Saturday, December 24, 2011

Must. Have. Plan.

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I am lost without a running/workout plan.  I have a really hard time taking things day by day without some sense of the bigger scheme that it all fits into.  I don't have to actually follow the plan.  I just need to have one.  I think that's one of the things that's been so mentally debilitating about this injury: I want to plan my workouts for the next 3 weeks, but I haven't even known whether I would be walking without crutches the next day.

I ran 6 miles this morning.  I had all of my fingers and toes crossed that the acupuncture treatment I had yesterday would help with the pain.  It worked!  My lower leg did not fall off and didn't even hurt.  My hip was still acting up, but that was minor and lessened during the run.

Given how good I felt, I thought it was safe to make myself a plan.  Rule 1 for this plan is: I will not go overboard with running mileage.  Rule 1 refers to goal 1: crossing both start and finish lines in OT race.  I will supplement my running with my Elliptigo this and next week just to keep my muscles strong.  I will also continue to get acupuncture treatment as needed.  I also made an appointment for a sports massage on Thursday with a not so gentle man that my girlies have been raving about.

If nothing else, I will be the most rested runner going into the Trials race in 3 weeks.  That's right, it's only 3 weeks away!

Merry Christmas peeps!    

Friday, December 23, 2011

Charlie Foxtrot

Monday came and went with no call from my HMO to schedule an MRI appointment.  I pretty much sat and stared at my phone most of the day, willing it to ring.  Tuesday morning was more of the same.  Nada.  I finally called them.  I was told that the request must first go through protocol screening by a radiologist and then they could call me to schedule.  She told me there were still appointments available for next week, so I was lucky.  Yes, that made me feel really lucky.

Frustrated, I decided to take matters into my own hands and find out where I could get an MRI on the cheap.  I found a place close to my house that charges $500 for uninsured patients including the radiologist report and could get me in at 1:45 that day, no doctor's referral needed.  Music to my ears.

I asked to listen to Mumford and Sons on the headphones they gave me, though I couldn't really hear the music over the loud clunking and thudding going on inside the machine.  In about 30 minutes, I was done and received a lovely red rose from the technicians for my troubles.  Okay, that was a bit odd, but nice nonetheless.  I got a hard copy of my pictures and a CD with a viewing program on it.

Is this a slice of meat for our Christmas dinner or the inside of my right leg?  
The next two days were a bit of a blur.   I learned to read MRI images thanks to the profusion of information on the internets.  From my readings of the images, I had everything from gout to cancer to edema of the periosteum.  Oh, and of course I saw a stress fracture somewhere on there too.  I thought I had become quite savvy at reading these things and had my diagnosis ready to go waiting for the real doctor to tell me what was wrong.  The result that was supposed to come Wednesday afternoon did not.  I started to get really impatient.  I began worrying more and more, looking at the images in various levels of saturation and contrast to pick out new and unusual features that I hadn't been able to see before.  I'm pretty sure I forgot to shower for a couple of days too.

Couple all of this with the fact that I'm doing absolutely no exercise, my leg still hurts to stand on it, and I have taken the entire week off from work.  I can't concentrate on anything but this pain in my leg and the consequences of that pain.  If it is a stress fracture, should I wear a boot and still line up at the start of the race as some suggest?  Wouldn't I feel like a complete idiot hobbling over the starting line only to quit the race in the first few feet?  What if I just went for it anyway?  I had heard many remarkable stories of people with worse pain than mine showing up at the start line and running completely pain free.  Then I recalled the stories of those who didn't heed the warning signs, ran anyway and ended up with a nice full fracture.  I didn't want that.

Thursday late afternoon, I finally received the report from the radiologist letting me know that there was nothing remarkable on my images.  Nada.  Soft tissue was even "unremarkable".  I got this news after being fit for a walking cast (thanks Mike!).

I am clear to run.  Well, there's the small matter of still having pain in my leg when I walk, but staying off of the leg has reduced that quite a bit.  In celebration of the news, I rode my Elliptigo last night in the dark for an hour, pushing my heart rate up into the high 150s.  I felt awesome and was so much happier.  Exercise is indeed a great mood booster.

I could sit around and bemoan the last week of nothingness and whine about the fitness I've no doubt lost.  That's not my style.  My body was definitely telling me it needed a break.  More than anything, this last week has given my immune system a chance to fight off whatever the hell infection I have going on.  I'm 6 days into the antibiotics and just now starting to feel slightly better.

I learned one other thing that I think is worth noting for those of you who push yourselves as hard as I do.  I had started regularly measuring my resting heart rate a couple of months ago and keeping record of it.  I had never really done this before.  It's just so easy to do now that there are iPhone apps available that can take a fairly accurate reading in a matter of seconds.  And, they record the number for you too!

I was a little surprised when I started doing this that my heart rate when going to bed was about the same as when I woke in the morning.  I was also surprised that my resting heart rate was in the low 50s consistently.  I thought it was in the low 40s, but I thought maybe I was mistaken about that.

A couple of days ago, my resting heart rate plummeted: both the nighttime and morning readings and they've stayed there ever since.  My resting HR is in the low to mid 40s.  It has been elevated for the last 2-3 months.  I had dismissed those who say that resting HR is a good measure of overtraining, but I have now learned the lesson for reals.  The other lesson learned is that a baseline needs to be established during a time when you're rested and healthy!

What's next for me?  Hopefully, I'll be back to running.  I plan to start a very long and drawn out taper from here, listening to my body the whole way.  Goal 1 is to cross both the start and finish lines at the Olympic Trials.  If I can do that in a decent amount of time, then that's icing on the cake.  Given the fact that I'm still in a fair amount of pain from this injury, whatever it is, my next few weeks will be about pain management.  I'm going in for acupuncture today to see if that relieves it at all.  I'm taking Tylenol for the pain and icing as needed.  I will attempt to wrap the leg in various ways to see if that helps.  And I will keep my fingers crossed that nothing else crops up these next few weeks!

Thanks to everyone who has reached out to me throughout this ordeal.  I really appreciate all of the support and well wishes.  You have reminded me that it is truly a privilege to be invited to this race.  You inspire me to get past these setbacks and run my heart out on January 14th!

Oh, and I finally got that call from Kaiser, my HMO, yesterday afternoon to schedule my MRI.  I'll be getting that on January 5th at 10 p.m.  Great timing.

Merry Christmas, indeed!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The thin black line

Thanks to everyone for all of your support these last few days.  I'm sure you can imagine how I'm feeling faced with the thought of having to sit out the biggest race of my life after what happened on Friday.  If this whole ordeal weren't so damned funny, I would probably be crying a lot more.  I thought I'd update you on how my appointment went this morning.  It is a good story.

I was slightly concerned that the orthopedic doc I was seeing this morning might be upset that I had taken the cast off Saturday.  Good thing she didn't know I had made it into that fashionable lamp.  She didn't seem concerned about that, especially since she had looked at my X-rays and didn't see any evidence of a fracture.

It's a major award.
She said she had read through my history, and she knew I was an athlete.  She asked me for the low down on the injury, and I gave her the short version.  She started the physical exam by palpating the bone from my ankle up then from the knee down and asked me if I felt any pain.  I told her I did when she got to the place where I feel the pain when I stand on the leg.  She measured this place with a ruler and told me that she would need an MRI to get more information.  Yay!

She then took another look at the X-ray.  I squinted at the thing, straining to find the thin line I had seen Friday night.  I was perplexed.  Had it disappeared?  She zoomed in on the image, and then, there it was, that thin black line.  I pointed it out (yes, I am an idiot).  She said, something about how the ER doctor was pretty perceptive to have found that when both the radiologist and she had not.  She then told me we didn't need an MRI, because I had a complete fracture.  I was in shock.  Really?  But it didn't make sense. I argued all of my points about walking around on it, running on Thursday.  How could it possibly be a full-on fracture?  She explained that stress fractures are different and that they are very subtle on X-rays at first.  Once the bone starts to heal then they show up.  But, she said this line was a clear fracture.  I was stunned and started to feel like she had punched me in the gut.  She said I could get a follow up X-ray on Wednesday, because by then we might see some change in the bone as it heals.

I then started to cry.  I don't cry much but I started telling her about how I needed to be certain about this because I had reservations to cancel and there were others who were making plans to come see me run.  She handed me a tissue and softened a bit.  She said that the best she could do was to get an X-ray on Wednesday.  Luckily, I kept my wits about me rather than succumb to the sorrow.  They had taken 2 X-rays on Friday night from different angles.  I said, "Well, wouldn't you think that, if this was a full fracture, that it would show up in the other X-ray view they took on Friday?"  She told me this was a good point and zoomed in on that image to the place where the line showed up on the other image.  Nothing.

So I proposed that I should get an X-ray today to see whether or not the line showed up.  She repeated that it didn't matter because the bone wouldn't have started to heal.  She finally got what I was saying when I said, "yes, but assume that it's not a fracture for a minute.  If you don't see that line on the film today, then we know that it was an aberration on the image and that it's not a full fracture, right?"  The light bulb went on and she said, "You're right.  I was stuck on it being a fracture and didn't think of the possibility that it wasn't."  She ordered the X-ray.

I sat in the waiting room wondering if I had been a fool to remove the cast and make it into a lamp.  I thought I must be some kind of tough beast to run on a grade 4 fracture.  The doc sent out an assistant to tell me that the X-ray was negative and that radiology would call me to schedule an MRI.  I don't know if the doc just didn't have time to see me, or if she was fed up with me. Perhaps she was embarrassed to be wrong.  She didn't give any other instructions, so I had to ask the assistant to go back and ask if I should stay off of it or not.  I was told I should not bear weight on the leg.

So, I am being good and staying off of my leg for now, waiting to hear about my MRI appointment.  I'm not even attempting any cross training.  It's no fun.  My dogs are pissed off because they won't get their walk today.  Oh well, we'll have plenty of time for that soon, I'm sure.  I will keep you updated as the saga continues...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

You can't make this stuff up

Where do I begin?

How about where I left off.  After my 9 great days of training, culminating in a fantastic long run, my body told me I had pushed too hard.  The cold I had been fighting started to feel worse and a short shake out run on Saturday left me wondering how I had managed to get run over by a bus in the middle of the night.  I shook it off and tried again Sunday.  The cold was still bad and 10 miles of running felt okay, but not great.

I went to see Dr. Lau on Monday to have him work on my hip since I seemed to still have some residual bad tissue in there that needed to be taken care of.  I ran a double that day and felt okay, but not great.  On Tuesday, the cold was really making me feel awful so I actually took a day off from all exercise.  Wednesday, I went to see Dr. Lau again since I still felt hip and calf soreness on my morning 4 mile run.  He worked on the hip but mostly jammed on a large knot that had formed in my inside shin muscle.  He told me I would probably feel that for a couple of days.  I went to the track that same night to attempt a hard workout of continuous 400s, and it became clear to me after the sixth one that my rundown body was unable to move very fast.  I was surprised that the cold was still making me feel crappy after a week, but I so rarely get colds, I didn't know this was unusual.  I knew I needed to stop there and call it a night.  I did a short cool down run and headed home.

The next morning, when I got up and started walking around, I couldn't put pressure on the right leg without some pretty good soreness in my shin/calf.  I met up with the Bat for an easy 6 anyway.  I felt soreness as I started running, but it subsided the farther I went.  I was limping after I stopped running.  I know enough to know that I shouldn't be running if I can't walk without pain.  However, it made sense that this was from the hard work Dr. Lau had done on the shin the day before.

I went to see Dr. Lau again yesterday to work the hip again, but I also asked if he could show me how to tape my shin since it was still bothering me.  That's when he floated the possibility of it being a stress fracture in my tibia.  This was based on his experience with that injury and the way I was describing the pain.  Here's how I describe it:

I can't feel anything when I press on the bone.  I can pound on the bone and there are no sensitive spots.  He even did the tuning fork test with a completely negative result.  I feel pressure and soreness in what feels like my calf muscle when I squat down on one leg as I'm going down.  If I continue to squat up and down on that same leg, the soreness goes away.  However, I also feel residual soreness in the calf/shin after I release pressure on the foot, so when my foot is no longer in contact with the ground.  That sensation lasts for about two seconds and goes away.  Because these are funky symptoms, he felt like I should at least consider that it might be a stress fracture.

So then my mind started running on its own, formulating a new plan.  Should I just continue to run on it?  I guess I'll know that it's a bone issue when it breaks, right?  No, that's not the best plan.  Maybe I should get a bone scan.  I had one of those 20 years ago when I had a stress fracture in my femur, and it lit up the area like a Christmas tree where the fracture was.  That would tell me for sure.  Dr. Lau said he would feel better if I at least had a test done to rule it out.

My Kaiser Primary Care Doctor, who has been amazingly supportive of me through the years sent a request to nuclear medicine for the bone scan, but no action would come from that until next week.  I sought advice from others who explained that a bone scan isn't the best tool for diagnosing these issues.  I was told an MRI will give me the information to decide what to do about my training.  I found out that there's a gradation of stress reactions and fractures that I could have, and what I do next really depends on where I fall along that gradient.

I sent another message to my doctor requesting an MRI, but he won't see that until Monday.  Even then, I'd need an ortho consult and then, if I was lucky, could get the MRI.  I became impatient. I wanted some information--any information.  I could seek out an MRI from a private facility and pay for it myself.  However, I pay good money for health care and hardly use it.  I wanted to pursue my provider's options first.

I decided that at least I could get an X-ray of the tibia and, if I was lucky, maybe an MRI if they had a 24-hour MRI service at my hospital.  So, I went to the Emergency Room and described my symptoms.  As a side note, they took my temperature during processing, and I had a fever of 100 degrees.  This is actually a big fever for me since my body temp naturally runs low.  It confirmed what I had suspected about my cold having become something more.  It was a good thing I had asked my doc about this, and he had prescribed antibiotics yesterday for what he suspects is a sinus infection.  At least that will resolve soon.

The ER doc looked at my shin and pushed on the bone and told me that it was probably just shin splints. She said I could get an X-ray if I really wanted to.  I was well aware of the diagnostic challenges of X-rays for this problem but decided another piece of information and a small dose of radiation couldn't hurt.  Or maybe it could...

The radiograph came back with a strange thread-like, perfectly straight diagonal black line stretching from one side of my tibia to the other, right at the place where I was feeling the pain.  There was nothing else anomalous about the bone--no white material indicating that my bone was healing from something.  But that line was weird!

The doctor explained that it could be nothing, like all of the other lines that she pointed out on other parts of the image, but that it could be a fracture.  I didn't really understand the implications of what she was saying at that point since my head was spinning with the vision of that line running through my brain, but she said that I would be put in a splint.  Okay, fine.

The Orthopedic Assistant came in to fashion my "splint".  He was very serious about his calling, and this truly was a calling for him.  He explained that he was a perfectionist when it came to splint making and that his aim was to make the most comfortable splint possible for me that night.  He told me I needed to take off my sweats, which I thought odd since we were dealing with my lower leg, but I had running shorts on underneath.  Then, he slipped a long sock onto my right leg that went all the way up to me groin.  I became a little worried.  He started pulling out all of the materials, and I suddenly realized that he was going to create a fiberglass cast for my lower leg!  What the what?  I thought we were dealing with a stress fracture here.  I was picturing a removable boot.

He completed the fiberglass cast on the lower leg and then told me to lay back for the rest.  I was stunned.  A full-leg cast?  Yes, he explained.  He needed to isolate the knee joint since I had such a high risk fracture in my leg.  I asked if he had actually seen the image.  He said he did and that it looked "suspicious".  He decided to put a bi-valve cast on me and, of course, I took advantage of the opportunity to tell clam jokes.  This was very lucky for me.  It basically meant that he split the fiberglass part of the cast completely on both sides, leaving the sock and gauze intact.  He showed me why I should not be afraid of the cast saw because it was specially designed to not cut through skin.  As proof of concept, he turned it on and pressed the spinning blade against his jugular.  That's trust in your tools, right there.

After cutting the cast, he wrapped three large ace bandages around the whole thing so that it could expand and contract as my leg swelled and unswelled.  I was given a follow up orthopedic appointment on Monday morning and was instructed to lay around until then.
The finished product.
This was not a walking cast.  I was not to put any pressure on the foot and was given crutches to get around.  I also could not drive.  The Genius came and picked me up from the hospital, looking a little stunned to see me in a full leg cast crutching out the door.  He dropped me off at home and the oddness of my predicament started to sink in.  How in the world did I end up with a cast on my leg?

I started to realize how little I could actually do with this thing on my leg and crutches under my armpits.  Filling the dog's water bowl and carrying it to the corner of the kitchen was impossible.  I had to scoot the bowl across the floor with my casted foot.  This wasn't going to work.

I tossed and turned all night and then just started cracking up when I looked down at my leg in the morning.  This was actually hilarious.  I had texted a picture of it to Dr. Ball, and he responded with something like "that is fucking awesome."  He remarked how impressive it was that I could develop a grade 4 stress fracture in 2 weeks and walk in the door of the ER: actually run on it the day before for 6 miles.  I finally realized how absurd it was to think that I had a full-on tibial fracture, end to end, as they diagnosed.

So, I blessed the technician for the clamshell cast and ripped it apart first thing this morning as my puppy dogs looked on with confusion.  I was not advised by anyone to do this.  I did it all on my own.  I walked around tentatively at first and then with conviction and very little soreness.  Grade 4 fracture?  Yeah, right.
The remains of the bi-valve or as BW, calls it, the EFF-THAT.
The good news is that I will see an orthopedic on Monday morning, who hopefully won't be pissed off that I cut the cast off of my leg already.  I hope that he understands.  I was mostly worried about leaving my leg in an immobilized state like that.  I started getting uncomfortable soreness and then the pressure I was putting on my other leg, trying to crutch around couldn't be good for me.  I wanted to know whether it was still sore today.  I wanted to cross train on something other than the fucking hand cycle.  Can you blame me?  I hope that I am able to get an MRI soon, or else I will probably pay out of pocket to have one done.  I have too much at stake here to just assume it's a stress fracture and throw in the towel.

This soreness in my calf may well be a stress reaction or a stress fracture or it might just be pissed off soft tissue.  We have diagnostic tools for a reason and I intend to make sure I get what I need out of them.

I don't really have a plan at this point except to use pain as my guide.  I can walk around fine today, with a little soreness when I first start off.  My dogs got a short walk and they are happy.  No running until I know more, but my Elliptigo is out in the garage, winking at me right now.  At least I have options.  For now.  More to come Monday...

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Playing some tunes with LF.  The girl has chops!
Our devoted audience, Kerry and Kevin, and Josh, the Dancing King! 
Since my last post on November 30th, I've run 120 miles including two 20-mile runs and two speed workouts.  That's a lot to pack in to 9 days!  I also got to spend more time with Lauren Fleshman, Kerry Camberg and the rest of the Camberg family.  We spent a fantastic evening playing guitar, singing and dancing around the Camberg house.  Lauren is quite talented!  I look forward to her launching a  musical career once she's done with this little running thing she's so fond of.  

While I'm thrilled to be able to train hard again, the road back to healthy running has not been without its challenges.  Dr. Ball pronounced me cured a week ago Thursday, but I still hadn't run anything harder than a few strides.  I suggested that I run a speed workout the next day (Friday) just to make sure I was cured before heading off into the sunset.  He agreed that this was a good plan.

I did a workout that I had done back in early November: 13 total miles including 2 x 1.5 miles hard + 2 x 1 mile hard with 4 minutes rest between the repeats.  I had no pain during the workout, which was brilliant, but I was disappointed in how slow I was compared to the last time I did the workout, being off by about 10 seconds per mile for each repeat.  It was hard to know whether this was a loss of fitness from 3 weeks of little to no training or whether my legs were just figuring out how to run fast again.  Regardless, it felt good to train hard again.

I left for home that afternoon and got to my half-way point, Edwards Air Force Base, late Friday evening.  I left early on Saturday so I could get home in time to take the Genius to dinner for his carbo loading extravaganza for the California International Marathon the next morning.  I was so excited for him and everyone I knew running this race and was grateful to be healed in time to make it home to watch.

I cried both tears of joy and sorrow watching some of my friends' dreams fulfilled while others' came to an end.  My Genius met his goal of a huge PR and is now a 2:40 marathoner.  Twenty-five women met the B standard and qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials, including 6 of my Impala teammates!  I was so impressed watching the huge pack of women along the course on their way to this major achievement.  A couple of my friends missed the qualifier, but impressed me nonetheless with their determination and commitment to their goal.  Kerry Camberg posted about her experience here.  I have to say that her commitment to the goal and attitude about the journey make her my new heroine.

I was all fired up after watching the race and took on my own challenge of running my first 20 miler in a month.  I wasn't sure how I would feel.  My legs were sore from my speed work on Friday followed by 14 hours in the car, but I negative split the run and felt particularly strong the last few miles.  I was also surprised that I had accumulated 80 running miles for the week.

My coach told me I needed to get back on schedule with my training since there is not a lot of time left to get in big miles and bigger workouts.  So, I jumped back in with a double run on Tuesday including an evening track session of 12 miles including 10 x 800m with 2 minute jog rest.  I felt like doggie doo and my splits reflected that.  I started out running 2:50-2:51 thinking I would cut down from there and I just didn't have the legs for it.  I had a minor breakdown around the 4th repeat and thought about throwing in the towel.  That's when I thought of Kerry and came up with my mantra for the evening, "Kerry don't Kwit!"  Running hard was what really mattered at this point, and I wanted to have the satisfaction of completing the workout.

I told my coach about this and he said I was absolutely correct in completing the workout at whatever effort I could muster.  He also pointed out that my body was telling me I needed two days of rest between workouts rather than one and that I was likely feeling the effects of my body not being able to absorb the training.  We adjusted my schedule for the week so that my next hard workout would be a long run on Friday.

Thursday, I came down with a cold, of course.  I got in my morning run but wanted to make sure I was feeling well enough to do my hard workout the next day.  I skipped Thursday afternoon's run and went to bed early that night.  Friday would be a vacation day from work (though I still managed to work for 5 hours-FML!) but at least I got to sleep in--12 hours of sleep has amazing restorative powers.

I needed to wait for some work issues to get resolved before I could head out for my long run yesterday.  I finally got out the door at 3 p.m.  I wasn't sure whether I would be able to do the workout or not, but the cold symptoms had subsided some with the help of Dayquil.  The workout was a ball buster: 20 miles including the middle 13 miles hard.  What does hard mean?  Well, I wasn't quite sure, but my coach said that the idea was to start out comfortable and speed up.  I had some rough paces in mind, but I wasn't exactly sure what I would be able to muster.  I broke the middle 13 miles into 5 splits consisting of 2, 2, 4, 4 and 1 mile with no rest in between.

I was pleasantly surprised with how the workout went.  I warmed up for about 4 miles and did some strides, then launched into the workout:

2 miles @ 6:45
2 miles @ 6:37
4 miles @ 6:31
4 miles @ 6:22
1 mile @ 6:21
3 mile cool down for 20 total

I wanted that last mile to be faster, but my legs were not giving me anything more.  Nonetheless, I was thrilled to feel so strong in those last 5 miles.  My average was 6:30 pace.  That's the pace I ran a few weeks ago at the Clarksburg 1/2 Marathon, except the mile splits for that race were reversed!  Better yet, the tightness in my hamstring and IT band that I had been feeling off and on throughout the week completely went away during the workout.  I woke up today feeling better than I have in a month!  I still have my cold, but it is more an annoyance than anything else.  I will run a little over 90 miles this week.

The best feeling in the world during training is when you start to feel the strength in your legs building.  I'm not sure how to describe the feeling, but it is as if you can feel the power in your muscles just while walking around from all of the work you've been doing.  I felt that before I did my long run yesterday and had a feeling it would go well.

My next two weeks are killer.  I will shoot for 100 miles each week and have some hard workouts on my schedule.  I need to do everything right in terms of rest, recovery and fueling in order to make them count.     I found out the hard way earlier this training cycle that I can't do it all.  I nearly missed my chance at running a race I can be proud of at the Trials.  With the rumors flying about new qualifying standards for 2016, who knows whether there will be another OT race for me.  I want to make this one count and thoroughly enjoy the journey.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Arizona or bust.
And, just like that, I'm running pain free again.  How did this happen?

As I said in my last post, I had been in contact with Dr. John Ball these last couple of weeks, bouncing ideas off of him about this injury.  I was receiving treatment from Dr. Lau, but my body wasn't responding quickly enough for me to get back to hard training.  On Sunday, after a few days with no contact, I got a message from John, "running yet?"  I told him what was going on and that things had gotten worse--now pain was coming on as soon as I started running.  His next message said, "Car. Drive."

So, I kissed the Genius and my puppies goodbye that afternoon, and jumped in my car headed for the desert.  I decided to drive rather than fly when I saw that tickets were $700 round trip.  A month ago, I had already planned to take most of this week off from work because I needed to burn some vacation time.  I also thought, way back then, that I would be in the thick of my hard training and could use the break right about now.  Prescient, I am!

B-52 Bomber at the Edwards AFB gate
I spent Sunday evening at Edwards AFB.  It was nice seeing the old Buff (B-52) at the main gate when I arrived.  I worked on these beasts for a few years when I first joined the Air Force.  I woke up early Monday a.m. and kept driving east through the desert.  I really, really love the desert.

I arrived in Arizona Monday late afternoon and went straight to Maximum Mobility Chiropractic.  I was standing in the lobby talking with my old pals about my trip when a woman behind me said, "hey, you're Jaymee, right?"  I turned to see a runner who it turns out is from Folsom, CA and had read about John Ball in my blog.  Michelle was in town for work and decided to schedule a few appointments while she was here.  She's been off of running for 8 months and had run out of treatment options in the Sacramento area.  It was totally great to see firsthand someone benefiting from this blog.  I have no doubt she'll be back to running in no time.

John called me in, made me touch my toes and do some lunges and then told me to go run.  I ran for about 10 minutes and the pain was immediate and depressing.  I reported back.  I pointed to the place it hurt and he immediately pressed on that area, deep in my gluteus maximus, though the muscles involved are underneath that monster.  He worked on some bad tissue in there, had me do toe touches and lunges again and told me to go run again.  I ran for 10 minutes, and it felt better.  I came back in, he worked on that area again and I ran another 10 minutes.  It felt even better.  He told me that was it for the night and instructed me to run the next morning long enough to see how it really felt.

The next morning, I was all excited to test this out and started a run expecting to go for an hour.  About 1/2 mile into the run, I started feeling the familiar twinges in my glute and the run soon became unfun.  I knew I was fine to keep running on it and wanted to see how it felt the longer I went.  The pain/soreness pretty much leveled out after a couple of miles, and I went for a total of 5.  I got back to the parking lot and called John.  I told him he still had some work to do.  He said that the fact that the pain came on 1/2 mile in was progress over my baseline run from yesterday when it had come on immediately.  He felt confident he was working on the right thing.

I saw him again at 4:00 yesterday and he had me go for a pre-treatment test run.  I ran 2.5 miles and it felt much better than my morning run.  I told him this, and he seemed pleased.  He worked on my glute again after my test run and had me go out for more.  This was the breakthrough run: the run where you know you're on the road to recovery.  I felt like I could have run forever, but I stopped at 2.5 miles--10 miles for the day.

He asked how long I was staying, and I told him I wanted to leave Friday afternoon so I could drive back in time to see all of my friends run the California International Marathon on Sunday.  He had indicated when I first got here that we had some "clean up work" to do in my hamstrings and other areas, but he didn't want to work on that until we had eliminated the thing that was causing me to not be able to train.  He didn't do anything more and told me to test it this morning.  I just finished 10.2 miles pain free! Boom!!!!!!!!

While my decision to drive all the way here may seem impulsive or desperate, I had a feeling I would gain more from this trip than just a healed leg.  In addition to a great therapeutic outcome, I have also had a great time meeting, in person, some of the ladies that I have only known through Facebook or their respective blogs.

Kerry Camberg is a masters runner that I first found out about from John Ball the last time I was in town.  We talked on the phone back in May, but I was never able to meet her in person.  We've kept in contact over the past 6 months as she's continued to pursue her goal of qualifying for the Trials (which she's going to do at CIM this weekend!!).  I was going to meet her this week in Sacramento and we had planned to talk on the phone last weekend.  I emailed her on Sunday to let her know that I'd be meeting her in AZ instead!

She and her lovely family have been so gracious.  I have dined with them the last couple of nights and got to watch her kill a goal-marathon-paced run this morning.  She also introduced me to Susan Loken, the legend, as she's known here locally.  It's been amazing to run and talk running with these fantastic women.

When I contacted Kerry to let her know I was going to be in town, she said that Lauren Fleshman would be staying with her this week too.  I was thrilled to get a chance to meet Lauren.  After all, she was the one who introduced me (via her blog) to John Ball.  It's like the circle was connecting in some crazy cosmic way.  I have spent some time with her these last couple of days, and she's just as real and charming in person as she is in her blog.  No, more so.
Kerry, Lauren, Jaymee
I feel really blessed right now to have had this experience.  I feel so charged up about my training and hopes for the Trials race.  Despite John's reminder that I "don't want to get lapped" at the Trials, I feel pretty confident I can set my sites a wee bit higher than that.  What I do know is that I can train hard again, and I feel a renewed sense of passion for my running and training that wouldn't have come about any other way.

Thanks to everyone for your encouragement and kind words. You're all rock stars!    

Saturday, November 26, 2011

And For My Next Trick...

...I will pull a rabbit out of my arse.  That's pretty much what I need to be able to do to get back on track with my training for the Big Race.  After I found my marathon legs in early November, the right one promptly broke.  As you can imagine, the emotional Zipper ride has been pretty extreme these past few weeks.  I haven't felt much like talking or writing about it--hoping I would magically heal and be able to say I dodged the pepper spray.  Then, I read fellow Olympic Trials Qualifier, Nichole's, report about an achilles injury she's dealing with and was able to point her to my blog posts from 2010 where I dealt with a similar issue.  It reminded me that we often learn more from our triumphs over adversity than from the easy wins.

So, here we go...

This particular problem started with what I was calling twinging in my gluteal area, tightness in my hamstrings and some very sore calf muscles.  When I look back at my training log, I was regularly reporting one or more of these issues after most of my longer runs.  I was treating these problems with lots of rolling on my lacrosse ball and was trying to make sure that my hips were remaining flexible.  As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, October was a month from hell in terms of traveling for work.  My thought was that I just needed to get through that month, and then I could take time to train hard and recover.

I finally took my last trip at the beginning of November, but it became clear that my body wasn't going along with my plan.   I took a couple of days off from running and did a little cross training.  I had a race scheduled that week and thought it was a good time to "taper".  I also scheduled an appointment to see Dr. Lau.  When I first made the appointment, I told him that it was really not a big deal, and I was sure that a quick treatment would be all I needed.  A week later, I had started to feel some real pain in my glute and my right shin was unbelievably crabby every time I ran. 

Dr. Lau treated me on a Friday and I ran a half marathon on Sunday.  My right leg was not in pain during the race, but neither leg was on board with my plan to run fast.  It was the strangest feeling: my hamstrings were done with me after the first few miles, and I just couldn't move my legs.  I knew I was doomed by mile 3, but I made the decision to ride it out and get in a workout.  I was so worried about feeling pain in my right leg, that I sort of ignored the pain developing inside my shoes.  I knew I was getting some blisters because my feet were on fire, but my brain didn't register how bad it had become.
Yeah.  That's pretty bad.
I got lots of suggestions on how to deal with the blisters and the best advice was to drain them.  I did this with a sterilized safety pin, and the pain was relieved instantly.  Another friend suggested I cross train a couple of days to allow the blisters to heal up a bit, and so I did.  When I ran again on Wednesday, my right leg was jacked up--shin hurt and hamstring/glute were twinging.  It actually felt better the longer I ran, but I stopped at 9 miles and rode the elliptical in the gym that evening.

The next two days, I started getting symptoms that felt like sciatica, and I started to panic.  I saw Dr. Lau again on Friday and ran 7 miles both Saturday and Sunday.  These two runs sucked.  My leg was getting worse, not better and now the pain was there when I walked too.  We were holding out for Monday to see if maybe the pain over the weekend was caused by the treatment, but another painful run on Monday made it clear that something else was going on.  

So, now we're caught up to this week--Thanksgiving week.  I pool ran my workout on Tuesday and went to see another chiropractor who took a different approach to the problem.  I tried to run on Wednesday.  The pain in my shin and hamstring/glute was immediate and run stopping.  I indulged in a full-on tantrum. 

~A joyful interlude~

A couple of weeks ago, before I knew any of this was coming, I made an impulse purchase through a pro program I get through my affiliation with the military (  They recently added ElliptiGo to the list of pro deals I could get, and I thought I'd check one out locally to see whether I would like it.  I rode one and realized this was the best possible cross training device for a runner, injured or not.  It really feels like running in the air though without any upper body movement.  Forget the fact that you look absolutely redunkulous riding it.  I returned home and decided to take the plunge.  I got the 8C model so I could have lots of gearing options.  With my pro deal, I was able to get that more expensive model for a lot less than even the basic model.  
Big Green
My green machine came in the mail about a week later, but the front fork was bent.  The people at ElliptiGo were very helpful and shipped out a new fork quickly.  It finally came on Monday, and The Genius swapped it out for me so I could take my first ride on Wednesday.  It is really pretty fun.  I was mostly surprised by how hard a workout it is.  Standing upright, your body is like a big sail, so the air/wind adds a lot of resistance.  I see this as a good thing since my job is to get my heart rate up during cross training.  

I had a tempo run planned for Thursday, so I decided to see if I could do the workout on Big Green.  Getting my HR up on this thing is not a problem.  My problem was actually slowing down to rest a bit.  I wanted to keep pushing.  Here's a graphic of the 57 minute ride I did with about a 30 minute tempo effort in the middle (with a short water break at the turn around point).
Big Green does her job.
The red line shows my heart rate.  The faded green line is my speed and the colored slices in the background represent my heart rate zones.  The yellow is my aerobic zone, the light pink is 88-92% of max heart rate (roughly my lactate threshold zone) and the red slice is red-line territory.  So, if nothing else, I have stumbled upon a cross training device that I enjoy, can do outside (or inside if I buy the wind trainer add on) and will give me a superb workout that should directly translate to my running fitness.  I'm excited about keeping Big Green as part of my training in my uninjured future.

~Back to reality~

That face hurts me too.
So, where do I go from here?  I don't quite know.  I suspect I'll have a few more days spent with my face smashed on Dr. Lau's table.  He has been an amazing help through this and believes we've narrowed the issue down to high hamstring tendonopathy.  I have a lot of inflammation in the area and am working to reduce that with ice and both oral as well as topical NSAIDs.   He continues to work on ridding the area of bad tissue and getting my muscles to slide like they're supposed to.  I'm doing daily test runs and have yet to see the big breakthrough run where I keep running and don't look back.  

The biggest lesson learned so far?  Pain = too late.  I have been in touch with Dr. John Ball these last few weeks as well, and he was the one who reminded me of this.  He has been extremely generous with his time; offering advice, gentle reminders and zinging reality checks.  He asked why I hadn't been in to see Dr. Lau for 4 months, and I told him "because nothing hurt enough to make an appointment."  In fact, I had subtle signs that my body was unhappy with me up to a month before I made my first appointment.  They were small things, but I should have gone in to get checked out.

The other lesson, which I seem to learn over and over, is that I really can't fit it all in.  I should have reduced my running workload in October to accommodate the extra stress of my job.  Woulda, coulda, shoulda.       

A very positive note in this sad song is that I have enlisted the help of a great coach.  I realized that I am quickly going to run myself into the ground over and over coaching myself (despite the help of Coach T).  The bummer is that I haven't been able to use the training plan he gave me yet because this injury cropped up around the time we started working together.  I really do look forward to working with him and seeing what I can do under his coaching.

I continue to hold out hope that I'll be able to get in a few weeks of good training for the Trials in the next 2 months, but my goals will need some adjustment.  

Then again, the big win is getting invited to the dance, right?  Well, and not getting lapped by the boys (right, JB?).  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

At last!

I found my marathon legs!  I knew they were hiding from me, but I just didn't know when they would make themselves visible this training cycle.  I seem to be suffering from marathon training amnesia this time around.  I have had trouble remembering what I am supposed to feel like during the various stages of my training.  Throw in the fact that I'm training completely differently than I have before, haven't run a marathon in over a year, and have been traveling all over the place these last few weeks, and you get one tired and confused marathoner.

The training plan I'm using calls for high mileage.  I can handle high mileage when I have the time I need to recover.  Take away the recovery, and the girl begins to crumble.  The week before last was a perfect example of this.  I am going to say right now that it will be the hardest week of training I will do this training cycle.  It wasn't the highest mileage and didn't have the hardest workouts: I ran 90 miles and did one 10k-paced long interval workout on the track Thursday and a 20-miler with surges on Sunday.  It was the stuff in between that ate me up.

Duke Forest Trail
I traveled to North Carolina on Tuesday starting at 5:30 a.m. which meant no running before my flight.  I was lucky to be able to fit in a 10-miler in between arriving at Duke University for my meeting and meeting up with my group for evening activities and dinner.  The lovely thing about running at Duke was the forested 5k loop course that started right outside the front door of our hotel.  The bummer was that it was a loop that had 200 feet of elevation change in 3 miles and the changes were not gentle.  Remember that I rarely see 100 feet of elevation change during one of my regular 20 mile runs.  Lovely as the forest was to run through, I knew my legs were going to be messed up.  I tried running around campus one afternoon and that was no better--no way to escape the hills.  In retrospect, I really should have run on the treadmill, but how could I not run on a trail as beautiful as that?

I was reminded of life's fragility when I ran down a side trail and found the Sally Meyerhoff Fitness Loop that connected to the 5k loop I was on.  It was beautiful and inspiring to think of her running along this same trail training for cross country or some other race.  RIP Sally.  

It was nice to have a safe running trail so close to the hotel because I was running in the dark for at least part of every run.  I beat up my running partner on the first evening run, and he had to take a rest after the second day.  My legs were done by the third day of the trip when I had to do my track workout.  I got to do it in Blue Devils' Stadium at least, but it was UGLY!  Ironically, my Garmin reset itself and completely lost the data for that workout--not in the device history or transferred to my computer--irretrievable.  I'm starting to think this was a blessing.

I became a master of the quick shower and change that week--able to go from lobby to room to lobby in under 15 minutes!  My legs were seriously beaten up by the time I arrived home Friday night at near midnight.  I finally got to sleep for more then 5 hours that night, but it didn't really help heal the damage I had done.

That damage lasted into this week where I began feeling a series of strange things in my right calf and gluteal region.  I rolled religiously and worked very hard to get more sleep, but it seemed like I wasn't keeping up.  This week was meant to be another 90 miler, but I gave up on that idea midweek when I had to travel 9 hours roundtrip with an overnight for work.  I was due for a hard workout on Thursday, but I knew it was a bad idea given a sharp pain I was having in my right calf.  I think it is (was?) what I've seen called posterior shin splints on the internets based on the location of the pain and the fact that all pain goes away after I warm up.

I was able to get in my hard workout on Friday without incident, running 2 x 1.5 miles + 2 x 1 mile all @ 10k pace with 4 min rests between each.  That was a tough one and my legs felt fine.  Yesterday, I experienced the return of the calf and hip pain during my 10 miler and became very worried about my prospects for a long run today.

After worrying a fair bit about whether to even attempt a longer run after yesterday's painful run, I was pleasantly surprised to have a fantastic 20 mile run today.  It wasn't my fastest, but it was certainly my strongest so far.   I had no pain in the calf or glute beyond 3 miles.  I am planning to run a total of thirteen, 20 milers this training cycle and I have 5 under my belt already.  They had not been getting easier until today when I felt especially strong the last half of the run.

Today had two bonuses for me during my run: I got to see the amazing migratory phenomenon of salmon returning to the American River for their last dance before death.  I may be a freak, but I tear up when I see them out there building their redds and dancing around one another.  I also had my third sighting of what the Genius and I are now calling Grassquatch.  This started a few weeks ago when I was running along the American River Bike Trail between mile markers 10 and 10.5.   I saw something about 100m ahead out of the corner of my eye that looked like what I would picture a baby Sasquatch would look like.  As I got closer, I noticed a huge mound of dry grass and a pile of leaves get up from the side of the trail, run across the trail and hunch back down.  Good thing I wasn't finishing my run or I would have believed I was hallucinating.  Well, Grassquatch struck again today and (this time) I enjoyed watching the reactions of cyclists and runners that they spooked with their clever trick.    

This next week I have a  half marathon on tap where I plan to run it at goal marathon pace.  This will actually be close to a PR for me if I can manage it.  I'm not planning much of a taper for it, so it will be a good test of my strength too.

Finally, I want to send a shout out to all the runners who completed the NYC Marathon today!  Amazing!    


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Letting go

Lately, life has been getting in the way of my running (and blogging, sorry!), and I have been faced with numerous little decisions that impact my running schedule.  I spend a fair amount of energy each week figuring out how to fit runs into my over-scheduled life.  Inevitably, I end up faced with the decision to let go of a run or workout.  Other runners know well the angst associated with such decisions.

I have attempted to relieve myself of this anxiety by establishing some ground rules:
  1. My weekly plan is my IDEAL plan.  If everything goes perfectly in my life, then I should be able to complete my training plan as written.  
  2. Most weeks, I will have to shift workouts and runs around to stay healthy and sane. 
  3. I can labor over the decision to skip a run or workout, but once I decide, I have to let it go.
  4. I will always make decisions that favor sufficient recovery over getting in the miles or workouts.
These ground rules sort of established themselves over the last couple of weeks.  I completed my first week of marathon training two weeks ago and really took the bull by the horns.  I had 9 x 90 sec hill repeats @5k pace on Tuesday; ran 10 the next day finishing with 4 "brisk" miles; ran 8 x800 + 1 mile @ 5:40-5:49 pace on Thursday; ran some bastard hills Friday evening; ran a quick 12 miler Saturday at 6000 ft elevation and finished up with a 20 miler @ 6:52 pace on Sunday late evening.  What the hell was I thinking.

The horn ended up goring me the following week.  Luckily I had Monday as a planned rest day.  But, I had to drive for 7 hours to the nether-regions of the Central Valley to monitor a conservation easement.  My butt was killing me and I forgot to bring my lacrosse ball/torture device.  Desperate, I asked my colleague if she minded stopping in a convenience store to try to find a tennis ball to relieve my aching butt.  She found the best device ever.  It's a toy that has a hard-as-rock ball with an elastic string attached to a strap.  I sat on this ball and rolled.  I leaned my butt up against oak trees and rolled my TFL.  I used the side of the rental car to get at my gluteus minimus (sorry about the dent, rental car people).

Despite all of this treatment, my body was still tired when I resumed running on Tuesday.  I skipped my evening run.  My calf muscles had been screaming at me in every run.  When I still wasn't feeling the love by Thursday, my next scheduled workout, I just decided this would be a recovery week.  I did not run Friday, but I did 10 on Saturday and my 20 miler on Sunday.

I ramped up my training again this week, and have felt good.  I had to let a workout go on Wednesday due to a work meeting that ran way over.  This was one where I could have gone out in the dark and run the 10 miles, finishing up at about 8:30-9:00 p.m. then turned around to run again at 5:10 a.m..  I decided that I would be better off rearranging my schedule a little to make up for some of the lost mileage.  Then, I let it go.  This was a great decision.  I had a fantastic double the next day running easy with my girlies in the a.m. and then killing my evening workout.  I'll still manage 86 miles (originally scheduled to be 90).

New stuff

I have started a few new things with this marathon training plan.  First, I have started using some strength training routines that target core strength and hip mobility.  I do these twice a week and am still working out the kinks.  Once I get them where I want them, I'll share.

I have also begun a new way of tracking…well, everything.  I use a Numbers template (a program that only Mac nerds will know) and have a few screenshots of what I track and how below (click on the picture to enlarge).  I like keeping track of daily changes to show trends that I wouldn't see if tracked less regularly.  

My dashboard with summarized data from all of the other spreadsheets.

This is my run log including a shoe tracker
This is the energy tracker, showing the rating system for the various categories.

The novel addition to the usual stuff people track is the energy index.  This is something that is developed in the Squires and Lahane program that I'm following.  I have modified it a bit changing leg spring to leg feel, but the rest is theirs.  The idea is to track how you feel each day and then track the average energy values over time to see if you're headed for a cliff or primed for a good race/workout.  The jury's still out on this, but I'll keep you posted.  Mostly, I wanted a place to keep all of my information and a "dashboard" that would help me see at a glance how my training and body data are trending.

Finally, I am trying out a new shoe model that I actually really like so far.  It's the Brooks PureConnect. I've run about 40 miles in them so far.  The shoe has a bit of a rocker-like sole on it, and, as a mid to forefoot striker, I feel my heel drop with every stride.  This puts an eccentric load on my calf and achilles, and is probably responsible for my calf muscle soreness this last week.  The soreness has dissipated, and I like them better the more that I wear them, despite how ugly they are.

So, all goods things are happening right now.  I'm getting stronger and faster each week.  I also might be getting just a little bit smarter...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I Like Pain

I finally wrote a song about running.  It has been a while since I actually wrote a song about anything.  My inspiration came after a long, hard workout, and I started questioning my relationship with the sport.  So, I debuted the song last night (despite protests from my band, mind you, since we had only rehearsed the song a handful of times), though I did not mention what the song was about.  It was a bit rough, but it was awesome to see the audience respond in a positive way to my creation.  So, here's an iPhone shot video (compliments of my sis) of the performance and the lyrics follow.  You can also view it on YouTube. Rock on!

I Like Pain
by: Jaymee Marty      

you kicked my ass again
i thought you were my friend
but friend’s don’t bring you down
why do i keep you around?

cuz i like pain
it makes me happy in the rain
it’s like a jacket on my brain
it keeps me on this side of sane
i like pain

you give and i will take
i promise i won’t break
i need you
and you need me

cuz i like pain
it makes me happy in the rain
it’s like a jacket on my brain
it keeps me on this side of sane
i like pain

pain pain pain, won’t let me be
pain pain pain, please set me free
pain pain pain, won’t let me be
pain pain pain, please set me free

i’ll never let you go
my pain will only grow
oh, you’ll make me cry
‘til the day i die

cuz i like pain
it makes me happy in the rain
it’s like a jacket on my brain
it keeps me on this side of sane
i like pain

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Running the Numbers

Hello again!  I know it's been a few weeks since my last post, but I promise I've been busy training.

When I last left you, I was in the middle of a racing frenzy.  I had decided to run 4 races in 4 weekends to work on my racing skills and try for a PR.  I came very close to that PR in my first 5k back, had a fantastic cross country race the next weekend and then had a stinker of a race the 3rd weekend.  I felt like hell before that 3rd race and pretty much knew it was going to stink.  I reevaluated my racing plan and decided to take a down week last week.  I had planned to take that down week after my first 5k, but I decided to race instead.  I knew after my poopy race that it was the right time for a bit of a break. So, I cross trained two days and ran easy the rest for a total of 36 miles.  I am very glad I took the time down.


I've been thinking a lot about numbers lately--the jumble of numbers typed above in particular--which represent my longest run to date, my percent body fat, the number of pounds of body fat I own, my mileage this week, my weight, my serum ferritin levels, my LDL levels and my total cholesterol, though not in that order.  

The Friday before my last race, I had my blood tested for iron and cholesterol levels.  I had not had either checked in a year.  The cholesterol test shocked me.  My numbers were the best they have ever been with total cholesterol way under 200 and an LDL level under 100.  While my total cholesterol has hovered right around 200 since I was 21 years old, my LDL levels have always been high regardless of how much I exercise.  I always assumed that, if I stopped watching my saturated fat intake, my LDL levels would balloon.  I stopped tracking my fat intake a few months ago and have been eating as much as I want.  So, I really expected to see a big number for my cholesterol.  This was a good surprise, but one that I can't easily explain.

My not so good surprise came from my iron levels.  They were the second lowest they've ever been including ferritin, hemoglobin, hematocrit--the whole shebang.  This should not have been surprising since I stopped really paying attention to my iron intake while I was injured.  I now know I can't get away with anything less than 1 tbsp. ferrous sulfate elixir taken daily with orange juice.  I hate the taste and I hate the back up that this stuff causes.  But, low energy from low iron stores is for the birds.  I'm back on supps and should be back to feeling high energy in a few weeks.  This is likely why I felt like poo in that third race and why it's taking more time to recover from the three weekend racing fest.  

I have had this fantasy running for a few years now where I lose a couple of pounds each year and that translates into faster marathon times.  It is a fact that carrying around more weight than you need slows you down.  Since my weight has never gotten down to anything resembling too low I have always seen room for loss.  I track my weight and body fat levels with a home scale, recognizing that the body fat measures are going to be inaccurate but fairly precise.  I had my body fat measured with hydrostatic testing back in 2006 when I first started running, and it was around 13%.  I have lost bulk since then, so I retested last week and was shocked to find out that my body fat is pretty darn low.  According to most articles on the internets on this subject, menses should have ceased long ago and my brain should be a small nubbin rattling around in my head.  Neither is close to happening.  My body fat percent is low because I have a lot of lean body mass--approximately 14 pounds more than THE MAX of the normal range for my height according to the chart the testing clinic gave me.  

This information has knocked me for a loop.  I thought I was going to lose about 2-3 lbs. before Houston, and that isn't going to happen.  I am about the same weight and body fat reading (measured on my home scale) as I was before Chicago last year, so I have definitely been in this body fat range for a while though I do pop back up quickly after a marathon.  My body functions quite well, actually.  I hardly if ever get sick.  I can remember maybe 2-3 workouts in the last few years that I totally bombed.  I typically have very high energy levels (when my iron levels are right!).  Clearly the only way that I will lose weight is if I lose lean mass.  Since I'm not a candidate for femur reduction surgery, that means atrophy is the name of the game (if only you could select where this occurs!).  I stopped doing any form of weight training about 6 months ago, so that should help me at least not gain any more lean mass.  Regardless, I carry around a lot of upper body muscle.  My new model for upper body physique and strength is Monty Burns.  I won't stop my upper body atrophy until I can lift as little as Monty.  The Genius has agreed to be my Smithers--carrying sacks of dog food and groceries for me.     

So, this just means that I can't count on carrying around less weight in order to get faster.  I have to get fast the old fashioned way--lots of miles and hard work.  To that end, this week marked the first week of my build up for the Olympic Trials race.  I don't officially start my marathon training plan until the first week in October.  I'm trying something completely different this time around and am excited about it.  

In my next post, I'll show a cool new tool I've developed to track every single aspect of my running life.  Ah, the geek emerges again!  "Smithers, release the robotic Richard Simmons" MB!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hoppin' Down the Bunny Trail

My second race in my self-imposed 4 race series was another fun one: a 5k cross country (XC) race  hosted by the River City Rebels at Granite Regional Park.  This was only the second cross country (XC) race I've run in my life, and it went sooooo much better than the last one.  My intro to XC, some of you may recall, was at XC Nationals in 2010.  I not only completely fell apart at that race (because I was overtrained) but I also messed up my foot wearing ill fitting (borrowed) XC flats.  It was after that race that my achilles flared up, and I was out of training for a couple of months.

So, I was a bit nervous about how I might do heading into this race.  Was I just bad at cross country racing?  The main reason I wanted to do this race was to work on my strength.  I wanted a chance to run hard without worrying about mile splits and just focus on competing.  I got that and a whole lot more!

We had a great contingent of speedy Impalas for the race, which was awesome.  We warmed up on the course, running the whole thing which gave us a nice preview.  There were some good hills on the course and a lot of turns as you can see from the map below.  The footing was tricky and I worried for a millisecond about spraining an ankle.  I bought some real XC shoes for this race and, of course, hadn't had a chance to test them out.  Not the smartest thing, but they were brilliant.

5k Granite Park XC Course.

Elevation Profile for the course (from my Garmin, so take it for what it's worth).
I knew from watching XC races that the pack goes out hard, so I was ready for that.  Luckily, we didn't go out outrageously fast because there was a nice big hill to greet us within the first 400m.  We got strung out pretty fast on the first downhill and then bunched up a bit in the winding trails during the first mile.  I felt strong going through the first mile, like a deer bopping along through the forest, trying to keep a firm footing.  I focused on staying strong in the second mile where the course had the biggest climb.  I gained a little on that uphill, passing a few ladies.  I knew I was in a good position with two masters runners ahead of me and everyone else fairly far behind me.  I just focused on maintaining my effort.

I knew that I had a major hill to conquer before swooping down to the finish and I am happy with how I handled the last hill.  I was also very pleased with how I handled the heat on the course.  I heard a lot of folks complaining about it, and I honestly never felt hot.  Of course, that's what running in 80-90 degree temperatures every day will do for you.  I crested the hill and saw the downhill finish and was surprised to see 18:14 on the clock a few seconds before I crossed the line.  I looked at my Garmin and the course read 3.14 miles, so it was pretty darn accurate.  It was awesome to run that fast and strong on that winding, hilly course.      

I was not at all interested in my splits during the race and never looked at my watch.  However, I took my splits for future reference.  I'm glad I did because they indicate how well I raced this course today.  I went through the first mile in 5:47, the second in 6:06, and the last in 5:50 with a :38 second last 0.11 miles.  I don't know my official time or place since results won't be out for a while, but my watch showed 18:21 Update: official time was 18:19, 6th overall).  Thrilled!   

Congrats to all of my teammates for some fantastic performances out there and thanks to the Rebels for hosting a fun XC race!  I see more XC in my future!