I had a workout scheduled for the Wednesday following the race and had to delay it by a day because I felt like I hadn't recovered fully from the race on Sunday. I did the 10 x 800m workout, but it wasn't stellar. I shook it off and ran a long run Sunday that felt a lot harder than it should have. My whole body ached after that run and that is really unusual for me. Long runs are my bread and butter workouts.
The following week, I was having trouble running 8 minute pace on my easy runs. Again, my Wednesday workout was postponed, but I couldn't muster the energy to try it on Thursday either. During my easy run Thursday night, it hit me. I realized that the last time I had felt this way was when my iron stores were low.
You can read about my history with low iron stores in this post. To summarize, I have had to supplement pretty heavily with liquid ferrous sulfate just to maintain a level that is still considered low by some. Last summer, I experimented with taking a different form of iron, Feosol tablets. I had my iron stores (ferritin) tested at the beginning of the summer and then, in between, started using the Feosol while still taking the liquid iron on and off. My levels remained in the high 30s, which is good for me. At some point I started only taking the iron pills. Why did I switch? The liquid stuff is nasty. It tastes nasty. It stains my teeth. It backs up the plumbing.
About a month ago, I started taking a multi-vitamin that had calcium in it. Trouble is, calcium inhibits iron absorption. I was taking both pills together. Add in some heavy training and you have a recipe for low iron stores. And that is a recipe for sluggish running and injury. Another symptom that made me think low iron was a foot niggle that was not getting better, even with treatment. Low iron stores make it hard for the body to heal too, so there is a really high risk of injury if training continues at a high level.
I confirmed that my iron stores were low a little over a week ago. I also looked at my history and saw an interesting pattern.
|Jaymee's ferritin history 1997-2013|
Most coaches believe a ferritin level of 20 is the point where performance is seriously affected but it varies for each athlete. Some can get away with levels in the teens and still have decent races while others can't get below 30. That's why I made this chart. It tells the story of my iron levels plotted against my performances. I also know how I felt during those times which is what helped me identify this as my problem last week. I think I caught it just in time.
The chart shows that my ferritin levels never really get very high even with a solid supplementation regime. When I'm training hard, my levels tend to decline pretty quickly. What also seems apparent from my chart is that there's a fine line between levels that contribute to my injuries and when I perform well (TCM = 2:46 marathon and OTQ = 2:45). My current level of 26 is the same as it was the two times I've had major injuries and that's scary. On the up side, I only need to get my levels over 30 to feel normal again. I am back on the liquid stuff to make that happen as quickly as possible. I have been able to get my ferritin to improve from 21 to 34 in 30 days by taking it 2x per day. Add in a lower training volume and I should be good to go for Eugene.
It's nice to have been tested every 6 months so I could make a chart like that one, and figure out where my levels should be. I have to admit that it makes me mad that I still end up low even though I know better. The simple solution is to just keep taking the liquid iron and double up during hard training. Lesson finally learned.
The 10 mile race I was looking forward to this morning went fine. I did not race to my potential but I kind of suspected that would be the case given all of this heavy metal business and the tough work week I had (think 10 hours of hiking each day for two days through poison oak infested forests, climbing 3000+ feet each day--that was my Monday and Tuesday). I don't like making excuses for poor performance, but anyone who's had low ferritin knows the feeling. You try to get your little legs to go faster, and they just won't. It's like a disconnect. The up side is when your iron stores rebound: you feel like someone has given you a boost of adrenaline. I'm looking forward to that and hope it comes before my marathon.
|SacTown 10 miler awards ceremony.|
My race time at the SacTown 10 miler was 1:01:55. I won the masters title for the third race in a row this year. That was satisfying. It was a great race and really well organized. I got to share the stage with Olympian Kim Conley for the awards ceremony. So, that's something. We both got these lovely engraved platters, though she won a little more cash than I did!
I'm hoping I will start to feel a little better in this next week of training. It is my last high-mileage week before I taper. I am hoping for some good marathon paced workouts to build some confidence before I start to let my body absorb all of the hard training I've done this cycle. Regardless of how the marathon ends up going, I know that I've worked hard and become much fitter in the last couple of months. I've gained confidence in myself and my coach and can carry that forward into the next marathon cycle.