Monday, March 31, 2014

Strava & Instagram, I Am On You

Last week I gave in to peer pressure & finally joined Strava.

TA DA!! Also, why has the internet suddenly become
obsessed with circular profile pictures? Lame city.

I put the little "LATEST RUNS!" widget in the right sidebar over there, but so far in spite of my having logged a bunch of runs, it still says, "Angela has not logged any activities yet," which is weird and a bummer & *totally* false. (I will fix it if anyone can tell me how.)

Being pretty new to the whole thing, I don't really "get it" yet & am kind of hoping its many glories will become clear to me in the fullness of time. To be honest I'm a little hesitant to join yet ANOTHER social media platform and ANOTHER place to log my miles. I can't help thinking about how DailyMile was such the new hotness among recreational runner / blogger types 3-4 years back & now it's kind of become the Friendster of online mileage platforms, which makes me wonder if a few years down the road Strava will join it as, I dunno, the MySpace of online mileage platforms, once our mileage / routes / KOMs are uploaded automatically via Google Glass.

But hey. I'll totally try it for a while & see if it moves me. I haven't quit Twitter yet!

What I'm saying is if you want to Strava at me, you can go here. Don't ask me what to do once you're there because I haven't the faintest idea. I've been entering my workouts; the ball, as they say, is in your court.

Oh yeah, & Cathryn also inspired me to resurrect my defunct Instagram account!

Apparently I took one picture last year of a pile of meat
before abandoning this, so.....we'll see how it goes?

Also, I'd like to direct your attention to the fact that even though I never told a soul about this account, I have followers. Thirty-seven of them. Thirty-seven people saw that one picture of a pile of meat & were like, I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE. WTF, internet people??

Anyway, if that's your bag, you can follow me here. I can't promise it won't be all shots of food & booze. But at least they'll look #crappychic? Which I guess people are into now?

* * *

Grand Total: 58.8 miles

    * 8.8 running
    * 39.5 bike (easy)
    * 10.5 bike (speed)

Monday: a.m. strength work / afternoon 13 bike / p.m. karate

    What a difference good sleep makes. In spite of waking up at 3:45 and 5:10 worrying that I'd overslept, I woke up with my alarm at 6 a.m. feeling actually not like death & excited about getting to the gym for some strength training.

    Okay, maybe not excited, exactly. But again, let me emphasize, not like death.

Tuesday: a.m. 2.8 run / p.m. bike, 2.6 warm up + 5 x (5:00 @ 5K effort, 2:00 easy) = 13.1 speed

    Dead legs on the 'mill this morning, so my cadence was maybe not so quick at first, but I warmed up after a few minutes & things gradually got easier. On the other hand, it was encouraging to find that being tired and not really feeling it now results in pretty good/not terrible form, where as pretty-good-not-terrible used to be all I could do at the best of times & "tired/not feeling it" usually meant piss poor form.

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / afternoon 6 bike + 3 run / p.m. karate

    Ugh. I don't really know what it was, but when I left work on Wednesday, I just could. NOT. face the thought of getting on the 'mill for 25 minutes & then on the elliptical for 20 (which was my loose plan). So instead I did ~21 minutes of hard-but-not-stupid-hard spinning, then did my 24 minute run when I got home. (I am guessing this does not technically count as a "brick" since I sat in my car for 45 minutes in between.)

    It's funny how the more strength work I do and the more targeted and focused it's gotten, the more I can feel it in my form. The leaning forward just gets easier & easier. Which in turn makes it easier to load up my hips & use my glutes & hamstrings well. Which makes it easier to keep up a good cadence. Which is all related to landing softly & quietly on my feet & keeping all my various bones & muscles & various other tissues comfortable & happy. It still takes a lot of effort, but I have to admit it's getting easier every day.

Thursday: 11.8 bike

    One of the advantages of keeping a weekly training log in narrative form rather than just the numbers is that over time sometimes patterns emerge that might not be as obvious otherwise. Apparently, Thursday morning rides / runs are just always tough. I'm sure the dead legs & falling asleep on the bike/treadmill is a combination of late-week accumulated sleep debt (though I have been getting better at going to bed early! I swear!) & general physical wear & tear and the fact that it comes on the heels of karate & our inevitably late Wednesday night. (I have no excuse, really, for not getting myself in bed at 10pm on Tuesday & Thursday nights, but on karate nights, we don't even get home until nearly 10, & then still have to eat dinner/clean up/get ready for bed/the next day/etc.) So I've kind of just accepted that Pathetic Thursday (Morning) is a thing & I just shouldn't sweat it too much.

Friday: 3 run + 6 bike.

    For whatever reason, I was just so incredibly unmotivated for this workout & wanted so desperately to just go home & pack for Paso Robles. Knowing I wouldn't get any running done in Paso, though, I dutifully marched myself to the gym after work and cracked the glass on my EMERGENCIES ONLY!!! training playlist. (Seriously, I haven't had to resort to music for motivation since 2006. Oy.)

    Thanks to a little help from these & others...

    ...I made it through 25:00 of running & 22:00 of spinning relatively unscathed. And, as per usual, felt a hell of a lot better after than before.

Saturday/Sunday: Rest/drink wine.

    This weekend was our twice thrice however-often-we-feel-like-yearly trip to Paso Robles for wine tasting/buying. There might be some lovely places to run down there but I would not know as I am generally too busy drinking wine.

The Future...

You guys, I totally signed up for another 5K this Saturday (Spring Forward in Mountain View). As long as I beat my time from Get Lucky, I'll be happy. There is no beer after, but on the other hand, it's not at 11 a.m. in wine country, so that's something.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Have You Mocked A Lady Today?

I'm sure you've heard by now about the cancer patient recently mocked by SELF Magazine for running the LA Marathon in a tutu.

The tutus were made by her company, the proceeds of which were donated to Girls on the Run, for the record.

If you've read this post, you can probably guess my feelings on this matter. (And if you haven't, you might take a look -- it's one of my most favorite things I've ever written.) My brain was putting together the skeleton of the angry six-page blog post I would no doubt write on the subject when I came across Caitlin's post at Fit & Feminist. It turns out that she said pretty much everything I would have & more, AND did it in, like, two pages, which, the way I see it, is a win for all of us.

I highly recommend clicking through to read the whole thing, but there were a few passages in particular that really resonated with me that I wanted to highlight:

    "[I]t doesn’t escape my notice that the race gear deemed most mock-worthy – running tutus, running skirts, pink and purple gear, flowers and sparkles – are almost always things that are overwhelmingly embraced by women. It’s like there is this refusal to take a woman seriously as a runner and an athlete unless she presents herself in clothes that are similar to those worn by guys. Running skirts and dresses are prissy, gear with pink and flowers encourages women to be less assertive, women who wear makeup to the gym are insecure...the criticism seems to be endless, but the end message is clear: that things normally thought of as feminine are inherently frivolous, silly and stupid. It’s basically textbook femmephobia.

WORD, Caitlin. Internet fist-bump.

Are there legitimate questions about the female apologetic (see also this) & the pinkification of all things lady-related (don't tell me you've missed the pink BodyGlide they charge you more for)? Of course there are. And we should absolutely continue to discuss them in a constructive, supportive way. But there's a huge difference between asking thoughtful questions respectfully in appropriate forums & straight-up publicly mocking someone for doing something that made them happy & hurt no one.

Once more, for the record: If you need to insult, mock, or make disparaging remarks about how other women dress for their run/exercise, you are doing it wrong. You can have your opinion. You can make judgements. Think or feel whatever you like in your sweet little heart. But don't inflict it on the rest of us.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Three Cursed Marathons

So, once upon a time, I decided to quit rolling my eyes at full marathons & give it a shot, giving myself full permission to hate everything about both the preparation and the event itself, and never do it again if it turned out to just not be my bag (which I highly suspected it would not). Then and now, I felt like there was too much emphasis in the recreational running community on marathons (particularly running as many/as frequently as possible, regardless of quality) and not enough emphasis on just running better in general. But after twenty years of 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons, I just felt like it was something I should do once so I could speak with some small measure of authority on the subject.

("Oh, you're a distance runner!"
"Neat! How many marathons have you done?"
{Mental face palm.}
I cannot even tell you how many conversations I have had with non-runners that went exactly like this. Cannot. Even. Tell you.)

And thus I came to Marathon #1: Cal International Marathon, in December 2011. Based on my long runs & other workouts, I felt confident I could run a ~8:00 pace comfortably, but since I was completely new to the distance, I wasn't all that attached to a particular finishing time--I just wanted to finish strong, feel good, & be able to say, "Yes, I have run that freakish, outsized, monstrosity of a novelty distance they call a marathon."

Then about 3 weeks before the race, I came down with an upper respiratory infection that made a lot of important activities (running, sleeping, breathing, etc.) incredibly difficult. I spent the week of Thanksgiving in bed at my mom's, sucking on my inhaler every hour or so & basically just trying to keep myself out of the emergency room. A week later I was doing a lot better, but still having asthma problems & using my inhaler quite a bit, and had been able to run maybe twice in the three weeks since I'd gotten sick. I thought very seriously about DNSing but then decided "Hey, maybe I'll be fine! And if not I can always quit."

Well, I did start. And immediately had an asthma attack. And I suck at quitting things. So I wheezed my way through an otherwise perfect race, sucking on my inhaler every two miles and trying not to black out, & finished in 3:47, which under the circumstances I felt was pretty respectable.

And weirdly, instead of walking away from that race as I'd planned going, "Ugh, that sucked, glad I don't ever have to do it again," I left with this nagging unsatisfied feeling. I knew I'd done the best I could under the circumstances, but I also knew I could do so much better if I had a shot at it healthy. Maybe just one more, I found myself thinking. Just to see.

So I spent the first part of the year running shorter races, & then in the summer signed up for round 2.

Marathon #2: Cal International Marathon, December 2012

I actually ran fewer miles in preparation for this race than for CIM 2011 but was finishing all my workouts much stronger and racing WAY faster at shorter distances. I'd had more and longer long runs and was finishing them more strongly and really felt like ~8:00 / mile should be a cake walk. Then 3 weeks before the race on my last long run, I finished completely unable to put any weight on my right foot. I limped home, called my sports medicine doctor & was instructed to ice & rest it & stay completely off of it until there was no pain whatsoever, and maybe I'd be able to run.

It did get better, but very slowly and very-two-steps-forward-one-step-back, so just like the year before, I ended up getting in maybe 2-3 short runs in those last three weeks. Going into race weekend the pain was totally gone; on the other hand, the forecast called for Sacramento to be pummeled by a freaking monsoon on Sunday between the hours of 6am-9am, and Jesus Christ did it ever deliver. For a second year in a row I seriously considered not running (though I wasn't alone this time), but once again decided that "Maybe it'll be fine! And if not I can always quit."

Long story short, the wind, rain, & standing water on the course made it a tough race as it was (we had 20mph headwinds in some places, I think), and by mile 11 I could barely put weight on my right foot again, which made me compensate with other muscles that eventually began shutting down in their turn. This was the closest I've ever come to quitting a race, and there was a LOT of stopping / limping in those last 12 miles. My gun time was ~3:55; I didn't even get a chip time because apparently the section of the starting mat I crossed shorted out thanks to the three or so inches of standing water at the start.

From the Sac bee

I still love this shot of Giraffy's, because it
just captures the entire experience so exquisitely.

Thankfully the pain in my foot turned out to be really bad tendinitis & not a stress fracture, but I was still in an air cast & not allowed to run for a month after.

Obviously, I could not let this be the last marathon I ever ran. So in January 2013, I started all over again.

Marathon #3: Mountains 2 Beach Marathon, May 2013

Why no, not hobbling across the finish with a torn muscle at all, what are you talking about
This cycle was definitely the best marathon training I've ever done, up until I started having problems with my right hip flexor ~4 weeks before the race. Once again, instead of running, I spent that last month desperately trying to fix a health issue & was barely cleared to run before I got on the plane for Ventura.

This was definitely the closest I've come to having the race I felt like I'd trained for. Up until mile 20 I averaged 8:06 / mile (including a 1-2 minute stop to deal with my foot going numb) at a pretty comfortable level of effort. But after that my hip was done, and between that & the heat it was all I could do to walk/jog/hobble my way through the last four miles & try to stay upright. (Later I'd learn that I'd torn ~40% of the tissue in my previously-strained hip flexor.) I finished in 3:36, an 11 minute PR, but still very far from the race I wanted & felt like I'd trained for up until that last month.

Going Forward...

So yeah. I doubt I will ever be a marathon junky, but if I could just get one good one under my belt, one solid race where there are no injuries or illnesses or acts of god to make running 26 miles at the absolute edge of my ability any more difficult than it already is, I think I could get over it for a while & go back to my core competencies. But right now, I'm still after that one.

One thing I know for sure is that I am through with the "Maybe it'll be fine/I can always quit!" mentality. I think it is quite clear by now that in a target race situation where I'm still physically capable of moving forward, I can't trust myself to make the smart decision & walk off the course. I've had enough of "giving it a shot" only to blow my training on a lackluster/disastrous race. Peak marathon fitness is too valuable, too hard-won for that. Yes, I had $300+ in reg fees, hotel, & rental car invested M2B, but in the 10 months since then I've spent over $1000 on doctor visits & physical therapy & another ~$170 on three races I couldn't run, so you do the math.

So that's my new resolution. If circumstances (health, weather, etc.) aren't reasonably close to ideal, marathon = not happening. I am extremely fortunate and thankful to be in a position where I can write off a couple hundred dollars now and then without sweating it (especially since that has definitely not always been the case); given that, it just makes a lot more sense to me to skip a race I paid for than "Give it a shot!" under sketchy circumstances and end up either too injured or burned out to run another one any time soon.

Marathon #4

I don't know how soon I'll have the fitness to run another marathon, but I think August is as soon as it's likely to be, so right now I have my eye on the Santa Rosa Marathon (8/24). It's close, the fee is reasonable, ($125 before April 30), and I've run the half before & so I know it's a well-organized race. In previous the years the course has been two monotonous loops along the gravelly-in-places Santa Rosa Greenway, but this year it's been changed to a single loop around town / local roads, so gravel should be minimal. While I'm not an elevation diva, I can't say I'm exactly *crushed* by the flatness of the course, and the 6 a.m. start means you stand a chance of decent temperatures. (We are talking August in wine country, after all.)

I think I have a good shot at being ready to run Santa Rosa if everything goes perfectly for the next few months--no injuries, no last-minute travel plans, etc. My plan is to continue building up my easy mileage & keep up my strength work & cross-training, ease back while we're in Italy (though I'll probably have to do some running there, just for maintenance), then jump into actual training with Coach Tom (no way I'm doing this alone) in mid-May. That leaves me ~15 weeks, which, if I can get to ~25-30 miles a week by then, is completely respectable in terms of a marathon cycle.

And if I get to May & August just isn't looking reasonable, there is certainly no dearth of sweet fall marathons; Wineglass, Steamtown, and Fox Valley have been on my radar for a while, and there's a handful of less flashy local options as well.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Same Old, Same Old...

This is basically how I've felt all week. Cheers.
In case you ever find yourself feeling insecure about your mileage and comparing your weekly miles to other people's, I'd like to offer you some perspective. I remember running 50 miles a week & how my legs would feel tight and tired and tender in places, how they'd get that skin-stretched-too-tight-about-to-split feeling, how I'd sometimes know I needed to take care of myself with an extra rest or cross-training day and lamenting about how "little" mileage my body seemed to be able to take consistently without feeling like crap.

Well, let me tell you. This week, at a 2014 high water mark of 11.1 running miles, I feel the same way. I woke up in the middle of the night Friday after running three miles with that lovely dull ache that I associate with peak marathon training & 20+ long runs & twice weekly speed work, the type of mild discomfort that would probably make me really sad if I had to be up & around on my feet doing things, but lying there half asleep, bones & muscles bathed in my body's natural pain killers, knowing I had nothing I had to get up for, mainly just felt satisfying. Acclimation and fitness counts for a LOT.

Which is not to say the actual running itself is any harder. I don't have a lot of speed or hours and hours of endurance right now, but the hours (and hours...and hours...) I've put in on the bike & elliptical have at least helped me maintain a baseline level of kinda-sorta-60/40-okay cardiovascular fitness. It's no big challenge to run for 22-23 minutes right now. It probably wouldn't be much of a challenge to run for an hour.

No; the discomfort at this point comes after. An hour after running 2.5-3 miles, my body feels like I've run six; not terrible, but definitely like I've done some real work. Mild tissue damage has occurred. Things have tightened up. I've learned that I can't skip the lacrosse ball, not ever, if I want any chance of running the next day. (Okay, I can skip it maybe one day, but the next morning I really regret it.)

Between that & generally not sleeping well, mileage/cardio time this week was definitely down. I'm not following an actual schedule right now, which means that cut-back weeks aren't planned out & I kind of just have to remind myself that if I've been getting in higher mileage weeks & my body starts feeling crappy, it's probably time for a cut-back. (Also, I just need to do a better job of sleeping more.)

* * *

Grand Total: 47.4 miles

    * 11.1 running
    * 25.8 bike (easy)
    * 7.2 bike (speed)
    * 3.3 elliptical

Monday: a.m. strength work / afternoon 13 bike / p.m. karate

    Sore in the abs / glutes / hamstrings post-race, but if you're going to be sore somewhere, at least you know you've been using the right muscles! I thought I would take it a little easier with the strength stuff if I needed to, but nothing hurt (though push-ups seemed harder than usual).

Tuesday: a.m. 2.6 run / p.m. bike, 4 warm up + 4(5:00 @ 5K effort, 1:00 easy) + 1.8 cool down = 13 speed

    22:00 minutes on the treadmill. (See? 10% rule! I am good at this.) Normally I would have finished up with 23:00 on the elliptical or bike but there was a HORRENDOUS accident on the way to the gym that morning, so I really didn't have the time before I needed to be at work & was half an hour late as it was.

Wednesday: afternoon 2.7 run + 3.3 elliptical / p.m. karate

    Running = still great. Elliptical = still ass. Seriously, I am going to quit any day now.

Thursday: 7 bike

    For all intents & purposes this just ended up being a rest day. There are some nights when karate just shreds every muscle in my body and I think Wednesday of last week was one of those nights. My legs were utterly dead on Thursday morning; normally I do my easy bike rides at 90-95 RPMs, and when I first started it took all my effort (ie, an effort I could not sustain for very long) just to get to to 70. I warmed up a bit & gradually got to ~80-85ish comfortably, but more than half an hour just was not happening. Instead of trying to run or bike that afternoon, I accepted that my body needed some recovery time & spent it attending to some desperately needed rolling & stretching.

Friday: a.m. strength work / p.m. 3 run.

    I'd planned to go to the gym after work & do a 22-24 minute run on the 'mill, then do some spin bike to make it 45 minutes total, but my legs still felt absolutely trashed. Everything felt tender & tight, & my right hip flexor was really bothering me. At that point I'd basically decided that my body was telling me it needed another rest day, so I skipped the gym & went straight home. But it was nice out, so I decided to try a little running & just see how if felt & stop if anything felt off.

    Since giving up on the Hitogamis, I've been running in the Altra Ones on the treadmill. They've felt great in general, but being zero drop & fairly low on cushioning & support, I didn't feel great about running on concrete in them when my legs were already maybe six out of ten at best, so I wore my trusty Kinvaras, which are if nothing else dependable & saw me through a fantastic-feeling 3 miles in 24 minutes.

    The other awesome thing about Friday was meeting up in SF with Sesa, RoseRunner, & Alyssa (whom I haven't seen in WAY way too long) in order to welcome the Faster Bunny (whom we desperately hope will some day revive her blog!!) to the Bay Area. You'll have to take my word for it that this actually happened, as there were no selfies/Instagramming/obsessive group photo-taking to mark the occasion. Don't ever let anyone tell you bloggers can't act like normal people if they need to.

Saturday: Rest.

    I'd kind of been thinking I'd do another 22-23 minutes of running on Saturday as long as nothing felt off, but my legs were still achey from Friday, my right hip flexor still felt super tight in spite of plenty of rolling & stretching, & I kept thinking I felt a little twinge where I'd had the stress fracture. I might have been hallucinating, but since better safe than sorry is the name of the game every day of the week & twice on Sundays right now, I decided not to tempt fate & take a rest day instead.

Sunday: 2.8 easy.

    Just 22 minutes of cruising around the neighborhood, doing my best to focus on form. Which? Super tough. I could write a whole post just on that. I wore my Newton Gravities, which were feeling pretty good, actually, so I may just stick with them for now unless they start to feel weird. (Sometimes they do that.)

Next weekend we'll be in Paso Robles wine tasting/buying. I know I won't be doing any running there, so my main goal for next week is to sleep well & make sure I nail every week day workout.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Shoe Review: Mizuno Hitogami

I think I have mentioned more than once that for a while one of my favorite mid-distance road shoes was the Mizuno Wave Musha. Yes, they were ugly as sin, but they were nice and light while still offering just the right amount of support, and responsive enough for racing 5Ks/10Ks while still providing enough cushioning that you didn't end up with bruised feet after. We had four beautiful years together; then Mizuno cruelly pulled the plug last year, and to add insult to injury, I lost my last pair when the bag they were in was stolen from Kezar Stadium last November.

Mizuno also announced at the same time that they were discontinuing the Wave Ronin, a shoe that I never ran in personally but based on the description it reminds me a lot of the Brooks Launch (neutral, relatively traditional in its design, but lighter & more stripped down than most traditional trainers) & that the Hitogami would replace both since there is "no reason for shoes that were so very similar to fight each other for wall space." The Mizuno lightweight family, then, now goes (from heavier to lighter) Hitogami, Ekiden, Universe.

While I've been mostly happy with my Kinvaras as an all-around work-horse shoe, there are a few things I don't love about them, and if I could find a shoe that works better, I'd switch. So I pre-ordered the Hitogami from Road Runner Sports, a Bay Area running store that will let you try shoes out & return them within sixty days, no questions ask, if they don't work out for you.

Some basic info about the shoe:

Right out of the box, the Hitogamis struck me as light (duh), rather on the narrow side, and with the slimmer midsole I'd liked about the Musha. The midsole uses a new foam called U4ic, which replaces the AP+ they've used in the past, and is supposedly 30% lighter.

Running Warehouse lists a stack height of 23mm in the heel & 14mm in the forefoot for a total heel drop of 9mm, which is almost identical to the Musha (22mm/13mm). (For comparison, the Kinvara 4 measures 22mm/18mm, ie, lower stack height and lower heel drop, which you wouldn't necessarily think just by looking.)

Left: Mizuno Wave Hitogami, 23 heel/14 ball/9 drop.
Right: Saucony Kinvara 4, 22 heel/18 ball/4 drop. Deceptive, huh?

As you can see, the Musha 3 (right, men's size 6.5; they didn't come in women's sizes) outweighed the Hitogami (left, women's size 8) by a full ounce:

U4ic at work? Either way, bullet point one on the "Hitogami ≠ Musha" list.


In addition to the U4ic in the midsole, an almost entirely mesh upper probably also contributes to the shoe's light weight. The construction of the tongue, heel counter, laces, etc. is fairly traditional. Mizuno doesn't state on their site what type of last they used, but it looks just the slightest bit curved vs. totally straight, which you can kind of see here and in the top-down photos. The bottom of the soles is blown rubber (yellow) with a good amount of hard carbon rubber (dark blue), which should make it fairly durable & long-lived.

If you peer through the little hollow in the heel, you can see the trademark Mizuno "Wave" plate inside. (I am convinced that making sure you can see the "Wave" is the sole purpose of that hole. The Ekiden has it too, and the only other purpose I can see for it is getting rocks stuck up in there.)

Sizing & Comfort

Generally speaking, the Hitogami was a comfortable shoe to wear--no pinching, rubbing or chafing anywhere, and the mesh upper means that everything touching your foot is soft. The size eight fit me perfectly length-wise. (For comparison, I wear a 7.5 in Sauconys & Altras, an 8 in Newtons, New Balance, & every Mizuno I've ever tried, & can comfortably do a 7.5 or 8 in Brooks; Running Warehouse suggests sizing down and Road Runner Sports suggests sizing up, so my own comparative experiences with different brands size-wise is the best I can offer there.)

My suspicions re: the narrowness of the footbed were confirmed as soon as I slipped them on, though. To get them to fit comfortably, I had to loosen the laces almost as far as they would go, and even then, the toe box is still pretty claustrophobic and I felt like the outsides of my feet were spilling over the side of the footbed. (While I don't have particularly narrow feet, I wouldn't say I have particularly wide feet either, and this isn't something that typically happens to me with 'B' width shoes.)

I think the fact that I had to loosen the laces so much is why
they look sort of wide & chunky in this picture. Or maybe it's just me.

This is point two re: Hitogami ≠ Musha. The spilling-over-the-footbed feeling even just walking around was particularly worrisome, given that I've been doing anything & everything I can to avoid over-supinating.

On the other hand, something I did like about the Hitogamis was the foot bed, which offers just a little extra cushioning as compared to the Musha (cushioning being the main reason I was never comfortable running more than 12-13 miles in that shoe). It wasn't the squishy, pillowy feeling that I hate in many traditional shoes; just a tiny little extra bit of "Ahhhh" when your foot hits the ground. So based on that, I could see running longer distances in the Hitogami than the Musha. Point three re: Hitogami ≠ Musha.


It really is too bad about the narrow footbed & toe box, because otherwise, the ride in the Hitogamis has been pretty comfortable. I like the level of cushioning, and in spite of having a fairly significant midsole, the shoe remains pretty flexible in every direction.

On the other hand, that probably means that you want to avoid this shoe if you like a little more stability. I wouldn't call it minimalist by any stretch, but it is absolutely, definitely, 100% neutral. (Point four re: Hitogami ≠ Musha.)

I also did enjoy the relative responsiveness of the shoe. No, it it's not as snappy off the ground as the Musha was (point five), but it's not squishy either, & the flexibility of the sole actually provides reasonably good ground feel. If I were going to keep it, I would probably use it mainly for short-to-medium length runs and racing half-marathons and maybe marathons, depending on how my feet felt on long runs.

The narrowness, though, really is a problem for me. I feel like the outside of my foot is spilling over the footbed, which in practice seems to translate into more likelihood of ugly supination (which probably played a role in causing my stress fracture). While I'm sad that that's the case, it was gratifying to hear my physical therapist mention it after watching me run on the treadmill, particularly from the back.

Some width comparisons:

Hitogami vs. Newton Gravity

Hitogami vs. Altra One

Hitogami vs. Brooks Launch

Hitogami vs. Kinvara 4

Bottom Line

Unfortunately I don't think the Hitogami is for me, nor is it (in my opinion) a great replacement for the Musha. BUT, that's not to say that it's not a good neutral shoe in general. There are several things I like about it, and if it weren't so narrow, I would probably hang on to it for short-to-medium runs, & I could even see them working for longer distances for runners with good mechanics & an efficient stride.

I am hoping to get a review up on the Ekiden in the next couple of weeks; I feel like writing a quality review will require doing some fast running in them, though, so it will probably depend on whether not I'm up to that between now & then.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Race Report: Get Lucky 5K

It's patently absurd to me to think that I once ran a 20:44 5K. It was early in May 2012, at a tiny charity race in Menlo Park, while I was training my ass off to deargodpleasefinally *FINALLY* officially break 1:40 in a legit half marathon. My 5K goal at the time was sub-21:30, and I thought maybe, if I had a really good race, I might be able to do it. Do not ask me how I ran a 20:44. I don't know. I'm pretty sure I almost died afterward.

Obviously, I wasn't shooting for anything in even the same realm as that last Saturday. I've been in physical therapy for 10.5 months. I spent January dealing with a stress fracture. I've run less than 50 miles in all of 2014, mostly in three to four minute intervals. I haven't done speed work (on my feet) since December 17.

My only goals were as follows:

  • Have some fun & celebrate being discharged from physical therapy / allowed to run without walk breaks
  • Practice good form
  • Pay attention to pain
  • Don't run through it

Which (spoiler), I'd say was all fairly well accomplished.

This race was a bit odd in that it started at 11 a.m., but since it was more of a St. Patrick's Day community event/fun run, it made sense. It also meant that I could justify an hour drive up from the city by getting Don to come with me & then spending the rest of the day wine tasting in & around Santa Rosa, since we didn't have to leave until ~9:30. (Come to think of it....Why don't more races do this???)

Festive runners stretching before the race

Ah, right. I know why. There may be a polar vortex terrorizing the rest of the country, but this weekend in wine country the highs were in the 80s. It was at least 75F by the time the gun went off.

Even though I knew this would be a small race with a fairly chill field, I had no illusions that I would be running it all-out or attempting to place. Since I have been given very strict instructions not to run more than 20-22 minutes at a time, I didn't even warm up, unless you count a bit of light jogging between packet pickup & the port-a-potties. I figured I would use the first mile as a warm up & then spend the last two just having fun, letting myself run as fast as I felt comfortable with while keeping up my form.

Well. Let's just say that I seriously, *seriously* underestimated the amount of conscious control I have over what my mind and body do when I pin a bib to my chest & then a gun goes off.

Since this was very much a family-friendly, community-oriented event, it didn't surprise me all that much when I saw moms lining up at the very front of the pack with small children and/or strollers. Ordinarily that would bug me, but the field was small enough that it was pretty easy to get around those folks in the first twenty yards or so. I wore my Garmin, but only really for recording splits, since my only plan was to run at whatever pace felt fun and happy. (Even without "RACING"-racing, I figured knowing what numbers that level of effort matched up to would give me some kind of baseline information about my fitness.)


I settled into a "WEEEEEEE RUNNING IS FUUUUUUN" type of groove pretty quickly, and after a few minutes glanced at my watch out of sheer curiosity, and saw that my pace at the moment was a cool 6:45. Oy, I found myself thinking, there is no way that is going to last. Sure enough, I pretty quickly needed to ease back, and mile 1 ticked off in 7:02.

Into the second mile, my super-cute knee socks and I began to appreciate the full sun & 75F+ temps. I got thirsty enough in that second mile that I grabbed a cup of water when I went by the station (which I almost never do in a 5K), and then very quickly after found myself remembering what it's like to race this distance, mainly the part where you can't remember why at some point you thought it sounded like a good idea.

It's cool, I told my (other) self. We're not really racing today. No need to kill yourself. Ease up all you want. Just stay comfortable.

But--and here is where it gets weird--I realized I just couldn't do it. Even knowing I was out of shape, barely not injured, and really just doing this for fun, I could not back off from at least a moderately painful pace in the middle of a 5K. It just was not going to happen. Mile 2 = 7:14.

Here is when I subject you to one of my completely unscientific theories of running & racing. I have the sense that there exists some part of my brain that, over many years of practice & trial & error, has developed a sense of what level of effort is appropriate & sustainable for racing a given distance. The actual pace varies with my fitness/training, but there does seem to be a level of effort that my body has learned to dial into pretty much automatically. Towards the end of a race, I can override it for a sprint to the finish, but otherwise, that's pretty much the pace I'll maintain barring any major catastrophes.

So going into mile 3, I think that's kind of what my body was doing. I may not be in great shape right now, but apparently the autopilot is not the type of thing that gets rusty. The down side of this was that comfort-wise, the rest of the race really, REALLY sucked, and it would have been nice if the autopilot could have toned it down for maybe half a second at some point. At one point I was like, "Dude. Seriously, chill."


"Come on, slow down a little. Just a little maybe."


"You really don't have to do this today."


Sweaty post-race victory shot, strategically staged in front of a St. Paddy's Victory Fern. Obviously.
So that was that. I definitely didn't step on the accelerator, but half a mile from the finish I decided it would probably be easier to just go with the momentum, even though I knew it was going to suck, than to wrestle the wheel away from the autopilot & slow down. I missed my mile 3 split (it was 7:13) so really had only the vaguest idea what kind of time I was in for. When I came around the last turn & saw 21:55 on the clock, I was kind of surprised and actually did muster a little bit of an extra sprint to the finish. Initially my time was listed as 22:09, but later when the official results came out with chip times, it was revised down to 22:06. I had pretty much gone into this race assuming it would be my slowest 5K race ever, and it was, but only by six seconds, which was kind of neat considering the hot weather, lack of warm-up, and knowing I could have run the last mile harder if I'd cared to.

Garmin: ??? (When you're out of practice racing, it turns out you might forget to stop your watch at the finish. By the time I looked at it, it read 34:something. Oops. :/ )

Official: 3.1 miles / 22:06 / 7:08 pace (which, if my Garmin is to be believed, means that I ran the last .1 in 37 seconds, ie 6:10 pace.)

Overall: 6/224
Women: 3/160
A/G: 3/69

Basically, I ran this race more or less at my 10K PR pace. sort of amazing to contemplate. The whole experience put me in mind of something I read recently from Lauren Fleshman (if you haven't noticed, my new pro runner crush):

    "The performance itself was semi-solid, like Jell-O, and equally satisfying....To be honest, I was never going to be competitive in the race. I hadn't done the work yet. But I knew I'd have to race again eventually, and I'd rather rip off the Band-Aid than slowly peel it back. Every runner who beat me would give me motivation."

So yeah. I had a great time and am very happy I decided to run this race, but consider me motivated. :)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*LOGISTICAL STUFF~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Location: Rohnert Park, CA

Date: Mid March (March 15, 2014 this year)

Price: I know there was some discounted pricing on this race early-on, but I don't remember the exact numbers. It was something like $35 for the first 100 registrants, $40 until xx date, $50 after xx date. I also think that it was less for the under 16s, like maybe $25. (I know, super unhelpful. You get the gist, though.) More than I would typically pay for a 5K, but it is a charity gig, and it's hard to complain too much about money that provides weekend nutrition to grade school kids.

Deadlines/sellout factor: All the emails & Facebook posts I saw claimed that the race would absolutely, definitely sell out, but as of the night before the race, there were still spots available, and they did end up having some race day registration. It was an inaugural event, so who knows what will happen in the future.

Field Size: 224 finishers listed.

Staging: The race was held in a little shopping / event area in Rohnert Park, with the course making two big loops around it. The start/finish was near a grassy area with picnic tables & chairs, so there were plenty of space for people to hang out before & after the race. Packet pickup was inside the community event space (walked in less than half an hour before the start, and literally had to wait about ninety seconds to get my stuff); there was also a bar area inside where the post-race beers were served, with plenty of tables & chairs for relaxing. (Also, it turned out that there were real bathrooms open in the event space, which I did not know until I'd already visited the port-a-potties. No wonder there were no lines.)

The Course:

The course was two big loops around the shopping area marked off with cones. The first loop required a couple of dog-legs into the parking lots, & the second was just a straight shot all the way around. There was one little spot with a short but not insignificant up-hill, but the rest was basically flat. There was one aid station with water & Gatorade, giving the runners two chances over the course of the race. I was worried it might be tricky to tell which way to go on the two different loops, but the volunteers did a great job of directing everyone appropriately.

For my purposes & expectations, the course set-up was just fine. If I were looking for an absolutely perfect course on which to PR, I probably would not pick this one. First, the dog-legs are not ideal, and because it's more of a community fun run, the second loop did get a bit dicey with the faster runners having to negotiate clusters of dogs/strollers/kids/walkers/etc. (When I got to the aid station on my second loop, there were like 40 people basically standing all the way across the path.) But again, I really was just there to have fun, so this didn't bother me much.


The website said that there would be lots of free parking, but that donations for the charity were encouraged. However when we parked, we didn't see anyone soliciting donations, so I'm not sure what the deal was with that.


A cute hoodie & beer mug (filled with beer) for all (adult) finishers. (There were green smoothies for the under 21s.) The hoodie is more T-shirt weight than sweatshirt, but for a $50 charity race, that's pretty much what I expected. It'll be great for throwing on & lounging around post-workout.

Look, schwag! Also, our succulent collection.

Gift certificates for a local running store were awarded to male & female first place finishers in each age group (with the age groups being under 16, 16-39, & 40+).

Overall Assessment:

By & large, this race was exactly what I expected. Again more than I would normally pay for a 5K, but I really wanted to run a 5K on this date, it looked like a lot of fun, the swag was nice, and because it's put on by the Santa Rosa Marathon, I figured I could trust it to be well-run & -organized, which it was. I'd recommend it to people who were thinking of running it as long as they understood that it's a community fun run, not a srsbzns competitive road race, and didn't mind the price tag. (Also, hey, it's a charity thing, and I've spent precious little on race fees lately, so no big deal for me this time.)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Physical Therapy = O-V-E-R

On Friday morning, I went to PT as per usual & was glad to be able to report to him that my 20 minute runs had been going well & I hadn't had any pain during or after. We started out with all the usual strength tests, which we haven't done in a few weeks--hip flexors, glute meds & max, hamstrings, general posterior chain, etc. For many things he gave a satisfied nod and a decisive "Good" or "I like it." When we got to hamstrings, it was "Awesome," and my hip stabilizers (where you lay on your side, raise your top leg up to ~30 degrees a la Jane Fonda, point your toe up and in, & try to resist force from above), "Wow, I could probably stand on your leg and not break this." (For this, I credit the 200-300 clam shells I've been doing each week.)

Not everything was perfect. There is one particular movement pattern where I lay on my back, raise one thigh perpendicular & shin parallel but angled inward at the knee, point my toe, & try to resist inward force with my knee, where I am rock solid on the left side but noticeably weaker on the right; apparently this is 100% related to how my right knee often wants to collapse in a little, which my body tries to compensate for using my sartorius muscle (the one I tore last summer, not a coincidence), so I still have some work to do there. Also I am still to keep doing a little extra work for the right glute. (Hello donkey kicks!)

After the strength testing he put me back on the treadmill, yellow sticky dots strategically stuck to various joints (knees, hips, SI joints, heels, ankles, etc.). I ran & he videotaped, & afterward we did a quick run-down of what looks good and what still needs work.

  • Forward lean is MUCH improved, but 2-3 degrees more would be a big help in terms of protecting my insanely tight hip flexors. (This is amazing to me--I've worked on it so much, and gotten so much better at it, to the point that it sometimes feels like I'm about to face plant right into the dashboard, and STILL on the video my torso looks almost straight up-and-down. Even though I'm a confirmed forefoot striker, which is fine, not having enough forward lean still results in just the tiniest bit of over-striding.)
  • Foot strike & general leg position/alignment looks good.
  • Pulling through with hamstrings & glutes much MUCH better.
  • Keep working on the inward-drifting right knee. Probably forever.
  • Left hip drop also MUCH improved but still noticeable; working on the right knee should help with this.
  • Left foot is currently pointing almost straight forward throughout my stride, which is bad & also a risk factor for both over-supinating & stress fractures. (For those keeping score at home, that's a yes on both counts.) Work on just a *slight* bit of turnout on the left foot; watching from the back, they like to see about two toes' worth sticking out on the side.
  • Cadence is not bad, currently hovering around ~178; try to get it up to ~182 consistently (which should also help with that tiny bit of over-striding).

"But this is all really, really knit-picky stuff," he told me after. "Overall you're very strong and looking fantastic. A thousand times better than last summer." Which is always great to hear after you've gone through a giant list of things you still need to fix. Then, "I think we're finally ready to graduate you."

Oh, I could have whooped for joy.

He mentioned that I can still make appointments at the Human Performance Center from time to time for a quick check-in or a bit of cupping or ionto or what have you, which doesn't require a referral. I brought up RunSafe & how people keep telling me I should just do it sometime, which he agreed with. "It's not urgent, but you would still probably get a lot of useful information. Just, y'know. Wait for a discount or promo or something. They run those sometime." Check.

As far as running goes, I am to continue with my 4-5 days a week as long as I the pain doesn't return, increasing by ~10% per week & keeping up the cross training in the mean time. While I am a bit skeptical of the 10% rule as some all-powerful charm for magically preventing all injuries, I can still roll with it as a general guideline from my PT as I work my way back up to what I think of as "normal" mileage.

"Oh, one more thing," he added. "I don't like those shoes on you at all. Too narrow & aggravating the supination issue. I think I'd probably get rid of them." This in reference to the Hitogamis, which is pretty much the conclusion I'd already arrived at after less than 10 miles in them.

Sorry, guys.

As I've discussed before, I'm in the process of looking for my "it" shoe, & the two current candidates are the Mizuno Hitogami & Mizuno Ekiden. I promise to do actual reviews after I've put more miles on both, but right now the 30 second story is that both are serviceable & have their uses, but it's unlikely that either of them will become my new favorite. (Why'd you have to go, Musha? You were 99% of everything I wanted in a running shoe. I promise I'll never forget you.)

First Impressions on the Ekidens

  • I know there is a fine line between flyweight trainers & racing flats & people draw the line in different places, but to me, the Ekiden absolutely comes across as a racing flat, no question. The Musha was sold to me as a racing flat when I first bought it which was how I used it at first, but over time I became a better runner with stronger feet & eventually moved to using it as a mid-distance road shoe. (It was great up to 12-13 miles, but I don't think I personally would have ever run 20+ in it.) Not so with the Ekiden. I'd wear it on the track & for racing 5K/10Ks, but that's probably it (at least until I have feet of steel & looser calves & pitch-perfect mechanics).
  • Along the same lines, they do fit snugly, which I feel like racing flats generally should, BUT are weirdly not as snug as the Hitogamis & definitely have a slightly wider toe box.
  • Fairly stiff & with precious little cushion (again see: racing flat).
  • Comfy enough on the treadmill. I can't imagine why you would ever be tempted, but just in case, do not wear on the elliptical. This is a no-good-very-bad idea. (I've been doing 20 minutes on the 'mill & 25 on the elliptical, & just wore them because they were what I had on. Now I know better.)

* * *

Grand Total: 61 miles

    * 10 running
    * 44 bike
    * 7 elliptical

Monday: a.m. strength / afternoon 12.6 bike / p.m. karate

    My feet & shins were still sore from my first run without walk breaks on Saturday (kind of surprisingly so), so I decided to give them another day to recover before I tried it again.

    To be honest, I didn't think it would be that big of a deal when I switched from doing 4-6 short intervals of running interspersed with walk breaks to running for 20 minutes non-stop. And from a cardiovascular standpoint, it wasn't. I've been doing so much biking & elliptical-ing that even at quicker paces, 20 minutes didn't even have me breathing hard.

    But OH MAN. The foot muscles. The anterior shin muscles. I think these are what they call "shin splints"? Not in the medial tibial stress syndrome sense (which is different) but the honest-to-gods-brand-new-runner type of shin splints. As in, walking is uncomfortable. My Saturday run felt great, but I needed two full days of recovery before I could even *think* about another 20 minute run.

Tuesday: a.m. 2.2 run + 3 elliptical / p.m. bike

    What I learned on Tuesday: Don't wear racing flats on the elliptical. I'd been trying out the Ekidens (which are *so clearly* racing flats) for my twenty minutes on the treadmill, then After 10 minutes, my feet & calves were uncomfortable. After 12, they were crying out in pain & I had to pause briefly to ditch the shoes. Barefoot was better, but ultimately unsustainable; I had to quit after ~20 minutes because there was just no way I was putting up with it for five more.

    I woke up feeling kind of crappy & by lunch time I was convinced I was getting sick so I went home & to bed. I hate skipping workouts but I hate feeling sleep deprived / generally like ass even more.

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / afternoon 2.3 run + 7.3 bike / p.m. karate

    I was feeling mostly better Tuesday evening but still decided to skip Wednesday morning strength & invest in a little extra sleep. By afternoon I was feeling normal again & did the rest of my normal Wednesday stuff. I wore the Hitogamis, which felt like, y'know, shoes, but a bit on the narrow side.

    In karate news, I have a sweet new bo, custom made from impact-grade laminated hickory. I've been in a bo moratorium for several years due to losing two (cheap, mass-produced) bos in the dojo bathroom in the same year & have been using an inappropriately sized one of Don's since then, so having a real, proper one feels beyond luxurious.

    I'll try to get some action shots this week. Because bos are sweet.

Thursday: a.m. 10.5 bike / p.m. 2.3 run + 4 elliptical.

    I wore the Ekidens again on Thursday, but was smart & brought a different, cushier pair for the elliptical. To be honest, though, I am soooo over the elliptical. It's really starting to get on my nerves (literally, my feet keep falling asleep & getting that gross pins-and-needles feeling), so I may just do run / bike from now on, especially since I'm starting to run more.

Friday: a.m. PT (1 mile on the treadmill? Ish?) / p.m. 13.5 bike.

    Obviously Friday was a great day for reasons previously explained.

Saturday: Race day!! 3.1, um, NOT easy. Race report soon to follow! Then, wine tasting. :)

Sunday: Rest

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hacking Dinner With Matt Fitzgerald

Over the last couple of months, I've been doing my best to put into practice what I learned from Matt Fitzgerald's fantastic books The New Rules of Marathon & Half-Marathon Nutrition & Racing Weight. I definitely don't beat myself up about not being perfect (there are some areas in which I am admittedly & intentionally imperfect), but by & large I do what I can to:

  • 1) get enough carbs (~380g per day for my weight & activity level)
  • 2) always eat when I'm hungry
  • 3) eat the right amounts of the right food groups
  • 4) limit fatty meats, refined grains, sweets, & fried things
  • 5) time my nutrients (carbs in the a.m., carbs pre-exercise, carbs & a bit of protein post-exercise, & protein in the evening; stick to about the same amounts at about the same time every day).

(I refer you to the books if you want to know more about the research supporting these recommendations for endurance athletes--he explains things much more clearly & thoroughly than I possibly could here.)

If you're going to write books aimed at endurance athletes, you better practice looking inspirational.
You might not think so, but by & large this is actually pretty easy for me (except for #1, which you would maybe think is easy but is actually very, very difficult). Limiting certain foods always seems like it's the hardest thing for people, but for me, #4 was barely a change. Even before I read the books, I basically didn't eat processed sugar except for special occasions, & don't tend to crave sweets. I've limited red/fatty meats for years because of the heart disease that runs in my family (special occasions only; don't miss it), & for the most part fried food just grosses me out. (If I have a weakness, it's refined grains; until SF's whole wheat pizza craze takes off & our Indian places start serving whole wheat naan, there is no danger of my getting this stuff absolutely perfect.)

In terms of #1 & #3, I spent a few weeks at first tracking everything in order to help me develop a sense of what "enough" of the different food groups & 380g of CHO (!) felt like, but at this point it's become so completely routine that I barely think about it. Obviously I can't definitively prove that it's all because of working on how I eat, but I can say that since the beginning of the year I have more energy (in spite of pulling doubles most days & sometimes even triples) & have reduced my body fat percentage by 5%.

One small change I've been trying to make is cooking & eating at home more. In general, I really do love fresh, nutritious foods & even enjoy cooking, but if I'm going to eat less healthy stuff, it's generally going to be on a day when we're busy & tired & haven't planned ahead around dinner (read: most days). So we end up with pizza, or burgers, or Indian food, etc etc etc. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE eating those foods & have no plans to give them up--but I'd rather plan to have them as a special treat than default to them because they're easy & convenient & we're both too brain dead to come up with anything else.

For now, my goals are modest. If I plan one meal per week ahead of time, I put it in the win column, because PROGRESS! Two meals? I am a god damned wizard.

The result of this has been researching & collecting tasty dishes that are high in lean protein, complex carbs, and/or beans & veggies, and also don't take a ton of time or effort to prepare. I was completely prepared for this to be a deeply tedious, boring, all-around disagreeable task, but it hasn't. Instead, it's been oddly gratifying & made the whole quick-delicious-Fitzgerald-approved-dinner thing seem weirdly doable.

Last night's dinner was particularly satisfying. Ahem:

Not my picture (source) but that's basically what it looked like.
Lemon Pepper Cilantro Catfish, adapted from this recipe. Prep time: less than 10 minutes. Cook time: 12 minutes.
  • Arrange catfish fillets in a casserole dish & season liberally with lemon pepper. (I did one large one but I think the recipe mentions 4 smaller ones; whatever.)
  • Melt 2 Tb butter in a small saucepan, then add 4 oz dry white wine (I used chenin blanc), chopped cilantro, several cloves of chopped or pressed garlic, & juice of half a lemon. Simmer for ~2-3 minutes & pour over catfish filets. (I re-seasoned with lemon pepper at this point because some of it got rinsed off by the wine sauce.)
  • Season with paprika & bake at 375F for ~12 minutes. (I check it every few minutes with a meat thermometer & just pull it when it gets to ~125 all the way through; 12 minutes actually ended up perfect.)

Cilantro-Lime Lentil Salad, inspired by these two recipes (but adapted liberally). Prep time: Boiling the lentils takes about half an hour, but you can use that time to prep everything else (less than 10 minutes). I preheated the oven & started the lentils cooking at the same time, then did all the rest of the prep for all 3 dishes during that time.

  • Boil 1 cup of lentils.
  • In a separate bowl, mix a bit of EVOO, juice from 1 lime, black pepper, garlic salt, cumin, a cup of chopped cilantro, & 2 cans of diced tomatoes (drained). (If you're concerned about seasoning measurements, boy are you in the wrong place. Do it til it tastes good.)
  • Toss lentils with tomato mixture & reheat if desired.

Now this totally is my picture. (You can tell from
the horrible light balance.) Still, delicious!

Sauteed Avocado-Lime Spinach, which I totally just made up. Prep time: 5 minutes maybe? Less if you don't have to chop spinach. Cook time: Less than 10 minutes. I chopped the spinach & garlic while the lentils were cooking, then did the sautee-ing while the fish was in the oven.

  • Heat some EVOO in a skillet/wok/frying pan/whatever; once it's shiny, add a few cloves of chopped / pressed garlic & let simmer til fragrant. (Don't let the garlic burn! Burnt garlic is just the worst.)
  • Add a LOT of spinach, tossing gently to coat with EVOO/garlic.
  • Once the spinach has cooked down a bit, add the juice of half a lime & toss to coat.
  • When suitably cooked down, toss with garlic salt to taste & garnish with fresh avocado.

Look, it's a plate of sauteed leaves-of-something!
Because all sauteed leaves-of-something look the same.
(source, which, btw, features a bitchin' recipe for
"Sauteed Leaves-of-Something." You are welcome.)

In case it isn't obvious, all of this should be paired with the rest of the wine from the catfish.

Seriously. 20 minutes of shopping, & probably 40 minutes in the kitchen, grocery bag to table, and it was all mouth-wateringly delicious. I just cannot argue that we don't have time to cook (excepting karate nights), particularly if we do all the shopping for the week ahead of time. The hard part is doing the advance planning, which is what I'm working on right now. (I also suspect this will become easier as I build up a database of tried-and-true recipes.) If, by the end of the year, I can reliably plan & cook two delicious, Fitzgerald-approved dinners per week, I'll be extraordinarily pleased with myself.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Officially Done With Walk Breaks

This is what we call, "running at a semi-reasonable pace."
Who can run for twenty minutes straight without taking a walk break or becoming incapacitated by bone pain?

THIS girl.

That's right. Starting last Friday, my PT said that I could take that 5 x 4:00 w/ 1:00 walk breaks I've been doing, ditch the walk breaks, & try running all twenty minutes in a row. It turned out that on Friday my right Achilles / medial tibial area was a bit unhappy so I put it off a day, but by Saturday afternoon my legs felt great, so I laced up my new Mizuno Hitogamis & headed out.

I couldn't have picked a better day for it. Saturday in San Francisco was a flawless 70°F & sunny, with just a hint of a breeze.

I didn't care about my pace. As I saw it, the goals for that run were pretty simple:

  • Pay attention to pain.
  • Don't run through it.
  • Maintain good form (lean forward, land silently on mid/ball-of-foot, pull through with hamstrings & glutes, finish with shin parallel to ground; my PT has pretty much tattooed this to the inside of my eyelids).

OMG you guys. Do you know how much I've missed running through my neighborhood on a warm, sunny day without anything hurting? SO MUCH. Being able to do this again, even just for twenty minutes at a time, utterly made my day.

Also, I got these socks for next weekend's 5K:

Decisions, decisions...

Which ones shall I wear on Saturday? Shall we have a vote??

Life is good. :)

First Thoughts on the Hitogamis:

These poor shoes have the great misfortune of immediately following the ones I just wear tested & fell absolutely in love with (and will be buying as soon as they're available), so I'm doing my best to be fair. Still, it's hard not to compare them.

After one easy twenty-minute run on local sidewalks, here are my off-the-cuff observations:

  • Relatively light
  • By & large quite comfortable
  • On the narrow, tight side, particularly in the toe box (I had to loosen the laces basically as far as they would go in order not to cut off circulation to my feet)
  • Rather stiff - not particularly flexible in the sole
  • Nice amount of cushion (probably enough for a full marathon, I'd think) without that "pillowy" feeling

The Hitogami was supposed to replace both the Musha & Ronin & slots right in between the two in terms of weight & heel drop, but thus far I have to say that while I never wore the Ronin, this one feels like a very different shoe than the Musha. I'll definitely do a more thorough review once I've got a few more miles on them (and also on the Ekidens, which should make for an interesting comparison).

* * *

Grand Total: 54 miles

    * 9 running
    * 26.6 easy (bike)
    * 9.2 speed (bike)
    * 9.2 elliptical

This week ended up being a *little* bit of an unplanned cut-back week for different reasons, but since I haven't exactly been working in planned cut-back weeks, that is probably not the worst thing that ever happened.

Monday: 13.8 bike

    Don & I spent Sunday night working on vacation planning (on which we've been procrastinating), & before I knew it it was midnight & I was nowhere close to getting in bed, which meant there was just no way a Monday morning strength session was going to happen. I did my easy hour on the bike after work, but then he & I both got home, both sleep-deprived, looked at the weather, looked at bridge traffic, looked at the state of our vacation plans, & said "Screw it" & did not go to karate.

    On the other hand, we did research Italian agriturismos, book a few nights in one in Umbria, & also booked a few nights in a restored medieval castle tower. So all in all it was still a productive night.

    We're staying in this castle in Perugia.

    Umbria, I cannot wait to be in you.

Tuesday: a.m. 3.3 run (6 x 4:00 w/ 1:00 walk breaks) + 2.5 elliptical / p.m. bike, 2.2 warm up, 10 x (1:00 @ all-out, 2:00 easy) = 11.8 speed.

    Bike speed work? Sucked ass.

    These were supposed to be equivalent to 300m repeats, & it never fails that when I see them on the schedule (after running god-forsaken 1200m's & mile repeats for weeks on end) I'm like, "Ppppppfffff. 300m's? Bitch, please. Sprinting for 1:00 barely even counts as doing something. And 10 x basically nothing is still basically nothing. But let me just bust this out really quick if I must & then someone can get me a *real* speed workout to do."

    And then I absolutely sprint the hell out of the first one, which is easy, sprint the hell out of the second one, which is pretty easy, and then after the third one I basically want to die. This was supposed to be 12 x 1:00 but after six of them that was soooooo not happening. I have never been good at short intervals and SURPRISE!! Not doing any for 3 months has not made me better.

    As a side note, I have no idea how well doing speed work on a spin bike translates to running fitness. I feel like it has to in most ways (since mitochondria are mitochondria, red blood cells are red blood cells, capillaries are capillaries, etc.) but is definitely not as efficient as doing it on your feet, since the motion is different & you're using some different muscles in some different ways. I suppose we'll see how next week's 5K plays out & that will give me some indication.

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / afternoon 6.7 elliptical / p.m. karate

    Two full sets of push-ups with the 25, no breaks, better form than last week. Two more sets that weren't quite as good & required a little pause at after 10. Also, just so you know I haven't changed my mind, the elliptical is ass.

Thursday: a.m. 3.1 run (6 x 4:00 w/ 1:00 walk breaks) / p.m. bike.

    Ordinarily I would have put in 15 more minutes on the elliptical after my a.m. treadmill time, but I was feeling kind of tired & beat up from karate (okay also I didn't go to bed until midnight) & there were some spots in my lower right leg that just felt kind of "off" & painful, & if Lauren Fleshman can heartily mock people who stick to their training plans *no matter what* & Alberto Salazar can pull Mary Cain from indoor Worlds because her calf is feeling a little sore, my plowing through 15 minutes on the elliptical with an achey leg suddenly doesn't seem all that heroic.

Friday: a.m. strength work / run / bike.

    Once again, I didn't sleep well, & though I made it to the gym in the morning for strength work, I spent most of the afternoon staring off into space with a glazed expression or falling asleep at my desk. This was one of those days where, if I'd really been training for something, I would have sucked it up & forced myself through the p.m. workout. As it was, though, we had dinner plans with dear friends and I really wanted to be semi-functional for them, so instead I left work early & went home to take a pre-dinner nap.

Saturday: 2.5 run (20:00 straight!!).

Sunday: Rest.

    I had this idea that I would run in the Hitogamis on Saturday & then do another twenty minutes in the Ekidens on Sunday, but it turns out that when you haven't run for more than ~4 minutes at a time in nearly three months & then you run for five times that amount, you get a bit sore in the foot/shin areas. Nothing that feels like an injury lurking; just the usual running muscles doing their usual thing after not having to do much for a few months. Most likely I could have done the run & it would have been fine, but it seemed like a smarter idea (LOOK AT ME LEARNING!) to give them a day to rest.

    Instead, we slept til noon & spent most of the afternoon reading the internet in soft pants.