Posts Tagged ‘training’

Riverside Drive and a New To Me Garmin

I am solidly six weeks into marathon training.  So far it has been pretty good, with some ups and some downs.  Last week was an unusually down week, with a change in my diet and some insomnia creating a period of very low energy, before bouncing back by the end of the week.  I felt really amazing Thursday through Saturday.  Otherwise . . .

 

So yesterday, I suffered one of my worst runs ever.  It was an 11 mile route along the always challenging Riverside Drive.  Now, I like Riverside, and ran it voluntarily and solitary about 3 weeks ago for a 9 mile route.  But like it or not, it is very, very challenging.

 

I meant to write about how I was gifted last Monday with a used Garmin and how it has been a help and a hurt in my running.  A help in that I can do a better job of maintaining the pace I want and even speed it up, and a hurt in that I can look at my current pace and feel intense despair over how slow it seems compared to the effort I am exerting (see the mention of low energy above, though too).  Anyway, against my instincts and a reasonable suggestion from the donator, I decided to wear it yesterday for the long run with Team Cocoa.

 

So, first things first: thanks to the Garmin, I know that in my attempt to stay with the main pack, I ran my first mile of 11 at a 10:20 pace, which for me, for a long run, is WAY TOO DAMN FAST.  Add to that that within the first mile, even holding a low to mid-10 min per mile pace, I was falling quickly to the back of the pack.  I was among the last 3 by mile 5.  This was not a good place for me to be, mentally, though at this point, I was physically doing well and looking forward to the remaining 6 miles.

 

Once we got on Riverside Drive itself, after the absolute brutal climb up from the Nickel Bridge to Forest Hill Avenue, I started feeling that awful feeling in my stomach:  I needed a little blue house and I needed it soon.  Miles 5 and 6 were tough, hilly, and my stomach was cramping. I was running with the last two team members and Coach Adam who always brings up the rear.

 

At mile 7, when we got to the main entrance to the Buttermilk Trail very close to the Lee Bridge, I found the much needed rest-stop and assured the team I could find my own way home (it was a very straightforward and familiar route anyway).  After suffering miserably in the sweatbox of the porta-john, I came out feeling a little light headed but got underway again to cross the Lee Bridge, a portion of the route that I enjoy the most, which no one else seems to.  After the shady but very still and moist air of Riverside Drive, the strong breezes that blow above Belle Isle and the James River feel very refreshing to me.

 

But it was once I was across the bridge that everything fell to shambles.  My legs felt like I was running through wet cement.  If I closed my eyes, I saw blue sparkles.  The lightheadedness became more pronounced.  I tried running for a block and walking for a block for a while, drinking my water, and hoping to find a second wind.

 

It never came.  I decided it was time to trim the route a little (by then, there was simply no short cut back to the stadium), and I cut the diagonal across Monroe Park, and rather than follow Monument back to the Boulevard, I made my way to Broad, again, to slightly cut the diagonal of the route, and took the walk of shame for the last 3 miles.

 

My body hurt in ways that seemed to have nothing to do with running.  My sides and back hurt.  The pressure of my running bra on my shoulders was nearly unbearable.  The cuff of my tights around the base of my knees felt awful.  I was a massive ball of pain for reasons unknown.

 

It was crazy to collapse like that, because the previous weekend, I had run 10 miles, hopped in the car, drove 4 hours into the mountains, and set up a camp and was quite physically active for the rest of the day, only slightly tired from my early morning exertions.  After yesterday, the best I could do was pour myself into a Epsom salt bath and then sleep for 4 or 5 hours afterwards.  I don’t know that I would have gotten up when I did except Byram said “The World Cup is starting” and I was up like a shot.  To go back to lying on the couch.

 

What caused the collapse?  Was it because I didn’t eat a little something before I ran?  Was it because I never took a rest day last week and even doubled up workouts a couple of days (running and power yoga)?  Was it because I had too much water and not enough electrolytes?  Was it because I had GI troubles both before and during the run (probably caused by the very greasy smoked bratwurst I had for dinner the night before)?  Not enough sleep?  Not enough calories?  Too much heat?  Too fast at the start?  The very challenging route?  All of the above???

 

It was probably all of the above and even some factors I haven’t considered yet.  It was enough to leave me wondering if maybe I am not cut out for a marathon yet, though.  Maybe I should switch over to the half marathon before I do more serious damage?  No, I don’t really believe that.  My coworker and the donator of the Garmin reassured me this morning that sometimes these runs happen, and he recalled having to stop on the exact same route a few years back and recover before he could make the last 3 miles back to the stadium.  Of course, he hasn’t managed a full marathon yet, either, and he has been running for many years more than I have.

 

I feel like I only write when things go wrong, but what is there to say about Saturday morning’s humid 5.5 mile run that went just fine (except, again, for some stomach cramps right at 4.5 miles)?  I felt great on Saturday  Even despite  the GI distress, I felt good enough on Saturday to add a little length to the route and take a fast sprint down a steep hill on a side street near my house.  How did my weekend workouts go from so right on Saturday to so wrong on Sunday?  I can’t explain it.

 

So today begins a 3-day liquid fast for me.  I decided last week that I needed a total body reboot and I have had success with these fasts in the past.  My diet will consist of 3-4 protein shakes a day, as much water, herbal tea, and coffee as I want, and a cup of bullion a day (I need the salt in this heat).  I know this will bring my energy levels down somewhat for the next few days, but I can accept that trade for a reduction in water weight, a renewed focus on what I put in my mouth, and usually an end to sugar and carb cravings.

 

Today is cross-training day and I plan to get on the rowing machine for 30 minutes at lunch.  Tomorrow is 3 miles at home, 6 miles on Wednesday, and 3 miles again on Thursday.  I have been adding in yoga and core training workouts from Byram’s Diamond Dallas Page YRG yoga videos.  Those have been very effective and I can discern a real difference in things like my downward dogs (heels are down after a the first few minutes of any workout), my Three Legged Dog is getting taller and less wobbly, and my lunges are definitely getting stronger and more stable.  So while still not a fan of ordinary main-stream yoga routines, I am having fun and finding success with DDP’s yoga, as much as I cringe at some of his more sexist comments, or roll my eyes at the alternative names he gives to some of his poses.

 

So, feeling better today, I refuse to let yesterday’s awfulness stop me yet.  I have 18 more weeks until race day.  I am sure there will be other horrible workouts in all of those miles, and I am also sure I will have some stellar days.  I have particular faith that when the mercury starts to fall and the humidity comes down out of the “breathing underwater” range, that my workouts will improve.  Just writing all this out has helped improve how I feel about yesterday and how I feel about going forward with Team Cocoa and my status as the sweeper.

 

I will keep on working at staying positive (hard for me) and keep racking up the miles (less hard).

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Swifter Sweeper

Happiness is new running shoes. No lie. I had surpassed 300 logged miles on my Brooks Ghost 6s and for the past several weeks, each time I went for a run in them, I was coming back with an ache in my right ankle. Well, by Sunday, I came back with BOTH ankles sore and achy. I suspected the shoes, went to Lucky Foot (my favorite running store!) and left with a new pair of Ghosts.

I went in fully intending to switch back to more supportive shoes like the Adrenalines. The sales associate really didn’t think I needed the support, but I tried them anyway. Well, after running in neutral shoes for 9 months, wearing the Adrenalines was like tying a pair of 2x4s to my feet. I tried stepping down a click to the Brooks Ravennas but they still felt too stiff and clunky.

When I put on the Size 12 pair of Ghosts, all desire to change up my shoes fled and they came home with me.

It is funny to me how when I was younger, what color and shape my shoes were meant a LOT to me. I wanted my shoes to look super cool; I really didn’t care how well they fit or how long they held up. 15-20 years later, and I could care less what my shoes look like, as long as they fit well and I keep all my toenails this training cycle. And now I pay 5x more for them than I ever did.

Function before form.

So, here is the only thing bugging me about MTT and my awesome team. I ran around a 10:30 minute per mile pace on Sunday morning; this is wonderful to me and is gradually becoming the new normal (not 11:30s like it has been for the past 2-3 years) and I am so happy to see progress in my pace. But even with that pace, I was the “sweeper” for most of the route; dead last member of the team. I caught up with a number of folks on the Boulevard and even passed several of them as we went over the Boulevard Bridge, so that was kind of nice (yay, hill training has paid off!), but it was a tough effort for me to even keep some of the team in sight on Monument Avenue for a while.

My options are to switch to a novice team that runs fewer miles and has slower participants or suck it up, put out the hardcore effort this deserves, and recognize that there might be weeks where the coaches are tapping their toes looking for me.

It would be unworthy to switch to a team with slower members just so I don’t run the risk of being the official Team Sweeper.

Someone always has to be last, right?

The Quest Begins

So it begins. The Quest for 26.2 miles has started. It began yesterday in the bright sun and blessedly cool Sunday morning at SportsBackers Stadium. I am on Team Cocoa, which the coach, Ellie, joked about us looking like UPS drivers if we actually try to wear cocoa colored clothing. It is the slower team of the two intermediate teams. The faster team intermediate team looks like it is made up of human cheetahs. My team, not so much.

The intermediate teams were scheduled to run 7 miles, the novice team was running 4.

Gory details to follow:

Since I had poisoned myself the previous day with too many delicious but wildly greasy carbs at an awesome restaurant called My Noodle, my GI system was completely uncooperative. At the best of times, my pouch and small intestine (minus about 7 feet of it) are unpredictable, but yesterday’s reaction was completely predictable in the worst sort of way. It is the main hazard of being a Gastric Bypass patient and an athlete (dehydration being a close second).

Within the first 10 minutes of the run, despite my best efforts, I knew I was in trouble and I knew the only bathroom on the route was the bathroom in Bryan Park, which would be about the 3 mile mark (yes, I know almost every single open and available bathroom in the City). I suffered for those three miles, but I made it. While shuttered up in that sketchy little bathroom, I did the math and recognizing that there were no other rest stops along the rest of the 7 mile route, I decided to cut off the “Northside neighborhoods” section of the route and went straight back to the Diamond on the Boulevard. That took a little less than 2 miles off the planned route, but it saved me from more misery.

When I hit Brooklyn Park Avenue, where the planned route and my alternate route met back up, I wound up a pack of fast runners from the Green team; those human cheetahs. Most of them were running in the 8:30 minute/mile range and I couldn’t keep up, but running with them and being a half mile from the end, I knew I could damn well speed up. My insides cooperated long enough and I think I ran that last half mile in the 9:45 min/mile range. I was grinning like a hooligan in spite of everything. I could feel a change in my brain. I am really, truly, officially, and finally training for a Marathon.

You would think I would be unhappy or upset that I didn’t make the full distance on my first week of training, but I’m not. I know my body. I know its limits. I know I could have run those two miles if my system had cooperated. It was a beautiful morning and a familiar route. But I also know myself well enough to know that I would have ended up walking, with severe cramping and doing the “two-cheek-squeak” for the last miserable mile, and I would have felt horrible.

Two extra miles was not worth that kind of suffering.

So aside from all the miles I am going to log in the next 5 months, there are a bunch of other considerations to make to keep myself healthy and uninjured.

Diet: I want to limit repeats of Sunday morning’s gastro-intestinal festival, and that means being careful with carbs, avoiding dehydration, and seeking high quality calories. I need the most bang for my nutritional buck that I can get. No 3pm dashes to the vending machine for a rice krispy treat. I am trying to keep my desk stocked with nutritious options for when the mid-afternoon munchies hit. Whole wheat crackers and natural peanut butter (my variety has added flax seeds, for what that’s worth), mandarin orange pieces in no sugar added liquid, and high quality dark chocolates for those moments when chocolate is a must (it happens). Lunches will be lean protein and vegetables. Breakfasts will not devolve into an egg and cheese bagel from Cupertinos; hard boiled eggs, Greek yogurts, and occasionally things like steel cut oatmeal (have to be careful with oatmeal though; I need extra protein or my blood sugar gets a little wonky).

We regularly plan dinners that are pretty healthy, and they are usually planned on a weekly basis, with an emphasis on balancing Byram’s low-purine food requirement, my lowish-carb requirement, and my Mom’s need for variety.

I am making it a point to really focus on getting all my daily supplements in. I know what the FDA says about vitamin supplements, but their recommendations are for the general populace, not someone who has 7 feet of missing intestine and absorbs only about 2/3rds of everything she consumes. For me, vitamin supplementation is a must.

Cross Training: I know from my history that because I sit all day, my mid-section is kinda soft like a gummy bear, while at the same time, my hip flexors are tight as piano wire. The perfect recipe for injury. Mondays on the schedule are x-training days and I am going to focus most of those days on core strengthening and stretching. In fact, I am going to bring a yoga mat to work. There is a section of the 2nd floor where no one ever comes and I can do a full core workout without any gym equipment and never have to leave my building. Over the summer, when time allows, I might add in some evening swims with Grace at the Y. Being in the water will take my weight off what are sure to be sore muscles, while at the same time, you get some resistance training and cardiovascular benefits. Also, Grace time is Good Time.

Yoga: This goes hand in hand with X-training, but needs to become a regular act. At least on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I need to get up and do a yoga routine in the morning or before I go to bed if I run in the early a.m. during the hottest part of the summer. Again, injury prevention is my main goal; I can’t cross a finish line if I am too hurt to get to the starting line.

Sleep: it’s nature’s Reboot Button. It’s a key element of a good immune system (distance athletes are not famous for their abilities to fight off a cold). It’s when your body builds muscle. It’s when your whole system slows down and recovers from the strain of hard core training. I am going to start aiming to be in bed between 9-10 pm every night because many mornings are going to see me up and at them for early a.m. runs by 4:30 and 5 a.m. A morning glory I am not, but I am going to work on it.

Finally, and probably oddest…

Positive thinking: My mind is my greatest enemy. It is crueler to me than 100% humidity, 90 degree temps, and double digit distances. I have the power to make it my greatest ally. And so I shall work to that end. Stop the self-mutilating mental talks. “I am the slowest person on the team!” needs to become “I am lucky to be running with such amazing folks. I bet I can catch up to them just a little if I push just a little harder.” “Oh my god, 20 miles will feel like forever.” needs to become “I really cherish ‘my time’ and I am lucky to have the next several hours all to myself.” I can work on it, but the mind is the hardest thing to train. Wish me luck.

A Pause Before The Deep End

Yuck. My DailyMile training report for last week arrived in my inbox this morning with the dreaded phrase “Your friends miss your training. :-(“, which is to say I didn’t log any miles. In fact, I hadn’t logged a single mile since April until yesterday. I do hate receiving those types of reports, but I also purposely set aside my trainers for an extended time.

I have several reasons why I took a 3 week break. One was because I was simply flat out busy; work has ramped up and I have had to work through more lunches than normal. Another was because my allergies have been off the charts this season and I was coming back from my lunch runs feeling pretty awful. But one of my biggest reasons for a short break is that beginning June 1, running is about to become my whole life for about 5 months.

On Patriot Monday, April 15th, the day of the Boston Marathon, I signed up for the Richmond Marathon and the SportsBackers Marathon Training Team.

That was the last time I posted here, as well, and I didn’t mention it in my post. Signing up for the team and the race felt overwhelming and I wasn’t really prepared to talk about it yet. It feels big and scary still, but the start date is swiftly approaching and I keep probing the thought of running 26.2 miles like one touches a bruise just to see how it feels.

If the race itself feels daunting, the training efforts feel doubly so. What do you do with your time while you are running 20 miles for a practice run? How do you keep your brain at bay while keeping one foot in front of the other?

It also looks like we’ll have to contend with a scorcher of a summer this year. It is always hot and humid in Virginia in the summer, but if the forecasts are even close, it seems generally agreed that this year will be particularly bad. I am going to force myself to become an early AM runner. I have to. I ran a little over 2 miles yesterday in the 95 degree heat and by the time I got back to the office, I was a touch queasy, but my pace was way below where I had been in April (granted, the 3 week break wasn’t going to do anything to help speed me up).

Plus, there will come a point late in training where I will have midweek runs that are nearly a half marathon; I can’t do those on my lunch hour. By the way, I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea of running 12 miles and then hopping in the shower before heading into the office. I mean, that just sounds crazy.

But for all the enormity of the undertaking, all the nervous unknown, and frankly, a bit of fear, I am also very excited by the prospect. I am going to cover new territory within Richmond, I am going to find the mental boundaries I have about mileage are blown away and there will come a point this summer where a 10 mile run isn’t a “big deal” anymore. Won’t that be something?

(As an aside, you are getting this on my lunch hour instead of me logging much needed miles because the heat index is 100. That’s when I skip the great outdoors. I have no desire to make the news: “Jogger Found Passed Out From Heat Stroke On FloodWall”. So, yeah, better get started on that early AM running plan.)

Back To It

I didn’t run a single step between November 17th and December 1st. I walked some, I might have dashed across a cross-walk, but no running for the joy of running. Late in those two sedentary weeks, my body felt bloated and my mind felt cluttered. It was driving me slowly insane not to feel confident enough to go for a run. I never quite grasp how important running is for my mental health until I have to go an extended period without it.

This Monday past, I packed my green gym bag with a technical shirt, sports bra, running pants, socks and shoes for the first time in a long time and committed to starting my plan to get faster.

I am going back to the beginning, back to where I started. Couch to 5k. When I started running in April of 2010, it was in the basement of the parking deck of my office. I was too embarrassed to be seen doing it in public, so it was slow, sweaty walk/run laps in the darkness of the deck. At the very beginning, even the 60 seconds of running in the first week was too much for my terrible conditioning. I think I had to spend two weeks on every single week of the plan for a while, and I think I was hung up on week 5 with a 20 minute run for 3 or 4 weeks before I succeeded.

But ultimately, I did succeed and of course finally found my way out of the darkness of the parking deck and into the light of day. And I eventually went a lot farther than a 5k, too, but never at any speed much better than maybe an 11 minute mile.

I want to run faster but have not had much success just trying to speed up with the normal types of ways to get faster, all of which are variations on just run faster and run up hills. I remember that C25K worked for me and so I think it would work for me again, just running faster. So Monday, I put myself on the treadmill and walked at 3.2 mph for 90 seconds, and then sped it up to 7.0 mph for 90 seconds. Wash, rinse, repeat until 25 minutes are up. This was actually Week 2 of the plan, but my conditioning is good enough that I was able to skip Week 1 altogether. So 7.0 mph was challenging without being crushing, but I was glad too when I got my walk breaks.

Wednesday, I decided I could walk faster on my walk breaks so I set the slow speed for 3.5 mph and kept my run speed at 7.0. I was not sure how the run would go considering I had roller skated for 90 minutes the night before, but it went fine. I will finish Week 2 of the plan today at lunch.

Are you surprised that I feel a bit intimidated by next week’s plan? I will have a couple of 3 minute runs at full speed. And the Friday after Christmas, if I can keep up with the plan, there is a 20 minute run at speed. That is not just intimidating; at this moment, it just seems flat out impossible to run an 8:30ish couple of miles on the treadmill without stopping.

Now it is not currently my plan to suddenly become a 8:30 minute miler. It is my plan to get closer to a 9:30 to 9:45 minute miler. But since I am doing this on the treadmill (so I can easily control my pace), I am training at a faster than goal pace to compensate for the easier to run on surface. It is only a theory that this will work; in a few weeks, I will start running outdoors again and that is when I will see whether my theory translates to faster outdoor runs.

Stay tuned. It should be interesting.

Friday Freak Out In Progress

I did something I don’t normally do. I went to FaceBook and made a post specifically to garner some encouragement. I love my FB Friends. They are very good to me.

Tomorrow morning is just another Saturday morning Half Marathon Training Team run. Only it isn’t just another Saturday morning Half Marathon Training Team run. This day, October 19, has been looming larger and larger for me ever since I opened my Training Manual and turned to the Intermediate Schedule and saw that the Intermediate teams would run a 14 mile route.

Knowing this date was coming was just sort of sitting there in the back of my mind, but as each week has gotten longer and as the long runs have gotten more difficult, the number 14 started becoming more and more intimidating. My brain is being overwhelmed by “Ohmigawd this is gonna hurt!” and I know I am setting myself up in a bad way just by being this anxious about the distance.

I was so miserable after last week’s 13 mile distance that I didn’t even walk back all the way to the Stadium where I could go pick up my new team shirt. I just limped straight to the car. I was too pitiful to let a free shirt draw me up that hill any further. I just keep thinking “If that was bad, how much worse is 14+ going to feel?”

It doesn’t help that the route covers some very familiar territory, including the location of actual race finish line (at only the 6 mile point; how is that for a mental sideswipe?), running directly past my place of work (or the starting and finishing point of every lunch time outdoor run I make during the week), and the dreaded long slog west on Broad Street (the first 2.5 miles of the race).

Yes, I can feel myself psyching myself out.

I feel unprepared. Hell, I am unprepared. This feels as big as race morning and I don’t have a plan in place like I would for race morning. Breakfast or no breakfast? How many GUs should I carry? What clothes will I wear? Those are questions I would have answers for if this was race day. And I don’t.

See? I am freaking out. So I am writing this out; getting it off my chest, actively seeking support even if it is just a shout-out from a bud on FB, and making it a point to ask myself the questions above and think up answers for them.

Some people I have talked to have asked why we run a 14 mile distance training run for a race that is only 13.1 miles long? The answer is simple: it will make race day easier to handle mentally. You know you can beat the distance and then some. Boom. Instant confidence builder. This one day with one extra mile isn’t going to do anything for me, physically, but as you can see from the freak-out I am undergoing right now, once it is over and done, I will have achieved something new, something I have never done before and that is why we run 14. It is good for your brain.

Maybe that can be my mantra tomorrow. “This is good for my brain.”

We’ll see.

I am still pretty nervous.

PS: This was my 99th post. My 100th post will be about my longest run ever. I like that.

A Celebration

On Saturday morning, the training team ran 13 miles, many of them being part of the race route for the Richmond Half Marathon. Our route took us north on the Boulevard and into Bryan Park, just like the race will.

I have to admit it; I hate running in Bryan Park. It is the middle of the Race itself, it is boring to look at, it is a bit hilly, and with leaves and pine needles typically on the path, it is usually slippery. Even though I hate it, it is important to run in the park to help get my head ready for the Race.

Speaking of the Race, it has sort of slipped my mind that I am actually running a race in about a month. You wouldn’t think it possible given that I get up every Saturday morning and go run with a team of other people getting ready for the same race, but somehow it just of feels like my routine and I lost sight of the end goal.

Part of it was that I had gotten hyper-focused on these two weeks, last Saturday when we ran 13 miles, and this upcoming Saturday when we run 14 miles. Fourteen miles is a new distance for me; my longest ever run has been 13.25 miles. Another three-quarters of a mile isn’t truly a big deal, but at the same time, it sorta is. If only in my head. So in that way, this coming training team run feels like a bigger deal than race day.

So, bringing this back to where I started, I was running through Bryan Park and passed over the spray painted 10k mark for the Race. It was in that moment that I really remembered that I have a race coming up in 5 weeks. Well, alright then. I guess I better get a move on it, right?

Saturday’s 13 mile run was a tough one. Part of it was that I didn’t have any of my normal fuel; no GUs and no Nuun to drink. I settled for pretzels and PowerAid supplied by the team. That was not ideal nor my routine, and I think that contributed to the difficulty of the run. But the truth is that I have not been extremely dedicated to my weekday runs, and I think that is making these long runs so much harder. Letting my base mileage slip is leaving me very sore, very beat up, and very unhappy because I hurt so much by the end of these long runs. Ice baths are becoming the new normal and while I know they are controversial, I can say very unscientifically, they absolutely work for me.

A lot of my weekday runs on the treadmill because the weather has been so up and down. We are finally returning to a more normal October weather pattern this week, so I am going to work really hard on getting back outside and making my weekday runs count. I still have five weeks to get this right. My pace has generally been where I wanted it for the race. Saturday’s average pace was off by about 30 seconds per mile but most of my runs have been at my target race pace or better for my shorter runs. Now I have to do the work to sustain and push through those last 2-3 miles where the pain begins to settle in.

And one final thing, unrelated to anything above: it was on this day, seven years ago, that I finally quit smoking. Since I am home for the Columbus Day holiday, I am going to go run a 6 miler this morning here in the neighborhood in celebration.