Friday, July 7, 2017

SJRNRHM Week 1 of 14: run in tahoe, try not to faint

Oof. This training cycle is not starting out the way I'd hoped! My plan was to race an awesome 5K on 6/17, then spend a couple of weeks building easy mileage back up to the ~40 range, then start workouts & gradually build to training mileage. Alas, that calf strain or whatever it was during the 5K really threw a wrench into that plan. Instead of easing pretty much right back into easy miles, I had to take an entire week completely off, so obviously the week after THAT I was not going to immediately jump back to 40+ weeks & speed/tempo workouts.

Instead, the story of this first week of SJ Half Training has been let's-try-to-get-maybe-some-nonzero-amount-of-miles-in-without-re-injuring-the-calf. By now I've learned my lesson about trying to do too much too soon after even a minor injury, so my only goal was just to take it day by day & see how things felt.

And, it was not a bad week. We ended up going to Tahoe Friday through Monday so that Don could ski (yes, there is still skiing in Tahoe because #california) and I could spend a few glorious free days working, reading, running, & lounging by the many many swimming pools. (We had to Hotwire a swanky resort because we waited too long to book anything reasonable. It was not cheap but at least we did get a pretty huge discount on the normal price, and I gotta say, man, sometimes I totally see why people go to resorts.)

Skiing in July!

You didn't know there was a swimming pool & a hot tub at the top of Squaw, did you?

Tahoe adventures included kinda sorta pretending to (briefly) be a trail runner, seeing a real live bear way too close for comfort, & nearly passing out on a run. (Heat! Hills! Altitude! They do not screw around.)

Now. Let's talk briefly about running at altitude. Granted, at ~6,600', the base of Tahoe is not Denver, but it's definitely enough to have a real effect. My experience running at altitude, both at Tahoe and other places, including the Rocky Mountains, has been that if you're just running on flat ground, it doesn't really feel harder, but my heart rate very quickly shoots way up. And going up hills? That's where I REALLY feel it.

So this past weekend, I'm bopping along up and down trails and cruising along the Squaw bike path at more or less my usual effort level (other than going up hills), and noticing that I'm actually going a bit faster than my usual pace at home, frequently seeing my pace in the low 9:xx's, whereas it's usually closer to 10:00 or 10:30ish. Completely mystifying, considering that in addition to the altitude, it was probably 85-90F and there was ZERO cloud cover and precious little shade once you're out of the woods.

Two or so miles in, this was quite the ego boost. Wow, look how fit I am! Heat, altitude, and I'm STILL running significantly faster than a few weeks back! Tahoe in the summer's got nothing on me!

Conveniently ignoring, of course, that even though I didn't *feel* like I was working that hard, my heart rate was in the 160-70s (whereas typically on easy runs it's in the 140-150 range). I even remember looking at my heart rate once & noticing it was like 173 and thinking, "That's....not normal. I wonder why it still feels so easy?"

I hit mile three of four, feeling good. And then, quiet suddenly, around 3.2ish, I felt kind of...funny. Not bad, exactly; just a little off, in a way I couldn't put into words. I also noticed that heart rate was inching into the high 170s, which was DEFINITELY not normal. (For comparison, my average heart rate during CIM in December--a huge PR on a cool day at near sea level--was 181.) "No big deal, less than a mile to go," I thought, and continued. Around 3.5ish, I started to feel weirder and weirder, and my heart rate was beginning to top 180. "Geeze, what is this feeling?" I kept thinking, because it wasn't pain or exertion or discomfort. Then, not too much further, there was this tiny little incline over a footbridge, and suddenly my whole body went "NOPE"!

Guys, I never stop on runs just because I'm tired or want a little break. Even if a run is really tough, I can always hold out for the next water fountain or traffic light. At this point, though, it was like I had no control over my legs; they just stopped, like, "Sorry, Chief, but we're not going one more step like this." So I stopped and just stood there in a tiny sliver of shade and blanched at my heart rate, which had now reached 190. (I've seen it as high as 223, but still. 190 is REALLY high for an "easy" run.)

The same thing happened the next day--feeling great at mile 3 despite super high heart, then gradually feeling weirder and weirder until finally at 3.5 miles I had to stop because I *kiiiiind of* suddenly thought I might faint or throw up. I got through the last half mile back to the resort by stopping to let my heart rate come down to around 140, running a tenth of a mile where I'd start off feeling okay and then very suddenly not, wash/rinse/repeat, legitimately worried that I might pass out on the road at any moment. At one point I remember thinking, "At least it's a well traveled road and I've got my RoadID!", which in retrospect seems like probably not the thought I should have been having.

Once back in the hotel room, I pretty much stood in an ice cold shower for ten minutes feeling sick (sorry, drought); then I laid on the cold tile floor wrapped in a towel for another ten minutes or so because it was the coldest place I could find and honestly I couldn't bear to be upright.

So, yeah. I get that heat and sun and altitude can do funny things to a person when you're exerting yourself; I don't really get how it can come on so suddenly after I'd felt fine for nearly half an hour.

Mysteries, y'all.

* * * Rock 'N Roll San Jose Half: Week 1 of 14 * * *

Grand Total: 26 miles, all easy

Monday 6/26: 4 easy. My first run post-calf strain. Just a few easy miles to see how it felt. Verdict: So far, so good!

Tuesday 6/27: 6 easy. Pushing the envelope just a bit. Just a tiny bit of soreness, so no running Wednesday.

Wednesday 6/28: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate

Thursday 6/29: 8 easy. My calf felt back to normal after resting it, so I decided to see how 8 miles felt. Alas the little twinge towards the end made it clear that 8 was a bit too much too soon, so I decided not to run on Friday.

Friday 6/30: a.m. strength work

    Who knows, maybe I could have run on it Friday and been fine, but again, I'm super not into taking risks with stuff like this anymore because instead of one extra day off, a miscalculation can mean another entire week lost. It was a bit of an angsty, emotional day as a result, but I just kept thinking about how I wanted to be able to really train my ass off in the next few months and one short, easy run on one day was not worth risking that over.

Saturday 7/1: 4 easy

Sunday 7/2: 4 easy

Week 2 has gone pretty well so far; I even did a short workout with some LT miles! Hopefully, the trend will continue.


  1. Finally catching up on all the blogz...
    Hope your calf continues to heal/behave. The Tahoe runs sound super bizarre! Glad you had the awareness to stop running when you did.

  2. Wacky heart rate spike, but glad you dialed it down and played it smart. Sometimes, it seems to me that our bodies are just checking in with us just to see if we are even paying attention...if so, no harm, no foul. If not, time for a nasty lesson...

  3. While the trails look lovely, the running sounds straight up awful. I might have to take a break during our upcoming Denver weekend!