Monday, October 31, 2011

Week In Review: Oct 24 - Oct 30

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

2 Weeks to Clarksburg Half Marathon

5 Weeks to Cal International Marathon

Well, here we are -- Tapersville; population moi. That's the one disadvantage of doing the half and the full three weeks apart. I need two solid taper weeks to be fresh & ready for the half, and once that's done it would've been time to start marathon tapering anyway. In terms of CIM, these next five weeks will be a tricky balance between getting in a little more quality mileage and giving my body adequate time to heal & get ready to race.

It's been a busy week for me, so I do apologize for the lack of non-training journal posts. I've got a few that are close to ready to go, so hopefully you'll be seeing those soonish. (Like, before this time next week.)

Tuesday: 8 miles (2 wu + 6 @ HMP) 10 miles easy. This very nearly became another one of those aborted what-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong not-runs that have peppered my logs as of late. Unlike last Thursday, though, when I emotionally couldn't face running, today I was pretty sure I emotionally couldn't face not running. I was determined to get a good, solid run in today if it killed me.

My boyfriend's car is in the shop so he took mine to work today. This meant that since I couldn't drive to the track, I needed to jog there & back. I planned to do my usual walk / jog 3.5 miles there, do my 6 miles at HMP at the track, then walk / jog back. Around mile 2, though, I started having asthma problems. Sometimes when they're minor they go away, but this time they didn't. I've learned that although it sucks a lot, I can do an easy run with an asthma attack, but fast running is out of the question unless I am feeling like my day has not had enough excitement and a ride in an ambulance is just the thing to spice it up.

When I got to the track, I sat & rested for a few minutes & had a little woe-is-me kind of moment & considered just jogging back home. Then another part of my brain kind of went Eff that noise, bitch. This week is our last chance to get some serious mileage in and we're not going to let something like a little oxygen deprivation get in the way. The HMP run was clearly out; instead, I jogged three miles on the track, then back home for a total of ten. It sucked and was incredibly hard and I had to stop several times to catch my breath, but I got it done.

Wednesday: 8 miles (2 wu + 6 @ HMP). FINALLY. I didn't much feel like it today, but this bitch was HAPPENING, one way or another. (I'm substituting it this week for the strength session at the track since it's the same number of miles & just a slightly faster pace. That way I can make Saturday an easy day, since I have a long run Sunday.) I've been doing my HMP runs on the track & decided to run on the roads today, just to prove to myself I could do it.

It was just a touch warm, and the first couple of miles were uphill / rolling & into the wind, so I had to work a little harder to keep up the pace (7:35, 7:35, 7:38). I knew the return trip would be easier, but I also think I needed a little more time to get warmed up, because suddenly my heart rate and pace dropped waaaay down, more than I think the slight downhills & tailwind should account for (7:32, 7:19, 7:24). Or maybe that was all it was. Who knows. Still, I finished feeling like I could've gone several more miles at that level of effort, which was exactly how I needed to feel. :)

Thursday: 6 miles easy. I'd scheduled eight but something came up suddenly in the evening and I only had time for six. Being in a rush, I ran them a little faster than true "easy" pace; also, my shoes have been on their last legs for a few days (so to speak), so between those things my feet & lower legs were hurting a little more than normal for after a relatively short, easy run.

Friday: 11 miles (2 wu + 9 @ MP). My first run in new shoes! They are prototypes that I am wear testing, though, so alas I can't tell you about them. :(

Remember how last week I was all like, "Wow, marathon pace is so EASY now!"? Well, this week I'm back to "marathon pace is teh sucky mcsuckerson." I guess that's the difference between doing this workout after two days of rest (last week) and doing it on a fourth consecutive running day (this week). I averaged 7:59 / mile, but just barely, and only because I really churned out the last mile (7:47) in a way I'm not sure I'll be able to do after 25 miles. My average heart rate was about 180 bpm, which is right where I think it should be (during that last too-fast mile it was more like 190, which is half marathon territory; I just couldn't stand the thought of finishing with 8:xx in the average pace window!).

I've been trying to do these runs on rolling(ish) hills as much as possible to simulate the first part of CIM by making creative loops along short stretches of the long, gentle inclines in Golden Gate Park. It feels good to know that I can still run this pace comfortably (at least for a while), but I think managing it well over hills is still something I haven't really nailed down yet. I did keep the first few net-uphill rollers a bit slower (8:02, 8:00, 8:06, 8:04) but then didn't really make up for it on the downhills (7:59, 7:58, 7:55). Finished with the biggest uphill on the course (8:07) and a significant downhill + running hard up the last mildly uphill half mile or so (7:47). This is one of the reasons I'm looking forward to running with the pace group; I've heard that the CIM pacers are knowledgeable about and experienced on the course & take the terrain into account in deciding how to pace things.

In case you haven't seen it, btw...

Don't let the dramatic net-downhill fool you; all those molehill-looking dips become rather significant rollers when you stretch this thing out over 26 miles. You can take Courtney's word for it (or that of any number of folks who've written race reports, which I have been reading obsessively).

Saturday: 6 miles easy Rest. The MP run was really hard on my tendonitis & I woke up Saturday limping & in quite a bit of pain. It felt a lot better by Saturday evening, but I decided that as much as I'd really wanted to get in a few easy miles, it wasn't worth irritating the tendonitis again & being too busted for my twenty miler Sunday, since I don't really have another day when I can do it.

Sunday: 20 miles easy - two laps around Golden Gate Park & the Panhandle, plus a little more. If I'd been able to run on Saturday, I probably would've capped this one at 16 or 18, but decided that after a rest day I should be able to handle 20.

I'll have to say more about it in a different post; the 30 second story is that it was easy for 12 miles, reasonable for 15, and bearable for 18. I averaged 8:48 / mile and finished a little stiff and with some not insignificant tendonitis pain (sigh...), but remarkably without any new injuries or tweaks. (Also, can I just say that the two trips back up MLK from Ocean Beach to Stanyan are an absolute BITCH. I'm mostly blaming those last few miserable miles on that.)

Grand Total: 55 miles

I'd kind of hoped to peak at 60+ this week, but what can you do when you find yourself daily at the mercy of a six-week-old injury that just hasn't had time to heal yet? Under the circumstances, I can't complain. Also, it's been over a year since I've been physically capable of putting up these kinds of numbers at all, so in the grand scheme of things, I REALLY can't complain.

Finally...I have to admit that I'm more than a little excited to have this last high-mileage week behind me and tapering ahead of me. While the physical break will be nice, I think I need a mental one even more. I'm starting to get into that place where it's harder and harder to stare down a week of workouts & get out the door, where the training schedule is starting to drive the running more than my enjoyment & desire to do it. That's nothing new & often happens towards the end of long training cycles for me, but still. Tapering. Big thumbs up right now.

Targeting ~40 miles / week for the next two weeks (counting the half on 11/13), which sounds positively luxurious. :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Week In Review: Oct 17 - Oct 23

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

3 Weeks to Clarksburg Half Marathon

6 Weeks to Cal International Marathon

Double eek!!!

This was not the week I was hoping for, less than a month out from Clarksburg. I had several days where my calf and tendon injuries were bad enough to keep me from running or cut runs short, which means I didn't come anywhere near close to the mileage I'd planned. I didn't end the week in a good place physically or emotionally and had to do some serious work to keep myself from wallowing. (Okay, there was a little wallowing. But I did manage to keep it under control.)

Although my 18 miler last Sunday was a strong run, it left me kind of busted (for a lot of reasons). I'd already planned Monday as a rest day & figured I'd play Tuesday Track Day by ear. Happily, Tuesday came and I felt good enough to at least go out to the track and see what my body was capable of.

Tuesday: 10 miles (1.5 wu + 6 x 1600 @ MP minus 10 seconds / mile + 800 recoveries x 5) These were a lot easier than the 3200's I did last week! In fact, the first four felt nearly effortless. I had to work a little on the fifth to keep up my pace, but more importantly, that was when my stupid left PT tendon started bugging me (and whatever tendon it is that runs behind your knee on the inside, which I clearly tweaked on the 18 miler). The sixth took real (but not obscene) effort, but tendon pain aside, I felt nowhere near as trashed at the end of this session as I did after last Tuesday's.

Wednesday: 8 miles easy Rest / karate. I woke up Wednesday with a slightly alarming amount of pain in both my left PT tendon and whatever that one is behind my knee. I also woke up with a raging headache & feeling generally crappy. I kept waiting for some/all of these things to resolve but they never did. So I skipped my run & just went to karate instead. Weep. :(

Thursday: 11 miles (2 wu + 9 MP) Rest. I don't have any physical excuse for not running Thursday; all I can say is that mentally I just couldn't face it. Even though my legs felt fine after resting Wednesday, all day long the mere thought of running, any amount, filled me with this bizarre feeling of panic & anxiety that I'm not used to associating with running. (Me: Runningz, maybe? Brain: NONONONOOO!!!11!1) I just couldn't make myself do it, and I felt a HUGE rush of relief once I finally made the decision not to run.

Friday: Rest 11 miles (2 wu + 9 MP). I was determined to get a real MP run in this week since I cut last week's short. These runs have been BY FAR the toughest ones on my schedule, and the ones causing me the most anxiety re: CIM because they've been so hard. I was even more anxious about this one than usual given my bizarre mental state the day before, but after a light dinner and dropping Don off at the airport, I threw on running clothes, filled up my water bottle, and headed out the door before my psyche could get the better of me.

And, um, wow. 9 miles at 7:57 / mile average pace felt positively easy! I mean, yes, it took effort, and I would've preferred to run slower, but for the first time, I really had a sense that this was a pace I could maintain for a good, long time. There may still be some hope for a sub-3:30 marathon after all. (Then again, I suppose that is the magic of taking two rest days in a row.) My stupid tendons did start talking to me around the 7th MP mile, so I kind of feel like whether or not I can pull it off on race day may have more to do with injury stuff than with what kind of shape I'm in.

Saturday: 7 miles easy(ish). On Saturday I got up early (WHAT!) and met Courtney at Golden Gate Park for a few recovery miles. This was awesome because a) I had someone to run with and b) I've been reading her blog for months now but never met her in person, and it is always cool to meet fellow bloggers. The night before I was all like, "Oh, you know, I just ran 11 miles tonight with 9 of them at marathon pace, so I *ONLY* want to do, like, 10-12 easy miles tomorrow." (This was kind of going to be the cut-back week "medium-long-ish" run.) Heh; my body clearly had other plans.

I almost never run twice in a twenty-four hour period and Thursday night was a tough run (though good), so when we took off, my legs were kind of like, "Uhhhh...didn't we just do this?" But whatever. Recovery miles are good for you. The other trouble was that I hadn't eaten a whole ton after my Thursday run. I knew I needed to, but I just didn't have an appetite. I did, however, see my way to two mugs of lapsang souchon tea.

Guess who has two thumbs & was still awake at 4:00 am? This moron. (Though, to be fair, I also had a not-insignificant nap Friday afternoon, which probably contributed to the problem.)

I don't like to eat too much before running in the morning, so I just grabbed a random half of a Clif Bar I happened to have sitting around, washed it down with some apple cider, & headed out. All told, you can see why 2nd run in 12 hours + insufficient eating + insufficient sleep + hot weather = a reasonably tough "easy" 7 miles! Courtney & I ran from the Conservatory of Flowers down to the Great Highway, then back up MLK, cut across to JFK, & then to Stow Lake to meet Alyssa. At this point I was completely out of gas so they ran with me back to my car at the Conservatory, then headed off to do some more miles. Yay running with bloggers!

The only down side to this run was my stupid left PT tendon. It started bugging me about halfway through the run & continued bothering me all the way to the end; after I got home & showered & went to grab food, the pain got worse, and by the time I got back home I was limping. I tried to stay off of it as much as I could Saturday in hopes that it would be in decent enough shape to run on Sunday.

Sunday: 1 mile easy of searing pain. In the morning I went out to the track to do my HMP run. I put on the left air cast to warm up in (they really do help with the tendonitis, at least for a little while, though it's hard to run fast in them. Since I've had my orthotics wearing them doesn't feel like having my heels in a vice grip anymore, which is quite nice). I only got about a mile before the pain in my right calf and Achilles was too bad to continue. This was when my emotional state began to deteriorate. Jesus, I found myself thinking, if it's not one damned thing, then it's another.

But, thankfully, I got to spend the rest of the day eating tasty food, drinking wine, & hanging out with good friends at a bbq elsewhere in the city. Yes, it was hot as balls, but hot as balls + shade + cold wine + floppy hat + not moving = quite lovely, actually.

Grand Total: 29 miles

I wasn't planning on HUGE miles this week, but I had hoped to at least break 40. C'est la vie. What I'm learning more than anything else this cycle is that there are things I can control and things I can't (eg, body stuff), & there's no use beating myself up over the things I can't. Le sigh.

I was planning for this coming week to be my last really big number week & to get in the 55-60 range, including a long run, one more time before tapering for Clarksburg. After that there will only be three weeks until CIM, so obviously I won't be running huge mileage weeks then either. With this tendon & calf stuff, I just don't know if it's going to happen. I may end up needing too many rest days to do it. We'll see.

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Current Gear Crushes

Friends, I am loving Pinterest.

After establishing a board for Clothes, Shoes, Food Porn, Dessert Porn, Beverages, Places to Visit, and Full Of Win (oh, and also Worst of Pinterest...someone had to do it), I of course created one called Running Gear. My Running Gear board is full of stuff that I would totally buy tomorrow if I won the lottery, or whatever is the equivalent of winning the lottery for someone who doesn't play the lottery (mathematician, you know).

What's currently on my Running Gear board?

roga shortOiselle Running Women's Roga Short, $44

I am almost universally a compression shorts girl -- I have yet to find a pair of loose running shorts that don't chafe the hell out of my inner thighs. (You're welcome for that image.) I'm intrigued by the Roga Short, though. The material looks like it's maybe a little different than most other loose running shorts I've seen. Kind of steep (I'd say $25 is usually my limit for running shorts), but hey, we're talking about a magical world where I've won the lottery-equivalent, here.

The Long Roga Short ($47) is also on my board -- sometimes more length helps prevent the chafing as well. Again, slightly rich for my blood (my current blood, at least), but a girl can dream. Then again maybe they're extra-special magical and worth the dough if you've got it.

brooks seamless arm warmersBrooks Seamless Arm Warmers, $25

I'm eying these guys for Cal International Marathon in December. Word has it that it's usually pretty chilly at the start of the race, but in my experience, wearing a long sleeve shirt in a long race is a HORRENDOUS idea unless it's below freezing. (I ran in one when I was on a ski trip in Whistler & it was 25° F -- that was about right.) So arm warmers it is. I love the Brooks gear that I have & these have gotten pretty good reviews, so I'll probably go with them.

I'm also considering a pair of tech gloves, at least to throw in my bag in case it's extra-special cold and/or raining. These Nike Lightweight Women's Running Gloves ($18) are my current pick. I'm open to something cheaper / non-name brand if it is functional & serves the purpose, though my experience with ski gloves & liners suggests that $18 is actually not exorbitantly over-priced for good tech gloves.

hanson-brooks capHanson-Brooks ODP Cap, $20

A good running cap is pretty high up on my list of gear I actually need right now. Currently I have this disgusting Sauza sun visor that I got for free at some Cinco de Mayo event they were sponsoring like seven years ago. It's been through some untold (and, frankly, disgusting) number of hot, sunny runs and has probably doubled in weight at this point via salt I've sweated into it. Though it has more or less served its purpose, it's pretty gross by now, and not very fashionable, and certainly won't be much good in cool / rainy weather. Since I'm using their marathon plan, I thought it would be kind of cool to get a sweet Hanson-Brooks cap.

smartwool graduated compression socksSmartWool PhD Graduated Compression Ultra Light Socks, $38

After a lot of reading & talking to my sports docs & PTs, I'm convinced that compression socks don't actually do anything if you wear them while you're running (some people swear they're more comfortable, which is fair, but there is no evidence that they've ever made anyone run faster). On the other hand, I've come to really love wrapping my lower legs with ace bandages after a hard run, and there IS actually some evidence that wearing them afterward speeds recovery time. I have a bunch of SmartWool ski socks that I love, so I was excited to find out that they have also make graduated compression socks. Maybe one of these days I'll actually get around to buying a pair.

HaberVision McKenzy Sport Sunglasses, $77.50

habervision mckenzy sunglassesI bought my last pair of sport sunglasses (who am I kidding; my last pair of sunglasses of any kind) at the Rock N Roll San Jose Expo last year. While they've held up pretty well (especially for $20, as they were on clearance), they've got their share of nicks & scratches, are missing the rubber bit off one of the ear pieces, and are certainly no longer anti-fog. I just learned about HaberVision recently -- I don't know all the details, but supposedly they're doing fancy-schmancy-quality sunglasses for cheap by doing everything online. Supposedly $77.50 is good for these particular sunglasses (suggested retail = $155, apparently). I don't know enough about sunglasses to speak with authority on the matter, but they look and sound comfy. And again - lottery-equivalent.

trigger point grid foam rollerTrigger Point "The Grid" Foam Roller, $40

I got my current foam roller for about $15 back before I really knew anything about foam rolling. It is literally a cylinder of blue foam that has slowly collapsed over the years into a kind of Coke bottle-type-shape. As you can imagine, this makes it pretty useless. I've heard lots of good things about the "The Grid" model, particularly its rigidity, meaning it retains its shape (and usefulness) for longer. All it would have to do to justify its price tag is outlast three of my old ones, which is probably not hard, as a couple of months was realistically all it was good for.

What about you -- any current gear crushes to share?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Marathon Training, Week 7: In which I Feel Crappy, but Gain Confidence (and also ask a question)

lazy polar bearQuick sidenote -- Did you know that you can sign up to test out running shoes for different companies? I didn't until just a couple of months ago. If you trawl around their websites a bit, most of them have a link to an application where you enter some basic information about yourself (height / weight, shoe size & type, what sports / distance you do, average weekly mileage) & then get added to their pool of potential testers. I was invited to test for one company about two weeks after signing up but didn't respond fast enough (they over-invite, apparently, to fill the testing spots quickly), then by another about two weeks ago. This time I was super-speedy & snagged a spot.

Obviously, there are pros & cons to shoe testing. The pros include a chance to stretch your shoe dollars, try out unreleased products, & provide feedback directly to the engineers designing the shoes. The cons include the possibility of not jiving with the shoe you're supposed to test, committing to a certain number of weekly miles for a specific number of weeks (both of my invitations stated explicitly that my high weekly mileage -- you know, compared to the general population -- was one of the reasons why I was selected) and the fact that you can't talk to anyone (or blog) about the specifics. Of course, if the shoes REALLY don't work for you or cause discomfort or pain, you can bow out, but at that point you've probably already put in some not insignificant number of miles in them. You do have to return them at the end of the testing period for the engineers to dissect & analyze, but that's not really much of a downside given that the typical testing window (8 weeks or so) is about as long as a pair of shoes lasts for me these days anyway.

So yeah. Just a neat little note there. :)

On to business -

Re-reading my recent training logs, I notice a pattern emerging:

"Marathon pace runs are a BITCH." (9/29)

"...the five hardest “easy” miles I’ve run in a while." (9/30)

"Less than a mile in, and all I could think was, “This is going to suuuUUUUuuck…” I felt so beaten up already, and my legs felt like lead. " (10/2)

"...those two-mile intervals were KILLER." (10/11)

"I felt exhausted & sluggish the entire time." (10/14)

"Definitely feeling the “cumulative fatigue” on this run." (10/15)

As I lay on the couch trying not to die recovering Sunday night post 18-miler, it started bothering me even more. Was I over-training? Doing more harm than good? Was this one of those "screw the program & listen to your body" moments? (Personally, my body most often tends to say things like, "More goat brie, please," and "Wouldn't a nice syrah be good now," but that is another issue.)

Still, something about those particular words & feelings stuck in my mind; all this sounded familiar from somewhere. Later I remembered where.

An excerpt from Marathon Tips from the Hanson Brothers, where I first read about the Hanson-Brooks program:
On paper, the plan appeared reasonable. But in practice, it wore me out.

Tuesday's speed (or strength) session consisted of two three-mile intervals run at [about ten to twenty seconds faster than marathon pace] per mile. It didn't sound particularly intimidating to me at first, but my Monday night dreams came to be haunted by visions of the impending lung-searing visit to the high-school track. Thursday required an ever-lengthening tempo session, which taught my legs, lungs, and mind what my marathon pace felt like. Sundays were for long runs. Okay, not the talismanic 20-miler, but even a "mere" 16 miles at a [a minute slower per mile than marathon pace] takes its toll, especially on tired legs.

"Sometimes running when you're tired isn't a bad thing. Once your body adapts, there's a callusing benefit. You just have to get through a period of feeling pretty crappy in all your runs."

Crappy indeed. As the weeks crawled by, I felt increasingly fatigued. On weekends, the extra hour I saved with my "short" long runs was usually spent soaking in the tub, lying in bed, or sprawled on the sofa, my body laboring to recover.

Despite the fatigue, my legs seemed to agree with the plan. I was running my highest mileage since college, yet I remained injury-free. As much as I would have loved to back off a little, I had no excuse. Still, my brain longed for one, so I kept bargaining with it: Get to the end of the week, the month.

Yeah; that was it. While I haven't been totally injury-free, I can't say that marathon training has made anything worse. (In fact, the hip issues that ultimately ruined SJRNR for me last year have been totally absent, which is a HUGE deal.) Mostly, I've just felt slow, and exhausted, and finding that I have to put forth a monumental effort in order to make my paces (when I make them). Re-reading the article made me feel MUCH, much better -- apparently this is what's supposed to happen. :)

Particularly with the long runs. Feeling a little skeptical at first, I changed one of the later 16-mile long runs in the plan to 18 and the one after to 20. You know, I told myself, just in case I'm feeling a little insecure about the distance (and am not too worn down to do it). Well, I did that 18-miler obviously. Which taught me a few things.

  • The distance itself will not be a problem. No, 18 miles at an easy pace wasn't happy-fun-ice cream-time, but as I did it after 4 hours of wine tasting, running 12 miles the day before (including 6 at half marathon pace) and having eaten nothing but a sandwich and a Clif bar (all day), I was fully prepared to have to cut it short purely because my body wasn't prepared. Sure, I felt tired as the time went on, but it wasn't really all that different from the kind of tired I feel after doing anything active & repetitive for two and a half hours. (Honestly, I was more bored than tired & wanted to be done just so I could do something else. Anything else, really.)
  • There is hope that the pace (by which I mean *some* reasonably fast pace, even if it's not sub-8) won't be a problem. I kept an easy pace because that's what you're supposed to do, but even towards the end, I didn't feel as if I couldn't have run faster.
  • There is hope of not hitting a wall. Vague tiredness aside, I felt strong, alert, and with it all the way to the end.
  • Nutrition is working out. I did a gel every five miles, ~8 ounces of Cytomax at the beginning, & ~20 ounces of water the rest of the way (in addition to the whole post-wine tasting, lack of eating bit) and was fine. Imagine if I actually ate first & wasn't dehydrated!
  • In addition to Vince Lombardi, I have a little cheerleader in my head that seems to get louder and more positive the longer I run. This is a weird thing for me to discover as it has never been the case before. She tends to shout things like, "Wow, you are SO amazing! Doing SO well!" "Girl, you are killin' it. KILLIN' IT!" and "YES! Another bitchin' mile DOWN!" While yes, I was thrilled to be done, I went the whole way with nary a dark thought.
  • Part of the Hansons' argument for capping long runs at 16 miles is recovery time -- that it's really hard to run hard & strong in key workouts later in the week if you've trashed yourself on the long run. (Remember that they're all about balance.) Although I felt better mentally for doing the 18, I felt absolutely CRAP-TASTIC for the rest of the night (and the next morning, too). My knees really hurt (whaaaat? I haven't had knee pain in six years!), and I did something to a tendon behind my left knee that has caused it to hurt like a BITCH ever since. There was never any chance of running Monday. Never. And although I did get the track session done Tuesday, it remains to be seen how much running I'll be physically capable of this week.

So, you know. It's a journey.


Given that I've had the one good 18 miler and it went really well (other than kind of breaking me for 24 hours), I actually don't really feel the need to do 20, especially if I'm able to keep up with all the rest of the mileage. I may just do a couple more 16s and call it good (especially since I'll have the half marathon coming up, and I want to make sure I'm healthy & fully recovered for that).

Finally, there appear to be a ton of Bay Area blogger-type folks either running CIM or getting involved with it in some other way. A few folks have expressed an interest in some kind of get-together before then (particularly those of us who haven't met each other yet). I would especially love for this to happen since I ended up not able to make it to the last one. What do you think? Interested?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Week In Review: Oct 10 - Oct 16

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

4 Weeks to Clarksburg Half Marathon

7 Weeks to Cal International Marathon

I'm trying to keep my cool as those numbers continue to fall. Physically, I think I'm almost ready to run a sub-1:40 half, if I can muster the mental toughness on race day. As for the marathon, I'm trying to strike a good balance between taking it seriously (ie, preparing adequately & making sure I've got my logistics handled) and not too seriously (it's my first one & I have to keep reminding myself that meeting a specific time goal, as awesome as that would be, isn't the biggest priority).

(I've given up on counting by months, by the way; the novelty's worn off and it's no longer making me feel any better.)

Monday: 5 miles easy. This was my first run in six days, due to some weird calf strain. As with every run I've attempted since that business started, my only real goal was to get *some* amount of mileage in without too much pain. So yay, success! I was prepared to run up to seven miles, but after four when I was about a mile from home, my calf started bugging me a little more, so I decided to call it good at five.

Tuesday: 8 miles (2 wu + 3 x 3200 @ MP pace minus 10 seconds / mile) Tuesdays are still track days. For about the first half of the program, the Hanson-Brooks plan calls for speed workouts ("A total of three miles of intervals at 10-K race pace. Interval length may vary, but don't exceed 1600 meters."); for the second half, those days switch to strength workouts ("A total of six miles of intervals at 10 seconds per mile faster than marathon goal pace. Intervals should be 1600 meters or longer."). I wish I were a real running coach or kinesiologist & could tell you what the rationale is for that, but I have no idea. Nevertheless, I went out to the track Tuesday & dutifully did it anyway.

Given that I still wasn't pain-free Monday, this was another of those run-until-you-can't sessions. I did okay warming up, so figured I was good to try some slightly faster running. After all, I figured, I wouldn't be trying to run all THAT fast (I was shooting for anywhere in the 7:40-7:50 range). It turned out that I didn't have much calf or tendon pain, especially not at first, but those two-mile intervals were KILLER.

Well; alright. I know partly why they were so killer. First, it was hot enough that my "active recovery" between intervals was hanging out in the shade sipping Nuun as opposed to jogging an 800, so I really probably should've given myself 10 seconds or so of lenience per mile & aimed for 7:50-8:00. Second, the splits on my first interval were 7:36 & 7:42 (oops) -- I was having some obvious satellite trouble (there's no way my pace was fluctuating between 5:45 & 8:30) so I was trying to do more running by feel & effort level, but when I do that I inevitably end up running too fast. I tried to rein it in on the last two (7:46/7:46 & 7:45/7:40), but given the heat & how hard I was having to work for those times, I know they were too fast. If it's hot when I do these workouts in the future, I think I will probably wear a heart rate monitor & go by that. (I'm trying to get better at running by effort, but it seems to never go well for me, & this close to big races I'm less inclined to mess with it too much.)

Still, I was super happy to be able to get this whole session in. By the third interval, I started having some pain (doing another probably would've been a bad idea), but was able to finish.

Thursday: 10 miles (2 wu + 8 MP) 6 miles (1 wu + 5 MP) This was the day I went to get my orthotics. My original plan had been to do this run early because the appointment was late in the day, but when I got to the track and A) it was already hot as BALLS, B) I forgot my water, C) my Garmin died during the .2 mile jog from my car to the track, and D) my calf & tendon were already aching from the jog, I decided to just take all my stuff with me to the doctor & then go straight to the track after.

When I picked up the orthotics, Dr. S told me to keep my first run in them pretty short, which kind of threw off my plan. Plus, I got home late due to traffic, which nixed going to the track. Instead I decided to do a shortened MP run in my neighborhood (probably not as short as Dr. S intended but oh well).

It was another hot day so I was trying to run more by heart rate than pace. I've been calling 7:59 marathon pace (we'll see whether that ends up being realistic or not), so with the heat and a few modest hills, 8:13 / 8:27 / 7:42 / 8:00 / 8:21 is probably about right (except for that 7:42...not really sure what that was all about).

Friday: 7 miles (4 easy + 3 @ MP) 7 miles, any way I could get them. Most of the time it takes me a mile or two to settle in & feel good on a run. I kept waiting for that moment today & it never happened. I felt exhausted & sluggish the entire time. Running three sub-eight minute miles at the end of all that was just NOT going to happen, not with the monumental effort it was taking me to keep them in the nine minute range. In retrospect, this run felt a lot like the five mile run I did on Friday two weeks ago. The weird part is that I haven't run as much mileage this week as I had at that point, because of having to run a little less yesterday, and also because of having 18 miles scheduled for Sunday. Some shin splint pain, and some concerning tendon pain starting at around 4.5 miles. Ugh. 9:10 / mile average, and I was VERY glad to be done.

Saturday: 8 miles (2 wu + 6 @ HMP) 12 miles (3.25 wu + 6 @ HMP + 2.75 easy). Same situation as my HMP run two weeks ago -- I insist on doing HMP runs at the track, the time I had to do it was Saturday night, and I was sure as hell not driving there as the odds of reasonable parking on the weekend drop by approximately half every half hour after 6 pm. Hence walk/jogging there & back (mostly I walked the hills, and the first half mile on my way back).

Definitely feeling the "cumulative fatigue" on this run. Two weeks ago, I did almost this exact same workout & averaged 7:35 / mile & 184 bpm -- encouraging, as my target HMP is about 7:37 / mile & my target HR for the half is about 188 bpm. Today I

About halfway through, both my pace and heart rate were rising (bad). At that point I was torn between maintaining the pace by pushing harder (read: too hard for a half marathon) & keeping my heart rate in the right place, maybe slightly higher, & letting the pace go. I know that these pace runs are designed to mimic the last six miles, not the first, when it makes sense to run harder to in order to keep up the pace. On the other hand, running them too hard means I'm essentially doing speed work and not a (pseudo) tempo run. Unable to decide which was better, I ended up splitting the difference, by which I mean I didn't keep my pace OR heart rate in the target range. Sigh.

Sunday: 18 miles easy. Well; as easy as 18 miles can be when you can't actually remember the last time you ran that far, ran 12 miles including 6 at HMP the day before, have been drinking wine all afternoon, & haven't eaten anything all day except a sandwich and a Clif Bar. I have more to say about this run than you really want to read about here so look for that in a separate post. The upshot -- in spite of feeling kind of not super amazing and really not wanting to do it, I got it done & didn't die & even managed to keep up a semi-respectable pace. But yeah -- more on this elsewhere.

Grand Total: 56 miles

Whew. I've officially surpassed my peak mileage from my last big training cycle (SJRNR 2010) & am definitely feeling it. Also, re: my earlier post on racing weight, I think it is hilarious that I have lost five--count 'em, FIVE--pounds in under a week. (Obviously a bunch of that is probably temporary fluid & glycogen depletion, especially after this weekend; I just find the numbers on the scale extremely funny.)

Friday, October 14, 2011


So my orthotics finally arrived, and not a moment too soon.

In case you've missed all the excitement (by which I mean "excitement"), here's a brief recap of what's been going on around here:

  • I have a moderate case of MTSS that is most likely caused by over-pronation that isn't being corrected sufficiently by stability shoes & semi-custom orthotics.
  • A few weeks of TheraBand exercises to strengthen the small muscles in the lower legs often corrects the trouble but in my case didn't.
  • I tried running in air casts but found them quite uncomfortable to run in for more than a mile and a half -- they felt like vice grips on the back of my foot.
  • Two weeks ago I was fitted for custom orthotics.
  • During those two weeks, I've developed some yucky tendonitis in my left ankle, which is probably also a result of pronation, and a minor (but painful) strain in my right calf, also probably at least partly from the pronation, which resulted in my not being able to run at all for a good five days.

Lately, the tendonitis & calf strain have really been bigger issues than the shin splints. The shin splint pain I can usually run through; this stuff, not so much. (Based on what I've read, I was also more worried about doing more severe damage with those.)

I was able to go back to running on Monday, though still with not-insignificant pain (I cut the run two miles short, but at least I did something). Tuesday's track workout was a little easier, but especially towards the end, I could feel pain in both areas returning. Plan A for Thursday was to get a marathon pace run in early at the track, since my appointment was in Palo Alto at 2:45 & I wasn't sure I'd have time to do it after. Alas, the universe had other plans. A) It was already hot as BALLS when I got there, B) I forgot my water bottle, C) my Garmin died during the .2 mile jog from my car to the track, and D) my various lower leg ailments were already aching by then as well.

Eff this noise, I decided, & walked right back to my car. I'll just take all my stuff with me to the doctor & then go straight to the track after. I figured this was probably for the best anyway, since I'd then have the orthotics.

So let me tell you about them:

  • As you can see, they look kind of like little duck feet, because there's no toe part; they only fill up about 3/4 of the bottom of the shoe.
  • The top is made from some kind of think vinyl-like material, but the rest is HARD hard plastic.
  • When I first put them in my shoes and put them on, they felt really slippery, which worried me. Then Dr. S told me that the customs go underneath the original inserts that came with the shoes.
  • They are guaranteed for two years (as compared to the semi-customs, which are good for about three pairs of shoes, which for me these days works out to about five or six months, depending on the shoe).

orth 1

orth 2

orth 3

Once I had both the orthotics and the original inserts back in the shoes, the difference was immediate. One way or another, these were going to feel a lot different than my old ones. I couldn't wait to go do my 10 mile MP run.

"By the way, sometimes there's a little bit of an adjustment period," says Dr. S., "so be sure to start off with a shorter run to see how they feel. Just a couple of miles, maybe. Don't take them on a ten miler or anything."

Uhhh...okay, I thought. This is going to throw things off a little. But I nodded my assent anyway, because, hey! Custom orthotics!

On my way back to the city, there was a wreck on 101 north, which meant I didn't get home until after 4:30, which meant I was not going to the track, because going to the track at that point would mean getting home around 6:30 and not getting to park my car anywhere. Which was just as well, I figured, given Dr. S's warning about starting off with a shorter run.

But I did need to get at least some MP miles in, so I decided that an easy warm-up mile and five MP miles wasn't too unreasonable, & I could make up the others tomorrow.

And wow! What a difference! No tendonitis pain. Almost no calf pain. Almost no shin pain. Even more remarkable, my lower legs felt almost normal in the hours following the run. (That's normally when they feel the most beaten up.) Incredible.

It's only been one run, so we'll see how things go in the next few days, but as of right now, things are looking pretty good!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Racing Weight

scaleSo, I've very specifically avoided talking about weight on my running blog for a few reasons:

  • I know several people who got into running because they were obsessed with losing weight and staying extra-skinny. I'm not talking about folks who were like, "You know, I'd like to be fitter / more active," or "I'm not in great shape & it'd be nice to lose 5-10 pounds," or "I don't get any regular exercise now & kind of like the idea of running to maintain a healthy weight." I'm talking about people who became utterly obsessed with their weight, often fixating on an unrealistic weight, and using running as a way of getting there, often in combination with unhealthy eating habits. My running is not about that, and I don't ever want anyone to get the impression that it is.
  • I usually don't worry too much about my weight. Between genetics, growing up active & enjoying sports, & having (reasonably) healthy eating habits, I've been fortunate enough to be able to stay at a perfectly acceptable weight (which I pretty much define as being happy with the way I look in the clothes I own) without trying too hard.
  • Excepting people who have legitimate health problems or food issues, I think there is WAAAAAY too much focus on weight in this country as it is (especially for women), and there is really no bigger turn-off for me when it comes to running / healthy living blogs than hearing about people's weight loss / gain issues all the time. (Just to be clear, I'm not talking about blogs like Barb's column "Downsizing" on Digital Running Club, which I have enjoyed the hell of and has made me so happy to read over the last few months. I think that if you read her monthly entries for this year, you'll understand how that is a completely different sort of thing.)
  • All though I've never had major body image or food issues, I can admit that there have been times in my own life when I've been a lot more concerned with how much I weigh than I am now (hello, competitive track & gymnastics...), and I really like that my attitude these days is much more about feeling fit, strong, & fast & weighing myself maybe once a month than it is about chasing some magic number on a scale.

On the other hand, I don't want these facts to make me feel like discussing weight on my blog is somehow taboo. (Organizational management fact: If you want to understand where an organization needs to work on its culture, look at the issues people avoid talking about.) I think there are healthy and appropriate ways to talk about weight on a running blog, so I'm going to do that.

Fact #1: As Matt Fitzgerald puts it in his book Racing Weight, by and large, we recreational athletes, though fitter than the general population, are not at our optimal performance weights all (or even most) of the time. If we were to take six months and get ourselves into the shape necessary to run our best race possible, then weigh ourselves, the scale would almost universally show a number lower than the one we currently see.

There are lots of reasons for that. Most of us don't have the time or resources to get into or stay in that kind of shape. Most of us miss a workout every now & then. Most of us really like cheese (or chocolate, or bread pudding, or whatever your particular soul-nourishing indulgence may be). I think I've mentioned before how I'm pretty sure I could get back down to my high school racing weight if I really, really wanted to, but I did the math and realized that the things I'd have to give up would make me too unhappy to be willing to make the tradeoff. I'm not saying that I think I'm fat or out of shape or that my current weight is an unhealthy one; just that, if I weighed a little less, I'd be a little faster.

Fact #2: Yes, there are tradeoffs I'm not willing to make. I'm not going to stop eating deep-dish pizza. Or mission burritos. Or ham & cheese croissants. Or drinking fancy wine / beer / cocktails. I'm just not. But if I'm honest with myself, I know that my eating habits lately have kind of been out of control, and I've been using my ramped-up mileage to justify it. I'm not going to stop eating deep-dish pizza, but truly; one slice is a MORE than adequate dinner. I'm not going to stop eating artisan cheeses, but no one needs a pound of it in one evening. I'm not going to stop drinking wine with dinner, but two glasses should really be adequate. For the most part, it's not what I've been eating; it's how much. The little-kid part of my brain still feels deprived if at any point a specific amount of something is declared "all you can have," even if that amount is quite generous, and when I'm under more stress (as I have been lately), the grown up part of my brain has more trouble beating it down.

But it can. And it needs to. And I just need to work harder at it. When you've been running 40-50 miles a week (in addition to 3.5 hours of martial arts) and still managed to gain six pounds in a month, that's a little bit of a red flag.

Recap of Facts #1 & #2: Although I certainly don't think I'm overweight, I weigh more than I would like to going into an "A" race, and my Clarksburg half marathon goal of breaking 1:40 would be made significantly easier by dropping some number of pounds.

Fact #3: When you're an athlete and already in pretty good shape (by non-athlete standards), it's hard to get support from people around you for eating better / less in order to lose weight. I get that; when someone looks to you like they're in good shape (and can already run faster and farther than they'd ever dream of running), it's hard to understand why they feel any need to weigh less.

Or how they could weigh less. A month ago, I ran a 44:42 10K to win my age group (and finished feeling like I probably could've run harder & shaved ~12 seconds off that time) & weighed around 132. That's what 5'4" & 132 pounds looks like, to the right, there. To give you an idea of where those numbers lie on the spectrum of "underweight" to "overweight," that's a BMI of 22.7 (where less than 18.5 is underweight and more than 25 is overweight -- admittedly, there are some real problems with the whole BMI concept, but I'm average enough in terms of build and body composition that it's probably reasonably functional for these purposes). I mentioned casually to a friend that I would really love to weigh about 10 pounds less going into Clarksburg. His reaction: Raised eyebrows, and "I don't know where you have 10 pounds to lose."

I didn't pursue the conversation. (I mean, what's there to gain, really?) But realistically, I do know where those 10 pounds are. 122 pounds would put me at 20.9, certainly still in a completely normal range; when I was in high school (and eating like a horse), I was pretty much the same height and normally weighed around 115 (19.7 BMI) and no one thought that I was underweight. Realistically, I think it's probably that 10 pounds just isn't as much weight as most people think it is, and if I did lose 10 pounds, my friend might not even notice.

Upshot: I think that in the past few months, I haven't been letting myself own the fact that, gosh darnit, I want to lose some unnecessary weight going into Clarksburg. I certainly have it to lose, and I know it will improve my time. I haven't been owning it because I've been worried about what people will think and say about my turning down extra helpings of amazing food or only having a little bit of tasty dessert (skipping dessert completely is beyond the realm of things I'm willing to do). And because not owning it is easier than getting a handle on my stress & dealing with it in ways that don't involve letting my little-kid self take control of what I eat. I need to get more comfortable saying, "Look, this is my goal, I want it enough to make this decision, and it's not about food issues or anything unhealthy, so please just drop it."

I'm hoping that putting it in writing will help me own it a little more. I'm purposefully not attaching a number (eg, "I will lose xx pounds by Nov. 13.") because I honestly don't know what a reasonable number would even be. My goal is more, "Eat like a reasonable person, plan your meals ahead of time, eat less, drink less, and go back to eating your fruits & veggies first," because honestly, I know what that means, and if I do it, there's no way I won't lose at least a few pounds.

So, yeah. I hope my discussing weight loss in relation to running isn't a turn-off for anyone, and that all of that makes some sense.

Is weight something you think about with respect to running? Or just in general? Do you avoid discussing it with non-athletic friends? I'm curious about how other recreational runners deal with this issue.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Week In Review: Oct 3 - Oct 9

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

5 Weeks [1 month & 1 week] to Clarksburg Half Marathon

8 Weeks [2 months-ish] to Cal International Marathon

EEK! Somehow translating weeks into months is not having the calming effect I had hoped it would.

Sigh. So this has been kind of a bummer of a week.

Monday: So I decided to take Monday (at least) off after my 16 mile long run the day before. I also finally got around to seeing a chiropractor (which my PTs and a couple of massage people have recommended, given my injury history). A friend of mine loves hers & recommended him, and he was fantastic. Friendly, confidence-inspiring, and not overly-enthusiastic about all the bone cracking. He did a few simple adjustments (one on my right ankle to loosen it up, a couple to re-align my pelvis, and one for the middle of my back), plus a good bit of soft tissue massage & passive stretching. That was all pretty awesome.

Tuesday: 8 miles (2 wu + 8 x 800 a la Yasso 800's) This was the first downer moment of the week. The run itself would've been awesome if it hadn't been for this. You can read about it if you haven't already. I'm still pissed as hell.

As for the actual workout, I went into this one pretty conservatively & not actually sure I'd be able to do any fast running at all, given the tendonitis in my left leg and the pull/strain/tweak/whatever in my right calf. Still, I figured I might as well warm up, try one 800, and if that went well, just keep doing them until I felt like I shouldn't. Thankfully, the pain stayed pretty low-grade (it was actually less bad running fast than it has been walking or running slower) so I was able to do them all without a problem.

I decided to kind-of-sort-of try doing them as if they were Yassos. I'm sure most of you know but if not, distance runner folk knowledge says that if you can run, say, 10-12 800 repeats in x:xx each (minutes & seconds), then you're about in shape to run a x:xx marathon (hours & minutes). From what I've heard & read, it seems to be a startlingly accurate predictor. I wasn't really doing Yassos because I was only planning on 8, but I figured that how hard / easy they were would at least give me a reasonable idea of where I am right now and whether my very tentative, completely casual, not-really-that-wedded-to-at-all goal of 3:30 seems reasonable.

I ran the first two in 3:29 & 3:27 respectively; that felt pretty easy, so I decided I'd try to stick with around that effort level for the first 4-5, and then, if I still felt good, see if I could speed up the last few. All told: 3:29, 3:27, 3:27, 3:27, 3:26, 3:25, 3:17, 3:21.

Not bad, eh? :D Of course, you never know until you try, but even after the last one, I really felt like I could have run a few more at the same pace without a problem. If Bart Yasso is to be trusted, and if I can get my stamina game in the right place, 3:30 may not be so unreasonable after all.

Wednesday: 7 miles easy Rest / karate. My tendonitis & the spot on my right calf had been bothering me for most of the day, so I decided I'd attempt my 7 miles, and if I could only do 5, or 3, or 1, then that was okay. Alas, it only took me about a quarter of a mile to realize that trying to run today at all was not a smart idea. My initial guess was that it was the combined effects of the 16 miler Sunday (remember, my longest run in a VERY long while) and a pretty intense, fast speed workout less than two days later.

Thursday: 10 miles (2 wu + 8 @ MP pace) 1 mile easy. I decided to just try an easy run today given the pain I had yesterday. Unfortunately I only got about a mile. The tendonitis leg wasn't too bad, but the pain in my right calf was worse. In the ten minutes after I stopped running and came back home, it got even worse (you know that throbby-sort-of pain?), which kind of worried me.

I didn't bother trying to do any running for the rest of the week. Every morning I woke up with pretty bad pain in that calf muscle, in spite of having done no running at all since Tuesday. Even walking has been irritating it, so I've been trying to stay off of it as much as possible.

Saturday: On Saturday, I was super pumped about meeting up with a bunch of other Bay Area running (& other stuff) bloggers organized by Courtney at Pancakes & Postcards. Don & I were planning to head down to Stanford around 2:00 to get a bit of tailgating in before the game, so I figured I'd try to get to the meet up around noon, hang out for an hour or so, then come back home to get ready for the game. Alas, it was Fleet Week, and our meet up was at the Sports Basement in the Presidio. This was bad because a bunch of roads were blocked off, including the two easiest ways of getting to SB. After driving aimlessly around the Presidio for a while, I finally I called SB to see how they recommended I get there. They said there was really only one way, but that traffic was really bad. I decided to give it a shot, just to see. When it was nearing 1:00 & things were still barely moving, I finally admitted defeat & began the equally slow trek back home. Given what a crappy (no) running week I'd already had, this bummed me out extra hard. Sorry, guys! :(

Sunday: On Sunday I tried to force myself not to mope by doing all my strength training & stretching, which I had not been doing this week, because I was moping. (Did I mention stuffing my face with pumpkin bread? Just checking.)

But today (Monday 10/10), a light at the end of the tunnel. I had a follow-up appointment with the chiropractor, who suggested that the pain in my right calf could have been exacerbated by the adjustment he did to loosen up my ankle. It could be that having a greater range of motion than I'm used to has caused those muscles to have to work harder (even just walking). It's feeling a little better today, so I'm going to try a few easy miles (nothing crazy) & see how that goes.

Grand Total: 9 miles

But not for lack of trying. On the positive side, five days off seems to have taken care of the tendonitis in my left leg, and it's also given my legs a little break from the ever-present shin splints. (My orthotics come in on Thursday, so SUUUUUPER pumped about that.)

Here's to a less crappy week! Hopefully yours has been better than mine. :P

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Long Run, Part 2: The Mental

Ugh. So it's day five of no running for me. I've had some pretty exquisite pain in the lateral parts of my calf muscles that a) makes even walking pretty painful and b) is not getting any better, even after many days of rest. It's frustrating because I don't know what's wrong or what to do (other than nothing) to fix it. But anyway, more on that later.

A few weeks ago, I posted about the physical benefits of long runs, even for folks who race shorter distances like 5K or 10K or whose main sport isn't even running. I also promised posts on the mental & logistical benefits, which have sadly been shunted aside again and again for other things. Too long!

We all know that weekly or bi-weekly long runs (whatever long means to you at a given time) make us stronger and help us develop physical endurance. Long runs do a lot more for us than that, though! Distance running has a huge mental component to it, and just like our bones, muscles, and cardiovascular systems, our minds need consistent, progressive training to help us be the best runners we can be. In terms of my mental game, here's what long runs have given me:

Mental toughness. To quote Tim Noakes: “In each race, a point is reached at which it becomes necessary to face the mental challenges posed by self-talk and to develop mental strategies to cope, regardless of whether you are finishing first or last in the race.” And Jacqueline Gareau (1980 Boston Marathon champ), “The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy.” Long runs (and other types of runs, too) give me the opportunity to work out and practice my own strategies for how I'll convince myself to keep running when the only thing I want in the whole world is to stop.

Focus & concentration. Unfortunately, running is not a three-ring circus all the time. For me, this isn't an issue in a 5K or 10K because it's over too fast. Even with a half marathon, starting line adrenaline is usually enough to get me to mile seven or so, and the finish line adrenaline sets in not too long after that. Longer runs than that can turn into a bit of a slog, though. Once the starting line adrenaline starts to wear off and the monotony starts to set in, it's tempting to let your mind wander and dissociate from your body. (I have recently learned that some people actively work at doing this in order to minimize the physical discomfort of distance running. I won't pretend to understand this.) When my focus starts to drift, my form, stride, breathing,etc. immediately start to suffer. For me, keeping those things solid requires serious concentration. Just like maintaining a challenging pace for a long time, learning to stay mentally focused on your body and the details of your running for multiple hours is hard work, and takes practice and experience to develop.

RW - assoc vs dissoc runningBody experience. One of the most fascinating things to me about running is the different ways that your body responds after running for certain amounts of time, especially as you reach multiple hours. Long runs give you the chance to feel what your body does after one, one and a half, two-plus hours of running so that when you reach those points in your race, you aren't surprised. I've written before about how expectations are everything, and knowing what to expect in terms of your body's responses makes all the difference in the world.

Confidence. When I was in high school, the thought of running double-digit miles was freaking INSANE to me. How did people do that? And WHY would people do that? To me, it was an absolutely insurmountable feat. I actually think I probably did have the endurance then to run 10 miles if I had to (though probably not with any real speed), but I didn't believe that I could. Several years later when I ran my first half-marathon, I was probably actually in worse shape than I had been in high school, but thanks to several ten mile training runs (the longest I did), I went into the race with the confidence that I could finish (which was my only goal). After ten miles, three more seemed like nothing. (Alright; in the actual race, it seemed a lot less like nothing, but I never felt as if I couldn't finish.)

I realized after writing these down that I've pretty much stuck to things that are relevant to racing & trying to reach a certain goal, because that's my motivation for running. People run for all sorts of other reasons, though, which may give rise to completely different mental benefits. What other mental benefits do you get out of your long runs?

Next up: the logistical benefits of the long run!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Kind of a Real Post. Sort of. Not Really.

I am writing a post today not because I have anything interesting to talk about, but because I am frustrated & looking to take out my frustration on someone/thing. Currently the closest one/thing is the internet so there you are.

I had a great week of running last week, and even a great (well, mostly) Tuesday track run this week. But since then, I haven't been able to run at all. Not even a little bit. Not shin splints this time; no, this time there is this tiny spot on the upper, outside part of my calf muscle that hurts like a BITCH when I put any pressure on the ball of my foot at all. Like, walking to & from my job five blocks from home today was extremely unpleasant. Before you ask, I am not limping, as there is no way to limp that avoids the pain.

leg pain

The pain goes away as soon as I take pressure off my foot. It's worse with running (I tried running a little on both Wednesday and Thursday and only got about a quarter mile and one mile respectively before I knew it was officially a Bad Idea), and was worse for the ten minutes or so following each brief attempt at running. I've never had this kind of problem before, so I'm a little at a loss. Of course I have been googling "calf pain gastrocnemius running" & attempting to self-diagnose myself like any self-respecting denizen of the 21st century, but so far nothing sounds right. There was no "injury event" or specific point in time where the pain started or where I felt or heard anything weird. The pain is bad, but not excruciating, and present even when I'm just walking, which seems to eliminate most of the usual suspects. The only thing I can think of that even remotely makes sense is that it's just a very minor calf strain (apparently pronation is a common cause, so there's that).

There is a certain type of pain (I'm sure you know it) that, even if it's not terribly severe, is like a red flag to runners. Something that lets you know in no uncertain terms that whatever's wrong isn't a big deal now, but if you push it, it's likely to become one. So, for the time being, I'm trying to stay off of it as much as I can and hoping that a few days of complete rest (no running or karate & minimal walking) will let it heal, instead of continuing to try to run, even a little, & having it drag out for weeks (or become something more serious). As you can imagine, this is more than a little maddening.

That is all. I am off to stuff my face with this

pumpkin pull apart bread

which I made last night during the time when I normally would have been running. Which is of course exactly what you should do when you can't run for some reason. Obviously.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Most Disturbing Thing I've Ever Seen at the Track. Period.

This is probably the most serious post I've ever written. I'm still a bit shaken, not to mention sick to my stomach, as I'm writing it.

Tuesdays are speed days for me so I went out to Kezar Stadium to run 8 x 800s. I had a really fantastic workout in spite of only taking one day off after my epic 16 miler and a few lingering pains here & there. All of that seems totally irrelevant, though, next to what I had to watch and listen to while I did it.

In spite of the overcast & drizzly weather, there were a reasonable number of other folks out on the track. About halfway through my two-mile warm up, I kept thinking I could hear someone crying. When I stopped for my dynamic warm-up, I realized where the crying was coming from. A little girl, maybe nine or ten, was jogging down the straightaway towards me with her dad. She was the one crying. And I don't mean kind of weeping a little; outright sobbing.

Here's what I heard as they approached and passed:

    Dad: "What's the perimeter?"
    Girl (through choked sobs): "The perimeter--the perimeter is--it's the outside...the outside of something."
    Dad (angrily): "No."
    Girl: "I don't remember!"
    Dad: "It's the same thing I told you the last time around. The perimeter is the shortest distance around the outside of a shape. You find it by adding up the total lengths of the sides."
    Girl: (more choked sobs)
    Dad: "Now. What's the perimeter?"
    Girl: "The perimeter--the perimeter--is the distance around the shape..."
    Dad: "No. I guess we're going to run some more."
    Girl (racked with sobs): "Nooo..."
    Dad: "We're going to run until you get it right."

I listened to variations on this conversation for literally half my workout.

    "Now. What's the perimeter?"
    "It's--it's how far around the outside..."
    "Are you sure? Maybe we need to run another lap."
    (still sobbing) "Nooo...I can't...I can't run anymore..."
    "Then you better get it right."

I must have watched them run at least eight laps this way, and they were out there running when I arrived. I could hear her crying even from the opposite side of the track, and it made my skin crawl.

    "Alright. What's the perimeter?"
    "The perimeter is the distance--it's how far on the outsides--"
    "Nope. Guess we're going to keep running."
    (sobbing) "No, please! Please let me stop!"
    "We can stop any time you want. All you have to do is get it right."

After twenty minutes or so of this they moved onto the infield and started jogging laps around the football field.
    "What's area?"
    (Again, through choked sobs.) "How much is inside. Can we stop now?"
    "Not until you get it right. Area is the amount of space contained within a figure. You find it by multiplying the base times the height. What's area?"
    "Area is the--it's how much space is inside."
    "No. Guess we're going to run some more."
    (More abject sobbing)

Later when she started to fall behind...

    "You better run, girl, or we're going to be out here even longer."

And after that, still running...

    "I guess you better study hard next time, huh? And if you don't, then guess what? We're going to come back out to the track and run in the rain some more. Won't that be fun?"

Finally--finally--they stopped running. The girl followed her dad out of the stadium, limping, still sobbing near-hysterically. As they left...

    "This isn't going to get any easier, you know. Do you think I'm always going to be there to help you with everything?"

I'm still at a loss about the whole situation. Partly because this man (who is clearly the biggest ass-wipe / leading candidate for Dick-Father of the Year on the planet) somehow managed to take two of my greatest loves, math and running, and turn them into some horrific two-pronged instrument of torture (and probably cause his daughter to develop a life-long hatred of both). Partly because he may have been causing her physical harm in addition to what seems like a pretty hefty dose of psychological & emotional harm. Partly because I didn't know what to say or do about the situation while it was happening, or what I should do, or could do. I don't even know who they were. I kind of felt sick to my stomach throughout most of what should've been a really fantastic run. I have a vague memory of seeing a father & daughter of a similar age running on the track together in the past, which makes me wonder if this is a regular thing.

What would you do? How far can you go in terms of confronting parents about the way they're (mis)treating their children, particularly when you don't have any parenting experience? Is this abuse? Is there even the slightest possibility that I've somehow misunderstood / misinterpreted the whole situation?

I need a drink.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Last 16

dig deep
Perhaps the most notable feature of the [Hanson-Brooks marathon plan] is the absence of a sacred cow—the 20-plus-mile long run. For non-elite runners, the long effort tops out at 16 miles. "People say, 'How can a long run be only 16 miles?'" says Kevin [Hanson]. "Then they'll finish that run and say, 'Gosh, I don't think I could run another 10 miles.'" And they'll be right, he says. With the plan's emphasis on high mileage and hard workouts, "you're not running the first 16 miles of a marathon, you're running the last 16. We're duplicating that final-miles feeling."
You've sold me, Kev.

Yesterday was my first 16 miler (this training cylce, this year, and in recent memory; I can't tell you when the last time I ran 16 miles was because it was too long ago to remember). It came at the end of a six-run, 54 mile week, and the day after running 11 miles with 6 of them at half marathon pace.

I won't lie to you. I went to bed last night with tired, achey legs (the tweaky tendon in my left leg and pulled/strained spot in my right calf didn't help) and woke up with tired, achey, stiff ones. My first thought: "There's no way in hell I can run sixteen miles today. It's just not happening." Actually, that was my second, third, and fourth thought as well. (Honestly, this really wasn't me being dramatic or wimpy; I couldn't walk normally, and I was legitimately worried about making the tendon and/or calf issues worse.)

I'll spare you all the internal drama & negotiating (there was a lot of it); in the end, I decided I'd get dressed, head over to Golden Gate Park, and see if there was any hope of my getting any running at all done today. On the off chance that I was able to get in the whole 16 miles, I stopped at Safeway for Nutri-Grain Bars and Gatorade. Gatorade because, out of all the sports drinks I've had over the years, there's only one that makes me absolutely chunk-blowingly ill, and guess what they'll be serving on the course at CIM? :P So, I'm resigned to carrying my own sports drink with me & just drinking water on the course & figured I should get some practice with that. Nutri-Grain bars because I'm still experimenting with fueling, and actual food packs a lot more calories than those little packets of ectoplasm. I haven't had any digestive issues with those, so the next step seemed to be to try solid food & see what happened.

HG huckleberryHG tropical

Flavors of the Week: Hammer Gel Montana Huckleberry & Tropical. MUCH less disgusting than the two berry-flavored Gu's I tried out a couple of weeks ago. Now these, I can get behind.

Golden Gate Park & the Panhandle together make a pretty nice eight-mile loop. That way I figured that if I was really suffering getting close to eight, I could stop then. (I did not have a great plan for what to do if this happened after four or twelve miles, but couldn't face the idea of four, four-mile loops so there it is.) This also made things a little logistically easier; I could carry one gel with me to have at mile four, then when I got back to the car, refill my Gatorade bottle, grab a Nutri-Grain bar for mile eight, and another gel for mile twelve.

Normally I'd run all the way down JFK or MLK & then go back along the other, but this weekend was Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a giant free music festival in part of the park, so the western end of JFK was SUPER crowded (not to mention full of crying children, dogs on thirty-foot leashes, & pot, all of which I am allergic to in varying degrees).

But sweet baby Jesus.

Less than a mile in, and all I could think was, "This is going to suuuUUUUuuck..." Not because of the pain in my tendon or calf, which stayed fairly low-grade the whole time, but just because I felt so beaten up already, and my legs felt like lead. I think the only way I got through it was by telling myself a) you can stop whenever you want, b) you can take walk / rest breaks whenever you want, and c) you can run at whatever pace you feel like. Just get in as much mileage as you can without breaking.

Which brings to mind another quote from the Hanson-Brooks article:
"Everyone wanted a regimen that would leave their legs feeling fresh," says Kevin. "They wanted to know, 'How can I get that spring in my legs?' That was the wrong question. The question should be: 'How can I train my body so that when the fatigue hits me, I'm still able to respond?'"
Yeah; this was that kind of run. 'Fatigue' was the name of the game from mile one.

While it wasn't at all what I'd call fun or pleasant, though, I have to admit that I was bracing for it to be a lot worse. The first four miles were tough. The second four (the way back to the car, mostly uphill) were probably the toughest. The first four of lap two actually weren't bad at all; around mile ten I was actually feeling pretty optimistic, and I knew at that point that I would make it to sixteen without a problem. The last four miles (uphill again) were hard, but I was prepared for it mentally & just kept reminding myself of how great I was doing considering how I'd felt that morning. (Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying I wasn't INCREDIBLY overjoyed to hear that last beep, or that I didn't feel immediately sore and achy in about a million spots as soon as I stopped running.)

Although it didn't feel like it most of the time, I was encouraged by the fact that I was able to keep an average 9:04 / mile pace (with wind in one direction & uphill the other), which is in line with my other easy runs. Also, very little shin splint trouble, and no digestive issues with either the Hammer gels or the Nutri-Grain bar (although the next time I do Nutri-Grains I'll break the bar up into smaller pieces -- eating the whole thing at once gave me just the tiniest bit of reflux). All things considered, I don't have much to complain about.

Just a few small issues:

  • My left posterior tibial tendon is clearly swollen and quite painful. Based on what I've read on the Inturwebz, posterior tibial tendonitis is pretty common in over-pronators (same as the MTSS), so I'm hoping this is just a bit of minor inflammation & the custom orthotics will take care of it as long as I don't overdo it between now & then.
  • A spot on my right calf that's been perpetually sore. Not so sore I can't run on it, but it hurts, and ice / massage doesn't seem to do much.
  • Weirdest of all, there's now a small spot (maybe two inches in diameter) on the side of my right thigh (in the ITB area, I think) that feels almost as if I've been kicked there, or rammed my leg into something really hard. Based on the way it feels, I keep expecting to see a dark purple bruise, but I didn't do anything to it today (except, y'know, run 16 miles on it).

Phew. So I'm totally bought into this cumulative fatigue business; the current issue I'm having is the age-old problem of the engine outpacing the chassis in terms of fitness. My cardiovascular system is dealing fine; in that sense, this was actually a super easy run. It was my musculoskeletal system that struggled. As much as I'd love to tick off seven miles today and my speed workout on Tuesday, I feel like I'm in the orange zone with a couple of those bullet points up there and am more inclined to take a few days and let everything heal up.

Oh, and HUGE congrats to everyone who ran Rock & Roll San Jose yesterday, especially all you folks that PR'd! ROCK STARS! You make me that much more giddy about racing a half again. Can't wait to read about your races! :)

Week In Review: Sept 26 - Oct 2

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

6 Weeks to Clarksburg Half Marathon

9 Weeks to Cal International Marathon

If you are running either of those races, do those numbers seem to be getting just a tad small to you? I seemed to recall giving myself a few good, solid months to get battle ready. Those months now appear to be evaporating before my very eyes.

I now realize my mistake. I should've been counting in months all along, not weeks. Everything sounds farther away in months. I mean, 52 weeks is hardly any time at all. But twelve whole months...that's all the time in the world.

Ahem: 1 & 1/2 months until Clarksburg; 2 months & a week until CIM.

Much better.

This was my first 50+ mile week, though it ended up being just slightly more mileage than I'd planned. I ran six days this week. Just barely, but I did it. I know better than to expect I'll be able to have weeks like these every week, but it did feel very good to get it done.

Monday: 6 miles easy. One of the problems with my easy runs is that, in a certain way, going easy makes it harder. Like I'm trudging along in slow-motion, tethered to the ground via the almost-visceral tentacles of gravity. Each foot is on the ground for an eternity. The scenery takes forever to change. Even going just 15-20 seconds faster feels so much better! My feet feel light & my legs feel springy...even better, I have a LOT less shin splint pain. So, even though I guess technically my 'easy' pace should be somewhere in the 9:00-9:10 range, I've been doing some of these closer to 8:40-45ish, and so what? For all that I adore my Garmin, I'm finding that on easy runs where I don't have to worry about keeping up a certain pace, I do pretty well ignoring it and mainly going by effort -- ie, keeping up a good pace, but not breathing hard (excepting for hills, and even then I dial it back a good bit). So this was a good run, if on the quick side.

old schoolTuesday: 6.25 miles (2.25 wu + 4 x 1600 @ 10Kish pace) Originally I'd planned 600 m of active recovery between each 1600, but it was HOT out there (ie, like 75°) and I kind of felt more like chillin in the shade for 4-5 minutes in between reps instead, thankyouverymuch. Given the heat (and ever-present backstretch headwind, "Carl"), I gave myself about 10 seconds' leeway on the pace; I figured as long as I was under 7:20 and they stayed more or less around the same pace I was good.

Continuing the week's theme of downplaying reliance on the Garmin, however, the damned thing decided to die about 20 seconds after I turned it on. (Okay, I mayormaynot have forgotten to put it on the charger two days in a row...). Fortunately, the spontaneous Garmin dying / refusing to turn on lesson is one I have longsince learned and prepared for. I busted out my old-school sports watch and headed for lane one. The one problem with Garmin-less speed workouts is that I constantly worry that I'm not keeping up my pace, so I over-compensate by running too hard. Realistically I was shooting for 7:15-20 / mile, & ended up with 7:15 / 7:12 / 7:06 (!) / 7:09 for splits. Oops.

Thursday: 10 miles (2 wu + 8 @ MP) As I said last week, and will probably say again next week (and, let's face it, most likely every week between now and CIM), marathon pace runs are a BITCH. I can't for the life of me figure out why, given how easy HMP runs are, and how great my random 8.5 miles at only slightly slower than MP were last Saturday. I think part of it is that I just don't have a great handle yet on how hard I can exert myself for 26 miles. Running at slightly sub-8:00 / mile for eight miles in & of itself isn't really an issue; it's more that the emotional part of my brain just really doesn't want to let my body work that hard, because it's afraid of the idea of having to do that for 3-4 hours. In a way, I think my brain is trying to scare me into adopting a slightly slower marathon pace (which, who knows, could be a good idea. It's not like I'm a freaking pro at this or anything). Anyway, I came in at 7:58 / mile & 176 bpm, about the same as last week.

I am kind of curious as to how the difficulty of the terrain in Golden Gate Park (where I've been doing these runs) compares with that of the CIM course. Both have hills, but from what I hear CIM is mostly short rollers, whereas GGP is more sustained gradual uphills & downhills for half a mile to a mile at a time, with a few more dramatic spots. Those long uphill stretches really wear me down, so I'm wondering how that will compare to the toll the rollers will take on me in Sacramento.

(Also, let's be real for a minute -- if there is wind, I am effed. That is all.)

Friday: 5 miles easy. I think I'm kind of starting to reach that whole "cumulative fatigue" state that the Hanson brothers described regarding this training plan. These were the five hardest "easy" miles I've run in a while -- my legs still felt pretty trashed from Thursday, so I really took this run very, very easy. And even then I was counting down to the end of it by tenths of miles. (It actually would've been a little less bad if I hadn't tweaked a muscle in my right calf -- nothing too horrible, I don't think, but bad enough to bother me the whole time.)

Saturday: 8 miles (2 wu + 6 @ HMP) 11 miles (3 easy + 6 @ HMP + 2 easy) I'm not really sure if this was a great idea or not. The original plan was to drive to the track, warm up with two easy miles, then do my six mile HMP run. However, Don & I ended up spending most of the afternoon at a Scotch tasting & didn't get back home until around 6:30. I was lucky to find parking in my neighborhood at all that late on a Saturday and just couldn't face the prospect of getting back home around eight and driving around for an hour trying to re-park (a distinct possibility on a weekend); this meant I either needed to swap my Saturday & Sunday runs & do the 16 mile long run today (which I wasn't really prepared for, especially post-Scotch tasting), or get to the track in some other way.

I decided to walk / jog the 3.5 miles to the track, do my HMP run, & walk / jog back. This amounted to 3 very slow miles on the way there (I walked all the hills) & 2 equally slow miles on the way back (I walked the first 1.5 miles on the way back to recover). The HMP run felt tough for the first three miles but easier for the second three. I ended up averaging 7:35 / mile & 184 bpm. For all that it's not what I'd call a pleasant pace to maintain, I feel pretty confident now that I am at least physically *capable* of doing it for 13 miles, if I can force myself through it mentally. I think that'll be the real battle come race day.

Sunday: 16 miles easy. Done and done. This one gets its own post -- you can read all about it here (or, y'know, just scroll down).

Grand Total: 54.25 miles

I wish I could say with conviction that I'm honestly capable of consistently running six high-mileage days per week, but it just isn't the case. I still want to stay in the 45-50 range this week if I can, but after this weekend, I really need a couple of rest days to make sure I'm recovered & strong enough to stay safe.