Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hello Saucony, Goodbye Mizuno

When I started training for the half-marathon, I developed some uncomfortable blisters on my big toe and first metatarsal on both feet the first week.  I chaulked those up to being a new runner and after several runs and several lancings, they went away and left a bit of a callus.  Once back from Italy I experienced the same sequence and figured it was just my feet getting back into the swing of things.  All was fine and dandy until I started hitting the longer Sunday runs.

Even though I had no/little discomfort on my short runs, I was noticing a marked amount of pain and discomfort on my longer runs.  I wanted nothing more than to rip off my shoes after those runs, and that was usually the first thing that came off after I got back home.  Looking at my training schedule and thinking about how many miles might be on my shoes, I headed to If The Shoe Fits, a Frederick Triathlon Club sponsor, and asked about getting a new pair of shoes.  I figured this was a good time to start cycling in a new pair before I start my trithlon training.

When I told the shoe guy I was looking for shoes, he asked if I wanted to get another pair of Mizuno (I had them in my hands).  I told him not necessarily because I was experiencing blisters and calluses with my current pair.  He went back and brought out three neutral shoes (my current pair, Mizuno, are neutral) - Asics, Saucony, and Nike.  I brought my OTC orthodics and made sure to slip them in each pair.

I first tried on the Saucony.  I've had Saucony in the past, and this shoe was very comfortable.  It felt lighter than my Mizuno's and I had tons of room in the toe box.  I put it on the "possibility" pile.  I next tried the pair of Nike's.  This was my first time ever trying on Nike and I made this remark to the shoe guy.  He said that about three years ago, Nike "discovered" that not everyone had narrow feet and maybe they should start fitting more of the population with their shoes.  He then said that Mizuno makes their toe box a little smaller than most and that's when the "AH HA" moment happened.  A too-small toe box was likely the cause of my discomfort.  I didn't motice this last season because all my runs were short and I wasn't training as much as I am now.  Ah ha!  I had heel slippage on my left foot in the Nike's that was fixed with the magic lacing technique.  I put them on the "maybe-possible" pile.

The last pair, the Asics, went to the "no" pile after feeling like I was walking on concrete (no cushioning in the midfoot).  In the end, I went back to the Saucony and rounded out my purchase with some new apparel.

I laced up the Saucony as took them for a test run on Tuesday.  They felt great.  I'm getting used to the extra room in the toe box, and want to weigh my two pair of shoes and compare the difference because it feels like there's a difference.  Maybe that's just the "new shoe" effect.  I have to say that the new shoe smell is awesome; nothing is better than the smell of a new, unbroken pair of shoes ready to handle several hundred miles over the next several months.  If I get enough time in them before race day, I'll be lacing them up for the big race.  I'm tired of the blisters, calluses, and foot pain probably caused by a too-small toe box.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ten Miler

Today's ten mile run was a double loop in the shape of a lowercase "d".  Instead of trying to be super creative and find ten different miles to run (and also trying to remember all those turns), I opted down the easy road and used my five mile loop twice.  Before today, I told myself that running past my house would be a mean trick so I vowed never to do that; I was originally planning on using a block just before my house, but in the end I ran past the house for good reason.

This morning was 37 degreesF when I getting ready to gear up and go, and being very familiar with that temperature range due to all my previous chilly runs, I knew exactly how to dress.  In fact, I purchased a light pair of gloves while in Italy that were perfect for running, so I even had gloves this time.  In no time I was ready to go and headed out.

Shortly after mile two, the gloves came off.  Shortly before mile three, my hat came off (I had an ear warmer underneath).  This was the first time I had pulled clothes off while on a run; the gloves were easy, not so with the hat because of the ear warmer, headphones, and ponytail.  I started unzipping my jacket around mile 3.5 and realized that I was a little too warm for my comfort (my HR was elevated).  It was at that point that I decided I needed to run past the house and drop off all the extra clothing.  Now I understood what "rapidly rising temperature" meant in the weather report that morning.  I rearranged the items I would need from my jacket to my fuel belt, unzipped my jacket the rest of the way, and once at the house I dropped it off on the porch and headed back out for another five miles.

The second loop went fine with a little fatigue showing up.  My last long run (eight miles) had been a month prior so I'm lucky I didn't spend any time walking.  I managed a 55:04 split with a 1:51:13 final; a positive set of splits, but I'm happy to have been running the entire time.

It was 49 degreesF when I finished.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Running Sick

For the first time probably ever, I've been training (running) sick.  Just a cold, and not even the usual intensity, but enough to clog my nose and throat and make me somewhat miserable.  Usually I just veg on the couch and use it as an excuse not to train, but with my recent hiatus from training due to my vacation, I can't afford to miss any more runs.

I know you're not supposed to workout with a fever, but other than that it's up to how you feel to determine if you train a particular day.  On Tuesday I was feeling about 70% and had turned the corner (Monday night/Tuesday morning was the peak of my cold).  My scheduled run was four miles.  I asked Kristin what she thought and she recommended 45 minutes outside at whatever pace I could manage, including walking if necessary.  Although I took the latter part of her advice, I chose to stick to the comfort of the treadmill.  In hindsight, the fresh air would have done me better.

I managed 45 minutes with one three-minute (one song) walking session and completed 3.5 miles.  My nose and throat were burning pretty bad at the end and was the reason I didn't try and complete the four miles in the plan.  But, I was moving again and survived my first sick training session.  Next up was five miles on Wednesday.

I felt better when I hit the treadmill on Wednesday, but I had another factor acting against me: GI distress.  Coupling the last throws of a cold and poor diet for the day really did me in.  I walked for one song after the three mile mark, then again for one song at the 4.2 mile mark.  Mentally I thought I was closer to five miles when I checked the treadmill and saw 4.2 miles, so in order to keep my sanity and easy the discomfort I was in, I opted to walk the second time instead of just hitting the STOP button and throwing in the towel on five miles.  I finished out my five miles at 60 minutes and was never so glad to be done.  Again, fresh air probably would have been a better idea, so I need to start prepping my bag with my fuel belt and sunglasses.  Yesterday's run was the best so far this week with no walking and nearly my usual pace, although I had a pretty wicked case of gut cramps that kept popping in during my run.  The air was cooler in the gym since it was more spring-like outside which certainly helped.

So there's another experience in my book: training sick.  I was thinking about completely bailing on my run on Tuesday, but after Kristin reminded me that I can slow day and take it easy, I decided that I had no excuse but to go and run.

Vacation Wrench

When Jeff and I planned our third anniversary vacation, I knew I was going to butt heads with my training plan.  But, I didn't think it was going to be as bad as it turned out to be.

I was given the envious task to pick any place in the world to travel to for about two weeks for our anniversary.  In the end, after much thought and deliberation, my heart chose Italy.  We booked our flights to leave March 17th and return on March 30th.  I figured that with all the walking we were going to be doing, as long as I got in the long Sunday runs, I'd at least mentally be in good shape once we got back.  I picked out hotels that had fitness equipment for those runs because running alone in another country seemed like a great way to get into trouble and lost.

Once in Italy, it was quickly evident that our days were spent waking up in the morning, walking around all day seeing the sites, then crashing at night for six or seven hours until we woke up and did it all over again the next day.  Not quite the vacation personality that I was expecting (I thought I might have an hour or two to myself in the morning before Jeff got up), but I was thrilled that our days were jam packed with site-seeing.  However, this meant no time for working out.

The first Sunday I had a high ankle sprain which may have prevented me from running anyway.  We were walking on plenty of uneven surfaces for the days leading up, so my leg was feeling very tender and I had to watch the shoes I was wearing and how I was walking for fear of aggravating it.  By Tuesday the sprain was gone and I was happy to be feeling better.

The next Sunday I didn't have access to any fitness equipment due to a hotel reservation cancellation date mix-up.  So there went my two long runs.  Then to add insult to injury, the British Airways cabin crew strike cancelled our flight out of Rome so we had to rebook for a Friday return.  That took out two more run days.  And to top it all off, I came home with a cold and didn't run my first Sunday home.  In the end, I lost eleven run days in the heart of my training program.

Instead of throwing in the towel (it crossed my mind for a second, but I'm too tough for that), I chose to replan my training.  I removed a taper week, made the weekend runs increase two miles instead of one, and removed one mile from my Week 9 Run #2 because I was sick.  So, I have a plan again, and hopefully I can finish this one out.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Frederick YMCA Triathlon Clinic

On Sunday, March 7th, I attended a triathlon clinic put together by Brett Jenner, a local triathlete.  He invited Pro Triathlete John Kenny and John's fiance Kate to lead the swim portion of the clinic, followed by local Pro Triathlete and Ironman Herb Spicer for a bike and weights session.  John and Brett lead two groups for a short run session.

I decided that I was going to complete my long (seven mile) run before the clinic just to keep myself on schedule.  I enjoy getting out on the road and back before too many people are up, so I got up to an alarm on Sunday and headed out to get my run in.  I got back to the house, grabbed my bag (packed the night before), and walked down to the YMCA for the 9a clinic start.

The swim session was eye-opening and stroke improving for me.  We started with video-taping of our swim stroke from below, to the side, and in front.  It took some time to get through everyone, so as I got chilly, I put in a couple of laps to warm back up.  I was laned together with Ken Racine who puts on several local races, and we enjoyed chatting throughout the swim session.

With the video taping complete, we started with drills.  The first drill was no arms - all kicking.  Kick six times on one side with your arms by your side, rotating your body so one shoulder is aimed at the floor, then switch sides.  Your head should be positioned as it normally would be and you breath as needed.  Stepping up from there, you extend one arm at entry-level height (just below the water surface), execute the six kicks, then stroke to switch arms and repeat on the other side.  Moving on from there, stroke three times between switching sides.

The next drill was catch-up.  With one arm extended, you leave that arm there until the other one touches it, then complete the stroke, kicking and breathing normally. This is where I had a breakthrough.  Kate and John had seen it in the last drill, and although not the focus of this drill, they told me that my hand was entering the water too close to my head so I was losing out on the propulsion from the front end of the stroke.  With that corrected, I felt the acceleration on the end of my stroke.  Brett even came over and said that he had noticed a huge change from the beginning of the clinic.  I generally felt faster as well.  Woo hoo!

The finger tip drill was by far my favorite.  You swim "normally", except that you drag your finger tips across the top of the water as you extend your arm through the stroke.  This can help cure the windmill effect if you swing your arms around instead of keeping them close to the water.

An additional drill they covered (while everyone relaxed in the whirlpool) was swimming with a fist/ball in your hand.  This teaches you to use your arm cross-section for propulsion, not just your hands.  Focusing on using your arms helps to put them in them in the proper location for catching the water on the front end of the stroke.

We transitioned from the water to the stationary bikes for a Lactate Threshold (LT) test with Herb.  After a 10 minute warm-up spin, we rode for 20 minutes with the quads burning and heart rate monitors keeping track of the numbers.  During the time on the bikes, Herb threw at us interesting information about heart rates and such.  For example, since you really can't increase your maximum heart rate, decreasing your resting heart rate or increasing your lactate threshold heart rate is the way to increase your fitness (or is a result of increased fitness).  A simple diet change (i.e. eating foods with little or no saturated fat) can help thin your blood which means less work on your heart to pump that blood thus lowering your heart rate and blood pressure.

After the ride it was time for a run, for eveyone else.  The run was an LT run and after my seven miles in the morning, I wasn't about to go out again.  They ran a six minute warm-up followed by 18 minutes of LT level followed by six minutes of cool down.  I stayed back and chatted with Herb about training and such; it's the first time I've had some one-on-one time with a professional triathlete and it got me fired up about the season.

Right before lunch, Herb went over a few sport-specific lifting exercises.  Swimming and cycling benefit directly from weight training due to the muscles (or amount of muscles, I don't remember clearly) used during the activity, and weight training for any sport should be specific to the sport and the motion of the muscles during that sport (a "wake-up" call for my usual style of weight training).  You want to lift in a similar position/motion as the sport you are training for because of muscle memory - your muscles learn by practice and will perform the way that they were trained.

After the quick weight training session, we sat down to have lunch and a Q&A with the group.  We closed out the clinic around 2:30p.

Overall I got a lot out of the clinic.  It's my first triathlon clinic and with marked improvement in my swimming and drills to apply, I'm ready to hit the water now.  The details of LT testing on the bike and run were helpful since it's a great way to judge fitness as the season progresses.  Having a chance to talk with Ken and Herb was great as well; the conversations were two-way and I think they even learned something from me.

I can see some improvements to make the clinic even better:
(1) This being one of the few times that I've been to the YMCA, better directions to the entrance would have been helpful.  Additionally, the inside of the YMCA is a bit like a maze, so something to help guide us between session (at least someone waiting to help guide us) would have been nice.
(2) Video after the swim session, if desired.  I would have liked to have seen a tape of my new stroke after the improvements I made.
(3) Handouts!  A list and description of swim drills.  You don't retain much verbal information given to you during an LT bike test, so provide on paper the information that Herb talked about.  A list and description of the weight training exercises.
(4) The run session was a little fluffy.  A description of how to do a run LT test would have been enough for me; I didn't need a demo.  How about some one talk about running styles, shoes, running clothing, etc.  This presentation could be done during lunch.
(5) Better pre-clinic information.  I got an email from Brett at 1a the morning of saying "oh by the way, you can bring your bike and trainer for the bike session".  It was too late for me to prep my bike so I missed out on this option.  Possibly include the menu for lunch.  And speaking of lunch, it was originally scheduled for between the bike and run sessions before Brett realized that that was a bad idea and moved it to after the run session (and the impromptu weight session).  I'm sure we were all starving and would have appreciated eating earlier (see number 4).

I'd definitely go to this clinic again, and to another.  But maybe after some time in the pool improving my stroke.  I need to practice what I learned.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Looking Back

My running training so far this season has been an amazing period of discovery and accomplishment.  It appears that all the mental training I worked on last season carried over, and that the down time between last season and this season allowed it all to sink in and become second nature.  I feel more like a long distance runner than I have ever felt in my life.  Boy is that strange to say.

One particular aspect that I had to work on briefly was to be happy with my run pace.  I'm not fast and it takes time to work on getting faster - time that I'm currently devoting to building endurance.  So at this point, it is what it is and I should be happy with that.  And I am.  In fact, I've actually either picked up the pace a bit, or realized what my true pace is, as I now have to use an 11:30 pace to calculate my estimated completion time for my runs instead of the 12:00 pace that I had been using for a long time.  Sure I'm slow, but there are others who are slower, and given my previous running pace of "not at all", I'm thrilled to be able to that.

On one recent long run, I had a training bonus of rain.  Two of my races last season were run in the rain, and boy did I feel like a wet slow rat when I was finished.  At the end of my long run, I had discovered why - it takes energy to jump over puddles and avoid worms and debris.  It seems like such a little expenditure at first, but keep doing those little leaps for eight miles and it really adds up.  I probably used the energy of a ten mile run in those eight miles.  And something else: it's not if your feet are going to get wet, it's when.  My right foot stayed dry for about two miles; my left foot for a much longer six miles.  But in the end, I had two wet feet, and a smile on my face for making it through the run.  I'm getting tougher still.