Monday, November 30, 2009

Way Station Turkey Trot 5k Recap

I awoke to 45 degrees and calm winds Thursday morning.  Chilly and damp, but not rainy or windy so I was happy.  I put on a light running shirt, new long sleeved running top, yoga pants, ear cover, and headed for the start.

Unlike the Pink Ribbon 5k, the Armory wasn't open for the race, so everyone waited outside for the start.  That was where my dilemma started: yoga pants or no yoga pants.  I toggled back and forth for quite some time before deciding to leave them on.  I remembered back to the Urbana 5k where I was way too warm at mile 1.5 or so and was not keen to repeat that performance.  I could have gone without them since I ended up a little warm, but I would have been quite chilly at the start.  I just need to toughen up!

Prior to the race my last run was the Urbana 5k, so I had no expectations for my performance which was probably a good thing.  It allowed me to relax and just run, so I did just that.  I ran the entire race comfortably and ended up with a gun time of 34:17.  Apparently I had a non-functioning chip because I show up nowhere in the results (I even checked the men's results).  Estimating that it took me about 7 seconds to get to the pad, resulting in a 34:10 clock time, my results would have been:

AG: 62/111
Overall: 575/972

And that's all.  It was an uneventful, peaceful run that I was happy to participate in.  I guess it's now time to decide what I'm going to train for next...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Yummy Smoothies

When Smoothie King moved into College Park, I was a college student in love.  I probably drank at least one smoothie a month and cashed in on plenty of "buy nine get one free" cards.  I knew the menu by heart and made sure to mix it up so I wasn't drinking the same one all the time.  I made the occasional mistake of getting a smoothie larger than 20 oz (although I swore at the time that I had room in my stomach for it) and ended up in pain on the couch, but darn it was good going down.

I moved to Michigan and moved away from my beloved smoothies.  I suffered from withdrawal for a time, but found new addictions to satisfy myself.  Once back in the Washington, DC area I still wasn't near a Smoothie King, but I had been "sober" for a while so I didn't mind.

Within a few years of moving back I was living and working near a Smoothie King, so I occasionally wandered over and grabbed a drink.  The location near work has been visited the most, and the most disappointing.  One smoothie I bought was mixed so long that it was extremely thin; just like drinking water.  My most recent smoothie was so much ice that it wasn't satisfying at all, and it was that smoothie that turned me off from the store near work (I won't penalize the location near home unless they do the same thing to me).  When you're paying $5-6 per smoothie, it has to be made well.  When you screw up two out of about a half dozen of smoothies, that's not a good record.  So, I decided to open a new location in my kitchen.

Two frozen-then-thawed bananas, a cup of frozen-then-thawed strawberries, a half a cup of vanilla yogurt, two tablespoons of wheat germ, and a tablespoon of honey is my current favorite recipe.  I use a hand blender to mix everything together since it is more convenient and less clean-up than a blender.  I've also used frozen-then-thawed blue berries and POM Wonderful (helpful for thinning the smoothie when frozen berries are used).  I've made a smoothie almost daily for the past two weeks and have enjoyed tinkering with the recipe, and certainly drinking them.  Unless all the grocery stores close, I'm not sure that I'll be going back to Smoothie King.  My concoction is more delicious and much cheaper than what I could get there.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Urbana Wicked Fast 5k Recap

34:10.  Enough said.

It was 59ºF and windy (12 mph gusts) Saturday morning; better than the Pink Ribbon race.  I got to the race location well before the start and took my time doing my race prep.  I lined up at the start line, and when the gun went off, I was ready to run.

Around mile 0.5 (yes, zero point five) I developed a deep stitch on my right side.  I took some deep breaths and it faded away; I thought maybe my breakfast was talking back.  Around mile 2 I had some very sharp cramps in my shoulders.  I took about 10 seconds to walk and stretch my arms over my head, felt better, then picked the pace back up.  The cramps remained for quite a while after my quick stop, but from all the walking I did at the end of the race, they faded as well.  Around the 2.5 mile mark I was pooped and couldn't maintain my (already slow) pace.  I pulled up and walked for what was probably about 5 minutes, but felt like an eternity.  I finished out the last part of the race and went home with my head hung very low.  A Chick-Fil-A chicken breakfast burrito helped to ease a bit of the pain, but my disappointment was strong.

Did I fail to set myself up, or set myself up to fail?  Mentally I had one of the worse weeks I've had in ages, possibly ever.  I couldn't stand to be around myself because of my poor attitude, but I couldn't figure out how to fix the situation.  Usually that kind of attitude lasts a few hours at most, but this was several days.  I had no motivation to do anything; everything in my life suffered.  I don't know what put me in such a foul mood, but I'm certainly glad to be out of it, although I'm puzzled why I ended up like that.

All I can do now is start looking towards the next phase of training, whatever that may be at this point.  I have the Turkey Trot coming up on Thanksgiving, but I don't know if I should consider that another "A" race, or leave it as a "B" and call my fall season over at this point.  I'll have to figure that out soon.

Next race: Turkey Trot 5k on 11/26/09

Friday, October 30, 2009

CLIF BAR Voluntary Recall

For those who enjoy CLIF BAR, LUNA, and MOJO bars:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hitting a Low

Mentally I'm not strong enough (yet) to handle several poor runs in a row.  Two weeks ago I had two out of two bad training runs leading up to my "okay" race that Saturday.  Last week I had one out of one bad training runs; I didn't run two because after the one bad run I didn't want to do another.  This week I have no motivation to run at all, even with my race on Saturday.  I'm in a funk and I don't know how to pull out.  I think I need professional help.

For a while, probably for four years now since my first triathlon season, I have been debating the coach/trainer question.  Do I get one?  Can I go at this training thing alone?  Is it worth it?  How do I find a good one?  Am I really worth it?  And for those past four years I have discovered that I do fine with a cycling program (2007 Seagull Century), with a basic running program (earlier this year), and I can put together an acceptable lifting program, but putting together a well-rounded training program isn't within my reach.  I have had okay results at my races, but I don't feel like I'm putting in the time for proper training plan development to do better than okay at this rate, and I'm not sure that I have any more time to put in.  Or want to put in any more time.  I have to be honest with myself; there are other things I enjoy besides planning my training, training, recovering from training, and thinking about my next training session or race.

Kip has been a birdy on my shoulder since we worked out together in the summer.  He has read my blog and has been encouraging me to come back and see him, and sent me a recent email that was singing my tune.  I think he's finally pushed me over the edge since I'm not thrilled with my mediocre results and could use some encouragement when things are going poorly, as well as some help with a training plan.  (Kip: White flag; you win!)  I'm excited at the prospect of having his experience and knowledge on my side.  Ultimately I have to be the one to do the training, but I know that and I'm pretty sure I'm ready.

The next several weeks are going to be interesting and I'm looking forward to the change.  Plus, it'll be nice to have a better experience than I had at LA Fitness with their PT.  I'll actually get something out it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blood Donations and Training

The rattling is finally done so it's time to post.  I eluded to questions about blood donations and training in a post earlier today.  From the googling I've done, the short answer is as a submaximal athlete it shouldn't affect me much past the day of the donation, but from personal experience I would beg to differ.

DeAnza College provides most of the information I found online that doesn't involve personal experience when talking about donations and athletes (I believe personal experience is a stronger supporter of anything provided the story teller is truthful and doesn't emit any important facts).  Part of the way down on the page is the heading "Can athletes donate blood?" that goes on to talk about athletes and cyclists.  As an endurance athlete no effect should be noticed past two days after the donation, and for a casual cyclist no effect should be noticed.  The problem is that they don't define what to be "casual" or "endurance".  There is a lot of room from couch potato to ultra marathoner and plenty of room for different responses.

From an ARC website, the details are available to do some of my own calculations on the subject.  The percentage of red blood cells in your system is a direct function of your hemocrit.  You have to have at least 38% to donate (women can be as low as 36% and not be anemic, something I have experienced before resulting in a one day donation deferral).  Plasma makes up 55% of the blood volume, leaving 7% for platelets.  The adult human body has approximately 5 L of blood which is between 7 and 8% of a person's body weight according to the howstuffworks? website.  Donating one unit of whole blood results in a 450 mL decrease in blood volume, or a 9% drop in overall volume.

Plasma cells are restored within two days following a donation, so at that point your blood volume is around 4% low.  Platelets are back within two weeks, so you're 3.4% low at that stage.  Red blood cells take between six and eight weeks to regenerate, so you won't have your volume back to 100% until at least six weeks following the donation.  Volume isn't as much of a concern here as the red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body, although for people who have a normally low blood pressure or hypotension (90/60 or below), this loss of volume may have adverse effects on top of the missing red blood cells.

For a woman at 38% hemocrit at the time of donation, I would image that they would feel more of an effect than a man starting out at 47%.  The athlete portion of the DeAnza site doesn't specifically divide men and women, but the cycling section details only a study with men.  Given a woman's typically smaller size, lower hemocrit, and presumably lower blood volume, I'd like to see the numbers.

At 129 pounds, a blood pressure of 110/55, a resting heart rate of 76 bpm, and a hemocrit of 40% at the time of my donation last week, I felt the effects for approximately four days after the donation.  I don't believe my race performance was affected, but my training was definitely in trouble.  I don't believe I hydrated enough the remainder of the day following the donation (I stay well hydrated normally, but I didn't take in the extra volume I needed), which certainly could have added to the effects.  I'm going to keep a careful watch over my next several donations and see what the effects our.  If I properly rehydrate I may be able to stave off some of the effects, but I'll have to conduct that test in 6.5 weeks when I can donate again.  I'll try not to risk a race performance again, though.  I need to better plan my donations.

To read more personal experiences, check out For Beginners Only.  To see the entire breakdown of blood components with details, check out another ARC site.

Pink Ribbon 5k Recap

Race weather was 43ºF and rainy, not the ideal conditions for a race, but honestly how often do you have "ideal" conditions for a race?  And isn't ideal different for everyone?  I wasn't scared by the weather; I just needed to figure out what I was going to wear to keep myself as comfortable as possible.  I chowed down on some Kashi cereal and water about an hour pre-race.

Out of my closet came: knit hat, running t-shirt, cold weather cycling long-sleeved fleece jersey, cycling rain jacket, everyday-wear gloves, running shorts, fleece running pants, ankle wool socks.  The knit hat should have been a light ear cover and hat, the cycling jersey should have been a fleece-less version, the gloves should have been lighter, and having taller socks would have been nice, although not necessary.  (I hear a shopping trip coming up!)  So basically I was a overdressed, but I managed.

Instead of walking down to the race start (several blocks away), I decided to drive to help keep myself warm and dry longer.  Had I known that the festivities were going to start inside the Talley Rec Center, I may have walked down as originally planned.  We warmed up with a trainer from Gold's Gym, then headed out to the start line.  I lined up about mid-way back in the pack.

For the first mile I felt pretty good.  I found my stride and just worked on putting on foot in front of the other and watching out for puddles.  Shortly after the first mile I stepped in some deep water and had two soggy feet.  The wool socks quickly warmed back up and I didn't notice that my feet were wet for the remainder of the race.  At around the second mile I was too warm, so the gloves came off, the jersey zipper went down, and the rain jacket zipper came down as well.  I felt somewhat cooler, but not as cool as I wanted to be.  Being too warm was wearing me out quickly so I prepared myself just to hang on that last mile.

Knowing the course ahead of time, I knew we were getting close to the final turn (the cheering crowd gave it away too).  I made the turn and heard someone say to another runner "don't let 34:00 show up on the clock".  My heart sank.  My goal of a 10:00 pace was long gone.  While I wasn't surprised due to the conditions and my training that week, a little part of me had held onto that hope.  I put in a final kick and crossed the line at 33:47.  Taking off a couple of seconds for my distance from the start line, I probably came in at 33:42.

I was overheated, wet, and exhausted.  My calves were tight so I spent some time outside stretching them before heading inside for the closing festivities.  I grabbed a half of chocolate chip bagel and bottle of water and went off to stretch.  I resisted the urge to peel of any clothes besides my hat, and was thankful for that decision because a few minutes later I had cooled off and was fairly comfortable in my full gear.

I didn't have the greatest race, but I ran the whole time which is an accomplishment.  I learned a lot about dressing for a running race in inclement weather (helpful since winter is coming up).  I have two more 5k races remaining, and I'm hoping I'll be able to set a time goal and meet it for at least one of those races.  I know I have plenty more learning to do, but I could use a goal-accomplishing race at some point.

Next Race: Wicked Fast Urbana 5k on 10/31/09

Pre-Race Week Workouts

During race week, last week, my workouts gave me a lack of confidence and anxiety, neither of which I needed for a cold and rainy race.

I donated blood that Monday at 9a and I wasn't sure how that would effect me for the week (another post that's rattling around in my brain).  My Tuesday 30 minute morning run was rough.  I felt good for about half of it, but for the second half I felt run down, exhausted, and like my lungs were tied in knots.  I pushed through it, but my confidence for Saturday was certainly not high.

Thursday's morning run didn't nothing to aid my confidence either.  I think that run I suffered from 20% remains of the blood donation, and 80% from poor nutrition.  I woke up hungry and should have eaten something during my commute in, but didn't and I really paid for it.  At the 17 minute mark I had to quit (and that's the first time I didn't finish a workout).  I was starting to feel woozy and my legs were turning to jello, so in my best interest I stopped.  For the remainder of the morning my butt was dragging so I knew the lack of a morning snack was primarily the cause for my bad workout.

I tried to shake off two bad runs in a row, but it's hard to get over such a bad week with a race in sight.  I certainly learned a lot though: (1) no donations the week of a race, and if it's a big race, no donations within two weeks at least, and (2) if I'm hungry in the morning, although I usually don't eat before my morning workouts, eat!  And before the morning hunger happens again, decide what I'll eat so I'm prepared for when it happens again.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Week Ten - Twentyseven of Fourty

After my last post about run training, my running world stopped.  That Wednesday was the final day of testing and the last day of work hell that I would have to put myself through for a while.  I can admit that I cuddled up with a bottle of wine that night (I chose white to avoid a hangover) and that was the best time I had had in a while.  I thought about running during my down time, about hitting the road and doing my 13/2's then 14/1's, but I couldn't find the motivation.  I was digging out of a hole of chores, shopping, relaxing, and basic everyday stuff that I hadn't been able to get to in weeks.  Even if it had been swimming or cycling, I wouldn't have made the time either, so it was nothing against running specifically.  I took two weeks off of work (the last several days were spent curled up on the couch with a cold) and returned feeling rested, although still a little germy.  I considered running the first couple of days back, but my mornings were rough and by the afternoon I was wiped of what little energy I had.  I decided that Friday morning (after a good Thursday morning), was going to be my day to either do a 14/1 set, or just go for the gold and run through all 30 minutes.

I got on the treadmill and spent four minutes warming the body up with a brisk walk.  Then, I broke into a run and got things started.  Around minute twelve I decided that I was going to go all the way.  I needed the mental boost, and although I felt a little disorganized, I felt light and quick which are definitely feelings of a good run.  Minute sixteen came and went, and I was cruising pretty steadily until minute 26 or so.  The last throws of the cold were trying to keep me down, and although I was tired, I persevered and pushed through the aches and fatigue.  After all, the end of a race whether it is a 5k, 10k, or marathon, will leave you tired in the end so I need to get used to running tired.  I hit the "Stop" button at the 34 minute mark on the treadmill and a big smile came over my face.  30 minutes - done.  I may be short of a full 5k if I'm above 10 minute pace, but I'm close if not completely ready for my race on Saturday.  A couple more 30 minute runs before Saturday will make sure of that.


Kona, Chicago, and Motivation

This was a big weekend for long distance athletes.  Saturday was the Kona Ironman and Sunday was the Chicago Marathon.  I took some time out of my weekend to watch some of each, and I have to say that I'm better for it.

I didn't start watching Kona until the men pros were entering T2 and heading out for the run (I had thought the race was Sunday).  Watching the strength and endurance of the pros was fantastic.  Of particular note was Chrissy Wellington who had the biggest smile on her face for the end of the bike and the entire run; her face mimicked what I have looked like during some of my long rides when I'm all alone and dreaming of crazy things in my head (yes, sometimes I even laugh out loud).  She looked like she was out for a daily stroll down the block with her dog.  Considering that she had almost 100 miles and several hours of swimming and cycling on her body at that point, all I could do was smile back (to my computer) in awe.  I knew she was having an awesome race and would crush the course record.  With such a big smile on her face, she almost had to.

Chicago was just as awe-inspiring.  The men went out at better than world record pace and only 30 minutes into the race had dropped one of their pacers because the pace was so quick.  Tera Moody took charge of the women and led the first several miles because no one else stepped up.  She looked very smooth at 5:33 pace early on in the race.  She ended up as the 9th woman to cross the finish line at 02:32:59.

Up until now I haven't looked to the pros for inspiration and motivation.  I just assumed that their level of endurance and physical fitness was one that I would never be able to achieve as a "part-time" triathlete who's day job isn't being an athlete.  But there's more to it than just that.  They have learned valuable lessons along the way and carry with them a lot of experience and knowledge.  Yes, I may never run a 9 hour Ironman or a 2:30 marathon, but maybe I can strongly finish each no matter how much time it takes.  And maybe I can find tips and recommendations along the way from the pros (and anyone else for that matter) that help me achieve my own goals.  Instead of ignoring the pros, I should look to them for motivation and inspiration (at a minimum).  Read their blogs; check out their stories.  I have a lot of learning left to do.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Market Street Mile Recap

This past Saturday, Jeff and I ran the Market Street Mile through gorgeous downtown Frederick. As a first time participant of this event, I found the organization to be lacking and the amount of information provided pre-race to be poor. I did not know where and when packet pick-up was available on race day and I was not informed of the start and finish locations. All are pretty important items and I would have appreciated knowing these things before race day. Guessing that the race would end downtown and that packet pick-up would be available just before our races, we walked down Market Street until we found the start of the race - at the YMCA. The women's mile started at 10:00a, and the men's mile at 10:15a.

My goal was to not go out too fast. Knowing that it was a mile, I knew I could push harder than I have in my training runs, but I was aiming for negative splits so I needed to watch my start. My start was good as I let most of the field go out ahead of me and held my position up the gentle upward slope of the first few tenths of a mile. As we crested the hill I ran a check on my form and found that I felt strong and light.

A women near to my pace (and dressed in black) was hanging out in my near vision as the race continued on. I set a goal to pass her before the end of the race. I actually did much better than that and passed her within the next few tenths before the halfway mark. Halfway through I heard someone calling out times (a pleasant surprise) and I heard a 4:02 as I crossed his path. I picked up my turnover rate a bit and set my sights on the finish. I heard nearby footsteps and was "afraid" that I was being passed by the women in black, but it turned out to be someone else.

I heard the finish nearing as people cheered on the runners and caught a glimpse of the race clock: 7:50. What?!?, I thought to myself. I turned on the speed and was determined to stay under 8:00. I watched the clock seconds tick by and was in the finisher's corral at 7:57. I really didn't believe it; I don't think I have ever run a mile below 9:30. I grabbed some water and gatorade, met up with Maria-Giulia and Gianna who had come to watch, and turned around to wait for Jeff to come down the street.

My Results:
19/31 Women's Mile
86/148 Overall
6/7 AG (24-29)

Jeff Results:
30/47 Men's Mile
38/148 Overall
2/4 AG (24-29)

Jeff earned himself a trophy for his 2nd place AG finish.

Next Race: Pink Ribbon 5k on 10/17/09

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Week Eight - Twentysix of Twentynine

The last several days have been rough. Wednesday's run was kind of awful. I felt like an elephant on the treadmill and my lungs just hurt. I was so glad to be done after my last nine minute run period. I thought about the dinner I had had the night before and the morning's events, but nothing stood out as being detrimental to working out (unlike eating watermelon for dinner). So, I chalked it up to just a bad run and moved on.

I had a few windows for getting my weekend run in, but I didn't make it. On Sunday I was planning on going after work, but my mental and physical state were such that I wasn't feeling like a run. I was starving and on the order of an anxiety attack, so I decided to take care of myself first. By the time I felt good enough to run, it was dark outside.

Monday and Tuesday were work-centric. I didn't find the time before or after work to get in a run, and my mental state was not favorable for running anyway so it was just bad all around. This morning I made some time to get a run in, so I'm feeling better about things. This week took a jump from 9min/1min, repeat three times to 13min/2min, repeat twice. I was worried that the additional 4 minutes of running was going to be a bear, but it wasn't. I felt almost as good at minute one as I did at minute 26. This running thing isn't so bad.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Registering Fool

I have been registered for the Market Street Mile for some time now, and decided that I needed to schedule the rest of my races to make sure I had something to look forward to (and to train for once I complete the ten week training program). I am now also registered for the Pink Ribbon 5k, Urbana Wicked Fast 5k, and Way Station Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot 5k.

I made the mistake of registering for the Urbana race before deciding if I wanted to race the Run Through the Grapevine 8k the following day. Maybe that is a sign that I should stick with 5k's this fall and wait until the spring to race something longer. Or not; what kind of sign is that? If things go well next month, I may push and do both that weekend. There's also a 10k I'm keeping my eye on in December that I may do instead. Right now I'm feeling like I need something longer, and a 10k would be a great way to go into next season if I want to start doing Olympic-length triathlons.

There's no turning back now. I'm registered for the races and once I broadcast my running schedule to family and friends, I'll have all the pressure (and then some) to do my best.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Week Seven - Twentythree of Twentyfive

One week after praying to the porcelain gods, I'm back on track. About Wednesday of last week my stomach was generally back to normal, although I stayed away from spicy flavors and stuck to milder meals for most of the week. The problem was, even though everything felt better from the stomach up, from the stomach down I was in knots. That finally cleared up over the weekend and I was able to get back to running.

Today's run felt like a usual Monday morning run - a bit tougher than later in the week since the time spent running was greater, but nothing I couldn't handle. I had a few mild cramps, but was able to run through them. The one minute rest in between goes quickly, but I'm supposed to be working towards running 30 minutes continuously, so it makes sense that I'm phasing out the walking periods. I was worried about losing too much fitness from being sick, but it looks like I held on to it. I don't plan on taking a week off like that again, though. No more getting sick!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Greatest Diet Ever

I have just found the greatest diet ever - food poisoning! Yay! After eating a delicious dinner of duck, potatoes, green beans, salad, and biscuits, prepared mostly by Jeff (the salad came from his parents who had dinner with us), I found my stomach to be a hair upset, but nothing terrible. The fun started a few hours later.

I awoke from a nap on the couch and headed to the bathroom where I promptly revisited my dinner. I had some wicked stomach cramps and felt like I had been run over by a bus. After that session with the toilet, I went to bed. I really can't say that I slept because the nauseousness and cramps woke me up every hour or so.

The next morning I dragged myself out of bed around 9a; I needed a change in scenery. I hit the couch and curled up in the fetal position with a glass of water. Knowing that I was headed down the path of severe dehydration, I knew I needed to drink something, but even the water was rocking the boat. After about two hours of sipping water and upsetting my stomach more and more, I knew what I needed to do. Once Jeff was clear of the bathroom, I went in with my glass of water, took a couple of big gulps, and waited for the fireworks to fire off. I (re)revisited the remainder of my dinner and immediately started feeling better. The remainder of my day was spent eating Cheerios, sipping Coke, and eating a little chicken noodle soup when I got brave at the end of the day. I spiked a fever around 101ºF in the afternoon and treated my migraine, after which I started feeling more like myself again.

The next morning, out of curiosity, I shuffled onto the scale and found that I was about 2.5 pounds down from my most previous weight (about a week old). And after what little I've been able to stomach today, I'm probably still about that weight. And I'm not sure if tomorrow is going to be any better since I'm still feeling pretty crapping this evening.

While this has been "great" on the weight side of things (and really, I'm not advocating food poisoning as a weight loss program), it has hindered my running program. My body is so twisted in knots that I can't even thinking about running without wincing in pain. I'm hoping I'll feel good enough to run tomorrow, but I need to get some food and liquid on board if I'm going to have any success of surviving a workout without passing out. I certainly wasn't planning on this in my schedule.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Week Six - Twenty of Twentyone

I'm running on all cylinders now and have found the zone. My first taste was Sunday after work when I hit the gym. I was watching the World Championships from Belin and Usain Bolt was running in the 4 x 100m relay. I also saw the world record get broken in the women's pole vault, and the men's 5000m. The closed captioner was absolutely terrible; I realize that there are a lot of international names, but they were screwing up the English too. But I wasn't concentrating on that; I was watching the races. I found myself not focusing on the time I was running, but on something else that allowed me to relax while running. And relaxing made running easier which made relaxing easier.

Monday gave me a better taste of the zone. I focused on a street sign across the parking lot from the gym. And a street lamp that was still on. I found the surrounding area of my vision become fuzzy and only the sign or the lamp was clear. I didn't notice the people around me or the others walking in the gym. That was until the clucking hens showed up.

A woman parked herself on the treadmill next to me (there were at least a dozen empty treadmills at the time). A little strange, but fine, maybe she wanted to watch the television program that was on that particular set. Then right before my last run session her friend showed up. Since the first woman was to my left, and her friend was to her left, the louder of the two friends (the one furthest left) had to face me to talk to her friend. I cranked up my music but my concentration was already broken. I got through the last run session, but it was not nearly as successful as the first two. I'm not ready to deal with having to drown out others so close to me; maybe in a couple of weeks, but not now. But I'm getting there, which is great.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ankles Away!

Since I worked out with Kip many weeks ago, I was acutely aware that something in my right ankle did not feel right. I found that when I did ankle circles with my back on the floor and legs tucked up, a tendon felt like it was popping on something. I did not investigate exactly what was happening until one recent gym visit.

I have a tendon that is popping onto and off of my fibula "ankle bone" (the outer bony protrusion) when I rotate/twist my ankle in a handful of specific motions. It feels like the tendon naturally rests behind the bone, but when put under tension it pops onto the bone, and back off once enough tension is released. There is no pain and this did not start occurring after an injury or misstep. It just is what it is, and when I think about it a little more, I think it has been like this for as long as I can remember being active. I talked to Kristin about it (she is, after all, quite the orthopedic specialist when it comes to ankles) and she suggested a doc to go see. I even puzzled her so she is curious what is going on with my crazy ankle (I am curious too, don't get me wrong). So, at the end of next month I am going to go see an ankle specialist and hopefully we'll figure out what is going on. Hopefully there is no surgery required; I will take weeks of PT over that any day. I just don't want to ruin my ankle in the short term because I am making good strides with running and I certainly don't want to screw things up for the long term because I only get one body to play with in this life.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Week Five - Seventeen of Eighteen

I repeated Week Four last week and got three out of four runs in. Combined with the two out of four from the previous week, I'm giving myself a four out of four for Week Four. I am half way through Week Five and feeling more like a runner each and every run.

I have discovered that visual things can distract my brain more than audio things, which follows along with the fact that I am a visual learner. This now explains why, when I am on the bike, I look at signs and mailboxes and can distract myself for at least several minutes until I see the next sign or mailbox. I discovered this while watching closed captioning on one of the televisions at the gym. I found it much more distracting than the music in my ears, although if I visualized the words of the music I found it more distracting than just listening to the music. Yes, a little wild and wacky, but if I am going to be running miles at a time at some point, I need to be able to get out of my head and distract myself like I can in the pool and on the bike.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Five Toes, Five Fingers

Kristin sent me a link the other day that reminded of a pair of shoes I saw a while back - the Vibram Five Fingers. With every "new" and "improved" technique and approach for this, that, and the other thing, there's always some swag that they want you to purchase, be it a video, books, clothing, or equipment. But this shoe is not that. Vibram is marketing a way to get back to being barefoot; to being more in touch with nature. They don't promote a particular running technique (although they do mention Chi Running on their website), but are instead marketing to those people who love outdoor sports and are looking for something different in their footwear. I can't get enough of being barefoot, so I'm considering a purchase myself (now if only I can decide on the color...).

There are four different styles ranging from the minimalist Classic to the cold weather more-like-a-regular-shoe Flow, with the Sprint and KSO in between. They have recommendations for the type of activies each shoe is good for, and have a modest price tag of $75 to $90. The 4.4 oz weight of the Classic (in almost my size so the weight is close) is quite appealing, although I'm curious to see what a light racing running shoe weighs and if it's a good idea to run in a lightly padded shoe for most of my training miles. Even if I don't end up using these for running, they look like a fun pair of shoes to wear especially when I don't feel like wearing shoes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fore-Foot, Mid-Foot, Or Heel Landing

Since late last season I've been championing a mid-foot landing to those that are willing to hear me chat about my training. I first learned about it during one of my Tri Club meetings, then took some time to read about it on my own and decided that it sounded like the right thing for me. During the restart of run training a few weeks back, I kept up with the mid-foot landing that I had started at the end of last season.

The difference between a heel strike and mid-foot landing has made quite the difference in my running. I find running to be a lot less draining on my body and I don't have the joint pain like I had before. I don't suffer from as many chest cramps (but given that the cause of cramps is undetermined, something else may be in play) and I don't breath nearly as regimented (I'm much more relaxed) as I previously did. But there's another factor to consider - with my "new" landing style I've also shortened my running stride. Shortening a heel strike stride may as well have made a difference as I mentioned above, but that's one "style" I haven't tried and I'm not sure that I will because of the success I've had with a mid-foot landing.

Even though I've decided that mid-foot running is working for me and that's how I'm going to run, I'm still continuing to read about running because I'm a novice and I know I have plenty more to learn. I recently read a series of posts from The Science of Sport that discusses running technique. A couple of points that I took away from their "running technique" discussions:

- Science lags behind the claims that one running style is more efficient/better/less injury-prone than another (Running technique: The Footstrike)
- Findings of a study can be taken out of context and used to prove the point of the group who initiated the study (Running technique: The Footstrike)
- You can gradually change your foot strike, but what is the point (see point one above) (Running technique: The Footstrike)
- Higher volume and slower distance training improves running economy (the ol' "just do it" mantra) (Running Economy Part III)
- Strength training, particularly plyometric training, is good for economy (Running Economy Part III)
- Being inflexible in the core through legs improves economy because less energy is required to stabilize the body (Running Economy Part III)
- Loading changes with a different landing, and in Pose running there was an increased occurrence of calf and Achilles complaints, and loading on the ankle (Pose running reduces economy...the missing study)

So, while my eagerness to change my landing may have been ill-placed and without scientific proof, I have noticed a positive response in my run training and that has increased my desire and drive to run, and thus improved my mental game. There's something to be said for that. And given that there is no proof to support that one landing is more injury-prone than another, instead of knee injuries I'll need to watch out for ankle and calf injuries.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Fell off the Wagon

Last week I got in two out of four runs. As I mentioned before, Monday's run was on Tuesday, Wednesday's run was on Thursday, and then it all went downhill from there. Friday I was exhausted from the work week, Saturday was hot and steamy and I was enjoying just sitting around doing little for a change, and Sunday was another work day (and a day spent getting ready for the next long week of work). So, that was that - my poorest performance so far.

I decided to stick with last week's workout again this week. I have a couple of spare weeks before I get to my goal race for the year, so I think I could use another week without increasing my run time. I'm very successful now with my running and I want to keep it that way. As long as I get in three runs this week, I'll erase last week's poor week and count this week's runs. I started off with a run today so I began this week with a good start, and it looks like I'll put in another run tomorrow which is a bonus. I may have fallen off the wagon last week, but I'm chasing after it this week.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Week Four - Thirteen of Fourteen

I'm struggling this week to fit in all my runs. My Monday run was on Tuesday and my Wednesday run on Friday, so I have left to squeeze in a Friday and Saturday run on Saturday and Sunday. Eek. My work days consist of twelve to thirteen hours during the week and eight or nine hours on Sunday, and that's where the problem lies. Thank goodness for good friends (yay Kristin!) who live close, otherwise I wouldn't be running at all during the week right now and I'd be even more unhappy than I am right now. So here's to surviving a tough work schedule and (hopefully) not missing too many workouts.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Week Three - Eight of Nine

I'm in week three of a ten week "Get your butt off the couch and running 5k" training plan. Instead of using the plan I "tried" before, I dusted off a running book, reread some sections, realized that it has a lot of great information, and found a training plan to follow. Without the distraction of other activities (read: swimming, cycling, and lifting) I've been able to commit better to the plan this time around. I'm running four times a week (I missed one running session, but eight out of nine is pretty good considering my track record) right now. I do a short core session after running followed by some stretching, then I'm into the shower and off to work.

I decided when I started that I would make time for the running, then add back in the other stuff (lifting first, then either swimming or cycling). Starting too much at once always seems to end up in a disaster of doing nothing, and I didn't want to repeat that. I found that I need to run in the morning because then I get it over with first thing and can't use "I'm too tired" as an excuse for not running after work. Plus, work is unpredictable so sometimes I end up staying late when I didn't intend to. This consistently puts me running at least three days a week, then one session on the road at home on the weekends.

I've been working on my mental training while working on my running. Using a gradually increasing mileage/time program is great for mental training because I can slowly incorporate positive talk into my workouts to see what works and what doesn't. I'm spending time working on getting out of my head as well; before all I would focus on when running was running (e.g. breathing pattern, each foot strike, my HR, etc.). Now I'm working on finding my zone. I can get into my zone very easily on the bike, and somewhat easily in the pool; it's time to be able to do the same when running.

I registered myself and Jeff for the Market Street Mile in October. While it's just a mile, it's a mile that I could probably suffer through right now, but would rather be able to run comfortably. So now I have at least one race on the books for this season. Here comes my comeback...

Fitness Evaluation

I went to see Kip Jawish a few weeks back for a fitness evaluation. I was looking for an idea of how well my muscle groups were in balance to make sure my lifting wasn't causing any type of imbalance. Overall things are okay, but I'm lacking in several key areas: (1) my hamstrings are flexible but not strong, (2) my core needs work, and (3) I need to work out-of-plane with my legs to gain stability. I was a sad sight trying to do lunges and single leg squats and wiggling all over the place.

A minor adjustment that I need to make is that I'm slightly tipped forward (like a ski jumper) when I stand. Four years of marching band ingrained a very straight posture; now I just need to think about putting a little more weight on my heels instead of on the balls of my feet.

Kip gave me some ideas of core workouts to do and lunge exercises so I'm working with those now (well, at least the core stuff). He said that strengthening my legs will come a long with my endurance, and that's definitely what I'm lacking.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Last Stop on the Crazy Train

When it comes to running I come with a lot of emotional baggage. It started back in middle school when I would huff and puff and wheeze after running not much more than 400m. So the assumption was made that I had asthma and that was that. Several medications and years later, nothing worked so I never ran more than I had to. Runs of a mile or longer I cringed at; I usually spent some time walking and most definitely brought up the back of the pack. I sprinted and did field in high school to avoid exerting myself for more than 800m at a time. 400's made me see stars; 800's brought me to my knees.

Jump a few years to after grad school once I had great health insurance and a full time job, and I was determined to come to the bottom of this "thing". Turns out that I don't have asthma; in fact, my lungs are in fantastic shape (better than most). How about that; there's nothing wrong with me. All the excuses I made for all those years were bunk.

So now I'm left with trying to overcome my hatred for and negative attitude about long distance running that I've built up over the past 15 years. This is a mountain that I'm going to have to take one step at a time and I need some guidance. Kristin gifted to me a book on my Amazon wishlist - "The Triathlete's Guide to Mental Training" by Ph.D. Jim Taylor and Terri Schneider. I'm almost finished and I'll be going back to reread sections and work through the exercises in the chapters. In high school I did some pre-performance imagery at the request of an instructor, but I never considered including regular mental training with my regular physical training. I'll be changing that now because I definitely need it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bike To Work Day 2009

My goal for this year was to ride the full trip from home to work instead of the shortened ride that I usually take in. This would have been 50 miles round trip instead of the usual 22 miles. Unfortunately the weather had something to say about making that trip.

It had been raining for several days prior to BTWD and the ferry had been closed due to the high water line. The weather cleared up a couple of days before BTWD, but the water level hadn't come down enough and the ferry remained closed. Oh well. We're going to try and reschedule the trip and we'll make sure that it's a nice sunny day.

I needed to get going quickly after work, so I decided to do a slightly different trip this year: Herndon and back. One of my coworkers lives 4 miles from work so I decided to ride out to meet him, then ride back in together. He appreciated the company and I didn't mind it either. We had a nice ride and celebrated with everybody in the area.

It was "neat" that this was not my first ride of the season, and not even the second. I feel like I have at least a cycling leg up this year.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Life is Not My Own

Early in my career a boss and a friend of mine used to say ¨My life is not my own¨ when talking about how busy he had been with work. It took several years, but I now understand what he means and it's definitely not a good thing.

About early-March I finally came out of my "life is not my own" period. The downhill spin started in mid-October when I began rebuilding my engine. All my free time was spent working on my car or driving to and from when my car was located, 45 minutes from my house and work. Days before Christmas I was finally able to drive my car home. January was spent on travel for work or working some serious overtime. February was spent taking a short vacation, getting sick for several days from that vacation, traveling for work, then getting sick again from traveling, followed by getting rear-ended at the end of the month when I was finally starting to feel better.

My four week rest period turned into six miserable months. I regained all the weight that I had lost because I hadn't set foot in the gym except for a few yoga sessions. I wanted to get out on the bike during the winter, and I thought that was all lost, until I hit the trail on 03/30/09. It was the mid-40's and gusty in the morning, plenty cold for lots of cold weather gear. I've been on the bike twice in as many weeks and in the gym for yoga this week. It feels good to get back into the swing of things.

Now I just have to figure out what I'm going to do this season.