Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Back-to-Back Long Runs...Well, Sort of....

Well, I am officially in taper mode now for my upcoming marathon.  It's a good feeling to be there, but at the same time I am worried that I didn't manage to do enough training for what will prove to be a very difficult event.

My last long run was a 20-miler, and I completed it on Saturday.  It's the first time I have run that mileage since my last marathon on October 2 of last year, and it was tough.  My training really fell apart this summer with my hamstring, and my long runs especially were what suffered.  Instead of having a sensible, consistent build-up to the 20-miler, I was doing what "I could manage."  That meant a lot of trail running - a couple hours here, once and a while three hours.  I spent a lot of time hovering around the 13-15-mile mark for my long runs.  As these final weeks approached, and I was finally! starting to feel better, I was left with just three more long run weeks.  I took a very scientific approach to them and opted to do the following:

Week 1 - 2-hour long run
Week 2 - 3-hour long run
Week 3 - 20 Miles (which I assumed would take me about four hours)

Not exactly your 10-percent rule, is it?  To make things even better, I ended up doing my 20-miler only five days after the 3-hour run because that is what fit into the schedule.  Not ideal.

So, how did it go?  Well, okay.  I headed out on the run with my hamstrings and lower back already sore from all the cleaning I had done the day before.  Don't ask me why I decided to do a day of heavy cleaning the day before a long run when, in fact, I've been ignoring most cleaning all summer, but that's what I did.

I woke up, and the plan was to run to the local running club's 14-mile training run.  The run there would net me a little over two miles, I would do the training run with the run/walk group, and then I would finish up running home adding any miles as needed to get me my 20.

As it turns out, the run there was fine.  I enjoyed a slow, warm-up-type jog and got there just in time to find the route reel instructions and hook up with the run/walk group.  We started out and for the first five miles or so, everything felt fine.  I felt a little funny running with this group, because although I know all the people in it, they clearly are running buddies while I am the outsider who drifts in and out of the group occasionally.  Ah well.

The run/walk worked out great for five miles or so, as I said, but after the first few miles I was informed that the group likes to ramp up their running interval speed in the middle miles before bringing it back down again.  Yikes! I wasn't quite prepared for that, but I seemed able to manage okay.  What was my undoing, however, were the hills.  The route that the course designer had put together included a fair amount of rolling hills leading to, along, and leading away from the river - a nice challenge for anyone doing 14 miles.  For someone doing 20 miles however, it was a bit much.  Maybe if I were a stronger runner, I could handle them better, but as it was by the time we reached the 14-mile turn around point (so about nine miles into my run), I was already falling off the back of the group.  I realized I couldn't keep up the pace and tackle the hills and go 20 miles too, so I let them go.

Once I dropped off the group, I almost felt a bit of relief.  It's almost like feeling like you have to be on your best behavior because you are in the company of others.  Suddenly, finding myself alone, I felt able to breathe a bit better and my running improved.  Well, either that, or it's because I wasn't talking anymore.  From miles nine to 14 or so, I felt I did fairly well.  Make no mistake, I was ALL ALONE and that was a bit of a bummer.  There's nothing like doing a group run and finding yourself trailing at the end of it to such a degree that you could be the only person out there.  The plus side, of course, is that getting to the water stations I felt I had them all to myself.

After about mile 14, things started getting tougher.  I was starting to enter into no-man's land, that land of mileage you don't visit very often.  In fact, really one of the few times I had visited it at all was only five days previously, and my legs were feeling it.  I managed to get myself back to where the training run started, but facing still another four miles, I didn't feel like sticking around or talking to anyone, so I just filled up my water bottle and went.  Those last four miles were torture.  I felt like I had hit the wall in a marathon.  I was sluggish, my legs didn't want to run when I asked them to, and I ended up changing my intervals from a 4:1 to a 3:2.  Even then, my slow-walking legs were not too thrilled to be put into running gear when the time came.

I finished the 20 miles in 4:03, with those last six miles taking me almost an hour and a half.  Serious wall-hitting there.  After stretching and an ice bath, I still felt mostly miserable all day Saturday.  By Sunday, though, I was already starting to feel better, and yesterday I managed a 5.5K row with little problem.  I'll be curious how today's run goes.

There were so many thoughts running through my head after the 20-miler that I don't think I can outline them all here.  The overriding one, however, was the thought that I fully intend to slow down after this marathon.  I know I have another marathon in January, but I am only going to look to finish that one in one piece.  I plan on hopefully keeping my base up after this marathon, keeping my early long runs in the two to two-and-a-half hour range, but I am going to slow WAY down and work on my aerobic, endurance base.  Speed will have to come later, after I prove to myself that I can go the distance.  I am really looking forward to it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Two Books Have Me Wondering if Vegans Make Better Ultra Athletes...

So, inspiration can come from a book.  I am sure that is what the authors hope will happen - that they will reach out and touch someone, make them think.  But ever since leaving school, I have been more or less a read-and-run type of person.  Two books recently have really got me thinking, however.

The past few weeks, I have been devouring two food- and running-related books that I happened to buy for Hubby for Father's Day this year.  The first was Scott Jurek's book Eat and Run and the second was Rich Roll's book Finding Ultra.  It's been a long time since I have had to write a book report, so I won't even pretend that I know how to anymore, but I will try to do them both a little justice.

Although I never really started out with the idea of comparing the two books to each other, their similarities cannot be denied.  Both books are written by ultra-endurance athletes who considered themselves unlikely candidates for such at one point in their lives.  And, they both happen to be vegan (that is, they eschew all animal products).  Both Jurek and Roll are convinced that their food choices positively influenced how far they have been able to come in their sport of choice.  Finally, both books are deeply personal accounts of the authors' respective lives and some of the hardships they have been dealt.

I'd say that is where the similarities end, however.

In Scott Jurek's book Eat and Run, Jurek recounts how he went from a meat-eating, hunting and fishing Minnesotan to a vegan seven-time winner of the Western States 100, as well as American-record holder for the 24-hour race, and more.  His childhood troubled by a dysfunctional family life in part resulting from the impact of his mother's MS diagnosis and poverty, running started out as a means to keep in shape for the cross-country ski season, the one thing he found he was really good at.  Eventually, running morphed into the main focus.  Even after starting to run ultra events, though, and becoming good at them, he had to deal with the insecurities that come from being the outsider - the flatlander attempting to win (and then succeeding to win) one of the most esteemed mountain races in ultra history.

The decision to turn vegan came somewhat slowly for Jurek, having been influenced by some people in his life, as well as his own research on the topic.  Being a physical therapist, he recounts working in a hospital and watching an elderly gentleman turn his nose up at the hospital food and just sort of having an "aha" moment.  His own research and experimentation then eventually led him down the path of whole-foods veganism.  (As opposed to junk food veganism, which is possible.)  Although the transition seemed to be slow, by the time he toed the line for his first Western States, he was completely on a vegan diet.

Food, recipes, and his choice to become vegan are woven throughout the book, and the clear message is that to improve health, this is the way to go.

Rich Roll's book Finding Ultra has less to do with being a roadmap to veganism as a way of life in the ultra world, and more to do with his fight to overcome addiction.  Although I haven't struggled with addiction myself, I found it a powerful and compelling story of someone falling down that particular rabbit hole, only to finally pull himself out once he hit rock bottom.  The choice to become vegan was simply a further step in redefining who he was.  After conquering his alcoholism, the next step was getting healthy.  Rather than being a slow metamorphosis, Roll experiences some scary moments where he feels he's being given the opportunity to change.  A self-proclaimed all-or-nothing guy, he jumps into veganism and exercise with a vengeance and doesn't turn back.

His story of going basically from couch-to-Ultraman (double distance Ironman triathlon) in middle age is compelling in its apparent lunacy.  Having been a competitive swimmer in high school and college, before alcohol took that away from him, he did have a leg up in at least one triathlon event.  However, running and biking did not come naturally for him, and he credits eating healthfully and really paying attention to what he put in his body for allowing him to make that leap.  I would argue there was some innate natural ability as well.

Now, I was interested in picking up these books for a couple of reasons.  First, Hubby's recent foray into ultra running has spurred the need to investigate nutritional tactics more closely.  Additionally, being long-time vegetarians, we have flirted with veganism off and on through the years but have never really been able to make the commitment.  I wanted to see how it should be done.  For us, any attempts at eating vegan in the past were half-hearted at best.  That is to say, we didn't put a lot of thought into it.  Rather than seek out the healthful way to do it, we just yanked out the dairy.  Eating spaghetti?  Just leave off the parmesan cheese.  After reading these books, however, we've both been moved to clean up our food act, to make every bite count.  So, lately, we've been buying a lot less simple-carb loaded stuff, and investing more in nutrient-dense, high quality "superfoods."  Look in our fridge and you will find kale, beets, berries, tempeh, and sprouted tofu.  Our pantry holds quinoa, barley, sprouted lentils, and brown rice.  And, we're actually eating the stuff, not just looking at it!

I hate getting into discussions about food choices, because for some reason people feel very strongly about the way they eat.  Many will take it as a personal attack if they think you are criticizing what is on their plate.  I will say, however, that personally when I eat a healthy, vegan diet, I do feel better.  I feel I have more energy, less fatigue, and even recover from runs better.  Is it the "right way" to eat?  I don't know.  There is a lot of talk about how some elements in a vegetarian diet are not good for you, and maybe there is some truth to that.  The Paleo folks would have you believe it.  (And I don't pan paleo altogether.  I even subscribe to a paleo blog.) But, I also know that there are a lot of anecdotes of people doing super things on a healthy vegan diet.

Back to the books, however.... Even if you eschew the idea of going meat-free, I think both books have something to offer.  They may not definitively answer the question of whether or not vegans make better ultra athletes.  However, the info on healthy eating gives you food for thought, even if you don't want to give up the flesh.  And, the personal stories of two very amazing athletes are an interesting read.  In a way, both books offer messages of hope.  Rather than just leaving you with the feeling that you have read an interesting account of someone else's feats (that you could never do), both books left me at least with the feeling of wanting to look around and see what my challenge could be.  I may not ever win the Western States 100, or run it for that matter.  And, I may never take on Ultraman or any other triathlon, but I do wonder what things are just beyond my reach.  What kind of challenges can I take on?  And I think they might do that for you too.

Have you read any running-related tomes lately?  Recommend your reading list here!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Somedays running is such a natural mood enhancer

I am not just in a good mood right now, I am in a veritable gurgling whirlpool of bonhomie.  In other words, I feel great.  This normally would not be that noteworthy, except for the fact that I wasn't feeling that good when I woke up this morning. In fact, I was tired, pooped, done in, K.O., ready to roll over, turn off the alarm and go back to sleep.  But I ran anyway, and it was good.

Let's back up a bit....This past weekend, the family and I packed up our minivan extraordinaire (that is to say, I packed it all by myself) to the gills with borrowed camping equipment, food, and enough changes of clothes to get us through a four-seasoned year, and hit the road for an adventure.  This was only the second time in 15 years that I had been tent camping, and it was the first time for Hubby - at least as an adult.  We headed down to the Northern Kettle Moraine to camp in style at an area lake with some friends, and it was a blast.  Doing some trail running, a couple of short hikes with the kids, hanging out at the lake with the collective kids, enjoying a beautiful star-filled night with a campfire and, of course, smores, made for a wonderful memory-filled weekend, but it was tiring too.  

Ready for the trail!
The kids liked the steep downhills
on the trail best.  Me - not so much.
Tough on the knees.
At the lake, the kids enjoyed damming up a natural spring and then
destroying the dam.  Such fun!
Seeing as we were out of town for the weekend, and I didn't want to take three hours away from family time to run an unknown trail on Sunday, I decided to push off my long run until Monday.  This was not a bad idea, but not having recovered from the weekend away, I started that run off feeling a little run down.  (You know it is bad when you head out the door, and you don't really even have an idea of where you are planning to run.)  I knew I was tired, but I also knew that quitting this run wasn't an option.  As much as Hubby keeps advising me to listen to my body in these final weeks leading up to the Jungfrau, I just can't shake the need to get in those last couple of long runs.  With the injury this summer, I feel I lost a lot of prime training time, and I don't want to miss the last couple of weeks to boot.

Monday I opted not to run trails.  Instead, I dropped the kids, and my car, off at my parents' house and just headed out the door with the loose idea that I would do a loop around town - literally.  So, off I headed.  I won't bore you with the minute details of my run.  I will bore you with some of the highlights, however.

First off, I decided not to do a run/walk like I have been doing of late.  Why?  I don't know.  Why do I do any of the things I do?  Mostly on whim, and that is what this was.  I thought I would just start out running, and that is what I did.  By mile 1, however, it was clear that just running wasn't going to work for me, so that is when I settled into a run/walk, where I would walk every mile.  Very scientific, no?  That worked pretty well for me, and I was able to be pretty consistent with that.  At the one-hour mark, though, I thought I should add in walk breaks every 60 minutes, just to celebrate those hours ticking by, you know?  Also, I celebrated a couple of hills that way, too, but not too many.  For the most part, I ran the hills.  I also celebrated the park and the gas station where I refilled my water bottle by walking up to them.  Hmmm, I may also have celebrated all the nutrition I took in by walking during those breaks.  Really, on a three-hour run, who needs to be fumbling with little baggies and such?

So, lots of celebrating going on.

My new favorite long-run food!
Food-wise, I did pretty well.  I planned on taking in about 100 calories every half hour.  A little much, to be sure, but I wanted to guarantee any bonking I did wouldn't be for food.  (I would save that for water. More on that later.)  I ended up eating: a package of Clif Shot Blocks (over two breaks), Buddy Fruits Pure Fruit Bites twice, and one package of Buddy Fruit Raspberry Coconut Milk Pure Blended Fruit.  By far, my favorite to eat was the Raspberry Coconut Milk concoction.  Aside from the fact that I was burping up coconut flavor for the rest of the run, it was the food item that went down the easiest and was somehow the most satisfying.  I have used them a couple times on runs now, and I really, really like them.  The only downside to it that I can see is that they are kind of heavy and bulky to carry - compared to a Gu, for example.  However, on the positive side, I can buy them at Walmart.  

So, the bonking on water came between miles 12 and 13.  I had stopped at a park to refill my water bottle, but the angle of the water stream was such that I couldn't fill my water bottle completely.  So, at about mile 12 - the only place in my run of course with nothing around - I ran out of fluid.  This proved to be one of the hottest, most miserable miles I have experienced in a while.  With no other businesses nearby, I contemplated going into one bar I passed, but I felt I didn't want to deal with the questioning stares of the local barflies.  Instead, I took my chances on a motorcycle repair shop I saw in the distance, but when their water fountain proved defunct, I was stuck sucking it up and running into town.  A gas station about a half mile into town proved to be my salvation, and the good folks there were nice enough to not care as I trudged my stinky self into their clean environment and filled up on water at their sink. 

Some interesting interactions with people on the run of note:
  • I almost got run down by a car pulling out of a business's parking lot.  I actually had to skip out of the way to avoid being tapped by their front bumper.  I am all but positive the driver was purposely trying to kill me, but Hubby thinks he or she probably didn't see me.  I don't know, because I wasn't looking at them either.  Lesson learned, always make eye contact with questionable drivers.
  • One man shouted after me not to worry, no one was chasing me at one point.
  • A lady handed me some Baptist church literature as I was waiting for traffic to clear at one intersection.  I was too polite to say no, so I ended up carrying that for about five miles.
  • I wandered into a chocolate shop at about my halfway point hoping for a free sample.  As it turns out, I don't think they like stinky runners either, because I was not offered a sample.  (They ALWAYS offer me a sample when I look like I can pay for things.)  I was very put out by this.  (sic)
  • One lady at the gas station struck up a conversation with me about running.  It turns out she can't run because it makes her feet hurt.  At that point, I could with all honesty look her in the eye and tell her that running made my feet hurt too.  It turns out she is neighbors with two running friends of mine, so proof again that the world is a small place.
At three hours into the run (according to my watch) and 15.5 miles, I decided I needed to be done.  Unfortunately, I found myself about four miles from my parents' house.  A quick phone call there had my dad loading up the kids in my car and driving out to meet me at what would turn out to be Mile 16.8 for my run.  For the second time in my running life I was picked up on the side of the road.  This time, however, it was after a very long and successful long run, not because I was calling it quits early. (I cannot thank my parents enough for how supportive they are in all my endeavors.  I guess hope springs eternal that  - even though I don't say it enough - they do know that I appreciate what they do for me.)

Random view on my long run.  A good place to stop and contemplate the woes of not having any water to
drink for over a mile.  
A good run Monday and a very busy day yesterday seemed to ensure that my run this morning was a tired and heavy-legged affair.  At my request, however, my friends in the Wednesday morning running group humored me and chose a route that ensured 5.4 miles of maximum hills and shady, wooded trails.  The run kicked my butt, but somehow it was just what I needed to boost my mood and lend me a little energy for the day.  I think two days of rest and/or rowing, depending on what I can handle, and then my - hopefully - 20-miler on Saturday. That will be my last long run before the Jungfrau.  I am starting to feel slightly ready for this adventure.  I don't have the panic completely at bay, but at least - at this point in time - it is not threatening to swallow me whole.  We'll see how the week unfolds.

Happy Running!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Don't Panic; Just Breathe!

Have you ever signed up for a race event that every time you thought about it you suffered a very mild and minor panic attack?  Well, I have.  And sometimes I wonder what gets into me when I sign up for these things.

I did this to myself last year when I signed up for the Pikes Peak Half Marathon Ascent.  And, I have done it to myself again this year by signing up for the Jungfrau Marathon.

Now, mostly I can keep the panic pretty well hidden and under wraps by utilizing a very simple technique: I don't think about it.  (Bet you thought I was going to say take deep breaths, right?)  There comes a point, however, that with the event looming right around the corner, just not thinking about it doesn't work anymore.  I appear to be at that point with the Jungfrau.

The Jungfrau Marathon is only 29 days away, and I am in danger of totally and completely FREAKING OUT!

Whereas I successfully suppressed this race in my head for the better part of a year, responding to anyone who asked with a tired - oh yeah, I am running up the side of one of the fabled Alps in September (*yawn*), much to the delight of my listener du jour, I am now sending anyone who inquires scurrying away in fear of catching my crazy cooties as I tell them, Holy @@#$, what the %^$%^$ have I gotten myself into? I am @@#$&%&% running up an Alp NEXT MONTH! 

Just breathe.

Sometimes I don't know what I am thinking.  I know I tend not to worry too much anymore when I register if a race is over my head, but a mountain?  Again?  Mountains are WAY over my head, both literally and figuratively.

What's got me freaked out right now are the cutoffs for this event.  They have two cutoffs, which from what I read, they take very seriously.  If you don't make them, you are done.  If you don't heed them and carry on anyway, you will be shunned and branded a pariah for not following the Swiss rules of the game.  If you do heed the officials, then you will get a receipt (no joke! that's what it said) to pick up your medal and shirt at the finish.  At least that is what I have read.  So, what would I do if I were told I was done with 4K to go?  Well, probably take the medal and shirt.  (Hanging head sheepishly.  I want to have something to show for this.)

I shouldn't even care about finishing.  When I signed up for this a year ago, I did so FULLY KNOWING that I probably couldn't finish in the 6.5 hour time limit.  I mean, my marathon "PR" so far is only 4:55.  And while they say you should figure on adding an hour and a half to your typical marathon time, that is cutting it VERY close.  In any case, I have somewhere along the way decided I DO care if I finish.  I want this very badly, and there was a time I thought I could do it.  My training plan was aggressive but I was STRONG.  Unfortunately, the hamstring issue that took center stage for a month came at a bad time.  Long runs were derailed and hill work was put on hold.  While I feel I am getting somewhat back in the saddle this past week, I am almost done.  One and a half weeks until I reach taper time.


So, the cutoff that has me flipping out? Well, there are two, but it is only the second one I am really concerned about.  The first one is at 30.3K (18.83 miles).  You have to reach that point in 4:10.  While tough, I think I can do that, as there is only one serious climb for one mile before that point.  The second one, though, is harder.  I have to reach 37.9K (23.55 miles) in 5:35.  Between cutoff 1 and cutoff 2, of course, comes some of the most serious climb.

The thing that mentally throws me here is that my best marathon time is 4:55.  I have to reach mile 23.55 in 5:35, and that with the serious climb thrown in. I just don't know if that is enough padding.  What gets me is that you then have 55 minutes to complete 4K, 2K of which are downhill.  It just doesn't seem fair, because I think I can do that stretch in under 55 minutes.

My Hubby is looking out for me.  He sends me spreadsheets of paces and times supposedly demonstrating that I can do this, but I look at those and I feel lost.  All I see are a bunch of numbers and I have no concrete idea of how that translates into real-world me.  I love him dearly, but I am not a spreadsheet gal.


So, that is what has got me freaked out.  One little cutoff.  I am not really thinking about the distance, which I suppose I should be.  After all, this is only going to be my third marathon and I am not particularly well trained for it at this point.  I am not concerned about the altitude, which everyone makes a big deal of.  After all, the altitude at the finish is only slightly higher than Pikes Peak's starting altitude and I got through that.  I am concerned about the climbs. I'll be facing grades upwards of 16 percent at some points.  I am concerned about the possibility of having to look over drop-offs.  If they are bad, that could have me pulling out of the race right there.  Ugh.

It's pictures like these that have be flipping out over
drop-offs.  (Source)
Here is another one. (Source)
So, that's where I am at.  Just breathing.

How about you? Do you ever sign up for events that cause minor (or major panic attacks?)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fox Cities Marathon Entry WINNER!

Congratulations, Ginger Foxxx, of Run Gingerfoxxx, Run! You are the winner of the FREE ENTRY into the Fox Cities Marathon / Half Marathon.  Contact me at with your address, and I will send it out tout de suite.
Thanks again to the Community First Fox Cities Marathon for letting me have the chance to give this entry away.  For more information on the race or for registration information, go HERE.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Plateau Busters

***First, have you signed up for the Fox Cities Marathon/Half Marathon Entry Giveaway?  If not, go here to sign up!  I draw a winner at noon tomorrow (August 8)!***

Today for the August Healthy Living / Fitness Blogger Writing Challenge for The Fitness Cheerleader, we are talking about plateaus, and how do you bust through them.

Plateaus had to be one of the hardest things for me to wrap my head around when I first started running.  I mean, if you are like me, and you started running - ahem - later in life, then you know that when you first start, running is a heady experience.  The progress comes fast and easy.  After all, if you go from sitting on the couch to even just managing to run a block, that's phenomenal!  The first time you struggle through a mile?  Cause for wild celebration.  And, it just gets better from there.

There comes a time in every runner's life, however, when that first plateau is reached, when you feel your progress just stagnates.  Perhaps you just can't seem to get past the two or three mile mark without walking.  Maybe your hope for getting faster looks like it is going nowhere.  Maybe a particular ache or pain just won't quit.

For me, hitting one of these roadblocks was always a cause for huge concern; I wanted to just throw in the towel, declare myself the most unnatural, unlikely runner in the world, and take up permanent residence on the couch most centrally located in front of the TV.  The problem was - and still is - that I usually don't see a plateau for what it is.  (I've always been one to leap to the most dramatic conclusion.)   Luckily for me, my Hubby - who is also a runner - is often the first to recognize that I have reached a plateau and then talk me down off the ledge called "Frustration" or its partner "Quitting."

So, how do I interpret plateaus?  I take them to mean that my body has just gotten used to a certain routine.  It's not being challenged enough to make further adaptations - to get stronger.  So, the cure?  Mix things up, of course.  Time for a bit of confusion.  Time to wake the body up, get it thinking again.  And, that means doing something different from the norm.

For me, that might mean running trails or hills instead of the same road over and over again.  Maybe I will throw in some speedwork or run with a group I don't usually run with.  Maybe it means doing a run/walk for a while just to mix it up.  Or, it could mean that I add in some cross-training, start using some different muscles.

I am sure there are a million options.  I've even heard some people say that running at a different time of day makes a difference.  If you always run in the morning, try an evening run.  Or, do both!  Throw in a day where you split your mileage and run twice.  You can play games with your running - run some fartleks - pick mailboxes on the street and decide to sprint from this one to that, and then jog or walk between the next two, sprint, walk,....Just do something different from the norm.

Plateaus can mean that running is not so fun anymore, so anything you can do to make it fun again is bound to help.

Of course, the best thing you can do to beat plateaus, I find, is to avoid them in the first place.  I don't know if there is any science to back this up, but I find that if I put my running in three-week cycles, I seem to avoid the plateau, burnout, complacency that comes from doing the same routine over and over again.  For me, that might mean something like this:

Week 1
Row 6k
Run 6 miles with a few intervals thrown in
Row 6k
Run 6 miles
10 miles trails
Week 2
Row 6k
Run with group – 6 miles
Row 6k
Run 6 miles with hill repeats
11 miles trails
Week 3
Row 4k
Run with group – 4 miles
Row 4k
Run 4 miles
6 miles trails

If I can keep things mixed up a bit, and I have some time built into the schedule to give my body a bit of a rest, then I don't get burned out so badly.  Things are different enough to keep me challenged and interested.  After all, if I don't like a workout today, there is always something different on the horizon to look forward to.

How do you get around those inevitable plateaus?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Getting my Injury Under Control on the Mountain-Bay State Recreational Trail

So, while it may seem that I fell off the wagon already during my August Healthy Living / Fitness Blogger Writing Challenge, the truth is that I only partially fell off the wagon.  I am still gripping onto it with the tips of my fingers and riding (or writing?) along.  The problem, however, is that yesterday's blog posting I wrote got eaten by the computer moments before I intended to publish.  Now, there are probably a couple of lessons there: 1) I shouldn't trust auto-save to save my life or my post for that matter, and 2) I probably shouldn't spend so much time tweaking things.  Oh well, I am giving it another shot here....

So!  Yesterday's post was supposed to be about foods I cannot live without.  You'd think that being a long-time vegetarian and a wannabe vegan, I would have endless tales to tell about that topic.  You would be wrong, however.  It's not that I am sensitive about my food choices, but my feelings on the matter are rather extensive and I am not quite ready to write about them in detail.  Not yet anyway.

So, instead, I wrote a little bit about how my last week of running has gone.  I had the good fortune to be able to join some friends yesterday on the beautiful Mountain-Bay State Recreational Trail in Howard, Wisconsin - near Green Bay.  This is a converted railroad track, which features crushed limestone, lots of shade, gorgeous views through the woods and farmland, and distance.  If you want to run forever, this is a good trail to pick, as it extends 83 MILES from Wausau to Green Bay.  It is named for the two geological features it connects - Rib Mountain in Wausau and the Bay of Green Bay.  I only got to experience a scant six miles of trail on my out-and-back twelve-miler, but I have never so much wished I were a more serious bike rider.  I would love to bike the length of this trail and really see where it leads.

Aside from the trail, yesterday's run was nice for other reasons as well, not the least of which was the lack of pain.  It's no secret that I have been dealing with some hip, butt, and hamstring pain.  Well, this past week, I finally saw someone about it.  On the advice of several running friends, I went to see a Doctor of Osteopathy.  Now, one friend recommended this doctor, while others recommended a chiropractor.  Until the day before my appointment, I assumed the two specialties were one and the same.  As it turns out, they are not.  I won't get into the details, because, frankly, I don't know them too well.  My rudimentary understanding, though, is that a DO is kind of, sort of like a chiropractor but has a medical degree, too.

My appointment with the DO was interesting, to say the least.  Mostly, I liked the doctor, because she is an athlete herself - runner, triathlete, skiier.  She does some serious ultra events herself, like the Ironman and Birkebeiner.  Additionally, she is the medical director for this year's Fox Cities Marathon.  If nothing else, I felt like I was in good hands and that she would be on my side.  The main goal of our appointment, as stated by the doctor, was to get me running comfortably again and make sure I get through my September marathon.  Hallelujah! It's nice to have someone who sees things your way and won't automatically tell you not to run.  After a nice long chat and a couple of adjustments, the doctor declared me good to go, no restrictions.  Go out there and see what happens.  (For the record, she thought my sacrum was off, pulling on the piriformis, which then causes tightness around the hamstring tendon.)

Although skeptical, I did go out and run three times this past week - once with the Wednesday morning group for five miles, once for an hour of hill repeats, and finally for my two hour run yesterday.  And?  I have to say, I feel better.  Weirdly, strangely.  I wouldn't declare that I am cured, but it all is definitely feeling less painful than it was.  Is this all due to the good doctor?  I don't know. Not one to leave any stone unturned, I also decided to finally try my pair of Aspaeris Compression Shorts I recently got.  I wore those for the hill repeat run and my long run.  I'll have more to say on these soon, but as everything is feeling better, I am willing to bet that they are playing a very nice supporting role (sic!) to the doctor's work.

So, back to yesterday's run on the trail... The run, organized by a friend of mine, was a celebration of the women's Olympic Marathon.  For the majority of the group, it was a 26.2K run out and back on the trail.  They had set out water and Gatorade ahead of time, and A. even brought cookies for the finish.  It was well organized and a joy to be a part of.  Although I turned back early, I enjoyed chatting with the gals the first hour before breaking off.  And then I enjoyed running in solitude for an hour.  It was a nice way to start my Sunday morning. To finish up, here are a few pictures from the run. I love finding new trails to run, so I go a bit camera crazy.

Gathering for the run.  There are actually quite a few of us!
Group shot
For the most part, the trail was well shaded.

There were some road crossings, but they were well marked.
One of the many bridges.
Moo! Passing farms and cows was fun somehow!
Sweaty me after the run - very happy!
Notice the red, white, and blue!  With
Team USA in spirit during the marathon.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Two Years of Confidence Building and Redefining Why I Race

More confident, more adventurous, more relaxed (okay, well, most of the time).  Two years can be a long time in the timeline of personal development, and these last two years have seen me grow more in terms of my running than at any other time in the past.

Day 4 in the August Healthy Living / Fitness Blogger Writing Challenge put on by The Fitness Cheerleader has challenged me to think about:

How have you changed in the past two years?

Two years ago, I had one of the lowest mileage years in my running "career" thus far.  The early months of 2010 saw me suffering from a wonky knee that would not go away.  I put off seeing a doctor for it forever, but when I finally did see one, I was diagnosed with classic runner's knee - patellar tendonitis.  The doc prescribed a three-pronged attack that included orthotics, knee brace, and physical therapy.  Having never really experienced ANY of these before, the treatment plan seemed way too aggressive to me.  Being the self-educated medical genius that I am, I proceeded to ignore everything she told me to do.  Instead, I opted to just back off and take some time away from running.  Two months later, I attempted to ease back into it with a very modified walk/run program which took me ten weeks to build up to a 30-minute run.

For all that, by the time I got back into running I discovered that the knee wasn't really that much better.  Even then, I decided not to go back to the doctor.  While the issue was still there, I did feel I could somehow manage it.  Needless to say, my running was very cautious and limited in 2010.  In fact, I hardly raced at all that year.  I gave up on my idea of doing the Door County Half Marathon because of the knee.  Instead, I walked the 5K with my dad (a good experience in and of itself!).  It's the first and only time I have ever played "bandit" in a race event.  (For the record, I stepped off the course before the finish and didn't take anything from the water stations.)  My big goal for 2010?  Building up to an eight-mile road race in September on Mackinac Island, which I did complete.  

Because of the knee injury, instead of being able to concentrate on my own race goals, I spent most of the year playing chief cheerleader to my Hubby.  While my running was floundering, his was flourishing.  He set a couple of marathon PRs that year and even qualified for Boston for the first time. Plus, he ran his first 50-miler.  Heck, he even proved that you can do a Galloway-style run/walk in a marathon and STILL finish with a great time in the sub-3:30 range.  

So, how does "more confident, more adventurous, more relaxed" come in?  Well, considering how easy I took it during 2010, I was truly disappointed when my return to running went less than fabulously.  I was irritated at myself for giving up so much time when the end result was basically the same.  The knee wasn't that much better.  The irritation was so great, in fact, that it more or less manifested itself in an I-don't-give-a-shit attitude when it came to running and racing - not in the sense of I didn't care if I ran, rather in the sense that I didn't care if my body wasn't ready I was going to sign up for any damn race I wanted.  And, I did.

Even while my knee still throbbed after every run, I found myself signing up for the 2011 Door County Half Marathon, the Ice Age Trail Half Marathon, the Pikes Peak Ascent Half Marathon, and - what the heck - the Lakefront Marathon, too, just for good measure.  I think I figured if I were going to blow out my knee, I might as well do it in a big and fantastic fashion. I trained as well as I could in 2011, did a run/walk for most things, and managed to accomplish  All told, I ended 2011 having successfully completed one marathon and five half marathons, as well as a number of other shorter races.

So, compared to two years ago?  Yeah, I am more confident in my abilities to meet my goals, even if they are sometimes a bit outrageous.  I am more adventurous in spirit and don't shy away from events that might put me "in over my head."  And, I am more relaxed about running.  If things don't quite work out as planned, it's just another tale to tell.  There is always value in experience, whether it is good or bad or ugly. 

Nowadays, I don't think so much about how fast I run or if I can do a race or not. I don't think about if a race is appropriate for me to do, or if I "have a chance."  It drives me crazy to talk to people who won't do races because they don't think they can do them as fast as they should.  Who cares!  As far as I am concerned the criteria I use for signing up for a race is this: will the experiences I gather from it have value?  Will I get something out of it in the end?  A fun time?  Beautiful scenery to look at?  Talk time with friends?  Or even a lesson in how NOT to run a race?  If the answer is yes, I do it.  Worried about failing?  Not so much.  (Of course, there are always exceptions.  You can read about a significant one in my life here.)  For the most part, though, I thumb my nose at failure, and if I am going to fail - so be it, I might as well go big then.  After all, why fail at the local marathon when I can go big and fail at a marathon in the Swiss Alps?  I ask you.

Do you find you have changed as a runner much in the past couple of years?  What are your criteria for choosing races? 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Me? A 50-Something (YIKES!) Ultra Runner?!?!?

Day 3 of the August Healthy Living / Fitness Blogger Writing Challenge put on by The Fitness Cheerleader has me writing about:

Where would you like to be in 10 years?

This is an extremely tough topic for me to address, because I have never been much of a forward-thinker.  I leave that to my Hubby, the man who has at least a five-year plan for races at any given point.  Ask him where he sees himself in 10 years and he probably has a 50th anniversary of the XYZ race on his radar that he wants to do.  I admire his ability to think ahead, even while at the same time I seem incapable of doing it. Maybe that is why we fit together so well - I fill the need for spontaneity while he plans.

I wasn't always this way.  I actually was quite the planner through my school years (which went up through grad school).  Somehow, though, school made it easier for me to define and understand who I was and what I needed to do.  So, throughout those years, while studying German, I had life pretty well planned out - here for undergrad, here for grad school, here, here, here, .... and here for study abroad.  But once out on my own, I lost my sense of where life should take me - perhaps a case of too much freedom?  Having kids, I find I am now just starting to again plan a bit more.  Now, after all, I have their school schedules to help define my life.  I know, all pathetic and sad and maudlin and whiny, and painfully veering off topic.  So, where do I see myself in a decade.....

In ten years, my kids will be 14 and 17 years old, respectively.  I imagine myself dealing with all the
c-r-a-p that comes with the teen years, as well as the joys of following them along on the journey of their interests, which I hope will include a sport or some other extracurricular activity they enjoy.  I will be looking at sending my firstborn off to college and all the angst that comes with that as well.  I also imagine I will be playing chauffeur, errand-runner, and all-around support crew for my aging parents.  (Or, more likely, I will be planning a vacation to somehow lob on to their latest travel adventure.)

I see myself finally working again full-time, after many years off - jetting around the world for Runner's World Magazine, Running Times  or some other running or travel-related rag, writing articles doing some kind of communications job for an employer I like and respect.

As for Hubby and myself, I keep thinking back to an article I read on Tom Held's blog Off the Couch a while back, "Double endurance: couple celebrates 50th wedding anniversary with 50K trail run," on the JSOnline. Strangely, having never run an ultra in my life, I kind of see myself following in those footsteps: getting stronger the longer I run, but still running for fun.  Signing up for crazy distance races with my Hubby and enjoying the places our eccentric hobby takes us, both as a couple and as a family.  I don't have any specific running goals beyond that.  If I could get a bit faster, and my age and speed would somehow, someday intersect, then I would like to try to run Boston one day.  Beyond that, I am open to whatever the universe and my own whims hand me.

How about you?  Any long-term plans?  Do you plan races and runs years out like Hubby? Or are you more of a spur-of-the-moment type of runner?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why Summer is Killing My Training

A few days ago I came across the August Healthy Living / Fitness Blogger Writing Challenge put on by The Fitness Cheerleader.  The premise, simple: write up a blog posting every day in August based on the topics she proposes. Always a sucker for challenges - and really digging the idea of having someone else come up with topics for me - I have decided to take up this challenge.  (I also thought this might help me meet my own personal goal of writing every day for a month, something I have been meaning to try for a while but never seem to get around to.)

You'll notice that today is August 2, which means that technically I have already blown it since I didn't post anything yesterday to the topic of music playlists.  Since I already posted a music post a while back  (read about it here), I don't feel too bad.  Besides, if I fall off the wagon here or there, I am okay with that.  (Apropos of that, wondering how I did in the July Abs Challenge I posted about last month?  I stank.  I basically didn't do anything with it.  I blame the injury.  After all, you can't exercise your abs when your butt hurts, right?  Okay, poor excuse.  I am hoping to do better on this one, though.)

So, today's topic?

Do you work out in the morning?  At night?  Why?

This one is kind of tricky for me to answer, because I am pretty fluid when it comes to workouts.  Overwhelmingly, I prefer to work out in the morning, simply because I like to get things done early and know that they are done for the day.  The longer the day drags on, the more likely it is that I will find some excuse not to do it.  That being said, summer has really messed with my head training-wise.  My schedule has been completely blown out of the water with the kids no longer in school, and my consistency has disintegrated.  All that to say, I have been reduced to taking what I can get for the time being.

Normally, my workouts consist of some combination of running, rowing, elliptical and yoga.  During the school year, I had a nice little routine going, where I would exercise while E. and LG were in school.  During these summer months, that has really fallen apart, and I have struggled with finding time to exercise.

Elliptical and yoga have completely fallen off of the schedule, because they require that I leave the house and actually go somewhere.  The kids are four and seven years old, which means they are too young to leave somewhere to play on their own, and E. is too old for the Y's drop-in program.  So, these past two months - when I should be doing the heavy mileage and cross-training workouts in anticipation of my September marathon - I am instead dropping mileage and what I used to consider key cross-training workouts.  I am still managing to fit in those main running workouts that make up the core framework of my training, but when I fit them in has become wildly varied based on a plethora of different factors: can the kids hang out with my parents that day, do they have a class they are attending, what else is on the schedule?  There has been a lot of picking and choosing going on.

About once a week, the kids will spend the night with the GPs.  This is typically when I can fit in my one group run of the week.  My other mid-week run, on the other hand, has to be accomplished in the early morning hours before Hubby goes to work.  So, that means I am rolling out of bed at 5 a.m. to squeeze in anywhere from four to six miles before coffee and breakfast.  This has worked ... okay.  The one downside is that on this particular day of the week, I really should be running hills or a longer tempo run.  Unfortunately, there are NO hills near my house, and given the time constraints with Hubby, I can't fit in anything longer than six miles.  I suppose if I would move my runs to the treadmill, I could accomplish hills or a longer run.  The problem with that, though, is that I really hate running on the treadmill.  If I can get outside, I will choose that every time - even at the expense of what I really should be doing apparently.

My long runs on the weekend are much more consistent, but they too are never the same twice in a row it seems.  One week, I will run on Saturday; another week on Sunday.  Sometimes on roads; sometimes on trails. With people; without.  Early; later. You get the picture. Basically, it is whatever fits in.  One of my favorite things to do, though, is the ol' switcheroo with Hubby, where one of us runs trails early and then the other brings the kids for a snack and playtime and then the other will run after.  

As far as rowing goes, that just gets squeezed into the morning schedule wherever it will fit.  That is one thing that I can say has improved marginally since the advent of summer.  LG used to HATE it when I would get on the rower.  With E. now home from school, however, he could care less.

Now I don't mean to sound like I am whining; I love having the kids home from school.  However, I am starting to look forward to the routine of the school year.  Additionally, I am beginning to think that I shouldn't plan for big goals in the fall.  My summer training the past few years has really looked skimpy compared to what I can accomplish over the fall and winter.  I guess it's a good thing that my next marathon after September is scheduled for January.  I am looking forward to those cold, snowy training runs.  Go figure.

So, how do you fit in your workouts?  Inquiring minds want to know...