Saturday, April 30, 2016

One More Sleep

(OH MY LORDY it has taken me two weeks to write this post. I have had zero time. So here I am, the night before Eugene, deciding maybe it's best to post *something* some non-zero time before the race rather than nothing.)

We’ve been chilling in Southern Oregon for the past few days, drinking all the wine & beer & sampling all the cheese and chocolate, & it has been lovely. If you’re ever in this neck of the woods, I can definitely recommend some good spots.

And, oh yeah, there is also the matter of this little footrace I am running in the morning.

Physically, I’m not really worried about this race. My left foot is still kind of a mess, but I’ve tried to stay off of it all week, so ultimately, in terms of whether I can finish or not, that will be what it will be. And of course all the itinerant challenges & discomforts of running a marathon (SN:AFU) also will be what they will be.

Mentally, I’ve been a bit worried just because the two races I’ve run this year were just so, so hard from a psychological/emotional perspective. In both cases I got super negative relatively early-on and just fell apart, which isn’t a problem I’ve had in the past. While that sucked a lot, at least I only had to handle it for 45 & 110 minutes respectively; getting stuck in that place for 3.5+ hours, well, I’m not sure I can handle that.

Recently, I ran across this article from TrainingPeaks about strategies for dealing with the pain of endurance racing, and when I thought about those two awful races, the three recommendations really resonated with me. Behold:

  • Trust it will pass. “Oftentimes, it’s the emotional experience of the pain that convinces you to give up. As humans, we have an innate desire to always try to gain some ground beneath us and feel like we are in control. Trying to gain control is your way of managing your feelings of discomfort, fear, and anxiety. On race day, the quickest way to eliminate those uncomfortable emotions and gain control is to stop moving. In your mind, you need to establish an end that lets you know that you are still in control and this pain won’t last forever.”

    In both my 2016 races thus far, I think feeling out of control of the situation led to mild panic, which then led to all kinds of negative feelings & suckage. So for this race I’m keeping in my back pocket a gentle reminder to myself that I absolutely don’t have to maintain a certain pace or effort level or even keep going at all, that this is supposed to be a cool, awesome experience and it’s completely up to me what I do with it. (I know it seems counterintuitive, but this sort of thinking actually makes me less likely to walk/quit/etc. because I don’t feel trapped.)

  • Talk to yourself. “When you focus on the pain you’re in, it makes you want to stop. When you are at the peak of suffering and it’s taking everything you have to keep moving, sometimes the most effective strategy is to engage in rhythmic cognitive behavior. This pain coping strategy has you repeating something over and over. Doing this occupies your mind constantly with information other than focusing on the pain you are feeling in your body.”

    I do a lot of counting down by strides or seconds when I run, even on easy runs (particularly if I’m tired or almost done), but there is a big difference time-wise between “the hard part of a 10K” vs “the hard part of a marathon,” so I’m thinking I probably need to specifically plan the things I’m going to start telling myself if & when those negative thoughts come creeping in. Something along the lines of, “No expectations/Just finish/One more mile.”

  • Accept What The Day Brings. “Your brain is like a magnet for your expectations. It will pick up on things in your environment that fit the storyline you have already created. It will also cling to and fixate on anything that doesn’t fit into the storyline as well. An example would be thinking, ‘It wasn’t supposed to be this hot/windy/hard/hilly, etc.’ These expectations will influence your perception of pain. The most important thing you can do is be open for whatever race day brings, know that you can handle it, and don’t fight against what is happening. The sooner you accept that the clouds have already rained, i.e. this is happening no matter how badly you want it not to be, the sooner you will recover and make the best of it.”

    Man, I failed so much at this not only at my two races this year but also Santa Rosa Marathon 2014. With all three races, in my head I’d already envisioned how the entire thing would go—it would be cool and flat and I would surprise myself with how good and fast I felt. So when it was hot or slightly hilly or I felt sluggish or slower than I thought I should be, I actually felt betrayed by the world, which was the beginning of melting down psychologically. So, I am trying to embrace the idea that this race doesn’t owe me anything—not a pancake flat course nor pleasant weather nor a “fast” (or even “fast under the circumstances”) time.

    Get ready for it.

    So yeah. I think I'm kind of boiling it down to this:

    I’m not necessarily recommending “having no expectations, ever” as an all-encompassing approach to finding happiness in every corner of your life. But in this particular situation, I’m trying to embrace it. My left foot is still kind of a mess and I don’t know how that’s going to shake out. I also know for a fact I’m in far from the best shape of my life right now, but in spite of that, I finished both my races so far this year disappointed and unsatisfied in part because I expected to do better. (Like, I wasn’t expecting fast races but I also wasn’t expecting personal worsts.) So I am doing my best to really, truly let all expectations go so that as long as I finish, I won’t leave Oregon disappointed.

  • Monday, April 18, 2016

    EUGENE WEEKS 14 & 15 of 17: Stuff that is happening recently...

    Apologies for lack of frequent or in-depth blogging. I literally started this blog post two weeks ago and this is all I've had time to do with it. Enjoy!!


    • Work is kicking my ass. I've been traveling all over California this month (literally two days in my actual office) & with all that has come some trade-offs. Getting to the gym is hard. So is getting enough sleep. More and more things are getting filed under "Ain't nobody got time for that;" see, for example, "eating food not prepared by someone else" and "traveling to brick & mortar places of business." One day I accidentally filed under that heading "Put gas in car" and learned that apparently I can get down to zero bars on the gas gauge & still drive over a mile. Good times! :D

    • I have felt like serious, serious crap lately. Like, I'd be tempted to chock it up to peak marathon training but I can't remember ever training for *anything* and feeling this bad. (Sleeping 10+ hours on the weekend & still feeling like you could knock me over with a feather, feeling low blood sugar even when I know that's not possible, etc.) People have suggested everything from "Could you be low iron?" to "Do your thyroid methods need adjusting?" to "Any chance you're in the family way?" The last one I can 100% refute (phew!), but I am going in for a blood draw this week just to check on the other stuff. Also I've been eating a lot of burgers lately, y'know, just in case.

    • My foot hurts. In the last few weeks my vague-and-largely-undefined heel pain has sort of resolved into something more focused & kind of plantar fasciitis-ey. In any case it's been making my life pretty annoying lately & more than once I've skipped or cut a run short because the pain was that bad. I think I may be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, thankfully, but it's involved a LOT of ice & KT tape & wearing basically nothing besides Hoka Cliftons when I'm not running. I have an appt with the foot doc on the calendar, but around here that means close to a month of waiting, so we'll see what kind of shape my foot is in after Eugene.

    ~*~*~EUGENE MARATHON WEEK 14 OF 17~*~*~

    Ugh. This week came in 17.5 miles short thanks to foot drama. :P I felt bad about it for a while but eventually figured it was basically like I'd been sick that week, and while week 14 of 17 is maybe not the best week to be sick logistically, it's pretty much out of your control so all you can really do is accept it & move on.

    Grand Total: 27.5 total miles

      * 19.5 easy
      * 8 speed/tempo
      * 1:00:00 strength work

    Monday 4/4: Get on plane/work til 7:30/2 warm up, 2 x (2 @ 7:40), 1.5 cool down on hotel treadmill = 7.5 miles.

    Oh, this was the worst, worst, WORST workout in quite sometime. Not because I didn't have time to do it until 8:30pm. Not because the conference was at a luxury hotel & spa where the treadmill section of the fitness center looked out onto a gorgeous patio where people were relaxing with various wine & cocktails. But because for whatever reason that day, running a 7:40 mile felt like running a 6:30 mile. ie, I could do it once, maybe even twice, but at every point I felt like I was just one false step away from flying off the back of the treadmill & dying. Also every part of me just felt tired, so I wasn't running well form-wise, & I could feel various muscles & joints aching afterward as a result.

    Tuesday 4/5: Work/fly home/collapse. I knew I wouldn't be able to run at all so it was a planned rest day.

    Wednesday 4/6: a.m. strength work / p.m. 3 easy, 4 @ marathon effort, 3 easy = 10. Another day that I felt just completely awful. I was supposed to do another crazy 10-12 mile track workout but instead I came home after work and crashed. I woke up around 7 feeling better so I decided to try to get *some* running in, & since it was too late to go to the track I decided to just try to get in some double digits with a few miles at marathon effort. Weirdly, this was the first run in forever where I felt kind of-sort of normal.

    Thursday 4/7: 7.5 easy. My victory was short lived. I woke up Thursday barely able to put any weight on my foot. In addition to the heel pain, I now had some really bad pain in my left big toe, almost as if it were broken. (Thanks to martial arts, I know what that feels like.) I tried to run a little on it when I got home but it just wasn't happening, so I decided to let it go & try again Friday morning for my (supposed) 20 miler.

    Friday 4/8: 20 long 10 easy. We were spending the weekend wine tasting in Paso Robles, so I needed to get my 3rd & final 20 miler in early Friday morning. This run was super, SUPER annoying because I finally felt good from a general energy/alertness standpoint, but just a few miles in the pain in my left foot was so bad I was legitimately worried about doing something serious to it. I was on a ten mile loop & went back & forth about a billion times re: being hard core & pushing through the second lap vs. not being stupid & racking up another DNS, & ultimately I settled on what I hope was the smart course by leaving off at 10. (How frustrating is it when you actually feel *good* on a long run but have to quit for other reasons? All the frustrating.)

    Saturday 4/9 & Sunday 4/10: Rest/drink wine/sleep a lot. Originally I'd kinda-sorta thought about doing the 7.5 easy when we got home on Sunday, but it was late, I was exhausted, and my foot still hurt, so I decided better to give it another couple of days.

    ~*~*~EUGENE MARATHON WEEK 15 OF 17~*~*~

    This last week was tough because apparently when I was first thinking about this whole May 1 marathon thing, I completely forgot that my biggest conference of the year takes place mid-April, and that it's generally so all-consuming there is very little extra time for anything else. I've been going for three years now, but this is the first time it's actually kind of interfered with running/training. In 2014 I was just starting to run again after stress fracture #1 (though I did fit in a reasonable amount of stationary bike at the hotel), and last year I was about 6 weeks post-NVM & hadn't really started training in earnest for my next race. This was supposed to be my last big week before Eugene (insofar as I've really had *any* big weeks...), so in terms of time management (not to mention foot drama) I kind of just crossed my fingers & hoped for the best. (On the plus side, it did happen to be in Oakland & San Francisco this year, so at least I got to sleep in my own bed & run outside.)

    Grand Total: 43.5 total miles

      * 15.35 easy
      * 6.3 speed
      * 4.8 tempo
      * 16 long

    Monday 4/11: Conference/karate. Definitely no time to get to the gym this week.

    Tuesday 4/12: 2 warm up, 10 x (1K @ 10K pace / 1:00 jog), 1.7 cool down = 11 total. Due to conference stuff I couldn't get to the track until much later than usual, but Don was out with co-workers Tuesday evening so I didn't feel bad about it.

    Given how my foot had been feeling, I was not at all confident I would be able to finish this workout. On paper it's definitely one of the toughest ones I've had on my schedule & I've had easier ones I've practically dragged myself through. Basically, the plan was to do as much as I could without seriously injuring myself or falling drastically off the pace.

    You guys. This may be the hardest track workout I've done in my (adult) life. The first two intervals were easy but after that they got quite hard quite quickly and I had a lot of trouble believing I would be able to get through them all. But I did! My foot was definitely getting a little bitchy towards the end and hitting the right pace towards the end was non-trivial, but I did not die, barf, or pass out, so #winning?

    (Also, I think this workout is just more evidence that a lot of my trouble with faster paces/harder workouts/races these days has to do with having gotten de-sensitized to the discomfort of harder running. I really wonder if the same objective level of difficulty would have felt as hard, say, 3-4 years ago.)

    Wednesday 4/13: Rest. No karate due to evening conference activities.

    Thursday 4/14: 8 easy. Originally I'd planned to swap this workout with Friday's tempo run in case my foot issues flared up & nixed running on back-to-back days, but sadly I arrived home to find that I'd neglected to plug in my watch after Tuesday's track session. So, an easy 4 out, 4 back it was. I can't say it felt great, but it was a big improvement over most of my runs lately. I can tell I'm still not using my left foot very well and that's causing acheyness in all sorts of other places.

    Friday 4/15: 2 warm up, 40:00 @ marathon effort, 1.65 cool down = 8.5 miles. This was the first run in a long, long while where I actually felt good during & after. Still some lingering pain in my heel and big toe, but not debilitating. I was hoping to be able to run 8:30s pretty comfortably & ended up averaging ~8:15 (AND it was hot!), so hey! Evidence that training, like, works and stuff (once it gets done feeling super shitty).

    Saturday 4/16 Hit up the 1st Annual Sports Basement Basement Sale, whut whut! Obviously I don't *need* more running shoes, but they were advertising 60-95% off on lightly used & returned merchandise, & I will never pass on stocking up if there's a crazy deal to be had.

    I walked out with a barely touched pair of Saucony Peregrines for $25, exciting because I still hadn't gotten around to purchasing a pair of actual trail shoes, plus as a pair of Kinvara 7s for $35. Based on early reviews that described the 7s as fairly similar to the K6s in the uppers, I'd decided there was no way I was paying anything even remotely close to full price just to try them out. But for $35 basically new, why not! (I also decided to go up a half size. Lately I've really been craving more room in the toe box so maybe that will help also.)

    Sunday 4/17: 16 long. With all my foot drama, especially my aborted 20 miler last week, this run felt like a bit of a moment of truth. If it was too painful and I had to cut it short, well, I'd just have to play Eugene by ear. If it went okay, though, then maybe after a good, solid taper, I'd be ready to roll (or at least get to the finish).

    And, thankfully, it did go okay. I definitely still have some not-insignificant pain on the inside of my left foot and I'm definitely still not using it super well all the time which sometimes leads to other aches and pains , but it was never so bad that I found myself needing to adjust my gait or consider tapping out early.

    It was mid-to-high 70s in SF and full sun, so I knew from the outset that this would not be a fast nor super pleasant run. Multiple sections of it were also significantly uphill and into the wind. But still, I found myself running a faster-than-usual pace for most miles without trying, and that's pretty encouraging after a month of feeling like poo.

    Last long run up to Land's End trail until fall!

    Did I mention how it never gets old? It never gets old.

    One of many hell-of steep hills.

    I suppose I'm officially tapering now -- 36 miles this next week including a 12 mile "long" run, and then it's race week and we're off to Oregon and to be honest I may be so busy eating & drinking that week I may or may not get any running done at all. #lettaperhappen

    Tuesday, April 5, 2016

    EUGENE WEEK 13 OF 17: gym / run / laundry (oh and also work and sleep but that is maybe all).

    If you had the great misfortune of ever seeing an episode of The Jersey Shore, please accept my deepest condolences. But also, you may have had the great fortune of encountering the gem of wisdom below, imparted to us by one of the great sages of our time.

    Right up there with "Early to bed, early to rise" and "An apple a day," amirite?

    This last week passed in a total haze, and at one point (maybe when I started writing up this post?) I was trying to think back to what the heck I did all week and literally all I could come up with was this kind of fuzzy montage of running and lifting and karate and OMG sooooo much laundry and oh yeah also there is the day job and the hours spent driving around the Bay Area as a result. Screw you, living expenses.

    Oh and sleeping. Or lying in bed exhausted and cursing my brain for refusing to turn off. Or slumping on the couch thinking how I really should get ready for bed except I'm too tired to get off the couch.

    But in any case, I was trying to mentally sum up my week and I kept coming up with "gym, run, laundry," so I guess what I'm saying is that although I can't really get down with the T what with my love of not having skin cancer & all, my life these days is otherwise a lot like living on the Jersey Shore, except with more running and going to like an actual job or whatever. It's weird because this is quite far from the highest training load I've ever had in my life but I can't actually remember a time I was marathon training and felt this exhausted and crappy all the time.

    ~*~*~EUGENE MARATHON WEEK 13 OF 17~*~*~

    You guys, I counted up these numbers and I have to say I was pretty pissed at how wee the total seemed, because given how I feel that "total miles" number should be *at least*, like, 75.

      * 39.5 total miles
      * 17.5 easy
      * 2 speed
      * 20 long
      * 3:00:00 strength work

    Monday 3/28: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate

    Tuesday 3/29: 2 warm up, 2 x (3 x 300m @ 6:25 / jog 100m) / jog 300m, 1.5 cool down = 5.2 total. This was my first non-easy run since the Oakland Half, and I did not, not, not feel ready to start doing speed work again, so I was thankful that this workout was short. Given the fact that it was just some short, fast intervals and not that many of them, I'm guessing the purpose had more to do with leg turnover/ neurological stuff than VO2 max. I hit them all between 6:08 and 6:34 (& my last one was actually the fastest), but man, I'm glad it was only six because I felt CRAPTASTIC.

    Wednesday 3/30: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate.

    Thursday 3/31: 7.5 easy. And by "easy," I mean craptastic. Like two miles in I was like, "This run is bullshit."

    Friday 4/1: a.m. strength work / PT / p.m. 20 long. Long story short, I kind of had to do this run on Friday instead of Sunday, because next weekend we're out of town wine tasting and sorry but there is no way a 20 mile long run is happening in Paso Robles, so I need to do it Friday before we leave. And doing a 20 miler this past Sunday and then ANOTHER 20 the following Friday seems like an epically bad idea, so I just shifted them both to Fridays (which means working on the weekends but whatever).

    I probably don't need to say it, but this run, like all others this week, was complete and total balls. #its20miles #whatdidyouexpect #seriouslywhat

    Saturday 4/2: Rest. I think I slept for like 10 hours which is not a thing I do.

    Sunday 4/3: 7.5 easy, after sleeping for close to 12 hours. And again, by easy, I mean utter balls.

    • Does your running every feel epically shit-tastic for weeks on end?
    • Do you ever find yourself thinking mid-run, "Seriously, this run is like seeing a person I don't like at three social engagements in a row and I just can't with it anymore?" or "This run can go straight to hell?"
    • How did you stop wanting to kick running in the balls, all day every day?

    Asking for a friend.