Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Victory Lap

Summertime for me always includes two weeks spent serving my country out at Travis AFB.  During that time, I have to get checked out at the Medical Hobby Shop (aka Base Hospital) to ensure I am still breathing and my teeth haven't fallen out.  Well, not all of them anyway.  I also have to do my physical fitness test.

Present Arms!
The wear of the PT uniform is mandatory for testing.  I was always able to get around wearing it because the person administering my fitness test didn't give a rat's ass what I wore.  That is, until a civilian contractor took over the reigns of the testing program.  Last year was the first year I tested with these new contractors.  Rather than buy the ridiculously cheap and ugly, unisex-sized Air Force PT uniform, I tried getting away with wearing my Air Force Marathon Team outfit.  They almost didn't let me take the test because they said the uniform was not authorized.  I didn't want to risk being denied the test, so I plunked down the cash and bought the beauty pictured to the right.

The challenge for me is how to work the 1.5 mile run into whatever workout or training I have going on at the time.  Passing the test is not the problem, since I can get the maximum number of points by running ~7:30 pace.  However, I always want to be ready to take on some unsuspecting young whipper snapper if the need should arise.  As it turned out, I had the perfect workout scheduled on exactly the day I was testing:

12 miles total with:
2 mile warm up + drills
3 miles @ 25 sec/mile slower than 5k pace (~6:10)
1 mile jog
1.5 miles @ 20 sec/mile slower than 5k (~6:05)
1 mile jog
1 mile @ 10 sec/mile slower than 5k (~5:55)
800m jog
1k @ 5k pace (~5:45)
cool down

My plan was to warm up and run the first 3-mile interval, then jog for a few minutes before heading in for the test.  I would do my push ups and sit ups, run the 1.5 mile test, get my paperwork and finish the rest of my workout.

I did the first 3-mile interval without incident, jogged around until about 10 minutes before the test was scheduled to start, threw on my PT uniform over my running outfit and then headed in to the fitness center to sign in.  When I got into the hot and humid room where they conduct the testing, I began to sweat profusely--I mean gush like a fountain.  It was actually pretty embarrassing, and I didn't have a towel.  I tried to fill out the required paperwork before checking in and absolutely soaked it with uncontrollable sweat droplets.

I must have looked like a hot mess, because everyone was staring at me.  In fact, one of the gruff testers looked at me and asked if she could help me, which I thought was an odd question.  I told her I was there to test, and she said, with a noticeable amount of snip in her tone, "but you look like you've already been working out."  Was this against regulations?  I just said that I had run a little before, but I needed to test.  Then, one of her partners in fitness yelled to me that I might want to go clean myself up before making someone touch my waist with a tape measurer (waist circumference is part of the test).  I ignored this rude person.

I went and stood behind a partition waiting for the lady to weigh and measure me.  This was a blessing because I go to use my cotton shirt to "clean myself up".  When I went back into the room to join everyone else, I faced a wall of 20 men staring at me.  I said, "well, it looks like it's going to be boys versus girl and I think the girl is going to lose."  I looked around for a smile, listened for a chuckle.  Nothing but crickets.  Wow, tough crowd.  I was given a red mesh jersey with an 8 on it and told to go sit in the corner.

They called us up by our jersey color and number to separate us into two teams for the push ups and sit ups.  Somehow I was not called each time, but was added as an afterthought.  Memories of being the last picked for teams in 6th grade softball came flooding back.  After finally being added to the roster, I knocked out enough push ups and crunches to max out the test. We then headed out to the track and waited for 10 minutes for the testers.

So, I jogged, back and forth, round and round while all of the boys stood around the track looking at me like I was an idiot.  One finally approached me when I stopped and asked me, "so, you're a big runner are you?"  I imagine he deduced this from the fact that I was actually warming up before the run.  I told him that I run some.  He asked if I had done a marathon and I said I ran Chicago last year.  He then told me about how he planned to train for the Air Force Marathon, but he got sick and wasn't getting better.  He stopped running and gained a bunch of weight, which explained the bowling ball tucked underneath his uniform shirt, and now he can barely run 2 miles.  I told him to keep at it and that he should try again next year.

Finally, our testers showed up and we approached the starting line.  I went to the front of the group, but didn't need to toe the line since I was going at a slower pace than normal.  But, nobody was stepping into the lead spot in lane 1.  I started to go for it when the fittest looking guy in the group whispered in my ear, "what are you going to run?"  I said, "probably 9:00."  He sort of nodded and went to take the lead spot on the track before realizing that I meant 9 minutes for the 1.5 miles and not 9 minutes per mile.  He then backed off quickly and said, "Oh, I'm trying for 10:00."  Next thing I knew we were off and I had someone to chase.  A young airman took the lead, shod in Nike Shox, iPod blaring.  I ran with him for the first lap, tucking in behind him along the windy stretches.

We finished the first lap and I realized we were rapidly slowing.  So, I slipped around him and held a steady pace, uncontested for the rest of the run.  I could hear the testers calling out my splits each lap with a hint of amazement in their voices.  I lapped a lot of soldiers, some in their 20s and walking.  Unacceptable.  As soon as I crossed the finish line, I turned around and jogged in the opposite direction to take my victory lap.  I use the victory lap to shout words of encouragement to those who are clearly suffering but still trying.  The walkers require heckling.

I got numerous high fives from people as we headed back to the sweatbox to complete our paperwork.  I asked the guy who had planned to run the AF Marathon whether he passed his test and he told me he did.  He then congratulated me on a fast time and said, "next July, I'm going to be running with you."  I told him that was a good goal.  I could have said that I could run much faster and that I was doing all of this as part of a bigger workout, but that would just be cruel and vain.  As I went up to turn in my completed form, the tester who had told me to "go clean up" looked up at me with admiration in his eyes and said, "Ma'am, you're my new hero.  You tore it up out there and looked like you could just keep going forever."  I just responded with a smile and quick, "thanks."

I rushed back out to the track, stopping by my car to remove the extra layer of scratchy Air Force clothing and finished up my workout.  I ended up beating all of my planned paces in that workout and felt awesome in that last 1k repeat.

It was a good Air Force day.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

From 0 to 44

The day I started breathing air.  
I turned 44 earlier this week, and my Mom was kind enough to post my birth picture on Facebook.  I will always be grateful to her for deciding to actually claim that 9+ pound pork roll as her own and take me home from the hospital.  I'm not sure I would have done the same for that goofy looking bundle with a bow in her shock of bright red peach fuzz.  

I doubt that my being a year older has much to do with a shift I've noticed in my perspective on running.  I'll call it a more laid back approach that isn't fraught with angst about the daily details of mileage and pace.  At first, I had a hard time determining if somehow I had lost that fire to push myself, one of the key qualities I often attribute my success to.  I think that is still there, so something different must be going on.

Running the 5000m race at the World Masters Championships was, in a way, a small victory for me over an injury that, when I signed up for the race, I wasn't sure I'd beat in time to even be able to set foot on the track.  After the race, however, I realized that I wanted my next race to be one that I felt ready to run fast.  My next planned race was a road 5k in mid August, but the timing of that race would only allow me to complete 6 of the 8 weeks of my 5k training before the race.  So, I am shifting my schedule to race a 5k two weeks later to get in the full 8 week training program.

This 3rd week of that training program collided with a busy life week that included a musical gig Wednesday from 7:30 to midnight and the start of my annual military tour (think 12 hour days including travel).  To fit in my running, I had to jimmy my schedule and prioritize my workload.  The meat of my training was in the 4 x 1600m (5k pace) workout on Tuesday and my tempo run Friday night and my hill repeats tonight.  All of these quality workouts went better than I expected.  I ran at the crack of dawn and after the sun went down, but I got in the workouts and my easy mileage, managing 73 miles for the week.

How many miles was I supposed to do?  Who cares?  I ran what I could however I could fit it in.  Since I write my own plans, I know that the training level I chose in the Squires and Lehane book was pretty random.  It's all just one big experiment anyway.  I'm finding that I am more proud of myself for making a decision to not do something if I'm feeling tired or sore than I am for gutting it out and risking potential burnout or injury.

Other odds and ends…

My Nike Frees are still a fave shoe.  In fact, I'm finding that my feet feel worse when I run in my regular trainers, so I've transitioned faster than planned to the Frees.  I've had no issues so far and definitely notice a difference in my gait.  I feel like I'm running with better form and my runs are definitely faster for the same level of effort.  I've only done one short run in the Merrell Pace Gloves, but it was great too.  I wear them for dog walking daily now and will spend more time running in them in the future.  If you haven't watched Dr. Irene Davis discuss the research and anecdotal evidence supporting barefoot and minimalist running, you might want to carve some time out of your day to do so.

These last two weeks have seen remarkable improvement in some of the flexibility issues that plagued me before and even after seeing Dr. Ball in May.  Hip mobility on my left side was a major problem that Dr. Ball believed was structural in nature since even 11 days of constant soft tissue abusecouldn't free it up.  Well, about 10 days ago, my left hip became as mobile as a wet dog on a hard wood floor.  I did start, on my own advice, rolling out my hip capsule with a lacrosse ball for about 2 minutes twice a day before doing my hip stretches.  I have a sneaking suspicion this has made the difference.  I'm just glad that it wasn't some sort of long-term degenerative thing that was going to eventually require a hip replacement.

I feel better than ever right now, free of any nagging issues and fresh enough to train hard.  I want to thank Kerry for reminding me that, while it sucked to be out of commission for so long, that time away from running gave my body a chance to heal and regenerate.  If most running injuries come from the accumulation of damage over thousands of miles and a long period of time, then it makes sense that time and rest is what ultimately heals the runner.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Note to self

Dear Jaymee,

I know you've been feeling slow lately and concerned about the fitness you lost while you were out of running action for half the year.  When you're feeling that way, I want you to remember that cool and windy day in mid July when you were running around the track at American River College at high noon.  That was the day that you ran the 6 x 1000m workout at "near goal 5k pace" with 1:20 rests.  This was an important workout at the end of an 83 mile week, your highest mileage in 9 months.  You were worried about so many things going into that workout, but when you started running fast after doing drills and strides, your body took over and your brain followed.  You flew along the track with lightness and strength.   You ran faster than you believed you could, averaging 3:35 for the 6 repeats (5:45 pace) leaving a little in the tank after the last rep.  Remember that you are fast and are getting faster every day.


Effin' J

Saturday, July 9, 2011

7 long months

Until now, I haven't had the guts to really look at the state of my training over the past 8 months.  I tell people that I was injured for 7 months and just started training 5 weeks ago, blah, blah, blah, but it always feels like I'm making lame excuses.  Here are the cold, hard facts:

After creating this chart, I stared at it as a lump formed in my throat.  There it is: 7 months of hardly any running and only 2 workouts.  In the 6 months from November through May, I ran a total of 479 miles.  That's an average of 17 miles per week.  Sadly, most of that was test running, and I was in pain.  Yes, I cross trained, but cross training only tides you over for a few weeks before your running-specific fitness starts to drop off dramatically.

Tonight, I did my first race since the Athens Marathon: the World Masters Athletics Track and Field Championships 5000m.  It's funny to think that I signed up to race this event on April 24th, just before registration closed. At that point, I was still injured but somehow held out hope that I would be able to run a 5k by July.  The following week, I would be told by all my local healers that they could not help me any longer. Worse, I was stuck without even a diagnosis.  I was devastated by the scary thought that I might never be healed.  Of course you know, shortly thereafter, Dr. Ball worked some magic allowing me to start training again.

As soon as I began regularly running pain free, I became excited for this race.  I never once thought about not running it.  I was not worried about being embarrassed with a slow time.  I also didn't have my normal pre-race anxiety.  This was a different kind of excitement centered around just participating in a race.  In fact, I only had two goals:
1) run around the track for 12.5 laps without pain; and
2) enjoy being part of this once-in-a-lifetime, world championship competition.

I am happy to say that I met both goals and truly enjoyed myself.  I didn't have much of a race plan.  I just wanted to start out at a pace I thought I could hold for a while and see how that felt.  I picked 90 second quarters as my starting pace.  Of course, conditions were hot, but they weren't as hot as they could have been for 8:00 on a July evening in Sacramento.   I ran my own race, holding those 90s for the first mile, then eased off a bit for the rest of the race realizing that I was completely out of the main competition.  I finished in 19:02.  I felt like I ran strong, without making myself uncomfortable.  From my vantage point, I was able to watch the race unfold for the lead pack.  It was a lot of fun to see my friend Mary Coordt take the lead with 3 laps to go and win.  Thanks to everyone out there cheering me on tonight.  I heard you, and it meant a lot to have your support.

While it is sobering to think of how much work I have ahead of me on my road to Houston, I choose to be humbled and challenged by this experience rather than disappointed or overwhelmed.  In fact, as I walked away from the stadium tonight trying to assess how I felt about the race, my first thought was: in 6 months, I will be running 19:02 for my first 5k in the Olympic Trials Marathon.  Tonight was an excellent start.

Monday, July 4, 2011

5k training begins now

Well, maybe it started last week.

I started the Squires and Lehane 5k pre-season training plan last week and reached my highest weekly mileage (76 miles) in 9 months.  It was a good week of training including my first double workouts of the season.  I ran an 8 x 600m workout on Wednesday in the heat (mid-90s) and managed to keep all of the reps around 2:08 (~5:45 pace), with the last one at 2:05.  I ran my long run including a tempo workout on Saturday at noon in the blistering sun and turned it into a 2 x 2 mile workout rather than the planned 4-mile continuous workout.  I thought I drank my weight in water out there, but I still lost  nearly 5 lbs over the 90 minutes I was out.        

This Friday evening, I am racing the 5000m on the track: my first race in 8 months.  I don't plan to bust ass in this race mostly because I'm not in shape to.  I just want to enjoy participating in the World Masters Athletics Track and Field Championships.  I am so excited to watch the events being held pretty much in my backyard over the next two weeks. The Genius is running the marathon, on Sunday, July 17th, and I look forward to watching him loop past me 5 times, as I cheer him on.  He has an advantage, having run his last few long runs in the heat and along the course.  Go Genius Go!

My body has been adjusting well to the higher mileage, but I'll be taking advantage of this week's race to come down a bit before pumping it back up for the last 5 weeks of my 5k training.  After 4 weeks in the pre-season program, I go into full-on 5k training mode for 3 weeks.  My target 5k race is the all women's Susan B Anthony 5k in River Park on August 13th.  My goal is to PR at that race.  It's a fast course, and I think there will be some good competition.

Allow me to present my next 6 weeks of training:

The schedule looks more complicated than it is.  The various colors mainly represent my shoe transition.  The orange shows my planned strength work (though the days are very flexible).  I have just added core work back into my routine and have started doing some exercises to increase hip mobility since I now know this is something that is a real limiting factor for me.  I am trying out these exercises to see if they help.  I continue to do my hip capsule stretch with a strap 2 x per day, and I roll everything from my feet to my shoulders every day for a total of about 30-60 minutes, depending on how much attention the various parts need.

I was doing eccentric hamstring exercises once a day for a couple of weeks to relieve a chronic hamstring tendinosis on the right side.  Those exercises and rolling my butt and hamstrings did the trick, and I am backing off of those as a result.  I thought I might be starting to do general strength work by now, but I am really hesitant to add it without having a good focus for the exercises I do.  Hanging out with Dr. Ball made me reconsider what I do for strength training.  So far, I have limited it to the stuff I need to relieve known problems.  I also added in functional strength work in the form of hill sprints.  With the transition to less shoe, higher mileage and speed work, I feel this is enough new stimuli for now.

I have been tracking my food intake more or less daily for a couple of years now and finally stopped about two months ago.  I decided I was tired of it and could probably do a fair job balancing my diet without my iPad given my years of practice and constant feedback.  If my weight is any indication of how that's gone, I am succeeding.  Without targeting weight loss as an explicit goal, I'm down to my pre-Chicago "racing weight" of 125.  I think some of this is loss of muscle mass in my upper body, and I honestly don't miss it.  I don't think a marathoner needs huge lats, traps and deltoids to be fast.  These are muscles that get big on me if I just think about them.  So, I stopped thinking about them. Well, I also stopped doing exercises that make them larger.  Alas, they're still big, as the photo below shows.  I guess they might serve a purpose in scaring off would-be attackers on the Bike Trail late at night.  If I were a bad guy, I would think twice before messing with that V taper and those guns!
My massive back, after 3 months of no upper body work
I am ready for some speed and excited to see how this 5k plan goes before heading back into marathon training madness.  Happy 4th of July, everyone!!