Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Recovery Days Make Me Stronger

On my high after the good 8-miler on Saturday, I decided to do a slow, easy three-or-four-miles on Sunday. Being 40 and a half, I usually take a day off after a long run. But I was feeling so happy and hopeful, I thought I'd knock out a few more miles. My left leg was feeling good....until that Sunday run. After two incredibly slow miles, I realized my leg was bothering me. And I was out of energy! I tried adopting a run/walk ratio of 4:1, but I never made it the four. My muscles were just exhausted. I also happened to be a mile from home. It was a chilly walkBold back! Going from running to walking allows your body temperature to drop fairly dramatically. It was about 38-40 degrees, but it felt colder in my sweaty sports bra and base layer. I also noticed I was starving. The whole walk back, I was thinking about cottage cheese topped with blueberries and sprinkled with Beverly International vanilla protein powder, my favorite.

How to tell you are not fully recovered from a long run by the next day:
1. You have zero energy. Your legs feel dead, or at the very least asleep.
2. You are starving. Plus, if you are craving protein, it's your muscles yelling, "Feed me!!"
3. You try to run, and you are overcome with several aches and pains.
4. You are over 40. :-) Seriously, folks, from what I can see, it's all downhill after 40. I've spent most of my 40th year either injured or recovering from an injury. But, hey, that's just me.

I had some food and then did about 40 minutes of yoga to try to stretch out that sore piriformis/hamstring area. Note to self: Yoga only makes an inflamed, painful piriformis angrier. I got a clue and took Monday as a rest day from running. I did do a mini-Crossfit workout on Monday evening involving some sumo deadlift highpulls, push ups, and cleans. I have found that for me, a mini-Crossfit (meaning lighter weights, fewer reps) workout works better than going to the Crossfit gym and making myself so sore I can't walk for four days. Not that I wasn't sore! My quads and inner thighs were definitely feeling the highpulls yesterday and today. But it wasn't debilitating soreness, which is a good thing!

Tuesday was a crosstraining day---a whopping 15 minutes of rowing after a 5-minute warm up on the arc trainer. I did a few upper body strength exercises including pull ups. No running though. I finally ran today and it actually went ok! I managed 3 sub-10 minute miles. Again, it's a start. Still hurt afterward, but felt ok during.

I ran my miles at 9:46, 9:29, and 9:24 with some walking in between. Best case scenario: my half-marathon in 43 days would have miles at this pace! It felt good to practice that pace.

Next week, I won't be messing with my recovery day!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hope 16 Degrees

Today I had the first good run in a month. I ate bread this week! I had rice! I had spaghetti! I ate like a normal runner!

I ate clean for the most part, but not Paleo/Primal and it made a HUGE DIFFERENCE. The bread was Ezekiel sprouted bread--the English muffins are excellent, the sandwich bread.... not so much. The rice was inside sushi, so it wasn't whole grain and not technically "clean eating," but overall fairly healthy (well, as far as fried shrimp and full-fat cream cheese are healthy---the seaweed makes up for it, right?). The best part was the spicy crab on top--Yum! I had plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (kale, anyone? I have a superb recipe for sauteed kale with red pepper flakes and garlic---I call it Krispy Kale and even my 4-year old loves it), a few whole grains, lowfat dairy, healthy fat via avocado and nuts, and lean meat. I would call it moderate carb rather than high carb, but it worked.

I met up with about 12 other people, including 3 whom I am training for a half-marathon at 8:00 a.m. this morning. IT WAS 16 DEGREES!!! That may not sound like much to some of you, but I live in the South, people, and it's just not supposed to be that cold! We got snow on Thursday and missed our 5th snow day (already) on Friday, but the roads were scraped enough for us to run outside this morning. I had 8 miles on the training plan, and I ended up with 8.3 from doubling back occasionally to check on runners. The overall average pace was 10:31, much better from last week where I died a slow death in miles 6-9.

Have you heard the expression, "There's no bad running weather, just poor clothing choices" or something similar? Well, today, I put that into action. I wore 13 items of clothing on this run including double socks, double gloves, fleece tights with pants on top, 2 shirts and a fleece, plus the usual undies, scarf, ear warmer. Overkill, you say? I say JUST RIGHT. I could not feel my feet for the first two miles, then the feeling returned (thank goodness). It was windy and even in mile 8, I was still slightly chilled, especially my face. It was a balmy 24 degrees at the end. Thank goodness for the sunshine. That helped more than anything.

But, most importantly, nutrition and weather aside, I felt like a runner again---even (dare I say it??) a "healthy" runner. My piriformis didn't hurt during the run, even when I was pushing the pace at sub-10 minute miles for a few miles. I fully went out planning an easy 11-minute pace, then a neighbor showed up who had just completed his first full marathon, and I found myself falling into step with him, even though he was going faster than I wanted to. The five miles I ran with him were at my tempo pace, and the 3 I did alone were more my normal pace. The minute I stopped running and sat down in my car, however, my piriformis reared it's ugly head with a spasm down my left leg. But, (here's the hopeful part) it only hurt AFTER the run instead of both during AND after the run. I'm calling that PROGRESS. :-)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

An Experiment of One (or "Oh, My Aching Butt")

My running buddies are always ragging on me for trying new things: clean eating, paleo diet, primal diet, crossfit, and the list goes on......

I do read and research a lot and when something makes sense, I try it on myself before passing it on to the athletes I coach. (I am a RRCA running coach currently coaching 6 individuals for their first half marathon through my local YMCA.)

But lately, nothing seems to be working all that well for me. About February or March, I started Tosca Reno's Clean Eating plan. The biggest rules are no white sugar, no white flour, and foods as close as possible to their natural form. If you read the ingredient list and cannot pronounce it, don't eat it. That actually went fine for me. I maintained a steady weight. I still allowed myself "cheats"---it was more of a lifestyle change where I ate healthy about 70% of the time. I did have a great marathon in February, but that was before I embraced clean eating.

The next several months were tainted by a calf injury and a couple of physical therapists telling me various lower body parts were weak, despite my running 30 miles per week. So, I added some body-weight strength training to my workouts (lunges, squats, etc.) My next experiment was to do Crossfit for a month to continue to get stronger. I was sooooo sore that it disrupted my quality of life at times, but I had my fastest race time in a while in week 3. I ran 5 miles at a 9:02 pace fairly comfortably, which I'd never done before. So, maybe it works.

However, in a crossfit activity done by myself about two weeks ago involving 80 thrusters with 40lbs of weights, I think I injured myself. My piriformis/hamstring/sciatic nerve have not been the same since. Running now hurts and I'm scared to do much in the way of lower body strength training. Basically, my butt muscle cramps up terribly when I run long distances or sit in a chair and the pain runs down the back of my left leg through my hamstring. Awesome.

Before Christmas, I committed to eating even cleaner--- in paleo/primal way. I did well with it. The hardest thing is eliminating grains of all kinds---including whole grains. That means no bread, no wraps, no brown rice. Since I've been low carbing it for about 5 weeks, my runs have gone even further downhill. Now I have the combination of no energy and heavy legs to go with my aching butt.

My last two long runs have just plain sucked. The butt cramping started around mile five. Then, after about mile 6, I just felt like I hit a wall. My legs felt like they 200 lbs. Each. I felt worse yesterday in miles 7-9 than I did in miles 20-26 last February.

I think with the right stretching, rest, and maybe a few sports massages or physical therapy visits, I can get the pain under control.

But this lack of energy on long runs? It HAS to be my body telling me I need more carbohydrates. I've eaten so much fruit, tons of veggies, and I just can't figure out how to get that energy in my muscles back. I've read there is a "breaking in" period for low carb and that it gets better in about a month, but it's been about a month and I have a half-marathon in 3 weeks. Do I continue with this EXPERIMENT OF ONE eating Primal/Paleo with no bread or rice or oatmeal (ok, I admit I cheat with oatmeal sometimes) or go back to a regular "clean" diet that includes those foods in moderation????

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pool Running 101

I had my first pool run or "aqua jog" on Sunday. It was kind of fun and different. I like different!

Steps to pool running:

1. Decide that your (insert injured part here) is too sore for normal running, but you are too anal about following your training plan to miss a run.

2. Apply at least one coat of self tanner to take the glare off your glow-in-the-dark pale legs. No need to subject the pool community to that.

3. Don a conservative mom-style swimsuit. Mine was a skirted tankini. This is no time for a bikini!

4. Since not drowning is a priority, put on a flotation belt and hop in the deep end. First-timers shouldn't try to run without one. More experienced pool runners can actually float and run and not drown at the same time.

5. Imagine you are running and start churning those legs and swinging those arms. Stay upright. Resist the urge to start dog paddling or treading water (and you will have these urges). You may travel from side to side of the pool or stay in place, depending on your form. I was going back and forth across the pool---unintentionally.

6. The first 3 minutes take FOR-E-VER. After that, time only passes at about a 60% slower rate than usual.

7. After a good warmup of 10-20 minutes and when you are bored with watching the pool folk and lifeguards do their things, try some INTERVALS. Luckily there was a clock with a second hand in view. I started counting the steps of my right foot (because I'm right-legged, of course!). I knew that around 180 steps per minute is considered "ideal" in regular running counting both feet, so 90 steps should be ideal for just one foot. I counted my steps for one minute..... 66. Perhaps I was actually aqua-walking??

8. Pick up the pace for 30 seconds. It took me 3 tries, but I finally got to 45 steps in a 30-second "sprint," thus at the "ideal" pace. It was tough--it really felt like a 90% -95% sprint effort. I recovered for one minute at about a 75-76 steps-per-minute pace between these 30 second sprints. Suddenly, time was FLYING.

9. Using your usual easy, long-run pace, estimate how many "miles" you traveled. My marathon pace is around an 11-minute mile, so I aqua jogged for 33 minutes. I'm counting it as 3 miles on my training log.

Next time, I think I'll take a friend!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ouch..... Re-evaluating the marathon?

This is totally one of those "thinking-out-loud" posts where I'm trying to work through some stuff. Bear with me.

So, I'm in marathon #3 training week 6 (I think) and things are not going exactly as planned. My 11-miler scheduled for Saturday turned into a ....... 5-miler.

My left leg is not cooperating. The pain starts in my butt (piriformis) and travels down the back of my leg, behind my knee and occasionally into my calf. I think my sciatic nerve runs from buttock to heel, so it may be involved. (You got to love an arm-chair doc like myself!) I haven't gone to the doc..... yet.

Note: That's not really my butt. :-)

I'll have to look back at my training log on Daily Mile, but I think it started when I did a Crossfit workout a week or two ago. I did around 80 thrusters (or squats with push press at the top... not sure which since they are so similar) holding 40 lbs of weight. It was a Tabata interval, so it was quick and dirty. A couple of days later, I noticed my behind and hamstring hurting when sitting at the computer. Then that Saturday on my 10-miler, it really bugged me. It hurt after about 4 miles, but I refused to stop and stretch because my goal was to run 8 miles nonstop (which I did--- in pain).

I took a few days easy, stretched, foam-rolled and felt better. Then I did a fairly hard circuit workout last Thursday of a 6.5 mile run with about 30 kettlebell swings and 45 walking lunges holding the 20# kettlebell. Again, after about mile 4 or 5 of 6.5, it felt off. I rested on Friday, and then Saturday had a windchill of 11, so I moved my long run indoors. I only made it 5 miles on the treadmill (including stopping and stretching and running incredibly slow) before calling it quits.

I spent the rest of the day depressed and comforting myself with bad food. That night hubby and I had a date night at the movies, and I ate my weight in popcorn (for dinner) and started to feel a little better. We saw The Fighter. It was gritty, raw, and perfect for the way I was feeling. Somehow, it was cathartic seeing the struggles that athlete went through before triumphing over adversity. I love me a good "triumph-over-adversity" movie, especially based on a true story.

I have finally gotten to the point where I don't base my identity on how well or poorly my runs are going. I got there last summer when I was injured and realized, "I'm MORE than a runner." It's strange how running can be so all-encompassing those first few years. Now, I consider myself an athletic person in general. I really enjoy weight training (even though it apparently does NOT agree with me) and cross training. Rowing is awesome, and I'm saving for a road bike for next summer. I like getting stronger---"real" push ups and pull ups are so empowering. Last week I did some decline push ups and felt like a rock star (my feet were up on a bench--not that much harder, honestly) and my pull ups are coming along as well--I can do more good form ones than I could two months ago.

Despite my identity being firmer, it's just DEPRESSING when you are training for a marathon and you miss several short runs plus a long run and your leg hurts for 2 weeks. It makes the marathon feel out of reach-- like you'll never get caught up. I am missing miles of training that I really need to have a good performance during the race. And what if the injury gets better but flares up dring the race? Yikes---26.2 in pain does not sound pleasant. The marathon is in 12 weeks and I'm only at a max of 20 miles per week (last week and those last ones really hurt!). That's really not where I need to be.

It may be time to re-evaluate.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Old Year, New Year

2010 in a Nutshell
798.95 miles run
1 four-month calf-strain that would not go away (June-September)--aka My First Running Injury
1 full marathon at a 10:55 pace in February (very happy with that!)
2 half-marathons (both disappointments---one in April when not fully recovered from the full and one coming off the injury in September on only a 9-mile long run--ran them nearly at marathon pace--10:45 and 10:47 per mile)
2 10K's-- almost the same pace on each--9:35, 9:33. One was right after the full and one coming off the injury
3 5K's--- May, October, and October -- the best one was immediately pre-injury at a 9:05 pace
One great 8K in November to end the year. I was so happy to run 5 miles at a 9:02 pace! It was my fastest run of the year.

Goals for 2011
I want to get some 8's in those stats! Like an 8:55 or faster paced 5K. Maybe an 8:00 minute mile time trial. A 2:08 or less half-marathon.
I'd like to improve my full marathon time to under 4:45. Even 4:44:59 will do. Note: It is HARD to focus on improving both my shortest distance and my longest distance at the same time. My full is in April. After a good recovery, I hope to concentrate on my 5K goal. In the meantime, maybe in can squeeze in a good 2:08 half marathon or two.