Monday, March 29, 2010

Better. Stronger. Faster.

I was hooked on the Six Million Dollar Man television series growing up and often pretended I was the bionic woman, Jaime Sommers.  I'm sure, if someone had asked me back then whether or not bionics would be available for failing body parts by the year 2010, I would have believed they would be.  While humans have invented replacement body parts, they typically do not perform as well as the real thing (maybe excepting Oscar Pistorius' blades).  I have not yet found a bionic replacement achilles for sale even on the internet, though apparently the Bionic Beauty Salon was once available.  How did I miss that?

In my last post, I discussed my new plan to slowly ramp up my running mileage.  I had a nice 6 mile run on Friday where I actually decided to run over some rolling hills rather than walk up them,  and I hit 6 miles with no pain.  My achilles was slightly sore following this run, but a little massaging of the tendon relieved that almost instantly.  Saturday morning and afternoon got away from me with various errands and tasks, so I decided to just go ahead and do another "long" run that evening--discarding my short, long, short pattern.  This was a bad idea.  My achilles tightened up after the first 4 miles of 6 total.   I had to do some walk/jog intervals to get home in order to minimize the tightness and pain, which were both mild.  Again, massaging the achilles helped, but I was still sore.  I was really hoping that I would have one of those breakthrough runs where I was gamboling recklessly along the bike trail free of any tightness and pain.  Saturday's 6 miler made me realize that I may have a longer row to hoe than I thought.

This sequence of events led me to the realization that I needed to make a tough decision.  The easy part was deciding to throw in the towel on the Eugene Marathon, scheduled for May 2nd.  The tough decision was whether or not to bag the idea of running a spring marathon altogether.  I researched the hell out my options and came up short.  There are some potentially fast races out there, but most of them occur too close to Eugene for me to feel confident in being able to ramp up.  The reason I would try to run a marathon this spring would be to capitalize on the great fitness that I have (had?) before becoming injured.  I finally realized that leaving the possibility of running another marathon hanging out there was causing me to make decisions that are not helping me heal.        

Enter Plan B:

  • take as long as it takes to get back to pain-free running, 
  • maintain my mad cross training regime, 
  • and start training for some speed!  
I first divulged this new plan to The Genius and felt instantly like a weight had been lifted.  No more worry about missing out on yet another week of long mileage and hard, long runs.  Instead, I can focus on staying fit, healing and look forward to incorporating quality speed work into my training.  As I have mentioned before, I have been solely focused on marathon training since I began running in 2004, and have spent nary a month focusing on short-distance speed.  This will be a change.

The prospect of training for a fast 5k and/or 10k race is exciting to me.  Aside from striving for PRs in these distances, I know that developing my speed will make me a faster marathoner.  Right now, I'm tentatively thinking about a 10k race over Memorial Day weekend (heel healing dependent) and running at least the 5k in the National Masters' Championship Track Meet here in Sacramento in July 2010.  I'd love to get my 10k time down into the low 36s and my 5k into the low 17s.  Of course, I have to be careful with my training not to injure some other random body part in the process, but I feel like a slightly wiser runner at this point.

I am fired up about this focus for my future training.  I assure you that I am cross training like an animal so that I can step back into my running, when my non-bionic tendon is ready and willing, with zeal and a renewed lust for this crazy sport of running.  We can rebuild her.

P.S.  My focus race for the fall will be Chicago.


  1. There's much to be said about putting the marathon aside and looking to shorter stuff. This is something to which I've given much thought and one thing that I realize is that very few tier 2 runners that I know, non-elites who are pretty solid local runners, do two marathons a year and the bulk to one at most. We tend to be old timers who've been running for decades and relish the chance to train to run fast and to compete frequently. When we race a marathon, we train to race it.

    I think that those more recently to our sport get sucked into the marathon-is-all mind-set. Spring marathon/fall marathon. Repeat. I think you're too good a runner to fall into that trap.

    Your Plan B sounds awfully good to me, with the caveat of not going too fast too soon. The stuff you've done so far gives you a great base, which is important for all race distances, down to the 5K and even the track. You'll just need some fine-tuning, getting accustomed to moving the legs fast and the heart faster. The 10K and 5000 should be well within reach.

    You, of course, have "the other thing." The OT. There's still plenty of time for that, and you won't get there if you can't walk.

  2. Joe--As always, I appreciate your perspective and wisdom. I think you're right about the marathon mind set taking over. I think I need to let it go for a bit before I will be able to run what I want. You're also right that I have time to hit that OT standard. Plenty of time.

    I've run my share of 5k and 10k races training through en route to a marathon. I've never liked the shorter distances, but I'm willing to bet that is in part because I never felt really prepared for one. Here's my chance to test that hypothesis. Even if I don't end up liking the shorter races, maybe I can run fast enough to be satisfied.

  3. Of all your readers, I'm probably the one most salivating at the thought of what a focused training cycle for shorter races will do for you. There is no question in my mind that you'll hit times you wouldn't have reached soley by way of the marathon. Get healed pronto so you can get started! :-)

  4. Hi Flo--Thanks for your vote of confidence! I will work my hardest to keep that question far from your mind;)

  5. i agree, it's a great idea to focus on short distance. i've had the opportunity to do that a few times since i became a "serious runner" and i really feel it made a huge difference. i even trained specifically for the mile one season and never ran mileage higher then 50 per week. but my speed got sharp (i broke the 5 minute mile barrier) and it definetely translated up to my distance running when i returned to it. the faster your short distance speed is, the easier marathon pace feels. plus, it's fun to feel confident at every distance, not just the marathon. one reason i wanted to do eugene was to get the OT goal "out of the way" to some degree. i'd love to take a long break from marathon stuff and just focus on short distance. i will admit i may get sucked into doing CIM for fun at the end of the year, but next year i have zero plans for any marathons. if i qualify this year, i probably will not run another marathon until the trials. it's nice/fun/good to take extended breaks from that stuff. and it's like riding a bike... your body remembers how to do it. one question.. why are you thinking of chicago instead of cim? not that it's a bad idea. i did chicago when i qualified for the 2000 trials and LOVED it!!!!
    by the way... i was OBSESSED with jamie sommers!!!! my mother punished me once by not letting me watch the big season finale when it was discovered that jamie was not dead! steve austin swore he kept seeing her in various places and everyone told him he was nuts. but in the end he was right! or so i think. my mom didn't let me watch the show so i don't know exactly how it ended. damn her. i do know that when jamie was found to be alive, her memory of steve was gone... so tragic!

  6. Ha, t-meat! How did I know you would be a Jaime Sommers fan? Did you have the Bionic Beauty Salon or the Jaime Sommers doll? And, you missed the first two episodes of Season 3 where Jaime comes out of her cryogenic coma but is having horrible headaches caused by being close to Steve. So, she moves to Colorado. Or something like that...

    I chose Chicago for a few reasons: 1. It's a fast course. 2. I've run it before and had a great time (though my race sucked). 3. I am running a brutal marathon in Athens, Greece on Halloween and would rather run my critical marathon before that hilly monster. 4. Others will be trying to qualify so I'll have a good chance to run in a pack.

    I'll keep CIM as a back up plan in case Chicago doesn't pan out. I could always do Athens as a long run in prep for CIM, but there's A LOT of climbing in the Athens marathon and a lot of downhill too.

  7. I like Plan B too. By training seriously for (and racing) the track and short races you'll develop speed to carry into the Chicago preparation. Having good 'space' between the 10k PB and marathon race-pace makes sense.

    Joe's advice about not hitting the fast workouts too hard too early is spot on. I'm sure your coach will have a good plan. Get well soon, as I'm almost as hungry as Flo to see how you go!

  8. As someone who's decided to do just what you're doing -- shelve the marathon for a little while and focus on shorter distances -- let me say that I have no regrets.

    I'd been banging away at the marathon since late 2006. While it was obvious at the end of 2009 that my body needed a break, I didn't realize until recently how much my head needed a break from it too.

    It's early in the racing season and I'm not a speed demon yet. I'm probably about where I was fitnesswise this time last year, before my fortunes began to falter and I got overtrained. But I'm feeling pretty confident that I'll continue to improve over the next few months and, if I choose to do so, will find this progress in the speed department useful when applied to marathon training again.

    I used to hate racing shorter distances because I didn't like running so uncomfortably hard. Now I love them -- they're over with so quickly! And you can do one every week if you want to.

    Enjoy the break and let yourself heal. I agree with Joe -- you've still got a big window for making the OTs.

  9. At some point, every endurance runner gets injured. And, with rest we all recover. You plan Jaymee sounds like a good one. Chicago sounds perfect.

  10. to answer your question, no, i did not have any jaimie sommers toys. my mom was a minimalist in that regard... and often when i asked for certain toys my parents would start singing the rolling stones' song "you can't always get what you want". they thought it was funny but i was highly annoyed. regardless, all i had was the show. but i can't express how important it was to me!!! oh... and i do vaguelly remember coming back to the show later (after i missed the big season finale) and seeing that jaimey (how the hell do you spell her name, anyway? i think i've spelled it four different ways now) had lost her memory. it just broke my heart because i thought her and steve were so cute together. i mean, who wouldn't want to see the bionic man and woman together for gods sakes.
    good luck with your latest endeavors. you know, i'm a bit on the fence about whether to plug forward with eugene or enjoy some racing and do a fall marathon... one that is more exciting then eugene. as one person said earlier, the great thing about short distance is you can race all the time. the frustrating thing about the marathon is that all your eggs are in one basket to some degree. so many months of sacrifice for that one race. and so much hammering on the body. i think you will find that you don't miss the marathon stuff. you can get a lot of fulfillment and tons of fitness getting ready for 5ks and 10ks.

  11. Hi, J--
    While I'll miss not seeing you smoke the course at Eugene, I think you made the wise decision. Achilles injuries can be a bitch, as you well know. Lots of people have OT'd at Chicago, but I read recently that the 2010 race sold out in record time. Maybe, as a ranked Masters runner, that won't be a problem for you since you'd be in the elite field. I was thinking about running Chicago myself, but proscrastinated and lost out.

  12. Ewen--I like the idea of having more space between my paces. Right now, they're quite jumbled. Thanks for reinforcing the "take it slow" approach. I can see how tempting it would be to kick it into gear having rested so long from running.

    Julie--Your progress this season is really inspiring. I hope that I have the same fortune. I'm also encouraged that you find the shorter races less loathsome. There's hope for me yet!

    tmeat--You were a deprived child:) I think you should go for it in Eugene and get it out of the way. If you're not injured or sick, go for it. You can then feel free to race whatever distance you want with abandon.

    Sam--Yeah, that's the benefit of having run a fast marathon. You can still get in, even after the gates close. Good luck to you in Eugene! You should have a great race given all of your speedy times leading up to it.

  13. And, t-meat, Chicago is offering $1000 for anyone meeting the B standard. There's some incentive!

  14. wow... how cool would that be to qualify AND get a thousand bucks?