real race, which I will totally ramble on about a bit later in this post.

    FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS: Another Discount for You

    I think I mentioned that I'm running the American Parkway Half Marathon in Sacramento on May 2?

    Apparently I should have waited a few weeks to sign up because a few days ago I got a sweet discount code for it. Sign up using the code APRIL11 and save $11. (It's $65 by 4/26 - after that registration is only available in person April 30-May 2 for $80.) The only downside is that you kind of have to decide, like, *now*, since the code expires Monday, April 13th at 11:59pm.

    It will be my first time at this race but I've heard only good things about it, and all the proceeds go to maintain & restore the American River Parkway Greenway, which is a really nice place for walkers & runners in Sacramento to get some miles in along the river instead of the gross hot sidewalks.


    Things around these parts have been a bit crazy lately. I slept in my own bed a grand total of five nights in the last two weeks, partly because of work & partly because of fun stuff. We made our semi-annual trip to Paso Robles the last weekend of March, and then spent five days skiing in Colorado (since we have had approximately zero halfway decent snow in Tahoe this year).

    This is pretty much the only picture I took on the mountain because, busy skiing. However, please enjoy these other gorgeous pictures I took in other places:

    Peak One

    Cool old railroad tressel in Silver Plume

    Blue sky is so blue!

    Hiking in Red Rocks Park

    Red Rocks from across the freeway

    On our way back to the airport on Sunday, we stopped at Avery Brew Co, which OMG, if you're a beer nerd, you've got to get out there sometime.

    Yes, they are out in the middle of nowhere on the out-out-outskirts of Boulder, but it was worth it. (In fact, they were so amazed that we weren't locals that they ended up giving us a bunch of free beer. So that was cool. :) )

    I'd scheduled things this way on purpose because I expected work to be relatively calm by the end of March, but that turned out to be not so much the case so in addition to all the travel I've also spent a lot of time recently working in hotels and on planes and pulling 10-12 hours days when I haven't been on vacation (which is not normal for me).

    I had a bit of a hip scare in Colorado due to a rather spectacular fall (this is not a skiing blog so I will not bore you with the details); for the rest of that day I couldn't put weight on my right leg without eye-watering pain in my pelvis, which was pretty scary for a few hours. It seems to have worked itself out now, though, and I've been running on it just fine with only a tiny bit of tightness in soreness in the same upper right hip/thigh/adductor/hamstring area I've injured before. It was partly for this reason that we decided not to bother trying to ski more on Sunday morning & instead decided to just go drink beer.

    But let us speak of running.

    THIRD ORDER OF BUSINESS: For-Realsies Marathon Training

    The Story So Far...

    Last summer I decided to try to run the Santa Rosa Marathon. It was close to home, reasonably priced, well-organized, and on a good course, so even though I'd spent the spring recuperating from a stress fracture & then three weeks eating & drinking (not running) my way around Italy, I figured, what the heck, I'd been 80 seconds away from a BQ running hurt on a hot day last year, and 3.5 months was a completely reasonable amount of training time. I mean sure, it never really felt like the odds were in my favor, exactly, but I suppose my logic was that if all the pieces did happen to come together, then I could still sign up for Boston in September if I wanted (which would have kind of worked out nicely, given that I'm speaking at a conference there a few days before the race anyway--ie, next week--so my flight & part of my hotel cost would have been paid for by work).

    But they didn't, and so I figured, hey, as long as I have to wait for my leg to heal before actually training for anything seriously, I might as well do this thing right & get some base training in. And that's (almost) all I've been doing since last August.

    Fast Forward to Now!

    So here I am, taking another shot at it, and that is bringing up Feelings, like

    • Whoah. Déjà vu. Including breaking myself at SF Half & panicking for most of August. Right now, Santa Rosa is still burned into my brain as The One I DNF'd, which occasionally gives me The Panics.
    • On the other hand, I am in SUCH a better place training-wise than I was a year ago! Last year I started training on May 12, with my "long" run in the 5-6 mile range. This year, on March 1, I ran a frikking marathon and barely felt it, and I'm starting my Santa Rosa training in early April. I'm speculating here, but I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that if I'd actually run at marathon effort at Napa, I probably could have shaved ~20-40 seconds per mile off the first 20, which would have made my 3:52 more like 3:42, and that's on nothing but 30-40 miles a week of base training and a few weeks of adding in a 6 mile GMP run. So it's really exciting to think about what I might be able to do after an *actual* training cycle involving speed & tempo work (provided I can stay healthy).
    • On the other other hand, the stakes feel higher. With NVM I could just be like, "OH IT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, I AM ONLY FAKE TRAINING FOR THIS RACE, IF IT SUCKS NBD." But now, I do care, and it will matter to me if it sucks.
    • Related: I've gotten really used to just going & jogging a bunch of miles every day or two, and I have to admit I'm having mild heart palpitations at the thought of going back to the track or doing actual LT/tempo runs (as opposed to GMP runs, which are just not the same thing).

    That last one. Oof. I knew it was coming, & I am not too proud to admit it's been worrying me for weeks. (Maybe months.)

    I have learned a few things in the last year, one of which is that, no matter how bad ass you think you are, you can't really jump into full-on speed workouts after two months of having a stress fracture & two months of walk-run intervals. Not even if you keep the overall mileage low. Real, legit speedwork asks a lot of the bones and connective tissue & what have you, and if you haven't prepared them for it, it's going to be like trying to pick a lock with a herring. Things are just going to get messy and that's all there is to it.

    In general I like my RunCoach plan for Santa Rosa & I think it's a very good, smart progression, but given that I haven't been on the track since last July & it was hard on my right hip then as it was, the speed work starts out a little too aggressively for my taste. So, being a Woman of Action, I have taken Steps.

    I recently read Greg McMillan's new book You (Only Faster), which is mostly about how to take a generic, cookie-cutter training plan and tailor it based on your personal preferences, situation, strengths/weaknesses, things you know about yourself as a runner, etc. Which I thought was pretty cool, because so few running books go into that kind of thing. The most useful thing I personally took away from it, though, were his "mini plans," usually four weeks long, intended to prepare you for the meat-and-potatoes of your training plan.

    For example, he recommends that most runners do 4 weeks of speed prep before marathon training, and that runners who haven't done speed work in a while do 4 weeks before that of light but consistent hill interval work. This wasn't the first time I've heard that advice, and during my last strength session with AT we were chatting about sort of "pre-training training," and she explained that the reason people recommend a few weeks of light speed work on hills before starting more serious speed work on the track is because doing some lighter stuff on hills first has the effect of preparing your muscles & bones & whatnot for the more intensive efforts to come. It lets you get into those higher (read: more painful) gears at slower paces, while still sending your body the message that, "Hey! We're about to start doing some harder, faster stuff now, adapt appropriately, plzthnx!"

    So, after reading McMillan & chatting with AT, I decided I'd give it 3-4 weeks of hill intervals and 3-4 weeks of easier "prep" speed work a la McMillan, and then drop into my RunCoach plan. Hopefully, this will help keep me from destroying my hip again.

    The plan was to do my first teeny-tiny-baby-hill interval workout on Thursday of this past week, which I was a little unsure about given that I'd almost ripped my leg off the previous Saturday & it was still feeling kind of sore. But I decided to adhere to my general policy with these things, which is "You have to at least try," and if it hurt and generally sucked a lot, I could throw in the towel at any time and try another day.

    And, it actually did not suck that much! Well; no. It did suck. It sucked a lot, particularly the last twenty-five-to-thirty percent of each interval. The workout called for 6-8 "medium" hill repeats, which is McMillan-speak for 50-60 seconds at 15:00 race effort. So I found a significant-but-not-stupid hill nearby that according to my Garmin was about .11 miles long and took me just a little over 50 seconds to ascend, running fairly hard but not sprinting.

    Why do hills never actually look like hills in pictures?

    I decided not to go batshit crazy on my first speed workout in 9 months & just kept it to six repeats, but DAMN. Without fail, every time, I would get about halfway up & be like, "Hey, this isn't bad at all!" Then a few seconds later, "Wow, this suddenly got a lot harder," and a few seconds after that, "I actually think I might be about to die." I found myself marveling after each one at just how terrible I felt, which I think is probably half due to having basically no high end right now and half due to being out of practice at the mental part of running hard repeats & dealing with feeling like death after each one. (At least it passed quickly.)

    But, I did it! 6 x .11 hills, with no disasters & no pain in my hip. Next week I am meant to do longer hill intervals at slightly easier paces, so we'll see how that goes.