Friday, February 26, 2010

A Setback?

I'm not quite sure what constitutes a bonafide running injury.  Is it the extent of the problem?  Whether it keeps you from running?  How long it keeps you from running?  How much money you spend curing the problem?  I guess it doesn't much matter how you define it--injury/niggle/setback.  They aren't fun to endure, but each one probably represents a neatly-wrapped little life lesson if you can find it hidden inside the stinking pile of dog pooh.  

I had a setback this week.  I ran 94 miles last week capped off with a 23 miler on Saturday (that included 8 miles run up a hill at LT effort) and an easy, and I mean easy, 10 miles on Sunday.  I was facing a daunting 100-mile week this week and a very full work schedule that included a two-day trip to San Francisco for meetings Thursday-Friday.

On Monday, I had a double workout scheduled with 10 in the morning and 4 at night.  During the morning run, I noticed that my left achilles/calf was tight.  I didn't think much of it and continued on with 5 strides, 2 bouts of hill drills and 2 x 2 minutes at 3k effort.  During my 4 miler that night, I noticed that the tightness in my calf started feeling a little more like a pain and was there throughout the run.  The next day I had 20 miles scheduled, split into a 15 and 5 miler.  I decide to do the 5 miles in the morning to test out the calf.  I felt pain for most of the run.

I scheduled an appointment that afternoon with the Miracle Worker.  He started his line of inquiry with questions about my shoes.  How new/old were they?  Was I wearing a new style?  After we decided my trainers were not the issue, he started his inspection of the injured area, stopping at my left arch.  He looked up at me and asked, eyebrows raised, "what's this?"  It was the scab on the bottom of my foot from the race the weekend before.  I explained that I had worn shoes that were too small without socks in a cross country race and got a blister on my arch.  He said, "Oh no, this is not a blister.  You ripped a hole in the bottom of your foot!  Look at the way the skin is all jagged around the edges."  Interesting.  I had been wondering why my "blister" hadn't healed more quickly.  In fact, it hurt on pretty much every run I had done since the race and seemed to become even more irritated.

He then deduced that either I had strained my calf during the race by running on the grass in shoes that allowed my heel to slip around or the wound on the bottom of my foot caused me to run my last 100 miles, spread over the last week, a little off kilter which caused my calf to tighten up and put strain on my achilles.

He began working on the calf by introducing the jumpy machine (electrical stimulation) and then squished down on the calf in all the most painful places causing me to cry out for my mommy under my breath a few times.  He iced the calf, and told me I was good to go.  I asked if I could run 100 miles, and, after we cleared up that I wasn't going to do it all at once, he gave me the green light.  Cool, I thought.  Resume training.

What I did next is certain to disappoint any of you who ever thought I was the least bit smart.  I decided to do my hill workout on Wednesday as written: 15 miles with 10 x 6 minutes up a hill at half marathon effort finishing with 10 strides.  Brilliant.  My calf is sore, so I think I'll go run up a hill for an hour.  I jumped on Tready and knocked out the workout Wednesday morning and definitely felt a dull ache in my left calf throughout.  As I finished the run outside with strides, I suddenly felt an alarming sharp pain in my achilles during my 8th stride and shut it down.  I jogged back to the car and wondered what the fuzzy duck I had just done.

I babied the calf the rest of the day, but thought it was a good idea to test out the calf later that night with another 5 miles.  To my credit, I have had some success running through these types of little niggles before, so I thought it was worth a try.  Three miles into the run, I felt a bitey, bitey, bitey that left me walking all the way home.  I was done.
Now, let's recap my injury history.  I don't have one.  This obviously means I have a very sturdy constitution since I clearly can't be trusted to make the smartest training decisions.  It also means that I have a lot of anxiety associated with becoming injured since I haven't been through it before.  I decided to take Thursday off from running and this was convenient since I had to take the train into the city very early, spend all day in a meeting and then stay the night.  I was glad to be busy, because during the few stray minutes I had to myself, I felt a pit form in my stomach with worry about my running future.  When the day was finally over and I was alone in my hotel room, I let my self pity get the best of me, and I cried a little.  How could I be so stupid?  I had ruined my training and chances at a good marathon in May.  If I was a horse, they would put a bullet through my thick skull.  Blah, blah, blah.

I felt better for getting all of that out, and quickly began devising a more constructive, solutions-oriented plan.  I contacted my coach and found out that she had suffered from something very similar a few years ago.  She had lots of great advice.  She reassured me that I could recover quickly if I was smart about my recovery.  But, I would need to take a break from running.  No running.  Wham.  There it was.  Without a history of injury, I had never had to cross train.  Granted, I cross train as recovery after a marathon, but I realize that there is a big difference between choosing to cross training and having to cross train.  Now, I had to cross train.

Nicole suggested pool running as the ideal, but thought the bike would work too.  She gave me a new training plan for the next few days and offered some tips that had helped her heal quickly when she had this injury.  "I can do this," I thought.  I woke up this morning at 4 a.m., tossed and turned for an hour before deciding to hop out of bed and get my butt to the gym for some cross training.  While pool running was the preferred alternative, that wasn't an option for me today.  My achilles was super sore as I walked the 6 blocks to the nearest 24 Hour Fitness Center and this just reinforced my resolve to embrace cross training.

I decided I would test out different pieces of equipment with the goal of finding something that would allow me to do a decent workout without aggravating my calf.  The elliptical machine ended up being the ticket.  I was able to set the cross ramp to a setting that had only my hamsters, glutes and quads working while my lower legs served merely as pegs to push the pedals down.  I did an hour on the machine including 20 x 30 seconds hard/30 seconds easy and felt very proud of myself in the end.  I then knocked out some core exercises and hobbled back to the hotel.

I iced my calf for a bit and then decided to take some ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation.  I generally don't like to take it because I dislike masking pain but, I was amazed at how much the pain was reduced for the rest of the day.  After my meetings ended midday, I headed back on the train and decided I would see if I could get back in to see the Miracle Worker.  I was told by his very protective receptionist that he was booked and that I would just have to call when I got back in town to see if he had an opening.  I had my fingers crossed as Amtrak dumped me into Sacramento 1.5 hours late.

The Genius picked me up from the station and we rushed over to the Miracle Factory.  Lino saw me right away and the Genius was excited to see him in action without having to experience his healing wrath.  When I told Lino I had run up a hill for an hour, he looked down his nose at me and said, "I told you no hills."  He actually hadn't told me no hills, but I felt like I probably should have asked whether hills were okay during my last visit knowing they were on my dance card.

He probed my achilles with his digits and decided that it was perfectly healthy, albeit inflamed.  He poked around for the point of pain and finally found a little bit of shiznit at the place where the tendon fibers cross over one another.  With a little *pop* it was gone.  A miracle.  He then worked his way up all of the bits of adhesion that were settling in my calf and painfully popped those as I closed my eyes so tightly that my eyelashes poked my optic nerves in both eyes.  He then gave me the jumpy machine treatment for a few minutes and afterward told me to go walk around to see how it felt.  It felt great to walk, but the true test was to tippy toe around.  No problem.  No pain.

He looked me in the eye and said, "No hills for two weeks, but you can run on the flats as much and as fast as you want."  He showed me some good stretches and kicked my butt out the door.

So, here I sit, a little shaken up and slightly anxious about trying out my newly-healed baby cow tomorrow on what will probably be a short, easy run.  I want to believe in miracles.  Here's hoping for proof on tomorrow's run.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The rest of the story

After my long post on Sunday where I chronicled what I thought caused my cross country meltdown and what I was going to change to get back on track, I realized I left out a big piece of the puzzle.  I listed the workouts I had done for the 7 days leading up to the race, but neglected to look at what I had done for the other 22 hours in the day for those 7 days.

Sometimes, I forget that a schedule that looks good on paper may not work out in real life.  This was certainly my thought going into last week.  I thought it was serendipitous that a work commitment coincided with this race and that I would just be able to hop from my big meeting in Seattle to Spokane and run my little race.  As an example of how ridiculous this plan was, I give you my schedule for the 48 hours leading up to the race (the rest of the week was similarly packed):

0445 - wake up
0515 - meet girlies and run 10 miles (w/cutdowns)
0700 - walk dogs
0800 - check e-mail/work
1000 - conference call
1100 - work
1400 - conference call
1600 - pack
1700 - drive to airport/eat dinner incl. 2 glasses of wine to take the edge off my nervous-flyer nerves
1900 - flt. to Seattle (+1 glass of wine to cope with this "flight attendants please take your seats" flight)
2100 - arrive in Seattle
2145 - catch train to downtown Seattle
2300 - check in at hotel
0000 - sleep (off and on because the d-bags in the room next door were getting their party on)

0500 - Wake up
0530 - Run 6 miles on treadmill
0700 - breakfast and coffee
0800 - all day, very interactive meeting begins--work through lunch
1630 - walk to train station
1700 - catch train to airport/dinner
1830 - flight to Spokane (yet another white-knuckler)
2030 - Arrive at hotel, chat with runners, unpack
0000 - finally get to sleep

My point here is that just looking at my running schedule for the week was a small part of the picture of how stressed my body was.  I simply was trying to pack too much stuff in and pushed my body to the limit.  I actually think I might have had a chance at a good race, even without a taper, had I experienced relative rest for at least the two days leading up to the race.

I am actually glad I had the bad race when I did, because it is clear that I needed to make some adjustments.  Without hitting a low like that, I might not have taken the time to reflect on the simple things I could adjust to improve my performance and recovery (more sleep, recovery fueling, alcohol consumption).

As I mentioned in my post-race post, I plan to continue my training as scheduled.  I ran 8.5 slow miles on Sunday and 10 easy miles on Monday with hill drills.  Yesterday was my first real test: 21 miles total, split into 5 miles (incl. 3 x 150m cutdowns) + 16 miles (incl. 1 mile at goal marathon pace and 12 x 3 min. hill repeats @ 10k effort w/3 min. jog rests finishing w/10 strides).

I really didn't know how I would feel running the 16 miles in the afternoon.  I started outside and quickly launched into the GMP mile wanting to get it over with.  I guess I anticipated I would crash and burn, but I felt great at a 6:08 pace for that mile.  I jogged back to the gym and hopped on a treadmill to knock out the repeats.  Of course, my treadmill boyfriend, Tready, was occupied by a man walking 25-minute per mile pace, so I started out on one of the inferior machines.

I had decided ahead of time to start at the speed and incline combination that I ended my last tempo effort hill workout on and ramp up from there to keep it interesting.  So, I started my first repeat at 4.5% incline and 8.5 mph.  After the first two repeats, I cranked it up to 8.7 mph.  During the 3rd repeat, I glanced back and saw that the old guy was about to dismount Tready.  I quickly hit the big red button on my machine, grabbed all of my stuff and sprinted over to my love.  I have to give a shout out to Mark (that's right isn't it?) who not only knew my name and said, "hi" to me as I sprinted by, but understood why I was preoccupied with getting that treadmill.  He knew that his name was Tready (well, he thought it was Teddy, but close enough).  That made me feel a little silly, but also made me smile.

So, I continued the workout and felt awesome as I cranked up the incline and speed incrementally, ending on 5% grade at 8.9 mph for repeats 11 and 12.  This is supposedly the equivalent of ~5:30-5:40 pace on flat ground (if you believe Daniels' charts).  Then, I went back outside and cranked on some strides feeling super strong at sub-5:00 pace for the last few.

That was probably the strongest workout I've done this training cycle, and I think I needed it to get my head back in the game.  One other change I'm making that may be of interest is to run my easy runs a lot easier, like 8:30 pace versus 7:30-7:45.  Aside from saving a few minutes of time, there's no good reason to beat myself up on my easy days particularly with the volume I'll be putting in over the next couple of months.

I have another mammoth hill run this weekend: 23 miles including 8 miles run up a hill @ LT effort.  This time, I will get to the gym early enough so I won't have to fight for my dear Tready.              

Sunday, February 14, 2010

At least I didn't get lapped

Recap of the race

If you've already seen the results of the National Championship Cross Country Meet in Spokane, you may have gathered it was not a lot of fun for me.  I wanted it to be fun, but it just wasn't.  I finished in a time of 31:59 (6:30 pace) and came in 11th place in the military competition.  I really don't know what place I was overall in the race, but I'm sure my name was not far from the bottom of the list.  After the race, I was listening to one of the Navy runners talk about how she got lapped by Shalane Flanigan and that it was pretty cool to see her smoke by.  I told myself then, “Look on the bright side.  At least you didn’t get lapped.”

Despite my lackluster performance, my Air Force Women's Team (and the Men's Team) won the military competition and many of my teammates had fabulous races.  We were awarded these shiny gold medals during the awards ceremony last night.  I felt a little guilty accepting a medal since I didn’t contribute much to the team’s win, but I also felt like I had competed well in 3 other races (marathons) for the team and was due a stinker.

As a reminder, this was my first cross country race ever, and so I was kind of nervous-excited for it.  I didn't know what to expect, but I also wasn't putting a whole lot of energy into psyching myself up for it.  It was not a focus race for me in my training program, meaning that I didn't taper for it at all.  I thought that I might be able to pull off a decent race given that the first week of February was a recovery week where I only ran 62 miles.

That didn't seem to matter.  From the gun, my legs were made of lead.  I mean, I had nothing in them whatsoever.  I was running too fast at first, like everyone else, but I think that had little to do with how I felt.  My initial pace was around 5:30-5:40 for the first 1k.  I have had the experience of heavy legs at the beginning of races before and sometimes it goes away.  This time, it just got worse as time went on.  I started slowing and think I was at 11:15 or so at the 3k mark.  People started passing me one at a time.  My legs got heavier even though my breathing was not labored. I have to admit that I had little will to finish the race and certainly had lost all confidence in my ability to rally.   I am not a quitter, typically, but, had I not had a team depending on my score, I would have dropped out after the second loop.  Maybe even the first.  It was not my day.  I finished the race at a ridiculously slow pace though I haven't had the heart to download my Garmin data yet to see what it was.     

I wore XC spikes for the first time and found out the hard way why one wears socks with them.  I started forming blisters on my arches during the first lap on both feet and have some nice blood blisters on my heels as well.  These were borrowed spikes and they were a bit small.  I didn't take the time to find a thin enough pair of socks to fit in them.  The blisters under the arches are ridiculously painful.

The atmosphere of the race was great.  It's fun to watch cross country races because there are so many opportunities to see the runners around the course.  When you're having a bad day, however, that means everyone gets to see just how epic your crash is multiple times around the course.  Despite all of the wonderful support from teammates and coaches, I was unable to respond to their pleas to go faster and pick off my competitors.

This race was, of course, part of a longer workout this weekend.  I had 20 total miles to run including the race and was then supposed to pull off 3 miles at goal marathon pace during the last 11 or so miles.  My Teammate, Cap’n E, shares my same coach and is also training for a spring marathon.  We had the same workout and had decided ahead of time to run the additional miles together after the race.  After I finished, I told her I couldn’t possibly get any more miles out of my legs let alone 11.5.  After a mile or so of cool down and consumption of a Clif bar while watching the men’s race, I changed my mind and decided to give it a shot.  I guess I wanted to salvage something from the day.  If I didn’t have a good race, at least I could call it a workout and get a long run out of it.  

Spokane seems like a great place to run.  There is a long, paved bike path that runs along the Spokane River and past the race venue as well as our hotel.  We picked that up and headed back to our hotel.  As we were leaving the park, I spied a runner coming toward us that looked like he belonged on the cover of Running Times Magazine.  It was Ryan Hall out for a jog.  His wife Sara was in the women’s race that I ran.  By the time I recognized him, I was barely able to get out a little chirp that may have sounded like “hyyeee” before he jogged past.  Ryan Hall.  Wicked cool. 

My legs still felt heavy, but they did feel better the more I ran.  As we progressed along the trail, we kept speeding up.  Eventually, I found myself running 6:30 pace and thought WTF?  How can I do this at the end of 20 miles on such tired legs but not get my butt moving any faster for 5 miles?  

I feel obliged to acknowledge that Cap’n E saved my butt near the end of our run.  As I turned a corner on the trail, I saw a large shepherd-mix of a dog sniffing around on the side of the trail.  I looked for the owner and quickly noticed that there was no owner present.  The dog looked very at home in this spot and quickly turned as I approached to tell me I was not welcome.  Hair raised on his back, he started to growl, bark and move toward me in a threatening manner.  I had forgotten exactly how to respond in this situation and apparently decided to stop running and break into a Karate Kid move in front of the dog.  I was also yelling and clapping my hands.  Cap’n E turned the corner behind me, saw my ineffective attempts at scaring the dog and started screaming like a banshee.  The dog retreated decisively and did not chase us down.  Of course, I thought to myself at least I didn't have to worry about rabies.

So, what happened?

My anal-retentive disposition naturally desires an explanation for why this happened.  Here’s my answer:  my body was reeling from a combination of a lot of stressors including hard training, lack of sleep, hormonal cycles, travel, work stress and not so great nutritional habits.  Oh, and then there’s the 9 shots I’ve received in the last month (8 rabies and one H1N1).  As for the hard training, when I thought back to what I had done for the 7 days leading up to the race, I realized it was pretty tough:

2/6 8 miles + 2 x weight circuit
2/7  16 miles w/7 miles up a hill @ LT effort
2/8  10 miles with 1 set of hill drills
2/9  15.2 miles with 2 mi. @ LT effort (5:58), 10 x 90 sec. hills @ 5:40 pace, 2 mi. at goal marathon pace (6:15)
2/10  8 miles easy + core 200 + 2 x through weight circuit
2/11  10.1 miles with 10 x 100m cut downs (10k effort down to mile effort)
2/12  6 miles easy
2/13  20 miles including XC race

I was suffering from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) the entire week from the weight workouts and hills and was definitely feeling that in the race.  My breathing was not a problem, but my legs just said, "oh no you don't."  

Despite Joe’s recommendation to the contrary, I picked up Matt Fitzgerald’s book Brain Training for Runners a week or more ago.  I like the section on overtraining and found it useful to re-read this morning.  I like the adaptive approach to testing training limits he advocates, which is that you have to bust them in order to know where they are.  If you’re constantly training below that limit, you will never reach your highest potential.  If you go over that limit too often and for too long, you will go past a point of no return that requires months of rest to recover fully.  The bottom line, however, is that you have to flirt with that upper limit in order to know where it is.  I believe, yesterday, I began my flirtation with that limit.

Looking back on the last few weeks, or even farther, I can see that I have not been allowing for proper recovery in nearly every aspect of my life. The balancing act begins anew as I try to adjust my life to maintain a hard training program while avoiding an over-trained state.  I really think I have to continue to push my training, so that leaves tweaking my lifestyle.  I will maintain my training schedule and attempt my next few hard workouts.  If they continue to go poorly, I will definitely back off my training.  I also plan to do the following through the Eugene Marathon in order to maximize my recovery:

Alcohol is banished.  I did this at about the same point in my build up to Twin Cities, and I believe it helped me.  Today’s recovery after last night’s celebratory festivities in Spokane with my teammates reminds me of the impact alcohol has on the body and why I don’t normally do tequila shots.  Last night, it was a rite of passage.  I had not “reported in to the Colonel” yet according to my indoctrinated teammates and was required to do so.  This ritual included a salute and downing a tequila shot.  Of course, I didn’t stop there last night, but I will stop there as of today. 

Get more sleep.  People often mention that they don’t understand how I do everything that I do.  The answer is simple: I don’t sleep.  I average around 6 hours of sleep a night.  That’s simply not enough.  I’m not sure what I’m going to give up to make this happen for the next 10 weeks, but I have to figure it out.

Eat sooner after running.  I run early in the morning and have gotten into the habit of waiting until 10 a.m. to eat breakfast—sometimes 3 hours after I finish my workout.  I drink coffee after running, but I am definitely waiting too long to eat.  This is an easy thing to fix by simply taking a recovery drink with me for post-workout consumption or by eating something as soon as I get home from my workout.

This isn’t rocket science, but it’s amazing how far out of whack I let things get sometimes before recognizing that they are askew.

Finally, though my cross country debut was a disaster, I refuse to count myself out of the sport in the future.  I can see the allure and believe I would be good at it and would have fun doing it under different circumstances. 

There is no failure except in no longer trying ~Elbert Hubbard

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Born to climb

This week, I had a great first week of hill workouts.  Maybe it was because I ran relatively low mileage or the fact that less mileage meant more sleep.  Whatever the reason, it was a nice beginning.

On Tuesday, I started my 12-mile workout at dusk.  I had to get myself to a 1-minute hill, and the only thing close is a bridge at William Pond Park.  The workout asked for 15 x 1 minute hills @5k effort with 1 minute jog down rests.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out that you need a long hill to make that happen because a hill that takes 1 minute to get up at a fast pace will take longer to get down at an easy pace.  So, you inch your way farther uphill with each repeat and run out of hill quickly, in my case.  My bridge hill isn't much of a hill, but it can last for over a minute if you start at the right place.  To try to meet the intent of the workout my coach suggested I run the effort a little faster than prescribed and run the rest a little faster too to keep the HR higher between the intervals.

This part of the American River Bike Trail can be a bit sketchy after dark I found.  The hairs on the back of my neck were at attention for most of my repeats probably from the fraidy cat adrenaline rush that I got from being startled by the many Parkway residents: wild turkeys, white-tailed deer and homeless people.  I ran my 15, one-minute hill repeats at 5:30 pace and ran down the hill at 7:45 pace, generally keeping the jog rest around 1:30.

Today, I tackled my 16-mile long run which included 7 miles run up a hill at lactate threshold (LT) effort.  I dread this workout for weeks leading up to it when I see it on my schedule.  I can't imagine that anyone could psych themselves out more than I do over this workout.  Yet, every time I do it, I always walk away thinking it wasn't that bad.  I do the 7 miles on a treadmill since, as you may have gathered, I live in a topographically-challenged area.  I have done this workout on a "real" hill a few times, but the logistics require a near day-long adventure to make it happen.

I did a 7:30-paced 5k warm up outside before changing into an appropriate gym costume and hopping on one of the inferior Precor treadmills for the first 3 miles.  The two good treadmills (less wobbly, better calibration, built in fans) were being occupied by two ladies walking at a breakneck 2.5 mph pace.  I kept checking the good treadmills for an opening and was was able to snag my beloved Tready for miles 4-7.  I had a plan for this workout to keep it interesting: change up my paces and incline each mile.  Last summer I did this workout on a treadmill and ran a steady 4% grade between 7.8-8 mph for 45 minutes.

Here's how my workout played out today:

  • miles 1-2:  4.5% grade, 8 mph (7:30 pace)
  • miles 3-5:  4.5% grade, 8.3 mph (7:14 pace)
  • miles 6-7:  4.5% grade, 8.5 mph (7:04 pace)
  • added bonus: 1/4 mile @ 5%, 8.8 mph (6:49 pace)
That's right.  I felt so good at the end of the 7 miles that I wanted more and pushed it for an additional 1/4 mile.  I actually wanted to go farther but decided to leave some for my cool down and for next week.  I ran my 10k cool down outside at around 7:20 pace to complete 16 miles.

I ended up doing some interesting research regarding equivalent paces for treadmill workouts after reading a treadmill workout suggestion from Magdalena Lewy Boulet in Runner's World.  She referred to page 136 of the runners' bible, Daniels' Running Formula, written by her coach Jack Daniels where he published a chart with the conversions.

I did a bit of extrapolation, but my paces roughly equate to:

  • miles 1-2:  6:28 
  • miles 3-5:  6:14
  • miles 6-7:  5:56
  • last 1/4 mile: 5:37
So, maybe I was sandbagging at the beginning, but I also noticed a major difference in effort on the Precor machine versus Tready in that the equivalent incline and pace on the two machines felt much harder on the Precor (and I have the HR data to prove it).  Of course, who knows which one was properly calibrated: probably neither.  These equivalents are just for fun anyway but do serve as a good benchmark for future iterations of this workout in the next few weeks. The most important thing was that I was able to get progressively faster during this workout and felt great.

I also started a new weight routine last night and am paying for it in DOMS today.  I imagine it will be worse tomorrow.  Ouch, ouch, ouch, I say with every step.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Coming down again

I am nearing the end of a recovery week and my body is thanking me. By Sunday, I will have run only 62 miles for the week with no, I repeat, no double workout days. I had forgotten all of the things I like to do when I don't have runs bookending my day with sleep topping the list. At the beginning of the week, I took some time to re-read the training schedule my coach sent me back in November. I do this periodically to make sure I am still following the plan since my memory isn't always so sharp. Here's the opening paragraph:

Are you ready to work hard?! Your mileage increases in both volume and intensity. I know you did a fine job on recovering hard before, but it will be even more important now to pay attention to the details to aid you in recovering the fastest as possible. In fact, recovery should be the main focus all day and night in between every workout. Every decision you make should be made based on what will help me run fastest and recover quickest.

Recovery should be my main focus. It probably hasn't been. Reading this paragraph over a few times helped me put things into perspective again. It made me realize just how much energy, mental and physical, it takes to make incremental improvements in performance. It's not just the hard work I do while I'm running, racing or in the gym doing strength training. It's keeping track of what I eat, making sure I roll my legs out regularly, the constant life planning I have to do to figure out how to fit these challenging runs in while still staying healthy. It can be really exhausting. Oh, and then there's the life that I have too: two jobs, dogs and cats, a Dissin' Genius to entertain, music, family (not in order of priority, btw)...

A brief rant:

Sam McManis, a local writer for the Sac Bee (he wrote this article about me before the Twin Cities Marathon), wrote an article about Matt Fitzgerald's new book Racing Weight.  He interviewed the author as well as a couple of local runners, including yours truly. I liked the article. The one comment that Sam received about the article came from some curmudgeonly runner that started his/her comment with, "No disrepect to Jaymee Marty or Mary Coordt, but…" Maybe this person isn't aware that those words don't actually mitigate the pejorative words that come next. I generally interpret that phrase to mean, "watch out, I'm about to completely disrespect Jaymee Marty and Mary Coordt and rip the writer a new a-hole."

The part of the comment that I thought was particularly interesting was when said commenter complained, "He seemingly quotes the same women in every article. As a 25-year marathon runner in Sacramento, I've met and become friends with many accomplished endurance athletes. Most of them are not full-time, professional athletes like Mary and Jaymee. And they come in all shapes and sizes, have jobs, raise families and have plenty of interests away from running. To quote only elite athletes who train obsessively misses the point, at least in my opinion."
Full-time, professional athlete? Wow, wouldn't that be great. I realize that this person is just a cranky pants (as exemplified in his multiple other article comments starting with "no disrespect to…"), but neither Mary nor I get paid to do what we do. We both have jobs and lives outside of running. As I pull my butt out of bed at 4:45 to run and repeat the cycle in the evening after working a full day, I think about all of the balls I'm juggling and barely managing to keep in the air. I sometimes question my sanity. I sometimes break down and cry from sheer exhaustion. And then, I sometimes spike the football and do a little dance when I see a glimmer of improvement in my running shine through the cloud of hard work. I do have a life outside of running, though I'm not sure I would argue with this person's characterization of my training as being obsessive.

So, back to my recovery:

Last weekend's long run was tough. I had my 7th rabies shot in the series last Friday morning and felt tired the rest of the weekend. As a result, I put off my long run until 2 p.m. Sunday when I absolutely had to get it in or miss out on a 101 mile week. My long runs always have a quality component to them, and this one was no different. I had 24 miles for the day (20 + 4). The 20-miler included 25 minutes at lactate threshold (LT) effort, a 15-minute easy recovery, followed by a pyramid 5k-10k effort section of 1,2,3,4,5,4,3,2,1 minutes with 1:1 recovery. I ran the LT effort at 6:04 pace and felt pretty fatigued at the end. I had very little energy heading into the 5k-10k effort pyramid, but managed to get through it averaging 5:49 pace for the repeats. I realized that my low energy level was likely due to a lack of fuel since I had only eaten oatmeal and toast before the run. While this would probably be fine for an early morning start, too much of the day had gone by for that to be enough food to fuel a 20-miler.

I had an engagement in the evening that included pizza, salad and cheesecake. I ate heartily, but had to hop on a treadmill at the gym at 8 p.m. to complete my day's mileage. My stomach luckily cooperated, greedily holding on to the mass of food I had deposited. I sure needed it.

The next few weeks of my training will see major hill work. I am presently using this blog post as an excuse to postpone my 16 miler that has me running up a hill for 7 miles at LT effort. This Valley girl will be doing that one on the treadmill, and I do not look forward to it.

Coming up Next week: My first cross country race where I'll be toeing the line with the likes of Shalane Flanagan, Sara Hall, Tera Moody and Magdalena Lewy Boulet. Boy, I hope I don't get lapped!